In the Mail

Bultmann, Bultmann, Bultmann! Fortress Press was good enough to send along review copies of Rudolf Bultmann’s New Testament & Mythology: And Other Basic WritingsWhat Is Theology?; and Rudolf Bultmann: Interpreting Faith for the Modern Era edited by Roger A. Johnson.

Bultmann is one of the clearest writers I’ve ever read. I’ve often wished that his German (speaking) counterparts in systematic theology would have taken a page out of his book but guys like Barth, Jüngel, Pannenberg, and Moltmann seemed bent on using more words than necessary to make their points, which at times (in Moltmann’s case, almost always!) were convoluted anyway!

Not so with Bultmann. He was concise, easy to understand, and quite brilliant! It is the clarity with which he wrote that makes it so easy to disagree with him, and trust me, that’s a good thing. If we’re to disagree with someone, let it be because we understand exactly what they’re saying and not because we’re confused.

So I look forward to devouring all of these as time allows.


In the Mail

I forgot to note that I received a copy of Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen’s Trinity and Revelation for review from Eerdmans a couple of days ago. This is the second volume of a proposed five volumes Kärkkäinen’s A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World series. The first volume Christ and Reconciliation was published last year. Here’s an interview with the author to whet the appetites of potentially interested readers:


Organizing Articles

Good question! I tend to like things pretty organized but I have to confess that I’ve not been as intricate with my articles as I probably should have been. In short, I have some folders that contain a broad spectrum of articles. These would be my Biblical Studies and Theology folders. The Biblical Studies folder houses articles on both OT and NT studies as well as some stuff on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Pseudepigrapha. The Theology folder contains anything from Systematic theology to Patristic theology to the works of Fr Georges Florovsky.

But then there are the times when I’ve created folders based on subjects I was studying. So, for example, I have a folder for articles on the Biblical Canon; Christology; Monotheism; Exegesis and Hermeneutics; Greek Grammar; Divine Impassibility; etc. I also have folders containing articles from some of my favorite scholars, namely Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado. The Hurtado folder is massive! I have nearly everything he’s ever published in there!

So there’s no great rhyme or reason to my organization of articles. The truth is that I should take  a few days and recategorize everything. Sadly, that’s not likely to happen. Now my massive collection of books in PDF is a different story. That’s much better organized but I’ll talk about that another time.


On the “Jewishness” of Early Christology

In reading Boyarin’s article “Enoch, Ezra, and the Jewishness of ‘High Christology’”, which I quoted in part the other day, I note something that I think is somewhat misguided. Boyarin is interested in the varied beliefs of Jews during the Second Temple period to the point that he focuses a lot of attention on the “out-takes” (i.e., pseudepigraphical literature) of Judaism, to borrow his colorful expression. In the article Boyarin seems convinced that the Gospels do not base their presentation of Jesus on 1 Enoch (and he’s surely correct on that point), but that 1 Enoch and the Gospels each present an interpretation of the Danielic Son of Man passage that have striking similarities.

The point, of course, is that these two disparate traditions, which have strong similarities while remaining distinct/unique, show that Jews of the period thought along similar lines without any necessary dependence. Good and well. But it also seems to me that inherent in this type of argument is the idea that because non-Christian Jews thought similarly to Christian Jews, that somehow makes the Christian Jewish views more Jewish. In other words, had there been no similar speculation from (a) group(s) that didn’t reverence Jesus as Messiah (or divine, or whatever) then the views about Jesus presented in the NT could be written off as Gentile, much in the manner that Maurice Casey argues in From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God.

But the NT documents are without question Jewish literature and represent a strand of first century Jewish theology. Early Christology, however conceived, is Jewish through and through. It amazes me how often this point seems to be overlooked in discussions on the topic. It also amazes me that some, recognizing the Jewishness of the NT texts, attempt to deny a divine Christology in the NT on the basis of such a concept being un-Jewish as if it has decided beforehand what the Jews writing the NT were and were not allowed to think or say about Jesus. In effect, this presupposition renders the NT un-Jewish by default.


Boyarin on the Jewishness of High Christology

Daniel Boyarin starts his article “Enoch, Ezra, and the Jewishness of ‘High Christology’,” in Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch: Reconstruction after the Fall (ed. Matthias Henze and Gabriele Boccaccini; JSJSup 164; Leiden: Brill, 2013) saying:

The proposal being advanced in this paper is that at least since Daniel and almost surely earlier, there had been a tradition within Israel that saw God as doubled in the form of an old man and a younger human-like figure, sharing the divine throne (or sharing, rather, two equal thrones). Although not necessary for the present argument, my guess is that this doubling of the godhead within much of Israel’s tradition goes back to the original El/Yʾ merger. The vision of Daniel 7, which represents this tradition, has been eventually suppressed (but not entirely successfully) by the author of Daniel 7 in his pesher on the vision rendering it a metaphor for the faithful of Israel. We find the same divine human figure in both the Similitudes of Enoch as well as in 4Ezra 13, where again the import of the image as a second anthropomorphic divine figure has been “suppressed” in the pesher to this vision as well (as seen already by Michael Stone and Jonas Greenfield). Only in the Similitudes has this religious position been “allowed,” as it were, free rein. In the two apocalypses (both c. 1st cent. ce), moreover, we see how the second younger divine “man” has been associated with the Messiah. According to all of these traditions the Messiah is a kind of divine man or man-God. These texts, which, of course, have not in any way “influenced” the Gospels, provide, nonetheless, strong evidence for the Jewish religious background of the divinity of Jesus. It is this view of God, given full rein in Enoch, that explains the development of High Christology as fully explicable within Jewish religious history, with the enormous innovation on the part of the Gospels being only the insistence that the divine man is already here as a historical human being and not as a prophecy for the future. Apocalypse now! This provides, on my view, a much more appropriate historical explanatory model than one that depends on visionary experiences of Jesus on the Throne allegedly ungrounded in prior speculation, as per the view of, e.g. Larry Hurtado and others who advance similar views. Finally, as a coda, it is suggested that the figure of Metatron as well as the efforts of suppression of that figure in late ancient rabbinic and associated literature continue the ongoing history of inner-Jewish conflict around the human-like divine figure that is evidenced in the earlier literature as well.

This point of view contributes to a way of conceiving of ancient and late ancient Jewish religious history that is not dependent on the notion of discrete and bounded Judaisms (including even Christian Judaism!). When I lectured on this topic recently at Lehrhaus Judaica in Berkeley, one of my audience asked me why I rely so much on the “out takes” of Judaism, Enoch, and Baruch, and Ezra. I answered that I am interested in Judaism, the Director’s Cut. My overall contention is that a historical description of the disputatious religious practices (including textual practices) of the Israelites of the first century can accommodate the Gospels (and even Paul) and the very highest of New Testament Christologies within the borders of what can be historically, phenomenologically described as Jewry. I thus disagree with views that see “early Christianity” as something other than “Judaism” or, alternatively, in order to save the phenomena, deny the originary nature of high Christologies altogether, seeing them as later and externally motivated mutations. The “out-takes” of the extracanonical apocalypses, the Similitudes of Enoch and Fourth Ezra, are crucial to my argument. (pp. 337-38)

It’s a fascinating piece. I don’t know how convinced people will be by it but if these couple of paragraphs don’t have you curious to read it then I don’t know what will!


In the Mail

My Ignatius Press ordered arrived today. To be honest, I saw the box and thought the publisher had sent a bunch of books for review because, well, I forgot I had placed this order! But here’s what I got:

2014-04-07 14.21.38-1

Now I have to move the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI section of my library because these books are way too tall to fit on the top of my bookcase where my other Ratzinger volumes are housed.