‘Abrahamic faiths’ or ‘religions of Abraham’ is a popular designation for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, emphasising their common heritage. It denotes a ‘family likeness’ and a certain commonality in theology between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For these reasons it is a popular term in inter-faith dialogue, where the agenda is often, for good reasons, to stress the continuity between religions whilst overlooking the sometimes significant discontinuity. The term ‘Abrahamic faiths’ is enjoying widespread and often indiscriminate use amongst newspaper columnists, politicians, academics, and religious leaders alike. There are now various websites devoted to the Abrahamic faiths including one based at Cambridge University. Abrahamic faiths groups have started to spring up across the Western world including in my own university of Otago, New Zealand. Such groups have as their aims promoting education and understanding of other religions, mutual respect and tolerance, and cooperation toward common goals. Although necessary and important in religiously pluralist societies, my concern is not with these important instances of inter-faith dialogue, but of what I argue to be the unexamined use of the term ‘Abrahamic faiths’ or the ‘religions of Abraham’. It is remarkable that the term has yet to be subjected to theological scrutiny in published scholarly work. This, then, is the purpose of the paper.
It is incontestable that we are living in a time of resurgent interest in early Christianity. Anecdotes abound of evangelical Protestant students visiting a nearby Orthodox or Roman Catholic congregation. We can recall that the late Yale historian
of Christianity, Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006) – a life-long Lutheran – was received into the Orthodox Church in the closing years of his life. More and more congregations, historically devoid of liturgical trappings, now experiment with Advent candles, sample practices associated with Lent, and mark Good Friday with a ‘Tenebrae’ service.
The author of the above article is Kenneth J. Stewart, Covenant College.
In the prolegomena to his “approach to biblical theology,” Charles H. H. Scobie comments, “It is difficult to understand the obsession with finding one single theme or ‘center’ for OT or NT theology, and more so for an entire BT. It is widely held today that the quest for a single center has failed.” With a body of literature as diverse and complex as Scripture, it is easy to see why Scobie would wonder at the labors of many to find a “center” of biblical theology.
But if, in Scobie’s (and others’) opinion, the “quest for a single center has failed,” does that mean necessarily that the quest is unjustified? Indeed, despite Scobie’s sentiments, could this preoccupation to find a center be well-founded, representing less of an “obsession” and more of a responsibility? An affirmative answer to the latter question is the underlying assumption and motivation for the present essay, which (1) provides a rationale for the search for a center to biblical theology; (2) refocuses what the object of the search for a center is (what should we be looking for?); and (3) discusses the process of the search itself (what factors and criteria are involved in the identification of what is central?).
Much modern theology and Christology is built on the notion that God is invisible. God is incorporeal spirit (John 4:24) and ‘no one has ever seen God’ (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). God is ‘invisible’ (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27), ‘whom no
one has seen or is able to see’ (1 Tim. 6:16). Jesus clarifies that such verses are particularly concerned with the Father (John 6:46). These negative statements about God’s visibility are complemented by those passages which speak more positively about the Son as the image or exclusive representative of the Father.
The problem, of course, arises when we consider the many passages in the Old Testament where ‘God appeared to’ someone. The point is sufficiently made by looking at a single Hebrew verb (r’h). Yahweh appeared to each of Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and perhaps Jeremiah. The active stem of the same verb claims that Jacob, Micaiah, Isaiah and Amos ‘saw Yahweh’. The more verbs we add (e.g. God ‘came’, bô’), the more encounters we enumerate.
So we find an apparent disparity between the Old and New Testaments on this matter.
As we review some of the solutions offered throughout history, we find that sensible resolutions of this tension do exist. We are not reinventing the wheel. But much of the data has been buried in disparate components in specialist works. The few syntheses which have been offered tend to be in systematic theologies, perhaps lost amongst many other considerations. Already, we might promote the sensible conclusion of some like Grudem:
This sequence of verses [in Exodus 33] and others like it in the Old Testament indicate that there was a sense in which God could not be seen at all, but that there was also some outward form or manifestation of God which at least in part was able to be seen by man.
However, these syntheses do not seem to have dissuaded the academy or the church from the entrenched tradition that God is utterly invisible. This may well be because the New Testament data, which I propose is the sticking point, is
rarely engaged as a whole. This article seeks to advance the existing syntheses in that direction, offering a combination of sensible systematics and brief exegesis of the difficult passages.
The author of the above article is Andrew S. Malone.
How to interpret the OT correctly in light of its Ancient Near Eastern context remains a live and pressing question in both the academy and church. A spate of publications and controversies in the last five years has demonstrated the potency of this issue, playing out on numerous fronts, including the doctrines of Scripture (on which, see the relevant articles in Themelios 34) and creation. Jeffrey Niehaus’s recent publication Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel 2008) generates fresh angles on this topic, not least because of the way it combines study of the ANE context, broader biblical theology, and a theology of culture, all from a robustly evangelical confession. Because of the importance of the wider debate and the stimulating arguments set forth by Niehaus, we present this symposium of review articles on his publication. They include a review by an OT scholar, Stephen Dempster, by a systematician, William Edgar, and a response by Niehaus. On a topic that has at times generated more heat than light, we hope that this exchange may model a probing, respectful, confessional seeking of greater insight into and submission to Scripture.
Christian Reconstructionists are postmillennial Calvinistic Protestants whose adherents seek to reconstruct society in accord with biblical principles. Unlike socialist-utopian postmillennialists, Reconstructionists hold to broadly freemarket views and have an affinity for Austrian economics. However, Reconstructionists contend that libertarianism’s secular defenses of the free market, its methodological individualism, and its epistemological subjectivism have insurmountable weaknesses that leave its adherents with a philosophically ambiguous, internally inconsistent, and practically unconvincing argument against topdown centralization. Reconstructionists argue that only the Bible can provide an objective advocacy of capitalism. Reconstructionists also defend a covenantal social theory against the individualistic social theory of libertarians. They claim that insofar as the Austrian method and biblical Christianity contain presuppositions, neither can claim to avoid an appeal to faith. Despite their differences, we conclude that libertarians and Reconstructionists can have dialogue to their mutual advantage.
The author of the above paper is Timothy D. Terrell, Wofford College, and Glenn Moots, Northwood University.
In this paper I deal with questions connected with the regnal years of Tiberius, the Jewish calendar and the astronomical phenomena that governed it, and the eclipse mentioned in Luke xxiii 45, so far as they affect the determination of the date of the Crucifixion. I do not discuss questions connected with the accuracy of the different gospels or notes of time other than those given in terms of regnal years, days of the week, or Jewish festivals. For instance, the age of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry (Luke iii 23) and the forty-six years of John ii 20 do not concern me. There is little or nothing new in this paper, but the standard discussions seem always to have overlooked some part or other of the published material, and I hope, therefore, that it may be of service to review what is given us by the lines of evidence which I have mentioned.
The author of the above paper is J.K. Fotheringham.
The nature of election has long been one of the most hotly debated topics in evangelical theology. The question lies at the heart of the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism, a debate which commands so much interest and attention because it ultimately has to do with the character of God. But beyond the inherent appeal the disagreement between Arminianism and Calvinism holds for those with a high view of Scripture, the debate has been raging with a heightened intensity in recent years with no sign of abating due to factors such as (1) the current resurgence of Calvinism in evangelicalism (which, in its popular form, must be considered more Arminian than Calvinist overall), (2) the popularity of the internet, where on the one hand multitudes of laymen now flock to gain theological information, and on the other hand Calvinists have been quite prolific, and (3) the advent of influential outlooks such as Open Theism and the New Perspective on Paul, the former directly opposed to Calvinism and the latter providing various insights that can be effectively pressed into service by Arminians (whether or not they agree with the view in general) to support their system.
The author of the above article is Brian Abasciano, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Despite our contemporary “information explosion,” the compartmentalization of modern scholarship leaves some intriguing gaps in the secondary literature. Numerous church historians and systematic theologians have chronicled the debates between “orthodoxy” and “heresy” for just about every major doctrine and era in the life of the church. Countless NT studies have analyzed what we can infer from the apostolic texts about the nature of the false teachers and false teaching combated in the first century. But I have been unable to locate any study which both surveys the major NT data, fully abreast of the most recent biblical scholarship, and compares them with contemporary discussions about the boundaries of evangelical faith, conversant with the recent literature in that arena as well. A short paper like this one can only scratch the surface in tackling such an integrated task, but even preliminary efforts would seem important.
The author of the above paper is Craig Blomberg, Denver Seminary.
Among the passages of Scripture most commonly cited as favoring the Calvinist/Reformed conception of salvation (e.g., Ephesians 1:3-14 and various statements by Jesus in the Gospel of John come to mind as bulwark passages for Calvinism in this regard), Romans chapter nine is considered by many to be the definitive passage, particularly in regard to the doctrine of unconditional, particular election of individuals to salvation. Calvin himself referred to Romans 9:6-24 as “that memorable passage from Paul which alone ought easily to compose all controversy [concerning election] among sober and compliant children of God” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, Translated by J. K. S. Reid. London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1961. 5:3). Many others since have concurred with Calvin, assuming that the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans chapter nine deals a death blow to Arminianism and all forms of synergism between God and man in the matter of salvation.
Various Arminian theologians, however, have noted lingering difficulties with the standard Calvinist account of Romans chapter nine. Perhaps the largest such difficulty is how to reconcile the Calvinist understanding of Romans 9:6-24 with the rest of Romans, in particular with chapter eleven, where there are clear indications that the divine election to salvation should be understood in contingent rather than absolute terms (see, e.g., Robert Shank’s comments, Elect in the Son, Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1970, 1989, pp. 117ff).
In this essay I will offer a detailed exegesis of Romans chapter nine, as well as exegeses of certain related passages (e.g., Romans chapter eleven) that provide critical context for Romans chapter nine. It is my belief that Calvinists have fundamentally misunderstood Paul’s intentions in this crucial passage of Scripture. Having said that, I will spend very little time in this essay directly or formally critiquing the Calvinist interpretation of the passage (or other existing interpretations, for that matter), but will attempt to focus on the biblical text itself, allowing relevant theological implications to unfold along the way. Thus, I assume in this essay a basic familiarity with the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional, particular election on the part of the reader. Once I have established here what I consider to be the most responsible interpretation of Romans chapter nine, I then hope in a future essay to compare and contrast my approach more directly to select other published exegeses of this passage that differ from my own (e.g., those of Calvin, Arminius, Shank, Piper, Reymond, and Schreiner).
The author of the above essay is Robert L. Hamilton.
The first chapter of this investigation finds that, as with many passages in the Pauline corpus, Romans 9 is in need of what may be called an intertextual exegesis, emphasizing the ability of quotation and allusion to refer to broad original contexts
and to suggest additional associations. The intertextual exegesis of this study involves: (1) detailed attention to the broad original contexts of Paul’s quotations and allusions to the OT; (2) a comparison of the wording of Paul’s quotations and
allusions to the wording of the source text(s) in the textual tradition; (3) an examination of relevant interpretive traditions surrounding the OT passages Paul quotes or alludes to; and (4) an exegesis of the Pauline context that incorporates the
insights gained from the previous three analytical foci, yielding an exegesis of Paul’s rhetoric that is thoroughly informed by his use of the OT.
The author of the above thesis is Brian J. Abasciano, presented for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen.
For almost two thousand years Christian theologians have attempted to harmonize the distinctive theological emphases of the two testaments. One of the earliest and most memorable attempts simply involved cutting the Gordian knot: Marcion of Sinope, unable to reconcile the benighted God of the Old Testament with Christ and the gospel, expelled the entire Old Testament and parts of the New from the Christian canon. Although Marcion was condemned as a heretic (A.D. 144), rejection of biblical passages and doctrines on ethical grounds is a pathology that continues to plague the church.
The latest such voice comes from John Shelby Spong, the highly controversial Episcopal bishop and tireless opponent of historic Christianity, especially evangelicalism. In his recent book The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love (HarperCollins, 2005), Spong continues in the tradition of neo-Marcionists like Friedrich Delitzsch (Die grosse Täuschung, 1921). But whereas Delitzsch thrashed the Old Testament by measuring it against the New, Spong outdoes him, and many others, by subjecting both testaments to a remorseless flogging when he finds them in conflict with his modern sensibilities. In fact, contemporary ethics (environmentalism, feminism, religious pluralism, etc.) so dominate his thinking and regulate his critique of the Bible that his book is organized into eight sections, most of which are governed by some facet of the popular wisdom.
The optimism generated by initial disclosures of his lifelong love for the Scriptures and dedication to Bible study (5-10) quickly evaporates amid a series of deeply condescending remarks against the Bible—amounting to cheap shots in many cases. For instance, he ridicules certain prophetic books simply because he finds them uninspiring and less than spectacular (273, see 145). Additionally, he denigrates the Bible or conservative Christians and their doctrines as either “boring” (214), “petty” (273), “simply wrong” (173, 176), “nonsense” (173), “frail, fragile and pitiful” (123), “bankrupt” (177), “overtly ignorant” (133), “neurotic” (167, 171, 176), “evil” (12, 133), idolatrous (217, 229), bigoted (11, 12, 133, 233), and even “demonic” (125, 217, 228, 276).
The author of the above review is John Makujina, Erskine Theological Seminary.
Open Theists all deny that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of the future, but they differ in their accounts as to why this is so. They tend, however, to want to maintain the doctrine
of omniscience in spite of the limitation in question. Some say that God is omniscient in spite of the limitation because the claims about the future that he does not know are not true in the present, but will only come to be true later, and omniscience doesn’t require knowing anything that isn’t true. Others say that all claims about the future are truth, but some of them are unknowable and God is omniscient in virtue of knowing all that can be known. These positions share a common theme, however, and it is this: the future is composed of two parts, one part open to omniscience and the other part not. The part of the future that is not open to omniscience is the undetermined part, with future free actions being the prime and motivating example of such.
Here I will term this division aspect of Open Theism “the Asymmetry Thesis”, the thesis that the part of the future that is determined by present and past events is secure in truth value
and falls within the scope of omniscience whereas the parts of the future that remain undetermined by the present and past do not fall within the scope of omniscience and perhaps are
not secure in truth value. The Asymmetry Thesis faces serious troubles, and here I intend to cast doubt on its plausibility. I will argue that, given Open Theist assumptions, there is no part of the future that can be known to be true, including the determined part of it. I will begin by explaining what one needs to say to defend the Thesis and then say why it fails.
The author of the above paper is Jonathan L. Kvanvig, Baylor University.
When discussion between Arminians and Calvinists focuses on the economic revelation of redemption, the means of faith and the christocentric nature of salvation, their differences on election and security recede into a theoretical background as common ground emerges in theology and practice.
The author of the above article is John Mark Hicks, Lipscomb University.
This study was an attempt to determine if God might provide a secure base for theological exploration. It was predicted that those displaying secure
attachment with God would be more willing to “explore” their theological “world.” Participants were 117 undergraduate students who completed
measures of attachment to God, Quest religious motives, and Christian orthodoxy. Overall, the study supported the experimental predictions. Specifically, the participants in the study who saw God as a “Secure Base” were more engaged in theological exploration and were more tolerant of Christian faiths different from their own. These same subjects also reported more peace and less distress during their spiritual journey. Yet, despite their exploration, these participants fully embraced the core doctrines of Christianity. Overall, these results suggest that the attachment paradigm might significantly illuminate research involving religious maturity, apostasy, and religious intolerance.
The author of the above article is Richard Beck, Abilene Christian University.
In asking about the reality of faith in the 21st century, the following questions arise: What is the meaning of faith? And what makes faith a reality? More importantly, however, to the question of the reality of faith is the reality of God, and it is this question of God that is under discussion in
the present essay. For instance, if the Father-God of Christian tradition belongs to history, that, of course, has far-reaching implications for one’s
thinking about the reality of faith. In this essay I want to examine the work of H. M. Kuitert and Alain Badiou to show that a choice has to be made about this. It will be my argument that true faith can better be imagined without than with God.
The author of the above essay is Gerrit Neven, Theological University Kampen.
Do we who claim to be trinitarian in doctrine actually demonstrate a conscious belief in that truth? What difference does trinitarian theology make in our churches and in our personal lives? Are we satisfied with a doctrinally accurate formulation in our statements of faith, while living out a Christianity that is more in conformity with modalism or tritheism or even practical Unitarianism? These and other questions are being asked in a flood of new books and articles. At present, the doctrine of the Trinity probably is the most discussed aspect of theology. Although other issues, such as Openness Theism, are more in the news, the real focus in western Christianity is on working out the practical implications of trinitarian belief.
The Christian formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity began as a Christological project. The Apostolic Fathers were faced with the daunting task of harmonizing the scriptural data concerning Jesus Christ with biblical monotheism. Since the majority of the ancient theologians recognized the true deity of Christ, while at the same time holding to belief in God as one personal divine spirit, they recognized that some reasonable explanation had to be reached. As a part of the same theological process, they also took steps to account for the deity of the Holy Spirit. It was the question of the Son of God, however, that defined the task which resulted in the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) and its Chalcedonian explication (451 A.D.).
The author of the above article is Jack K. Willsey, Northwest Baptist Seminary.
Modern Christian thinking recognizes a clear theoretical distinction between heresy and schism. This is expressed, for example, with legal precision in the Roman Catholic Church in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Yet it is not a topic that attracts much scholarly attention. Perhaps the development of an ecumenical consciousness and the heightened sensitivity to past injustices that had been brought about through an inquisitorial mindset may explain much of the current lack of interest. There is an effort today to focus on what unites Christians rather than what divides them. Part of the reason also may lie in the fact that these two terms actually may not be distinguished so easily in practice. In theory at least heresy is to orthodoxy as schism is to orthopraxy. However, as many a modern fundamental theologian would point out, the separation of fides quae from fides qua is not always possible. What one believes and how one acts are intricately interwoven.
The author of the above article is Geoffrey D. Dunn, Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University.
‘The more anyone sees that the bishop is silent, the more let him fear him’ (Ign. Eph. 6.1). The silent bishop has been the topic of much scholarly speculation in Ignatian scholarship. Hypotheses to explain what Ignatius meant by this elliptical reference range from a defence of soft-spoken, insecure leaders to full-blown Gnostic schemes. In this essay I return to the silent bishops of Asia Minor to locate them in a rhetorical culture in which rightly timed speaking and controlled speech are the measure of a man. Ignatius’ admiration of the silent bishop is but a small part of the Greek rhetorical culture of the bishop of Antioch’s social world, and belongs to his larger use of civic ideals to persuade the Asia Minor churches to give up their discord in favour of ecclesial peace.
The author of the above article is Harry O. Maier, Vancouver School of Theology.
Ronald H. Nash wrote a three part series on the place of Jesus in salvation for the Christian Research Journal.
Part One, Is Jesus the Only Savior? The Answer to Religious Pluralism. Here.
Part Two, Is Belief in Jesus Necessary? The Answer to Religious Inclusivism. Here.
Part Three, Is There Salvation After Death? The Answer to Postmortem Evangelsim. Here.
When discussion between Arminians and Calvinists focuses on the economic revelation of redemption, the means of faith and the christocentric
nature of salvation, their differences on election and security recede into a theoretical background as common ground emerges in theology and practice.
The author of the above article is John Mark Hicks, Professor of Theology, Lipscomb University.
In venturing upon a discussion of the address of the apostle Paul at Athens, recorded in Acts xvii. 22-31, I am mindful that I am not entering upon a largely neglected field of investigation. The passage is so replete with exceptional and arresting features that the commentators and the historians of early Christianity have been stimulated to treat it at considerable length. Moreover, a remarkable number of learned monographs have been
devoted to its interpretation.
The author of the above article is N. B. Stonehouse, Professor of New Testament, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, U.S.A. (1949).
In the following essay I will offer some exploratory reflections on the use of the ad hominem argument within a presuppositional apologetic methodology. More specifically, my purpose is to clarify its role in producing an epistemological crisis for the unbeliever. After first mapping the nature of the controversy between presuppositionalists and evidentialists over the issue of ‘‘objectivity’’ and ‘‘rationality,’’ I will survey CorneliusVan Til’s brief comments on the ad hominem argument’s use and usefulness, particularly the guidelines he employs in articulating its proper application. If, as Van Til seems to suggest, the ad hominem argument is intended to facilitate a coming to epistemological self-consciousness on the part of the unbeliever, a problem emerges. Given the presuppositionalist’s insistence on the presuppositional nature (circularity) of all thought and predication, and subsequently that these ultimate commitments (presuppositions) are unfalsifiable (hold revisionary immunity), then what is the point of argument? The answer will require a brief consideration of Van Til’s language of antithesis and the role this language can and often does play in obfuscating the nature of the common ground that exists between believer and unbeliever. In an attempt to achieve greater clarity with regard to the role of argument in producing an epistemological crisis, I will explore two recent attempts to a) explore the nature of epistemological crises, and b) analyze the role of the ad hominem as a form of practical reason. For the former I will examine the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, and with regard to the latter I will turn to the writings of Charles Taylor. In the end I will conclude that presuppositional apologetics is not stalled by its commitment to the normative role of ultimate commitments. The ad hominem argument of Van Til, once clarified and enlarged by the insights provided by MacIntyre and Taylor, serves to promote lively argument with the unbeliever - argument circumscribed by the theological limitations imposed by Scripture itself.
The author of the above article is Michael W. Payne, Associate Professor of Theology and Missions at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson,
This article examines the association of idolatry with erroneous ideas about the natural world in the writings of late antique Jewish and Christian authors. It follows two polemical genres. The first is the hexaemeral commentaries composed by Philo of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea and Augustine, which positioned the hexaemeron against the background of natural philosophy and used various critiques of idolatry to revise or refute pagan natural philosophy. The second genre is that of heresiology initiated by Irenaeus of Lyon and adapted by Augustine to refute Gnostic and Manichaean cosmological myths and disregard for the creation account in Genesis. The article analyses a variety of ways in which the prohibitions against idolatry figured in methodological questions about how to conceptualize the natural world, how to locate the sources of conceptual error, and how to distinguish those errors from truth.
The author of the above article is Isaac Miller, Assistant Professor of History, Oberlin College.
Much has changed in Reformation historiography over the last two decades. Long established temporal and geographical frameworks have been thoroughly revised and reappraised. If theology, politics, social movements, and economic trends were once treated as discreet areas of study, nowadays scholars in the field are much more appreciative of how these themes inform each other. This review essay appraises a selection of works that are indicative of the richness and variety that characterizes Reformation and Counter-Reformation scholarship today.
The author of the above essay is R. Po-chia Hsia, Professor of History, Pennsylvania State University.
Many intelligent Christians are puzzling today over what is being called "the new perspective on Paul." Seminary students run across it in their New Testament course reading and perhaps class lectures. Pastors hear about it from fledgling theologues wanting to impress them with their newfound knowledge of the latest thing in Pauline studies. Laypeople find it being peddled ubiquitously on the internet, on websites, in chatrooms or in various online discussion groups, as well as in numerous books on the Christian market, even from conservative evangelical publishing houses.
The author of the above paper is J. Ligon Duncan, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, and Adjunct Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.
‘The references to Darius the Mede in the Book of Daniel have long been recognised as providing the most serious historical problem in the book.’ Yet the Bible clearly declares that after the death of the Chaldean king Belshazzar ‘Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old’ (Dn. 5:30-31). This Darius was ‘son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans’ (9:1). He ‘set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty satraps, to be throughout the while kingdom; and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss’ (6:1-2). Daniel held a position of authority at least during the first regnal year in Babylon of this king (6:1; 9:1) and, according to the traditional translation of 6:28, ‘Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.’ Thus Darius the Mede appears to have been succeeded by Cyrus and this verse is considered ‘the clearest evidence of the book’s belief in a Median empire between the Babylonian and the Persian’.
The era of postmodernism is still upon us, and no part of our theologies or ministries have found exemption from its influence. Indeed, perhaps now more than ever before Christians are recognizing the responsibility imposed upon us to respond to post-modern and post-enlightenment challenges greeting us at the doorsteps of our homes and churches. And yet, even now, years after names like Jacques Derrida and Hans-Georg Gadamer have become almost commonplace, many well-intentioned people still tend to assume their challenges (which are admittedly guided by obscure and mysterious terminology) to be entirely esoteric and reserved only for those ivory-tower thinkers who rarely get their hands dirty with “real life” affairs. This is clearly an unfortunate and perhaps even dangerous belief when, in truth, the contrary is the case. Since the death of modernism many new developments have become very practical or “hands-on” in response to the legacy of the Age of Reason, especially as worked out in contemporary hermeneutics (the theory of interpretation). Contemporary hermeneutics encapsulates many of the fundamental postmodern challenges facing this as well as the next generation of Christians. This is perhaps no more evident than in the challenge to make sense of human experience outside the authority of the natural sciences by describing the facts of our situatedness (our finitude, context bound nature, etc.) without succumbing to empty and abstract theories or any pseudo form of logical positivism which locates meaning entirely within the realm of the objective and measurable.
The author of the above article is Jason C. Robinson, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON.
The history of scholarship about the Dead Sea Scrolls contains many intriguing twists and turns. By now over a hundred distinct theories have been spun about the significance of these astounding finds from the Judaean Desert, with many scholars having sought to link the Scrolls to the New Testament. As background to the articles that follow, this is an attempt to trace landmark studies in the Scrolls’ interpretations from the discovery of the so-called Zadokite work in 1898 to around 1990.
The author of the above article is Professor Garry Trompf, Department of Studies in Religion, University of Sydney, N.S.W., Australia.
For a long time Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) was thought of more as a preacher of hellfire and revival than as a theologian, and rather as a Calvinist theologian than a philosopher of importance, and he was dismissed accordingly. Yet Edwards was more than a hellfire preacher, more than a theologian. This New England divine was one of the rare individuals anywhere to recognize and answer the challenges posed to traditional Christian belief by the emergence of new modes of thought in early modern history — the new ideas of the scientific thought and the Enlightenment. His force of mind is evident in his exposition of the poverty of mechanical philosophy, which radically transformed the traditional Christian dialectic of God’s utter transcendence and divine immanence by gradually diminishing divine sovereignty with respect to creation, providence, and redemption, thus
leading to the disenchantment of the world. Edwards constructed a teleological and theological alternative to the prevailing mechanistic interpretation of the essential nature of reality, whose ultimate goal was the re-enchantment of the world by reconstituting the glory of God’s majestic sovereignty, power, and will within the order of creation.
The author of the above article is Avihu Zakai, senior lecturer in early modern history, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
I have a passionate interest in the apostle Paul. Many people think this passion is unusual because I am a Jew not a Christian. What's more, I like to think of myself as a feminist. What's a nice Jewish feminist doing studying the apostle Paul? After all, from a Jewish perspective, Paul is a heretic who had a demented view of Judaism. From a feminist perspective, Paul is an ally of Christian conservatives who wish to keep women in a subordinate position to men.
Nevertheless, my interest derives naturally from my professional commitments. I am a Jewish New Testament scholar who teaches in a Christian seminary, and, after some years of studying and teaching Paul, I have come to the conclusion that Paul was a committed, well-intentioned Jew, even if the subsequent uses of his teachings were abominable where Jews and women are concerned. Moreover, I believe Paul was largely driven by the fact that he was both a Jew and a citizen of the wider Hellenistic world that encompassed the ancient Mediterranean in his day. These two components of his identity caused him to realize that the world is a diverse and complex place. In my view, Paul is one of the first people in the history of Western civilization to deal directly with the problem of multiculturalism. As a modern American Jew, I do not end up in the same place Paul ends up (with Christ), but I appreciate how he wrestled with life in its multitudinous complexity and how boldly and constructively he faced questions about human diversity. In my view, Paul's theological vision can be summed up by Galatians 3:28: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." Exploring the essence of this dictum, particularly the implications for gender and intercultural relations, is the driving force behind my passion for Paul. Because my understanding of Paul deviates rather significantly from traditional as well as au courant scholarly views, I will begin by briefly describing the typical understanding of Paul and his writings.
The author of the above article is Pamela Eisenbaum, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Christian Origins at the Iliff School of Theology.
The question of the immutability of God is not a new topic of debate. Nor is it a trivial matter. Disputants on all sides believe that they are defending a view of the nature of God that is essential to a coherent theological system, and one that is true to the biblical revelation. J. Pelikan observes, however, that the "early Christian picture of God was controlled by the self-evident axiom, accepted by all, of the absoluteness and the impassibility of the divine nature." Thomas Weinandy points out that the "early Christological controversies and debates were never concerned with the
immutability and impassibility of God as such," and Reinhold Seeberg observes that among the early apologists the true Christian doctrines included, "There is One God, the Creator, Adorner, and Preserver of the world. . . . The invisible God is unbegotten, nameless, eternal, incomprehensible, unchangeable Being." Irenaeus himself asserted, "let them learn that God alone, who is Lord of all, is without beginning and without end, being truly and for ever the same, and always remaining the same unchangeable Being."
The author of the above article is Thomas A. Howe, Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages, Southern Evangelical Seminary.
John Shelby Spong's thesis that a post-canonical process of literalization caused episodes in the Gospels to be misunderstood as historicail narratives when they had been intended by their authors and received by their original readers as purely metaphorical tales does not hold up to the scrutiny of either literary or historical analysis. It is also theologically unnecessary, motivated apparently by a drive to legitimate a reading of the texts that is better obtained through a recognition of the hermeneutical limits of authorial intent, an appreciation for polyvalence, and an adoption of postmodern reading strategres.
The author of the above article is Mark Allan Powell, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio.
This article first examines the history of the debate over biblical inerrancy within modern evangelicalism. Second, it examines traditional arguments both for and against inerrancy. We will demonstrate that inerrancy is an important doctrine to promote and defend, but caution is urged in choosing arguments to support it. Not all arguments for inerrancy are valid.
The author of the above article is Stephen L. Andrew.
This article seeks to illuminate Jesus' Jewishness by introducing the perspective of covenant and a new concept, covenant path searching. The concept reflects a phenomenon discernible in all Judaism of the time: the activity of trying to find out how to keep faithful to the covenant. The analysis suggests that Jesus refrained from such an activity thus remarkably departing from the contemporary covenant thinking. This does not necessarily mean detachment of Jesus from Judaism or that he should be pictured as an antinomian. The so-called eschatological covenant of later Old Testament prophetic books could offer an explanation. The texts foretell an inner knowledge of God’s will which renders pursuing questions of covenant loyalty futile.
The author of the above article is Tom Holmén, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland.
Prayer is not by any means a new topic of theological concern. Indeed, The Index to Religious Periodical Literature – to mention only one bibliographical source – lists a host of articles on prayer every year since the early 1970s. Several journals have even dedicated entire issues to the subject. And while prayer may not be new to the arena of theological concern, the direction from which the issue has been addressed in recent
decades is somewhat new. For instance, the field of pastoral theology has devoted attention to prayer and biblical scholars and others have combined the insights of critical Psalms interpretation with interests in prayer and pastoral counseling and ministry. More recent scholarship has examined the dialogic discourse of Psalms within various frameworks, including Mikhail Bakhtin's discourse theory. It is within this convergence of interests over the last three decades that the authors strive to make a contribution by suggesting a way to structure the life of prayer using the Psalms (and Role-taking theory) that has practical benefits for both the individual and church.
The authors of the above article are Robert Moore-Jumonville, Ph.D is Associate Professor of Religion at Spring Arbor University, and Robert H. Woods, Jr., Department of Communication Spring Arbor University.
The recent interest in "practices" has created a multi-faceted discussion in theological circles, a discussion that has brought together insights from many other disciplines such as ethics, philosophy, and cultural anthropology. However, there has been little extended theological analysis about how the many claims about how practices function in our lives are related to the quite similar claims traditionally made about the work of the Holy Spirit. This is not surprising, for many of the implicit and explicit understandings of the work of the Holy Spirit, at least in mainline and academic circles in the last century, have been formed around the notions of revelation, inspiration, and miracle, and so do not fit precisely with the kind of "action" practices have on us. Protestant conceptions of what it means to be a Christian have often centered on our beliefs or our response of faith to revelation; therefore, the work of the Holy Spirit has often been conceptualized in ways that make sense the process of coming to faith in those beliefs and propositions or the response of faith to revelation. However, the renewed emphasis that the Christian life is an ellipse centered on the twin-foci of beliefs and practices - this shift, which I think is a quite fruitful shift, may cause us to have to broaden our notions of the Spirit's work in certain ways. I believe this broadening will create healthy winds of change and yet coming from the Reformed tradition, I want this broadening to be done carefully in order not to sacrifice certain key theological themes, such as the Reformation theme of sola gratia. This paper is an attempt to begin to do precisely that. To that end, I will highlight four distinctions found in the work of certain theologians that can help us better conceptualize the overlap between human "practices" and the work of the Holy Spirit.
The above paper was written by David L. Stubbs, Western Theological Seminary.
The compressed, elusive narrative of Gen 9:20–27 has been an exegetical puzzle since antiquity. The terseness of the account, with its inexplicable features and subtle hints of sexual transgression, has left generations of readers and scholars feeling that there is more to the story than the narrator has made explicit. As many have pointed out, interpretive debates generally revolve around two interrelated questions: (1) the nature of Ham's offense (why would Ham's "seeing" Noah’s nakedness merit a curse?), and (2) the rationale for Canaan's punishment (if Ham was the perpetrator, why was Canaan cursed?)
The above article was written by John Sietze Bergsma and Scott Walker Hahn, Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Postmodernism is a term that is much in vogue these days in academic circles, and like all such terms and the movements associated with them, is exerting considerable influence upon contemporary theology. If we are to understand postmodernism and its significance for theological life and work, we must first arrive at a reasonably precise definition: just what is postmodernity? what is postmodernism? are they two different concepts or can the terms be used interchangeably? The first difficulty is that there is considerable confusion as to just what the postmodern is. Theologian Tyron Inbody compares it to "intellectual Velcro dragged across culture" which "can be used to characterize almost anything one approves or disapproves."
The above essay was written by Daniel J. Adams, a Presbyterian theologian teaching at Hanil Theological Seminary in Korea.
This is the transcript of Dateline's show on the Last Days of Jesus. The scholars interviewed for the show include Paula Fredriksen, Aurelio Professor of Scripture, Boston University; Craig A. Evans, Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College; Marcus Borg, Hundere Professor of Religion, Oregon State University; John Dominic Crossan, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, DePaul University; and Bishop Nicholas Thomas Wright, Bishop of Durham.