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David Seccombe has taken over teaching some units that I used to teach when I was at Trinity Theological College in Perth. He’s a great guy, and I’ve enjoyed using his books in the past. After chatting to him yesterday, I discovered that he’s crowd funding a new book which will be out next month – so I quickly ordered a copy. This will be a scholarly, accessible, useful book. You can find out further details here.

Today I was kindly given a copy of the ebook The Corinth Letters, by its author Ben Chenoweth.
Here’s the description:

In 55 AD, Linus, a pottery worker of the house of Chloe, is sent by his mistress with a secret message to Paul, the founder of the church in Corinth. The letter that Paul sends in response, however, does not have the desired effect, involving Linus in some nasty church politics. Something more than a letter from Paul will be needed, if the church in Corinth is going to survive.

In 2013 AD, Matt, a young Australian on holiday in Greece, meets Emily, a beautiful young American archaeologist. In an effort to impress her he decides to fake Paul’s ‘previous’ letter to the Corinthians. However, things do not work out quite as he planned and their relationship seems to be over before it even begins.

Become immersed in the historical context of 1 and 2 Corinthians in this exciting sequel to The Ephesus Scroll.

“creatively conceived… illuminating and engaging… hard to put down” Dr. Colin Kruse, author of 2 Corinthians (Tyndale New Testament Commentary)

The book can be found here. I look forward to giving it a read!

Theology, of course, is more than just ideas. It can be seen in practices, rituals, assumptions, defences, and arguments. It seems to me that it is proper to label the ideological burdens betrayed by these things as ‘theology.’ Paul himself thinks there is theological weight in Corinthian behaviours, and it fits with the trajectory of his writings to seek to analyse and do theology on the basis of what we find there.

So, while there is always a lot of attention given to what the Corinthians got wrong, here are some theological things that I think they got tremendously right. I’m particularly drawing on 1 Corinthians…

A strong sense of the oneness of God

At least an influential ‘some’ of the Corinthian church was committed to the idea that there is no God but one (ch.8). Idols were mute and empty (ch.12), and the true God of the Hebrew Scriptures was the father of Jesus Christ and his people. The corresponding weakness of this strength was that it led some to sit too comfortably with idolatry, given that idols were thought to be empty anyway (ch.10).

A strong sense of the threeness of God

Paul appeals to what the Corinthians ‘know’ when he spells out the triadic persons of the Godhead (to use later language) in chapter 8. At numerous other points he draws upon the threeness of God without being self-conscious (e.g. Beginning of ch.12). The Corinthians celebrated the traditions about Christ (ch.11; ch.15), and celebrated the manifestations of the Spirit (Chs.12-14). A corresponding weakness of this strength was spiritual pride associated with the manifestations of the Spirit.

A robust belief in the goodness of God

I think that this firm belief undergirds a great many of the behaviours in Corinth. On the whole (although there were perhaps disputes), the Corinthians seem to have celebrated the things that had been created by God for human enjoyment: food (ch.8, ch.11, ch.15), sex (ch.5, ch. 6, ch.7 – even those who were saying ‘it is good for a man not to touch his wife’ may have been open to touching prostitutes), worldly goods (ch.6). The corresponding weakness of this robust belief was the celebration of sexual immorality, impurity, and greed (chs.5-7), as well as disdain for the weak, impoverished, and dead (ch.8, ch.15).

A firm conviction of the triumph of God in Jesus Christ

Just as they/’some’ were convinced that idols were nothing, so they seem to have been convinced that the accomplishment of God in Jesus was so great, that such things as ongoing sin, judgment, sickness, and death seemed difficult to fit into their mindset (ch.11, ch.15). Paul needed to insist that the full application of divine resurrected triumph had not in fact been attained (ch.15), and that the cross of Christ still needed to impact their behaviour (chs. 1-4). The corresponding weakness of this firm conviction was therefore a prematurely exhaustive triumphalism.

A certain grasp of the age of the Spirit

The Corinthians, more than any other early Christian community (so I think), wanted to regularly exhibit their participation in the inaugurated age of the Spirit, by communally exercising manifestations of tongues and prophecy. This expresses (whether articulated doctrinally or not) an awareness that ‘the ends of the ages have fallen.’ The corresponding weakness of this strong grasp was a failure to appreciate that now ‘we see as in a mirror, dimly.’

As much as we often scoff at the craziness of the Corinthian church, it’s worth recognising that their weaknesses are often the downsides of corresponding strengths. And it is these same strengths that many of our own churches take pride in today. ‘So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!’ (1 Cor 10:12)

See the story here

SPOILER alert: I don’t give away much, but best not to read if you haven’t watched it yet…

A lot of people are saying that, having seen The Force Awakens, they wish the prequels could be remade. But I feel slightly better about the prequels now that I’ve seen the latest instalment. Don’t get me wrong – let me say two points straight away:

  • I was disappointed by the prequels. (All that pod racing!! And those CGI effects!! And the terrible acting by the Anakins!!)
  • I loved The Force Awakens.

In comparison with The Force Awakens, the prequels seem utterly foreign – like a shiny, fake, over-the-top version of the Star Wars reality. It’s like the time I watched live comedy in a particular other country/culture, and couldn’t help but focus on the fact that, although the jokes were recognisable as jokes, they were presented in a way that was startlingly overstated – which is very unlike contemporary Western comedy. But it struck me as I was watching the latest movie that in fact, from the vantage point of episode VII, that’s exactly what the prequel age is: a foreign, over-the-top, era, which is barely imaginable within the present day world. If we think of the prequels as being mythical retellings from the vantage point of Rey’s era, they seem to sit with a little more sense: this could be the way people tell stories that are larger than life – with embellished characters, King James dialogue, and CGI imagination.

See this tribute to I Howard Marshall by Stanley Porter…

DOMAIN THIRTY-THREE

We are all deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of one of the great New Testament scholars of the post-World War II era, I. Howard Marshall.

Professor Marshall was born 12 January 1934 and died on 12 December 2015. He was primarily educated at the University of Aberdeen (MA, BD, and PhD), along with Cambridge University (BA), and spent virtually his entire academic career at Aberdeen, where he supervised numerous students who have gone on to make contributions to evangelical scholarship. After teaching for a short time at Didsbury Methodist College in Bristol, Professor Marshall began teaching at Aberdeen in 1964 and became Professor of New Testament Exegesis in 1979, a position he held until his retirement in 1999, at which time he became Honorary Research Professor of the University. After his first wife died in 1998, he later married Dr. Maureen Yeung, who had received her PhD…

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Why is the religious dimension so often excluded from the academic study of religious texts? I’ve just read a chapter by Roland Deines, in which this issue is explored. In a volume devoted to the Hebrew Bible, Deines takes the example of the emergence of the New Testament writings (particularly Paul) to show that it is possible for religiously authoritative writings to arise not from established institutional hierarchy (at the time that Paul’s letters were received, he lacked the saintly authority that would later be ascribed to him), but rather from a widely believed experience of personal divine revelation. Deines suggests that the same sort of model provides a useful and persuasive account of the emergence of much of the Hebrew Bible. He writes:

It is therefore ultimately much more likely and in line with what the texts themselves claim that at their core stands an “inspired” individual rather than a professional clerk, scribe, bureaucrat, or other religious functionary. This person formulated the essence of what he saw, heard, or otherwise experienced as divine disclosure with the rhetorical and literary means within his reach. Most likely these would have included certain preconceptions based on the already available prophetic traditions, which might have helped and formed to a certain degree the recording of what was revealed. Historians of religion need not appreciate or regard these divine encounters as binding in any way, but they would do well to adopt a certain readiness to consider them… (315)

The chapter is: Roland Deines, ‘Revelatory Experiences as the Beginning of Scripture: Paul’s Letters and the Prophets in the Hebrew Bible,’ in Cana Werman (ed.), From Author to Copyist: Essays on the Composition, Redaction, and Transmission of the Hebrew Bible in Honor of Zipi Talshir (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2015), 303-336. You can find the book here.