All posts by Nick Norelli

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.

B”H

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.

B”H

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!

B”H

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:

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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.

B”H

In the Mail

I returned home from work last night to find a package from Mohr Siebeck containing a copy of Peter Orr’s Christ Absent and Present: A Study in Pauline Christology. This is another in a long line of doctoral dissertations that has been revised for publication and included in what is without a doubt my favorite NT monograph series: WUNT II.

The book’s description is worth quoting in full from the Mohr website:

In his letters, the Apostle Paul can express both the confidence that Christ dwells in the believer (Rom. 8:10) and the longing for Christ to return so that believers can finally be united with him (1 Thess. 4:17). Peter Orr develops the case that this under-explored relationship between the presence and absence of Christ sheds important light on Paul’s Christology. In the first part of this book he examines how two of the 20th century’s leading Pauline scholars (Albert Schweitzer and Ernst Käsemann) express almost precisely opposite views regarding the nature of this relationship. Using their polarity as an entry-point, he then turns to examine Paul’s letters. Firstly, he considers Paul’s expression of the absence of Christ, particularly in relationship to the body of Christ. Finally, Orr looks at different modes of Christ’s presence across Paul’s letters and how these relate to his absence.

I was immediately hopeful that this would serve as a nice complement to Chris Tilling’s Paul’s Divine Christology, and it seems from a survey of the modern author index that Orr does interact with Tilling’s book! This is very good news! I’m excited to see in what ways Orr has been able to build on this idea, which was a vitally important part of a larger argument offered by Tilling.

B”H

Just Ordered

My dear friend/brother-from-another-mother Esteban informed me of a fantastic sale from Ignatius Press in which I just picked up the following books (links are to Amazon followed by Ignatius for comparison purposes):

You can’t beat a bunch of $3 books from arguably the best Pope ever! The sale ends at midnight so any interested parties will do well to get shopping now!

B”H

Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Return of Christ

cbd.jpgKurschner, Alan. 

Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Return of Christ

Pompton Lakes, NJ: Eschatos, 2013. Pp. 238. Paper. $14.95.

Eschatos MinistriesAmazon

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With thanks to Alan Kurschner for this review copy!

Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord (hereafter ABDL) is a thorough, intelligent, and provocative treatment of the eschatological events associated with the seven year tribulation period spoken of throughout Scripture, but most especially in the book of Revelation. Let’s face it; we live in an age where certain eschatological views are ridiculed, namely premillennialism. Catholic and Orthodox believers are ashamed of their chiliastic roots while Lutheran and Reformed Protestants have largely maintained the amillennialism of the church they sought to reform.

It’s refreshing then, when we find an author—in this case Alan Kurschner, founder and director of Eschatos Ministries—who’s willing to examine and explain the biblical data from a futurist, premillennial perspective, without resorting to the type of sensationalism that we’ve seen popularized by the likes of Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, John Hagee, or even in Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind novels. Perhaps the reason for this is that Kurschner, unlike those just named, approaches matters from a prewrath position on the timing of the rapture.

ABDL is divided into three major parts with six appendices. Part 1, “The Antichrist’s Great Tribulation” makes the case for a seven year tribulation period, halfway through which the Antichrist will be revealed and persecute the church in unprecedented ways. Part 2, “The Rapture of God’s People” shows that according to Jesus, Paul, and John (following the prophets) that there will be a number of celestial disturbances signaling the Lord’s return and the church’s deliverance. Part 3 “The Day of the Lord’s Wrath” presents Jesus and Paul’s teaching on the Day of the Lord with an examination of the judgments recorded in Revelation.

Certain things are taken for granted throughout ABDL such futurism, premillennialism, and the fact that Antichrist will be a literal figure as opposed to a world system or spiritual disposition. Kurschner also takes for granted that Jesus will return and rapture his people, so the reader will search in vain for a defense of these points. For that they can turn to the various articles on his helpful website. But given these assumptions Kurschner presents a reading of the Gospels, Paul, and Revelation that I find compelling.

Before reading this book I was always unclear about the differences between the mid-tribulationist view of the rapture and the pre-wrath view, but now I get it (thanks in large part to the many helpful charts that aid Kurschner’s exposition)! I think there’s much to commend the pre-wrath view as Kurschner presents it, which is to say that the church will indeed experience tribulation, as we do in many ways already, but we will be delivered from God’s wrath, which is clearly promised in many passages of Scripture. Pretribulationists tend to conflate tribulation and God’s wrath, but holding these two in distinction really does help to make sense of a lot of Paul’s teaching, especially in 1-2 Thessalonians.

Given this distinction, a pretribulation rapture is no longer necessary, which has huge practical implications. It provides no reason for an escapist mentality. It prepares believers to be ready to suffer for righteousness’ sake. It also helps to make sense of Paul’s exhortations that believers will not be taken by surprise when the Lord returns (although I’m not quite convinced that Kurschner’s reading deals the death blow to the doctrine of imminence suggested on pp. 131-36 cf. 188-92). But it also seems that Kurschner has a firm grasp on the practical importance of eschatology more generally.

There’s a popular slogan that says, “In the essentials unity; in the non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.” It’s a nice sentiment, and one that most would agree with, yet there’s always the issue of what counts as essential or non-essential. Speaking from personal experience, eschatology seems to be the stock example of a non-essential when this phrase is introduced. What is it about this particular locus of systematic theology that we find so elusive as to think that what we believe about last things doesn’t rate with what we believe about God or salvation?

I’d venture to guess that many people simply don’t know what to do with eschatology. They know enough to believe that Jesus is going to one day return but past that it’s anybody’s guess. Some even quip that they’re pan-tribulationists because whatever happens it will all pan out in the end (pun intended, unfortunately). Kurschner rightly notes that correct eschatology matters (74-75) and shows just how Paul put this into practice. But Kurschner doesn’t stop at Paul reassuring the Thessalonians that they haven’t missed the resurrection; he takes the opportunity to present the gospel (113); call believers to self-examination and repentance (120, 123); and to test rather than assume our salvation (125).

While there’s certainly room for debate and disagreement among believers on these issues, we mustn’t pretend that they’re not important and that all eschatological beliefs are created equal. ABDL provides much fodder for future conversations and merits engagement from proponents across the eschatological spectrum. Wherever one ultimately lands on these issues, they’ll thank themselves for having wrestled with Kurschner’s interpretations and their implications.

B”H

Help a Brother Out!

Okay, so I’m in need of a bunch of articles, and I have one of my heroes (Fred Sanders) to blame! A while back he mentioned the Symposium on Kendall Soulen‘s  The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity: Distinguishing the Voices published in the Winter 2014 issue of Pro Ecclesia, which reminds me that I (1) need to finish Soulen’s book, and (2) really need to read these articles! If anyone can help me out I’d greatly appreciate it!

And now today I see Fred mention that Evangelical Quarterly 86/1 has a number of articles that originally appeared as papers discussing Stephen R. Holmes’ The Quest for the Trinity last July. Trust me, I need to read these articles as well! So the same applies: If anyone can help me out I’d greatly appreciate it!

B”H

In the Mail

It’s always nice to come home from a long day of work and find a box of books. B&H Academic sent along copies of David Alan Black’s Learn to Read New Testament Greek, 3rd ed. with the accompanying Workbook produced by Ben Gutierrez and Cara L. Murphy. The workbook was a nice surprise and the grammar was a bit of a shock as well.

I’ve been meaning to get a copy for a few years now and I mentioned it on Twitter after seeing it in a picture that B&H Academic posted on Twitter. I was then contacted and asked if I’d like a review copy. Of course I said yes! No mention of the workbook was made but it’s a great surprise!

I was also asked if I’d like to review Greg W. Forbes’ Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament volume on 1 Peter, to which I said yes, so they sent that one as well. Lots of Greek material here. It’ll be challenging but rewarding to work through, I’m sure.

B”H