The following is taken, with minor adaptations, from the introduction to my commentary on the Johannine Epistles. The gospel goes to the Jew first. When they resist, Paul turns to the Gentiles, but he hopes by this to provoke the Jews to jealousy, so that in the end Jews will be saved along with Gentiles (Romans 9-11). In the New Testament, the gospel moves from Jew to Gentile and back (in hope) to Jew. The New Testament canon, arguably, does… Read more

In an essay exploring (in typical Marxian fashion) the cultural effects of late capitalism (specifically on architecture), Frederic Jameson tells a fascinating story about the Rockefeller Center, drawing on Robert Fitch’s The Assassination of New York. Fitch’s story is about the conspiracy to change New York City from a manufacturing town to a town full of offices and services. He has plenty of evidence to draw on, like this from a businessman of the 1920s: “Some of the poorest people… Read more

In Hebrews, atonement isn’t achieved on the cross. Instead, the cross initiates a trajectory that ends with Jesus’ ascent as priest into heaven. So argues David Moffitt in Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection.. He argues that the writer to the Hebrews contrasts angels and the Son to emphasize that “it is Jesus’ perfected humanity, his blood and flesh (i.e., his human body), in heaven that sets him apart from the heavenly spirits and allows him to be the first… Read more

God created a mapped world. It was divided into zones, which were the fundamental zones of human life. God planted a garden in the east of the land of Eden. The garden wasn’t Adam and Eve’s home, but the place of their meeting with Yahweh the Creator. In the garden were two trees, which had special, we might say “sacramental” significance. The garden was the original sanctuary, and in the sanctuary the Lord gave Adam a priestly task to guard… Read more

Joel Humann ends his dissertation on Numbers 19 by drawing attention to the cosmological dimensions of the ritual of the red cow. He finds conceptual and verbal links back to Genesis 1-3, allusions that explain the details of the rite and its overall thrust. The sprinkling of the corpse-defiled person on the third and seventh days, for instance, takes us back to the creation week: “What is thematised in this return to the third day is a cleansing or ‘purging’… Read more

Literary uses. Many writers allude directly and indirectly to Hamlet the play and Hamlet the prince. Melville’s Pierre tears up his copy of Hamlet while vowing to act on the new revelations concerning his dead father. Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister aspires to produce Hamlet, Eliot alludes to Hamlet in Prufrock and Waste Land, and Kafka and Mallarme make use of the Hamlet character in their writing. This is not to mention those works overtly inspired by Hamlet, including Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern… Read more

Joel Humann’s Durham dissertation on Numbers 19 (the red cow and the waters of purification) is wonderfully illuminating. After a judicious close reading of the chapter, he turns to the question of the placement of the passage within Numbers. He observes that in Numbers the wilderness becomes a place of death. Death results specifically from encroachment on the sanctuary and rebellion against God: “Death is the inevitable consequence of the sins of encroachment and rebellion against the holy God by… Read more

After 1800, Hamlet became an emblem of human existence in all sorts of guises, employed as a symbolic turning point in Western cultural history, whatever the character of that turning point might be. Is the main conflict of modern Europe a religious choice between Catholicism and Protestantism? Hamlet, the student of Wittenberg, symbolizes the paralyzing choice. Is the main mark of modernity a radical disjunction between subject and object? Decades before Descartes, Hamlet already represented the modern egocentric predicament. Is… Read more

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is indisputably one of the most important dramatic works in the history of Western literature. It has been staged countless times, filmed often, and commented upon too often to recount. Unlike many other dramatic works, Hamlet has not been the province of critics alone, but has been an important source for reflection and analysis among psychologists and philosophers as well. Influence and influenced are difficult to disentangle here. As Margreta de Grazia points out, Coleridge coined the term… Read more

Proper time moves through redemptive history: The Father sends the Son to be incarnate at Advent and Christmas; the Son lives, dies, rises again, and ascends; and He gives the Spirit at Pentecost. The Church calendar climaxes with Pentecost, before moving into the “off-season” of Trinity. The church calendar is theologically instructive, showing that our salvation is completed only when the Spirit is sent from the Son who was sent by the Father. What if we concluded proper time with Good… Read more

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