Gary Manning on Allusions to Elijah in Luke / Acts (ETS 2011)

One paper I particularly enjoyed was Gary Manning on the use the Elijah and Elisha stories in Luke / Acts. Since my dissertation is on intertextuality or allusions (or whatever we are going to call it these days) this paper was quite stimulating since Manning was working with similar methods although with different texts. He amassed quite a bit of data which supported he contention that Luke conscious patterned stories in Luke and Acts after the pattern of 1 Kings. Manning had linguistic evidence as well as thematic coherence for each of his examples and it was hard to deny that the examples he chose were in fact allusions.

As for why Luke would turn to these sorts of texts. Usually scholars would point out that John the Baptist is like Elijah, so these allusions are natural. But that doesn’t always work since sometimes an allusion describes an activity of Jesus with an allusion to Elijah, or an action of Paul with that of Elisha. Manning suggested that these allusions are less about the man, and ore about the age. Jesus, Peter, Philip, and Paul are all people who are specially endowed with the Holy Spirit just as Elijah and Elisha were. For Luke, the present age is like the days of Elijah in in that the leadership is directed powerfully by the Spirit of God. The new age of the Spirit is like the days of Elijah in many ways, so the allusions are made to highlight the work of the Spirit.

I might suggest another reason for the allusions to the Elijah stories Manning did not include. Jesus describes the present generation as a “wicked and adulterous generation,” one that seeks a sign. The time of Elijah’s ministry was to a similar wicked and (spiritually) adulterous generation, on that sought a sign from God (Mount Carmel) yet did not believe the sign when it was given. Perhaps Luke is drawing our attention to the similarities between Jesus’ audience and the generation of Elijah. If so, I cannot imagine a more stinging criticism of the Pharisees that to imply that they are as wicked as the Israelites at the time of Ahab!

Michael Bird on the Value of Anti-Imperial Readings of Romans (ETS 2011)

I went to Michael Bird’s paper this morning entitled “Raging against the Romans: The Value of Anti-Imperialist Readings of Romans?” Notice the question mark there. This is a very popular and edgy thing to be doing right at the moment in Pauline studies, so Bird’s assessment of this “movement” is timely and valuable. Bird began by expressing his initial doubt whether the sorts of anti-Imperial readings of Paul were legitimate. Over the last week or so I have expressed similar misgivings in Romans 13 as a coded statement which ought to be read as anti-Rome. And like Bird I was more or less uninterested with these articles and papers since there was a strong undertone of anti-conservative politics implied (or maybe not-so- implied in most cases!)

But Bird made a few good observations which at least make the possibility of some of Paul’s statements as anti-Imperial more likely. That the words for gospel and savior are not new words coined by Christianity is axiomatic. The good news in Rome concerns the Emperor and the savior of the World is Nero, not Jesus. For Paul to describe Jesus in these terms is at least implicitly anti-Empire. Bird dealt with two passages which frame Romans with apparent anti-Imperial language, Romans 1:3-4 an 15:12. In both cases Jesus is described as being the Messiah, the Root of David, and as such the one who will supplant the kingdoms of man.

While I agree with Bird that these texts have political teeth, they are hardly a script for revolution. Bird wondered what a Roman might make of a public reading of the first few verses of Romans (“it would probably irk him off” was the way he phrased it.) As I said a few days ago in a post on Romans 13, I seriously doubt even the most oppressed member of Paul’s church would have thought about a real rebellion against Rome since that would have been completely impossible. Paul is not talking about taking to the streets of Rome and occupying the Palace.

Instead, in Romans 13 Paul says that the believer ought to obey the government which has been appointed by God. Bird pointed out that this is not simple quietism, since in the next few verses Paul gives a justification for this submission – the time is short! The time is now very near when God will destroy the kingdom of man and establish his rule (I hear echoes of Daniel 2 and 7 here, as well as any number of Second Temple period references.)

If Paul is anti-Imperial, it is because God is anti-Imperial. God rules, not Caesar. I think that much more could be said here by using Jewish apocalyptic as a model. Paul is speaking apocalyptically when he describes Jesus as Messiah and the Root of Jesse.

Bird ended with an excellent quote from T. R. Glover, “a day will come when men will call their sons Paul, and their dogs, Nero.” Christianity did in fact destroy Rome in the end, although not through armed rebellion.

Logos Bible Software at ETS 2011

I just returned from the Logos presentation. It was a pretty low-key session compared to a typical software company sales pitch. While I did learn a few things about the Logos software I did not know, I was a bit disappointed that there was less “how to” than pitching a few products. But that is to be expected. There were no hints a upgrades to either the desktop or iPad versions, although I thought I heard someone say “when version five comes out…”

Bob Pritchard presented for about a half hour on the future of publishing. This was a very enjoyable talk, and the highlight of the whole Logos meeting. Pritchard pointed out that digital publishing must be different than re-creatig the physical book on an electronic device. By this he means that companies like Logos can create resources which are not really publishable as traditional books because of size restraints. A very simple example is a book on “Bible People.” Logos can take a database of people, cross index those entries with several different types of data, and make connections which would be beyond the capability of a printed book. Logos has done an excellent job creating well designed databases which are dynamic and flexible. Most of all, these kind of databases are easy to update, while a print book (or a Kindle book) is not.

He also announced that soon Logos will soon have a website for self-published books in Logos format. These might be books for limited distribution (a class list) or free to anyone. Logos will allow books to be sold, although there were no details on how much Logos will charge for the service. He did not say if self-published books would be available through Vyrso, the recently launched Logos bookstore for consumer / mass market books.

Pritchard knows what he is talking about. He has experience from working at Microsoft and has guided Logos to be a leader in digital publishing. Evangelical exegetical commentary, Lexham Bible Dictionary, a wiki based, edited dictionary with links to to Logos books. He has been working in the ebook market for 20 years and seems to understand where publishers need to go in the future.

The real reason Logos hosted the evening was to promote their classroom Logos training, This is something like a packaged version of Camp Logos, with some additional material for use in the classroom. The package includes quizzes and exams. It really just hits the basics, nothing on the more complex syntactical searches. The package contains about eight hours of training and the plan is to charge per student. In addition to the training kit fee, each student needs to own at least the basic Bible Study library. This looks to me like a good component for a Bible Study methods course, I do not think there is enough here to make it a legitimate 1 credit course. The additional cost to the student is high, but the cost is for a really valuable tool which will serve them well in the future.

Steve Runge presented on the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament. This tool intends to aid the student to do syntactical analysis and help sort out the word order on a Greek sentence. This is not a full syntactical display, but rather a blocked-in outline with annotations. The Lexham Syntactical guide tags the Greek New Testament with grammatical data. About 80% of the data has been combined with the ESV text so the student without Greek has access to some of this material. A Hebrew Bible version is being developed.

Overall I thought the Logo presentation was informative and helpful, although I would have liked to hear more from Pritchard on digital publishing. Since I am running a blog, I already flirt with non-traditional publishing, but I am not totally convinced digital publishing is the right solution for every type of book. I am not yet happy reading a full monograph on an iPad or Kindle, although I find it helpful for shorter papers and journal articles.

I look forward to seeing what Logos develops in the future.

Report from ETS 2011

I am in San Francisco this week for the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Today I spent most of my time in papers in Luke / Acts and Pauline Theology. I heard some good papers and some less-than-good ones, but even the bad ones stimulate my thinking, Even if it is mentally re-write the paper “the way I would have done it.” Here is a brief summary of two papers which I thought were intriguing.

Carl Sanders, “Rethinking Conversion in Acts.” Sanders questions the common assumption that the purpose of Acts is to provide a model of mission or to provide a manual for evangelism. He examined two key “conversion” stories in Acts, Pentecost and Cornelius. He pointed out that the sermons preached are not particularly evangelistic, at least from a modern, systematic theology perspective. In fact, the only sin that Peter has in mind in Acts 2 is the execution of Jesus, and Cornelius received the Spirit before the sermon was even over (no call to repent, not altar call, etc.) For the Jewish “converts” in Acts, they do not so much move from one religion to another as “upgrade” from the Old covenant to the New. Obviously Saul’s conversion is a hotly debated topic, but I really did appreciate Sanders’ perspective on Pentecost and the idea of conversion. I thought his point that the proclamation of the gospel in Acts is far from the “Romans Road” style evangelism we are familiar with was good, although it seems to me that was the main point of Scot McKnight’s book, The Gospel of King Jesus.

Matthew Yates Emerson gave a paper attempting to do canonical criticism on the Synoptics and Acts. This immediately struck me as strange, since Canon Criticism as I understand it is more or less an Old Testament discipline. There was more to his thesis than this, but essentially he said that the fact that John interrupts the sequence of Luke and Acts some theological emphases come to the foreground. He has in mind new creation theology in John anticipates a “new mandate” in Acts to fill the world, be fruitful and multiply (evangelism and church growth). I do think it is obvious that John has a new creation theology, but I was less than convinced that there was a conscious decision by some unnamed canonical collector who placed Acts after John to highlight the “new mandate” language in Acts. In fact, I remain unconvinced there is a “be fruitful and multiply” in Acts. That part of his paper sounded contrived to me. I asked if he had an idea who might be the one who placed the books intentionally to highlight this theology, but Yates sidestepped the question because the interest of Canon criticism is entirely descriptive.

I am off in a bit to attend the Logos Bible Software seminar. I am hoping for a free Portfolio Edition for all in attendance, but I will settle for fresh coffee.