We’re Moving!

Over the course of the next week or so we are going to move back to our old domain, faithpromotingrumor.com.

Thanks for your support here at Patheos and we hope to see you at the new site in a few days.

Mogs

Some Sources for [More] Serious Study

One of the comments added to the last post asked about sources that might help someone get a start on the Bible. So, I thought I’d toss some ideas out here, and my colleagues will probably add things as questions or comments spark them.

The best part of studying the Bible is conversation with other folks who are likewise interested – Christianity is meant to be lived in and thru a community. The fastest way to get started is thru a class with a teacher who can guide you to good sources and respond to questions. If the opportunity presents itself, take a class at a local seminary, community college, public library or whatever.

In any case, the first thing you’ll need is an ecumenical study Bible. That’s a Bible that, at least in theory, doesn’t favor any confessional perspective thru its explanatory footnotes. AND YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT THOSE FOOTNOTES. Why not find one in a library and see what they look like?

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4 Puds With a Prooftext

Down below is a YouTube presentation of Revelation 12 done by a couple of BYU professors who style themselves as “Four Guys With Ties.” Before you have a look, however, read this:

In context, Revelation 12 explains the source of the evil and suffering experienced by John’s seven churches. The characterization of the participants, a pregnant woman, a dragon and eventually a baby, is drawn from the world of the ANE combat myth and so resists simplistic decoding.  Its use, however, is fortuitous for John’s purposes because it would be intelligible, even familiar, to both Jewish and Gentile Christians.

The first thing John sees, which he describes as a “great portent,” is a woman.  She is the Cosmic Woman, and as she is pregnant she is many motherly figures from the mythological past: Eve, Isis, Leto and Mary, at least. Most immediately, however, she is Lady Zion, whose travail gave Israel its Messiah (Isa 66:8), and her fragility is itself a fragile illusion because she is crowned, clothed and standing on the greatest glories of God’s creation.

The Cosmic Woman’s opponent is the Dragon. His aggressive power is symbolized by his ten horns and his ability to dislodge significant numbers of stars with a flick of his tail. The seven crowns indicate that he wishes to rule. Mythologically, he is the cunning serpent of Eden and the Python at Delphi, as well as YHWH’S opponents, Rahab and Leviathan. In this context, however, his foremost identity is that of Satan, the great opponent of God from the Second Temple period. He therefore stands before the woman, fully expecting to devour her child when she and the baby are weakest.

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To the Editors of the Deseret News

Dear Sir / Ma’am:

I was interested to read in your edition of Thursday, January 21st an article by Dr. Daniel C. Peterson about a book by James R. Hutchinson engaging various aspects of so-called Historical Jesus research.

I was also interested to see that Peterson does not go much beyond the description of the book as found on Amazon; following it so closely that a link to Amazon would have saved column-inches and allowed Peterson to engage more robustly with the work itself.  For instance, rather than superficially discrediting some aspects of Historical Jesus research as Peterson suggests, readers would have learned more of Hutchinson’s primary purposes.

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Congrats Stephen Smoot

We here at FPR have learned that Mr. Stephen Smoot has been accepted into the MA program at Trinity Western in Biblical Studies. This is a significant first step for Stephen and we are very pleased to offer both our congratulations regarding his acceptance and our best wishes for his future. He has chosen a tough and complicated path but we are confident that he will also find it to be as rewarding as have we.

I might also add, personally, that there still seems to be a bit of confusion arising from a recent post here regarding the intersection of certain approaches to apologetics and acceptance into graduate programs. The point made in the original post was that some activities might make the process more difficult, but what seems to have been understood was that such things are categorically impossible. I regret the confusion and am pleased to have had the opportunity to disambiguate the message.

Again, congrats to Stephen and best wishes for success,

Mogs

To the General Presidents of the Women’s Auxiliaries

Dear Sisters,

As a Relief Society president in a small unit outside of Utah I have watched with interest the roll-out of the Church’s policy on gay marriage, cohabitation, and the children of gay parents who live or have lived in stable relationships. I would like to ask one question and make one request. My question is this:

Were the three of you consulted about these policies?

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BYUNTC Revelation

The Revelation volume in the BYUNTC series is back in the news, so I thought I’d say a bit about it. At last fall’s SBL Grant Underwood gave Richard Draper some advice regarding this volume. Since Draper’s work was not well-received by either LDS or non-LDS scholars, Underwood wrote: “Perhaps by drawing on the talented pool of younger LDS scholars trained in New Testament studies, [Richard Draper] and Michael Rhodes can extend their work in ways that more effectively bring LDS views into tough-minded conversation with biblical scholarship generally.”

This sentence indicates that the Revelation volume has two major problems. It does not adequately handle the existing scholarship on Revelation and it does not effectively bring the LDS tradition into dialogue with this scholarship. Underwood is not alone in his critique; the other three published reviews of the BYUNTC project and the available volumes amply bear out his thoughts.

Although Underwood’s critique is spot-on his remedy is a bit less helpful because it under-specifies the help actually needed. Young scholars do not themselves write major academic commentaries because what produces the seasoned insights that make for a respectable contribution is some good length of interaction in public academic discourse involving the text in question. Many of BYU’s religion faculty in the right age cohort for the needed experience have not participated in this arena and so are not well-prepared to either write commentaries or supervise those who are younger.

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The Call of Simon Peter in Luke 5:1-11

This story, which is unique to Luke, is a bit of a gem among call narratives. It may be divided into three distinct sections: vv. 1-3, 4-7, and 8-11.

Unlike Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ interaction with Simon in this scene is preceded by his healing of Simon’s mother-in-law (4:39); presumably Simon also saw or heard about the rest of Jesus’ activities in Capernaum (4:40-41) before Jesus appeared on the shore:

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

In this first scene Jesus is doing just as he told the crowds in 4:42-43, that is, he is proclaiming the good news of the coming of the kingdom, mentioned for the first time in Luke in 4:43.

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Son of God

I was having a chat with the homies about Christological titles and since my response is longer than the original format allows, I will put it here. The crux of the matter concerns how the Synoptics deal with Jesus’ quotation of Ps 110:1. This quotation, which distinguishes the messiah from the son of David, appears in all three Gospels. From Mark 12:35-37 (NRSV):

35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘ 37 David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

According to Jesus then, the messiah is not the son of David but a greater figure than David himself. The challenge this presents appears when reading Matthew and Luke, both of whom affirm that Jesus was the son of David. In the novelty of the infancy narratives, it is possible to lose sight of the Christological foundation of the Gospels.

 

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The Part I Left Out…

I was blogging a bit over with Benjamin the Scribe, but didn’t get all of this first lesson quite done. So, I thought I’d just finish it up here, by reading the selection from the Johannine tradition. It consists of two of the three sections of the Fourth Gospel’s prologue:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

This passage, thought by some to be an early Christian hymn broken up by parenthetical insertions such as vv. 6-8, is delivered by the Johannine narrator. The narrator is a reliable figure so readers are invited to understand the rest of the Gospel through this passage. The import of this is that when Jesus makes claims of an exalted status which are rejected by “the Jews” as blasphemous, readers know that Jesus is speaking only the truth, that is, he is a reliable revelation of God.

The sections assigned for this first week’s lesson describe the relationship between the Word and God, and between the Word and the world. As usual, I read for insight into the usual six questions:

 

What is the human condition? The human condition is roughly portrayed by “the world.” On the one hand, the world is a special place since it was created by God through the Word and remains the object of his love. On the other hand, the world is in darkness, that is, it is very much in need of a new and better revelation of God to give human life purpose and direction.

What is God going to do about this? God sends two characters as witnesses to provide light to this world that he loves. First, John the Baptist is “sent from God” as a witness to testify of the Word who has come in the flesh. Thus, in the Johannine tradition John is one of the five witnesses listed out by Christ (John 5:32-35), and far more important in this role than as the person who baptized Jesus (as he is in the Synoptics). The Word, who is everything God is, is the perfect revelation of God, having been with him from the beginning. His revelation of God is not a series of propositions about God, but is the perfect portrayal of God’s love.

Who is Christ that he can accomplish God’s intent? Christ is the Word who took on human flesh and lived among humans. The key point is that he is the sole entity capable of doing what needs to be done because he has seen and known God like no other. A bit farther on, outside of the selections for this week’s lesson, John will say that Jesus is the only person to have seen God. This does not mean that John has forgotten about the great theophanies of the Hebrew Bible, but that Jesus is the only one who is “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18 KJV), a position of intimacy claimed by none of the prophets.

What is the nature of the community that responds to this? The community formed in this tradition is illustrated by John the Baptist. He is the first witness, sent by God, to the Word made flesh. The community, then, is composed of those who first respond to someone’s witness by believing that Jesus is who he claims to be, and who then bear witness of this point themselves, thereby drawing others to Jesus, who reveals himself more fully. This idea of a community formed by and around a chain of witnesses is actually illustrated in John 1:19-51. After Jesus is resurrected, he will send his disciples out into the world just as his Father sent him: “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Joh 20:21 NRS). Thus, the Johannine church is the extension of Jesus’ mission to reveal the love of God, which makes people who respond “the children of God” (1:12).

What behaviors are incumbent on this community, and why? Because this community is defined by a relationship, the primary ethical obligation will be what sustains a relationship: love. Thus, to get ahead of things, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 NRSV).

What does this community anticipate in the future? This community sees a future that is dominated by conflict between light and dark: “ The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” In the end they are confident that the light will prevail; this favorable resolution is foreshadowed by their witness of the glory of the Father’s unique Son, which they have seen. In the meantime, they enjoy a relationship with God as “the children of God” (1:12). This is not the relationship that Jesus has with God, because he is the Son of God, but it is not something enjoyed by the rest of the world, nor does it come by human desire or initiative (not of blood…not of the will…).

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