Saturday, 7 October 2017

Figures who have impacted my journey: Larry Hurtado 2, on Paul...

...including a fresh rediscovery of the gospel for me, how we carefully overlap the LXX and NT usages of Kyrios, why Joel became special.

On God being "our Lord" or "our LORD", results are as scant as I predicted, including Adonai.

Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Figures who have impacted my journey: Larry Hurtado

Some notes:

- Book chapter is out! Check it out here. Almost works as a standalone paper.

- Quote from James McGrath review of Ehrman's most recent book:  Accurate memory is preserved, even in the process of distorting or reinterpreting it. And so it is frustrating when Ehrman discusses the work of famous form critics such as Bultmann and Dibelius but talks only about the fabrication of memories to meet the needs of churches in the pregospels period, to the neglect of the more interesting question of how the needs of those churches might have led to the reinterpretation of things the early Christians remembered about what Jesus said and did that were not pure fabrication (64–65). Some will suspect that Ehrman is still influenced here by his fundamentalist background, which tends to think of matters of authenticity or historicity in an all-or-nothing manner.

By the way, apologies to McGrath for probably mispronouncing his name!
- John's gospel criticism, please don't misunderstand me on the Jesus is/is not God thing!
- Dr. Hurtado's blog:
- Dr. Hurtado's interviews on Trinities hereherehere and here
- Dr. Hurtado's personal recommendation to my series on his post here
- Tetragram/tetragrammaton , relief from trinity work. First contact. Explain the project *dormant*
- My "gleanings" from my first response series (first series summary here) to Lord Jesus Christ
- Key terms: programmatic inclusion alongside. Binitarian.
- Question of centrality (see my post on Hurtado's opening words here)
- mutation proponent, and "unsuccessful mutations"
- methodology
- Jesus as LORD/Lord.... more on that next time!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Sample Chapter is out!

I have no idea how much time I have spent crafting this chapter. I feel like I have written it several times over the last couple of years!

This opening chapter of my book manuscript introduces a new combination of already established theological concepts. It applies hermeneutic principles of interpretation to the historical development of the doctrine of the Trinity, thus opening a middle ground between "Triune God advocacy" and Biblical Unitarianism and, I hope, increase the opportunities for productive dialogue between these traditionally-opposed schools.

This, the opening chapter, is a very personal one.

Particular credit goes to Marc Gallagher who gave me some fantastic constructive criticism and advice on it a few months ago, although quite a number have contributed in various ways to the development of the thesis of this book, which I extract here from the uploaded chapter:

First century Christian faith did indeed seem to have – at least in the more successful strands of Christianity of the time – an all-new trinitarian hub, and indeed did not yet feature a tri-personal God. The latter would be the expression and safeguarding of the former. That is the thesis of this book: the Triune God is the fourth-century expression and safeguarding of the first-century triune faith.

Please read or download the chapter in full here.

As readers may have learned already from a previous post, I haven't had much luck with my first three publishers, so until the book situation changes, I will tend to prioritise my other goals via this blog. Hopefully, folks might at some point realise that the Triune Hub hypothesis could give new leverage and clarity to the trinitarian enterprise. If that does happen, I may not even be the best person to publish on it. I'm more committed to getting a more accurate perspective of the past and improving the state of Christian apologetics to mind too much, although I have wondered and prayed about a partnership. But this chapter remains one of my most nurtured, careful and developed pieces I have written to date, so if you would like to read it I'd love to hear your feedback.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

LJC S2 Part 10: Invocation and Confession of Jesus

In the last posts in our second series on Larry Hurtado's book, we looked at Jesus' role in the prayer of the earliest stages of the Christian movement, firstly with a summary of Hurtado's own content, and secondarily with my own concerns of mapping out a first-century form of trinitarianism, I wanted to highlight the Holy Spirit's perceived central place in the religious life of the community, including prayer.

Today is somewhat a continuation of the theme of prayer as Hurtado opens a section he calls Invocation and Confession of Jesus. On "invocation", you can practically hear the Old Testament thunder rumbling already (at least I do, as my work on my commentary on Joel continues slowly behind the scenes). Let's see, though what Hurtado's key points are in this section.

One great piece of textual evidence for dating this back to a pre-Greek phase (Aramaic), is the invocation of Maranatha, that is preserved in 1 Corinthians 16:22. Hurtado points out the lack of any need for Paul to translate this saying to his Corinthian recipients. He may overstate things by assigning this lack of need to translate to its place in a super-early liturgy.

On p. 141, Hurtado dips slightly into Christian-mode, I think, when he states: Such a corporate cultic appeal to Jesus simply has no analogy as a regular feature of any other known group connected to the jewish religious tradition of the time [ok so far], and it, too, indicates, public devotional life of early Christians in a way that is otherwise reserved for God. My emphasis. I get fidgety every time someone says that some kind of possessive usage of Lord - e.g. Come, Our Lord! - was reserved for God. We have frequently noted on this blog, and in part at the instigation of a couple of blog posts made by Hurtado himself (e.g. here) that the Septuagint translators' opting for the anarthrous LORD as a translation for the tetragrammaton of Yahweh, God's personal name given in Hebrew, is not compatible with "my, your, their, our" etc. All such forms of language are essentially with reference to a title, something which Yahweh was not. Further, the translators (the first Alexandrian wave in any case) were careful to maintain that distinction via the anarthrous use. For newcomers to the blog, what we are talking about here is something a little akin to "Pharoah" or "Caesar". It was a bit like a title, but since it was so attached to this one individual, LORD (as opposed to the LORD) functioned in a similar way (one exception was discussed on the blog - "LORD of hosts", which you can read more about in The Name of [the] LORD if you would like to find out more).

So is Hurtado about to cut some Kyrios corners here? Actually, he is headed to a well-known (to the first century Jews) text of 1 Enoch, which is an eschatological reference reframed to have Jesus coming with all his holy ones: And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones To execute judgement upon all, And to destroy all the ungodly. (Ch. 1v9) That is certainly extremely interesting that God's visitation in judgement would be reframed via his glorified Messiah, but it's perhaps a little strange to paint this systematic invocation or programmatic inclusion starting here. But we quickly arrive at the more familiar references of Romans 10:9-13 and its reference to Joel 2:32. Here we truly have something phenomenal, which I won't have time to expand on in today's post, but LORD's anarthrous usage is applied to or finds fulfilment in Jesus ( τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου ) !

Thursday, 14 September 2017

LJC S2 Part 9: Prayer - where was the Spirit?

In Part 8, we realised that a minority of passages during the canonical era included direct prayer or calling to the Lord Jesus, while reserving prime recipient to God (the Father) himself as the standard Christian pattern. I failed to note that no mention of the Holy Spirit was included in this section - an error on my part. Hurtado's focus is on the ultra-early explosion of Jesus devotion in a Jewish monotheistic context. My focus is on a first-century establishment of a triune hub mutation to the Jewish Christian faith, so the impetus is on me to spot that, research and expand as appropriate.

Since we are on Paul, we should be careful not to fall prey to an "under-realized eschatological perspective" (G. Fee, Paul, the Spirit and the People of God p. 141;), "for Paul prayer has been radically transformed by the coming of the Spirit" (idem. p. 146)" and "[t]he  beginning of Christian life is marked by the indwelling Spirit's crying out 'Abba' to God (Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15). On all occasions,' Paul urges elsewhere, 'ray in/by the Spirit'; this injunction applies to every form of prayer (Eph 6:18)." (idem. p. 146). This seems of utter importance to realise that the departed Lord Jesus has given this greatest gift that indeed permits that he and the Father might remain present with his people. Among his people. Literally, in their minds. It's literally mind-blowing! Imagine having a personal life-giving power within you that actually helps you to pray when your own words fail you?

I have to say that it is hard to write about the topic of prayer and the Holy Spirit's inclusion without becoming personally excited and involved!

Praying also gives way to praying in tongues, something else we know that Paul practised and is connected with a series of other spiritual gifts demonstrating the life of the eschatological people of God. Praying in this new way embraces the person's and the congregations' entire mind, it is transformational, it utterly embraces weakness and glorifies God and Christ in the wake of our own inability.

Definitely worth a mention, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Big T Little t: It's time to call in the A-Team!

Remember The A Team? What a great show!

One of the great characters from that 90s classic was Mister T. You don't mess with Mister T!
Today I want to reflect again on Tuggy's dichotomy between little-t big-T, which continues to bug me. I have already blogged on the Jewish Roots of the Trinity and especially in my Responding to Dale Tuggy on Trinitarian Conceptualisation. Dale's amazing at showing distinction where there appears to be just mud. He's a trained analytic philosopher, he's just doing his job and doing it well. But there are problems in applying dichotomies across time and culture, especially with regards to this multi-personal God issue that has provoked so much inquiry in his own life and also in my own.

I've hinted at this before, but I'm going to emphasise it again now. Biblical Unitarians - to whom I owe so much and whom I love, at least those that I have had the privilege of meeting - are fully capable of accepting quite unaware the very fourth-century categories they so firmly oppose. Let me give you an illustration of what I mean. Not so long ago, I blogged quite a successful blog summary (What On Earth Has John Been Up To?) in which I included some of my next goals (one of those was a study on John the Baptist, which is already completed, hurrah). Believe it or not, my intuition about the Restitutio interview seems to have been pretty well dialled in - presenter Pastor Sean Finnegan read my blog summary hyperlinked above and has expressed interest in doing an interview. So, that plug aside (watch this space!), my point is that in preparing to speak to Sean I looked up a debate he did on Youtube way back in 2008ish, up against a Trinitarian. I didn't make it all the way through. It was the sort of debate that just makes you think how do those people even think that fast?! One sentence caught my attention, however, where Sean said something along the lines of: "no, I do not believe that Jesus is of the same essence as the Father". The same essence?

I should be careful here! Sean, you might even be reading this, so in maximum warp-speed 10 respect, please hear me right. I'm just trying to point out that it is very easy for any of us to take our opponents' categories for granted. Perhaps Sean wouldn't say that nine years later, either way, it doesn't matter for the purpose of this example. Back to Small T vs Big T.

Dale Tuggy's point is that "small-t" trinitarian refers to a triad. All "small-t" trinitarians are in fact, according to Dale's tightly defined definitions, biblical Unitarians. That is to say that God himself, remains one individual, no matter how much he and his actions are bound to his Son and his Spirit. Over the past year or so, I have come from a point of curiosity, through scepticism now to rejection on the possibility of some almighty conceptual switch. As I have understood the dichotomy thus far, the radical switch from Point A (God Is A Single Person Deity) to Point C (God Is A Three-Person Deity) shift is too great. As I stressed in my response to Dale, to which his response is still due at some point I hope, there has to be a Point B. That Point B is not adequately described as "biblical Unitarian". I'm sorry, but I find that almost as guilty as the back-projecting as some Trinitarians are in their own apologetics.

In my view, the whole perspective is upside down. It wants to start with ontology, which is precisely where Paul Ricoeur has warned us not to begin. If we begin there and disregard the goals, loyalties, injuries, politics, history and other stakes then we can miss important data - this data is so much more complex and nuanced its complexity and nuance require a more hermeneutic approach. It is this hermeneutic approach that says: how do we perceive? How do we conceptualise the seen realm and the unseen realm? If we do that, and we are able to factor in the historical probability of the first-century Christian mutation of Judaism having started to vocalise, ritualise and (although they did not know it) immortalise its "Triune Hub" via the baptismal rites, then we are released into realising that it is, in fact, the Triune God version of the Trinity that should receive the "small T", since it is interpretative of that which precedes it. It is, therefore, the earlier, Jewish-Christian expression and understanding from which it is developed is that which should truly bear the "Mister T" belt.

According to my own definitions, then, I think that makes me a Capital-T Trinitarian! It might frustrate, however, to realise that it is not in any way an outcome of a one-self or three-self decoding process of the ontology of God, since it begins with the social human psyche.