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24 May 09:44

10 Issues I Frequently Mark When Grading Theology Papers

by Andy Naselli

1. Omit needless words, and be clear.

2. Cite sources in footnotes and the bibliography correctly.

Follow The SBL Handbook of Style (2nd ed.).

  • For names and places of presses, see pp. 76–82.
    • Wrong: Wheaton: Crossway Publishers, 2016
    • Right: Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016
  • Consult the “Student Supplement.”
  • Use the author’s published name. If the book’s title page lists the author as D. A. Carson, then don’t write Donald A. Carson or Don Carson.

3. Use the hyphen (-), en dash (–), and em dash (—) correctly.

  • Hyphens: half-baked idea; one-third
  • En dashes
    • References: Rom 1:16–17 (not Rom 1:16-17)
    • Pages: 113–14 (not 113-14)
    • Dates: 1980–2016 (not 1980-2016)
  • Em dashes: “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Rom 2:3).

4. Use only one space between sentences.

The two-space rule accommodated manual typewriters.

5. Capitalize words correctly.

For theological words follow The SBL Handbook of Style (pp. 37–52). For example,

  • biblical (not Biblical)
  • covenant (not Covenant)
  • Gospel (not gospel) when it refers to the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John
  • gospel (not Gospel) when it refers to good news
  • kingdom of God (not Kingdom of God)
  • Messiah (not messiah)
  • messianic (not Messianic)
  • temple (not Temple)

And don’t capitalize pronouns referring to deity.

6. Abbreviate correctly.

Follow ch. 8 in The SBL Handbook of Style (pp. 117–260), especially for books of the Bible (pp. 124–25). For example,

  • Gen 3:16 (not Gen. 3:16 or Genesis 3:16)
  • Rom 3 (not Rom. 3 or Romans 3)

Two exceptions: Spell out the book name if (1) a chapter (or chapter and verse) does not follow it or (2) it comes first in the sentence. For example,

  • Right: Paul wrote Romans in about AD 57.
  • Wrong: Paul wrote Rom in about AD 57.
  • Right: Romans 3:21–26 is the most important paragraph in the Bible.
  • Wrong: Rom 3:21–26 is the most important paragraph in the Bible.
  • Right: First Corinthians 13 is about love.
  • Wrong: 1 Cor 13 is about love.

7. Punctuate correctly.

For example,

  • Add a comma before a coordinating conjunction that joins two independent clauses.
  • Use the Oxford comma. (Yes, I just linked to Wikipedia. It’s not all bad.)
  • Don’t place footnote numbers before punctuation such as a comma, semicolon, or period.
  • Add quotation marks after a period or comma.
    • Right: I answered, “Chipotle.”
    • Wrong: I answered, “Chipotle”.
  • Add a comma after the abbreviations “e.g.” (for example) and “i.e.” (that is) but not for “cf.” (confer or compare).
  • Add commas around nonrestrictive or nonessential clauses (e.g., The apostle Paul, who wrote thirteen letters, was prolific) but not around restrictive or essential clauses (e.g., The author who wrote Romans was prolific).
  • Don’t put “ff.” after verse references (e.g., Rom 3:21ff.). Specify the precise range (e.g., Rom 3:21–26).
  • Jesus’s (not Jesus’). Moses’s (not Moses’).

8. Footnote what translation you are using the first time you quote Scripture.

For papers (and journal articles), say something like this: “Scripture quotations are from the ESV.” Or “Scripture quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise noted.” (I know—the previous sentence has both a nominalization and a passive. It’s legit rule-breaking.)

Anecdote: In my first PhD seminar with Don Carson at Trinity, a student was defending his paper before the class, and Don asked him something like this: “Why do you use your own rigidly form-based translation in your paper? That is a very MDiv-ish thing to do. Why not simply use one of the standard translations like the NIV or ESV and then diverge from that when you think helpful?”

9. Evaluate others fairly.

Critique a book or article on its own terms. Don’t criticize an author merely because they didn’t write the book you wish they would have written; critique a book or article based on what its author intended it to be. Here’s a good diagnostic question to ask yourself: Would you critique an author differently if they were in the room listening to you evaluate them?

Related: Aaron Armstrong, “How to Write a Great Book Review.”

10. Be above reproach about plagiarizing.

Don’t present specific arguments that aren’t original to you as if they are. Usually when seminarians plagiarize material to some degree, they don’t intend to. Understand what plagiarism is so that you don’t do it.


  1. How to Write a Theology Essay
  2. Ten Things You Should Never Do in a Theological Research Paper
  3. Should Seminaries Require Students to Write So Many Academic Research Papers? John Frame Says No (The comments after the article are thoughtful.)
  4. This is the rubric I use for grading papers (based on a 10-point scale where 90–100 = A, 80–89 = B, etc.):


19 May 21:37

Library Assistant Coordinator (ILL) full-time - Oak Lawn Public Library

by Judy Texter
Oak Lawn Public Library
Library Type: 
Job Title: 
Library Assistant Coordinator (ILL) full-time
Full Time
37.5 hr per week
$31,102.32 to $44,786.68 per year
Position Description: 

The Customer Services Department, Interlibrary Loan Unit, has a position opening for a full-time Library Assistant Coordinator, Grade VI.  This is a 37.5 hour per week "non-exempt" position with a full benefits package, per the current Personnel Policy.  Benefits include: Vacation, sick, and personal business allowance, health, dental, and vision insurance, IMRF pension plan and life insurance.  The position reports to the Customer Services Department Head. Work schedule includes days, with evening and weekend work as required. The current salary range is $31,102.32 to $44,786.68 per year.  

Minimum Qualifications: High School diploma required; some college or special library training desirable, including knowledge of Sirsi-Dynix, Integrated Library systems (ILS) and experience using OCLC's WorldCat a plus. Two year's experience as Library Assistant or its equivalent is preferred. Supervisory and related work experience is highly desirable. Must have ability to meet and work with people of diverse backgrounds and to communicate effectively both orally and in writing. Must be able to organize work efficiently.

Regular duties include assisting in supervision, evaluation, training, and assignment of work to library assistant; coordinating and processing of workflow, and other functions of the interlibrary loan services; placing holds and checking materials in and out; answering directional questions; assiting patrons in the use of the library collections, equipment, and outreach services while providing excellent customer service. Some other duties include: reviewing and updating processes and procedures; processing reserve requests, placing and filling interlibrary loan requests; maintaining statistics and preparing reports; cross-training for ILL/Circulation, and Outreach job duties; attend relevant workshops and keep up to date with changes in SWAN; and other duties as assigned. For detailed KRA:  

To apply to this position, please submit your application or resume, cover letter, and three reference to Olpljobs [at] olpl [dot] org by May 27, 2016.

Application Deadline: 
Date below
May 27, 2016
Application Contact: 
Judy Texter, Human Resources Coordinator
Apply To: 
Oak Lawn Public Library
9427 S Raymond Ave
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
Phone: (708) 422-4990
See map: Google Maps
19 May 15:36

Circulation Services Coordinator, Full-time - Oak Lawn Public Library

by Judy Texter
Oak Lawn Public Library
Library Type: 
Job Title: 
Circulation Services Coordinator, Full-time
Full Time
37.5 hrs per week
$36,277.44 to $52,081.92
Position Description: 

The Customer Services Department Circulation/ILL/Outreach unit, has a position opening for a full-time Circulation Services Coordinator, Grade VIII. This is a 37.5 hour per week "exempt" position with a full benefits package, per the current Personnel Policy. Benefits include: Vacation, sick, birthday holiday, personal leave allowance, health, dental, and vision insurance, IMRF pension plan and life insurance. The position reports to the Customer Services Department Head. Work schedule includes daytime, evening, and weekend hours, as required. The current salary range is $36,277.44 to $52,081.92 per year.

The major functions of this position is to supervise the effecient operation of the Circulation Service Desk involving the direct circulation of library materials to the public while providing excellent customer service. Some regular duties include: supervising, training, scheduling, and assigning work to staff; interpreting and enforcing library policies; creating manuals and tutorials for Customer Service staff training; facilitating internal communication within the department; assisting in the planning, coordination, and implementation of projects and services within and between departments; maintaining circulation records and patron databases; processing notices and maintaining procedures to ensure the appropriate handling of bills, fines, and receipt of revenues associated with the circulation and return of library materials.

College, specialized library training, or related library experience is highly desirable, including knowledge of Sirsi-Dynix, integrated library systems (ILS) and Microsoft Office products is a plus. Supervisory and related work experience is required.

Must have ability to work effectively with people and to organize time efficiently. Must have ability to comprehend and relate to changes as they occur in applicable computer software and to train library staff to utilize software effectively. Must be able to work with library's IT Department on user related problems related to the network, circulation and interlibrary loan equipment. Ability to work well with people of diverse backgrounds (adults and children) and to exercise tact and discretion in handling public service difficulties is essential.For detailed KRA:

If interested in applying for this position, please submit your cover letter, application or resume, and three references to Olpljobs [at] olpl [dot] org by May 27, 2016.

Application Deadline: 
Date below
May 27, 2016
Application Contact: 
Judy Texter, Human Resources Coordinator
Apply To: 
Oak Lawn Public Library
9427 S Raymond Ave
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
Phone: (708) 422-4990
See map: Google Maps
06 May 16:47

Page & Volunteer Coordinator - FullTime - Highland Park Public Library

by Pamela Siegel
Highland Park Public Library
Library Type: 
Job Title: 
Page & Volunteer Coordinator - FullTime
Full Time
40 hours per week, includes evening and weekend hours. This is a year-round position.
$17.67 per hour, depending upon qualifications.
Position Description: 

Are you a logistical thinker who likes to get things organized? Do you believe that many hands make light work? Then being the Coordinator of the Highland Park Public Library Page Pool and Volunteer Work Force might be just the job for you! Join the library’s team – contribute ideas for future projects, coach and mentor people who love putting everything in place, maximize the library’s potential for service!
Duties: Hire, train, supervise, schedule, and evaluate page staff. Select and assign talented volunteers throughout the library. Oversee shelving and collection maintenance. Coordinate volunteer projects. 
-Two years of college and library or supervisory experience.
-Problem solving, communication, and interpersonal skills.
-Ability to develop procedures to optimize collection access and staff efficiency.
-Flexibility when considering supervisory work as well as the work of the Library in order to forecast future service demands.
-Knowledge of alphabetic and Dewey Decimal filing systems.
-Bilingual Spanish/English is desirable.

Apply by submitting an application (available online at to:
Robin Smith, Membership Services Manager
Highland Park Public Library
494 Laurel Avenue
Highland Park, IL  60035 (847/432-0216)
rsmith [at] hplibrary [dot] org (rsmith [at] hplibrary [dot] org)                    


Application Deadline: 
Date below
May 27, 2016
Application Contact: 
Robin Smith, Membership Services Manager
Apply To: 
Highland Park Public Library
494 Laurel Avenue
Highland Park, IL 60035
Phone: 847-432-0216
Fax: 847-681-7027
See map: Google Maps
For More Information:
25 Apr 13:42

Assistant Head of Circulation Services - Crystal Lake Public Library

by Kathryn Martens
Crystal Lake Public Library
Library Type: 
Job Title: 
Assistant Head of Circulation Services
Full Time
40 hours per week including day, evening and weekend shifts.
$23.37 per hour plus benefits package
Position Description: 

Customer-service oriented person to join Circulation Services team. Assists Department Head with management and supervision. Seeking excellent interpersonal, communication and technology skills, as well as demonstrated ability to work with patrons of all ages.

Requirements: Bachelor's degree; minimum two years public library experience; minimum one year customer service experience; minimum one year supervisory experience; excellent knowledge of e-mail, PCs and Internet searching; basic knowledge of integrated library system.

For complete position description, go to

To apply, complete the Library's application and submit no later than May 3, 2016 to: Crystal Lake Public Library, 126 Paddock Street, Crystal Lake IL  60014. EEO

Application Deadline: 
Date below
May 3, 2016
Application Contact: 
Pamela Miller
Apply To: 
Crystal Lake Public Library
126 Paddock Street
Crystal Lake, IL 60014
Phone: 815.459.1687
Fax: 815.459.9581
See map: Google Maps
For More Information:
14 Apr 09:24

The Adulteress Narrative: New Book

by larryhurtado

A new book is now the “go-to” resource on the text-critical question about the account  of the adulteress brought to Jesus (in traditional texts, John 7:53–8:11):  The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research, eds. David Alan Black and Jacob N. Cerone (London:  Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016).  The publisher’s online catalogue entry is here.

Ironically, though one of the most well-known narratives in the New Testament, the account is widely judged by scholars as an addition to the text of the Gospel of John.  But that is not a universal view, and this volume features treatments of the question by five scholars, two of them (John David Punch and Maurice A. Robinson) proposing that the story is an authentic part of Gospel of John and omitted in the course of its transmission, and three other scholars (Tommy Wasserman, Jennifer Knust, and Chris Keith) arguing that the account originated elsewhere and was added to Gospel of John.

The essays originated in a symposium held in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, North Carolina), 25-26 April 2014.  I was contacted sometime later and asked to write a response to the essays, which forms the final essay in this volume:  “The Pericope Adulterae:  Where from Here?” (pp. 147-58).

I judge superior the arguments (by Wasserman, Knust and Keith) that the text is an addition to copies of the Gospel of John, and I state my bases for this judgement in the essay.  In particular, I focus on the lack of the account in our earliest manuscripts that preserve the relevant portion of John (P66, P75, Vaticanus, Sinaiticus).  In the manuscript tradition, the account first appears in Codex Bezae (5th century).  But, curiously, not long thereafter the account won acceptance and so appears as a standard part of John in the mass of Medieval manuscripts.

Focusing on the repeated references in the story to Jesus writing on the ground, Chris Keith’s award-winning book (based on his PhD thesis completed here in Edinburgh) presents his case that the text was initially inserted in some copies of John to present Jesus as fully literate:  The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus (Leiden: Brill, 2009).  Some early Christian writers reflect a knowledge of the story, and 4th century writers indicate that it appeared in some copies of John.  So, was it likely inserted initially perhaps in the 3rd-4th century??

As a very modest contribution of my own, in my concluding essay I focus on the chronology and the manuscripts.  Whenever the account first became a part of John, it clearly didn’t win widescale acceptance until sometime in/after the 5th century.  Now, according to a widely held view in NT text-critical circles, the first two or three centuries were a time of “wild” transmission and various major textual changes, and then the 4th century and later was a time of much greater fixity and control of the text.  But the manuscript evidence for the story of the adulteress woman, and also for the “long ending” of Mark, seems to call this view into question.

For example, the impression one takes from the manuscript evidence is that neither of these major textual variants (in fact, the two largest textual variants in the NT) won much acceptance in the earliest period of supposed “wild” attitudes and freely made changes.  Instead, both variants actually won acceptance later, in the period when supposedly such major changes were not so likely to gain acceptance.

So, the question I pose very briefly in my essay is this:  Is it possible that the common view of the transmission-history of NT writings (however intuitively it appeals) is wrong, or at least seriously defective?  More specifically, were there factors and dynamics in the later period that facilitated the inclusion and wide acceptance of these sizeable variants?

To ask such a question is, I recognize, a “heretical” move, in terms of widely-held scholarly views.  And, to be sure, to ask the question is not to presume the answer.  But I think that we (NT textual critics) should perhaps consider my question more closely than has been done to this point.  Perhaps, just perhaps, the early history of the transmission of NT writings is a bit more complex than the standard model allows . . . and perhaps a good bit more interesting!

11 Mar 21:12

Andy Johnson on Phil-Phm Commentaries (Gupta)

by Nijay Gupta

Andy JohnsonMy buddy Andy Johnson (Nazarene Theol Sem) – wonderful guy, great scholar – has written a handy essay on “Building a New Testament Library: Philippians – Philemon.” Below I give quick notes on his choices, and any of my own additions will be noted by “NKG.” Please do read his full comments, of course.




Bockmuehl (BNTC)


Fowl (THNT)

Migliore (Belief)


Flemming (NBBC) – Wesleyan

Hooker (NIB)

*NKG: I echo all these. Everyone needs to read Joe Hellerman (EGGNT) who nails the Roman-cultural dynamics. Also, I think Witherington deserves mention, his new commentary (2011) is one I use often.



Dunn (NIGTC)

Moo (PNTC)


Lincoln (NIB)

Gupta (SHBC) – Thanks, Andy!


Thompson (THNT)

*NKG: Again, all good choices (esp that Gupta guy, he sounds smart). I would add NT Wright’s little Tyndale volume on Colossians – older (1989), but theological rich. I would also vote for Garland’s NIVAC on the popular-ish level.Also, I might have had Barth instead of Moo, though Moo is definitely more up-to-date on scholarship (Barth was 1995).


Fitzmyer (AYB)

NT Wright – early part of Paul and the Faithfulness of God. NKG: I concur, good stuff here.

*NKG: I am no expert, but I would recommend John Barclay’s little book on Colossians and Philemon. The section on Philemon is outstanding.

1-2 Thessalonians


Weima (BEC) – *NKG: yes, this is the best work available

Malherbe (AYB)



Johnson (THNT, 2016) – NKG – this will be good! Can’t wait!

*NKG: While it is rather short and does not get into exegetical details much, the fine work of Beverly Gaventa (Interp) ought not to be ignored. Pastors should own her commentary for sure. Also, though it is quite old now (1983), Howard Marshall’s work on 1-2 Thessalonians is impeccable. This is one of Marshall’s finest commentaries.

Pastoral Epistles


Johnson (AYB)

Towner (NICNT)


Wall and Steele (THNT)

Spencer (NCCS)

*NKG: Definitely Johnson. I would just add Jimmy Dunn’s fine work in the NIB. Johnson tends to be my “go-to” on technical matters (along with Howard Marshall ICC), but Dunn on more theological questions.






10 Mar 05:50

Russell Moore on Why the Church Needs to Confront Social Darwinianism

by Michael F. Bird
Russell Moore is quickly becoming my second favourite Southern Baptist (behind, Timothy George – peace be upon him!), because he’s doing some good stuff like this excellent lecture on The Gospel vs. Sunday Morning Social Darwinianism. If I had to make one ironic criticism of so much American evangelicalism, its that people who don’t believe [Read More...]
19 Feb 00:36


24 Feb 05:00


Using diacritics correctly is not my forté.
02 Jan 17:05

Early Christianity 6.4: "Social Memory Theory and Gospels Research: The First Decade (Part Two)"--Chris Keith

by (Chris Keith)
I'm glad to say that Part Two of my article, "Social Memory Theory and Gospels Research: The First Decade," has appeared in Early Christianity 6.4: 517-42.  You can access it online here.  In this second part of the article, I proceed from the methodological discussions of Halbwachs, Assmann, and Schwartz in Part One to assess four issues in current Gospels scholarship: the transmission of the oral Jesus tradition; criteria of authenticity; "the new historiography" in Jesus studies; and the historical reliability of the Jesus tradition.  I also take time to respond to Paul Foster's article that pronounced memory studies as a "dead end" in historical Jesus work.  Readers of the blog will no doubt already know that I disagree with that statement, though I agree with Foster (and Zeb Crook) that memory theory does not, and cannot, demonstrate by itself that any tradition in the Gospels is historically reliable.  I conclude that such pronouncements are always in the hands of scholars using theory, not theory itself.  In other words, in the new historiography in Jesus studies, social memory theory is not a replacement for historiography proper.  It is simply an approach that aids the task of historiography.

I'll also take this moment to note that my SNTS presentation from this past summer, extending my thoughts in this Early Christianity article, will be appearing in Journal for the Study of the New Testament: "The Kerygmatic Narratives of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus: Current Debates, Prior Debates, and the Goal of Historical Jesus Research."

08 Dec 10:44

Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews: An Interview with Jared Compton

by Andy Naselli

comptonThis book recently released:

Jared Compton. Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews. Library of New Testament Studies 537. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015.

Jared (@jaredmcompton) entered the PhD program at Trinity one year after I did, and he and our wives became close friends. While we were at Trinity, we both joined CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and learned so much from Mike Bullmore. After serving as a NT professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary for a few years, Jared returned to CrossWay Community Church as one of their pastors.

Both Jared and I wrote our dissertations under Don Carson on the use of the OT in the NT. Jared focused on how Hebrews uses Psalm 110, and now it’s in the prestigious LNTS series. Jared kindly agreed to answer some questions about his new book:

1. What sparked your interest in Hebrews and this topic?

My interest in Hebrews and this topic began during my doctoral studies. I’d decided to take a quarter-semester seminar on Hebrews, partly because I liked the professor (Peter O’Brien) and partly because Hebrews puzzled me. And it was during that seminar that I discovered that Hebrews puzzled me in two areas that I was already eager to explore in the dissertation I needed to write (!), namely, how texts fit together (something, I suppose, akin to discourse analysis) and how the NT uses the OT. It wasn’t until the next year, in another seminar, that these two areas, these two disciplines, happily converged into the “research problem” that motivated my dissertation (and now book). In God’s providence—though there were other more straightforward reasons that I simply can’t recall—I decided to write a paper on the use of Ps 110 in Hebrews. And it was during the course of that research that I came to the provisional conclusion that Ps 110 contained Hebrews in nuce (“in a nutshell,” to riff on Richard Hays’s way of describing Deut 32 in Romans). I began to think that Ps 110 played some sort of fundamental, argument-directing role in Hebrews’ exposition. And to my surprise, while I could find one or two authors making a similar point, no one had pursued it very far. And that’s when I knew what I had to do, what I wanted to explore. That paper was really the “first draft” of my dissertation.

2. What’s your book’s main argument, and how controversial is it?

In the book I argue that Ps 110 directs the logic of Hebrews’ argument, Hebrews’ exposition vis-à-vis its exhortation. I suspect that idea itself will be controversial, considering, for example, that Heb 8–10 is often thought to turn no longer on Ps 110 but on Jer 31 or some combination of Jer 31 and one or two others texts (e.g., Ps 40).

What will also be controversial, however, is the specific argument I see Ps 110 directing in Hebrews. I argue that Hebrews uses Ps 110 to suggest the scriptural plausibility of the Christian gospel. I’ll explain. Hebrews’ exposition divides into three parts: chapters 1–2, 5–7 and 8–10. In the first part (chs. 1–2), I argue that Hebrews uses Ps 110.1 to (1) interpret Jesus’s resurrection as his messianic enthronement (1:5–14), (2) connect Jesus’s enthronement with his fulfillment of Psalm 8’s vision for humanity (2:5–9)—this is my favorite part of the book (and the very first part I wrote), and (3) begin to explain why Jesus was enthroned through suffering (2:10–18). Then in the second and third parts of Hebrews (chs. 5–7, 8–10), I argue that the author corroborates this initial argument, this narrative sketch of the Christian gospel—i.e., the solution of the human problem through the death of the Messiah. The author now uses Ps 110:1 and 110:4. He uses these texts to (1) show that the Messiah was expected to be a superior priest and, moreover, (2) show that this messianic priest was expected to solve the human problem through death (5:1–10; 7:1–28; 8:1–10:18).

I say this reading will be controversial, as if what I’m arguing is some never-heard-of-before thesis. I’m not that brave (or naïve). The sorts of things I argue aren’t entirely new, but to my knowledge they’ve never been argued in the sort of sustained, rigorous way I try to do in my book.

3. What are some interesting conclusions you reach in your book?

I’ll mention just one, and it’s right at the beginning of the book. I argue that the OT catena (i.e., the 7 OT citations in Heb 1:5–13) proves that Jesus is superior to angels because he is the long-awaited Messiah and not also because he is divine (which he is, but that’s not part of the author’s argument). Hebrews 1:4 suggests the Son—Jesus—is superior to angels because of something he became (the enthroned Messiah), not because of something he always was (God). For the way I see the author’s citations of Deut 32 and, especially, Ps 102 support this reading, and these are the most obvious and difficult obstacles, see my book!

4. Who is your ideal reader and what is your ideal outcome? How would a pastor benefit from your book?

My ideal reader would be an unbelieving first-century Jew or, better, a recently-converted-though-struggling-to-believe first-century Jewish Christian. Short of that, I’d settle for a serious-minded “seeker,” wondering how Christianity can claim that Jesus of Nazareth was (and is!) Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. I’d also settle for readers who, like me, struggle to believe God, specifically, that Jesus is the enthroned Messiah, when so many of his (and, thus, our) enemies have yet to be put under his boot or, related, readers who struggle to believe these things about Jesus because he is, presently, absent from view, reigning invisibly in heaven and not visibly on this earth. I’d also be very encouraged were a pastor, preparing to preach through Hebrews, to pick up my book and use it to help him—and his congregation—see Hebrews’ big picture. I was going to say that this sort of result would make the book worth the effort. But the spiritual benefit I gained from researching and writing this book were (so much more than) sufficient to justify the effort. But this sort of result would certainly be very encouraging.

5. Are you finished with Hebrews? Any dreams about future projects?

I’ve got an essay on how Hebrews 11 does biblical theology that I’m going to (I need to!) draft for a book I’m writing with a couple friends. Beyond this, I’d love to write a short, pithy and readable little commentary on Hebrews, something in the tradition of Derek Kidner, John Stott, or Dale Ralph Davis. Whether I’ve got one of those in me is an open question. But I’d like to try. (Publishers?)

17 Sep 09:31

09/16/15 PHD comic: 'Optimal Number of References'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Optimal Number of References" - originally published 9/16/2015

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

22 Sep 09:48

09/21/15 PHD comic: 'Define read'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Define read" - originally published 9/21/2015

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

01 Jul 04:00

Strengths and Weaknesses

Do you need me to do a quicksort on the whiteboard or produce a generation of offspring or something? It might take me a bit, but I can do it.
01 May 17:23

05/01/15 PHD comic: 'Amount of Time Spent Writing your Thesis'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Amount of Time Spent Writing your Thesis" - originally published 5/1/2015

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

31 May 09:39

05/29/15 PHD comic: 'Things you can do in Academia that would get you fired in the Real World'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Things you can do in Academia that would get you fired in the Real World" - originally published 5/29/2015

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

04 Jun 16:13


06 Apr 13:27

The Missing Link in Our Culture’s Confusion about What Sexual Sin Is—And What to Do About It

by Justin Taylor

sexual sin

Overcoming Sin_1.inddRosaria Butterfield:

It was only after I met my risen Lord that I ever felt shame in my sin, with my sexual attractions, and with my sexual history.

Conversion brought with it a train wreck of contradictory feelings, ranging from liberty to shame. Conversion also left me confused. While it was clear that God forbade sex outside of biblical marriage, it was not clear to me what I should do with the complex matrix of desires and attractions, sensibilities and senses of self that churned within and still defined me.

What is the sin of sexual transgression? The sex? The identity? How deep was repentance to go?

In these newfound struggles, a friend recommended that I read an old, seventeenth century theologian named John Owen, in a trio of his books (now brought together under the title Overcoming Sin and Temptation).

At first, I was offended to realize that what I called “who I am,” John Owen called “indwelling sin.” But I hung in there with him. Owen taught me that sin in the life of a believer manifests itself in three ways: distortion by original sin, distractionof actual day-to-day sin, and discouragement by the daily residence of indwelling sin.

Eventually, the concept of indwelling sin gave a window to see through how God intended to replace my shame with hope. Indeed, John Owen’s understanding of indwelling sin is the missing link in our current culture’s confusion about what sexual sin is — and what to do about it.

As believers, we lament with the Apostle Paul, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19-20). But after we lament, what ought we to do? How ought we to think about sin that has become a daily part of our identity?

Rosaria goes to show that Owen explained his answer—the biblical answer—in four responses:

  1. Starve It
  2. Call Sin What It Is
  3. Extinguish Indwelling Sin by Mortifying It
  4. Cultivate Your New Life in Christ, Daily

You can read the whole thing here.

For more information on our edition of Owen’s classic trilogy on battling sin—in an unabridged version with outlines and notes and glossary—go here.

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