Friday, May 26, 2017

Mike Bird on Mark's Account of Jesus Baptism: Not Adoptionist!

Mike Bird has a short article over at Christian Origins no doubt timed to help him sell some of his new book, and why not? In the comments though he is lured into addressing the Markan Baptism scene.

He writes:
I left out Mark’s baptism due to brevity.
First, I think Michael Peppard has shown that it is possible to read Mk 1.9-11 in an adoptionist sense, esp. if one regards eudokesa as meaning “chosen” and in light of Roman adoption practices. But I’m just not convinced that that is what Mark is trying to convey or how it was received by its initial readers.
Second, I don’t think Mark’s Gospel as a whole lends itself to adoptionism, since the demons somehow fear that Jesus is the Son who has “come” to destroy them (Mk 1.24; 5.7) and the Son belongs to a heavenly triad of Father, Son, and angels (Mk 13.32).
Third, if a divine voice calling Jesus “Son” marks out an adoption, then Jesus gets adopted three times at his baptism, transfiguration, and crucifixion. If one wanted to pick an adoption scene, Mk 15.39 would be preferable, as it would dovetail better with some notion of apotheosis.
Fourth, I don’t think Mk 1.11 tells us anything about when Jesus become the son, eudokesa could be gnomic. On a plain reading, I’d say that God is simply pleased that his Son has presented himself for baptism.
Fifth, the reception of the Spirit probably relates not to sonship but more to the prophetic nature of Jesus as the Isaianic servant given the allusion to Isa 42.1.
Like Philip Davis' discussion of the same event, I'm not sure I buy the whole cow, but again, there are some pertinent provocations in there. Looking forward to the book, although I hope there is some constructive work in there and not just the "not adoptionist" stuff.

Let me know what you think :-)

SBL Abbreviations Made Easy

Nothing makes using an abbreviation system easier than actually knowing what it is! Online, Roy Ciampa's impressive resources for NT Exegesis webpage has them all on one page. But keeping that open in my browser window for quick access is a pain, so I have made a printable word doc version of that page (it makes 6 A4 pages), so now you can print it out and stick it on your wall next to your picture of a dog on a bicycle. Never again will you wonder how to abbreviate Ezra's Greek Apocalypse or wonder what the heck b. Bic 3b is and why it keeps coming up in conversations about the right way to make a fruit salad.

You're very welcome.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

DeConick and the relationship between Christology and Soteriology

April DeConick in a provocative book chapter makes a compelling argument for how Christological developments could fuel soteriological development. Without fully accepting her assumptions or conclusions, I think her point is very well made, who Jesus is understood to be is bound to have an effect on how this Jesus is understood to save us. DeConick sketches the following paradigms.

Christology --> Soterology
Righteous One/Human, became divine at resurrection --> Behavioural/Imitative
Pre-existent Spirit/Angel, created divine, became human --> Atonement/Sacrificial
Precosmogonic/Hypostatic, uncreated divine took on flesh --> Transmutative/Ingestive/Theosis

See further (she kindly makes it available for all on her website), April DeConick, "How We Talk About Christology Matters," in Capes, DeConick, Bond, (eds)  Israel's God and Rebecca's Children. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007), 1-23.

In this chapter DeConick does not deal in depth with Mark's gospel which she sees, reasonably enough, as having an atonement soteriology. Aside from Mark 10:45, the lack of ethical teaching in GMark would seem to agree with this. However, that then requires a pre-existent Christology for Mark, within her paradigm, as Christology must precede soteriology. Unfortunately she doesn't comment on this as Matt and Luke (and the virgin birth) are primarily in mind for her pre-existent paradigm.

There is a lot of food for thought there, unfortunately it doesn't look as if she has developed these ideas any further in print, but I guess that leaves room for me to have a go!

Let me know what you think! :-)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Evil Angels?

Really enjoying reading a brilliant article by the magisterial Dale Martin, like all good scholarship familiar texts are revealed to hold surprising and unsettling possibilities!

Angels populated Paul's world in a lively way. Contrary to modern popular assumptions, angels for Paul were not always good. They could be evil and malicious or simply morally ambiguous. There certainly are "good" angels in Paul's world (2 Cor 11:14; Gal 1:8; 4:14), and certainly also "bad" angels. 1 Corinthians 6:3 mentions that "we" (presumably Paul and other followers of Jesus) will "judge" angels, implying that there are angels who are criminal. If Paul's reference to the "thorn in the flesh" that tortures him is to an "angel of Satan" (2 Cor 12:7), which I take to be the case, and not just a metaphorical "messenger of Satan," we would have here a satanic angel as Paul's tormentor.

Some scholars believe that the phrase "because of the angels" in 1 Cor 11:10 is a reference to angels who may threaten women, perhaps sexually. Some scholars take Gal 3:19 to teach that angels were those who gave the law to Moses, rather than God himself. That text, if interpreted in light of Acts 7:53, may imply a less than benevolent, if not downright negative, view of their activity, given what Paul says about the intervention of the law elsewhere in Galatians. Finally, if one takes "the rulers of this age" in 1 Cor 2:6 and 8, who did not understand Gods mystery and therefore "crucified the lord of glory," to be a reference to angels (note that αρχαι are coupled with "angels" in Rom 8:38), this would certainly represent a reference to evil angels.

Dale B Martin, "When Did Angels Becomes Demons?" JBL 129, 2010, 657-77

Let me know what you think, :-)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Preexistent Christ in Mark?

Just been reading a fun little article with an approach to Jesus' preexistence in Mark's Gospel that I haven't come across before. I think there are some holes in it, but on the other hand it is quite refreshing to see the usual arguments and texts turned on their heads!

The fact that Mark begins his Gospel with the baptism scene has often been taken to indicate his espousal of adoptionist christology which excludes any attribution of intrinsic divinity. On the whole, this proves to be untenable. Mark specifically identifies John’s baptism as the beginning of the gospel, not of Jesus; there is no denial of Jesus’ personal preexistence, a necessary corollary of divinity. On the contrary, even though the ascription of sonship in 1.11 is phrased in terms of Ps. 2.7, the specifically adoptionist element of that verse is omitted. Instead of ‘this day I have begotten you’, we read, ’with you I am well pleased.' The aorist probably indicates that God’s pleasure in Jesus is already established and does not arise as a sudden whim; Mark began his Gospel with one of his rare biblical citations in order to show that the events he narrates are part of God’s longstanding plan (1.2-3). This leaves us with twological alternatives for the origin of God’s pleasure: Jesus’ preexistence; or his uniquely pleasing earthly life before his baptism.

Clearly, the former is to be preferred. If Jesus’ adoption at the baptism was the reward for his previous deportment, how could Mark refrain from describing that meritorious early life? More importantly, Mark’s divine-human dichotomy is too radical to allow for the implication which arises from adoptionism, which is that the gulf could be bridged from the human side (8.37f.). Finally, given the wide attestation of divine-human christology in Christian sources earlier than and contemporary with Mark, any espousal of adoptionism would need to be quite pointed; but this we do not find.

We do, however, find that Mark’s references to Jesus’ relationship to God lend themselves to the suggestion of intrinsic divinity. They issue largely from supernatural beings, either God (1.11; 9.7) or demons (1.24; 3.11; 5.7), implying that these are supernatural revelations about a supernatural person. Mark’s handling of the transfiguration as a whole raises Jesus above Elijah and Moses, emphasizing that he alone is the Son of God, to whom human beings must listen; he alone overcomes the dichotomy. Further, the parable of the vineyard (12.1-11) contains enough evidence of allegorization that the sending of the (already existing) beloved son in 12.6 is most plausibly understood as implying Jesus’ personal preexistence, much like Gal. 4.4.

Philip Davis, "Mark's Christological Paradox," JSNT 35, 1989, 3-18, 12-13. 

Let me know what you think :-)