Ken Ham's National Address (Tonight)

Tonight, it's not the nation's president that will be giving the "State of the Nation" address, nope, that job is reserved for none other than the creation museum's president: Ken Ham. The message is titled "The Collapse of Christian America" (no presuppositions there, eh?). Anyway, click the banner to find out how to watch the broadcast:



Kerygma & Authority in Mk. 1: Studies in Mark, Pt. 92

The enitre first chapter of Mark's Gospel (and to some extent, the entire story) is laced with imagery of preaching and heralding. During the recent "Mark Dig" that was hosted at my house, this became even more apparent to me. Yet, it also became apparent to me that there is a distinct relationship between "heralding" and "authority" that Mark seems to want his audiences to be aware of.

To be sure, Mark acts as a sort of herald himself when he writes the opening line denoting that this is "the Good News of Jesus Christ, God's Son". To bolster his own claim, Mark then draws on two great prophets, using their language and imagery to suggest the same thing. For Mark, his view of this "Jesus Story" is that Jesus was a prophetic figure and as such, His story not only hearkens back to earlier prophets but that His story must be cloaked in such imagery and language. Thus, Jesus and John are painted by Mark as "prophetic heralders" of a new, in-breaking kingdom.

For Mark, it seems clear that John's heralding (kerygmatic) efforts are authoritative, at least to some degree, beacuse they reach back to and are similar in content to the authoritative message of the prophets who preceded him. This is very important to notice; we must not overlook this connection that Mark makes between the prophets and John's message being authoritative.

Now, when Jesus comes on the scene to be baptized by John, there is sort of a transferral of this "prophetic authority" (at least in terms of the narrative), from John to Jesus. Thus, Jesus can be viewed now, in the prophetic lineage as well. However, Mark shares with us another and even greater aspect of Jesus' authority, that is, that God confers authority upon Jesus. When Jesus is baptized, it should be viewed, at least from one angle, as the Father acknowledging Jesus' authority to preach this "Good News" of God's kingdom.

Now, before I make my next point, let me reiterate the point I've made here: 1) Mark opens with an authoritative statement, 2) Mark links John's authority to preach with the authoritative message of the prophets, 3) Mark shows us that at His baptism, Jesus takes on the same prophetic authority that John had, and 4) Jesus is deemed to be by the Father, the appropriate authority, to preach the Good News of His kingdom. Thus, we see a direct link between kerygma (preaching / heralding / announcing) and the authority to do those things.

Now, one of the first things we see after Jesus leaves the wilderness is "call" the fishermen to follow Him. He says "I will MAKE (poieo) you fish for humans". This is Jesus' way of saying "I will make you into people who have the same authority to herald this message as I do." This point becomes even more clear when, in the following scene, Jesus enters a synagogue. There, a demon mockingly tries to announce the identity of Jesus. Yet, Jesus rebukes Him! People have often wondered, "Why would Jesus want people to keep quiet about His identity, isn't that why He came?" Historically, this question has been talked about under the nomenclature of Wrede's "The Messianic Secret".

I have argued that THERE IS NO MESSIANIC SECRET and I still hold that view. In fact, this post solidifies even more my view. In the last scene of chapter 1, Jesus encounters an ill man. He heals the man and pretty much says "Don't tell anyone about me." However, the man does tell people about Him. Now, the point I want to make is that just like the demon, this man was not given "authority" to "preach" or "herald" the Good News of Jesus' identity. And that brings me to my overall point: In chapter 1 of Mark, those engaging the story are supposed to take note of the fact that only those given the authority to herald the message are allowed!

One of the modern implications of this that we explored during the "Mark Dig" was: How do we know who has the authority to herald the message today? The soundest answer that we could come up with was that we don't necesarrily need to have that authority as individuals but rather as a community! After all, Jesus called the disciples to preach in 2's...as a community. And even though no person or community is infallible, this may be the safest place to not only explore such matters but to attempt to safely and healthily put them into practice. Thus, not only do we find a direct correlation between the kerygma and authority but also between ecclesiology and christology!


The 5 Most Influential Books (In My Life)

On Facebook, Brandon Wason "summoned" me to blog about the 5 most influential books in my life, so, here they are, in order (I think). (*Note, I'm not including the Bible here, which would clearly be #1 simply because that's a given. Thus, these are the 5 most influential outside of Scripture.)

1. The Social God & the Relational Self by Stanley J. Grenz. Theologically and philosophically, this book probabaly caused the biggest paradigm shift in my belief system. In a nutshell, in this masterpiece of a work, Grenz argues for both a Trintarian theology/philosophy. Even more, he suggests that Trinitarianism is social and relational (as God Himself is) and is thus, found in all areas and aspects of life. This book came at a time when I was searching for a basis and understanding of Trinitarian theology and I can't be more happen that it arrived when it did.

2. Social-Science Commentaries by Bruce Malina & John Pilch / Richard Rohrbaugh. Now, before I say too much about these commentaries, I must say that I actually found them by accident. The seminary I was attending was having a going out of business sale and these were on the shelves as I was browsing. I flipped through the commentaries on the Gospels and was intrigued by their approach to the text: socio-cultural. So, I bought what remained of the set and went home and dove into them. Now, I can't say that they are the best commentaries (by any means) that I've read but they were very influential in my life because they really piqued my interest in socio-cultural approaches to reading the text.

3. The Most Moved Mover by Clark Pinnock. After reading the Stan Grenz book mentioned above, my appetite for Trinitarian theology had grown tremendously. So, I started reading a lot by guys like Colin Gunton and especially, Clark Pinnock. I found myself quite on the same page as Pinnock in terms of Trinitarian theology. Just as well, it was a pleasant surprise that Pinnock was arguing what I had always intuited about the "omnis". When I got Pinnock's book, it was like a total re-affirmation of what I had been thinking for quite a while. It was good to know that I wasn't the only one ruminating over these things and approaching them this way.

4. The Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers. This book may actually deserve a rank higher than 4th place but for now, it is what it is. I include this book because it has helped me to see both my world and the ancient world from a different perspective. Rogers' book talks about change and how it is borne, comes to bear on societies/peoples and then, how it is reacted to. I was assigned this book in an anthropology course I took with Dr. Mike Rynkiewich and I am indebted to him for including it in the syllabus and turning me on to it.

5. Contextualization in the New Testament by Dean M. Flemming. This book was an important work for me (not just because it was my first ever published book review) but because it helped re-shape my view of how Paul did both theology and evangelism. Flemming's contention is that Paul, as well as the other NT authors, all contextualized the Good News when they shared it. This was an influential book in my life because it provided a good contrast to other models and methods of "evangelism" that were around at the time (The Way of the Master, The Purpose Driven Life, etc.).

Hebrew Helps: 4-5

Here is the 2nd installation in my "Hebrew Helps" series:


Hebrew Helps (A New Series At Pisteuomen)

First of all, this is my 800th post!!! So, I'm pretty excited about that. For those of you that have been trekking with me here on Pisteuomen, thanks a lot, you've made it fun! Anyway...I mentioned recently that I was going to begin immersing myself in Hebrew and German on a daily basis for basically the next 2 months (before I begin PhD work). Well, today I began following the schedule I laid out for myself.

For me, one of the best ways to learn something and to retain it, is to try to teach it. So, I figured that in regards to my Hebrew studies, I would come up with some way to try to share my findings. Where better to do that than right here on Pisteuomen?! Thus, I'm going to do something I haven't done in a long time: begin a new series. The name of this new series is called "Hebrew Helps".

The idea is to contintually compile the "tips", "tricks" and "helps" that I come up with when learning Hebrew into short "Hebrew Helps" manuscripts. Of course, given the nature of Hebrew (and languages in-general), these lessons/helps are open to being built on by later lessons/helps. Anyway, more can be said about that later. Here, then, is my first installment in this new series. Hopefully I can be disciplined enough to keep this up. Enjoy! (By the way, if you're intersted in being able to type Hebrew [or Greek] letters on your blog or computer, check out the free transliteration tools I created HERE.)

Mark Dig-In: Talkback & Debrief

As I mentioned in a recent post, I hosted a sort of weekend retreat into the Gospel of Mark (ch. 1) at my house over the weekend. We had a great time and since Erik asked me to blog on the gathering, I figured that instead of trying to write about everything (and that from my point-of-view alone), I thought I'd share an audio version of a sort of debreifing and talkback session that took place afterwards (Sunday morning at our worship gathering, actually). So, to get a general idea of what took place, give this a listen. If you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to share:


Hebrew & German Schedule

Here's the Hebrew & German schedule that I begin tomorrow. I devised it for myself as a quick refresher before I start my PhD work in the fall.

Hebrew and German Schedule pisteuomen The Hebrew & German schedule I'm trying to keep before I start my PhD work in the fall of '09.


Student Bloggers

Daniel & Tonya over at HebrewAndGreekReader have devised a list of students (in theology/biblical studies) that blog or have blogs. As of now, they have it categorized by country and academic instituation. Check it out here: Student Bloggers. If you are a student with a blog, check to see if you're name is added. If not, they will add it.


Gospel of Mark: Weekend Dig

Here are just a few snapshots (hopefully, more will be added later) of Friday night's gathering at my house for study of the Gospel of Mark (called a "Mark Dig" or "Mark Dig-in". The purpose of the get-together was twofold: 1) To enage the text for spiritual/theological edification, and 2) To learn how to do exegesis in community. So, this is not a thing where I just talk for hours on end, no, it is a process whereby the average layperson observes, interprets, draws implications, engages commentaries, dictionaries, linguistic resources, dialogues & then works out some applicatory principes. Tonight, we spent a couple of hours on Mk. 1.1-15 and had a lot of good questions, comments and insights. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's 4 1/2 hours.


Reversal In Mark’s Gospel: Studies in Mark, Pt. 91

It is not uncommon when reading a Lukan commentary or article, to find that commentator repeatedly pointing out that Luke loves role reversal. One of the best examples that persons often point to in Luke’s story is that of Lazarus and the rich man. As the story goes, Lazarus is poor here on earth where the rich overlook him. However, in the next life, it is Lazarus who is higher in rank than the man who had previously been wealthy.

While it is commonplace to find such statements among Lukan scholars, it is rarely (if ever) pointed out that in Mark’s narrative, this also happens quite frequently. This notion of reversal, which I refer to in literary terms as “cruciality” is sometimes easy to spot and other times more difficult. This device of pivot, which produces a radical reversal or complete change of direction can be used by a speaker or author to illumine the material on either side of the pivot. Just as well, the cruciality can have major narrative as well as social & theological implications.

In Mark’s story, cruciality can be seen a number of times within chapter 1 alone. We all know that John was a revered man and this is proven alone by the fact that so many people were heeding to his message. Indeed, he was even dubbed Jesus’ “forerunner”. However, in Mark’s story, there comes an abrupt end to John’s popularity and efforts once “the greater one” steps on the scene. In fact, there is a total role reversal, a reversal which John himself acknowledges when He refers to Jesus as “one greater than I” (1.7). To be sure, the roles are reversed when John is arrested and Jesus assumes the Baptizer’s role of preaching and discipling. While many have written about John's statement, I'm not sure that much (if anything at all) has been made of the fact that cruciality is at work here. Why is this important? Well, because it actually (and especially from a literary standpoint) illumines that much more the change of roles that is about to take place! (Much more could be said on this but it's after 1am as I'm writing this and I'm quite tired...maybe I can spell it out more later!)

Elsewhere, in Mk. 1.40-44, there is a less explicit instance of cruciality when Jesus encounters a leper. Now, when he meets the leper, he meets a man who is confined to his own solitary space. This is the opposite of Jesus’ circumstances because Jesus is able to move about freely and to go where He pleases. Yet, when Jesus heals the man, the roles are reversed. Mark even reports that after the man went and told all the people about Jesus, Jesus became so popular that He couldn’t travel anywhere without being bombarded. In a slight turn of events, the former leper can now go where he wants and do as he pleases while Jesus begins to experience confinement. Mark says that now Jesus can only go out to the “ermoi” (wilderness and solitary places).

Throughout Mark’s narrative, many of these reversals can be found. It is not my aim to show or share all of them here but rest assured, there are many. Instead, my goal in writing this post is to kind of steal some of Luke’s thunder if you will, when it comes to encountering cruciality in the text. In short, maybe it’s time for a role reversal in how, as readers of these text, we tend to attribute this technique to Luke over Mark.


In the Mail: Preaching the Gospel of Mark

I just received Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm's book in the mail "Preaching the Gospel of Mark: Proclaiming the Power of God" which I will be reviewing for a journal. I've flipped through some of the book already and quite like some of what I've seen. In fact, I absolutely LOVE the opening line of this book: "The power of God is on the loose in the world, and the Gospel of Mark proclaims this startling reality as the good news of Jesus Christ." Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting into this work (along with a handful of others). If I come across anything thought-provoking or worth discussing, I'll post on it here.


PhD in Biblical Studies: First Semester Courses

So, my first semester of PhD coursework is fast approaching and the schedule seems quite rigorous to me (not least because it's steeped in OT studies). Keep in mind that somewhere in the middle of this I will be flying to Kansas to present a paper, then voyaging over to Ethiopia to pick up my son and then, hopefully, getting to go to SBL (we'll see about that last one!). On top of the course load, I also have to pass the German Competency Exam by the end of the first semester. Anyway, here's the course information (click the pic to go to the prof's bio):

OT 820: Research Methods in OT Interpretation (Dr. Bill Arnold): Tues/Thur. 4p-5:15p

BS 820: Seminar on the History of Biblical Interpretation (Dr. Lawson Stone): Wed. 1p-3:45p

CD 820: Instructional Theory & Development (Ken Boyd): Fri. 9a-11.45a


All Things Are Better In Koine

A friend sent me this video link via email yesterday, so, for all of you biblical, exegetical, text-critical nerds out there, check it out because you might appreciate it:


Women & The Last Verses of Mark’s Gospel: Studies in Mark, Pt. 90

After Jesus’ crucifixion, it is noted in Mk. 15.40-1 that: “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed Jesus and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.” Of many of the verses in Mark’s Gospel, I think few have been overlooked so much as these. Why? Well, because at the very beginning of the story, all we see is Jesus calling “men” to come and follow Him. Indeed, there is not even an inkling that He has women disciples who are trekking with Him as well.

Thus, when we get to Mk. 15.40-1, if we decide not to gloss over it but rather, to let it sink in, we are forced to stop and rethink matters. To be sure, when we look closer, women are prominent throughout Jesus’ encounters. Could it be such women that were or became His followers? Peter’s mother-in-law, whom He healed (1.30; what about Peter’s wife?), the bleeding woman (5.25), the Syrophoenician (7.27), the woman who broke ointment over Him (14.5), etc.? To this question, all I can answer is “maybe”. Of course, the text is not clear but they very well could have accompanied Mary the mother of James and of Joses, Mary Magdalene and Salome at some point (whether before, in or after Galilee).

Moving on, one of the things that interests me even more about these women is the fact that in Mk. 16, some of them are the same ladies who approach the tomb and find it empty. Mk. 16.1 says: “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.” If we read the next 7 verses, we find out that the man dressed in linen at the tomb, tells them to “go” and tell the other disciples and Peter that Jesus has been raised and that He will meet them again in Galilee.

Now, I still haven’t reached a solid verdict on the ending of Mark’s story (and to be honest, I’m not sure that I need to!) but in perpetually reading and re-reading it, a tripartite thought has been settling in my mind for a while: 1) If we are forced in chapter 15 to reflect on the fact that these women have been Jesus’ disciples from the beginning of His formal ministry in Galilee, and 2) If these women are told to share with the other disciples that Jesus has risen and that they are to meet Him there, then 3) Wouldn’t this suggest not merely that we should go back and read the story again (as many scholars have suggested) but also that we should go back and now read the story again realizing that these women have been key figures in The Jesus Movement from the very beginning?

This also leads me to ask more questions: A) If women were disciples and sharers of the Good News right alongside Jesus and the others, isn’t it problematic to suggest otherwise for them today? B) In today’s world, shouldn’t men and women be on the same plane when it comes to sharing the Gospel? C) Why have we failed to acknowledge the women that are mentioned here in Mk. 15? D) Why have we failed to continually read and re-read the story without these women in view?

Finally, it has been noted by many scholars that women in the ancient world were not often allowed to give testimony while at other times, even if they were allowed, their testimony carried very little weight. Of course, this may lend credence to the fact that the author of Mk. is telling the truth about what he’s writing (e.g. if he had the witness of men to the empty tomb first, he would have surely used that because it would have been more credible; he would have not just fabricated something that would have immediately been viewed as non-credible). If this is the case, then E) Why in the world are we still questioning the credibility of women and their witness in the Christian culture of today?

Maybe it’s time we take Mark’s advice and read this story with new eyes and hearts, new eyes and hearts that allow us to see the great role that women played, have played and will continue to play in The Jesus Movement!