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Q: What earlier sections from the Christian Origins and the Question of God series would you suggest as the most fruitful portions to go back and reread so Paul and the Faithfulness of God can be understood most fully?

NT Wright: Basically the whole of The New Testament and the People of God forms a foundation on which everything else stands. Part II of The New Testament and the People of God (NTPG) outlines the method of ‘critical realism’ for historical study and the ‘worldview’ model through which we can get at the social, cultural and narrative world of a person or group. Part III of NTPG provides a historical and theological account of the first-century Jewish world, which I then develop further in chapter 2 of PFG but which remains foundational. Part IV of NTPG outlines the early history and worldview of the church which is the framework for Paul – note especially my refutation of the common idea that ‘the delay of the Parousia’ formed a major feature of its life.

 

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Q: What do you consider the most “controversial” aspect of Paul and the Faithfulness of God? Or rather, what will mainstream biblical scholars take issue with? What will traditionalists or conservative evangelicals wrestle most with?

NT Wright: Mainstream biblical scholarship has gone in several directions on Paul over the last twenty years, so there is no one ‘school’. In America one major strand has tried to make Paul an ‘apocalyptic’ thinker – but with a working definition of ‘apocalyptic’ which, as I argue in detail, doesn’t fit anything in the first century and imposes false twentieth-century antitheses, ruling out (for instance) any continuity with Israel’s history and anything to do with ‘covenant’. Since I argue the opposite, I imagine I will get strong resistance from that school. The people who have studied ‘Paul and the philosophers’ will I hope welcome my account both of ancient philosophy and of Paul’s encounter to it, though they won’t all like my conclusions (especially the critique of engberg-Pedersen); the people who have written on ‘Paul and Politics’ will I hope welcome my account there, though again there will be differences of emphasis. There is a strong sub-current on ‘Paul and Judaism’ just now which is trying to make out that Paul retained ‘Jewish identity’ of a form that fails to take account of Paul’s theology of the cross and its implications (‘through the law I died to the law’, Gal. 2.19); they won’t like what I do at that point, either, but the case rests on careful exegesis and that’s where it must be wrestled with. There is a very new movement calling itself ‘post-supersessionist’ and since I think, and say, that they are perpetuating a category mistake I don’t expect them to be happy. My major argument, though, completes undercuts the old C19 paradigm of F. C. Baur for whom Paul was an unJewish and even antiJewish thinker; and since that is still very influential in some quarters I expect some cautious scholars to be shocked by my, to them, radical proposals.

On quite another front, my account of Paul’s redefinition of the One God through Messiah and Spirit (chapter 9) is a development of, but also significantly different to, the accounts of early Christology offered recently by Hurtado and Bauckham. They were themselves controversial – many still cling to the idea that Paul had a ‘low’ Christology – and so I will possibly be opposed both by that older group and by devotees of Hurtado in particular. I have emphasized particularly the theme of ‘the return of YHWH to Zion’ as the matrix for understanding both Christology and pneumatology; this is quite new in the discipline and will need to be properly evaluated.

I expect ‘conservative’ and ‘reformed’ critics will make a bee-line for the account of justification, which I place within Paul’s definition of the people of God (chapter 10)—i.e. as a subset of ‘election redefined’. This has the effect of locating ‘soteriology’ not as a doctrine on its own about ‘how to go to heaven’ (this, I suspect, will be the real problem—see my Surprised by Hope, which argues strongly for resurrection and new creation as the ultimate goal, and which then sets all the questions on a different trajectory) but within the different framework of the question, How has God’s promise, to rescue the world through Abraham’s family, come to fruition in Jesus and the Spirit? And then, How has God’s creational intention, to bring the created order to wise flourishing through the stewardship of image-bearing humans, been reconstituted and reaffirmed? Since these are not the normal ways of approaching the questions about (e.g.) the meaning of the cross and resurrection, it will require an effort of rethinking (and re-reading of the epistles) for people to get the point. Not all critics, I suspect, will be willing to make that effort, preferring to reassert what either Luther or the Westminster Confession had to say. If in the first battle I am opposing F. C. Baur, in this I am opposing the entire framing of western theology from the Middle Ages onwards . . .

In particular, ‘conservative’ protestants have always had, deep in their DNA, the idea that the gospel constitutes a radical break with history – ever since Luther said ‘No’ to the mediaeval church. They have imagined that this meant, also, Paul (and Jesus) saying ‘No’ to ancient Judaism, often on the basis of a comparison between the religion of Judaism and the new ‘religion’, or ‘faith’, that Jesus and Paul were offering. This is highly misleading. The point is that if Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, Israel’s history has reached its God-appointed goal (‘when the time had fully come’, Gal. 4.4); this plugs in to the Jewish expectation, going back to Daniel 9, that redemption would come 490 years after the Babylonian exile. This note of ‘fulfilment’, of a single great story now coming to its appointed goal, is precisely the sort of thing that protestants are conditioned to reject, but the historical evidence for it is massive, and the exegetical evidence that Paul expounded exactly this line of thought is massive as well. It means, of course, that Paul affirms the ancient Jewish traditions while insisting that in their messianic fulfilment they now all look very different from what he and others had imagined. This brings us back to the neo-‘apocalyptic’ school: it’s a form of Protestantism too, but with a cosmic emphasis which tries to screen out ‘justification’. Lots of tangled lines of thought there, not least in America right now, but I think my exposition carves a straight path through the whole thing . . .

 

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What if?

The question is more powerful than we might initially think.

What if the world really was flat?
What if the United States had never won its independence?
What if Jesus had never been born?

Questions like these make up an entire genre of fiction books, alternative realities constructed along the line of what have “might have been.” The possible historical trajectories are myriad, and the intrigue irresistible.

What if?

This is the question David DeSilva asks us to consider in his new book Unholy Allegiances: Heeding Revelation’s Warning.

What if Revelation isn’t a secret tool that helps us navigate the end-times?
What if John’s vision isn’t a puzzle to be solved?
What if everyone is meant to grasp its significance?

And the most important question…What if Revelation had a crucial, relevant message for the first-century church that is rooted in their historical circumstances?

Exploring the historical world of first-century Roman Asia–the setting in which Revelation was written–DeSilva explains why John adopted supremely graphic imagery to convey God’s word to his people. He argues that Revelation is not explicitly a book for the end times per say (though the book certainly has vast amounts of wisdom profitable for those in any era), but rather a book with an important message for the early followers of Jesus. Revelation is a call to faith in Christ in the midst of persecution, and to remember who it was who first brought them out of bondage.

DeSilva, drawing John’s original vision is calling us, those who live today, back to a faithful reading of Revelation; a reading that shows just how truly prophetic John’s book is.  And what if we do re-examine the book from a historical perspective? Might we find an even more urgent message concerning not only the state of the early church, but also of our own?

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The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible

The good folks over at Broadman & Holman have sent over a few copies of The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible: The Gospels and Acts for a give away. This volume features four leading scholars: Michael Wilkins examines Matthew’s gospel; Craig Evans covers Mark; Andreas Köstenberger on the Gospel of John, and Darrell Bock leads readers through Luke-Acts.

Enter the contest here.

 

Remember, this series will eventually comprise four volumes and cover the entire Bible. This is a good place to start!

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Bonhoeffer the Assassin?

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In the popular narrative, Dietrich Bonhoeffer played a key role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Over the years, many historical theologians have propped up this storyline–perhaps correctly, possibly incorrectly–and argue that Bonhoeffer’s later writings betray a deep grueling struggle with his ethical convictions. Over time, Bonhoeffer’s wrestling led to a small but ultimately determinate shift in his moral thought away from pacifism. It is widely believed this change enabled Bonhoeffer to participate in an assassination conspiracy.

This narrative is now under increasing pressure from Bonhoeffer scholars. It is, of course, quite easy to believe in the traditional narrative: it tells a story that touches the deepest parts of our hearts and gives us hope in the face of horrific evil.  We want to believe it. But is it good history? Does the evidence support Bonhoeffer the assassin? This raises as subsequent issue. To what degree is Bonhoeffer’s status as a ‘hero’ or ‘martyr’ dependent upon the use of violence? Martyrdom for non-violent resistance is equally heroic. This is not to pass judgment on his or others’ methods per say–that would make for bad history. Rather it is to ask a historical question: What is the nature of Bonhoeffer resistance activity? Asking this question honestly is critical. After all, our goal is to better understand Bonhoeffer.

In Bonhoeffer the Assassin? a team of scholars including Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist, Daniel P. Umbel examine the historical, literary, and theological evidence. They argue that adequate evidence does not exist to support the narrative of Bonhoeffer abandoning his biblically derived pacifism in favor of a selective, circumstantially based use of violence. They examine primary documents related to the Dohnanyi conspiracy, Bonhoeffer’s own letters, and other documents to establish their argument. Then, they examine Bonhoeffer’s theological writings, especially Ethics and (The Cost of) Discipleship, in order to ground their argument theologically. At the very least, their work shows that the popular narrative is very open to question and that it requires further consideration.

Having read and heard so much about Bonhoeffer in recent years, readers are now more equipped to critically penetrate an important question about Bonhoeffer that inevitably plays a major role in how we think about and interpret him. If you have come to appreciate the complexity, depth, and significance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and work as I have, Bonhoeffer the Assassin? offers you a chance to reexamine this controversial aspect of the great German theologian’s life and legacy.

 

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Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N.T. Wright

It has been over a decade since N.T. Wright published his third volume in his Christian Origins and the Question of God series. That volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, argued for the historical veracity of Christ’s resurrection, maintained its centrality in Christian doctrine, and located it within the broader context of his own reconstruction of the New Testament’s historical setting. The fourth volume in the series, Paul and the Faithfulness of God is due out on November 1st.

The most anticipated release of the year, coverage at SBL and on the blogosphere will be heavy. For our part here at CBD, we have an interview scheduled with Dr. Wright that should hit this blog in early November. However, to get things started the good folks over at Fortress Press have produced four videos (below) featuring Wright discussing his new book with Michael Bird (and a few other folks). Having read a few chapters of this book, I can tell you it is worth every ounce of time you can sink into it. Wright is a brilliant writer; not only does he do an outstanding job of covering the details of Paul’s life and letters with clarity, but he lays out his historiographical agenda in scintillating fashion.

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The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible

A new series from Broadman & Holman combines two of the most popular genres in evangelical literature: apologetics and commentaries. Offering a unique approach to the biblical text–one that seeks to substantiate the integrity, historical veracity, and trustworthiness of the Bible rather than to explain its meaning–the Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible is a scholarly informed, compelling, and practical tool for defending a high view of Scripture. The series is projected to contain four volumes and will cover the entire Bible. Ambitious? Yes. But when complete, Christians will have access to a commentary that enables them to thoughtfully and carefully respond to our culture’s tendency to unjustly slant the historical and textual evidence.

Tailored specifically to address the concerns of apologists, the Holman Apologetics Commentary series does not follow a verse-by-verse format. Not every verse addresses or raises a controversial issue. Rather, specific sections of biblical text are carefully selected based on their degree of relevance to the apologetic endeavor in our contemporary context. The writers provide commentary as the need arises and, therefore, construct a comprehensive apologetic commentary but not an exhaustive, tedious treatment.

The inaugural volume, The Gospels and Acts, features four of today’s leading New Testament scholars–three of whom cover a single gospel account. Included in this group are Michael Wilkins on Matthew’s gospel; Craig Evans on Mark; and Andreas Köstenberger on “the gospel of belief”, the Gospel of John. Darrell Bock, an expert on Luke-Acts covers the two books written by the great physician-historian.  Top scholarship, biblical acumen, and contemporary relevance, all combine to make this a one-of-a-kind resource for thoughtful believers.

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The World of the New Testament

Gain a comprehensive view of culture, society, and everyday life in the New Testament era.

G. K. Chesterton said, “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” What Chesterton had in mind here is similar to what we seek when we read or study Scripture: we hope to be changed. We often displace spiritual enrichment when we dig into the material details of Scripture, but those details possess the power to change the way we see the world now, today, as we live as Christians. If the object of travel is “not to set foot in a foreign land” as Chesterton has it, then a well-documented book about a foreign land is, at least, equal to actually going there.

A local guide is the best resource for gaining intimate knowledge of a place; its mores, assumptions, beliefs, culture, social struggles, sacred objects, and literature. No one can tell you the story about your destination better than a person who has lived there. In The World of the New Testament this is precisely what you receive. More than 30 scholars–each of whom has spent decades studying their respective areas of expertise–lead you on a tour of the most decisive cultural influences that impacted the New Testament’s authors. Forty-four essays (each about 10 pages in length) take you into a specific subject that illuminates a component of first century Jewish culture and its relationship to the New Testament.

How did Greek religion impact the early Christians? What were the social expectations of women? What about economics? Were people educated? What is Homer’s relationship to the New Testament? Where is Galatia, and why is it significant to understanding the book of Acts? It’s all in there; a complete, comprehensive tour. Accompanied by extensive bibliographies and prepared by scholars who are both seasoned and distinguished, these vignette-essays are your personal guide into a broader and deeper  journey of the New Testament world.

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1 & 2 Timothy & Titus

A new series!

Inexpensive (the first volume is priced under 10$!), eminently practical, and exceptionally user-friendly, Broadman and Holman’s new Christ-Centered Exposition commentary is the best new series for taking your Bible study to the next level.

Details!

Expository commentaries are excellent aids for exegesis. They tease out details, augment observation, and force us to zoom-in even closer to the text. Most expository commentaries read like an adapted sermon and typically proceed point-to-point with no break in the text. They are clean, polished works. The Christ-Centered series is messy–more like going over well-organized notes verse-by-verse. The writing is non-technical, pithy, and drives interaction both with the Bible and the commentary. It is not a commentary for your night stand; it is a commentary for your study. Not just for pencil underlining; but for use with a notepad, an eraser, and perhaps even a ruler. Outlines and a one-sentence “big idea” begin each new section, key words are in bold, and 10 study questions conclude each unit. But the best feature of these commentaries is that the authors always aim to drive the reader toward Christ. Christ is at the center of each books goals–to learn more about him, to understand his life and work better, and to exalt him. All projected 48-volumes will be written by preachers known for clarity and the quality of both their preaching and writing.

Order Today!

When these commentaries sit on your shelf they won’t be a decoration; they will be well used tools. Deciding to step-up to the next level of Bible study–sustained expository study of Scripture–is a big decision requiring time, effort, and discipline. But it also gives you access to the very blueprint of the Christian faith. The Christ-Centered Exposition is the perfect resource for anyone who wants to make the bold next step in their study of the Scriptures. The first volume in the series Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus is now available for preorder!

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One of the most clever writers of his generation, Eugene Peterson is also a spiritual sage. His ability to creatively articulate the questions and explain the complex phenomena of our spiritual lives with lucid candor is unrivaled. Peterson’s most recent work, a multi-volume effort, engages the church with a series of timely theological questions that Peterson believes will help it regain its gospel moorings while preparing it to navigate a tumultuous and uncharted culture.

This week, three of the volumes–all hardcover editions–from Peterson’s recent work are on sale, discounted at least 80% off suggested retail. Two other volumes are discounted at a minimum of 40% off suggested retail. Though intimately related to each other, each volume also stands as an individual work that can be read profitably by itself.

Listed below are the three volumes currently on sale-as low as $2.99!  Click the image to see more details or to purchase!

The Jesus Way–$4.39!

 

Arguing that the way Jesus leads and the way that we follow are symbiotic, Peterson begins with an extensive study of how the ways of those who came before Christ — Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah — revealed and prepared the “way of the Lord” that became complete in Jesus. He then challenges the contemporary American church, showing how what we have chosen to focus on — consumerism, celebrity, charisma, and so on — obliterates our ability to follow the Jesus way.

 

 

 

 

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places–$4.99!

 

Peterson grounds our spirituality in Trinitarian roots and provides an illuminating discussion of how such theology shapes spiritual lives. After sweeping aside the misunderstandings that hinder our discussions of spiritual theology, Peterson clearly describes how spiritual theology can remain sensitive to ordinary life, effectively present the Christian gospel and find its rooting in the “fear of the Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tell it Slant–$2.99!


Tell It Slant
explores how Jesus used language—he was earthy, not abstract; metaphorical, not dogmatic. His was not a direct language of information or instruction but an indirect, oblique language requiring a participating imagination — “slant” language. In order to witness and teach accurately in Jesus’ name, then, it is important for us to use language the way he did.

 

 

 

 

 
Note: Prices are subject to change without notice.

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Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

80 years after its initial publication in German, Kittel’s legendary set remains one of the most sought after reference resources on the New Testament. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT] comprises 10 volumes, is unabridged, and is most useful to those who have completed one full year of Greek. Each significant Greek word in the New Testament is presented comprehensively–and often exhaustively–taking account of its:

  • Greek/linguistic background
  • role in the Old Testament (in Hebrew and the Septuagint)
  • use by Philo, Josephus, and in Rabbinic Literature
  • uses in the New Testament within various genres
  • appearances (where appropriate) in the Apostolic Fathers

More than 100 distinguished scholars contributed to the work, including specialists in Old Testament, Septuagint, Hellenistic, Semitic and Rabbinic studies. Extensive bibliographies and convenient footnotes accompany each article. Volume 10 contains index material. The TDNT was translated by the inexhaustible Geoffrey W. Bromiley, who also translated Barth’s Church Dogmatics.

This set comes in a sturdy, durable case-bound hardback binding that will enable years of study. For a limited time, CBD is offering this set for $99.99–a price that simply boggles the mind. However, supplies are limited! Preorder now. Deliveries begin in October!

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