Reconsidering the Relationship Between Biblical and Systematic Theology in the New Testament: Essays by Theologians and New Testament Scholars (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament) 9783161527197, 9783161530296, 3161527194

The essays in this volume engage specific New Testament texts and theological doctrines through the lens of one or more

204 98 5MB

English Pages 308 [323]

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Brian Lugioyo: Introduction
Part One: Introducing the Volume’s Theme
Benjamin E. Reynolds: The Relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology in the Work of Robert H. Gundry (with a few anecdotal comments)
Emphasis on the Biblical Text and Exegesis
Grammatical-Historical Exegetical Detail
The Bible as God’s Word
Concern for the Church
Relationship of Biblical and Systematic Theology
Final Comments
Kevin J. Vanhoozer: Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many? Between (the Rock of) Systematic Theology and (the Hard Place of) Historical Occassionalism
I. Introduction: The Gundry Challenge (or, what I did during my senior year)
II. A Love-Hate Relationship? A Brief History of Biblical and Systematic Theology
III. A Divided Kingdom? A Brief Literature Review
Old Princeton
Westminster Theological Seminary
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
IV. From Story to System: Of Thought Worlds and Symbolic Universes
V. Towards a Systematic Biblical Theology of the NT: Five Case Studies
Thomas Schreiner
Ben Witherington
G. K. Beale
Michael Bird
Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum
VI. Conclusion: Inching Towards the New Jerusalem
Part Two: Essays from the Perspective of Biblical Theology
Mark L. Strauss: Christology or Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels: A Study of Unity in Diversity
The Diversity of Synoptic Christologies
Matthew’s Purpose and Christology
Matthew’s implicit high Christology
Markan Purpose and Christology
Mark’s implicit high Christology
Lukan Purpose and Christology
Luke’s implicit high Christology
Benjamin E. Reynolds: The “Eucharistic” Language of John 6 in Biblical and Theological Perspective
John 6: Eucharistic or Not?
Exegetical Arguments For and Against
Literal or Metaphorical Eating and Drinking in Eucharistic Interpretation
A Brief History of Reception
John 6 and Eucharistic Theology
Systematic Theology in Partnership with Biblical Theology
Roy D. Kotansky: The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology: From Early Appearances (1 Corinthians 15) to the “Sindonology” of the Empty Tomb
History vs. Theology
The Pauline vs. Gospel Accounts
John 20
Mary’s Sighting of Jesus
The Two Disciples at the Tomb
Appendix: The “Core” Text of the Earliest Resurrection Account (John 20:1; 11ᵃ-ᶜ; 12ᵃᵈ; 14–18)
Judith M. Gundry: Anxiety or Care for People? The Theme of 1 Corinthians 7:32–34 and the Relation between Exegesis and Theology
Translations and Interpretations of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 in Current Scholarship
The Problem of the Relation of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 to the Immediate Contex
Parallelomania and the Interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:32–34
Pauline Usage of μεριμνάω
The πῶς-clauses in 1 Cor. 7:32b–34
“I want you to be ἀμέριμνοuς”: Two Parallels to 1 Cor. 7:32a
Devotion to the Lord without Distraction (1 Cor. 7:35)
J. Webb Mealy: Revelation is One: Revelation 20 and the Quest to Make the Scriptures Agree
Remarks on the Impulse to Make Sense of “The Totality of the Bible”
Specific Problem: The Thousand Years of Revelation 20
How I Came to My View of Revelation 20
Webb Mealy and Greg Beale on the Apocalypse and Biblical Eschatology
On the Phrase “After the Thousand Years”
On the Parallels Between Revelation 20 and Isaiah 24–27
On Ezekiel 38 and 39 as Prophetic Parallels to Rev. 20:7–10 and 19:11–21
Beale on Revelation 20:1–10
Beale’s First Proposal: Satan is Only Bound (20:1–3) in a Narrow and Particular Sense
General Remarks on Beale’s Commentary on Rev. 20:1–10
Concluding Remarks
Part Three: Essays from the Perspective of Systematic Theology
Jennifer Powell McNutt: James, “The “Book of Straw,” in Reformational Biblical Exegesis: A Comparison of Luther and the Radicals
James & the “Radicals”
James 1:18
Martin Luther’s “Book of Straw”
Kevin J. Vanhoozer: The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology: Election, Incarnation, and Union with Christ in Ephesians 1:4 (with special reference to Evangelical Calvinism)
I. Introduction: To Say What is “in Christ”
II. “Before the foundation of the world”: Ontology and/or Soteriology?
III. “He chose us in him”: Perspectives Old and New
Classic Calvinism: Chosen “in him”
Evangelical Calvinism: assumed “in him”
IV. Being in Christ: Assessing Evangelical Calvinism
Union with Christ: In Quest of the Historical Calvin
Ephesians 1: The Identity of the Elect
“By the flesh”: Incarnation as (Ontological) Union with Christ
“By the Spirit”: Salvation as (Ontic) Union with Christ
V. Conclusion: “The old is better”
Brian Lugioyo: Ministering to Bodies: Anthropological Views of Sōma in the New Testament, Theology, and Neuroscience
The Place of Study
Sōma in the Academy and Church
New Testament Sōma
The Dead Sōma and Continuity of Identity after Death
Paul’s Sōma
Neuroscience’s Sōma
The Ecclesial Harm of a Displaced Sōma
The Broken Sōma: A Methodology?
Roger Newell: Instead of Sentimental Exegesis: The Significance of Suffering for Christ and his Church
The Early Church and the Suffering of Christ
Beyond Timorous Feelings: Post-Rapture Readings in Revelation
Lessons for Today’s Church
Instead of Sentimental Exegesis
Gary W. Deddo: T.F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies as Co-Servants of the Word of God, Living and Written
A Sketch of Torrance’s Thought
The Initiative of God
The Self-revelation and Self-giving of God in Christ by the Spirit
The Apostolic Appointment
The Apostolic Tradition, Scripture, and Our Knowledge and Faith in God
Continuity in the Creedal Formulations of the Early Church
The Lessons to be Learned
Prospects for Biblical Studies and Dogmatic Theology
Stan D. Gaede: Postscript
Appendix: Publications by Robert H. Gundry
Articles and Essays
List of Contributors
Index of References
Old Testament
New Testament
Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
Other Christian Writings
Other Ancient Sources
Index of Authors
Index of Subjects and Key Terms
Recommend Papers

Reconsidering the Relationship Between Biblical and Systematic Theology in the New Testament: Essays by Theologians and New Testament Scholars (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament)
 9783161527197, 9783161530296, 3161527194

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament · 2. Reihe Herausgeber / Editor Jörg Frey (Zürich) Mitherausgeber / Associate Editors Markus Bockmuehl (Oxford) James A. Kelhoffer (Uppsala) Hans-Josef Klauck (Chicago, IL) Tobias Nicklas (Regensburg)


Reconsidering the Relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology in the New Testament Essays by Theologians and New Testament Scholars edited by

Benjamin E. Reynolds, Brian Lugioyo, and Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Mohr Siebeck

Benjamin E. Reynolds, born 1977; 1999 BA Westmont College; 2003 MDiv; 2005 ThM Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; 2007 PhD University of Aberdeen; currently Associate Professor of New Testament, Tyndale University College, Toronto, ON, Canada. Brian Lugioyo, born 1976; 1999 BA Westmont College; 2003 MAT Fuller Theological Seminary; 2007 PhD University of Aberdeen; currently Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, Graduate School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA, USA. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, born 1957; 1978 BA Westmont College; 1982 MDiv Westminster Theological Seminary; 1985 PhD University of Cambridge; currently Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, USA.

e-ISBN PDF 978-3-16-153029-6 ISBN 978-3-16-152719-7 ISSN 0340-9570 (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 2. Reihe) The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliographie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at

© 2014 by Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, Germany. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form (beyond that permitted by copyright law) without the publisher’s written permission. This applies particularly to reproductions, translations, microfilms and storage and processing in electronic systems. The book was printed by Laupp & Göbel in Nehren on non-aging paper and bound by Buchbinderei Nädele in Nehren. Printed in Germany.

In Honor of Robert H. Gundry Our Teacher ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστὸς πρωτεύων

Foreword I am privileged to write the Foreword to this volume honoring Bob Gundry. I do so as the present Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College, but, to me at least, more importantly as a close friend of Bob who has been a role model and mentor to me as a biblical scholar from the very beginning of my career. I met Bob for the first time at the Society of Biblical Literature in New York (1980), being introduced by our common friend and colleague Moisés Silva. Bob had just published his brilliant Matthew commentary, which generated much interest and discussion throughout the biblical guild, and particularly within our evangelical Protestant circles. What struck me right away about Bob’s work as a biblical scholar was his meticulous attention to the details of the text. It was his deep love of the Bible as the Word of God that encouraged him to go wherever the text took him. He was unwilling to simply smooth out differences between the Gospels through easy harmonizations; rather he lovingly brought out the distinctive contributions of the particular passage or book that he was studying. As a result of his commitment to the Word of God, he often defends traditional interpretations against naysayers, but, if he is convinced that the Bible leads in a different direction, he has never been afraid to offer interpretations that go against the grain. The academy and the church have greatly benefitted from his expertise over more than the last half century, and we look forward to even more insight from him in future publications. Bob’s tremendous influence extends well beyond his writing and his influence on professional colleagues. In his long and distinguished career at Westmont College (since 1962),1 he has taught thousands of undergraduate students. Since Westmont is a liberal arts college, most of his students did not go into the ministry or become academics in any theological or biblical discipline. They rather went into business, law, construction, film, retail sales, or any number of jobs and professions. Many married and raised families. As I talk to these Westmont alums, what strikes me is how God used Bob to give them a deep love of God’s Word. Without exception, they speak of their former teacher with awe, respect, and love. There is no greater tribute that one can pay to Bob than that he instilled within 1 See below “The Relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology in the Work of Robert H. Gundry,” 7–16.



his students a deep love of God and his Word and also prepared them to read that Word with integrity. But there were also other students over the years at Westmont whose hearts and minds were touched by Bob in a special way. These students went on to study at seminaries and then many of them went on to pursue doctorates in biblical or theological studies at the best universities and then to teach the Bible or theology to another generation of students. A number of these students have participated in this volume to honor the one who so inspired them at the very beginning of their careers. As an Old Testament professor, the relationship between Bob and his students makes me think of Prov. 17:6: Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly, and the glory of children is their parents.

Granted I am taking some liberty here with the proverb (though they invite such extensions). The essays that follow by the students (the academic children) of Bob Gundry are a testimony (a crown) to the influence of his teaching and writing over the years. According to the second colon, parents (in this case a professorial parent) is the glory of their children since a godly parent (professor) helps their children by directing them in the right path. The essays in this volume are stimulating and insightful. They are produced by Bob’s academic offspring (one of whom is his actual daughter). They have chosen as the main focus of their study a question posed and addressed by Gundry over the course of his writings, namely the relationship between biblical studies and theological studies. As Gundry recognized, New Testament books have their own specific theological contributions within their particular historical circumstances. Systematic theology has a tendency to synthesize and smooth out different emphases and therefore moves to a more abstract and universal statement of the message of the Bible. Can and, if so, how should these two disciplines relate to each other in the service of the church? The contributors to this present book offer insight into this question. Bob’s own work as well as the fine work of his former students gives us all much to think about as we continue the dialogue between biblical and theological studies. Thank you Bob for all your past and present work as a teacher and a scholar. These essays are a fitting tribute to your fine career. Tremper Longman, III Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies Westmont College Santa Barbara, California

Table of Contents Tremper Longman, III Foreword ............................................................................................... VII Abbreviations ....................................................................................... XIII Brian Lugioyo Introduction .............................................................................................. 1

Part One: Introducing the Volume’s Theme Benjamin E. Reynolds The Relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology in the Work of Robert H. Gundry (with a few anecdotal comments) ............................. 7 Kevin J. Vanhoozer Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many? Between (the Rock of) Systematic Theology and (the Hard Place of) Historical Occassionalism ....................................................................... 17

Part Two: Essays from the Perspective of Biblical Theology Mark L. Strauss Christology or Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels: A Study of Unity in Diversity ................................................................. 41 Benjamin E. Reynolds The “Eucharistic” Language of John 6 in Biblical and Theological Perspective.............................................................................................. 63 Roy D. Kotansky The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology: From Early Appearances (1 Corinthians 15) to the “Sindonology” of the Empty Tomb ................................................................................. 83


Table of Contents

Judith M. Gundry Anxiety or Care for People? The Theme of 1 Corinthians 7:32–34 and the Relation between Exegesis and Theology ........................................................................ 109 J. Webb Mealy Revelation is One: Revelation 20 and the Quest to Make the Scriptures Agree ................... 131

Part Three: Essays from the Perspective of Systematic Theology Jennifer Powell McNutt James, “The “Book of Straw,” in Reformational Biblical Exegesis: A Comparison of Luther and the Radicals ............................................. 157 Kevin J. Vanhoozer The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology: Election, Incarnation, and Union with Christ in Ephesians 1:4 (with special reference to Evangelical Calvinism) ................................. 177 Brian Lugioyo Ministering to Bodies: Anthropological Views of Sōma in the New Testament, Theology, and Neuroscience ................................................................. 213 Roger Newell Instead of Sentimental Exegesis: The Significance of Suffering for Christ and his Church ....................... 239 Gary W. Deddo T.F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies as Co-Servants of the Word of God, Living and Written ............................................... 251 Stan D. Gaede Postscript .............................................................................................. 273 Appendix: Publications by Robert H. Gundry ....................................... 275 List of Contributors ............................................................................... 281

Table of Contents


Index of References .............................................................................. 283 Index of Authors ................................................................................... 296 Index of Subjects and Key Terms .......................................................... 301


Ante-Nicene Fathers Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments Anchor Bible Bulletin for Biblical Research Bauer, W., F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago, 1999. Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Catholic Biblical Quarterly Calwer theologische Monographien European Journal of Theology Evangelisch-katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament Fathers of the Church. Washington D. C., 1947– Handbuch zum Neuen Testament Harvard Theological Review International Critical Commentary Journal of Biblical Literature Journal of Evangelical Theological Society Journal for the Study of the New Testament Journal for the Study of the New Testament: Supplement Series Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament Library of New Testament Studies Luther’s Works. American Edition. 55 vols. St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia and Fortress Press, 1955–1986. New Cambridge Bible Commentary New International Commentary of the New Testament New International Greek Testament Commentary Novum Testamentum Supplements to Novum Testamentum Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2 Das Neue Testament Deutsch New Testament Studies Papyrologische Kommentare zum Neuen Testament Pillar New Testament Commentary Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology Society of Biblical Literature Academia Biblica Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series Sacra pagina


Abbreviations Studies in Early Judaism and Christianity Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by G. Kittel and G. Friedrich. Translated by J. T. Willis, G. W. Bromiley, and D. E. Green. 8 vols. Grand Rapids, 1974– Theologische Literaturzeitung Tyndale Bulletin Word Biblical Commentary Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche

Introduction BRIAN LUGIOYO This volume is dedicated to a scholar and friend, who for over four decades dedicated his life to unwrapping the world of the New Testament to benighted undergraduate students. Robert H. Gundry, Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Greek at Westmont College, patiently guided and deeply shaped the minds of this volume’s contributors. As their essays demonstrate, Bob has and continues to challenge the minds of his students to think about the relationship between theology and the New Testament. In 2002, Bob published his extraordinarily titled Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundametalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelism, Especially Its Elites in North America. At the end of this work he wrote the following theological postscript in which he raised a number of questions about how to approach this relationship: As Christians should we bring to bear the totality of the Bible in our every situation so as to avoid imbalances and extremes? Or should we choose parts of the Bible that seem particularly relevant to a current situation and with a situational change shift to other parts so as to avoid the homogenizing of distinctive messages and a consequent loss of special applicability? . . . Doubtless some will argue for both/and rather than either/or. Others will propose further possibilities. But the basic questions remain: Does the Bible present theological data to be organized neatly, or a range of canonical options to be kept discrete? To what extent should the theological enterprise be systematic? To what extent selective? Ought systematic theology to dominate biblical theology, or vice versa? Or ought they form a partnership of equals, or go their separate ways? What weight should be assigned to theological common ground in the Bible? What weight to theological peculiarities? How important to good theologizing is a perceptive exegesis of the world, or worlds, in which we live as well as a perceptive exegesis of the Bible? And in practice, if not expressly, what answers to these questions has recent evangelical theology given? 1

As some of Gundry’s former students (who went on to pursue scholarship in New Testament studies and theology) we have taken up this challenge and seen these questions as a new homework assignment. Each essay in this volume has attempted to wrestle with one or more of these questions

1 Robert H. Gundry, Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundametalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelism, Especially Its Elites in North America (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 95.


Brian Lugioyo

concerning the relationship between biblical and systematic theology using a particular topic or text as a vehicle into this discussion. The volume is divided into three parts. The first introduces the volume’s theme and our inspiration to engage it. Benjamin Reynolds’s essay “The Relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology in the Work of Robert H. Gundry” offers us a compelling view of Bob’s work of integrating New Testament scholarship with rigorous theological reflection. Following this survey of Gundry’s own consideration of the relationship, Kevin Vanhoozer introduces the volume’s theme with the essay “Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?” Here he presents a lucid survey of the history of the relationship between biblical and systematic theology and how recent evangelical scholars have approached the relationship. The second part of this volume contains five essays from New Testament scholars engaging Gundry’s questions through the lenses of the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, the resurrection narratives, Paul, and Revelation. Mark Strauss in “Christology or Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels” looks at the various Christological portraits of Jesus in the Gospels in an attempt to see if there is a unity or a range of views to be kept discrete. Strauss argues that rather than merely positing distinct Christologies or an evolutionary Christological development, the Synoptic Gospels all evince an implied high Christology in their presentations of Jesus as Messiah and as identified with YHWH. Looking across the history of interpretation of John 6, Benjamin Reynolds thoughtfully examines how one ought to understand Jesus’ comments about eating his flesh, in “The ‘Eucharistic’ Language of John 6 in Biblical and Theological Perspective.” Should John 6 and its seemingly sounding eucharistic language be interpreted theologically related to the Eucharist or to its peculiar grammatical and historical context? He argues that given the particular Johannine context, one can see the language of consuming Jesus not necessarily as eucharistic but in line with one of John’s major theological themes, belief. Roy Kotansky in “The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology” wrestles with the differences between the list of witnesses to the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 and the Gospel narratives. He considers whether these various appearances should be harmonized or left discrete. Kotansky argues that the women in the Gospel narratives, and Mary Magdalene in particular, witnessed more of Jesus and the resurrection than the Gospel narratives and Paul state, and thus that discrete historical exegesis and source-critical analysis become the building blocks for systematic theology. Scholars have generally viewed Paul’s text of 1 Cor. 7:32-34 as primarily about anxiety. In her essay “Anxiety or Care for People?,” Judith



Gundry argues that the scholarly consensus is predominantly due to a theological vision that attempts to make relevant today a passage that is a world away from us. Paul’s argument here is inexorably linked to Paul’s view of the imminent end of the world, and thus only when this is taken into account do we gain a more faithful interpretation about marriage and family. In effect she argues that the scholarly disciplines of Scripture must have priority over theology. The last essay in part two is Webb Mealy’s essay “Revelation is One,” where he presents two ways of interpreting the millennial reign in Revelation 20. Mealy demonstrates how different theological lenses are employed to harmonize the eschatology of the New Testament. His main interlocutor in this essay is G. K. Beale, who harmonizes New Testament eschatology with a rubric emphasizing an amillennial perspective; however, Mealy believes that the theological lens of a premillennial view better incorporates the New Testament witness in regard to Revelation 20. In this way Mealy shows the importance of how a theological framework can shape the reading of New Testament passages. The final part of the volume contains five essays from systematic theologians who wrestle with the relationship between the New Testament and their theological task. They approach Gundry’s questions through the topics of James’s canonicity during the Reformation, the doctrine of election in Ephesians, theological anthropology and neuroscience, docetic tendency in theology, and the theology of interpretation of T. F. Torrance, Investigating whether the message of the New Testament is a unity or diversity, Jennifer Mcnutt looks at the role and message of the book of James in her essay “James, “The “Book of Straw,” in Reformational Biblical Exegesis.” Here McNutt shows how the radical reformers, Hubmaier and Philips, and the magisterial reformer, Luther, wrestled with the diversity of the New Testament witness, particularly with doctrine of justification, while attempting to hold a high view of Scripture’s authority. Kevin Vanhoozer in “The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology: Election, Incarnation, and Union with Christ in Ephesians 1:4” considers Paul’s soteriological message in light of the recent contention of the new Evangelical Calvinists that the older interpretations of election are misguided. By especially looking at the doctrine of election in Eph. 1:4, Vanhoozer engages their contentions that Paul here ought not be understood as advocating the traditional Calvinist perspective of limited atonement.. After evaluating the scriptural and theological issues, Vanhoozer shows, in a “Gundrian” fashion, that the older is better. Seeking to wrestle with how good theology requires a perceptive exegesis of the world and the Bible, Brian Lugioyo looks at the relationship between the New Testament, theology, and neuroscience in “Ministering to


Brian Lugioyo

Bodies.” He contends that a ministerial context aids the interpreter in understanding the anthropological views of sōma in Paul and elsewhere. Lugioyo argues that an enlarged monist anthropology – in line with a nonreductive physicalist perspective – lends itself to a healthier ministry of persons and avoids certain abuses that a radical dualism has allowed. Roger Newell in his essay “Instead of Sentimental Exegesis” highlights the problem of pre-tribulation rapture eschatology-escapism founded on “timorous feelings” that wish to avoid suffering. Reviewing the patristic witness to Christ, notably the patristic rejection of Docetism, Newell shows the importance of a full-fledged Trinitarian hermeneutic for the reading of Revelation that is pastorally sensitive and eschatologically hopeful. The last essay of this section is Gary Deddo’s penetrating essay “T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies as Co-Servants of the Word of God, Living and Written.” Here Deddo presents a helpful outline of Torrance’s theological method as it relates to reading Scripture and doing theology. He shows Torrance’s conviction that biblical and theological studies are founded on God’s work of revealing himself and reconciling us to himself. As long as exegesis and theology are working toward these ends, they are true to themselves. And so biblical studies and theological studies must form a unity or a partnership. The volume ends with Stan Gaede’s urging postscript. Encouraged by the essays in this volume and their attempt to cross disciplinary aisles, Gaede charges us to enter and to continue these timely and necessary discussions. Special thanks is in order to Leslie Moreno for her help in formatting and indexing this volume, and to Webb Mealy for his indexing assistance. We are grateful to Matthias Spitzner for his timely assistance and patient guidance through the formatting and preparation of the volume. We would also like to thank Prof. Jörg Frey and Dr. Henning Ziebritzki for their acceptance of the volume in the Mohr Siebeck WUNT, series 2. But most of all, we wish to thank Bob Gundry, who spurred, inspired, and believed in us, his students.

Part One: Introducing the Volume’s Theme

The Relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology in the Work of Robert H. Gundry (with a few anecdotal comments) BENJAMIN E. REYNOLDS Introduction Robert H. Gundry has spent his entire career at Westmont College: Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Greek (1962–66), Associate Professor of Biblical Studies and Greek (1966–70), Professor of New Testament and Greek (1970–1997), Kathleen Smith Chair of Religious Studies (1997– 2000), Scholar-in-Residence (2000–), and Professor Emeritus (2001–). Since Westmont is an entirely undergraduate institution, Gundry only taught undergraduate students. And to many of those undergraduates, Gundry was a larger-than-life professor who embodied the academic pursuit, the challenge of learning, and the integration of faith and learning. For many students, Gundry was the first to introduce them to the scholarly study of the Bible. Gundry’s deeply in-toned voice, finely trimmed moustache, frameless glasses, and smartly pressed shirts only added to the aura of knowledge and high academic expectation that exuded from him. For most students, this was intimidating, especially if they never heard his gentle laugh. Among Westmont students, an urban legend has been known to circulate about certain students who either did or considered entering the inner sanctum of Gundry’s office with bells attached to their clothing and a rope tied to one leg lest, like an unwary high priest, they should be struck dead upon entering. The reality was that Gundry was an approachable,1 conscientious advisor and professor. He demanded much from his students, but he was fair in his evaluation and was concerned with student learning. Gundry took part in student activities and invited smaller classes to his home for dinner or dessert. (His wife Lois was an instrumental part of the latter. On one occa1 Gundry once played catch on the lawn of Kerrwood Hall, baseball gloves and all, with one of the editors of this volume and another student.


Benjamin E. Reynolds

sion, she apologized to a group of students because her homemade apple pie was still warm!) Considering Gundry’s efforts of teaching, advising, talks to the incoming first year classes, chapel and baccalaureate messages, participation as a judge or participant in Westmont’s annual Spring Sing event,2 his teaching and preaching in local churches, it is a wonder that he did any academic writing at all. But write and publish, he did. Gundry’s academic writing has been prolific and spans not just the decades but the breadth of New Testament scholarship from his first published article on 1QIsaiah and Mark 14:65 in the second volume of Revue de Qumran to his recent book reviews in Books and Culture on N. T. Wright’s New Testament Translation, Tim Grass’s biography of F. F. Bruce, Frederic Raphael’s book on Josephus, and most recently Reza Aslan’s headline-grabbing book on Jesus as zealot. Gundry is best known within the academic community, and rightly so, for his work on the Synoptic Gospels, particularly his commentaries on Matthew and Mark, his revised doctoral thesis The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel with Special Reference to the Messianic Hope, and numerous articles and essays on redactional relationships between the Gospels, including Secret Mark. But that is not to leave out his other books Sōma in Biblical Theology with Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology, The Church and the Tribulation, First the Antichrist, Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian, or his scholarly articles on John’s Gospel, Paul’s letters, dominical sayings in 1 Peter, Revelation, and again on Qumran. In 2005, Mohr Siebeck published a volume of his published and previously unpublished essays and articles in The Old is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations. Gundry will likely be known best to students and non-scholars through the two books with which he bridged the gap between scholarship and the Church. The first of these two books is A Survey of the New Testament, which is now in its fifth edition and has been translated into Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Korean, Russian, and Turkish. The second book is what Karen Jobes has called his “magnum opus,” 3 Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation. For a scholar who dedicated his life to undergraduate teaching, his writing has been extensive. 4 Across this production of scholarship, there are five noticeable themes that particularly reveal something about Robert Gundry as a person and a scholar: 1) his emphasis on reading and knowing the Bible; 2) his clear, solid grammatical-historical exegesis of the biblical text; 3) his commitAt one Spring Sing, he even wore a kilt in a cameo skit appearance. See her comment in the endorsement on the back cover. 4 For a complete list of Bob Gundry’s scholarly publications, see the appendix, 277– 2 3


Work of Robert H. Gundry


ment to the Bible as the Word of God; 4) his concern for the Church; and 5) the evident interplay of biblical and systematic theology within his work. Each of these five themes appears to some extent in all of his work, but only some of the primary examples will be highlighted below.

Emphasis on the Biblical Text and Exegesis While some may not consider a textbook a significant scholarly contribution, the reality is that Gundry’s A Survey of the New Testament first published in 1970 provides insight into the importance he places on reading and knowing the text of the NT. This emphasis is striking when Gundry’s NT introductory text is compared with more recent introductions that have flooded the market in the decades since his first edition. Unlike many recent textbooks, Survey centers on the reading of the NT, which in this day and age of biblical illiteracy is valuable for students and teachers alike. Gundry asks students to read the text of the NT, and after they have done so, he then supplements the biblical text with explanatory information from historical, cultural, sociological, ideological, and archaeological contexts. The focus of Survey is on students learning what the biblical text says and what it means. Further evidence of his concern for the text of the Bible is his Commentary on the New Testament with the entire NT in “literal translation”! Gundry states in the introduction: “the very awkwardness of a literal translation often highlights features of the scriptural text obscured, eclipsed or even contradicted by loose translations and paraphrases.”5 Because of this awkwardness, Gundry places explanatory words within brackets in the translation so that the translation is clearer in passages where it may not be. These words often highlight Greek grammatical aspects that do not have English equivalents or clarify antecedents to pronouns. Either way Gundry emphasizes knowing the biblical text. Gundry’s emphasis on the biblical text is combined with his traditional interpretations of biblical studies issues. (He did give the volume of his collected essays the subtitle “New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations.”) This traditional “old is better” position is evident as far back as his revised doctoral thesis published in 1967. Regarding Matthew’s explanation of why Jesus is called a Nazarene (2:23), Gundry states, after an extensive discussion of options, “We therefore fall back on the old view. . . .”6 More recent evidence of his traditional interpretations 5 Commentary on the New Testament, ix. N.B. his critique of N.T. Wright’s NT translation: “Tom’s Targum,” Books and Culture 18/3 (May/June 2012): 22–24. 6 Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew, 103 (emphasis mine).


Benjamin E. Reynolds

include his critiques of Helmut Koester and Dominic Crossan’s arguments for Secret Mark, Otto Betz’s commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, N.T. Wright’s reconstructed Jesus, and the New Perspective on Paul (“hurrah for the Old Perspective on Paul”! 7). What should be made clear is that Gundry does not hold to these traditional views for the sake of being “traditional.” His positions and arguments are subservient to the text of the Old and New Testaments. The old is better only because the other, “newer” positions do not stand up to rigorous, exegetical scrutiny, which is a second notable feature of Gundry’s scholarship.

Grammatical-Historical Exegetical Detail Gundry’s solid grammatical-historical exegesis is something for which he is well-known. Donald Hagner refers to “vintage Gundry” as “sure-footed redactional analysis, tough-minded reasoning, provocative freshness, and compelling exegesis.”8 Gundry’s exegetical work is not merely reading and knowing the text of the New Testament. Rather it is an in-depth investigation of the biblical text in its original language in which he focuses on the historical occasion of the New Testament, grammatical details of the original Greek, redactional relationships between the Gospels, and even New Testament theology in its connections with the Old Testament. Gundry’s exegetical focus is clearly evident in his revised doctoral work The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel where he examines and explains the OT text-forms found in Matthew’s Gospel. His examinations detail the similarities and differences of wording between the Masoretic Text, the various LXX texts, Matthew, and/or Luke and Mark. Considering that these comparisons were made prior to the age of desktop computer aids, his care and precision is astounding. The same detail can be found in Sōma in Biblical Theology in which Gundry examines the use of σῶμα (“body”) in Greek thought, Judaism, the OT, and the NT, with particular focus on Paul, arguing that σῶμα has a primarily physical meaning. In The Church and the Tribulation, he argues for a posttribulation rapture because “positive indications of a posttribulational rapture arise out of a proper exegesis of relevant Scripture passages and derive support from the history of the doctrine.” 9 The first half of Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian offers an excellent argument for the continuation of the John’s Word Christology throughout the rest of “The Inferiority of the New Perspective on Paul,” The Old is Better, 224. Endorsement on the paperback cover of Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church under Persecution, 2 nd ed. 9 Church and Tribulation, 10 (emphasis mine). 7 8

Work of Robert H. Gundry


the Gospel and not merely in John 1:1–18. In each of these monographs, Gundry presents thorough, detailed grammatical-historical exegesis that leads to his conclusions, 10 and the exegetical arguments that he mounts often make it extremely difficult to argue against his positions. Gundry’s exegetical work and sensitivity to the text appear to be the only things that would lead him away from a “traditional” view. For instance, Gundry has recently argued against the imputation of Christ’s righteousness because of the exegetical evidence in the NT concerning “righteousness” and the one who reckons people as righteous. 11 Gundry’s infamous “non-traditional” view that Matthew embellished or created events (e.g. the Magi and Peter’s walking on water) arose out of his use of meticulous redaction criticism in the Gospel of Matthew. 12 These views are entirely based upon his close reading of the text of Matthew compared with Mark, Q, and/or Luke. Because of his thorough examination, Gundry is convinced that the differences in Matthew are due to Matthew’s “theological art.”13 Matthew did not think he was writing a modern history and therefore was free to embellish and create in order to portray the theological reality of who Jesus was and is. For Gundry, Matthew’s free adaptation of Mark and Q parallels Matthew’s use of the OT that Gundry had painstakingly noted in his doctoral research. 14 Yet, Gundry’s views come not from a pre-determined understanding. In actuality, Gundry states that in writing his commentary on Matthew he set out to disprove Markan priority and the existence of Q.15 What leads Gundry to take these “non-traditional” positions is his emphasis on the biblical text, his detailed exegesis, and his avoidance of what he views as easy harmonization. 16 For Gundry, being true to the biblical text means doing so even if the answers become difficult to a traditional view. Consistent, close scrutiny of the biblical text is Gundry’s modus operandi and the primary determinate of his views. 10 See also “Essential Physicality,” The Old is Better, esp. 191: “The biblical and extrabiblical evidence belies the confidently repeated statements, larded with supportive quotations from supposedly authoritative scholars and often substituting for careful attention to the biblical and extrabiblical texts themselves. . . .” 11 “Non-imputation of Christ’s Righteousness,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Debate, ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel Treier (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 17–45. 12 Matthew, xxiv. 13 N.B. the change of subtitle of the Matthew commentary from the first edition to the second: “A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art” to “A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church under Persecution.” 14 Cf. Matthew, xxiv. 15 “A Response to ‘Matthew as Midrash,’” 41. 16 Matthew, 626, 627; also, “A Response to ‘Methodological Unorthodoxy,’” 96; “Hermeneutic Liberty,” 16. See most recently his concluding comments in his review of Reza Alsan’s Zealot, Books & Culture (November/December 2013): 14–16.


Benjamin E. Reynolds

The Bible as God’s Word The reason for Gundry’s emphasis on the biblical text and his close exegesis of it is his unabashed understanding of the Bible as God’s Word. I remember sitting in first year Greek when in the course of a discussion about translation Gundry referred to red letter Bibles as an “abomination.” What was his reason for this view? The entire Bible is the Word of God and not merely the words of Jesus. Gundry’s understanding of the Bible as God’s Word appears in a number of his works, if only subtly. He concludes the introduction to Survey by giving four reasons for studying the New Testament. The third reason is “theological”: “the New Testament consists of divinely inspired accounts and interpretations of Jesus’ redemptive mission in the world and forms the standard of belief and practice for the Christian church.” 17 Some of his clearest and strongest statements on the Bible as the Word of God come in the “Theological Postscript” to his Matthew commentary. Gundry wrestles seriously with Matthew’s changes to Mark and Q because he understands the final form of Matthew’s text as God’s Word. 18 He believes that Matthew was inspired by the Holy Spirit in these redactional changes such that the “Spirit of Christ directed the editing, so that its results, along with the historical data, constitute God’s Word.” 19 And again, “The equation of the Bible with God’s Word must stay, the straining to resolve all historical difficulties in the Bible must go.” 20 Because of his view of the Bible as the Word of God, Gundry believes authorial intent is important. In his “Theological Postscript” to the Matthew commentary, he states: What the biblical authors intended to say interpretation of the Christian faith. . . . originally intended meaning of the biblical that meaning calls for theological warfare. faith altogether. 21

should exercise a magisterial role over our Therefore, though disagreements over the text merit exegetical discussion, rejection of Otherwise, we stand in danger of losing the

And more recently, in the introduction to his Commentary on the New Testament, Gundry states, with regard to his interpretations of the NT, “Preachers, Bible Study leaders, and others should make whatever adjustments they deem necessary for contemporary audiences, but not adjustSurvey, 20. Matthew, 624. 19 Ibid., 640; see also 625, 635. 20 Ibid., 627. He notes on p. 2 that his “theological commitment to the canonical text . . . as divine revelation” is part of his reason for emphasizing “the meaning of Matthew’s text.” 21 Ibid., 638. 17 18

Work of Robert H. Gundry


ments that obscure or change the text’s intended meaning.” 22 For Gundry, it is important to know and study the intended authorial meaning of the Bible because it is God’s Word.

Concern for the Church Another theme that resonates throughout Gundry’s academic writing is his concern for the Church. This concern is explicit in The Church and the Tribulation where he indicates that the purpose of his writing is inform and prepare the Church for tribulation persecution that he believes is inevitably is part of the Church’s future. Gundry argues that this view calls for a “mental and moral preparation.” 23 His more popular book on the same topic First the Antichrist is more explicitly directed to Christian believers. While he was writing this book, he mentioned to one of his NT introduction classes of his concern for believers as the 21 st century approached. (Remember the fears and concerns over “Y2K”?) Another example of Gundry’s concern for the Church is the fourth and final reason he gives for studying the New Testament in Survey. It is the “devotional reason”: “the Holy Spirit uses the New Testament to bring people into a living and growing personal relation with God through his Son Jesus Christ.” 24 The clearest example of his concern for the Church is noticeable in his Commentary on the New Testament, which is particularly aimed at pastors and lay people. In the introduction, he states that in writing the interpretations in the commentary he “concentrated . . . on what is likely to prove useful for expository preaching, teaching, group discussion, and private education.” 25 Gundry’s magnum opus is not a massive New Testament Theology bringing together the fruits of decades of labor or a deeply exegetical work on an academic New Testament topic. Instead, it is a NT commentary written in accessible language that is particularly aimed at pastors and lay people for the purpose of assisting the average believer to understand more fully God’s Word in the New Testament. It is appears fairly obvious from his writing that Gundry desires all believers to take the Bible seriously as the Word of God, to listen to what the Bible says, and to study closely what it says so that the Church’s theology and personal devotion to Jesus may grow and deepen in both knowledge and practice.

Commentary on the New Testament, ix. Church and the Tribulation, 9. 24 Survey, 20. 25 Commentary on the New Testament, ix. 22 23


Benjamin E. Reynolds

Relationship of Biblical and Systematic Theology Finally, Gundry’s work often proceeds from exegetical study to the challenge of the relationship between biblical and systematic theology. Many biblical scholars do not make the effort to connect these two, not least because of the difficulty of doing so but also because of the way the Biblical Studies guild views the theological enterprise. 26 Gundry’s “Theological Postscript” at the conclusion of his Matthew commentary, with its “guide to systematicians,” highlights his attempts to bring together exegesis and biblical theology with implications for belief, namely a warning about canonizing theological systems. 27 This emphasis is also evident in Sōma in Biblical Theology. In this scholarly monograph, after Gundry argues that σῶμα refers to physical body, he spends the final third of the monograph addressing what this definition implies for theology, particularly for “death and resurrection, the being of man, the nature and source of sin and salvation, individuality and corporateness, and the ecclesial Body of Christ.” 28 And again, in Jesus the Word, Gundry moves from close grammaticalhistorical exegesis of John’s Gospel to the Gospel’s import for the Church and the way in which the Church should or should not engage culture. 29 For Gundry, theology derives from the biblical, canonical text. In “Hermeneutic Liberty, Theological Liberty, and Historical Occasionalism,” the lead essay in The Old is Better, Gundry sets out more explicitly his view of how the relationship between biblical and systematic theology should work.30 For Gundry, not surprisingly, the biblical text in its original intended meaning has the first word. Therefore, Gundry calls for allowing the diversity of the New Testament to be heard, and he argues against the traditionalist urge to defend unity of the biblical text over its diversity. Gundry contends that such a unity may be a “theological benefit” but it is a “praxeological loss.”31 Gundry argues that the collection of books within the canon, written at different times for and under various circumstances, highlights the diversity that is found within it. He contends that biblical hermeneutics will find 26 Note Gundry’s comments (“Surrejoinder,” 113) to Norman Geisler about his inclusion of a “Theological Postscript” in his Matthew commentary: “I must have been a f ool to have written much of what I have written, including the Theological Postscript, in my Commentary, in order to gain academic respectability outside evangelical ranks.” 27 Matthew, 640. 28 Sōma, 159, 159–244. 29 See also “Is John’s Gospel Sectarian?” The Old is Better, 315–23. 30 However, this essay has obvious roots in his Theological Postscript and various responses to his detractors over the Matthew commentary. 31 “Hermeneutic Liberty,” 16; see also his comments at the end of the “Theological Postscript,” Matthew, 640.

Work of Robert H. Gundry


diversity and that it is the role of systematic theology to address the unity of the Bible without losing the sense of diversity that exists in the presentation of the Bible to us. Gundry suggests that systematics may actually need to focus on boundaries of belief deriving from the canon rather than on finding a unifying center. 32 Gundry concludes his essay by positing that there is space for development and hermeneutic liberty particularly where the canon “does not imply exhaustiveness in the sorts of circumstances in and for which the books of the Bible were written.” 33 Yet he also maintains that theological development must be tempered by testing to see if it contradicts the canon and that it reflects what is in the canon. 34 Gundry understands that the text of the Bible is what guides and is the rule for belief and practice. Scripture, even if diverse in its canonical presentation, is the bar by which any theology or belief is measured.

Final Comments Robert Gundry has written much that gives evangelicals pause, but he has also written much that they can rally around. 35 While his scholarly writing may appear inconsistent to some, Gundry is profoundly consistent in his view of the importance of knowing and reading Scripture, his careful grammatical-historical exegesis of the biblical text, his unashamed view of the Bible as the Word of God, his care and concern for the personal spiritual growth of the believers, and his understanding that theology must stem from the Bible, God’s Word. As former students, looking back on his teaching, these are all aspects that were clearly evident in his lectures, assignments, and occasional chapel messages. Gundry has always been a conscientious scholar who has paid exacting attention to the biblical text out of reverence for it as the Word of God and as a text that is vital for the theological and devotional sustaining and growth of God’s people. In closing, I offer one final anecdote. In December of 1996, an art exhibit which won best in show at the annual Westmont College Christmas art show featured a Bible that had been cut, ten pages at a time, into strips that remained connected to the spine of the Bible. The theme of the show was “Une Ange Passe” (“An Angel is passing by”), and Linda Ekstrom had 32 Gundry’s position on a unifying center seems to have changed over the years, since one of the editors who took a course on New Testament Theology with Gundry was required in the final assignment to read the NT and state its unifying theme (see the next essay). 33 “Hermeneutic Liberty,” 17. 34 Ibid. 35 See his Books and Culture review “Smithereens!” and the ensuing blog debates.


Benjamin E. Reynolds

arranged the cut strips of the Bible in a manner reminiscent of angel’s wings. She gave the piece the title “Sophia/Logos.” The following spring semester Gundry gave a message in chapel that addressed the piece. 36 Gundry maintained that cutting the words of the Bible into shreds was somewhat problematic, since the words had lost all sense of meaning because of the lack of context, not to mention the irony of then titling the piece “Sophia/Logos.” Yet, Gundry also presented a positive reinterpretation of the art exhibit. Gundry’s reinterpretation provides an excellent example of some of the themes noted above. As he spoke to students in chapel, he argued that the Bible should be read and interpreted (exegeted!) well. A Bible cut into strips points to the variety in Scripture and that that variety should not be papered over or easily harmonized. “The Bible isn’t neat and tidy. It’s messy or . . . ‘disheveled.’ But that’s OK. This text has texture. Don’t try to level it out. It’s richer if you don’t. Revel in its richness, in its profundity, in its diversity.” 37 For Gundry, interpretation of the Bible’s diversity and variety is of extreme importance for understanding Scripture. Sometimes knowing the Bible better may mean that our theological understandings or biases need to change, but even if we do not fully understand the Bible, “somehow behind that tumbled mass of lines the Angel of the Lord, hidden from our view for the moment, is holding the lines together.” 38

36 His talk was published in a collection of essays as “Shredding the Bible,” Extracurriculars: Teaching Christianly Outside Class (Blurb, 2012), 45–59. Now, this collection of essays is published by Wipf and Stock (2014). 37 “Shredding the Bible,” 54–55. 38 Ibid., 55.

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many? Between (the Rock of) Systematic Theology and (the Hard Place of) Historical Occasionalism KEVIN J. VANHOOZER I. Introduction: The Gundry Challenge (or, what I did during my senior year) What I learned as a freshman in Bob’s “New Testament Survey” class was that each book in the New Testament (henceforth NT) was written by particular persons for particular audiences in particular situations. The NT documents are not academic treatises filled with abstract truths; they are rather context sensitive pastoral writings, prompted by specific historical circumstances: occasional. Systematic theology, thanks to its alleged preoccupation with abstracting doctrinal truth, by way of contrast seems context insensitive. The occasional nature of NT literature presents a formidable obstacle to the theologian’s remit: systematize! Four years later, at the other end of my college career, I found myself in another of Bob’s courses, for biblical studies majors, on NT theology. It was here that I confronted my biggest challenge as an undergraduate. The instructions for the term paper were to read the NT and state its unifying theme – easier assigned than accomplished! What keeps the NT canon from falling apart and breaking into a thousand scriptural shards? This overriding concern breaks down into several sub-questions: (1) is there one NT theology or several? (2) If there is no one NT theology, how else can we account for the unity of the NT? (3) If there is one theology, what kind of oneness does it have? Is it “systematic” – whatever that means? On the grounds that one can judge a book by its title (viz., “The New Testament”), and in view of its relative pervasiveness, I chose “covenant” (a plausible translation of διαθήκη) as my proposed integrative theme. Little did I know at the time that, in doing so, I had taken my first step down


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

the rabbit hole of Reformed theology. Bob simply said: “That theme has been suggested before.” 1 “Covenant” also raises what James Dunn thinks is the most demanding issue with which a NT theology has to grapple, namely, that of determining “whether the message of Jesus or the gospel about Jesus introduced a radical disjuncture with these central features [i.e., God as one, how God saves, the elect people] of what we may fairly call Israel’s biblical theology.”2 Stated differently: the challenge is to set forth not merely a NT theology but a biblical theology of the NT that embraces the Old Testament too.3

II. A Love-Hate Relationship? A Brief History of Biblical and Systematic Theology Once upon a time there was no tension between NT theology and systematic theology, nor was there a strict division between those who wrote commentaries on the Bible and those who developed doctrine. Exegesis and theology were joined at the hip: “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; doctrine shall be called biblical, because it was taken out of the Bible.” Somewhere along the line, however, what had been joined together was put asunder. “Biblical theology” came to have two potentially different meanings: (1) the particular theology of the biblical books themselves, and (2) any theology that accords with the Bible. 4 It was J. P. Gabler’s 1787 inaugural lecture on “The Proper Distinction Between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the Specific Objectives of Each” that initiated divorce proceedings between NT theology and system-

1 Most notably by so-called covenant theologians in contrast to dispensationalism. See Michael S. Horton, Introducing Covenant Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), esp. chapter 5 “From Scripture to System. The Heart of Covenant Theology.” For a recent call to center systematic theology around the idea of covenant, see David VanDrunen, “A System of Theology? The Centrality of Covenant for Westminster Systematics,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: Systematic Theology at the Westminster Seminaries. Essays in Honor of Robert B. Strimple, ed. David VanDrunen (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 195–220. 2 James D. G. Dunn, New Testament Theology: An Introduction (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009), 38. 3 Ibid., 153. 4 The latter definition appears to be what W. K. Christmann has in mind in his 1607 Teutsche [sic] Biblische Theologie. Though it is no longer extent, it was apparently a short compendium of Protestant doctrine supported by proof texts.

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


atic theology. 5 Gabler called for a distinctly historical (as opposed to confessional or dogmatic) approach to the Bible, largely in reaction to the practice of compiling proof texts in support of Protestant orthodoxy. He proposed a division of labor: “true” biblical theology attends to the particular times and places of the original authors and describes what they thought in their own terms; “pure” biblical theology sifts through these time-bound theologies with a view to ascertaining truth of abiding and universal significance. The systematic theologian then organizes these truths and renders them intelligible for the present context. The essays in this book interrogate, experiment with, and challenge Gabler’s distinction between “true” and “pure” biblical theology by seeking ways to integrate NT theology and systematic theology more closely. That NT scholars are here co-authoring a book with systematic theologians may itself lead us to pose probing questions about Gabler’s “purification” process. Is it helpful to move from “true” NT theology to systematic theology and, if so, how does one do it? Though Gabler himself failed to explain how to “purify” or universalize the contents of the Bible, many contemporary scholars nevertheless celebrate his success in establishing biblical theology as a historical discipline in its own right. The abiding challenge is that of knowing how rightly to move from history to theology, from the descriptive to the normative, from “was” to “ought.” Taken to its extreme, “true” biblical theology becomes a kind of mummification that risks conceptually embalming the body of the text in its own terms, thereby increasing the likelihood of limiting its significance to its original epoch (i.e., historical occasion) only. On the other hand, “pure” biblical theology runs the risk of nullification, that is, of so abstracting from the time-conditioned particulars of the text as to eliminate its concrete substance. “Purification” may thus be seen as a kind of “canonic cleansing,” a violence dogmatic theology wreaks on Scripture. What worries biblical scholars about systematic theology (I won’t say “hate”) is its tendency to ride roughshod over the particularities of biblical texts. “Zeal for your system will consume me,” they lament on the text’s behalf when they feel it has been forced into a confessional Procrustean bed. Put differently: what exegetes hate (there – now I’ve said it!) about systematic theology is not that it is theological but that it is not sufficiently biblical. Being sufficiently biblical means attending both to the particularity and diversity of individual texts. In the words of James Dunn: “The diversity of early Christian theological reflection on Jesus is as much constiSee the translation and commentary by John Sandys-Wunsch and Laurence Eldredge, “J. P. Gabler and the Distinction Between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology: Translation, Commentary, and Discussion of His Originality,” Scottish Journal of Theology 33 (1980): 133–58. 5


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

tutive of NT theology as that which unifies the different documents.”6 For this reason Dunn prefers to speak of NT theologizing, which reminds us that what we see in the occasional writings of the NT is a snapshot of the process of the apostolic engagement with the event of Jesus Christ.

III. A Divided Kingdom? A Brief Literature Review On paper NT theology is a kind of Promised Land, a clearing where the dogmatic lion can lie down with the exegetical lamb. Since Gabler, however, the situation on the academic ground has more often than not resembled a divided rather than a peaceable kingdom, where biblical theologians no longer have even Christian faith in common. If describing what the biblical authors thought about God is the goal of the discipline, then what counts is doing good history, not good faith. Indeed, certain faith assumptions – for example, that the books of the Old and New Testaments comprise a unified canon – are in virtual exile from the secular academy. By way of contrast, the authors of the present volume write after faith’s return from exile, in the hope of a restored and unified theological kingdom. Bob Gundry has stirred the pot by asking evangelicals “To what extent should the theological enterprise be systematic?” and “Ought systematic theology to dominate biblical theology, or vice versa? Or ought they form a partnership of equals, or go their separate ways?” 7 These questions assume that we know what biblical theology and systematic theology are, but their respective natures and methods are themselves subjects of no little controversy. The way forward is not to sling stipulative definitions at one another, but to attend more closely to the conversation: it is precisely by seeing how NT theology and systematic theology not only relate but also differ that we may come better to appreciate their respective contributions. This is not the place for a comprehensive review of the small but significant body of literature examining the relationship of biblical and systematic theology. I shall therefore limit my focus on three pairs of authors associated with three different North American seminaries, and examine how they both distinguish and relate the two disciplines.

6 James D. G. Dunn, New Testament Theology: An Introduction (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009), 8 (italics his). 7 Robert H. Gundry, Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, Especially Its Elites, in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 95

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


Old Princeton We begin with another inaugural lecture, Gerhaardus Vos’s 1894 inaugural address “The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline.”8 Vos defines biblical theology as “the exhibition of the organic process of supernatural revelation in its historical continuity and multiformity.” The Bible “is not a dogmatic handbook but a historical book full of dramatic interest.”9 Both biblical theology and systematic theology attend to divine revelation, but biblical theology “deals with revelation as a divine activity, not as the finished product of that activity.” 10 Redemption is historical because it concerns God’s mighty salvific acts; revelation is historical because it is the interpretation of redemption. Does it follow from the above that NT theology is “closer” to the Bible than systematic theology? Not according to Vos: “There is no difference in that one would be more closely bound to the Scriptures than the other. . . . Nor does the difference lie in this that the one transforms the biblical material, whereas the other would leave it unmodified. Both equally make the truth deposited in the Bible undergo a transformation: but the difference arises from the fact that the principle by which the transformation is effected differs in each case. In Biblical Theology this principle is one of historical, in Systematic Theology it is one of logical construction. Biblical Theology draws a line of development. Systematic Theology draws a circle.”11

NT theology is no more “biblical” than systematic theology for the same reason that a line is no more geometrical than a circle: each is a legitimate way of ordering a succession of points. Indeed, Vos asks us to remember “that on the line of historical progress there is at several points already a beginning of correlation among elements of truth in which the beginning of a systematizing process can be discerned.” 12 Two years after Vos’s inaugural lecture B. B. Warfield published “The Idea of Systematic Theology.” 13 Here, too, the emphasis is on partnership, though Warfield uses a military rather than organic metaphor, comparing exegesis to an army-recruiting officer, biblical theology to regiments and corps (cf. literary corpora), and systematic theology to a unified army. The salient point is that systematic theology does not work with individuals (i.e., proof texts) but with soldiers that have already been incorporated into 8 Gerhaard Vos, “The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Gerhaardus Vos, ed. Richard B. Gaffin (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1980), 3–24. 9 Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948; repr. 1963), 26. 10 Ibid., 13. 11 Ibid., 24–25 (his emphasis). 12 Ibid., 25. 13 B. B. Warfield, “The Idea of Systematic Theology,” Presbyterian and Reformed Review 7 (1896): 243–71.


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

larger units. Put plainly, the systematic theologian works not with raw biblical material but with data that has already been “pre-cooked,” as it were, by the various authors and literary forms of the Bible. To return to the military model: biblical theology takes the exegetical parts and organizes them into mid-sized wholes, and systematic theology then seeks to coordinate these mid-sized wholes into something even larger: “Thus we are enabled to view the future whole not only in its parts, but in the several combinations of the parts. . . . And thus we do not make our theology, according to our own pattern, as a mosaic, out of the fragments of the Biblical teaching; but rather look out from ourselves upon it as a great prospect . . . and strive to attain a point of view from which we can bring the whole landscape into our field of sight.” 14

Westminster Theological Seminary John Murray agrees with Vos that NT theology deals with special revelation with an eye to developmental stages in redemptive history (i.e., ongoing process) while systematic theology deals with the same in its totality (i.e., finished product): “The method of systematic theology is logical, that of biblical theology is historical.” 15 The history of redemption is for Murray a successive unfolding of a single covenant of grace. We cannot understand the concept “covenant,” he thinks, apart from an awareness of the history of God’s gracious historical movements: “Therefore, what is the special interest of biblical theology is never divorced from our thought when we study any part of Scripture and seek to bring its treasures of truth to bear upon the synthesis which systematic theology aims to accomplish.”16 Richard Gaffin agrees with Vos that the unity of Scripture is first and foremost organic, a function of its recounting a unified history of God’s gracious dealings with his people that has Christ as its center. The Bible is a revealed record of the history of redemption. When viewed in redemptive-historical context, the church today is roughly in the same situation as the early church and authors of the NT. Like them, present-day saints stand between the ages, for the eschatological reality of the kingdom of God is both “already” and “not yet.” In light of the organic nature of the history of revelation and redemption, the bold line that distinguishes NT theology and systematic theology “becomes difficult to detect” – so much so that Gaffin wonders whether we should refuse the term “systematic theology”

Ibid., 257. John Murray, “Systematic Theology,” in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 4 (Edinburgh/Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), 9 (originally written as two articles in The Westminster Theological Journal in 1963). 16 Ibid., 20. 14 15

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


altogether, and with it the temptation to abstract or “de-historicize” the biblical text.17 Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Don Carson views biblical theology as the preeminent bridge discipline in theological studies. Compared to the analysis of particular passages (e.g., Rom. 5:12–21) typical of exegesis, biblical theology’s focus on the theology of a whole book or author (e.g., Pauline theology) appears positively synthetic, if not systematic. By contrast, when compared with systematic theology’s tendency to construct syntheses with categories drawn from elsewhere than the biblical text, biblical theology looks modestly analytic inasmuch as its primary charge is inductive description. Carson makes the important point that, even when biblical theology begins to wax synthetic, articulating not merely the theology of a book but of an author or a corpora or a testament, it does so by “resorting primarily to the categories of those texts themselves.”18 It is impossible to do justice to the Bible’s own categories without attending to their historical connections, says Carson, because (1) the subject matter of the Bible is the history of redemption and (2) God spoke “at many times and in many ways” (Heb. 1:1). NT theology is thus committed “to using rigorous and responsible historical methods” in order to do justice to this “axis of redemptive history.” 19 In contrast, systematic theology organizes the theology of the Bible according to an order not given in Scripture itself and, in many cases, its primary categories have been laid down not by Scripture but by ecclesiastical tradition. Further, to the extent that systematic theology desires to speak in terms that are intelligible in and to the contemporary context, it defers to the prevailing cultural rather than canonical categories: no scheme can serve two masters. Carson thinks that systematic theology is necessary – someone has to show how everything fits together harmoniously – but one cannot help but wonder if he also regrets it, as one would a necessary evil. Yes, it is a culminating discipline that aims to bring the word of God to bear on today’s world – but precisely for that reason it also risks being a captivating disci17 Richard B. Gaffin, “Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology,” Westminster Theological Journal 38/3 (1976): 281–99. For more on NT theology and systematic theology at Westminster, see Michael S. Horton, “What God Hath Joined Together: Westminster and the Uneasy Union of Biblical and Systematic Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: Systematic Theology at the Westminster Seminaries, ed. David VanDrunen (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004), 43–71. 18 D. A. Carson, “Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, eds. T. D. Alexander and Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 100. 19 Ibid.


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

pline (i.e., one that takes every biblical thought captive to some contemporary cultural or philosophical scheme). Carson is not against systematic theology tout court, but he blesses it with faint praise only: “What is transparently clear . . . is that its organizing principles do not encourage the exploration of the Bible’s plot-line, except incidentally. The categories of systematic theology are logical and hierarchical, not temporal.” 20 Carson and I teach at the same institution, and agree about many things, though not perhaps about the nature and role of systematic theology. For example, I do not think that systematic theology is necessarily “a little further removed from the biblical text” than biblical theology. 21 It is not easy to say why it is not so removed. However, I shall attempt it, not least because doing so will also allow me to address the Gundry questions mentioned above as well as what we have seen to be the “orthodox” consensus among Evangelicals that systematic theology is more logical than biblical.

IV. From Story to System: Of Thought Worlds and Symbolic Universes There is a broad consensus that biblical theology sets forth the theological content of the Bible on the Bible’s own terms and with the Bible’s own categories. A biblical NT theology will pay special attention to the historical nature of these categories, taking care to situate each book and passage in its proper place in the overall organic development of the history of redemption. In sum: “Biblical theology seeks to understand the Bible in its own terms, in its own chronology, as reflected in its canonical form.” 22 This includes tracing the connections between themes, and understanding the relationships between them. What are “the Bible’s own terms”? James Hamilton, a biblical theologian, views his task as understanding and then communicating to others the thought-world or interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. The ultimate goal is to help contemporary readers read their world from the Bible’s perspective rather than reading the Bible from the world’s. 23 To do 20 Ibid., 102. See also Carson, “Unity and Diversity in the NT: The Possibility of Systematic Theology,” in Scripture and Truth, eds. D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 65–95. 21 Ibid., 103. 22 James M. Hamilton, Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 45. 23 James M. Hamilton, Jr., What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014) 23. Note that this reverses what Hans Frei has termed the “great reversal” in biblical hermeneutics that took place at the end of the 18th century, about the time of Gabler’s inaugural lecture: interpretation had

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


this, we have to (1) know the story the authors take for granted and (2) become familiar with the symbols that figure prominently in that story and (3) understand the connections between the symbols and events that comprise the story’s beginning, middle, and end. In sum: “To do biblical theology is to think about the whole story of the Bible.” 24 Of special interest is Hamilton’s appeal to the Bible’s “symbolic universe.” Biblical theology is a matter of setting forth the Bible’s theology on its own terms and with its own categories, and Hamilton views these terms and categories as largely symbolic: “To refer to the Bible’s symbolic universe is to refer to the set of images, patterns, types, symbols, and signifiers that furnish the minds of the biblical authors.” 25 Symbols loom large in biblical theology because the prophets and apostles “used the paradigm of Israel’s past to predict Israel’s future.”26 For example, the death of Jesus is a new “exodus” and his disciples are “exiles” (1 Pet. 1:1) being built into a new “temple” (1 Pet. 2:4–5) as they wend their way to the new “Promised Land” (1 Pet. 2:11–13). We can only understand the thought world of the biblical authors if we understand their symbolic universe: what the symbols stand for and what story they tell. To understand the symbolic universe of the Bible is to grasp what Karl Barth called “the strange new world within the Bible.” 27 The network of diverse images, metaphors, and symbols gives coherence to the biblical story. For example, it is now widely acknowledged that the Genesis narrative depicts the world as a cosmic temple with human beings as God’s authorized images. The temple motif – the place where God’s glory is present – continues to hold the story of Israel together and to link it to Jesus Christ, who assumes to his own person and work everything the temple was and did. Moreover, the church – the new people of God that make up the body of Christ – is depicted as a living temple (1 Cor. 3:16), though the church too turns out to be a symbolic anticipation of the end of the story, when the whole of the New Jerusalem takes on the proportions of a cosmic temple, filled with God’s glory (Rev. 21:22). Biblical theology is typological for it presupposes the consistency of God’s actions in history and looks forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Indeed, typology is closely linked to God’s covenant faithfulbecome “a matter of fitting the biblical story into another world with another story rather than incorporating that world into the biblical story” (The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1975], 130). 24 Ibid., 12. 25 Ibid., 64. 26 Ibid., 38 (his emphasis). 27 Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Words of Man (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1978), 28–50.


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

ness, and to the principle “how much more” (Rom. 11:24; Heb. 9:14). For example, Moses led Israel out of slavery from Egypt but Jesus leads his people out of their slavery to sin (Rom. 6:20). To set forth the Bible’s theology in the Bible’s own terms is thus to let its leading symbols, images, and types shape our understanding of God, redemptive-history, and ourselves: “The symbols summarize and interpret the story.” 28 How might systematic theology approach the strange symbolic thought world of the Bible? The theologian’s quest for coherence stems from her belief that the Bible is the only-wise God’s word: “systematic theology represents the attempt to trace the divine ratio subsisting within the Bible.”29 As we have seen, some (they’re usually exegetes or biblical theologians) claim that systematic theology changes the rich wine of redemptivehistory and typology into the water of timeless truths and philosophical concepts. It is tempting to distinguish systematic theology and NT theology in terms of the contrast between two kinds of patterns, each of which tries to account for the Bible’s unity: logical vs. typological. There are, however, other ways to describe the work of the systematic theologian. In the first place, what drives the search for systematic unity is the impulse towards not abstraction but understanding, and understanding is about the right relationship between parts and wholes. Logical coherence is only one way in which to grasp part-whole relatedness. One need not abstract truths from history but rather weave the temporal “into a web of mutually implicating relations.”30 In this respect, it is noteworthy that both James Hamilton, representing biblical theology, and David Kelsey, representing systematic theology, emphasize the centrality of discovering patterns between the different parts of Scripture. 31 Kelsey’s focus is on the way contemporary theologians “construe” the authority of Scripture: “when a theologian appeals to scripture to help authorize a theological proposal, he appeals, Hamilton, What is Biblical Theology?, 90. A. N. Williams, The Architecture of Theology: Structure, System, & Ratio (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 18. Williams notes that the logical principle of non contradiction was not set over against the biblical witness but as its interpretive servant, on the grounds that God is the source of unified truth (p. 27). Cf. Sarah Coakley: “ it is an integrated presentation of Christian truth, however perceived, that ‘system’ connotes here: wherever one chooses to start has implications for the whole, and the parts must fit together (God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’ [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013], 41 (her emphasis). 30 Williams, The Architecture of Theology, 217. See also Gale Heide, System and Story: Narrative Critique and Construction in Theology (Princeton Theological Monograph Series 87; Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2009), which contends that stories have their own kind of coherence. 31 There is also a significant difference: Hamilton believes the patterns are part of the determinate meaning of the text, whereas Kelsey believes they are the product of the theologian’s imaginative construal. 28 29

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


not just to some aspect of scripture, but to a pattern characteristically exhibited by that aspect of scripture, and in virtue of that pattern, he construes the scripture to which he appeals as some kind of whole.”32 Kelsey’s book is a sustained argument against the common picture of systematic theology as a “translation” of the Bible’s content into contemporary terms and categories. And this is precisely what worries biblical theologians about systematic theology: that in seeking to translate the Bible’s content it employs conceptual schemes (e.g., existentialism, process philosophy) that distort what the biblical authors are saying. Indeed, Kelsey thinks the translation model is misguided because systematic theology fails to preserve the same concepts that the biblical authors use. 33 On Kelsey’s view, systematic theology cannot help but introduce a kind of otherness (heterodoxy?) into its doctrinal formulations to the extent that it introduces different concepts. And this brings me to the second point I want to make about systematic theology, contra Kelsey: at its best, it preserves the same “thought world” of the biblical authors, and understands their symbolic universe, in new interpretive categories and with different conceptual terms. Everything depends, however, on the distinction between language and concepts on the one hand and judgments – the ability to identify things (e.g., this is an x; this is not an x), draw proper distinctions (e.g., true/false; right/wrong), and make fundamental connections (e.g., part/whole; cause/effect) – on the other. The concept/judgment distinction casts new light not only on the relationship of biblical and systematic theology but also on the problem of the unity and diversity in NT theology. I owe the concept/judgment distinction to David Yeago, who in a seminal article argued that Paul’s language in Phil. 2:6, about the Son’s isos theos (“equality with God”), is saying the same thing as Athanasius’s very different concept homoousios (“of the same substance”). If Yeago is right to “distinguish between judgments and the conceptual terms in which those judgments are rendered,” we are then able to see how “the same judgment can be rendered in a variety of conceptual terms.” 34 Doctrine is faithful to biblical discourse not when it simply repeats the same terms in different contexts but when it renders the same judgments by using different terms. For example, the new technical concept homoousios deployed by Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea expresses a non-identical equivalence to David Kelsey, Proving Doctrine: The Uses of Scripture in Modern Theology (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999), 102 (his emphasis). 33 Ibid., 188. 34 David S. Yeago, “The New Testament and the Nicene Dogma: A Contribution to the Recovery of Theological Exegesis,” in The Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Classic and Contemporary Readings, ed. Stephen Fowl (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 93. 32


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Paul’s concept “equality with God.” If Nicaea says the same thing – if, like the apostle Paul, it judges Jesus Christ to be the unique Son of God – in different terms, then we may say that its dogmatic judgment is every bit as biblical as the attempt to set forth Paul’s theology in its own terms. Indeed, this is precisely what makes systematic theology biblical: that it renders the same underlying apostolic judgments in different conceptual terms.35

V. Towards a Systematic Biblical Theology of the NT: Five Case Studies There are encouraging signs that the two disciplines, after generations of wandering in the wilderness in isolation from one another, are each approaching the Promised Land of interdisciplinary partnership in the gospel. Systematic theologians are recovering the importance of rooting doctrine in Scripture,36 and NT theologians are rediscovering the importance of attending to the wholeness and unity of the of Bible’s theology. However, biblical scholars are still leery of the term “systematic,” preferring alternative locutions like “symbolic universe,” even though, ironically enough, the latter phrase comes not from biblical studies but from the sociology of knowledge.37 We are witnessing a renaissance of sorts as concerns biblical theology, not only of the NT but also of the whole Bible. What follows is a representative sampling of twenty-first century NT theology. Of particular interest for present purposes – namely, fostering dialogue with systematic theologians like me – is the so-called biblical theology of the NT. My immediate aim is to see whether the common interest in discerning largescale biblical patterns, together with the concept/judgment distinction, has the potential both to reconcile estranged disciplinary parties and to refigure the tension between the theological unity and diversity of the NT.

35 I am assuming that the theologian knows/worships the same God as the biblical authors. For more on criteria for sameness, see my essays “From Canon to Concept: ‘Same’ and ‘Other’ in the Relation between Biblical and Systematic Theology,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 12 (1994): 96–124 and “Love’s Wisdom: The Authority of Scripture’s Form and Content for Faith’s Understanding and Theological J udgment,” Journal of Reformed Theology 5 (2011): 247–75. 36 As evidenced, for example, by the rise of interest in Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and in the remarkable, and perhaps not entirely welcome, phenomenon of systematic theologians writing biblical commentaries. 37 See Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York: Anchor Books, 1967), 97–105.

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


Thomas Schreiner At its most fundamental level, “the subject matter of biblical theology is the Bible’s understanding of God’s character and purposes.” 38 While no single book of the NT offers a complete treatment of this subject matter (each gives an only partial witness), Thomas Schreiner believes that, the attempt to articulate certain recurring themes “is a risk worth taking,” and does so in his New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ.39 He reads the NT theocentricly: “God’s purpose in all that he does is to bring honor to himself and to Jesus Christ.”40 However, Schreiner is careful to attend to the particular biblical terms in which God does this, namely, by making good on his word by fulfilling promises made in the OT. What holds the four parts of Schreiner’s book together is the way in which God’s promises are fulfilled, but not yet consummated, in Christ. This is the redemptive-historical framework in which he discusses the saving work of Father, Son, and Spirit, as well as various doctrinal loci (e.g., eschatology, sin, Christology). Schreiner treats the relationship between biblical and systematic theology in an appendix, in which we see a lingering concern about the latter’s “atemporal focus” and tendency to move beyond the biblical text in an attempt to apply it to the present.41 What finally separates biblical from systematic theology is the former’s focus “on the explicit concern of the biblical text.”42 Sadly, there is no discussion of whether “the explicit concern” he has in mind pertains to the concepts or the judgments of Scripture. However, he does say that “in doing biblical theology we do not explicitly consider the doctrinal formulations of church history,” 43 and this despite the organization of his Part Two in implicitly Trinitarian terms, namely, the saving work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Ben Witherington Though he does not mention Gabler, there is a sense in which Ben Witherington’s two volume work The Indelible Image: Theological and Ethical

38 Scott J. Hafemann, “The Covenant Relationship,” in Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity, eds. Scott J. Hafemann and Paul House (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 20. 39 Thomas Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008),11. 40 Ibid., 13. 41 Ibid., 882–83. 42 Ibid., 883. 43 Ibid., 884.


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Thought World of the New Testament 44 effects the transition from “true” to “pure” biblical theology. The goal of the first volume (“The Individual Witnesses”) is to hear the individual witnesses on their own terms and in their life settings – to describe the apostles’ theologizing in light of their specific historical occasions. Witherington strains to hear each individual voice in the “smallish choir” (i.e., diversity), and then, in the second volume (“The Collective Witness”), attends to the cantata they are all singing (i.e., unity). 45 NT theology thus proves to be a harmony not only of the Gospels but the epistles too. Witherington in his second volume devotes separate chapters to the NT’s symbolic universe and narrative thought world respectively. In doing so, he believes he is tapping into the implicit consensus that lies behind the diverse historical occasions. Though the authors theologize into particular contexts, they do so out of a shared symbolic universe (cf. Hamilton above) and narrative thought world. 46 By symbolic universe Witherington means “the fixed furniture” that features in the authors’ narrative thought world – concepts such as God, sin, salvation, etc. The NT authors “shared the same basic early Christian symbolic universe” and the same story of the God of Israel revealing his righteousness in Jesus Christ. 47 They differed from other Jews of their time because the coming of Christ worked a paradigm revolution on the symbolic universe they had inherited from Judaism. The apostles’ symbolic universe “has a christologically reformed shape, affecting everything – their view of God, people, world, and eschatological matters.”48 Witherington views NT theology as the historical and descriptive project of describing the theological and ethical thought world of the NT. What connects theology and ethics is the notion of the imago Dei, its renewal in Christ, and its restoration in believers: “God wants his moral and spiritual character (and behavior) replicated in his people.” 49 In particular, the people of God are to replicate the image of God’s Son in their own lives: “Theology and ethics then in and of the NT is Christocentric, Christotelic, Christomorphic.” 50 In sum: NT theology examines how a particular biblical author’s understanding of what God is doing in Christ is made concrete in a particular situation, and in doing so gestures beneath the tip of the occasional iceberg to the symbolic universe submerged below. Ben Witherington, III, The Indelible Image: Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament, 2 vols. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009–10). 45 Ibid., 1.17. 46 Ibid., 2.38. 47 Ibid., 2.59. 48 Ibid., 2.62. 49 Ibid., 1.19. 50 Ibid., 1.818. 44

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


Witherington furthermore wants the “categories” of the NT to take pride of place in evaluating all subsequent theologizing. This is helpful to a point, though he leaves unclear the meaning of “categories,” as well as the relationship between symbols, stories, concepts, and judgments. G. K. Beale G. K. Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New 51 is a spirited update of Vos’s approach to the organic development of redemptive-history. It is a biblical theology of the New Testament because it understands the NT as a creative development of the storyline begun in the OT. The OT “influences each of the major theological concepts of the NT,” even though it is equally the case that the NT transfigures the storyline of the OT in light of ongoing redemptive developments (see below on Christ). 52 Instead of explicating the theology of each NT book in its own terms, then, Beale concentrates on those parts “that most develop the storyline.” 53 As to the specific content of the storyline at the heart of Beale’s project, it is all about “movement toward an eschatological goal,” 54 a movement that begins with creation itself, radically restarts with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and ends with end-time consummation. It is this overarching storyline that unifies the diverse secondary themes. Each theme – creation, kingdom, people of God, etc. – has its roots in the OT and receives an “already/not-yet” fulfillment in the NT: “The OT is the story of God, who progressively reestablishes his new-creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, covenant, and redemption.” 55 The apostle Paul, for example, theologizes in Isaiah’s terms, and the centrality of the idea that Jesus’ resurrection and sending of the Spirit have inaugurated an end-time new-creation leads I. Howard Marshall to comment that Beale has written “an Isaianic theology of the NT.”56 Others wonder whether Beale hasn’t written a systematic theology in spite of himself. This is because (a) he does not assess all of the NT books 51 G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011). 52 Ibid., 12. 53 Ibid., 14. 54 Ibid., 15. 55 Ibid., 16. 56 I. Howard Marshall, review of G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. Themelios 37.2 (July 2012): 307–10. Beale points out that it was Vos who first suggested that Christ’s resurrection as the beginning of new creation is the central focus of the NT (Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 20).


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

on their own terms and (b) he employs the doctrine of eschatology not merely as one among many doctrines that need to be addressed but rather as “the lens through which all the doctrines are best understood.” 57 William Klein, for example, asks if Beale’s focus on the eschatological storyline has not become “the systematizing thread” in his account. 58 And, after noting that Beale has a field day with terms like “semieschatological” and “prototypical eschatology,” Marshall archly observes that “eschatological” is not itself a biblical term. 59 Michael Bird Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction60 also deserves mention here, even if it markets itself as a systematic theological textbook. First, Bird is a NT (primarily Pauline) scholar who has crossed the disciplinary divide to produce a systematic theology. Second, he goes to great lengths to write a systematic theology whose structure and substance is generated and governed by a NT term (viz., the gospel), thus leading one to wonder how it differs from a more traditional NT theology. Third (and perhaps his response to the previous point), instead of looking at NT authors theologizing, Bird prefers to see theology as “the art of gospelizing”61 – that is, deploying the gospel to shape Christian thinking, preaching, and living today. The goal is not simply to describe the thought world of the NT as much as it is to inhabit it – or to let it inhabit us to the point of conforming us to the gospel reality the NT announces, exhibits, and explores, to wit, that God’s kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is expanding as people receive the Holy Spirit and come to faith. In short, Bird approaches the task of doing theology with a biblical term, the gospel, as his systematizing principle. 62 He claims to have written not a biblical theology of the NT but a truly biblical (i.e., “evangelical” or gospel-centered) systematic theology. The gospel is not only the startingBeale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 18. William Klein, review at (accessed Feb. 10, 2014). 59 Marshall’s objection may also show that he has not grasped the significance of the concept/judgment distinction or that he has forgotten the “word-concept fallacy” (i.e., the mistaken notion that a particular concept may not be present unless the same word is used). 60 Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013). 61 Ibid., 21. 62 In his own words: “the contours of the NT point to the gospel as the integrative core to Christian belief” (43–44). 57 58

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


point but also the integrating point and constant touchstone for systematic theology. If Bird had taken Gundry’s senior seminar, he would surely have chosen not “covenant” but “gospel” as the unifying organic principle of the NT. If theology is “according to the Scriptures,” then it is equally true that we must read the Scriptures “according to the gospel.” 63 Indeed, doctrine “is that which springs from the word of the gospel.”64 In general, Bird prefers to stay as close to the Bible’s own terms as possible, though it is debatable whether a gospelizing approach to theology requires this, especially if one is cognizant of the concept/judgment distinction (see above and below). Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum Our last case study, co-authored by a biblical and a systematic theologian, returns us to my college senior suggestion that what unifies the NT is the notion of covenant. Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants 65 offers an impressive account of the Bible’s theological unity-in-diversity by suggesting that the best way to understand the thought-world of the NT, the new-creational kingdom inaugurated in Christ’s death and resurrection, and the gospel itself is in terms of the six successive covenants that “provide the entire substructure to the plot line of Scripture.” 66 They criticize Beale’s creation-judgment-new creation storyline precisely for its neglect of the covenantal structuring of these themes and how they reach their climax in Christ and the new covenant. Covenant – an elected (i.e., non-natural) oath-bound relationship – is central because (1) theology is about the God-man relationship and (2) this relationship has a history. Biblical theology is the attempt to follow this history intertextually, letting the Bible display the unity of God’s plan of salvation (i.e., the way in which God chooses to conquer sin and establish his reign) in its own (covenantal) terms. Accordingly, biblical theology treats the way in which God becomes king through – in both an instrumental and a diachronic sense – a progression of covenants. 67 Gentry and Wellum write their book out of the conviction “that biblical Ibid., 45. Ibid. 65 Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A BiblicalTheological Understanding of the Covenants (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012). 66 Ibid., 12. Elsewhere they say that the covenants “are the backbone of the biblical narrative” (138). 67 Ibid., 602. Several reviewers have pointed to a glaring omission, name ly, the lack of sustained engagement with key NT texts on the topic of the new covenant. The authors respond that the OT itself anticipates the new covenant. While this may be true, it would not have hurt their case to co-opt a NT theologian to write a few more chapters. 63 64


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

theology and systematic theology go hand in hand.” 68 On closer inspection, however, the relationship seems more like “from hand to hand” (as in passing the baton) than “hand in hand.” That is because they conceive of systematic theology, following John Frame, as “the application of God’s Word by persons to all areas of life.” 69 Biblical theology turns out to be the hermeneutics systematic theology must employ to read and apply the Bible rightly: “Dogmatics is the discipline of saying what the total redemptive and revealing activity of God means for us now.” 70 In applying Scripture, systematic theology “must stay true to the Bible’s own framework, structure, and categories.”71 It is not entirely clear what “staying true” means – for example, can systematic theology introduce other concepts or categories and still “stay true”? – though, interestingly enough, when they apply their findings to theology proper the authors suggest that God’s very existence is covenantal. 72 They also state their discomfort with the assumption in Schreiner and others that systematic theology moves the discussion into abstract and atemporal categories. 73

VI. Conclusion: Inching Towards the New Jerusalem Is the theology of the NT one or many? What are the prospects for the relationship between NT theology and systematic theology? Does anyone else hear wedding bells? Perhaps I may be forgiven if, being a systematic theologian, I offer a synthetic conclusion by way of three theses on the way forward. To anticipate: there is a way of doing systematic theology that is both context-sensitive – alert to particular occasions, past and present – and ontologically-attuned to the reality that is in Christ, a reality that ought to be expressed, in some conceptuality, by everyone, everywhere, and at all times. This is the way of theology as wisdom, a sapiential theologizing that requires one to be rooted simultaneously in the one true biblical story (sameness) and in one’s contemporary situation (difference). 74 Ibid.,11. Ibid., 35. 70 Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, cited on p. 36 n. 35. 71 Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant, 36 n. 34. 72 Ibid., 655. 73 See also Michael Williams, “Systematic Theology as a Biblical Discip line,” in All for Jesus: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Covenant Theological Seminary, eds. Robert A. Peterson and Sean Michael Lucas (Fearn, Tain, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2006), 197–233. 74 This is formally similar to what J. Christiaan Beker says about the character of Paul’s thought: Paul theologizes by bringing the material coherence and universal truth of the gospel – a judgment about the triumph of God in Christ – to bear on particular sit68 69

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


1. Descriptions of redemptive-history, while necessary, are theologically incomplete until one spells out their ontological implications (i.e., their presuppositions about what is real), not least because history itself is a staging area for divine speech and action. One cannot begin to understand the person and work of Jesus Christ, for example, until we are able to see who he is (and what kind of who: human? divine? a God-man?). Everything in NT theology and systematic theology alike depends on what one thinks about, and one personally responds to, the identity and nature of Jesus Christ. C. F. D. Moule is right to suggest that the relationship between biblical and systematic theology straddles the “borderlands” of ontology: “However sparingly the New Testament borrows the [ontological] language of that country beyond the frontier, students of the New Testament discover themselves to be in some sense its citizens.”75 Carl Trueman, motivated by a concern that biblical theology not mutate into a biblicism that neglects creeds and confessions, says something similar from his vantage point in historical theology: “The economics of the history of salvation, on which the biblical theology movement is so good, were always carefully balanced by judicious reflection upon the ontological aspects of God which undergirded the whole of the church’s life and history.” 76 An exaggerated emphasis on redemptive-history – on the economic rather than ontological Trinity, for example – runs the risk of falling into modalism. My own view is that there is no necessary conflict between the economy (the historia salutis) and ontology (the ordo salutis), and that remembering this would be salutary for the relationship of NT theology and systematic theology. 77 And this brings me to my second thesis. 2. The “line” of redemptive-historical development that biblical theology traces is actually the “plot-line” of a unified drama of redemption; sysuations in their contingent concreteness (Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984], esp. 11–19). 75 C. F. D. Moule, “The Borderlands of Ontology in the New Testament,” in The Philosophical Frontiers of Christian Theology: Essays presented to D. M. MacKinnon, eds. Brian Hebblethwaite and Stewart Sutherland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 10. Moule notes that on occasion the NT authors employ explicitly ontological language (e.g., Col. 1; Heb. 1:3) and that Jesus himself makes an ontological claim (John 8:58), but for the most part the ontology is implicit. It is important to note that ontology is an account of what is real and how things differ in their reality one from another. One can do ontology without falling into metaphysics, by which I mean schemes that begin with general concepts and philosophical -isms rather than concrete particulars and special revelation. 76 Carl Trueman, “A Revolutionary Balancing Act” (Themelios 27:3 [Spring 2002]). 77 This is also Graeme Goldsworthy’s response to Trueman. See his “The TruemanGoldsworthy Debate: Ontology and Biblical Theology,” at doctrine/trueman-goldsworthy_goldsworthy.html.


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

tematic theology ministers understanding by saying what the whole drama means and by setting forth, and exploring, its ontological presuppositions. Vos was right: the Bible is “a historical book full of dramatic interest.” But we can go further: “The Bible conceives life as a drama in which human and divine actions create the dramatic whole. There are ontological presuppositions for this drama, but they are not spelled out.” 78 Even to identify the protagonist – to say who Christ is – is to begin this ontological spelling out. The most important presupposition is that the historical drama of redemption is unified because it is all part of the triune economy of redemption – the progressive working out of God’s plan of salvation in history through the missions of Son and Spirit. Further, both the drama and the ontology are covenantal, underwritten by the faithfulness of God to his own word: “The covenant is not just a concept, it is a praxis.” 79 The drama of redemption is shorthand for the history of God’s covenantal relationship with his people, a relationship embodied and enacted in communicative action through both words and deeds. A biblical theology of the NT is attentive to dialogical unity-indiversity: there is one plan/plot of salvation, but several “acts” (i.e., covenants), and many characters/authors/embodied voices. The distinctive contribution of biblical theology is its focus on understanding each biblical (authorial) voice on its own terms and in the context of its particular place in the drama of redemption. The distinctive contribution of systematic theology is its focus on understanding the nature of the protagonists, the significance of the events in light of the dramatic whole, and the divine (Authorial) voice that makes of the many events one drama. Stated differently: biblical theology attends to the contribution of particular actors to the flow of the play; systematic theology focuses on what God is saying/doing in the whole play, what it means for actor-disciples today, and what kind of theodramatic judgments (about how rightly to enact our understanding) are required of disciples today. 80 Reinhold Niebuhr, “Biblical Thought and Ontological Speculation in Tillich’s Theology,” in The Theology of Paul Tillich, eds. Charles Kegley and Robert W. Bretall, vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 216. 79 Horton, “What God Hath Joined: Biblical and Systematic Theology,” p. 67. For covenantal ontology, see Michael S. Horton, Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox), 182–205. 80 Interestingly, Gaffin has recently come to a similar conclusion. Instead of abandoning the notion of systematic theology altogether, as he had earlier proposed, he now finds the dramatic analogy helpful in keeping systematic theology’s eye on the same redemptive-historical ball as biblical theology: “Systematic theology . . . discusses the actors and their interactions that constitute the ‘plot.’ In this way the topical concern of systematic theology with what the Bible in its unity and as a whole teaches is maintained but in a way that keeps it focused on the unfolding of covenant history to its consummation in 78

Is the Theology of the New Testament One or Many?


3. Biblical theology describes what the biblical authors are saying/doing in their particular contextual scenes, to their particular audiences, in their own particular terms and concepts; systematic theology searches out the underlying patterns of biblical-canonical judgments, and suggests ways of embodying these same theodramatic judgments for our own particular cultural contexts, in our own particular terms and concepts. Gundry is right: the biblical texts are not “tailored for the sake of suprahistorical comprehensiveness (producing a unifiedly systematic theology) but for the sake of intrahistorical pertinence.” 81 Most, if not all, the theology in the New Testament was prompted by various historical occasions. Yet, taken together, what was said and done in these diverse historical occasions display what we might call the mind of Christ, the wisdom of God that informs and calls for one kind of response in one type of situation and a quite different response in another. In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, Jesus stresses the importance of perseverance to the end, whereas Jesus in John stresses the comfort of eternal security. 82 This is not a contradiction but, on the contrary, the way wisdom works, namely, by asking how truth applies in this particular situation. NT theology is truly biblical when it preserves, not particular terms and concepts, but rather the apostolic judgments that come to concrete expression in those terms and concepts. It is these judgments, not the particular conceptual-cultural servant forms themselves, authoritative though they be, that theologians must ultimately preserve in order to be biblical. Udo Schnelle is right to view the task of NT theology in terms of “meaningformation,” explaining the thought-world of the biblical authors, particularly how they made sense of their experience of Jesus Christ.83 Discerning patterns of judgments (especially typological patterns) is itself one way to grasp the meaning of events, and NT theology gathers the various textual bits and pieces into a meaningful whole: a unified theodrama, the divinely embodied and enacted story of what the triune God is saying and doing in

Christ (the concern of biblical theology)” (from an e-mail dated Feb. 1, 2000 as cited here at 81 Robert H. Gundry, “Hermeneutical Liberty, Theological Diversity, and Historical Occasionalism,” in The Old is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretaiton (WUNT 178; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005; repr. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2010), 17. 82 See Robert H. Gundry, “Matthew,” in Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-By-Book Survey, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 34–35. 83 Udo Schnelle, Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 25–27.


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

the histories of Israel, Jesus Christ, and the world. 84 The task of NT theology is “to envision the past in view of the present, to explicate it in such a way that its future relevance can be seen.”85 NT theology thus tells the true story of world history from the perspective of the theodrama’s first century Palestinian climax. Systematic theology is not simply a second step that follows biblical theology; rather, it is a partner in the exegetical process itself, explicating the text’s meaning by penetrating to the level of judgments: moral, ontological, and theodramatic. By studying the various ways in which Jesus’ disciples embodied the mind of Christ in their own contexts (i.e., the diverse historical occasions that prompted the apostles to write), disciples today come to learn how they can express the same theodramatic judgments – the same judgments about what is fit for followers of Jesus to say and do – via different language and concepts, in situations far removed from the original context. Making “theodramatic” judgments – about the identity of the divine agents in the drama of redemption, about the coming of the new creational kingdom, about what we should do fittingly to participate – is perhaps the quintessential theological skill. In the final analysis, both NT theology and systematic theology contribute to the formation of disciples who exercise good theodramatic judgment in diverse particular situations – disciples who theologize in different contexts, with many concepts, yet in ways that preserve and continue the same biblical theodrama of the one Jesus Christ.86

84 For more on theodrama, see my The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005) and Remythologizing Theology: Divine Action, Passion, and Authorship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 85 Schnelle, Theology of the New Testament, 25. 86 I am grateful to Dan Cole, Jon Hoglund, Dan Treier, Robert Yarbrough, and my co editors for their helpful comments on an earlier draft.

Part Two: Essays from the Perspective of Biblical Theology

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels: A Study of Unity in Diversity MARK L. STRAUSS In the conclusion to his engaging manifesto, Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian, Robert Gundry raises a number of important questions concerning the relationship of biblical and systematic theology: “Ought systematic theology to dominate biblical theology, or vice versa? . . . What weight should be assigned to theological common ground in the Bible? What weight to theological peculiarities?”1 This challenge of unity and diversity is particularly acute with reference to the various Christologies of the NT. Do the Christological perspectives of NT authors contradict and compete with one another? Or are they complementary and synthesizable, providing a fuller and richer understanding of Jesus’ identity and significance? In this essay we engage this question with reference to the Synoptic Gospels. As a Westmont graduate, it is a privilege to offer this small contribution in honor of Professor Gundry.

The Diversity of Synoptic Christologies In the present theological climate we hardly need to defend the reality of the diversity of New Testament witnesses to Christ, and more specifically, of the unique portraits of Jesus in the Gospels. It is true that Rudolf Bultmann in his Theology of the New Testament considered the message of Jesus to be a presupposition to New Testament theology,2 rather than a part of it, and focused largely on Paul and John, with little emphasis on the Synoptics. Ηis student H. Conzelmann continued this paucity in An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament, with only a few pages devoted to the unique contributions of the individual Synoptics, although he did 1 Robert H. Gundry, Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, Especially Its Elites, in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 95. 2 R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, trans. K. Grobel (New York: Scribners; vol. 1, 1951, vol. 2, 1955), 1:3.


Mark L. Strauss

launch the redactional study of Luke-Acts with his groundbreaking Die Mitte der Zeit (1954).3 A failure to adequately account for the unique Synoptic contributions continued in W. G. Kümmel’s, The Theology of the New Testament, whose subtitle reads, according to its major witnesses, Jesus-Paul-John.4 How could Matthew, Mark, and (especially) Luke, not be “major witnesses” for NT theology? 5 Conservatives have also been guilty of giving inadequate attention to the unique theological contribution of each Gospel, but for a different reason. Evangelical and fundamentalist interest in the historicity of Gospel events has sometimes resulted in a harmonistic approach, where the theology of the Evangelists is ignored and the Gospels are gleaned solely for data about the historical Jesus. Undergraduate courses in Bible colleges are often entitled “Life of Christ” and the four Gospels are cut-and-pasted into a Diatessaron-like account of “what actually happened.” It is somewhat ironic that those who claim the highest view of the authority, unity and theological integrity of Scripture are inclined to break up four Spiritinspired masterpieces to produce a single (uninspired) “life of Christ.” Despite these aberrations, the rise of redaction criticism in the 1960s, 70s and 80s saw a flood of literature celebrating the unique theological contributions of each of the four Evangelists. 6 This explosion continued in the 1990s and into the present millennium with the introduction of new methodologies, such as narrative, rhetorical, sociological, reader-response, liberationist, feminist, and other approaches. The question is no longer whether Matthew, Mark and Luke make unique theological contributions, but whether their Christologies are compatible with one another. In a recent handbook on Jesus and the Gospels, general editor Delbert Burkett, introduces the volume by emphasizing the diversity of the four Gospels:

3 H. Conzelmann, The Theology of St Luke, trans. G. Buswell (New York: Harper & Row, 1960). 4 W. G. Kümmel, The Theology of the New Testament: According to its Major Witnesses, Jesus-Paul-John, trans. J. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon, 1973). 5 While acknowledging that other NT writings are not unimportant, Kümme l says the theologies of Jesus, Paul, and John “stand out from the rest of the New Testament not only in scope but also in significance” (Theology, 18). 6 Growing recognition of the unique Synoptic theologies is evident in recent NT theologies, like those of I. H. Marshall (2004) and Frank Thielmann (2005), which include distinct chapters for each Synoptic. Similarly, the posthumous revision of G. E. Ladd’s classic, A Theology of the New Testament, ed. D. A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) includes new essays on the “Unity and Diversity of the New Testament” (by David Wenham, 684–719) and the unique theological contributions of each of the Synoptics (by R. T. France, 212–45).

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


Diverse conceptions of Jesus appear already in the earliest accounts of his life that have been preserved: the four gospels of the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark . . . never suggests that Jesus is anything more than human. Though he is adopted as God’s “son” and appointed as the “Christ,” his special character comes not from his genes, but from the Spirit that God has given him, thus enabling him to perform miraculous d eeds. In contrast, the Gospel of Matthew . . . elevates Jesus to the rank of a demigod, the literal offspring of a divine father and a human mother. . . . For Luke Jesus is primarily a friend of the poor and the oppressed, the outcast and the sinner, women and non-Jews. Only in the Gospel of John . . . does Jesus exist in some form prior to his birth on earth, and only this gospel calls him “God.” For John, Jesus is a pre-existent divine being who comes from heaven to become incarnate as a human being, to accomplish God’s will, and to ascend back to the heavenly realm. 7

Does this statement – the status quo in some circles – accurately reflect the Christology of the Gospels? Is divine sonship in Mark purely adoptionistic? Is Matthew’s Jesus a demigod, the “literal offspring” of human and divine parents? Was John the first Evangelist to assert Christ’s preexistence? The roots of this perspective may be found in the history-ofreligions approach of W. Bousset, F. Hahn, R. H. Fuller, and others, where an evolutionary trajectory was sought from the “merely human” Jesus of primitive Aramaic-Jewish Christianity to the exalted divine Christology of the later Hellenistic churches. 8 The diverse Christologies of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John (and the sources behind them) provide core samples from various evolutionary strata.9 In a classic little volume on the origin of Christology, C. F. D. Moule challenged this history-of-religions approach. In place of an evolutionary model, Moule suggested a “developmental” one, whereby the various estimates of Jesus reflected in the NT are, in essence, only attempts to describe what was already there from the beginning: They represent various stages in the development of perception, but they do not represent the accretion of any alien factors that were not inherent from the beginning: they are analogous not so much to the emergence of a new species, as to the unfolding (if you like) of flower from bud and the growth of fruit from flower. 10

D. Burkett, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Jesus (West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 1–2. 8 W. Bousset, Kyrios Christos, trans. John E. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon, 1913); F. Hahn, The Titles of Jesus in Christology: Their history in early Christianity, trans. H. Knight and G. Ogg (New York: World, 1969); R. H. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology (New York: Scribner, 1965). 9 For an important critique of this trajectory see M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism: Studies in their Encounter in Palestine During the Early Hellenistic Period (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974). 10 C. F. D. Moule, The Origin of Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 2–3. 7


Mark L. Strauss

Moule sought to show through a study of Christological titles – Son of Man, Son of God, Christ, and Lord – that the seeds of a very high Christology were present in the earliest church and even in the ministry of the historical Jesus.11 A similar approach can be found in I. H. Marshall’s The Origin of New Testament Christology, which seeks to show that the main Christological titles (1) find their background primarily in Jewish rather than in pagan roots, (2) can be traced back to Jesus himself, (3) and lead naturally to a very high Christology, where Jesus speaks and acts with the very authority of God.12 This article is a modest attempt to address the diversity of the Synoptic Christologies in a different direction. Our contention is that the reason for this diversity should be sought not in a trajectory of evolutionary development, but in the distinct theological purposes of the Evangelists. Too often the absence of a particular theme or motif is viewed as evidence that the Evangelist was unaware or even rejected this theme. Yet such an absence may be due to the author’s limited goals. Consider, for example, the epistolary literature of the NT, where such diversity is commonplace. Paul says little or nothing about justification by faith in most of his letters – a point stressed by advocates of the New Perspective on Paul. Whether or not one agrees with the claims of the New Perspective, all must agree that this lacuna is due to Paul’s unique epistolary purposes, rather than his ignorance or rejection of this doctrine. Even in Romans, often viewed as Paul’s theological magnum opus, there is little or nothing about other major Pauline themes like the doctrine of Christ, the nature of the church, or the parousia. Our method will be to summarize briefly the narrative and theological purpose of each of the Synoptics, noting how each Gospel’s Christology fits its purpose. We will then point to evidence in each for an implicit high Christology. 13 It is important in this regard to distinguish between an author’s Christological purpose and their Christology (their overall concepMoule, Origin, 11–46. Moule then turns to the evidence from Paul concerning the “corporate Christ” to show that, for Paul, Jesus is more than just an individual human being, but is one who dwells in people as the Spirit of God and in whom his followers are incorporated “in Christ.” 12 I. H. Marshall, The Origin of New Testament Christology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1976), 128–29. Cf. M. Hengel, Son of God: The Origin of Christology and the History of Jewish-Hellenistic Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976). 13 “High” and “low” Christologies may be defined in various ways. D. Johansson offers a workable definition: “‘Low’ indicates that Jesus is a mere human being, for example, a prophet or an earthly Messiah. ‘High’ indicates that Jesus is more than human, supernatural in a broad sense, whether a divine man, a heavenly being, or in some way identified with the God of Israel” (“The Identity of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark: Past and Present Proposals,” Currents in Biblical Research 9 [2010]: 364–93 at 365). 11

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


tion of Christ). The former may be discerned by examining the author’s narrative and theological themes; the latter can be surmised only partially and tentatively, since no biblical author expresses everything they know or believe about Christ. For example, the Christological purpose of the author of Hebrews is to show that Jesus, the Son, is the final revelation of God, the ultimate high priest from the order of Melchizedek who offered himself once-for-all as a final sacrifice for sins. Did the author believe Jesus was the second Adam, the Suffering Servant, the Son of Man, a new Moses, or the Davidic Messiah? It is likely that the author did (the last is certainly implied in Heb. 1:5; 7:14, and the first may be implicit in 2:5–18), yet none of these themes appears explicitly in the work. An author’s Christological purpose is one thing; their Christology is another.

Matthew’s Purpose and Christology One constant within the diverse views of Matthew’s themes and theology is recognition of the Jewishness of the First Gospel. This is evident in the many Jewish terms and customs introduced without explanation (15:2; 17:24–27; 23:5, 27), the reverential use of “heaven” as a circumlocution for God (e.g., “kingdom of heaven”), the many OT fulfillment statements or “formula quotations,” a plethora of OT allusions, rabbinic style of argumentation (15:1–20; 19:1–9), emphasis on Jesus’ fulfillment of the Mosaic law (chs. 5–7), and Jesus’ consistent challenge to Israel’s religious leaders (cf. esp. ch. 13). This Jewish orientation suggests that Matthew’s audience is either predominantly Jewish or mixed Jewish and Gentile with strong historical ties to the wider Jewish community. This Jewish interest appears to be for the most part apologetic and legitimizing. Matthew writes to assure his readers that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of Jewish hopes for “the Messiah” and that his coming marks the climax of salvation-history. God’s purpose to bring salvation to his people Israel and through them to the Gentile nation has come to fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah. This means that his followers, the church made up of Jews and Gentiles, rather than those Jews who have rejected Jesus, make up the authentic people of God in the present age. Though the precise ethnic make-up and Sitz im Leben of the Matthean community is a matter of considerable debate, it seems clear that the community or communities to which Matthew is writing are in an antagonistic and polemical relationship with the wider Jewish community. 14 The Gospel refers to “their” scribes (7:29) and “their” synagogues (4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; See G. Stanton, A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1992), 119–20. 14


Mark L. Strauss

13:54) and contains stronger polemic against the religious leaders than the other Synoptics (see 15:12–14; ch. 23). At the same time, the break with the synagogues is not as complete as in the Johannine community and only once are the church’s opponents referred to as “the Jews” (28:15; contrast 50+ times in John).15 Matthew’s Christology is in line with his narrative purpose, permeated through and through with a promise-fulfillment motif. The first line sets out Jesus’ identity: the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham (1:1). Jesus is the promised Messiah from David’s line (1:1, 16, 17, 20; 2:2, 4–6) who will fulfill Israel’s hopes for the kingdom of God. This Davidic messianism is reinforced through the author’s fondness for the title Son of David, which Matthew uses nine times (only 3 times in Mark and Luke). Though this title had strong political connotations in Judaism (see esp. Psalms of Solomon 17–18), for Matthew the Son of David is the compassionate healer (9:27; 12:22–23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:14–15) and humble king bringing peace (21:1–11). Jesus will fulfill the OT promises in new and surprising ways. His messiahship is marked not by human conquest, but by victory over Satan, sin and disease through his sacrificial death on the cross (11:2–6; 20:28). The many titles and categories used by Matthew for Jesus all point to this promise-fulfillment motif. He is a new and greater Moses, the authoritative interpreter of Torah and its ultimate fulfillment.16 He is the Son of Man of Dan. 7:13–14, who will suffer and die, but will be vindicated. He is the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and the true Israel.17 Matthew’s implicit high Christology Yet while Matthew’s presentation of Jesus is thoroughly messianic, it goes well beyond traditional messianic categories. Indeed, Matthew’s Christology is widely viewed as the “highest” among the Synoptics. From the start Jesus is identified as Immanuel – God with us (1:23). While this could mean something less than full deity (i.e., that Jesus’ coming is the assurance of God’s presence with his people), there are many indications that Matthew has something greater in mind. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus quotes from the OT law, “It has been said . . . ,” then clarifies, “but I 15 Ἰουδαῖοι occurs 71 times in John, of which about fifty are in polemical contexts. See A. Köstenberger, “Translating John’s Gospel: Challenges and Opportunities,” in The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God’s Word to the World. Essays in Honor of Ronald F. Youngblood (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 354. 16 D. C. Allison, The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993). 17 For a good, brief summary of Matthew’s Christology, see R. T. France, Matthew, Evangelist and Teacher (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), 279–317.

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


say to you . . . ,” language reminiscent of the authoritative, “Thus says the Lord,” of the Hebrew Scriptures. While the title “Son of God” is critically important in Mark’s Gospel, it has even greater significance for Matthew.18 The title often carries a messianic sense, relating to the promised king from the line of David (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; 89:26). Peter confesses that Jesus is the “Messiah” in Mark 8:29 and Luke 9:20, but the “Messiah, the Son of God” in Matthew (16:16). At Jesus’ trial, the high priest questions whether he is “the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed” (Matt. 26:63; cf. 8:29; 26:63; 27:40, 54). At times, however, the title appears to carry a more transcendent sense, with implications of deity (11:25–27; 14:33; 24:36; 27:54; 28:19). In language echoing the Johannine tradition, Jesus asserts an unprecedented level of intimacy between the Father and the Son: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (11:27). Many scholars see here and elsewhere in Matthew (cf. 11:19; 23:34–39) echoes of the personification of divine Wisdom in Judaism (cf. Sir. 24; Wis. 6:12–11:1), 19 and with it implications of preexistence.20 Jesus also claims authority that belongs to God alone. He forgives sins (9:2) and knows human thoughts (9:4; 12:25; 22:18). He asserts that people should worship God alone (4:10), but then accepts worship from others (8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9, 17; cf. 2:11).21 In the OT God alone sends prophets, yet Jesus claims he sends prophets, wise men and teachers See J. D. Kingsbury, Matthew: Structure, Christology, Kingdom (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 40–127; D. Verseput, “The Role and Meaning of the ‘Son of God’ Title in Matthew’s Gospel,” NTS 33 (1987): 532–56. 19 So M. J. Suggs, Wisdom, Christology and Law in Matthew’s Gospel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970); C. Deutsch, Hidden Wisdom and the Easy Yoke: Wisdom, Torah and Discipleship in Matthew 11:25–30 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987); F. T. Gench, Wisdom in the Christology of Matthew (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1997); F. Christ, Jesus Sophia. Die Sophia-Christologie bei den Synoptikern (ATANT 57; Zürich: Zwingli, 1970). 20 J. D. G. Dunn agrees that Matthew identifies Jesus with divine Wisdom, but denies that there is any thought of preexistence. Even for Paul, “the thought is primarily of Christ as the eschatological embodiment of the wisdom of God,” not true preexistence (Christology in the Making. A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation, 2 nd ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], 196–212 at 211 [emphasis his]). 21 Προσκuνέω can mean obeisance or respectful bowing, but in some of these passages almost certainly means divine worship (esp. 2:11; 14:33; 28:9, 17). See R. T. France, “The Worship of Jesus: A Neglected Factor in Christological Debate?” in Christ the Lord. Studies in Christology presented to Donald Guthrie, ed. H. H. Rowdon (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1982), 17–36. 18


Mark L. Strauss

(23:34–39).22 As the Son of Man, the kingdom of God is “his kingdom,” and when he comes he will send “his angels” to gather the elect (13:41; 24:31). At the final judgment, he will exercise the prerogative of God by determining the final destiny of all human beings (7:21–23; 25:31–46). Most strikingly, in language reminiscent of the Spirit of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus promises his presence with his disciples who gather in his name (18:20). He will be with them “even to the end of the age” (28:20). The baptismal formula in the Great Commission – “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” – is as close to Trinitarian language as is found anywhere in Scripture. As France asserts, As a climax to Matthew’s Christology the trinitarian [sic] formula is remarkable. Here all the hints of a more than human status for Jesus come together, and the “Son” who has earlier been declared to be in a unique relationship with the Father (11:27; 24:36) is coolly linked with Father and Holy Spirit as three equal persons, who together constitute the (singular) “name” which is to be the object of the disciple’s allegiance. We cannot know how far Matthew had thought through the implications of such language, but he has unambiguously posed the problem which lies at the heart of all subsequent trinitarian debate, the recognition, in a monotheistic context, that Jesus, who is clearly understood to be distinct from the Father, is himself no less than God. 23

In summary, Matthew’s primary Christological purpose is to present Jesus as the promised Messiah, whose life, death and resurrection fulfills Scripture and brings in the kingdom of God. This messianic emphasis serves an apologetic and legitimizing purpose for his community, confirming that, in contrast to the unbelieving Jewish community, they are true people of God for whom the promises are fulfilled. Yet beside this messianic Christology is a very high – even divine – one, presenting Jesus as the transcendent Lord who mediates God’s presence to the community.

Markan Purpose and Christology One consensus among interpreters of the Second Gospel is the centrality of Christology. This is evident already in Mark’s first line, which introduces the Gospel as “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”24 The subsequent narrative is punctuation with questions concerning Jesus’ identity. 25 At Jesus’ first public teaching and exorcism, the people 22 See S. Gathercole, The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark and Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 71–72. 23 France, Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher, 316–17. 24 Though “Son of God” (υἱοῦ θεοῦ) is textually uncertain, the centrality of Son of God as a Markan theme is well established. See J. D. Kingsbury, The Christology of Mark’s Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983). 25 Kingsbury, Christology, 80–85.

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


in the Capernaum synagogue wonder, “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to defiling spirits and they obey him!” (1:27). When Jesus claims authority to forgive sins, the scribes ask, “Why does this man speak like this . . . who can forgive sins but God alone?” (2:7). When Jesus calms the storm, the shocked disciples wonder, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (4:41). The people of his Nazareth hometown similarly ask, “Where did this man get these things? What’s this wisdom that has been given him? . . . Isn’t this the carpenter?” (6:2) Herod Antipas hears about Jesus and wonders about his identity: “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” (6:17). These questions come to a climax when Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asks them, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response, “You are the Messiah” (σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστός, 8:29), marks a key turning point in the narrative. From 1:14–8:26 Mark’s story has focused on Jesus’ ministry in and around Galilee, marked by demonstrations of Jesus’ extraordinary authority: announcing the kingdom of God, calling of disciples, healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sins, challenging Sabbath traditions, calming the sea, feeding the multitudes, and walking on water. On the basis of this authority, Peter, as representative of the disciples, acknowledges what readers have known since the first line (1:1): Jesus is indeed the Messiah. The plot now turns sharply as Jesus clarifies his messianic role. The Son of Man must suffer and die at the hands of Israel’s religious leaders (8:31–33). From 8:31–10:52 Jesus will make his way to Jerusalem, repeatedly predicting his coming death (8:31–33; 9:12, 30–32; 10:32–34). Though Jesus is indeed Israel’s promised Messiah and Son of God, his mission is to suffer as the Son of Man and Servant of the L ORD – to give his life as a ransom for sins (10:45). There have been various attempts to explain this dual Christological emphasis. Perhaps the most famous is T. J. Weeden’s claim that Mark wrote to combat a growing movement that identified Jesus as a Hellenistic miracle-worker, or “divine-man.” This divine-man Christology exalted Jesus’ miracle-working power and denigrated his suffering role. According to Weeden, Mark presents Jesus as a divine-man in the first part of his Gospel only to reject it in the second, thus encouraging his readers to follow Jesus’ authentic road to the cross. Mark counters a theology of glory with a theology of the cross.26 This explanation is unlikely. 27 There is no indication in the narrative that Mark presents Jesus’ authoritative role as a foil for his suffering. All

T. J. Weeden, Mark: Traditions in Conflict (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971). See W. L. Lane, “Theios an. r Christology and the Gospel of Mark,” in New Dimensions in New Testament Study, ed. R. N. Longenecker and M. C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: 26 27


Mark L. Strauss

Jesus’ acts of authority in 1:14–8:26 are positive, confirming his messianic identity and his power over disease, death, demons, sin and impurity. Mark affirms that Jesus is indeed the mighty Messiah and Son of God, but that he will achieve victory and glory not through physical conquest, but by suffering and dying as an atonement for sins (10:45; 14:62; 15:39).28 Two other themes in Mark’s Gospel relate closely to his Christology and must be mentioned. The first is the so-called “messianic secret,” where the Markan Jesus repeatedly silences demons (1:24–25, 34; 3:11–12), commands those healed to tell no one (1:44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26), and warns his disciples not to announce his true identity (8:30; 9:9). In his groundbreaking work, Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien, William Wrede claimed that this theme was invented by Mark to explain Jesus’ apparently unmessianic life.29 Though the post-resurrection church proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, there was little from the historical Jesus to back up this claim. Mark therefore created the motif that Jesus was the Messiah, but that he kept it a secret during his ministry. Wrede’s methodology has had a profound impact on Gospel studies, highlighting the theological motivations of the Evangelists. Yet his specific thesis has been mostly discredited.30 Even within Mark’s narrative, the silence is frequently broken (1:45; 7:36; cf. 5:19–20) and Jesus’ popularity grows and grows.31 Ironically, the “secret” that no one can keep becomes one more proof of Jesus’ remarkable authority. The commands to silence are better understood as Christologically driven, as Jesus seeks to define his messiahship on his own terms. Each type should be interpreted in its own way. Jesus silences demons to exercise his authority over them and because their bold proclamation will inevitably distort his message. He quiets those healed to avoid the politicomessianic aspirations of the crowds. And he silences his disciples until he is able to define his messiahship on his own terms – with reference to his Zondervan, 1974), 144–61. For a critique of the concept of Hellenistic of “divine-men,” see C. R. Holladay, Theios An. r in Hellenistic Judaism (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977). 28 There is much to commend Robert Gundry’s claim that Mark’s Gospel is essentially “an apology for the cross” (R. H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993], 3–4). Gundry turns the divine man theory on its head, arguing that Mark does not seek to refute a theology of glory with a theology of the cross. Instead Mark demonstrates that the theology of the cross is a theology of glory and shows that it is precisely through Jesus’ passion that he achieves his glory. 29 W. Wrede, The Messianic Secret, trans. J. C. G. Greig (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1971). 30 See C. M. Tuckett, The Messianic Secret (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983). 31 J. D. G. Dunn even speaks of a “publicity-revelation theme” (“The Messianic Secret in Mark,” in The Christ and the Spirit. Collected Essays of James D. G. Dunn. Volume 1: Christology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans], 57–77, esp. 62–65). On Jesus’ popularity in Mark, see 1:33–34, 37; 2:2, 4, 13; 3:7–9, 20; 4:1, 36; 5:21, 24, 30–32; 6:14–15, 31–34; 7:24; 8:1–3; 9:14–15, 30.

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


suffering and sacrifice. Jesus says as much in 9:9 when he tells Peter, James and John to tell no one about the transfiguration “until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” Another thread that runs consistently through Mark’s narrative is the repeated failure of the disciples. 32 More than in any other Gospel, the disciples in Mark seem clueless. They fail to understand Jesus’ words and deeds (4:13; 6:37, 52; 7:18; 8:4). They behave out of pride and self-interest (9:38; 10:13, 37, 41). Jesus rebukes them for failing to comprehend his teaching (4:13; 7:18) and for their lack of faith (4:40; 9:19). Most significantly, they fail to come to grips with the suffering role of the Messiah (8:32–33; 9:32). At his arrest, the disciples all desert him (14:5); Peter denies he knows Jesus (14:66–72) and throughout the passion the disciples are nowhere to be found (cf. 15:40–41). Some have claimed that Mark’s intention here is to reject the authority of the Twelve and perhaps the churches associated with them.33 Yet this is unlikely. In Mark’s narrative the disciples are clearly on the side of Jesus. Unlike the religious leaders, who stand unambiguously opposed to Jesus and seek to destroy him, the disciples remain “insiders,” who have received the secrets of the kingdom of God (4:11). Jesus personally calls them and appoints them to leadership (1:16–20; 3:13–19; 6:30). He imparts to them his own authority and sends them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, healing the sick and casting out demons (6:7–12, 30). He predicts they will see him again following the resurrection (14:28; 16:7) and that ultimately they will be his representatives to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (13:9–13). As those who have left all to follow him, they will inherit much more than they have lost, including family, fields and homes (10:29–31). More likely than a repudiation of the Twelve, Mark’s negative characterization of the disciples represents an important part of his Christology and paraenesis. This is highlighted through a series of three “cycles” of parallel events in which Jesus predicts his coming death (8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34), the disciples respond with pride and self-interest (8:32; 9:33– 34; 10:35–41), and Jesus teaches that true meaning of discipleship (8:33– 38; 9:35–37; 10:42–45). The third of these triads forms an important climax in Mark’s narrative, as Jesus teaches that whoever wants to be great 32 See R. C. Tannehill, “The Disciples in Mark: The Function of a Narrative Role,” in The Interpretation of Mark, ed. W. R. Telford (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 134– 57. Cf. E. Best, Following Jesus. Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark (JSNTSup 4; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988); S. W. Henderson, Christology and Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark (SNTSMS 135; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). 33 Cf. Weeden, Traditions in Conflict, 50–51: “Mark is assiduously involved in a vendetta against the disciples. He is intent on totally discrediting them” (in favor of his own Gentile church).


Mark L. Strauss

must be a servant and whoever wants to first must become the slave of all, “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). Here we have the convergence of Mark’s Christology, soteriology, and paraenesis. Jesus, the mighty Messiah and exalted Son of Man (8:38; 13:26–27; 14:62) did not come to conquer but to serve – to suffer and die as an atonement for sins. As true followers of Jesus, his disciples must follow the example of their Master, denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following him (8:34). Those willing to give up their lives for the gospel will be saved; but those who protect their own lives will lose them (8:35). True discipleship is total commitment to the kingdom, no matter what the cost. Mark’s disciples function almost as anti-disciples, revealing to the reader how followers of Jesus should not behave. It is Jesus alone who is the model of true discipleship, remaining obedient to the Father’s will – even to the point of death. In summary, Mark’s Christology, like that of the other Gospels, is governed by his narrative purpose. For Mark’s audience, the crucifixion hangs like a shadow over the Jesus story. For the opponents of Christianity, the cross is an object of ridicule and shame, evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was little more than a failed messianic pretender. For Jesus’ followers, the shame of the cross reinforces their own shameful state, as they find themselves increasingly ostracized and persecuted in society. Mark’s narrative answers both dilemmas. Mark writes to show that Jesus was indeed the mighty Messiah and Son of God. His authoritative teaching and acts of power proved this beyond a shadow of doubt. Yet from the beginning, his mission was much greater than physical conquest. It was the establishment of the kingdom of God and the defeat of sin and Satan. In light of this triumph of the cross, Mark calls the persecuted followers of Jesus to endure suffering because after suffering comes vindication and glory. Mark’s primary Christological purpose is not to defend the deity of Christ, but (1) to confirm that Jesus is indeed the glorious Messiah and Son of God promised in the Hebrew Scriptures, (2) to defend the suffering role of the Messiah and (3) to call his followers to cross-bearing discipleship. Yet beneath this predominantly messianic Christology there are hints of a very high – even divine – view of Christ. Mark’s implicit high Christology While some commentators have claimed Mark’s Christology is among the “lowest” of the NT, many others see evidence of an implicit high Christol-

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


ogy. 34 This is true especially of those who keep a close eye on the Gospel’s OT background. At the beginning of his Gospel (1:2–3), Mark combines OT texts in a way that identifies John the Baptist with the “messenger” of Mal. 3:1 and the “voice” in the wilderness of Isa. 40:3. In Malachi and Isaiah, the messenger prepares the way for Yahweh himself, which in Mark becomes the way of the Lord Jesus.35 As Rikki Watts has shown, Mark’s Jesus fulfills the role of Yahweh in Isaiah 40–66, leading God’s people on a new and greater exodus and defeating the satanic enemies of God through his exorcisms.36 Throughout the Gospel, Jesus speaks and acts with the authority of God. As God calls prophets, so Jesus authoritatively calls disciples (1:16–20). Just as God called and appointed Israel to be his covenant people, so Jesus appoints twelve, the restored remnant of Israel.37 By distinguishing himself from the Twelve, Jesus apparently places himself in the position of Yahweh, who called Israel into existence as his covenant people. Jesus does not teach like the scribes or other human authorities, but rather with his own (divine?) authority (1:22, 27). His “truly I say to you” (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν; 13 times in Mark) recalls the “Thus says the LORD” of the OT. Similarly, the Markan Jesus does not merely interpret Torah, but claims authority over it (7:14–19). Jesus’ words, like God’s, are eternal and unchanging: “The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away” (13:31; cf. Isa 40:6–8; 51:6). In the healing of the paralyzed man, Jesus claims the authority to forgive sins (2:3–12) While some interpreters take “your sins are forgiven (ἀφίενται)” as a divine passive, the pronouncement of God’s forgiveness (cf. 2 Sam. 12:13),38 the response of his opponents (“Who can forgive sins but God alone?”; 2:7) suggests Jesus is acting with his own authority. They 34 For a survey of views, see Johansson, “Identity of Jesus,” 364–93. In defense of a Markan “high” Christology, see Gathercole, Pre-existent Son, passim; M. E. Boring, “Markan Christology: God-language for Jesus?” NTS 45 (1999): 451–71; L. W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ. Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 283–316; Ph. G. Davis, “Mark’s Christological Paradox,” JSNT 35 (1989): 3–18; J. C. Naluparayil, The Identity of Jesus in Mark: An Essay on Narrative Christology (Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Analecta, 49; Jerusalem: Franciscan, 2000). 35 See J. Marcus, The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1992), 12–47. 36 R. Watts, Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000). 37 See S. McKnight, “Jesus and the Twelve,” in Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus, ed. D. L. Bock and R. L. Webb (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 181–214, who concludes after a detailed survey that in choosing the twelve, “There is significant evidence for us to think that Jesus had in mind a restored Israel” (209). 38 See R. A. Guelich, Mark 1–8:26 (WBC, 34A; Dallas, TX: Word, 1989), 85–86, 93– 95.


Mark L. Strauss

apparently interpret Jesus’ statement “as the exercising of a divine prerogative, the power to actually forgive sins.” 39 Jesus’ nature miracles often carry theophanic significance, identifying him closely with the God of the OT. The two feeding miracles (6:30–44; 8:1–9) recall God’s supply of manna in the wilderness as well as the endtime “messianic banquet” – the rich feast God will prepare for all people (Isa. 25:6–8).40 Jesus’ ability to calm the storm with a command (4:35–41) echoes the language of the OT, where Yahweh is said to “rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them” (Ps. 89:9: cf. Ps. 65:5–7; 104:4; 107:23–29). Jesus’ walking on water (6:45–52) also has clear theophanic significance, since God alone “treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8) and in the exodus “made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters” (Isa. 43:16; cf. 51:10; Ps. 77:19; Sir. 24:5–6). In the same context many commentators have pointed out that Mark’s unusual expression, “he intended to pass them by” (6:48), is the language of theophany, echoing God’s presence passing before Moses (Exod. 33:18–2) and Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:10–12).41 As in Matthew, Jesus’ divine sonship is primarily “messianic,” referring to Jesus as eschatological king. Yet at times there are strong implication of a transcendent sonship, especially at the baptism (1:11), the transfiguration (9:7), the parable of the wicked tenants (12:6), and the cry of centurion (15:39). 42 Mark 13:32 implies a heavenly hierarchy, which includes the Father, the Son and the angels – in that order. This is not mere adoptionism. In a similar vein, Simon Gathercole makes a detailed analysis of the “I have come” and “sending” language of the Synoptics, and convincingly asserts that it implies pre-existence (1:24, 38; 2:17; 9:37; 10:45; 12:6).43 Jesus also demonstrates supernatural knowledge in Mark’s Gospel. He knows the thoughts of his opponents (2:8). He senses the touch of others (5:30) and knows what the disciples are saying (8:17). He predicts the destruction of Jerusalem (13:2) and knows about his coming arrest, trial and crucifixion (Mark 8:31–32; 9:31; 10:33–34). He knows that one of his disciples will betray him (14:20) and that Peter will deny him (14:30). All of this, of course, could be mediated knowledge coming through the Holy 39 R. Stein, The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teaching (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 114. 40 See J. Marcus, Mark 1–8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 404–21, 482–97; Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, 286. 41 W. L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 236; Guelich, Mark 1–8:26, 350; Marcus, Mark 1–8, 426. 42 Boring, “Markan Christology,” 467–68, 469–70; Gathercole, Pre-existent Son, 47– 50. 43 Gathercole, Pre-existent Son, 183–89. Cf. Matt. 5:17; 8:29; 9:13; 10:34, 35; 10:40; 20:28; 21:37; Luke 4:43; 5:32; 38; 9:48; 10:16; 12:49–51; 14:17; 19:10; 20:13.

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


Spirit, evidence of Jesus’ prophetic vocation rather than his essential deity. Yet Mark never explicitly says this. When the source of Jesus’ knowledge is stated, Mark says he knew “in his spirit” (τῷ πνεύματι) what others were thinking (2:8) or knew “in himself” (ἐν ἑαυτῷ;) that he had been touched (5:30). Although none of these passages explicitly identifies Jesus as “God” and individually each could be explained in a different way, cumulatively they point to a very high implicit Christology. After a discussion of the evidence Boring concludes: To claim that Mark either advocates or denies the “deity of Christ” is to impose an anachronistic, unMarkan Fragestellung on Mark. [Yet] If this way of posing the question is deemed unavoidable, Mark should be located among those NT authors with a “high” Christology who affirm the “deity” of Christ. . . . The explicit use of God-language for Jesus by later NT authors and the classical creeds is in continuity with the Christology already present in Mark. 44

Lukan Purpose and Christology I have argued elsewhere that a broad consensus has emerged on the narrative and theological purpose of Luke-Acts.45 Luke writes to legitimize and vindicate the church as the true people of God. His primary purpose is ecclesiological, related to Christian self-identity: Luke writes to a Christian community – probably made up of both Jews and Gentiles – struggling to assert itself as the legitimate heirs of the promises made to Israel. There appears to be an ongoing debate with unbelieving Jews that is threatening to undermine the faith of this community. Three key Lukan themes point in this direction: the legitimacy of Gentile mission, the widespread rejection of the message by the Jews , and the validity of Jesus’ messianic identity. Luke writes to reassure his readers that they are the eschatological people of God, the legitimate heirs to the promises made to Israel. 46

Many other scholars affirm this basic conclusion. I. H. Marshall identifies a variety of purposes for Luke’s enterprise, but stresses especially “how the church has come together as a company of believing Jews and Gentiles

Boring, “Markan Christology,” 470–71. M. L. Strauss, “The Purpose of Luke-Acts. Reaching a Consensus,” in New Testament Theology in Light of the Church's Mission: Essays in Honor of I. Howard Marshall , eds. Ray Van Neste and Jon Laansma (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2011), 135–150; idem, The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts: The Promise and Its Fulfillment in Lukan Christology (JSNTSup 110; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), esp. 344–49. 46 Strauss, “Purpose of Luke-Acts,” 141. 44 45


Mark L. Strauss

and how it is related to the Jewish roots from which it sprang.” 47 Luke’s special interest in promise and fulfillment, the Jewish and OT roots of the church, the legitimacy of the Gentile mission, and the reasons for Jewish rejection of the Gospel all point to the fundamental issue of the church’s self-identity. Joel Green similarly asserts that the purpose of Luke-Acts is primarily ecclesiological, “concerned with the practices that define and the criteria for legitimating the community of God’s people, and centered on the invitation to participate in God’s project.” 48 David Pao is not far from this when he concludes that Luke’s purpose is fundamentally ecclesiological, confirming and legitimizing the church as the authentic people of God: “one of the main functions of Isaiah in the Lukan writings is to establish the identity of the early Christian movement in the midst of competitive claims.” 49 C. H. Talbert similarly asserts a legitimizing function. LukeActs is not an occasional document like the epistles of Paul, written to address specific concerns in the church. It is rather a legitimizing work, that “tells the story of the community’s founder (and in Acts, of the early church) in a way that expresses the values of the group in a balanced way.”50 This legitimizing purpose helps to explain two controversial features of Luke’s theology, which have often been said to represent “low” or inferior theologies. These concern Luke’s soteriology and Christology. It is often asserted that Luke’s soteriology is inferior to Paul’s, attributing no saving significance to the death of Christ. Luke, it is argued, has transformed Paul’s (and Mark’s) theology of the cross into a theology of glory.51 Yet while it is true that Luke places little emphasis on the atonement, he does not reject it (cf. Luke 22:19–20; Acts 20:28). A better explanation is that Luke’s soteriology is in large part governed by his ecclesiology. He is more interested in demonstrating the fact of salvation than its means. Luke is not writing an essay on the atonement; he is narrating the story of how 47 I. H. Marshall, “Luke and His ‘Gospel’,” in Das Evangelium und die Evangelien, ed. P. Stuhlmacher; Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1983), 289–308 at 302; cf. idem, “The Present State of Lucan Studies,” Themelios 14 (1989): 52–56. 48 J. B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 21–22. 49 D. W. Pao, Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 37. For other scholars holding this general perspective, see Strauss, “Purpose of Luke -Acts,” 142–43. 50 C. H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys, 2002), 3. This represents a reversal of Talbert’s earlier view that Luke wrote primarily to combat Gnosticism (Luke and the Gnostics: An examination of Lucan purpose [Nashville: Abingdon, 1966]). 51 See W. Kümmel, “Current Theological Accusations against Luke,” Andover Newton Quarterly 16 (1975): 131–45; Conzelmann, Theology of St. Luke, 201; P. Vielhauer, “On the ‘Paulinism’ of Acts,” in Studies in Luke-Acts, eds. L. E. Keck and J. L. Martyn (London: SPCK, 1966), 33–50, esp. 41–42.

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


salvation came to Israel through Jesus the Messiah, how it was made available to Gentiles, and how it is now being experienced in and through the church. Because of this narrative purpose, the emphasis falls on the arrival of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, rather than the means by which Jesus saves.52 This emphasis is seen in that Luke stresses the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross over its significance. Though evil men put Jesus to death, this was predicted in Scripture and was part of God’s sovereign plan (Luke 9:22; 18:31–33; Acts 2:22–24; 3:13–26; 4:8–12; 10:39–40). Against those who said that Jesus’ crucifixion negated his messianic claims, Luke repeatedly asserts the divine necessity that “the Messiah must suffer” (Luke 24:26, 46; Acts 3:18; 17:3; 26:23). In the passion narrative and the speeches in Acts, Luke repeatedly stresses the innocence of Jesus (Luke 23:4, 14, 15, 22; 23:15, 41, 47; Acts 3:14–15; 7:52; 13:28). This is likely both to refute claims that Jesus died the death of a criminal and to show that he was the righteous Suffering Servant predicted in Scripture (Isa. 53:11). Like his soteriology, Luke’s Christology is sometimes said to be “low” or inferior when compared to other NT writers. Conzelmann claimed a strong subordinationist thread in Luke, where “we see a significant distinction between Father and Son, which implies the latter’s subordination.”53 Many others have followed Conzelmann. 54 John Drury writes, “It has long been noticed that [Luke] has a ‘lower’ Christology than the other evangelists, and a much lower one than John.”55 Similarly, William R. Telford asserts that “Luke is generally regarded as having a ‘lower’ Christology than the other evangelists, lacking in this respect the ‘innovative’ thrust of Mark, the ‘reactionary’ emphasis of Matthew, or the ‘sublime’ quality of John.”56 E. Franklin attributes this subordinationist thread to the strong influence of the OT in Luke’s program: “It is this understanding of God, grounded completely in its Old Testament proclamation, that is ultimately responsible for the subordinationism and lack of metaphysical speculation which is rightly seen to characterize Luke’s Christology.” 57 See Strauss, Davidic Messiah, 351–53. Conzelmann, Theology of St. Luke, 170–84 at 171. 54 See the list in Strauss, Davidic Messiah, 349 n. 2. 55 J. Drury, “Luke, Gospel of,” in A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, eds. R. J. Coggins and J. L. Houlden (London: SCM, 1990), 413. 56 W. R. Telford, The Theology of Mark (Cambridge: University, 1999), 177. Cf. C. M. Tuckett, “The Christology of Luke-Acts,” in The Unity of Luke-Acts, ed. Jozef Verheyden (BETL 142; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1999), 149–57. 57 E. Franklin, Christ the Lord: A Study in the Purpose and Theology of Luke-Acts (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974 ), 76. Cf. idem, Luke: Interpreter of Paul, Critic of Matthew (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994), 274–78. 52 53


Mark L. Strauss

Franklin has touched on something important here. Luke’s emphasis on promise-fulfillment results in a Christological presentation that is strongly prophetic and messianic. In fulfillment of Scripture, Jesus is the prophet like Moses of Deuteronomy 18:15 who delivers God’s word (Acts 3:22; 7:27; cf. Luke 4:24; 7:16, 39; 13:33)58 and the Davidic Messiah, who functions as God’s agent of redemption (Luke 1:32–33, 1:69; 2:11; Acts 2:29– 36; 13:32–37).59 Like his soteriology, Luke’s Christology (or better, Christological purpose), is subordinate to and at the service of his ecclesiology. At the same time, these categories do not exhaust Luke’s exalted view of Christ. Luke’s implicit high Christology Although Luke’s Christological purpose is primarily messianic, like Matthew and Mark he has a very high implicit Christology. Jesus teaches with extraordinary authority (4:32). His words, like God’s, are eternal and unchanging (21:33). He demonstrates divine power to forgive sins (5:20–21). He feeds the multitudes, symbolically reenacting God’s wilderness feedings and the future messianic banquet (9:10–17). As God gives life, so Jesus raises the dead (7:11–17; 8:40–56). He calms the storm with a word, demonstrating theophanic authority (Luke 8:22–25). Like Matthew, Luke includes the so-called “meteorite from the Johannine sky,” 60 where Jesus refers to himself with the absolute “the Son” and speaks of unique intimacy with the Father (10:22; par. Matt. 11:27; cf. Luke 1:35; 3:22; 9:35; 20:13). He affirms that God alone should be worshipped (4:8) but then accepts worship from his disciples (24:52). Like Matthew and Mark, Luke also uses the “I have come” language, which Gathercole convincingly shows carries implications of preexistence.61 This is particularly true for Luke 19:10, where Jesus says he came to seek and to save the lost. Like the God of the OT, Jesus seeks out the lost sheep of Israel (Ezek. 34:11–12). Jesus has also “come” to cast fire upon the earth (Luke 12:49), a divine prerogative recalling the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24). 62 The language of divine visitation is associated with Jesus (Luke 1:68, 78; 7:16) In Luke’s Gospel Jesus knows people’s thoughts (5:22) and supernaturally perceives the presence of others (8:46). Jesus’ call of Peter is even 58 See especially D. P. Moessner, Lord of the Banquet. The Literary and Theological Significance of the Lukan Travel Narrative (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989). 59 See Strauss, Davidic Messiah, passim. 60 K. A. von Hase, Geschichte Jesu, 2 nd ed. (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1891), 422. 61 Gathercole, Pre-existent Son, 148–76. 62 Ibid., 161–63.

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


more dramatic than the parallel call of the four fishermen brothers in the other Synoptics (Matt. 4:18–22; Mark 1:16–20). Peter’s fearful awe after the miraculous catch of fish, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man,” recalls Isaiah’s overwhelming fear in the presence of God’s holiness (Isa. 6:1–10).63 At the same time, it is certainly true that Luke has fewer indications of a transcendent Christology than Matthew – at least during Jesus’ earthly life. Luke has no parallel to the worship of Jesus by the disciples after the calming of the storm (Matt. 14:33). He does not refer to angels as “his angels” (Matt. 13:41; 16:27; 24:31; 25:41; Mark 13:27). Whereas the Matthean Jesus says, “I am sending you prophets” (Matt. 23:34), the Lukan Jesus says “God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets’” (11:49). There is no Lukan parallel to the parable of the sheep and the goats, where the Son of Man acts as judge of all humanity (Matt 25:31–46; but cf. Luke 13:27). Yet it is unfair to compare Luke’s Christology negatively to Matthew’s unless Luke has consciously redacted Matthew in these places. This is unlikely, however, and most scholars continue to affirm that Matthew and Luke worked independently from common sources (Mark and “Q”).64 What has been seen as Luke’s Christological reserve in the Gospel must be due in part to the importance of the ascension and exaltation/enthronement in Acts. Unlike Matthew (cf. Matt 18:20; 28:16–20), Luke does not include prophetic statements of Jesus’ transcendent presence with his disciples in the Gospel, since the book of Acts will narrate Jesus’ exaltation, heavenly enthronement, and abiding presence with his people. In Acts Jesus will guide and direct the church as its sovereign Lord (Acts 2:36; 9:5–6, 10–15; 10:36; 16:7; 22:10, 21). As the Lord’s Anointed, Jesus is endowed with the Spirit during his earthly ministry (Luke 3:21; 4:1, 14, 18; cf. Isa 11:1–5). Yet in Acts he directs the Spirit of God (2:33), a remarkably high Christology in light of passages like Isa. 40:13.65 In his study of Lukan Christology, Douglas Buckwalter compares Luke’s Christological presentation in the Gospel and Acts to Paul’s Christ hymn in Phil. 2:5–11, where Luke’s two volumes parallel the hymn’s two states of Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation: “As in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Green, Gospel of Luke, 233. See C. M. Tuckett, “On the Relationship between Matthew and Luke,” NTS 30 (1984): 130–142; J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I–IX (AB 28; New York: Doubleday, 1981), 73–75. 65 Max Turner notes that “to speak of Jesus directing God’s Spirit would surely be tantamount to calling him God” (“The Spirit of Christ and Christology,” in Christ the Lord, ed. H. H. Rowdon [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1982], 168–90 at 183); idem, “The Spirit of Christ and ‘Divine’ Christology,” in Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ, eds. J. B. Green and M. Turner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 413–36. 63 64


Mark L. Strauss

the fact of Jesus’ sovereign Lordship . . . reveals the extent of his humiliation.”66 Buckwalter claims that Luke reveals a very high implicit Christology.67 Through divine self-manifestations, the exalted Christ appears in Acts as immanent deity, taking on characteristics attributed to God alone. These include invisibility (transcendence), uniqueness, and personal presence and activity. Jesus’ relationship with the Spirit parallels that of Yahweh in the OT. Jesus endows the Spirit (Acts 2:33), mediates salvation (Acts 2:21), and guides his people. In Luke 12:12 Jesus says the Holy Spirit will give his disciples words to speak during times of trial; in 21:15 he says, “I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” Luke presents Jesus as Lord of world history, actively leading it to its consummation and acting as ultimate savior and judge.68 Together, these features indicate “that Luke apparently believed that the exalted Jesus shares a divine status equal to the Father’s, a reality which, according to Luke, Jesus had apparently known about even during his earthly career (cf. Luke 21:15).”69 C. Kavin Rowe reaches similar conclusions through a somewhat different route. 70 While scholars have often noted the importance of the title κύριος in Luke, Rowe claims its significance has not been well explained. Utilizing a narrative-critical approach, he asserts that essential to Luke’s Christology is the intentional ambiguity that the author creates by using κύριος for the Lord God and for Jesus. This ambiguity begins already in the birth narrative. Zechariah and Elizabeth are “righteous before God (θεός),” “walking blamelessly in all the commandments of the Lord (κύριος)” (1:6). John the Baptist “will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God” (κύριον τὸν θεὸν αὐτῶν; 1:16). While κύριος here clearly refers to the Lord God of Israel (cf. 1:9, 11, 15), the reader immediately learns that John “will go on before the Lord (κύριος), in the spirit and power of Elijah” (1:17). Luke 1:76 and 3:4–6 confirm that the “Lord” here is Jesus. Similarly, Elizabeth identifies Mary as “the mother of my Lord (κύριος μου)” and Jesus is identified as “the Messiah, the Lord” (χριστὸς κύριος; 2:11). Luke 3:4–6 is itself strikingly ambiguous, since the Lord in Isaiah 40:3–5 is clearly Yahweh. Rowe asserts that “Luke H. D. Buckwalter, The Character and Purpose of Luke’s Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 281, 283. 67 Buckwalter, Character and Purpose, esp. 180–92. A very high Lukan Christology is similarly proposed by D. L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern. Lucan Old Testament Christology (JSNTSup 12; Sheffield: JSOT, 1987). 68 Buckwalter, Character and Purpose, 206–228, 280 69 Ibid., 280. 70 C. Kavin Rowe, Early Narrative Christology: The Lord in the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006). 66

Christology and Christological Purpose in the Synoptic Gospels


positions κύριος within the movement of the narrative in such a way as to narrate the relation between God and Jesus as one of inseparability, to the point that they are bound together in a shared identity as κύριος.”71 Though Luke is careful to distinguish between the Father and the Son as persons (cf. Luke 10:21), they share a common identity (Verbindungsidentität) as κύριος.72 The strength of Rowe’s work is its emphasis on how the Gospel would have been read and heard in the church. The constant use of κύριος “becomes the rhythm of the Gospel,” and that rhythm confirms for the reader/hearer that as κύριος, Jesus is “the human presence of the heavenly κύριος of Israel.” 73 As with Matthew and Mark, some of these individual passages may be explained away by assuming a prophetic or agency function. Yet the cumulative effect is overwhelming, suggesting a very high implicit Christology.

Conclusion In this study we have perhaps “bit off more than we could chew.” To thoroughly analyze the Christological purpose of each of the Synoptics within each Gospel’s narrative purpose and then to seek evidence of implicit high Christologies is certainly a monumental task that deserves more space than could be devoted to it here. Our results must therefore be treated as tentative and suggestive. Our claim is that the apparent “low” Christologies of the Synoptics result not from their place in an evolutionary continuum of emerging Christologies, but from the Evangelists’ limited Christological purposes. All three Synoptics have a predominantly messianic Christology, which emphasizes that Jesus is the promised Messiah who came to fulfill God’s promises and to establish his kingdom. Yet beyond this purpose is evidence of a very high implicit Christology, the seeds of later Trinitarian and even Chalcedonian definitions. Contrary to the claims of the historyof-religions school, these high claims find their closest parallels not in pagan religious traditions – the dying and rising gods of the mystery religions, the Gnostic redeemer myth, or Hellenistic “divine men.” Instead they emerge from the Evangelists’ consistent identification of Jesus with Ibid., 27. Following the lead of Hans Frei, Paul Ricoeur, and others, Rowe is careful to define identity not as something static, but as dynamic and relational and defined by the narrative itself: “Thus in the case of the present study, to put the simple question ‘who is the κύριος?’ to the Gospel of Luke is to elicit a complex answer, one which involves both Jesus and God and not one without the other” (Ibid., 21). 73 Ibid., 29. 71 72


Mark L. Strauss

the words and actions of Yahweh himself, the one true God of Israel. When this evidence from the Synoptics is compared to Paul, John and other NT writings, an extraordinarily high Christology seems pervasive in even the earliest and most “primitive” of the NT writings.

The “Eucharistic” Language of John 6 in Biblical and Theological Perspective BENJAMIN E. REYNOLDS Father, thy feeble Children meet, And make thy faithful Mercies known; Give us thro’ Faith the Flesh to eat, And drink the Blood of Christ thy Son; Honour thine own mysterious Ways, Thy Sacramental Presence shew, And all the Fulness of thy Grace, With Jesus, on our Souls bestow. – Charles Wesley1

In his book Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian, Robert Gundry concludes by asking a series of questions about the relationship between biblical theology and systematic theology. The overarching aim of this essay is to address Gundry’s questions, particularly with regard to whether biblical theology or systematic theology should “dominate” the other, “form a partnership of equals, or go their separate ways.” 2 John 6 and its so-called “eucharistic language” in 6:51–58 will serve as the New Testament text in which to examine the interplay of biblical and systematic theology, not least because it presents an interesting and challenging stage for addressing these questions. Jesus’ proclamation in John 6:53–54 concerning the need to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life and be raised on the last day has precipitated extensive consideration about whether or not Jesus or the Evangelist was speaking of the Eucharist. How should we approach a text like John 6 where the issues of biblical and systematic theology are so obviously intertwined? Traditional evangelical hermeneutics has claimed that theology should arise from the text in a more or less linear 1 John and Charles Wesley, Hymns on the Lord’s Supper (Bristol: Felix Farley, 1745; repr. Madison, N.J.: The Charles Wesley Society, 1995), 128 (Hymn 153, verse 1). 2 Robert H. Gundry, Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, especially Its Elites, in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 95. Some of Gundry’s other questions will be touched on throughout but not directly.


Benjamin E. Reynolds

progression: “exegesis → biblical theology → systematics.”3 The resurgence of theological interpretation of Scripture challenges this model.4 Graeme Goldsworthy, following Grant Osborne,5 argues for a spiral approach to biblical interpretation rather than the traditional linear approach. In this “hermeneutical spiral,” theological “pre-understandings about the nature of the Bible” inform historical and literary exegesis of biblical passages. In turn, biblical theology unifies the “progressive revelation” found in the specific passages studied. Then, systematic theology “synthesizes the findings of exegesis and biblical theology into dogma or doctrine.” And historical theology presents the exegesis and theological understanding of saints and scholars throughout history as a comparative example and possible guide.6 Goldsworthy highlights the need to be open to the reformulation of doctrines in systematic theology as exegesis and biblical theology bring new possibilities to light, even as exegesis and biblical theology are informed by theology in the first place. 7 This essay will attempt to follow Goldsworthy and Osborne’s “hermeneutical spiral” in order to be more sensitive to theology and theological presuppositions in biblical interpretation. Thus, this essay will first begin with a discussion of the content and unity of John 6 and the cases for and against a eucharistic reading of John 6:51–58. Second, the question of literal and metaphorical reading of the eating and drinking language will be addressed, followed by a brief history of interpretation of the passage. Fourth, John 6 will be considered in connection with eucharistic theology before finally returning to the larger question of the relationship between biblical and systematic theology. The history of interpretation may offer 3 Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Hermeneutics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 2. 4 Francis Watson, Text, Church and World: Biblical Interpretation in Theological Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994); Kevin Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004); Daniel J. Treier, Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering Christian Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008); Joel B. Green, Practicing Theological Interpretation: Engaging Biblical Texts for Faith and Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011); Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2005–); The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005–). 5 Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Guide to Biblical Interpretation, 2 nd ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). 6 Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, 271–72. 7 Also Green, Practicing Theological Interpretation, 72–80. See Robert H. Gundry, “Hermeneutic Liberty, Theological Liberty, and Historical Occasionalism in the Biblical Canon,” in The Old is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpr etations (WUNT 178; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck; repr. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2010), 1– 17.

Eucharistic Language in John 6


some helpful guides for navigating the biblical and theological implications of John 6:51–58.

John 6: Eucharistic or Not? The unity and continuity of John 6 has been a crux interpretum in Johannine studies throughout modern scholarship. Rudolf Schnackenburg and Rudolf Bultmann both assumed that John 6 was previously placed in a different location, and Bultmann argued that 6:51–58 was a later addition.8 More recent studies, influenced by narrative criticism, have argued for the unity of the entire passage. The opening words of John 6:1 – “after these things” (μετὰ ταῦτα) – also begin John 5:1 and 7:1, suggesting that the entirety of the chapter should be considered one narrative unit.9 John Dominic Crossan notes a pattern in the structure of John 6 between Jesus and the crowds (6:1–15; 22–59) and Jesus and his disciples (6:16–21, 60–71). Crossan further draws attention to the framing of the chapter with mention of the disciples in 6:3, 12 and “the Twelve” in 6:67, 70, 71b. 10 For these (and other11) reasons, it seems that the unity of John 6 is more likely than its disunity. 12 Therefore, the following discussion will examine John 6:1– 71 as a unified whole. 13

Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St. John, 3 vols. (Tunbridge Wells: Burns & Oates, 1967), 2.5–9; Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: Commentary, trans. G. R. Beasley-Murray, R. W. N. Hoare, and J. K., Riches (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), 209, 218–19, 234. Also, Günther Bornkamm, “Die eucharistische Rede im Joha nnes-Evangelium,” ZNW 47 (1956): 161–69. 9 Petrus Maritz and Gilbert Van Belle, “The Imagery of Eating and Drinking in John 6:35,” in Imagery in the Gospel of John: Terms, Forms, Themes, and Theology of Joha nnine Figurative Language, eds. Jörg Frey, Jan G. van der Watt, and Ruben Zimmermann (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 333–52. 10 John Dominic Crossan, “It is Written: A Structural Analysis of John 6,” Semeia 26 (1983): 3–21. 11 Peder Borgen, “The Unity of the Discourse in John 6,” ZNW 50 (1959): 277–78; C. K. Barrett, “The Flesh of the Son of Man”, in Essays on John (London: SPCK, 1982), 40–42; Johannes Beutler, “The Structure of John 6,” in Critical Readings of John, ed. R. Alan Culpepper (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 115–27. 12 For further discussion, see Paul N. Anderson, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Its Unity and Disunity in Light of John 6 (WUNT 2/78; Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1996). 13 Considering the scholarly literature, a paper length discussion on unity is easily warranted, but for the scope of this essay, the above discussion must suffice. See Hartwig Thyen, Das Johannesevangelium (HNT 6; Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 1–5, on the relevance of a literary approach in general. 8


Benjamin E. Reynolds

Exegetical Arguments For and Against A eucharistic reading of John 6 is often assumed by scholars and most readers because the language of “bread,” “eating flesh,” and “drinking blood” evinces an obvious similarity with the institution of the Lord’s Supper.14 Consider David Rensberger’s comment: “it seems impossible that any Christian writer or reader could have construed the vivid demand in 6:53–56 to ‘eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood’ as anything other than the strongest sort of invitation to the Eucharistic meal.”15 To this assumed understanding may be added four arguments in its favor. First, there is no record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the Johannine account of Jesus’ final meal with his disciples as in the Synoptic Gospels. Thus, the eating and drinking language in John 6 may be understood to function as the Johannine Eucharist.16 Further, εὐχαριστέω is used in John 6 to indicate Jesus’ giving thanks prior to the distribution of the bread in the feeding of the 5,000 (6:11, 23). 17 This word is the same word used by Jesus in the Lukan and Pauline versions of the Lord’s Supper.18 Thirdly, Jesus is the one who distributes the bread of the Johannine feeding as he does in the Synoptic Last Supper accounts (6:11).19 Finally, it has been argued that the word τρώγω refers to a physical chewing or munching,20 which is in turn thought to imply the mastication of the eucharistic Bornkamm, “Die eucharistische Rede,” 162: “die Beziehung unserer Verse auf die Eucharistie nicht in Zweifel gezogen werden sollte.” 15 David Rensberger, Johannine Faith and Liberating Community (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1988), 71–72. Note Langrange, as cited by Bultmann, Gospel, 219 n. 1: “L’allusion à l’Eucharistie est évidente, et ne peut être méconnue par personne, sauf pour les protestants à méconnaître la clarté des termes.” 16 Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translations (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2010), 381, 383, 385, sees the feeding of the 5,000 and the turning of water to wine in John’s Gospel as John’s “substitute” for the institution of the Lord’s Supper. James D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity , 2 nd ed. (London: SCM Press, 1990), 169, suggests this as one possibility, but he thinks it is more plausible that the author wants to reduce emphasis on the sacrament. 17 Raymond E. Brown, New Testament Essays (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965), 108–31 at 115 n. 14. 18 Luke 22:17, 19; 1 Cor. 11:23–26; cf. Justin Martyr, Apol. 1.63–66. 19 Matt. 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:19. By contrast, the disciples distribute the bread in the Synoptic feeding accounts (Matt. 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16). 20 Liddell and Scott defines τρώγω as “gnawing” and “munching” with specific reference to animals such as mules. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, Vol. 1; 2nd ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), 23.3, define τρώγω as a verb denoting the consumption of solid foods. Other verbs included under this entry include: γεύομαι, βιβρώσκω, βρῶσις. Note the use of βιβρώσκω in John 6:13 and βρῶσις in 6:27, 55. 14

Eucharistic Language in John 6


bread (6:54, 56, 57, 58).21 Not only does the language of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood imply a eucharistic meaning, but these four arguments add weight to the case. However, the connection to the accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the Synoptic Gospels and 1 Corinthians 11 is actually not as clear cut as is often assumed. While some similarities exist, James D. G. Dunn points out that the word εὐχαριστέω is not explicitly eucharistic since it is also used by Jesus in the accounts of the feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:6; Matt. 15:36) and again in John 11:41, 22 not to mention the word’s absence from the Markan and Matthean institution accounts. 23 Further, Jesus does not break the bread in John 6:11 as he does in each account of the Lord’s Supper. 24 While, the term for the broken pieces of bread (6:13: κλασμάτα) may imply Jesus’ act of breaking the bread, 25 the silence concerning Jesus’ breaking the bread is conspicuous, especially considering the action’s prominence in the Last Supper accounts. 26 In addition, according to John it is Jesus’ σάρξ (“flesh”) which is to be eaten (6:53, 54, 55) and not his σῶμα (“body”) as in the accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Regarding the use of the word τρώγω, each instance of this verb in John 6 is as a Present Active Participle. 27 This may suggest that τρώγω is used synonymously in John 6 with ἐσθίω,28 an21 Bornkamm, “eucharistische Rede,” 162; Udo Schnelle, Antidocetic Christology in the Gospel of John: An Investigation of the Place of the Fourth Gospel in the Johannine School, trans. L. M. Maloney (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 204–5. 22 James D. G. Dunn, “John VI – A Eucharistic Discourse?” NTS 17 (1970–71): 328– 38 at 332–33. See also F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 145. 23 In Mark 14:22 and Matt. 26:26, Jesus blesses the bread (λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας). 24 ἔκλασεν: Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22 ; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24; cf. Luke 24:30. 25 Francis J. Moloney, John (Sacra Pagina 4; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1998), 198, 223. Didache 9:4 speaks of the bread of the Eucharist as the κλάσμα and speaks of broken bread that was gathered (συναχθέν; cf. συνήγαγον in John 6:13). However, the word κλάσμα is also used in the Synoptic feeding accounts (Luke 9:17; Mark 6:42; Matt 14:20); and the word for gathering συνάγω in John 6:13 may reflect the Exodus wilderness background of John 6 in the gathering of the manna especially in light of the other wilderness connections in John 6 (see LXX Exod. 16:6: συναγάγετε and below). 26 Cf. Luke 24:30; Acts 2:42. 27 In John 13:18, the word τρώγω is also in the present active participle form, where it refers to Judas eating bread (ψωμίον, 13:26) dipped by Jesus. The statement in John 13:18 is a citation of Ps. 40(41):10, in which the LXX interestingly reads: ὁ ἐσθίων ἄρτους μου. The only other use of τρώγω in the NT is in Matt. 24:38. The word is not found in the LXX; however, cf. ἐκτρώγω and κατατρώγω which are each used once in the LXX. See J. Lust, E. Eynikel, and K. Hauspie, Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, rev. ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2003). 28 C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978), 299; J. Ramsey Michaels, Gospel of John (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerd-


Benjamin E. Reynolds

other verb for eating which is found in John 6 in non-participial forms.29 In fact, the Gospel of John is known for its use of synonyms,30 and therefore, it appears likely that τρώγω need not refer to literal chewing but rather that it functions synonymously with ἐσθίω.31 All of these reasons suggest that a connection between the institution of the Lord’s Supper and John 6:1–15, not to mention John 6:26–58, is less plausible. By contrast, the Exodus wilderness narrative forms an obvious backdrop to the feeding of the 5,000 and the bread of life discourse.32 The citation of LXX Ps. 77:2433 “He gave them bread from heaven to eat” in 6:31 and the reference to Moses (6:32; cf. 6:14, 46) make this biblical theological connection explicit. The people of Israel’s grumbling in the wilderness is echoed in “the Jews’” grumbling (γογγύζω: John 6:41, 43, 61; LXX Exod. 17:3; cf. 16:2). Jesus’ claim to be the Bread of Life that has come down from heaven contrasts himself with the manna God gave to the people of Israel in the wilderness (6:35). The latter led to death since the ancestors died (48–49, 58),34 but the former (Jesus) gives life (6:27, 35, 53– 54, 57). A further wilderness allusion is perceptible if Jesus’ blood, the true drink (6:55), is considered as life-giving water and not the wine of the Eucharist. The waters of Meribah and Massah play an important role in the wilderness narratives and in their retelling (LXX Ps. 77:15–16; Exod. 17:3; Neh. 9:15, 20). A connection between Jesus’ blood in John 6 and the wine of the Eucharist is not compulsory since water is closely connected to bread in the wilderness tradition. The two needs of the Israelites were hunmans, 2010), 398 n. 53; Marten J. J. Menken, “John 6,51c–68: Eucharist or Christology?” Biblica 74 (1993): 1–26 at 17; George R. Beasley-Murray, John, 2nd ed. (WBC 36; Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), 95. 29 φάγητε τὴν σάρκα, 6:53; ἔφαγον, 6:58; see also 6:31, 48, 50, 51, 52. 30 Bruce, Gospel, 159. For example: ὑγιὴς, θεραπεύω, and ἰάομαι (5:9–13); προσφάγιον, ἴχθυς, ὀψάριον (21:5–11), not to mention the synonymous uses of ἀγαπάω and φιλέω; βλέπω, θεάομαι, and ὁράω; ἀποστελλω and πέμπω. 31 Beasley-Murray, John, 95. 32 For an extensive examination of the allusions to Exodus in John 6, see Susan Hylen, Allusion and Meaning in John 6 (BZNW 137; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2005), 119–56. 33 Other possible sources include Exod. 16:4, 15; Neh. 9:15, but Maarten J. J. Menken, Old Testament Quotations in the Fourth Gospel: Studies in Textual Form (Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1996), 52–54, gives an excellent argument for LXX Ps. 77:24 as the primary source. Cf. Peder Borgen, Bread from Heaven: An Exegetical Study of the Concept of Manna in the Gospel of John and the Writings of Philo (NovTSup 10; Leiden: Brill, 1965), 40–41, who sees Exod. 16:4, 15 as the source. 34 Gundry, Commentary, 385, states: “Here the contrast explicitly pits the mortality of ancient manna-eaters against the immortality of those who partake of the heavenly bread that is Jesus.”

Eucharistic Language in John 6


ger and thirst. Jesus speaks of both needs in 6:35: “I am the Bread of Life; the one coming to me will never hunger, and the one believing in me will never ever thirst (διψήσει).”35 In the retelling of the wilderness narratives, the manna and water traditions are often woven together. In LXX Psalm 77, the water from the rock is mentioned before the manna, and in Neh. 9:15, the manna and water accounts serve as one example of God’s provision: “You gave them bread from heaven in their famine and you brought water from a rock for them in their thirst (δίψαν).” Although there is no mention of drinking water in John 6, the drinking of water is an important theme in the Gospel of John. The satisfaction of thirst in 6:35 functions as a “hinge between 4:14 and 7:37b–38.”36 Jesus offers living water to the Samaritan woman, water that will spring up to eternal life (4:14), and in John 7:37, Jesus says that the one who believes in him will have rivers of living water flowing from him. And fascinatingly, water and blood flow from Jesus’ body when it is pierced by the centurion (19:34). When the Johannine emphasis on water is considered alongside the wilderness background, it is possible to consider the drinking of Jesus’ blood not in relation merely to eucharistic wine, but in relation to the life-giving water provided by God in the wilderness. His flesh is the true bread, and his blood is the true drink (6:55). His flesh is superior to the manna, and his blood is superior to the water from Massah and Meribah. When viewed in this literary and biblical context, eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood appears to serve as a metaphor for belief in Jesus and not to speak of the Eucharist. The emphasis of John 6:26–58 is on belief in Jesus and the eternal life which ensues through the Spirit. The Son of Man gives the food that endures to eternal life which Jesus challenges his hearers to work for (6:27–29). Those who see the Son and believe in him have eternal life (6:40, 47), and those who eat the bread of life, the bread coming down from heaven, will not die but live eternally (6:50–51: ζήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα). The entire discourse is permeated with an emphasis on belief in Jesus (6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69). Thus, when in John 6:54, Jesus states: “The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood has life eternal and I will raise him in the last day,” the parallel between eating and believing is unmistakable. To eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood is to be-

35 See the excellent essay on this topic by Maritz and Van Belle, “Imagery of Eating and Drinking,” esp. 344–45. 36 Ibid., 342, following F. Hahn, “Die Worte vom lebindigen Wasser im Johannesevangelium: Eigenart und Vorgeschichte von Joh 4,10.13f; 6,35; 7,37 –39,” in God’s Christ and His People: Studies in Honour of Nils Alstrup Dahl, ed. J. Jervell and W. A. Meeks (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1977), 51–70.


Benjamin E. Reynolds

lieve in Jesus the one coming down from heaven. Diana Swancutt states: “Eating means believing, coming, and listening to God.” 37 The concluding phrase of 6:54, “and I will raise him in the last day,” also serves to indicate that language concerning the consumption of Jesus functions as a metaphor for believing in him. There are three previous instances of this phrase in the discourse (6:39, 40, 44),38 and in these statements, those who are given to Jesus (6:39), those who see the Son and believe in him (6:40), those who are drawn by the Father (6:44), and those who eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood (6:54) will all be raised in the last day. The implication of the discourse appears to be that believing in Jesus, being given to him, being drawn by the Father, and consuming Jesus are equivalent metaphors all leading to being raised on the last day. In sum, the literary and narrative context of John’s Gospel suggests that a eucharistic meaning of John 6:51–58 is probably not intended. The Exodus manna tradition functions as the primary biblical theological context in the background of the narrative and discourse. The themes of eternal life, being raised on the last day, and remaining in Jesus are all related to the theme of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood, and these themes permeate the entire discourse. Rather than referring to any physical eating or drinking, the language of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood serves as a metaphorical description of belief in Jesus. Literal or Metaphorical Eating and Drinking in Eucharistic Interpretation Although the above arguments make the case for a metaphorical reading of the eating and drinking of Jesus, there are still some lingering questions concerning a possible literal eucharistic reading of these words. Jesus’ audience asks the question: “How can he give us his flesh to eat?” (6:52), but does consuming Jesus makes sense when applied to the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper? Bruce Chilton argues for just such a view. He states: The eucharistic context of Jesus’ assertion becomes all the more plain with the mention of “blood”. . . . The literalism of the ‘the Jews’, as established in the scene between Jesus and Nicodemus (3:1–21, esp. v. 4) can only make such statements irredeemably scandal-

Diana M. Swancutt, “Hungers Assuaged by the Bread from Heaven: ‘Eating Jesus’ as Isaian Call to Belief: The Confluence of Isaiah 55 and Psalm 78(77) in John 6.22 –71,” in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals, eds. Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders (JSNTSup 148/SSEJC 5; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 243. Also, Dunn, “John VI,” 335; Craig R. Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community, 2 nd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 103. 38 Each use of the phrase follows a question asked by Jesus’ Jewish interlocutors (6:30–31, 41–42, 52). 37

Eucharistic Language in John 6


ous, although within the community of the Gospel the eucharistic application will have been apparent.39

The canabalistic literalism of eating human flesh and blood is obviously scandalous, and even more so to a Jewish audience (Leviticus 17). However, to claim that Jesus’ statement makes sense in a eucharistic context retains the literalism of eating and drinking while only reinterpreting the items that are consumed.40 In other words, “Jesus did not mean actually eating his flesh and drinking his blood. What he really meant was eating bread called his body and drinking wine called his blood.” Note the statement by Jerome H. Neyrey, “[Jesus] reasserts that food and drink will be truly ingested, which should be interpreted as consumption of Eucharistic foods. . . . But it is not literal flesh and blood of which Jesus speaks but substances that nevertheless are both chewed and drunk, as are bread and wine at a meal.”41 This claim retains a literal eating if not an eating of literal flesh and blood. By contrast, Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus about being born from above in John 3 lacks physicality and literalism. Similar to “the Jews’” and the disciples’ questions (6:52, 60), Nicodemus asks, “How is someone able to be born above (or again) when he is old?” (3:4).42 Jesus explains that being born from above is a reference to being born of the Spirit. It is not a literal physical birth and does not require reentry into one’s mother’s womb. Similarly, when Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman in John 4 and offers her water that will take away thirst, it becomes clear that he is not speaking of physical thirst or literal water. 43 Like Nicodemus, the woman thinks literally and asks, “Sir, you do not have a bucket and the well is deep. From where do you have the living water?” (4:11), and Jesus responds by speaking about living water (4:13–14), which is obviously metaphorical.44 And again, literal viticulture is not intended in John 15 39 Bruce Chilton, A Feast of Meanings: Eucharistic Theologies from Jesus through Johannine Circles (NovTSup 72; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 138–39. 40 See Menken, “John 6,51c–68,” 16: “A literal understanding of ‘to eat’ and ‘to drink’ in vv. 53–58 . . . is possible only when ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ indicate the eucharistic elements. . . .” 41 Jerome H. Neyrey, The Gospel of John (NCBC; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 127. 42 Nicodemus’ question is extremely similar to the questions in John 6. 3:4: πῶς δύναται ἄνθρωπος γεννηθῆναι γέρων ὤν; 6:52: πῶς δύναται οὗτος ἡμῖν δοῦναι τὴν σάρκα αὐτοῦ φαγεῖν; 6:60: τίς δύναται αὐτοῦ ἀκούειν; 43 Marianne Meye Thompson, The Incarnate Word: Perspectives on Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993; orig. The Humanity of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1988]), 47. 44 Brown, New Testament Essays, 113, notes the close parallels between the questions, statements, and structure of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4


Benjamin E. Reynolds

when Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Remain in me and I in you” (15:4–5).45 As with eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood, these descriptions are metaphors for believing and remaining in Jesus, the one whom God sent (6:56). Arguing as Chilton and others do that a physical eating and drinking is still intended by John 6:51–58, although in reference to the eating and drinking of the eucharistic bread and wine and not to Jesus’ physical flesh and blood, 46 only repeats the literalism that was “the Jews’” misunderstanding, and also that of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus is not talking about eating or drinking. He is speaking about a consuming of him that comes through believing and remaining in him. As Jesus says, it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing (6:63).47 Jesus’ words are shocking, especially for a Jewish audience attuned to the reality of the life of the flesh being in the blood (Lev. 17:11). However, Jesus’ words are not about literally eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Like numerous other metaphors in John, these words signify belief in Jesus and the acceptance of his sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (1:29, 36).48 If the Johannine Jesus claims that he is the life (14:6), the giver of the living water that springs up to eternal life (4:14), and the giver of food that remains to eternal life (6:27), then he must be eaten and drunk for that life to be received. But this eating and drinking functions as a metaphor for what takes place through believing in him and the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit. No physical eating of bread or drinking of wine can accomplish that. Neither can climbing back into one’s mothers’ womb nor drinking water from a well give eternal life. John 6:51–58 and the entire Bread of Life discourse correspond to the rest of the Gospel in emphasizing belief in Jesus and directing attention to his signs which reveal him as Messiah, Son of God (6:14, 68–69). and “the Jews” in John 6. This includes the similar responses – 4:15: “Sir, give me this water” (κύριε, δός μοι τοῦτο τὸ ὕδωρ); 6:34: “Sir, give us this bread always” (κύριε, πάντοτε δὸς ἡμῖν τὸν ἄρτον τοῦτον). 45 Jesus is also not literally, physically the light of the world, the gate, the good she pherd, or the way any more than he is literally the bread to be eaten. 46 Also Jane S. Webster, Ingesting Jesus: Eating and Drinking in the Gospel of John (SBLAB 6; Atlanta: SBL, 2003), 153. 47 Dunn, “John VI,” 334. John 6:63 plays a significant role in the reception of John 6, as we will see below. 48 Although the implications of the incarnation are here, the flow of the narrative does not suggest that eating Jesus’ flesh involves accepting Jesus’ “true humanity” as claimed by O. S. Brooks, “The Johannine Eucharist: Another Interpretation,” JBL 82 (1963): 293–300, and followed by Dunn, “John VI,” 336. Rather, Jesus’ humanity is assumed (6:42; cf. 9:16), and he claims to have come down from heaven. This claim to heavenly origin is the first claim questioned by “the Jews” (6:41), and some of Jesus’ own disciples also seem to struggle with this same claim to his heavenly origin (6:62).

Eucharistic Language in John 6


Summary The exegetical examination of John 6 indicates that a non-eucharistic interpretation of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood best fits the narrative context and grammatico-historical background of the passage. The familiar language of eating and drinking lacks a connection to the Lord’s Supper. Jesus’ words in John 6 are not the words of Jesus on the night he was betrayed. There is no cup; there is no wine that is the new covenant in his blood. Jesus speaks not in the upper room at the Last Supper, but within the context of the feeding of the 5,000, which is itself placed within the biblical theological setting of the wilderness narratives. John 6 relates a spiritual reality of indwelling and spiritual nourishment that has been si gnified in Jesus’ greater-than-Moses-like giving of bread and water in the wilderness. From the perspective of the Gospel of John, the biblical theology of the passage indicates that eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood is equivalent to indwelling, remaining, abiding, and having eternal life which are made possible through Jesus’ laying down his life and taking it up again (10:11–18). Apart from Jesus there is no satisfaction. Well water, natural birth, and miraculous bread will never satisfy.

A Brief History of Reception Before moving too quickly to a theological interpretation, a brief examination of the reception history of John 6:51–58 may provide some helpful guidance or a useful corrective on the above exegetical interpretation.49 Reception history reminds us that we are not the first to interpret John 6.50 Many saints and scholars have wrestled with this biblical passage and have often done so from different perspectives and with varied questions and concerns. Whether these saints and scholars offer superior exegesis to what has been argued above or not,51 we find similar arguments both for and against a eucharistic reading of 6:51–58 in their writings. One of the earliest interpretations of John 6 is found in Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215). In his work Pedagogus (“The Instructor”), he discusses how the Word of God is represented figuratively as being meat and drink. While his primary metaphor is milk (cf. 1 Cor. 3:2; Exod. 3:8), Clement, citing John 6:55 and 6:53, 54, includes the metaphor of blood to See Osborne, Hermeneutical Spiral, 351–53. For an excellent and thorough study of the reception history of this passage, see Craig Koester, “John Six and the Lord’s Supper,” Lutheran Quarterly 4.4 (1990): 419– 37. Also, Hylen, Allusion and Meaning, 2–20. 51 David C. Steinmetz, “The Superiority of Pre-Critical Exegesis,” Theology Today 37 (1980): 27–38. 49 50


Benjamin E. Reynolds

speak of the drinkability of the Word.52 Likewise, Origen (c. 185–254), in his commentary on the Gospel, asserts that eating the Lord is food for the soul.53 In his first festal letter, Athanasius (c. 295–373), another Alexandrian, explains how virtues and vices are food for the soul. He states that Jesus as the heavenly bread is food for the saints, while the devil is food of sinners.54 These three Alexandrian interpreters spanning approximately one hundred years understand the flesh and blood in John 6 as spiritual nourishment. The Cappadocian father, Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–391), however, understands 6:54 to refer to the confirmation of salvation in the Eucharist. 55 John Chrysostom (344/354–407), who was a contemporary of Gregory and the bishop of Constantinople, states that it is possible and necessary to eat Jesus and that this eating is accomplished in the Mysteries or the Eucharist, by sinking one’s teeth into him. 56 Similarly, Cyril of Alexandria (375– 444), in his commentary on the Gospel, contends that Jesus’ call to eat his flesh and drink his blood (6:53) is fulfilled in the sacrament for those who believe.57 On the other hand, Augustine (354–430) argues for a metaphorical understanding. In his Tractates on the Gospel of John he declares: “For to believe is to eat the living bread. He who believes eats; he is nourished invisibly because he is reborn invisibly.” 58 And again, “Therefore, ‘this is the bread coming down from heaven, that if anyone eat of it, he will not die.’ But as pertains to the efficacy of the sacrament, not as pertains to the visible sacrament: he who eats within, not without; he who eats with his heart, not he who crushes with his teeth.” 59 For Augustine, John 6 is non-

Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor 1.6 (ANF 2.118). Origen, Commentary on the Gospel According to John 10.99–110; 20.406; cf. 19.39 (FC 80:276–79; 89:288; cf. 89:176). 54 Athanasius, Festal Letters, 1.5 (NPNF2 4:508). See also those listed in Joel C. Elowsky, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament 4a: John 1– 10 (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). 55 Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius 11.5 (NPNF2 5:238) 56 John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John 47.1 (NPNF1 14:168). 57 Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John 4.2, in Norman Russell, Cyril of Alexandria (London: Routledge, 2000), 114–16. Note the similarity with Cyril of Jerusalem’s (c. 315–386) citation of John 6:53 in his Mystagogical Catecheses 4.4–5, in St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Lectures on the Christian Sacraments: The Procatechesis and the Five Mystagogical Catecheses, ed. F.L. Cross (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986), 27, 69. 58 Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John 26.1.4 (FC 79:260). 59 Ibid., 26.12.3 (FC 79:270). 52 53

Eucharistic Language in John 6


sacramental since to eat the body of Christ is to believe and involves membership in his body (i.e., the community of believers).60 In contrast to Augustine, Codex Bezae (5 th/6th cent.)61 adds the words λαμβάνω (“take”/“receive”) and σῶμα (“body”) to John 6:51–56 from the Synoptic institution accounts. In Codex Bezae, an additional line follows 6:56: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you take the body of the Son of Man as the bread of life, you do not have life in him” (ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ λάβητε τὸ σῶμα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὡς τὸν ἄρτον τῆς ζωῆς, οὐκ ἔχετε ζωὴν ἐν αὐτ. ).62 Unfortunately, there is no way to tell whether this wording was influenced by church fathers such as Cyril of Alexandria and Chrysostom or if it influenced their interpretations. At the least, Codex Bezae indicates the existence of a sacramental reading of John 6 in the fifth and sixth centuries. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) illustrates an interweaving of spiritual and sacramental readings of John 6. Aquinas focused on union with Christ through faith and love which is achieved by eating and drinking Jesus in a spiritual way.63 He argued that taking John 6:53, 54 spiritually poses no problems, while a sacramental understanding does.64 At the same time, Aquinas did not find the difficulties to a sacramental understanding insurmountable. While interpreting the eating in a communal sense and as having to do with sincerity, Aquinas did not see the sacrament as merely a symbol of this spiritual eating.65 He paraphrased Jesus words: “Do not think that I am speaking metaphorically, for my flesh is truly contained in this food of the faithful, and my blood is truly contained in this sacrament of the altar. . . .”66 For Aquinas, Christ is present in the elements, but a sacramental eating of Christ does not suffice without spiritual eating.67 60 However, note Koester, “John Six”, 421–22, who points out Augustine’s sacramental reading of 6:53 in “On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and Baptism of Infants” 1.27, 33 (NPNF1 1:25, 28) when he addresses the issue of infants partaking of the Eucharist. 61 Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 3 rd ed. (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 49–51. 62 See also 6:53, 57. Codex Bezae’s use of “take” is intriguing considering that what makes these plusses sacramental in this manuscript is the lack of words for eating, even including the lack of the word τρώγω to which modern sacramental readings often appeal. 63 Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6–12, trans. Fabian Larcher and James A. Weisheipl (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), 47, 49 (§973, 976). 64 Ibid., 45, 49 (§969, 976). 65 Ibid., 46–49 (§972-74, 976). 66 Ibid., 48 (§974). 67 Steinmetz, “Pre-Critical Exegesis,” 31: “Thomas was able to show that the spiritual sense of Scripture is always based on the literal sense and derived from it.”


Benjamin E. Reynolds

During the Reformation, Martin Luther (1483–1546) was decidedly anti-sacramental in his Wittenburg Saturday sermons on the Gospel of John (Nov 1530–May 1531). Luther preached: “this chapter does not refer to the Sacrament but to the spiritual nourishment and eating;”68 “Wherever the message is proclaimed that Christ gave His body into death and shed His blood for our sins, and wherever this is taken to heart, believed, and retained, there Christ’s body is eaten, and His blood is drunk. This is the true meaning of eating and drinking. To eat is synonymous here with to believe. He who believes also eats and drinks Christ.” 69 The issues Luther addressed have their obvious context in the Reformation. He was concerned with salvation by faith alone apart from good works,70 as well as the recognition that eternal life is not given to all who partake.71 Although Luther had these theological concerns, his interpretation is grounded in the context of the passage. Likewise, John Calvin (1509–1564) in his commentary on the Gospel of John takes a strongly non-sacramental interpretation of 6:51–58: “for this discourse does not relate to the Lord’s Supper, but to the uninterrupted communication of the flesh of Christ, which we obtain apart from the use of the Lord’s Supper.”72 Although Calvin stated that “the whole of this passage is improperly explained as applied to the Lord’s Supper,” he still saw a relationship with the Lord’s Supper. He continued: “And yet, at the same time, I acknowledge that there is nothing said here that is not figuratively represented and actually bestowed on believers, in the Lord’s Supper; and Christ even intended that the holy Supper should be, as it were, a seal and confirmation of this sermon.” 73 For Calvin, John 6 is primarily about belief in Jesus and lacks a eucharistic sense, yet Calvin did not completely disconnect the passage from the Eucharist. He understood feeding on Jesus as a metaphor for belief, yet he held that eating bread and drinking wine in the Lord’s Supper confirms the reality of faith in Jesus. 74 68 Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6–8, 6:14 (LW 23:118); also 6:15 (LW 23:129). 69 Ibid., 6:16 (LW 23:135). 70 Ibid., 6:15 (LW 23:130); 6:16 (LW 23:134–37). 71 Ibid., 6:14 (LW 23:118). 72 John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 2 vols., trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), 1:265. 73 Ibid., 1:266. 74 Ibid., 1:261–62. Eleanor B. Hanna, “Biblical Interpretation and Sacramental Practice: John Calvin’s Interpretation of John 6:51–58,” Worship (1999): 211–30 at 229, seems off-track with her statement: “Calvin rejected the sacramental view because he did not have the concepts which would allow him to articulate a sense in which a real and genuine union between believers and the life-giving force of Christ took place in and through the bread and drink of the Supper.”

Eucharistic Language in John 6


In 1550, Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556), the Archbishop of Canterbury, published A Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Saviour Christ. The work was revised and republished a year later in response to Bishop Stephen Gardiner’s opposition. Cranmer viewed eating Jesus’ flesh as a spiritual eating, but for him, John 6:51–58 explained the symbolic theology of the Eucharist, as opposed to transubstantiation.75 Two aspects indicate the centrality of John 6 for Cranmer’s understanding of a spiritual eating in John 6. First, he printed the phrase “It is the spirit that giveth life, the flesh profiteth nothing. – John vi” on the title of page of both editions of Defence (1550, 1551). And second, Cranmer moved the “Prayer of Humble Access” with its John 6 language to the center of the Book of Common Prayer’s eucharistic liturgy in the 1552 revision.76 Cranmer, and also Martin Bucer,77 considered John 6 as eucharistic because he understood the Eucharist itself as spiritual and the language of eating and drinking in John 6 as symbolic of that spiritual eating of Jesus. On the Catholic side of the 16 th century, it is noteworthy that the Council of Trent (1562), with Cardinal Cajetan arguing for the non-sacramental view of John 6, could not reach a conclusion regarding the sacramental or non-sacramental reading of this passage.78 In 1745, John and Charles Wesley published 166 hymns for use during the Lord’s Supper.79 Many of the hymns borrow language from John 6: “Bread of Life,” “living bread,” “bread sent down/that came from heaven,” “flesh and blood,” and “for ever live.” 80 The Wesleys appear to have understood the eating and drinking metaphorically: “By Faith his Flesh we

75 Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop Cranmer on the True and Catholic Doctrine and Use of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, ed. Charles H. H. Wright (London: Chas. J. Thynne & Jarvis, 1928). 76 Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, 2nd ed. (New York: Seabury Press, 1982 [1945]), 657, 663; Katie Badie, “The Prayer of Humble Access,” Churchman 120 (2006): 103–17. A similar eucharistic understanding of John 6 is perceptible in question 76 of The Heidelberg Catechism, (Cleveland: United Church Press, 1962), 74–75. 77 Amy Nelson Burnett, “Hermeneutics and Exegesis in the Early Eucharistic Contr oversy,” in Shaping the Bible in the Reformation: Books, Scholars and Their Readers in the Sixteenth Century, eds. Bruce Gordon and Matthew McLean (Boston/Leiden: Brill, 2012), 85–105 at 101. 78 Koester, “John Six,” 424, citing Edwin C. Hoskyns, The Fourth Gospel, ed. Francis Noel Davey, (London: Faber and Faber, 1947), 304; Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I–XII, XII–XXI, 2 vols. (AB 29, 29A; New York: Doubleday, 1966, 1970), 1.272. 79 Wesley and Wesley, Hymns on the Lord’s Supper. The brothers relied on Daniel Brevint’s (1616–1695) treatise “On the Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice” (1672). 80 Not to mention other Johannine imagery: “Lamb of God,” “water and blood,” and clay on the eyes of the blind.


Benjamin E. Reynolds

eat”81 and “Give us thro’ Faith the Flesh to eat.” 82 This is confirmed more explicitly in John Wesley’s comment on John 6:51: “This whole discourse concerning his flesh and blood refers directly to his passion, and but remotely, if at all, to the Lord’s supper.” 83 The Wesley’s hymns emphasize the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as well as the mystery of the sacrament,84 but the lack of the “local Deity” in the elements.85 These aspects indicate the tension between biblical and exegetical understandings of John 6 in contrast to a theology of the Lord’s Supper. This cursory examination of the reception history of John 6 indicates that quite a few (if not the majority of) scholars and saints throughout the history of Christianity have understood John 6 in a more or less nonsacramental sense (the Alexandrians, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Bucer, and the Wesleys); however, a number of them have simultaneously left open the possibility of a sacramental sense or application (Augustine, Calvin, Cranmer, Bucer, and the Wesleys). What should not be lost, however, is that many of them, especially Augustine and Calvin, have appealed to both exegetical and theological reasons to support their understanding. Apart from the immediate concerns and issues of those writing, 86 much of the exegetical case for a non-eucharistic reading of John 6 is not that different from my “post-critical exegesis” above. But, how then do we relate the exegesis of John 6 with the history of its reception? And what does this say about the theology of John 6 or about a theology of the Eucharist?

John 6 and Eucharistic Theology When John 6 is viewed through the lens of reception history or historical theology, both eucharistic interpretations and non-eucharistic interpretations are evident. The majority87 of the commentators mentioned have understood the language of John 6 as metaphorical rather than as a literal description of the Eucharist. However, theological understanding of the Eucharist appears to have influence on interpretation. Augustine showed signs of shifting his interpretation of John 6 depending on whether he preached on the Gospel of John or whether he argued about the proper use of the Eucharist. Thomas Cranmer was content to use John 6 to argue Ibid., 4 (Hymn 4 v. 2). Ibid., 128 (Hymn 153 v. 1). 83 John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, 2 vols. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983 [1754]), 1.325. 84 Wesley, Hymns, 79 (Hymn 92 v. 2); 128 (Hymn 153 v. 1); 41 (Hymn 57 v. 1). 85 Ibid., 47 (Hymn 63 v. 2). 86 However, the context of the debates and writings remain extremely important. 87 An admittedly slight majority. 81 82

Eucharistic Language in John 6


against transubstantiation, the literal eating of Jesus’ body through his presence in the eucharistic elements, because he understood John 6 as a depiction of the spiritual feeding on Jesus that he believed took place in the Eucharist. The Wesley brothers seem to understand John 6 primarily as non-eucharistic and about metaphorical eating, yet they used language of John 6 in their Hymns on the Lord’s Supper. In modern scholarship, differing opinions concerning the eucharistic interpretation of John 6 often appear to be dependent upon theological pre-understandings.88 Theology appears to influence interpretation, even though the differences of interpretation cannot always be correlated to a purely Catholic-Protestant division. In John 6, the language of eating flesh and drinking blood seems to predispose many interpreters to conclude that the passage is eucharistic, even though as argued above the biblical theology of the passage appears to indicate an emphasis on spiritual feeding and mutual indwelling. 89 If theological predispositions can influence exegesis, how then do we see John 6 in relation to the Eucharist? If John 6 is not about the Eucharist, what do we do with the fact that many understand it to be so? If the text is nonsacramental, should we relate John 6 to our theology of the Lord’s Supper or do we ignore John 6 when discussing eucharistic theology? If the above argument is correct and John 6 is non-sacramental, I would contend that a direct theological application of John 6 to the Eucharist is not appropriate. A systematic theology or doctrinal statement of the Lord’s Supper must begin with the institution passages in the Synoptic Gospels and 1 Corinthians 11. The biblical theology of John 6 suggests that the question “What does John 6 teach us about the Eucharist?” is not the right question. It would follow, therefore, that John 6 should not inform our theology of the Eucharist. 90 The assumption that John 6 is about the Lord’s Supper – rather than taking into account the genre and narrative context of John’s Gospel – indicates a concern for concepts over modes of expression.91 A theological presupposition that John 6 refers to the Lord’s Supper appears to undermine the biblical theology of the text.

Cf. Brown (Catholic), New Testament Essays, 119–20, and Michaels (Protestant), John, 395–96, on “the Jew’s” misunderstanding Jesus’ statement about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. 89 In saying this, I recognize that as a Protestant I am predisposed toward this view, but in attempting to listen to John 6 in the context of the entire Gospel of John and the OT background of the pericope, this position seems to be the more likely interpretation. 90 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1999), 309–10 (; 1374–77); and Angel F. Méndez Montoya, The Theology of Food: Eating and the Eucharist (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). 91 See Kevin Vanhoozer, “From Canon to Concept: ‘Same’ and ‘Other’ in the Rel ation Between Biblical and Systematic Theology,” SBET 12 (1994): 96–124. 88


Benjamin E. Reynolds

A helpful theological application of 6:51–58 and the Eucharist is given by John Calvin in his commentary on John 6. He takes a non-sacramental view of John 6, but he allows for a connection to the Eucharist. 92 The direction of the connection is, however, not from John 6 to the Eucharist, but rather from the Eucharist to John 6.93 Calvin argues that eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood is a spiritual feasting that can be symbolized or “figuratively represented” in the Lord’s Supper. 94 Jesus’ words in John 6:51–58 are metaphors for believing. Therefore the physical eating of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper can function as “a seal and confirmation” of Jesus’ words rather than his words describing what takes place in the Eucharist. Theologically, then, John 6 does not point to the Eucharist, but the Eucharist can serve as a symbol of Jesus’ words of spiritual nourishment and mutual indwelling (6:56). As F. F. Bruce states: “Our Lord in this discourse is not indeed speaking directly of the Lord’s Supper, but he does expound the truth which the Lord’s Supper conveys.” 95 Thus, regardless of one’s theology of the sacrament, the spiritual reality of John 6 can be reflected in the Lord’s Supper, reminding the partaker of the spiritual reality of divine indwelling (6:55–56).

Systematic Theology in Partnership with Biblical Theology The overarching question of this essay is the relationship between biblical and systematic theology. Throughout this essay there has been a conscious attempt to follow the framework of the “hermeneutical spiral,” and hopefully this has kept the exegetical, biblical theological, and systematic theological aspects in the forefront, highlighting the tensions that exist between them. The eating and drinking of Jesus’ flesh and blood in John 6 and in the Eucharist gives teeth to the question of whether or not systematic theology or biblical theology “should dominate the other” or whether they should “form a partnership of equals.”96 From my perspective it is obvious 92 Also helpful here is John Wesley, Explanatory Notes, 1.325, who says that John 6:51 was “directly” related to Jesus’ passion, “and but remotely, if at all, to the Lord’s Supper.” 93 See also, John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 559 (4.17.4). 94 Calvin, John, 266 (6.54). Perhaps unsurprisingly, this position is related to Calvin’s theological understanding of the Eucharist (Institutes, 564 [4.17.11]). 95 Bruce, Gospel, 161. Also, 160: “In all ways in which his people feed on him by faith – not only at the Holy Table, but in reading and hearing the Word of God, or in pr ivate or united in prayer and meditation (to mention no more) – they may fulfill the conditions which he lays down here [6:52–55], and receive the promised blessing.” 96 Gundry, Jesus the Word, 95.

Eucharistic Language in John 6


that they can and should partner together, but what does partnership look like? One way of describing the partnership of biblical and systematic theology is theological interpretation of Scripture. Joel Green argues that theological interpretation of Scripture involves asking: “What do we see when Scripture is viewed through the prism of the Rule of Faith that we didn’t see before?” Green also argues that theological interpretation “can inquire whether our readings of the Old and New Testaments lie within the parameters set by the Rule of Faith.”97 As prism and parameter, the Rule of Faith illuminates aspects of Scripture that might be overlooked and also places a fence around the pasture of orthodox belief. Biblical exegesis can challenge the formulation of the Rule of Faith, but systematic theology provides a worthy “fence” for exegetes.98 Green’s proposals are a helpful way forward in practicing theological interpretation and explaining a partnership between biblical and systematic theology. Theological presuppositions can guide, enlighten, and warn us about interpreting Scripture apart from the Rule of Faith and Christian theology. Systematic theology should not dominate biblical theology, nor should biblical theology dominate systematic theology. They both need to be guided by the other and partner together, but how do we address theological issues which fly below the radar of the creeds and have various denominational theologies, such as baptism, gifts of the Spirit, ecclesiology, and, of course, the Lord’s Supper? As evident in John 6, differing theologies of the Eucharist are one of the main contributing factors for either a eucharistic or non-eucharistic interpretation. Interestingly, Green’s argument for the Rule of Faith as prism and parameter and Osborne’s hermeneutical spiral noticeably assume that biblical exegesis stands at the starting line of evangelical biblical interpretation. Awareness of the Rule of Faith and of theological presuppositions is a requirement in the task of exegesis, but theological interpretation still must begin with the biblical text.99 For an evangelical endeavor, beginning with the biblical text is not surprising; the biblical text is understood by evangelicals as the Word of God. It is foundational. John Webster states: “the ultimate resource is the text . . . for the text is an act of God’s selfdisclosure.” He continues: “the task of theological interpretation” is “read-

Green, Practicing Theological Interpretation, 98. E.g., Green, Practicing Theological Interpretation, 97–98: “we might ask how we might better formulate the Christology affirmed in Scripture and creed.” 99 See Gundry, “Hermeneutic Liberty,” 15–17. 97 98


Benjamin E. Reynolds

ing Scripture as divine address.” 100 Thus, the evangelical scholar must begin with the biblical text as Scripture and listen to it as best as one can, while endeavoring to avoid imposing a foreign theology onto the text. Thus, the reading of and listening to the biblical text as the Word of God is the primary task of the evangelical interpreter. Theological presuppositions exist and they do influence interpretation, but they should not “simply trump the work of biblical interpretation but instead must be placed in a dialectical relationship with Scripture that is mutually informative.” 101 Systematic and biblical theology should not be master of each other; however, theological interpretation and the hermeneutical spiral suggest that biblical theology should function as the first among equals in its partnership with systematic theology.

Conclusion When John 6 is examined in its narrative context, the eating of Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood, apart from being familiar eucharistic language, does not refer to the Lord’s Supper. John 6 is not sacramental and as such should not inform theological discussions of the Eucharist. This examination of biblical and theological aspects of John 6 indicates that biblical and systematic theology can and should partner together. They can work in “dialectical relationship,” informing each other. Scripture is the beginning point of biblical interpretation as it is informed by “gospel-driven presuppositions and doctrinal pre-understandings about the nature of the Bible.”102 We must listen to the divine voice of God’s Word and be sensitive to it. Systematic theology may guide and set boundaries for exegesis and biblical theology, but it should not dictate biblical theology. 103

100 John Webster, “Jesus Christ,” in Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology, ed. Timothy Larson and Daniel J. Treier (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 51–63 at 60–61. 101 Green, Practicing Theological Interpretation, 97. 102 Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics, 271. 103 I am grateful for the comments and critiques of my colleagues Rebecca Idestrom, John Kessler, and Ian Scott given at the Tyndale Theological Colloquium. Thanks also to Anna-Maria Agostan for her research assistance.

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology: From Early Appearances (1 Corinthians 15) to the “Sindonology” of the Empty Tomb ROY D. KOTANSKY Often considered the earliest record of resurrection appearances, 1 Cor. 15:3–7 offers a kind of “bare-bones” précis of traditional pre-Pauline apparitions (ὤφθη) of Jesus as Messiah (Χριστός), following his crucifixion and burial:1 (3) For I have handed down to you, above all, that which I also received: That Messiah died on behalf of our sins, according to the Scriptures; (4) and: That he was buried; The literature on this passage is vast, that on the Resurrection, in general, even vaster. For some recent treatments of 1 Corinthians 15, in particular, see David G. Buttrick, “Easter Preaching,” Int 65 (2011): 56–67, esp. 57–60; Jake H. O’Connell, “The Reliability of the Resurrection Narratives,” EJT 19 (2010): 141–52 (with material on the gospels); Ulrich B. Müller, “Auferweckt und erhöht: zur Genese des Osterglaubens,” NTS 54 (2008): 201–20; Kirk R. MacGregor, “1 Corinthians 15:3A–6A, 7 and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus,” JETS 49 (2006): 225–34; Birger Gerhardsson, “Evidence for Christ’s Resurrection According to Paul: 1 Cor 15:1–11,” in Neotestamentica et Philonica. Studies in Honor of Peder Borgen, eds. David E. Aune, Torrey Seland, & Jarl Henning Ulrichsen (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 73–91; Randall C. Webber, “A Note on 1 Corinthians 15:3–5,” JETS 26 (1983): 265–69; J. Murphy-O’Connor, “Tradition and Redaction in 1 Corinthians 15:3–7,” CBQ 48 (1981): 582–89; Ronald J. Sider, “St. Paul’s Understanding of the Nature and Significance of the Resurrection in I Corinthians XV 1 –19,” NovT 19 (1977): 124–41; see also J. Kloppenborg, “An Analysis of the Pre-Pauline Formula in 1 Corinthians 15:2b–5 in Light of Some Recent Literature,” CBQ 18 (1978): 351–67 – this in addition to the commentaries and the general studies on the Resurrection. Our own honoree has also written on the resurrection in his “The Essential Physicality of Jesus’ Resurrection according to the New Testament,” in his collected essays, The Old is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations (WUNT 178: Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 171–94. Many thanks to Benjamin Reynolds for help with bibliographical, and other, items. 1


Roy D. Kotansky

(5) and: That he was raised on the third day; according to the Scriptures; and: That he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. (6) Afterwards, He appeared to more than 500 “brethren” at once, among whom the majority are still alive, but some have “fallen asleep.” (7) Afterwards, He appeared to James, then to all of the Apostles. (8) But last of all (as if to one untimely born) he also appeared to me.

Where this traditional formula begins and ends remains a subject of considerable debate;2 however, following the opening three verses, we observe that the seriatim (καὶ) ὅτι’s – used to introduce what is plainly quoted material – falls away, to be replaced by a secondary set of materials containing chronological elements bearing upon the present situation of Paul’s own day (v. 6b: οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι), eventually rounding out with a marquee note of the Apostle’s own personal experience of the risen Lord (v. 8). Clearly the mention of Paul’s private conversion cannot belong to the material he introduces as traditional, but the additional references to an appearance to more than 500 “brethren” simultaneously, and then an appearance to James and a wider body of apostles – even if this first notice is appended with personalized remarks relevant to Paul’s later life (sc., to ca. 56/57 C.E.) – represent part of a larger corpus of materials that Paul appears to be quoting. It would seem to belong, though, to a secondary stage of oral tradition that he has received, for only in an artificial way do the appearances link up with the earlier, catechetical-like catalogue of kerygmatic events in their continued use of the ὤφθη-appearance formulas. It is the very formula that Paul adopts for his own experience, thus connecting his appearance story with a string of apparitions that seem to have their

2 For a general overview of the problems, cf. Sider, “St. Paul’s Understanding,” 125– 33; MacGregor, “Bodily Resurrection,” 227; Murphy-O’Connor, “Tradition and Redaction,” 582–89; Kloppenborg, “An Analysis,” 351–52.

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


own, built-in, chronological staging. 3 But it is the absence of the punctiliar recitations of the quotation formulas of the earliest part of the traditional material that sets it apart from the first. Verses 3–5 is the oldest, and most fixed part, of the kerygmatic pronouncement that we have here, to which additional material, namely that respective of the “five-hundred,” James, and the others, was incorporated. But the earliest kerygmatic element may not have originally included, as well, the quotation-formulas, “according to the Scriptures” (κατὰ τὰς γραφάς), and hence, these remain italicized in the schematic outline given above.4 Its original text may even have been something as simple as this: Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν; ἐτάφη; ἐγήργεται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ; ὤφθη Κηφᾷ; εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα.5

Despite the fact that beginning in 15:6 we have new material, the series of post-Cephan appearances, marked by the temporal adverb ἔπειτα, also must surely be part of the traditional παράδοσις that Paul has received. The larger body of material that he obtained, then, seems to be the earliest kerygma of vv. 3b–5, appended by the supplemental accounts that end with an appearance to James and the apostles. This secondary section, indeed, may rely more upon separate oral material rather than upon any fixed kerymatic formulation.6 Thus the pre-Pauline material in a nutshell. 3 The autobiographical notice in 15:8 of Paul’s own vision, as a kind of miscarriage (ἔκτρωμα), both structurally (Paul’s ἔσχατον δέ, following logically on the series of [ἔπ]ειτα’s in vv. 5–7); and linguistically (ὤφθη, matching the traditional three ὤφθη’s, also in vv. 5–7), would seem to form a seamless match with the traditional appearances. That may have been Paul’s intention. 4 This represents the earliest stage of Biblical “proof-texting” where scribes familiar with the LXX could back up prophecies about Jesus from the Old Testament, or T orah. Here, however, the actual texts are not provided, as yet. They may have been orally understood, disseminated, transmitted, and debated at this early stage, but not actually cited. It requires considerable learning to trace down the actual texts. But the need to mention Scriptural referencing at all sets the stage for locating those texts, and here the process has already begun; therefore, it is secondary. On the issue of the phrase κατὰ τὰς γραφάς being additional, cf. Kloppenborg, “An Analysis,” 364. 5 Cf. Kloppenborg, “An Analysis,” 360. 6 The secondary nature of these verses, although unclear as to tradition versus redaction, is widely recognized; cf. Kloppenborg, “An Analysis,” 358. Paul’s addition in respect of his own encounter in 15:8–11, although linking his vision with the more “traditional” ones, forms an important segue to the discussion to follow, but is largely immaterial in respect of the tradition handed down to him. Further, his interpretation of the formula, expounded in detail in vv. 9–57 must also be kept separate from the catechetical material he quotes; cf. e.g., Sider, “St. Paul’s Understanding,” 141.


Roy D. Kotansky

Where, or from whom, did Paul receive this early material? The earliest segment probably derives from the community of apostles surrounding Peter (sc. Cephas). Peter is the primary recipient of the Messianic vision, followed by the original twelve (sc. eleven), and his name is attached to the tripartite kerygma. How this distinctively Petrine formulation outlasts the tradition of the appearances to women at the tomb in the Synoptic accounts is addressed below, but it seems to belong with the Aramaic-speaking community, as the use of the name Cephas (‫ )כפא‬attests.7 As for the second part of the catalogue of appearances, the answer as to origin may lie with the very name of the apostolic figure last mentioned in the “canonical” list, that is, with none other than James, brother of the Lord and prominent pillar of the primitive Jerusalem church. Not only is his name last in the list of persons to whom Jesus appeared, and therefore climatically dominant in its association in the list, following that of Peter’s, there is reason to believe that James would have been a likely candidate to have first received and promulgated the traditional resurrection material preserved in 1 Cor. 15:3–5. He may also have been the guarantor of the supplemental (oral) tradition that knew of the appearances to the 500 brethren and to all the other apostoloi, and surely the “source” of the account about the appearance to himself, whose very name crowns that resurrection list. When Peter converted the household of the Gentile Cornelius at Caesarea Maritima (Acts 10) and had arrived back in Jerusalem, he was criticized by the party of the circumcision (Acts 11:2–3) for fraternizing with Gentiles. Evidently, word had gotten back to them from their own factional members who had accompanied him (Acts 10:45). Soon after, when Peter is imprisoned and miraculously delivered in Jerusalem (Acts 12), he arrives at the house of Mary the mother of John-Mark during a sizeable prayer gathering. Peter only motions silence, describes his escape, and, tellingly, gives instructions that “these events” (ταῦτα) be told to James and the brothers (Acts 12:17). It is to James, then, that Peter’s own experiences about the risen Lord would, perhaps, have been first shared. 8 7 It has been classically debated whether the original Pauline catalogue was Aramaic (e.g., Jeremias, Bode) or Greek (e.g., Conzelmann). See Sider, “St. Paul’s Understanding,” 133 n. 135; MacGregor, “Bodily Resurrection of Jesus,” 225–26, with reference to Berthold Klappert, “Zur Frage des semitischen oder griechischen Urtextes von 1. Kor. XV. 3–5,” NTS 13 (1966–1967): 168–73 (at 226 n. 9); Kloppenborg, “An Analysis,” 352–53; Murphy-O’Connor, “Tradition and Redaction,” 584; further, Webber, “A Note,” 268. 8 Most scholars point to Peter and James as transmitters of the material. But Pa ul Winter, “I Corinthians XV 3b–7,” NovT 2 (1957): 142–50, with an ingenious emendation proposes a doublet of two rival Christophanies, one to Cephas, the Twelve, and more than 500 brothers; the other to James, the Apostles, and all the brethren, where each of the three elements parallels and refers to the same event (e.g. the twelve = the apostles).

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


History vs. Theology To return to 1 Corinthians 15: we have begun our study of this passage in some detail for good reason. In this volume dedicated to honor Professor Emeritus Robert H. Gundry, I have chosen this early pre-Pauline resurrection catalogue of Paul’s as a starting point with which to compare the other early resurrection stories, notably those in the gospels dealing specifically with the appearances at the Gethsemane-, or garden-, tomb.9 Our aim is to see what kind of continuity or discontinuity exists between a list that includes no appearances to women and a more developed narrative that names women as the first to come upon the empty tomb, even if that narrative gives no actual manifestations of the risen Jesus, for the most part. In order to sort out what all this means for the integrity of the theological message of the resurrection of Jesus in history, it will prove necessary also to examine how each of the gospel accounts compares one with another, in the details relevant to what occurred at the tomb, and what a single woman (Mary Magdalene), or group of women, actually witnessed. We shall conclude that, in view of the welter of apparent contradictions, among the gospels at least, there is one text and one text alone that can lay claim to being the single-most, unadulterated, account of what occurred historically at the tomb. The rest, although offering corroborative evidence for a miraculous post-mortem resurrection life of Jesus, represents the product of a theological reflection upon an event that, at best, can only be described as lying beyond the pale of human comprehension and understanding. From a theological perspective, the study of the resurrection differs in some respects from other areas of Biblical theology in that it is of fundamental importance to determine, in what manner and to what degree, the resurrection can be said to have occurred as an historical event based upon the Biblical record alone. That determination is primary in itself and stands as a theological proposition of the first order, sui generis, without consideration of any extraneous theological layering that may come as a result of that enquiry. This is what Paul himself wrestles with initially in 1 Corinthians 15 before he goes on to extrapolate from the tradition he has received what a bodily resurrection means. The fact of the resurrection itself On this “twin” rival traditions, see also, Kloppenborg, “An Analysis,” 360, with reference to Harnack (n. 46). 9 The Synoptics are completely silent about where the tomb was actually located. John 19:41 states that the tomb was in a garden, nearby where Jesus was crucified, and John 18:1 seems to refer to the same garden, across from the Kidron Valley, a garden which is to be equated with the Synoptic’s Gethsemane (hence, the hybrid “garden of Gethsemane”). See also n. 17 below. In John, “Synoptic”-like material occurs in 20:12– 13, 17b, whereas the material unique to him will be taken up further, below.


Roy D. Kotansky

is of theological importance alone, for it remains the basic, sine qua non, of the very life of Christian faith. By contrast, the death of Jesus is readily acknowledged as an historical fact, apart from the tenets of Christian faith, by believing and non-believing historians alike. The theology of the Christian faith, on the other hand, requires us, however, to interpret that death as an atoning and redemptive act for sin and human error – something not usually accepted within non-Christian discourse. Instead, the resurrection of Jesus requires that we inextricably and profoundly meld faith with history in order to substantiate it as a verifiable theological tenet of Christian belief. In order to do so we will, paradoxically, at times have to break down the biblical text before looking at the larger theological picture of what the resurrection signifies overall. By showing an earlier stage of development, we can hope to demonstrate that the biblical tradition, once “fossilized” in the form of written canon, had already represented the culmination of a process of “theologization” – a process that results throughout the canon in a diversity of biblical views on the resurrection. But how to “harmonize” or unify the phenomenon of the resurrection into a single message becomes the conundrum that historical and biblical theologians are challenged to face.

The Pauline vs. Gospel Accounts When we turn to compare the early (pre)-Pauline kerygma of 1 Corinthians 15 with the record that we have in our Synoptic and Johannine sources, the two do not readily square with one another, at least not in respect of the early tomb appearances at Gethsemane. The 1 Corinthians “kerygmatic” elements of death, burial, and resurrection are surely there, but the manner of appearances, and to whom the risen Lord made himself known, differ. Nothing is said in the Gospel versions of a seemingly initial appearance to Cephas (Peter), nor to the Twelve. In addition, we certainly know nothing from them or their sources concerning an appearance to more than 500 “brothers” simultaneously, nor of one to James and the others.10 Conversely, nothing in the Pauline record knows of an appearance to women, principally to Mary Magdalene, as John and the Synoptics preserve. But none of this represents contradictions in the more or less historical presentations of the resurrection. There seems to be a difference in focus at work here 10 On the 500, see Eric F. F. Bishop, “The Risen Christ and the Five Hundred Brethren (1 Cor 15,6),” CBQ 18 (1956): 341–44, and the difficulties of identifying the how and where of this group.

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


and a not unexpected variableness in the details of records that one would come to anticipate in sources deriving from widely different contexts. Sociological factors also come into play as well. For example, in the absence of any mention of women at the tomb in 1 Corinthians 15 and of the importance in their seeing the risen Lord, there seems to be a subordination of their role in disseminating the resurrection message, over-andagainst a granting of pride of place to the apostolic men in their potential role as witnesses (μάρτυρες) to the event. This comes in deference to the women whose historical role in first witnessing the resurrection may well have been met with scorn, distrust, ridicule, or even jealousy. 11 In the kerygma of 1 Cor. 15:3–8, it is remarkable how easily the initial gospel accounts of the tomb-side appearances of angels or Jesus to the women would have fit chronologically between vv. 4 and 5 of the Pauline account, had the “tradition” meant to preserve that fact. 12 Furthermore, nothing in the kerygma of 1 Cor. 15:5–8 even suggests that the appearances to Cephas and the Twelve represent apparitions at the burial-spot of Jesus. Rather, the visions seem to encapsulate independent and personal epi11 See Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women. Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002), 257–310, esp. 268–77, with a rich collection of references, ancient and modern. Even the Gospels themselves reflect the tradition of disbelief: Luke 24:11; Mark 16:11; see also the reference to Origen, Contra Cels. 2.55 (271). 12 The statement in 1 Cor. 15:5, “and that he appeared to Cephas,” that begins the a ppearance catalogue proper, does not state, for example, that Jesus appeared first to Peter (sc. καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ), to the exclusion of all others, even if the rest of the catalogue is chronological. The list includes, obviously, appearances to apostolic men only, and these androcentric manifestations seem to refer to visions away from the Gethsemane tomb (the one to Peter, indeed, being the most difficult to account for). No visionary locale is even implied in this passage. On the other hand, a priority, linguistic and historical, is applied in another passage, a passage long judged to be of dubious textual value, in just such a way to fit into the chronological schema of the Pauline narrative: that passage is Mark’s longer ending (16:9–20), where “first” (πρῶτον) is applied to Mary Magdalene’s vision. It is represented in a chronological fashion reminiscent of the Pauline catalogue, and the structure and the sequence look similar. A fuller account of the pre-Pauline catalogue may have read something as follows: ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν . . . καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη καὶ ὅτι ἐγήργεται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα, κτλ. “That Christ died . . . and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve,” etc. On the down-playing, overall, of the women’s role in the narrative of 1 Corinthians 15, note Bauckham, Gospel Women, 259 n. 5 (also 258 n. 2, with additional bibliography). Claudia Setzer, “Excellent Women: Female Witness to the Resurrection,” JBL 116 (1997): 259–72, esp. 260, with reference to the works of Pagels and Schüssler Fiorenza, mentions the possibility of an early rivalry within early Christianity between Mary Magdalene and Peter, in respect of the visions of Jesus.


Roy D. Kotansky

sodes situated away from the tomb-spot, since the link between 15:4 and 15:5 is rather weak in the traditional schema. It is as if each of the sentences of the kerygma (initialized by καὶ ὅτι) stand on their own as “fossilized,” independent statements. In a word, then, we should also not be bamboozled into thinking that although the Gospels were written later than Paul’s Epistle to the Romans that it necessarily follows that the material he includes is therefore earlier, or represents a more reliable historical record of what occurred at the tomb of Jesus and in surrounding areas, following his crucifixion and burial. The gospel accounts, though redacted and worked over and even theologically embellished, no doubt derive from original, and reliable, eyewitness accounts. Even the early Pauline account shows elements, albeit rudimentary, of theological development away from pure historical reportage, elements that cannot be taken up in detail here. Suffice it to say that, grammatically speaking, all of the verbs in the whole pre-Pauline formula remain rather “agentless.” Here, none of the traditional actors in the drama of Jesus’ burial, as found in the Synoptics (e.g. Joseph of Arimathea, who requests Jesus’ body of Jesus, or Nicodemus who teams up with Joseph in the burial rites in the case of the Gospel of John), is of the remotest concern in the pre-Pauline formula. The individual players may not have even been identified at this point. Nonetheless, we do find a verbal echo of 1 Cor. 15:4’s ἐτάφη in the partial preservation of the nominal cognate τάφος within the “trajectory” of the Synoptic burial-resurrection accounts. Matthew 27:61 describes Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary sitting “opposite the tomb” (ἀπέναντι τοῦ τάφου), as Joseph lays Jesus in the burial monument (μνημεῖον). This use of ὁ τάφος is not found in Mark (which has μνῆμα or μνημεῖον in the manuscript tradition). So this also must be an echo of the same tradition as that found in Paul. This is the very noun used twice in the uniquely Matthean episode of the “Guard at the Tomb” (27:62–66). But other than the fact that 1 Corinthians 15 mentions a burial (καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη, v. 4), nothing in what the Apostle has received from his tradition gives any hint of the valuable material about the death and burial of Jesus that Matthew, Mark, and Luke provide. From Mark, the “core” source for the other Evangelists, we learn that a group of women, led by Mary Magdalene, is first to come to the tomb and – according to some of the writers – to be the first to witness the risen Lord (Mark 15:40–41; 16:1–8, par). The absence of women in the Pauline record remains the most glaring omission from a comparative historical-theological point of view, among

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


all the New Testament accounts in respect of the seminally important postresurrection appearances of Jesus. 13 But even among the Synoptics there are differences in the accounts, and these differences show that the writers were already bringing a degree of theological reflection to how they viewed the resurrection of Jesus, or at least how they interpreted the mystery of the empty tomb. Mark, usually considered the source for both Matthew and Luke, is famous for ending his gospel with an “empty tomb” story, from which tomb Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome are said to flee in fear, telling nary a soul what they saw. 14 What they did see, we are told, was not Jesus at all but rather a “young man” (νεανίσκος), sitting on the right and dressed in a white robe (Mark 16:5). This figure points to the place where Jesus had been laid, states that Jesus the Nazarene has been raised up (ἠγέρθη, v. 6), and announces that Jesus will appear to the disciples in Galilee (ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε, v. 7). The women then flee in terror and astonishment (τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις, v. 8) and apparently say nothing to the disciples, as commanded. Later endings to Mark provide actual appearance stories that would seem to supplement this Evangelist’s rather abrupt ending. 15 In lieu of Mark’s 13 Luke, too, may be tipping his hat to the tradition of an appearance to Cephas in 1 Cor. 15:5 when he adds to the Emmaus account the peculiarly immediate reference of the Eleven’s proclamation about the raising of the Lord which reads: ὅτι ὄντως ἠγέρθη ὁ κύριος καὶ ὤφθη Σίμωνι (Luke 24:34). The succinctness of this phrase and its paucity of detail at the expense of the whole of the Emmaus narrative attests to its historical tr ustworthiness when viewed vis-à-vis the Pauline statement, which Luke could hardly have known. But what Simon Peter saw has not been recorded for posterity, for reasons unknown to the biblical writers, but it seems likely that his revelation, like all of t hose adnumbrated in 1 Corinthians 15, has to do with heavenly visions of an ascended Jesus, not with tomb-side appearances of him in bodily form. 14 For a recent assessment of the empty tomb in Mark from an excellent Greco -Roman context, see Richard C. Miller, “Mark’s Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Classical Antiquity,” JBL 129 (2010): 759–76. Miller cites several works that I have not been able to consult, among which are: Paul Fullmer, Resurrection in Mark’s LiteraryHistorical Perspective (LNTS 360; London: T&T Clark, 2007); Roger David Aus, The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus, and the Death, Burial, and Translation of Moses in Judaic Tradition (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2008). 15 Indeed, all of the post-sepuchral appearance stories that have been appended to the core tomb-side narratives show varying degrees of embellishment and literary artificiality that belie their veracity as first-hand accounts. With their stock commissionary language, scoldings at disbelief, emphasis on baptism, kerygmatic outlines, and prophetic fulfillment formulations, these accounts belong to a later, more definitive stage of gospel composition, and not to the eye-witness accounts that form the basis of both Paul’s received catalogue and the Synoptic Gethsemane stories. To this category of “secondary” stories belongs Jesus’ appearance by the Sea of Tiberias in John 21:1 –14 (paralleled oddly by the “historical” version in Luke 5:1–11 [cf. Aland, Synopsis, §360!]; the Road to Emmaus account (Luke 24:13–35), with its embedded retelling of the women’s experi-


Roy D. Kotansky

“youth,” Matthew has an angel/messenger (28:2, 5) lead two women into the tomb, only to meet Jesus, as they flee (Matt. 28:16–20). Luke has two radiant men address yet a different group of women, and John (taken up, below) brings his own adaptation. The appearances of various figures at the tomb – whether they are described as angels, youths, or men – can be viewed as separate “theological” adaptations of what the writers saw, in terms of independent “angelophanies.” Except for the mention of Jesus “meeting” (ὑπήντησεν, Matt. 28:9) the women sometime immediately following the angelophany in Matthew, there is no vision of Jesus right at the tomb following his resurrection in the Synoptic Gospels. Matthew’s account of this meeting (cf. John 20:11–18) is, in fact, an oddly non-epiphanic meeting in terms of presentation and style. What seems to have occurred is that the descriptions of post-Easter glory and majesty are reserved for the descriptions of the angelic figures – what the women (especially Mary Magdalene) are said to have seen – and not for putative visions of Jesus, as a radiant figure, at all. The angels become, as it were, surrogates of or symbols for the resurrected Jesus, and they play an altogether different role in the Synoptic records by replacing any genuine appearance of the risen Lord with a carefully crafted message of Easter glory. 16 Is it possible, given the fact that the women were altogether disbelieved as witnesses to the empty-tomb with concomitant angel-messages, that this represents just the initial phases of an historical-theological movement away from granting full credit, as legal-bearing witnesses, to the somewhat less socially redeeming female sex? By glorifying their visit to the tomb with a vision of angels, rather than with a real meeting with Jesus, the Gospel writers (or their sources) have both disenfranchised the Easter-morning women, on the one hand, as first-hand witnesses to an actual post-resurrection appearance of the risen Lord, and have granted them a kind of permanent status, on the other, as historical guarantors of the Easter tradition, in their receipt of the angelic visions and messages.

ence at the tomb (vv. 22–23)!; and the twin appearance of Jesus in a closed room in John 20:19–23, 24–29. On these appearance stories in general, see J. E. Alsup, The PostResurrection Appearance Stories of the Gospel Tradition (CThM 5; Stuttgart: Calwer/ London: SPCK, 1975). None of these finds any kind of representation in the Pauline catalogue, probably because they had, as yet, not been composed. 16 Is this perhaps because it was the women who were historically first in seeing the empty tomb and becoming witnesses to some form of manifestation of Jesus? If so, then maybe Matthew’s simple Jesus encounter (Matt. 28:9–10), with its undramatically modest salutory “greetings” (χαίρετε) and command to report to the “brothers,” may be the closest record – thus far – of depicting historically what actually happened at the tomb of Gethsemane.

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


From an historical perspective, then, the visit of women (or a woman) to the tomb masks something other than a meeting with angels with a carefully worded statement. The variety of religious experiences vouches for the high theologization of the whole empty-tomb scene, in respect of the women’s witness. Something else has happened other than what the biblical record vouchsafes in respect of these supposedly “early” Synoptic accounts. Hidden beneath the redactional flourish of the writers’ hand stands an original “subtext” effaced by a figurative palimpsist inured to years of theological reflection. That underlying text, now glossed over, details an encounter with the living Jesus unlike any known to Paul or any of the other earlier recipients of the Corinthian paradosis. It is a post-mortem meeting of the risen Jesus, in bodily form, with an intimate copartner of the female gender, that is to say, a meeting with Mary Magdalene, herself. In order to grasp the significance of this meeting of Mary with the risen Jesus, from an historical-theological perspective, we will have to focus in some detail on the Greek text – with its numerous variant traditions – of a passage that preserves one of the most intriguing, if not puzzling, pericopes in all of the New Testament.

John 20 John’s gospel provides new, independent material in respect of the resurrection, as well as material related to, or dependent upon, the Synoptics. Most remarkable is an account of a meeting of Mary Magdalene with the resurrected Jesus at the “garden tomb, in the place where he was crucified” (ἦν δὲ ἐν τῷ τόπῳ ὅπου ἐσταυρώθη κῆπος, John 19:41).17 The story, as will be shown below, has been integrated with Synoptic or pre-Synoptic like materials and the whole combined with another independent story describing Peter and John’s (= “the other disciple”) running together to the tomb to find it empty, discovering only the abandoned wrappings. The whole has been edited into a less than seamless unity, the This makes explicit that the garden where Jesus was crucified is the same garden wherein he was buried (John 19:42 adds that the tomb was “close”). Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John. A Commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003), vol. 2, 1164f., therefore, in discussing the symbolic import of the garden, errs in assuming there were two gardens. Joseph of Arimathaea’s garden plot must have been an area of some acreage (cf. John 18:1, 26). The Synoptics do not mention a garden (κῆπος) but refer to a place (χωρίον) called Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36; Mark 14:32), or the Mountain of Olives (Luke 22:39). Luke’s mention here that it was the custom (τὸ ἔθος) for Jesus’ disciples to meet there matches up with Judas’ comment in John 18:2 that he knew the garden place, for Jesus’ disciples often gathered (συνήχθη) there. Luke also shares with John the description of the locale as a τόπος (cf. Luke 22:40 with John 18:2). 17


Roy D. Kotansky

remnants of which can be detected, rather tellingly, in a number of textual variants, as well as by incongruities in terms of style, composition, and logical sequence. In addition to the awkward compositional make-up, an examination of some of the variants will aid in reconstructing what must have been the earliest version of this particular resurrection appearance story – possibly the earliest version of all. The present canonical account of John 20:1–18 has Mary Magdalene, alone, arrive early at the tomb to see the stone “removed” from the tomb (τὸν λίθον ἠρμένον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου, 20:1) – a stone, incidentally, known from the Synoptics, but not previously mentioned by John at all! Oddly, Mary does not even approach, much less peer into the tomb, but runs to tell the male disciples, John and Peter, that Jesus has somehow been “removed” from the tomb (ἦραν τὸν κύριον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου, 20:1) – something she cannot possibly be sure of, without having first looked inside. Already, in so short a span, we find too much duplication to suit the requirements of normal compositional style, and there is the sudden and peculiar use of the plural that appears in οὐκ οἴδαμεν (20:2) – a plural compliant with the Synoptic versions – as if to imply a body of women were originally, or redactionally, present. 18 Then, in what turns out to be a wholly independent unit (20:3–10), Peter and “the other disciple” (=John) leave and “come to the tomb” (καὶ ἤρχοντο εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον), with an unusual literary exchange about who got there first to look in, without actually entering – although seeing the funeral wrappings (John); about who actually went first, after having arrived there second and seeing certain specifics about the wrappings (Peter); and about who actually “saw and believed” as a consequence of having entered in, albeit secondarily, after “seeing” (καὶ εἶδεν) whatever he saw (i.e., John). This, with its unusual preoccupation in viewing the funerary remains of Jesus and their placement inside the tomb, shows no connection whatsoever with the subsequent story (vv. 11–18) of Mary, somehow alone, having an actual encounter with the risen Lord! What this does show, however, is a remarkable and early veneration of the shroud remains of Jesus, in lieu of an encounter or vision of Jesus of any kind. What is noteworthy here, in terms of the reconstruction of the text, is the fact that Mary Magdalene is nowhere present – nor necessary – in this particularly detailed and focused “androcentric” account of the “empty” tomb. It is a completely self-contained unit. In all of the narrative, from v. 2 on, Mag18 Note B. Byrne, “The Faith of the Beloved Disciple and the Community in John 20,” JSNT 23 (1985), 83–97 at 85, with n. 6 (on older commentaries on this) that this betrays the use of earlier materials. Brown’s attempt (“Resurrection in John 20,” 195 n. 1) to make this show that other women were present to begin with naively misunderstands the redactional nature of ancient Greek composition.

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


dalene Mary remains an unknown part of the story, as she is not even mentioned as either having followed the two disciples back to the tomb, as they ran, nor as having arrived again, in some manner, on her own. The reason for this is because Mary probably had never left the tomb to begin with – at least not in the initial redaction – but was witness to the risen Lord from the moment she got there. The Johannine-Petrine account has simply been spliced in to give the two male disciples priority in seeing the risen Lord – or at least, the empty tomb – and this carried debates within itself as to who laid claim in priority as witness of the “vision.” John 20:11, which picks up the Marian narrative thread again, has Mary Magdalene standing, alone (as if again), “outside” the tomb, weeping. Astounding events occur, as if neither Peter nor the other disciple were ever even present. At best, they can be seen to be investigating the interior of the tomb, when Mary encounters Jesus, but then how is it that Mary looks in and sees angels but no clothes and no disciples, who themselves see nothing but clothes? What we have are two interwoven stories that are completely independent of each. In a word, then, John 20:1 and 20:11 once belonged together as two verses that served as the incipit for the story that follows in 20:11–18. Mary’s story, which shows some respect for traditions related to, or lying behind, the Synoptic accounts, before the famous “Gardener” scene, has taken a “back-seat” to a priority-driven male apostolic event by having the Magdalene woman go back and tell the disciples of the removed stone so they can run first to see the miraculous tomb! But they never see a risen Lord. The variants at the start of the Mary Magdalene story betray the textual legerdemain needed to fix the problematic incongruities. The original, independent story of a Mary coming to the tomb, entirely alone, makes for a poor testimonial witness to so powerful an event as the resurrection of Jesus. But this, in truth, is what actually happened. The two disciples come later and gather up (presumably) the all-important funereal belongings. When Mary is said to have come early to the tomb (εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον), she is reported to “see the stone removed from the tomb” (see text below). As mentioned, when Jesus is laid in the “new tomb” described in John 19:41, the corresponding Synoptic parallels, specifically Matthew and Mark, mention the rolling of a (large) stone in front of it, ahead of time (Matt. 27:60; Mark 15: 46; cf. Luke 23:53 var.). John has no such reading, harmonized or other. That was because there never was a stone placed in front of the tomb to begin with. The Lukan variant (U φ al bo) that adds this feature represents a harmonized reading of Matthew + Mark, following the mentioning of the tomb being one in which “no one had been laid” (a Johannine tradition, to which further harmonized readings in Luke have ac-


Roy D. Kotansky

crued).19 John’s reading at 19:38, though, has no harmonized version of the pre-rolling of the stone appended to the laying into the tomb, and linguistic similarities between it and Luke 24:2–3, suggest that something else once stood in John’s text – at a pre-recensional stage – in lieu of the canonical sighting of the removed stone. Consider the following parallel readings: (a) John 20:1b: καὶ βλέπει τὸν λίθον ἠρμένον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου (b) Luke 24:2: ἐλθοῦσαι δὲ εὗρον (D 0124 c sa) τὸν λίθον ἀποκεκυλισμένον ἐκ [var.] τοῦ μνημείου (c) Luke 24:3: εἰσελθοῦσαι δὲ οὐχ εὗρον τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ. Reading (a) tells of Mary Magdalene first seeing the stone removed from (lit. “out of”) the tomb. The language in itself is peculiar. Describing the stone as being seen as “removed,” literally, “out of” (ἐκ) the sepulchral tomb would seem to describe, rather, an object taken “out of” (ἐκ) an enclosed tomb, not a stone removed “away” (ἀπό) from the mouth of a tomb. In fact, no mouth of a tomb is mentioned at all; hence, here in John, the awkwardness of the text has required certain scribes to add, early on, the necessary ἀπὸ τῆς θύρας in front of the phrase, ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου in order to smooth out the syntax: “and she sees the stone removed from the mouth [out of] the tomb” (‫ א‬W (f 1 565) al vgms sys pbo bo). But in this reading the preposition ἐκ has, mistakenly, been left in. One wants only the simple genitive, τοῦ μνημείου! This points to an older, more original text not preserved in any extant manuscripts, 20 namely a text that referred to something else, in point of fact, being “removed” out of (ἐκ) the interior of the 19 Another variant tradition, reflected in Codex Bezae, etc., and the Sahidic, reports that the stone was so large that scarcely twenty men could role it. 20 Current Scholarship has become more sanguine about the reality that our present MSS evidence cannot go back before the 2 nd century C.E. See, e.g., Eldon Jay Epp, “It’s All about Variants: A Variant-Conscious Approach to New Testament Textual Criticism,” HTR 100 (2007): 275–308, esp. 295: “the fact [is] long affirmed among New Testament textual critics, that the bulk of textual variants arose prior to 200 C.E. ,” citing Koester, e.g., that “substantial revisions of the original text” occurred within the first one hundred of its textual history. Personally, I unabashedly adhere to what can be called the Elliott-Kilpatrick school of “Rigorous Eclecticism,” namely the view that any text, whether early or late, whether supported by numerous mss. or by just a singular, “late” reading, can lay claim to being the “original” text, or at least be seen as closer to the original (see, e.g., Eldon Jay Epp & Gordon D. Fee, Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993], 34–35, 124–26, 142– 43, etc.). Reasonable proof of the validity of the eclectic approach can be seen in a good classical example. A heretofore, singular 15th cent. manuscript (MS. K) reading of Theognis is now supported by a new reading from a 2nd/3rd cent. C.E. papyrus in R. Kotansky, “P. Berol. 21220 = Theognis, Elegiae I, 917–933,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 96 (1993): 1–5.

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


tomb – to wit, a reference to the removal of the body of Jesus itself. Mary had come early to the tomb and had seen that the body of Jesus had been taken (ἠρμένον) out of (ἐκ) the tomb – or so she thought – not that the stone itself had been removed. Early pre-recensional copyists may have found this embarrassing, for it adds an unnecessary – and certainly unwanted – attention to the Matthean-like tradition of a stolen body of Jesus (Matt. 27:62–66; 28:11–16). Luke’s text (b) shows a participle more appropriate to stone-rolling (ἀποκεκυλισμένον) as well as a more fitting verb of discovery, εὗρον, to describe what the women (now plural) chance upon. But Luke’s rather tautological loading up of verbs of “coming (in)” and of “finding” vs. “not finding” in 24:2–3 (readings b + c, above), with the latter showing the object τὸ σῶμα, of what was not found – a sentence, on the whole, without Synoptic parallel – adds further credence to the view that a pre-textual version of John 20:1 must have read something like καὶ βλέπει τὸ σῶμα ἠρμένον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου, “and she sees the body removed from the tomb.” In this case, the preposition εἰς in 20:1 that describes Mary’s arrival at the tomb, will refer, actually, to her coming “into” the tomb, and not to a sighting of a more distant missing stone – again, not previously mentioned – upon her approach, just as the preposition with the same verb later in 20:6, 8, and possibly in 20: 3, 4, in respect of the two disciples’ entrance into the tomb, will achieve the same purpose. Furthermore, when Mary is said to run back to Simon and the other disciple (John 20:2), it bears noting that the very same verb of removal is used to describe her supposition that Jesus’ body had indeed been taken out: ἦραν τὸν κυρίον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου καὶ οὐκ οἴδαμεν ποῦ ἔθηκαν, “they have removed the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have put him.” We also find here the same prepositional phrase, “out of the tomb,” in reference to that very removal. The parallels are too weighty to ignore. In John there was no stone to be rolled away from the tomb, to begin with; only a missing body that had nothing to do with a theft by disciples, or any other, kind of natural displacement (sc. “removal”). The supposition that John 20:1 originally attached most directly to John 20:11–18 in describing an independent story of Mary at the tomb, with no presence of either Peter or “John,” is further supported by the several textual variants; first, is that at v. 11, a variant that vacillates between whether Mary stood “near the tomb” (πρὸς τῷ μνημείῳ), weeping “outside” (ἔξω), or whether she was actually “in” the tomb, already, thereby obviating the need to “stoop into the tomb” (παρέκυψεν εἰς το μνημεῖον, v. 11δ) to witness what ensues. The following textual variants prove remarkably telling, in this respect:


Roy D. Kotansky

(a) Μαρία δὲ εἰστήκει πρὸς τῷ μνημείῳ ἔξω κλαίουσα (‫א‬2 B L N W Δ 050 1 33 565 pc vg co) (b) Μαρία δὲ εἰστήκει ἐν τῷ μνημείῳ (—) κλαίουσα (‫ א‬et ‫ *א‬A it sys.p) Reading (a), following the text adopted by Nestle-Aland27 requires that Mary be standing outside the tomb, weeping. This will accomodate the Petrine-Johannine interpolation. But clearly the more difficult, and therefore the more textually genuine reading, is that given in (b), which shows, with Codex Sinaiticus, the preposition “in” (ἐν) for the more standard πρός (“at”; “near”), and which has no preposition “outside” (ἔξω) – a reading again supported by Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, the Old Latin, and by both the Sinaitic and Peshitta Syriac traditions. Reading (a) has arisen from a need to successfully integrate the ancient “Petrine” interpolation of John 20:2–10; it then adds the reference to her stooping in, in order to “see” the (two) angels (imitative of the “other” disciple’s stooping in, v. 5, earlier, and imitative, perhaps too, of his “seeing” the linens). The oldest textual tradition, however, will have Mary, alone, standing inside the tomb from the start, without having to “stoop in,” at all, albeit it creates secondarily, a need to see the angels sitting in white – and eventually to see the Lord, himself. It is clear that scribes have changed the text to have Mary somewhat “removed” from both the ensuing angelophany and the divine theophany of Jesus. But even the Mary story itself (20:1; 11–18) is too long and redundant in itself. At some stage it has accommodated material relevant to the Synoptics and thereby produced two – somewhat overlapping – visions: that of the twin angels (20:12–13), and that of Jesus himself (20:14–17). But only one of them belongs to the historical events in the Garden. Once Mary is made to be standing outside, that is, apart from the androcentric drama that unfolds in John 20:2–10, with the change of ἐν to πρός, and with the addition of ἔξω to “marginalize” her weeping, she is next required to “stoop into the tomb” (v. 11c) in order to situate her again inside its interior. There she is reported to see (two) angels in white, seated one each at the foot and head where the body of Jesus was said to have lain (v. 12). Not only does this contradict the overall setting of the male-centered events of 20:2–10 (no mention of angels, nor even a mention of Mary’s “bench-like” setting where Jesus lay – instead a focus on the clothes only!), it carries internal inconsistencies in itself. When Mary is reported to “see” (καὶ θεωρεῖ) the angels at the resting place of Jesus, they are said to speak to her with a query that, again, carries telling textual variants (v. 13): γύναι, τί κλαίεις; τίνα ζητεῖς; (Α* D 69 579 1424 pc sys)

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


The longer, underscored, reading is supported by Alexandrinus (where it has not been “corrected,” by the enigmatic, but important, Codex Bezae, and by the Sinaitic Syriac, as well as some minuscules). It carries just as much claim to originality as the shorter reading. Mary replies that they have taken the Lord and she does not know where he has been placed (v. 13). But suddenly in 20:14 comes another vision (again, καὶ θεωρεῖ), but this time one of Jesus. Oddly, however, he says exactly the same thing to her, word for word, as the angels do, adopting the reading above: γύναι, τί κλαίεις; τίνα ζητεῖς; Again she replies with a similar, but not identical, phrase. But the repeated phrase, “whom do you seek,” attested in reading (a), above, is not, as one might think, a harmonizing duplication of the reading of (b); rather, it is a diminution of an originally separate text, altogether, a text that in being redacted together here, has created too much repetition and redundancy, and hence has been shortened. In a word, this is a tomb that has, textually speaking, become entirely too crowded. The whole of John 20:12–14 looks like an early addition meant to pay homage to the Synoptic tradition of a vision by Mary (and others) of message-promoting angels, who stand in lieu of a true vision of Jesus – all of this on a trajectory to marginalize the female-centered reportage of the resurrection itself. The original “core” story, we argue, had only a single figure asking the woman why she was weeping and whom she was seeking, and that figure was the person of Jesus himself, in bodily form. In an odd way the duplicative account of Mary meeting two sets of supernatural beings (a pair of angelic beings who ask her why she weeps and whom she seeks and the figure of Jesus who asks her why she weeps and whom she seeks) betrays the very process of replacing the core account of a meeting with the risen Jesus with a “symbolized” story of angelic visions, a process that we find completed in the Synoptics. The Synoptics have no encounter of the women with Jesus, with the exception of Matt. 28:8–10, a tradition parallel to that of John 20. They have left us, by and large, with an empty tomb tradition, in respect of the actual sepulchral site. But in the Synoptic accounts there seems to be a reflection of an older tradition, more fully captured in the Johannine narrative. That is a tradition which uses the angel to narrate what indeed has happened to Jesus. By showing the very τόπος where Jesus was set (ἔθηκαν, Mark 16:6; cf. John 20:2, 13), or laid (ἔκειτο, Matt. 28:6; cf. John 20:12; 20: 6, 7), it implies that he is indeed gone, that he has been raised, and that he is no longer present. But what the oldest tradition in John will show, however, is that it is


Roy D. Kotansky

an ascension of Jesus to heaven that the emptiness of the tomb implies, and not a tarrying on earth, with visual presentations, however much the later post-resurrection stories will testify to this. It is to the details of this Johannine story that we must now turn in order to discern more closely what, in truth, the realia of the resurrection of Jesus represented. In John 20:14, Mary is said to turn around and see Jesus standing, but to her he remains entirely unrecognized, being thought the hired husbandman (ὁ κηπουρός), or tender, of the local garden. In our reconstruction of the oldest version of this pericope (see Appendix, below), the encounter with the angels, as suggested above, has been entirely removed. When Mary sees the place where the body of Jesus had lain (ἔκειτο) as she weeps, in 20:12a, d, she immediately turns to see Jesus standing behind her. Therefore, 20:11a–c + 12 a, d will be most naturally followed by v. 14, as herewith indicated: ὡς οὖν ἔκλαιεν, θεωρεῖ ὅπου ἔκειτο τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ’Ιησοῦ 14 καὶ ἐστράφη εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω καὶ θεωρεῖ τὸν ’Ιησοῦν ἑστῶτα καὶ οὐκ ᾔδει ὅτι ’Ιησοῦς ἐστιν. In a word, then, her sighting of the empty tomb-spot is followed immediately by her sighting of the risen Jesus, incognitus. There is no need now for the superfluous angel-narrative to have the place of Jesus pointed out (a Synoptic tradition), for she can see it on her own. The vision of Jesus in the tomb is enough to trump any angelic beings, clothed in white (ἐν λευκοῖς, v. 12). The two angels in the tomb, then, prove to be rather awkwardly constructed, textually. For as soon as Jesus appears, they are made somehow to “disappear.” They vanish without having been depicted, as such, in the narrative. This is a disappearance caused by textual seams, not a disappearance built into the narrative. That is because the angels were never present to begin with. No narrative communication exists between the angels’ presence in the tomb and Jesus’ presence in the tomb; one of the two groups has to go. It is not that with Jesus. Mary’s Sighting of Jesus Far more historically feasible is the somewhat mundane encounter that Mary, alone, has with Jesus in the tomb. There is no being(s) clothed in white, no figures shining radiantly with light, no kerygmatic promises, just a disguised figure mistaken for the gardener (v.14). The reasons for this misindentification of the Lord rests most surely in the simple fact that it is still early morning and dark outside, and – not withstanding that – it remains rather shadowy in a tomb, no doubt, poorly lit. Jesus here in Mary’s story is not to be assumed to be unclothed, it is just that this Marian tradition shows no interest in the funeral trappings of Jesus, at all – in John she does not come to anoint the body with spices, for this has been done already by Joseph and Nicodemus, according to John (19:38–42). Clothes and other funeral accouterments prove unnecessary to Mary’s narrative.

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


When Mary recognizes that it is Jesus in the tomb when he calls her name – a stranger would not have known who she was – she must have been passionately impelled to rush upon him for embrace, for Jesus states, somewhat out of the blue, that she is not at all to touch him: “Jesus says to her, ‘Mariam’; and she, turning, says to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni.’ Jesus says to her, ‘Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father’” (20:16–17a). In the Greek, Mary’s having been described as turning to Jesus to speak implies nothing of her reaching out to touch him. It appears that here something is mildly deficient in the text, for one expects a reference to her embracing him before being told she cannot. Some scribes seem to have supplied this deficiency, 21 but its inclusion, over and against, the majority of witnesses, in this instance appears to be artificial. But is it possible that the scribes’ “interpretative gloss” (as Metzger puts it), 22 indeed is meant to explain a text whose earlier loss has never been preserved in the present manuscript tradition? The nexus can be provided from the singularly parallel account in Matt. 28:8–10, a pericope, as mentioned, that has a great structural similarity to the story of Mary here. There, when the women flee from the tomb they report to the disciples, per the angels’ request, and experience a chance meeting with Jesus himself: “And behold Jesus met them, saying ‘Hail!’ And they came up to him and grabbed his feet (ἐκράτησαν αὐτοῦ τοὺς πόδας) and worshipped him” (28:9). The worshipping part is Matthean, being loaded up with a post-historical theology particular to his thinking (Tendenz), but the human impulse to grab at the beloved Lord, miraculously raised from the dead, provides a valuable parallel to what probably occurred with Mary, the single woman, at her own sepruchral encounter with Jesus. She too would have turned to embrace him, and hence our restored suggestion, given in the appended text, below. Having a woman of questionable repute (a former demoniac), all alone among women, being described as actually embracing Jesus, post-mortem, might have been too much for some scribes to fathom. Nevertheless, the Matthean narrative can be seen to capture the essence of a story that both John and Matthew must have acquired, independently, from a common source, probably an orally based eye-witness report. The Two Disciples at the Tomb In our reconstruction of the events at the tomb in John 20, we propose that Mary came first to the tomb alone, saw Jesus, and then reported back to καὶ προσέδραμεν ἁψάσθαι αὐτοῦ ‫א‬1 Θ Ψ (f13) pc vgmss sy(s).h. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London & New York: UBS, 1971), 255. 21 22


Roy D. Kotansky

the disciples what she had seen (roughly, John 20:1; 11; 14b–17). It is not conceivable, either logically or textually, (1) to have her notice that the body was gone; (2) to report to the disciples that it was thus missing; (3) to have them run ahead, without recording that she herself had returned; (4) to have them find the empty linens, but no Jesus; (5) but then to have her see Jesus, but no empty linens; and, finally, (6) to report back (again) to the disciples what she had just seen! Rather, it is much more simple to envision that after Mary saw Jesus at the tomb, by herself, she ran to the disciples, who themselves rushed back alone, but were only able to see what Jesus had left behind. The text that includes the narrative of Peter and the “other disciple” and their “vision” of the linens is itself entangled with textual difficulties, difficulties that cannot be addressed here. Suffice it to say that there must have been some debate in early Christianity about who among the two discipular men got to the tomb first and who entered first to see the funeral remains that were left behind. No resurrection appearance of Jesus is reported to have occurred and neither is there a vision of angels. In fact, there was not even a Synoptic-like (or Johannine enhanced-like) demonstration of the place where Jesus lay, but only a report of common linen wrappings found lying about (κείμενα τὸ ὀθόνια, v. 5; τὸ ὀθόνια κείμενα, v. 6; cf. τῶν ὀθονίων κείμενον, v. 7). Along with these, John’s narrative also reports a mysterious soudarion, or linen face-cloth, found rolled up, or bunched up, in its own separate place: καὶ τὸ σουδάριον, ὃ ἦν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ . . . χωρὶς ἐντετυλιγμένον εἰς ἕνα τόπον (v. 7). In John’s narrative, it is Peter who first steps into the tomb to see the shroud and soudarion, but it is the “other disciple” who is credited with the ultimate statement of faith: “Then the other disciple who came first to the tomb, went in and saw and believed” (καὶ εἶδεν καὶ ἐπίστευσεν, v. 8). What are we to make of all this scenario? Why a vision of clothing, in lieu of Jesus, and why a faith-inducing remark at the sight of what the “other disciple” beheld? Well, a theory that Mary came alone to the tomb first and saw Jesus, and then sent the disciples ahead to investigate on their own, will most naturally explain this sequence of events: Mary, the Magdalene, having come early to the tomb was privileged with a solitary appearance of her Lord and Master: a bodily encounter with a living, resurrected Jesus, virtually en route back to his supernal home. This Jesus would have appeared to Mary as an ordinary man, mistaken as a common gardener, yet still clothed, unremarkably in the linen shrouds with which he had been recently buried; the only exception was that he had taken off his face-cloth and rolled it up and conscientiously set it aside. The resurrected Jesus, now warding off the tactile embraces of his female disciple while still in his post-mortem, material form, enjoins her not to touch him,

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


but rather to tell his disciples that he is about to ascend (ἀναβαίνω) to his heavenly Father and God. Mary, in joyous excitement and bewilderment, runs to tell Simon Peter and the “other” disciple. The two, upon hearing what she hurriedly has reported, rush back to the tomb, in nervous anticipation, only to find Jesus entirely gone, having left behind his linen shrouds.23 The face-cloth (soudarion), seen “not lying up with the linencloths, but rolled up, apart, in its own place (20:7),” merely represents what Jesus himself, in his resurrected state, had perfunctorily set aside before his meeting with Mary. It is the sight of both of these – soudarion laid aside when Jesus first rose up from the dead, and his linen clothes lying, as if dropped to the ground, as Jesus just then ascends – that has occasioned the profound belief on the part of the “other disciple” when he stoops into the sepuchral tomb and “sees.” The whole story must have been based on an unnarrated report of Mary, implied but not recorded for posterity, except for the rather pristine, albeit bare, outline which we have now reconstructed in John 20. With John, there is no angelic promise (as in the Synoptics) that his disciples will somehow see Jesus in Galilee, nor are there reliable earthly appearances of Jesus to his families, friends, believers, or Apostles. 24 Instead, there remain only the heavenly appearances such as those recorded in 1 Corinthians 15. In our reconstructed account in John’s gospel, a story characterized by a hauntingly simple innocence and unembellished quality makes it read more like an unadulterated, albeit endearing, record of one woman’s telling of the rather unforgettable events of Easter. This narrative of her own personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus differs measurably from reconstructed stories of white-clothed men and radiant angelic figures who miraculously move boulders and make kerygmatic pronouncements. The two disciples’ rush back to the tomb shows a remarkable amount of attention paid to the linen burial shrouds of Jesus and the face-cloth that covered his head, in lieu of a resurrection appearance of Jesus; indeed, the so-called appearance of Jesus to Cephas (Peter), as recorded in 1 Cor. 15:5a, is still wanting in the gospel record. It is conceivable that we are to understand that Jesus then simply lay down again in a restful position and inexplicably de-materialized, living the linen shroud behind in a flattened state. There is no need to imagine that he had then held his hands up and ascended through the roof of the tomb like a Hollywood depicted “ascension.” Salvoni, “Resurrection Proof,” 76, writes: “It seemed that the corpse of Jesus had evaporated, passing to a new existential dimension not existing before.” 24 John 20:19–23 + 24–29 (like all of John 21) is difficult to judge and approaches the “commissionary” language of other post-resurrection stories (esp. that of Luke 24:23– 49!). Thomas’ touching of the apparently physical body of Jesus in v. 27 looks anti Docetic, and is contravened by what Paul states in 1 Cor. 15:42–50, esp. v. 50 (vis-à-vis Luke 24:39!). 23


Roy D. Kotansky

The details about what became of the funeral garments with which Jesus was buried looks like a special kind of discipular “mop-up” job, the recording of which was meant to convey something no other ancient Biblical source had managed to do, namely, that what was historically found at the tomb was not the body of the resurrected Lord, at all, but rather something else: the mere physical realia representative of the lack of such a body. Instead of a real vision of Jesus at the tomb, for which no historical substantiation, in this case, could be verifiably made – apart from the doubtful witness of a single, supposedly unreliable, woman – the men could now bring forth the very funeral materials a propos to the resurrection itself, material that could not only prove the woman’s witness true, but would also make the Lord’s chief disciples lasting guarantors of that actual witness. By virtue of the tangible proof they held in their hands, the men could now claim that they possessed the very face-cloth and empty funeral shroud of Jesus, rolled-up garments as hollow and as vacant as the tomb in which they were found. This can only mean that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead and had ascended to heaven, as predicted. No grave-robbers would have unwrapped the body of a crucified Messiah only to steal away a bare and naked corpse! The garments were something, of such paramount importance that they must have been not only worthy of detailed mention but significant enough to have become objects of “vision” and of faith themselves.

Conclusion Except for Mary Magdalene in John 20 (with its loose parallel in Matthew 28), no gospel record exists for an appearance of Jesus at his sepulchral site. As it has come down to us in the totality of the gospel records, we are largely left with an initial report of women seeing angels, but with the male disciples seeing nothing – at least not at the setting of the grave-site. Furthermore, an appearance of single figures (a “youth” in Mark, an “descending” angel in Matthew) seems not only to be variable, but also to yield to an increase in the number of angelic “witnesses” (Luke and John). A multiplying of angels from one to two can be seen as a means of ensuring that the once radiant figure of a single angel would not be mistaken as a representation of a glorified Jesus! Two angels at the tomb have a distinctly peculiar way of drawing attention away from the possibility of a reader placing too much attention on a single magnificent angelic being who could be misunderstood as the glorified Christ in his resurrected state. An angelic sighting by women followed by men who see nothing is precisely what the Lukan summary in 24:22–24 seems to convey:

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


But even some women from among us amazed us: being early risers at the tomb, 23but not finding his body, they came saying that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24But some of those with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.

Luke, or his tradition, of course, was unaware of the singular Johannine tradition of Mary Magdalene having seen, in bodily form, the pre-ascended Jesus in a resurrected body. This betrays the discretely delicate question of the use of sources that may be shared – biblical sources more easily recognizable and less difficult to work with (like Matthew’s or Luke’s dependance upon Mark) versus more opaque and obfuscated pre-Synoptic “sources” – some hypothetical, or even oral in nature – that criss-cross gospel parameters between Synoptic and non-Synoptic books (like John’s gospel and its sources), or between epistolary sources and gospel records (like Paul’s Corinthian paradosis). Although we can hope to gain little-tono control over hypothetical sources, or over “pre-recensional” reconstruction of gospel records, it is important first to look carefully at the minutest sources within sources, before understanding the “physics” of the whole enterprise. Only then can we initiate a systematization of the whole theological endeavor, overall, an endeavor with which this honorary volume is primarily concerned. When we ask the Gundrian question whether Biblical theological data needs be systematized or discrete, we must take a cautioned, even nuanced, look at the data. Systematic theology can only come about when the details of historical exegesis, coupled with the source-critical analysis of even the smallest literary units within our available records, are first exiguously carried out. What commonality, then, can we find between one record and another? Can we begin to build up smaller units of discrete physical matter to form larger complexes of systematic continuity? Most definitely yes, but only by first looking at the discrete building blocks and constructional materials can we work upwards to fabricate a more orderly edifice upon which to build, even if that structure may have an ungainly appearance, or look structurally unsound, at times. We must begin with Gundry’s “theological peculiarities” first. Our “theological peculiarity,” in respect of the record of the Resurrection in Paul versus that of the gospels, has yielded a singular brick – a corner-stone, as it were – in the account of Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus. There she sees the bodily, resurrected figure of Jesus, clothed in the garment in which he was buried, before he seemingl y de-materializes to another, unseen dimension (“ascending,” as it were in Biblical language). Thereafter, two chief disciples of his come to the tomb, only to find the funeral garments and face-napkin of the Lord left behind. They know and believe that he had risen from the dead and has ascended. Sometime after that, according to the Pauline record, Jesus began to appear


Roy D. Kotansky

– away from his tomb-side setting – to a number of his disciples, small and great, but not in the bodily form that Mary Magdalene was privileged to see; rather, it was in some indescribable, and probably unknowable, visionary form defying easy classification. But that form, whatever it was, proved palpable enough and powerful enough to create a lasting impression on believers not fortunate enough to have witnessed the risen Lord. In a word, all the male visions presupposed in 1 Corinthians 15, including Paul’s, can only be those of an ascended Lord, with no associations at all with the tomb-side setting. And none need be implied. In what form Jesus appeared to Peter, and under what circumstances, remains a mystery, and one is left to wonder if indeed the cloth which Peter (and the “other”) saw came to represent a true manifestation of Jesus. There remains, and always will remain, something surprisingly “void” about the narrative of Peter at the tomb in John’s gospel. The putative appearance of Jesus to Peter in Paul’s narrative also dangles like a Damoclean sword, both elusively and perilously, over the head of the historical record. 25

Appendix: The “Core” Text of the Earliest Resurrection Account (John 20:1; 11a–c; 12a,d; 14–18) 1 Τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων Μαρίαμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ ἔρχεται πρωῒ εἰς τὸν μνημεῖον καὶ βλέπει τὸ σῶμα ἠρμένον ἐκ τοῦ μνημείου. 11 a-c Μαρίαμ δὲ εἱστήκει ἐν τῷ μνημείῳ κλαίουσα. ὡς οὖν ἔκλαιεν, 12a,d θεωρεῖ ὅπου ἔκειτο τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ’Ιησοῦ. 14 καὶ ἐστράφη εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω καὶ θεωρεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐστῶτα καὶ οὐκ ᾔδει ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν. 15 λέγει αὐτῇ Ἰησοῦς· γύναι, τί κλαίεις; τίνα ζητεῖς; ἐκείνη δοκοῦσα ὅτι ὁ κηπουρός ἐστιν λέγει αὐτῷ· κύριε εἰ σὺ ἐβάστασας αὐτόν, εἰπέ μοι ποῦ ἔθηκας αὐτόν, κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἀρῶ. 16 λέγει αὐτῇ Ἰησοῦς· Μαριάμ. στραφεῖσα ἐκείνη λέγει αὐτῷ [*] Ραββουνι [*] . 17 λέγει αὐτῇ Ἰησοῦς· μή ἅπτου μου, οὔπω γὰρ ἀναβέβηκα πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου· πορεύου δὲ πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφούς μου καὶ εἰπὲ αὐτοῖς ἀναβαίνω πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ πατέρα ὑμῶν. 18 ἔρχεται Μαριὰμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ ἀγγέλλουσα τοῖς μαθηταῖς ὅτι ἑώρακα τὸν κύριον, καὶ ταῦτα εἶπεν αὐτῇ. 1 On the first day of the week, Mariam the Magdalene woman comes early to the tomb and sees the body removed from the tomb. 11a-c And Ma25 The remarkable parallel to John 20 found in most manuscripts of Luke 24:12 represents an important, independent witness. That parallel leaves Peter seemingly dumbfounded – hardly emboldened by a vision of Jesus, as Luke 24:34 would later incongruously imply. Was Peter’s vision that implied by his rooftop ἔκστασις in Acts 10:9–16, etc., in which he “sees” (καὶ θεωρεῖ!) the heavens opened and hears a voice?

The Resurrection of Jesus in Biblical Theology


riam stood in the tomb, crying. 12a,d As she was crying, she sees where Jesus’ body had been lying. 14 And turning around she also sees Jesus standing but does not know that it is Jesus. 15 Jesus says to her, “Lady, why are you crying? Whom are you looking for?” She, thinking he’s the gardener, says to him, “Sir, if you have carried him off, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus says to her, “Mariam.” She turns around and says to him, “Rabbouni!” 17 .26 Jesus says to her, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet gone up to my father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am going up to my father and your father.’” 18 Mariam the Magdalene woman comes, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” and (that) he said these things to her.

26 An additional phrase here, καὶ προσέδραμεν ἁψάσθαι αὐτοῦ, “and she ran up to touch him,” is supported by ‫א‬1 Θ Ψ (f13) pc vgmss sy(s).h. This may be an original reading, or a scribal attempt to fill what reads like an evident gap in the text. The fact that the scribes chose ἁψάσθαι to match (μή) ἅπτου looks too neat and artificial, and may indeed represent a secondary attempt to repair a lacunose text. Based on the parallel from Matt. 28:9, one may think, rather, of an original text that read something like the text given above.

Anxiety or Care for People? The Theme of 1 Corinthians 7:32–34 and the Relation between Exegesis and Theology JUDITH M. GUNDRY I want you to be ἀμέριμνοuς. The unmarried man μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, how he might please the Lord, but the married man μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, how he might please his wife. And he is divided. 1 And the unmarried and chaste woman 2 μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου so that she might be consecrated both in body and in spirit [to the Lord]. But the married woman μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, how she might please her husband (1 Cor. 7:32–34).

According to the majority of scholars, in the verses cited above 3 Paul depicts the married man or woman as one who “is anxious about worldly things” (μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου), and the unmarried man or woman as one who “devotes care to the Lord’s things” (μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου), and is not anxious. Paul wishes the Corinthians to be “free from anxiety” (ἀμέριμνοuς) by remaining unmarried. 4 On this view the denotation of the verb μεριμνάω depends on the direct object with which it is paired, either “worldly things” (τὰ τοῦ κόσμου) or “the Lord’s things” (τὰ τοῦ κυρίου). Only two other interpretations have been proposed. According to the first alternative, Paul wishes all to be “free from anxiety” (ἀμέριμνοuς), and then depicts both the married and the unmarried man and woman as anxious, though about different things: the married man or woman “is anxious (μεριμνᾷ) about worldly things” but the unmarried man or woman “is anxious (μεριμνᾷ) about the Lord’s things.” According to the second alterna1

There are nine different readings in the manuscript tradition here. The preferred reading today is καὶ μεμέρισται. καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄγαμος καὶ ἡ παρθένος, and the implied subject of μεμέρισται is taken to be ὁ γαμήσας in 7:33. For discussion see Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 334f., n. 4; Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: UBS, 1975), 555f. 2 My translation follows Alan R. Guenther, “One Woman or Two? 1 Corinthians 7:34,” BBR 12 (2002): 33–45. 3 1 Cor. 7:32–34 is part of Paul’s response in 1 Corinthians 7 to a Corinthian letter on sexual abstinence, celibacy, marriage and related matters (cf. 7:1a, “Concerning the things you wrote about” [Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε]) and occurs in the subsection “on the virgins” (Περὶ δὲ τῶν παρθένων) in 1 Cor. 7:25–38. 4 In 7:7 he states that only some have a “gift from God” so as to be celibate, as he is.


Judith M. Gundry

tive, Paul wishes all to be “free from anxiety” (ἀμέριμνοuς), and then depicts neither the married nor the unmarried man or woman as anxious, but as devoting care to something, though to different things: the married man or woman “devotes care (μεριμνᾷ) to worldly things” but the unmarried man or woman “devotes care (μεριμνᾷ) to the Lord’s things.” In this article I will raise some methodological objections to interpretations of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 which revolve around the themes of anxiety and freedom from anxiety. I will try to show that they are driven by a thematic approach in which texts are lumped together as having a common theme or topos based on catchwords. This results in lexicographical, syntactical and contextual considerations getting short shrift, and the closest parallels being overlooked. Further, I will suggest that these interpretations reflect the appeal of a particular theological reading of 1 Cor. 7:32–34, namely, that of Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann, using existentialist philosophy to reveal the contemporary relevance of the New Testament, argued that the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 7:29–34 addresses the human dilemma of anxiety through striving after worldly things (as typified by the married man and woman) and seeking to secure one’s existence from “the world,” which brings only death.5 Paul points the way to freedom from anxiety, namely, through (literal) aloofness toward the world. This combined methodology of thematic, catchword-based and existentialist approaches to the interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 has yielded results that are far from persuasive on historicalcritical grounds. When a rigorous historical-critical approach is employed, as I will try to show here, the theme of anxiety does not appear at all in 1 Cor. 7:32–34. The terms ἀμέριμνος and μεριμνάω, which are often taken to signal this theme, are used here in an objective sense (“free from effortful care,” and “devote care,” respectively). Paul describes the married and the unmarried man and woman as those who “strive” (objectively) after different things, or have different ambitions (with Bultmann) – the earthly welfare of a spouse, in the one case, and the eschatological gains of the Lord’s people, in the other case. But Paul does not (pace Bultmann and heirs) contrast their resulting subjective states – anxiety versus freedom from anxiety. Rather, Paul contrasts the objective outcomes of these different ambitions – the earthly good of transient persons (spouses) and the eschatological good of those who are a new creation. The key to this contrast is Paul’s eschatological perspective – which Bultmann sought to overcome: “The fixed time is shortened” before the end (1 Cor. 7:29a) and “the form of this world is passing away” right now (1 Cor. 7:31b). But the contrast between the two 5 See Rudolf Bultmann, μεριμνάω κτλ, TDNT 4.589–93: 589f.; idem, Theology of the New Testament, trans. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951–55), I.182, 352 passim.

Anxiety or Care for People?


ambitions is overstated here, for Paul slips in that the married man “is divided” (1 Cor. 7:34a), that is, divided between seeking temporal good and seeking eschatological good for others. This agrees with Paul’s view that every Christ-believer, regardless of marital status, cares for other members of the body of Christ. 6

Translations and Interpretations of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 in Current Scholarship A quick glance at the standard Greek lexica shows that the terms ἀμέριμνος and μεριμνάω are multivalent,7 which in part accounts for the discrepancy in translations of these terms at 1 Cor. 7:32–34. On the one hand, the NIV reads: I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. 8

Here the reader is left to decide whether “concern” is pejorative and refers to anxiety, or neutral and refers to being occupied with something. By contrast, the NRSV’s translation suggests a pejorative/subjective connotation: I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit;

6 See 1 Cor. 12:24–26: “God has so composed the body . . . that there might be no division in the body, but that the members might have the same care for each other’s sake (τὸ αὐτὸ ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων μεριμνῶσιν). And if one member suffers, all suffer together. And if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Similarly, Phil. 2:20: “[Timothy] will devote care to your [the Philippians’] interests” (ὅστις γνησίως τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν μεριμνήσει). 7 For the wide range of use of μεριμνάω and cognates in Greek, Hellenistic-Jewish and early Christian literature, see Bultmann, μεριμνάω, 589–93; LS, s.v. μέριμνα, etc.; BDAG, s.v. μεριμνάω. 8 For this or a similar translation, see also the NASV, HCSV, CEB, NKJV, LEB; Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (PNTC, Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2010), 349; Andreas Lindemann, Der erste Korintherbrief (HNT 9/1; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 2000), 175. For Lindemann, 180, however, 7:32a uses the adjective sensu malo, but 7:32b uses the verb sensu bono.


Judith M. Gundry

but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband. C. K. Barrett adopts this translation and offers two possible interpretations. First Paul may be ascribing negative anxiety to both the married and the unmarried.9 But that option is disfavored, according to Barrett, by the unmarried man’s intention to “please the Lord” (πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ), which must be taken positively, in the light of similar, positive expressions about pleasing God in Paul. 10 Barrett’s second and preferred option is that Paul attributes “negative anxiety” about “worldly things” to the married, but “positive anxiety” about “the Lord’s things” to the unmarried. 11 Paul wants the Corinthians to be “free from [negative] anxiety” only. 12 But this interpretation too is not without difficulties, Barrett admits. A similar interpretation is arrived at by adopting two different translations for μεριμνάω in 1 Cor. 7:32–34. For example, Anthony Thiselton suggests that Paul uses the verb in a “dual sense” and offers the following translation: Now I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man devotes his concern to (μεριμνᾷ) the things of the Lord, how he is to please the Lord. But the man who has married has anxieties about the affairs of the world, how he is to please his wife. And he is pulled in two directions. Both the woman who is currently free of wedlock and the wo man who has never married devote their concern to the things of the Lord, in order to be holy both publically and in the Spirit. But the woman who has become married is anxious about the affairs of the world, how she is to please her husband (my e mphasis).13

In support, Thiselton cites Pauline parallels for both senses of μεριμνάω (1 Cor. 12:25; Phil. 2:20; 4:6; see, further, the discussion of Pauline usage of μεριμνάω below). Yet none of Thiselton’s parallels has both senses (or a

9 C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1968), 178f.; followed by Margaret Y. MacDonald, “Women Holy in Body and Spirit: The Social Setting of 1 Corinthians 7,” NTS 36 (1990): 161–81 at 173f.; cf. idem, Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion: The Power of the Hysterical Woman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 136. 10 See Rom. 8:8; 1 Thess. 2:4, 15; 4:1 for θεῷ ἀρέσκειν in a positive sense. 11 See also Vincent L. Wimbush, Paul, the Worldly Ascetic: Response to the World and Self-Understanding according to 1 Corinthians 7 (Macon, GA: Mercer, 1987), 51: “μεριμνᾶν becomes negative when its object is the world, positive when it is the Lord.” Similarly, Edward Adams, Constructing the World: A Study in Paul’s Cosmological Language (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 138. 12 Barrett, A Commentary, 179, identifies freedom from (negative) anxiety as a central Pauline motif: “The essence of Paul’s Gospel that man no longer needs to feel anxiety before God.” 13 Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGNT; Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans/Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000), 566.

Anxiety or Care for People?


“dual sense”) of μεριμνάω.14 Moreover, the proposed switch from a positive to a pejorative sense of μεριμνάω in 1 Cor. 7:32–34 depends on a positive/pejorative contrast between τὰ τοῦ κυρίου and τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, which some take to be obvious, 15 but which should be ruled out on the basis of the immediate context, as I will argue below. Disputing the “dual sense” of μεριμνάω as not clearly marked, and pointing to other problems with the majority view, Gordon Fee suggests: It is possible to read both verbs [μεριμνᾷ . . . μεριμνᾷ] positively, meaning to “care for” . . . and to view them both as legitimate activities. The married man “cares for the things of the world, how to please his wife” in the sense of vv. 30–31. That is a simple statement of reality. 16

In other words, “care for the things of the world” is simply different from “care for the things of the Lord.” Fee continues: The real difference between the two men is that the married man “is divided” [ καὶ μεμέρισται]. That does not mean that he is full of anxieties, but that he “cares for” both the Lord and his wife. The “division” may mean that he has less opportunity for service than is available to the unmarried; but it does not mean that the one is a superior existence, or that it is more full of anxiety. 17

In defense of this interpretation Fee takes Paul’s wish in 7:32a, “I want you to be free from anxiety (ἀμέριμνοuς),” to look backward to the exhortations in 7:29–31 to “be as if not” – i.e., as if not engaging in the present world in such a way as to be “determined by the world in its present form,” Thiselton, The First Epistle, 586f., cites several LXX texts for the double nuance of “anxiety” and “striving.” But this does not help his case for a dual usage in 1 Cor. 7:32b–34. Moreover, only one of his examples has the verb, viz., Wis. 12:22, and here the verb is used in a clearly active/positive sense: “we might strive for your goodness (τὴν ἀγαθότητα μεριμνῶμεν) . . . and might wait for [your] mercy (προσδοκῶμεν ἔλεος).” 15 See Alistair S. May, “The Body for the Lord”: Sex and Identity in 1 Corinthians 5– 7 (London/New York: T&T Clark International, 2004), 252, who states more emphatically than most that “it is unimaginable that, for Paul, τὰ τοῦ κόσμου could be anything other than negative in comparison with τὰ τοῦ κυρίου”; similarly, Adams, Constructing the World, 138 (following Wimbush). 16 Fee, The First Epistle, 344f. 17 Fee, The First Epistle, 344f. Similarly, Klauck, 1. Korintherbrief, 56f., refers to “das Freisein von planender Fürsorge,” which allows the unmarried to devote time and energy to things such as missionary labor; Richard Hays, First Corinthians (Interpretation; Louisville: John Knox, 1997), 128f., refers to the “concern about freedom for mission that motivates Paul’s hesitation about the advisability of marriage”; Frederick W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 179f., states that the married are “preoccupied with the things of the world,” “too much attached to the earth,” not “absorbed with the things of the Lord,” and thus unable to render “wholehearted service of God,” and “can do less for the kingdom of God.” 14


Judith M. Gundry

resulting in anxiety – rather than taking 7:32a to introduce a contrast between the married and the unmarried in 7:32b–34.18 But most scholars see a connection in both directions: 7:32a states the implication of 7:29–31 and leads into the contrast between the married and the unmarried. 19 Fee, however, argues that the wide audience of Paul’s exhortations in 7:29–31 – “those who have wives . . . who mourn . . . who rejoice . . . who buy . . . who use the world” – rules out the implication that the married are any more prone to anxiety than the unmarried. And Fee points to 7:36–38 as evidence that the Corinthian virgins were anxious (about whether or not to marry). 20 But these arguments do not seem to have persuaded the majority. 21 Nevertheless, Fee is not alone. Jean Héring avers in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (predating Fee by two and a half decades)22: To understand what follows it must be noted that there is no pejorative force here in the use of “merimna” and its derivatives, such as we find in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6:25ff). The “cares” here are not caused by lack of faith, but by entirely legitimate preo ccupations, whether in the religious domain (“merimnan ta tou kuriou” = “to care for those things which concern the Lord”) or in the secular realm (“merimnan ta tou kosmou” = “to care for those things which concern the world”). So there is no question of condemning the preoccupations of married people with their legitimate family affairs. . . . Such cares are therefore legitimate. Yet it is nonetheless true that they partly deflect a man from concerns which the service of the Lord should inspire. He becomes “divided.”

Johannes Weiss comments in his even earlier (1910) commentary on 1 Corinthians23 that while Paul uses the adjective ἀμέριμνος here in the sense “without anxiety,” somewhat surprisingly, the cognate verb μεριμνάω has “the not infrequent, more positive sense,” “have care for” (“Sorge tragen für”), as in Luke 10:41; 1 Cor. 12:25; Phil. 2:20. For this usage Weiss appeals to the direct object, τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, and the explanatory πῶς-clause, Fee, The First Epistle, 342f.: “[7:32a] flows naturally out of vv. 29–31.” See Hans Lietzmann, An die Korinther I.II, 34, who explains that 7:32a states the conclusion to 7:29–31 and is further developed in 7:32b–34. By contrast, Dieter Zeller, Der erste Brief an die Korinther (KEK 5; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010), 264, connects 7:32a only with 7:32b–34: “Der Wunsch des Paulus, die Korinther möchten ohne Sorge leben (V. 32a; vgl. allgemein Phil 4,11), deckt sich also nicht mit der Forderung des auch dem Verheirateten möglichen ὡς μή, sondern zielt darüber hinaus auf die Ehelosigkeit”; see also idem, μέριμνα, μεριμνάω, in Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament Band II, eds. Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider (Stuttgart/Berlin/ Köln/Mainz: W. Kohlhammer, 1981), 1006. 20 Fee, The First Epistle, 337, 343, 346. 21 See below. 22 Jean Héring, The First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, trans. A. W. Heathcote and P. J. Allcock (London: Epworth, 1962), 60. 23 Johannes Weiss, Der erste Korintherbrief, 9 th rev. ed. (MeyerK 5; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1910), 201f. 18 19

Anxiety or Care for People?


“how to please. . . .” He does not take the verb to have a different sense with the direct object, “worldly things” (τὰ τοῦ κόσμου). For he translates 7:34c, “the married woman has the care of [the world], how to please her husband,” and states that she is “not to be distracted through thoughts pertaining to marriage” (my translations and emphasis). 24 Weiss explains Paul’s wish that the Corinthians might be “without anxiety” as harking back to 7:26, “the present distress” (τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἀνάγκην), alluding to persecutions associated with the end-time tribulation, which could make the Corinthians anxious. Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner state in their recent commentary on 1 Corinthians that in Paul’s view the married “are right to concern themselves with the happiness of their spouses” and that Paul is not dealing with anxious attempts to please a spouse. “Paul’s concern is for them [the Corinthian Christ-believers] to have as few distractions from their service and devotion to the Lord as possible” and “to live lives of undistracted devotion to the Lord.” 25 Yet when Ciampa and Rosner cite Luke 10:40f. – where Jesus rebukes Martha for being “anxious and upset” – as a parallel, they imply that anxiety is also an issue in 1 Cor. 7:32–34. Interpretations which eschew anxiety as a central motif in 1 Cor. 7:32b– 34 have come under fire, however. Joseph Fitzmyer observes that the cognate terms (ἀμέριμνος and μεριμνάω) bind 7:32a and 7:32b–34 together, against the view that they address different issues.26 Thiselton notes that Fee is inconsistent to reject a “dual sense” of μεριμνάω (both “be anxious” and “devote care”), while allowing the sense “without anxiety” for ἀμέριμνος in 7:32a.27 24 Weiss, Der erste Korintherbrief, 202–4. The German original reads: “die Verheiratete aber hat die Sorge [der Welt], wie sie ihrem Manne gefalle”; “nicht durch Heirats und Ehegedanken abgelenkt werden.” Similarly, Heinz-Dietrich Wendland, Die Briefe an die Korinther, 6 th rev. ed. (NTD 7; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1954), 57; G. Campbell Morgan, The Corinthian Letters of Paul: An Exposition of I and II Corinthians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1946), 104. 25 Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter, 349–50. See also the brief discussion in Will Deming, Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7, 2 nd ed. (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2004), 193–201 (especially n. 353), who cites Moulton and Milligan (26) against taking Paul’s terms in 7:32a and 7:32b–34 to have the connotation of anxiety. Deming also cites Bultmann for μεριμνάω in the sense of being “intent on something, or “striving after something,” without critique of Bul tmann’s interpretation of striving after worldly things as leading to anxiety. 26 Joseph A. Fitzmyer, First Corinthians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AYB; New Haven/London: Yale University, 2008), 318; see also Hans Conzelmann, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, trans. J. W. Leitch (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1976), 134 (pace Weiss). 27 Thiselton, The First Epistle, 587–88; see also May, “The Body for the Lord,” 251; Adams, Constructing the World, 137.


Judith M. Gundry

In short, despite the fact that the terms ἀμέριμνος and μεριμνάω can be used without a subjective/pejorative connotation, as noted at the outset of this article, scholars agree that this connotation is present in ἀμέριμνος in 1 Cor. 7:32a, and most scholars argue that this connotation is present in at least two of the occurrences of μεριμνάω in 1 Cor. 7:32b–34. Thus 1 Cor. 7:32–34 is taken in whole or in part to address the problem of anxiety. And for the majority this is a problem which Paul associates with marriage. Nevertheless, the fact that neither the majority nor the minority interpretations of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 are without problems, as seen above, suggests that there is room for yet a third alternative. But first let us note some add itional problems that plague interpretations of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 that revolve around anxiety, either in whole or in part.

The Problem of the Relation of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 to the Immediate Context Many scholars have struggled with how 1 Cor. 7:32–34, as addressing the motifs of anxiety and freedom from anxiety, relates to the immediate context.28 For these verses appear somewhat interruptive of the larger argument.29 To resolve this problem, some have linked anxiety to other motifs in the context, e.g., “the present distress” (7:26), “affliction in the flesh” (7:28), and “the world”/“this world (7:30–31).30 But none of these suggestions is compelling. Moreover, despite the virtually ubiquitous interpretation of Paul’s injunctions in 1 Cor. 7:29–31 in terms of warding off anxiety (which reflects

28 See the discussions in Weiss, Der erste Korintherbrief, 201; Conzelmann, A Commentary, 134; Wolfgang Schrage, Der erste Brief an die Korinther (1 Kor 6,12–11,16) (EKKNT 7.2; Solothurn/Düsseldorf: Benziger/Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1995), 2.177; Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians (SP 7; Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1999), 295; Lindemann, Der erste Korintherbrief, 180. 29 Wimbush, Paul, the Worldly Ascetic, 50: “a shift both in type of language and emphasis of discussion, verse 32 represents the beginning of a significant turn in Paul’s r esponse” (followed by Thiselton, The First Epistle, 586). A new “Christological” argument in 7:32–34 is found by Kurt Niederwimmer, “Zur Analyse der asketischen Motivation in 1Kor 7,” ThLZ 99 (1974): 241–48; followed by W. Harnisch, “Christusbindung oder Weltbezug? Sachkritische Erwägungen zur paulinischen Argumentation in 1Kor 7,” in Antikes Judentum und Frühes Christentum: Festschrift für Hartmut Stegemann zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. B. Kollmann, W. Reinbold, A. Steudel (BZNW 97; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1999), 457–73. 30 Zeller, Der erste Brief, 264, speculates that Paul cannot think of “using the world” and “this world” without also reflecting on the problem of anxiety.

Anxiety or Care for People?


Bultmann’s influence31) – “let those who have wives [sexually] be as if not (ὡς μή) having,” and so on – Paul makes no explicit reference to anxiety here. There is no reason to take these injunctions as having such a purpose, apart from 7:32a as a wish that the Corinthians be “free from anxiety” – which I will dispute below. Further, as I have argued elsewhere, 32 it is more likely that Paul here instructs those who “use the world” (for the sake of sustaining earthly life) not to do so continually or maximally, for “the fixed time [before the end] is shortened” and “the form of this world is [presently] passing away” (ὁ καιρὸς συνεσταλμένος ἐστίν . . . παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, 7:29a, 31b).33 That is, the world does not merit continual or maximal use anymore; less is more. In sum, the consensus view of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 in terms of anxiety has no clear support from the immediate context.

For Bultmann, μεριμνάω, 591–92, 1 Cor. 7:29–31 responds to the problem of “the world” as a power that leads a human being to “rest . . . on the strength of [one’s] own calculations,” leading to anxiety: “If, in self-concern, [one] cares for the things of this world, he will fall victim to this world. For his life is in fact controlled by that for which, about which, after which, before which and concerning which he cares. It is the constant tendency of this world to lead him to apostasy to it through the μερ ίμναι βιωτικαί (Lk. 21:34), the μέριμναι τοῦ αἰῶνος (sc. τούτου, Mk. 4:19 par.). . . . In so far as man must take care for the means of life, he must restrict this care to the bare minimum in order that the ἀγαθὴ μερίς may not be lost (Lk. 10:41f.). He must confront all worldly ties at the distinctive distance of the ὡς μή (1 C. 7:29–31).” The key mark of the believer, for Bultmann, is thus freedom from anxiety, obtained through distance from the world. For Bultmann’s influence, see Schrage, Der erste Brief, 2.177: “von bestimmten Weltformen wie der Ehe überhaupt abzustehen . . . Ehelosigkeit soll sich durch Sorglosigkeit empfehlen”; Conzelmann, A Commentary, 134: “The mode of expression is here [1 Cor. 7:32–34] purely ascetic, to ‘please’ the Lord or the world”; “the ascetic tendency is plain.” Not without Bultmann’s influence are interpreters who stress inner aloofness toward the world in order to avoid anxiety, e.g., Fee, The First Epistle, 343: “The Christian still buys and marries, but he or she does so ‘as if not’” in order to remain free from an xiety. For Adams, Constructing the World, 132, 1 Cor. 7:29–31 implies both “inner detachment” and “a measure of outward restraint,” in response to the Corinthians’ two-fold, “social and ideological integration into the larger society.” Nevertheless, Adams, Constructing the World, 12–18, passim, critiques Bultmann’s theological understanding of the κόσμος in Paul. 32 Judith M. Gundry, “Inner Aloofness or not “Having it All”? ὡς μή in 1 Cor 7:29–31 and Christians’ Relation to the World” (a paper presented at the SNTS seminar, “Reading Paul’s Letters in Context: Theological and Social-Scientific Approaches,” in Leuven, Belgium, 2012). 33 Paul’s eschatological framework is also stressed by Hays, First Corinthians, 127f., who avoids referring to anxiety when discussing 1 Cor. 7:29–31. 31


Judith M. Gundry

Parallelomania and the Interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:32–34 Scholars cast their nets broadly when looking for parallels to 1 Cor. 7:32– 34 as addressing the themes of anxiety and freedom from anxiety. Various New Testament texts with μεριμνάω are compared, e.g., Phil. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:7; Matt. 6:25, 31–33; par. Luke 12:22–31; Mark 4:19; Luke 10:41; 21:34 – all of which are taken as critiques of anxiety, although none mention marriage.34 Outside the New Testament, Dieter Zeller cites Hellenistic texts which reflect the popular perception of the married and those who have children as characterized by anxious cares (μέριμναι) about their dependents and how to provide for a family, and of the unmarried and childless as “free from anxious cares” (ἀμέριμνος).35 1 Cor. 7:32–34 shares this popular perception, in Zeller’s view. But some of this evidence is rather ambiguous. Not all of the New Testament parallels with μεριμνάω clearly use the verb in a subjective/pejorative sense. For example, in Matt. 6:25–33 the objective sense (“devote care, strive”) is favored by the parallelism with ζητέω (“seek”): Jesus’ disciples are not to strive (μεριμνάω) after food, drink, clothing and other worldly necessities but to seek (ζητέω) God’s reign.36 Not all of the Hellenistic parallels with μέριμναι clearly refer to the “anxious cares” of the married and those with children, as opposed to objective cares (responsibilities) viewed negatively as distractions from other pursuits. With Will Deming, we can compare Cynic and Stoic texts which advise against marriage so as not to be distracted from one’s divine calling

34 See Schrage, Der erste Brief, 2.177 n. 712; Lindemann, Der erste Korintherbrief, 180; Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter, 349f.; Werner Wolbert, Ethische Argumentation und Paränese in 1 Kor 7 (Moraltheologische Studien 8; Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1981), 127; et al. Barrett, A Commentary, 178f., comments: “Jesus himself commands his followers to be free from anxiety. . . and the rest of the New Testament echoes the same thought.” 35 Zeller, Der erste Brief, 264, with n. 200, citing Menander Frgm. 798 (Kassel/Austin); monost. 72.591; Pap. XIV 17. Zeller also cites Antiphon B Frgm. 49 in Diels/Kranz II, 360,1f., but the term used here is φροντίδες, not μέριμναι. The terms are parallel in LXX Job 11:18: ἐκ δὲ μερίμνης καὶ φροντίδος. 36 So Weiss, Der erste Korintherbrief, 202; George W. E. Nickelsburg, “Riches, the Rich, and God’s Judgement in 1 Enoch 92–105 and the Gospel According to Luke,” NTS 25 (1978–79), 324–44; cf. also Bultmann, μεριμνάω, 591, commenting on Matt. 6:31; 1 Cor. 7:32–34; i.a. There is considerable evidence in the LXX for the use of μεριμνάω in the sense, “strive after”; see, e.g., Bar. 3:18 (οἱ τὸ ἀργύριον τεκταίνοντες καὶ μεριμνῶντες); LXX Ezek. 16:42 (καὶ ἀναπαύσομαι καὶ οὐ μὴ μεριμνήσω οὐκέτι); Wis. 12:22 (ἵνα σου τὴν ἀγαθότητα μεριμνῶμεν κρίνοντες); LXX Prov. 14:23 (ἐν παντὶ μεριμνῶντι ἔνεστιν περισσόν); LXX Exod. 5:9 (βαρυνέσθω τὰ ἔργα τῶν ἀνθρώπων τούτων, καὶ μεριμνάτωσαν ταῦτα καὶ μὴ μεριμνάτωσαν ἐν λόγοις κενοῖς).

Anxiety or Care for People?


through the responsibilities of the married, even though these texts use di fferent terminology. 37 Finally, the evidence for μεριμνάω and cognates in the papyri is ambiguous, as noted in the editorial comments on 1 Cor. 7:32–34 in Papyrologische Kommentare zum Neuen Testament: In the papyri the verb μεριμνάω is usually used for persons, and one can distinguish (although not always clearly) between a positive “care” for, or (better) a “concerning oneself” with someone, and a “care” which is linked to anxiety, so that it has to do with “b eing anxious” or “being anxiously occupied.”38

In the editors’ view, μεριμνάω τὰ τοῦ κυρίου in 1 Cor. 7:32b–34 has a primarily objective sense – “care for” – while μεριμνάω τὰ τοῦ κόσμου has both objective and subjective senses – “care for” and “be anxious about.” 39 But no supporting arguments are given. In conclusion, we should be cautious when appealing to parallels in the New Testament and other Hellenistic literature with the term μεριμνάω and cognates, and not simply assume that, if a pejorative nuance is implied, anxiety is the connotation. It is equally possible that the connotation is objective striving or devoting care, seen in a negative light. By failing to consider the full range of lexical options when looking for parallels to 1 Cor. 7:32–34 scholars have created a false sense of broader support for the view that this Pauline text addresses the “theme of anxiety.”

Pauline Usage of μεριμνάω As noted above, Phil. 4:6, μηδὲν μεριμνᾶτε, “do not be anxious about anything!” is often taken as a parallel to 1 Cor. 7:32–34. But BDAG cites only Phil. 4:6 for this sense of μεριμνάω,40 and includes 1 Cor. 7:32b–34 along

See Deming, Paul on Marriage, 215, on 1 Cor. 7:29, 32–34 as reflecting a modified Stoic view. Deming’s conclusion is overstated, however, since μεριμνάω and cognates are not Stoic (see, further, below). 38 Peter Arzt-Grabner, Ruth E. Kritzer, Amphilochios Papathomas, and Franz Winter, 1. Korinther (PKNT 2: Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 301 (translation mine). The original German reads: “Das Verb μεριμνάω ist in den Papyri meist auf Personen bezogen, wobei (nicht immer deutlich) zu unterscheiden ist zwischen einem pos itiven ‘Sorge’ für oder besser ein ‘Sich-Kümmern’ um jemanden und einer Sorge, die auch mit Angst verbunden sein kann, so dass es um ein ‘Besorgt-Sein’ oder ‘SichSorgen-Machen’ geht.” 39 Arzt-Grabner et al., 1. Korinther, 302. 40 BDAG, s.v. μεριμνάω 1: “have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned.” Cited here are also Matt. 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34a; 10:19; Luke 10:41; 12:11, 22, 25, 26. 37


Judith M. Gundry

with 1 Cor. 12:25 and Phil. 2:20 under the sense, “devote care.” 41 It seems that only a few scholars have followed BDAG in this regard. In favor of the minority view, the construction in 1 Cor. 7:32b–34 is closely parallel to that in 1 Cor. 12:25 and Phil. 2:20, but not to that in Phil. 4:6. In the latter the verb is in the imperative mood and has the direct object, μηδέν, for a prohibition. 42 None of the other Pauline occurrences of μεριμνάω, however, appear in prohibitions, and they all have articular direct objects, suggesting a common usage of the verb: 1 Cor. 12:25: ἵνα . . . τὸ αὐτὸ ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων . . . μεριμνῶσιν τὰ μέλη (“that the parts may have the same care for each other’s sake”). Phil. 2:20: ὅστις γνησίως τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν μεριμνήσει (“who will genuinely devote care to your interests”). 1 Cor. 7:32b–34: μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου . . . μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου . . . μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου . . . μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου (“devotes care to the Lord’s things . . . devotes care to the world’s things . . . devotes care to the Lord’s things . . . devotes care to the world’s things”).

Although we cannot rule out a reference to being anxious in 1 Cor. 7:32b– 34, on the basis of Pauline usage we should prefer a reference to devoting care to something.

41 BDAG, s.v. μεριμνάω 2. Also cited here is Matt. 6:34b: “Tomorrow will look after itself (μεριμνήσει ἑαυτῆς).” If the editors are right to classify Matt. 6:34b as an example of the objective/neutral sense of μεριμνάω, and Matt. 6:34a as an example of the subjective sense of μεριμνάω (see the previous note), then Matt. 6:34 would be an example of the dual usage of μεριμνάω in a single text, and could be cited in favor of this interpretation of μεριμνάω in 1 Cor. 7:32b–34. But it is also possible to take Matt. 6:34a as an example of the objective/neutral sense of μεριμνάω – “do not take care (μὴ μεριμνήσητε) for tomorrow” – in the light of the exhortation in 6:33 to “seek first God’s reign and righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” The saying in 6:34 may thus reflect the common wisdom about whether one ought to prepare for tomorrow, which is illustrated in the Egyptian proverb cited by W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Volume III: Matthew 19–28 (ICC; London/New York: T&T Clark, 1997), 662: “Do not prepare for tomorrow before it is come. One knows not what evil may be in it” (The Eloquent Peasant 183). Thus, there is no una mbiguous case of a dual usage of μεριμνάω in the New Testament. 42 BDAG, s.v. μηδείς 2.b.β, refers to this as “an accusative of the inner object.”

Anxiety or Care for People?


The πῶς-clauses in 1 Cor. 7:32b–34 As noted in the secondary literature, the three πῶς-clauses in 1 Cor. 7:32b– 34 have an explanatory function, namely, to elucidate the clauses with μεριμνάω.43 The unmarried man μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ But the married man μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῇ γυναικί And the married woman μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ ἀνδρί

But their explanatory function can be explained differently, since the main verb of the πῶς-clauses, ἀρέσκω, can be taken in two different senses. If taken in the sense, “please in a fawning manner,” 44 the clauses with ἀρέσκω suggest that the clauses with μεριμνάω refer to those who “are anxious.” But if taken in the sense, “please, accommodate,”45 the clauses with ἀρέσκω suggest that the clauses with with μεριμνάω refer to those who “devote care.” Raymond Collins, appealing to 1 Cor. 7:3–4, rejects the view that the πῶς-clauses in 1 Cor. 7:33–34 depict the married man and woman pejoratively as anxious: [To ‘please his wife’ or ‘please her husband’] suggests obedience . . . [it] should not be understood moralistically or psychologically. It reflects a social situation in which an individual is fully subservient. . . . The married man has obligations toward the wife to whom he is bound in a relationship of mutual submission (cf. 7:3–4).46

In support of Collins’ view, ἀρέσκω is used frequently “in honorary documents to express interest in accommodating others by meeting their needs or carrying out important obligations,” almost in the sense “serve,” and when so used, ἀρέσκω “contributes a tone of special worth and dignity to some of the relationships that are depicted.”47 Second, “please the Lord” (ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ) in 7:32b is generally taken in this sense, as noted above. Third, if ἀρέσκω refers to the sexual obligation of spouses – “please sex-

Zeller, Der erste Brief, 264; May, “The Body for the Lord,” 252; et al. See BDAG, s.v. πῶς 1.b.β for πῶς in an indirect question with the deliberative subjunctive (similarly, Luke 12:11: μὴ μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί ἀπολογήσησθε ἢ τί εἴπητε). 44 BDAG, s.v. ἀρέσκω 1; cf. Gal. 1:10ab; 1 Thess. 2:4. 45 BDAG, s.v. ἀρέσκω 2. 46 Collins, First Corinthians, 29. Similarly, Schrage, Der erste Brief, 2.179, who compares Paul’s positive references to pleasing others in Rom. 15:2 (τ ῷ πλησίον ἀρεσκέτω) and 1 Cor. 10:33 (πάντα . . . ἀρέσκω). Zeller, Der erste Brief, 265, aptly notes that in Antipater (Stobaeus 4.509.2 [W.-H.]) the wife is obligated to please the husband, but not vice versa, the husband to please the wife. 47 BDAG, s.v. ἀρέσκω 2.a (citing Nägeli, 40). 43


Judith M. Gundry

ually” (see Mark 6:22) – as suggested by some scholars, 48 Paul’s earlier exhortations (7:2–5) to wives and husbands to “render what is due [sex]” (τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἀποδιδότω) and “not defraud (ἀποστερεῖτε) [sexually] one another” would imply a positive sense. 49 Finally, if David Instone-Brewer is correct that ἀρέσῃ τῇ γυναικί and ἀρέσῃ τῷ ἀνδρί allude more generally to well-known marital obligations which are mentioned in Palestinian Jewish and Roman marriage contracts from the 1 st and 2nd centuries CE50 – the wife’s obligation to provide the dowry and the husband’s obligation to provide “her bed,” clothing, food and “all necessaries” – in this case also a positive sense is implied. 51 In sum, the πῶς-clauses in 7:32b–34 are best interpreted as referring positively to fulfilling obligations in expression of the dignity and worth of the relationship with the Lord and the spouse. There is no reason to introduce a contrast between negative and positive “pleasing.” These clauses thus explain the preceding clauses with μεριμνάω in terms of “devoting care,” not in terms of being anxious.52 Further, the πῶς-clauses in 7:32b–34, which name “the Lord,” “his wife,” and “her husband” as the objects of pleasing, suggest that we should construe the objects of care, τὰ τοῦ κυρίου and τὰ τοῦ κόσμου, as personal: “the Lord’s people” and “the world’s people.” This is hinted at by Hans Conzelmann, who observes that “the marriage partner” (in the πῶςclauses) is “the representative of [the world].” 53 It is no counter-argument that Paul uses the neuter instead of the masculine article (τὰ τοῦ κυρίου and μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κόσμου), since he does so also in 1 Cor. 1:27f. and 2 So, Klauck, 1. Korintherbrief, 57; William Loader, The New Testament on Sexuality (Attitudes Toward Sexuality in Judaism and Christianity in the Hellenistic GrecoRoman Era; Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2012), 212–14. Loader suggests, unconvincingly, that Paul is influenced by the widespread notion that sex conflicts with the sacred; similarly, Harnisch, “Christusbindung oder Weltbezug?,” 471. Paul’s exhortations in 1 Cor. 7:2–4 speak against this suggestion. 49 Most scholars agree that Paul quotes a slogan of Corinthian sexual ascetics in 7:1, “it is better for a man not to ‘touch’ a woman,” although there is disagreement as to the reasons for their preference for sexual asceticism. Paul refers to “cases of sexual immorality” (7:2) and lack of self-control (7:9) as a reason for the married not to try to practice sexual abstinence, and for the unmarried to marry (7:2–5, 9). 50 David Instone-Brewer, “I Corinthians 7 in the Light of the Graeco-Roman Marriage and Divorce Papyri,” TynB 52 (2001): 101–16 at 108; idem, “1 Corinthians 7 in the Light of the Jewish Greek and Aramaic Marriage and Divorce Papyri,” TynB 52 (2001): 225– 43 at 233–34. 51 Cf. also 1 Cor. 7:27 for the positive reinforcement of marital obligation: “Are you bound to a wife (δέδεσαι γυναικί)? Do not seek to be loosed!” 52 With Weiss, Der erste Korintherbrief, 201f.; similarly, Héring, The First Epistle, 60, takes the πῶς-clauses to refer to “the norm of conduct.” 53 Conzelmann, A Commentary, 134. 48

Anxiety or Care for People?


Cor. 5:17 where persons are clearly in view, and where he alternates between the neuter and the masculine for persons. 54 Edward Adams, in his impressive study of the κόσμος in Paul, arrives at an exaggeratedly negative interpretation of τὰ τοῦ κόσμου in 1 Cor. 7:33– 34 for two reasons: he neglects the explanatory function of the πῶς-clauses and he overinterprets the significance of the expression “this world” (τοῦ κόσμου τούτου) in 7:31b. According to Adams, the “apocalyptic” expression, “this world” – referring to the world dominated by sin and headed for imminent, complete destruction – supplies the connotation of τὰ τοῦ κόσμου in 1 Cor. 7:33–34. Thus for Paul “the concern for worldly things which inevitably accompanies [marriage]” (although not marriage itself) “can hardly be viewed as a legitimate activity” and “is disagreeable to Paul.” Adams admits that Paul also uses κόσμος in a neutral sense (“the inhabited world”) in 7:30: “Let those who use the world (οἱ χρώμενοι τὸν κόσμον) be as if not fully using it” (ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι). But there are no linguistic indicators to suggest that in 7:33–34 we ought to prefer the neutral over the “apocalyptic” sense, according to Adams.55 But precisely the πῶς-clauses supply such linguistic indicators, for the wife and the husband are representatives of the neutral, inhabited world, not the sin-dominated world headed for total destruction. What then is the point of identifying the wife and the husband as “worldly” (τοῦ κόσμου)? I suggest that Paul’s meaning becomes clear in the light of his statements in 7:29a, 31b, which frame the instructions about how to use in the inhabited world: “The fixed time is shortened. . . . The form of this world is passing away.” 56 The referent of σχῆμα (“form”) is a matter of debate, 57 but I suggest that it includes inter alia marriage and sex as features of the inhabited world that are on the way out. In support, in the synoptic tradition Jesus teaches that marrying and being given in marriage will be discontinued in the life of the resurrection, when none will die (Mark 12:25; par. Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:34–36), and Paul appar54

1 Cor. 1:27f.: “God elected the foolish ones in the world (τὰ μωρὰ) in order to shame the wise (τοὺς σοφούς), and God elected the weak ones in the world ( τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου) in order to shame the strong (τὰ ἰσχυρά), and God elected the low-born ones in the world (τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου) and the despised ones (τὰ ἐξουθενημένα), the ones who are not (τὰ ὄντα) in order to destroy the ones who are ( τὰ ὄντα)”; 2 Cor. 5:17: “If anyone (τις) is in Christ – a new creation/creature (καινὴ κτίσις). Old people (τὰ ἀρχαῖα) passed away, behold new people (καινά) have come into being.” 55 Adams, Constructing the World, 133–39. 56 Somewhat tersely, Ciampa and Rosner, First Corinthians, 352, comment: “Paul’s reference to the affairs of this world should be understood in light of his earlier comments to the effect that ‘this world in its present form is passing away.’” 57 BDAG, s.v., σχῆμα, 2, cites 1 Cor. 7:31 for σχῆμα in the sense, “way of life,” referring to the functional aspect of something. For further discussion, see the commentaries.


Judith M. Gundry

ently thinks that these are already discontinued for some, who have the “gift from God” for a marriage-free and sex-free life (cf. 1 Cor. 7–8, 40). Thus Paul can portray wives and husbands as “worldly” in the sense of transient. By contrast, the Lord’s people will not pass away, for they are a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). The difference between the ambition of the married and the ambition of the unmarried is thus that the former devote care to those who are transient, but the latter devote care to those who are intransient and belong to the new age. This is not to say that the married can dispense with care for transient people,58 rather, that the unmarried have the advantage of devoting care to intransient, eschatological people. And the threat to the new creation in Christ in the last days warrants Paul’s stress on devoting care to “the Lord’s people.”59 Nor should one conclude that Paul sees the married as engaged only in care for transient people. As already stated, he views all Christ-believers, regardless of marital status, as those who “have the same care for each other’s sake” (1 Cor. 12:25). The married man or woman who serves Christ is thus “divided” (7:34a) between care for transient people and care for the Lord’s, people. 60 To summarize my conclusions so far: there is no compelling support for the interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:32b–34 as addressing the theme of anxiety, whether from the oft-cited parallels in the New Testament and elsewhere, or the immediate context (including 1 Cor. 7:29–31). Indeed, both Pauline usage of μεριμνάω and the explanatory πῶς-clauses support taking 1 Cor. 7:32b–34 to address the theme of striving to benefit others, with results that are either temporal or abiding.

“I want you to be ἀμέριμνοuς”: Two Parallels to 1 Cor. 7:32a But what of the criticisms leveled against the interpretations of Weiss, Fee and Héring, which also dispense with the theme of anxiety in 1 Cor. 7:32b–34? Does 1 Cor. 7:32a require us to allow for, or even prefer, the interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:32b–34 in terms of avoiding anxiety? In the following, I will show that this argument can be turned on its head. If, as I have argued above, it is best to take 7:32b–34 as addressing the theme of “care for people,” not anxiety, then we should take 7:32a as a wish that the

Care for the unbelieving spouse is implied in 1 Cor. 7:12–16. Cf. the referent to “Satan” in 7:5, and “the present distress” in 7:26. 60 N.B. Paul’s reference to Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple, who “risked their own necks” for Paul (Rom. 16:3–4). 58 59

Anxiety or Care for People?


Corinthians might be “without objective care [for certain people],” not “without anxiety.” 61 Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer note the use of ἀμέριμνος in the sense “without carefulness,” i.e., in an objective sense, in Matt. 28:19 and Wis. 6:15. But they add that this “is not the meaning” in 1 Cor. 7:32a, which they read in the light of Mark 4:19 (αἱ μέριμναι τοῦ αἰῶνος) and Luke 21:34 (μερίμναις βιωτικαῖς).62 But Robertson and Plummer have passed over Matt. 28:19 and Wis. 6:15 as parallels too quickly. First, Matt. 28:19 is the only other New Testament occurrence of ἀμέριμνος, which means that there is no New Testament attestation for ἀμέριμνος in the sense “without anxiety,” as proposed for 1 Cor. 7:32a. The context of Matt. 28:19 clearly indicates the objective sense of the term here. The Jewish authorities say to the guards on whose watch Jesus’ corpse disappeared: ὑμᾶς ἀμερίμνους ποιήσομεν. BDAG renders this, “we will keep you out of trouble.” 63 We can surmise that the statement refers to the danger of the guards’ being suspected of tomb violation and prosecuted by the Romans – who took tomb violation as a serious offense. 64 The Jewish authorities aim to keep the guards out of trouble, or without responsibility, by shifting the blame to Jesus’ disciples (“say, ‘his disciples came by night and stole him while we were sleeping,’” Matt. 28:13) and by setting the governor at ease, if he should hear about the problem (Matt. 28:14a). There is no clear indication that the authorities aimed to render the guards free from subjective anxiety. Second, and more significantly, Wis. 6:15, when read together with the surrounding verses, is closely parallel to 1 Cor 7:32a. In Wis. 6:12–16 the one who desires Wisdom as a spouse will be ἀμερίμνος in the sense of “without effortful care,” against the background of the effortful care that was required of the one who desired a human spouse. Wherefore set your affection on my words; desire them and you shall be instructed. Wi sdom is glorious, and never fades away; yea, she is easily seen by them that love her, and found by such as seek her. She prevents them that desire her, in making herself first known unto them. Whoever seeks her early shall have no great travail; for he shall find her sitting at his doors. To think therefore upon her is the perfection of wisdom; and whoever watches for her shall quickly be without care (ταχέως ἀμερίμνος). She goes about seeking such as are worthy of her, shows herself favorably to them in the ways, and meets them in every thought (Wis. 6:12–16). Weiss, Fee, and Héring do not consider this option. Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, 2 nd ed. (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961), 156f. 63 BDAG, s.v. ἀμερίμνος. Also cited here for this expression is PMich 211, 8 (c. 200 C.E.). 64 Davies and Allison, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, 3.672. 61 62


Judith M. Gundry

The objective sense of ἀμερίμνος – “shall be quickly without effortful care” – is clearly indicated by the parallel statement, “he shall have no great travail” (οὐ κοπιάσει). This is spelled out in terms of Wisdom’s taking the lion’s share of the work in the relationship. Wisdom will be found “sitting at his doors” (πάρεδρον γὰρ εὑρήσει τῶν πυλῶν αὐτοῦ) when he rises early for her. Wisdom is “easily seen” (ἐυχερῶς θεωρεῖται) and “found” (εὑρίσκεται). Wisdom takes the initiative “to be known beforehand” (προγνωσθῆναι) by the one who desires her. She “goes around seeking” (περιέρχεται ζητοῦσα) her lover. The implication is that all this work and effort, which is required of one who has a human lover, is spared the one who loves Wisdom. 65 Similarly, Paul in 1 Cor. 7:32–34 contrasts the one who has a human spouse and is engaged in fulfilling obligations to that spouse with the one who has no human spouse and is instead engaged in fulfilling obligations to the Lord. Paul wishes the Corinthians to be like Wisdom’s lover, “free from objective care” for a human spouse, namely, by not marrying. To be sure, Paul does not depict the unmarried man or woman as totally free from objective care, for much is required of the celibate who is solely in the service of the Lord. 66 And Paul does not describe the Lord as the ideal lover who sets one free from difficult and time-consuming tasks by doing the lion’s share of the work in the relationship. For Paul freedom from objective care as such is not the ideal, rather, freedom from a certain kind of objective care which has only temporal value, as discussed above. The occurrences of ἀμερίμνος in the sense, “without [objective] care,” in Matt. 28:19 – the only other occurrence of this adjective in the New Testament – and Wis. 6:15 – closely parallel to 1 Cor. 7:32a in subject matter as well as terminology – provide close parallels for the interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:32a which I am proposing: here Paul states his wish that 65 Cf. Theophrastus (Jerome, Adv. Jovin. 1, 47=Seneca fgm. 13, 47 Haase), where the celibate person is ἀμερίμνος, “free from care” for contemplation. 66 For comparison, see 2 Cor. 11:28, where Paul uses the cognate noun μέριμνα when describing the burdens he bears as an apostle of Christ: ἡ μέριμνα πασῶν τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν. This expression is usually translated, “my anxiety for all the churches.” But it is possible to translate it, “my effortful care for all the churches.” This translation is better suited to the context, where Paul lists the weaknesses in which he boasts (11:30: τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας μου καυχήσομαι). Anxiety is a moral failing, prohibited by Paul (Phil. 4:6), and thus hardly a ground for boasting. But Paul can boast in his “effortful care for all the churc hes,” in addition to his apostolic sufferings (see 2 Cor. 11:23–27). Paul’s care for the churches (2 Cor. 11:28) is evident in his participation in others’ weaknesses and difficu lties: “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (2 Cor. 11:29). Just as all members of the body “devote care to the same thing for each other’s sake” (1 Cor. 12:25f.), so also Paul demonstrates care for all the churches, in add ition to suffering as an apostle of Christ.

Anxiety or Care for People?


the Corinthians be “without effortful care” for a spouse, in other words, unmarried. If my suggestion is accepted, the relation of 1 Cor. 7:32a to the rest of this chapter appears unproblematic. First, Paul does not introduce a new wish concerning freedom from anxiety here, interrupting the flow of thought in this chapter. Rather, he simply restates in different language his earlier wish, “I want all people to be even as I myself am” (θέλω δὲ πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἶναι ὡς καὶ ἐμαυτόν, 7:7), which by general consensus refers to imitating Paul’s celibacy. 67 Second, 1 Cor. 7:32a can be seen to be reformulated positively in 7:34: “The unmarried and chaste woman 68 devotes care to the Lord’s people so that she might be consecrated both in body and in spirit (ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ τῷ σώματι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι).69 To be totally consecrated70 is the converse of to be “without effortful care.” Although the connotation of ἁγία here is a matter of debate, it probably denotes “consecrated for a particular use,”71 since its clause replaces πῶς ἀρέσῃ ῷ κυρίῳ, referring to accommodating the Lord by fulfilling obligations. The unmarried, chaste woman thus realizes Paul’s wish in 7:32a. By contrast, the married man is not entirely “without effortful care” for a spouse, for he is “divided” (μεμέρισται, 7:34a) between “devoting care to worldly people” and “devoting care to the Lord’s people.”72 For Paul’s unmarried state, see 1 Cor. 9:5. For this translation, see above, n. 2. 69 With Lindemann, Der erste Korintherbrief, 181, the ἵνα-clause spells out μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου and is materially the same as the clause it replaces, πῶς ἀρέσῃ τῷ κυρίῳ. 70 On καὶ τῷ σώματι καὶ τῷ πνεύματι, see Robert H. Gundry, Sōma in Biblical Theology with Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology (SNTSMS 29; Cambridge/London/New York/Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 141: “The body and the spirit do not diverge but unite in consecration to God, for Paul does not correlat e the body with worldly affairs and the spirit with the affairs of the Lord or pit the body as evil against the spirit as good. Nevertheless, his choice of ‘spirit’ and ‘body’ does seem to be analytic as a specification of the two basic human parts to be sanctified in common service to the Lord.” 71 With Thiselton, The First Epistle, 591; pace Zeller, Der erste Brief, 265, 267–71; et al., arguing that sexual purity in a cultic context is in view. This suggestion has no su pport from the context, in my judgement. It is better to take Paul’s reference to bodily consecration as an allusion to the conventional use of the female body in procreation, which does not apply to the unmarried, chaste woman. Paul’s addition of the adjective, “chaste” (παρθένος), thus points forward to “in body” (τῷ σώματι) and does not suggest that a second woman, “the virgin,” is in view in addition to the “unmarried” ( ἡ ἄγαμος) woman. 72 Klauck, 1. Korintherbrief, 57, notes that 7:34a (“he is divided”) states the opposite of 7:34b (“consecrated both in body and in spirit”). Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins [New York: Crossroad: 1983], 226, and others have noted a discrepancy between 1 Cor. 7:34b and the 67 68


Judith M. Gundry

In conclusion, there is strong lexical and contextual support for taking 1 Cor. 7:32a as a wish that the Corinthians might be “without effortful care” (ἀμερίμνος) for a spouse, instead of “without anxiety,” against previous interpretations of this half-verse. It does not pose an obstacle to the interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:32b–34 in terms of a contrast between the married and the unmarried as devoting care to different people (the transient and the intransient).

Devotion to the Lord without Distraction (1 Cor. 7:35) This study would not be complete without reflecting on how 1 Cor. 7:35 relates to the immediately preceding verses which are the focus of this investigation. In 7:35 Paul summarizes the purpose of his preceding remarks in the form of beneficial advice: “Now this I say for your own benefit, not in order to put a noose on you, but for seemliness and devotion to the Lord without distraction” (τοῦτο δὲ πρὸς τὸ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν σύμφορον λέγω, οὐχ ἵνα βρόχον ὑμῖν ἐπιβάλω ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸ εὔσχημον73 καὶ εὐπάρεδρον74 τῷ κυρίῳ ἀπερισπάστως). As Raymond Collins suggests, the rare adjective, εὐπάρεδρος, modified by τῷ κυρίῳ, echoes “the theme of devotion to the Lord introduced in vv. 32 and 34 with respect to man and woman alike.” 75 Collins, of course, is referring to Paul’s earlier characterization of the unmarried man and woman as devoting care to the Lord’s things (i.e., people), and of the unmarried and chaste woman as fully “consecrated” to serving the Lord in this way. But how does the term ἀπερισπάστως relate to the preceding comments? Scholars have been more interested in whether and to what extent this key Stoic term suggests the influence of Stoicism on Paul than in explaining what it contributes to Paul’s discussion here.76 I suggest that ἀπερισπάστως fact that Paul’s own co-workers in the gospel such as Priscilla and Aquila were married. But perhaps the rhetorical function of Paul’s remarks here, which is to impress on the Corinthian virgins and widows the advantage of remaining unmarried, explains his d escription of the unmarried, chaste woman as fully consecrated to the Lord’s service, despite the evidence for the consecration of some married women to the Lord’s service. 73 εὔσχημον alludes to the unseemliness of sexual immorality, which is avoided through marriage (cf. 1 Cor. 7:5, 9). 74 BDAG, s.v εὐπάρεδρος: “pertaining to being in constant attendance, constantly in service.” 75 Collins, First Corinthians, 297; see also Zeller, Der erste Brief, 265. 76 See David L. Balch, “1 Cor 7:32–35 and Stoic Debates about Marriage, Anxiety, and Distraction,” JBL 102 (1983): 429–39; O. Larry Yarbrough, Not Like the Gentiles: Marriage Rules in the Letters of Paul (SBLDS 80; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), 107–8; Zeller, Der erste Brief, 265; et al. Balch, “1 Cor 7:32–35,” 434–35, argues on the basis of

Anxiety or Care for People?


echoes ἀμερίμνος in 7:32a in the sense for which I have argued here. 77 Referring back to his wish that the Corinthians be “free from effortful care” 78 directed toward “worldly people,” namely, husbands and wives – and thus celibate – Paul now states his concluding advice that the Corinthians be “devoted to the Lord in a way free from distraction (ἀπερισπάστως),” alluding to effortful care for earthly spouses as distracting from devoted service to the Lord and from effortful care for the Lord’s people. The married are thus, in Paul’s view, distracted literally from their eschatological calling. And Paul wishes that all were not so distracted, and advises otherwise. Paul prefers celibacy for all because he views all Christ-believers as called to do the work of ministering to the Lord’s people, and views marriage as a literal distraction from that general Christian calling. But again, Paul’s statement that the married man “is divided” acknowledges that at least in part the married Christ-believer pursues his or her eschatological calling to care for the Lord’s people.

Conclusion In closing, I would like to reflect on the implications of this study for some of Robert Gundry’s desiderata, to which the essays in this volume respond. In particular, what are the implications for reading and interpreting the ancient text of the Bible as something relevant for today? I aim to have illustrated here that while one can bring theological and philosophical perspectives to bear on a biblical text in search of a relevant interpretation, such an interpretation may not overlap at all with the interpretation that can be produced through a historical-critical methodology which is uninterested in relevant outcomes. Moreover, the interpreter who is historically interested may do well to suspect the received “wisdom” concerning the theological or ideological import of a biblical text such as 1 Cor. 7:32–34. 1 Cor. 7:35 and various Stoic parallels (e.g., Epictetus Diss. 3.22.69) that Paul agrees with the Stoics that being distracted from the service of God is negative – or, conversely, being undistracted from the service of God is positive. 77 Contrast Barrett, A Commentary, 182, who reads the motif of anxiety into Paul’s summary conclusion in 7:35. Contrast also Balch, “1 Cor 7:32–35,” 434–35, who argues on the basis of 1 Cor. 7:32a (which he takes as a wish for freedom from anxiety) that Paul agreed with the Stoics that being anxious is negative. Balch however cites only one Stoic text for his view, viz., Hierocles, “On marriage” (Stobaeus 4.22.24; 4.504.1 –16 [Hense]). As others have noted, this terminology is not Stoic (see Bultmann, μεριμνάω, 590), thus, the suggestion is unpersuasive. 78 Cf. Ciampa and Rosner, First Corinthians, 350: “Verse 35 reprises v. 32a, forming an inclusio, thereby reinforcing Paul’s overriding aim to secure ‘undistracted devotion to the Lord.’” The authors, however, eschew treatment of the lexical problems.


Judith M. Gundry

Finally, biblical texts may prove strangely relevant in unexpected ways. For example, 1 Cor. 7:32–34 as interpreted here is no less relevant for the contemporary Christian reader than the consensus view, which has only relevance to commend it. If my interpretation is persuasive, there are important implications to be drawn for Christian thought and practice today. For example, this text points to the freedom and obligation of all Christians – regardless of gender – not to be distracted from striving for the eschatological good of the Lord’s people. It also points to the obligation of married Christians – not only women, but also men – to have the dual ambitions of striving for the earthly good of their spouses and children, and striving for the eschatological good of others. Finally, it is to be noted that Paul makes the unmarried woman the example of the ideal of total consecration to the Lord’s use, 79 and the married man the model for being divided between fulfilling obligations to “worldly people” and fulfilling obligations to the Lord and his people. It is not hard for this author to be glad that Robert H. Gundry is one of whose “divided” men, and it is with an abundance of daughterly love and affection that this study is dedicated to him.

Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 224f., points out the significance of Paul’s using the woman as the example of whole consecration to the Lord. 79

Revelation is One: Revelation 20 and the Quest to Make the Scriptures Agree J. WEBB MEALY Remarks on the Impulse to Make Sense of “The Totality of the Bible” Bob Gundry became my mentor as a biblical studies student the moment I stepped into his Introduction to the New Testament class at Westmont College in 1975. I have eagerly sought and appreciated his critique of my work down through the years, and am pleased to respond to some of his searching questions in the “Postscript on Some Theological Desiderata” in his Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian. The first thing that I note as I read the Postscript is the fact that he is addressing his Christian readers as Christians: “As Christians, should we. . . .” To me, this immediately hints at the conundrum that he is going to pose. Scholars of the Bible have, over the past two and a half centuries or so, been enculturated into a schizophrenic sense of what they are and what they are doing in relationship to the Bible. The Enlightenment, along with its understandable skepticism in relation to the established church’s sometimes arbitrary and byzantine customs of Bible interpretation, also brought with it the ideal of science as the shining path to a humanly achieved golden age. It held aloft the ideal of the scholar (including the Bible scholar) as an objective, disinterestedly curious scientist. What it did not typically notice was that religion, as the realm of faith, implicitly embraces an epistemology with what might be called two standards of proof. People of faith – scholars and lay people alike – are not involved in a faithbased worldview and a faith-based community of worship for the purpose of expanding knowledge for its own sake, but for the sake of discovering, along that trajectory of faith, a deeper connection to life for themselves individually and as community. Thus, as a Christian interpreter of the Bible, I do not seek to discover the meaning of texts for the intellectual satisfaction of the literary-critical quest, but for the purpose of my own enlivening and the enlivening of my companions in religious faith.


J. Webb Mealy

My faith, informed by and continuously informative of my experience, holds that the scriptures are a channel of life-enhancing revelation from God via the thoughts and words of human beings. Consequently, my standards of proof in matters of scripture study and interpretation are not always going to be identical to those of a secular person who has not experienced the same power of life in relationship with God through Christ, through Christian community, and through the reading of scripture. The reality is that I am not studying the scriptures for the science of it, but for the edification of it. It is certainly worthwhile to bring to bear, in my interpretative efforts, as much relevant knowledge and critical thinking skills as I can muster. But as a person of faith, I cannot submit to the Enlightenment’s (and now Postmodernism’s) demand that I assert no claim that I would not be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of anyone, whatever their rational posture towards my faith. The quest to be “more scientific” in biblical studies can be seen as a major source of the impetus towards biblical theology on the one hand, and the eventual strangulation of biblical theology, on the other hand. Prior to the Enlightenment, systematic theology had traditionally helped itself quite unselfconsciously to text plots large and small, related and unrelated, nearby or distant in time or literary context. The Bible was universally acknowledged (within Christendom) to be a divinely inspired sourcebook, and the interpretative methods applied to it were various and permissive. Biblical theology, growing out of a scholarly tradition that increasingly stopped to examine the particularity of things, essentially stood up to say first, “An Isaiah (or a Mark or a Paul) is a theologian in his own right. Let us not simply co-opt his voice to create a systematic theological structure to please ourselves, but let us also attune our ears to his unique contribution to the whole that is scriptural revelation.” But there inevitably followed, in the same historical progression of thought in the scholarly community, the challenge, “How can you really listen to the uniqueness of Isaiah’s voice if you approach everything he says with the a priori conviction that he ultimately agrees with three dozen other people he never met, who lived in different (sometimes rival) nations and epochs?” The answer to this question, for those enculturated into the ideal of the scholar as the objective-minded scientist, was “Obviously you cannot. You are bound to chop off a bit here and add a bit there, magnify this piece out of proportion and minimize that piece, resulting in a gross distortion of each individual’s perspective.” And of course, astute individuals (James Barr in particular comes to mind) 1 found it easy to demonstrate the perva1 James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (London: SCM Press/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961; repr. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2004); The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1999).

Revelation is One


siveness of this kind of distortion. The resulting collective sigh of resignation in the scholarly community, and the profound publishing lull in its wake, came to be known as “the death of the biblical theology movement.” At this point, rather than going on to generalize about the proposed reenvisionings of biblical theology spearheaded by figures like Brevard Childs, Krister Stendahl, and Henning Graf Reventlow, I want to turn a corner and characterize how I personally, as a reader and expositor of the Bible, respond to the challenge that critics like Barr have put forward. First, I remain convinced that all the writings of scripture have something in common, some ability to speak together in ways that their authors sometimes anticipated, and sometimes did not. All texts have a potential life of their own that transcends their authors’ thoughts and intentions – the more so when we are talking about oracles, human messages that are purported to contain revelation from God. Millennia-long common experience convinces people of faith that the scriptures are nurtured by and useable by the Spirit of Truth for the edification and enlivening of human beings. Secondly, it is to be admitted that there will always be such a thing as distorting what any author writes. The very real risk exists that I, in my inordinate fondness for my own ideas and for my own preferred systemization priorities, will misunderstand and misrepresent what any or all of the scriptures say. I guard against this risk not by surrendering to the supposedly irreducible particularity of every text and every author’s perspective on faith, but by making myself accountable to the critiques of other scholars who look at the large and small scales of biblical materials through different eyes. By positioning myself this way I find that I have answers for some of Professor Gundry’s questions. For example: Does the Bible present theological data to be organized neatly, or a range of canonical options to be kept discrete? The business of trying to make edifying sense of the scriptures as a whole – or of as much of their witness as we can – is likely to remain central to the Christian quest to combine faith in God with knowledge of God’s ways. At the same time, our tradition holds that the scriptures present countless unique points of meeting with God’s revelation. It is clear that one portion of scripture can be used to overwrite another, to distort the interpretation of another. But faith insists that the Spirit can sensitize those who are teachable to the unique contributions of each inspired voice. Ought systematic theology to dominate biblical theology, or vice versa? I am inclined towards Professor Gundry’s optional answer that they ought to form a “partnership of equals.” We have clearly learned from the rise and fall of the biblical theology movement that systematic theology and its assumptions should not dominate biblical theology. Indeed, Professor


J. Webb Mealy

Gundry’s option of “going their separate ways” seems to imply that systematic theology, to the extent that it uses the Bible at all, can only set a bad example for biblical theology. I suppose the safest relationship would be for systematic theology to fortify itself with knowledge gained from biblical theology, but for biblical theology to be very wary of “homogenizing” tendencies within the systematic theology project. The truth is that as a person of faith I often come to a biblical text with a predilection for one interpretative option and an antipathy for another. But what demonstrates my intellectual integrity is not some absence of a preconceived idea as to how I would like my investigation to turn out, but whether I am willing to look at the evidence honestly and modify or abandon my hypothesis as to the meaning of the text if the evidence contradicts it. This is where we biblical interpreters have become notorious. We share a tool bag of interpretative tactics that can, in a pinch, make almost any text amenable to a preconceived theological scheme. Techniques such as allegory, hyper-focus on tiny lexical or grammatical features, or a filibuster of tangential remarks, can be used to dispatch any troublesome text. The point, in my mind, is to catch ourselves and one another when we are doing these things: when we are resorting to casuistry because our interpretative hypothesis is not working well. Happily for our common purpose in this book, I have long been interested in a classic crux interpretum that will put me and a well-known colleague through our paces as biblical interpreters and demonstrate – perhaps in both our cases – the precise temptation to over-harmonize that I have been discussing.

Specific Problem: The Thousand Years of Revelation 20 In 1992 I published After the Thousand Years: Resurrection and Judgment in Revelation 20.2 In it, I argued that John intended for his readers to recognize, in the attack of Gog and Magog in Rev. 20:7–10, the resurrection and annihilation of the unrepentant. Shortly afterwards Greg Beale, who was then in the process of writing John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation3 and his hefty Revelation commentary for the NIGTC series,4 wrote

2 J. W. Mealy, After the Thousand Years: Resurrection and Judgment in Revelation 20 (JSNTSup 70; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992). 3 G. K. Beale, John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation (JSNTSup 166; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998). 4 G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1999).

Revelation is One


a full-length review article of my monograph.5 In that review he acknowledges that the prima facie case I have made for seeing the resurrection of “the rest of the dead” in Rev. 20:7–10 is so strong that the burden of proof might now rest on those who wish to deny it. 6 Beale and I have entirely different perspectives on the millennium of Revelation 20, but we do have one thing in common: each of us brings an external agenda to the passage. Beale’s agenda is to find an interpretation of the millennium that results in harmony with the eschatological scheme that he thinks characterizes the rest of the NT. My agenda is my motivation to discover a passage in Revelation that pictures the ultimate fate of the unrepentant as annihilation rather than endless torment. Each of us, it turns out, is looking for harmony, for a certain kind of homogeneity in the scriptures. From Beale’s point of view, nearly all NT passages look forward to a single general resurrection to judgment; a temporally bifurcated resurrection in Revelation 20 would break that pattern, and so is to be resisted as an interpretative option. From my point of view, the vast majority of scriptural passages, both OT and NT, threaten unrepentant created beings with being removed from existence, and so an interpretation of Revelation 20 consistent with this pattern is desirable. Scriptural selfconsistency is a theological a priori – or at least a theological desideratum – for each of us.

How I Came to My View of Revelation 20 My ideas are not timeless abstractions free from the limits of human subjectivity, but discoveries I made at specific points as I studied the Bible on the assumption that everything in it made sense together. I recall discovering numerous allusions by Jesus to the OT prophets that challenged the traditional – and, to me, theologically unacceptable – concept of a hell of everlasting torment. Jesus’ single allusion to an “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43, 48) provides an apt example. When traced to its antecedents in OT prophecy, 7 this expression connotes a destruction that cannot be resisted by those whom it is sent to destroy, rather than a fire that miraculously burns forever. For those who know the prophets, “unquenchable fire” is irresistible, inescap-

G. K. Beale, “Review Article: J. W. Mealy, After the Thousand Years,” EvQ 66.3 (1994): 229–49. 6 Ibid., 234, 248. 7 E.g. 2 Kings 22:16–17 || 2 Chron. 34:25; Jer. 4:4; 7:27; 17:20; 21:10, 12, 14; Ezek. 20:47–48; Amos 5:6. 5


J. Webb Mealy

able fire, a fire that burns effectively until it finishes destroying what it is sent by God to destroy. Related to this, Jesus’ phrase “where their worm doesn’t die, and the fire doesn’t get put out” (Mark 9:48)8 turns out to be an allusion to Isa. 66:24. There the fuel for the fire and the food for the worms is the inert corpses of those who have attacked the capital city of God’s new creation (cf. Isa. 65:17–25; 66:22). The picture evoked in Isaiah 66 is that of a complete defeat followed by a complete and final destruction for God’s eschatological enemies. The image is of a battlefield full of corpses that need to be buried (in the ground, where the worms are) or burnt, in order to prevent disease (cf. Isa. 9:5; Ezek. 39:11–20). Similarly, Jesus’ phrase “where people will be crying and grinding their teeth” (Matt 8:12)9 alludes to (and in one place, Luke 13:28, explicitly carries forward) the OT theme that the unworthy will be excluded from the blessings of the kingdom of God, and, upon realizing their fate, will torment themselves with envy, remorse, and frustration (Isa. 65:11–15; cf. Ps. 112:9–10). What is the prospect ahead for these miserable and frustrated outcasts? “You shall leave your name to my chosen to use as a curse, and the Lord GOD will put you to death” (Isa. 65:15). Through avid reading of the prophets of the OT, I came to realize that much of the NT language popularly understood as descriptive of everlasting torment was nothing of the sort. I began to ask whether the pattern that I was seeing made sense of yet more passages. For example, I noted that the rich man in Jesus’ parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus is experiencing torment in Hades, imagined by Jesus and his contemporaries as the realm of the spirits of the dead awaiting resurrection. The rich man’s brothers, after all, are still living ordinary (mortal) lives in the current age (Luke 16:27–31). Unpleasant as it is, the rich man’s state in Hades appears by its very nature to be temporally bounded, not everlasting.10 The man’s eventual resurrection to judgment would presumably result in a sentence of Gehenna, which is to say, the penalty of complete destruction of body and soul (e.g. Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:4–5). I was struck by Jesus’ frequent warnings that the coming of the new age of God’s kingdom would result in the exclusion of many who assumed they would be included. He often pictures apparent insiders being kicked out, as well as people outside (and fully expecting to be invited in) being 8 This and all NT quotations in this article are from J. Webb Mealy (trans. and ed.), The Spoken English New Testament (Oakland: SENT Press, 2013). 9 See also Matt. 13:42; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; esp. Luke 13:28. 10 Here assuming a belief in resurrection for the unrepentant on the part of Jesus and writers of the NT. Explicit evidence for this belief is slim, occurring only in John 5:28 – 29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:11–15.

Revelation is One


refused entry. 11 In one key saying (Luke 20:34–36), Jesus frames the matter of inclusion in and exclusion from the age to come in terms of resurrection: And Jesus said to them, “The people of this age marry and get married. 35But those who’ve been considered worthy to take part in that age, and in the resurrection from among the dead – they don’t marry, and they don’t get married. And they can’t die anymore. 36Because they’re like angels, and they’re God’s children. They belong to the resurrection. 34

By “that age” (ὁ αἰὼν ἐκείνος, v. 35), Jesus means the age to come. A general judgment of humanity is indicated by the phrase “those who’ve been considered worthy to take part in that age,” and the implication is that some will be considered worthy, and some will not be considered worthy. Looking more closely at this phrase, I realized that my (typical Christian) assumption that “the dead” referred to “the state of death” was incorrect. The Greek substantive νεκρός means “dead person” or “corpse,” and “the dead” in the expression “the resurrection from among the dead” (ἡ ἀνάστασις ἡ ἐκ [τῶν] νεκρῶν) is plural, referring to the people who are dead.12 If a person rises from (among) the dead, they come back to life, leaving the rest of the dead people . . . dead. Although this teaching does not give any indication of what happens after “that age” in the case of those who are not considered worthy of rising to participate in it, Jesus does unambiguously paint a picture of a partial, selective resurrection for those judged “worthy” at the transition point between this age and the age to come.13 Fastening onto the phrase “from the dead,” I was pleased to discover that Paul uses it in a way that is concordant with how Jesus uses it: Paul’s ardent personal hope is that he can “somehow make it to the resurrection from among the dead” (Phil. 3:11). It is no comfort to Paul that he is destined rise from the grave as such – he appears to believe that he will rise to face judgment whether he is destined for eternal life or not. 14 He is hoping to participate in the selective resurrection to eternal life that happens at the 11 Matt. 7:21–23; 8:11–12; 13:40–43; 22:2–14; 24:45–51; 25:1–13; 25:1–30; 25:31– 46; esp. Luke 13:23–30. 12 Cf. 1 Pet. 4:6, in which “the dead” get the gospel preached to them, and Col. 1:18 and Rev. 1:5, in which Jesus is characterized as “the firstborn (πρωτότοκος) from the dead,” implying that other individuals who are dead will be “born” to resurrection life after him. 13 You simply can’t have a resurrection “from among the dead” if all the dead are being raised at the same time. My searches of Koine Greek texts have not turned up a single instance of the expression ἐκ [τῶν] νεκρῶν in which a general resurrection or a resurrection to judgment (rather than life) is in view. 14 Here trusting the characterization of his beliefs in Acts 24:15. Paul never expli citly refers to a resurrection of the unrepentant in his letters.


J. Webb Mealy

glorious coming of Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 15:21–23).15 Paul’s strong affirmation of resurrection to life for “those who belong to him” on the one hand, and his sketchy assignment of everyone else to “then (comes) the end” (εἶτα τὸ τέλος), on the other hand, leaves the question of the ultimate (resurrected?) fate of the unrepentant just about as murky as Jesus leaves it in the Synoptic Gospels. In John 5:21–29 I found some potential tension with this model of a delayed resurrection for the unrepentant: Because just as the Father raises the dead, and brings them to life, so the Son also brings to life whoever he wants. . . . 25I’m telling you very seriously: There’s a time 16 coming – and it’s here now – when the dead are going to hear the voice of the Son of God. And the ones who’ve heard are going to live. . . . 28Don’t be shocked by that. Because a time 17 is coming when all those who are in their graves are going to hear his voice, 29and they’re going to come out. Those who’ve done good things are going to come out for a resurrection of life; those who’ve done bad things are going to come out for a resurrection of judgment. 21

On balance, the wording of Luke 20:34–36 seemed clear enough to me to rule out the idea of a single general resurrection, whereas John 5:21–29 did not rule out the idea of a temporally bifurcated resurrection. After all, Jesus doesn’t specify in the John passage that all of the dead are going to come out of their tombs at the same moment. He says (1) that they will all come out, (2) that the moment18 for them to start coming out is right now,19 (3) that they will all come out because they are going to hear his voice, and (4) that the outcome of the dead being called forth from the tombs is going to differ, depending on what individuals have done in their mortal lives. I learned later that it was simply not done in NT scholarship to mix and match materials from the Synoptics, Acts, Paul, and the Gospel of John in the hopes of creating a theologically pleasing synthesis of “what the New Testament teaches.” And I hadn’t yet been exposed to redaction criticism, which would have transformed the words “worthy to take part in that age, and in the resurrection from among the dead” (Luke 20:35) from a sort of brute Bible fact into an intriguing puzzle: Is the M or L version of this Q 15 Cf. also 1 Thess. 4:13–18. Paul says he got his beliefs about the resurrection of believers from Jesus (1 Thess. 4:15). Cf. also the Didache, one of the very earliest Christian books outside the NT, which explicitly affirms a resurrection restricted to the faithful at Christ’s coming (16:6–8). 16 Lit. “an hour.” 17 Lit. “an hour.” 18 The normal Greek expression for this idea is ὥρα (“the hour”). 19 The Gospels record three instances of Jesus raising people from the dead: Jairus’s daughter (Matt. 9:18–26; Mark 5:21–43; Luke 8:40–56), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11–17), and his friend Lazarus (John 11:1–45). See also Matt. 27:50–53.

Revelation is One


saying likely to be the more original? What is Luke’s reason for forming it in this particular way? And so on. But for the moment I was a faithoriented reader seeing what appeared to be a meaningful pattern, and following the scent of a promising alternative to the theologically troublesome model of everlasting torment. Perhaps, I thought, the punishment that lies ahead for those who live a lifetime of unrepentant sin is exclusion from the joy of participation in the resurrected life of the age to come – i.e. exclusion from “eternal life” (ζωὴ αἰώνιος, in its most literal sense). It seemed that a sentence of age-long and miserable imprisonment in Hades, the fiery dungeon for the spirits of the unrepentant and unresurrected dead, made better sense not only the words of Jesus in Matt. 25:41 (τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον) and 25:46 (κόλασις αἰώνιος), but also of his famous warning in another place that ends with the words, “you will not get out of there until you have paid the last cent.”20 Could an age-long-delayed resurrection signal the completion of an “eternal punishment”? If so – that is, if the unrepentant would come forth for resurrection having paid the penalty for their sins through an age-long period of incarceration – then in what sense were they destined to “come forth to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29)? Wouldn’t they already have been judged – together with the faithful – at the great world-transition pictured in Daniel 7 and Matt. 25:31–46? Wouldn’t they already have been “assigned their recompense” at “the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10)? It seemed to me that only one basis for judgment would remain, upon their being granted resurrection: their conduct in their new, resurrected state. Would these probationers, these parolees, prove themselves reformed, or would they turn around and immediately re-offend, proving themselves incorrigible? I carried this unresolved puzzle somewhere in the back of my mind for a time. Then one day it dawned on me as I read Rev. 20:7–10: John intended this to be read as a vision of the resurrection of unrepentant humanity and their judgment, along with the devil and his angels, all of them having spent a thousand-year age imprisoned together in the underworld (cf. Matt. 25:41, 46; Isa. 24:21–27:5; Heb. 10:27; Rev. 19:17–20:10).21 I wrote up this discovery in a paper for the Johannine Literature class I was Matt. 5:23–26; Luke 12:57–59; cf. Matt. 18:21–35. This is a strong saying that advocates of everlasting torment must interpret non-literally. 21 I found out much later that others had come to this insight before me, e.g. J. Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, 3 Vols. (Philadelphia: W.W. Woodward, 1811 [1746–48]), 3.863 (on Rev. 20:8); U. Smith, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing, 1972 [1881]), 749; W. Metzger, “Das Zwischenreich,” in Auf dem Grunde der Apostel und Propheten. Festschrift Bischof T. Wurm, ed. M. Loeser (Stuttgart: Quell-Verlag der Evangelische Gesellschaft, 1948), 110–18 at 109. 20


J. Webb Mealy

then taking under professor Gundry at Westmont. I pointed to John’s precise repetition of the phrase ἄχρι τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη, “until the thousand years are finished,” when he described the delay of the resurrection for the “rest of the dead” in 20:5b, after having just used it to characterize the time of Satan’s imprisonment in the abyss in 20:3. I also pointed to the nearly identical phrase ὅταν τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη, “when the thousand years are finished,” which John used to describe Satan’s release and his immediate gathering of the hordes of “Gog and Magog,” the legendary evil marauder nations from Ezekiel 38–39. I believed that I had found an interpretative paradigm that tied together many difficult-to-understand and difficult-toreconcile eschatological prophecies and teachings of the Bible into one meaningful pattern. The search for an overarching and unifying story of “the end” had effectively prompted me to read individual passages more attentively on their own terms, rather than manhandling them in order to make them fit together with others. In my 1992 monograph, After the Thousand Years, I made the case by focusing strictly on the literary functioning of Rev. 20:1–15 in the context of Revelation as a whole. Last year I published another monograph, The End of the Unrepentant,22 this time ranging throughout the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, and proving that most unstylish thing for a scholar to prove: that all the eschatological scriptures can be read together, resulting in a coherent and theologically meaningful synthesis.

Webb Mealy and Greg Beale on the Apocalypse and Biblical Eschatology It will be useful to observe the dialogue between Greg Beale’s and my approaches to the millennium in Revelation, because our differences expose the presence of different schools with different fundamental ways of thinking about the task of interpreting Revelation. On Beale’s approach, which he shares with amillennialism in general, the first and controlling question is how to interpret Rev. 20:1–10 so that it makes sense in the light of the overall pattern of NT eschatology outside of the Book of Revelation. On my approach, which I share with premillennialism in general, the first and controlling question is how Rev. 20:1–10 functions organically within a larger vision narrative with deep intertextual connections to the visions of the OT literary prophets. Let us begin with some criticisms that Beale puts forward in his review of After the Thousand Years, together with some responses. 22

The End of the Unrepentant (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2013).

Revelation is One


On the Phrase “After the Thousand Years” Beale argues that John’s plotting of the delayed resurrection of the “rest of the dead” (20:5b) at the same time as the release of Satan and the attack of Gog and Magog (20:7–10) does not force the reader to conclude that Gog and Magog are the “rest of the dead” who have returned to life. After all, he says, the resurrection and last judgment of 20:13–15 also happens after the thousand years. Why can’t that be the fulfillment of 20:5b?23 True enough, it does indeed fulfill 20:5b. But according to my analysis, the vision of Rev. 20:13–15 pictures the fulfillment of Rev. 20:5b for a second time, in a judicial setting, just as the vision of Rev. 20:4–6 pictures the fulfillment of the repeated promises to the holy ones that they will have victory with Christ at his coming for a second time, in a judicial setting, after the vision of Rev. 19:11–21 has pictured the fulfillment of those promises in a battle setting. Just as I demonstrate in the case of many other visions in Revelation, these are stereoscopic presentations of eschatological realities. In any case, my point about the almost immediate fulfillment of Rev. 20:5b in vv. 7–9 does not arise from the temporal coincidence between the release of Satan and the predicted resurrection of “the rest of the dead”: it arises from John’s pointed way of expressing the temporal plotting. By this point in After the Thousand Years, I have already adduced an extensive sequence of precedents in Revelation for this literary technique, by which John constantly guides the readers in how to make sense of the complex vision-narrative as it unfolds. Close verbal correspondences in Revelation repeatedly have the function of telling the reader, “Heads up: this is something that I saw or spoke about earlier.” Beale’s criticism that I “insist on an overly precise time scheme”24 misses the force of the argument. On the Parallels Between Revelation 20 and Isaiah 24–27 Beale takes exception to my appeal to Isa. 24:21–23, and its prediction, On that day the L ORD will punish the host of heaven in heaven, and on earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together like prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished.

He counters that other interpreters “see that Satan, his angels, and their earthly representatives underwent inaugurated judgment at the cross and resurrection, and will experience consummated judgment at the eschaton.”25 But trying to interpret Isaiah 24 as a prophecy of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ seems like a very rocky row to hoe. Isaiah prophBeale, “Review,” 235. Ibid. 25 Ibid., 236. 23 24


J. Webb Mealy

esies the painful demise of all but a tiny remnant of humanity, on an earth devastated by withering drought and human pollution (Isa. 24:1–6, 13; cf. Rev. 11:18c). The physical structure of the earth itself seems to collapse (Isa. 24:1, 17–19; cf. Rev. 6:12–15; 11:16–19; 16:20; 20:11). John presents these radical world traumas in connection with the coming Parousia of God and Jesus Christ, not as having happened in the past, in connection with the cross and resurrection. I observe in After the Thousand Years that Rev. 19:11–20:10 parallels Isa. 24:1–27:5 in six significant ways.26 Beale does not deny the parallels, but merely claims that “the parallels also fit easily into other schemes.”27 What is wanted following such a claim is an exposition of the parallels that is more plausible, more elegant, and more responsive to the details of the texts under consideration. But Beale’s actual citations of Isaiah 24–27 in his Revelation commentary make it clear that the connected story of the end in the Isaiah Apocalypse is not on his radar screen at all.28 In my view, he has missed one of the most dramatic prophetic paral-lels in Revelation. On Ezekiel 38 and 39 as Prophetic Parallels to Rev. 20:7–10 and 19:11–21 Beale argues that the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39 appear to refer to one single eschatological battle at the transition point to the age of renewal; ergo the battle of Rev. 20:7–10 recapitulates the battle of Rev. 19:11– 21, and is to be understood as occurring at the Parousia, at the transition to the coming age. I make it clear in After the Thousand Years that there is sufficient evidence in the text of Revelation itself for seeing resurrection and judgment in Rev. 20:7–10, and that my argument does not even slightly depend on the relationship between Ezekiel 38 and 39.29 However, since other reviewers have also disputed my claim that Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophesy two different battles (at least in John’s eyes), this criticism deserves some careful attention. The great battle and defeat of the nations in Ezekiel 39 brings back the context of exile and desolation from Ezekiel 36. As can be seen from the passages below, God’s rescue of Israel from Gog and his marauding hosts brings to an end a period of shame and punishment, and inaugurates a period of security and peace.

Mealy, After the Thousand Years, 100–101. Beale, “Review,” 237. 28 The same observation goes for Beale, John’s Use of the Old Testament. 29 See Mealy, After the Thousand Years, 130 n. 2. 26 27

Revelation is One

Ezekiel 36 Thus says the Lord GOD: I am speaking in my jealous wrath, because you [the mountains of Israel] have suffered the insults of the nations; 7therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I swear that the nations that are all around you shall themselves suffer insults. 8 But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot out your branches, and yield your fruit to my people Israel; for they shall soon come home. 9See now, I am for you; I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown; 10and I will multiply your population, the whole house of Israel, all of it; the towns shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt; 11and I will multiply human beings and animals upon you. They shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times, and will do more good to you than ever before. Then you shall know that I am the L ORD. 6


Ezekiel 39 I will display my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. 22The house of Israel shall know that I am the L ORD their God, from that day forward. 23And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity. . . . 25 Therefore, thus says the Lord G OD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26 They shall forget their shame, and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they live securely in their land with no one to make them afraid, 27when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands. . . . 28Then they shall know that I am the L ORD their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. 21

Set alongside this common context, the prophecy against Gog in Ezek. 38:1–16 simply pops out to an attentive reader. It refers to the regathering of the exiles as an event far in the past, repeatedly setting a context in which the recently-promised state of blessing and safety from enemies has been in effect for an indefinitely long period: After many days you shall be summoned;30 in the latter years you [Gog] shall go against a land restored from war, a land where people were gathered from many nations on the mountains of Israel, which had long lain waste; its people were brought out from the nations and now are living in safety, all of them.


You [Gog] will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages; I will fall upon the quiet people who live in safety, all of them living without walls, and having no bars or gates’; 12to seize spoil and carry off plunder; to assail the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who are acquiring cattle and goods, who live at the centre of the earth. 11

14 Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day when my people Israel are living securely, you will rouse yourself. . . . 16In the latter days I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I display my holiness before the ir eyes.


NRSV has translated ‫ תפקד‬as “you shall be mustered.”


J. Webb Mealy

There is no reference in these three context-setting statements to the shame of Israel, to the iniquity of Israel, or to God sending Israel into exile as a punishment for their sins. In fact, there are ten or more distinctive themes and terms that combine to create a tight contextual relationship between Ezekiel 36–37 and Ezekiel 39. Not one of these is paralleled in Ezek. 38:1–16. For example: – Israel “will know that I am the LORD” (36:11; 39:22, 28) – God will act to protect his name from being profaned (36:20–23; 39:7) – The people of Israel went into exile because of their sins (36:17–19; 39:23–24) – God will restore the fortunes of Israel (36:36–38; 39:25) – God will give the Spirit to Israel (36:26–27; 37:14; 39:29) – “I have spoken!” (36:36; 39:5, cf. 39:7) – “I will do it”/“I have done it” (36:22, 27, 32, 36; 37:14, 22; 39:21, 24) – “The House of Israel” (36:10, 17, 21, 22, 32, 37; 37:11, 16; 39:12, 22, 23, 25, 29) – Israel’s “iniquity” (36:31, 33; 39:23) – Israel’s “shame” (36:31–32; 39:26) Beale takes note of some of this. He says, The concluding mention of restoration at the end of Ezekiel 39 is a flashback to other hopes recorded earlier in Ezekiel 34–37. Such kinds of flashbacks are characteristic of Ezekiel and prophetic literature. Ezek. 39:1–8ff. is most naturally taken as a continuation of the narrative in chapter 38. There is no break between the two chapters to hint at the kind of temporal dislocation that Mealy wants to see.31

Beale makes a fair point here. Then again, it is quite possible that John understood Ezek. 38:17 as the key contextual divider within the broader section, Ezek. 38:1–39:29. Thus says the Lord G OD: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them?


Verse 17, speaking in the voice of God, mysteriously raises the question of how the prophetic oracle just delivered in vv. 1–16 – with its central idea of outlying nations massing for attack in the context of an established messianic32 age of peace – relates to an older, traditional prophetic theme. More precisely, it asks “Gog,” the target of the oracle, whether he is the entity referred to in the older, traditional prophecies. The traditional prophetic theme envisions an attack by many nations at the great transition point when God relents from judging and punishing Jerusalem, finally 31 32

Beale, “Review,” 240–41. Cf. the immediately preceding section, Ezek. 37:23–28.


Revelation is One

turning to forgive, accept, and protect Jerusalem.33 This transition involves God’s miraculous defeat of a host of attacking nations, and leads to an age of renewal and permanent peace for the people of God. The oracle of Ezek. 38:1–16 assumes conditions well into the future from that hoped-for transition, conditions of an age of established peace in which defenses such as city walls are no longer even needed (e.g. 38:11). The oracle in Ezek. 38:1–16 does not match the familiar paradigm. However, the one that follows, Ezek. 39:1–29 (or possibly 38:18–39:29), sits comfortably within that paradigm. When faced with this kind of puzzle, readers of Ezekiel as scripture have two options.34 We can choose to overlook the unique elements of the “outlier” prophecies and lump them together with the mainstream ones, essentially deciding that the scriptures fit into an overall pattern better when we stop paying such close attention to the details. This could be caricatured as the “bed of Procrustes” approach. Alternatively, we can pay even closer attention to the details in the hope of finding that everything in the scriptures is there for a reason. This approach seems far more in tune with the mind-set of John, a most passionate and astute reader of the prophetic scriptures. I advocate for the latter approach. Given that many earlier prophecies predicted a universal attack on a Jerusalem beleaguered and suffering under divine chastisement, can we find a vision that (1) purports to be from prophet of “former days,” and (2) matches Ezekiel 38 in predicting a universal attack in the non-standard context of a future age of peace and blessing under God’s rule? We can, and dramatically so, if we are willing to imitate John in assuming that the visions of the OT prophets are to be read together, so that they can reveal complementary angles on the same eschatological realities. Note the following comparisons. Isaiah 24:21–23; 26:10–11 On that day the L ORD will punish the host of heaven in heaven, and on earth the kings of the earth. 22 They will be gathered together like prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be

Ezekiel 38:8, 17–19



After many days you shall be summoned;

E.g. Pss. 79:1–13; 110:5–6; Isa. 13:1–14:2; 17:1–14; 34; Jer. 10:10, 22–25; 25:15– 38; Ezekiel 36; Joel 3; Habakkuk 3; Zephaniah 3; Zechariah 14. 34 Those without a prior commitment to treat the text as a unity have more options – such as theorizing that the text has been compiled from disparate sources and reshaped by one or more variously competent editors. 33


J. Webb Mealy

summoned.35 [Heb. ‫]ומרב ימים יפקדו‬ 23 Then the moon will be abashed, and the sun ashamed; for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his elders he will manifest his glory. ... 10 If favor is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely and do not see the majesty of the L ORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people [Heb. ‫]קנאת־עם‬, and be ashamed. Let the fire [Heb. . ‫]אף־א‬36 for your adversaries consume them.

[Heb. ‫]מימים רבים תפקד‬ in the latter years you [Gog] shall go against a land restored from war. . . .

Thus says the Lord GOD: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? 18On that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel, says the Lord G OD, my wrath [Heb. ‫]אפי‬ shall be aroused. 19For in my jealousy [Heb. ‫ ]קנאתי‬and in my blazing wrath [Heb. ‫ ]אׁש־עברתי‬I declare. . . . 17

The insane and immediately repulsed attack by God’s enemies described in Isa. 26:10–11 comes after the complete environmental collapse of the earth and the demise of humanity (24:1–20), after the inauguration of the universal Kingdom of God on Mt. Zion (24:23; 25:6–10), after the promise that there will be no more death for the participants in that kingdom (25:7). I propose that John was intimately familiar with the texts of both Isaiah 26 and Ezekiel 38, and that he read them both as prophesying the resurrection and judgment of the unrepentant enemies of God and his people. I also propose that he composed his vision of the millennium and its aftermath with the intention of pointing his readers to these two passages as key prophetic background to his vision. It is convenient that when I am talking about the Book of Revelation in a scholarly context, I can hide my own unstylish scripture-harmonizing tendencies behind those of John, the consummate melder-together of OT prophetic traditions and language. The truth is that talking about the scriptures – including scholarly talking – is a social game. It is a game with conventions, and if you want to be accepted as a bona fide player of the game, you have to follow those conventions – or, like Professor Gundry, show that you have enough independence and toughness to do things your own way and weather the social consequences. Often it is not just how you 35


NRSV has “summoned” here, masking the presence in both passages of the verb

36 As a non-expert in Hebrew, I can’t tell if John would have been tempted – based on the parallel in Ezek. 38:18 – to understand this phrase as “Wrath of fire . . .” rather than (or in addition to) the more normal, “Indeed, fire. . . .”

Revelation is One


play, but your opinions themselves, that are stylish or unstylish, de rigueur or outré. I suspect that in Beale’s case, the Augustinian and Reformed view of amillennialism counts as the obligatory eschatological paradigm.

Beale on Revelation 20:1–10 We come now to the matter of how Beale deals with the texts of Revelation 20 in his promotion of what he prefers to call “inaugurated millennialism.” Beale begins his exposition of Rev. 20:1–10 with these markedly unenthusiastic words: The only hope of obtaining any clarity about this segment is to interpret it primarily in the light of its closest parallels elsewhere in the Apocalypse and, secondarily, other parallels in the NT and OT. 37

The passage, he implies, does not make any sense on its own. Apparently this is because (1) on a common-sense reading Rev. 20:1–10 appears to interpose a thousand-year gap between the resurrection of the holy ones and the resurrection of the unrepentant, (2) the rest of the NT knows of no such gap, and (3) we (are supposed to) know that scripture always agrees with itself. Beale is going to have to help the passage to make sense – which is to say, help it conform to what he thinks the rest of the NT says. He puts forward two central interpretative proposals, which together assist Rev. 20:1–6 in coming into alignment with the majority NT view. Let us look at them in turn, and consider their consequences, both for the internal literary workings of Revelation, and for Revelation’s relationship with the rest of the NT. Beale’s First Proposal: Satan is Only Bound (20:1–3) in a Narrow and Particular Sense Since he wants to see the thousand years as co-extensive in time with the current age, Beale, like many before him, has to find a sense in which Satan is currently bound, despite the fact that he is plainly regarded as present and active in the sphere of human beings not only in Revelation itself, but also in many NT texts.38 In other words, Beale has to generate one kind of disharmony in order to relieve another. He attempts to negotiate this disharmony by ignoring the forceful visual drama of the Rev. 20:1–3 narrative, in which an angel (1) grabs Satan, (2) chains him, throws him into Beale, Revelation, 972. E.g. Acts 5:3; 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 4:3–4; 11:14; Eph. 6:10–12; 1 Thess. 2:18; 2 Tim. 2:26; 1 Pet. 5:8–9; 1 John 4:4; 5:19; Rev. 2:10, 13; 12:9–18. 37 38


J. Webb Mealy

the abyss, (3) locks it, and (4) seals it over him. Instead, he focuses in tightly on two textual facts: (1) the stated reason for Satan’s imprisonment is so that he will be prevented from deceiving the nations (20:2), and (2) the stated result of his release in vv. 7–9 is that he deceives the nations into mounting an all-out attack on the camp of the holy ones. Therefore, Beale proposes, Satan is only bound in relation to his ability to deceive the nations into mounting a total war on the holy ones. We are supposed to accept the idea that being locked and chained in the prison of the abyss with a seal over him does not prevent Satan from deceiving people in general and persecuting and killing Christians, as long as the deception and war against Christians is not on a universally-coordinated and worldwide scale. This is a frankly unattractive solution, but maybe we can live with it, if it helps to make better sense of the whole Revelation + NT Gestalt than the alternative. Let us see what he does with it. He says, Most commentators agree that the beast ascends from the abyss of 11:7 directly before Christ’s second coming. This ascent should probably be identified with Satan’s ascent from the abyss in 20:3b, 7, which further confirms that Satan’s ascent is prior to the final coming of Christ. 39

This reading is unfortunately going to result in an out-and-out contradiction with the textual data of Rev. 20:4–5. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, Beale’s proposal that 20:4–5 pictures the vindication and reign of the martyred holy ones in heaven throughout the current age, 40 during the period before the beast rises from the abyss. When we are introduced to the beast in Revelation 13, we find that his career as Satan’s agent begins in earnest when he rises from the abyss, convinces “the whole earth” (13:3–4) to worship Satan, and proceeds “to make war on the holy ones and to conquer them” (13:7; cf. Dan. 7:21–22). There is, in other words, every reason to imagine that the brief period following the beast’s ascent from the abyss is to be the period not only of Satan’s greatest and last deception of the whole world, but also of Satan’s greatest and last success in gathering the whole world to make war on the holy ones (e.g. 16:12–16). But given that the period of Satan’s imprisonment corresponds to the period of the reign of the holy ones in 20:4–6, this reading leads us to the conclusion that the holy ones previously said to have been killed by the beast Ibid., 987. Ibid., 991, 995–1007. We must, for these purposes, overlook not only the prima facie evidence that the verb ἔζησαν (“they came to life”) refers to physical resurrection, but also the more or less complete clash between the passive picture of the slain martyrs in 6:11, who are told “to rest a little while longer until the full number both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were to be killed as they themselves had been killed,” and the active picture of the slain holy ones in 20:4–6 who come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years. 39 40

Revelation is One


(20:4) have to the contrary lived, died, and been resurrected to heavenly life and rulership before the beast ever comes on the scene to attack them. The narrative puzzle pieces do not fit together here at all. It appears that Beale’s solution to this difficulty is to maintain that in some sense the beast’s three-and-a-half year career also lasts the whole of the church age. He expands rather vaguely upon the statement quoted above: Just as the beast represents Satan’s authority throughout history in 13:1 –2 (cf. 12:3), so the beast’s ascent at the end of history can be spoken of in 20:3, 7 as the dragon’s ascent because the former again represents the latter. 41

Beale seems to have a notion of a long and low-intensity period of activity in which the beast and Satan are both in some sense present, but in some sense simultaneously imprisoned in the abyss. He is mapping the three and a half years of Rev. 12:6, 14; 13:5 (cf. “time, times, and half a time,” Dan. 7:25; 12:7) onto the whole current age of the church, reserving a tiny sliver of time at the end of the age for the period of total deception and total war. There is a simple problem with this idea of a long (but figuratively short) cold war capped off by a (literally) short hot war: there is nothing whatever in the text of Revelation to hang it on. As John hears in Rev. 12:12, “Woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, knowing that his time is short!” Does this sound like a long period of low-intensity activity that could be metaphorically characterized as imprisonment in chains? Starting with 12:13, everything in the text signals us that Satan is going to be hyperactive from now on – both in attacking the holy ones, and in deceiving and gathering the unrepentant together to destroy the holy ones. Satan’s “short time” mentioned in 12:12 is soon thereafter made equivalent to the three and a half years of the beast’s career (cf. 12:13–13:5), and the beast, working with the authority of Satan and the assistance of the false prophet, is plainly given authority to make all-out war on the saints for that entire period (13:7–8). Beale’s prior assumptions as to what the text of 20:1–10 must mean have forced him to put forward an exposition of John’s visions that ranges between the dubious and the completely impossible. He is forced to rely on cloudy and textually unsupported concepts in order to keep the text from contradicting itself. The fact that he is unable to form a clear exposition is a sure sign that something is wrong with the assumptions he is bringing to the text.


Ibid., 987.


J. Webb Mealy

Beale’s Second Proposal: The Fall of Satan from Heaven (Rev. 12:7–12) is to be Equated with the Imprisonment of Satan in the Abyss (Rev. 20:1–3) In Revelation, the surface story of the defeat and demise of Satan has three key events separating four conditions or states of activity: Condition 1: Satan has access to heaven, and “accuses our brothers and sisters day and night before our God” (Rev. 12:10). Event 1: Satan and his angels rebel in heaven, and are cast out of heaven to earth (12:7). Condition 2: Satan is restricted to the earth, and goes about in a fury to persecute those who belong to God, characterized as “the woman” and her “other children” (12:13–17 and implicitly chs. 13–19). In this condition, Satan “knows that his time is short” (12:12). Event 2: Satan gathers the kings of the earth and their armies to a great battle against Jesus Christ at his coming, and his armies are totally defeated. Satan is captured and expelled from the earth (16:13–14; 19:11–20:2). Condition 3: Satan is powerless to deceive the nations, being chained up in the prison of the abyss for a thousand years (20:3). Event 3: Satan, released from the prison of the abyss, leads a great horde against the camp of the holy ones. He and his horde are wiped out, and he is cast into the lake of fire (20:9–10). Condition 4: Satan is in the lake of fire forever (20:10). This sequence will not work for Beale as it stands, without some kind of telescoping. In order to have the resurrection and judgment of Rev. 20:11– 15 occur at the Parousia of Christ, he needs the battle of Rev. 20:7–10 to be identical with the battle of Rev. 19:11–21. His solution is to read the expulsion from heaven (Event 1) as identical with the imprisonment of Rev. 20:1–3. This splits the elements of Event 2 above (final battle; capture and imprisonment of Satan) into two pieces that are no longer temporally connected. This isn’t impossible on the face of it; let’s see where it leads when we take it to Revelation 12. Beale says, The parallels between chs. 12 and 20, though the chapters are not identical at every point, suggest that they depict the same events and mutually interpret one another. 42

He goes on to set up a table of correspondences. Rather than presenting his table, here is mine:


Ibid., 992.


Revelation is One

Revelation 12:1–17

Revelation 20:1–3


The devil, Michael and his angels

The devil, an angel from heaven


A battle and defeat of Satan. Expulsion from heaven to earth.

A capture, chaining, and imprisonment of Satan in the abyss.


In heaven, then on earth.

Under heaven (“I saw an angel coming down from heaven with a chain,” 20:1), then under the earth (in the abyss, 20:3).


“A short time” (12:12) before the Parousia of Christ, which appears to be the 3½ year period referred to in 12:6, 14; 13:5.

“A thousand years” before the battle of 20:7–10.


Satan appears to be expelled so that he will not be able to accuse the holy ones any longer (12:10). Or because he has rebelled in heaven (12:7–8).

So that he will no longer be able to deceive the nations (20:3).

What Results

Satan goes off to make war against the holy ones on earth (12:12–17)43

Satan sits in chains in the abyss (20:3).

It seems clear enough that if we confine ourselves to what the text actually says, the only thing that is the same between these two columns is Satan’s involvement. And that is because the two passages narrate successive stages in the story of his ultimate defeat. There is no way to expect a reader to equate two episodes that are narrated with markedly different, seemingly incompatible, and independently meaningful characterizations of the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “what results” of those two events – which is to say, each and every one of the elements that could potentially have signaled that we’re now seeing an additional viewpoint on something we’ve already seen. In other words, unless an interpreter has become committed a priori to the idea that these two episodes must be identical, it will remain impossible to conclude from the actual verbal data that they are intended to be taken as identical. Beale’s need to resort to this highly implausible equation goes a long way towards disproving his amillennial theorem.

Beale (Ibid.) attempts to draw a parallel between the reign of the saints in 12:11 and 20:4–5. This, however, is not a verbal parallel. The saints win the battle with Satan by dying for their faith. They are pictured in 12:11 as soldiers fighting for their King, not kings ruling. The natural reading is to take the announcement of the coming of God’s kingdom and the authority of his Messiah as proleptic (12:10; cf. 5:9 –10; 11:18; 19:6–8), since the implication is that Satan is losing the war, and only a short while remain s before he is defeated altogether (12:11–13). 43


J. Webb Mealy

General Remarks on Beale’s Commentary on Rev. 20:1–10 Beale has been praised for mounting the best presentation of amillennialism that has appeared to date.44 But something is not right here. In trials, the judge often gives the jury this instruction: The production of weaker evidence, when stronger might have been produced, lays the producer open to the suspicion that the stronger evidence would have been to his prejudice.

Since Beale believes that Revelation is the work of an inspired and literarily gifted prophet, he has the opportunity to exposit the text of Rev. 20:1– 10 step by step, showing how the narrative works, how it achieves the sense of an unfolding story. He declines to do this. In his section on Rev. 20:1–10, he instead spends nearly seventy pages in a dense and vigorous defensive battle with nearly all known criticisms of amillennialism. In all those dozens of hard-fought pages, he never steps out of his armor long enough to offer a simple, straightforward, and positive exposition of the text as a narrative. This amounts to a tacit admission that, on the assumption of amillennialism, this inspired text of Scripture does not make sense as it stands.

Concluding Remarks What is at stake here? Why are people of the Christian faith such as Greg Beale and me so obsessed with making all scriptures agree with one another that we are sometimes tempted to disfigure the passage that fails to conform to the pattern we think we see in the others? I can think of one reason at least: we want to believe that God has chosen to speak to us in the scriptures, and we want to believe that God is the One who holds the key to the meaning of everything. We resist contradictions in Scripture because it would be nightmarish if God’s words to us were contradictory. I am not denying that, in addition to our desire, we have rational reasons for believing that God is true and that God has spoken to us in the scriptures. But it is the wanting that we have to be careful of, because we know that it sometimes outstrips our patience as students of God, sometimes outstrips our intellectual humility, sometimes outstrips our faith. And it does indeed require an exercise of faith to apply our intellect with equal consistency and openness to questions in which some preferred belief seems to hang in the balance.


For example, see A.B. Luter’s review in JETS 43.2 (2000): 329–31 at 330.

Revelation is One


To admit to the existence of this kind of challenge is to open a helpful way of approaching the questions with which we started. The conscientious Christian theologian, no less than the Bible scholar, is always striving towards a deeper, and more refined, understanding both of the Bible’s individual theological voices and the Bible’s chorus of theological voices. Can such a process of understanding and refinement, in the words of Professor Gundry, really form a “partnership of equals” with the systematic theology project, which strives to form the broadest possible synthesis of Christian faith? From my perspective, the flow of information always has to be from the specific and revelatory to the general and synthesizing. Thus, whereas (at least for theologians who regard Scripture as revelatory) systematic theology ought to include the insights of biblical exegesis and biblical theology within its hermeneutical circle, biblical theology on the other hand ought to resist the tendency to adjust its understanding of the individual theological thinkers within the scriptures by reference to an a priori assumption that they all embraced the same “big picture.” We may want individual biblical writers to show evidence of knowing everything that (we think) we know, but none of them ever made a commitment to satisfy us in that way. And we do violence to them when we fall into the temptation of helping them to help us in our quest for a pleasing synthesis of “biblical doctrine” or Christian belief. The unique value of each biblical writer’s contribution to the body of revelation lies in the fact that it is their contribution. Each writer’s take on God and the faith is God-breathed, edifying, revelatory, incisive, and authoritative for the faithful (2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:19-21). And for all that, it is limited, partial (in both senses), and temporary (1 Cor. 13:12). The challenge is to hold the two sides of this paradox with equanimity, which requires of us humility, faith, and breadth of mind – three characteristics that I am thankful to have had modeled for me by my friend and mentor Bob Gundry.

Part Three: Essays from the Perspective of Systematic Theology

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis: A Comparison of Luther & the Radicals JENNIFER POWELL MCNUTT Introduction In January 1549, an Anabaptist named Elizabeth was caught with a Latin Testament in her possession and taken into custody for being a “teacheress.”1 Imprisonment was followed by examination, torture, and eventual drowning months later for her beliefs. During those trial proceedings, Elizabeth was tested as to the extent of scripture’s influence over her life when the examiners asked her, “You say that you accept everything in accord with Holy Scripture. Do you not then hold to the word of James?” Elizabeth responded saying, “How can I not hold to it?” The intention of the examiners was to corner Elizabeth with James 5:14, which, by their interpretation, would force her to submit to their authority in all matters of faith. In their attempt to show potential inconsistencies in Protestant adherence to scripture’s supreme authority or sola scriptura, Catholic examiners could not have chosen a more appropriate book of the Bible. Interestingly, Elizabeth’s response to her examiners indicates a lack of awareness that the authority of James might be problematic. 2 Although in her context she was being asked about a specific passage of James because of its implications for authority, her nonchalance toward the book itself – namely, as no less authoritative than any other book of the Bible – offers a striking contrast to the usual story of the tension between Protestantism and James. Certainly one has merely to consult William Fulke’s New Testament,3 first published in 1589 in opposition to Gregory Martin’s notes in Thieleman J. van Braght, The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians, trans. Joseph F. Sohm, 2 nd ed. English reprint (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1938), 481–83. For Roland Bainton’s recounting of this story see Women of the Reformation: In Germany and Italy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 147–48. 2 Luther talks about James as the primary text used by his opponents to contend with his understanding of the righteousness of works: Lectures on Genesis, 22:13 (LW 4:133– 34). 3 William Fulke, The Text of the New Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 nd ed. (London: Robert Barker, 1601). 1


Jennifer Powell McNutt

the Rheims New Testament, to observe the conflict over James in the biblical rhetoric of the era. Exegetical arguments surrounding James between Romanist and Protestant camps became increasingly entrenched by the end of the sixteenth century, particularly over chapter two’s seemingly direct rejection of sola fide.4 Some like Martin Luther responded with ambivalence toward the content and apostolic authorship of James. The low opinion that he advanced has been commonly touted by scholarship as it offers a fascinating example of the Reformer’s limits when promoting engagement with the books of the Bible. More surprisingly, in fact, are the many examples of Luther’s positive engagement with James present in his work with frequency. Thus, while on the one hand Luther did promote a ranking of the books of the Bible that demoted James’ place in the canon, on the other hand, this did not prevent him from appealing to James as an authority upon which many of his theological interpretations were based. Even for Luther, the so-called “book of straw” was more foundational in practice than in theory with the exception of the doctrine of justification. Meanwhile, contemporary and subsequent generations of Protestants were unwilling to relinquish the teachings of James from their theological viewpoint, even on the matter of justification. Though Luther still perceived inherent conflict between his doctrine of justification and the teachings of James, second-generation magisterial reformers like John Calvin would later present a nuanced view of James that directly denied any theological conflict with justification and indirectly protected the consistency of Protestant affirmations of scripture’s supreme authority and perspicuity. Furthermore, Anabaptists like Elizabeth provide an example of the way in which radicals denied any possible conflict with obeying James. With an emphasis upon the necessity of the transformation of the believer, Anabaptist believers particularly appealed to the authority of James in developing a theology of rebirth and in stressing the necessity of good works, often in direct critique against the perceived moral laxity emerging from the magisterial Protestant camps and its, perhaps, overly zealous message of sola fide. This emphasis has tended to raise questions within scholarship about the extent of their Protestantism – that is, whether or not they were merely reviving late-medieval theology, which further highlights the complexity of Protestant engagement with James over the place of good works in the Christian life. In short, these examples suggest that the role of James in biblical exegesis and theology during the wider Reformation was far more dynamic and nuanced in practice than widely assumed. For further information, see David Daniell, The Bible in English: Its History and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 366–67. Daniell explains, “Perhaps without Fulke’s parallel Testaments, the Rheims version would have been ignored . . . . Yet Martin was found to be too stinging and too devious to be ignored” (367). 4

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


In these many ways then, the book of James during the Reformation era provides an apt case study of the unity and diversity that Protestants have historically observed in the New Testament and of the resulting strain between scripture and theology that emerged at such points. Sixteenthcentury approaches to James, thus, can helpfully illumine the nuances of sola scriptura at work in the thick of developing Protestant theology and its application of biblical authority within a shifting European order.

James & the “Radicals” When exploring the Radical Reformation’s engagement with James it becomes apparent that the book was an uncontested authority for both doctrine and practice. Even in cases where James was traditionally referenced as the basis for Romanist practices such as anointing with oil for extreme unction according to James 5:14, radical Protestants simply retained the use of oil as a teaching of scripture while explicitly rejecting papal and clerical manipulation of the practice in its sacramental form. 5 Reinterpretation and reappropriation of scripture was indeed the prerogative of a “priesthood of all believers,” and the radicals did not hesitate to pursue this quintessentially Protestant course of action. James, in fact, was precious to a group increasingly caught between the tenacious assaults of persecution by magisterial Protestant and Romanist authorities alike. This was a book from which Anabaptists in particular could draw parallels between apostolic-era persecution and their own. For this reason, James importantly contributed to the development of an Anabaptist mindset that regarded trials and the testing of faith with joy despite the harsh realities of imprisonment, torture, exile, and almost certain death. 6 Moreover, it assured martyrs of 5 In fact, Luther began the trend of this particular interpretation in his Babylonian Captivity of the Church. See also Michael Sattler’s trial in 1527: Van Braght, Martyrs’ Mirror [“MM” for all other references], 417. With emphasis on the Spirit over matter, Leonhard Schiemer’s “The Kinds of Grace Found in the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments” offered a different interpretation of this passage the same year as Sattler in his work. For Schiemer, it was less important to recover the “oil” of James from papal usage than to emphasize how much greater the anointing of the “Holy Spirit” is to oil as the true source of comfort in suffering and the true builder of faith such as for those in Salzburg “praising God daily with their martyrdom. . . .” (Early Anabaptist Spirituality: Selected Writings, trans. and ed. Daniel Liechty (New York: Paulist Press, 1994), 94–95. 6 The valuable collection of translated hymns from the Ausbund – the first Mennonite hymn book published in 1564 – reveals this mindset at work. See Daniel Liechty’s selection and translation in Early Anabaptist Spirituality: Selected Writings (New York: Paulist Press, 1994), 41–60. For an example of hymn singing while in jail, see Innsbruck court records from September 14, 1529 in Linda Huebert Hecht, Women in Early


Jennifer Powell McNutt

the heavenly promises awaiting them for their endurance of suffering 7 while their suffering proved they were truly enemies of the world.8 An attitude of joy commended by James, thus, helped transform persecution within the Anabaptist context into the evidence of their Christian righteousness and confirmation of the validity of their efforts to follow a Christo-centric path. Moreover, James was cited to prove that the just do not resist violence even in the face of death since the persecutor will ultimately be judged in the end.9 Undergirded by this biblical authority, Anabaptists sought to defy the manipulations of their captors by refusing to succumb to fear and to the denial of their consciences by appealing to passages from James that advocated joy and emboldened a spirit of pacifism. 10 Yet, this was far from the only socially subversive way that Anabaptists appealed to the book of James. Consultation of sixteenth-century Anabaptist theology and Van Braght’s Martyrs’ Mirror11 reveal a variety of ways in which James was Austrian Anabaptism: Their Days, Their Stories (Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2009), 128: “The mayor should prevent the Anabaptist prisoners from being kept together as a group, for then they sing hymns as is the practice in their sect. When the common people hear this it makes them angry and it strengthens and encourages the prisoners to persist in their erroneous, heretical beliefs. There should be enough prisons in Hall to keep the prisoners in solitary confinement.” 7 For example, Jan Hendricks referenced James 5:11 and 1:12 to that end in a letter written from prison in Delft to his wife in 1572: Van Braght, MM, 934. James 5:13 was also referenced for this purpose by Claes De Praet in 1556: Ibid., 555. Indeed, this dimension of James was particularly highlighted by Van Braght: Ibid., 75. 8 See the example of Dirk Pieters Smuel and his testimony to his wife written in prison before his death: Van Braght, MM, 478. 9 James 5:1–3, 6 were cited to this end in a martyrdom account from 1575: Ibid., 1017. 10 The historiography of Anabaptism on the issue of pacifism is complex and particularly relates to whether or not revolutionary radicals like Thomas Müntzer and the Münsterites can rightly be regarded as “normative” Anabaptists. The notion of one type of prevailing Anabaptism, traditionally defined according to specific theological views like pacifism, has largely fallen out of favor within scholarship since the rise of social historical work that proposes a “polygenesis” emergence in contrast to a “monogenesis” perspective: James Stayer, Werner Packull, and Klaus Deppermann, “From Monogenesis to Polygenesis: The Historical Discussion of Anabaptist Origins,” Mennonite Quarterly 49 (1975): 83–121. For further consideration of the historiographical background, s ee the following helpful essays: Michael Driedger, “Anabaptism and Religious Radicalism,” in Palgrave Advances in the European Reformations, ed. Alec Ryrie (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 212–31; John D. Roth, “Recent Currents in the Historiography of the Radical Reformation,” Church History 71:3 (Sept. 2002): 523–35. 11 For many years, Martyrs’ Mirror, a compilation of martyrdom accounts, was an unknown resource to historiography outside of the Mennonite tradition. However, in the late nineteenth century, when it was discovered by wider scholarship, questions about its authority and reliability were raised. See Gerald Studer, “A History of the Martyrs’

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


invoked to help promote what would, in certain cases, become central and defining characteristics of the Anabaptist communities in the Reformation context. Thus, for a group that formerly denounced the taking of oaths in Michael Sattler’s Schleitheim Articles of 1527,12 James 5:12 became a crucial passage for supporting a view perceived by most early-modern contemporaries as little more than evidence of political anarchy. 13 Most importantly, however, James was used to affirm the true transformation of the believer with direct connections to the broader debate over free will, justification, and believer’s baptism, and James 1:18 was a key passage in that purpose. James 1:18 In the aftermath of Erasmus’ public challenge to Luther over the freedom of the will, Balthasar Hubmaier penned his own text, On Free Will, from Nicolsburg, Moravia in 1527. In the words of David Steinmetz, Hubmaier realized that “the doctrine of the bondage of the will undercut the Anabaptist understanding of conversion, baptism, the nature of the Church, and Christian morality.” 14 In order to prevent such developments, Hubmaier added his voice to the fray. From an Erasmian standpoint, he critiqued the way in which the spread of the gospel and the emphasis on saving faith overshadowed instruction in the pursuit of good works. 15 Thus, Hubmaier Mirror,” The Mennonite Quarterly Review 22.3 (July 1948): 163–79, for a history and defense of the authenticity of the text. Many other historians now regard it as a valuable resource for exploring sixteenth-century Dutch Anabaptism. Certainly the historicity of the accounts is an important consideration to assess. That being said, for building an understanding of Anabaptist mindset, engagement, and attitude in invoking James as an authority for Christian theology and practice still makes Martyrs’ Mirrors a credible resource for the purposes of this chapter, particularly since it shows a longer tradition at work beyond the sixteenth-century. 12 Michael Sattler, “The Schleitheim Articles,” The Radical Reformation, ed. Michael Baylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 172–80. The articles are also found in Van Braght, MM, 32. In fact, Sattler does not cite James in building this argument though later groups would. 13 References to James 5:12 for this purpose include the following: Van Braght, MM, 37, 43, 336, 402, 417, and 1018. 14 David Steinmetz, “Luther and Hubmaier on the Freedom of the Human Will,” in Luther in Context, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 59. 15 This concern would continue to dog Luther’s work from the 1520s through the 1540s due to the antinomian controversy heightened by Johann Agricola. See Timothy Wengert, Law and Gospel: Philip Melanchthon’s Debate with John Agricola of Eisleben over Poenitentia (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997). In fact, Luther’s writings offer numerous citations wherein he stressed that faith is the root of Christian obedience and transformation and even directly contested accusations of moral laxity. On this aspect of Luther’s life and thought, Scott Hendrix highlights Luther’s own words of surprise found


Jennifer Powell McNutt

lamented, “Christian work no longer shines with men. There brotherly love is extinguished in all hearts. . . . Indeed, I have heard from many people that for a long time they have not prayed, nor fasted, nor given alms because their priests tell how their works are of no avail before God and therefore they at once let them go.” 16 Troubled by the substantial loss to Christian piety, Hubmaier set out to grapple with the complexity of scripture by bringing together “opposing Scriptures” in order to determine their true unity. 17 For Hubmaier, as later explained in his work On the Sword (1527), though passages appeared contradictory, the unity of scripture ultimately found its grounding in Christ. Nevertheless, this realization was no easy task; a careful hermeneutical approach was required of each interpreter in order to avoid a piecemeal construction of biblical understanding. As Hubmaier warned, “do not make a patchwork of Scripture; rather, place the preceding and following words together in one whole judgment, for then you will receive a complete understanding of Scripture. . . .”18 This approach is what Hubmaier set out to achieve. Unwilling to deny original sin19 and the Fall’s impact upon the freedom of the will 20 out of in his work Against the Antinomians (1539) “that anyone can claim that I reject the law or the Ten Commandments, since there is available, in more than one edition, my exposition of the Ten Commandments, which furthermore are daily preached and practiced in our churches”: Hendrix, “Luther,” in The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology, eds. David Bagchi and David C. Steinmetz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 53. See LW 47:99–118. In order to helpfully understand how Luther’s law and gospel dynamic fits within his paradigm of the two kinds of righteousness without forfeiting spiritual transformation, see Charles P. Arand and Joel Biermann, “Why the Two Kinds of Righteousness?” Concordia Journal 33 (April 2007): 116–35. 16 Balthasar Hubmaier, “On Free Will,” in Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, eds. George Williams and Angel Mergal (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1957), 115. The later sections of the text explicitly critique Luther and Zwingli for the moral repercussions of their preaching. 17 Hubmaier, “On Free Will,” 115. 18 Hubmaier, “On the Sword,” in The Radical Reformation, ed. Michael Baylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 203. James was explored in a variety of cases. James 1:13 and Genesis 22:1 were contrasted regarding God’s relationship with temptation: Ibid., 200. Furthermore, Hubmaier pointed out that though Christ assured believers in Matthew 7 that anyone who asks receives, James 4 stressed the importance of asking rightly or facing the likelihood of not receiving at all. 19 “Now we were born once in original sin and wrath as Paul laments in Romans. . . . But afterward, we must be born again, or we cannot see the Kingdom of God, nor enter into it”: Ibid., 117. 20 He argues that though Adam had free will prior to the fall, by the fall, he and his descendants could “do nothing except sin, strive against God, and hate his commands”: Ibid., 119. Hubmaier nuanced this with regard to the human flesh, soul, and spirit, the latter of which he maintained was preserved from corruption and continued to groan for

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


recognition for Pauline teaching, Hubmaier contrasted the fallen state of humanity with the true rebirth provided by Christ, which restores the free will of the soul and enables one to choose the good in conjunction with the willingness of the human spirit. 21 Hubmaier went further to support a positive use of the law, beyond its role of condemnation and not unlike Philip Melanchthon’s “Third Use of the Law,” as a guide for pious living. 22 To that end, he appealed to James 1:18 in order to stress that through the restoration of Christ, by his merit and his life-giving Word that gives new grace, believers receive free choice along with new birth and thus become the children of God.23 In this vein, he wrote, “God now of his own will begets us, as James (ch. 1:18) says, by the Word of his power, that we should be anew the first fruits of his creatures.” 24 Importantly, the example of Hubmaier reveals the way in which James 1:18 gave opportunity to stress the work and will of God in the life of the believer rather than the work and will of the believer alone. The restoration asserted by James, according to Hubmaier, is the consequence of justification and not the cause of justification. Similarly, Dietrich (or Dirk) Philips, a key leader of Dutch Anabaptism, appealed to the authority of James in his work Concerning the New Birth and the New Creature (1556) in relation to the necessity of rebirth in Christ and being conformed to his image in obedience and righteousness. Present throughout the text is the understanding that a true believer will manifest their belief through moral transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit, who actively works toward the sanctification of the believer.25 A “pure church” ecclesiology undergirds the text as Dirk stressed that after hearing the gospel proclaimed and putting faith in Christ, the renewal of the believer was the result of “cooperati[ve]” work with the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.26 Through this process, the believer begins to mirror the image of Christ, and James 1:17–18 was cited to explore the meaning of such rebirth. By this thinking, a two-fold dynamic emerges from Philips God though imprisoned by the flesh: Ibid., 123. Additionally, the image of God could not be fully extinguished thereby enabling humanity to yearn for God if so desired. 21 The soul was freed to follow either the spirit or the flesh: Ibid., 125. He writes, “But after the restoration man acquired such grace, health, and freedom through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord that he is able again to will and to accomplish the good, even against the nature and will of his flesh, in which there is nothing good”: Ibid., 128. 22 Ibid., 127. 23 Ibid., 129. 24 Ibid., 130. 25 Dietrich Philips, “Concerning the New Birth and the New Creature: Brief Admo nition and Teaching from the Holy Bible,” in Early Anabaptist Spirituality: Selected Writings, trans. and ed. Daniel Liechty (New York: Paulist Press, 1994), 200. 26 Ibid., 202.


Jennifer Powell McNutt

that clearly distinguishes between a Protestant view of justification and sanctification. As Philips explains, believers are “bought with the precious blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit as a sweet-smelling and worthy offering to God” rendering them the first fruits of God’s creation.27 Through engagement with James then, Philips’ writings present a view that situates justification with the total power of Christ and sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit, which contends with sixteenth-century opponents of Anabaptism 28 while also cautioning scholarship against too readily equating Anabaptist theology with late-medieval thought.29 27 Ibid., 203. The reasoning that faith blossoms from the hearing of the Word was used to stress that children cannot have faith: Ibid., 204–5. The confession of Thomas van Imbrœck given at Cologne in 1558 concerning baptism also engaged with James 1:18. External baptism by water was presented as “a witness of the spiritual baptism, and indication of true repentance, and a sign of faith in Jesus Christ. . . .”: Van Braght, MM, 367. While he described baptism as “a washing of regeneration,” he further clarified that it only represented the regeneration that believers receive from the living Word of God according to James 1:18: Van Braght, MM, 369. This reasoning also guides the “Confession of Faith, According to the Holy Word of God” that is presented as Mennonite in origin (c. 1600). Here again, James 1:18 functions by stressing the regeneration of the believer by the Spirit and the Word: Van Braght, MM, 385. See also its usage in stressing new birth and the transformation of the image of the believer when following the virtues of Christ: Van Braght, MM, 30. 28 When Anabaptists, stemming in part from anticlerical sentiment, “recalled that faith had to bear fruit” they “exposed themselves to the charge of having reintroduc ed the old Justification by Works”: Hans Jürgen-Goertz, The Anabaptists, trans. Trevor Johnson (London & New York: Routledge, 1996), 133. This was coupled by the magisterial belief that an Anabaptist emphasis on “separatism” was merely a restoration of mon asticism as a result of their overemphasis on the necessity of morality. Bucer’s difficulty with Anabaptist separatism coupled with the relative tolerance he extended to them – namely, not advocating capital punishment – is explored by Marijn de Kroon in “Martin Bucer and the Problem of Tolerance,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 19:2 (Summer, 1988): 157–68. 29 Scholars like Hans Hillerbrand and Walter Klaassen have claimed that Anabaptists rejected Protestant sola fide and justification for a more Pelagian outlook. Stayer, et al., “From Monogenesis to Polygenesis,” 90, write, “The basic contention of theological and devotional parallels between Anabaptist and medieval Catholicism, or at least the denial that Anabaptist was theologically Protestant, has received support from diverse quarters. . . . No doubt, most Anabaptist groups found extreme sola fideism offensive in its radical departure from the ethical consensus of the Middle Ages, but it is often hard to be precise on which medieval intellectual tradition was crucial for a particular Anabaptist leader or sect.” For a rejection of the description of Anabaptist theology as “Pelagian” or “sem iPelagian,” see Kenneth Davis, Anabaptism and Asceticism: A Study in Intellectual Origins (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1974). The trial of Andrew Smuel and Dirk Pieters at Amsterdam in 1546 offers an example of how Anabaptists explicitly affirmed that humanity could only be saved “by the death of Christ alone”: Van Braght, MM, 477.

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


Philips continued to use James in his Church of God30 (c.1560) text in order to show that the church of God was made “of the believing reborn men on earth, who have been renewed in the image of God.” 31 While granting the corruption of humanity due to the fall and the loss of the image of God, Philips stressed that restoration was regained with faith in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit: “for they were created anew of God, born anew of him, because they accepted the gracious promise of the gospel in true faith by the power and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.” 32 Here again, Philips cited James 1:18 to stress the necessity of being born again by Christ’s Word and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, pursuing the righteousness of Christ as an inevitable outcome of genuine faith.33 At the same time, Philips stressed that regeneration was not the work of flesh and blood but “by the Word of the living God” according to the same passage. 34 Moreover, “free access to God and to the throne of grace” enjoyed by the believer was wholly founded upon faith, again with appeal to James 1:18. 35 In the end, “we should be born again by the Word of God and grow daily in the knowledge of God (Eph. 4:15), in faith, in love, and proceed in all obedience to the Word of God, to the praise of the Lord, and to our salvation (Matt. 10:22).”36 The bottom line was clear; without faith manifesting itself into the purity of life, professing Evangelicals were not true Christians.37 At the same time, James 1:18 gave Philips’ opportunity to also attribute the illumination, renewal, and sanctification of the believer to the

Philips, “The Church of God,” in Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, 235. Ibid., 229. 32 Ibid., 230. “For just as God founded his congregation on earth in paradise with pure and holy people, who had been created in his image and made and begun after his likeness, so he still desired such as are created in Christ Jesus and have been renewed by the Holy Spirit in his congregation”: Ibid., 233. 33 For Philips, this stood in striking contrast with the example of Nicodemus. Calvin also used Nicodemus as a counter example of how a true evangelical should live even when constrained by the context of persecuting France. For further discussion see George H. Tavard, “Calvin and the Nicodemites,” in John Calvin and Roman Catholicism: Critique and Engagement, Then and Now, ed. Randall C. Zachman (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 59–78. 34 Philips, “The Church of God,” 235. In the text, Philips urged the reader to consult his work, “Of Regeneration and the New Creature,” where he also asserted this point. 35 Philips, “The Church of God,” 237. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid., 251. Indeed, the false congregation is, among other characteristics, the one in which there is “no real new birth; no real distinction between law and gospel, that brings forth fruit, and by which people truly repent and are converted from unrighteousness unto the living God . . . no faith produces fruits”: Ibid., 254. 30 31


Jennifer Powell McNutt

work of the Holy Spirit, 38 thereby indicating again how a reoccurring appeal to this passage by both Hubmaier and Philips was firmly situated within a larger Protestant affirmation of faith alone followed by sanctification.39 Overall, an Anabaptist emphasis on the necessity of rebirth was not merely a defining characteristic of belief but also a pointed critique of a perceived Protestant over-emphasis on sola fide. Indeed, a litany of criticisms abounded within the radical literature of the era in opposition to the nature of magisterial reforms. Its presence reveals the extent to which the anticlericalism of the Reformation period was not merely aimed at Romanists but Evangelicals as well. 40 In this, a notable echo of Erasmus over the necessity of Christian righteousness may be found within Anabaptist writings though a direct influence is still contested. 41 Early on, Hans Hut’s 38


Ibid., 240. Philips cited James 1:17 to emphasize that such gifts only come from

Juan de Valdés may offer another example of this mindset at play though the extent of the grace he affirms is not always as clear. In his work on Christian charity entitled, The Christian Alphabet Which Teaches the True Way to Acquire the Light of the Holy Spirit (1545), Valdés stressed that faith must heed the warning of James 1:17 –19 regarding “dead faith,” which is a faith that acknowledges the historical truth of Christ without also yielding to true transformation in the life of the believer. Even in this appeal to James, Valdés stressed that this faith is a matter of God’s action and not human action: “But understand that when I say faith I mean to speak of that faith which is alive in the soul, acquired not by industry, nor human contrivance, but by means of the grace of God communicated with supernatural light”: Valdés, “The Christian Alphabet,” Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, 385. One could offset this point, however, with remarks that closely align him with Augustine rather than Luther: Ibid., 375. 40 Goertz, The Anabaptists, esp. ch. 2, argues that “anticlericalism” was in fact the defining feature of the Anabaptist movement. Goertz, 48, writes, “Anticlericalism was therefore not a consequence but the cause of the new concept” of ministry that emerged. 41 In his letter to Martin Bucer of Nov. 11, 1527, Erasmus explained the reasons why his conscience would not allow him to join the Protestant Reformation. For one, “The Gospel would have looked good to everyone if the husband had found it made his wife nicer, if the teacher saw his student more obedient, if the magistrate had seen better behaved citizens, if the employer found his employees more honest, if the buyer saw the merchant less deceitful. But, as things are now, the conduct of some people has thrown cold water on the enthusiasm of those who initially supported the movement: the sort of people who love godliness and hated Pharasaism. The princes, some of whom were hopeful at the start, are now cursing as they contemplate the host which has appeared full of vagrants, fugitives, bankrupts, the naked, the destitute, and, primarily, evil people”: Carter Lindberg, ed., The European Reformations Sourcebook (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000), 263. For a fuller discussion of this topic, see Abraham Friesen, Erasmus, the Anabaptists, and the Great Commission (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). Friesen provides a helpful historiographical account of this perceived dynamic: 21–23. His work seeks to explore the hypothesis that Erasmus had a direct influence on the beginning of Swiss Anabaptism, which is by no means a settled question among scholars. 39

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


work, On the Mystery of Baptism (1526), reflects this view: “For their teaching, as anyone may hear, is nothing but ‘believe!’ and it goes no further. They do not explain through what means one should come to faith. Thus the world is horrified by them. . . .”42 To Hut, a faith “from which absolutely no improvement results” renders the Protestant message no better than the papacy’s. 43 A decade later, the writings of Bernhard Rothmann and his leadership of the Münsterite Anabaptists indicate that this critique was a motivating force. A Restitution of Christian Teaching, Faith, and Life (1534), for example, stressed that the Anabaptist way sought to restore God’s true teaching on good works: “We uphold God’s commands and good works. The Catholics regard their scheming hypocrisies as true good works, while the Evangelicals emphasize faith too much and misunderstand when they openly say that good works do not help toward salvation. The true Christian believes rightly in Christ, and walks uprightly in all His commands.”44 For Rothmann, this was the basis for the true church, which he believed was truly being restored at Münster. As seen already, recognition of a perceived shortfall of the Lutheran emphasis on justification elicited more than just complaint from radicals but important theological and biblical assertions about the place of good works in the life of the believer. Evangelicals had arguably thrown Christianity out of balance with its primary emphasis on right thinking, a mark of the true church for all Protestants, without adequate attention to the true place of right practice and discipline.45 By the mid-century, Sebastian Castellio’s dedication in Concerning Heretics (1554) further conveyed this widespread frustration among radicals with the favoring of orthodoxy over orthopraxy: 42 Hans Hut, “On the Mystery of Baptism,” in The Radical Reformation, ed. Michael Baylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 153. 43 Ibid., 153–54. 44 Bernhard Rothmann, “A Restitution . . . of Christian Teaching, Faith, and Life . . . through the Church of Christ at Muenster (October 1534),” in Christianity and Revolution: Radical Christian Testimonies 1520–1650, ed. Lowell H. Zuck (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1975), 100. 45 Martin Bucer’s emphasis on discipline as a mark of the church from 1538 is likely a key reason behind his comparative tolerance toward Anabaptists within the city of Strasbourg and successful interactions with them. Amy Nelson Burnett’s work shows that Bucer’s views of confirmation were influenced by Anabaptists: “Martin Bucer and the Anabaptist Context of Evangelical Confirmation,” The Mennonite Quarterly Review 68 (1994): 95–122. Unlike most other Reformers, Bucer was able to persuade Anabaptists to recant their views, and John Oyer has attributed this in part to Bucer’s shared concern with the Anabaptists for establishing a morally disciplined church: Oyer, “Bucer Opposes the Anabaptists,” The Mennonite Quarterly Review 68 (1994): 24–50. On Bucer’s view of justification and the role in which the book of James came to play in Catholic dialo g see Brian Lugioyo’s Martin Bucer’s Doctrine of Justification (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 98, and 177ff.


Jennifer Powell McNutt

Yes these very people, who are so furious against the heretics, as they call them, are so far from hating moral offenders that no scruple is felt against living in luxury with the avaricious, currying flatterers, abetting the envious and calumniators, making merry with drunkards, gluttons, and adulterers, banqueting daily with the scurrilous, imposters, and those who are hated of God. Who then can doubt that they hate not vices but vir tues? 46

Given these widespread sentiments at play in the Evangelical divisions of the period, it is fascinating to observe how James 1:18 was used to stress a message of rebirth without diminishing the Protestant proclamation of justification. James 2, meanwhile, was far more contentious for matters of exegesis, and this would prove to be the crux of Luther’s concern though not a hindrance to his engagement with James.

Martin Luther’s “Book of Straw” In 1522, Luther’s September Bible took the publishing world by force. Thanks to Erasmus’ pioneering work, this was Luther’s first effort to provide a German Bible based upon the original language of scripture, and over a decade later, in 1534, Luther completed a full edition of the Bible. Throughout the various editions, the prefaces that he wrote for the books and sections of the Bible have provided much insight into Luther’s approach to scripture. Although prefaces were not an original contribution of the Protestant Reformation with precedent already well-set by Jerome’s Vulgate, their ongoing usage suggests an enduring priority to instill right understanding of the Bible; yet, in the context of the Reformation, this was coupled with a new priority to reach a growing readership empowered by a “priestly” role. Duly then, Luther fluctuated between heavy-handed guidance47 and a flexible approach. Interestingly, as will be seen, while Luther’s initial prefaces would not favor James as a canonical authority in principle, they also would not prevent his theology from appealing to James as a biblical authority in practice. Early on, in Luther’s New Testament editions of the Bible, he strongly conveyed an overarching sense of hierarchy wherein different books of the New Testament were elevated as more valuable than others, a nuance of Sebastian Castellio, Concerning Heretics, ed. Roland Bainton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1935), 123. 47 Luther’s preface to 1 Corinthians in particular reveals his concern with those who were approaching scripture without true understanding: “Now that we, by God’s grace, have opened the gospel to the Germans, everyone claims that he is the top expert and alone has the Holy Spirit” (LW 35:381). He described these “mad saints (we call them factious spirits, fanatics, and heretics)” as those who “neither know nor understand anything about that which is really the chief thing, even though they jabber much about it with their mouths” (LW 35:380–81). 46

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


sola scriptura that persisted in his prefaces until 1537. 48 At the same time, Luther extended permission to the reader to “judge all the books and decide among them which are the best.” 49 For Luther, the books that earned the highest estimation of praise included the Gospel of John – which he described as “the one, fine, true, and chief gospel,” 50 Paul’s epistles – particularly Romans, and Peter’s first epistle. To these works, Luther attributed “the true kernel and marrow of all the books.” 51 Furthermore, in their role as the “foremost” books, Luther encouraged Christians to read them first and more frequently in daily readings than other books because they represented the true character of the gospel proclamation. Thus, he wrote, “For in them you do not find many works and miracles of Christ described, but you do find depicted in masterly fashion how faith in Christ overcomes sin, death, and hell, and gives life, righteousness, and salvation. This is the real nature of the gospel, as you have heard.”52 By this reasoning, Luther also highlighted Galatians 53 and Ephesians for revealing Christ’s teachings and building faith upon that which is necessary for salvation rather than stressing Christ’s works. In these ways, Luther framed his preface to the New Testament with the message that faith is greater than good works, and to stress this point further, Luther singled out James in closing to famously describe the book as “an epistle of straw” for its neglect to convey the gospel when compared to other books of the Bible.54 Certainly Luther’s elevation of scripture as the supreme authority was far more complex than is typically acknowledged. 55 Though Luther softened his position on James 48 Luther writes, “Which are the true and noblest books of the New Testament” (LW 35:361). 49 This permission was not given in editions of the New Testament after 1537 nor any complete editions of the Bible ever (Ibid.; see also LW 35:358 n. 5). 50 LW 35:362. 51 Ibid. Luther (LW 35:365) described Romans as “really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel,” and to him, “It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul.” 52 LW 35:362. 53 Luther believed that Galatians both resembled and was modeled after Romans (LW 35:386). 54 LW 35:362. The Hebrews’ preface particularly gives insight into the straw reference as Luther cites 1 Cor. 3:12: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any fou ndation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw. . . .” (NRSV). 55 Anthony Lane’s work argues that no first generation reformer used the motto “sola scriptura;” though the sentiment was there, the motto was not found. See Anthony N. S. Lane, “Sola Scriptura? Making Sense of a Post-Reformation Slogan,” in A Pathway


Jennifer Powell McNutt

in the New Testament preface over time, his preface to James continued to raise doubts about its origins and authenticity. 56 James was, in fact, not alone in its demoted status. Secondary rank was also extended to Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation as is evident in a reading of the prefaces. The ordering of the New Testament books further reflected this judgment as these four books were separated without numbering from the rest of the books, formatting them in the same manner as the Apocrypha, which was included in his 1534 Bible. Additionally, starting with Hebrews, Luther highlighted the last four books as differing from the “true and certain chief books” of the first section due to their reputation. 57 In that context, Luther’s preface to James stressed the historical ambivalence surrounding its place in the canon and ultimately denied its apostolic authorship. Luther’s primary reason for questioning the apostolicity of the book of James was due to its teaching on justification. First and foremost, he critiqued James 2:24 for “ascribing justification to works” and then James 2:21 for claiming that Abraham was justified by works. According to his reading, James defied the Pauline teachings of Romans 4 that Abraham was “justified apart from works, by faith alone.” 58 Furthermore, James contradicted Paul in its description of the law as one of liberty rather than slavery. 59 In these cases of seeming biblical diversity, Luther would always give precedent to Paul. Additionally, Luther was critical of James for neglecting to mention the passion, resurrection, and office of Christ, and this was one of many indications to him that James did not actually teach Christ nor lay a foundation for faith. Finally, he was even critical of the order and format of the book, which he regarded as haphazard in its approach showing little semblance of organization and much of chaos. Though Luther did initially praise the book as a “good book” for advancInto the Holy Scripture, ed. P. E. Satterthwaite and D. F. Wright (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 297–327. However, Wengert, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), asserts that, though Luther mentioned “sola scriptura” rarely such as in comparison with “sola gratia,” he does in fact use that phrase in its Latin form. Nevertheless, Wengert stresses that Luther’s approach to scripture “did not eliminate the use of other authorities” (19) and therefore was not “reductionistic” in its approach though Luther taught that scripture was “self-authenticating” (20). 56 Wengert, Reading the Bible, 4, shows that questioning the authorship of James resonated with humanist scholarship at the time: “So Luther was actually one humanist scholar among several who raised questions about James’s authenticity – as had several in the ancient church as well. Luther was not so much going out on a limb as revisiting some old debates in the church with a new critical eye.” 57 LW 35:394. 58 LW 35:396. 59 LW 35:397.

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


ing the law of God60 and praise James as a pious man for his concern with good works,61 Luther ultimately believed that James stressed the law too greatly, and further evidence from the text suggested to him that this James was not the James of Acts 12 but a James that came well after Peter and Paul. In the end, Luther concluded, “Therefore I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him.”62 There are several other instances of Luther airing his grievances over James throughout his life. Early on, Luther’s Lectures on Romans (1515– 1516) explored James 2 in comparison with Romans 3, but there he claimed that both writers were rejecting the understanding that faith is sufficient without works. Instead, he took the opportunity to argue for the difference between a living faith rightly manifesting itself in good works and the demand of works for the justification of the believer. Here then James was used to support Romans, and Luther’s shifting understanding of justification. Later on however, and with echoes of his biblical prefaces, Luther’s Lectures on Genesis (1535–1545) again contended with James 2:21 for its evaluation of Abraham (Gen. 22:1–2,12).63 Without equivocation, Luther pronounced that James was erroneous in his teaching. Nevertheless, as before, he did not deny that faith and righteousness were evident by the response or fruits of the believer, but he asserted that it did not follow that such works justify as James taught. 64 Luther’s willingness, in a sense, to relinquish James from its place of authority in scripture was expressed at the end of his life in The Licentiate Examination of Heinrich Schmedenstede (1542). With a sense of frustration for the ways in which James was continually used by the papists against him, Luther declared the following: That epistle of James gives us much trouble, for the papists embrace it alone and leave out all the rest. Up to this point I have been accustomed just to deal with and interpret it according to the sense of the rest of Scriptures. For you will judge that none of it must be set forth contrary to manifest Holy Scripture. Accordingly, if they will not admit my interpretations, then I shall make rubble also of it. I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove, as the priest in Kalenberg did. 65

LW 35:395. LW 35:397. 62 Ibid. 63 LW 4:96, 133–34. 64 Luther also challenged James’ teachings on God’s relationship to temptation in this text. 65 LW 34:317. 60 61


Jennifer Powell McNutt

That same year, Luther was recorded in a Table Talk by Caspar Heydenreich as repeating many of the same sentiments and echoing the James preface to his Bible saying, “We should throw the Epistle of James out of this school, for it doesn’t amount to much.” 66 Here James was characterized as urging works alone apart from faith in addition to its neglect of Christ and the chaotic organization of its topics. The last year of Luther’s life, his preface to the Three Epistles of Saint John (1546) again offered concerns for the approach of James. First Luther praised John’s gospel for proclaiming faith and his epistles for proclaiming that works are never absent when faith is genuine. He then contrasted John’s approach with James’s saying, “[John] does this, however, not by harping on the law, as the epistle of James does, but by stimulating us to love even as God has loved us.” 67 Luther’s view of James, according to these comments, does not leave much room for mystery. Nevertheless, a preliminary estimate of Luther’s complete works indicates that Luther cited passages from James over 130 times, and the vast majority of those references were used constructively in order to build positive theological arguments. By far, the most referenced passage found in Luther’s works was his appeal to James 1:18 wherein he, like the radicals, underscored the declaration that God made believers the “first fruits of God’s creatures” (Gen. 49:11–12).68 In the context of Luther’s Lectures on Genesis (1535–1545), this meant that the believer was leaving behind the ways of the papacy to embrace the promises of faith. Similar to the radicals, Luther engaged this passage in his First Lectures on the Psalms to stress the way in which believers were transformed into new creations by the power of Christ (Ps. 92).69 Though he would reject James 2 on works in favor of Pauline teachings from Romans, in his Lectures on Romans (1513–1515) he conversely used James 1:18 to support passages from Romans that proved Christian transformation for good works (Rom. 7:17, 3:21, 7:1, 8:23).70 Beyond Romans, James 1:18 was used to support this point in his lectures in 1517 on Hebrews (Heb. 1:11, 3:14)71 and Galatians in 1519 (Gal. 6:15).72 Furthermore, he appealed to James 1:18 in his Defense and Explanation of All the Articles (1520) to stress that it was by God’s will and the power of his Word alone that believers were made 66 Table Talk Recorded by Caspar Heydenreich, No. 5443, “Luther has low opinion of Epistle of James Summer or Fall, 1542,” (LW 54:424–25). 67 LW 35:393. 68 LW 8:256–57. 69 LW 11:229. 70 LW 25:323, 341, 245. 71 LW 29:120, 156. 72 LW 27:406.

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


God’s first fruits without any merit of their own. 73 Five years later, Luther would repeat this same point in his response to Erasmus in The Bondage of the Will (1525) to argue that before humanity was changed into a new creature by the power of the Holy Spirit, none could please or seek God due to sin.74 Finally, James 1:18 was not merely the fodder for academic discourse but a source of comfort preached from the pulpit during the Christmas season in order to proclaim that by faith, believers were made new in Christ.75 In these many ways, Luther’s appeal to James 1:18 in fact did not differ from how radicals such as Hubmaier and Philips were also using the text for their proclamation of Christian rebirth. The primary difference, in fact, was not in how the text was interpreted in regard to the believer but how it was related to the church given that the radical view of James 1:18 was inextricably linked to an ecclesiology grounded in a visible, true church understanding that directly contrasted with magisterial ecclesiology. These few examples suggest that contrary to widespread past and even current perception, Luther not only provided a place for good works in his theology, but he appealed to James consistently throughout his life to build that very point. Despite his rejection of James 2, on several occasions in his writings, he affirmed the need to distinguish a living faith from the historical faith that even the demons possessed according to James 2:19.76 In fact, there is little to indicate – even in just a study of Luther’s engagement with James – that though his foremost message was intended to right the wrong of a merited justification, it therefore follows that he sought to eliminate the place of good works from the life of the believer altogether. On the contrary, in his preface to the New Testament, he described works as a response to faith: “Truly, if faith is there, he cannot hold back; he proves himself, breaks out into good works, confesses and teaches this gospel before the people, and stakes his life on it. . . . Seeing that Christ has done this for him, he thus follows Christ’s example.” 77 Though this portion of Luther’s message would often be overlooked, particularly during the antinomian controversy, undoubtedly he provided a place for transformation in the life of the believer as a proof of faith: “For where works and love do LW 32:24. LW 33:243. 75 The Gospel for the Main Christmas Service John 1, The Gospel for Christmas Eve Luke 2 (LW 52:78, 15). 76 Lectures on Galatians, 2:20 (LW 26:168; also Lectures on Galatians, 1:5; 4:6 [LW 27:172, 291]); The Catholic Epistles, 1 Pet. 1:3 (LW 30:12); Explanation of the 95 Theses, no. 15 (LW 31:127). See also his discussion of James 2:19 in regards to contrition: Lectures on Genesis, 42:7 (LW 7:229). 77 LW 35:361. 73 74


Jennifer Powell McNutt

not break forth, there faith is not right, the gospel does not yet take hold, and Christ is not rightly known.” 78 Meanwhile, Luther also appealed to James in a number of other ways to support his theological teachings. Frequently, he referenced James 2:10 not only to critique the papacy 79 but to stress the total reach of sin, 80 the total extent of human debt, 81 and the totality of human guilt under the law. 82 All these points were crucial to advancing an understanding of the true state of sinful human nature and the complete dependence of human justification upon the work and will of God, which was the crux of his message at the time. Luther also frequently highlighted James’ teachings on prayer in 5:16 by describing this passage as “one of the best verses in that epistle.”83 He stressed the importance of James 1:6 to argue that supplication to God required an attitude of faith alone rather than doubt. 84 Thus, though Luther believed prayer was “a special exercise of faith,” 85 he actively engaged the teachings of James to give insight into the right approach to this central activity of the Christian life. Other frequent citations found within his work included James 1:2 on facing trials with joy, 86 James 3:1 on limiting the number of teachers in the church, 87 and James 3:2 for acknowledging that all have made mistakes before God. 88 In fact, Luther explored the law, sin, prayer, righteousness, obedience, temptation, works, contrition, trials, Ibid. On the Papacy in Rome Against the Most Celebrated Romanist in Leipzig (LW 39:59). 80 First Lectures on Psalms II, 119:101 (LW 11:483). 81 Lectures on Romans, 10:10 (LW 25:411). 82 Lectures on Galatians, 5:9 (LW 27:37–38). On this point, Luther praises James for putting this point “very beautifully.” Other references to this passage in clude the following: Lectures on Galatians, 5:3 (LW 27:330–31); Lectures on Romans, 3:20 (LW 25:235–36); The Bondage of the Will (LW 33:44). 83 Table Talk Recorded by Caspar Heydenreich, No. 5565, “Everybody Must Believe for Himself Spring, 1543,” (LW 4:342; 54:454). Additional references include the following: Lectures on Genesis, 19:23 (LW 3:292); 25:21 (LW 4:340); Lectures on Isaiah, 48:6 (LW 17:158); 58:9 (LW 17:289); The Sermon on the Mount, 7:11 (LW 21:234–35); Babylonian Captivity of the Church (LW 36:121); On War Against the Turk (LW 46:173–74). 84 Lectures on Isaiah, 37:21 (LW 16:320); Lectures on Hebrews, 9:24 (LW 29:165); Babylonian Captivity of the Church (LW 36:50–51); Treatise on Good Works, No. 4 (LW 44:58). 85 Treatise on Good Works, No. 4 (LW 44:58). 86 First Lectures on Psalms 1, 60 (LW 10:288); 66:11 (LW 10:319–20); Lectures on Hebrews, 2:9 (LW 29:130); Explanation of the 95 Theses, No. 58 (LW 31:225–26); Sermon on the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Matt. 8:23–27 (LW 51:24). 87 For example, Lectures on Genesis, 17:15–16 (LW 3:147); Notes on Ecclesiastes, 12:11–12 (LW 15:185–56); 5:3 (LW 15:77). 88 For example, Lectures on Genesis, 20:9 (LW 3:348). 78 79

James, “The Book of Straw,” in Reformation Biblical Exegesis


God’s will, guilt, hypocrisy, the doctrine of God, the benefits of Christ, doubt, wisdom, mercy, patience, grace, and belief all in relation to James without equivocation. Consequently and far more often than not, Luther seems to have appealed to the authority of James as a constructive basis for building a theological understanding of scripture despite his significant critique of chapter 2. In principal, he denied the apostolic origin of the book, but in practice, he consistently appealed to the authoritative teachings of the book of James. Clearly, Protestant engagement with James during the Reformation was neither a straightforward nor a simplistic enterprise.

Conclusion It is fascinating to observe the instigator of the Protestant Reformation, not to mention the flagship Evangelical for a sola scriptura approach, grapple with the complexity of his method through these many exegetical encounters with the book of James. When faced with the prospect that James and Paul did not agree over something as central as the doctrine of justification according to his reading, how did Luther maintain the integrity of scripture? For some, the very fact that Luther would call a book of scripture as no better than straw already proves that he was unwilling to see his hermeneutical principal through when it did not serve his interpretive agenda. There is another way to look at it, however. In fact, because of his appeal to Paul’s teachings in Romans, Luther never abandoned the supremacy of scripture in his doctrine of justification. Through a comparative reading wherein he sought to evaluate scriptural truth according to other scriptural teachings, Luther affirmed the principle that the Bible should be united in its claims.89 Identifying this consistency, moreover, was treated as preliminary to the process by which theological understanding was developed. In this case, Luther was able to lean more heavily on Romans than on James when reconciling his exegetical predicament by invoking the Christian tradition and its ambivalence toward the apostolicity of James as well as highlighting intertextual markers that suggested later authorship. By this approach, any contradictions found in James became secondary when compared to the authoritative teachings of more authentic texts within the canon. Denying apostolicity, therefore, provided him with the legitimacy to be selective about which particularities of scripture he used to inform Wengert, Reading the Bible, 10, similarly denies that Luther betrayed his own principle in his approach to James. 89


Jennifer Powell McNutt

his view of justification and which portions he did not. This further enabled him to continue to use James as scriptural evidence for other theological points when they aligned with other scriptural teachings. One could compare such an approach with the way in which Protestant Reformers engaged with the church fathers. By this case study then, a level of partnership between text and theology is evident in the practice of Reformation exegesis, but it is rooted first and foremost in one’s hermeneutical assessment of scripture and the value, above all, of the unity of the text. Thus, when James did not align either biblically or theologically to Romans for Luther, another explanation for such a contradiction was sought. For Luther, James was wrong in his explanation of justification and works because he was not a true apostle after all; here was a response that enabled him to give more credence to Romans but simultaneously brought the historic decision of the canon itself into question. In fact, this explanation would not stand the test of time, and while James did not present the same problems for radicals as it did for Luther in his understanding of justification, it would also only take the next generation of magisterial Reformers to more adeptly integrate the theological common ground that James held with the rest of the Bible – even in the case of chapter 2 – than Luther.90 Thus, though James was much disputed in the Reformation context, sola scriptura, as well as the unity and authority of scripture, was maintained by Protestants whether they sought to alienate or integrate James into their teachings. Though the canon was brought into question by Luther’s demotion of James, one of many elements of the church’s past that Protestants were re-evaluating at the time, the goal of the unity of scriptural truth functioned as the dominant priority without question across the spectrum of Protestant responses yet with varying results.

90 Calvin interprets James 2:20–25 as referring to the proof that one gives for their faith. The faithful live a sanctified life. In verse 21, he claims a two-fold meaning of “justification” and thus concludes that “we fully allow that man is justified by works”: Calvin’s Commentaries, Commentaries on the Epistle of James, vol. 22 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 314–17.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology: Election, Incarnation, and Union with Christ in Ephesians 1:4 (with special reference to Evangelical Calvinism) KEVIN J. VANHOOZER I. Introduction: To Say What is “in Christ” “[H]e chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4)

There is no better commission for the partnership between New Testament studies and systematic theology than the mandate to say what is in Christ. There is no greater challenge to the partnership between New Testament studies and systematic theology than to fulfill this mandate. Both the commission and the challenge to say what is in Christ come into sharp focus when we attempt to describe one facet of this reality: election in Christ. To be, or not to be, in Christ: is that the question, or has it been decided for us, ahead of time? According to Karl Barth, election – “that God chose man” – is of all words the best than can be said or heard. 1 This is so because, for Barth, it means that God’s “Yes” has priority over men’s “No” to the offer of saving grace. If election is indeed the “sum of the gospel” (Barth), then in this case the whole of salvation is not greater than this “sum” of its parts. However, is Barth’s understanding of how we come to be “in Christ” via election the apostle Paul’s? After all, the term Paul uses (“chose” = ἐκλέγομαι) means to select or pick out (the ἐκ- highlights choice of some from among many). The question concerns not the origins of Paul’s religion (i.e., how he came to have faith in Christ [Gal. 1:12]) as much as the origin of his soteriology (i.e., how he came to understand salvation in Christ). Recent proponents of the “New Perspective on Calvin” have called attention to the centrality of union with Christ in the Geneva Reformer’s soteriology. 2 However, the theologian John Murray had already been there, Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1957), 3. The phrase is Thomas Wenger’s (“The New Perspective on Calvin: Responding to Recent Calvin Interpretation,” JETS 50 [2007]: 311–28). Marcus Johnson disputes the 1 2


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

done that fifty years earlier with regard to Paul: “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.” 3 And James S. Stewart, a New Testament scholar, made a similar observation twenty years before that: “The heart of Paul’s religion is union with Christ.” 4 True, the expression “union with Christ” does not occur in Scripture as such, but it does draw out the implications of Paul’s frequent mention of being “in,” “with,” and “into” Christ. A number of Barth’s disciples interpret him to mean that, given election in Christ, there is a universal aspect to union and communion with the triune God. They point to biblical passages that appear to confirm God’s will for the salvation of all. 5 Tom Greggs, for example, states “Christians are not in binary opposition to non-Christians in the eternal plan of God’s salvation, but are instead united with all humanity at a deeper level through the unity of all humanity in the Son.” 6 However, other biblical passages indicate that at least some human beings are under God’s wrath. 7 According to Stephen Fowl, “The NT itself never synthesizes these two positions [that some will be condemned; that all will be saved] into one coherent whole.” 8 Fowl opts for a hopeful agnosticism, which could be shortcircuited only by claiming to know more than we do. We could characterize this position, paraphrasing Kant, as “denying knowledge in order to make room for hope.”9 Specifying the who, what, where, when, and why of election in Christ requires the labors of both exegetes and theologians. 10 It therefore serves as a fitting case study for exploring the questions Bob Gundry has posed to evangelicals: can biblical scholars and systematic theologians be partners novelty of the alleged “new” perspective (“New or Nuanced Perspective on Calvin? A Reply to Thomas Wenger,” JETS 51 [2008]: 545–48). 3 John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 161. 4 James A. Stewart, A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul’s Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 1935), 147. 5 John 12:32; Rom. 5:12–21; 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:10; 1 Tim. 2:4–5; 4:10; 2 Pet. 3:9. 6 Tom Greggs, Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 206. 7 Matt. 25:46; Mark 3:29–30; John 12:48; Rom. 3:9; 1 Cor. 11:32; Eph. 2:1–4. 8 Stephen E. Fowl, Ephesians: A Commentary. The New Testament Library (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 48. 9 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (London: Macmillan, 1933), B xxx. 10 Though it is tempting to include N. T. Wright’s contention that election refers first and foremost to God’s choosing the children of Abraham to the task of repairing what the children of Adam have done to the world (see his Paul and the Faithfulness of God [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013], esp. ch. 10, 774–1042), it is beyond the scope of the present study, whose focus is on Evangelical Calvinism and the interpretation of Eph. 1:4.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


or must they go their separate ways? How should they deal with the unity and diversity of New Testament teaching? Should we be selective – opting for either universalism or particularism with regard to election, to take our case in point – or should we try to do justice to the whole range of canonical testimony? “Chose us in him” (ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτ. : Eph. 1:4) is not a particularly difficult phrase as concerns vocabulary and syntax. The issues, however, are complex, involving not only Greek grammar but also the “higher” grammar whereby one says what something is (i.e., ontology). 11 In particular, the challenge for both exegetes and theologians is to say more about what it means to be “in” Christ and, more particularly, to specify how election relates to union with Christ. Other questions pertaining to what it means to be “chosen in him” include how, when, where, and why? Of these, the why question, uncharacteristically, is the easiest to answer: “to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14). The particular focus in what follows, then, is the relationship of election and union with Christ, with special attention to the nature of what it means to be “in” Christ. There are several parts to this question. First, who are the elect? “We have seen the elect, and they is us.” 12 Yes – but who, pray tell, is “us”? How inclusive does Paul mean to be in Ephesians 1? Is the scope of election in Christ universal (cosmic) or particular (covenantal)? The second query follows from the first: is the incarnation the way in which eternal election gets worked out in time? Stated differently: is “he chose us in him” another way of saying “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14)? If so, then does the Son’s assuming flesh mean that all humanity enjoys some kind of union with Christ? If not, what then do persons come to be “in Christ”? Third, does union with Christ pertain to his person, nature(s), work, or some combination thereof? I undertake this essay as a Reformed theologian in dialogue not only with New Testament exegetes but also with a new tribe of Reformed theologians who designate themselves “Evangelical Calvinists” and who trace their lineage from Barth through T. F. Torrance. They use the qualifier “Evangelical” in order to signal their intent to be biblical and to reinforce the good news at the heart of Christian theology, namely, “that all are included in Christ’s salvific work.” 13 They claim that Evangelical Calvinism 11 Cf. Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Grammar tells what kind of object something is (Theology as grammar)” (Philosophical Investigations, 3 rd ed. [New York: Macmillan, 1968], 116). 12 It is worth nothing that the direct object of “he chose us in Christ” (Eph. 1:4) is not “Christ” but “us” (ἡμᾶς) – a first person plural pronoun in the accusative case. 13 Myk Habets and Bobby Grow, “Introduction: Theologia Reformata et Semper Reformanda. Towards an Evangelical Calvinism,” in Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church, eds. Habets and Grow (Eugene, OR:


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

“adheres much closer to the presentation of election as it is found in Scripture” than does “Classic Calvinism.” 14 Accordingly, I shall focus on the way in which Classic and Evangelical Calvinists understand Ephesians 1:4, especially as it relates to the theme of union with Christ. Our particular focus is whether Evangelical Calvinism represents a “better” gospel – not simply good news but the best – and hence a “more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31) of interpreting Scripture and understanding salvation. What is finally at stake is neither disciplinary one-upmanship (i.e., which is more biblical, New Testament studies or systematic theology) nor bragging rights to the Reformed pedigree (“Calvinism”) but rather the sum, stuff, and substance of the gospel itself (the evangel inherent in “evangelical”). What is the good news concerning election “in” Christ and what (if anything) must one do to be saved? There is room in this “in” for both exegetes and theologians to make their respective contributions. We cannot hope to answer all these questions here. It will suffice to set up base camp in the foothills of this highest of all theological mountaintops, plot possible trajectories for our approach to the ascent, giving special attention to precious conceptual holds, and make a humble Alpine start towards the summit/sum of the gospel.

II. “Before the foundation of the world”: Ontology and/or Soteriology? Biblical exegetes are often suspicious (and often rightly so) of theologians bearing Greek gifts (i.e., metaphysics) to the biblical text. To label a theology “speculative” is to betray it with a kiss; there is no virtue (or point) in attempting to speak of God in ways that float free of any tether to the biblical text. To wax speculative is to slam shut the door to dialogue with biblical scholars.15 The temptation to speculate is strong, especially when the topic is eternal election, which, to the extent that it transcends time, risks boldly going where no concept has gone before (Kant would add “or Pickwick, 2012), 11. The editors offer fifteen theses for Evangelical Calvinism in Part Four but also acknowledge that not all contributors would affirm all fifteen theses (16). 14 Myk Habets, “‘There is no God behind the back of Jesus Christ’: Christologically Conditioned Election,” in Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church, eds. Habets and Grow (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2012), 173. 15 See James Gordon, “Is it Possible and Desirable for Theologians to Speculate After Barth?” Heythrop Journal (2013). Gordon helpfully distinguishes between several senses of “speculation,” including the attempt to say things about God on some basis other than the economies of revelation and redemption – in a word, apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


should ever go”).16 Indeed, Barth thinks that classical Calvinism is speculative precisely at this point, in its attempt to speak of divine election independently of God’s self-revelation in the history of Jesus Christ. In defense, a classical Calvinist could point to the apostle Paul and say “he started it,” for it is Paul who introduces the notion of a divine act that takes place “before the foundation of the world.” The phrase in question, πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, occurs not only in Eph. 1:4 but also in John 17:24 and 1 Pet. 1:20, where we learn that the Son was “loved” and “foreknown” respectively by the Father “before the foundation of the world.” It appears that these phrases all refer to the same time (if “time” is the right word for something that preceded creation) and perhaps to the same thing, to the extent that “love,” “foreknowledge,” and “election” all have to do with God’s eternal saving purpose. Given the importance of election for the identity of Israel, it is somewhat surprising that the Old Testament nowhere says that Israel (or anything else) was chosen “before the foundation of the world.” Still, God’s election of Abraham, and later the church, in the economy [οἰκονομία = the historical outworking of God’s plan] affords us a non-speculative basis from which to pose the question about election and the immanent Trinity (i.e., the way God is in himself, “before” time). As to the literal meaning of “before” (πρό) – there seem to be only three options: a time before God created the heavens and the earth, the time when God created the heavens and the earth, or sometime after this creation. Calvin, appealing both to a temporal (“prior to”) and logical (“priority”) sense, argues that “The very time when the election took place proves it to be free; for what could we have deserved, or what merit did we possess, before the world was made?” 17 The point is that God’s choice is independent of any worldly occurrence or state of affairs: “God’s choice of them was a free decision not dependent on temporal circumstances but rooted in the depth of his nature.” 18 Indeed, it is only thanks to this primordial divine decision that the drama of God’s creation and redemption

Kant believed that any attempt to apply concepts beyond the realm of human space time experience generates antinomies. See in particular the section on “Transcendental Dialectic” in his Critique of Pure Reason. 17 Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh: Thomas Clark, 1841), 177. 18 Andrew Lincoln, Ephesians (WBC; Waco, TX: Word Books, 1990), 23. La Roy Sunderland thinks it incoherent to speak of a time “before” the beginning and so opts to translate the phrase “at about the time the foundations of the world were first laid,” and then goes on to identify this time with Adam’s sin (“Critical examination of those tests in the New Testament rendered ‘before,’ ‘from,’ and ‘since, the foundation of the world,” Methodist Review, 15.3 [1833]: 357–60). 16


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

of the world gets underway: “This drama is cosmic in its scope and . . . reaches its climax as everything is brought to its proper end in Christ.” 19 What was God doing before he created the world? Augustine cites the facetious answer to this speculation-inducing question: “He was preparing hell for those who pry into mysteries.” 20 A more recent, and serious, answer is that God was constituting himself as triune by freely determining to be who he is in Christ. 21 For present purposes, a better (because less speculative) answer might be: “He was loving the Son and choosing the elect in him.” At any rate, “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” clearly implies the Son’s preexistence. 22 The salient question is: how do the elect come to be viewed as united to the preexistent Son, “chosen in him before the foundation of the world”? “To be or not to be (in Christ)” may not be the urgent question for those who hear the gospel if God, before the foundation of the world, has already determined who is “in.” On the other hand, if there are conditions for “getting in,” these too will have a direct bearing on the content of the good news. Here, then, is our primary question: Are the elect “in Christ” simply by virtue of being human (ontology) or because they have somehow become beneficiaries of his life and work (soteriology)?23 A number of New Testament passages that refer to the Son’s preexistence speak of his general relation to all things (τὰ πάντα) before they describe his special relation to human beings: “all things were created through him and for him” and “in him (ἐν αὐτῷ) all things hold together” 19 Fowl, Ephesians, 3 (order slightly altered). For a similar use of drama imagery, see Timothy G. Gombis, The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010). 20 Confessions ch. XII, 14. 21 Bruce McCormack says that in determining to be for humanity God “elects” his own triune being: “The decision for the covenant of grace is the ground of God’s triunity” (“Grace and Being: The Role of God’s Gracious Election in Karl Barth’s Theological Ontology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000] 103, emphasis his). For further discussion of McCormack’s view, see Michael T. Dempsey, ed., Trinity and Election in Contemporary Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011). 22 The preexistence of the Son is a complex topic beyond the scope of the present essay. See L. W. Hurtado, “Preexistence,” in Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 743–46 and S. Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel, 2nd ed. (WUNT II/4; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1984) as well as biblical texts such as 1 Cor. 8:6, Phil. 2:6–7, and Col. 1:15–20. 23 For a fine discussion of Barth’s “objectivist soteriology” (i.e., that what takes place in Christ defines us more than what takes place in us), see George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth: The Shape of his Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 103–51.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


(Col. 1:16–18). Ephesians 1:4–10 reverses the order, however, by putting the focus on God’s choice of the elect. There is no mention of Christ’s role in creation, though it is clear that God’s ultimate plan is “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10). 24 This gives rise to a second question: are all creatures, human or not, “in Christ” the way the elect are? If the end of the story is implicit in the beginning, we would do well to get clear about what is happening when the elect are chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” At 202 words, Eph. 1:3–14 is the longest sentence in the New Testament, replete with relative clauses and prepositional expressions, of which “in Christ” or “in him” are the most prominent, occurring no less than eleven times. In his Göttingen lectures on Ephesians (1921–22), Karl Barth divides this “most monstrous sentence conglomeration” 25 into four, each beginning with “in Christ”: In Christ, we have election (4–6) In Christ, we have liberation and forgiveness (7–10) In Christ, we have hope (11–12) In Christ, we have the sealing of the Spirit (13–14)26 Peter O’Brien identifies 1:9–10, the exposition of the mystery of being in Christ, as the syntactical and structural high point of the passage: “to sum up [ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι] all things in Christ” (1:10, ASV). 27 This gathering up and uniting all things to Christ in eternity to come is the ultimate outcome of the plan of salvation determined in eternity past. The sum of the gospel, and hence the summit of salvation history, is the “summing up” of all things in Christ: “Christ is the one in whom God chooses to sum up the cosmos.”28 All things were made through Christ (Col. 1:16) and all things, in heaven and on earth, will be brought together in Christ. God’s “summing up” of world history appears to involve “his unifying of them in some way in

See Markus Barth, Ephesians, vol. 1 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974), 109–12. E. Norden’s description, cited in Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 90. 26 Ross McGowan Wright, “Karl Barth’s Academic Lectures on Ephesians (Göttingen, 1921–22). An original translation, annotation, and analysis” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of St Andrews, 2007). 27 O’Brien, Ephesians, 92. See also T. Moritz, who refers to 1:10 as the “pivotal statement” of the passage (“Summing Up All Things: Religious Pluralism and Universalism in Ephesians,” in One God, One Lord, eds. A. D. Clarke and B. W. Winter [Cambridge/Grand Rapids: Tyndale House/Baker, 1991/1992], 96). 28 O’Brien, Ephesians, 59. 24 25


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Christ.”29 The question that concerns us is whether election to union with Christ is the same as this unifying of all things in Christ: “To be in Christ . . . is to be part of a program which is as broad as the universe, a movement which is rolling on toward a renewed cosmos where all is in harmony.”30 What is at stake is nothing less than the meaning of our passage, the whole book of Ephesians, our understanding of Paul’s gospel, and the nature of “christocentric” theology. Does everything’s being summed up “in Christ” entail universal salvation? F. F. Bruce intriguingly suggests that the church is “God’s pilot scheme for the reconciled universe of the future.”31 There are, obviously, many interpretations of what Eph. 1:4 has to contribute to our understanding of election, the “sum of the gospel.” My intent in what follows is to examine the suggestion, put forward by Evangelical Calvinists, that all human beings are elect in Christ. Does this insistence collapse “being in general” (ontology) into “being in Christ” and, if so, does “being in Christ” connote salvation (soteriology)? T. F. Torrance draws a fascinating ontological implication from Jesus’ incarnation: “human beings have no being apart from Christ.” 32 The key question, then, is this: if the incarnation is the “setting-forth” of the eternally purposed union of God and man in Jesus Christ – the historical projection of divine election into creaturely existence – then is every human being a “being in Christ” and, if so, does it follow that all are saved?

III. “He chose us in him”: Perspectives Old and New This section puts the old and new Calvinist interpretations of divine election side by side, paying particular attention to the relationship between election, incarnation, and union with Christ.

29 Max Turner, “Mission and Meaning in Terms of ‘Unity’ in Ephesians,” in Mission and Meaning: Essays Presented to Peter Cotterell, eds. A. Billington, T. Lane, and M. Turner (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995), 139. 30 Lincoln, Ephesians, 44. Chrys Caragounis suggests that the summing up must overcome two obstacles: in heaven, the rebellious powers; on earth, the opposition of Jews and Gentiles. There is thus a cosmic summing up, and a summing up on earth that results in the church. See Caragounis, The Ephesian Mysterion: Meaning and Content (Lund: Gleerup, 1977), 144–46. 31 F. F. Bruce, The Message of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 40. 32 T. F. Torrance, “Introduction,” The School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church (London: James Clarke and Co, 1959), cxiii.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


Classic Calvinism: Chosen “in him” For Calvin, eternal election is “the foundation and first cause, both of our calling, and of all the benefits which we received from God.” 33 Election in Christ is the certainty of God’s love for the saints, the “fountain” of all gospel blessings. Calvin is clear both that God’s will is the cause of election and that God “gives to some what he denies to others.” 34 Calvin has no doubt that Paul is speaking to believers in Eph. 1:4, and that believers are to be distinguished from those who are not members of Christ. 35 Indeed, Calvin insists that Christ himself, the Author of election, in saying “I know whom I have chosen” (John 13:18) effectively distinguishes a particular species (i.e., saints) from the human genus. 36 “No man makes himself a sheep but is made one by heavenly grace.” 37 Only those who are “in Christ” are elect: “Christ, then, is the mirror wherein we must . . . contemplate our own election.” 38 To be “in Christ” is to enjoy union “with Christ.” Whereas Ephesians 1 focuses on election as eternal decree, Romans 8 focuses on the historical outworking of the divine choice in history of salvation: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). This raises the question: when, and under what conditions, does one come to be “in Christ”? Stated differently: what exactly is the relationship between being chosen in Christ and union with Christ? In his commentary on Rom. 8:29–30, the so-called “golden chain” which sets forth the order of salvation, God’s “foreknowing” (προγινώσκω) (which Calvin treats as synonymous with election) eventuates in the gift of faith by which the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ, the font from which all other graces (e.g., justification, sanctification, glorification) flow. 39 This corresponds with the more programmatic statement in the Institutes Book III, where Calvin says that Christ’s work is “useless” unless he becomes ours through the Holy Spirit, “the bond by which Christ efficaciously unites himself to us.” 40 Calvin, Commentaries Galatians and Ephesians, 177. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, eds. J. T. McNeill and F. L. Battles, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 3.21.1. 35 Ibid., 3.22.2. 36 Ibid., 3.22.7. 37 Ibid., 3.23.10. 38 Ibid., 3.24.5. 39 “But the foreknowledge of God . . . is not a bare prescience . . . but the adoption by which he had always distinguished his children from the reprobate” (Commentaries on the Epistle to the Romans, 317). 40 Calvin, Institutes, 3.1.1. Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583) speaks for a number of sixteenth-century Reformed theologians: “The effect of election is the entire work of salvation [totum opus salutis], and all of the degrees of our redemption” (Explicationum catecheticarum, cited in Richard Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: On the 33 34


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

For Calvin, then, election (“chosen in Christ”) is the ultimate cause of which salvation (“being in Christ”) is the historical effect. Election includes the end (union with Christ) and the means (the gift of faith). 41 Calvin discovers God’s freedom to choose some and not others for election in Christ in Romans 9: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:13). Do only some (i.e., the elect) thus enjoy union with Christ? As we shall see, this is the dividing line between Classic and Evangelical Calvinism. Critics of Classic Calvinism routinely object that it subordinates Christ to a logically prior decree, thereby demoting him from Mediator to instrumental means of the decree’s historical execution. 42 However, Richard Muller has observed three points where Christology is primary: “the definition of election ‘in Christ,’ the assertion that predestination is known only in Christ, and the statement that Christ himself is the ‘author of election’ together with God the Father.”43 Calvin’s understanding of election is Trinitarian in its focus on the Spirit as the bond who, through faith, unites us to Christ. The best treatment of Calvin’s understanding of the mode of our union with Christ is his 8 August 1555 letter to Peter Martyr Vermigli. 44 In it, Calvin accepts Vermigli’s threefold distinction as concerns union with Christ: (1) incarnational (2) mystical (3) spiritual. Vermigli focuses his attention on (2) and (3), for only these are of soteriological significance. The elect enjoy mystical union with Christ when the Spirit “inserts” them into Christ, joining them as members to the head: “as soon as we receive Christ by faith . . . we are truly made His members, and His life flows to us from Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012], 189). Union with Christ is, on this view, one of the economic effects of the eternal dec ree of election. Interestingly, Ursinus lists “the creation and gathering of the church” at the very beginning of the ordo salutis (cf. Rom. 8:29–30). 41 David Gibson, “A Mirror for God and for Us: Christology and Exegesis in Calvin’s Doctrine of Election,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 11 (2009): 456–57. 42 T. F. Torrance and his brother James charge “federal Calvinism” with the “Latin heresy,” that is, of employing causal categories that reduce the cross to an external forensic transaction – exhibit number one in their larger accusation that later (i.e., “scholastic”) Calvinists betrayed Calvin at a number of key soteriological points. For a rebuttal of this charge, see Douglas Farrow, “T. F. Torrance and the Latin Heresy” ( First Things, December 2013, 25–31) and Donald Macleod, “Dr. T. F. Torrance and Scottish Theology: A Review Article,” Evangelical Quarterly 72:1 (2000): 57–72. 43 Richard A. Muller, Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 35. David Gibson helpfully distinguishes between Calvin’s “soteriological christocentrism,” for which the person and work of Jesus Christ is central to the (covenantal) history of redemption, and Barth’s “principial christocentrism” that makes Christ the exclusive source, norm, and content of all theological knowledge (Gibson, Reading the Decree: Exegesis, Election and Christology in Calvin and Barth (London: T&T Clark, 2009). 44 See “Calvin to Martyr, Geneva, August 8, 1555,” in Gleanings of a Few Scattered Ears, ed. G. C. Gorham (London: Bell and Daldy, 1857), 349–52.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


Him as our Head.”45 Only those who have been born again enjoy this kind of union. Similarly, only the elect (i.e., regenerate saints) enjoy spiritual union with Christ, the “fruit and effect” (i.e., Christlikeness) that accompanies and completes the prior engrafting. 46 It is worth nothing that, for Calvin, the Holy Spirit is the bond that affects both mystical and spiritual union. Surprisingly enough, Calvin agrees with Vermigli that there is also an incarnational or “natural” union that relates all human beings, saints and sinners, to Jesus Christ by virtue of their shared humanity: “That the Son of God put on our flesh, in order that He might become our Brother, partaker of the same nature, is a Communion on which I do not mean to speak here.”47 However, Calvin says he is “entirely in agreement” with Vermigli’s qualification of this physical union as “very general and feeble [debilis]”). Elsewhere Calvin is adamant: “For we know that the children of God are not born of flesh and blood but of the Spirit through faith. Hence flesh alone does not make the bond of brotherhood.” 48 Paraphrasing Calvin, we might say that the Son’s humanity, a merely “natural” or ontological union, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the kind of union with Christ that Calvin (and Paul) typically have in view in the context of soteriology. This natural or “incarnational” union with Christ is “the platform upon which redemption is carried out but [is] not . . . independently redemptive.”49 Evangelical Calvinism: assumed “in him” We turn now to examine the new perspective on Calvin, indeed, an “alternative Calvinism” that served as a Scottish minority report on Reformed theology until it blossomed in the work of T. F. Torrance. 50 Torrance contrasts his own emphasis on union with Christ with “federal Calvinism” and Calvin to Martyr, 349–50. On Calvin’s correspondence with Vermigli, see W. Duncan Rankin, “Carnal Union with Christ in the Theology of T. F. Torrance,” (Ph.D. thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1997), 166–235 and Appendix 12; Mark A. Garcia, Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin’s Theology (Milton Keynes, UK and Colorado Springs, USA: Paternoster, 2008), 273–87; Richard A. Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: On the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 213–17. 47 Calvin to Martyr, 349. 48 Calvin, Institutes, 2.13.2. 49 Garcia, Life in Christ, 280–81. Whereas Garcia speaks of various “strata” of union with Christ, I want more emphatically to distinguish the way in which we share in the Son’s incarnate humanity simply by virtue of being human (i.e., physical union) from the mystical and spiritual (soteriological) union by which believers participate in Jesus’ ascended humanity and sonship. 50 Alasdair Heron, “Foreword,” to Evangelical Calvinism, eds. Habets and Grow, xiv. 45 46


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

its emphasis on Jesus’ work as the fulfillment of a contractual condition to enjoying the benefits of saving grace. Torrance believes that later Reformed scholastics corrupted Calvin’s biblical conception of the covenant. The extent to which Calvin was a “Calvinist” is beyond the scope of the present article, which will content itself with comparing Evangelical Calvinism to Calvin’s own position. Young, restless and Evangelical Calvinists are eager to commend Torrance to a new generation. They believe Evangelical Calvinism is consistent to Scripture and restores the primordial goodness to the good news of the gospel “that all are included in Christ’s salvific work.” 51 The editors of Evangelical Calvinism helpfully offer fifteen “theses on a theme,” the theme in question being election in Christ, the sum of the gospel. Theses five (“Election is christologically conditioned”), eight (on supralapsarianism), ten (on union with Christ), eleven (“Evangelical Calvinism affirms a doctrine of universal atonement”), and twelve (“Universalism is not a corollary of universal redemption”) are especially germane to the present essay. So, too, in another way is thesis nine: “Evangelical Calvinism is a form of dialogical/dialectical theology.” 52 This latter epistemological thesis looms large over the others inasmuch as it eschews logico-deductive reasoning and “causal connections” in favor of theo-logic and “created connections.” 53 As we shall see, much depends on the extent to which Evangelical Calvinists are willing to undertake close conceptual analysis. The Evangelical Calvinist understanding of Christologically conditioned election that Habets presents is essentially that of T. F. Torrance, with certain unspecified “critical modifications.” 54 Habets highlights what he takes to be the Evangelical quality of Torrance’s view of election by making Torrance’s own words the title of his chapter: “There is no God behind the back of Jesus Christ.” Election is not a hidden decree but has rather been published in broad daylight: election is God’s definitive Word, his visible love for the world made flesh in Jesus Christ. Indeed, for Torrance Jesus’ history – his person and work – is eternal election in temporal form: in Christ “we have election incarnate.” 55 Christ is election, but what – or rather, who – is “in Christ”? According to Barth, Calvin’s doctrine of election stumbles just here, in its inability to assure particular individuals that they are indeed elect. Calvin is keenly Habets and Grow, “Introduction: Theologia Reformata et Semper Reformanda,” 11. Myk Habets and Bobby Grow, “Theses on a Theme,” in Evangelical Calvinism, eds. Habets and Grow, 439. 53 Ibid., 440. 54 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 174. 55 T. F. Torrance, Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ (Milton Keynes and Downers Grove: Paternoster and InterVarsity Press, 2009), 183. 51 52

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


aware of the pitfalls of attempting to “break into the inner recesses of divine wisdom,”56 and instead encourages the saints to look to their election in Christ (Eph. 1:4), thereby making their (effectual) calling sure. 57 But, asks Barth, how do we know that we have been chosen in him? Christ may be the mirror of election, but we cannot on Calvin’s view know who is in Christ. The content of the decision as to who are the Son’s sheep remains hidden. Barth therefore asks: How can we have assurance in respect of our own election . . . if Jesus Christ is not really the electing God, not the election itself, not our election, but only an elected means whereby the electing God . . . executes that which He has decreed concerning those whom He has – elsewhere and in some other way – elected? The fact that Calvin . . . not only did not answer but did not even perceive this question is the decisive objection which we have to bring against his whole doctrine of predestination. The electing God of Calvin is a Deus nudus absconditus.58

In Barth’s view, Calvin in the last analysis “separates God and Jesus Christ, thinking that what was in the beginning with God [i.e., the decree] must be sought elsewhere than in Jesus Christ.” 59 In contrast to Calvin, Barth insists that the Son, as revelation of the Father, is also the revelation of the Father’s electing decree: there is no God “behind the back of Christ.” In determining himself to be for man as man, God wills humanity along with himself. This is the sense in which Barth thinks all are “chosen in him.” 60 For Barth, the history of Jesus Christ – God with and for us – is the content of election, for the Word that was with God and was God at the beginning (John 1:1–2) is the same Jesus Christ whose history the rest of the Fourth Gospel recounts. Barth’s “christological correction” of Calvin amount to this: what unites the elect to Jesus Christ “is that fact that as elected man He is also the electing God, electing them in His own humanity.”61 Barth explains what it means to be “chosen in him” (Eph. 1:4) as follows: “In that He (as God) wills Himself (as man), He also wills them. And so they are elect ‘in Him,’ in and with His own election.”62 This, I believe, is the seminal insight behind Evangelical Calvinism, an exegetical and theological claim that we shall examine critically below. Torrance holds, with Barth, that God freely determines to be who he is, with humanity as his designated covenant partner. The Incarnation repreCalvin, Institutes, 3.24.4 Ibid., 3.24.5. 58 Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2, 111. 59 Ibid. 60 Ibid., 116. 61 Ibid., 117 (my emphasis). 62 Ibid. 56 57


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

sents a decisive stage in the outworking of election, for in the Incarnation God makes good on his self-determination, uniting himself with all humanity. What Calvin dismisses as “very general and feeble” becomes in Torrance’s hands the ground of our salvation, namely, the “incarnational” or “carnal” – what Calvin called “natural” – union with Christ. Indeed, Torrance conflates what Calvin took care to distinguish, insisting that there is only one union with Christ: “for if the spiritual [i.e., mystical] union is an additional union, then our salvation depends not only on the finished work of Christ but upon something else as well which has later to be added on to it before it is real for us.” 63 For Torrance, the incarnation is intrinsically redemptive, for in Christ God the Son has assumed (and thus healed) sinful humanity. The healing work of grace begins with Christ’s assumption of humanity, yet Christ makes atonement not only on the cross but also throughout his life. God chose us in him in the hypostatic union: “Election is identical with the life and existence and work of Jesus Christ, and what he does is election going into action.”64 Election is inherently incarnational, and the incarnation is inherently redemptive. 65 To say what is in Christ is both to proclaim the gospel and to make an ontological statement. The key soteriological principle for Torrance is the patristic maxim “the unassumed is the unhealed.” Election and atonement alike are thus a matter of incarnation – hence the importance of “natural” union with Christ. Indeed, Habets devotes the longest section (six pages) in his essay on election to the topic of union with Christ. What is “evangelical” about this new perspective on Calvinism is the insistence that all human beings are elect in Jesus Christ by virtue of the Son’s assumption of human nature: humans “can no more escape from [God’s] love and sink into non-being than they can constitute themselves [persons] for whom Christ has not died.” 66 This is because, for Torrance and the Evangelical Calvinists, there is only one union with Christ, namely, the Incarnation: “spiritual union is a sharing in the one and only union between God and humanity wrought out in Jesus Christ.” 67 This one union, moreover, is ontological: “human beings have no being apart from Christ.”68 To be precise, there is one union with two aspects: the objective aspect is the incarnational or ontological union that God has done and that humans cannot undo; the subjective aspect pertains to the Holy Spirit actuTorrance, School of Faith, cvii. Torrance, Atonement, 183 (emphasis his). 65 Cf. Elmer Colyer, How to Read T. F. Torrance: Understanding his Trinitarian & Scientific Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 85–86. 66 Torrance, School of Faith, cxiv. 67 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 178. 68 Torrance, School of Faith, cxiii. 63 64

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


alizing in individuals what is objectively already the case. Christ’s atoning work is for all human beings even if some reject it. The differences between Classical and Evangelical Calvinism here come into sharp contrast. First, as concerns election: Classical Calvinists associate being chosen in Christ with the Spirit’s uniting people to Christ through faith, whereas Evangelical Calvinists associate being chosen in Christ with the Son’s assumption of humanity in the Incarnation. 69 Second, as concerns union with Christ: Classical Calvinists tend to follow Pauline usage, for whom “in Christ” serves as referring to the Spirit’s incorporation of saints into Christ (and hence the life of the triune God) through faith (i.e., a covenantal union of persons), whereas Evangelical Calvinists tend to follow a distinctly non-Pauline usage, viewing being “in Christ” as a necessary implication of the incarnation (i.e., an ontological union of natures, our humanity with Christ’s). 70 The good news that God chose all humanity in Christ that is the centerpiece of Evangelical Calvinism comes with an important qualification: though God says “Yes” to every human being (grace is universal), not every human being returns the compliment (hence salvation is not universal). Strictly speaking, this is not Arminianism: the freedom to receive salvation (or not) is possible in Torrance’s view only because Christ’s universal atonement frees us from our bondage to sin. Evangelical Calvinists do not have a good explanation, however, as to why some people reject their election – the divine determination not to be God without them – and, instead, choose not only to return to bondage, but damnation: “it is the mystery of

69 Some exegetes and theologians (most notably, N. T. Wright) suggest that election is not about God choosing who will be saved (soteriology) at all; rather, it is God’s choice of a people to bear witness to his salvation of all nations (ecclesiology and missiology). See also Clark Pinnock: “divine election is best understood when we take it to be corporate and vocational” (in Chad Owen Brand, ed., Perspectives on Election: Five Views [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006], 277, emphasis his). While this describes Israel’s election, it falls short of describing those who Paul says are “chosen in him [Christ]” (Eph. 1:4) for, though there is a vocational aspect (“to be holy”), ultimately election is “for adoption as sons” (Eph. 1:5), a privilege that belongs only to saints who have been incorporated into Christ. I treat the relationship of election and adoption more fully below. Interestingly, though N. T. Wright imagines that Ephesians represents a faithful summary of the main contours of Paul’s theology, (whether or not it was written by Paul (Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 1514), there is not a single mention of Eph. 1:4 in the whole of Wright’s magnum opus (though he quotes the whole of 1:3–14 on 729–30). 70 The incarnation is conspicuous by its absence from Constantine Campbell’s comprehensive analysis of Paul’s language of union with Christ. Though Paul used “in Christ” in rich and varied ways, the fact that Christ and humanity share a common nature was apparently not one of them. See Constantine R. Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012).


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

evil which cannot be explained in rational categories.” 71 Evangelical Calvinism generates an additional mystery, equally perplexing, that pertains to union with Christ rather than election: “While the carnal and spiritual unions are not separate, the former is universal while the latter is particular.”72 Though ontologically we are one with Christ, the union the Spirit effects is the subjective realization of this ontological condition, and not everyone enjoys the “consummation” of their election. 73

IV. Being in Christ: Assessing Evangelical Calvinism “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose” (Eph. 1:9)

We turn now to evaluate the merits of Evangelical Calvinism. It is important to begin by acknowledging Torrance’s heartfelt passion for the gospel and, in particular, for the message of the grandeur of God’s grace, which brooks no limitation as to its extent (though as we shall see below, its efficacy is another matter). 74 Sincerity of purpose and evangelistic zeal are admirable, but our assessment of Evangelical Calvinism must ultimately rest on other criteria, primarily, faithfulness and fittingness to the biblical testimony concerning Jesus Christ; secondarily, faithfulness and fittingness to the Reformed tradition; and finally, intellectual coherence. Given the size of the issues and the relative smallness of space, I can provide no more than an interim report. Union with Christ: In Quest of the Historical Calvin Torrance is mistaken in suggesting that his own view of incarnational union with Christ is also Calvin’s. An honest look at the evidence – in particular Calvin’s correspondence with Vermigli, which makes explicit the soteriological insufficiency of incarnational union – compels us to acknowledge the real differences that distinguish Torrance’s understanding of this

Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 183. Ibid., 180. 73 Cf. Habets: “Subjectively our election is consummated when this ‘most holy fraternity’ between God and humanity is restored to us, a unique work of the Holy Spirit” (“Christologically Conditioned Election,” 180. Henri Blocher is right when he says (of Barth) that this Christological concentration “compresses classical dualities into one event with two aspects” (“Karl Barth’s Christocentric Method,” in Engagement with Barth: Contemporary Evangelical Critiques, eds. David Gibson and Daniel Strange [Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, 2008], 57). 74 Though Torrance holds grace to be universal, it is doubtful that he can describe it as irresistible, for the simple reason that some people inexplicably reject their election. 71 72

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


union from Calvin’s.75 For Calvin, the Incarnation is an essential but not sufficient condition for salvation. He can affirm, with Gregory of Nazianzus (and Torrance), “What has not been assumed is not healed,” but it does not follow that the assuming is the healing itself. What Jesus Christ subsequently does as Messiah (i.e., his history) is every bit as important, soteriologically speaking, as his ontological constitution (i.e., his nature). 76 In addition, Calvin insists that when Paul mentions the “elect” in Eph. 1:4–5 “he is speaking to believers . . . [but] not all are members of Christ.” 77 To be sure, what matters more is whether Calvin’s view is Scripture’s – which brings us back to Ephesians 1. Ephesians 1: The Identity of the Elect Is Evangelical Calvinism's “incarnational union” a non-identical, though equivalent concept of “in Christ” (ἐν Χριστῷ) in the sense that this phrase carries in Eph. 1:4? It is hard to see how this could be the case in light of the other ways in which Paul identifies the recipients of his letter, namely, “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). These same readers were once “dead” in their trespasses and sins (2:1) and were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (2:3; my emphasis). Paul locates the change in status from children of wrath to adopted children – how the Ephesians came to be in Christ – in the complex event of hearing the word of truth, believing in Christ, and being “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (1:13). Their reception of the Spirit is arguably the high point of the blessings one has in Christ, for the Spirit is “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (1:14). Evangelical Calvinists also have a hard time accounting for the purpose of election, namely, God’s choosing a people “to be holy”: a people “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29) who would be a fit dwelling – a Temple – for a holy God (Eph. 2:20–22; cf. 1 Cor. 3:16–17; 2 Cor. 6:16).78 To be holy is to be set apart for a special divine purpose. Israel was set apart to be a light to the nations. Similarly, Paul says the church makes known the wisdom of God “to rulers and authorities in heavenly See further Rankin, “Carnal Union with Christ in the Theology of T. F. Torrance.” I do not wish to overstate the case. Torrance too affirms the importance of Jesus’ history for his mediation, though largely as a working out as it were of his ontology. For a sympathetic discussion of the way in which Torrance views the dynamic unity of Christ’s person and work, see Colyer, How to Read T. F. Torrance, 84–86. 77 Calvin, Institutes, 3.22.2. 78 One way to view being chosen in Christ is in terms of the church as a people incorporated into Christ, the new “temple” of God (Eph. 2:21). See G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004). 75 76


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

places” (Eph. 3:10). The church is also set apart to be the bride of Christ, thus fulfilling God’s covenant promise “I will . . . be your God and you shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12). 79 Suzanne McDonald explains the purpose of election, and holy set apartness, in terms of mission and vocation: the elect are called “to represent God to others and others to God.”80 Stated differently: the church is elect unto imaging Christ, for it is Christ, as Mediator, who ultimately represents God to others and others to God. 81 The salient question is whether Evangelical Calvinists, in emphasizing the universal extent of election in Christ, are able to do justice to the biblical emphasis on the over against-ness of election unto holiness (Lev. 10:10; 2 Tim. 2:21). Is it coherent to speak of the elect as “set apart” if by “elect” Paul means the whole of humanity? 82 Finally, to identify all humanity as elect in Christ by virtue of the Incarnation, as Evangelical Calvinists and Barth do, is to depart from the characteristic Pauline tendency to reserve the term “elect” for those who have received the Holy Spirit: “to be ‘in Christ’ can only be a pneumatological as well as a christological reality.” 83 James Dunn acerbically notes that, for Paul, there is no hint of “all men and women as willy-nilly ‘in Christ’ whether they want to be or not, whether they know or not.” 84 N. T. Wright agrees, citing 1 Thess. 1:4–5: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” Paul here 79 Cf. Jonathan Edwards: “The sum of [God’s] purposes with respect to creatures, was to procure a spouse, or a mystical body, for his Son.” Edwards notes that though individuals were chosen, they were chosen to receive all spiritual blessings “as one body, one spouse, all united in one head,” hence “in their very first election there is respect to their union in the body of Christ” (“Miscellany” no. 1245, The Works of Jonathan Edwards vol. 23 The “Miscellanies” 1153–1360, ed. Douglas A. Sweeney [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004], 178–79). 80 Suzanne McDonald, Re-Imagining Election: Divine Election as Representing God to Others & Others to God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), xvi. 81 Ibid., 90–91. 82 MacDonald notes that Barth shifts the note of set apartness away from election and onto vocation: “The vocation of the believing elect is to bear witness to the rest of humanity the reality of its own participation in Christ’s election” (Re-Imagining Election, 63). McDonald creatively suggests that election involves a “representational ontology” (106) whereby those who are elect (i.e., believers whom the Spirit unites to Christ by faith) exist to represent God to the non-elect and the non-elect to God, and to do so in such a way as to further the purpose of “blessing” the non-elect (192). It is not clear to me, however, what kind of blessing she has in mind, especially in view of Paul’s insistence that every spiritual blessing – in a word, salvation – is located “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). 83 McDonald, Re-Imagining Election, 69. 84 James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), 323.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


identifies those whom God has chosen with those who hear the gospel in power, in the Spirit, and with great assurance. Wright sees this as an example of the Jewish notion of election “reworked” in terms of gospel and Spirit, and goes on to note that “Whatever it was that the spirit was doing, it worked.”85 McDonald rightly concludes: it is “the presence and activity of the eschatological Spirit that categorically delineates those who are ‘in Christ’ and therefore belong to the new covenant people, and those who are not, and so do not.”86 To follow the grammar of Pauline soteriology, then, is to insist, “the believing community alone can be described as elect in Christ.”87 “By the flesh”: Incarnation as (Ontological) Union with Christ Evangelical Calvinists parse election to the beat of a different grammar. There are two ways to secure the objective aspect of the ontological union that all humanity have with Christ. – Creation: Being by/through/for Christ The first strategy is to appeal to Jesus Christ as the Logos through whom everything was made: “For there is . . . one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor. 8:6). In the words of T. F. Torrance: “the eternal Son and Word of God is He in whom all men cohere for He is the Creator who gives them being and through his Spirit holds them in being . . . even as the incarnate Word He still holds all men in an ontological relationship to Himself.” 88 Evangelical Calvinism endorses a supralapsarian Christology that takes its bearings from God’s choice before the foundation of the world to be for humanity. 89 Creation through Christ serves the prior purpose of election in Christ. God’s determination not to be who he is without us is the foundational “onto-relation” that precedes even creation through the Logos.90 For Barth (and Torrance), Jesus Christ is both origin and end of all things; hence “nothing exists apart from him.”91 In this sense, everything is doubly in Jesus Christ.92 Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 918. McDonald, Re-Imagining Election, 68. 87 Ibid., 114. 88 Torrance, School of Faith, cxi–cxii. 89 See Habets and Grow, “Theses on a Theme,” Thesis Eight (437–38). 90 Because everything that is came into being “through” the Logos (John 1:2), no created being is autonomous. Rather, every entity is characterized by “onto-relations”: “relations so basic that they are inseparable from, and characteristic of, what realities are” (Colyer, How to Read T. F. Torrance, 55). 91 Adam Neder, Participation in Christ: An Entry into Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2009), 17. 85 86


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

– Incarnation: Being in Christ Anhypostatically The second, and by far the more important strategy, is to ground the universal scope of election in Christ’s incarnational assumption of humanity – what Barth calls “the Christmas message”: “The Christmas message speaks of what is objectively real for all men, and therefore for each of us, in this One. Primarily and finally we ourselves are what we are in Him.”93 In Torrance’s words: “The foundation of our union with Christ, then, is that which Christ has made with us when in his Incarnation he became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.”94 Evangelical Calvinists regard this “carnal union” as the primary objective reality in which “spiritual union” participates. Here again we encounter the key assumption (pun intended) of Evangelical Calvinism, namely, that union with Christ is both ontological and universal: “human beings have no being apart from Christ.” 95 It is also soteriological. For Evangelical Calvinism, being-in-Christ is first and foremost an onto-relation.96 Is election in Christ fundamentally a matter of the Son’s assuming human nature? Torrance appears to think so: “In the incarnation the eternal Son assumed human nature into oneness with himself but in that assumption Jesus Christ is not only real man but a man. He is at once the One and the Many.” 97 Torrance arrives at this conclusion by deploying a postChalcedon conceptual refinement to the central notion of the hypostatic union. Anhypostasia (literally “not person”) makes the further point that Jesus’ humanity had no reality of its own apart from the person (hypostasis) of the Son. Its twin concept, enhypostasia (literally “in person”), makes the related positive point that Jesus’ humanity has its being only in the person of the Son. This anhypostasia/enhypostasia distinction serves as Evangelical Calvinism’s soteriological “ground zero,” namely, the ground of the union of the elect with Christ.

92 Evangelical Calvinists claim a “special affinity” for the Scot’s Confession (1560). However, article 8 (on election) clearly states that the created onto -relation falls short of what the New Testament means by union with Christ: “Therefore we are not afraid to call God our Father, not so much because he has created us, which we have in common with the reprobate, as because he has given unto us his only Son to be our brother, and given us grace to acknowledge and embrace him as our only Mediator.” 93 Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1958), 270. 94 T. F. Torrance, Scottish Theology: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 52. 95 Torrance, School of Faith, cxiii. 96 Cf. Hunsinger’s comment that “in Christ” is “the key indicator of Barth’s soteriological objectivism” (How to Read Karl Barth, 114). 97 T. F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being Three Persons (New York and London: T&T Clark, 1996), 161.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


In Torrance’s hands, anhypostasia and enhypostasia do heavy-duty soteriological work. Together, they make the point “that Christ in his human nature at once represented all humanity and was an individual man, that he was ‘man’ and ‘a man.’” 98 What is of immediate interest is anhypostasia, for this is the basis of the Son’s ontological union with our fallen human nature, and hence of the salvation of humanity (on the principle that “the unassumed is the unhealed”). Torrance is not alone in drawing a soteriological inference from an ontological premise. William Placher, for example, states: “Christian faith must declare . . . that the humanity of every single human being has been united to God in Christ.”99 One of the Vatican II documents, Gaudium et Spes, makes a somewhat milder affirmation: “For by his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man.” 100 According to Torrance, it is precisely because the Son has assumed the human nature of all humanity that his actions as the man Jesus Christ represent each and every human person. Jesus Christ acts on behalf of and represents the many – hence Torrance’s signature theme of the “vicarious humanity” of Christ. Because the Son assumes human nature, everything he does – loving, obeying, dying, even believing – he does in our place: “But it is upon the unique, hypostatic relation of His human nature to His divine nature, that the truth of our human nature depends, for we are in union and communion with God, as we share in His human nature, which is hypostatically united to God.” 101 It is almost as if our humanity is anhypostatic, making the Son the hypostasis not only of his own humanity, but of ours as well. Evangelical Calvinism follows Torrance in drawing soteriological implications from anhypostasis. If Christ entered into a mere “generic relation” with humanity, then “the saving union of men with Christ must be regarded as an additional union added by the Spirit on to the union which He has perfect in Himself.” 102 Torrance is very reluctant to admit an “additional union” into the picture, for to do so would be to demean the universal redemptive significance of incarnational union (and atonement): “it belongs to the very essence of the Incarnational life and work of the Son that in Him redemption penetrates back to the very beginning and reunites Robert Walker, “Editor’s Introduction,” in T. F. Torrance, Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ (Milton Keynes and Downers Grove: Paternoster and InterVarsity Press, 2009), lxx. 99 William Placher, Jesus the Savior: The Meaning of Jesus Christ for Christian Faith (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 16; cf. 51, 198. 100 Gaudium et Spes, 1.22. Emphasis mine. 101 T. F. Torrance, “The Reformed Doctrine of Christ,” unpublished New College lecture, 9. 102 Torrance, School of Faith, cxii (emphasis mine). 98


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

man’s life to God’s creative purpose.” 103 Everything stems from an understanding of election, according to which the Son chooses all human beings in choosing to assume human nature: “all men are assumed by His Incarnation. . . . He died for all men and all men died in Him.” 104 And again: “In Jesus Christ God has actualized his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself.”105 What, if anything, is wrong with this picture? At the very origin of Torrance’s, and Evangelical Calvinism’s soteriology, we find not stratification but a conflation of senses of union with Christ, stemming from a fundamental confusion of the categories “natures” and “persons,” itself the result of what we might call hyperextended anhypostasis. As with knees, so with concepts: hyperextending anhypostasis can cause serious injury to one’s understanding of salvation. We therefore register the following three specific concerns. 1. As to the idea that the Son assumes humanity, Evangelical Calvinism elides the distinction between nature and persons. It is not clear that the Son’s assumption of humanity (i.e., the anhypostatic or incarnational union) entails that each and every human being is “in Christ.” In becoming man, the Son takes on human nature, but this means that he becomes a human being, not all human beings. As “true man,” the Son exercises his representative and substitutionary role. 106 However, in the words of Donald Macleod: “the only humanity united to him hypostatically is his own. . . . It was not the human race by the specific, personalized humanity of Christ that suffered under Pontius Pilate.” 107 The Incarnation unites the Son to human nature, to be sure, but it does not Ibid., cxii–cxiii. T. F. Torrance, “The Range of Redemption,” unpublished New College lecture, 5. 105 T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992), 94. Torrance hereby makes the doctrine of limited atonement an ontological impo ssibility, and believes that in so doing he is evangelically Calvinist: “Underneath all of Torrance’s theology stands the hidden heartbeat of his opposition to the limiting factor in traditional Calvinism” (C. Baxter Kruger, “Participation in the Self-Knowledge of God: The Nature and Means of our Knowledge of God in the Theology of T. F. Torrance” [Ph.D. dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1989], 333.) We shall return to the implications of Evangelical Calvinism for evangelism in the Conclusion. 106 Farrow makes the related objection that Barth and Torrance have “falsely conflated [Jesus Christ’s] person and work.” However, while God may be pure act, human creatures are not. It is a mistake to reduce Jesus Christ to his history, for this would be to collapse the eternal Son into the earthly life of the man Jesus Christ (“T. F. Torrance and the Latin Heresy,” 29). 107 Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 202–3. 103 104

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


follow that it unites the Son to me (or me to the Son). To say the Son assumed humanity does not necessarily mean that he assumed my humanity, that is, the subsistent, hypostatic relation that is me.108 To be sure, Jesus’ assuming humanity is a necessary condition for his being the mediator, the Messiah, and the second Adam. However, the question in dispute is whether human beings come to participate in Christ as representative of the new covenant (a superior prophets, priest, and king) and head of a new humanity (a second Adam) simply through what Barth calls an “ontological connexion.”109 2. As to the doctrine of election, Evangelical Calvinism mistakenly associates it with the “carnal” union of natures (i.e., Incarnational ontology) rather than spiritual union of persons (i.e., salvation by grace through faith). This second point follows from the above. To be “in Christ” the way the New Testament conceives of the union is a matter of specific personal (i.e., covenantal) relations, not merely a general assumption of human nature (i.e., ontology). 110 Paul is in the habit of speaking of redeemed persons, not natures, though it is important here merely to distinguish, not to separate; for when a person comes to be in Christ, his or her old human being undergoes mortification: crucifixion, death, and burial with Christ (Rom. 6:3–11). The person and work of Jesus Christ are bound together, yet Calvin rightly says, “as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value to us.” 111 As we have seen, Calvin acknowledges the fraternal union that the Son shares with the human species as a result of his Incarnation, but only with the qualification that it is “general and feeble,” a necessary though non-sufficient condition of redemption. 112 The elect share more than Christ’s human nature; they have an additional share in his person: “To be saved by Christ, Calvin kept


A person is one who instantiates a nature: “the subject that lives, thinks, wills, and acts through nature” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 306). See also Jean Galot, who defines “person” as “the relational entity that energizes the nature by directing its activity towards others in knowledge and love” (Who is Christ? A Theology of Incarnation [Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1989], 298). 109 Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/2, 275. 110 Habets tries to redeem Torrance’s emphasis on incarnational union by relating it to the Patristic notion of theosis (i.e., divinization), though it is not clear how this solves the problem of reconciling universal incarnational union with non-universal salvation. See Habets, Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2009). 111 Calvin, Institutes, 3.1.1. 112 See Garcia, Life in Christ, 281.


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

insisting, means to be included in the person of Christ. That is what salvation is.”113 3. As to the crucial concept “being in Christ” – the font from which all spiritual blessings flow (Eph. 1:3) – Evangelical Calvinism ontologizes what for Paul (and Calvin) is ultimately a personal union wrought by the Holy Spirit, the giver of life (and faith). According to Calvin (and Paul), the Holy Spirit is the bond that unites us to Christ by as it were “breathing” faith into the elect: “he unites himself to us by the Spirit alone.” 114 Evangelical Calvinism’s language of incarnational union conflicts with that of the New Testament at precisely this point: one is “in Christ” not by virtue of the first creation through the Logos, nor by virtue of the sheer humanity of Christ, but rather by virtue of sharing in the new creation through Spirit-enabled faith. As Henri Blocher pointedly observes, when Paul says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), the “if anyone” indicates that he is speaking of something other than the ontological status of all. 115 The “something other” is the koinonia of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14), minister of the new covenant and giver of life (2 Cor. 3:3–6). Julie Canlis points out that though the book of Hebrews uses the more philosophical term μετοχῆς (“participation”) to signify having a share in something, “it is κοινωνία (meaning to share with someone in something) that takes on new signification under [the New Testament authors’] pens. 116 What is true of the mysterious one-flesh union of marriage is also true of our koinonia or communio with Christ: “the union depends not on the sharing of a common nature but on the consent of both parties.” 117 It is the Spirit who enables

113 Marcus Peter Johnson, One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 12 (italics his). Richard Muller notes that in Calvin there “is no speculative consideration of the natures apart from their union in the person. Calvin must depart from a doctrine which examines the predestination of an abstract humanity which does not exist apart from the person of Christ” (Christ and the Decree, 37). 114 Calvin, Institutes III.1.3–4. Thomas Smail years ago called attention to Torrance’s failure sufficiently to distinguish, and relate, the work of Christ and that of the Spirit: “Where this distinction is not made, it is easy to yield to the tendency to overemphasize Christ’s work for us at the expense of the Spirit’s work in us” (The Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1988], 111). 115 Henri Blocher, “Karl Barth’s Christocentric Method,” in Engaging with Barth: Contemporary Evangelical Critiques, eds. David Gibson and Daniel Strange (Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 47. Blocher also notes Paul’s mention of Andronicus and Junia having been “in Christ before me” (Rom. 16:7): “Human beings . . . are not ‘in Christ’ before they come to distinct faith in him” (48). 116 Julie Canlis, Calvin's Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 9. 117 Macleod, Person of Christ, 203.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


the consent of faith, the God-ordained means by which the elect receive all spiritual blessings in Christ. “By the Spirit”: Salvation as (Ontic) Union with Christ Despite what some might take to be the logic of their position, Evangelical Calvinists universally deny universalism. 118 They also universally deny particularism: “If Christ died only for some then he would not be the Savior of the world but rather an instrument in the hands of the Father for the salvation of a chosen few.” 119 The question, then, is how all people can be both “in” Christ in one sense (ontologically) and not in another (salvifically). John Colwell’s reminder about the way Barth handles this problem may help Evangelical Calvinists too: Barth “clearly prohibits too simplistic a relationship between the ontological definition of man as elect in Jesus Christ and the actual election of individual men.” 120 He does so by distinguishing one’s objective (ontological) election in Christ from its subjective (ontic, existential) realization. On this view, the Spirit’s role is limited to opening our eyes, minds, and hearts to what is already objectively the case in Christ. – Adoption: Being in Christ Enhypostatically “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5)

Salvation is a matter of participation in the family of God through sharing Christ’s sonship. That this involves more than sharing the Son’s human nature (but not less!) becomes clear when we examine Paul’s use of υἱο118 Evangelical Calvinists display a marked ambivalence as concerns logical consistency. On the one hand, divine revelation “presents us with logical problems, seeming paradoxes . . . which cannot simply be resolved by discursive reason” (Habets and Grow, “Theses on a Theme,” 439). Classical Calvinism is guilty of reducing the mystery of election by trying to represent it in a flow chart of causal connections (i.e., a logical ordo salutis). On the other hand, the Evangelical Calvinist scheme relies heavily on drawing onto-relational inferences from the πρόθεσις whereby the Father “sets forth” the union of God and humanity in Jesus Christ (Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 175). Habets says both that the elect person’s rejection of God’s offer of salvation is “the mystery of evil which cannot be explained in rational categories” (183) and that Torrance’s doctrine of election is “ultimately logical and consistent” (189). How these two claims cohere is indeed a mystery. 119 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 185. It is unclear why the Son would be a mere instrument in the Father’s hands if the eternal Son were party to the pactum salutis. 120 John Colwell, Actuality and Provisionality: Eternity and Election in the Theology of Karl Barth (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1989), 274. Cf. Hunsinger’s related distinction between the “objective” and “existential” aspects of salvation in Barth ( How to Read Karl Barth, 105–14).


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

θεσία (adoption). To receive υἱοθεσία (from υἱός = “son” and τίθημι = “to place”) is to be put in the Son’s place. Adoption, combining as it does an emphasis on both legal status and familial relation, is a particularly apt metaphor to speak of being in Christ. 121 The Spirit of adoption unites us to the Son in a bond that is every bit as forensic as it is filial, inasmuch as it concerns the legal rights and privileges of sonship. The elect, who were not sons by natural birth (i.e., the flesh of incarnational union), become God’s children through God’s Son by the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15). The people God has chosen before the foundation of the world are the same people he has predestined for adoption through Jesus Christ. Significantly enough, the elect have no say in their adoption; the triune God is clearly the sole agent doing the adopting (Eph. 1:5). 122 Union with Christ “reaches its zenith in adoption.” 123 Paul relates divine adoption, the goal of predestination, to those to whom God gives the Spirit of his Son, the same Spirit that indwells believers’ hearts, inscribing the new covenant, and addresses God as “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15), a cry that confirms believers’ new status as members in good standing in the family of God (Gal. 4:4–6).124 The presence of the Spirit is the sign that saints belong to the new created order inaugurated by Christ: “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). It is God who adopts the saints into the Christ’s identity as Son of God – that is, into the person, history, and human nature alike – by bestowing on believers “the Spirit of his Son” (Gal. 4:6). The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9), and to have the Spirit is to have Christ’s own personal presence indwelling us. To become adopted sons is to be incorporated into the personal history (enhypostasis) of Jesus Christ: “It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Calvin explicitly links union with Christ and adoption: “as soon as you become engrafted into Christ through faith, you are made a son of God, an heir of heaven, a partaker in righteousness.” 125 This triple grace that flows from our union with Christ – son, heir, partaker – describes those who See further Trevor J. Burke, Adopted into God’s Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). 122 While διὰ . . . Χριστοῦ signals the instrumentality of Christ in the believer’s adoption, “God is clearly the agent of adoption” (Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ, 247) and προορίζω (“predestination”) underscores “[God’s] sole initiative and authority in our salvation” (O’Brien, Ephesians, 102). 123 Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 170. 124 See James M. Scott, Adoption as Sons of God: An Exegetical Investigation into the Background of huiothesia in the Corpus Paulinum (WUNT II/48; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1992). 125 Calvin, Institutes, 3.15.6. 121

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


have been given the gift of faith and the Spirit who gives it. The saints’ saving union with Christ is a union with his very person, wrought by the Spirit through faith. Faith alone is what allows individuals to benefit from Christ’s person and work, for it is through faith that the Spirit creates a personal bond between believers and Christ, our salvation. According to Calvin, Christ “unites himself to us by the Spirit alone.” 126 – Redemption Applied: Discerning the Work of the Spirit The key question for Evangelical Calvinism is whether they do justice to election “in Christ” and “by the Spirit.” In particular, how do they conceive the Spirit’s work in actualizing election (and atonement) without either falling into universalism on the one hand or double predestination on the other? We begin with this thought from Torrance: “The ‘carnal union’ effected by Christ between Himself and all man supplies, as it were, the field of the Spirit’s activity, so that in a profound sense we have to take seriously the fact that the Spirit was poured out on ‘all flesh’ and operates on ‘all flesh.’”127 It is not entirely clear what Torrance means by “taking seriously” the Spirit’s being poured out on all flesh, though it is noteworthy that his focus seems to be, yet again, on human nature (“all flesh”), not personhood. Be that as it may, Evangelical Calvinism appears to be in something of a quandary when it comes to the Spirit’s role in actualizing election/adoption in the lives of particular persons. Either God refrains from bestowing the gift of the Spirit of adoption to all or else he bestows the gift universally but non-efficaciously, for some people inexplicably make use of their ability (dare we call it “freedom”?) to refuse it. Evangelical Calvinists take the latter option. Some, like Barth, are content to let the paradox stand. 128 Others, like Habets, try to reduce the offense to reason by employing a somewhat desperate incarnational analogy: “The human decision, like Christ’s humanity, is anhypostatic, it has no independent existence apart from the divine, but it is concrete and personal, and so enhypostatic.”129 The question, however, is why this union occurs in some people and not others. For Calvin (and Paul), salvation is a matter of receiving Christ, together Ibid., 3.1.3. Torrance, School of Faith, cxvii. 128 Hunsinger offers the best explanation of this paradox of which I am aware, arguing that the tension between unconditional, universal grace and indispensable, pa rticular faith can be described but not explained because of the mysterious incommensurability between the uncreated, eternal order of God’s freedom and the created, temporal order of human freedom (How to Read Karl Barth, 110–11). 129 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 182. 126 127


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

with his benefits, through the Spirit’s uniting us to Christ – his divine person, human nature, and incarnate history – through faith. What is of special importance in this context is that saving faith unites believers in the first instance to Christ’s person, the subject of his history, rather than his natures; faith is a matter of personal knowledge (“learning Christ”: Eph. 4:20), trust (“believing into Christ”: John 3:16), and identification (“dying and living with Christ”: Rom. 6:8). The seventeenth-century Puritan John Flavel expresses well the Classical Calvinist way of conceiving the difference between sharing Jesus’ human nature and being united to his person, the two ways that God honors human creatures above the angels: One was by the hypostatical union of our nature, in Christ, with the divine nature: the other is by uniting our persons mystically to Christ, and thereby communicating spiritual life to us: this latter is a most glorious privilege, and in one respect a more singular mercy than the former; for that honour which is done to our nature by the hypostastical union, is common to all, good and bad, even they that perish have yet that honour; but to be implanted into Christ by regeneration, and live upon him as the branch doth upon the vine, this is a peculiar privilege, a mercy kept from the world that is to perish, and only communicated to God’s elect, who are to live eternally with him in heaven.” 130

Kathryn Tanner says something similar: “We are not included in Christ’s life simply because the humanity assumed by the Son in Christ is common, shared by Christ and every other human being. It is this particular person – and not the humanity of Christ per se – that has universal efficacy.” 131 The salient point is that Christ’s benefits are inextricable from his person, and that we come to have a share in his person by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Who are the elect? Paul consistently refers to the elect as those whom the Spirit has incorporated into Christ through faith in the gospel: “As far as the writings of the New Testament are concerned, even those who offer the strongest statements of God’s universal love, such as John, union with Christ is limited to those who are the acting subjects of faith.” 132 To be “in Christ” involves location within the realm of Christ, the sphere where his personal influence reigns, which is to say, the new age that Christ is bring-

John Flavel, Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption (London, 1680), 2:90. Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), 54. 132 Grant Macaskill, Union with Christ in the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 300–1. Mark Seifrid makes the interesting observation that Paul says “in Christ,” “in Christ Jesus,” and “in the Lord,” but never “in Jesus Christ,” a use that suggests an emphasis on participation in the risen and exalted Savior rather than the earthly figure and his humanity (“In Christ,” in Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993], 433). 130 131

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


ing into being. 133 To be “in Christ” is to be within the sphere of God’s saving action, with others who had been transferred “from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13): “To be united to Jesus, to be in him, is to be in the covenant through his representative headship.”134 It is the Spirit who incorporates believers, through faith, into the vital and organic union with Christ (1 Cor. 12:27) that characterizes the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6): “Christ has the dominion, the Spirit is the personal power determining the sphere of influence of this dominion. It is by the Spirit that Christ unites us with himself and his body.” 135 Being in Christ is, for Paul, primarily an eschatological rather than ontological reality, made possible by the Spirit of adoption who engrafts believers into the family of God and into Christ, the firstborn, first fruit, and head of the new creation: “The New Testament suggests that there is no way of conceiving of being elect ‘in Christ’ that does not involve and entail the Spirit’s work [i.e., in uniting us to Christ] as well as Christ’s.” 136 Things do not really add up in the Evangelical Calvinist’s new math (i.e., the “relocation” of union with Christ from pneumatology to incarnation). Election, atonement, and redemption are universal, but salvation is not, unless and until it is subjectively “realized” by the Spirit in particular persons.137 Yet faith itself is “a gift of the sovereign Spirit and so free-will is never the ultimate cause of salvation,” 138 for salvation is union with Christ and this is accomplished, objectively, in the incarnation. Why, then, are not all saved? Why do some believe while others do not? And can anything we do or fail to do ultimately count against us if the vicarious humanity of Jesus even believes and repents for us? This is an important query for the church inasmuch as it, like Israel, is a covenant community with both privileges and responsibilities, whose members each day face the mandate “choose this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15). Kye Won Lee concludes his largely appreciative book-length study of Torrance’s account of union with Christ with this poignant observation: “Torrance’s excessive emphasis upon the fact that all things have been completed in Jesus Christ may lead us into . . . weakening ‘our’ faith, repentance, deci-

Hans Burger, Being in Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Investigation in a Reformed Perspective (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009), 206–8; Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ, 408. 134 Macaskill, Union with Christ, 298. 135 Burger, Being in Christ, 263. 136 McDonald, Re-imaging Election, 68. 137 Note that, for Torrance, there are not two unions but rather two aspects, objective and subjective, of the one redemptive incarnational event. 138 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 190. 133


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

sion and worship here and now which are in a measure emphasized in the NT.”139 When people believe, we ascribe it up to the hidden cause of God’s grace; when they fail to believe, we chalk it up to the manifest cause of human belief or rebellion, not to the hidden divine causality. Torrance appeals to this causal asymmetry as the reason why we must not expect to understand election in terms of causal relations and logical propositions. 140 Hence, instead of concluding that God does not give the Spirit to all in the same way, Evangelical Calvinists say the reason why not all are saved is that they either reject or do not know of their election in Christ – a possible impossibility – and so fail fully to participate in the Son. Though they have their being in the Son (by virtue of their incarnational union/election “in Christ”), they nevertheless lack life.141 According to Habets, when the elect acknowledge their being in Christ, “what actually happens is that a sort of hypostatic union between grace and faith, through the Holy Spirit occurs.”142 What is left unclear is why the Spirit does not realize this union with all the elect. Faced with the stark choice of either limiting the scope of God’s electing love or universalizing salvation, the Evangelical Calvinist reaches for a third possibility, where “the freedom finally to rebel against God can avoid the determinism of either double predestination or universalism.” 143 True freedom – the freedom for which Christ has set us free – is apparently libertarian freedom, as Arminians have insisted all along: the “freedom to believe or to reject Christ.” 144 However, for Evangelical Calvinists, sinful humanity does not possess this freedom by nature but only as a result of being forgiven by Christ: “human freedom, made possibly by the love of God in universal atonement, is what finally allows for the incredibly absurd possibility of rejecting God.” 145 Only thanks to incarnational union are we restored to Adam’s condition and given the ability to say “yes” or “no” to God – call it postvenient grace. We seem to be dealing here with a broken Reformed ordo salutis that proves either too much or too little: too much, insofar as the logic of the Kye Won Lee, Living in Union with Christ: The Practical Theology of Thomas F. Torrance (New York and Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2003), 313. 140 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 191. 141 Cf. Barth: “It is not for his being but for his life as elect that he ne eds to hear and believe the promise” (Church Dogmatics, II/2, 453). 142 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 183. 143 David Fergusson, “Will the Love of God Finally Triumph?” in Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 196. 144 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 196. 145 Ibid. 139

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


position tends towards universalism; too little, to the extent that they fend off the charge of universalism only by denying the Spirit’s effectual call and gift of saving faith through an appeal to libertarian free will – a peculiar notion for a Reformed theology. 146 Having begun by insisting on universal election and atonement, Evangelical Calvinists end by admitting the possible impossibility that some (many?) of those who have been freed from sin to elect their election – to choose Christ – nevertheless use their “freedom” to reject their election. 147 On this point, I agree with Habets: “questions remain . . .”148

V. Conclusion: “The old is better” “to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14)

To sum up: one way of construing the difference between Classical and Evangelical Calvinism is in terms of the conditions for being “in Christ” associated with the doctrine of election. The Evangelical Calvinist concept of incarnational union conflates election, incarnation, and atonement by suggesting that all are in Christ because the Son assumed human nature. By way of contrast, Classical Calvinism reserves the concept union with Christ for the elect who have been incorporated into Christ’s person and work through faith by the Spirit of adoption. Which is the “better” gospel? The qualifier “Evangelical” invites the question. Proponents of this new perspective on Calvinism intend the adjective to do double duty, emphasizing both its consistency to the witness of Scripture and its antithesis to the “forensic legalism” that they associate with classical Calvinism.149 Indeed, the editors of Evangelical Calvinism specifically say that theirs is a theology “that is genuinely ‘good news’” 150 – presumably in contrast to the spurious good news of the old Calvinism. 151 What then is the good news ac146 But not, perhaps, for a Reformed theology that recoils from the notion of limited atonement, as does Torrance’s. However, if true freedom is libertarian freedom (the ability to do this or that), then God is not free, for God cannot deny himself the way humans can. Consequently, many Reformed thinkers understand freedom as the ability to choose voluntarily according to one’s nature – something that, in the case of human beings, is compatible with divine determination. 147 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 192–94. 148 Ibid., 197. 149 Habets and Grow, “Introduction,” 11. 150 Ibid. 151 Barth identifies the “deplorable weakness” of Calvin’s doctrine of participation in Christ as its failure to recognize “the universal relevance of the existence of the man Jesus,” which Barth relates to Calvin’s “serious distortion” of the biblical doctrine of election by shifting its ground away from Christ and onto “the inscrutable and immovable


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

cording to Evangelical Calvinism? Torrance spells it out by contrasting an evangelical from an unevangelical way of preaching the gospel. 152 The unevangelical way is to declare what Jesus has done for us, but then to add that we will not be saved unless we make our own personal decision for Christ. Torrance’s problem with this kind of preaching is its contingent condition: unless you believe, or else. This, he thinks, is not a gospel of unconditional grace “but some other Gospel of conditional grace which belies the essential nature and content of the Gospel as it is in Jesus.”153 The condition implies that in the last resort “the responsibility for their salvation is taken off the shoulders of the Lamb of God and placed upon them – but in that case they feel that they will never be saved.”154 A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Evangelical Calvinism’s “genuinely evangelical” alternative proclaims, “Christ has died for all.” 155 Not only that: Jesus’ vicarious humanity is the all-sufficient human response to God’s unconditional election. The good news is that “[i]n Jesus Christ God has actualized his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself.”156 In short: Jesus Christ has “made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him.” 157 Indeed, Jesus has “even made your personal decision [to trust God] for you.” 158 We need not therefore be anxious about whether we really believe in him enough. Only when we are liberated from all ulterior motives are we free for spontaneous joyful response. The classical Calvinist at this point is left scratching her head. On the one hand, we are told that Jesus makes our personal decision to trust in him for us; on the other hand, we are told that we have the impossible possibility of freely rejecting our election. Either salvation is universal or human freedom remains a contingent condition, a bothersome fly in the balm of Gilead. Either way, there are implications for evangelism. Evangelical Calvinism emphasizes the universal objectivity of the good news: the gospel is for everyone. Yet Scripture indicates the gravity of the condition, present and future, of those who fail to repent and believe the gospel (John 3:36). Something of ultimate urgency is at stake in gospel proclamation, decision by which it is decided whether or not they belong to the elect in Jesus Christ” (Church Dogmatics IV/2, 520). 152 I here draw on the discussion in Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 92–95. 153 Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 93. 154 Ibid. 155 So Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 191. 156 Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94. 157 Ibid. 158 Ibid.

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


namely, hearing the word in faith – a faith without which it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Torrance does not want to say that Christ died “sufficiently for all, but efficiently only for the elect.” However, what he does say, in agreement with John Cameron (1579–1625), is remarkably similar, namely, that Christ died “conditionally for all, absolutely for the elect.” 159 The difference is important inasmuch as it describes two different ways of construing the plan of salvation, two different meanings of “the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:5). The outstanding challenge for Evangelical Calvinists is to explain, from Scripture, how God elects all but not all are saved, for at present there is a troubling incoherence between the ontological objectivity of incarnational redemption in Christ and the non-universal scope of salvation, as well as confusion in the way they conceive the place of human faith and its relationship to grace. 160 Specifically, does divine grace take the place of freedom, enable libertarian freedom, or secure freedom? As we have seen, human freedom is a libertarian link in the chain of Evangelical Calvinism’s ordo salutis, the weakest link that reintroduces the very contingency into the ordo that the notion of incarnational union was designed to eliminate. For Calvin, the gospel is that God graciously and utterly saves the elect, effectually calling, adopting, and uniting the saints to Christ by the Spirit’s engendering faith. What is supposedly “unevangelical” about this gospel is its allegedly limited scope (classical Calvinists prefer the term “definite”). However, whatever alleged limits there may be are what they are not because of any limitations on God, but solely because of the pleasure of his good will – a will qualified by all the divine perfections, including goodness, wisdom, omniscience. We must not confuse divine delimitations with divine limitations. According to classical Calvinism, the good news is that the triune God will build his church, and that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Nor will the contingency of human choice. No, the Lord will build the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1–22:5) out of all the people the Father has given to the Son (John 17:6–9), the saints who are “in Christ,” his living temple (Rev. 21:22). The new Jerusalem is good 159 Habets, “Christologically Conditioned Election,” 192. (Habets mistakenly reverses the order when he says “efficiently for all but sufficiently for some”). 160 “Incoherence” is Robert Letham’s section heading for his analysis of Torrance’s view on definitive universal atonement without universal salvation (“The Triune God, Incarnation, and Definite Atonement,” in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective , eds. David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013] 447–58. Letham thinks that Oliver Crisp’s criticisms of Barth apply to Torrance as well. See Oliver D. Crisp, “On Barth’s Denial of Universalism,” in Retrieving Doctrine: Essays in Reformed Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010), 116–30.


Kevin J. Vanhoozer

news because it is the place where God’s people, Jews an Gentiles, enjoy eternal life and filial fellowship with God on earth: “it is God’s dwelling place in the saints rather than their dwelling place on earth.” 161 This city of God is good news because it is impregnable, a mighty fortress: “Neither Satan nor demons nor beast nor false prophet nor evil men will be able to touch the city of God, which is his saints.” 162 The city of God is good news, finally, because of its huge dimensions (Rev. 21:16), implying “that all the saints, whom the city represents, will amount to an astronomically high number.”163 There is more than one way of being Christocentric when thinking about election in Christ. 164 As promised, this essay can offer no more than an interim report. The issues are complex, and the various participants in the discussion, including the present author, see only through a glass dimly. However, our preliminary findings raise concerns serious enough to warrant caution. It is not self-evident that Evangelical Calvinists have understood either Paul or Calvin, or that they have done a better job at explaining the relationship between election, incarnation, and redemption than their Calvinist forbearers. We are grateful to T. F. Torrance for reminding us that the Word became flesh, and that Jesus gives his flesh “for the life of the world” (John 6:51). However, we dispute the suggestion that ontology alone – being human – constitutes that sharing in Jesus’ flesh that is eternal salvation. On the contrary, it is only believers who, in faith, feed on Jesus’ flesh (John 6:54) – itself a figure for participating in Jesus’ life and work as representative of the new covenant. With this in mind, we are now in a position to make a provisional assessment of Evangelical Calvinism, and chalk upour study of Eph. 1:4 as another example of biblical scholarship and systematic theology converging in support of the traditional interpretation,

Robert H. Gundry, “The New Jerusalem: People as Place, Not Place for People,” in The Old is Better than the New: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations (WUNT 178; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 401. 162 Ibid., 404. 163 Ibid. 164 Whereas Gibson, Reading the Decree, distinguishes between Calvin’s “soteriological” and Barth’s “principial” christotentrism (see note 43 above), the present essay distinguishes between Evangelical Calvinism’s “ontological-soteriological” and classical Calvinism’s “covenantal-soterio-logical” Christocentrism. 161

The Origin of Paul’s Soteriology


enabling us to conclude that, at least in this case, “The old is better” (Luke 5:39, KJV).165

165 I am grateful to David Gibson for his bibliographical suggestions, to my co -editors for their comments, to Jon Hoglund, Dan Treier, and Robert Yarbrough for their helpful interaction with an earlier draft, and especially to Marcus Johnson for his patient and extended responses to my importunate petitions concerning his own fine work on union with Christ.

Ministering to Bodies: Anthropological views of Sōma in the New Testament, Theology, and Neuroscience BRIAN LUGIOYO Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God. You agree? Good. Then go with my blessing. But I warn you, do not expect to make many friends. – Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable

The Place of Study I remember the distinct smell that came from the formaldehyde soaked frog during my High School biology lab. Leaning closely over the small body, the sour smell swallowed my face as I moved flaps of greyish skin to discover a dark liver, red pancreas, blue vena cava, and other shiny entrails. Miniature guts are fascinating. As I meditated on my dead frog the smell of sanitized death quickly receded into the background. My gaze was fixed; my eyes were being formed by the laboratory’s modern scientific method. What did I see?1 This experiment reflects the manner in which I was often trained to read Scripture in seminary. Thus, in seminary it was regularly the excitement of exegeting the Scriptures that receded to the background, while the smell of putrescence remained. In the halls and classrooms of our universities and seminaries Scripture too often becomes an experiment with a dead frog. We wield the philological-historical-critical scalpel with exegetical care intent to peak inside to see Scripture’s entrails, yet our “entrail” focus often reveals precious little about the living God. In our sterile classrooms, have we taught our students to focus on a dead text, something to be

In the anonymous story “The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz,” after the student had spent a full day examining the dissected fish, Professor Agassiz asks the student “Do you see it yet?” What in the end he discovers is entrail symmetry, and more. Thi s quaint story, told in many hermeneutic classes, fails to highlight that the student does not see a fish, but a dead fish! 1


Brian Lugioyo

conquered, rather than the “living Word” (cf. Heb. 4:12, 1 Pet. 1:23) that conquers us?2 How did we come to overlook this lab’s putrefied stench? Michael Legaspi begins his compelling study on the beginning of modern biblical scholarship stating, “Scripture died a quiet death in Western Christendom some time in the sixteenth century.” 3 No doubt the Reformation contributed to the divorce between Biblical Studies and the church, but arguably it was the Enlightenment, in the halls of the modern university, where the final deathblow was dealt. The founding of the modern universities, especially Humboldt University in 1810, established the university apart from the patronage and authority of the church. Thus, the role of the church diminished in relation to how theological disciplines engaged Scripture. Scripture became a dead text. Within this post-Enlightenment context the theological disciplines have not only been separated from the church but also from each other. 4 The present segregation of biblical studies and systematic theology from the church and each other is a product of secularization and has resulted in the absence of a lack of a unifying teleological vision for theological knowledge.5 Primarily serving the academic guilds, theological knowledge is in

2 See Robert Mulholland, Shaped by The Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation (Nashville, TN: Upper Room, 2001), 53–56. Modern exegetical methods do not of themselves kill the voice of God. However, how they are used and where they are used matter. Is exegesis for the lab or for the Church? For instance, the training I received in Robert Gundry’s Koine Greek course made me more sensitive to the living Word of God and a better preacher. 3 Michael C. Legaspi, The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 3. Legaspi’s is not the only work to highlight the crisis within biblical studies, but he offers a compelling narrative. Cf. Brad S. Gregory’s work The Unintended Reformation: How A Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2012), which argues that our modern theological curriculum and the secularization of our knowledge are unintended products of the Protestant Reformations. A similar argument is found in Hans Frei’s Eclipse of the Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980). 4 Robert Gundry’s concern over this segregation has led him to ask the theological disciplines some difficult questions. In his “Theological Desiderata” at the end of his book on John, he raises these questions, among others: “Ought systematic theology to dominate biblical theology, or vice versa? Or ought they form a partnership of equals, or go their separate ways? . . . How important to good theologizing is a perceptive exegesis of the world or worlds, in which we live as well as a perceptive exegesis of the Bible?” Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundametalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelism, Especially Its Elites in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 95. 5 Cf. Alisdair McIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 3rd ed. (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007). See also Gary W. Deddo’s essay in this book,

Ministering to Bodies


crisis. Thus, I want to argue that biblical and theological studies must recapture their proper telos, the building up of God’s community in anticipation of the fully realized kingdom of God. John Webster points to this when describing the state of modern theology and biblical studies; he states: Much might be said in this connection about the retardant effect of intellectual custom and institutional arrangements such as the fourfold division of the theological curriculum. But more needs to be said, most of all about the spiritual history of modern theology. Over the course of that history, certain habits of thought – entered into, often enough, with a good will and a clear conscience, and with genuine desire to advance the wor k of the church and its theology – have in some measure benumbed theology, made it sluggish in conceiving and pursuing its proper end in fellowship with God. Whether done well or ill, theology and the study of Scripture are spiritual tasks, and the conditions for their flourishing include spiritual conditions. 6

These conditions are churchly. Our proper context must be rediscovered, and for the systematic theologian and biblical scholar, this is the church.7

Sōma in the Academy and Church Robert Gundry’s “Theological Desiderata” compels biblical and systematic theological scholars to wrestle with the breaches between the academy, church, and world.8 Where we do our work matters. 9 It is my contention that it is only by placing theologically academic work within the context of the church that the breaches might be mended. Resisting the separation of “T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies as Co-Servants of the Word of God, Living and Written.” 6 John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reasoning (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2012), 4. 7 This is a similar call to a methodology advocated by Rowan Williams On Christian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), xii, who states: “The meanings of the word ‘God’ are to be discovered by watching what this community does . . . when it is acting, educating or ‘inducting’, imagining and worshiping.” 8 See Gundry, Jesus the Word, 95. 9 In a similar fashion, Wendell Berry believes that the disciplines of art, science, and religion have neglected their proper contexts and thus have not been able to provide the reflection necessary to describe what it means to be alive. He states: “All the disciplines are increasingly identifiable as professionalisms, which are increasingly confo rmable to the aims and standards of industrialism. All the disciplines are failing the test of propriety because they are failing the test of locality. The professionals of the disciplines don’t care where they are. Though they are inescapably in context, they assume or pretend that they think and work without a context. They subscribe to the preeminence of the mind and (logically from that) of the career.” Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition (New York: Counterpoint, 2000), 14–15.


Brian Lugioyo

church and academy, this paper attempts to explore an ecclesial-centered anthropology that is both rigorous and edifying to the people of God. This paper argues for a monist vision of the person over against a theological anthropology that is dualistic, that is, a partitive body-soul anthropology. From a churchly context, the most cogent argument against dualism is its ecclesial fruits. These fruits I argue, are rotten spiritualities (some Gnostic) that have devalued our embodiedness and embodied contexts. With this diagnosis I am following Warren S. Brown and Brad D. Strawn, who contend: While one may care for the body-part of a body-soul duality, the motivation and understanding for why to do so is very different. From the point of view of the embodied persons, the ‘why we care for bodies’ is because persons are bodies. When the church cares for human bodies – when it disciples them, baptizes them, feeds them, clothes them, visits them in prison – it is doing these things to and for the whole person, because bodies are what we are! When a dualist does these same things, there remains the subtle (sometimes not so subtle) implication that these body things are a means to an end. What is most important to the dualist is that something “inside” changes, and caring for the body facilitates that process. A hierarchy remains – soul good, body not so good. And within this hierarchy, it is easier to denigrate the body and all things bodily.10

Hence theological anthropology’s propriety is in the church, where broken bodies are ministered to and transformed into the one true human body of Jesus Christ. Rather than beginning with philosophical abstractions that can divide bodies, we begin with God’s ministry to real people. This is particularly evident in the way in which bodies are portrayed in Scripture. People in the New Testament are primarily described as being taken up into God’s act of new creation, albeit in various ways.

New Testament Sōma In 1976 Robert Gundry published an important book, Sōma in Biblical Theology: With Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology, where he outlined a Pauline anthropology by providing a detailed understanding of the term sōma (σῶμα) in the New Testament.11 The book was an attempt to emend Rudolf Bultmann’s influential holistic, yet existential, anthropology. 12 By 10 Warren S. Brown and Brad D. Strawn, The Physical Nature of Christian Life: Neuroscience, Psychology, & the Church (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 156–57. 11 Robert Gundry, Sōma in Biblical Theology: With Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987; orig. SNTSMS 29; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976). 12 Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, vol. 1 (New York: Scribner, 1951; orig. 1948).

Ministering to Bodies


means of thorough historical-critical and word study analysis, Gundry demonstrates that the term sōma, particularly for Paul, was tied to the concept of physicality. Hence, Gundry goes on to describe a Pauline anthropology that is decidedly physical over against a Bultmannian existential anthropology, while nevertheless advocating that the human person is composed of body and soul that differ ontologically and functionally, yet are in some way united.13 Gundry’s analysis of the term sōma is erudite and thoughtful and is an important reminder to us in the church of the physicality of human life over against Bultmann’s disparaging of physicality. This is the strength of his work. Nevertheless, I demur at my teacher’s use of the physical understanding of sōma throughout his monograph as evidence that the body (as the physical part of life) is something ontologically distinct from the soul (the nonphysical part of life); since for Gundry, the soul has a nonphysical ontology. Based on this partitive understanding, his position against an holistic definition of sōma begs the question in regards to what constitutes an holistic definition of “person.” Not only that, but it begs the question concerning how to define “person” in the first place. Gundry clearly succeeds in showing that sōma is strongly related to physicality, or to thingness over against Bultmann’s existential use; however, he presupposes a definition of a “whole person” as more than the physical without explanation.14 The presumption is that the person is comprised of parts – physical body and nonphysical soul. Yet, such a presupposition is not defended biblically, though repeated, in his book Sōma.15 13 Gundry, Sōma, 83, is careful to steer away from the terms “dualism” or “dichotomy” that posit primarily ontological distinctions between the body and soul and prefers the term “duality” to describe the body-soul relation, which allows for both a functional and ontological aspect between the body and the soul. 14 Gundry, Sōma, 15. “We may excuse the lexicographers for giving ‘person’ as an equivalent for sōma, simply because in the cited passages ‘body’ would sound awkward in our language. But since context makes clear that sōma always focuses attention on the physical, we would make a mistake to appeal to these extra-biblical passages in support of a holistic definition.” To this assertion one must ask Gundry, what a holistic definition is, such that it must be more than mere physicality? 15 Gundry, Sōma; “But a figurative usage in which the body not only is itself but also represents the rest of a person – viz., his soul, or spirit – fails to satisfy the requirements of a holistic definition of sōma. Such a definition requires that sōma refer directly to the whole person rather than indirectly through one of his parts” (6); “this use of sōma emphasizes the thingness of slaves as property and working tools. Wholeness of personality lies quite outside the scope of vision, in fact, runs contrary to it” (10); “ since the troops are spoken of as bodies en masse, personality is hardly the point” (11); “sōmata does not connote whole personality but denotes people as things” (12); “All these passages use sōma for the concreteness of physical presence as opposed to something intangible” (13); “but [sōma] apparently has reference to physical sustenance; hence the holistic definition


Brian Lugioyo

Gundry’s argument that sōma cannot provide an adequate definition of a person is made on the basis of a prior understanding that persons are more than their physicality. Many would agree with this conclusion, but it should be substantiated before disregarding Bultmann’s and others’ argument that sōma is able to define a whole person. It seems as if Gundry’s aim in this work is to exclude sōma as a definition of the whole person, since for him the definition of “person” is based on a partitive, but united, body-soul duality. 16 In contrast to this view N.T. Wright states that: Paul uses his language with remarkable consistency, he nowhere suggests that any of the key terms refers to a particular “part” of the human being to be played off against any other. Each denotes the entire human being, while connoting some angle of vision on who that human is and what he or she is called to be. Thus, for instance, sarx, flesh, refers to the entire human being but connotes corruptibility, failure, rebellion, and then sin and death. Psyche denotes the entire human being, and connotes that human as posse ssed or ordinary mortal life, with breath and blood sustained by food and drink. And so on. No doubt none of the terms is arbitrary; all would repay further study. 17

Thus is seems that to construct a dualistic anthropology on the basis that the semantic range of the term sōma is limited to physicality and therefore cannot provide an holistic understanding of a person since it excludes – an unsubstantiated – nonphysical reality of the person, as Gundry seems to do, is problematic for constructing a theological anthropology. In addition, Gundry’s partitive dualistic appraisal runs crosscurrent to the emerging is poorly supported” (14); “We may excuse the lexicographers for giving ‘person’ as an equivalent for sōma, simply because in the cited passages ‘body’ would sound awkward in our language. But since context makes clear that sōma always focuses attention on the physical, we would make a mistake to appeal to these extra-biblical passages in support of a holistic definition” (15); “Sōma does not gain the meaning of ‘person’” (19); “We conclude that the LXX offers no convincing support for a definition of sōma as the whole person” (23); “Why are slaves called ‘bodies’? Precisely because they are not treated as persons, but as articles of merchandise. . . . What superficially looks like proof of a larger meaning, ‘person’, turns out on close inspection to support the ordinary meaning of sōma” (27); passim. Each of these assertions presumes a dualistic anthropology leading to an understanding of sōma that excludes the presumption of a non-physical aspect of the person. 16 See Gundry, Sōma, 6. In regard to the arguments of others of a figurative use of sōma, he states: “But a figurative usage in which the body not only is itself but also represents the rest of a person – viz., his soul, or spirit – fails to satisfy the requirements of a holistic definition of sōma. Such a definition requires that sōma refer directly to the whole person rather than indirectly through one of his parts.” The question of what requirements are needed to satisfy such a definition of figurative use are never touched on, rather the definition is assumed as a partitive body-soul anthropology. 17 N.T. Wright, “Mind, Spirit, Soul and Body: All for One and One for All: Reflections on Paul’s Anthropology in his Complex Contexts” paper delivered March 18, 2011, for the Society of Christian Philosophers: Regional Meeting, Fordham University (Accessed online August 2, 2012).

Ministering to Bodies


consensus in biblical studies that holds to a predominantly monistic vision of Pauline anthropology, and decidedly so in regard to Hebrew anthropology. 18 Still, even the consensus monistic view is itself admittedly problematic due to the definitional fluidity of terms such as sōma, sarx, psyche, and pneuma used in the New Testament. 19 Most scholars affirm that the New Testament does not directly concern itself with a specific theological anthropology. Joel Green states, “the Bible is about God, first and foremost, and only derivatively about us. Study of the human person in the Bible – that is, a biblical-theological anthropology or, more simply, a biblical anthropology – is thus a derivative inquiry. It is secondary.” 20 Likewise, Gundry acknowledges that “it is not so much that the Bible teaches dualistic anthropology as it is that what it teaches on other matters

18 Practically every reference book in contemporary biblical studies provides a monist anthropology; for example the Anchor Bible Dictionary, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, etc. Likewise there are many recent scholars who have advanced this view: Brevard S. Childs, Old Testament Theology in Canonical Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985), 199; Walter Bruegemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 450–54; Theo Heckel, “Body and Soul in Saint Paul,” in Psyche and Soma: Physicians and Metaphysicians on the Mind-Body Problem from Antiquity to Enlightenment, ed. by John P. Wright and Paul Potter (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), 117–31; Udo Schnelle, The Human Condition: Anthropology in the Teachings of Jesus, Paul, and John (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996); Paul Jewett, Paul’s Anthropological Terms: A Study of Their Use in Conflict Settings (Leiden: Brill, 1971); N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 252–56; and Joel Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008). Robert Gundry, Sōma, 118– 19, even testifies to a monistic image in the Old Testament. He writes that “we confront a current understanding of the OT anthropology by now so common that its maxims need no quotation marks. It is that in the OT body and soul do not contrast. Man is an animated body rather than an incarnated soul. The breath which God breathed into molded clay at the creation represents the principle of life; and the soul that resulted is the human person as a whole. Thus man does not have a body; he is a body – a psychophysical unity.” 19 This in part is due to the inconclusive nature of word study methodologies for conceiving a biblical anthropology. See Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 15–16. 20 Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 3. In this light, as Nancey Murphy points out, it is possible to derive a dualistic anthropology from the New Testament, because of its ambiguity to describe a detailed anthropology. Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). She states, “I believe that we can conclude, further, that this leaves contemporary Christians free to choose among several options. It would be very bold of me to say that dualism per se is ruled out, given that it has been so prominent in the tradition. However, the radical dualisms of Plato and Rene Descartes, which take the body to be unnecessary for, or even a hindrance to, full human life, are clearly out of bounds” (22).


Brian Lugioyo

often depends on the dualistic anthropology it presupposes.” 21 Therefore, grounding our anthropologies in Scripture is hard work. That stated, the physicality of this life for Gundry is essential, and he maintains an integral relationship between body and soul such that the life of the spirit/soul cannot live without it being connected to a body. 22 This surely is the gift of Gundry’s work, as I see it, his emphasis on the physicality of our life and how it has tempered various forms of dualism that seek to emphasize true life as being found solely in one’s soul. 23 Our physicality is essential. This focus that Gundry demonstrates in regard to the physical is imperative for theologians and pastors to recognize. Gundry more recently acknowledges that his emphasis on physicality places him in agreement on many points with a nonreductive physicalist anthropological view.24 For him the following are areas of agreement: – The Bible uses multiple terms interchangeably to describe the human person.25 – Sometimes these terms are used as a synecdoche for the whole of the human person.26 – The Bible sometimes puts these terms together synthetically “to stress the wholeness of human being.” 27 – The term “soul” can mean different things in different contexts. 28 21 Robert Gundry, “The Essential Physicality of Jesus’ Resurrection according to the NT,” in The Old is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations (WUNT 178; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 192. 22 In a somewhat ambiguous way Gundry, Sōma, 159–60, talks about death as the separation of the body from the spirit. Saying first that “the spirit continues to exist, and in addition bears consciousness.” But then he goes on to say that the death of the body affects the spirit in it being separated from the body. He states thus that “by total separation . . . body and spirit die together. The whole man dies.” But what does it mean to say the spirit dies when it continues to exist? Death for Gundry is the separation of the body from the soul/spirit, not cessation of life. 23 Gundry, “Essential Physicality,” 188, admits that using dualistic terminology is linguistically challenging “because ‘dualism’ tends to connote wrongly an uneasy or even antagonistic relation between the physical and the nonphysical.” This difficulty is in part due to the language of ontology, where the primary ontological term is “person” who is a mental and physical duality, not an ontological dualism of mind/soul and bod y. As Malcolm Jeeves states, “There is a duality, but not dualism; the ontological reality of ‘person’ is primary and is neither mental nor physical.” Malcolm Jeeves, “Mind reading and Soul Searching in the Twenty-first Century,” in What About the Soul?: Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology, ed. Joel B. Green (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2004), 30. 24 Gundry, “Essential Physicality,” 188–89. 25 Ibid., 188. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid., 188–89.

Ministering to Bodies


– “The Bible does not teach a natural immortality (much less a preexistence) of the soul.” 29 – During the time of the biblical writers there were many different anthropological views that “existed side by side.”30 – “The biblical emphasis falls on anthropological wholeness, but it remains a question whether that wholeness is monadic or unitive.” 31 Nevertheless, in spite of these areas of agreement and his strong emphasis on physicality, he rejects the nonreductive physicalist position based on seven scriptural objections. Six of these deal primarily with how Scripture describes the postmortem state. 32 Rather than responding point by point 33 I will deal broadly with the eschatological arguments that Gundry presents for a disembodied intermediate state, which is for him a legitimate basis for continuing to hold a partitive, but unitive, body-soul anthropology.

The Dead Sōma and Continuity of Identity after Death For Robert Gundry, John W. Cooper,34 William Hasker, 35 J. P. Moreland and Scott Rae,36 it is the afterlife and continuity therein that gives the dualist position its greatest desirability. For them a key question for a theological anthropology is: “How is personal continuity able to hold together a doctrine of resurrection without the concept of a nonphysical soul?” Yet, the accentuation of the postmortem pre-resurrected state as the primary Ibid., 189. Ibid. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid., 189–91. 33 For other interpretations of some of the texts Gundry uses to advocate his position, see Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life; and Wright, “Mind, Spirit, Soul and Body.” 34 John W. Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 58–80. Cooper emphasizes the biblical portrayal of the afterlife, especially the idea of Sheol and the rephaim, as the warrant for a dualist anthropology. Also in surveying the tradition he states that the “Christian defense of the body-soul distinction has in large part been motivated by the doctrine of the afterlife” (15). 35 William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 206–7. Here Hasker states that “the general pattern of the New Testament eschatology (a pattern already well established in first-century Judaism) involves a three-stage progression: death, followed by a temporary state of disembodied existence, followed by the resurrection and judgment on the last day.” For him it is from this eschatological pattern that he theologically argues for “emergent dualism.” 36 See J. P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae, Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 23–40. 29 30


Brian Lugioyo

basis for a theological anthropology places an uneasy stress on our “spiritual nature”; and this emphasis directs attention away from the present life to the shadowy afterlife. 37 In this way, dualist anthropologies pronounce the soul’s departure from the body as the key to preserving personal continuity in the afterlife while the body is in the grave. However, this desire for continuity after death is primarily birthed from the fear of death, and, dare I say, a weak faith38 in God’s ability to completely resurrect us from death. At this point it is helpful to ask how we are to view life after death prior to the resurrection? 39 The afterlife in Second Temple Judaism was not 37 I do not intend to discredit the use of continuity as one argument for a theological anthropology, but to show the difficulty of using continuity as the strongest and primary basis for a dualistic position. Physicalists have wrestled with the problem of continuity both theologically and philosophically in nuanced ways. For instance, Nancey Murphy, “The Resurrection Body and Personal Identity: Possibilities and Limits of Eschatological Knowledge,” in Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments, eds. Ted Peters, Robert J. Russell, and Michael Welker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 208, talks about personal identity as including the continuity of memory and body, but also “ selfrecognition, continuity of moral character, and personal relations, both with others and with God” (emphasis original). Thus, it is not only our physicality that constitutes continuity but a host of other aspects. In a different manner Kevin Corcoran, “Physical Persons and Postmortem Survival without Temporal Gaps,” in Soul, Body, and Survival: Essays on the Metaphysics of Human Persons, ed. Kevin Corcoran (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), 201–17, proposes a view that continuity is preserved in the resurrection through an understanding of causal considerations, by a process which he describes as a “fissioning of causal paths.” 38 Wright, “Mind, Spirit, Soul and Body,” states, “What we need is what we have in Scripture, even though it’s been bracketed out of discussions of the mind/body problem: the concept of a creator God, sustaining all life, including the life of those who have died. Part of death, after all, is the dissolution of the human being, the ultimate valley of humiliation, the renouncing of all possibility. Not only must death not be proud, as John Donne declared, but those who die cannot be proud, cannot hold on to any part of themselves and say ‘but this is still me’. All is given up. That is part of what death is. To insist that we ‘possess’ an ‘immortal part’ (call it ‘soul’ or whatever) which cannot be touched by death might look suspiciously like the ontological equivalent of worksrighteousness in its old-fashioned sense: something we possess which enables us to establish a claim on God, in this case a claim to ‘survive’. But the God who in Jesus the Messiah has gone through death and defeated it has declared that ‘those who sleep through Jesus’ are ‘with the Messiah’, and he with them. This ‘with’ness remains an act, an activity, of sheer grace, not of divine recognition of some part of the human being which can, as it were, hold its own despite death. At and beyond death the believer is totally dependent on God’s sustaining grace, and the NT’s remarkable reticence in speculating beyond this is perhaps to be imitated. The New Testament speaks of this state as a time of ‘rest’, prior to the time of ‘reigning’ in God’s new world. ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,’ says John the Divine. Amen, says the Spirit (Revelation 14:13).” 39 Again Wright, “Mind, Spirit, Soul, and Body,” is helpful. He states, “Actually, though the question ‘where are they now’ is of course a common one at funerals, the

Ministering to Bodies


uniform. 40 In surveying the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish texts, Richard Bauckham concludes that even with the diversity of views of death and the afterlife there were four general features to these views.41 In the first place, death is generally seen as evil and complete.42 Secondly, “the Jewish tradition of belief in life after death maintains the holisitic view of the human person which is found in the Hebrew Scriptures.” 43 Thirdly, Jews of the Second Temple period held to a view that there would be an afterlife that was understood as subject to God’s righteousness and judgment. And lastly, Bauckham demonstrates that individual eschatology was bound to a corporate eschatology. Further, Bauckham shows how Sheol came to be seen as an intermediate place for the dead. But even during this development the “rephaim” were viewed as both dead souls and dead bodies. He states: Sheol is a kind of mythical version of the tomb, a place of darkness and silence, from which no one returns. This idea of the shades in Sheol is not belief in the survival of the spirit, the spiritual or mental part of a human being which goes on living when the body dies, as much Greek thought after Plato believed. The shades are not immaterial beings, but shadowy, ghostly versions of the living, bodily person, and they can hardly be said to live. They are dead, in a silent, dark, joyless – indeed, deathly – existence, cut off from God, the source of all life. 44

Gundry’s argument that descriptions of Sheol in the Old Testament and in the Second Temple materials justify a partitive anthropology seems to New Testament remains largely uninterested in it, and Paul himself only mentions it in passing, once to refer to his own future ‘being with the Messiah, which is far better’ (Philippians 1:23) and once to refer to those who have ‘fallen asleep through Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 4:14). The rest of the NT is likewise reticent: there are the famous ‘many dwelling-places’ of John 14, and there is the equally famous ‘with me in Paradise’ of Luke 23:43. But in none of these passages is there any mention of the psyche. The only place we find it in this connection is in Revelation 6:9, where the ‘souls under the altar’ ask God how much longer they have to wait until God completes his just judgment on the world. Had the earliest Christians wanted to teach that the ‘soul’ is the part of us which survives death and carries our real selves until the day of resurrection, they could have said so. But, with that solitary exception in Revelation, they never do.” 40 See C. D. Elledge, Life after Death in Early Judaism: The Evidence of Josephus (WUNT II/208; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), esp. 5–52. 41 Richard Bauckham, “Life, Death, and the Afterlife in Second Temple Judaism,” in The Jewish World Around The New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 250–51. 42 Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 147, echoes this understanding showing that for Jews, death was the extinction of life, but, furthermore, this was understood in relation to Yahweh. Life is life in fellowship with Yahweh, and death is when that fellowship is lost. 43 Bauckham, “Life, Death, and the Afterlife,” 250. 44 Bauckham, “Life, Death, ad the Afterlife,” 245.


Brian Lugioyo

stretch the evidence to fit a dualistic frame.45 Joel Green shows how Sheol itself is rarely employed to indicate the place of the dead, but more employed to speak of a place for the ungodly (c.f. Pss. 9:18; 16:10; 30:4; 31:18; 49:16; 55:16; 86:13; 88:6; Isa. 5:14, and Job 24:19)46 Furthermore, Walter Brueggemann sees the phraseology of being “in the Pit”/“out of the Pit” as a means of describing Israel’s history rather than Israel’s eschatological future.47 Thus, the Old Testament concept of Sheol is not a firm foundation for a partitive anthropology. How we view death underlines, in part, how we understand life. Green describes Scripture’s view of death as “the cessation of life in all of its aspects, and especially the severance of all relationships – relationships with God and with every person and with everything in the cosmos.” 48 Continuity is threatened by death. But life is constituted not only physically, but relationally. Whereas Scripture is ambiguous about a partitive anthropology, it is not ambiguous about the relationality of personal identity. 49 According to James Dunn, Nancey Murphy and others, “what the New Testament authors are concerned with is human beings in relationship to the natural world, to the community, and to God.” 50 Life is physical and relational. A case in point is the thief on the cross, who asks Jesus to “Remember me” (Luke 24:42). This is a statement of tremendous faith. Hanging on the cross, feeling and perceiving the cessation of life, the thief confesses his belief that Jesus’ “memory is a source of divine blessing.” 51 God’s knowledge of us sustains us in death. LeRon Shults, acknowledging the conceptual mystery of continuity of personal identity after death, addresses

Gundry, Sōma, 127–34. Green, Body, Soul and Humanity, 153. 47 Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 483–85. 48 Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 147. 49 James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of the Apostle Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998); quoted in Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 21, describes the Greek and Hebrew understandings of human nature in two differing ways. The Greeks tended to think of humans as partitive; that is, bodies and souls. The Hebrews tended to think of humans as aspective; that is, human nature is characterized by narrative and relation ships. “That is to say, we speak of a school having a gym (the gym is part of the school); but we say I am a Scot (my Scottishness is an aspect of my whole being).” 50 Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 21–22. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 169 (see also 14), states: “The Israelite has a sense of self above all in relation to the people of God, and this in relation to covenant and promises of the God of Israel. Personal identity is found in the historical narrative within which people live, in relation to the divine vocation given that people.” 51 Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 163. 45 46

Ministering to Bodies


this soteriological issue by highlighting the Johannine aspect of being “known” by God (cf. John 17:3; 1 John 3:2). Shults states: Rather than appealing at the end of an argument to the mystery of the Infinite God in order to fill a conceptual gap in our knowledge, theological anthropology should demonstrate the appeal of the mysterious Infinity of the Trinitarian God as an explanation of the existential gap in our knowing. This mystery is not merely one of the many “objects” of our reason, an “idea” grasped by the faculty of the intellect. It is the presence of the Infinite God who grasps us and knows us more deeply than we know ourselves. This beingknown is the mystery made known in the intimate mutual knowing of the Father and the Son (Matt. 11:27), a communion into which we have access by the power of the Spirit (Eph. 2:18). Here we have the opportunity to move beyond an emphasis on the “rational” nature of the “individual” in our theological discussions of human nature. Such emphases have led us to downplay the importance of our physicality and sociality. Late modern philosophical reflection has challenged us to account for the embodied and communal nature of human knowing. Facing the ambiguity of our knowing as persons is an important step in moving beyond the early modernist demand for certitude, and recognizing the illuminative power of the idea of the truly Infinite God in whom we live and move and have our knowing. 52

Thus perhaps rather than positing a non-physical aspect of a person called soul, God’s knowledge and remembrance of us can be seen as more than sufficient for a theology of continuity postmortem and pre-resurrection, for he knows us better than we know ourselves (Ps. 139:1–6). Thus the dualist appeal to continuity as a primary argument for a postmortem disembodied soul – frequently portrayed as the rational consciousness of individuality – often neglects the ideas of physicality and relationality. The resurrection narratives emphasize physicality and sociality. Gundry fervently demonstrates that the resurrected Jesus is no ghost. 53 Luke’s Emmaus road story clearly highlights the physicality of Jesus, but also the importance of “re-establishing . . . Jesus’ fellowship with his disciples at 52 LeRon Shults, Reforming Theological Anthropology: After the Philosophical Turn to Relationality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 187–88. In regard to a dualistic theological anthropology, he states: “The hard distinction between substance and accidents that flourished in the patristic and early modern periods led to an inner/outer anthropological dichotomy and a spirit/matter cosmological dichotomy. Under these constraints theologians were pressured to accept soul/body dualism in order to salvage the Christian idea of salvation after death. However, if the origin, condition, and goal of salvation is essentially relational (the eternal knowing and being-known of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and if the eternal life into which humans are called involves intensification of creaturely sharing in this knowledge, we ought not allow Christian soteriology to be constrained by the substance oriented categories of Aristotelian or Car tesian philosophy. Christians are finding their personal identity (are being saved) as they know themselves and others in relation to God – as they are drawn into a more intense sharing (koinonia) in the eternal communal knowing and being known that is the divine life.” 53 Gundry, “Essential Physicality,” 171–87.


Brian Lugioyo

the table.”54 Over against a nonphysical soul as the basis for maintaining the continuity of our personal identity, in the resurrection narratives it seems to be that physicality, relationality, and narrative are central to Jesus’ identity. 55 Continuity is constituted not in an individual disembodied rationality, but in a personal identity that is shaped by physicality, relationality, and narrativity. 56 Perhaps the threat of death that raises the question of continuity may be conceived relationally and narratively “in” and “with” Christ. Paul’s language is primarily relational rather than dualist when it comes to our postmortem state; it seems that he believes that personal continuity is formed relationally. Hence “he uses personal pronouns, together with the notable phrase σὺν Χριστῷ (sun Christō, “with Christ”; e.g., Phil. 1:23; cf. 2 Cor. 5:8) or ἐν Χριστῷ (en Christō, “in Christ”; e.g., 1 Thess. 4:16). These are not phrases descriptive of an essentialist ontology; they do not address issues of substance. Rather, they express ‘my’ existence, the persistence of personal identity, in profoundly relational terms.”57 Personal identity is inextricably physical and relational. Thus, to advocate a form of substance ontology in order to warrant personal continuity – when identity ought to be understood primarily in light of our physicality, relationships, and story – may be to go beyond what is knowable. Hence, Stanley Hauerwas, paraphrasing Wendell Berry, states that “when our bodies are abstracted from the communities that constitute the trust and love that give life, we have an exemplification of abstract understanding of the body that can only be destructive.” 58 In this way, Hauerwas wants to highlight the importance of what he calls the “Storied body,” which ties the Christian hope to “the story of Emmanuel, God with us”59 specifically through the practice of baptism. 60 Appeal to continuity does not sufficiently warrant belief in a disembodied soul after death. Faith in the Father who raised the Son from the dead, is sufficient warrant. “Remember me!”

Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 167. Ibid., 167–68, 177. 56 Thus the discussion is moving away from a sole focus on “ontology” of persons to a complex view of personal identity, which transcends an ontological view. 57 Ibid., 177–78. 58 Stanley Hauerwas, “The Body of Christ: Medicine and the Christian Difference,” on ABC ReligionandEthicswebsite (Accessed10/30/2012). 59 Hauerwas, “The Body of Christ.” 60 John Swinton’s insightful study on memory loss highlights the storied nature that is essential to human identity (Dementia: Living in the Memories of God [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012]). 54 55

Ministering to Bodies


Paul’s Sōma Gundry shows that any Pauline view of anthropology is derivative, not explicit. 61 Thus it may be informative to ask how methods and contexts enable us to construct a derivative Pauline anthropology. It could be argued that our modern methodologies within the context of the academy allow us to stretch Paul’s view to its limit. Here we can heed the warning of James Barr in regard to word study methodologies that single out a word in order to understand a comprehensive doctrine.62 Such an approach tempts the biblical scholar and systematic theologian within the academic context to treat Paul as a philosopher who transcribed propositional truth statements to be decoded. However, this dislocates Paul from his ecclesial context. Paul is working in and for the church, not the academy. Richard Hays, in one of his early essays on Pauline ecclesiology, states: Paul was a planter of churches (1 Cor. 3:6–9), an organizer of far-flung little communities around the Mediterranean that united clusters of disparate people in the startling confession that God had raised a crucified man, Jesus, from the dead and thus initiated a new age in which the whole world was to be transformed. The letters of Paul that survive in the NT are his pastoral communications with these mission outposts. Though separated from them, he continued to offer them exhortation and counsel about how to conduct their common life “worthily of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).63

Hays continues to argue that Pauline theology is partially constructed from Paul’s responses to ad hoc pastoral problems. Hence, Hays recommends that “his letters should be read primarily as instruments of community formation.” 64 Though Paul’s anthropology is not explicit, one easily notices an holistic anthropology in the way he treats and talks about people. As such Paul in his letters is never interested in ministering to parts of people, but to people. He is concerned with the whole person (1 Thess. 5:23). He deals with concrete bodily concerns. His ministry sees the distribution of food, eating together, circumcision, sexuality and marriage, and relationships with the Roman government as important to living the Christian life. This ministerial, and therefore relational context, is why it is difficult to posit a clear partitive anthropology. And this is why Christian dualist anthropologies have relied more heavily on Aristotelian hylomorphism and Gundry, “Essential Physicality,” 192. James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961). See also Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 14–15. 63 Richard B. Hays, “Ecclesiology and Ethics in 1 Corinthians,” Ex Auditu 10 (1994): 31–43 at 31. 64 Ibid. 61 62


Brian Lugioyo

Cartesian philosophy of the mind than Scripture!65 Paul’s understanding of sōma is physical and these sōmata are relational. He is ministering to social and embodied persons, not rational individualistic souls with bodies.

Neuroscience’s Sōma Today anthropological theories are also being formed within the context of neuroscience laboratories. Hence, what it means to be a person is being significantly influenced by modern science. Francis Crick, one of the key scientists who has helped us understand the DNA molecule, famously stated, “‘you,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” 66 Crick and other scientists have pushed for an empirically verifiable reductive materialist anthropology, such that all we are is our physicality (ignoring relational and narrative aspects of what it means to be human). This controversial reductive view is in conflict with other sciences, not to mention also with the Christian emphasis on moral freedom.67 But must these new scientific discoveries lead to a reductive physicalist understanding of the person? Thankfully, various biblical scholars and systematic theologians are thoughtfully engaging these neurological and neurobiological discoveries; and their engagement is complementing our scriptural understandings of what it means to be a human being.68 65 For Moreland and Rae, Body & Soul, 25, a person is dualistic because a person is tied not to the body but to a rational nature, which is tied to certain “capacities of thought, belief, sensation, emotion, volition, desire, intentionality and so forth.” 66 Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 3. 67 Nancey Muphy and Warren S. Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), wrestle with these reductionist understandings showing how the findings are not as reductive as some scientists presume. 68 One particular scholar who I think has done this well is Joel Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life; Green, ed., What About the Soul?: Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2004); “Bodies – That Is, Human Lives’: A ReExamination of Human Nature in the Bible,” in Whatever Happened to the Soul?: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature, eds. Nancey Murphy, Warren S. Brown, and H. Newton Malony (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 149–73; “What about . . . ? Three Exegetical Forays into the Body-Soul Discussion,” Criswell Theological Review 7 (2010): 3–18; “Body, Soul, and Human Life: A Response to Dr. Scott Rae,” Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith, 61 (2009): 194–96; “Science, Religion, and the Mind-Brain Problem: The Case of Thomas Willis (1621–1675),” Science & Christian Belief 15 (2003): 165–85; and Green and Stuart Palmer, eds., In Search of the Soul: Four

Ministering to Bodies


The traditional functions of the soul are now increasingly being explained by neuroscience. For example, Nancey Murphy uses Thomas Aquinas’s view of the capacities of the soul (one of the most detailed articulations in the Christian tradition) as a starting point to show how the “soulish” capacities of imagination, instinctive judgment, consciousness, intellect and will can now be understood by advances in neuroscience.69 That being said, while Murphy acknowledges the importance of neuroscience, she also acknowledges the limitations of neuroscience. In regard to Thomas’s “soulish” capacities she states that “[i]n part they are explainable as brain functions, but their full explanation requires attention to human social relations, to cultural factors, and, most importantly, to our relationship with God.” 70 In other words, these “soulish” capacities cannot be reduced to our brains. The non-reducibility of the human to our brains and the manner in which our environment impinges on our identity leads Warren Brown and Brad Strawn to employ Alicia Juarrero’s concept of “complex dynamical systems” to understand what it means to be a person. 71 Warren and Strawn describe this view stating: [The theory of complex dynamical systems] is a technical theory about how really complex characteristics (like minds and personalities) can emerge from myriad ongoing interactions between the millions of parts (like neurons) maki ng up a system (like an organism or person). This theory is also about adaptability and change. 72

Our environment affects our bodies in complex ways so that we are, to some degree, our relationships. Warren and Strawn continue: Views of the Mind-Body Problem (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005); among other publications. 69 Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 55–70. For Thomas Aquinas, the soul could be explained in three categories: vegetative, animal, and rational. The vegetative capacities – which humans share with plant life – represented by the idea of growth, nutrition, and reproduction; these to some degree represented for Thomas the life principle. These capacities are now accepted as capacities discovered in biology. Within Thomas’s view the animal soul has ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ animal capacities; the ‘lower’ capacities include locomotion, appetite, sensation, emotion and the ‘higher’ animal capacities include imagination, instinctive judgment, and consciousness. Biologists and neuroscientists have been able to successfully show how these “animal” capacities can be explained physically, via discoveries in the physiology of the nervous system, brain chemistry, and the use of brain imaging technology. The uniquely human capacities of the soul for Thomas were the rational capacities, which were described as the passive and active intellect, and the will. These more complicated rational capacities are currently also being understood in light of neuroscience. 70 Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 70 (emphasis original). 71 Alicia Juarrero, Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System (Boston: MIT Press, 1999). 72 Warren and Strawn, The Physical Nature of Christian Life, 74.


Brian Lugioyo

For example, research is suggesting that individuals with insecure attachment styles can develop secure attachment styles through new relationships (such as in therapy, marriage or friendship). To become open and adaptable persons, we need other persons to whom we are healthily attached and with whom we can mutually foster openness and growth. In the end, what we all need is the sort of interdependence based on love, friendship, and collegiality that enhances and encourages continued development and maturity. 73

Likewise, studies of neural plasticity have shown how our relationships with our environments change our brain physiology. To a degree this is how Joel Green employs Eleanor A. Maguire’s famous London Taxi driver study. 74 This study, which used structural MRIs to examine the brains of these taxi cab drivers, found that “the posterior hippocampi of the taxi drivers were significantly larger relative to those of the control subjects. Moreover, hippocampi volume also correlated with the amount of time spent as a taxi driver. This led to the conclusion that day-to-day activities induce changes in the morphology of the brain.” 75 We are complex dynamical systems, but a system so complex that it defies any comprehensive reductionist explanation. Hence, a non-reductive physicalist position demonstrates the irreducibility of a physicalist anthropology by appealing to the key relational component of what it means to be human.

The Ecclesial Harm of a Displaced Sōma Crucial to this discussion is the relational component of a Biblical and theological anthropology that arises from an ecclesial context. The ministerial fruit that is produced by a theological anthropology reveals the strength of these anthropological reflections. And on that account, I argue that the complex monist position is a healthier anthropology over against the dualist body-soul unitive position, since the dualist position has facilitated various sour fruit – particularly slavery and racism. Though dualist anthropologies are not the sole roots of these cultural sins, the body-soul dualist anthropology (especially radical dualism) has been employed to advocate these and other dehumanizing positions. And this is why the monist position, for me, is more ecclesially attractive, since such dehumanizing perspectives no longer become available.76

Ibid., 78. E. A. Maguire et al., “Navigation-related Structural Change in the Hippocampi of Taxi Drivers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97 (2000): 4398–403. See Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 116. 75 Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 116. 76 I am thankful to Joel Green for this helpful observation. 73 74

Ministering to Bodies


A radical dualist anthropology was used by Plato to justify slavery, likening the soul to the master and the body to a slave. Thus the argument was made that “because the soul has total dominion over the body, the master should have total dominion over the slave.”77 Unfortunately it was this dualistic anthropological structure that Christians adopted, albeit in a tempered holistic dualistic form, to justify their colonial endeavors on the African continent and elsewhere, and which allowed for mistreating the bodies of Africans and indigenous peoples with a partial goal of the salvation of their souls. 78 Bartolomé de Albornoz alluded to this view in his advocacy of the enslaved, when he stated that, “I do not believe that it can be demonstrated that according to the law of Christ the liberty of the soul can be purchased by the servitude of the body.” 79 In like manner, dualistic anthropologies have been implicated in the way men have treated women (in part due to the idea that women are more sensual than men) as inferior human beings.80 Rosemary Radford Ruether has demonstrated how dualist anthropologies have led to authoritarianism and sexism. She states: All the basic dualities – the alienation of the mind from the body; the alienation of the subjective self from the objective world; the subjective retreat of the individual, alienated from the social community; the domination or rejection of nature by spirit – these all have roots in the apocalyptic-Platonic religious heritage of classical Christianity. But the alienation of the masculine from the feminine is the primary sexual symbolism that sums up all these alienations. The psychic traits of intellectuality, transcendent spirit, and au-

77 Stephen G. Post, “A Moral Case for Nonreductive Physicalism,” in Whatever Happened to the Soul?: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature, eds. Nancey Murphy, Warren S. Brown, and H. Newton Malony (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 204. 78 Willie James Jennings narrates this attitude in his fabulous work The Christian Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). Wendell Berry, “The Body and the Earth,” in The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1986), 105, states in this regard: “The prototypical act issuing from this division was to make a person a slave and then instruct him in religion – a ‘charity’ more damaging to the master than to the slave. Contempt for the body invariably manifested in contempt for other bodies – the bodies of slaves, laborers, women, animals, plants, the earth itself. Relationships with all other creatures become competitive and exploitive rather than collaborative and convivial.” 79 Bartolomé de Albornoz, El Arte de los Contratos, 1571; quoted in Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (New York: Penguin, 2010), 710. 80 Post, “A Moral Case,” 205–9. See also James B. Nelson, Between Two Gardens: Reflections on Sexuality and Religious Experience (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1983).


Brian Lugioyo

tonomous will that were identified with the male left the woman with the contrary traits of bodiliness, sensuality, and subjugation. 81

In addition to these sour fruits, there are the rotten spiritualities that dualism aids. Harold Bloom insightfully demonstrated how American religion is inherently Gnostic. 82 Warren and Strawn have shown how this inward-focused, Gnostic-like, spirituality in the Christian tradition has resulted in a hyper individualistic and inward Christian faith. They write that the “inward focus on the soul, fostered by dualism, creates a strong magnet drawing modern religious perspectives almost inevitably toward Gnosticism.” 83 This is in part due to how various spiritualities have primarily focused on the inner life – an inner life that often diminishes the concrete location in which people find themselves. Various spiritualities also tend toward forms of Christian elitism that are enhanced by secret means to deeper connections within our core person, that is, the soul. This dualistic inwardness is doubly problematic when it is conjoined with individuality.84 This inner individuality fostered by dualism is vividly characterized by Wendell Berry in his essay “The Body and The Earth.” He states: For many of the churchly, the life of the spirit is reduced to a dull preoccupation with getting to Heaven. At best, the world is no more than an embarrassment and a trial to the spirit, which is otherwise radically separated from it. The true lover of God must not be burdened with any care or respect for His works. While the body goes about its business of destroying the earth, the soul is supposed to lie back and wait for Sunday, keeping itself free of earthly contaminants. While the body exploits other bodies, the soul stands aloof, free from sin, crying to the gawking bystanders: “I am not enjoying it!” As far as this sort of “religion” is concerned, the body is no more than the lusterless container of the soul, a mere “package,” that will nevertheless light up in eternity, forever cool and shiny as a neon cross. This separation of the soul from the body and from the world is no disease of the fringe, no aberration, but a fracture that runs through the mentality of institutional religion like a geologic fault. And this rift in the mentality of religion continues to characterize the modern mind, no matter how secular or worldly it becomes. 85 81 Rosemary Radford Reuther, “Motherearth and the Megamachine,” in Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, ed. by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), 44. 82 Harold Bloom, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). In this book Bloom argues that Gnosticism is “the hidden religion of the United States, the American Religion proper” (50). He states that “the American Religion, for its two centuries of existence, seems to me irretrievably Gnostic. It is a knowing, by and of an uncreated self, or self-within-the-self, and the knowledge leads to freedom, a dangerous and doom-eager freedom: from nature, time, history, community, other selves” (49). 83 Warren and Strawn, The Physical Nature of Christian Life, 23. 84 Ibid., 24. 85 Berry, “The Body and the Earth,” 108.

Ministering to Bodies


The remainder of his essay displays the negative consequences that the popular body-soul dichotomy engenders, especially in regard to sexuality. Missiologically, the partitive body-soul view is noticed in the language of the evangelical missionary movement that taught the North American Church to speak of “saving souls.” 86 Our evangelical culture in North America continues to debate whether we should “Feed the soul or feed the hungry?”87 Such missiological approaches have led many a missions board to speak of people as divisible into parts so as to prioritize funds – gospel or food. As Michael A. Rynkiewich has stated, “Dualism in Western thought, particularly in Christian circles, has contributed to a theology of mission that has a dualistic individual as the object of conversion. This dualist construction of persons has led to a severe division between evangelism and social justice.” 88 Examples like these lead Glen Stassen and David Gushee to state that, “To the extent that Christians adopt any kind of body-soul, earth/heaven dualism we simply do not understand the message of Scripture – or of Jesus.” 89 And this is in part a great paradox, because the tradition of Christian spirituality has tended to focus on the interior life, while the biblical tradition emphasizes the outer life of the body and service. 90

The Broken Sōma: A Methodology? I contend, then that attempting to construct a healthy theological anthropology begins in the context of the church. That is, biblical scholars and systematic theologians must recapture the telos of theological work. The question for theological anthropologies is not “how does our theological anthropology help us understand what happens after we die?” but “how does our theological anthropology shape how we minister to persons?” This in part means biblical scholars and systematic theologians must be aware of the church’s ministry. At this point I think it helpful to turn to the 86 Hence Lottie Moon’s famous saying that “Surely there can be no greater joy than that of saving souls.” 87 Rich Copley, “Feed the Soul or Feed the Hungry?” Lexington Herald Leader (16 June 2002), D1, 5 (1); quoted in Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life, 138. 88 Michael A. Rynkiewich, “What About the Dust? Missiological Musings of Anthropology,” in What About the Soul?: Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology, ed. Joel B. Green (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004), 134. 89 Glen Stassen and David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 203–4; quoted in Warren and Strawn, The Physical Nature of Christian Life, 26. 90 Murphy, Bodies and Souls, 34.


Brian Lugioyo

work of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, a network of homes that ministers to broken bodies. Vanier’s theology of the body comes from his reading of John 13. If the body is truly the dwelling place of God, a holy ground, then all our relationships are transformed. When we meet and touch others, we do so with even more respect as we realize their life is holy. When Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and asks us to do the same, is he not showing us the importance of meeting each other, touching each other, with simplicity, gentleness, and great respect, because each person is preciou s?91

Ministry is ministering to precious bodies. 92 Vanier’s relational anthropology has shaped his ministry to bodies and the fruit of that ministry has deepened his understanding of what it means to be human. Vanier’s reflections on what it means to be a human being do not focus on parts of persons or ontology, but on an understanding that a person is only whole when in loving dependent relationships. For him there is no emphasis on body and soul, but loneliness and community, because it is in the midst of brokenness and loneliness that he sees what true humanity is. L’Arche is founded upon the body, and bodies in pain and in anguish, because L’Arche welcomes men and women who have been wounded by sickness or by an accident, or who have been hurt by rejection and despisal, whose capacity for verbal communication, intellectual understanding, and reasoning are limited and often nonexistent. . . . They do communicate, however, with a language of the heart. This is the communication that exists between a mother or a father and their child, a communication where body language is an essential component – a language of play, of rest, and of tenderness, but also a language of commitment and boding which brings security and safety, the knowledge of being loved and valued. We can understand the spirituality of L’Arche only if we understand the language and the relationship between the child and the mother.93

His is an anthropology of tenderness and love in the face of fragility and loneliness.94 It is an anthropology that looks at the importance of relationJean Vanier, Essential Writings (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2008), 111. Though Gundry does not go as far as I would like, here we see why his emphasis on the physicality of sōma is so important; he reminds us with Vanier that physical bodies matter. He states (Sōma, 195): “Thus, the ample exegetical and lexicographical evidence for a consistently physical meaning of sōma in Pauline literature . . . implies not only that the resurrection is physical, but, more broadly, that man cannot anticipate or determine the eternal reality of the future by evading or devaluing the material reality of the present – his own body, the bodies of others, and the objective history constituted by the mass of actions performed bodily in the material world.” 93 Jean Vanier, Essential Writings, 109. 94 Jean Vanier, Becoming Human (New York: Paulist Press, 1998), 98: “Tenderness is the language of the body as a mother holds her child, as a nurse touches the patient’s wound, or as an assistant bathes someone with severe disabilities. . . . Tenderness is the language of the body speaking of respect; thus, the body honours whatever it touches; it honours reality. It does not act as if reality itself must be changed or possessed; reality belongs to humanity and to God. Isn’t this the way we should relate to all living beings – 91 92

Ministering to Bodies


ality for understanding what it means to be a human person. And this anthropology emerges from within a certain context. 95 Participating in the ministry of Jesus to the Father, means that we encounter and reflect on God at the front lines of ministry, where God is at work. It is from that location that one learns to read Scripture aright. It took an encounter with the resurrected Lord to enable Paul to read Scripture rightly. It was the work of the resurrected Lord that revealed to Peter that he could share a meal with Cornelius. Thus, it is the continuing ministry of Jesus to the Father in the church through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to read Scripture rightly. Ray Anderson’s concept of the resurrected Jesus Christ as a hermeneutical criterion underlines the ecclesial context of exegesis. This is a hermeneutic that is founded on praxis, or ministry. In ministry Anderson states: “Jesus himself continues to instruct Christians as to the will of God in practical matters of the life of faith. Jesus has not simply left you a set of teachings. He has done that. But in addition, he continues to teach. Discerning this teaching is itself a hermeneutical task, not merely an exercise in historical memory.” 96 Likewise, he states: “Only when one demonstrates competence in theological reflection from the context and praxis of ministry can theology be kept relevant to the church and ministry be protected from capitulation to sheer pragmatism.” 97 Thus, for Anderson, theology must be tested and revised by those who are “engaged in ‘frontline’ mission and ministry.” 98 Only from an ecclesial context and plants, animals and the earth? . . . There is no fear in tenderness. Tenderness is not weakness, lack of strength, or sloppiness; tenderness is filled with strength, respect, and wisdom. In tenderness, we know how and when to touch someone to help them to be and to be well. Through my contact with Raphael and Philippe, the first two people I welcomed to l’Arche, and my many, many other teachers among the people with disabilities, I have in some small way learned to inhabit my body and to see it not just as a channel for therapy but as a way to revealing my heart and of being in communion with others.” 95 John Swinton and John Hull have seen Merleau Ponty’s phenomenology of the body as an aid in this regard, especially in a theology of disability. See John Swinton, “Many Bodies, Many Worlds,” in Disability: Christian Reflection, ed. Robert B. Kruschwitz (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012), 18–24; and John Hull, “Blindness and the Face of God: Toward a Theology of Disability,” in The Human Image of God: Johannes A. Van Der Ven Festschrift, eds. Hans-Georg Ziebertz et al. (Leiden: Brill 2000), 215–29. Practical theology has recently started employing ethnographical tools as an important means for theological anthropology and ecclesiology. See Pete Ward, ed., Perspectives on Ecclesiology and Ethnography (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012). 96 Ray S. Anderson, The Shape of Practical Theology: Empowering Ministry with Theological Praxis (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2001), 84. 97 Ray S. Anderson, Ministry on the Fireline: A Practical Theology for an Empowered Church (Pasadena: Fuller Theological Press, 1998), 35. 98 Anderson, Ministry on the Fireline, 16.


Brian Lugioyo

ministerial perspective can we begin to more fully understand what it means to be human.

Conclusion Some of the difficulty of theological anthropology lies in defining terms. Gundry has rightly defined sōma as having a predominantly physical connotation. When it comes to defining psyche we are on more ambiguous footing, especially given the history of how “soul” has been defined as rational properties in the Christian tradition. There are a variety of nuanced body-soul dualisms, but the majority of them take the soul to mean some immaterial aspect that constitutes essential personhood. Hence Moreland and Rae can state that “human persons qua persons are immaterial substances and not material ones.” 99 And this view has generally been one that has questioned the physical treatment of different colored bodies. Bodies are amazing things. They heal, they scar, they suffer. Paul’s body suffered, he was beaten, starved, stoned, he was blind, and he had a “thorn in the flesh.” Regardless of what the thorn was, Paul took a physical toll for the gospel. He repeatedly points us to Christ’s broken body on a cross and to the glorified body of the resurrection. Throughout the book of Acts the major disputes of the faith were bodily. Can I, a Jew, share a meal with a Gentile? Can I, a Gentile, become a follower of Christ without circumcision? Can we eat unclean meats? Do I cut my hair and follow other Jewish bodily practices as a follower of Jesus the Jewish Messiah who has made all things new? Do I touch the unclean? These bodily things, like having sex, are integral to Paul’s teaching. The Christian life is a physical one. But we have thought in dualities for so long that spirituality has predominantly become disembodied. Where is the laboratory of theological instruction – it is God in people’s lives. The authors of Scripture were engaged in touching sick bodies, seeing bodies do amazing things. Dualism, even if unitive, moves us ever so slightly away from bodies and sees the human within individualistic frameworks, rather than the healthy and tender relationships that foster our identity and provide the context for human flourishing, which is the church. The ultimate autonomy is that of the soul over the body. It is not good enough to be independent of others; I must be independent of my body, for it is such a burden. This stance illuminates the tentacles of sin, since sin obstructs or damages our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. It is 99

Moreland and Rae, Body & Soul, 25.

Ministering to Bodies


a sin against oneself to tear oneself in two. It is particularly damaging because it does not take into account the creaturely nature of life and so in a supercharged manner body-soul dualism accentuates Luther’s incurvatus in se. It also allows for all kinds of dichotomies in the Christian life: Sunday and the other six days, service and spirituality, evangelism and social justice. Body-soul dualism, as Wendell Berry puts it, can be a disease of the self’s searching for the self. 100 If we – biblical scholars and systematic theologians – put ourselves back in the proper context of the church, a more nuanced relationally embodied anthropology might emerge that helps us love and minister to broken bodies, rather than an illusive behind-the-scenes soul that claims to be the true me.101

Berry, “The Body and the Earth,” 111–12. My teacher, Robert Gundry has labored to demonstrate the importance of physicality for the church. And I am grateful for his churchly work in this regard. Given the nature of this churchly task and Gundry’s commitment to it, I look forward to his thoughtful response, which no doubt will continue to edify this discussion. 100


Instead of Sentimental Exegesis: The Significance of Suffering for Christ and his Church R OGER N EWELL History, including the history of Christianity is littered with caricatures of god, like so many mental idols, which have led people either to cruelty or atheism. – Olivier Clement The blessedness of the blessed does not consist in exemption from persecution and trial, but in seeing the Savior face to face. . . . Our doctrine should not be influenced by timorous feelings regarding entrance into the great distress. “Be strong.” “Endure hardness.” “To you it is graciously given to suffer in behalf of Christ.” These scriptural admonitions do not refer specifically to the persecution of saints during Daniel’s seventieth week, but they do dictate the proper Christian attitude toward suffering. – R. H. Gundry

Introduction During my first semester in college, Robert Gundry put a serious challenge to the eschatology I had learned in the church of my youth. To put it simply, I had been taught that the final seven years preceding the return of Christ, known as the Tribulation, were the exclusive property of unbelievers. Prior to these years all true followers of Christ would be gathered up into heaven (raptured) until Christ’s final coming to judge the earth. Gundry challenged this paradigm, arguing that such warnings about tribulation(s) made better sense not as punishment for unbelievers, but as part of an ordinary disciple’s journey through time. “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33). “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). “We also exult in our tribulations” (Rom. 5:3).”1 Though not eager to surrender the comforts promised by my belief in the pre-tribulation rapture, Gundry urged us to have better reasons for embracing the rapture paradigm than “timorous feelings” about suffering. Risk-avoidance hardly seemed a credible starting point for either herme1


R. H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973),


Roger Newell

neutics or for bearing witness to the gospel before the world. In fact, to pursue a pain-avoidance strategy seemed more a sign one had left the narrow path than one had somehow made a perfect vaulted landing upon it.

The Early Church and the Suffering of Christ If one examines the story of the early church leading to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., timorous feelings about suffering do seem to have played a role in misleading the church’s teaching regarding the divinity of Christ. Students of church history are regularly surprised when they discover that prior to Nicea, the first heresy the church wrestled with was the denial that Jesus was a true human being. Indeed, the real offense about Jesus’ humanity was the crisis posed in how to interpret the nature of God, that is, if in Jesus Christ, “very God of very God, begotten not made,” according to Nicea, was for us and our salvation “crucified, dead and buried.” Prior to Christianity, to suggest such things about God was unthinkable. Around this same time, I read George Ladd and discovered how the Christian belief that God had become a human being had shattered the dualism of the ancient Greek world. Within that ancient paradigm the God of eternal perfection could not and would not suffer. Suffering was part of temporal, physical existence. The divine life was separated from it by an absolute ontological barrier. 2 But if God had become human, suffered and died, this classical dichotomy was overturned. Hence the meaning of suffering would have to be radically revisited as well. Unless, that is, one found a way to avoid Christianity’s radical revision of Greek dualism. Thus, a variety of heresies arose seeking to accommodate the gospel to dualism. One way insisted on a clear distance between Jesus the suffering man and Christ the eternal Son of God. Numerous Gnostic speculations filled in the mystery as to how the divine Christ was related to the human Jesus. Irenaeus tells of the disciples of Valentinus who believed the Spirit of Christ left Jesus when he was taken before Pilate. 3 Or perhaps the eternal Christ secretly changed places with Simon of Cyrene and was thus spared the indignity of crucifixion. This view may lie behind the teaching of the Koran: “Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness.”4 Regardless of when or how, the point is that what2 George E. Ladd, The Pattern of New Testament Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 14. 3 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.7.2 (ANF 1:325). 4 J. M. Rodwell, The Koran: Translated from the Arabic (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1937), 427. According to Rodwell, the Basilidans held this view regarding switch-

Instead of Sentimental Exegesis


ever was divine about Jesus did not suffer but only seemed to do so. Various docetic approaches to Christology proliferated, wherein a human-like Jesus appeared to suffer, while the eternal God managed to keep a safe distance on the divine side of dualism. Docetism’s appeal posed its greatest threat to the church during the years prior to Nicea, under Emperor Decius (249–251 A.D.), who issued a universal decree of persecution. In such a life and death context, one can appreciate the appeal of Docetic logic: Why should Christians suffer for their faith if Christ himself did not suffer? Christ came to save us from suffering. All these various accommodations to this ancient divorce between temporal suffering and eternal perfection, aroused Irenaeus, the formidable second century theologian, to oppose such heretics with an urgency reminiscent of Paul’s assault on the Judaizers of Galatia. The eternal God, Irenaeus insisted, “took up man into Himself, the invisible becoming visible, the incomprehensible becoming comprehensible, the impassible becoming capable of suffering, and the Word being made man. . . .”5 To separate God from the One suffering on the cross was to deny the heart of the gospel – God with us. Irenaeus’s teaching echoed the Epistles of John which described deceivers, antichrists and false prophets as those who refused to confess that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. 6 And he insisted that his resistance was shared by the apostle Paul as well. According to Irenaeus, Paul declares in the plainest manner, that the same Being who was laid hold of, and underwent suffering, and shed his blood for us, as both Christ and the Son of God, who did also rise again, and was taken up into heaven. 7 Nothing could be clearer for Irenaeus: to separate the divine Christ from the suffering Jesus tore asunder what God had joined together for our salvation. Moreover, if the suffering and death of Jesus were not real, neither was his resurrection a real resurrection and our salvation had no grounding in reality. Vain indeed are those who allege that He appeared in mere seeming. For these things were not done in appearance only, but in actual reality. But if He did appear as a man, when He was not a man, neither could the Holy Spirit have rested upon Him, – an occur-

ing places with Simon of Cyrene. Mateen Elaas has reported that many Islamic scholars believe God fooled the Jews by changing the facial features of Judas to look like Jesus, who was then crucified while Jesus was taken secretly to heaven. Mateen Elass, Understanding the Koran. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 66. 5 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.16.6 (ANF 1:443) (emphasis mine). 6 Ibid., 3.16.8 (ANF 1:443). 7 Ibid., 3.16.9 (ANF 1:444).


Roger Newell

rence which did actually take place – as the Spirit is invisible; nor, [in that case] was there any degree of truth in Him, for He was not that which He seemed to be. 8

Thus, we see that the way of suffering, via dolorosa, was God’s chosen path to redeem humanity. This descent into suffering was part and parcel of what Irenaeus called recapitulation, whereby God redeemed human nature by entering into its depths, and healing it from within as through faithful obedience Christ untwisted human disobedience in and through his own human person. God’s triumph was paradoxically this descent into human nature, whereby the Son faithfully took our place and substituted his obedience for our disobedience, faithfully untwisting every step of false response with true submission to the Father’s will. Irenaeus’s portrayal revealed the extent to which the Christian story radically retells the dualist story of salvation in which the soul escapes the prison house of the body to return safely to heavenly perfection. In sharpest contrast, the Son of God descended into the depths of bodily, creaturely, suffering human life and transformed it from within. Thus by the seeming defeat of the cross God accomplished the victory of the Lamb; the way of the cross vindicated by God’s raising of Jesus on Easter day. So the Christian faith reframed suffering. It was no longer simply a sign of failure or imperfection. It was by no means something to be at all costs avoided, but for the sake of the beloved creation, it was embraced and overcome by the vulnerable coming of God; come as a human to suffer, die and be raised for us. In a memorable description, C.S. Lewis has restated Irenaeus’s great theme with special attention to the shattering of the chasm between heaven and earth and God’s sheer joining with us in our human predicament. In the Christian story, God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . but He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. . . . One may think of a diver first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down . . . into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly h e breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both colored now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colorless in the dark, he lost his color too. 9

Not all were pleased with the idea that God once “lost his color too.” Ambivalent feelings regarding a suffering Christ seems to have been a key reason why Arius was eager to distinguish Jesus from the everlasting God. For Arius, any evidence of dependency on the Father indicated the Son’s inferiority. Texts such as Matt. 19:17 (“Why do you ask me about what is 8 9

Ibid., 5.1.2 (ANF 1:527). C.S. Lewis, Miracles, A Preliminary Study (London: Collins, 1966), 115–16.

Instead of Sentimental Exegesis


good? One there is who is good.”), John 3:35 (“The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.”) and John 14:28 (“The Father is greater than I”) were evidence of the Son’s inferiority to the Father.10 Better, he thought, to speak of a likeness between Jesus and God but not the same essence, in order to avoid the humiliating implication that the eternal God himself suffered, died and was buried. However, as C. F. Allison has noted, once any dependent qualities in Christ’s love are evidence of inferiority, then one has removed the giving and receiving of love from God’s essential nature.11 In doing this, one has in effect eliminated the eternal relation of love between the Father and the Son. Fortunately, Arius’s attempt to accommodate Greek tradition became the catalyst for Athanasius to use the nuanced distinctions in Greek language to restate the biblical understanding that in Christ God himself has entered into creation, and joined himself (“very God of very God”) in solidarity with us for our redemption. Jesus was of the same (homo) essence of the Father, not just similar (homoi) to the Father.12 But despite the weighty responses of Irenaeus, Athanasius, and also the Cappadocians, the impulse to marginalize the suffering love of Christ did not cease to influence the church. Allison has suggested that beneath the intellectual appeal of accommodating the reigning dualist worldview, docetism also appealed at a deep emotional level. That is, if despite appearances, Christ somehow escaped real suffering, the hope was planted that our salvation also entails an escape from suffering. Hence the cross need not be taken up or not for long. However, those who pursue the docetic way of escape pay a devastating price, for to deny that God in Jesus has actually taken up into himself human suffering, means that ultimately suffering remains untouched by God. 13 As the Cappadocian Gregory of Nazianzus declared, “That which He has not assumed He has not healed.”14 Perhaps an ongoing docetic tendency explains why the next half century following Nicea saw a series of Christian Emperors (Constantine included) 10 Michael B. Thompson, “Arianism: Is Jesus Christ divine and eternal or was he cr eated?” in Heresies and How to Avoid Them, ed. Ben Quash and Michael Ward (London: SPCK, 2007), 17–18. Interestingly, Rowan Williams disputes whether John 14:28 was initially used by Arius to argue for inferiority, as hierarchical models of the trinity were common to both sides. Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 109. 11 C. F. Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1994), 91–92. 12 More than once, heresy has forced the church to think more carefully and faithfu lly upon the true meaning of the gospel, lest it offer a parody instead of the real thing. So Ben Quash, Heresies and How to Avoid Them, 8. 13 Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy, 28. 14 Gregory Nazianzen, Letter 101 (NPNF 7:440).


Roger Newell

inclined towards support of Arius instead of Athanasius. It reflects both an imperial as well as an all too human attitude toward suffering. No doubt for an Emperor, Christian or not, the image of God who rules by decree not by suffering love seemed more administratively appealing. But if God from all eternity designed to come among us as born in a manger, not a palace, to serve, not to be served, what then? Such a divine descent into service would destroy at its root all rigid forms of hierarchical relations and dominance which the ancients took for granted, including master and slave. That an Emperor would prefer a theology in which the heavenly sovereign kept a safe distance from the vicissitudes of the suffering and tribulation described in the gospels is not surprising. Whether Caesar or slave, which of us naturally finds appealing the notion of a suffering God, particularly if we are expected to reflect the divine nature? Moreover, the advocates of Nicea hardly succeeded in avoiding all docetic tendencies. T. F. Torrance has described how, in the effort to eradicate any hint of Arianism, with its subordination of Jesus, the focus in post-Nicene worship became Christ in his majesty in a way that seriously diminished and even eliminated the biblical stress on Christ as our truly human high priest. This is what led Apollinarius to claim that the human mind of Jesus was set aside when the divine Logos became incarnate. But to remove from Jesus a truly human mind leaves Jesus with only a human body and a divine mind that was never ignorant, and never felt a human feeling.15 Further, Alan Kreider has noted the remarkable depictions of Christ celebrated at the sixth century Church of San Vitale in Ravenna portray a resplendent savior, dressed in gold and jewels, accompanied by none other than Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora, similarly attired. Hence it appears that the orthodox defeat of Arius had the unintended consequence of portraying Jesus in a way which de-emphasized his humanity, particularly his suffering humanity. 16 However, my recollections as an undergraduate wrestling with Professor Gundry’s questions indicate that one does not have to be an arch-heretic or a sixth century Christian Emperor to find the image of Christ as Pantocrator a more desirable role model than that of “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

15 T. F. Torrance, Theology in Reconciliation: Essays towards Evangelical and Catholic Unity in East and West (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1975), 147–48. 16 Alan Kreider, “Beyond Bosch: The Early Church and the Christendom Shift,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 29.2 (2005): 59–68 at 64.

Instead of Sentimental Exegesis


Beyond Timorous Feelings: Post-Rapture Readings in Revelation “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). What does the church’s witness look like when it embraces the teaching that it is the suffering God who heals and redeems the wounds of creation? First, the suffering Christ is reconnected to a suffering church. A church that embraces a suffering savior will not bypass Good Friday in its rush to Easter nor prematurely elevate (rapture) an exalted church. It will ask how the triumph of the cross is closely connected to the triumph of those who give their lives in service and witness to the world, not avoiding the cost this entails. This will create a cruciform interpretation of the book of Revelation, as the following comments by Tom Wright and George Caird will illustrate. Let us begin our survey with the seven letters to the seven churches. For Wright, these seven letters are as relevant for the churches of today as they were in the first century. He notes how this opening section ends by the Spirit telling the church to conquer. How so? Answer: the same way Jesus conquered; not by sword or army but “through his own patient suffering. Some in these churches will suffer. Some will die. All must bear patient witness to Jesus, thereby ‘conquering’ the evil forces that surround and threaten them.”17 Or consider how, in Rev. 14:14–20, the one like a son of man sits on a cloud with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand, as he triumphantly harvests the earth. Grapes are gathered in bunches as God reaps his harvest; the great winepress of God’s anger producing its harvest. Here salvation is portrayed not condemnation. “But it is a salvationthrough-suffering.” When persecution and martyrdom come, they are not to be seen as something simply wicked and random, “but as Jesus himself using human wickedness as his means of bringing in the harvest.”18 Thus the way God works salvation and works wrath are intimately connected, “both on the cross and in the martyrdom of Jesus’ followers.” 19 Again the pattern is repeated in chapter 17 when the lamb triumphs over the Monster and the Whore. The victory occurs “by the same method by which he has always conquered; by his own blood, and by the blood of his own, the martyrs who remain faithful.” 20 Or consider the entire trajectory which follows upon Revelation 5, with its majestic vision of worship before the throne of God. Naturally speakTom Wright, Revelation for Everyone (London: SPCK, 2011), 14. Ibid., 133. 19 Ibid., 134. 20 Ibid., 156. 17 18


Roger Newell

ing, we may wish to skip chapters 6–20 and go straight to the triumphant climax of chapters 21 and 22. And yet, the sequences of seals, bowls of wrath, plagues, locusts, the whore, the dragon, and the various monsters which we meet are perhaps what we most need to know about if the real world is to be healed and redeemed. They help prepare us to face in our time what John was preparing the churches of Asia Minor to face in theirs.21 In other words, the cross is both the key to world history and the key to the living of our lives. Jesus, the lamb of God, who stands as though slain at the climactic disclosure of heaven’s sanctuary in chapter 5, is the ultimate guarantor both of God’s victory and God’s care for those who are persecuted and oppressed as the church moves through time. As Caird has put it, “The conqueror is one who follows Christ along the road which leads to that victory; the conqueror is the one in whom Christ shares his victory afresh.” 22

Lessons for Today’s Church In the light of our brief survey of Patristic controversies with Arians and various Docetisms, and this sketching of reading Revelation sans rapture, what are the implications for the church’s witness to Christ? Three comments are in order. 1. A believer’s pilgrimage to Easter suggests our primary connection to Jesus Christ is not through intellectual assent to doctrinal statements, but rather through a personal connection of love and trust in the one who became human, suffered and died for us. Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life, continually reminds Christian theology that thought, language and life are inseparably related. Hermeneutics and theology divorced from practical living have lost their raison d’etre. The New Testament and the early church fathers use a variety of concepts, metaphors and models to bear witness to Christ and his work for us. But they point to the imprinting of a specific form upon the church’s witness, past, present and future. The tragedy of orthodoxy without orthopraxis leads to the kind of “cheap grace” which Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw as the great crisis of the German church during the Nazi era. This is the pastoral context of his classic reflection on the Christian life, The Cost of Discipleship. 23 2. God has invited his church into a cruciform encounter with his world not an escape from it. To respond to Christ’s invitation is to share in God’s Ibid., 62–63. George B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John (San Francisco: Harper, 1966), 58. 23 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995). 21 22

Instead of Sentimental Exegesis


way of connecting to the world. As the gift is not given without pain, so the disciples’ welcome of that gift into their lives will not be without cost.24 “The Son of man suffered unto the death not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like his.”25 This means that throughout the church’s journey through time, it will be the center of her mission to follow her master by entering into solidarity with those who mourn, who are persecuted, including all who are victims of injustice. This is the cross shaped way that unites us in Christ’s love for the world. It is the opposite of abandoning the world. By this way the church joins with Christ’s suffering love to accompany the world in its travail. Taking up the cross, we thus join Christ in his way of meeting the sin of the world. A believer’s victory, like Christ’s, is a way of vulnerability, courage and selfsacrifice. 3. Hence we must always ask cruciform questions regarding the church’s witness in every era, including our own. In Dorothy Sayers’ dramatized retelling of the Nicene controversy, Athanasius boldly asked Arius: When Thomas saw the resurrected Jesus, did he see the Father’s image in Christ’s wounded hands and feet? 26 By analogy we must ask, when the world sees the church, does it see any sign of Christ’s passion, any tangible expression of suffering love for the world? Or does it see a gathering of anxious souls eagerly anticipating their escape from the tribulations soon to immerse the world? The logic of the New Testament is unavoidable: as the Son represents the Father, so the church is called to represent Christ to the world. “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).27 Can it be an accident that just before Jesus said these words, he showed the disciples his hands and feet? In retrospect, I would commend the evangelical church of my youth for faithfully teaching its children the importance of Christ’s death on the cross for our salvation. It was not as faithful in teaching us that our mission was meant to be shaped by his, that we were called to a lived connection to Christ’s death and resurrection, shaped daily by taking up our little crosses and following in his steps. “That I might know Christ and the power of his resurrection” was often spoken, but whether by avoidance or incredulity, the rest of the text was passed over in silence—“and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10). God makes 24 Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John (New York: Paulist Press, 2004), 330. 25 Quoted by C. S. Lewis as the epigraph to The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1962) from George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons. First Series. 26 Cf. Dorothy L. Sayers, The Emperor Constantine (London: Victor Gollancz, 1951), 147. 27 For a penetrating exposition of this parallel, see Lesslie Newbigin, The Household of God (London: SCM Press, 1954), 61.


Roger Newell

Christians by sending them to the cross, not by sending Jesus to the cross and Christians in the opposite direction.

Instead of Sentimental Exegesis When the Good Friday path to Easter is avoided or sidestepped, the church wanders in confusion and finds itself listening to other voices than that of the Good Shepherd. What replaces Christ’s summons to lose one’s life in order to find it, the Pauline and patristic theme of sharing in Christ’s su ffering that we might know the power of his resurrection? If one were to construct a backslider’s breviary of dead ends, mirages and cul-de-sacs that have waylaid a church more eager to escape the world than bear faithful witness to it, one could fill up pages of descriptions. The list I would assemble would include the blessing or prosperity teachings of the television preachers, our failed generosity in scape-goating the poor instead of serving “the least of these” in Christ’s name, and the sexual fulfillment agenda (with both its heterosexual and homosexual partisans). All the above seems far removed from the call to crucify one’s self-centered nature. Such a list of modern detours offers evidence that the false hope of religion providing us with an escape from suffering hardly ended in the fourth century. In brief, docetism, whether in ancient or modern guise, advocates an escape from the real world to heaven, and denies God’s love for creation. It produces an endless variety of spiritualities which promise inner peace, or even intimacy with God but have us withdraw into cliques and cut us off from the pain of the world and from those who suffer oppression. Today I see the warning against “timorous feelings” which Robert Gundry addressed thirty-five years ago as a warning against Christian sentimentality; sentimentality because it prematurely resolves the crisis of the Christian’s journey through time. Given the endless recurrence of docetic tendencies in the church, it is fair to ask: how can the church go about its mission of witness in the face of our basic human fear of suffering, which if we are honest, is never entirely absent from any of us? Perhaps we can start by simply accepting the suffering journey rather than holding onto false hopes for premature rescue. Secondly, we can remember Christ’s words to his disciples in the upper room: “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The great sign that Jesus’ cross was not a failure, but God’s victory was the empty tomb. The resurrection vindicated the way of the cross. It is why the early church was not easily discouraged. Thus the resurrection remains the

Instead of Sentimental Exegesis


great confirmation for the church of every era to proceed with good cheer on the path that Christ has hallowed. Thirdly, let us consider the most compelling description of suffering which comes in the wake of the resurrection. In Romans 8 Paul likens our suffering now as disciples to that of a woman giving birth. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:18–26).

A woman bears her suffering in childbirth because of the joy she anticipates. Our Lord’s road to resurrection contained an irreplaceable sequence of losing his life before he received it back again and yet the joy he anticipated of a redeemed creation enabled him to endure faithfully. Here is why the notion that Christ’s bride should assure herself that God will preemptively interrupt this pattern and replace it with an immediate, troublefree ascension strikes the wrong note both theologically and pastorally. For it refuses to enter into the rhythm built into our humanity and into all creation by Christ’s act of victory, and which hallows the small portion of his cup we have been granted the honor to taste (Col. 1:24). “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). In conclusion, the last word about the true hope of the church should be a word that speaks of the Spirit. For the church’s blessed hope is not a suffering-free road or departure, but the presence of the Spirit of Christ, who reminds us afresh of his victory, puts courage into us, and grants us peace so that we may engage in prayer and acts of service both in Christ’s name, amidst trials and tribulations with unsentimental hope.28 On this path, the Spirit leads the church, both in convicting us of our sins and assuring us of our belovedness. On this path, the Spirit whets our appetites for the eternal supper of the Lamb which we await with sighs and groans in the present moment, and yet paradoxically, with grateful hearts. “He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).


Newbigin, Household of God, 122.

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies as Co-Servants of the Word of God, Living and Written GARY W. DEDDO There is a healthy discussion currently taking place regarding the relationship of biblical studies and theology. Often the issue is taken up under the rubric of the theological interpretation of scripture. There are now a variety of proposals as to what might be meant by a theological interpretation of scripture, but a consensus has not yet formed. The discussion is ongoing and seems to be driven by a dissatisfaction with the relative disjunction between the various disciplines – one that has also perhaps contributed to the fragmentation of the worship and life of the church. 1 The work of Thomas F. Torrance has significant potential to contribute constructively to this vital dialogue. Torrance has written at length about the nature of dogmatic theology, 2 including consideration of its relationship to scripture and to biblical scholarship. In this essay we will look at several of Torrance’s insights that, although fundamental to a comprehensive exploration of the topic, are often overlooked. Before thinking about how they might be properly related, Torrance insists that we must consider the nature and validity of the methods and assumptions that drive and shape these disciplines today. For it is there Torrance locates the real tro uble. Torrance was very concerned about assumptions that inevitably become operationalized in the methods and attitudes of both theological and biblical studies. He was especially concerned when those presuppositions and attendant methods either qualified or set aside fundamental elements of Christian belief. It was on these grounds that Torrance leveled his serious critiques of both theological and biblical studies. While his critical stance is fairly well recognized, it is not as clear that his actual line of thought is equally well grasped. This essay will attempt to illuminate more fully and 1 See Robert Gundry’s “Theological Desiderata” in Jesus the Word, 95, to which this book responds. 2 Torrance by far prefers the designation of dogmatic over systematic theology. Theology can also be regarded as having various sub-disciplines, such as philosophical and historical theology but these are not a central concern for Torrance.


Gary W. Deddo

exactly the nature of his objections and also, even more importantly, his positive proposal for setting these disciplines within a proper framework.

A Sketch of Torrance’s Thought Carrying across numerous books, select chapters of books and in various articles written by Torrance, we find extensive discussions of the nature of dogmatic theology and, often connected with this topic, its relationship to scripture.3 Much less frequently, we do have some relatively extensive treatments of the relationship of theology proper to two other conventionally distinguished disciplines, biblical theology and biblical studies, the latter of which deals with the most detailed matters related to exegesis. However, in Torrance’s judgment, interpretive or hermeneutical issues, beginning with the exegesis of scripture, pervade all these disciplines for they all involve the discernment of meaning. Crucial to grasping Torrance’s most fundamental concerns is comprehension of his conviction that all these disciplines are intrinsically means to the ends of the knowledge of God, that is revelation, and reconciliation to God, the latter being the goal of redemption. 4 Dogmatic theology, biblical theology and biblical studies have their raison d'être in our knowing and being, or becoming, reconciled to the God of scripture. As such, each discipline exists to contribute to knowing and being in right relationship with the God of the Bible. While Torrance has no particular objection to these disciplines being conventionally differentiated according to their di stinct tasks, he marshals considerable argument against their serving other or divergent purposes. Ordering them to serve a single aim and end, then, ought to co-ordinate if not unify their efforts. Torrance’s argument about why there must be this unity of purpose is multifaceted, but at heart, fairly straightforward. His fundamental axiom, as it were, is a biblical-theologically grounded one. Scripture is an indispensable element in these disciplines of study and it has intrinsic to it a particular purpose, one that has pervaded the entire history of its formation 3 Major works addressing the nature of doctrine and its relationship to scripture are T.F. Torrance, Theological Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969); Reality and Evangelical Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1982; repr. InterVarsity Press, 1999); Divine Meaning: Studies in Patristic Hermeneutics (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995); The Ground and Grammar of Theology: Consonance Between Theology and Science (Belfast: Christian Journals Limited, 1980). Also see his substantive article, “The Deposit of Faith,” Scottish Journal of Theology 36 (1983): 1–28; and his essay “The Place of Christology in Biblical and Dogmatic Theology,” in Theology in Reconstruction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 128–49. 4 Torrance, Theological Science, 41.

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


preservation and subsequent interpretation. The Bible itself, taken as a whole, is about God making himself known – known under fallen conditions and achieved to such a degree that it necessarily involves reconcili ation – a reconciliation that is a result of God’s own work of redemption. 5 Those disciplines of study if taken up with assumptions, methods and attitudes at cross purposes with the nature and aim of scripture cannot yield meaningful results that are related in any significant way to scripture.6 Their resultant meanings will be decidedly divergent, discontinuous and incoherent with each other. Torrance argues that the study of scripture in connection with any of these disciplines will contribute to the knowledge of and reconciliation to God only if they operate in ways that exhibit direct continuity with the apostolic mind discerned in scripture and, in Torrance’s judgment, which was largely represented in the early church’s formation of its ecumenical creeds, especially as understood by Irenaeus, and Athanasius along with the Cappadocian Fathers. 7 But most importantly such an orientation of these disciplines, if aligned with the early church in continuity with the apostles, would also make them congruent with the very mind of Christ as signaled in the apostolic word itself. Now perhaps this all seems unexceptional and self evident at least in the church. However, Torrance is at pains to point out that significant divergence from this understanding with its correlating practices is widespread in both liberal and conservative theological/ecclesiological camps, in both biblical and theological studies. The misguided habits and assumptions that foster such departure have ancient roots in Greek cosmological and epistemological dualism. These have been further reinforced by modern idealism and atomistic, empiricist/naturalistic modes of thought. And these modes of thought have in turn become embedded in Western institutions of higher education breeding scientism (that is not actually scientific), skept icism and individualism which can shade off into solipsism, agnosticism, or atheism. Institutionally these approaches have contributed to fostering and valuing analytic modes of thinking over synthetic or integrative learning and have resulted in specialization and compartmentalization to such a degree that a fragmentation of knowledge has resulted not only in theology but among all areas of study. 8 Torrance, Reconstruction, 132. Torrance, Reality, 56–57. 7 Torrance, Deposit, 6–14. 8 Torrance, Ground and Grammar, especially chapter 2. See also Torrance’s The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church, 2 nd ed. (London/New York: T&T Clark, 1997) and The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996) for extensive discussions. 5 6


Gary W. Deddo

It is Torrance’s contention that biblical and theological studies have not been immune to these corrosive elements. The outward evidence of this is the compartmentalization of biblical studies from theological studies and of course the exile of theology and biblical studies from secular higher education. Evidence of the loss of coherence and continuity between biblical and theological studies is not just found in the organizational compartmentalization found in theological schools, but also in the dichotomous ways in which biblical studies and theological studies are regarded, often pitting them one against the other, if both are not dismissed altogether. Consequently, while Torrance was noted for his ecumenical service to the church, I think he was equally ecumenical in his desire to see reconciliation between these two church disciplines and so traced out a way forward towards reconciliation without demanding their fusion. We have now sketched in a very general way how Torrance thought that biblical studies and theological studies ought to be approached via a cont inuity of purpose intrinsic to the economy of God’s revelation and reconciliation. Now we must turn to the details of Torrance’s critique and prescri ption.

The Initiative of God The most fundamental fact to take into consideration in the church’s coming to know God and so having the possibility of understanding God, of having anything true or accurate to say of God, is that the God known in the church is the God that has personal agency and has acted to make himself known. The knowledge of God is entirely the result of the initiative of God. The early church summarized this by saying: Only God knows God and only God reveals God. This expression is a rendering of Jesus’ saying: “Only the Father knows the Son and only the Son knows the Father, and those to whom he chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). In the Old Testament we hear that God himself will make himself, his name, known and we read of many incidents where God takes action to make himself known. We can say, along with Torrance, that God is known by the grace of his revelation.9 What is ruled out by this fundamental insight is thinking that knowledge of the God of the Bible can be attributed to human capacity, innovation, imagination, creativity, ingenuity, spiritual or to moral virtue. The actual knowledge of this God in the church has undoubtedly made use of these capacities, but it is not the result of their exercise. Knowledge of God is 9

Torrance, Theological Science, 43.

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


the achievement of God among us and in that sense it is always a miracle, even if it is one we receive, one in which we participate. The corollary of this fact is that we can only know God if, where, when and how God reveals himself. This is absolutely fundamental. Departure from this foundation in our biblical or theological studies represents a radical departure from the economy of revelation. But more significantly, if there is ontological truth to it, departure means a disjunction from any real knowledge of God. Biblical and theological studies that do not build on this foundation are no longer engaged in seeking to know and understand this God. Another object and aim have supplanted it at some point. So the knowledge of God and the possibility of any articulation of our knowledge begins with God, the living, acting, self-communicating, God. But more fundamental than the general description of the benefits to us of this initiative of God is the revelation of who this particular God is who benefits us in this way. This God is a speaking and eloquent God who makes himself known, not a mute God who wills to remain the unknown God.10 If God had willed to remain unknown there would be no knowledge of God. But the God of the Bible is a God who wants to be known and so has acted accordingly towards his creation. Torrance refers to this as the economy of God’s revelation. The outworking of this economy reveals that God is a self-revealing God who desires to be known and has made a way for just this to be accomplished among his creatures. 11 Now often among those who acknowledge at the outset the absolute necessity of the initiative of God are some who turn immediately to the role the Bible plays and offer descriptions of the attributes of the Bible that establish its potential to make God known, namely, its authority, infallibility and/or inerrancy, inspiration, perspicuity, etc. In short, the line of thought goes: we know this God because God inspired scripture to be written and written in certain ways so as to vouchsafe accurate knowledge of God. So when we attentively and humbly read scripture, we come to know God. But Torrance thinks this description is far too oversimplified and can be downright misleading! Such a truncated understanding can lead to a departure from the trajectory of the economy of revelation and the purpose of scripture. It can give room for a kind of deistic understanding of revelation to form and so a deistic view of God to develop. 12 More importantly, simply attributing our knowledge of God to scripture via its inspiration, fails to account for all that we have come to know about what was involved in the total process of God’s self-revelation. There is much more to the story. In particular, account must be taken of God’s Torrance, Ground and Grammar, 152, 154. Torrance, Reality, 107. 12 Torrance, Ground and Grammar, 30. 10 11


Gary W. Deddo

working in Israel and the Incarnation. And Torrance shows how an incomplete understanding of the whole economy and purpose and place of scripture in it leaves biblical studies and theology vulnerable to distortion. Yes, in the order of our experience of knowing (ordo cognoscendi), we at first do not know God, and then we read scripture or hear it proclaimed, and then we come to know and trust in this God, the God of the Bible. But Torrance wants us to pay attention to those features involved in God’s revelatory initiative that are independent of and prior to our coming to know God by means of the Bible. This means comprehending God’s achievement according to the order of being (ordo essendi), that is, according to the total reality of who God is and all that God did prior to, although concomitant with, our subsequently coming to know him in the hearing of scripture. We have to ask, “Where exactly did scripture come from and how was God involved in that process?” There was a time when scripture was not! That’s not heresy. So, where did scripture come from? The answer has to begin when God chose especially to work with Ancient Israel, beginning with the calling of Abraham out of his own religion and culture. God established with Israel a particular relationship to make himself and his ways known to them and through them, to all the nations of the earth. That history of God’s revelation journeys through the long and sometimes tortuous history of God’s interaction with Israel.13 That interaction involves God’s acting in Israel’s history, a history that also involves Israel’s interaction with other nations. But Israel’s God also provided her prophetic interpretations of those actions, spelling out the meaning and significance of God’s actions and so the character and purpose of God giving rise to those actions. Revelation is comprised of a word/deed event. Not an event without prophetic interpretation, not prophetic words without deeds. Israel not only comprehends God in acts of a given moment, but comes to understand the nature, character, purposes and will of God evident from prophetic words disclosing the heart and mind of God behind all his actions, even those that reach back to the beginning of creation, and point forward to the fullness of time when promises God made to her will be fulfilled. The prophetic words reveal realities that are ontologically distinct 14 from scripture, namely, God himself and those actions of his that take place both before and after scripture was written. Furthermore, God provides Israel with very particular ways of interacting more directly and personally with him by giving them specific ways of worshipping and living together. Israel lives in a circle of covenant relationship with God which encloses prescribed ways of living that are con13 14

Torrance, Reality, 86; Reconstruction, 143–44. We might say, realities that are ontologically extra textual.

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


gruent with God’s covenant relationship with them that includes calling her to be a light to the nations. So in Israel, the knowledge of God begins to indwell or be embodied in a people who have a history and certain social, cultural, ethical, liturgical, linguistic and conceptual features. In Ancient Israel the knowledge of God takes on a creaturely form, as Torrance says. Torrance, at this point, makes an important observation. Israel’s knowledge of God is not complete even as the last of her prophets speak and write. In fact, part of what is revealed to Israel is that her knowledge of God is incomplete, there is more yet to come. Enshrined in the prophetic word is the promise of a greater and fuller knowledge of God not only for Israel, but for all humanity. God’s ultimate purposes for Israel and all his creation have not yet been accomplished. There is more God will do, not the least of which is sending his Messiah. 15 As it turns out, Torrance notes, all the ways Israel was led and taught served as anticipations of what was to come. God was preparing the mind and heart of Israel for the fullness of his revelation and the manifestation of his ultimate purposes. Their ethical ways, their liturgical ways, the patterns of God’s actions and interactions with them and other nations throughout the history of their relationship were not just accidental or incidental, but purposeful preparations shaping the life, the heart, the mind of Israel in order for her to grasp and receive the greater revelation of God to come. Scripture was born in the life of Israel. But her scripture contained not just ideas about God but the record of God’s actual interaction with Israel, including Israel’s responses, and the inspired interpretations of the history of those interactions that shaped Israel’s whole life, memory and hope. Thereby, the dabar Yahweh (the Word of the Lord) became imprinted onto their whole humanity. They became a people, the people who belonged to God. In Torrance’s terms, Israel was the socio-cultural-linguistic-intellectual womb and matrix formed by God in anticipation of and preparation for the final step in his activity of revelation and reconciliation. 16 God had acculturated a people for himself ready to receive the fullness of his revelation and presumably did so because without it no one would have grasped sufficiently, according to God’s own satisfaction, that final phase of his revelation. Yes, without Israel and its prophets we would not have what we now call the Hebrew Scriptures. But more than that, there would not have been formed a people with a preserved and prophetically interpreted mind and memory ready to receive the full revelation and reconciliation of God. 15 16

Torrance, Reconstruction, 144–45. Ibid., 145.


Gary W. Deddo

Revelation, then, does not come by way of an oracle nor by private mental events nor through the conveyance of particular concepts, ideas or symbols of God that are essentially mental or sheerly conceptual. Through God’s own initiative the Word of the Lord was conveyed in conjunction with God’s own actions and interactions with a whole and particular people played out down through a particular history. The key elements of this history of relationship (presumably all that was needed, according to God’s own reckoning) were then brought to articulation by the prophets appointed by God to speak and write. By God’s own providence that prophetic word was preserved (again, presumably as God saw fit) so that it was passed on from generation to generation. And in this way God acculturated to himself a people who came to have a particular mind. Torrance stresses that the economy of God worked out in Israel involved revelation and reconciliation. And these two elements cannot be separated, since there is in the essence of the matter no possibility of really knowing this God without being reconciled to this God. For this God faithfully maintains his covenant love and purposes and so restores their broken relationship time and again acting as Israel’s Deliverer and Redeemer from iniquity and providing atonement for sin, upholding his righteous mercy towards all. Failing to recognize and relate to this God as the faithful, ato ning, healing, reconciling God is to fail to receive the revelation of who God is. For Torrance the crucial elements of this phase of the economy can then be summed up in four points: 1) the economy of revelation and redemption is driven and accomplished by God’s own initiative; 2) God’s actions unfold in the ongoing full-orbed life of Israel in such a way that he forms and shapes the entirety of their social, cultural, ethical, liturgical, intellectual history; 3) the economy included, as one element within it, the formation of Israel’s scripture; 4) and all this was a preparation for the further unfolding and promised fulfillment of the economy of revelation and reconciliation. Later phases of this economy can only be understood in terms of this earlier phase as it is the same God at work to accomplish one and the same purpose: revelation and reconciliation.

The Self-revelation and Self-giving of God in Christ by the Spirit The next phase of the unfolding of God’s economy took a surprising, perhaps even shocking turn for Israel at the end of its preparation. God did not send mere prophets or kings or priests to reveal and redeem. God came

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


himself, the Word of God became incarnate. God appeared in person, in flesh and blood in space and time. The people of God now beheld God face to face. No longer were they faced simply with indirect prophetic words about God and the meaning of his actions among them. But in Jesus of Nazareth, they met God, the whole God, both veiled and manifested in his humanity. No longer were they being prepared with signs and promises, but the fulfillment, the Reality Itself, became present and active among them, directly addressing them. 17 The Reality that was signified in all their previous knowledge of God now stood before them, interpreting himself to them. To be sure this self-revelation made use of all God’s providentially arranged preparations. But also required were corrections of any less than faithful apperceptions of that history of revelation, any distortions of the character, heart, mind, purpose and ways of God that might have infiltrated the teachings given and recollected within Israel. Now in Christ, Torrance points out, the Word of God is embodied in the humanity of Jesus, without ceasing to be the eternal Word of God. God in wisdom and mercy, in righteousness and faithfulness, has now placed his own image among us, in the very place reserved by God’s “No” to Israel against setting up any graven images. He is Immanuel, God with us. Wanting to make the distinctive nature of this phase of God’s revelation and reconciliation as clear and precise as possible, Torrance emphasizes that in Jesus we have God’s own self-revelation and self-giving. No longer does God stay at a distance and act indirectly or communicate through mere creaturely interpreters via the humanity of Israel. The fulfillment of revel ation and redemption takes place by the direct action and speaking of God in person, in time and space, in flesh and blood, in the incarnate Son of God. Torrance explores this astounding event and fact, noting that in Jesus alone, who has existed with the Father and Spirit from all eternity and though whom all creation was made and continues to be upheld, we have a share of God’s own internal knowledge communicated to us. Jesus alone knows the Father. Jesus alone has from eternity existed in the “bosom” of the Father and has seen him and known him (John 1:16–18). Now, in our humanity, within his human mind and with human words, concepts and images formed in the womb of Israel, Jesus shares his insider knowledge of God with us and accomplishes for us his redemptive purposes. There is now in Jesus a place in creation where divine and human knowledge of God intersect. There is now a place where perfect communion of God with humanity occurs – in the Person of the Son of God incarnate. At no other


Torrance, Reality, 93–99.


Gary W. Deddo

time and no other place and in no other person do we have embodied this knowledge and this communion. This reconciled knowledge of God that is grounded in God is finally and ultimately actualized in Jesus Christ. But in Christ, Torrance emphatically reminds us, we not only have the revelation of God to humanity but also have the only perfect human reception of that knowledge resulting in a life of perfect response to God. This bi-directional reality is most concretely pointed to in Jesus’ own self-designation in his saying: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He does not say that he will show us the way or tell us the truth or show us how to have life. He is, in his own person, the Way of God, the Truth of God and the Life of God and he is this now for us as one of us, in his humanity united to his eternal divine Person. So Jesus can say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” This action of revelation and response in Jesus is qualitatively different from any that has preceded it.18 This is not to deny that God was the agent in previous acts of revelation and preparation for fulfillment in the life of Israel. But in Jesus we have an absolutely unique personal union of God with creaturely human reality. That is why Jesus is not merely another priest, another king, another prophet. He does not come to offer us more information about God or a new method or technique for approaching God. Rather, God came himself in the Person of his Son and made himself known, by his own self-action, self-interpretation and self-giving. Torrance cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is to see how qualitatively different this act of revelation, reception and response is compared to all that has gone on before. 19 In Jesus Christ we reach the zenith of God’s own once-and-for-all economy. The Apostolic Appointment However, the story of revelation and reconciliation continues as it slopes down from that concrete, embodied, intensely personal high point. Jesus appoints the apostles to be his authorized interpreters through their preaching and in their writings. And this is a particular, personal and therefore unique appointment or calling. This appointment, Torrance notes, included their proper response to Jesus himself according to the truth and reality of who he was. The apostles received the self-revelation and self-giving of God as God intended, as the qualitatively unique and central event of the culmination of God’s own initiative to be known and reconciled to his people. So the apostles not only proclaimed a message but embody in their

18 19

Ibid., 89. Torrance, Reconstruction, 129–134.

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


persons the essential reception of and response to God’s self-revelation and self-giving in Jesus.20 So the ministry of the apostles was not merely to hand over a message but to embody right, truthful reception and response. Torrance points out that this bi-directional ministry is what became identified in the early church, especially with Irenaeus, as the apostolic foundation of the church.21 As the Apostle Paul put it, this foundation had Christ himself as the cornerstone and the whole renewed people of God are built upon it and into it as a place of worship, a temple (Eph. 2:20–22). On the basis of Christ’s own initiative we now have a written record of the apostolic teaching and response oriented around the reality of Christ the cornerstone, gathered together in what we now call the New Testament. Torrance notes that the early church recognized that there was a center, a core reality, to which all the apostolic kerygma (proclamation) was oriented, and that was the self-interpretation of Jesus that revealed his identity and the nature and purpose of his redeeming work. And key to Jesus’ self-revelation of his true identity was the revelation of his relationship to the Father and the Spirit according to the apostolic foundation. In the mind of the early church that core became designated the “deposit of faith.”22 Torrance clarifies that this deposit of faith was not just the message about the person and work of the incarnate Son of God, but was the reality itself, the risen and ascended Lord, to which the words of the apostles directed their hearer’s attention, intending to draw out the singular response of worship. For the object of revelation ensconced in the Deposit of Faith was the knowledge of God the Father, through God the Son in God the Holy Spirit, recognized as our Lord and Savior. Crucially, this core carries within it the worshipful response of the apostles who shared in the responsive mind of Christ to God the Father in the power of the Spirit. And that response is designated faith or belief in this God. The faith or belief of the church then is directed through the apostolic kerygma to terminate on the reality of Who God is, who has come to us and is present to us from the Father through the Son and in the Spirit and to whom we respond in the Spirit, through the Son and to the Father. 23 The Deposit of Faith was recognized as the living, ontologically grounded core of the apostolic witness and writings. So the New Testament Scriptures were received as the “apostolic tradition” or “apostolic foundation” of the church which was comprised of the revelation and reconciliation of God himself promised to Israel and fulTorrance, “Deposit,” 14; also Reconstruction, 135–36. Torrance, Reality, 91, 92. 22 For a full discussion, see Torrance “The Deposit of Faith,” 1–28. 23 Torrance, Ground and Grammar, 161. 20 21


Gary W. Deddo

filled in Christ and the appropriate response of faith which gave rise to the faithful worship of the Church. 24

The Apostolic Tradition, Scripture, and Our Knowledge and Faith in God It is at this point that Torrance must acknowledge a crucial distinction, one that can be misconstrued if the larger context of Torrance’s exposition of the entire economy of revelation is not taken into account. The revelation of God, fulfilled by Christ in person and handed on through the apostolic foundation, aimed at a repentant belief or faith that results in a life of wo rship. Such worship in the life of the church is the manifestation of the fact that the revelation has reached its God-initiated and intended purpose. Consequently, we must say, argues Torrance, that the only true object of our knowledge and so of our faith, our belief, is the God revealed in J esus Christ. The writings of the apostles themselves cannot be the proper objects of faith in the same way that God himself is. The apostles themselves, and so their writings, point beyond their own message to the realities to which they refer. 25 That is, our knowledge of God and response of faithful worship to God “repose” or “terminate on” its ultimate and ontological source, namely, on God the Father through God the Son and not on the apostolic writings themselves, the New Testament Scriptures. 26 The church does not worship the Bible. If it did, it would be guilty of idolatry. 27 The church does not believe that the Bible will raise us up on the last day. The church does not proclaim that the Bible gave up its life on the cross to redeem us from sin and guilt and death. We cannot say, then, that we believe in the Bible in the same way that we believe in God, Father, Son and Spirit. If our words and understanding are to be true to the nature and ordering of the realities involved in the economy of revelation, then we must both distinguish and properly relate the Living Word of God from the Written Word of God. The Bible is not divine and so knowledge of it, in and of itself, is not knowledge of God, even if it has an indispensable place in God’s economy. Scripture is not a proper object of our worship even if our worship, on this side of God’s self-revelation, would never arise without the apostolic foundation. Jesus himself warned of the danger of not acknowledging the ontological and epistemological differentiation between scripture and himself. He Torrance, “Deposit,” 3. Torrance, Reality, 96. 26 Ibid., 71. 27 Technically, “bibliolatry.” 24 25

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


warns the Jewish leaders that they can never find eternal life in scripture if they reject him, for scripture directs them beyond itself to him (John 5:29– 40). In the mind of Jesus, the purpose of scripture is to direct them to the one and only ontological source of eternal life. Treating scripture as the object of faith and salvation, displacing Jesus himself, amounts to the misuse of scripture contrary to God’s intentions. But even more seriously, such misuse misses eternal life itself. Jesus identified himself as being the resurrection and life for us. Scripture directs us to him, not primarily to itself. Both identifying the Living Word with Written Word as well as separating them have a significant, and in Torrance’s view, damaging, effect on how we interpret scripture and in turn how we understand the nature of doctrinal formulations. But when properly distinguished and related there can be no legitimate way to dismiss the divinely appointed place of scripture since, for Torrance, in the order of our knowing and being reconciled to God, scripture with Christ as its cornerstone, is essential. So, for instance, he says, “the church must always turn to the Holy scripture as the immediate source and norm of all revealed knowledge of God and of his saving purpose in Jesus Christ.” 28 There are scores of other passages where Torrance unambiguously declares the same thing. How could he say an ything else given the place of scripture in the economy of God’s revelation and reconciliation? So how ought we to approach scripture as the believing church? The short answer is, for Torrance, that we must have a realist approach and assumptions, which must incorporate the particular location, function and purpose of the apostolic word in relation to the written prophetic word and its fulfillment in the Incarnate Living Word. 29 We are given scripture that we might be reconciled and worship according to the “truth as it is in J esus” (Eph. 4:21) who is the self-revelation of God and who authorized the apostolic foundation with Christ himself serving as its orienting cornerstone, the Deposit of Faith, given to and recognized by the early church.

Torrance, Divine Meaning, 5. Torrance (“Deposit of Faith,” 3) also states, “in this embodied form ‘the Faith once for all delivered to the saints’ co nstituted the regulative basis for all explicit formulation of Christian truth, doctrine and belief in the deepen ing understanding of the church. . . .”; and again (Ibid, 5), “the unalterable foundation laid for it by Christ in himself and his apostles.” Further still in Space, Time and Resurrection (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1976), 12–13: “Without all that the scriptures in the saving purpose of God have come to embody, we would not be able to know God or to have intelligible communion with him within our continuing human and historical existence.” 29 Torrance, Reality, 109. 28


Gary W. Deddo

Continuity in the Creedal Formulations of the Early Church Extensive research into how the early church actually came to generate certain key theological formulations and clarified and summarized its faith in creedal statements convinced Torrance that overall and in the end these tumultuous deliberations led to insights and theological/creedal results that remained in actual continuity with the unfolding of God’s own economy of revelation and reconciliation. As they grappled with how to interpret scripture and developed ways of speaking faithfully of God, they shared in the apostolic mind as the apostles had shared in the mind of Christ, in both knowledge and in response to God in true faithful worship. In particular, Torrance traced out how Athanasius paid very careful attention to the thought of Arius and others who, on the basis of their interpretation of scripture, regarded Jesus as a creature, a creation of God. Athanasius was not only concerned with the conclusions reached but actually delved into how exactly Arius and his supporters reached their conclusions. As it turns out their fundamental assumptions were determinative for their interpretive methods that, then, in turn led to their theological conclusions.30 The early church was caught up in having to sort out the relationship of scripture, its proper interpretation and faithful theological expression. The early creeds are the miraculous results of the long drawn out process of working through just this process. In the midst of the deliberations, Athanasius was concerned that our knowledge of God be expressed accurately (Gk., scientia,) and accused Arius’ thinking of being inaccurate (ascientia), ungodly, rationalizing, mythological (mythologein) and finally, idolatrous. The reason Athanasius brought up such serious charges was that the Arians31 were thinking of God as if God was a creature and interpreting scripture as if God (Father and Son) was a creature, even though they affirmed that at least God the Father was not. By making the human father-son relationship the norm or criterion for interpreting biblical language of father and son, they concluded that “there was a time when the Son was not” and so regarded Jesus as being a creature, one made by God, not eternal as God (the Father) was. Creaturely logic, which perfectly applies to creatures, was used to interpret biblical language about God, without any accounting See Torrance, Divine Meaning, chapters 7 and 8. Athanasius’s critique not only applied to Arius but to the whole range of those who offered various amendments of Arius’s particular understanding but still, in the end, refused to accept the meaning held forth at Nicaea (325) and reached its full articulation in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. See Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, for the rehearsal of the early church controversy. 30 31

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


of the fact that the God of the Bible is not creature, and so was entirely i nappropriate. In fact, Athanasius noted, thinking of God as if God were a creature is ungodly, and that, of course, is idolatrous thinking and so cannot contribute to the knowledge of God, but rather obscures it. It is also mythological thinking, not theological thinking (theologein), since it takes human realities and projects them onto God, understanding God in terms of human ways, creating God in our own image. It does not express the intentions and results of divine revelation but the knowledge of creatures. The Arians were attempting to understand God in ways that made no account of the differing natures of God and God’s creatures and failed to grasp the very nature of revelation as it unfolded in God’s economy. They were not allowing the nature of the object to determine how they should know it nor to determine how to interpret the biblical witness to that object, namely, to the eternal, divine Father and Son. Finally, the Arian approach meant that there was not and could not be any real knowledge of God himself, but only myths, symbols, figures, analogies grounded in human reality and experience since Jesus, being regarded as not being one with the Father in being, act and relationship, could then offer no self-revelation and no self-giving of God himself. Our knowledge of God then, could not terminate or repose on God, but only on human words and concepts generated out of ourselves with Jesus simply existing as one of us. Crucially, Athanasius discerned that behind such thinking was a cosmological and epistemological assumption of dualism, which ruled out from the start any real, direct action of the Creator God within creation itself. It was this presupposition that determined their hermeneutical approach to scripture, one alien to the apostolic mind and foundation. Mythological projection and creaturely rationalizations were the only possibility given these dualistic assumptions. No deposit of faith could then be given to the church by God. And consequently no personal union of God with humanity could even be contemplated since that event would be the absolute antithesis to the dualistic separation of God from Creation. It was this unshakable assumption that drove their hermeneutics and required them to affirm the identity of Jesus as being heteroousios (of utterly different kind of being) or homoiousios (of a similar kind of being) and to deny absolutely that Jesus could possibly be homoousios (of one and the same kind of being) as was God the Father. The deliberations regarding the relation of the Father and Son were just one example of many where the church had to sort out how best to interpret scripture and affirm the truth of the apostolic kerygma so as to stay within God’s economy of revelation and reconciliation, share in the apos-


Gary W. Deddo

tolic mind in faithfulness to Christ himself and so participate in the right worship of God.

The Lessons to be Learned If our biblical and theological studies have anything to do with the knowledge of and reconciliation to the God of the Bible in actuality and reality and not just notionally and cognitively, then we in our contemporary situation have much to learn from the early church to guide and correct how we approach our exegetical and dogmatic tasks. For according to Torrance’s observation, the same dualistic cosmological and epistemological assumptions continue to undermine the contemporary practice of these disciplines. Bringing those assumptions into these disciplines necessarily will have a powerful effect upon what possible range of conclusions/understandings might be drawn from them, upon how they are thought to be related to each other and what they can offer the life and worship of the church. 32 If it is assumed that God cannot be known in any direct way and that there is no normative or definitive economy of revelation and reconciliation that includes an authoritative reception, then theology can be nothing more than philosophical reflection on various competing conceptions, images, and symbols that correspond to our current understandings of our creaturely existence. The ground of these understandings will be nothing other than confidence in our rational abilities, or our psychological, soci ological, mystical or religious experience. And of course there is no way to adjudicate between which of these objects of creaturely study are most apt to confirm or deny the existence of God or provide a basis upon which logical inferences to God are warranted.33 God, by definition, then, cannot be an object of knowledge within that frame. Given that constriction, whatever results might be forthcoming from such theology can only call for the church reinterpreting its scriptures and the history of its life and worship in a way that reduces it all to m ythology at best. Faith can only be regarded as a self-generated personal, private, psychological state of mind, not a response to a personal and objective reality that has forged a contact with us in and through the economy of revelation that extends down to us today in continuity with the apostolic mind and foundation. God, if there is a God, must remain unknown and at a deistic distance while we merely conjecture. In effect there can be Torrance, Reconstruction, 142. It seems to me that even the “properly basic” assumptions of Reformed episte mology must hang in ontological mid-air given such parameters. 32 33

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


no such thing as dogmatic theology or theological science since there can be no access to any actual theological reality. Theological statements then can have no reality to which they must answer. They can only answer or be responsible to other theological statements or systems or narratives, etc. Some may then want to eschew theology and trust solely in authoritative scripture, for surely there we can know God; after all God has provided it to us. However, if the discipline of the interpretation of scripture has been infiltrated by such ancient and modern dualistic assumptions, then exegesis will fare no better than dogmatics. For in this case, argues Torrance, the only objects available for actual study are nothing more than words and experiences that refer to a relatively absent God. 34 Even invoking the Holy Spirit will help little since under dualistic constraints the Spirit must be confined at best to the subjective aspects of human knowing while the object to which the Spirit opens us up to know remains merely the human testimony of the writers of scripture (who may have simply thought that Jesus was one in being and act with Father). The real objects of study then must devolve into the thoughts or psychological states of the biblical writers, or the veracity of the history of apostolic su ccession, or, given the socio-political, economic, intellectual climate of the early church, pursuit of the question of what thoughts the apostles and Jesus himself could plausibly have had. We might come to know something of the words, ideas, and concepts and convictions of the biblical writers, but dualistic assumptions rule out anything like the apostolic mind sharing in the very mind of Christ who has direct knowledge of God. And we certainly cannot think we can have access to the realities to which scripture refers since, for all practical purposes, the reality at hand is simply the Bible itself. At best we might have ideas about God that are comparable to those of the biblical writers. But the objects directly available to our faith, then, are simply nothing more than the words and concepts and narratives of the Bible from which, yes, we may go on and logically infer truths about a God we suppose exists. But in the end we can embrace only truths of statement found in the Bible, and not the truths of being, not contact with the reality that transcends the words to which they refer. 35 If such dualistic assumptions control the starting points of our study and exegetical methods, then faith must be left at the door and the biblical scholar must become a hypothetical unbeliever, standing outside of worship, prayer and devotion at least for the moment. For faith must be regarded as an unwanted and distorting presupposition that gets in the way of discerning for ourselves, on the basis of creaturely data available to us, 34 35

Torrance, Reality, 80 Ibid., 65–69.


Gary W. Deddo

whether we ought to have faith. Biblical studies then is forced to take place on some kind of purported neutral ground (which is a fiction itself) located outside the church. But note, that in that case the assumed neutral ground and our corresponding methods actually serve as the most foundational objects of our faith. Faith or trust of some sort has not been entirely avoided, but rather relocated from one object to another. Biblical studies then becomes not a means, at least not a direct means, to build up the faith of the church or to enrich its worship. At best it might aspire to clear the way for the church to justify its faith and devotion on some basis established outside the church. Biblical studies can only serve as our attempt to make sense of scripture, to find meaning for ourselves, since within this frame scripture cannot give us access to the reality to which the prophetic and apostolic authors referred – that is, to the source and the meaning of their writings. We may have access in some measure to the statements of the biblical authors, but we cannot have contact with any extra textual reality to which they pointed, to the meaningful referent of their words. There are also compounding issues that will arise within biblical studies when pursued in a dualistic framework. For example, when addressing the various kinds of diversity that an analysis of scripture uncovers (of rhetorical emphasis, theological understanding, certain factual inconsistencies, ambiguities or possible errors) the discipline itself will be able to muster few if any resources for resisting utter fragmentation, since the real unit y found in the truth of God embodied in Jesus and shared in by the Apostles cannot serve as an essential part of the practice of the discipline. 36 Doing so might, on the part of many, be regarded as the imposition of theology upon biblical studies! Assuming, then, that we cannot have access – at least within the discipline – to the ontological reality we affirm in other contexts (such as when we worship or pray to or obey the one and only God), we must settle for arriving, at best, at a syntactical or conceptual unity, a unity of statement or a logical coherence. This amounts to a theological nominalism. And second, we are constrained to have to discover for ourselves, apart from the apostolic witness, whether or not there is a unity of the Bible, having delimited the apostolic authority to their written words, grammar and concepts while granting no authority to the apostolic posture of receptivity to revelation; regarding their reconciliation as having no binding authority in our deliberations on the meaning of their verbal messages. In that case, revelation has been torn asunder from reconciliation, granting apostolic authority only to the former while (inadvertently?) denying it to 36

Ibid., 106.

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


the latter. We, do, thereby, assign reconciling authority independently to ourselves, to the deliverances of the discipline itself, such as they may be. And finally, if a dualism is assumed in biblical studies then there will be no established norm or center or qualitatively distinct reality that orients our interpretation of scripture, for in that frame Jesus Christ as depicted in the Bible by its various authors may or may not be granted any special status. There will be no reason to regard him as the interpretive key of all of scripture since for the sake of our methods we cannot assume that he is the Logos of all things, including scripture. But if there is to be any synthesis after analysis, some hermeneutical mechanism must be found and brought into the mix. But then the unified meaning of scripture will consist in the meaning of what we bring to it, not what we find through it, if it has any meaning at all, that is, if it makes reference beyond itself. 37 Of course there will arise the challenge not only of interpreting individual texts but of knowing what value or meaning to assign the various authors (or literary units) of scripture. When analysis brings to light differences between the various (purported?) authors or sources of the scriptural text, on what basis do we interrelate the Synoptics and John, Jesus and Paul, and Peter and James and the conjectured woman who wrote Hebrews? What sense will we make of the various literary units of scripture including the connection between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, or the subunits of the Pentateuch and Isaiah? Given the genre of Jonah, what sense can we make of this narrative? In every case access to any objective ontological interpretive center is ruled out. Under this constraint, we will have to bring our own preferred interpretive center to the task if any synthesis is to occur after analysis. 38 Of course, any center suggested will be contested by those promulgating a preferred rival. In fact the very purpose of the interpretation of texts will be up for grabs. Methodological chaos will (or has already) ensued. We will all (individually or corporately) have to find our own meanings in the texts and generate our own responses to them since dualistic presuppositions and the methods engendered by them do not allow for the possibility that the Written Word directs us to the ontologically differentiated Living Word who constitutes the personal reality and the unity of all of scripture, and so serves as the interpretive center of it all. In order to help sort out some of these exegetical conundrums some may want to borrow from theology (if this can be allowed within the discipline) a doctrine of scripture that will include a list of its attributes such as authority, majesty, infallibility or inerrancy. But if, compelled by dualist assumptions embedded in the discipline, such doctrinal descriptions are 37 38

Ibid., 80–83. Ibid., 115.


Gary W. Deddo

permitted to refer only to scripture itself and so proscribing any real and actual connection to the Living Word himself, little help will be found. 39 Inevitably irresolvable arguments will ensue about what those theological terms mean, how they apply to scripture, what implications there are for interpretation, and which interpretations are then acceptable. Such debates can never be resolved because all solutions proposed within the dualistic/deistic framework will still just refer to the words on the page and the meanings they have relative to themselves and to their social-cultural, religious and intellectually conditioned contexts such as we can discern. There will be little if anything within the discipline itself to prevent selfprojections and self-justifications from gaining the upper hand in prescribing the meaning of scripture and the proper responses to it. For scripture itself cannot, in this frame, provide either of these to us since it is assumed to be unable to actually refer us to the Reality beyond itself, giving us knowledge of God as we receive God’s reconciliation.

Prospects for Biblical Studies and Dogmatic Theology The survey above presents a dismal picture. But does it not merely describe the actual current state of affairs? Do not our seminaries and churches, not to mention, universities, all too often resemble exactly these dynamics? If so, perhaps Torrance has indeed, put his finger on something. And in that case, then his offer of a correction, ought to be carefully looked at. Both dogmatic theology and biblical studies must throw off both such dualistic assumptions and those methods (or aspects of them) that essentially trade in them. This would be a matter, as Torrance notes, of repentance and of faith in the Living God. 40 This would amount to working within the disciplines as believing participants in the continuing economic unfolding of God’s own ministry of revelation and reconciliation first in the church and, in turn, beyond. Essential to this paradigm shift would be the maintenance of a receptive attitude to the message of the apostolic witness. The shift would involve discerning and taking on their assumptions and purposes while submitting to and sharing in their response to the reality of the God they met and knew in Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. It would constitute finding the most fitting intellectual tools available, consistent with the nature of scripture, that could contribute to a careful and accurate listening to the apostolic human words and interpreting them in a way that 39 40

Ibid., 97, 109. Ibid., 102.

T. F. Torrance on Theological and Biblical Studies


assumed the Living Word of God was the ultimate reality and object of study and the Living ontological unity of scripture. Founded on faith in the faithfulness of God to accomplish his purpose through his divinely appointed economy, the goal and aim of such study would be reception of the knowledge of God himself and life in reconciled response of communion with God. In this biblical and theologically realist way, Torrance believes, biblical studies and theological studies may very well be reconciled while still offering distinct but overlapping and coordinated service, both together contributing to the doxology of the Triune God of the Church of Jesus Christ, Lord of all.

Postscript: On the Need As Well As the Significance STAN D. GAEDE There are all kinds of reasons why this postscript is inappropriately authored. For one thing, the writer is neither a theologian nor biblical scholar (in the remotest sense of those terms). Worse yet, he was given the opportunity to enter those domains by this book’s inspiration, and failed to take advantage of it. Indeed, he struggled to show up on time, and was routinely admonished for his behavior (and performance) by the rather on-time professor. To his credit (in his own eyes), he did become a sociologist, managing to even complete a Religious Studies minor at Vanderbilt while finishing his Ph.D. This produced a raised eyebrow, at best, from the professor in question. But it did allow the student to see the dynamics of the professor’s discipline play out in another field. And that wound up being . . . rather revealing. The truth is, every discipline is racked by the problem of communication, in these days. It is an odd problem, given the plethora of communicative means available. But those same means have turned investigative efforts into deep wells, which the researcher can plunge and explore ad infinitum. This is often rewarded in the disciplines themselves, where journals increasingly specialize in one or two wells, and conversations are nothing remotely like anything human beings have associated with communication over the years. The benefit, of course, is more data unearthed as well as more information available to those who wish to learn of it. The danger is that fewer of those capable of such learning will want to take on such a task. What will they do with it, if they pursue such consumption? And who (in the world) will even care? Reconsidering the Relationship of Biblical and Systematic Theology in the New Testament, it seems to me, is a rather courageous attempt to explore those questions in an area where it is especially needed. I say that cautiously, since the need is substantial across the disciplines, and assessing implications is always dicey. Nevertheless, if those of us who cherish and pursue biblical wisdom don’t bother with this task, who will? Certainly not the social scientists among us. We are extraordinarily keen on uncovering data or arguments to dismantle previous conclusions. But we


Stan D. Gaede

are rather bereft of scholars who actually want to build a corpus of understanding larger than their own. That is a tragedy in any discipline, to be sure. But it seems particularly so for those intending to shed light on the Light of the World. Again, I am out of my element. But clearly, much is at stake here. In the academy, we increasingly have universities that bear little resemblance to the name. The universal underpinnings are nowhere to be found, or merely opportunities for attack. We desperately hope that our graduates will “get a job,” of course, but seem rather uninterested in whether or not they might actually “get a life.” In the Church, the picture appears a tad more encouraging, since most congregants admit the need to understand the Truth, with some intention of putting it into practice. But their actual confidence that such a thing will happen seems to have been significantly eroded, over the years. And the question is, if church leaders are not feeding from an integrated trough, how will those of us in the pew manage such a thing? At some point, it would appear that we will be asked to account for that which we have been given (Matthew 25 keeps coming to mind). To be sure, that will be a bracing moment, regardless of where we have journeyed on God’s good earth. But it seems especially challenging for those of us who have invested our lives in the arts of understanding. That is true regardless of our disciplines, or areas of investigation, by the way. The topic is never an excuse for indifference. But it would seem especially important for those of us intending to provide a fuller understanding of the Word (and the Word-made-Flesh). For that reason alone, this book is not only well timed, but very much needed. Let us hope (and pray) that it not only bears fruit in the disciplines under investigation, but also in the academy in which it will be housed. I cannot think of anything that would more gladden the heart of the one who inspired it. For good reason.

Appendix: Publications by Robert H. Gundry Books The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel with Special Reference to the Messianic Hope. Supplements to Novum Testamentum XVIII. Leiden: E. J. Brill Publishers, 1967. A Survey of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970; 2 nd rev. ed., 1981; 3 rd rev. ed., 1994; 4 th rev. ed., 2003; 5th rev. ed., 2012. The Church and the Tribulation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, l973. Sōma in Biblical Theology with Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 29. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976. Reprinted in Academie Books; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Panorama do Novo Testamento. Sao Paulo: Sociedade Religiose Edicoes Vida Nova, 1978. (Portuguese translation of A Survey of the New Testament). Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982. 2nd ed. with extensive supplements and a new subtitle, Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church under Persecution, 1994. Pregled Novog Zavjeta. Zagreb: EBI, 1992. (Serbo-Croatian translation of A Survey of the New Testament). A Survey of the New Testament. Seoul: Emmaus Publishing Company, 1992. (Korean translation of A Survey of the New Testament). Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993. First the Antichrist. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997. A Survey of the New Testament. Saint Petersburg, 2001. (Russian translation of A Survey of the New Testament). Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Evangelicalism, Especially Its Elites, in North America. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. The Old Is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations. WUNT 178. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005. A Survey of the New Testament. (Turkish translation of A Survey of the New Testament). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson/Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010. Extracurriculars: Teaching Christianly Outside Class. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014.


Publications by Robert H. Gundry

Articles and Essays “L-M-T-L-Y-M. 1 Q Isaiah a 50,6 and Mark 14,65.” Revue de Qumran 2 (1960): 559– 67. “The Narrative Framework of Matthew XVI. 17–19: A Critique of Professor Cullmann’s Hypothesis.” Novum Testamentum 7 (1964): 1–9. “The Language Milieu of First-Century Palestine: Its Bearing on the Authenticity of the Gospel Tradition.” Journal of Biblical Literature 83 (1964): 404–8. “‘Ecstatic Utterance’ (N.E.B.)?” Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 17 (1966): 299–307. “‘Verba Christi’ in I Peter: Their Implications Concerning the Authorship of I Peter and the Authenticity of the Gospel Tradition.” New Testament Studies 13 (1967): 336–50. “‘In My Father’s House are many Monai’ (John 14:2).” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 58 (1967): 68–72. “The Form, Meaning and Background of the Hymn Quoted in I Timothy 3:16 .” In Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F. F. Bruce, edited by W. Ward Gasque and Ralph P. Martin, 203–22. Exeter: Paternoster, 1970. “Further Verba on Verba Christi in First Peter.” Biblica 55 (1974): 211–32. “Recent Investigations into the Literary Genre ‘Gospel.’” In New Dimensions in New Testament Study. Edited by R. N. Longenecker and M. C. Tenney, 97–114. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974. “Jesus Is Coming Again: Posttribulationism.” Christian Life 36 (May, 1974): 22, 59–61. Reprinted in When Is Jesus Coming Again?, 53–63 (Carol Stream, Ill.: Creation House, 1975). “Quotations in the NT.” In The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, Q–Z, 7–11. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975. “The Moral Frustration of Paul Before His Conversion: Sexual Lust in Romans 7:7–25.” Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to F. F. Bruce, edited by D. A. Hagner and M. J. Harris, 228–45. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980. “Trouble Ahead for the Church? An Interview with Robert Gundry.” The WatchMan 1/1 (August, 1980): 8–9. “A Response to ‘Matthew and Midrash.’” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26 (1983): 41–56. “A Surrejoinder to Douglas J. Moo.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26 (1983): 71–86. “A Response to ‘Methodological Unorthodoxy.’” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26 (1983): 95–100. “A Surrejoinder to Norman L. Geisler.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26 (1983): 109–115. “Grace, Works, and Staying Saved in Paul.” Biblica 66 (1985): 1–38. “Grace, Works, and Staying Saved in Paul.” In The Best in Theology, edited by J. I. Packer et al., 81–100. Carol Stream, Ill: Christianity Today, n.d. “On Interpreting Matthew’s Editorial Comments.” Westminster Theological Journal 47 (1985): 319–28. “Body.” In Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 138. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. “The Hellenization of Dominical Tradition and Christianization of Jewish Tradition in the Eschatology of 1–2 Thessalonians.” New Testament Studies 33 (1987): 161–78. “The New Jerusalem: People as Place, Not Place for People.” Novum Testamentum 29 (1987): 254–64.

Publications by Robert H. Gundry


“A Responsive Evaluation of the Social History of the Matthean Community in Roman Syria.” In The Social History of the Matthean Community in Roman Syria, edited by David L. Balch, 62–67. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991. “Matthean Foreign Bodies in Agreements of Luke with Matthew Against Mark: Evidence that Luke Used Matthew.” In The Four Gospels 1992: Festschrift Frans Neirynck, edited by F. Van Segbroeck et al., 1467–95. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 100. Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 1992. “On True and False Disciples in Matthew 8.18–22.” New Testament Studies 40 (1994): 433–41. “The Essential Physicality of Jesus’ Resurrection according to the New Testament.” In Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ. Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament Christology (Festschrift I. Howard Marshall), edited by J. B. Green and M. Turner, 204–19. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1994. “Style and Substance in ‘The Myth of God Incarnate’ According to Philippians 2:6 –11.” In Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Honour of Michael D. Goulder, edited by D. E. Orton and S. E. Porter, 273–93. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994. “Angelomorphic Christology in the Book of Revelation.” In Society of Biblical Literature 1994 Seminar Papers, 662–78. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994. “A Rejoinder on Matthean Foreign Bodies in Luke 10,25–28.” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 71 (1995): 139–50. “ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ: How Soon a Book?” Journal of Biblical Literature 115 (1996): 321– 25. “A Brief Note on ‘Hellenistic Formal Receptions and Paul’s Use of ΑΠΑΝΤΗΣΙΣ in l Thessalonians 4:17.’” Bulletin for Biblical Research 6 (1996): 39–41. “Mark 10:29: Order in the List.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 59 (1997): 465–75. “H. D. Betz’s Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.” Critical Review of Books in Religion 1997 10 (1997): 39–57. “Reconstructing Jesus.” Christianity Today 42/5 (April 27, 1998): 76–79. “The Sense and Syntax of John 3:14–17 with Special Reference to the Use of οὔτως . . . ὥστε in John 3:16.” Coauthored with Russell W. Howell. Novum Testamentum 41 (1999): 24–39. “A Breaking of Expectations: The Rhetoric of Surprise in Paul’s Letter to the Romans .” In Romans and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, edited by Sven K. Soderlund and N. T. Wright, 254–70. Grand Rapids/Cambridge, England: Eerdmans, 1999. “The Refusal of Matthean Foreign Bodies to Be Exorcised from Luke 9,22; 10,25 –28.” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 75 (1999): 104–22. “No Nu in Line 2 of 7Q5: A Final Disidentification of 7Q5 with Mark 6:52 –53.” Journal of Biblical Literature 118 (1999): 698–707. “In Defense of the Church in Matthew as a Corpus Mixtum.” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 91 (2000): 153–65. “Salvation in Matthew.” In Society of Biblical Literature 2000 Seminar Papers, 402–14. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000. “Trimming the Debate.” Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A Debate between William Lane Craig & Gerd Lüdemann, edited by Paul Copan & Ronald K. Tacelli, 104–23. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000. “Why I Didn’t Endorse ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration’ . . . even though I wasn’t asked to.” Books and Culture 7/1 (January/February, 2001): 6–9. “On Oden’s ‘Answer.’” Books and Culture 7/2 (March/April, 2001): 14–15, 39.


Publications by Robert H. Gundry

“View of Jesus’ genealogy uses fuzzy myth.” Santa Barbara News-Press (Sunday, April 1, 2001): G5. “An Open Letter to Thomas C. Oden.” (May 8, 2001). “A Rejoinder to Joel F. Williams’ ‘Is Mark’s Gospel an Apology for the Cross?’” Bulletin for Biblical Research 12 (2002): 123–39. “Spinning the Lilies and Unravelling the Ravens: An Alternative Reading of Q 12.22b– 31 and P. Oxy. 655.” New Testament Studies 48 (2002): 159–80. “Time for Compline? A Conversation with Rich Mouw, Mark Noll, & Chris Smith.” Evangelical Studies Bulletin 19 (2002): 7–10. “Coming Home.” The Westmont College Magazine 24/4 (2003): 13–16. “Richard A. Horsley’s Hearing the Whole Story: A Critical Review of Its Postcolonial Slant.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 26 (2003): 131–49. “The Nonimputation of Christ’s Righteousness.” In Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates?, edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, 17–45. Downers Grove: InterVarsity/Leicester, England: Apollos, 2004. “The Burden of the Christ.” (A review of Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ”). SBL Forum for April, 2004, Letters to the Editor, “Jesus, Quest for the Historical.” In Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, 355–58. London: SPCK/Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005. “Matthew, Book of.” In Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, 486–92. London: SPCK/Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005. Reprinted in Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey, edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, 27–38. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008. “Post-Mortem: Death by hardening of the categories.” (A review essay on Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.) Books and Culture 12/5 (September/October 2006): 8–9. “Robert Gundry on the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection in earliest Christian proclamation.” (A review essay on James Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty and the so-called “Jesus Family Tomb”). Crossings (a blog managed by Bruce Fisk) (March 25, 2007). “New Wine in Old Wineskins: Bursting Traditional Interpretations in John’s Gospel (Part One).” Bulletin for Biblical Research 17 (2007): 115–30. “New Wine in Old Wineskins: Bursting Traditional Interpretations in John’s Gospel (Part Two).” Bulletin for Biblical Research 17 (2007): 285–96. “A Short Note on Jesus’ Supposed Blasphemy (Mark 14:61b–64).” Bulletin for Biblical Research 18 (2008): 131–33. “You Cannot Be Serious!” (A review essay on John Carroll’s The Existential Jesus). Books and Culture 15/6 (November/December, 2009): 12–14. “Jesus, the Halakic Jew.” (A review essay on John P. Meier’s A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 4, Law and Love). Books and Culture 16/2 (March/April, 2010): 11–13. “To Plato or Not to Plato?” (A review essay on Luke Timothy Johnson’s Hebrews: A Commentary and Peter T. O’Brien’s The Letter to the Hebrews). Books and Culture 17/2 (March/April, 2011): 25–26. “The Hopelessness of the Unevangelized.” Themelios 36 (2011): 48–55. “Smithereens!” (A review essay on Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture). Books and Culture 17/5 (September/October, 2011): 9–11.

Publications by Robert H. Gundry


“Heresy.” In The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, edited by Gordon D. Fee and Robert L. Hubbard Jr., with commentary by Connie Gundry Tappy, 710–11. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011. “Tom’s Targum.” (A review essay on N. T. Wright’s The Kingdom New Testament). Books and Culture 18/3 (May/June, 2012): 22–24. “Frederick the Bruce.” (A review essay on Tim Grass’ F. F. Bruce: A Life). Books and Culture 19/1 (January/February, 2013): 30–32. “Josephus as a Pre-Raphaelite.” (A review essay on Frederic Raphael’s A Jew Among Romans: The Life and Legacy of Flavius Josephus). Books and Culture 19/3 (May/ June, 2013): 35–38. “Jesus as a Jewish Jihadist.” (A review essay on Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth). Books and Culture 19/6 (November/December, 2013): 14–16. “An Exegetical and Biblical Theological Evaluation of N. T. Wright’s How God Became King.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 24 (2014): 57–73.

List of Contributors Gary W. Deddo – BA Westmont College, 1973; MDiv Fuller Theological Seminary, 1976; MA Azusa Pacific University, 1978; PhD University of Aberdeen, 1991; currently theological advisor and assistant to the president of Grace Communion International denomination; faculty member at Grace Communion Seminary; President, Thomas F. Torrance Theological Fellowship. Stan D. Gaede – BA Westmont College, 1969; MA Vanderbilt University, 1971; PhD California State University, Northridge, 1974; currently President, Christian College Consortium; Scholar-in-Residence, Gordon College, Wenham, MA, USA. Judith M. Gundry – BA Westmont College, 1978; MA Fuller Theological Seminary, 1980; ThD Eberhard-Karls-Universität, Tübingen, 1988; currently Research Scholar and Associate Professor (Adjunct), Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT, USA. Roy D. Kotansky – BA Westmont College, 1975; MA Fuller Theological Seminary, 1977; MA, PhD University of Chicago, 1988; currently independent scholar of Classics and Biblical Studies. Tremper Longman, III – BA Ohio Wesleyan University, 1970; MDiv Westminster Theological Seminary, 1974; PhD Yale University, 1983; currently Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA, USA. Brian Lugioyo – BA Westmont College, 1999; MAT Fuller Theological Seminary, 2003; PhD University of Aberdeen, 2007; currently Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, Graduate School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA, USA. Jennifer Powell McNutt – BA Westmont College, 2000; MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary, 2003, PhD University of St. Andrews, 2008; currently Associate Professor of Theology and History of Christianity, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, USA.


List of Contributors

J. Webb Mealy – BA Westmont College, 1978; MA Western Kentucky University, 1983; PhD Sheffield University, 1989; currently Executive Director, Share First Oakland, Inc., a California Public Benefit Corporation; Seminary of the Street, Oakland, CA, USA. Roger Newell – BA Westmont College, 1974; MDiv Fuller Theological Seminary, 1977; PhD University of Aberdeen, 1983; currently Professor of Religious Studies, George Fox University, Newberg, OR, USA. Benjamin E. Reynolds – BA Westmont College, 1999; MDiv, ThM Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 2003, 2005; PhD University of Aberdeen, 2007; currently Associate Professor of New Testament, Tyndale University College, Toronto, ON, Canada. Mark L. Strauss – BA Westmont College, 1982; MDiv, ThM, Talbot School of Theology, 1985, 1988; PhD, University of Aberdeen, 1992; currently Professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary, San Diego, CA, USA. Kevin J. Vanhoozer – BA Westmont College, 1978; MDiv Westminster Theological Seminary, 1982; PhD University of Cambridge, 1985; currently Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, USA.

Index of References Old Testament Genesis 17:15–16 19:23 19:24 20:9 22:1 25:21 42:7 49:11–12

174 174 58 174 162 174 173 172

Exodus 3:8 5:9 16:2 16:4 16:6 16:15 17:3 33:18–23

72 118 67 68 67 68 67 54

Leviticus 10:10 17 17:11 26:12

194 69 71 194

Deuteronomy 18:15


Joshua 24:15


2 Samuel 7:14 12:13

47 53

1 Kings 19:10–12


2 Kings 22:16–17 2 Chronicles 34:25 Nehemiah 9:15 9:20

135 135 68, 69 68

Job 9:8 11:18 24:19

54 118 224

Psalms 2:7 6:45–52 9:18 10 16:10 30:4 31:18 40 40:10 49:16 55:16 60 65:5–7 66:11 77 LXX 77:15–16 LXX 77:19 LXX 77:24 LXX 78 79:1–13 86:13 88:6 89:9

47 54 224 67 224 224 224 41 67 224 224 174 54 174 69, 70 68 54 68, 68 70 145 224 224 54


Index of References

Psalms (continued) 89:26 47 92 172 104:4 54 107:23–29 54 110:5–6 145 112:9–10 136 139:1–6 225 Proverbs 14:23 17:6

118 VIII

Ecclesiastes 12:11–12


Isaiah 5:14 6:1–10 9:5 11:1–5 13:1–14:2 17:1–14 24 24–27 24:1–27:5 24:1 24:1–6 24:1–20 24:13 24: 17–19 24:21–23 24:21–27:5 24:23 25:6–8 34 25:6–10 25:7 26 26:10–11 37:21 40:3 40:3–5 40:6–8 40:13 40–66 43:16 48:6 51:6 51:10 53

224 59 136 59 145 145 141 142 142 142 142 146 142 142 141, 145 139 146 54 145 146 146 146 145, 146 172 53 60 53 59 53 54 174 53 54 46

53:11 55 65:11–15 65:15 65:17–25 66:22 66:24

57 69 136 136 136 136 136

Jeremiah 4:4 7:27 10:10 10:22–25 17:20 21:10 21:12 21:14 25:15–38

135 135 145 145 135 135 135 135 145

Ezekiel 16:42 20:47–48 26:11 26:26–27 34–37 34:11–12 36 36–37 36:10 36:17 36:17–19 36:20–23 36:21 36:22 36:27 36:31–32 36:31 36:32 36:33 36:36 36:36–38 36:37 37:14 37:11 37:16 37:22 37:23–28 38 38–39 38:1–39:29 38:1–16

118 135 144 144 144 58 142, 143, 145 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 144 142, 146 140 144 143, 144


Index of References Ezekiel (continued) 38:8 145 38:11 145 38:17 144 38:17–19 145 38:18 146 38:18–39:29 145 39 143, 144 39:1–8 144 39:1–29 145 39:5 144 39:7 144 39:11–20 136 39:12 144 39:21 144 39:22 144 39:23 144 39:23–24 144 39:24 144 39:25 144 39:26 144 39:28 144 39:29 144

Daniel 7 7:13–14 7:21–22 7:25 12:7

139 46 148 149 149

Joel 3


Amos 5:6


Habakkuk 3


Zephaniah 3


Zechariah 14


Malachi 3:1


New Testament Matthew 1:1 1:16 1:17 1:20 1:23 2:2 2:4–6 2:11 4:10 4:18–22 4:23 5–7 5:17 5:23–36 6:25 6:25–33 6:27 6:28 6:31 6:31–33 6:31

46 46 46 46 46 46 46 47 47 59 45 45 50 139 114, 118, 119 118 119 119 119 118 118

6:34a 7 7:11 7:21–23 7:29 8:2 8:11–12 8:12 8:23–27 8:29 9:2 9:4 9:13 9:18 9:18–26 9:27 9:35 10:17 10:19 10:22 10:28 10:34

119 162 174 48, 137 45 47 137 136 174 47, 54 47 47 54 47 138 46 45 45 119 165 136 54


Index of References

Matthew (continued) 10:35 54 10:40 54 11:2–6 46 11:19 47 11:25–27 47 11:27 47, 48, 58, 225, 254 11:49 59 12:9 45 12:22–23 46 12:25 47 13 45 13:40–43 137 13:41 48, 59 13:42 136 13:54 45 14:19 66 14:20 67 14:33 47, 59 15:1–20 45 15:2 45 15:12–14 46 15:22 46 15:25 47 15:36 67 16:16 47 16:18 209 16:27 59 17:24–27 45 18:20 48, 59 18:21–35 139 19:1–9 45 19:17 242 20:20 47 20:28 46, 54 20:30 46 20:31 46 21:1–11 46 21:14–15 46 21:37 54 22:2–14 137 22:13 136 22:18 47 22:30 123 23 46 23:5 45 23:27 45 23:34–39 47, 48 23:34 59 24:2–3 97 24:31 48, 59 24:36 47, 48

24:38 24:45–51 24:51 25 25:1–13 25:1–30 25:30 25:31–46 25:36 25:41 25:46 26:26 26:27 26:63 27:40 27:50–53 27:54 27:60 27:61 27:62–66 28 28:2 28:5 28:6 28:8–10 28:9 28:9–10 28:11–16 28:13 28:14 28:15 28:16–20 28:17 28:19 28:20

67 137 136 274 137 137 136 48, 59, 137, 139 93 59, 139 139, 178 67 66 47 47 138 47 95 90 90, 97 104 92 92 99 99, 101 47, 92, 101, 106 92 97 125 125 46 59, 92 47 47, 125, 126 48

Mark 1:1 1:2–3 1:11 1:14–8:26 1:16–20 1:22 1:24 1:24–25 1:27 1:33–34 1:34 1:37 1:38 1:44

49 53 54 49, 50 51, 53, 59 53 54 50 49, 53 50 50 50 54 50


Index of References Mark (continued) 1:45 50 2:2 50 2:4 50 2:3–12 53 2:7 49, 53 2:8 54, 55 2:13 50 2:17 54 3:7–9 50 3:11–12 50 3:13–19 51 3:20 50 3:29–30 178 4:1 50 4:8 58 4:11 51 4:13 51 4:19 118, 125 4:35–41 54 4:32 58 4:36 50 4:40 51 4:41 49 5:19–20 50 5:20–21 58 5:21 50 5:21–43 140 5:24 50 5:30–32 50 5:30 54, 55 5:43 50 6:2 49 6:7–12 51 6:14–15 50 6:17 49 6:22 122 6:30 51 6:30–44 54 6:31–34 50 6:33 120 6:34 120 6:37 51 6:41 66 6:42 67 6:48 54 6:52 51 7:11–17 58 7:14–19 53 7:18 51 7:24 50 7:36 50

8:1–3 8:1–9 8:4 8:6 8:17 8:26 8:29 8:30 8:31 8:31–32 8:31–33 8:32–33 8:32 8:33–38 8:31–10:52 8:34 8:35 8:38 8:40–56 9:7 9:9 9:10–17 9:12 9:14–15 9:19 9:30 9:30–32 9:31 9:32 9:33–34 9:35–37 9:37 9:38 9:43 9:48 10:13 10:22 10:29–31 10:32–34 10:33–34 10:35–41 10:37 10:41 10:42–45 10:45 12:6 12:25 13:2 13:9–13 13:26–27 13:27 13:31

50 54 51 66 54 50 47, 49 50 51 54 49 51 51 51 49 52 52 52 58 54 50, 51 58 49 50 51 50 49 51, 54 51 51 51 54 51 135 135, 136 51 58 51 49 51, 54 51 51 51 51 49, 50, 52, 54 54 123 54 51 52 59 53


Index of References

Mark (continued) 13:32 54 14:5 51 14:20 54 14:22 67 14:23 66 14:28 51 14:30 54 14:32 93 14:62 50, 52 14:66–72 51 15:39 50, 54 15:40–41 51, 90 15:46 95 16:1–8 90 16:5 90 16:6 90, 99 16:7 51 16:8 91 16:9–20 89 16:11 89 Luke 1:6 1:9 1:11 1:15 1:16 1:17 1:32–33 1:35 1:68 1:69 1:76 1:78 2:11 3:4–6 3:21 3:22 4:1 4:14 4:18 4:24 4:43 5:1–11 5:22 5:32 5:38 5:39 7:11–17 7:16

60 60 60 60 60 60 58 58 58 58 60 58 58 60 59 58 59 59 59 58 54 91 58 54 54 211 138 58

7:39 8:22–25 8:40–56 8:46 9:16 9:17 9:20 9:22 9:35 9:48 10:16 10:21 10:41 12:4–5 12:11 12:12 12:22 12:22–31 12:25 12:26 12:49 12:49–51 12:57–59 13:23–30 13:27 13:28 13:31 14:17 16:27–31 18:31–33 19:10 20:13 20:34–36 20:35 21:15 21:33 21:34 22:17 22:19 22:19–20 22:39 22:40 23:4 23:14 23:15 23:22 23:15 23:41 23:43 23:47 23:53 24:2

58 58 138 58 66 67 47 57 58 54 54 61 113, 117, 118, 119 136 119 60 119 118 119 119 58 54 139 137 59 136 58 54 136 57 54, 58 54, 58 123, 137, 138 137, 138 60 58 117, 118, 125 66 66, 67 56 93 93 57 57 57 57 57 57 223 57 95 96

Index of References Luke (continued) 24:3 96 24:2–3 96 24:11 89 24:12 106 24:13–35 91 24:22–24 104 24:23–49 103 24:26 57 24:30 67 24:34 91, 106 24:39 103 24:42 224 24:46 57 24:52 5 John 1 1:1–2 1:2 1:14 1:16–18 1:29 1:36 3:4 3:10 3:16 3:35 3:36 4:11 4:13–14 4:14 5:9–13 5:21–29 5:28–29 5:29–40 5:29 6 6:3 6:11 6:12 6:13 6:14 6:1–15 6:16–21 6:22–59 6:22–71 6:23 6:26–58 6:27–29 6:27

173 189 195 179 259 71 71 70 69 204 243 208 70 70 68, 71 68 138 136 263 139 77, 80–81 64 65, 66 64 66, 67 67, 71 64, 67 64 64 69 65 67 68 66, 67, 71

6:29 6:30–31 6:30 6:31 6:32 6:34 6:35 6:36 6:39 6:40 6:41 6:41–42 6:42 6:43 6:44 6:46 6:47 6:48 6:48–49 6:50–51 6:51–56 6:51–58 6:53–54 6:53–56 6:53–58 6:50 6:51 6:52 6:53 6:54 6:55 6:56 6:57 6:58 6:60–71 6:60 6:61 6:62 6:63 6:64 6:67 6:68–69 6:69 6:70 6:71b 7:37b–38 9:16 10:11–18 11:1–45 11:41 12:24

289 68 70 68 67, 68 67 70 67, 68 68 70 68, 70 67, 70, 71 70 71 67 70 67 68 68 67 68 73, 75 63, 70, 71, 72, 78 63, 67 65 71 68 76, 68, 212 68, 69, 70 66, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75 65, 66, 68, 72, 73, 74, 75, 212 66, 67, 68, 72, 79 65, 71, 75, 79 65, 67, 71 65, 67 64 70 67 72 72 68 64 71 68 64 64 68 71 72 138 66 249


Index of References

John (continued) 12:32 178 12:48 178 13 234, 274 13:18 67, 185 13:26 67 14 223 14:6 71 14:28 243 15 70 15:4–5 70 16:33 239, 248 17:3 225 17:6–9 209 17:24 181 18:1 87, 93 18:2 93 18:26 93 19:34 68 19:38 96 19:38–42 100 19:41 87, 93, 95 19:42 93 20 99, 101, 103, 104, 106 20:1–18 94 20:1 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 102, 106 20:2 94, 97, 99 20:2–10 98 20:3 97 20:4 97 20:3–10 94 20:5 102 20:6 97, 99, 102 20:7 99, 102, 103 20:8 97, 102 20:11–18 92, 94, 95, 97, 98 20:11 95, 97, 98, 100, 102, 106 20:11c 98 20:12–13 87, 98 20:12–14 99 20:12 98, 99, 100, 106 20:13 98, 99 20:14–17 98, 102 20:14–18 106 20:14 99, 100 20:16–17 101 20:17b 87 20:19–23 92, 103 20:21 247

20:24–29 21 21:1–14 21:5–11

92, 103 103 91 68

Acts 2:21 2:22–24 2:29–36 2:33 2:36 2:42 3:13–26 3:14–15 3:18 3:22 4:8–12 5:3 7:27 7:52 9:5–6 9:10–15 10 10:9–16 10:36 10:39–40 10:45 11:2–3 12 12:17 13:28 13:32–37 14:22 16:7 17:3 20:28 22:10 22:21 24:15 26:23

60 57 58 59, 60 59 67 57 57 57 58 57 147 58 57 59 59 86 106 59 57 86 86 86 86 57 58 239, 245 59 57 56 59 59 136, 137 57

Romans 3 3:9 3:20 3:21 4 5:3 5:12–21 6:3–11 6:8

171 178 174 172 170 239 178 199 204


Index of References Romans (continued) 7:1 172 7:17 172 8 185, 249 8:1 185 8:8 112 8:9 202 8:15 202 8:18–26 249 8:23 172, 202 8:29 193 8:29–30 185, 186 9 186 9:13 186 10:10 174 16:3–4 124 16:7 200 1 Corinthians 1:27 3:2 3:6–9 3:12 3:16–17 5:5 5:10 7 7:1a 7:1 7:2 7:2–4 7:2–5 7:5 7:7 7:9 7:12–16 7:25–38 7:26 7:28 7:29a 7:29 7:29–31 7:29–34 7:30 7:30–31 7:32–34


122, 123 72 227 169 193 147 139 109, 122 109 122 122 122 122 128 109, 127 122, 128 124 109 115, 116, 124 116 110 123 113, 114, 117, 124 110 123 116 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122,124, 126, 128, 129 123

7:31b 7:32

15:2 15:3–5 15:3b–5 15:3–7 15:3–8 15:4 15:5a 15:5 15:5–7 15:5–8 15:6 15:8 15:8–11 15:9–57 15:21–23 15:42–50 15:50

110, 117 125, 126, 127, 128, 129 111, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117 111 123 127 111, 124 115 128, 129 114 182, 195 127 121 78 66 67 178 111 112, 114, 124, 126 205 180 153 83, 85, 87, 88, 89, 90, 101, 104 121 85, 86 85 83 89 89, 90 103 89, 90, 91 85 89 85 85 85 85 138 103 103

2 Corinthians 3:3–6 3:6 4:3–4 5:8 5:17 5:19

200 205 147 226 123, 124, 200 178

7:32a 7:32b 7:33–34 7:34 7:34a 7:34c 7:35 7:36–38 8:6 9:5 10:33 11 11:23–26, 11:24 11:32 12:24–26 12:25 12:27 12:31 13:12 15


Index of References

2 Corinthians (continued) 6:16 193 11:14 147 11:23–27 126 11:28 126 11:29 126 11:30 126 13:14 200 Galatians 1:5 1:10 1:12 2:20 4:4–6 4:6 5:3 5:9 6:15 Ephesians 1 1:1 1:3 1:3–14 1:4 1:4–5 1:5 1:4–6 1:4–10 1:7–10 1:9 1:9–10 1:10 1:11–12 1:13–14 1:13 1:14 2:1 2:1–4 2:3 2:8 2:18 2:20–22 2:21 3:10 4:15 4:20 4:21

173 121 177 173, 202 202 173, 202 174 174 172 185, 193 193 194, 200 183, 191 177, 179, 180, 181, 184, 185, 189, 191, 193, 207, 210 193 191, 201, 202, 209 183 183 183 192 183 178, 183 183 183 193 179, 183, 207 193 178 193 204 225 193, 261 193 194 165 204 263

6:10–12 Philippians 1:23 1:27 2:5–11 2:6–7 2:20 3:10 3:11 4:6

147 223, 226 227 59 182 111, 112, 114, 120 247 137 112, 118, 119, 120, 126

Colossians 1:13 1:15–20 1:16 1:16–18 1:18 1:24

205 182 183 183 137 249

1 Thessalonians 1:4–5 2:4 2:15 2:18 4:1 4:13–18 4:14 4:15 4:16 5:23 16:6–8

194 112, 121 112 147 112 138 223 138 226 227 138

1 Timothy 2:4–5 4:10

178 178

2 Timothy 2:21 2:26 3:16

194 147 153

Hebrews 1:5 1:11 2:5–18 2:9 3:14 4:12

45 172 45 174 172 153, 214


Index of References Hebrews (continued) 7:14 45 9:24 174 10:27 139 11:6 209 James 1:2 1:6 1:12 1:13 1:17 1:17–18 1:17–19 1:18

2:10 2:19 2:20–25 2:21 2:24 3:1 3:2 4 5:1–3 5:6 5:11 5:12 5:13 5:14 5:16

174 174 160 162 166 163 166 161, 163–65, 168, 172, 173 168, 171, 172, 173, 175, 176 174 173 176 170, 171, 176 170 174 174 162 160 160 160 161 160 157, 159 174

1 Peter 1:19–21 1:20 1:23 4:6 5:7 5:8–9

153 181 214 137 118 147

2Peter 3:9


1 John 3:2 4:4 5:19

225 147 147


Revelation 1:5 2:1–10 2:10 2:13 5 5:9–10 6–20 6:11 6:12–15 10 11:7 11:16–19 11:18 12 12:1–17 12:3 12:6 12:7 12:7–8 12:7–12 12:9–18 12:10 12:11 12:11–13 12:12 12:13 12:13–17 12:13–13:5 12:14 12:12–17 13–19 13 13:1–2 13:3–4 13:5 13:7 13:7–8 13:15 14:13 14:14–20 16:12–16 16:13–14 16:20 17 19:6–8 19:11–21 19:11–20:2 19:11–20:10 19:17–20:10 20 20:1

137 140 147 147 245, 246 151 246 148 142 150 148 142 142, 151 150 151 149 149, 151 150 151 150 147 150, 151 151 151 149, 150, 151 149 150 149 149, 151 151 150 148 149 148 149 148 149 151 222 245 148 150 142 245 151 141, 142, 150 150 142 139 134, 135 151


Index of References

Revelation (continued) 20:1–3 147, 150, 151 20:2 148 20:1–6 147 20:1–10 147, 149, 152 20:1–15 140 20:3 140, 149, 150, 151 20:3b 148 20:4 149 20:4–5 148, 151 20:4–6 141, 148 20:5 141 20:5b 140, 141 20:7 148, 149 20:7–9 141, 148, 149

20:7–10 20:8 20:9–10 20:10 20:11 20:11–15 20:13–15 21 21:1–22:5 21:16 21:22 22 22:20

134, 135, 139, 141, 142, 150, 151 139 150 150 142 136, 150 141 246 209 210 209 246 249

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha Baruch 3:18


Psalms of Solomon 17–18 46 Sirach 24



Wisdom 6:12–16 6:12–11:1 6:15 12:22

125 47 125, 126 113, 118


Other Christian Writings Anthanasius Festal Letters 1.5 Augustine Confessions 12.14

27, 243–44, 247, 253, 264–65 74 78, 166, 182 182

On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and Baptism of Infants 1.27 75 1.33 75 Tractates on the Gospel of John 26.1.4 74–75 26.12.3 74

Thomas Aquinas Commentary on Chapters 6–12 §973 §976

229 the Gospel of St. John: 75 75

John Chrysostom Homilies on the Gospel of John 47.1 74 Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 1.6 73–74 Cyril of Alexandria Commentary on John


Index of References 47.1


Cyril of Jerusalem Mystagogical Catecheses 4.4–5 74 Didache 9:4 16:6–8

67 138

Gregory Nazianzen Letter 101 243 Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius 11.5 74 Irenaeus 243, 253, 261 Adversus Haereses 1.7.2 240 3.16.6 241 3.16.8 241

3.16.9 5.1.2

241 242

Jerome 168 Adversus Jovin 1, 47 126 Justin Martyr First Apology 63–66


Origen 178 Commentary on John 10.99–110 74 19.39 74 20.406 74 Contra Celsus 2.55




Other Ancient Sources Antipater


The Eloquent Pheasant 183 120 Epictetus Dissertations 3.22.69


Hierocles On Marriage


Seneca Fragment 13, 47


Stobaeus Anthology 4.22.24 4.504.1–16 4.509.2

129 129 121



Index of Authors Adams, E. 112, 113, 115, 117, 123 Agassiz. L. 213 Alexander, T. D. 23 Allison, C. F. 243 Allison, D. C. 46, 120, 125, 243 Alsup, J. E. 92 Anderson, P. N. 65 Anderson, R. 235 Aquinas, T. 75, 229 Arand, C. P. 162 Aune, D. E. 83 Aus, R. D. 91 Arzt-Grabner, P. 119 Badie, K. 77 Bagchi, D. 162 Balch, D. L. 128, 129 Balz, H. 114 Barr, J. 132, 227 Barrett, C. K. 65, 67, 112, 118, 129 Barth, K. 25, 177, 178, 179, 181, 182, 183, 186, 188, 189, 190, 192, 194, 195, 196, 198, 200, 201, 203, 206, 207, 209, 210 Bauckham, R. 89, 223 Bavinck, H. 199 Baylor, M. 161, 162 Beale, G. K. 3, 31, 32, 33, 134, 135, 140, 141, 142, 144, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 193 Beasley- Murray, G. R. 65, 68 Beker, J. C. 34 Berger, P. L. 28 Berry, W. 215, 226, 231, 232, 237 Beutler, J. 65 Biermann, J. 162 Billington, A. 184 Bird, M. F. 32, 33 Bishop, E. F. F. 88 Blocher, H. 192, 200 Bloom, H. 232 Bock, D. L. 53, 60

Bonhoeffer, D. 246 Boring, M. E. 53, 54, 55 Borgen, P. 65, 68, 83 Bornkamm, G. 65, 66, 67 Bousset, W. 53 Brand, C. O. 191 Bretall, R. 36 Brown, R. E. 66, 71, 77, 79, 94 Brown, W. S. 216, 228, 229, 231 Bruce, F. F. 67, 68, 184 Brueggemann, W. 219, 224 Buckwalter, H. D. 59, 60 Bultmann, R. 41, 65, 66, 110, 111, 115, 117, 118, 129, 216, 217, 218 Burger, H. 205 Burke, T. J. 202 Burkett, D. 42, 43 Burnett, A. N. 77, 167 Buttrick, D. G. 83 Byrne, B. 94 Caird, G. B. 245, 246 Cameron, J. 209 Campbell, C. R. 191, 202, 206 Canlis, J. 200 Carson, D. A. 24 Castellio, S. 168 Childs, B. 133, 219 Chilton, B. 70, 71, 72 Christmann, W. K. 18 Ciampa, R. E. 111, 115, 118, 123, 129 Clarke, A. D. 183 Clement of Alexandria 74 Coakley, S. 26 Collins, R. F. 116, 121, 128, Colwell, J. 201 Colyer, E. 190, 193, 195 Conzelmann, H. 41, 42, 56, 57, 86, 115, 116, 117, 122 Cooper, J. W. 221 Copley, R. 233 Corcoran, K. 222

Index of Authors Cranmer, T. 77, 78 Crick, F. 228 Crisp, O. 209 Crossan, D. 10, 65 Daniell, D. 158 Davies, W. D. 120, 125 Davis, K. 164 Davis, Ph. G. 53, 164 Deddo, G. 214 de Albornoz, B. 231 de Valdés, 166 Deming, W. 115, 118, 119 Dempsey, M. T. 182 Deppermann, K. 170 Descartes, R. 219 Deutsch, C. 47 Dix, G. 77, 100, 106, 187 Donne, J. 222 Driedger, M. 160 Drury, J. 57 Dunn, J. D. G. 18, 19, 20, 47, 50, 66, 67, 70, 72, 194, 224 Edwards, J. 194 Elass, M. 241 Eldredge, L. 19 Elledge, C. D. 222 Elowsky, J. C. 74 Epp, E. J. 96 Erasmus, 161, 166, 168, 173 Eynikel, E. 67 Farrow, D. 186 Fee, G. D. 96, 109, 113, 114, 115, 117, 124, 125 Fergusson, D. 206 Fiorenza, E. S. 127 Fiorenza, S. 130 Fitzmyer, J. A. 59, 115 Flavel, J. 204 Fowl, S. 27, 178, 182 France, R. T. 42, 46, 47, 48, 165 Frei, H. 24, 61, 214 Friesen, A. 166 Fulke, W. 157, 158 Fuller, R. H. 42 Fullmer, P. 91 Gabler, J. P. 18, 19, 20, 24, 29 Gaffin, R. B. 23 Galot, J. 199


Garcia, M. A. 187 Gathercole, S. 48, 53, 54, 58 Gentry, P. 33, 34 Gerhardsson, B. 83 Gibson, D. 186, 192, 200, 209, 210, 211 Gill, J. 139 Goldsworthy, G. 34, 35, 64, 82 Gombis, T. G. 182 Gordon, B. 77 Gordon, J. 180 Gorham, G. C. 186 Green, J. B. 56, 59, 64, 81, 82, 219, 220, 221, 223, 224, 226, 227, 228, 230, 233 Greggs, T. 178 Gregory, B. S. 214 Grosheide, F. W. 113 Grow, B. 188, 195, 201, 207 Guelich, R. A. 53, 54 Guenther, A. R. 109 Gundry, J. 117 Gundry, R. H. VII, VIII, 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 37, 41, 50, 63, 64, 66, 68, 80, 81, 105, 127, 129, 133, 134, 153, 179, 210, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 223, 224, 225, 227, 234, 236, 237, 239, 244, 248, 251 Gushee, D. 233 Habets, M. 180, 187, 188, 190, 192, 195, 199, 201, 203, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209 Hafemann, S. J. 29 Hagner, D. 10, 42, Hahn, F. 42, 69 Hamilton, J. M. 24, 25, 26, 30 Hanna, E. B. 76 Harnisch, W. 116, 122 Hasker, W. 221 Hauerwas, S. 226 Hauspie, K. 67 Hawthorne, G. F. 182, 204 Hays, R. 113, 117, 227 Hebblethwaite, B. 35 Heckel, T. 219 Hecht, L. H. 159 Heide, G. 26 Hendricks, J. 160 Hendrix, S. 161, 162 Héring, J. 114, 122, 124 Henderson, S. W. 51 Hengel, M. 42, 44 Heron, A. 187


Index of Authors

Hillerbrand, H. 164 Holladay, C. R. 50 Horton, M. S. 18, 23, 36 House, P. 29 Hubmaier, B. 161, 162, 163, 166, 173 Hull, J. 235 Hunsinger, G. 182 Hurtado, L. W. 53, 54, 182 Husbands, M. 11, 178 Hut, H. 166, 167 Hylen, S. 68, 73 Instone-Brewer, D. 122 Jeeves, M. 220 Jennings, W. J. 231 Jerome, 126, 168 Jewett, P. 219 Johansson, D. 44, 53 Johnson, M. P. 178, 200 Johnson, T. 164 John Calvin, 76, 158, 165, 178, 185, 189 Juarrero, A. 229 Jürgen-Goertz, H. 164 Kant, I. 178 Keener, C. S. 93 Kegley, C. 36 Kelsey, D. 26, 27 Kim, S. 182 Kingsbury, J. D. 47, 48 Klassen, W. 164 Klauck, 113, 122, 127 Klappert, B. 86 Klein, W. 32 Kloppenborg, J. 83, 84, 85, 86, 87 Knight, H. 42 Koester, C. 70, 73, 75, 77, 96 Kollmann, B. 116 Köstenberger, A. 46 Kotansky, R. 11 Kreider, A. 244 Kritzer, R. E. 119 Kruschwitz, R. B. 235 Kummel, W.G. 42, 56 Ladd, G. E. 42, 200, 240, 274 Lane, A. 189 Lane, T. 184 Lane, W. L. 49, 54, 184 Lee, K. W. 205, 206 Legaspi, M. C. 214

Lewis, C. S. 242, 247 Liechty, D. 159, 163 Lietzmann, H. 114 Lincoln, A. 181, 184 Lindberg, C. 166 Lindemann, A. 111, 116, 118, 127 Letham, R. 209 Loader, W. 122 Loeser, M. 139 Louw, J. P. 66 Luckmann, T. 28 Lucas, S. M. 34 Lugioyo, B. 4, 167 Lust, J. 67 Luter, A. B. 152 Luther, M. 76, 157, 158, 166, 167, 168, 170 Macaskill, G. 204, 205 MacCulloch, D. 231 MacDonald, M. Y. 112, 194, 247 MacGregor, K. R. 83, 84, 86 Macleod, D. 186, 198, 200 Maguire, E. A. 230 Malony, H. N. 228 Marcus, J. 53 Maritz, P. 65, 69 Marshall, I. H. 31, 32, 42, 44, 55, 56 Martin, R. P. 182, 204 Martin, G. 157, 158 May, A. S. 115 McCormack, B. 182 McDonald, S. 194, 195, 205 McKnight, S. 53 McIntyre, A. 214 Mealy, J. W. 134, 135, 136, 142 Menken, M. J. J. 68, 71 Metzger, B. M. 75, 101, 109, 139 Michaels, J. R. 67, 79 Miller, R. C. 91 Moloney, F. J. 67 Montoya, A. F. M. 79 Moon, L. 233 Moreland, J. P. 221, 228, 236 Moule, C. F. D. 35, 43, 44 Mulholland, R. 214 Muller, R. A. 186 Müller, U. B. 83 Murphy, N. 219, 222, 224, 229, 231, 233 Murphy-O’Connor, J. 83, 84, 86 Murray, J. 22, 178, 202

Index of Authors Naluparayil, J. C. 53 Neder, A. 195 Nelson, J. B. 231 Newbigin, L. 247, 249 Neyrey, J. H. 71 Nickelsburg, G. W. E. 118 Nida, E. A. 66 Niebuhr, R. 36 Niederwimmer, K. 116 Norden, E. 183 O’Brian, P. T. 183, 202 O’Connell, J. H. 83 Ogg, G. 42 Osborne, G. 64, 73, 81 Packull, W. 160 Palmer, S. 228 Pao, D. W. 56 Papathomas, A. 119 Peters, T. 222 Peterson, R. A. 34 Philips, D. 163, 164, 165, 188, 173 Pinnock, C. 191 Placher, W. 197 Plummer, A. 125 Potter, P. 219 Post, S. G. 231 Quash, B. 243 Rae, S. B. 221, 228, 236 Rankin, D. 187, 193 Rensberger, D. 66 Reid, D. G. 182, 204, 244 Reinbold, W. 116 Reuther, R. R. 231, 232 Robertson, A. 125 Rodwell, J. M. 240 Rosner, B. S.23, 111, 115, 118, 123, 129 Roth, J. D. 160 Rothmann, B. 167 Rowdon, H. H. 47, 59 Rowe, C. K. 60, 61 Russell, N. 74 Russell, R. J. 222 Rynkiewich, M. A. 233 Sandys-Wunsch, J. 19 Satterthwaite, P. E. 170 Sattler, M. 159, 161 Sayers, D. L. 247


Schiemer, L. 159 Schnackenburg, R. 65 Schneider, G. 114 Schnelle, U. 36, 37, 67, 219 Schrage, W. 116, 117, 118, 121 Schreiner, T. 29 Schults, L. 224, 225 Scott, J. M. 202 Seifrid, M. 204 Seland, T. 83 Sider, R. C. 83, 86 Smail, T. 200 Smith, N. K. 178 Smith, U. 139 Stanton, G. 45 Stassen, G. 233 Stayer, J. 160, 164 Stein, R. 54 Steinmetz, D. C. 73, 75, 161, 162 Steudel, A. 116 Stewart, J. A. 178 Strange, D. 192, 200 Strauss, M. L. 55, 56, 57, 58 Strawn, B. D. 216, 229, 232, 233 Studer, G. 161 Suggs, M. J. 47 Sunderland, L. R. 181 Sutherland, S. 35 Swancutt, D. M. 70 Sweeney, D. A. 194 Swinton, J. 226 Talbert, C. H. 56 Tannehill, R. C. 51 Tanner, K. 204 Tavard, G. H. 165 Telford, W. R. 51, 57 Tenney, M. C. 49 Thielmann, F. 42 Thiselton, A. C. 112, 113, 115, 116, 127 Thompson, M. B. 243 Thompson, M. M. 71 Thyen, H. 65 Torrance, T. F. 184, 186, 187, 188, 190, 191, 192, 193, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 203, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 215, 244, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271 Treier, D. 11, 38, 64, 82, 211 Trueman, C. 35


Index of Authors

Tuckett, C. M. 50, 57, 59 Turner, M. 59, 184 Ulrichsen, J. H. 83 Van Belle, G. 65, 69 Van Braght, T. J. 157, 159, 160, 161, 164 VanDrunen, D. 18, 23 Vanhoozer, K. 3, 37, 64, 79 Vanier, J. 234, 235, 247 Vermigli, P. M. 186, 187, 192 Verseput, D. 47 Vielhauer, P. 56 Vos, G. 21, 22, 31, 36 Walker, R. 197 Ward, M. 243 Ward, P. 235 Warfield, B.B 21 Watson, F. 64 Watts, R. 53 Webb, R. L. 53, Webber, R. C. 83, 86 Webster, J. S. 72, 82 Webster, J. 82, 215 Weeden, T. J. 49, 51 Weiss, J. 114, 115, 116, 118, 122, 124, 125 Welker, M. 222 Wellum, S. 33, 34 Wendland, H. 115 Wenger, T. 177, 178

Wengert, T. 161, 170, 175 Wenham, D. 42, 281 Wesley, C. 63, 77, 78 Wesley, J. 63, 77, 78, 80 Williams, A. N. 26, Williams, M. 34 Williams, R. 243 Wimbush, V. L. 112, 113, 116 Winter, B. W. 183 Winter, F. 119 Winter, P. 86 Witherington, B. 29, 30, 31 Wittgenstein, L. 179 Wolbert, W. 118 Woodbridge, J. 24 Wright, D. F. 170 Wright, J. P. 219 Wright, N.T. 178, 191, 194, 205, 218, 219, 222, 223, 245 Wright, R. M. 183 Wrede, W. 50 Yarbrough, L. 128 Yeago, D. S. 27 Zachman, R. C. 165 Zeller, D. 114, 116, 118, 121, 127, 128 Ziebertz, H. 235 Zuck 167

Index of Subjects and Key Terms Abraham 256 Abstinence, sexual 122, 123 Acts – abiding presence of Jesus 59 – ascension of Jesus 59 – heavenly enthronement of Jesus 59 Amillennialism 140, 147–52 Anabaptists – in the Reformation period 157–60 – – communities 161 – – martyrdom 160 – – Swiss 166 – – theology 160 Angel(s) 48, 54, 59, 89, 92, 93, 95, 98– 102, 104, 105, 127, 139, 141, 147, 150, 151, 204 Annihilationism 135, 136, 139, 140 Anticlericalism 166 Antinomian controversy 173 Anxiety, to have, as a translation for μεριμνάω 110–21, 124, 125, 127–29 Apollinarius 244 Apostles, as interpreters of the selfrevelation of God in Jesus 260, 261, 267 Aquinas, Thomas 75, 229 Arianism 242–44, 246, 265 Aristotle 228 Arius 242–44, 247, 264 Armageddon (see Har-Magedon) Arminianism 191, 206 Athanasius 27, 74, 243, 244, 247, 253, 264, 265 Augustine of Hippo 74, 78, 166 Authoritarianism 231 Barth, Karl 178, 179, 181–83, 188, 189, 192, 194, 196, 199, 201, 203, 206–9 Bartolomé de Albornoz 231 Beast, the (in Daniel 7 and Revelation) 148, 149, 245, 246

– making war on the holy ones 148–50 Bezae, Codex 75 Bible – and culture 23, 24 – as drama 36 – as God’s Word 12, 15, 81, 82 – as improper object of faith and worship 262, 263 – as inspired 152, 153 – as locus of God’s self-revelation 256, 267 – as Scripture 82 – as the Written Word of God 262, 263, 268 – authority 255, 268 – canon 15 – historicity 42 – inerrancy 255, 268 – infallibility 255, 268 – inspiration 255 – its symbolic universe 25–28, 30 – majesty 268 – ontological presuppositions 36, 82 – perspicuity 255 – thought world of its authors 27, 37 – typological patterns 37 – unity of Scripture 147 Biblical Theology Movement 133 – “True” versus “Pure” 19, 30 Body, and soul or spirit 127 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich 246 Bucer, Martin 77, 78, 164, 166, 167 Calvin, John 76, 78, 81, 165, 181, 185– 87, 189, 192, 193, 199, 200, 202, 203, 209, 210 – “New Perspective on Calvin” 177, 178 Calvinism – “alternative” 187 – “classic” 180, 181, 184–86, 191, 204, 207–10


Index of Subjects and Key Terms

– “Evangelical” 179, 180, 184, 186–96, 198–201, 203, 205–10 – “federal” 186, 187 – “scholastic” 186, 188 Cameron, John 209 Canon, biblical 15 Cappadocian Fathers 253 Castellio, Sebastian 167, 168 Celibacy 109, 126, 127, 129 Chalcedon, council of 196 Chastity, sexual 127 Cheap grace 246, 247 Christology (see also Jesus Christ) 27, 28, 41, 43, 44 – adoptionism 43, 54, 264 – and the resurrection of Christ 241 – anhypostasia 196–98, 203 – ascended humanity 187 – Christ as all-powerful 244 – Christ as mediator 186, 193, 194, 196, 198, 199 – Christ as Messiah 45, 46, 48–50, 54, 57, 58, 72, 193, 199 – Christ as passable (capable of suffering) 241–47 – Christ as Son of God 202 – Christ as the second Adam 45, 199 – Christ as the self-revelation of God 254, 258–63 – divine-man 49, 61 – divinity of Christ 264, 265 – enhypostasia 196, 202, 203 – gnostic docetism 240–43, 246, 248 – headship of Christ 186, 187 – heteroousios (Christ not of one substance with the Father) 265 – “high” 44, 53, 55, 60, 61 – homoousios (Christ of one substance with the Father) 27, 243, 265 – hypostatic union 190, 196, 197 – in the Koran 240, 241 – incarnation 43, 69, 70, 184, 185, 187– 91, 193–99, 202, 204, 205, 207–10, 241, 242, 244, 259, 261, 273 – Jesus as “Lord” in Luke 60, 61 – Jesus as the Living Word 262, 263, 269–71 – Logos 195, 200, 210, 244, 259, 268 – “low” 44, 52, 53, 57, 61 – pre-existence 47, 182

– Suffering Servant 45, 46, 49, 52, 57 – sonship 187 – subordinationism 57, 244 – trinitarian 61, 186, 189–91 – Valentinian gnosticism 240 Chrysostom, John 74 Church age, the 149 Church, the (see ecclesiology, under Theological Concepts) Circumcision, Gentiles and 237 Clement of Alexandria 73 Codex Bezae 75 Concept/judgment distinction, the 27, 28, 34, 38 Constantine, Emperor 243, 244 Cosmic Temple – the New Jerusalem as 25, 209, 210 – the world as 25 Council of Nicaea (see Nicaea, Council of) Covenant 17, 31, 179, 186, 188, 194, 195, 199, 256 – as a systematizing principle for theologizing 34 – definition 34 Cranmer, Thomas 77, 78 Creation 31 Creeds of the church, early 252, 264 Cross, the (see Theology of the Cross; see also atonement, under Theological Concepts) Cyril of Alexandria 74 Death – as a going to be with Christ 223 – as a going to Paradise 223 – as extinction of life 223, 224 – as sleep 223 Decius, Emperor of Rome 241 Deposit of Faith, the 261, 263, 265 Descartes, René 219, 228 Discipleship – as commitment to the kingdom 52 – as sharing Christ’s sufferings 247, 248 – as victory through suffering 246–49 – cost of 52 – Jesus the model of 52 Distraction, to have, as a translation for μεριμνάω 115, 118 DNA 228

Index of Subjects and Key Terms Dragon, the, in Revelation 246 Earth, dissolution of, at Christ’s coming 142, 146 Ecumenism (of T. F. Torrance) 254 Elizabeth, Anabaptist martyr 157 Enlightenment, the 131, 132, 214 Epistemology 188, 266–68 – theological nominalism 267 Erasmus 161, 166, 168 Eschatology 31, 32, 182 Eucharist 63–65 – in John 68 – in the Didache 67 – in the Synoptics 67 – institution of 66, 67 – literal versus metaphorical understanding 69–78, 80–82 Evangelism 198 Exegesis, grammatical-historical 14 Existentialism 27 Flavel, John 204 Footwashing 234 Gaudium et Spes (Vatican II document) 197 Gehenna 136 Gethsemane, Garden of 87, 88, 91–93 Gnosticism (in American religion) 232 Gog and Magog 134, 140–46 Gospel, the – as a systematizing principle for theologizing 32, 34 Gundry, Robert H., publications – Books – – The Church and the Tribulation 10, 13, 239 – – Commentary on the New Testament 8, 9, 11–13 – – First the Antichrist 13 – – Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian 1, 10, 14, 20, 41, 63, 68, 131, 214, 251 – – Mark: A Commentary on his Apology for the Cross 8 – – Matthew: A Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art 8, 12, 14 – – The Old is Better 8, 9, 14


– – Sōma in Biblical Theology 8, 10, 14, 216, 217, 234 – – Survey of the New Testament 8, 9, 12, 13 – – The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel 8–11 – Articles – – “The Essential Physicality of Jesus’ Resurrection” 11, 83, 220, 225, 227 – – “Hermeneutic Liberty” 11, 14, 15, 81 – – “The New Jerusalem: People as Place” 210 – – “Non-imputation of Christ’s Righteousness” 11 – – “A Response to ‘Matthew as Midrash’” 11 – – “A Response to ‘Methodological Unorthodoxy’” 11 – – Review of Reza Alsan, Zealot 11 – – “Shredding the Bible” 15 – – “Smithereens!” 15 – – “Surrejoinder” 14 Great Commission 48 Gregory of Nazianzus 193, 243 Gregory of Nyssa 74 Hades 136, 139 – as a prison 139 Har-Magedon, Battle of 150 Hell 169 – as everlasting torment 135, 136, 139 Hermeneutics 14, 15, 24, 34, 63, 64, 80– 82, 134, 152, 153, 162, 175, 176, 213, 235, 246, 251–53, 265, 269 – praxis as foundation for 235, 246 – the resurrected Christ as criterion for 235 Historical criticism 213, 217 Holy Spirit 31, 165, 166, 173, 186, 187, 191–95, 200–207, 235, 241, 249, 267 Homogenizing (biblical texts) 1, 134, 135 Hubmaier, Balthasar 161–63, 166, 173 Humboldt University 215 Hut, Hans 166, 167 Individualism, in Western culture 253 Intermediate state (between death and resurrection) 222, 223, 225, 226 Irenaeus 240–42, 253, 261 Isaiah Apocalypse 142, 145, 146


Index of Subjects and Key Terms

Israel, nation of 256 – as locus of God’s self-revelation 256, 257 – election of 181 – history of 38 James, Book of – as an “epistle of straw” 169–72, 175, 176 – Calvin and 158, 176 – in the Reformation and Radical Reformation 157–76 – Luther and 158, 159, 168–72, 174–76 – Radical Reformers and 158–60 Jerome 168 Jesus Christ (see also Christology) – as the bread of life 69, 70 – as divine Wisdom 47 – as the final revelation of God 45 – as fulfiller of the OT Law 45 – as the giver of resurrection 69, 70 – as healer 46 – as Immanuel, God with us 46 – as judge of all humanity 48, 60 – as Lamb of God 72 – as living water 69 – as manna 68, 69 – as a new Moses 45, 46, 58, 73 – as pre-existent 47, 54, 58 – as ransom for sins 49 – as resurrection 263 – as a sacrifice for sins 45, 46 – as savior 60 – as the Son of God 48, 58, 72 – as the Son of Man 45, 46, 48, 49 – as the Suffering Servant 46 – as the ultimate high priest 45 – ascension of 59, 90, 93, 104, 105 – authority of 46, 47, 49, 50, 53 – burial of 90 – death of 34, 198 – earthly life of 198 – endowment with the Holy Spirit 59 – equality with God 27 – in Hebrews 45 – in Matthew 45 – intimacy with the Father 47 – miracles of 54 – pre-existence of 259

– resurrection of 34, 48, 83–91, 93, 235, 242 – – androcentrism in accounts 89, 94, 98 – – angels as messengers of 91, 92 – – appearances in Galilee 103 – – by the Sea of Tiberius 91 – – Emmaus narrative 91 – – historicity 87, 88 – – Mary Magdalene as witness to 87, 89–96, 100–107 – – Pauline versus gospel accounts 88, 89 – – Peter and John as witnesses of 93–95, 97, 98, 102–106 – – physicality of 241 – – text-critical issues in John 96–98, 101, 107 – – “theologization” of 88 – – Thomas as witness of 103 – – women as witnesses to 88–92 – supernatural knowledge of 54, 55, 58, 59 Jewish religious customs, Gentiles and 236 John, Gospel of – believing 69, 70 – Eucharistic reading of John 6 63–82 – Luther and 169 – reception history of John 6 73–80 – water in 69 Joseph of Arimathea 90, 100 Judaizers 241 Jude, Epistle of – Luther and 170 Justinian, Emperor 244 Kant, Immanuel 178, 181 Kingdom of God 31 Knowledge, fragmentation of in Western culture 253, 254 Knowledge, sociology of 28 Lake of Fire 150 L’Arche ministry 234 Lord’s Supper (see Eucharist) Luke, Gospel of 55, 57–61 – as an apology for the church 55, 56 – as an apology for the Gentile mission 55, 56 – ascension of Jesus 59 – Christology 55, 56

Index of Subjects and Key Terms – heavenly enthronement of Jesus 59 – Jesus as “Lord” 60, 61 – soteriology 57 Luther, Martin 3, 76, 78, 156, 158, 159, 161, 167–76 – and the Book of James (see under James, Book of) – and the Epistle to the Hebrews 170 – Bondage of the Will 173 – Defense and Explanation of All the Articles 172 – First Lectures on the Psalms 172 – Lectures on Genesis 171, 172 – Lectures on Romans 171, 172 – Licentiate Examination of Heinrich Schmedenstede 171 – September Bible 168 – Table Talk 172 – Three Epistles of Saint John 172 – translation of the Bible 168 Mark, Gospel of 48 – apology for Jesus as Messiah 52 – Christology 48–55 – failure of the disciples in 51 – Jesus as Son of God 52 – Messianic secret 50 – paraenetic purpose 51 Marriage 227 – as a distraction from “the Lord’s things” 109–30 – in Jewish and Roman custom 122 Martin Bucer (see Bucer, Martin) Martin Luther (see Luther, Martin) Martyrdom, in the Reformation period 159–61 Mary Magdalene – as witness of the resurrection of Jesus 87, 89–98, 100–107 Materialism, reductionistic 228–30 Matthew, Gospel of – Christology 46–48 – Jewishness 45, 46 – polemic context 46 – Sitz im Leben 45, 46 Melanchthon, Philip 163 Melchizedek 45 Messianic secret 50 Metaphysics 180 Millennium 134–42, 147–62


Moses 26, 68, 73 New Testament – its ethical world 30 – its “storyline” 31 – its theological categories 31 – its theological world 30 Neuroscience 228, 229 New Creation 34, 110, 112 New Perspective on Paul, the 10 Nicaea, Council of 27, 240, 241, 243, 247, 264 Nicene Creed 27, 28 Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed 264 Nicodemus 90, 100, 165 Ontology 35, 179, 180, 182, 184, 187, 190–201, 205, 206, 209, 210, 217, 220, 221, 225, 234, 240, 255, 256, 261, 263, 266, 268, 269, 271 Ontology, covenantal 36 Origen 74, 89, 178 Parousia, the 44, 142 Pelagianism 164 People of God 31 Peter Martyr Vermigli (see Vermigli, Peter Martyr) Peter the Apostle, as witness of the Resurrection of Jesus 86, 89 Philips, Dietrich (or Dirk) 163–66, 173 Pieters, Dirk 164 Plagues, in Revelation 246 Plato 219, 231 Postmodernism 132 Posttribulationism 13 Premillennialism 140 Process theology 27 Prophecy, OT, as background for NT eschatology 135, 136 Prophets, as spokespeople for God 257 Racism 231 Rapture, pre- versus post-tribulational 239 Redaction criticism 10, 42, 138 – in Matthew 12 Redemptive history 25, 26, 31, 36, 186 Reductionism (anthropological) 228–30 Reductionism, scientific 253


Index of Subjects and Key Terms

Reformation, the 158, 159, 161, 166, 168, 175, 214 Rephaim, the 221, 223 Resurrection – and history 87–88 – during Jesus’ ministry 14, 31, 32, 33, 48, 51, 57, 87, 138 – from (among) the dead 137 – general 135 – Gospel narratives 2, 87, 88–93, 97, 99 – in 1 Corinthians 15 83–86, 88–90 – in John 20 93–104 – in Rev. 20:7–10 140 – of the unrepentant 136–38 – of the worthy 137 – physical (of believers) 148 – to eternal life 137, 138 – to judgment 138–40, 146 Revelation – Book of, Luther and 170 – progressive 64 Rheims New Testament 158 Romans, Luther and 176 Rothmann, Bernard 167 Satan 46, 52, 210 – as deceiver 148 – as leader of demons 53 – as tempter 124 – binding of 147, 148 – fall from heaven 150 – imprisonment of 147–51 – making war on the holy ones 149 Sattler, Michael 161 Schleitheim, Articles of (1527) 161 Scientism 253 Scot’s Confession, the 196 Second Temple Judaism 222, 223 Secret Mark 10 Secularization 214, 215 Semi-Pelagianism 164 September Bible 168 Sex 109, 117, 227, 236 – as an obligation between spouses 121, 122 – chastity 127, 128 Sexism 231 Sheol 221, 223, 224 Slavery 231 Smuel, Andrew 164

Spirituality – and service 233 – communal 232, 233–35, 236 – individualistic 232, 234 – of identification with those who suffer 248 – of tenderness 234, 235 – otherworldly 233 Stephen Gardiner, Bishop 77 Systematic Theology – atemporal focus 29, 35 Theological Concepts (see also Theology) – adoption 185, 191, 193, 201, 202, 207 – anthropology 216 – – communal 237 – – dualism and ministering to “bodies” 233 – – dualism and “saving souls” 233 – – dualism and sexuality 233 – – existential holism 217 – – holism (physicalism, non-dualism) versus body-soul dualism 216–28, 231, 233, 236, 237 – – negativity towards the physical body 237 – – nonreductive physicalism 220, 221 – – personal identity 224–27, 230 – – the human as irreducibly social 229– 30 – assurance 189 – atonement 188, 190, 197, 203, 206, 207, 258 – baptism, believer’s 161 – believers as heirs of God 202 – bondage to sin 191 – Christian morality 161 – christocentrism 184, 186, 211 – church as Bride of Christ 194 – church as the Body of Christ 194 – conversion 161 – covenant 256 – deism 255, 266 – divine foreknowledge 181, 185 – divinization (theosis) 199 – dualism, cosmological 265, 267, 268 – earth-heaven dualism 233 – ecclesiology 161, 163, 173, 227 – – and martyrdom 245, 246

Index of Subjects and Key Terms – – church as a living temple 25 – – of suffering with Christ 247 – election 177–79, 181–86, 188, 189, 191, 192, 194, 195, 198, 199, 201, 204, 207–10 – eschatology 110, 182, 189 – evil 192, 201 – faith 44, 51, 75–78, 80, 88, 102, 114, 131–33, 152, 153, 159, 161, 163–67, 169–75, 186, 187, 191, 199, 200, 202– 207, 209, 210, 224, 226, 261–63, 266– 68, 270, 271 – Fall, the 162, 163, 165 – fatherhood of God 196 – free will 161–63, 203, 205, 207–209 – glorification 185 – God as healer 258 – God as healer of creation 245 – grace 188, 191, 192, 202, 208, 209, 258 – grafting of believers into Christ 187, 202, 205 – holiness of believers 191, 193, 194 – image of God 165 – “in Christ” 177, 180, 182–84 – individualism 232, 233 – irresistible grace 192 – judgment 273 – justification 161, 163–65, 167, 170, 173, 174, 176, 185 – knowledge of God 252, 254, 255 – Law, the 163, 165 – limited atonement 198, 207 – New Covenant 199, 200, 205, 210 – new creation 184, 200, 216 – new humanity 199 – original sin 162 – participation (in the New Covenant) 200 – particularism 201 – passability of God 244 – perfection of God 240 – “postvenient” grace 206 – predestination 186, 190, 200, 202, 206, 207 – priesthood of all believers 159, 168 – promise 31, 256 – reconciliation 251, 256, 257, 259–61, 263, 266, 270, 271


– redemption 21–23, 31, 35, 36, 38, 58, 180–82, 185–88, 190, 202, 203, 210, 242, 251, 252, 258, 259 – Redemptive history 258 – repentance 164, 175, 205, 208, 262, 270 – resurrection of the dead 222, 223 – revelation 181, 251 – righteousness 169 – sanctification 163–66, 185 – self-revelation of God 255–60, 262, 263, 266 – sin 169, 206 – sola fide 166, 170 – sola scriptura 159, 169, 175, 176 – sonship of believers 201, 202 – soteriology 177, 178, 180, 182, 184–86, 196, 197 – spirit/matter dualism 240, 253 – spiritual rebirth 163, 165, 168, 172, 173, 187, 204 – supralapsarianism 188, 195 – theodrama 38 – theosis 199 – time 181 – trinity 181, 182, 202, 225, 261, 271 – union with Christ 177–79, 184–89, 191–206, 208–10, 212, 226 – in suffering 246, 247 – universal atonement 208, 209 – universal salvation 179, 180, 184, 188, 191, 192, 196–98, 201, 203, 206, 207 – vocation 194 – wrath of God 178, 193 Theodora, Empress 244 Theological interpretation of Scripture 28, 64, 81–8, 158, 251 Theology (see also Theological Concepts) – and orthodoxy 81 – as a Rule of Faith 81 – contextual 236 – covenantal 36 – dialectical 188 – dialogical 188 – dogmatic 19 – hermeneutical spiral 64 – linear approach to 64 – of glory 49, 56 – of the Cross 49, 56


Index of Subjects and Key Terms

– presuppositions 64 – process 27 – Reformed 18 – speculative 180 – spiral approach to 64, 81 Thomas Aquinas 75, 229 Thomas van Imbroeck 164 Tribulation, the Great 13, 149 Valdés, Juan de 166 Valentinus 240 Vanier, Jean 234 Vatican II 197 Vermigli, Peter Martyr 186, 187, 192 Virginity 114, 127, 128 Vulgate 168

Wesley, Charles 77–79 Wesley, John 77–79 Whore, the Great, in Revelation 245, 246 William Fulke’s New Testament 157, 158 Wisdom, personified 125, 126 Women, in the Reformation 157 World, as neutral versus as sinful, headed for destruction 123, 124 Zion, Mount 146