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Why You Should Study with Me in Perth, Australia!

If you are interested in studying the Bible and Theology, why not join me here at Vose Seminary (20 Hayman Road, Bentley, WA 6102)!

It is a great city with plenty to do for tourists and beautiful weather. Believe me, I left almost -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) winter back in Alberta, Canada!

You may be training for some form of ministry, desiring to acquire more knowledge about the Bible or your own theological worldview, or studying ancient Jewish and Christian beliefs/practices/writings due to their historical, literary, political, or cultural influence. My own teaching incorporates what I learned in both Religious Studies and Theology degree programs.

I am willing to work with graduate students in any area relating to the New Testament and early Christian literature (e.g., Patristics), but here have been some of my research focuses (for specific publications see the tab “about me“):

  • Gospels: my primary research specialization has been on canonical and non-canonical Gospel literature, particularly their literary interrelationships and the later ecclesial traditions attached to them (e.g. Mark as the interpreter of the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Matthew originally writing in the “Hebrew” language, the Apostle John publishing the Gospel and getting buried in Ephesus).
  • Christian identity formation: I have explored the belief in ethnic election (e.g. elect people or nation, descendants of Abraham, new Israel) in ancient Christian discourse, especially in polemical writings that tried to sharply distinguish Christians from the Jewish community. My publications in this area were influenced by Denise Kimber Buell, Caroline Johnson Hodge, Love Sechrest, David Horrell, and others, but you may wish to pursue other questions about how specific Christian groups identified themselves or defined their beliefs, practices, and social boundaries.
  • Christology: I am interested in the Christological categories that we use to categorize different thinkers and texts (e.g., incarnational, adoptionist, separationist, docetic, gnostic) and have been thinking about taking a closer look at certain teachers or groups who found themselves on the margins in the Patristic period (e.g., Ebionites, Cerinthus, Carpocrates).
  • Reception History: the Bible is a small collection of texts when compared with other fields of study (e.g. History, Classics, Literature, Sociology), so this opens the field to how biblical texts have been comprehended or lived out by interpretive communities over millennia. My focus has been on the reception of the Gospels, but your interests may range from applying effective history methodologies to classic source critical questions (e.g. determining an intertextual relationship and the direction of influence) to the use of a biblical text in a modern form of media. It is not about amassing lists of interesting readings over the centuries, but how a reading from a particular vantage point may enrich our understanding of the meanings of a text or of its contextually-bound interpreters.

Jim Davila on Papias and Other Lost Books

I just stumbled upon this, but I am pleased to see that Jim Davila shares my cautious conclusion on the Elder John in this post. I also agree that it would be amazing if someone else re-discovered Papias’s lost writings so that he or she could prove all of our scholarly speculations about the contents of his work to be wrong! ūüėÄ Anyways, check out his other links about lost antique books that we wish we could consult today and blogs that have become defunct over time (my oldest biblioblog going back to 2009 became a “lost text” as well and James McGrath has reflections on the changing blogging phenomenon here).

Articles to Read in Novum Testamentum

Thanks to Ekaterini G. Tsalampouni, I learned of a few articles in the latest edition of the journal Novum Testamentum that I would like to get a hold of after reading the abstracts.

The first is the article “Does John 8:48 Imply that the Devil has a Father? Contesting the Pro-Gnostic Reading” by Stephen Robert Lleweln, Alexandra Robinson, and Blake Edward Wassell. The article contests April D. DeConick’s reading of John 8:44 outlined in the first two publications listed here. I am interested in this article because I have looked at the reception of John’s Gospel among “proto-Orthodox” (or “centrist”) and “Gnostic” (or “demiurgical”) theologians and the traditions about the “arch-heretic” Cerinthus, the latter who is depicted by some Patristic thinkers as either an opponent or a proponent of John’s Gospel.

The second article I want to read is “The Muratorian Fragment as Roman Fake” by Clare K. Rothschild. I accepted the second-century dating and Roman provenance of the fragment and looked at what it has to say about the circumstances that compelled the disciple John to write the Gospel as well as the general harmony of all the Gospels that were inspired by the same Spirit. I will have to check out the article in due course to see if I need to re-evaluate my thinking on the fragment.

2018 Bible & Critical Theory Seminar Speakers

Robert Myles has posted the programme for the 2018 Bible & Critical Theory Seminar that will be hosted at the Sail and Anchor Pub and Brewery in Fremantle near Perth, Australia. Also, email him if you are interested in attending.

December 2017 Biblical Studies Carnival

The Biblical Studies Carnival for December 2017 has been posted by Phillip J. Long at his blog Reading Acts. A few of my blog posts made the cut under the category of “Scholars Ruining Christmas for Everyone” :D. Enjoy the carnival.

Another Approach to the Traditions about the Elder John

In the last post, I promoted my article about the “Elder John” and how he was either identified with or distinguished from the Apostle John in early Christian traditions. I would add that I think the Apostle John had already been identified as the beloved disciple and the author of the fourth Gospel before Irenaeus, while Irenaeus was the first to transfer elements of the Elder John’s biography (e.g. the residence in Ephesus, the encounter with the heretic Cerinthus, and the death in the reign of the emperor Trajan) to the Apostle of the same name. Further details are in my book.

For another approach that argues that “the earliest sources likely identified the Evangelist with a secondary John referred to by Papias in the early second century or earlier as John the Elder” (3), I found the abstract and bibliography of Dean Furlong’s PhD dissertation John the Evangelist: Revision and Reinterpretation in Early Christian Sources. I look forward to reading the thesis.


Who was the Elder John?

You may or may have not heard about a rather obscure individual whom Papias, a bishop in Hierapolis in the early second century CE, referred to as the “Elder John.” Who was the Elder John?

  • Was this figure the aged Apostle John, who would have been a much older man than his younger contemporary Papias?
  • What he the “disciple whom Jesus loved” in John’s Gospel, the evangelist who wrote John’s Gospel, the anonymous “elder” who delivered the epistles, or the seer whose visions are contained in the book of Revelation?
  • Was he an otherwise unknown authority figure in Asia Minor who, nevertheless, had a huge influence on how Christians have been reading the Gospels of Mark and Matthew for the last two millennia?

Check out my article “Would the Real Elder John Please Stand Up?” at the website¬†Bible and Interpretation¬†for an analysis of the scholarship on the Elder John, in both the ancient and the modern world. I make my own case about how the various prominent Christ followers named John were identified with each other in my book¬†The Beloved Apostle? The Transformation of the Apostle John into the Fourth Evangelist.

Can the Christmas Stories be Reconciled?

Check out the debate between Deane Galbraith (cf. the podcasts he collected here), James McGrath, and Bill Heroman. Interestingly, I came to a similar position as Bill in this post where I suggested that is possible to reconcile the stories (e.g. Luke has Joseph transport Mary from her hometown in Nazareth to his temporary lodgings in Bethlehem where Jesus is born and shepherds visit, while Matthew has Joseph and Mary staying in a more permanent home in Bethlehem with a Jesus who could be almost 2 years old when magi visit), but that the major obstacle is Luke 2:39 and its assumption that Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth as soon as they completed the prescribed temple rites. I looked at this issue from the perspective of the Synoptic Problem and whether Luke did not know Matthew’s account (i.e. did not know about a return to Bethlehem and flight to Egypt before going to Nazareth) or knew it yet purposely chose to skip over it. The theological emphases in each individual Gospel should also be stressed: Matthew’s Jesus is a new Moses who escapes a tyrant’s plot against the infant boys and comes out of Egypt and Luke’s Jesus is set in a particular imperial context (e.g. the census) and reaches out to the poor and marginalized (e.g. the song of Mary, the shepherds).

Update: Deane Galbraith critiques harmonizing interpretations here.

Update II: Jonathan Bernier nuances the discussion here by distinguishing between contrasts and contradictions.

Update III: Neil Godfrey criticizes scholars here for being more concerned about the details of narratives set in Bethlehem 2000 years ago than for the contemporary political situation.

The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus at the Temple

As we work through Ben C. Smith’s Synoptic Project page and Mahlon H. Smith’s Hyper-Synopsis, we come across a distinct Lukan episode in Luke 2:41-51 (here, here). Again, we see the centrality of Jerusalem and the temple in Luke’s narrative (as well as in Acts 1-7), a foreshadowing of Jesus’ remarkable teaching abilities and consciousness of his divine sonship at an early age, and the omniscient narrator’s aside about Mary’s internal reflections (2:51; cf. 2:19). It is uncertain why Matthew would not be interested in this material had the Gospel writer known it and perhaps we can establish a trajectory of increasing interest in Jesus’ early life from Mark (acknowledges Jesus’ family and Davidic descent but omits everything before Jesus’ baptism) to Matthew (genealogy and infancy narrative) to Luke (genealogy, infancy narrative, childhood anecdote). Some of the later apocryphal Gospels attempt to fill in the silence about Jesus’ childhood further and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas concludes its amusing stories about Jesus as a precocious young trouble-maker for his parents, teachers, and peers with this account of when he had matured as a 12-year-old at the temple (19:1-9).