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Archive for the ‘NT Wright’ Category

Good stuff.

The Whole Sweep Of Scripture from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

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So, over at Boston Bible Geeks, Danny posted an interesting list of the 5 scholars that the average churchgoer would benefit from reading. That sounded like a great idea to me, and I was interested to read his list, so I’m stealing his idea and making my own. I’ll raise my hand and admit that a good bit of the reading that I do would not be of much benefit to the non-academic. And since I’m confessing here, I’ll also admit that I felt a twinge of guilt at  the statement that Danny quoted about Gordon Fee, whom I admire very much. Too much of my studying is about the Bible as an object, rather than the God it reveals, and that’s not okay.

So on that theme, I’ll list the five scholars that I think the layperson should read.

1. Gordon Fee

I’m with Danny on this one. I haven’t read his book on exegesis, but I have read God’s Empowering Presence, and if there’s any one academic book that I would encourage a layperson to struggle through, it’s probably this one. I’ve read many (too many) scholars that rebuke (rightly) our current churches, but don’t give any possible solutions. Fee isn’t afraid to offer solutions and practical advice to the average church on the corner, which is what scholarship should really be about anyway.

Recommended Reading:

God’s Empowering Presence

Paul, the Spirit, & the People of God

How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth (w/ Douglas Stuart)

2. NT Wright

NT Wright can be a polarizing figure and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. As far as I’m concerned everything I have read by him has been top-notch stuff that would benefit both the scholarly world and the Church. That doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that he says, and sometimes I wish he would stop blaming “our Western post-enlightenment thinking” for every problem facing our world, but I have found him always to be worth reading, and I agree with him wholeheartedly that we desperately need to recapture the new creation/resurrection eschatology of the New Testament if we are going to have any impact at all on our culture, which is dying while we sit back and watch.

Recommended reading:

Surprised By Hope (Seriously, I wish I could get a copy of this into the hands of every Christian in my city)

Following Jesus

Christians at the Cross

The Meal Jesus Gave Us

3. John Goldingay

Because he makes the Old Testament simply come alive, and his love for the God revealed there comes through on every page.

Recommended Reading:

Old Testament Theology volume 1: Israel’s Gospel

Old Testament Theology volume 2: Israel’s Faith

Old Testament Theology volume 3: Israel’s Life

God’s Prophet, God’s Servant

4. Eugene Peterson

Because he’s so practical that you didn’t even know he was a “scholar”. No really, the Christian faith is a lived out faith, not just a book to be read (no matter how inspired). Peterson knows that and communicates it like no one else.

Recommended Reading:

Pretty much anything.

5. Thomas Oden

Because (at least where I live, which is supposedly the most “Christian” region of the United States), the Body of Christ in the present has almost no knowledge of the generations within that body that have come before us. That’s generalizing for sure, and Lord knows there are Presbyterians here that know (or think they know) John Calvin up and down, but that’s about it as far as I can tell. Oden is doing his best to let us in on the millennium and a half  that transpired before Calvin. (Note for some John Piper fans: That was not hyperbole, there actually were Christians before John Calvin).

Recommended Reading:

Classic Christianity

Anything in the ACCS series

Ancient Christian Doctrine (5 volumes)

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Well, it’s time for the obligatory top 5 list. These are the top 5 books that I read in 2009. Only one was actually released this year, and it was a new edition reprint. These are in no particular order.

1. Bruce Waltke – An Old Testament Theology

A pleasure to read. Waltke’s love for the Old Testament comes through on every page. I would have liked a little more on the prophets, but who am I to complain? Maybe we’ll get something fresh on the prophetic literature from Waltke’s pen at some point in the future.

2. David Alan Black – Learn to Read New Testament Greek

Probably as fun as a beginning Greek textbook could possibly be, and it’s definitely worth the time spent studying & working through it. I’ve already got a list of people who I plan on loaning it to once I finish.

3. Gordon Fee – God’s Empowering Presence

Enough said.

4. V. Phillips Long, Iaian Provan, & Tremper Longman III – A Biblical History of Israel

I wasn’t what I expected, but it certainly was worth reading and will definitely be one that I will return to. The bibliography gave me loads of new books to go on the “wanted” list. This one has also wins the “most annoying endnotes ever” award for the year. Flipping to the back is always a pain, but in a book like this, it’s almost unforgivable.  Almost.

5. Bishop NT Wright – The Resurrection of the Son of God (again) (sort of)

Right, so I read this one straight through back when it came out, and loved it. Well, I happened to pick it up this year to see what he had to say about a certain passage in Paul, and ended up basically reading the last 2/3 or so straight through again. If on the off chance you haven’t read this one, you really should do yourself a favor and pick it up. I simply can’t say enough about the thing.

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Craig Evans & NT Wright. Jesus: The Final Days. Louisville, KY. Westminster John Knox, 2009

2532

Many thanks to WJK for the review copy.

Simply stated, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are the center of the Christian faith. We are many things as Christians, but I would think it fair to say that we are all that we are chiefly because we follow the Jesus the Messiah, whom we worship as the crucified and risen Lord. As such, the subject of what we can know about these crucial events is very important indeed. Toward that end, Troy Miller (Crichton College) has done us the service of putting into book format the 2003 and 2004 Crichton College Church and Academy lectures, given by NT Wright and Craig Evans, respectably, which detail the historical background of these events.

The book is short and to the point (roughly 100 pages). Being based on lectures, there are no footnotes or endnotes and the only bibliography to speak of consists of two or three references for further reading at the end of each chapter. It is divided into three parts, corresponding to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

In Part 1, Craig Evans sets out to paint us a picture of the crucifixion and death of the Messiah. After a quick run through of the historical written affirmations of Jesus’ death (biblical and otherwise), he delves into the reasons why Jesus was crucified in the first place. Evans focuses here on the actual situation “on the ground” in 1st century Palestine, not on the theological import of the event. The triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, and the parables of judgment on the temple establishment are all unpacked and defended historically as plausible and legitimate offenses that could and would have lead to Jesus’ being perceived as a political threat. Evans then argues, based not least on Gethsemane narratives and the death of John the Baptist, that Jesus plausibly could have, in fact, anticipated his own death, and spoken of this to his followers.

From there, Evans discusses in detail Jesus’ trial and mockery. The detail of this section is pretty remarkable, considering the length (15 pages or so). Obviously the gospels get the longest treatment here as sources, but Evans also touches on allusions to the trial in Peter’s sermons in the Book of Acts, as well as Paul’s letters. His contention that Jesus’ drawing together of Daniel 7 and Psalm 110 in his confession before the high priest would have been seen as blasphemous won’t be new to those who have read much in this area, but given the implied audience of a book of this length, it may very well be the first time that some have heard this line of reasoning. Evans then goes on to discuss the Passover pardon of Barabbas, and it is here (the first of many places) that his mastery of the primary sources really shines. Using both Jewish and Roman sources, he shows that criminal pardons (of prisoners sentenced to crucifixion) were a political and historical reality in the 1st century. I found his quotation of the Mishna (m. Pesahim 8:6) particularly interesting:

“ …they may slaughter (the Passover lamb) for one…whom they have promised to bring out of prison (on the Passover)”

Some discussion of the political situation that Pilate found himself in, and some interesting tidbits regarding the mockery of Jesus round the conversation out, before moving on to the crucifixion itself, where again Evans is masterful in his knowledge of the relevant background material. Lastly, Evans focuses on the theological implications of Jesus’ crucifixion, and the foolishness (if I can use that word) that a crucified messiah would have been seen as in the first century. On the whole, one could think of this last section of Part 1 as a very selective condensation of Martin Hengel’s Crucifixion, boiled down to about three pages (!). Good stuff.

Part Two, also by Evans, looks in some detail at the burial of Jesus. The chapter begins with some background on the history of Jewish burial practices. Again, Evans’ knowledge of 2nd Temple history and material really shines here. This section was the most interesting for me, and it is short enough that you can read it through a few times to let it all soak in. Moving from Jewish to Roman burial practices at the time of Jesus, Evans devotes a couple of pages to the discovery of a Jewish crucifixion victim’s ossuary (with the nail apparently still in the heel), which is a very good read. Citing Pliny the Elder, Plautus, and various inscriptions, he then discusses Roman tendencies regarding burials for criminals, and responds to those who would argue that the apparently small number of buried crucifixion victims found suggests that Jesus would not have been given a proper burial at all. Lastly, he briefly recounts the gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial, and argues that based on the evidence discussed and the texts themselves, they deserve a fair reading.

The Bishop NT Wright takes up the topic of Jesus’ resurrection for the third and final chapter of the book. The chapter is very good, but this information is so readily available elsewhere, whether in book, essay, or various lectures, that it is hard to be too excited about if you’ve already read or heard Wright on the resurrection (and most probably have). I won’t attempt to sum up his work on the matter in a few words, but it’s widely available in various formats. If somehow you’ve not been exposed to the Bishop’s work on the subject, this is probably a good, if very truncated introduction to it. Just to put this in perspective, Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God gave him roughly 700 pages to devote to the topic. A shorter, wonderful treatment of Jesus’ resurrection, along with related topics, can be found in Surprised By Hope, which runs about 300 pages. Here, he gets about 35 pages. As a result, this chapter is basically unnecessary for the reader who has read either of the books above, or heard any of Wright’s many lectures on the subject (available here). The chapter is good for what it is, but why buy the postcard when you could have the full-color painting?

To sum up:

It is hard to imagine a better book if you are looking for a short and informative discussion of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Craig Evan’s two chapters are particularly good, and pack a great deal of information into a small number of pages. Even those who have read other works in this vein will probably learn something here, or at least be given something new to ponder. The final chapter, by Bishop Wright, is good, but is eclipsed by both Surprised By Hope and The Resurrection of the Son of God, both of which are worth buying in their own right, and highly recommended. This doesn’t detract from the value of the book, however, and for the price it is hard to beat.

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