Thursday, August 31, 2006 

School Rantings

Well, this week I started back at Union University for my last year in undergraduate work. For those of you who are not familiar with Union it is a conservative, Southern Baptist institution whose Christian Studies department is theologically Reformed, though there are a few Arminians among the faculty. Some of you who have been reading my blog regularly for a while may be surprised by the fact that I am attending such a school since I'm neither Southern Baptist, conservative, nor Reformed. Rather, I stem from a charismatic tradition (Assembly of God), consider myself more of a moderate, and am a hopeful universalist (though I think annihilationism is a viable option).

Why then am I at Union? For one thing I do love and respect the Faculty, even if I'm not theologically in step with most of them. Another reason is that Union has in the past few years become a well-respected Biblical Studies school in undergraduate work. This will certainly help as I seek a graduate school(s) to attend. But aside from these two things, my main reason for attending Union is for its strong foundation in Biblical Languages. In fact, my first year of undergrad was spent at Lambuth University and though I loved Lambuth and its faculty it did not have the strong foundation in biblical languages that I was seeking and so I transfered.

Anyways, an interesting thing happened today at school. One of my frustrations this week was finding out that my German class had been canceled due to staffing complications. I was really looking forward to getting a beginner's year of German before going to graduate school. But to stay full time I needed to add another class. However, for various reasons I ended up changing around other things on my schedule, dropping a class here, adding a class there. To get approval for this kind of stuff you, naturally, have to get approval from either your advisor or the Dean of the school. Well, my advisor was not in so I went to see our new (and first) Dean, Dr. Gregory Thornbury (a very intelligent and humorous professor) and get approved for the changes. He surprised me by saying that he heard that I had quite the blog. Then later in my "History of Christianity" class, when I gave my name to Dr. James Patterson he asked if I was the "blogger."


Friday, August 25, 2006 

Light Blogging Ahead

I realize that I have not posted in a while, I do apologize but my workload keeps steadily increasing (almost exponentially it seems). I'm taking a full load of classes and am also working nearly full-time. Moreover, I am scrambling to get graduate applications completed and studying for the GRE that I am going to take in October. Thus I am afraid that for this fall semester I will be blogging rather lightly. However, I am going to committ to posting at least twice a week. For those who care, I will finish my Passover series. But once that is done do expect less of those kinds of blogs over this next semester. Again, apologies, and many thanks to those of you who do regularly visit and engage with my blog.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 3

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Introduction

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 1

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 2

Before engaging in my critique of Kostenberger's "solution" I want to show where Kostenberger misunderstands the discrepancy. Recall these words:

"The reason many have seen John as placing the Last Supper on Wednesday night with the crucifixion taking place on Thursday afternoon..." Biblical Theology, p. 148

And again in his commentary on John:

"Some believe that John places the supper on 14 Nisan, Wednesday evening, with Jesus' crucifixion occuring on Thursday afternoon..." John, p. 401

At every point that Kostenberger presents this discrepancy he does so by saying that the issue is that some believe John has Jesus eating the Last Supper on Wednesday with his crucifixion on Thursday in contrast to the Synoptics who portray each event a day later. However, the day of the week is not what is actually in dispute because the author of John does present Jesus' crucifixion on the eve of the Passover in agreement with the Synoptics:

"Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away." Jn 19:31

Kostenberger, therefore, is at least right when he concludes that all four gospels present Jesus being crucified on a Friday just prior to sundown (which would commence the Sabbath). The problem is that John has Passover Day falling on the same day as the Sabbath. To comprehend what I'm saying one needs to first understand how the Jewish Calendar worked in regards to the Passover. John P. Meier explains:

"Now, according to the Jewish way of calculating liturgical days at the time of Jesus, sundown would mark the beginning of a new day, the fifteenth of Nisan, Passover Day proper. This type of calculation for liturgical days is already witnessed in the OT (e.g., for the Day of Atonement in Lev 23:27, 32) and is explicitly applied to Passover in the Book of Jubilees 49:1 (written in the 2nd century B.C.): 'Remember the commandment that the Lord commanded you concerning Passover, that you observe it in its time, on the fourteenth of the first mont [Nisan], so that you might sacrifice it before it becomes evening and so that you might eat it during the night on the evening of the fifteenth from the time of sunset.'" John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Vol 1, p. 389.

In other words, the normative rule was that the Passover lambs were to be slaughtered on the 14th of Nisan and then at sundown to be eaten when Passover day proper began, which would then be the 15th of Nisan. Normally, the 14th of Nisan would occur on a Thursday (with the day beginning at 6 p.m. on Wed and ending at 6 p.m. on Thrs) and the 15th on a Friday (with Friday beginning at 6 p.m on Thrs). However, every now and then in order to adjust the lunar calendar to the actual solar year the Jews would have to add a leap year into their calendar which sometimes resulted in Passover day occuring on the same day as the Sabbath which is precisely what John indicates happened. (cf. Meier, p. 402)

To reiterate, the issue is not that the synoptics and John disagree as to what day of the week Jesus was crucified on but disagree concerning whether or not the date of his crucifixion was the 14th of Nisan or the 15th of Nisan. Now in so far as my argument goes, this is not an important observation because the crucial issue is whether or not John presents Jesus as being crucified on the Day of the Preparation of Passover, regardless of the day of the week or the date of the month.

Nevertheless, I bring this to attention to show that this betrays to me that Kostenberger has not sufficiently researched this issue. For if he had read and had been interacting with scholars who disagree with his position he would have seen that the larger issue involved the Jewish calendar itself and not the day of the week.

Next time, I will present my fuller critique of Kostenberger's "solution."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 2

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Introduction

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 1

Having presented a simplistic analysis of the evidence which points to a contradiction between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John concerning the Passover events, it is now time to present Kostenberger's solution.

There are two places where one can find Kostenberger's attempt to harmonize the Synoptics and the Gospel of John on this matter. The first one I want to look at is found in his contributatory essay in Biblical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect entitled "Diversity and Unity in the New Testament." As I stated previously, Kostenberger's goal in this essay is to criticize New Testament Theologies which seek to emphasize the diversity of the theological perspectives in the New Testament. Therefore, Kostenberger has to tackle particular issues which many critical scholars have targeted as representing diverisity or contradiction in the NT. This includes the relationship between Jesus and Paul, development in Paul's thought, the Paul of Acts versus the Paul of the epistles and, germane to our discussion, the relationship between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John. It is in the context of discussing this relationship that Kostenberger tackles the "apparent" contradiction between the Synoptics and John concerning Passover. Here is the argument in full:

"The reason many have seen John as placing the Last Supper on Wednesday night with the crucifixion taking place on Thursday afternoon (when the Passover lambs would have been slaughtered in preparation for Passover later that evening) is the reference to 'the Day of Preparation of Passover Week' in John 19:14 (NIV [throughout this essay]; cf Jn 18:28). However, the solution to this apparent dilemma lies close at hand. In John 19:31, it is made clear that Jesus' crucifixion took place on 'the day of Preparation,' with the very next day being a 'special Sabbath' (i.e., the sabbath of Passover week). Thus, even in John the crucifixion takes place on Friday, with 'the day of Preparation' in John, as in Mark and Luke, referring not to the day of preparation for the Passover but for the sabbath (Mk 15:42; Lk 23:54; cf Josephus Antiquities 16.163-64). Moreover, since Passover lasted a week (in conjunction with the associated Feast of Unleavened Bread; Lk 22:1), it was apropriate to speak of the day of preparation for the sabbath as 'the day of Preparation of Passover Week' (though not of the Passover in a more narrow sense; Jn 19:14)." Kostenberger, Biblical Theology, p. 148

To briefly summarize, Kostenberger's argument here hinges on the phrase "the day of Preparation of Passover Week (NIV)" which he interprets not as the day of preparation of Passover understood as the time before the meal when the lambs are slaughtered but as a way of referring to the day of Preparation for the coming sabbath. He cites Mk 15:42, Lk 23:54, and Josephus' Antiquities 16.163-64 in support of this intepretation. Therefore, Jesus is crucified after the Passover meal and on Friday just before the sabbath in agreement with the Synoptic account.

Kostenberger argues likewise in his commentary on John. There he states:

"Some argue that paraskueue (Day of Preparation) refers to the day preceding Passover, that is, the day on which preparations for Passover are made (in the present case, Thursday morning). If so, then John indicates that Jesus is sent to be executed at the time at which Passover lambs are slaughtered in the temple. The Synoptists, however, clearly portray Jesus and his disciples as celebrating the Passover on the night prior to the crucifixion. Moreover, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Josephus all use paraskeue to refer to the day preceding the Sabbath. The term therefore should be taken to refer to the day of preparation for the Sabbath (i.e., Friday.)"

He continues:

"If this is accurate, then tou pascha means not 'of the Passover,' but 'of Passover week.' Indeed, 'Passover' may refer to the (day of ) the actual Passover meal or, as in the present case, the entire Passover week, including Passover day as well as the associated Feast of Unleavened Bread. "Day of Preparation of Passover week' is therfore best to be taken to refer to the day of preparation for the Sabbath (i.e., Friday) of Passover week (so, rightly, Carson 1991: 603-4; see also commentary at 19:31). Thus all four Gospels concur that Jesus' last supper was a Passover meal eaten on Thursday evening (by Jewish reckoning, the onset of Friday)." Kostenberger, John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), pp 537-538.

Once again we find that Kostenberger seizes on the phrase "day of Preparation of Passover" and interprets it as referring, not to the preparation of Passover day but as a sort of circumlocution representing the preparation day of the coming Sabbath. But Kostenberger still has to deal with the two other references which seem to indicate that Jesus did not partake of a Passover meal (and so by inference, was crucified before the meal). Recall John 18: 28 which states that the Jews would not enter the praetorium for fear of being defiled because this would have kept them from being able to "eat the passover." Kostenberger has a solution:

"The present reference may not be to Passover itself but to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted seven days (note Luke 22:1: 'the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover'; see further commentary at 19:14, 31) and in particular to the feast-offering which was brought on the morning of the first day of the festival (cf. Num. 28: 18-19). 'Eat the passover' probably simply means 'celebrate the feast' (cf. 2 Chron. 30:21)." John, 524.

And what about John 13:1 which seems to indicate that the last meal depicted in this passage was not a passover meal because it says "now before the feast of passover."? Once again, Kostenberger:

"Some believe that John places the supper on 14 Nisan, Wednesday evening, with Jesus' crucifixion occuring on Thursday afternoon, when the lambs are slaughtered at the temple in preparation for Passover. A closer look at the relevant passages, however, shows that none of these actually conflicts with the Synoptic accounts. The opening words thus place the footwashing immediately prior to the Passover meal that is about to begin." 401-402

Here is Kostenberger's solution in proposition form:

1.) The phrase "day of preparation of Passover" (Jn 19:14) refers to the preparation of the coming Sabbath and not to the preparation of Passover day proper when the lambs are slaughtered for the evening meal.

2.) The reference in Jn 18:28 to the desire of the Jews to "eat passover" most probably is a round about way of saying that they wish to "celebrate the feast" and so does not necessarily refer to Passover meal proper.

3.) The time reference in Jn 13:1 does not indicate that the meal in chapter 13 is not a passover meal but rather is meant to show that the footwashing occurs before the Passover meal that occurs in the chapter.

4.) Therefore, there is no contradiction between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John concerning the date of Passover. They all agree that Jesus had a Passover meal with his disciples and was crucified subsequent to this meal on Passover day proper.

I will criticize Kostenberger's "solution" in the next post.

Sunday, August 13, 2006 

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Part 1

In this post I want to present the basic problem that exists between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John concerning the date of Passover and Jesus' crucfixion:

1.) The Synoptics present Jesus' last meal with his disciples as a a Passover meal which means his crucifixion occured on Passover Day proper after the meal.

That Jesus last meal with his disciples was the Passover meal is indicated clearly by the following passage:

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?" And he sent two of this disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the householder, 'The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?' And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us." And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover. (Mk 14:12-16; cf Mt 26:17ff and Lk 22:7ff)

What follows is the Lord's Supper. Though from time to time some have tried to show that this meal really wasn't a Passover meal (due to the absence of the lamb and such), most are convinced otherwise, especially because of the preceding context which I just quoted.

2.) The Gospel of John indicates that Jesus' last meal was not a Passover meal and that Jesus was crucified just prior to when the Passover meal would have been eaten, i.e., when the lambs were slaughtered in preparation for the meal.

Here are the key passages:

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper... (Jn 13:1-2)

What follows this introductory material in chapter 13 of John is the one meal that the author(s) do present that Jesus had with his disciples. However, there is absolutely no indication that this meal bears the distinctives of a Passover meal. Moreover, given the introductory sentence ("Now before the feast of the Passover") it seems best to conclude that this is not a Passover meal. But if this is not enough evidence for some, consider the next passage:

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was early. They themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover. (Jn 18:28)

In this passage we see clearly that the Jewish authorities had not yet eaten the Passover meal and wished to do so later, thus they would not enter the praetorium (because of the Gentile presence) for it would have rendered them unclean and so unfit to eat the passover meal.

And then finally:

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. (Jn 19:13-14)

Here we have Jesus' crucifixion taking place on the Day of Preparation of Passover, prior to Passover Day proper. Jesus is crucified at the time the lambs are prepared for the evening meal (cf. Mk 14:12, Ex 12:8).

The discrepancy should now be clear. In a nutshell, the Synoptics and John differ concerning a key moment during Jesus' final week. The Synoptic witness is that Jesus did in fact have a Passover meal with his disciples and so was tried and crucified after this meal. In contrast to this, the Gospel of John does not have Jesus sharing a Passover meal with his disciples because he is crucified just prior to when the meal would have been participated in, namely, on the Day of Preparation for Passover when the lambs are slaughtered for the evening meal.

The issue is, admittedly, a bit more complex than my brief analysis might indicate. This is because to make sense of the conflict between the Synoptics and John, it requires a certain understanding of the Jewish calendar. But I want to stave off a more complex analysis until I have presented Kostenberger's "solution" to this problem which I will do next post.

Saturday, August 12, 2006 

The Date of Passover and the Pitfall of Inerrancy: Introduction

In preperation for my Biblical Theology paper coming up in the fall I've been reading a lot of material concerning this topic. Currently, I am reading Biblical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect which is edited by Scott J. Hafemann and contains contributions by such notable conservatives as Peter Stuhlmacher, G.K. Beale, Nicholas Perrin, and others. Yesterday I read Andreas Kostenberger's article, "Diversity and Unity in the New Testament" in which Kostenberger seeks to emphasize the unity of the NT witness against its diversity (which is for the most part only apparent). Kostenberger is a conservative, evangelical NT scholar so I knew to expect some harmonization tactics. But I was not prepared for the way Kostenberger "solved" the problem of the "apparent" discrepancy in the dating of the Passover between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John.

Therefore, I am going to put on hold my series concerning American Evangelicalism and the Gospel of John (sorry Q) so that I can take issue with Kostenberger's "solution" to this problem and to exhibit how Kostenberger's and other's belief in plenary verbal inspiration forces them to harmonize such discrepancies (such as this one) that cannot and should not be harmonized. However, I realize that some of my readers may not be familiar with this particular problem of conflicting Passover dates between the Synoptics and John so in the next post I will first present the chronological problem which arises from this discrepancy. Subsequent to this, we will look at Kostenberger's particular resolution to this problem and then show why this is in error.

At the outset, let me say that I respect Kostenberger and think that he is a very skilled, exegetical scholar. Unfortunately, it is his doctrinal position of a particular belief in inerrancy which leads him to make serious errors in exegesis. Ultimately, my attack is not against Kostenberger but against a particular form of inspiration which does not allow for errors of any kind in the biblical text. Moreover, I hope that I do not come across as attacking Evangelical scholars as a whole. If I had to force a label onto myself I would say that I am Evangelical, in at least some sense. Again, my problem is with those evangelicals who adopt this particular notion of inerrancy.

Also please allow a few days or more between the posts. I am very busy this month partly due to my boss being on his honeymoon (we all had to pick up extra shifts because of this) and mostly because I am heavily researching the topic of Biblical Theology.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006 

James Dunn on the Cross and the Resurrection

"If the cross of Jesus stands at the centre of Paul's theology, so also does the resurrection of Jesus. Christ crucified is also he whom God raised from the dead. More to the point, the significance of the one cannot be grasped in isolation from that of the other. Without the resurrection, the cross would be a cause for despair. Without the cross, the resurrection would be an escape from reality. " James Dunn, Theology of the Apostle Paul, p. 235

Thursday, August 03, 2006 

The Triumph of the Gospel of John in American Evangelicalism: Introduction

Ever since the rise of higher biblical criticism, scholars have been quick to point out the striking differences between the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John in regards to the figure of Jesus. The following are some of the well-known ones:

1.) In contrast to the synoptic portrait of a Jesus who proclaims the coming of God's kingdom (Mk1:15/Mt 4:17; Mk 9:1/Lk 9:27, Lk 21:31, cf Mk 13), the author(s) of John's Gospel depict a Jesus who constantly proclaims himself (e.g., Jn6ff; 7:38; 8:12,58; 10:7-10; 11:25-26; 14:6; 15:1-6) as the means to salvation. To provide a bit more of a perspective consider the synoptic data concerning the occurances of "kingdom of God" and its equivalent Matthean version "kingdom of heaven" versus the gospel of John's data:

Synoptics-92 (59 "kingdom of God" and 33 "kingdom of heaven")
Gospel of John-2 (both of which occur in the context of Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3)

The gospel of John's use of the phrase(s) occurs about 2 percent of that of the synoptic's usage.

2.) The chronology of the synoptics and John are quite different. Whereas the synoptics present Jesus' mission as lasting at about a year, John 's presentation seems to indicate a possible two or even three year ministry. One of the major examples of a diachronic discrepancy between the synoptics and John includes the relocation of the temple incident during the passion week in the synoptic versions (Mk 11:12-19 and par.) to the beginning of Jesus' mission (Jn 2:20-22). Another major example is the difference concerning the time of Jesus' death. The synoptics indicate that Jesus died on the day of passover (Mk 14-15 and par.) after the meal but the gospel of John places Jesus' death at the time the passover lambs were being slaughtered, i.e. before the actual passover meal. (Jn 18:28; 19:14)

3.) The method of teaching is quite distinct between the synoptics and John. The synoptics present a Jesus who instructs through parables, aphorisms, riddles, etc. However, John's Jesus regularly engages in lengthy monologues and lacks the forms of teaching found in the synoptics.

4.) The gospel of John is significantly more theologically colored. One prime example is the difference in interpretation of the feeding of the 5000. When one compares the synoptic verisons (Mk 6:38ff and par.) with John's own account (Jn 6ff) the theological elaboration in the latter's account is striking.

It is this last point that is particularly troublesome since it exhibits the extent that the post-Easter proclamation has been retrojected into the Jesus tradition by the author(s) of John. Of course the synoptics are not entirely free of this element but John seems infused at every point in his gospel by a post-Easter reflection of the exalted Christ. Because of this those who are not of a conservative bent tend to dimiss the gospel of John as containing valuable history. Any history that is contained in John's gospel would be minimal at best and even harder to retrieve. Those who would wish to use the gospel of John as a source for reconstructing the historical Jesus should pay account to the late Raymond Brown's words:

"...subsequent development, no matter how homogeneous, is something that is refractive when one's purpose is to establish scientifically the exact circumstances of the ministry of Jesus. And so, although I think that the Fourth Gospel reflects historical memories of Jesus, the greater extent of the theological reshaping of those memories makes Johannine material harder to use in the quest for the historical Jesus than most Synoptic material." (Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the Gospel of John, p. 107)

However, though the synoptics differ considerably from the gospel of John and probably contain more information historically in regards to the figure of Jesus of Nazareth, this gospel has held a place of dominance throughout history in regards to the formulation of Christian faith. For example, its importance for the first few centuries of Christianity in the ensuing Christological debates cannot be understated (though it had to be wrestled constantly from the hands of Gnostic Christians). But even today, especially among American Evangelicalism, the presentation of Jesus found in the gospel of John is by far the dominant one. And so in this new series of posts (which may or may not be posted consecutively) I will look at the evidence which I believe indicates this and then explain why I have some problems with this particular appropriation of one aspect of the Jesus tradition by a majority of Christians today, namely, the one found in the gospel of John.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 

Bultmann on the Resurrection

I am coming late into the game but as others have already pointed out (particularly Jim West) the anniversary of Rudolf Bultmann's death was this past July 30th. Though I would obviously disagree with Bultmann concerning his interpretation of the resurrection (cf. Theology of the New Testament: Vol1;ET, p. 295) one thing Bultmann did consistently right was to recognize that it was the death and resurrection together which constituted the complete salvation event. And so, in honor of Bultmann here is one of my favorite quotes from this brilliant New Testament scholar:

"It is clear that the salvation-occurence, viz. Christ's death and resurrection, is the deed of the prevenient grace of God; and the various expressions which describe this deed intend to express its unprecedented nature and its might which so radically transformed the human situation. It is an occurance purely by God's initiative; for man, pure gift; by accepting it he is released from his perverse striving to achieve life or self-hood by his own efforts-in which he does the very opposite-only to be given it as a gift in the 'righteousness of God'." (TNT, p. 294)

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