February 14, 2019

We have offered some preliminary comments on preaching, its purposes and the mindset of the preacher. Now I want to offer some guidance on Bible study and exegetical resources. Now, it would be easy for me to go on and on with book recommendations, but I thought it be would be more helpful to offer my TOP FIVE (-ISH) recommendations for each category.

Reading the Greek Text

  1. UBS5 (Reader’s Edition). It’s elegant, state-of-the-discipline, user-friendly.Screen Shot 2019-02-13 at 11.17.29 AM
  2. Bible Software
    • Bibleworks – I have used Bibleworks for fifteen years (!). But sadly they have closed their business, so I recently purchased Accordance.
    • Accordance – this is the go-to Mac-user software; elite, powerful, but very expensive.
    • Logos – I own and use Logos a lot, but not for “reading the Greek text.” I use it for dictionaries, commentaries, and a few other things. To get a good language package, you need some $$$, but it is not unreasonable.
    • StepBible (www.stepbible.org) – this free website/app allows you to read the Greek/Hebrew text, do some basic word study, and search words in NT and Septuagint. It is the best free site I have seen for language-oriented study.
    • Interlinears? I don’t use interlinears, and I don’t really recommend them either. They are set up in a way to force you to compare English to Greek in a rigid way, and therefore the information you “glean” can be misleading. But if you are going to use one, try this: https://www.logos.com/product/8569/lexham-greek-english-interlinear-new-testament-collection.

Guides to the Exegetical Process

  1. Elements of Biblical Exegesis (Michael Gorman). This book is clear, practical, oriented towards theological interpretation, and offers some samples in the back of the book.
  2. Prima Scriptura: An Introduction to New Testament Interpretation (Clayton Croy). Digs a bit more into theory, not as good with the practicals, but very insightful and complements Gorman.
  3. Scripture and Its Interpretation: A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible (ed. Michael Gorman). Multiple contributors, lots of great topics and perspectives, very reasonably priced; but read Elements first.
  4. Inductive Bible Study (Bauer and Traina). A simple, clear, tried-and-true approach to inductive Bible study. It is crucial that the preacher learns how to study the text for themselves, and not jump right into secondary resources.
  5. The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Revelatory TextScripture (Sandra Schneiders). A very rewarding Catholic approach to treating the NT as sacred and special revelation, while also paying full attention to the human element of Scripture. I have all my hermeneutics students read this book before writing their exegesis papers.

Word Study Resources

  1. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (known as BDAG). It is the standard lexicon for New Testament study; overall it is reliable, but do not assume it is always correct or that all scholars agree on its findings.
  2. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains (aka, Louw-Nida). I actually prefer these definitions and glosses to BDAG overall. But I am weird.
  3. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (ed. M. Silva). A very good, detailed resource. Worth buying the set.
  4. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT). Reliable, but not mind-blowing.
  5. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (TLNT, C. Spicq). This set is not exhaustive, there are many NT Greek words you won’t find in here, but when he does have an entry, I find his thoughts very stimulating and worthwhile.
  6. Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (VGNT, or Moulton and Milligan). This unique lexicon uses inscriptions and “non-literary papyri” (i.e., personal correspondence) to inform our understanding of Greek words. Here’s the basic idea: how were these words used in everyday life and conversation? VGNT tends to be anecdotal rather than exhaustive, but always worth consulting.


  1. IVP “Black” Dictionaries. E.g., the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, etc. These sources are invaluable. There are also several excellent thematic volumes such as the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology and the Dictionary of New Testament Backgrounds. (LINK TO SET: HERE) My personal copies are well worn!
  2. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. This is a great set—up to date, leading scholars, accessible and lucid information for pastors and for Bible study. Your church should own this.
  3. Anchor-Yale Bible Dictionary. A hefty, academic set, and now a bit dated, but still a trusted standard in the guild.
  4. Dictionary of Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker). The entries are “hit-and-miss,” but always worth a peek. Whether you are looking up a theme, biblical book, etc., great stuff on reception, theological importance, and so forth.
  5. DSE.jpegDictionary of Scripture and Ethics (Baker). Another good thematic dictionary, I have a few entries in here.
  6. Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism. Obviously, this is very niche, but an outstanding resource for understanding Jewish ideas, traditions, and practices.

Academic, Technical Commentaries

Here I will only list series that dig into the details of the text and its ancient context. In a later post I will recommend commentaries that reflect theologically and move in the direction of application.

  1. Word Biblical Commentary (OT and NT)

Very detailed, many volumes are getting outdated, but still solid section-level bibliographies and highly competent scholarship overall.

    2. New International Commentary on the New Testament (OT = New International Commentary on the Old Testament)

Most volumes offer a blend of academic material and (light) theological exposition.

    3. New International Greek Testament Commentary (NT only)

Heavily engaged with the Greek text.

    4. Anchor Bible Commentary (OT and NT)

Generally offers a “critical” academic approach to the biblical text, but many volumes are classics.

   5. International Critical Commentary (OT and NT)

A moderate “critical” commentary that engages closely with the Greek text.

   6. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (NT only)

An evangelical series that focuses on the Greek text.

August 23, 2018


Why Galatians

We built our intermediate Greek reader on Galatians. I have used many different kinds of Greek reader textbooks in the past, and even though having different types of texts was pedagogically helpful, it felt very choppy. Most reader walk you through short snippets of biblical and non-biblical texts. There is something especially satisfying for me in reading a whole text from beginning to end. So, we chose to build our textbook with a bulk of reading in a complete text.

But why Galatians in particular?

There are many advantages to strengthening your Greek by reading Galatians. It is relatively easy Greek. Most of the time the syntax is straightforward. Also, it is not too long. Six chapters is digestible in a semester. Thirdly, it happens to be one of the most important pieces of literature in all history. Galatians touches upon lots of important NT concepts foundational to Christian theology. Fourth, within Galatians you have different types of discourses; it begins very narrative heavy (chs 1-2); then you get more argumentation (chs 3-4), and it ends with paraenesis and more concentrated “epistle-y” material (chs 5-6). Lastly, it was especially helpful that Galatians contains numerous interactions with the Septuagint. (More on that in the next post)

To be honest, though, I chose Galatians as the main text of the reader because I love it. I am writing a commentary on Galatians and this project gave me a chance to dig deep into the Greek text with the help of my students. I have the luxury of setting up classroom experiences where I get to learn from my students and then utilize those insights in my research and writing.

February 28, 2018


I am beginning a new blog series: What does a seminary professor do? We will start with the most obvious answers (teach, research, etc.), and then talk about other things that occupy my time professionally. This series will be helpful to those in undergrad or grad degree programs who are considering teaching at a seminary.

I Teach

So, you only work, like, 12 hours a week?

This kind of question comes up when I tell people I teach the equivalent of four 3-credit courses per semester (= 12 classroom hours). In theory, yes, this is the maximum amount of time I would spend in a classroom face to face with students for a local course. But teaching is about much more than “classroom time” and in the end professors work 40-60 hours a week as with many other professions. What makes higher education unique is flexibility – I can do a lot of different things with my time, and how I prepare the educational experience is largely in my hands.

First, I would like to begin with the kinds of courses I teach, and then I want to talk about what teaching is like in the 21st-century seminary.

Nowadays, I teach 1-2 courses in a traditional local format (face-to-face with local students, weekly). I also teach some hybrid distance courses, where students live outside our area, engage online in forums most weeks, and once a semester they come to campus for intensive engagement. Some of my faculty load might go to administrative work (like overseeing an academic committee), I might be awarded a bit of research leave (which will lower my course load by 3 credits), or I might be helping to implement a project through a grant. Some years I have been scheduled to supervise Doctor of Ministry students – I would work with them for several years in a row, seeing them through to completion.

I am responsible for New Testament courses at Portland Seminary, so I teach introduction to New Testament, hermeneutics, Biblical Greek, book study courses, and advanced courses (like Septuagint Greek, or thematic courses). I also oversee the Master’s thesis program here.

Teaching Style and Philosophy

I recall learning that Karl Barth would walk into class, pull out his notes, and read basically “word-for-word” from his lecture notes. A few generations ago, I could see how receiving such exclusive information from a theological giant could be highly rewarding. But now information (books, blogs, podcasts, Wikipedia, Youtube, Itunes University) is so easily accessible. And seminary textbooks are better and there are just more of them. So, it makes little sense to read a lecture as a teaching style.

My own attitude towards seminary and the learning experience is about equipping, establishing, and engaging. Nowadays, seminary students are busy – many of them work fulltime in ministry (or otherwise), they have families, etc. On top of that, seminary degrees continue to shrink in terms of overall credit hours. So I can’t teach the whole NT in depth. I can equip students to establish a plan for life-long learning. Secondly, I try to establish students, to ground them in the basics of the NT world, the history of early Christianity, central themes, crucial methods, and hermeneutical challenges. Finally, I want them to engage deeply in vital matters – engage intellectually with the information, but also engage one another and expand their thinking. And, of course, I want them to engage with God. Seminaries (in my view) exist to shape not only minds, but also form souls and bodies and (by extension) communities of faith. The reality is that I only “get” the student’s time and attention for a few hours a week, so that time has to count.

Equipping is pretty easy – pointing students to the best resources for their life-long learning plan. Establishing is also not rocket science, and if you have a good education as a professor, you can pass on the appropriate foundation of Bible, church history, theology, etc. The hardest part is engagement. The point of engagement is not merely getting the student to think, but to be transformed by the engagement, to come to *aha* moments that will stick. So, you have to decide ahead of time what the most important *aha* moments must be for a course (and its learning objectives). Furthermore, it is good to lead a student to an *aha* moment, but it is even better if you can make space for that student to make their own way to the *aha* moment – the latter requires more internal processing, but my experience is that it “sticks” better if the student has engaged in self-discovery (vs. being “spoonfed” the “big idea”).

For example, I can “teach” students the basics of ancient honor-shame culture, and it is crucial for making sense of the New Testament. But I find it is more impactful to use role-playing or historical fiction to immerse the students enough in the ancient world that they “notice” the important cultural features on their own.

If I spend about 10 hours a week engaged with students “in the classroom,” I spend another 10 hours preparing for class time or assignments. On top of that, I get dozens of emails per week from students with a variety of questions (especially from hybrid students who can’t just “ask in class”). I spend ~5 hours a week just managing, sorting, crafting, and answering student emails. Teaching means a lot of emails.

Is teaching fun? Most seminary professors would say that (1) being with the students and having a chance to be a part of their formative journey is why we do this, and (2) getting to prepare and see those *aha* moments is very gratifying. But most would also say “emailing” and “grading” (and loading/updating course-management websites) are very tedious activities. (If you have trouble sitting in front of a computer for several hours a day, being a professor is not for you.) The “high” of teaching and learning is definitely worth it for me. And sometimes you have a low “emailing” week and little grading. That is nice too.

How do you decide if you want to teach in a seminary versus undergraduate institution (vs. research-driven graduate program)? My opinion is that those drawn to seminary teaching have a passion for working with adult Christian leaders and pastors. Their job is to come alongside those called to ministry and equip them as professionals and set them up to flourish. If that is where your heart is, the seminary is the right place to be.

What Questions Do You Have?


March 11, 2017

I am very excited about the planned dictionary set from Mohr Siebeck called Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint. Here is the description:

HTLSEdited by Eberhard Bons and Jan Joosten (Université de Strasbourg)

This large-scale collective and interdisciplinary project will aim to produce a new research tool: a multi-volume dictionary giving an article of between 2 and 10 pages (around 500 articles in all) for each important word or word group of the Septuagint. Filling an important gap in the fields of ancient philology and religious studies, the dictionary will be based on original research of the highest scientific level.

The dictionary will be published in English. The project will cover about a decade. The objective is to publish a first volume of 500 pages in 2017. At least three other volumes of the same size should follow over the years 2017-21.

October 17, 2015

SBL 2015 is coming up! Here are some sessions that caught my eye – esp excited about the review session for John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift.




Early Jewish Christian Relations; Paul Within Judaism
Joint Session With: Early Jewish Christian Relations, Paul Within Judaism
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Baker (Atlanta Conference Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Review of Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle, Fortress 2015, ed. by Mark Nanos and Magnus Zetterholm

Pamela Eisenbaum, Iliff School of Theology, Presiding (5 min)
James Crossley, University of Sheffield, Panelist (15 min)
Christine Hayes, Yale University, Panelist (15 min)
Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University, Panelist (15 min)
Shelly Matthews, Brite Divinity School (TCU), Panelist (15 min)
Emma Wasserman, Rutgers University, Panelist (15 min)
Break (5 min)
Discussion (65 min)


Institute for Biblical Research
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: A602 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: IBR Unscripted
This session of the IBR annual meeting offers Biblical Scholars from throughout the academy the opportunity to present their new and innovative ideas in an engaging forum inspired by the famous TED talks. Scholars will speak without notes and are encouraged to use a variety of media to help the audience interact with their ideas. A generous discussion time will follow each presentation and refreshments will be served. For further information see https://www.ibr-bbr.org

Katie Heffelfinger, Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Presiding
Peter Enns, Eastern University
On Not-Knowing When Knowing is All You Know (17 min)
Discussion (17 min)
Break (17 min)
Ruth Anne Reese, Asbury Theological Seminary
Remembering the Future, Shaping the Past: Memory, Narrative, and Identity (17 min)
Discussion (17 min)
Break (7 min)
Scott Hafemann, University of St. Andrews
The Unity of the Bible? Really? (17 min)
Discussion (17 min)
Break (17 min)
Break (7 min)


John, Jesus, and History
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: International 5 (International Level) – Marriott

Theme: Portraits of Jesus in the Gospel of John
In 2013 the John, Jesus, and History group began a series on Portraits of Jesus in the Gospel of John. It explores roles ascribed to Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, which also appear in other early Christian sources. Two years ago we considered Jesus as rabbi, prophet, and apocalyptic Son of Man. This year we continue with Jesus as healer, controversialist, Davidic Messiah, and Son of God.

Craig R. Koester, Luther Seminary, Presiding (5 min)
Graham H. Twelftree, Regent University
Jesus as Healer in the Gospel of John (30 min)
Tom Thatcher, Cincinnati Christian University
Jesus as Controversialist: Media-Critical Perspectives on the Historicity of the Johannine Sabbath Controversies(30 min)
Matthew Novenson, University of Edinburgh
Jesus as Messiah: The Unlikely Trove of Messiah Traditions in the Gospel of John (30 min)
Alicia D. Myers, Campbell University
Jesus as God’s Son: Blending Voices and Memory to Hear John’s Word (30 min)
Discussion (25 min)


Synoptic Gospels
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Marquis A-B (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: Panel Review of Francis Watson, Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Eerdmans, 2013)

Robert Derrenbacker, Thorneloe University, Presiding
Francis Watson, Durham University, Introduction (10 min)
John Kloppenborg, University of Toronto, Panelist (15 min)
Mark Matson, Milligan College, Panelist (15 min)
Margaret Mitchell, University of Chicago, Panelist (15 min)
Francis Watson, Durham University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (80 min)


Biblical Ethics
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Hanover D (Exhibit Level) – Hyatt

Theme: The Moral Vision of the Bible – A Methodological Discussion

Volker Rabens, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Presiding
Eryl W. Davies, Prifysgol Bangor – Bangor University
The Moral Vision of the Bible: A Hebrew Bible / Old Testament Approach (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Todd Still, Baylor University, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
David G. Horrell, University of Exeter
The Moral Vision of the Bible: A New Testament Approach (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jacqueline Grey, Alphacrucis, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (35 min)


John, Jesus, and History
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Courtland (Atlanta Conference Level) – Hyatt

Theme: A Review of the John, Jesus and History Project
The John, Jesus, and History project has been contributing to the discussion of the Fourth Gospel and questions of history since 2002. This year a panel will reflect on the work that has been done, the contributions that have been made, and the questions that might set directions for the future.

Helen Bond, University of Edinburgh, Presiding (5 min)
Jan van der Watt, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
A Critical Appraisal of Challenging and Critical Views on the Historicity of John (30 min)
Andrew Lincoln, University of Gloucestershire
What is “History” in John, Jesus and History? (30 min)
Michael Labahn, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
The “Johannine Lens” and Many Current Lenses on “John and Jesus”: A Review of John, Jesus and History Volume III (30 min)
Mark Goodacre, Duke University
“Strange, Restless and Unfamiliar”: The Character of the Fourth Gospel in the John, Jesus and History Project (30 min)
Catrin Williams, Prifysgol Cymru, Y Drindod Dewi Sant – University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (15 min)


Pauline Epistles
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 406 (Level 4) – Hilton

Theme: Reviews of J. A. Harrill, Paul the Apostle and M. Novenson, Christ Among the Messiahs

Emma Wasserman, Rutgers University, Presiding
John Barclay, University of Durham, Panelist (20 min)
Laura Dingeldein, University of Illinois at Chicago, Panelist (20 min)
Paula Fredriksen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Panelist (20 min)
Break (5 min)
J. Albert Harrill, Ohio State University, Respondent (25 min)
Matthew Novenson, University of Edinburgh, Respondent (25 min)


Theological Interpretation of Scripture
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: A602 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Trinity in/and the Bible
All papers will be read in their entirety.

Brent Laytham, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Presiding
Murray Rae, University of Otago
Biblical Foundations of a Trinitarian Hermeneutic (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Mark S. Gignilliat, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Wish Fulfillment or Real Presence? The Old Testament’s Trinity (20 min)
Andrea D. Saner, Eastern Mennonite University
Trinitarian Judgments in/and the Book of Exodus (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Break (5 min)
Matthew Bates, Quincy University
Christology of Divine Identity? Septuagintal Dialogues in the New Testament as Trinitarian Critique (20 min)
Wesley Hill, Trinity School for Ministry
Paul and the Narratable Divine Identity (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)



Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Sacred Texts
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom B (Level 2) – Hilton

Theme: A Review of Amy-Jill Levine’s Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi

Adele Reinhartz, Université d’Ottawa – University of Ottawa, Presiding
Adele Reinhartz, Université d’Ottawa – University of Ottawa, Introduction (5 min)
Adam Gregerman, Saint Joseph’s University, Panelist (25 min)
Luke Timothy Johnson, Emory University, Panelist (25 min)
Annette Merz, Protestant Theological University Amsterdam, Panelist (25 min)
David Sandmel, Anti-Defamation League, Panelist (25 min)
Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)



Theological Interpretation of Scripture
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: A704 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Bonhoeffer as Theological Interpreter
This session is co-sponsored with the Bonhoeffer: Theology and Social Analysis Group (AAR). Papers will be read in their entirety. This session investigates aspects of Bonhoeffer as a theological interpreter of Christian scripture. Papers explore Bonhoeffer’s own exegetical practice and its application in particular cases, examine the role of exegesis in the construction of Bonhoeffer’s own distinctive theological positions, and consider Bonhoeffer’s understanding of scripture and its consequences for contemporary debates about theological exegesis.

Myk Habets, Carey Baptist College, Presiding (5 min)
R. Walter Moberly, University of Durham
Bonhoeffer’s “Creation and Fall” Revisited (25 min)
Tyler Atkinson, Bethany College (KS)
Bonhoeffer, Qoheleth, and the “Natural Joy of Bodily Life” (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Break (5 min)
Chris Dodson, University of Aberdeen
“The Person Who Receives Blessing . . . Must Also Suffer Much”: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wilhelm Herrmann, and a Hermeneutic of Suffering (25 min)
Derek W. Taylor, Duke University
Nonreligious and yet Theological: Bonhoeffer’s Interpretation in a World Come of Age (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)


Pauline Soteriology
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: A602 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Paul, Poverty, and the Powers

Richard Hays, Duke University, Presiding
Bruce W. Longenecker, Baylor University
Malignant Forces, Perpetual Poverty, and the Body of Christ: Theologizing toward an Eschatological Reality (30 min)
Robert Moses, High Point University
Paul, Poverty, and the Powers: The Body of Christ as Response (30 min)
Break (10 min)
A. Grieb, Virginia Theological Seminary, Respondent (15 min)
Luke Bretherton, Duke University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (50 min)


Bible and Emotion
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: A706 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Toward a Biblical Theology of Joy

Matthew Croasmun, Yale University, Presiding
Gary Anderson, University of Notre Dame, Panelist (25 min)
Samuel Balentine, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Panelist (25 min)
Stephen Barton, University of Durham, Panelist (25 min)
Michal Beth Dinkler, Yale Divinity School, Panelist (25 min)
Miroslav Volf, Yale University, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (25 min)


GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Marquis A-B (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: Review Panel Discussion of Michael J. Gorman’s book, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Eerdmans, 2015)
As a leading voice among Pauline scholars, Michael J. Gorman has written a number of significant books and articles on Paul’s theology in recent years, including Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Theology of the Cross (2001) and Inhabiting the Cruciform God (2009). His most recent contribution, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Eerdmans, 2015), extends and develops some of the themes highlighted initially in earlier works, and places particular emphasis on mission as an interpretive rubric for the Pauline epistles—an outgrowth, in part, of his work with the GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics. In the introduction to Becoming the Gospel, Gorman calls his “affiliation with the Forum” “one of the most important professional developments for me in recent years,” noting that “learning to read Paul missionally—not merely as the quintessential ‘missionary’ but as a formator of missional communities—has been an exhilarating experience” (p. 10). Specifically, Gorman argues that “theosis—Spirit-enabled transformative participation in the life and character of God revealed in the crucified and resurrected Messiah Jesus—is the starting point of mission and is, in fact, its proper theological framework” (p. 4). Please join us for what promises to be a fascinating panel discussion—including responses by a fellow Pauline scholar, a congregational pastor, a missiologist, and a theologian—followed by an open-ended conversation about the missiological dimensions of Paul’s theology as illuminated in Gorman’s work.

Sylvia Keesmaat, Trinity College, University of Toronto, Presiding (5 min)
Michael J. Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Panelist (20 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Duke University, Panelist (15 min)
Eunice McGarrahan, First Presbyterian Church, Colorado Springs, Panelist (15 min)
Break (5 min)
George Hunsberger, Western Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
John Franke, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Panelist (15 min)
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Panelist (20 min)
Discussion (40 min)



Paul Within Judaism
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Marquis C (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: For Paul, Do Jews Have to Become Christians to be Saved?

Paula Fredriksen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Presiding (5 min)
John Marshall, University of Toronto
Deixis and Scope: Reading Romans in Time and Place (25 min)
Mark D. Nanos, University of Kansas – Lawrence
Are Jews Outside of the Covenants if Not Confessing Jesus as Messiah?: Questioning the Questions, the Options for the Answers Too (25 min)
Jason Staples, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Who is Israel? Understanding Paul’s Restoration Eschatological Hopes (25 min)
Larry Hurtado, University of Edinburgh, Respondent (25 min)
Break (5 min)
Discussion (40 min)


Pauline Soteriology
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Marquis A-B (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: Review of John Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans 2015)

Alexandra Brown, Washington and Lee University, Presiding
Joel Marcus, Duke University, Panelist (20 min)
Margaret Mitchell, University of Chicago, Panelist (20 min)
Miroslav Volf, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
Break (10 min)
John Barclay, University of Durham, Respondent (40 min)
Discussion (40 min)


1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 210 (Level 2) – Hilton

Theme: A Dialogue with Francis Watson’s Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective

Joel Willitts, North Park University, Presiding
Mark Goodacre, Duke University
What Does Thomas Have to Do with Q? The Afterlife of a Sayings Gospel (20 min)
Richard A. Burridge, King’s College – London
Ancient Biography, Matthew’s Genre and the Development of the Canonical Collection (20 min)
Jonathan Pennington, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Theological Epistemology in the Gospel according to Matthew: A Watsonian “Canonical Perspective” (20 min)
Jens Schroeter, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – Humboldt University of Berlin
The Place of Matthew’s Gospel among the (Canonical and Apocryphal) Gospels in the Second Century (20 min)
Break (5 min)
Francis Watson, University of Durham, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (30 min)


Systematic Transformation and Interweaving of Scripture in 1 Corinthians
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: International 10 (International Level) – Marriott

Theme: Scripture and Eschatology in 1 Corinthians

Erik Waaler, NLA University College, Presiding
Raymond Collins, Brown University, Panelist (15 min)
Matthew Malcolm, Trinity Theological College (Perth), Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Break (2 min)
Ben Witherington, Asbury Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
Roy Ciampa, Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship at the American Bible Society, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Break (2 min)
Craig Keener, Asbury Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
Linda Belleville, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Respondent (10 min)
Discussion (21 min)


Christian Theology and the Bible
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Hanover E (Exhibit Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Spiritual Interpretation of Scripture
This panel will consider the relationship between spirituality and the Bible. Each panelist will respond briefly to the question, “What are the hallmarks of the spiritual interpretation of Scripture?” There will be time for discussion among the panelists as well as substantial time for Q&A and discussion between the panelists and those attending the session.

Pieter De Villiers, University of the Free State, Presiding (15 min)
Gordon McConville, University of Gloucestershire, Panelist (15 min)
Bo Karen Lee, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
Andrew Lincoln, University of Gloucestershire, Panelist (15 min)
Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Panelist (15 min)
Discussion (75 min)


Extent of Theological Diversity in Earliest Christianity
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: M303-M304 (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: Interactive Diversity
A discussion of “Interactive Diversity: A Proposed Model of Christian Origins” by Larry Hurtado (The Journal of Theological Studies, 64 [October 2013]: 445-462). Hurtado critiques the “trajectories” model proposed by J. Robinson and H. Koester and proffers another model which he thinks accounts more adequately for the diversity and complex nature of the interactions evident in early Christian sources.

David Capes, Houston Baptist University, Presiding (5 min)
Larry Hurtado, University of Edinburgh, Introduction (25 min)

Paula Fredriksen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Respondent (15 min)
Carl Holladay, Emory University, Respondent (15 min)
Pheme Perkins, Boston College, Respondent (15 min)
Larry Hurtado, University of Edinburgh, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (60 min)


September 23, 2015

File this under “conferences that make me drool, but are just too far away for me to attend” – still, if you can free up your schedule and make it to St. Andrews, this looks pretty exciting!

The organisers of the St Andrews Symposium for Biblical and Early Christian Studies are happy to announce the theme of the next installation of this series taking place at the University of St Andrews 6-8 June 2016

Son of God: Divine Sonship in Jewish and Christian Antiquity.

Invited addresses will be given by Menahem Kister (Hebrew University), Reinhard Kratz (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen), Jan Joosten (University of Oxford), Richard Bauckham (University of Cambridge), George Brooke (University of Manchester), N.T. Wright (University of St Andrews), Philip Alexander (University of Manchester), Madhavi Nevader (University of St Andrews), Michael Peppard (Fordham University), David Moffitt (University of St Andrews), William Tooman (University of St Andrews), and Matthew Novenson (University of Edinburgh)

Cost: Early bird (1 December 2015-29 February 2016) £50; Standard (1 March-1 May 2016) £75.

Please send short abstracts (250 words) engaging Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, Targumim, Dead Sea Scrolls, Pseudepigrapha, New Testament, Rabbinic Literature, or Early Christian Literature to Paul Sloan (ps343@st-andrews.ac.uk) by 15 February 2016 addressing the following questions

March 19, 2015

HaysAt the end of 2014 I had high hopes of blogging chapter by chapter through Richard Hays’ new work, Reading Backwards (Baylor, 2014). Truth be told, I got sidetracked and by the time I finally got back into the book there were a number of good online reviews and I really don’t have much to add to that discussion. So, please permit me now to simply provide some reflections on the book.

Main arguments

Richard Hays has two interests in this short book, both of which are identified in the subtitle: Figural Reading BackwardsChristology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness. First, he urges that the Evangelists did not proof-text the OT, but neither did they read it in a straightforward contextualized sense. Rather, there is a kind of dialectical relationship between old and new. The term he uses for this is “figural reading” – he defines this as “the discernment of unexpected patterns of correspondence between earlier and later events or persons within a continuous temporal stream” (p93).

The second major concern Hays has is to demonstrate that if we pay close attention to the way that the Evangelists read the Old Testament and explain Christ, they portray Jesus Christ as the embodiment of Israel’s God (see 107) – the “highest” form of Christology can already be found in the Synoptic Gospels (see a key summary statement on pg. 72)

What about supersessionism? Hays is rightly sensitive to this. He affirms that a figural reading does not reject the first sense, but continues it and adds to it: “The canonical Evangelists understand themselves to be standing within the still-unfolding narrative trajectory of Israel’s covenantal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (106).

What was their Old Testament? Hays notes that the Evangelists tended to prefer the Septuagint. This forces us, once again, to re-think the nature of the Old Testament. Hays leaves open the possibility that we should extend special authority to the Septuagint (e.g., maybe Augustine was right!) (p. 107).


This is not a monograph, as Hays makes clear in the preface (ix). It is a “progress report” on a much larger and more comprehensive study of the Old Testament and the Evangelists that he is still writing. This is critically important to note because it is not a complete work all by itself. It is vintage Hays in that it is interdisciplinary, thoughtful, stimulating, creative, and exegetically responsible. However, there is much that is left unsaid or undersaid. Here are a few of my questions I hope will be treated more thoroughly in “the big book.”

1. How aware were the evangelists of their hermeneutic (this is briefly touched upon in the preface)? And how aware were they of the differences between them (e.g., Matthew versus Mark, or John versus Mark)? 

2. What is the difference between “figural reading” and typology (see pg 15)? What is the relationship between “figural reading” and sensus plenior? (I do see clearly that Hays does not endorse a kind of sensus plenior that cancels out the original sense)

3. What are the controls and limits of “reading backwards”? Who does this reading and how do you know it is right? Sometimes when Hays refers to “reading backwards” (as a Gospel-shaped hermeneutics, .e.g, p. 104), it is unclear who is doing this reading. Are the Evangelists concretizing canonically these readings, or is there a kind of openness for Christians yesterday, today, and tomorrow to freshly discover through reading backwards in ways the Evangelists had not considered? I know Hays is well aware of the debate about this, and I don’t blame him for not addressing it in his short book, but inquiring minds hope this makes it into the big book.

4. How would Jews have made sense of an “embodiment” of Israel’s God? Was he another god, or perhaps another version of God? Was he YHWH “in the flesh,” so to speak? What were the Evangelists thinking as they made these associations? Did they think the ideas they were alluding to were dangerous, blasphemous (even if true)? How could they even conceive of making such a radical statement, and if they knew it was radical, why do it without giving a more complete explanation or defense? 

That’s all I want to say at this point, other than to encourage you to pick up the book if you are interested in the relationship between the Old Testament and the New.


February 6, 2015

rkgIn May of 2014, Dr. Rodney J. Decker passed away. He taught at Baptist Bible Seminary (PA) and specialized in the study of Greek. He had completed a new textbook which has now been published by Baker called Reading Koine Greek. 

I have always been interested in Greek, and I have taught Greek a number of times, having used four different textbooks. Often it seems that the best writers often don’t have the in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of linguistics. Decker is a bit unique in demonstrating a career of experience and knowledge in research, as well as mastering teaching techniques and tools. Here are some features of this book that stood out to me.

Modern Linguistics – Decker notes that many students and even NT scholars are simply not current with insights from modern linguistics. He tries to introduce these insights into the textbook in a way not often found in Greek grammars.

LXX – Decker has readings and exercises that come from, not just the NT, but important related texts including the Septuagint. Personally, I really like that.

Visual Appeal – the book is extremely well-produced, with attractive visual layout – this is important particularly for a grammar.

Humor – You can tell Decker had a wonderful sense of humor – he integrates all kinds of funny and silly things into the textbook. For example, he has a sidebar on p. 142 that makes reference to the longest extant word in a Greek text – fifty letters (in a subliterary magical papyri). I love his last comment – “I have no idea what it means”

Mnemonic devices – I love that Decker includes a lot of mnenomic devices for memorizing things. How do you remember the Greek word for “one” – hen? “Steal me one chicken” – hen = one, steal is like “heist” and thus heis. You get the picture (p. 205).

Verbal aspect – Decker endorses a Porter-ian approach to VA, so know that that is what the students would be learning. What I liked about this (I don’t necessarily agree with him) is that he introduces it in a clear way.

LoTR – Clearly Decker loves the Lord of the Rings. He takes the time to quote Gandalf in an illustration.

Caution – I do want to note one caution I had about using this book – Decker resists using traditional fill-in-the-blank exercises, so you don’t really have them. He gives sample readings from the New Testament that can be teaching and learning moments. My impression is that if I were to use this textbook, I would want to create my own homework sheets.

Is this the best Greek textbook to use? It is really a matter of preference of learning style, approach to Greek issues (like verbal aspect), and level of student. I would definitely say that a Greek teacher ought to look at the loads of excellent teaching tools and tips that Decker offers.

I would definitely be interested in hearing from folks that are using this in class (faculty and students).

Rest in Peace, Rodney J. Decker.

November 20, 2014

I know there is a lot going on on Friday of SBL, but the group of the Institute for Biblical Research that I co-chair has invited Dr. Ross Wagner (Duke) to speak on the topic of the Septuagint and the New Testament. Wagner is one of the leading experts in this area and his paper is entitled: “Sanctified by the Body of Christ: Greek Scriptures in the Christian Bible.” We have two excellent respondents lined up: Dr. Robert Wall and Dr. Telford Work. We have left plenty of time after papers for discussion and engagement. This is such an important topic – come one, come all!

See below for meeting information

Institute for Biblical Research
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: Indigo Ballroom B (Level 2 (Indigo)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)

Theme: Research Group: The Relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament
This research group focuses on the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. For further information contact Nijay Gupta (nijay.gupta@gmail.com) and Creig Marlowe (wcreigmarlowe@cs.com) and see http://www.ibr-bbr.org/ (click on Research Groups: The Relationship Between the Old Testament and New Testament).

Creig Marlowe, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Introduction (5 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Duke University (35 min)
Robert Wall, Seattle Pacific University, Respondent (15 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Duke University, Respondent (5 min)
Telford Work, Westmont College, Respondent (15 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Duke University, Respondent (5 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Business Meeting (20 min)

July 30, 2014

If you hadn’t heard yet, the SBL 2014 program is now online. I am going to do a series of blog posts on highlights, but because the program is getting huge I will do just one day at a time. So, here is what’s going on on Friday. [FYI: I hate to tell you to leave the “Paul and Apocalyptic” session early, but you won’t want to miss Ross Wagner’s paper on the Septuagint! I suggest you have someone bootleg “Paul and Apocalyptic” after 4PM so you can be at the LXX & NT session. :)]


Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination

12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Room: 300 A (Level 3 (Aqua)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Across various branches of biblical and theological study, there is a renewed interest in ‘apocalyptic’. This development is seen particularly in the study of Paul’s theology, where it is now widely agreed that Paul promotes an ‘apocalyptic theology’. However, there is little agreement on what this means. Scholars from different perspectives have, as a result, continued to talk past each other. This special session provides an opportunity for leading Pauline scholars from different perspectives to engage in discussion about the meaning of Paul as an apocalyptic thinker. Indeed, one of the strengths and aims of this event is that different and opposing views are set next to each other. The session will hopefully bring greater clarity to the ‘apocalyptic’ reading of Paul by providing much needed definition to central terms and interpretive approaches and by highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses.

Session 1
Jason Maston, Highland Theological College, Presiding
Jason Maston, Highland Theological College, Welcome (5 min)
M. C. de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – VU University Amsterdam
Apocalyptic as Eschatological Activity (25 min)
N.T. Wright, University of St. Andrews
Apocalyptic as Heavenly Communication (25 min)
Loren Stuckenbruck, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Apocalypticism in Second Temple Judaism (25 min)
Philip Ziegler, University of Aberdeen
Apocalypticism in Modern Theology (25 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Break (15 min)
Session 2
Ben Blackwell, Houston Baptist University, Presiding
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University
The Apocalyptic New Covenant and the Shape of Life in the Spirit (25 min)
Edith Humphrey, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Apocalypse as Theoria in Paul: A New Perspective on Apocalyptic as Mother of Theology (25 min)
Douglas Campbell, Duke University
Paul’s Apocalyptic Epistemology (25 min)
Beverly Gaventa, Baylor University
Romans 9–11: An Apocalyptic Reading (25 min)
John Barclay, University of Durham
Apocalyptic Investments: 1 Corinthians 7 and Pauline Ethics (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Word of Thanks, Book Promotion, and Adjournment

IBR – Relationship Between OT and NT
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: Indigo Ballroom B (Level 2 (Indigo)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)

Theme: Research Group: The Relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament
This research group focuses on the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. For further information contact Nijay Gupta (nijay.gupta@gmail.com) and Creig Marlowe (wcreigmarlowe@cs.com) and see http://www.ibr-bbr.org/ (click on Research Groups: The Relationship Between the Old Testament and New Testament).

Creig Marlowe, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Introduction (5 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Duke University
The New Testament and the Septuagint (35 min)
Robert Wall, Seattle Pacific University, Respondent (15 min)
J. Wagner, Duke University, Respondent (5 min)
Telford Work, Westmont College, Respondent (15 min)
J. Wagner, Duke University, Respondent (5 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Business Meeting (20 min)


Institute for Biblical Research
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Room: Room 6 A (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)

Theme: Annual Lecture
The Institute for Biblical Research, Incorporated (IBR) is an organization of evangelical Christian scholars with specialties in Old and New Testament and in ancillary disciplines. Its vision is to foster excellence in the pursuit of Biblical Studies within a faith environment. The achievement of this goal is sought primarily by organizing annual conferences, conducting seminars and workshops, and by sponsoring academic publications in the various fields of biblical research. IBR’s conferences, seminars and workshops are open to the public and its publications are available for purchase. For further information go to http://www.ibr-bbr.org.

Tremper Longman, Westmont College, Welcome (10 min)
Beth Stovell, Ambrose University College and Seminary, Scripture Reading and Prayer (5 min)
Mark Boda, McMaster Divinity College, Introduction (5 min)
Annual Lecture
Craig Keener, Asbury Theological Seminary
Miracles: Philosophic and Historical Plausibility (40 min)
Robert Webb, McMaster University, Respondent (10 min)
Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary, Respondent (10 min)

Discussion (20 min)
Presentation by Baker Academic & Brazos Press
The IBR Reception follows the Annual Lecture and is sponsored by Baker Academic & Brazos Press


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