Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Donald J. Verseput Bibliography

In a comment on my post about Donald J. Verseput, Peter Head recommended compiling a bibliography of Verseput's publications.

In addition to his published dissertation, the ATLA database lists 11 journal articles published over a 15-year period, the majority in top-tier journals, including four (!) in New Testament Studies, two in Novum Testamentum, and one each in Journal of Biblical Literature, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and Journal for the Study of the New Testament.

Verseput's scholarly interests in Matthew and James are obvious. Equally clear is a concern to situate the New Testament in its Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts:

The Rejection of the Humble Messianic King: A Study of the Composition of Matthew 11-12. Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1986.
“The Role and Meaning of the ‘Son of God’ Title in Matthew’s Gospel.” New Testament Studies 33.4 (1987): 532–56.
“The Faith of the Reader and the Narrative of Matthew 13:53-16:20.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 46 (1992): 3–24.
“Paul’s Gentile Mission and the Jewish Christian Community: A Study of the Narrative in Galatians 1 and 2.” New Testament Studies 39.1 (1993): 36–58.
“Jesus’ Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Encounter in the Temple: A Geographical Motif in Matthew’s Gospel.” Novum Testamentum 36.2 (1994): 105–21.
“The Davidic Messiah and Matthew’s Jewish Christianity.” Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers 34 (1995): 102–16.
“James 1:17 and the Jewish Morning Prayers.” Novum Testamentum 39.2 (1997): 177–91.
“Reworking the Puzzle of Faith and Deeds in James 2:14-26.” New Testament Studies 43.1 (1997): 97–115.
“Wisdom, 4Q185, and the Epistle of James.” Journal of Biblical Literature 117.4 (1998): 691–707.
“Genre and Story: The Community Setting of the Epistle of James.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 62 (2000): 96–110.
“Considering the Needs of the Church: A Response to Craig Blomberg.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 11.2 (2001): 173–77.
“Plutarch of Chaeronea and the Epistle of James on Communal Behaviour.” New Testament Studies 47 (2001): 502–18.

I still remember Don commending Plutarch as a rich resource for understanding the New Testament.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Christian Discipleship according to Geoffrey of Monmouth

My wife has been trying out different "histories" as bed-time stories for our 10-year-old. Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is proving to be a bit too graphic. It is also theologically problematic. This passage, for instance, could have been the inspiration for the hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers":
"As Arthur said this, the saintly Dubricius, Archibishop of the city of the Legions, climbed to the top of a hill and cried out in a loud voice: 'You who have been marked with the cross of the Christian faith, be mindful of the loyalty you owe to your fatherland and to your fellow-countrymen! If they are slaughtered as a result of this treacherous behaviour by the pagans, they will be an everlasting reproach to you, unless in the meanwhile you do your utmost to defend them! Fight for your fatherland, and if you are killed suffer death willingly for your country's sake. That in itself is victory and a cleansing of the soul. Whoever suffers death for the sake of his brothers offers himself as a living sacrifice to God and follows with firm footsteps behind Christ Himself, who did not disdain to lay down His life for His brothers. It follows that if any one of you shall suffer death in this war, that death shall be to him as a penance and an absolution for all his sins, given always that he goes to meet it unflinchingly." - Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain ix.4 (Penguin 1966, p. 216)

The legend of king Arthur is just that, of course, but the words attributed to the "saintly Dubricius" presumably reflect those of Geoffrey of Monmouth in the mid-12th-century.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Historical Journal and University of Cambridge - Faculty of History Zotero Styles

In my capacity as "private secretary" to a PhD student in the faculty of history at the University of Cambridge, I put together a couple Zotero styles that may be of wider interest.

The Historical Journal style updates an earlier version put together by Julian Onions.

The University of Cambridge - Faculty of History style basically adds a bibliography to The Historical Journal style. It should correspond more-or-less to the examples on the Faculty of History website here.

Both Zotero styles can be downloaded into Zotero from the Zotero Style Repository. Click on the following links to go directly there:

The Historical Journal

University of Cambridge - Faculty of History

P.S. If you are not already using Zotero for academic work, you should. Here's how Zotero describes itself:
Zotero is a free, open-source research tool that helps you collect, organize, and analyze research and share it in a variety of ways. Zotero includes the best parts of older reference manager software — the ability to store author, title, and publication fields and to export that information as formatted references — and the best aspects of modern software and web applications, such as the ability to organize, tag, and search in advanced ways. Zotero interacts seamlessly with online resources: when it senses you are viewing a book, article, or other object on the web, it can automatically extract and save complete bibliographic references. Zotero effortlessly transmits information to and from other web services and applications, and it runs both as a web service and offline on your personal devices.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Stephen Westerholm on Kierkegaard and Scholarship

Stephen Westerholm has a great little reflection on Kierkegaard's Sickness unto Death and scholarship in the latest Expository Times (behind a pay wall). An excerpt:

"From a Christian perspective, he insisted, all scholarship, however rigorous, should, in the end, be edifying, concerned with what it means to live as a human being. And to live as a human being is to live ‘alone with the immense strenuousness, alone with the immense responsibility’ of life in the presence of God. Scholarship that distances itself from the concerns of such a life, that prides itself in its ‘objective’ approach and its ‘disinterested’ results, is marked by an ‘inhuman curiosity’; it is ‘frivolous and vain’. … For Kierkegaard, then, all Christian scholarship resembles the lecture of a teaching physician at the side of a sick-bed: however rigorous the lecture, its character is nonetheless shaped by its location—beside the-sick bed. Christian scholars may well want to expand the subject matter of their studies beyond what Kierkegaard seems to allow. But we would do well to bear in mind what he says of our location." - Stephen Westerholm. “And Finally….” Expository Times 129.4 (2018): 190.

If your library subscribes to the Expository Times, find it, and read the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Nonpartisan Evangelical Scholarship Part 4: Donald J. Verseput

Before his untimely death of a brain tumour at age 51, Donald J. Verseput was a professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary. In addition to the personal loss experienced by his family, the world of biblical studies lost a fine scholar who was "about half-way through" a major commentary on the book of James.

I had the good fortune of having Don as a faculty advisor during his year as a visiting professor at TEDS in 1997-1998. Although I never took a course from Don, he had an extraordinary impact on my education. As I recall, students at TEDS were to meet in “advisee groups” with a faculty member every two weeks. Don took the idea a step further by inviting us to join him for dinner once a week before an evening class. As a relatively unknown visiting professor, Don’s group was small, and I ended up being the only one who was able to accept his invitation. I was surprised that a faculty member would want to spend time with a mere MA student, and impressed to discover a scholar so committed to his family, so down-to-earth, and so candid. A few years later, I met up with Don at my first SBL in Denver 2001, and had to smile when I learned that he had his family—and skis—in tow, and planned to hit the slopes after delivering his paper. What else would you expect from someone who chose to do a PhD at the University of Basel because his family enjoyed skiing?

When in 2004 I heard that Don had passed away, I made a point of reading through some of his published articles. This had the effect of reinforcing what he had said about exemplary scholarship with a series of exemplary models.

To get a sense for the difference between partisan and non-partisan evangelical scholarship, one need only read Don’s response to Craig Blomberg in the 2001 issue of the Bulletin for Biblical Research.

Blomberg’s essay responded to the question, “Where Should Twenty-First-Century Evangelical Biblical Scholarship Be Heading?”, with a laundry list of academic topics that merit more attention by evangelical scholars. For example, work on the historical Jesus needs to be expanded to include the historicity of John’s Gospel and the historicity of the Old Testament; the historical context of the Bible needs to be examined “from an evangelical perspective”; we need an evangelical Hebrew grammar. And so on. These are not necessarily bad ideas, and those who work in the areas Blomberg recommends are not thereby “partisan” as long as they are willing to follow the evidence where it leads. (See F.F. Bruce’s comments in part 1 of this series).

What does strikes me as partisan is the location from which Blomberg surveys the field. Although Blomberg decries closet fundamentalists who are “committ[ed] to sociological separatism” and encourages his fellow evangelicals to “engag[e] the larger, scholarly world,” his comments presuppose and thus reinforce an insider-outsider divide between “us” evangelicals and “the scholarly world in general.”

Unlike Blomberg, Verseput’s reply is marked by a persistent refusal to make distinctions along tribal lines:
  • Where Blomberg called for “a thoroughgoing evangelical study” of Christian ethics to correct the work of Richard Hays, Verseput remarked that Hays, along with the German scholars, Wolfgang Schrage and Rudolf Schnackenburg, “need some help,” and then explained why, and why it matters for the church today. 
  • Wayne Meeks’s sociological study of the earliest Christian churches does not need to be redone “from an evangelical perspective,” it needs to be “updated” with attention to the theological convictions that Meeks overlooked, so that Christians in a post-Christian age can learn from the example of the early church.
Instead of evangelical bona fides, Verseput emphasized quality. Where Blomberg referred repeatedly to “evangelical scholars,” Verseput preferred different adjectives—“rigorous scholarship,” “leading biblical scholars,” “the latest research.” In fact, the word “evangelical” only appears in Verseput’s essay once, as part of a summary of Blomberg’s article. This is not, I take it, because Verseput rejected the label, but because he believed evangelical scholars need to do good scholarly work, and good scholars will necessarily engage and learn from the best contributions of the guild, irrespective of party affiliation.

What should distinguish evangelicals who are biblical scholars, Verseput implies, is not in-house conversations, or footnotes that cite only evangelical publishers, but scholarship that addresses “the needs of the church”: 
"Blomberg himself remarks that our scholarly efforts must "self-consciously serve the most crucial needs of the church of Jesus Christ at home and abroad." But if this is indeed the case, would it not be profitable to pause for a moment to ask what questions the church might have for us?" - Verseput (p. 173) 

Because the church’s needs are vital, Verseput urged Christian scholars to address them with all the academic resources at their disposal. Verseput’s footnotes, as much as the main text of his response, illustrate how he thought this sort of nonpartisan evangelical scholarship should be done.

Blomberg, Craig L. “Where Should Twenty-First-Century Evangelical Biblical Scholarship Be Heading?” Bulletin for Biblical Research 11.2 (2001): 161–72. (Online here)

Verseput, Donald J. “Considering the Needs of the Church: A Response to Craig Blomberg.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 11.2 (2001): 173–77. (Online here)

Other posts in this series:
Part 1: F.F. Bruce 
Part 2: John Goldingay 
Part 3: N.T. Wright

Monday, January 1, 2018

Nonpartisan Evangelical Scholarship Part 3: N.T. Wright

If John Goldingay's Models for Scripture provided emergency roadside assistance partway through my PhD during my own little crisis of authority (see part 2 in this series), N.T. Wright's “How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?” (Vox Evangelica 21 [1991]: 7–32), has been more of a familiar traveling companion.

I first read Wright's essay shortly after Models for Scripture, and found it to reaffirm in more general terms what Goldingay had said. I have had occasion to reread it often since then because I assign it as a required reading when I teach Hermeneutics.

Whether or not N.T. Wright has succeeded in practice at being nonpartisan (in the sense I am using it), in this essay he defends nonpartisan evangelical scholarship:
"[E]vangelicals often use the phrase 'authority of scripture' when they mean the authority of evangelical, or Protestant, theology, since the assumption is made that we (evangelicals, or Protestants) are the ones who know and believe what the Bible is saying." (9)

"How can we handle this extraordinary treasure, responsibly? First, we have to let the Bible be the Bible in all its historical oddness and otherness. ... God forgive us that we have taken the Bible and have made it ordinary--that we have cut it down to our size. We have reduced it, so that whatever text we preach on it will say basically the same things. ... What we are seeing in such preaching is not the authority of scripture at work, but the authority of a tradition, or even a mere convention masquerading as the authority of scripture--which is much worse, because it has thereby lost the possibility of a critique or inbuilt self-correction coming to it from scripture itself." (23-24)

"If we really engage with the Bible in this serious way we will find, I believe, that we will be set free from (among other things) some of the small-scale evangelical paranoia which goes on about scripture. ... Of course the Bible is inspired, and if you're using it like this there won't be any question in your mind that the Bible is inspired. But, you will be set free to explore ways of articulating that belief which do not fall into the old rationalist traps of [the] 18th or 19th or 20th century. ... Of course you will discover that the Bible will not let you down. You will be paying attention to it; you won't be sitting in judgement over it. But you won't come with a preconceived notion of what this or that passage has to mean if it is to be true. ... I take it as a method in my biblical studies that if I turn a corner and find myself saying, 'Well, in that case, that verse is wrong' that I must have turned a wrong corner somewhere. But that does not mean that I impose what I think is right on to that bit of the Bible. It means, instead, that I am forced to live with that text uncomfortably, sometimes literally for years (this is sober autobiography), until suddenly I come round a different corner and that verse makes a lot of sense; sense that I wouldn't have got if I had insisted on imposing my initial view on it from day one." (29-30)

The substance of Wright's essay reappeared as part of Wright's The Last Word (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), but the original shorter version is freely available online here.

This is part 2 in a 4-part series:
Part 1: F.F. Bruce 
Part 2: John Goldingay 
Part 3: N.T. Wright
Part 4: Donald J. Verseput  

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Nonpartisan Evangelical Scholarship Part 2: John Goldingay

The single most helpful book I have read on approaching the Bible honestly as a Christian is John Goldingay's Models for Scripture (Eerdmans / Paternoster, 1994). Although it left a lasting impression and I eventually acquired--and then lost and found--my own copy, I have seldom referred to it since I first read it in 2001 or 2002. At the time, however, Goldingay was a good Samaritan who stopped to help a broken-down stranger on a lonely road.

I don't have my copy of Models for Scripture with me to review, reassess, and excerpt. But the gist of Goldingay's nonpartisan approach to the Bible is incapsulated in this reflection on his students: 

If there are no aspects of scripture that they do not like and do not have to wrestle with, then they are kidding themselves. It means that they have bracketed them out or reinterpreted them. That is what as evangelicals we have to do. We know we have to accept all of scripture, so we make it mean something else so we can accept it. As a Bible teacher one of my basic concerns has become simply to get people to read the Bible with open eyes. Some people learn to, others do not. I want people to read the Bible, to be open to finding there things that they had not realized were there, to be enthralled and dazzled and appalled and infuriated and puzzled and worried and stimulated and kept awake at night by these extraordinary words from God, to let their mind and heart and imagination and will be provoked and astonished by them. - John Goldingay, To the Usual Suspects: One Word Questions (Paternoster, 1998), 153-4.
Long-time readers of this blog may recall encountering the same quote back in 2008. My students may recognize the quote from class (where I usually add that I'm not anxious for them to be appalled or infuriated by the Bible). Other references to Goldingay on this blog are collected here.

This is part 2 in a 4-part series:
Part 1: F.F. Bruce 
Part 2: John Goldingay 
Part 3: N.T. Wright
Part 4: Donald J. Verseput