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23 Feb 13:00

Rob Bell, Gay Marriage, and the Movie Tombstone

by Michael Kruger

It seems that Rob Bell and Oprah Winfrey are pretty good friends these days.  Bell has appeared on Oprah’s show numerous times, and just recently appeared, along with his wife Kristen, on her “Super Soul Sunday” episode over Valentine’s Day weekend.  Their appearance was designed to promote their new book, The ZimZum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage (HarperOne: 2014).

Now, I have to confess that I have no idea what the main title means.  But, the subtitle is pretty bold.  Given that marriage dates back to the very creation of mankind in Genesis, do we really need a new version of it? Is something wrong with the original version?  Apparently Bell thinks so.  At least as it pertains to the issue of gay marriage, which he endorses in this new book.

The issue of gay marriage even comes up in the interview with Oprah.  Since Oprah is unlikely to challenge the coherence of Bell’s rationale (she wholeheartedly agrees with him), I thought I would fill in the gap by offering an analysis of his statements here. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

1. During the interview, Kristen Bell reads a line from the book:  “Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice,

This is one of the statements that resonates with our modern world.  After all, who is opposed to “love”?  Who doesn’t want more “love” in the world?  This sort of rhetoric is very effective at making anyone opposed to gay marriage look like they are against love.  It makes them looks like they are hateful.

But, never do such statements define what “love” really is.  For our culture, “love” means whatever you want it to mean. There are no rules, no restrictions, no boundaries.  But, let’s imagine some different scenarios and see whether Bell’s logic makes sense.  Let’s imagine an adult son and his mother wanted to get married.  Is Bell ready to say this incestuous marriage “is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love“?  Doubtful.  Or, perhaps a man wants three wives.  Is Bell ready to say this polygamous marriage is “a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love?” If he is consistent, he would have to say yes.

On Bell’s 1960’s “All you need is Love” view of marriage, it could never be a definable institution that people participate in.  Rather, marriage simply becomes whatever each person wants it to be.  Thus, on Bell’s view there can be no such thing as marriage. Because “marriage” is defined by the whims and preferences of each individual, it just evaporates into subjectivism.

2. After Oprah asked him why he included gay marriage in his book, Bell said, “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness…Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.

I’ve got to say, this is masterful work from Bell. Framing the debate over homosexual marriage around the issue of loneliness is brilliant.  After all, if anyone objects it looks like they are a cruel, unfeeling person who doesn’t care about the suffering of the homosexual community.

But, once again, when you dig into Bell’s statements more deeply, you realized they are flawed at a fundamental level.  Bell says loneliness “is not good for the world.”  Maybe so.  But, sexual immorality is also not good for the world.  Casting off God’s guidance on what counts as legitimate healthy sexual activity is also not good for the world. Despite popular beliefs, immoral sexual activity is not harmless.  It can have serious emotional, spiritual, and even physical ramifications.

Even more, the “loneliness argument” Bell espouses could be used to justify virtually any sexual activity. Returning to the example above, what if an adult son and his mother wanted to get married and cited their “loneliness” as the reason?  Does that make it Ok?  Is polygamy also Ok on the grounds of loneliness?

But, there is an even bigger problem here for Bell.  If loneliness is the issue, one does not need marriage to solve it.  People live together and sleep together all the time as a cure for their loneliness.  On what possible grounds could Bell object to two people living together outside of marriage?  They could throw Bell’s loneliness argument right back in his face, “Come on Rob, ‘it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.'”

3. When Oprah asks why the church does not yet “get it” regarding gay marriage, Bell says: “I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life.

From someone who at least pretends to be a pastor, this is a stunning statement.  Notice that Bell doesn’t refer to the “Bible” or to “Scripture” or to “God’s Word” but instead refers to “letters from 2,000 years ago.”  This is a pejorative (and deceptive) way of speaking designed to undermine the credibility of the Bible regarding sexual issues.  These are just old letters, says Bell, pay no attention.  They have nothing to say about these things. Don’t bother listening to them.

By kicking the Bible to the curb, Bell may please Oprah, but he stands in direct contrast to thousands of years of church history (not to mention the history of Israel).  God’s people have always looked to the Bible as the ultimate guide for life, especially when it comes to issues of sexual ethics. Indeed, as I pointed out in a prior post, the earliest Christians stood out from the Greco-Roman world precisely in the area of their sexual behavior.

Even Jesus himself looked to the Bible as the ultimate guide for sexual ethics.  He appealed to numerous biblical texts to defend the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman (e.g., Matt 19:1-9).

So, what does Bell think is a better guide for sexual ethics than the Bible?  Personal experience.  Why would you choose the Bible, says Bell, “when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who…love each other and just want to go through life.’  In other words, what should guide our decisions is the personal sexual experiences of people. We should follow what they feel is right. If this is how they find “love” then great. Thus, on Bell’s view, there are no sexual ethics. There are just people’s personal sexual preferences.  Welcome to a brave new world.

Of course, as noted above. This logic puts Bell in a predicament.  If everyone gets to just pick their own sexual practices, then he must acknowledge that incestuous love, polygamous love, and many other kinds of deviant sexual behavior are all legitimate.

With the help of Rob Bell, I am sure that our culture is headed precisely in this direction. The logic used to justify homosexual marriage is like an acid that will eventually eat its way through every remaining sexual boundary in our culture. And pretty soon, there will be no boundaries.

And this will not create a culture of love, peace, and fulfillment as Bell and Oprah predict.  It will create a culture of sexual, emotional, spiritual, and even physical brokenness.  Ironically, therefore, it will create a culture of loneliness.  The very thing Bell said that homosexual marriage is designed to cure.

When the culture eventually hits rock bottom, the hope is people will begin to see that a society without any sexual boundaries is self-destructive. The hope is that they will be like the young cowboy Billy in the 1993 movie Tombstone. After running with the lawless crowd for a while, Billy begins to see how destructive that life really is. Then he comes to his senses and declares to the gang leader, “I’m sorry sir, but we’ve got to have some law.”

Yes, even in the world of sex and marriage, “We’ve got to have some law.” And when a culture begins to realize it, usually that is when revival takes place.

14 Jan 14:55

My Review of Chris Keith’s Jesus Against the Scribal Elite (Skinner)

by Christopher Skinner

Keith BookThis morning I received an alert that my review of Chris Keith’s recent volume, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014) had been published in the most recent fascicle of Theology. Regrettably, I had a rather tight word limit so I could not say as much about this book as I would have liked. You will obviously get the impression, however, that I liked this volume very much. It combines scholarly creativity with academic substance and pedagogical sensitivity. I have mentioned this elsewhere, but Chris is one of the few really gifted academics I know who can write about complex topics in a very engaging way. He does more of that here. I do have some concerns (which I express in the review) that some of the material in the middle of book will be a bit too advanced for some non-specialist readers. Such is the challenge of taking the complexities of discussions in our field and presenting them to non-specialists without too much oversimplification. Still, I think the payoff will prove to be greater than any difficulties readers might face. And for the record, I intend to use this book as a supplemental text in my Jesus and Gospels course next Spring.

09 Jan 13:33

Recent Reviews of Jesus against the Scribal Elite: Appreciation and Interaction—Chris Keith

by (Chris Keith)
I was honored to see recently that Nijay Gupta (George Fox University) named Jesus against the Scribal Elite an honorable mention for his best new Jesus/Gospels book for 2014.  He had reviewed the book back in August on the Crux Sola blog that he authors with Christopher Skinner.

As Anthony already noted, Greg Carey wrote a thoughtful and careful review of the book at Christian Century, for which I am grateful also.  I especially liked this line:  "Keith writes with the charm of an excellent classroom teacher: always clear, occasionally hip, and sometimes a little geeky."  I'm honored at such a description.

I'm also appreciative of the review that Horacio Vela of University of the Incarnate Word published in Choice 52.5 (2015).  He highly recommended the book and, though (rightly) noting that there might be disagreement over the "memory approach" methodology, says:  "Keith creates a plausible account of a conflict rooted in Jewish social and religious practices that culminated in Jesus' death at the hands of Roman authorities.  This book serves as a great introduction to studies of ancient literacy and historical Jesus research for theology/religion courses at the undergraduate/graduate level."

There was also a critical review appearing in the most recent volume of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society by Brian Wright, a PhD student at Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry.  I raised my eyebrow a bit when Wright told his readers that I've previously written two monographs arguing that the historical Jesus was "not a scribal-literate teacher," since my first monograph has nothing to do with the historical Jesus and argues that the author of the story of the woman caught in adultery seems to think Jesus was literate.  Wright praises aspects of Jesus against the Scribal Elite, but faults me for having failed to include some bibliographical items and not responded to prior criticisms of my other books in this book since it deals with some of the same content.  I suppose that's fair enough, but those criticisms hadn't changed my mind on the pertinent issues and I didn't think a textbook was the place to engage in line-by-line response anyway; otherwise I'd never have gotten on to the book itself or kept it at the level it was intended.  I have addressed and am actively addressing those criticisms in other contexts, such as here, here, and here.  He also seems frustrated that, from the pile of publications that have come out since my last monograph, I cited positively Anthony Le Donne and Rafael Rodriguez.  I'm not sure if he's trying to create the impression that I only cited my buddies, but he failed to note that I also include Dagmar Winter, Dale Allison, Loren Stuckenbruck, and Mark Goodacre, most all the contributors to Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity.  The really odd criticism, though, was when he faulted me for not interacting in this book with Von Rom nach Bagdad, a Mohr Siebeck book on ancient education that was published in August 2013.  As anyone who has published a book knows, though, a book comes out anywhere between (usually) 8 and 12 months from when you submit the final form to the press.  In the case of Jesus against the Scribal Elite, it was actually 14 months.  I submitted the book to the press at the beginning of February 2013 and it was published in April of 2014.  So I submitted the manuscript six months before Von Rom nach Bagdad had even been published.  What can I say?  Yes, indeed, I did fail to cite a book that had not yet been published.

I remain grateful to Wright for highlighting some positives of the book, though, as well as his constructive suggestions, and thank the other reviewers along with Wright for taking time to read the book in the first place.
26 Jan 12:24

Jens Schröter’s From Jesus to the New Testament

by Joel Willitts


I have had finally gotten around to reading Jens Schröter’s book From Jesus to the New Testament: Early Christian Theology and the Origin of the New Testament Canon. It is a translation of his German, Mohr Siebeck volume Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament (2007). The translation was done my one of my very good friends [Read More...]
10 Dec 11:30

Helen Bond on Sexism and NT Scholarship

by (Chris Keith)
The Jesus Blog is proud to host Dr. Helen K. Bond as a guest blogger today.  This post is
Part Two to Chris Keith's post yesterday.

As a 22-year old PhD student, I was ill equipped to deal with the sexism within our profession. I had been brought up in a household where men cooked, where girls played with Meccano, and women’s academic success was not only accepted but expected. Looking back, I suppose the warning signs were already there in my undergraduate degree. Only one of my lecturers was female, and she was safely pigeon-holed as a ‘feminist theologian.’ But the undergraduate cohort was half women, we did just as well as men in our exams, and I was blissfully ignorant of the trials to come.

Almost as soon as I took the step into postgrad work I knew something was wrong. I was the only female in a relatively large group of doctoral students (25 or so) and my fellow students treated me very differently. I noticed that they discussed their research with one another but to me they’d comment on my hair or my clothes. I had neither the background experience nor the vocabulary to articulate the sense of marginalization and resentment that I felt. Part of the problem was that I was ‘other’ in so many ways - the only person in her 20s, the only single student, the only person from the UK - so it was hard to pinpoint gender as the root cause of my isolation. At times I wondered if my male colleagues were right to trivialise me and my research: perhaps it was patently obvious to everyone but me that I wasn’t up to the task? It was only much later, at a theological college which took sexism seriously, that I learned to put a name to what I’d experienced – and started to formulate strategies to deal with it.

One of the difficulties is that sexism in the academy often manifests itself in small matters: the male colleague who calls me ‘my dear’; the elderly male professor who introduced me at a prestigious gathering as ‘Helen Blonde’ - realising his mistake, he added, ‘Well, she is a blonde’ (many of the delegates laughed); the visiting academics who ask my male colleagues about their research but talk to me about my children (or, worse, their own). A colleague of mine recently was the only female speaker at a conference; instead of introducing her with a flourish (as he had with all the male speakers), the organiser asked her to introduce herself! All of these are minor misdemeanours in the grand scheme of things. Often the slight is so subtle that others hardly notice. To complain might make me feel better in the short term, but it would get me a reputation for being ‘prickly,’ ‘over-sensitive,’ or ‘hard to work with.’ And we all know that that can be just as devastating to an academic career as poor scholarship.

Over the years, I’ve sometimes found unexpected allies. Older male colleagues with adult daughters develop great insights into what it’s like for women in the profession. Blindly oblivious in the past to the needs of their wives (who mostly gave up their own career aspirations to look after the home) their daughters often have first class degrees and PhDs, and are at the stage of trying to juggle their first steps in an academic career with family responsibilities. Suddenly these male colleagues observe things through their daughters’ eyes, and are shocked by what they see.

I’m also aware that we women don’t always help ourselves. It’s quite amazing how many women refer to their own research as ‘niche,’ or ‘non-mainstream’ – perhaps in an attempt to belittle ourselves before others get the chance. Women are much less likely to brag about our achievements, or to refer to our books as ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘seminal.’ Well meaning souls (usually male) have sometimes taken me to one side and suggested I cut my hair, lose the heels, and ditch the ‘bling.’ I could do all of this, of course, but somehow I wouldn’t feel like myself any more. And there has to be something rather ironic in a discipline which praises originality and independence of scholarship and yet expects those who engage in it all to look the same!

One of the things I like least about conferences (and particularly the SBL) is that question: ‘What are you working on?’ In the past, I tended to approach it much too literally, noting that as it was November I was really quite busy with teaching just now. Over the years, though, I’ve honed my strategy. I noticed that no one really answers this question literally at all – the most successful answers (by which I mean the ones that sound impressive to other people) start by outlining what research the person has had published in the last couple of years before ending up with a brief outline of current plans. Now I never go to conferences without my ‘what are you working on’ speech firmly in my head. (Of course, I only need to give it to men, women don’t usually ask).

My experiences in the academy are far from unique. They are all too common, particularly amongst women who don’t have a strong female support group around them. As I’ve become more senior, overtly sexist behaviour has become much less common, though it can still appear on the fringes of any gathering. I’m lucky now to have several female colleagues. Edinburgh’s School of Divinity has four full time permanent female members of staff in biblical studies, and Scotland’s ancient universities have seven women in New Testament (we’re meeting up soon to celebrate the fact).  But there’s still a long way to go. Female PhD students still report the same feelings of marginalization and isolation that I felt, and the number of women continuing into postgraduate work is pitifully low. (I’m convening a group to look at this, so if anyone has any suggestions as to how to recruit and retain female PhDs I’d be happy to hear from you).

What else can we do? I’m not in favour of positive discrimination (the last thing anyone needs is to be told by resentful competitors that she got a job because she’s a woman), but there are other strategies. We need to make sure that female scholars are represented in course bibliographies, and that their views are taken seriously in course curricula. Historical Jesus studies are particularly bad in this regard. Most are still in thrall to the cult of the male scholar, and many courses are even designed around the ‘great male scholar,’ treating the views of a handful of men as representative of Historical Jesus studies as a whole. (My own Historical Jesus course, for what it’s worth, is topic based, and we’re as likely to look at essays by Amy Jill Levine, Paula Fredriksen and Kathleen Corley as we are Crossan, Sanders and Wright).

As a female biblical scholar, I’ve often been landed with the ‘Women in the Bible’ class. This is something I’ve enjoyed teaching, but my longer-term hope is that one day it won’t be needed. Things are changing, and Paul’s views on gender are nowadays likely to be found in a mainstream Paul course, but there’s still a way to go before we can scrap the ‘Woman’ class completely. At a more senior level, people planning research papers and conferences might ask themselves whether any women might have something to contribute. (I still go to conferences or SBL panels at which every speaker is male). It’s all too easy to invite our friends to participate, and not to ask what an all-male cast list says – either to outsiders, or to people of the opposite gender within the discipline. And women too need to set aside time for networking (even if it’s not our natural habitat) and mentoring more junior colleagues. When you start to think about it, there are plenty of ways that we can make the discipline a more welcoming place for women. And that can surely only be to everyone’s advantage.



08 Dec 15:35

Robot Best Friends

04 Dec 19:47

Book Notice: Justin Marc-Smith, Why Bios? (Skinner)

by Christopher Skinner

Smith PhotoWhen I was in San Diego last month for the annual meeting of the SBL, I picked up a handful of really interesting books. The first one I decided to read was Justin Marc Smith’s monograph, Why Bios? On the Relationship Between Gospel Genre and Implied Audience (LNTS 518; London: Bloomsbury / T & T Clark, 2015). This volume is a revised version of Smith’s dissertation from St. Andrews. The book was of immediate interest to me for several reasons. First, in my SBL paper, one of my major points was that we need to take seriously the gospels as Greco-Rmoan biographies in order to make arguments about narrative techniques and characterization. I was therefore very interested to see what Smith had to say. Second, in a future project I intend to develop a via media between the Brown/Martyn hypothesis about the Johannine community and the Bauckham/Klink “gospels-for-all-Christians” model. At the heart of that debate are deliberations about the nature and scope of the gospels. Smith’s treatment is insightful and conversant with a great deal of material both within and outside of the discipline of gospels research. I am sure this work will become a dialogue partner for me in my future research on this topic. I have already identified some areas in which Smith and I disagree, but I’ll save those for a future time. For now, I recommend this resource to those interested in this important discussion. This monograph definitely contributes to advancing the current state of the discussion.

30 Nov 19:51

You and I

25 Nov 23:25

I Wish You Never Knew About My Secret

26 Nov 19:43

Come Closer

18 Nov 02:00

I did it

06 Oct 12:00

Ira Glass on Storytelling

by Jason Brubaker

This is kinda old now but it’s still so good.

21 Aug 15:15

Great Advice for New Faculty Hires from Inside Higher Ed (Gupta)

by Nijay Gupta

I am a new faculty member at George Fox, but this is actually my sixth year of full-time teaching. I feel pretty comfortable being new and navigating carefully higher-ed politics, but I was directed recently to THIS EXCELLENT LITTLE ARTICLE FROM INSIDE HIGHER ED (“Advice for New Hires”). Read the whole article, but here are highlights that stuck out to me and served as very helpful reminders.

1. Don’t take anything personally, especially not at first. People will often treat you as insignificant. This is not because they don’t like you, but because they are socially inept. Most of us are comfortable with the people we already know, and are not good at being friendly to new people. The old-timers ought to go out of their way to be friendly and inclusive to someone new (you) but they probably will not, and you should just chalk it up to poor social skills.

3. Your best friends are likely to be the other assistant professors, but do not avoid the senior people. Treat them with friendly respect. If they treat you as an equal, treat them back as an equal. Some older people prefer mild deference, even if they do not acknowledge that they do; others hate to admit that they are older or established, and want you to treat them as buddies. Try to respond to their cues in this. The safest stance is one where you think well of yourself, but give mild respect to someone senior on the grounds that they have more experience.

4. Do NOT attempt to reform ANYTHING for at least a year, preferably two or three. No matter how stupid the curriculum or other things seem, leave them alone until you have been there long enough to know why they are there and whose interests are at stake. Similarly, try to avoid being drawn into factional disputes. Do your best to be friendly to everyone and to establish good working relationships with everyone you can. Most people will respect a stance of, “You really sound reasonable, but I’m new here and I need to get oriented before I go out on a limb about something like that.” Also, avoid challenging anybody for at least a year, again until you learn who is who and what the real issues are. Some people have abrasive personalities or are so shy that they will seem “out of it” who actually are quite reasonable people when you get to know them. Conversely, some sociopaths are friendly at first.

8. Many people have culture shock or hate their jobs in the first year or two. This is normal. [...]


12. Keep your job in perspective. Work hard, but don’t let it ruin the rest of your life. Take care of yourself and your relationships. In some department cultures, you’ll be aware of other people’s families, relationships, hobbies, and politics. In others, the public department culture makes it appear that everyone is always working and people hide their personal lives. So you have to learn the culture before you decide how much to disclose. But regardless of how much you let others see it, seek to develop a sustainable lifestyle that involves enough sleep and exercise, human interaction, meaningful activities, and fun.

29 Sep 04:00

iOS Keyboard

More actual results: 'Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You [are the best. The best thing ever]', 'Revenge is a dish best served [by a group of people in my room]', and 'They may take our lives, but they'll never take our [money].'
29 Jul 11:11

“inerrancy doesn’t describe what the Bible does”–some comments from my ETS talk

by Peter Enns
I could have sworn I posted this months ago, but didn’t. So here it is. These are my comments I gave at the Evangelical Theological Society in Baltimore last November as part of the panel discussing the book I contibuted to (along with Al Mohler, John Franke, Michael Bird, and Kevin Vanhoozer), Five Views on Biblical [Read More...]
11 Aug 05:03

Is Inerrancy a Game Only Played by American Evangelicals?

by Scot McKnight
America exports its goods giving it a worldwide influence, including its sports — basketball and (American) football and baseball. Of course baseball is played elsewhere, and baseball in the Dominican is special, but these are American-shaped sports. But would a Dominican say baseball is an American sport? (Not on your life.) Is inerrancy a game [Read More...]
04 Aug 13:18

We Are All Vulnerable to This Toxic Drug

by Justin Taylor

Robert P. George, in his Advice to Young Scholars:

Although it is natural and, in itself, good to desire and even seek affirmation, do not fall in love with applause. It is a drug. When you get some of it, you crave more. It can easily deflect you from your mission and vocation. In the end, what matters is not winning approval or gaining celebrity. Your mission and vocation is to seek the truth and to speak the truth as God gives you to grasp it.

There is a particular danger for those who dissent from the reigning orthodoxies of a prevailing intellectual culture. You may be tempted to suppose that your willingness to defy the career-making (and potential career-breaking) mandarins of elite opinion immunizes you from addiction to affirmation and applause and guarantees your personal authenticity and intellectual integrity. It doesn’t. We are all vulnerable to the drug. The vulnerability never completely disappears. And the drug is toxic to the activity of thinking (and thus to the cause of truth-seeking).

Similarly, D. A. Carson warns that Christian conservatives are not immune to the drug of approval and applause:

[S]eductive applause may come [from] the conservative constituency of your friends, a narrower peer group but one that, for some people, is equally ensnaring. Scholarship is then for sale: you constantly work on things to bolster the self-identity of your group, to show they are right, to answer all who disagree with them. Some scholars who are very indignant with colleagues who, in their estimation, are far too attracted by the applause of unbelieving academic peers, remain blissfully unaware of how much they have become addicted to the applause of conservative bastions that egg them on.

04 Aug 04:00

Thesis Defense

12 Jul 11:43

Weekend A La Carte (July 12)

by Tim

We arrived safely to our quiet spot in South Carolina, after a very long and scenic drive that took us through ON → NY → PA → WV → VA → TN → NC → SC. And here we are. Again, it will be light blogging for the next week as I focus on unwinding. (But I can’t not write at least a bit since it is the most relaxing part of my life.)

A shout-out goes to the folk at Bristol Caverns in Bristol, TN. We dropped by to take a tour of the caverns and met our tour guide Doug who turned out to be a reader of this site. The caverns are well worth the hour-long tour.

This Is Mindy - This is a hard-to-read article from former porn producer Donny. He describes how he recruited a girl named Mindy and then destroyed her life. The point of the article: there is a terrible hidden cost to pornography.

The Vanishing Screwball - Baseball lovers may enjoy this longform article from the New York Times on the screwball and why almost nobody throws it anymore.

The Unexpected Answers of God - Jon Bloom explains that we are often unprepared for the kind of answers we receive from God. And I think he’s absolutely right.

Foods that Taste Bad - Ever wondered why that glass or orange juice tastes unbearable after brushing your teeth? This article explains.

Theology, the Last Resort - Here is some thought-provoking stuff from J.D. Payne.

The Vatican’s Bank - Did you know the Vatican has a bank? Neither did it. Foreign Policy says that its history “reads more like Dan Brown than the financial pages.”

When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. —C.H. Spurgeon\


01 Jun 19:33

Review of Defining Inerrancy

by Daniel B. Wallace

Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation, by J. P. Holding and Nick Peters, published by Tekton E-Bricks on 22 May 2014, is intended to be a response to Norm Geisler and Bill Roach’s Defending Inerrancy—and so much more. Both have a similar cover and similar title. Defining Inerrancy, however, is a gloves-off defense and affirmation of a version of inerrancy that many are not acquainted with. That is, many except those who are Old and New Testament scholars.

Defining inerrancyDefending Inerrancy

Defining Inerrancy also interacts heavily with Norm Geisler and David Farnell’s The Jesus Quest, a book published just last March. The info on Amazon says that the eBook is the equivalent of 98 pages long, based on the number of “page turns” on a Kindle. A preliminary Word draft of Defining Inerrancy, sent to me by the authors, weighs in at just 74 pages. It’s a one-evening read, but it will be an evening very well spent.


Even though only an eBook so far, this little volume addresses some of the most pressing issues within American evangelical circles that have been brewing for more than four decades. And it comes with a Foreword by world-renown Gospels scholar, Craig Blomberg, giving the book instant credibility.

The booklet has fifteen short chapters and no footnotes or endnotes (but some, though not entirely adequate, in-text notes).

Blomberg’s Foreword, in the opening paragraph, lets the readers know that Norm Geisler has recently been attacking his evangelical orthodoxy. As one reads through this book, they will discover that it is in many ways a response to Geisler’s campaign to rid the church of what he perceives to be bibliological heretics. Inter alia, Blomberg gives a laundry list of evangelical scholars who have been the victims of Geisler’s acidic pen: Robert Gundry, Murray Harris, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Darrell Bock, Michael Licona, Craig Blomberg—and even the entire Evangelical Theological Society (a group which, according to Blomberg, Geisler referred to as ‘liberal’ and the “Former Evangelical Theological Society”)! And Blomberg does not mince words. Penultimately, Blomberg commends this book as follows: “…if Geisler has already misled you on any of these topics, read these chapters carefully so that the record may be set straight.”

Indeed, that is an apt summary of the book. The authors set the record straight on Geisler’s increasingly marginalized approach to inerrancy. Many would regard Geisler as the spiritual heir of Harold Lindsell, a man whose books The Battle for the Bible and The Bible in the Balance bitterly divided evangelicals nearly four decades ago. But I digress.

The major issue that Holding and Peters put forth is that within the inerrantist camp are ‘traditionalists’ and ‘contextualizers.’ Traditionalists claim that the Bible should be read essentially literally and that unless there are clear in-text clues that something is to be taken otherwise, the reader is to regard the text as literally true. Contextualizers see things differently. They would argue that genre, comparative literature, and other extra-textual features are often important keys to understanding the meaning of the text. The book focuses on the Gospels and narrative. Here, it is claimed, traditionalists view the narrative in the Gospels as historical, while contextualizers view it as imbibing, at times, in more than one genre. And even then, this does not necessarily mean that such is not historical. Even though many traditionalists would claim that, for example, dominical sayings are always exact quotations of the Lord (known as ipsissima verba), contextualizers claim that this is not only not in keeping with ancient historiographical reporting but also involves exegetical gymnastics that defy logic.

The authors put forth their thesis rather boldly:

“inerrancy requires a contextualization of the Bible as both the superlative literature that it is and as a document; and that the ‘as it stands’ readings frequently (not always) decontextualize the Bible, reading it as a text out of time, and therefore without respect to critical defining contexts during the time of its writing.”


“… the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable, leading us down a path of endless epicycles of explanation, artificialities, and illogic. The end result will be to bring down scorn on the Christian faith and contributing [sic] to its demise in the Western world.”

This should be enough to pique the interest of any reader! As astounding as their statements are, I think they are spot on. But one will have to read the book to see whether they make out their case.

I will simply note two refrains that the authors make. First, though the Bible may be inerrant, our interpretation of it is not. This would seem to be obvious, yet repeatedly they show that Geisler sets himself up as the arbiter of truth—including true, inerrant interpretations. And this is one of the great divides among evangelicals today. Ironically, though there are many near-consensus interpretations of a number of passages among evangelicals, to hold up a particular interpretation as the true interpretation is to place tradition above the text. And this cuts directly into sola scriptura—the sufficiency of scripture as our final authority. Geisler and other traditionalists tend to claim that any view that does not see the Gospel narratives as utterly historical is not compatible with inerrancy. Yet—again ironically—many traditionalists claim that the Church has from its beginning embraced inerrancy. But if so, it is certainly not the same inerrancy that is embraced by traditionalists.

A case in point (not mentioned in the book): several church fathers, whose bibliological credentials on the New Testament at least were unimpeachable, claim that Jesus’ healing of the blind man in Mark 8.22–26 was not historical. This is one of two miracles of Jesus recorded in Mark that are not found in either Matthew or Luke. Both of them involved Jesus using spittle (the other is the healing of the deaf-mute in Mark 7). Jerome says that the story is “not historical, but symbolic.” And Ambrose, the bishop of Milan in the fourth century, saw the spittle as a symbol for the washing away of sins in baptism.

Nevertheless, these hoary authorities of old were probably wrong. It is instructive that through the route of historical criticism these two pericopes have become seen as among the most likely historical events in the Gospels—and for the same reasons that Matthew and Luke probably excluded them and the church fathers spiritualized them. Why was that? Embarrassment. Most Gospels scholars today, both evangelical and liberal and everything in between, regard a saying or act preserved in the Gospels that would be potentially embarrassing to the church, as having the marks of authenticity for this very reason, for no evangelist would create such out of whole cloth.

Second, the authors make the case that elevating inerrancy to the level of, say, the resurrection of Jesus, puts one’s whole belief system in jeopardy. Toward the end of the book, they make this case as follows:

“Blomberg also offers us, Geisler says, the hideous (!) statement that if there were a few genuine contradictions in the Bible, the rest of the text would not be jeopardized and the entire case for belief would not be called into question. Yes, this is one of those dangerous views of Scripture that says that if the Bible is not inerrant, then Jesus did not rise. How far would it go? Would we say Jesus did not even exist if we find there are mistakes in the Bible? Actually, there are some professed former Christians who hold to this position, and their questioning of the Bible started with them having been in a position like Geisler’s as confessing Christians.”

This view—making inerrancy as important as the resurrection of Christ—is part of a mindset that does not differentiate among doctrines. I call it the domino view of doctrine. When one falls down, they all fall down. I have taught for years that it is one of the main reasons why some conservatives become “liberal.” I put “liberal” in quotes because often such people are not really liberal; they are still fundamentalists, just on the left side of the theological aisle. They still see things in black and white, but now are skeptical about the supernatural and anything that smacks of biblical authority. Darrell Bock speaks of such a mentality as “brittle fundamentalism.” And he sees it as shattering when it comes in contact with the sophisticated polemics of the left.

In Defining Inerrancy, the authors note that they have known many evangelicals who have abandoned the faith precisely because they started out with such a hardening of the categories. This rings true: I get countless emails from people who have either jettisoned their beliefs (or have friends or family members who have) because their starting presupposition was that it’s inerrancy or nothing. Such people would throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater! And it is this very problem that one of the architects of modern evangelicalism, Carl Henry (who could hardly be condemned as being soft on inerrancy!), addressed in his book, Evangelicals in Search of Identity. It seems that many evangelicals are still not listening. And yet Henry saw, forty years ago, that the evangelical church was making inerrancy the litmus test of orthodoxy to its discredit. Yet again, I digress. Holding and Peters are not in the least denying inerrancy; they are simply rejecting a rigid form of it that they see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church.

In sum, Defining Inerrancy is a book far more important than its size would indicate. It defines not only inerrancy but a yawning divide within evangelicalism. My hope is that traditionalists will not dismiss it out of hand (as they have so many treatments coming from contextualizing inerrantists), but will indeed wrestle seriously with its contents. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath.

02 May 10:38

04/30/14 PHD comic: 'The Word Symposium'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The Word Symposium" - originally published 4/30/2014

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

05 May 21:08

05/05/14 PHD comic: 'What to call your Academic Event'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "What to call your Academic Event" - originally published 5/5/2014

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

08 May 09:29

Be More Specific Than “Points” or “Things”

by Andy Naselli


Speakers and writers often say something like this: “My sermon has three points” or “I’d like to share four things.”

This book taught me not to do that:

Wayne McDill. 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching. 2nd ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006.

I took my first homiletics courses in college in the 1999–2000 school year, and the first edition of this book was one of my main textbooks.

That book has served me well over the last fifteen years. It taught me to use language precisely.

Below is one example that has stuck with me. McDill is giving advice about how to craft sermon divisions, but his advice applies to far more than just preaching. It applies to writing and to communication in general:

There are almost an unlimited number of terms you can use as key words [in sermon division statements]. Note that Appendix D provides a comprehensive list of possible key words. But some words should not be used.

      1. Do not use things as a key word. It is too broad and nebulous to be useful.
      2. Neither should you use points as a key word for the same reason.

Remember, the key word is simply a device to identify the nature of your sermon divisions as they emerge from the writer’s treatment of his subject. (pp. 111–12, numbering and formatting added)

So instead of saying that the apostle Paul “makes three points,” say, “gives three reasons” or “shows three ways” or whatever. The craft of communicating with speech and writing requires words, so if that’s your craft, you’ll want to develop your ability to use words well.

McDill lists 265 words that communicate more clearly that the ambiguous words “points” and “things” (“Appendix D: Sample Key Words,” pp. 295–96, numbering added):

  1. abuses
  2. accusations
  3. acts
  4. actions
  5. actualities
  6. admonitions
  7. advantages
  8. affairs
  9. affirmations
  10. agreements
  11. aims
  12. alternatives
  13. assertions
  14. angles
  15. answers
  16. applications
  17. approaches
  18. areas
  19. arguments
  20. articles
  21. attitudes
  22. attributes
  23. aspects
  24. aspirations
  25. assertions
  26. assumptions
  27. assurances
  28. attainments
  29. attitudes
  30. attributes
  31. barriers
  32. beginnings
  33. beliefs
  34. benefits
  35. burdens
  36. calls
  37. causes
  38. certainties
  39. challenges
  40. changes
  41. charges
  42. claims
  43. clues
  44. commands
  45. commitments
  46. comparisons
  47. compensations
  48. compromises
  49. compulsions
  50. conceptions
  51. concessions
  52. conclusions
  53. conditions
  54. consequences
  55. contrasts
  56. corrections
  57. credentials
  58. criteria
  59. criticisms
  60. customs
  61. dangers
  62. decisions
  63. declarations
  64. defenses
  65. deficiencies
  66. definitions
  67. degrees
  68. demands
  69. denials
  70. destinies
  71. details
  72. devices
  73. differences
  74. distinctions
  75. directions
  76. directives
  77. disciplines
  78. disclosures
  79. discoveries
  80. distinctions
  81. doctrines
  82. duties
  83. elements
  84. encouragements
  85. essentials
  86. estimates
  87. events
  88. evidences
  89. evils
  90. examples
  91. exchanges
  92. exclamations
  93. exhortations
  94. expectations
  95. experiences
  96. expressions
  97. facets
  98. factors
  99. facts
  100. failures
  101. faults
  102. favors
  103. fears
  104. features
  105. finalities
  106. forces
  107. functions
  108. fundamentals
  109. gains
  110. generalizations
  111. gifts
  112. goals
  113. graces
  114. groups
  115. guarantees
  116. habits
  117. handicaps
  118. hindrances
  119. hopes
  120. hungers
  121. ideals
  122. ideas
  123. illustrations
  124. imperatives
  125. implications
  126. impressions
  127. improvements
  128. impulses
  129. incentives
  130. incidents
  131. indictments
  132. inferences
  133. injunctions
  134. insights
  135. inspirations
  136. instances
  137. instruction
  138. instruments
  139. intimations
  140. invitations
  141. issues
  142. items
  143. joys
  144. judgments
  145. justifications
  146. keys
  147. kinds
  148. laws
  149. lessons
  150. levels
  151. liabilities
  152. limits
  153. lists
  154. losses
  155. loyalties
  156. manifestations
  157. marks
  158. means
  159. measures
  160. methods
  161. mistakes
  162. moments
  163. motives
  164. movements
  165. mysteries
  166. names
  167. necessities
  168. needs
  169. notions
  170. objections
  171. objectives
  172. observations
  173. obstacles
  174. occasions
  175. offers
  176. omissions
  177. opinions
  178. opportunities
  179. paradoxes
  180. particulars
  181. parts
  182. peculiarities
  183. penalties
  184. perils
  185. periods
  186. phases
  187. phrases
  188. pledges
  189. points
  190. possibilities
  191. practices
  192. premises
  193. prerogatives
  194. principles
  195. priorities
  196. probabilities
  197. problems
  198. processes
  199. promises
  200. promptings
  201. pronouncements
  202. proofs
  203. prophecies
  204. propositions
  205. provisions
  206. qualifications
  207. qualities
  208. questions
  209. realities
  210. realizations
  211. reasons
  212. reflections
  213. refusals
  214. remarks
  215. remedies
  216. reminders
  217. requirements
  218. reservations
  219. resources
  220. responses
  221. restraints
  222. results
  223. revelations
  224. rewards
  225. risks
  226. routes
  227. rules
  228. safeguards
  229. satisfactions
  230. secrets
  231. sins
  232. sources
  233. specifications
  234. statements
  235. steps
  236. stipulations
  237. successes
  238. suggestions
  239. superlatives
  240. suppositions
  241. surprises
  242. symptoms
  243. teachings
  244. tendencies
  245. testimonies
  246. tests
  247. thoughts
  248. threats
  249. topics
  250. totalities
  251. truths
  252. undertakings
  253. urges
  254. uses
  255. values
  257. violations
  258. virtues
  259. voices
  260. warnings
  261. ways
  262. weaknesses
  263. wishes
  264. words
  265. wrongs

Related: other posts on preaching and writing

23 Apr 22:55

Beware the Dangerous Heresy of Michael Bird!

by Michael F. Bird
Joseph M. Holden, the president of something called Veritas Evangelical Seminary (a subsidiary of Norman Geisler industries), has written a post called ICBI Inerrancy is Not for the Birds, in which he draws attention to the cancerous and conniving heretical ravings of a certain Michael Bird. Apparently this Michael Bird fellow – along with other [Read More...]
16 Apr 17:46

Leon Morris on Biblical Authority and Inerrancy

by Michael F. Bird
Great quote from Leon Morris: My … point is that what we need more than anything is a way of looking at the Bible which holds fully to its authority, but which does not bog down on the defence of minor points. The Bible writers, while consistently regarding what they have written as reliable, do not [Read More...]
04 Apr 14:46

Preventing sexual abuse in your home

by Maralee

In my last post I wrote about how worries regarding the potential for sexual abuse can keep people from providing foster care. I provided some background information it’s good to know before providing foster care for a child who may have been sexually abused. I think having a healthy perspective about this issue is very important. I also think it’s vitally important to create a safe environment in your home with the potential for sexual abuse in mind. For us, that has been striking the right balance between openness, honesty, and privacy. Here’s how we do it.

Specific to foster families:

Respect birth order when taking foster kids. I know not everybody is going to agree with me about this and I’m okay with that. God has blessed the ministry of many families who have chosen to take kids out of birth order. I’m not arguing against that if you feel called to that and you have the skills and resources to ensure the safety of all kids in your home. But for our family, respecting birth order has been a big part of how we prevent sexual abuse from happening in our home. We always want our kids to be big enough and old enough to know what is appropriate and be able to say “no” to things they know are wrong. This is a decision we make for the protection of our kids and we don’t let pressure from an agency that wants to place older kids in our home push us into something we aren’t comfortable with. If you feel called to take kids older than your kids, do it with much prayer and with honest conversations about how you’ll protect your kids. If you don’t feel called to take kids older than your kids, don’t be pressured into it and work to recruit foster families who are in a position to take those kids you can’t.

Ask about a foster chid’s history. When you are called about a child who may be placed in your home, you need to ask very specific questions. Don’t feel bad about being nosey. If a caseworker can’t give you that information for whatever reason, they will tell you that. You also need to assume that nobody has the whole story on this child yet. Even if nobody knows about a history of sexual abuse, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been one. It’s good to have a plan for how to help that child with healthy boundaries and be sure they’re getting the counseling help they require. Because you may not always know the full story, it’s important to have good boundaries in place for your family in general.

Have a safety plan. If you become aware that a child in your home had been abused and sexually acting out, how would you handle it? You need to think through your resources and how you’re going to keep everybody safe. Do other children in the home know what is appropriate and inappropriate? Do you have counseling help available? Do you have a respite provider that can handle children with those issues when you need a break? Are you able to adequately supervise interactions between children? Does every child have privacy in the bathroom and when they get dressed? You need to have answers for these kinds of questions before you take a placement if there’s any potential for issues (which you may or may not know ahead of time).

For every family:

Talk honestly with your kids about their bodies. Bodies are not shameful. The words we use to identify our body parts are not shameful. Use the correct words with your kids from as early a time as possible. Tell them those parts are special and private. There is never too young an age to start having that conversation. There shouldn’t be one special day where you have the birds and bees talk and expect that to cover it. This is an ongoing conversation you have with a child about the beauty and functionality of their body from their infancy through their young adulthood.

Be a person your kids can talk to. Create times for your kids to ask questions that may be on their minds. Let them know that you aren’t embarrassed to talk about sex. Tell them that if they saw something, heard something or had something done to them that they felt uncomfortable about, they need to talk to you about it. Create a climate in your home where a child would feel safe coming to you without fear.

Identify other safe people your kids can talk to. If something happened at school, they can talk to a trusted teacher. Talk about what relatives or family friends or leaders at church would be okay to talk to if they had a question or didn’t feel comfortable coming to Mom and Dad. Ultimately we want them to talk to us, but there may be a reason why that doesn’t feel safe to them or they are in an environment where we aren’t present, so it’s good for them to know there are other people that we trust who could listen to them and help them know how to talk to us.

Tell them what response would be okay if they were inappropriately touched. Have you ever had a fire drill at your home? Have you talked to your kids about the escape routes from your house if there were a fire or about your safety plan if there were a tornado or earthquake? In the same way, you need to talk to your kids about what they should do if somebody tries to touch them inappropriately or asks to see parts of their body that should be kept private. My kids know that they should say “no” and run to Mom or the nearest trusted adult. I’ve also given them my okay to push or kick to get away. That has helped underscore to them how serious this is since we usually emphasize peaceful responses. Even my four year-old knows what parts of her body are private and what to do if someone wanted to see or touch them. I can’t ensure they would do the right thing in that situation, but I have no doubt that they would know what I would expect them to do.

Talk about who can see their body. My kids know that I am allowed to see their body. The doctor is allowed to see their body if I am present (I love that my pediatrician always tells the kids, “This is only okay for me to do because your mom is here.” We may tell our kids that it’s okay for the doctor to see them naked, but fail to think about a person who could claim to be a doctor and prey on that level of trust.). If Grandma is watching them while I’m away or the trusted babysitter is there, there may be a reason they need to see them naked depending on their age (to help them change clothes or bathe them) but outside of those reasons they don’t need to just be naked around those people. Other children do not need to see you naked. Other grown-ups do not need to see you naked. If someone asks, you come tell Mom.

Respect privacy and teach your kids to respect privacy. In our home we draw those privacy lines pretty early. Once a child is about two, I do not allow them in the bathroom with me. We do not allow kids to be in the bathroom together if one of them is bathing or using the toilet, especially kids of different genders. Once kids are out of the toddler years and able to dress themselves, we ask them to get dressed in their own room. I do not have kids in the room with me when I get dressed. (Of course there are exceptions, but these are the guidelines we try to stick to.) In all of these things, we emphasize that those body parts are special and it’s important to keep them private. It isn’t about shame or making them embarrassed, but about saying we don’t show those parts to just anybody. This is also why I do my best to limit who can change my children’s diapers, especially as they get older. I don’t want them to be in the habit of just letting anybody see them naked or touch those parts of their body. I am particularly persnickety about this with our foster kids, which is why I prefer to be called out to change diapers even when my kids are in the church nursery. It is also why I’m a big fan of early potty training.

Be observant. Do your kids seem guilty? Are they sneaking around? Do you feel like they’re hiding something? Is there a friend you don’t trust. You need to listen to your parenting gut. Know what is going on the lives of your kids. Talk to them honestly about the dangers and temptations out there. Not talking about porn won’t keep porn from being on your computer, on your tv, or at the neighbor’s house. We need to equip our kids in age appropriate ways to know how to deal with their own curiosity and help them understand that sexual desire isn’t shameful, although there are wrongs ways to try and get that desire fulfilled. It’s okay to be a little suspicious of your kids and their friends and to be observant about any changing behaviors.

Don’t overreact. Your kids are likely going to come across something you wish they hadn’t seen or heard or experienced. They need to know that isn’t a deal breaker as far as them being people of worth. They likely feel guilty and you need to help channel that guilt into repentance and forgiveness or righteous anger depending on the situation. Don’t jump to conclusions about what kind of people they are because they made a mistake. Don’t let them jump to conclusions either. Remember that if they’re coming to you to confess, you don’t want to discourage that courageous act. If you caught them doing something dumb, remember that they may feel some relief at being caught and need to know you still love them.

In this day and age, choosing not to be a foster family doesn’t protect you from the possibility that sexual abuse can impact the life of your child. We can’t prevent every negative influence or experience. But we can do our best to give our kids the tools to know how to handle these kinds of situations. By talking openly and honestly with our kids we help prepare them and create a safer environment for our children and for children who may enter our home.


13 Mar 17:14

Two Differing Points of Departure for Jesus and Memory - Le Donne

by (..............)
Yesterday I posted this reflection on the so-called (and perhaps misnamed) "Blow Up in Baltimore." My post basically questioned Paul Foster's conversational focus. I did also refer to Zeba Crook's paper indirectly. Zeb helpfully commented on this post regarding his thesis that memory studies leads to a new "No Quest" of Jesus research. I am quite happy that he chimed in because I think his comments reveal a great deal about our two different defaults.

Put simply: Zeb ends with the realization memory is problematic (at best) and "false" (at worst), and that people sometimes cannot tell the difference; whereas this realization is where I begin. He writes:

Thanks for this Anthony. Let me say a few things about my own paper.

a) I did not think of my Baltimore as a fortification of my previous paper. "New No Quest" was a new position for me, and what I did in my JSHJ paper was different.
b) I believe that Paul made the point in his response that his paper was *not about* the people he wasn't talking about. It was about Bauckham and Dunn (or whatever). My point here is that it's not fair to criticism people for what they do not argue. I can be faulted in my JSHJ article (and accepted the criticism) that "consensus" was hasty language. Chris objected that people who use memory theory aren't good memory theorists, and on this I'm sure he and Paul and I (and you Anthony) agree. But they are using memory theory, and as such they're fair targets. I say this more about my own work than Paul's, since I don't need to defend Paul.

c) I was asked to talk about how I feel memory theory intersects with HJ studies, and I presented my personal and emerging position. Again, Anthony, you assume that because I don't cite the scholars you name, or actually because I don't agree with them on every point, I haven't read them. I have read them. They didn't alter my growing pessimism about the Quest.

d) For example, I'm pretty sure I referred to "gist" memory in my paper. I don't see evidence that "gist" memory is more reliable than detail memory. Gist memory can be distorted beyond recognition too. So no, "gist memory" does not *necessarily* (or obviously) get us closer to historical material.

e) Neither in my opinion does triangulation, which is really just Multiple Independent Attestation combined with memory theory. It's a provocative idea, and not without its strengths.
I'd like to close with a re-iteration of my Baltimore paper, because it doesn't feel like (from what you wrote here) there I was understood. I said many many times there that what was driving me to the a no quest was NOT the belief that memory is hopelessly unreliable. It's that people are *unable to distinguish* between reliable and unreliable memory. That for me is the kicker. Then in my paper I presented 10 memories of Matthew, each of which he presents exactly like any other, but which some cannot possibly be actual memories of Jesus. Finally, my point was not that memory theory leaves us with nothing to say about Jesus. It's that it leaves us with more to say about his followers than him. I do not think that manufactured memories (of which there are many in Matthew) tell us anything about Jesus. They tell us about how his followers felt about him. That's valuable, but that's not the Quest for the historical Jesus any more. I am well aware some people disagree. That I don't agree with them doesn't mean I haven't read them.
My reply:
a) I quite appreciated the difference between your two essays. 
b) As you say, you cannot speak for Paul. 
c) If you have read the scholars that I mention and have simply chosen to neglect them, you've clearly under-appreciated their importance. Moreover, we will continue to disagree about your general representation of the field. 
d) Your suggestion of a dichotomy between "gist memory" and "detail memory" and your phrase "closer to historical material" deepens my suspicion that your default tends toward historical positivism. My guess is that this is precisely where our assumptions of what constitutes "historical Jesus" research diverge. 
e) Triangulation as I've adapted from Theissen and Winter and (yes, put in conversation with memory distortion patterns) does not get us "closer to historical material." It is valuable not in isolating an authentic core (cf. Multiple Independent Attestation), but in measuring trajectories of evolution from mnemonic pre-event orientations, through memory events (including "false" memory, however rare), to multiple and varying commemorative practices. 
Finally, my post above wasn't meant to take you on in a direct way (as opposed to my response to your JSHJ essay). I will say, however, that I don't think that a "No Quest" ever happened outside of Nazi Europe and is simply not possible in historical Jesus studies. One last point, it seems that your entrée into this discussion is focused heavily on a few studies that examine the most extreme possibilities of false memory. Most of the time (and the work of Ebbinghaus et al. should fill out any appeal to Loftus on this point) the qualifier "false" is not a helpful way to refer to memory. False memory does indeed happen. No doubt. Further, memory is only possible in a world of evolving intelligibility. So there is no memory that corresponds to the actual past in a way that engenders certainty. The positive element of this is that the continuity of memory distortion is the rule, not the exception (you wouldn't get this impression from Loftus et al.). And if memory is most often continuously intelligible, and if (a la Schudson) memory distortion moves in typical patterns, the evolution of memory can be charted. 
To say "people are *unable to distinguish* between reliable and unreliable memory" (as you do) and allow this notion to be the "kicker" is to become disinterested in a fascinating topic prematurely. I do hope that I was able to convey in my The Historiographical Jesus that there is much and more to be gained after the false dichotomies of historical positivism have been exposed. Any discussion of memory that ends with the realization that memory is distorted is superficial. This is only where the discussion begins for me.
My continued hope is that this conversation about Jesus and Memory is just beginning. I also hope that my conversation with Zeb is just beginning.

27 Mar 13:47

Thate on the Criteria of Authenticity Doubters—Chris Keith

by (Chris Keith)

social memory

In a post yesterday, Michael Halcomb drew attention to Michael Thate's argument that the contributors to Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity are really just forwarding a program that is the criteria of authenticity in drag.  I first saw Thate's study at SBL this past year and was excited to start reading it.  Unfortunately, I was quickly disappointed in his assessment of Demise, and me in particular, because I didn't, and don't, feel that we were accurately represented.  I'm still going to finish Thate's book, which is a social history approach to "memory" in Jesus work.  I'm sure it's important and it seems promising.  He's a very interesting writer, but I'll mention just a few things that led to my disappointment.

Thate employs the Derridean term of "outbidding" to contextualize our opposition to previous historical Jesus methods (13).  I suppose this is true, but I'm not entirely sure what form of critical scholarship that entails disagreement with what-has-gone-before wouldn't qualify as "outbidding."

In a footnote on the same page (13n.86), Thate says regarding "post-criteria historical Jesus research":  "Later Keith attempts to mitigate the mounting suspicion one has while reading his chapter by stating that a 'post-criteria quest for the historical Jesus is not a post-critical quest' (p.205). It is not clear to me how this can possibly be the case given his lack of explication of what this might mean and how 'post-criteria' yet still critical engagements functionally differ from the post-critical convictions of say, Kaehler and McKnight."  He then proceeds to cite two publications of mine, a ZNW article and my monograph, Jesus' Literacy, but no pages for either. 

I have no idea what Thate's "mounting suspicions" might be, but it sure seems that he's insinuating that I'm not being honest when I say that a post-criteria quest is not a post-critical quest.  If this is the case, I can only say two things.  First, I think it's more professional to stick to someone's argument instead of what one suspects his or her motives to be.  Second, I really meant it when I said that a post-criteria quest is still critical, as I have argued both for and against the historicity of aspects of the gospels based on a post-criteria approach, which brings me to my next point. 

I'm particularly confused by his statement that I haven't given an explication of what post-criteria Jesus research might look like in light of the fact that he then cites two of my publications wherein I do precisely that.  One can argue about whether I am convincing, but I don't think it's up for debate whether I at least have made the effort.  Other scholars, at least, have not missed this.  For example, I quote Christopher Skinner's review of Jesus' Literacy:  "In my estimation, the WHAT of this book is not as important as the HOW. Here’s what I mean: Keith’s research topic (viz., did Jesus hold status as a scribal literate teacher?) is likely not as earth-shattering as some other questions we could ask about the historical Jesus (though I do believe he has demonstrated its importance relative to other questions). Rather, the strength of what Keith has done in this book is that he has provided us with a very good model of how to do responsible Jesus research on a specific issue using a social memory approach. Aside from his conclusions (which I think are plausible), I believe that the employment of his method is the greater contribution of the book."  I'll add that Dale Allison's foreword to Jesus' Literacy notes similarly that the book as a whole is an effort to make judgements about the historical Jesus sans criteria of authenticity.  Again, I could be completely wrong in my arguments, but I have at least made an effort to show examples of what post-criteria Jesus research could look like.

I suppose the oddest statement for me is on p.17:  "Though certainly promising on many counts, the purported 'post-criteria' approach adopted here cannot escape the erotics of 'authenticity' or the gaze of the originary.  This is a Quest for the pure genre; the authentic genre; the real genre.  As such, this amounts to little more than the criterion of authenticity in drag."  Hmmm.  Alrighty then.  As to the "erotics" and "drag" comments, I think this is a very strange way to sexualize one's interlocutors and I don't really think I have much more to say about that.  I am confused further, though, that Thate seems to think we have simply redressed the criteria of authenticity.  Speaking for myself, I think that he is discussing a different "authenticity" than I am.  I mean it specifically as the New Questers defined it--bits of the past detached from interpretive frameworks.  I don't think such a thing ever existed; so I certainly have not tried to redress it or apply it at a generic level, and I note that Thate provides no example where I have called upon a criterion of authenticity and cites no example to demonstrate that any of the contributors "cannot escape the erotics of 'authenticity.'"  I guess he means that we're still interested in "authenticity" in some way, but again, for me, I'm dealing with a very specific type of "authenticity" and one that's not possible in my opinion.  And to my knowledge, not a single contributor to Demise ever makes any reference at all to an "authentic genre." 

I'm sure I'm misunderstanding something here and I'm open to correction.  But I can't help the sense that I've been misrepresented, and at least join company with Dale Allison who, as Thate notes on 217n.235, also believes Thate had not understood him.

I should emphasize that I raise these issues mainly out of disappointment in light of the fact that the book shows great promise.  I think Thate's book could be very important, and I use the subjunctive there only because I haven't read it all yet.  Maybe I've misunderstood his misunderstanding, however, and I'd welcome clarification.
15 Mar 00:06

2014.03.02. Kuma, The Centrality of Αιμα (Blood) in the Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews

by (Bob Buller)
07 Mar 16:25

Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew: Adding Word Lists

by Jonathan Watson

We are pleased to bring you a new app for Android and iOS devices, Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew. This is a new and powerful tool for students of the text. Its flexibility ensures that whether you’re studying for a test or preaching through the book of Ruth, Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew will help you drill precisely the words you need to learn, wherever you go.

Importing word lists

When you sign into Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew with your account, it syncs up your word lists documents right to the app. If you have existing word lists, they will be automatically imported. To create and import new word lists, follow these simple steps:

1. Click the Documents menu in Logos on your desktop

2. Select Word List from the column on the left

3. Rename your new Word List at the top of the newly-opened window






4. Click the Add button, and select which resource you’d like to add lemmas from. In this case, we’ll choose BHS









5. In the Reference field, type the reference or range you’d like to pull in lemmas from. We’ll be using the book of Ruth






6. A word list of all the lemmas in the book of Ruth from the BHS has now been generated, and will be available automatically in your Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew app

6There are many other ways to create lists in Logos, and a lot more you can do. We encourage you to explore the Word List feature in Logos, and try merging different lists, creating lists from selected portions of text, and creating lists from a certain highlight style.

No matter how you create them, they are always synced through the cloud right to your Flashcards for Greek and Hebrew app on your mobile device, ensuring that you can study the original languages in whatever way you need.

Original language resources

If your Logos library doesn’t have the original language books and Bibles you’re looking for, don’t miss a few of these key resources:

Original language texts are included in Logos 5 Bronze base packages, and up. Consider upgrading or getting a base package to take full advantage of the tools and resources Logos has to offer. Learn more about Logos 5 base packages.