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I have noticed that Next Theology still gets hits from search engines, and I want interested readers to know that I’m not featuring new content here anymore. If you are one of these interested readers, you might take a look at my new site, Everyday Apocalypse

Hope to see you there!


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I’m reblogging this from my new ‘world politics’ blog – where I’ve been a little distracted lately trying to expose the global domination game being played by state-busting Neo-cons in Syria. It’s complicated by the fact that a one-sided corporate media coverage of atrocities has co-opted millions of careless ‘humanitarians’ and liberals who would ordinarily be against the destruction of the last secular Arab state in the world.


Every humanitarian who trusts the current commentary associated with the bloody images coming out of Syria could very well be getting played for a fool.

There is not enough public questioning of the motives of Western intelligence agencies and their proxy fighters, who are largely responsible for the images of violence in the media.

Independent observers continue to cast doubt upon this Western misinformation campaign against the government and the loyal citizenry of the last secular Arab state in the world.

There are a lot of soldiers of fortune [in Syria]… Chechens, Romanians, French, Libyans, and Afghans… A few Afghans were caught and asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ They replied, ‘We were told that we came to Israel, and at night we are shooting at Israeli buses. We are fighting with the enemy to liberate Palestine.’ It might be funny, but it is true. The guys were really surprised, ‘Are…

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I was up before 7:00 as usual to fix my wife’s breakfast.  Normally it’s a hot shower right after, and then I fix my own breakfast and get on with reading/writing, after seeing her off to work.

But this morning I suddenly felt like skipping the comfort of the shower.  Not even a splash in the sink.  I’m a mess, a bit like a man rushed off from an all-night trial to the doom of a public sentencing.

It’s already noon and I haven’t even combed my hair.  I’m not fasting here – I’ve had coffee and all.  But I was right to think that skipping the hot shower would put me just far enough out-of-sorts to work like a hair-shirt, and keep me mindful.

So I’m home today, on Good Friday, with sleep still in my eyes and that overnight grungy feel – but this year I’m staying on point, and managing a little better at ‘keeping’ the awful memorial of my salvation.

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Kevin at Diglotting put up a book give-away offer that has my interest: Peter – the Myth, the Man, and the Writings, by Fred Lapham (2004).

The apostle Peter has already come up for criticism on this blog as one of my special NT problems.

I currently judge Simon Peter as chiefly responsible for the wrong-headedness which introduced error into the early kerygma.  Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:14-41), in my view, twisted the evangelism of Jesus in a way which eventually submerged the Galilean gospel of grace beneath the new church’s post-resurrection news-for-Jews:  Repent before the crucified and very angry and very soon to be returning Jewish Messiah brings down the whole age on your heads in the manner depicted by your apocalyptic writers.

It was this ill-considered sermon of Peter which, in my view, changed history for the worse by fomenting all the distracting ‘success’ of fear-based evangelical preaching.  Peter channeled the enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem into the first Judeo-Christian megachurchagogue (Acts 2:40-42) of the type which now proliferate in places like Texas.

From that point the progress of the Holy Spirit was ‘in check’ until it made two key moves:

(1) to go out ‘in person’ and turn Paul (Acts 9), and then

(2) to speak sense to Peter (a thing which required that the Apostle be semi-conscious – Acts 10) in order to loosen him up and get him over to Caesarea to witness God’s real plan in action (Acts 10:34-45).

The damage was already done to the kerygma, but at least Paul was inspired enough by the news from Caesarea (Acts 11:18-26) to take the mission out to the whole world (Acts 13ff).

Maybe Lapham’s book will cool me off a bit 🙂

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I’ve been up to the seminary library more than once since the last report, and my check-out pile has changed a lot.  It changes because my non-student borrowing limit (30 books) is always maxed, and I must return books in order to check-out new titles.  Thursday I took a half-day vacation and got 90 minutes in the stacks enroute to an important errand for the father-in-law.

Thursday I dumped the 50’s-era redaction studies by Marxsen, Conzelmann, Bornkamm, and Perrin, etc. (8 titles in all).  I hadn’t gone too far in any of them except Marxsen, but something I read in Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (or was it the NTPG?) convinced me it was OK to forget my layman’s intellectual insecurity over these guys – I had worried something crucial might embarrass me if I didn’t nail them.  But it’s not what I really need.

Six volumes I picked up Thursday:

Ben F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus (1979) – the 2002 ed. with NT Wright’s Introduction.  Meyer’s book is a key to Wright’s ‘Third Quest’ line of study, which represents to me a much better row to hoe right now than either the New Quest (Marxsen, etc.) or those Jesus Seminar dudes (who, if Wright has his way, will never get their own quest-number but will always be step-children of the New (2nd) Questers).

Craig A. Evans, ed., The Historical Jesus, Vols. II and III (2004), because Evans has made a great choice of lots of classic studies of this question in this 4-volume set, and I have access to the originals of all the excerpts if any look particularly promising.

Mark Matson’s 1998 dissertation on influences of the Fourth Gospel on Luke’s Passion Narrative (published by SBL 2001).  Germane to the Passion series I’m currently running on this blog.

Barbara Shellard, New Light on Luke (2002), chiefly for her treatments of Luke’s dependency on Matthew and the Luke-Johannine connections.

John Lierman, ed., Challenging Perspectives on the Gospel of John (2006), because I think most of the XIX century issues with the Johannine writings are going to be passé in the next theology.

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Saturday I had a chance to get back to the seminary for a couple hours and got what I was looking for in New Testament criticism:

Willi Marxsen, Mark The Evangelist (1956/ET1969)

Gunther Bornkamm, et al, Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew (1956/ET 1963)

Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of Luke (1953/ET1961)

Erhardt Guttgemanns, Candid Questions Concerning Gospel Form Criticism (1970/ET1979)

I figure I need to know the first three thinkers if I’m going to approach the synoptics from square one.  I’m a bit conservative on the method of redaction criticism, and so I want to see where I stand with these three, and depend on Guttgemanns to give me leverage against them.  Oh yeah, and I also grabbed Norman Perrin’s What is Redaction Criticism? (1969), which also more or less starts with Conzelmann, Marxsen, and Bornkamm.

Other books home now: 

Austin Farrer, St. Matthew and St. Mark (1954).  I already like this book after some morning time spent on it.  Farrer is my chief defense against Q theory, along with the late Michael D. Goulder, and Mark Goodacre at Duke.

Michael D. Goulder, Midrash and Lection in Matthew (1974). Goulder stepped back from some of this thesis later, I understand, but I want to get situated with his views on the author of Matthew, whom I see as the first reader of Mark who knew ‘other stuff’ about Jesus.

And lastly, I dumped the Crossan which got me so irritated last week, and took home volume 1 of Raymond E. Brown’s Death of the Messiah (1994) to get help with the Passion analysis I’m working on.  Crossan would see the irony in that, since he pretty much carves out his position in Who Killed Jesus? by constant contrasts to Brown.  Thanks for the tip, Dom.

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Research Day

Thursday I took a vacation day in honor of mother Earth and visited my favorite seminary library.  I count it a great good to live within 50 miles of such a fine theological school, and I am able to use it about twice a month (community patron privilege).  OK, I used more fossil fuel getting to the library than if I had gone to work.

I spent most of my time sitting in the stacks and reading in front of the (est.) 600-volume section on the Gospel of John.

Brought home:
Rudolf Schnackenburg,  the Gospel According to John, vols. 1 and 3 (1965/68, 1975/82)
Tom Thatcher, Why John Wrote a Gospel (2006)
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2006)

I have already checked out or own copies of Westcott (1881), Bernard (ICC 1928), Dodd (1963), Bultmann (1964/68), Robinson (1985), and Vol. 1 of the John, Jesus, and History Project symposium (Ed. Anderson et al, SBL 2007).

On the trials of Jesus (a current interest) I picked up a challenge in Dominic Crossan’s Who Killed Jesus? (1995 – I don’t like Crossan’s work, but I’m a little embarrassed about that).  While among the ‘Trial of Jesus’ call numbers, I was surprised at the number of attorneys who have over the past 200 years published books on the illegality of trials.

Finally, my antique pick sounds very retro but actually anticipates E.P. Sanders by 100 years in some regards – the 2-vol. Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (8th, 1896).

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A 5-night camp in a primitive area gets a person away from workplace and Internet all right, but does not afford as much study time as you might think.  With a night on the road in both directions, and the bulk of the five layover days given to the simple tasks of conducting life without conveniences, one’s free time must be very deliberately set aside (with the nights too cold for comfortable reading). 

For me a great benefit of being unplugged is the return to the old rigor of focused attention on a book, without recourse to electronic search engines offering attractive digressions along the spurs and side tracks of related trivia and close detail. 

Of the seven books selected for the trip, 2 bore fruit.

1. John, Jesus, and History, Vol.1, (Paul N. Anderson & others ed., SBL, 2007).  I tapped this book in preparation for some Fourth Gospel blogging here in the weeks to come.

2. F.D.E. Schleiermacher’s The Life of Jesus (Lecture notes 1832/ German 1st 1864/ Eng 1st 1972).  The English translation was edited (with 50-page Introduction) by Claremont emeritus Jack Verheyden – a key contributor to the JJ&H volume, above.  Schleiermacher was himself a great interpreter and proponent of the Fourth Gospel. 

This would be the third spring retreat in four years in which I have spent rewarding time with Schleiermacher, having studied the Monologen in 2008, and his Religion (a close re-reading) in 2006.

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Beginning Palm Sunday, I’ll be away until Easter, on our seventh annual spring week in the desert.  This year it happens to be Holy Week.

Approaching Friday, the joshua trees will be a constant reminder of the cross.  Not because they look like crosses (they don’t), but because there is a poetic sense in which the cross became a ‘Joshua Tree’ when Yeshua was placed upon it.

This post gives me a chance to utilize my first embedded image (this one from last year’s trip). A new look for the blog (maybe a portent of the next level).

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