July 16, 2016

Current Projects

Research:

REMARRIAGE IN EARLY CHRISTIANITY

 This work, the first of its kind, will offer a comprehensive examination of remarriage in the early Christian movement. An introduction will briefly survey the cultural acceptability of divorce and remarriage in the Jewish, Greco-Roman, and modern worlds. Even as historical Jesus researchers have lamented finding images of themselves at the bottom of the well, any study of remarriage must begin cognizant of the modern researcher’s social location. Taking into account the full range of recent methodological critiques of Jesus research, the first chapter will apply a variety of criteria—traditional and refined—to offer a surer reconstruction of a “historical Jesus,” who taught very strictly against both divorce and remarriage. The Gospels of Mark and Luke convey to their audiences the same rigorous (and counter-cultural) teaching. The second chapter will examine in detail the divorce and remarriage passages in Matthew’s Gospel, especially their exception clauses (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Although scholars regularly consider the exceptions modifications of Jesus’ teaching on both divorce and remarriage, they likely modify only Jesus’ prohibition of divorce. The Apostle Paul tackles divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7, the topic of the third chapter. He allows both a divorce between a Christ-believer and a non-Christ-believer and, most would contend, remarriage after divorce. Although several verses in the chapter may be construed as permitting remarriage, ultimately 1 Cor. 7 restricts remarriage to those whose spouses have died. The final chapter will trace early Christian teaching on remarriage through the beginning of the fifth century. The conclusion will briefly overview the changes that began in the fifth and sixth centuries in the Eastern church, the growing laxity in the Western church, and the early Reformation’s rejection, with Erasmus, of the firm stance against remarriage taken by the majority of early Christian writers after the New Testament.

(submitted to a potential publisher)

 

Presentations – Upcoming and Recent:

 

University of Göttingen seminar May 2019:

PAULUS UND MOSE. ZUR DEUTUNG DER TRADITIONEN UM ISRAELS AM SINAI UND IN DER WüSTE DURCH DEN VöLKERAPOSTEL

The English-speaking scholars participating in this seminar alongside the European contingent include Richard B. Hays, Roy Ciampa, Scott Hafemann, and J. Ross Wagner.

Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas August 2018:

Invited to respond to an essay on Philo and Paul by an esteemed Norwegian colleague and Philo specialist, Prof. Per Jarle Bekken, at the 2018 meetings of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas in Athens.

Society of Biblical Literature November 2017:

Response to Matthew W. Bates, “The Christ Praises God Among the Nations: Toward a New Christological Model,” Scripture and Paul Seminar of the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting (Boston)

Dr. Bates assumed Ross Wagner’s translation of Romans 15:9 as the basis for his Christological model. I therefore responded by drawing on the extensive grammatical critique I had offered of Wagner as well as a superior alternative translation in my earlier article,“‘Praise the Lord, All You Gentiles’: The Encoded Audience of Romans 15:7-13,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 34 (2011): 90-110.

Institute for Biblical Research November 2017:

SIN AND ITS REMEDY IN ROMANS

Often scholars examine Paul’s theology in terms of his “soteriology,” that is, the themes and constructs that comprise and influence his theology of salvation. This session takes interest in better understanding Paul’s soteriology with focused attention on Paul’s “sin” language (especially hamartia and its cognates, but also key synonyms). Sometimes Paul appears to present sin and disobedience as self-conscious transgression; at other times it is personified and treated as an enslaving power. Is there a model or perspective that can account for these? And what does this tell us about the Christological, Theological, and Pneumatological “remedies” to the problem of sin as Paul conceives of them?

The paper delivered in 2017 at IBR will be published in a forthcoming volume on Sin in Romans edited by Drs. John Goodrich and Nijay Gupta.

 Society of Biblical Literature November 2016:

THE RHETORIC OF CURSE IN GALATIANS 1:10

 Galatians 1:10 begins with a question that has proven difficult to interpret. Paul’s verb in that initial question (peitho) is regularly used for rhetorical persuasion, but some contend that it may also be used for flattery or people-pleasing, much like the verb in his second question (aresko). Lexical evidence, however, distinguishes the two verbs, and the second question is not a restatement of the first. Since rhetoric was often perceived by some in Greco-Roman world negatively as flattery or people-pleasing, the second question in 1:10 is a natural clarification of the first. Peitho thus bears its ordinary sense of to persuade, but what would it mean for Paul to persuade God? Or is Paul only trying to persuade people? Most interpreters have concluded that Paul is only trying to persuade human beings.

Galatians 1:10, however, is rhetorically linked to 1:9, which raises the specter that Paul is indeed attempting to persuade God. Paul phrases Gal. 1:8-9 with divine-passive constructions further embedded within conditional sentences. Paul is not himself cursing anyone. Despite the use of anathema from the Hebrew Bible (and from not the Greco-Roman milieu), the mention of heavenly angels and contrary gospels in the protases and the divine-passive constructions in the apodoses guarantee that the gentile Galatians will recognize the language of curse, to which Paul returns with different vocabulary in Gal. 3. In the social context of Asia Minor with the ubiquity of curse tablets, the evocation of a divine curse is a finely contextualized appeal to the gentile Galatians.

 Greco-Roman curses were not effective in themselves but depended on the speaker’s own authority and expertise, which often included identification with a god. Paul is therefore clear that he is sent from God and is one with that God. In fact, the letter closes, like a bookend, with Paul warning of the talisman-like mark that he bears (6:17). Even within the ANE context, a covenant entailed divine witnesses who enforced the curses, should a party break the covenantal oath. Biblical curses, of course, depended on the consent and activity of the one God. Second Temple literature thus attests to various individuals’ attempts to persuade God to enact curses. Paul too is handing those who dissent from his divinely-given message over to his God. Few commentators have recognized the rhetoric of curse as Paul attempts to persuade both God and his hearers.

Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas August 2016:

IMPERIAL CULT PRESSURE ON THE EARLY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT: MYTH AND REALITY RELATIVE TO PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

Recent research has rightly stressed the ubiquity of the imperial cult in the first-century Roman world of the earliest Christ-believers. A number of Pauline specialists have identified the Letter to the Galatians as offering evidence for pressure on gentile Christ-believers to join the Jewish community. The gentile Christ-believers had endangered the exemption that the Jewish Christ-believers as Jews enjoyed from participating in the imperial cult. Non-Christ-believing Jews could point to the Christ-believers as an illegitimate, mixed association that did not enjoy the legal exemptions granted to the Jewish community. With gentile circumcision and Law observance, the Christ-believing community would enjoy the same exemption from the imperial cult activities as the non-Christ-believing community.

This approach to the Galatian situation makes a number of assumptions: 1) the governing authorities were acting against illicit movements and associations in general; 2) Judaism was an officially recognized religio licita; 3) the governing authorities enforced the imperial cult; and, finally, 4) the early Christ-believing movement at the time of Paul’s letter was a recognizable entity and of sufficient significance to warrant state-sponsored persecution. Each of these assumptions is problematic. This paper will offer a corrective with implications for other studies of the impact of the imperial cult on early Christianity.

 

 

Projects:

Invited to offer a defense of the “Lutheran” view in a “Four Views” volume on Paul and the Law with James D. G. Dunn and Magnus Zetterholm. The volume will be edited by B. J. Oropeza and Scott McKnight.

Christian Standard Bible

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB), born out of an ongoing commitment to both scholarship and readability. A transdenominational team incorporated feedback from pastors, seminaries, and conservative, evangelical denominations. The result is a Bible that faithfully and accurately captures the Bible’s original meaning without compromising clarity, helping you experience God’s truth as never before.  More  It is literally the best translation in English available, the most faithful to the original and the most readable at the same time. More