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Concordia Journal

COncordia Journal

Spring 2009 volume 35 | number 2

Paul’s Hope and Ours An Old Perspective on the New Perspective The Problem of Paul’s Letters


COncordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233)

publisher

Dale A. Meyer President

Executive EDITOR

William W. Schumacher Dean of Theological Research and Publication

EDITOR

Travis J. Scholl Managing Editor of Theological Publications

EDITORial assistant

Melanie Appelbaum

assistants

Carol Geisler Theodore Luebkeman James Prothro Travis Sherman

Faculty

David Adams Charles Arand Andrew Bacon Andrew Bartelt David Berger Joel Biermann Gerhard Bode James Brauer Kent Burreson William Carr, Jr. Anthony Cook Timothy Dost Thomas Egger Jeffrey Gibbs Bruce Hartung

Erik Herrmann Jeffrey Kloha Robert Kolb Reed Lessing David Lewis Thomas Manteufel Richard Marrs David Maxwell Dale Meyer Glenn Nielsen Joel Okamoto Jeffrey Oschwald David Peter Paul Raabe Victor Raj

Paul Robinson Robert Rosin Henry Rowold Timothy Saleska Leopoldo Sánchez M. David Schmitt Bruce Schuchard William Schumacher William Utech James Voelz Robert Weise Quentin Wesselschmidt David Wollenburg

All correspondence should be sent to:

Rev. Travis Scholl CONCORDIA JOURNAL 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, Missouri 63105

Issued by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, the Concordia Journal is the successor of Lehre und Wehre (1855-1929), begun by C. F. W. Walther, a founder of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Lehre und Wehre was absorbed by the Concordia Theological Monthly (1930-1972) which was also published by the faculty of Concordia Seminary as the official theological periodical of the Synod. The Concordia Journal is abstracted in Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft unde Grenzgebiete, New Testament Abstracts.Old Testament Abstracts, and Religious and Theological Abstracts. It is indexed in Repertoire Bibliographique des Institutions Chretiennes and Religion Index One: Periodicals. Article and issue photocopies in 16mm microfilm, 35mm microfilm, and 105mm microfiche are available from University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346.

Books submitted for review should be sent to the editor. Manuscripts submitted for publication should conform to a standard manual of style. They will be returned to authors only when accompanied by selfaddressed stamped envelopes.

The Concordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233) is published quarterly (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall). The annual subscription rate is $15 U.S.A., $20 for Canada and $25 for foreign countries. Periodicals postage paid at St. Louis, MO and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Concordia Journal, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105-3199 Cover art: “Calling St. Paul” by Dr. He Qi (www.heqigallery.com)

© Copyright by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri 2009 www.csl.edu


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COncordia J ournal EDITORIALs

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Editor’s Note

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Evangelical and Catholic: The Parochial Passion of Richard John Neuhaus David H. Benke

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ARTICLES

CONTENTS

129 140 156

173 179

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Stress Test Dale A. Meyer

In Memory of My Teacher, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. Jukka A. Kääriäinen

Paul’s Hope and Ours: Recovering Paul’s Hope of the Renewed Creation James Ware An Old Perspective on the New Perspective Thomas R. Schreiner

The Problem of Paul’s Letters: Loss of Authority and Meaning in the “Canonical Approach” of Brevard Childs Jeffrey Kloha GRAMMARIAN’S CORNER The Simplicity of the Hebrew Participle, Part 1 of 1 HOMILETICAL HELPS on LSB Series B—Gospels

BOOK REVIEWS

Spring 2009 volume 35 | number 2


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editoRIALS

COncordia Journal


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Editor’s Note

Calling St. Paul

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

This issue of Concordia Journal really began when Pope Benedict XVI announced a special jubilee year dedicated to the Apostle Paul—from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009—to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the saint’s birth. By the time it was making waves around St. Louis last spring, it occurred to the Concordia Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Seminary faculty that Lutherans ought to be in on this conversation. Since, as has been said around campus, Paul is “our guy.” That set into motion a number of actions and events, among them: several conversations with Roman Catholic counterparts at Kenrick Seminary and St. Louis University’s Aquinas Institute, a number of lectures and presentations on campus, and this very issue of Concordia Journal. Perhaps the epicenter of all this activity was the 2008 Day of Exegetical Reflection (in September immediately preceding the Theological Symposium) which centered on Paul and Pauline theology in the aftermath of the “New Perspective” on Paul. But more recently, Efraín Agosto delivered the Center for Hispanic Studies’ fourth Annual Lecture in Hispanic/Latino Theology and Missions on “Leadership in Paul.” That March 31st lecture is already available at the Seminary’s iTunes U site (itunes.csl.edu). Yet to come still is the 2009 Day of Homiletical Reflection on “Preaching Paul”, featuring Walter Wangerin. And our recent conversations with the artist Dr. He Qi resulted in his striking artwork “Calling Saint Paul” gracing the cover of this Pauline theme issue. Once again, you can see the whole work in full color at ConcordiaTheology.org. (The Seminary’s relationship with He Qi continues to blossom with resources online, in print, and, God-willing, on campus. Be sure to check out the forthcoming Concordia Journal Currents interview with the artist. Stay tuned for more.) This issue of Concordia Journal celebrates all these events, and more importantly the Apostle Paul’s abiding relevance to theology, ministry, and mission in the global church today. Two of the articles arise from presentations given at the Day of Exegetical Reflection. James Ware’s article is an urgent call to recover a genuinely Pauline hope, and it is as provocative as it is insightful. Tom Schreiner, no stranger to LCMS theological circles, delivered the Day’s featured lecture, and his title says it all: “An Old Perspective on the New Perspective.” The other article started as a book review. As it turns out, it appears the last remaining manuscript on the desk of renowned biblical scholar Brevard Childs (1923–2007) was a canonical study of Paul’s letters, recently published by Eerdmans. Jeff Kloha undertook a review of that book, but what came out of that work is a sharp analysis not only of Childs’ book, not only of the legacy of the canonical method that he more or less invented, but also of the future of Pauline study in our theological tradition. But this issue isn’t just about Paul. President Dale Meyer offers here to the church a sobering, detailed, yet ultimately confident financial “state of the Seminary” in light of the current recession. Luther Seminary church historian Mary Jane Haemig gives a featured review of a recent work by two of the Seminary’s own, Robert Kolb and Charles Arand’s The Genius of Luther’s Theology. And as promised, Concordia Journal memorializes the passing of Richard John Neuhaus with the thoughts of the LCMS District President who knew him best, David Benke. Finally, we mark the passing of another public leader and theologian in American 110


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Catholicism, Cardinal Avery Dulles, through the eyes of one who sat in his classroom, LCMS pastor (and systematic theologian) Jukka Kääriäinen. This leaves one to wonder: with the passing of these two, who is left to fill the void of public religious leadership in America, either Catholic or Protestant? You could very well see a Concordia Journal Currents podcast on that very topic in the near future. Perhaps you’ve already heard, but it’s also worth noting something new the Seminary faculty has initiated, the Alumni Read . It is one more way the faculty is connecting with the pastors and theologically-inclined lay people of the church. As such, all are invited (not just Concordia St. Louis alums) to read along with the Seminary community John Polkinghorne’s Science and Theology: An Introduction. Polkinghorne is both a world-class physicist and an Anglican priest, so his feet are wet in both pools. He also won the Templeton Prize in 2002, so he can speak to both with depth and dexterity. Polkinghorne’s book is a fine introduction to a dialogue that will only become more important in the days and years ahead. And his book is also a welcome introduction to the Seminary’s fall 2009 Theological Symposium—“Science and Theology: New Questions, New Conversations”— where that dialogue and its implications for church, ethics, and ministry will be explored. By then, the “Year of Paul” will be long gone. By then, who knows what new ventures and untrodden paths will lie before us? Travis J. Scholl Managing Editor of Theological Publications

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Stress Test

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The United States Department of the Treasury has done stress tests on large banks to see if they can survive worst-case scenarios. The recession has turned into a stress test for the funding patterns of seminaries in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the verdict is in: Fail. This is not unique to us. Daniel Aleshire, Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools, wrote in a recent letter, “Theological schools are experiencing an unprecedented economic time. ATS schools are facing very hard decisions about spending” (February 23, 2009). The following paragraphs give the historical context for Concordia Seminary’s present financial situation, share the response of the Board of Regents and administration, and will leave you, I pray, with both concern and confidence that God is using this recession to propel Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, into a new future of even more effective service to his mission. Looking back several decades we see two significant trends that slowly changed the traditional LCMS way of funding its seminaries, trends that were exacerbated by the response to a 1995 synodical convention resolution. The first negative trend was a decades’ long decline in subsidy from the budget of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. In 1970 the budget of the LCMS gave Concordia St. Louis 44% percent of its needed annual revenue. Today that number is 2%. The subsidy declined because less money was forwarded from congregations to districts and from districts to Synod and then to our Concordias, a lack of money, not an unwillingness on the part of Synod’s Board of Directors. Such decline is not unique to the LCMS. The second major trend, happening at the same time as the decline in direct synodical subsidy, has been a steady rise in costs throughout higher education, including but not limited to our seminaries. “From 1997 through 2007, the average tuition and fees at a public four-year institution have risen by 99%, far outpacing the 29% growth in the Consumer Price Index” (Bradley R. Curs, “The Effects of Institutional Merit-Based Aid on the Enrollment of Needy Students,” Enrollment Management Journal, Summer, 2008, 10). Faculties and staffs received regular cost-of-living increases, benefit packages became more costly, legal and consulting services are of necessity used more, internet technology has entered budgets, and other new costs are budgeted today that were not present decades ago. The business world reacts to declines in income and rising costs by selling more of its goods and services. However, institutions of higher learning are in a “productivity immune sector” of the economy, meaning that cost rises cannot be countered with more sales (Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence, p. 34). We do not sell seminary graduates and, even if we did, tight placements in recent years show that our declining church is presently a weak market. In 1987 The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod had 2.7 million members; today about 2.4 million. These two negative trends were seriously compounded by responses to a 1995 convention 112


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resolution. Resolved, That The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod renew its commitment to the education of pastors and direct the Board for Higher Education and the seminaries to increase the student-aid endowment fund for seminarians; and be it further Resolved, That, in doing so, it also set as a goal the ingathering of funds sufficient to cover the cost of all tuition for every student enrolled in the seminaries for the purpose of entering the LCMS pastoral ministry (Resolution 5–02A). Acting on that resolution, both seminaries provided full tuition support for students but the Synod did not respond with an “ingathering of funds sufficient to cover the cost of all tuition.” By the way, “For the Sake of the Church” did not include the seminaries. Though well-intentioned, that 1995 resolution headed the seminaries further down an unsustainable path. For a time the seminaries coped adequately with the changes but did not shift to a realistic funding plan for the future. Subsidy was replaced with donations from individuals, groups, congregational budget lines, and a few foundations. There’s nothing wrong with donations; they need to be increased significantly. However, almost all donations were being used to fund the annual operating budget. At Concordia St. Louis this “hand to mouth” living also meant that all unrestricted bequests went straight into the operating budget, rather than being invested for longer term and greater income. The “stress test” of the recession has exposed the imprudence of relying mainly on donations for annual operating expenses (almost 60% of Concordia St. Louis’ annual income is from donations). We are now experiencing an understandable decrease in donations that is compounded by the fact that some gifts have been given for restricted purposes, like the physical plant, and therefore are not available for general operations. Despite the shaky funding structure, the seminaries usually finished their fiscal years in the black, Concordia St. Louis showing healthy surpluses the last three fiscal years. Our donors have been wonderful and their generosity is an encouragement and a trust that we take seriously. Finishing in the black led us to respond to calls from throughout the church for affordable theological education. To do this the seminaries discounted tuition. (Not talking here about housing, books, food, etc.) Each year a tuition price was announced and at the same time students were guaranteed that they would have to pay only a part of that published price. The result of discounting is less income to the seminaries from net tuition but no reduction in seminary expense. Whereas most colleges and universities receive the majority of their annually needed income from tuition, some as high as 90%, net tuition provides only 22% for Concordia St. Louis. When the implementation of the 1995 resolution proved unsustainable, this 100% discount to students began to be reduced, students began to pay more and more of the published tuition cost, and a limit was placed on the amount of financial aid a student could receive. Today our seminaries discount over 50%. One higher education source identifies tuition discounting more than 35% as the first indicator of a stressed institution (Turnaround, p. 9). Furthermore, the continuing calls for affordable theological eduConcordia Journal/Spring 2009

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cation have made both seminaries reluctant to raise tuition, resulting in a published tuition that is not a true indication of economic realities. “On average, tuition tends to increase about 8% per year” (www.finaid.org in Turnaround, p.12). Of course, increases are not the goal, but essentially freezing tuition as we’ve done in recent years hides the economic realities that are always at work and suggests a false picture to the church. While we were coping with the virtual disappearance of subsidy, increases in costs, and trying to keep seminary education affordable, we were further hobbled because of three areas that should have been developed more significantly and years earlier. First, because funding changes had come slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, the seminaries were slow to build adequate development departments to seek alternative, non-subsidy and non-tuition income. Second, a push for larger endowments was begun too late. Third, the seminaries were not aggressive in telling people that the funding pattern has changed. People in the pews never had to think about how their seminaries were funded and today are shocked to learn that it’s not being taken care of through Sunday morning offerings. Put everything together and the conclusion forced upon us by the recession is obvious, we’re more than “a day late and a dollar short.” How short? Our present projection is that we will end the current fiscal year on June 30 with an operating deficit of about $3 million. Besides the historic developments described above, there are three immediate contributing factors. First, because of the recession Concordia St. Louis is receiving no income from our endowments, normally almost 10% of our projected revenue. (By the way, the greatly diminished value of the principal in our hundreds of endowments cannot be invaded because almost all endowments were given with restrictions that prohibit that usage.) Second, donations are down. Several foundations, themselves dependent upon their endowments, have told us they cannot make grants to the Seminary. Donors are understandably wary and some donations that have been given are for restricted use, such as physical plant improvements. Those restricted funds cannot be used for general operations. Third, and this is positive, our administrators have done a fine job of under-spending their budgets. They are to be commended. So if June 30 arrives with the predicted $3 million deficit, we will have a worrisome situation that we dare not repeat in the next fiscal year. Our accrediting agencies (The Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission), the Board of Directors of the Synod, the government, and financial institutions keep keen eyes on the Seminary’s financial viability. While they understand that this year’s deficit is caused by recession, they would not look favorably upon a second year, June 30, 2010, also ending in the red and could force corrective actions. This is as it should be; we are accountable for our stewardship. How are we responding? While our whole campus community, faculty, staff, students are very concerned, it is the Board of Regents who is accountable to the 114


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church. The Board of Regents of each theological seminary…shall approve institutional fiscal arrangements, develop the financial resources necessary to operate the seminary, and participate in its support program (Handbook, 3.8.2.5.5 e). It shall operate and manage the seminary as the agent of the Synod… (3.8.2.5.5 i). In plenary sessions and through its Finance Committee, the Board has been monitoring the situation monthly, acting as necessary as the recession has deepened. The President, assisted by his appointed administrative staff (vice presidents, deans, directors of programs, administrative assistants, and other staff members), is accountable to the Board of Regents. The president of a theological seminary shall be the executive officer of the board of regents… (Handbook, 3.8.2.6). He shall supervise, direct, and administer the affairs of the seminary and all its departments, pursuant to the rules and regulations of the Synod and its boards and agencies, and the policies of the board of regents (3.8.2.6 b). Specific remedial actions are of two kinds, policy actions to deal with the historical developments outlined above, and immediate actions to deal with the operating deficit caused by the recession. First, actions to improve the long term funding situation. In anticipation of the 2007 LCMS convention, Dr. L. Dean Hempelmann, then Executive Director of the Synod’s Board for Pastoral Education, met with financial administrators of both seminaries to discuss the changed funding pattern. The eventual result was passage of 2007 convention resolution 4–09A. Most significant is the following: Resolved…The LCMS as a whole (individuals, congregations, circuits, districts, corporate Synod, and agencies) assumes primary responsibility for gathering funds to support seminary students and assist them in paying undiscounted tuition. In two very important ways this resolve pulls the seminaries and church back from our unsustainable direction and reorients us toward a viable future. First, funding the seminaries should be an intentional effort of the entire church. Leaving it to the budget and efforts of the seminaries won’t cut it. If the seminaries are to be financially viable and our future pastors are to graduate with a manageable debt load, “individuals, congregations, circuits, districts, corporate Synod, and agencies” need to contribute as well as be concerned. To this end, our Board of Regents has charged and enabled Concordia Seminary’s Advancement Division to energetically tell the story to the church-at-large. Today Concordia St. Louis’ donors are less than 2% of the membership of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. With suggestions from the deans, the Advancement Division is also focusing more energy upon seeking grants from foundations that have not previously been sought out by Concordia St. Louis. Outside of the Seminary’s administrative structure, the “Joint Seminary Fund” of the The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Foundation led by Rev. Paul Kienker is zealously soliciting donations for both seminaries. Dr. Glen Thomas, now Executive Director of the Board for Pastoral Education, is using various media and venues to promote the church-wide implementation of 4–09A. The question to be answered is this: Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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will the church-at-large join the seminaries in the eternally important task of funding theological education for the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ? Second, 4–09A directs the seminaries to move from discounted to undiscounted tuition. That means that the published cost of tuition will more accurately reflect the real costs of operating the Seminary and that students will be guaranteed less financial aid from the Seminary. Please, don’t conclude from this that costs will be put on the backs of our students, especially our residential students. What is intended is a new church-wide understanding that tuition reflects economic reality and we all (“individuals, congregations, circuits, districts, corporate Synod, and agencies”) will work together to meet the costs. In plain words, it comes down to two sentences. “Dear potential student, here’s the cost of tuition that you will have to meet. While we can only make very limited guarantees, we, the Seminary with all the people of the church, will do all that we can to help you meet the cost.” The Concordia St. Louis Board of Regents has implemented this directive of 4–09A. Upon recommendation from the administration, the Board adopted a completely reworked financial aid formula to move toward the goal of undiscounted tuition. The guaranteed discount grant has been reduced down to 30% from over 50%. Scholarships that had been included in the institutional grant are now separated out and will be specifically identified and awarded to individual students, amounting to about 10% assistance. Our Adopt-A-Student program (the little stick men on the back of the Lutheran Witness!) has been totally reworked. Earlier I wrote that there had been a limit to the amount of financial aid a student could receive. The Board has removed that cap and now there is no limit to the aid you can provide. Although it is no longer guaranteed, a student can expect about 13% assistance from the Adopt-A-Student program and if the congregation, group or individual who has adopted a student is so minded, there is no upper limit to the financial aid the student can receive from his or her Adopt-A-Student donor or donors. This means that a sustained and generous response by the church-at-large will significantly increase student aid beyond its present level. (For confirmation of this new approach, see the article quoted above, “The Effects of Institutional Merit-Based Aid on the Enrollment Decisions of Needy Students”, Enrollment Management Journal, Summer 2008.) The Board of Regents is addressing the challenge in other long-term ways. In 2005 it authorized the “How Will They Hear?” campaign to put Concordia St. Louis on more solid financial footing. “How Will They Hear?” is a comprehensive campaign, meaning that it includes present budgetary needs while seeking new dollars. The campaign has three components, Pastors, Place, and Promise. The Pastor component seeks gifts for student costs, the topic of most of these paragraphs. The Place component is for our 83-year-old campus, which over the decades has accumulated about $25 million in deferred maintenance because of our inadequate funding model. Another indicator of a stressed institution: “Deferred maintenance 116


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at least 40% underfunded” (Turnaround, p. 12). Concordia St. Louis’ underfunded deferred maintenance is much, much higher. The third component of “How Will They Hear?” is Promise, gathering sizeable gifts for endowment. Because of “Promise,” donations that go into endowment will give us dependable annual income according to a spending plan and that in turn will better balance our major sources of revenue. If our endowments had been sizeable and administered according to a spending rate plan for the past decades, we would have some endowment income even in this recession. And in its February 2009 meeting the Regents instructed the administration to prepare an ingathering of funds to follow “How Will They Hear?” The purpose of the next ingathering will most likely focus on building endowment and upon overdue renovations or even replacement to our world-class theological library. Our accrediting agencies will examine us in 2013 and endowment and library will be very high on their list of critical issues. From long-term looks to the crisis at hand. To review, despite under spending the current budget, we anticipate about a $3 million shortfall by June 30. The Board of Regents has taken the following hard but necessary actions: •

• •

• •

Because the endowment will not begin to yield significant income for several years and we cannot assume robust donations, the Board directs the administration to prepare a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2009. That necessitates cutting about $6 million out of our budget. That is one-fourth of the budget of the Seminary that provides the church with the majority of its future pastors. The Board has begun by offering early retirement to all faculty and staff aged 55 or over who have been with the Seminary for five years. Because many faculty members who accept retirement will continue to serve the Seminary in a limited capacity on a stipendiary basis, students next September will not return to a decimated faculty and campus. When the annual savings from accepted early retirements are known, further personnel steps will be taken, including the reassignment of workers, reduced hours, and, unfortunately, layoffs. Program cuts are likely, but not yet known because we need to proceed carefully, one step at a time. Tuition has not been raised. By commencement, May 22nd, we expect to have a budget that responds to new realities.

You can understand that there is a heavy cloud over our dear campus community. Workers in the business world understand that cuts sometimes come but it’s a new experience for many of our faculty and staff. Concordia Seminary takes community seriously and these severe cuts are so unaccustomed, so unwelcome. Our faculty and staff truly are carrying the cross for the future mission of our Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Lord to this broken world. Carrying the cross is not only theological talk but a personal and communal reality, painful reality. The splinters from these cuts hurt. Still, we firmly believe that God is refining us for His future mission and the everlasting arms are sustaining us as we pass through these tests. Grace is being shown under the great pressures. We are praying for one another. We have the firm conviction that God is mysteriously in this, working all things for good. While we are being forced forward more painfully than we want, the outcome will be better service to the church and to our Savior’s mission. The Spirit is opening eyes of faith and we already see sun behind the heavy cloud. Finally, a little point that should lead us, as a church, to deep introspection. Some people have divided the Seminary’s budget by the number of students and concluded that the cost per student is exorbitant. That would be correct if the Seminary were only a pastor factory but Concordia St. Louis is much more. Besides the formation of your future pastors and deaconesses, our budget also includes all the theological resources Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, provides to the church throughout the world. What we do daily beyond the classroom makes for a long list: our graduate school and our leading theological research library (open to all denominations), this Concordia Journal, our prolific offerings on iTunes U, our continuing education offerings to clergy, our professors speaking at conferences and conventions, our expertise freely shared with seminaries and churches around the world, and our professors serving on boards and commissions of the Synod, like the Commission on Theology and Church Relations. Concordia Seminary is a deep resource for the Gospel work of our church. Is it worth the cost? Is the work that these schools do worth the price tag? If theological education is a commodity to be produced at the least expense for the most recipients, then the question is legitimate. If the goal, however, is the preparation of religious leaders who are deeply formed in an understanding of faith, who can guide congregations in a culture that is less than convinced that religion is a cultural asset, who can lead in the context of significant change in congregational practice, and who both know the tradition and can teach it to the increasing percentage of people who do not know the tradition or understand it, then theological education is not a commodity. The question about cost is really a question about value. If seminaries fail in the future because of inadequate financing, it won’t be because there is not enough money available. It will be because there is an inadequate commitment to the essential contribution that theological schools make to the Christian project and religious leadership. (Daniel Aleshire, Earthen Vessels, 145)

Dale A. Meyer President

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Evangelical and Catholic

The Parochial Passion of Richard John Neuhaus

“At the beginning and the end of every day, we offer up our ministries.” Richard John Neuhaus (1936–2009), baptized child of God, pastor of the Church, mentor and friend, ardently practiced what he preached for each day of nearly forty-eight years of ordained ministry. That brief sentence from one of his most influential books, Freedom for Ministry, lies at the heart of his service to Christ and his Church, to the world and to us. The priestly vocation of a pastor is to present the Holy Things—the proclaimed Gospel and the proffered signs of the means of grace—to God’s people declared holy and righteous, “in the stead and by the command” of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Father Neuhaus, Pastor Neuhaus, lived that vocation precisely, parochially. As a pastor of the Church he was quite literally a parochial pedestrian. That is how I met him thirty-five years ago in Brooklyn, New York, how I knew him ever since, and how I will remember him. Richard’s parochial passion stemmed from the evangelical and catholic core of his Reformation beliefs. “All my life,” he once told The New York Times, “I have prayed to God that I should remain religiously orthodox, culturally conservative, politically liberal and economically pragmatic.” Although Reformation-linked critics of his shift from Lutheran to Roman Catholic affiliation would beg to differ on the topic of religious orthodoxy, Neuhaus brought a critical central orthodox supposition to any extended conversation on faith. It was a proposition imbued from childhood in a pastor’s manse through years in Lutheran homes and educational institutions, and finally through his Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, formation (1957–1961) under the tutelage of a beloved mentor, Professor Arthur Carl Piepkorn. Simply posited, Neuhaus viewed the Lutheran movement as the evangelical and catholic reform through time in the Church and for the Church universal. To be evangelical and catholic therefore means that the Church is, from outside in: 1. determined and inveterate in engagement with the world by baptismal vocation; 2. inherently ecumenical in promotion of ecclesial unity and orchestrated action among Christians; and 3. profoundly liturgical in its proclamation of the Gospel through Word and Sacrament.

Engagement With the World—Non-Optional It was an evangelical and catholic perspective that led Richard John Neuhaus to write a seminal treatise on church and state, The Naked Public Square, published in 1984. He issued a clarion call to the Church from his then-Lutheran perch to Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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engage God’s “Realm of the Left” with the rigor and abandon of the baptized, for “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” The call for engagement was issued as well to the public sector—not to wall off or discard the opinions of people of faith from participation, but to include the telling of “the Great Story” in the public square. Catholicity for a universal and pervasive churchly engagement is thus, at its heart, evangelical. How to count the ways this critical engagement with society flourished in the work and life of Richard John Neuhaus? The personal process began after ordination with the civil rights movement and continued on a direct path through the pro-life struggle in all its variants and complexities. He established the Center for Religion and Society in 1984 and the Institute on Religion and Public Life in 1990, along with its magazine, First Things. Ironically and yet dead-on accurately, he was “Father Neuhaus” to President George W. Bush, who included him as one of the 25 most influential evangelical leaders in the United States. An evangelical Catholic—who would have guessed! From abortion to stem cell research to cloning to the Marriage Protection Amendment, Neuhaus brought churchly influence to the public square in service of the Gospel. Engagement continued to the end, for the thirty-first book authored by this prolific public thinker, published posthumously in the spring of 2009, is entitled American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile. And a key sentence—“American theology has suffered from an ecclesiological deficit, leading to an ecclesiological substitution of America for the Church through time”—lays the burden on the churchly engagers, those who have too often not discerned God’s kingdom of the right from his kingdom of the left. The Ecumenical Imperative The ecumenical imperative for ecclesial unity that early on led Neuhaus to speak of the “healing of the breach of the 16th century,” a phrase we heard often at evening sessions in the rectory at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran (LCMS) in Williamsburg, Brookyn, changed in kind, but not in intensity after his move to Roman Catholicism in 1990. Soon thereafter he paired with Charles Colson in authoring “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” a document signed by notables from both camps in 1994. Timothy George, senior editor for Christianity Today, wrote in his eulogy of Fr. Neuhaus, He could just as well have written an essay on ‘How I Remain the Lutheran I Used to Be.’ I do not mean to question his devotion to the Catholic Church and the Pope, a devotion that was unbounded. But only a thinker so well grounded in the Reformation traditions could be an honest broker in bringing faithful evangelicals and believing Catholics to recognize the common source of their life together in

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Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures, and the great tradition of living faith through the centuries.

He was an ebullient confessional in the best Lutheran ecumenical tradition. There was no danger for Neuhaus of falling in the ditch on either side. He was immune to the Scylla of biblicist and fundamentalist entreaties even as he excoriated against the Charybdis of antinomian license. He could not abide the gnesioLutheran overtures either to ignore the third use of the law or to make the crabbed claims of legalists. Instead, he posited, over and over again, an evangelical and catholic middle. Later in life he did so even while propounding the unity of the Church as it subsists according to the teaching he embraced in the Roman Catholic Church, which is no mean feat.

Peripatetically Parochial Pastor Richard John Neuhaus was an old-school pastor. I mean really old school. He followed the peripatetic model of our Lord Himself. He wanted a parish he could walk. He needed to be maximally parochial, because the core of his being was as a pastor proclaiming the Gospel and administering the Sacraments to a very specific people of God in a very specific locale, the local parish. And he loved to walk the parish, to see it spinning there on the neighborhood streets, to be in dialog with its denizens. He spent seventeen years at St. John the Evangelist and eighteen years at Immaculate Conception, and he could walk them both. That’s thirty-five years of walking to work, work being anywhere in that neighborhood. At St. John’s rectory, it was but a few feet to the interior of the sanctuary. At Immaculate Conception there was more traffic to dodge, but dodge it he did. At St. John the Evangelist back in the early ‘70s, every Wednesday evening, host Neuhaus convened a convivium fraternum. There it was that a cadre of Brooklyn pastors endlessly and fruitfully explored the glory of the axis mundi, the center of the universe where in the sharing of the Holy Eucharist at a local altar heaven itself is rent and the very presence of Christ revealed. There it was that we endlessly and fruitfully batted around the pastoral sharing called “casuistry.” No beloved member of the Body of Christ had a problem that was deemed too insignificant for our conversation. The inherent dignity of God’s redeemed was honored. In fact, the local parish was always for Richard John Neuhaus the crucible for the “offering up” of his ministry. Whenever I saw him in these latter years, the first sentence out of his mouth to me, now a bishop/president, was “And how are things at St. John’s, David? Tell me about St. John’s.” He wasn’t interested in the architecture, but the people, those he had loved and served. That sentence says it all when it comes to a pastor of the Church. The passion is primarily parochial. It is a particular passion. Christ’s true Church subsists in the lives of God’s beloved, in their hungering and thirsting after Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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righteousness, and in the pastoral responsibility to feed those lambs in that neighborhood, with their life-stories tucked deep into the shepherd’s heart. Thus is a pastor yoked to Christ and Church. Thus the slender thread, the evangelical and catholic imperative, arrives home, at Table, enfleshed and embodied in the One crucified and risen and shared for forgiveness and strength. I received and carry parochial passion in large part from Richard John Neuhaus, who received it from his family, and from his teachers, and from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and from God. In his divine will he brought forth for ordination into the Office of the Holy Ministry Richard John Neuhuas. Richard John, passionately parochial pastor of the Church—Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. David H. Benke David H. Benke was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry on June 15, 1972, having graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He continues to serve as Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York, in a pedestrian way, and as President/Bishop of the Atlantic District, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

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In Memory of My Teacher, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S. J.

I had the distinct privilege of being a student of the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, S. J. (1918–2008) in the spring of 2006, during my systematic theology Ph.D. coursework at Fordham University, Bronx, New York. I won’t bother to recount the main facts and numerous accomplishments of Cardinal Dulles’ prolific life; those are well known enough and can be “googled” by anyone. Instead, what I wish to offer in this brief essay are some personal reflections on and memories of my late teacher, paying tribute to him as a model ecclesial theologian, someone with an incredibly sharp theological mind, yet offering that mind in humble service to the church’s ministry and mission. I first met Cardinal Dulles when I stepped into his graduate seminar on “The Profession of Faith” in January, 2006. The class examined the history, importance, role, and use of various kinds of professions of faith, as well as issues related to the proper reception of and dissent to church teaching: symbols and confessional writings, council declarations, statements of the Roman Catholic Church, and, in particular, the 1989 “Profession of Faith.” We examined and covered a wide-ranging group of theologians and documents, including documents from Vatican II, Yves Congar, Hans Küng, Roger Haight, Pope Benedict XVI (when he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger), and Francis Sullivan, among others. The seminar itself was an exercise in ecumenism and ecumenical dialogue among young theologians (all of us in our 20s and early 30s), consisting of myself, an Episcopalian woman, an Orthodox man, and a lay Roman Catholic man. Given Dulles’ frail physical condition already at that time, the seminar met in a conference room at his residence. Cardinal Dulles’ kind, gentle demeanor and modest humility made a lasting impression on me. In fact, he and my fellow classmates graciously agreed to change the meeting time of our class at my request, making it possible for me to take another class that same semester. I doubt I will ever have another chance to have a highranking member of the Roman Catholic magisterium acquiesce to my wishes! His friendly attitude toward us was reflected in the tradition of taking a mid-afternoon break for tea, coffee, and biscuits, as well as his treating us to dinner at a local Italian restaurant at the end of the semester. Cardinal Dulles’ deep commitment to being an ecclesial theologian, doing theology in service of and for the sake of the church, came through loud and clear in various comments he made throughout the semester, of which I wish to offer the following sampling. “It is the responsibility of the church alone to safeguard the Word of God.” “We should not divorce proclamation and teaching. They contain the same content, communicated in two different ways. Why is this so important? Because it is ‘for our salvation.’” “The Church’s indefectibility in the truth hinges on the truthfulness of the actual propositions (professions) of its’ faith!” Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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“Creative fidelity to the Church’s teaching.” “Martin Luther really should have been made a doctor of the church.” “You know, I’d like to be a devil’s advocate in the canonization process, I think they should restore that role!” OK, I threw in those last two comments just to see if you were still paying attention! Dulles’ respect for Luther’s theology developed during his service on the Lutheran-Catholic bilateral dialogues, and he actually did believe that Luther deserved to be honored as a doctor/teacher of the church. Despite his deep commitment to and respect for the church, perhaps nothing epitomized his sober realism regarding the church’s fallenness and sinful brokenness as when he reportedly said to another of my teachers, Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, at her doctoral comprehensive exams at the Catholic University of America, “We would easily forget that the church is ‘holy’ unless it were written in the creed [one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church] to remind us.” In terms of my work in that seminar, I wrote my seminar paper on the topic of “Church Teaching Authority: Lutheran–Roman Catholic Dialogue.” Perhaps choosing that topic was a bit foolhardy, given that Dulles had long served as a member of those very dialogues! However, my interest in this important topic caused me to overcome any initial misgivings. After my oral presentation and synopsis, Dulles introduced the discussion time by a memorable few words (paraphrasing him from memory): “Yes, Lutherans have this strong insistence upon the distinction between law and gospel. Of course obedience to the gospel is what is most important, so whenever we sin and fall short, the comfort of the gospel is always there to strengthen and renew us.” The phrase “obedience to the gospel” struck my ears, and my immediate reaction was, “Obedience? No. Trust in the promises? Yes.” But as I have had time to ponder that comment, I have come to suspect that perhaps my teacher and I had more in common theologically than I realized, transcending the stereotypical portrayal of Roman Catholics as not appreciating the law-Gospel distinction. After all, our Book of Concord defines faith as “obedience to the gospel…reckoned as righteousness…because it receives the offered mercy and believes that we are regarded as righteous through mercy on account of Christ” (Kolb/Wengert, p. 164). Saint Paul also distinguishes obedience to the law from the obedience of faith. It would have been fascinating to engage my teacher in a discussion of these matters, but unfortunately I never got the chance to do so. This incident reminded me once again of the importance of “ecumenical friendliness,” of giving someone the benefit of the doubt and extending them the courtesy to allow them to speak for themselves and clarify their position, rather than drawing premature, stereotypical conclusions. My teacher modeled such an approach for all of us during our seminar discussions, especially when we disagreed, and I would hope to carry that with me as a lasting lesson. Dulles’ written comments on my paper were very gracious: “Your exposition of AC 28 strikes me as thorough and correct. I was pleased that you went beyond an exposition of Lutheran concepts of teaching authority and made good use of 124


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the U.S.A. [Lutheran–Roman Catholic] dialogues. Perhaps because I was a participant in that dialogue, I think highly of its achievements. Your own assessment of the current ecumenical situation strikes me as realistic.” In closing, I will always remember Cardinal Avery Dulles as epitomizing the ecclesial theologian, someone who sought in all he did to live out the attitude and conviction of creative fidelity to the Church’s tradition and teaching. From someone who gained a reputation for doing theology with an emphasis on models and paradigms (his two most famous books being Models of the Church and Models of Revelation), I believe Dulles’ legacy, at least to an aspiring Lutheran missiologist such as myself, centers on more fully articulating and grappling with creative fidelity, both as a model and as a challenge, for doing theology in The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod today. In the winter issue of this journal, Dr. Leopoldo Sánchez referred to the challenge and need to develop three Lutheran distinctives: a “theology of difference” (citing Dr J.A.O. Preus III), a theology of catholicity, and these two factors serving as fundamental building blocks in constructing a robust, Lutheran missional ecclesiology (p. 27). I agree that therein lies the challenge. To put words in my teacher’s mouth (always a perilous task, especially when the person is deceased), Dulles would have said, “You’re wrestling with the question of creative fidelity. You’re asking the right questions. I think you need to focus on the creative pole of that spectrum.” How can we, as a church body, hold unity in doctrine and contextual diversity in mission practice in creative tension? The LCMS has strongly, and rightly, insisted upon fidelity to the church’s confessional heritage and tradition, but has not been nearly as bold or creative in contextual application of such fidelity. What shape and form might such creative fidelity take, what might that look like, in the years to come? A mere repetition of past formulas won’t do. That much I learned from my teacher, Avery Dulles. May God grant his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church more teachers of such faith, commitment, humility, and intellect. Such is my sincere hope and prayer! Jukka A. Kääriäinen Jukka A. Kääriäinen is Pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Messiah in Princeton, New Jersey, Lutheran chaplain at Princeton University, and a Ph.D. candidate in systematic theology at Fordham University, Bronx, New York. His forthcoming Ph.D. dissertation is entitled, “Missio as Promissio: Lutheran Missiology Confronts the Challenge of Religious Pluralism.”

Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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ARTICLES

COncordia Journal


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Paul’s Hope and Ours

Recovering Paul’s Hope of the Renewed Creation

James Ware

The focus of these reflections is the hope of creation’s renewal in Paul’s theology. From one perspective, what I will have to say on this topic is nothing new. This aspect of Paul’s teaching, although often left unexplored, is not exegetically controversial or contested among scholars of Paul. Moreover, the hope of the renewed creation is a staple of historic Christian teaching, abundantly reflected in ancient fathers such as Irenaeus and Augustine, and explicit in the central Christian creeds. It is an important theme within Luther’s thought, and assumed throughout the Lutheran confessional writings. From another perspective, however, that of contemporary Lutheran teaching and praxis, what I will have to say on this dimension of Pauline theology may sound quite unfamiliar. For, to put it mildly, this aspect of Pauline and New Testament theology is often not adequately reflected in contemporary Lutheran preaching, teaching, and worship. To put the matter more accurately, it is regularly either marginalized, entirely forgotten, or outrageously denied. As a result, the hope which is, for Paul, the foundation of Christian faith and life is actually unknown to many Lutherans today, both laity and clergy alike. For many of us, therefore, this aspect of Paul’s teaching will be fresh and exciting news indeed. In this essay I wish, first, to explore briefly Paul’s teaching on creation and its renewal within its wider biblical context, focusing on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Then I will consider how and why this theme, although central in Paul’s thought and in historic Christian orthodoxy, has been almost completely lost to view in current Lutheran preaching and theology. I will conclude with some reflections on the great promise which the recovery of this dimension of Paul’s gospel holds for the renewal of Lutheran preaching and teaching today. The Theme of Creation’s Renewal in Paul In Paul’s teaching, the hope which undergirds Christian faith and living is the James Ware is an Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana, where he teaches in the area of New Testament and ancient Christianity. An earlier version of this paper was presented during the Day of Exegetical Reflection at Concordia Seminary on September 22, 2008. Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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hope of the resurrection of the dead and the renewal of all creation. For Paul, Christian hope simply is, by definition, the hope of the renewed creation. And yet this feature of Paul’s thought, although central in his theology, should not be seen as an innovation or distinctively Pauline. Rather, this Pauline hope is grounded firmly in Israel’s Scriptures and the prophetic expectation of the coming reign of Israel’s God. This is the hope of the God of Israel’s victory even over death itself, through the resurrection of his people from the dead (Is 25:6–9; Is 26:11–19; Dn 12:2–3). It is the hope of the new heavens and new earth, when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth, as the waters covering the sea (Is 11:1–10; 65:17–25; 66:22–24). The Old Testament expectation is not the hope of the creator God’s annihilation of his good creation, but of its ultimate restoration, fulfillment, and renewal. It is not a hope of departure from the earth and entry into heaven, but of the union of heaven and earth, the resurrection of the body, and the renewal of all creation. Paul’s thought fits firmly within this Jewish and biblical expectation of the creator God’s redemption and renewal of the entire cosmos. For Paul, Christian faith and living apart from this hope are unthinkable. The crucial place of this hope within Paul’s thought is seen to good effect in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In his full-scale treatment of the Abrahamic covenant in chapter four, Paul takes up the theme of the inheritance promised to Abraham and his offspring. The original promises to Abraham in Genesis, fulfilled in the exodus and conquest, involved the nation’s inheritance of the land of Canaan. In the prophetic literature and in the Psalms, the promise is widened, through the covenant promises to David, to embrace the entire earth (Ps 2:7–8; 22:27–28; 47:9; 67; 72:8–11; Is 11:10; Mi 5:2–5; Zec 14:9–10). Reflecting this wider canonical framework, Paul describes the land promised to Abraham, and of which all those who follow in the steps of Abraham’s faith are heirs, as the entire creation: Abraham and his seed, Paul declares, are the heirs of the world (o` ko,smoj), that is, the whole earth, renewed and transformed by the glory of the Lord (Rom 4:13; cf. Mt 5:5; Heb 1:2; Rv 5:10; 21:1–7). Through his subsequent discussion of Abraham’s faith (4:17–25), Paul firmly links this cosmic hope of new creation with the personal hope of bodily resurrection. In this passage, which offers the fullest description of Christian faith anywhere in the Bible outside Hebrews, Paul describes Abraham’s faith specifically as trust in the creator God who gives life to the dead (vv. 17–21). Paul then affirms that it is this very faith, with its focus on the divine promise of resurrection and new creation, which Christians exercise when they believe in “the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (v. 24). Returning to this theme in chapter eight, Paul in Romans 8:11 specifically echoes the language of Romans 4:24 in order to set Christian faith in Jesus’ resurrection in its full context: 130


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But if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies as well (zwopoih,sei kai. ta. qnhta. sw,mata u`mw/n) through his Spirit which indwells you.

Here we see that Christian faith in Paul is not faith in Jesus’ resurrection as an event in isolation, but as the victory of Israel’s God over death, and this faith looks forward to the day when he will complete that victory, giving life to the mortal bodies of his people, raising their physical bodies of flesh and bones from the dust of death to a new, embodied, glorified, and everlasting life in the presence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thus in the fullest description of faith in his letters, Romans 4, Paul describes Christian faith as trust in the life-giving creator God and his promise of resurrection and new creation. Through a cluster of literary echoes recalling his description of gentile idolatry in chapter one, Paul in chapter four depicts the believer’s trust in these promises as the reversal of fallen humanity’s refusal to worship God as creator (Rom 1:18–23), and thus as bringing about a new, restored relationship to God as creator and life-giver (Rom 4:17–21). Within Paul’s thought, this expectation of newly embodied life, which involves a resurrection of both righteous and wicked, a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgment (Acts 24:14–15; cf. Dn 12:2–3; Jn 5:24–29), also undergirds Christian confidence in the fully just and righteous character of the coming judgment (2 Cor 5:10; Gal 6:7–8). The hope of a renewed world also ensures the cosmic and public character of the coming consummation of Christ’s reign, as the vindication of God, his people, and his truth (Rom 2:3–11; 14:9–12; 2 Thes 1:3–12). Of course, Paul’s letters also speak of an intermediate state, in which the faithful are away from the body but present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:6–8; cf. Phil 1:20–24). This personal, conscious existence of the soul in blessed communion with Christ, immediately upon death and prior to the resurrection, is a clear feature of Pauline teaching. However, the intermediate state is mentioned very sparingly in Paul’s epistles, and is not, within Paul’s thought, the focus of Christian hope. Paul depicts this state as blessed but incomplete, anticipating the fullness of redemption to come in the resurrection from the dead and Christ’s renewal of the entire cosmos (see 1 Cor 15:1–58; Phil 3:20–21; 1 Thes 4:13–18; Ti 2:11–14). In Romans 4, as throughout Paul’s letters, the focus of Christian faith is not the intermediate state, but the hope of resurrection and new creation. In Romans 8:17–25, Paul returns to the crucial theme of the inheritance. Filling out his brief discussion in 4:13 expansively, Paul describes the inheritance of believers as the entire creation, in its physicality and materiality, liberated from decay and death, renewed and transformed by the creator God, who indeed created it for this very purpose (8:18–21; cf. Mt 19:28–29; Acts 3:20–21; Heb 2:5; 2 Pt 3:13; Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Rv 21–22). Drawing on the language of the exodus, Paul affirms that the creation itself will be liberated from its slavery to decay to share in the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21). Paul’s exodus language in 8:21 echoes the exodus language of chapters three and six earlier in the letter (cf. 3:24–25; 6:17–18), thus identifying creation’s final liberation as the consummation of the new creation inaugurated in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and into which believers enter through baptism (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Jas 1:18). As he did in chapter four, Paul then turns, in the context of this cosmic hope of the renewal of all nature, to the personal hope of the resurrection from the dead (8:22–23). Continuing the exodus imagery used in v. 21 to depict the renewal of the whole created order, and thus pointing to the inextricable connection between the resurrection of the dead, and the renewal of creation which is its context, Paul in v. 23 depicts the resurrection of the faithful as the liberation or redemption of their bodies and their adoption as God’s children. It is in this hope, that of resurrection and new creation, Paul insists in verses 24–25, that we are saved. In the apostle’s thought, the hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the renewed creation is not marginal to the faith, but the central feature and content of Christian hope. This brings us back full circle to chapter four, and Paul’s description there of Christian faith as faith in the creator God who raises the dead (4:17–25), and of the promises on which that faith rests as involving the inheritance of the entire renewed earth (4:13). In Paul’s teaching, the hope which undergirds Christian faith and living is the hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the renewal of all creation. This all-too-brief and inadequate discussion is nevertheless hopefully sufficient to call attention to the importance of the hope of the renewed creation in Paul. If we were exploring other New Testament authors and texts, we could, space permitting, explore how centrally this hope figures also in the Gospels, the book of Acts, and throughout the various strands and authors of the New Testament. This Pauline hope of the renewal of the whole created order was also firmly grasped by the ancient church. Answering the challenge of the Gnostics in the second century, who sought to replace the hope of creation’s renewal with the very different hope of escape from the created order into a non-earthly, disembodied existence in heaven, the ancient church only stressed more firmly the Pauline hope. This is evident in many ways, such as the widespread praxis of giving milk and honey to the newly baptized, symbolic of their new identity as heirs of all creation.1 It is emphatically evident in the large-scale treatment of the renewed creation in Irenaeus.2 This expectation is classically expressed in Augustine’s rich theological reflections on the hope of the new heavens and new earth.3 This hope is also prominent in the great creeds such as the Nicene Creed: “We eagerly await the resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come.” This hope was not lost in medieval theology, as we see in Thomas Aquinas and his exploration of the nature of the innovatio mundi, 132


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or “renewal of the world.”4 We also see this hope emphatically in Luther and his meditations on the wonders of the renewal of nature to come.5 This teaching undergirds all of the various Lutheran confessional documents, from the Augsburg Confession to the Formula of Concord, not being taken up explicitly and at length in these texts only because it was not denied by any, but was common ground among all Christians. But what a contrast we often see in contemporary Lutheran preaching, teaching and faith! Consistently, our preaching and teaching stop at heaven, which in Paul’s theology is only the intermediate state. Far worse, our preaching and teaching encourages the belief that this intermediate state is the sum total of the Christian hope! Again and again, we speak of heaven as the focus of Christian hope. We speak of creation’s destruction, but not of its transformation and renewal. We speak of the faithful as leaving the world behind, rather than, with Paul, as the heirs of the world, remade and transformed by the creator God. We speak of the saints in the consummation as dwelling in heaven, not, as Paul, in the new heavens and earth. Why this dramatic change from the faithful appropriation of Paul’s teaching in the ancient church, the classical theologians, and in Luther and the Lutheran confessions, to the distortion of Pauline teaching in our contemporary Lutheran context?

The Loss of the Hope of the Renewed Creation in Lutheran Theology The source of this change is a dramatic shift which took place in Lutheran theology in the seventeenth century, in which the work of John Gerhard seems to have played a crucial role. In contrast to Paul, and to the entire orthodox Christian tradition, both East and West, Gerhard taught, not the creation’s renewal and consummation in the day of the Lord, but its annihilation.6 Not radical purgation, followed by transformation and renewal—rather, annihilation, full-stop. Complete annihilation, so that the entire created order shall forever cease to exist. Annihilation not only of earth, sun, moon, stars, and all the elements, but all that belongs to the created order in its physicality and materiality, including time, space, dimension, matter, and mass.7 Thus in Gerhard’s theology, as Jürgen Moltmann notes, “annihilation, not transformation, is the ultimate destiny of the world.”8 Can one truly believe in the resurrection of the body apart from belief in the renewed creation which in Paul’s thought is its counterpart and context? If one can, then Gerhard did retain belief in the resurrection of the body in some sense, but envisioned the risen saints as dwelling, not in a transformed created order, but in a noncreational, non-material sphere he called “heaven.”9 Gerhard’s radical departure from the orthodox hope of creation’s renewal has its only historical counterpart in ancient Gnostic thought, specifically in the theology of the Gnostic teacher Valentinus, and in the speculations of the church father Origen, who was heavily Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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influenced by Gnostic currents of thought.10 The influence and impact of this departure from Paul’s teaching, from historic Christian teaching, from Lutheran teaching, has been staggering.11 This became the almost universally accepted teaching in the era of so-called Lutheran orthodoxy, was widely popularized by hymn writers such as the great Paul Gerhardt, and thus came to pervade Lutheran thought, preaching, hymnody and piety. Take, for example, our hymnody. To be sure, the LCMS’ current Lutheran Service Book has a number of hymns, most of these pre-Reformation and Reformation era hymns, that are wonderfully Pauline and orthodox, celebrating the resurrection of the body and the renewal of heaven and earth (e.g. LSB 387, “Joy to the World”; LSB 677, “For All the Saints”; LSB 708, “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart” etc.). But time and again I have been struck by the seemingly innumerable hymns from the seventeenth century and beyond that clearly reflect the annihilationism of Gerhard, substituting a gnostic hope of escape from creation in heaven, for the true Christian hope of the creator God’s renewal of his creation through Christ. We sing of “heav’n our home” (LSB 921), “our heav’nly home” (LSB 357), and of a “glorious crown in heaven” (LSB 915). Our hope is not Christ’s renewal of creation, but “eternal life in heav’n” (LSB 334), when “in heaven we take our place” (LSB 700) and “reign with Him in heaven” (LSB 490). Our hymns often contrast our present “earthly life” with “our home above” (LSB 685, 919), joyfully anticipating the day when, leaving this earth behind, we share “the endless joy of heaven” (LSB 589). Anyone familiar with Lutheran worship knows that examples could be multiplied almost ad infinitum, not only from the Lutheran Service Book but from any Lutheran hymnal.12 Our prayers that accompany these hymns also repeatedly climax with petitions that we may “be received at last into the eternal joys of heaven” or “obtain eternal life in heaven.” Clearly, our hymns and prayers have exchanged the Pauline hope of creation’s renewal for the hope of escape from creation in heaven. This shift away from the robust, biblical appropriation of Pauline teaching in the ancient church, in Luther, and in the Lutheran confessions, is also reflected in the striking phenomenon that in our hymnal the content of many ancient and Reformation era hymns has actually been altered in translation to reflect this revision of the Christian story. This is strikingly illustrated by Luther’s hymn “O Lord We Praise Thee” (LSB 617). In our hymnal the first line of the second stanza reads: “Thy holy body into death was given/life to win for us in heaven.” But that’s not what Luther wrote. He could not have written that, for the simple reason that, historically, he didn’t believe that. What Luther wrote is: “Der heylig leychnam ist für uns gegeben zum tod das wyr dar durch leben.”13 Which might be rendered in English: “Your holy body was given in deathly strife to win for us resurrection life!” Similar changes introduced into many hymns reflect the same profound theological shift.14 134


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In striking contrast to Luther, much of our hymnody and thought encourages us to believe that the creator God abandons his creation, and that the Christian hope is to leave the creation for a non-earthly, heavenly existence. Thus a gnostic or dualistic goal of escape from the created order, which is antithetical to Pauline Christianity, is actually portrayed in many of our hymns and prayers as the center of the Christian hope. The result is the distortion, not merely of this or that element of the scriptural narrative, but of the biblical story as a whole. The grand narrative of the Bible moves from creation, to fall, to God’s redemption of his creation through Christ. God is both creator and redeemer of his creation, and the biblical story, which begins with God’s creation of heaven and earth (Gn 1–2), climaxes with the renewed heaven and earth (Rv 21–22). By replacing the Pauline hope of creation’s renewal with the dualistic hope of escape from creation in heaven, we lose the coherence of this entire biblical narrative. The way in which this revised version of Christian hope results in a distortion of the entire biblical story is evident in the Pauline theme of the inheritance, which we focused on briefly earlier. Rooted in the tangible gift of the land of promise to Israel, and then widened through the royal promises to David to include the whole earth, the inheritance of God’s people in Christ within Paul’s thought is, as we saw, the whole creation, in its physicality and materiality, renewed and transformed at the return of Christ. By contrast, in the world-less, creation-less eschatology introduced by Gerhard and other Lutheran divines, this facet of the story had to change, because the story as a whole had been changed. The inheritance of the saints was no longer the renewed creation, but “heaven.” What Paul’s letters depict as an intermediate state, blessed but incomplete, awaiting the fullness of redemption in the resurrection of the body and Christ’s renewal of all things, becomes the goal and climax of the story. This gnostic perversion of the biblical story pervades our prayers and hymnody. Again and again, we sing that “we in Christ are heaven’s heirs” (LSB 571), and rejoice that “we Thy heav’n inherit” (LSB 803; cf. 587). The believer is a blessed “heir of heaven” (LSB 592, 623, 754). In the collect for Transfiguration Sunday, we pray that God may “bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven.” Most striking of all, our baptismal liturgy itself climaxes with the prayer that the newly baptized may “finally, with all your saints, obtain the promised inheritance in heaven” (LSB 271). Our distortion of Paul’s theology of the inheritance clearly reveals how we have revised the biblical story as a whole. Coming to the Scriptures with this revision of the storyline leads to a systematic misreading of the Bible. Ironically, we then suppose that the Bible supports the dualistic narrative which we have in fact ourselves imposed upon the Bible. For example, reading Matthew’s Gospel within this dualistic framework, we assume that the “kingdom of heaven” means simply “heaven,” and thus Jesus’ words about entering the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:20; 7:21; 18:3; 19:23; cf. 5:3; 5:10; 8:11; Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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16:19; 19:14) seem powerfully to confirm our belief that the goal of Christian faith is to go to heaven when we die. In reality, the “kingdom of heaven” is Matthew’s Jewish periphrasis for the “kingdom of God,” and refers to the God of Israel’s promised reign over all creation (Is 40–55; Zep 3; Zec 14; Ps 98; Dn 2; Mt 19:28–29; 28:18; Rv 5:10; 11:15), that is, the coming of his kingdom, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). Thus the meaning of “kingdom of heaven” within the minds of most Lutherans is not only different from its scriptural meaning, but almost its precise opposite! Again, passages which speak of treasure or reward stored up for believers in heaven (Mt 5:12=Lk 6:23; Mt 6:19–21=Lk 12:33–34; Mt 19:21=Mk 10:21=Lk 18:22; cf. 1 Pt 1:4–5; Col 1:5) are routinely assumed to teach straightforwardly that the Christian hope is the hope of heaven. In fact, the image is that of a treasury or storeroom, and the point of the imagery is not that the faithful will one day go to live in the storeroom, but that they will one day share in the eschatological salvation now hidden with Christ in heaven, but to be revealed when Christ comes again. As 1 Peter puts it, the inheritance is “stored up in the heavens for you, who are guarded through faith by God’s power for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pt 1:4–5). Similarly, we regularly read Paul’s exhortation to look to that which is unseen (Rom 8:24–25; 2 Cor 4:17–18) as expressing a vertical eschatology focused on the hope of heaven, devaluing the earthly, physical and material in favor of the heavenly and spiritual. In reality, Paul’s language expresses a horizontal eschatology focused on creation and its renewal: that which in Paul’s thought is available only to faith and not sight is not the invisible heavenly realm above, but the as yet unseen very physical, tangible world to come (see Rom 8:24–25, in the context of 8:18–25; 2 Cor 4:17–18, in the context of 4:16–5:10; cf. Col 3:1–4). Again, Paul famously describes the faithful as citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20), but not, as we assume, because heaven is our home, but because, as Paul continues, heaven is the place “from where we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies, conforming them to his glorious body, through the power by which he is able also to subject the entire cosmos to himself ” (Phil 3:20–21). Strikingly, in the very passage where we, with our dualistic blinders firmly in place, routinely find only the hope of escape from creation in heaven, Paul once again powerfully expresses the biblical hope of resurrection and new creation.15 Similarly, we regularly read the final chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21–22, as John’s description of a timeless, immaterial heaven. In reality, these chapters are John’s full and immensely beautiful vision of the “new heavens and new earth” (Rv 21:1, 3, 5, 7). Heirs of the legacy of Gerhard, we likewise read passages which speak of heaven and earth passing away, or of the end of this present evil age and dawning of the age to come (Mt 24:35=Mk 13:31=Lk 21:33; Gal 1:4; 1 Pt 4:7; 1 Jn 2:17) as if they referred to the extinction of the creation itself in its materiality and physicality. 136


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Here again a renewed grasp of Pauline theology is critical. We need to be reminded again, as Irenaeus reminded his Gnostic opponents, and as Augustine reminded the Manicheans, that Paul does not say that the world is passing away, but that the present form of this world is passing away (1 Cor 7:31).16 The creation will not be destroyed, Paul makes clear, but redeemed and transformed (Rom 8:18–21). Such examples of our mishandling of the Bible by reading it through dualistic lenses could be multiplied. Among the many baneful effects of our departure from Paul’s theology of new creation is the way it has led us to systematically misread the Scriptures. But perhaps the most destructive effect of our departure from the historic Christian hope is the way in which it distorts the heart of the Christian story, the creator God’s redemption and renewal of his creation through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the centerpiece of this biblical story, the creator God’s victory over death, the defeat of evil, and the beginning of the new creation. In abandoning the hope of creation’s renewal, we have, in effect, put Easter into the wrong story! After all, Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate affirmation of creation and its goodness. Set within a gnostic story whose goal is escape from the created order into heaven, Easter ceases to have meaning or relevance. Is it any wonder that Lutheran sermons, devotions, and even congregational statements of faith often fail to mention the resurrection of Jesus at all? For many contemporary Lutherans, Easter, it seems, is an existential irrelevance. In losing the hope of the renewal of creation, we must inevitably lose Easter as well, the beginning and promise of the renewed creation. Recovering the Hope of the Renewed Creation We who are Lutheran Christians urgently need to recover the Pauline teaching of creation and its renewal. Recovering what has been lost over the course of several centuries, and thus has deeply affected our piety, liturgy, and hymnody, will involve, I believe, both a short-term and a long-term strategy. The short-term solution is to use our current hymnal and worship materials in as orthodox a way as possible. This is an urgent and pressing agenda, which will involve not using certain hymns, or stanzas of certain hymns, or mitigating the force of others by giving them, in preaching and in teaching, an orthodox interpretation. It will involve removing or altering the dualistic elements which pervade the prayers we use in public worship. Above all, it will involve emphatic and clear preaching and teaching of the Christian hope. The long-term solution is to return our thinking and theology to the orthodox Pauline teaching and to the Lutheran confessions, so that not only our preaching and teaching, but also future hymnals, catechetical and liturgical materials reflect the Pauline teaching, and the Christian hope of the renewed creation. In so doing, as Lutheran Christians we will once again join with Catholic, Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Orthodox and many Protestant Christians in confessing the orthodox hope affirmed in the great creeds, the ancient fathers, and by countless Christians through the ages. Renewed focus on this hope, foundational to Christian faith, will infuse our preaching of the Gospel with new power. Proclamation of this hope will be for many, both inside and outside the church, fresh and exciting good news indeed. The proclamation of this hope will bring a new and living conviction of God as the almighty, life-giving creator God, of the goodness and God-givenness of all creation, and of the public, cosmic character of Christ’s coming victory and reign. Through the proclamation of this hope, Jesus’ resurrection will again come to hold in our preaching the central place which it holds in Paul’s letters and in the New Testament. The promise which the recovery of the hope of the renewed creation holds for the renewal of Lutheran preaching, teaching and practice is indeed incalculable. In this task our most urgent priority must be the deepened study of Paul, and his theology of creation’s redemption and renewal through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Endnotes

See Tertullian, De Corona 3; Adversus Marcionem 1.14; Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 21. This practice is also reflected in the widely attested variant reading kai. avpo. melissi,ou khri,ou (“and from a honeycomb”) in Lk 24:42. 2 Adversus haereses 5.32–36; cf. Demonstratio 4. 3 De civitate Dei 20.14–16; 22.29–30. 4 Summa theologica, Suppl. q. 91, art. 1–5; cf. Compendium theologiae, chap. 169–171. Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology (trans. Margaret Kohl; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996) 268: “Transformation, not annihilation– that is the unanimously held doctrine from Irenaeus onwards, by way of Augustine and Gregory the Great, Aquinas and the whole of mediaeval theology, down to present-day Catholic dogmatics.” 5 E.g. Selected Psalms (Luther’s Works 12; ed. Jaroslav Pelikan; St. Louis: Concordia, 1955) 119–121. As Paul Althaus writes, Luther “expects the future renewal of the entire world and its perfection as God’s creation. . . . God thus does not abandon his creatures and his creation but transforms, renews, and glorifies them” (The Theology of Martin Luther [trans. Robert C. Schultz; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966] 424). 6 Johann Gerhard, Loci Theologici (ed. H. Preuss; Leipzig: 1885), locus XXIX. For brief but perceptive discussion of Gerhard’s innovation, see Moltmann, Coming of God 267–270. For a full analysis, see Konrad Stock, Annihilatio Mundi: Johann Gerhards Eschatologie der Welt (FGLP 10/42; Munich: Kaiser, 1971). 7 See Gerhard, Loci, XXIX. 26, 37, 43, 44, 107; XXXI. 40, 100, 171. 8 Coming of God 268. 9 Gerhard, Loci, XXXI. 8, 36, 40, 171. 10 Like Gerhard, Valentinus taught the complete annihilation of the world (see Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 1.7). Origen similarly taught the creation’s ultimate destruction (De principiis 2.3; 3.5–6; cf. 1.6-7). As would Gerhard, both Valentinus and Origen replaced the biblical hope of the renewed creation with the hope of existence in an immaterial heaven (Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 1.7; Origen, De principiis 2.11). Origen’s doctrine of the annihilation of the world was strongly opposed by orthodox 1

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fathers such as Jerome (Ep. ad Avitum 4, 9–10; Comm. in Isaiam, Bk. 18) and Augustine (De civitate Dei 20.14–16), and was specifically anathematized in the eleventh of the “Fifteen Anathemas” against Origen, promulgated either by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (Second Council of Constantinople) of 553, as traditionally attributed, or by the Constantinopolitan synod of 543. The text of Anathema XI reads: ei; tij le,gei( o[ti h` me,llousa kri,sij avnai,resin pantelh/ tw/n swma,twn shmai,nei( kai, o[ti te,loj evsti. muqeuome,nou h` a;u?loj fu,sij, kai. ouvde.n evn tw|/ me,llonti tw/n th/j u[lhj u`pa,rxei( avlla.. gumno.j o` nou/j\ avna,qema e;stw (“If anyone says that the coming judgment involves a complete destruction of physical bodies, and that the consummation will bring about a non-physical world, and that in the age to come there will no longer be any matter, but only a non-material realm, let him be anathema.”). For heaven, rather than the renewed creation, as the goal of Christian hope in Gnostic thought, see further such ancient Gnostic texts as The Gospel of Thomas 49–51; 56; 111–112; The Second Treatise of the Great Seth 57–58, 66–70; The Testimony of Truth 41,4–45,6; The Apocryphon of John 25–26. 11 Although Gerhard’s role in this shift within Lutheran theology was critical, Gerhard’s revival of Gnostic eschatology no doubt reflected the theological climate of his day as much as it shaped it. This is suggested by earlier developments in Lutheran thought which prepared the way, by the immediate and widespread acceptance of Gerhard’s innovation within Lutheran orthodoxy, and by subsequent theological developments of a strikingly similar character within various Protestant traditions. 12 A small sampling of other hymns in the Lutheran Service Book which portray heaven as the goal of Christian hope include LSB 331, 342, 349, 359, 376, 390, 397, 418, 514, 563, 572, 587, 592, 609, 619, 636, 659, 685, 686, 688, 702, 740, 754, 798, 830, 854, 917, 923, and 940. 13 Martin Luther, Die deutschen geistlichen Lieder (ed. Gerhard Hahn; Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1967), hymn 5 (page 7). 14 A few of many examples include: LSB 357, stanza five; 359, stanza four; 395, stanza six; 413, stanza three; 514; 607, stanza one; and 940, stanza four. The radical departure of postReformation thought from Luther’s theology of creation and its renewal is noted by H. Paul Santmire, The Travail of Nature: The Ambiguous Ecological Promise of Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1985), pages 133–143. However, Santmire is unable to explain this shift, because he is apparently unaware of the decisive role played by Gerhard’s rejection of the hope of the renewed creation, and the staggering impact of Gerhard’s revival of Gnostic eschatology on subsequent Lutheran thought and piety. 15 Philippians 3:20–21, as Romans 8:17–25, underscores the profound interconnectedness of bodily resurrection and creation’s renewal in Paul’s thought. Rightly Joel B. Green, Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), page 180: “in eschatological salvation, we are not rescued from the cosmos in resurrection, but transformed with it in new creation.” 16 See Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 5.36.1; Augustine, De civitate Dei 20.14.

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An Old Perspective on the New Perspective

Thomas R. Schreiner

Introduction When I was in seminary in the late 1970s, I saw in our bookstore a massive book on Paul titled Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religions by E. P. Sanders.1 I wanted to buy the book and read it, but I had no time to do so with all the assignments I had to fulfill for my Master of Divinity coursework. I had no idea this book would lead to an intense controversy on Paul and the law which is still going 30 years later. Sanders argues that scholars have dramatically misread the primary sources in Second Temple Judaism, contending that the common idea that Second Temple Judaism was legalistic is a myth. Judaism, says Sanders, did not espouse meritorious righteousness but covenantal nomism. Jews did not teach that one must weigh merits to obtain salvation. Rather, all Jews were inducted into the covenant by election—by the grace of God. They had to maintain their place in the covenant by keeping the law, but they did not enter into the covenant by law-keeping but because of God’s covenantal mercy. The observance of the law was a response to God’s grace, not an attempt to gain his grace. Sanders’ work had an immediate impact, and his work is a needed correction of those who caricatured Judaism and failed to see anything but legalism in it. If Sanders’ construal of Second Temple Judaism is correct, then what do we make of Paul’s critique of the Judaism of his day? Those who have followed Sanders have argued that the Reformers misinterpreted Paul’s polemic against the Judaizers in his letters. The Reformers mistakenly interpreted Judaism through the lenses of their conflict with Roman Catholicism. Hence, they did not truly understand Paul’s polemic against Judaism. Sanders’ own contribution on this score is quite unconvincing, for he ends up saying that Paul rejects the law as a way of salvation for dogmatic reasons. In other words, Paul does not see any inherent problem with the law, but since Christ is the answer to the human problem, Paul reflexively discards the law. In other words, according to Sanders, Paul argues from soluThomas R. Schreiner is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. This article was originally given as the featured lecture at Concordia Seminary’s 2008 Day of Exegetical Reflection. Portions of this article are developed from Dr. Schreiner’s New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Baker Academic Press, 2008). 140


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tion to plight. James Dunn and N. T. Wright criticize Sanders for offering an inadequate explanation of Paul’s theology, and they suggest a new perspective on Paul, one which has gained more traction than Sanders’ reading.2 Both Dunn and Wright embrace Sanders’ reading of Judaism, for they are convinced that Sanders established that Judaism was not a religion of works-righteousness. What they criticize is Sanders’ interpretation of Paul, not his understanding of Judaism. Wright, in particular, has made quite an impact in evangelical circles since he himself is an evangelical. Evangelicals have greatly appreciated his work on the historical Jesus, the Jesus Seminar, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Space forbids me from tracing out the differences between Wright and Dunn here. Both of them agree, however, that Paul does not engage in a polemic against legalism or works-righteousness. In Paul’s view the fundamental problem with the Judaism of his day was its exclusivism, in that it barred Gentiles from the way of salvation. Paul does not indict the Jews of his day for activism but nationalism. Their problem was not legalism but exclusivism. He does not criticize them for their works-righteousness but their ethnocentrism. Another issue that has generated controversy is the understanding of justification offered by Dunn and Wright. Both have emphasized the role of justification relative to ecclesiology instead of soteriology. Wright has said that justification is not about how one gets saved but instead centers on who is part of the people of God. Furthermore, Wright has spoken quite negatively about imputed righteousness, and has emphasized that justification is based on a whole life lived. It seems to some that Wright is suggesting that good works play a contributing role in our salvation, which would contradict the fundamental insight of the Reformers. Time is obviously lacking to interact in detail with the issues raised by the new perspective. Today I would like to look briefly at three issues. 1) Is Sanders correct in saying that Judaism was not legalistic? 2) Is there a polemic against legalism in the Pauline letters? 3) Does Paul’s emphasis on the necessity of obedience in his letters introduce works-righteousness into his theology by the back door? Is Paul really that different from Judaism after all? Let us take these up one at a time.

Legalism in Second Temple Judaism I want to begin by considering whether Second Temple Judaism (the Judaism of Paul’s day) was legalistic. Time forbids us from looking at the evidence in detail. I want to survey all too briefly what scholars have been saying about Second Temple Judaism, in order to make the point that Sanders’ reading of the evidence is too simplistic. I begin by saying that Sanders rightly corrected an extreme position which overemphasized the legalism of Judaism. For instance, Daniel Falk admits that

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covenantal nomism, though it does not do justice to every aspect of the psalms and prayers in Second Temple Judaism fits “fairly well” with what we find in the literature.3 Robert Kugler argues similarly that the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs accord with Sanders’ view of covenantal nomism, while the Testament of Moses and the Testament of Job are even more gracious than Sanders envisioned, for neither of the latter teach that one must keep the law to stay in the covenant.4 But Kuglers’ view of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and The Testament of Job is controversial. Simon Gathercole contends that there is a definite emphasis on final vindication according to works.5 Gathercole does not deny the theme of election in these texts but remarks, “Election stands side by side with the eschatological future of heavenly reward.”6 Donald Gowan basically affirms Sanders’ paradigm in Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, and 4 Maccabees, rejecting the notion that there is any merit theology.7 But Gathercole again raises cautions, seeing in Sirach a reward motif in which vindication is based on works.8 In the same way, Gowan’s positive assessment of Wisdom is probably too definite. There are texts that predicate immortality upon keeping God’s laws (Ws 6:18; cf. 5:15–16). Gathercole sees “a tension at work” in Wisdom—“a double-sided soteriology.”9 Martin McNamara fundamentally embraces Sanders’ interpretation in his reading of the Targums, rejecting the idea that the Targums are legalistic and seeing in them a doctrine of grace.10 Even though David Hay balks at calling Philo a “covenantal nomist,” he argues that Philo did not espouse synergism and he contends that in Philo, “Everything finally hinges on divine grace.”11 Markus Bockmuehl sees tensions in the Rule of the Community document hailing from Qumran, for “salvation is on the one hand ‘legalistic’ both in its individualistic voluntarism and its closely regimented corporate life; and yet it is the gift of divine grace alone.”12 He concludes that his findings “are not fundamentally incompatible with those reached” by Sanders.13 Gathercole and Andrew Das on the other hand, emphasize more sharply the tension in Qumran literature, noting one stream that focuses on final vindication according to works.14 Even though Richard Bauckham qualifies his judgment, he concludes that 1 Enoch, apart from the parables (37–71) in general agrees with Sanders’ reading.15 Gathercole, on the other hand, thinks that 1 Enoch is more difficult to assess, and detects a theme of vindication according to works in the writing.16 Craig Evans’ view is quite similar to Gathercole’s; he considers the scripturally-based stories in the Pseudepigrapha and finds elements of grace in them but also sees works-righteousness in places.17 Gathercole says about the Apocalypse of Zephaniah that “the emphasis here is certainly on the values of the works, and their soteriological function; they move God to write the names of the doers in the Book of life.”18 In the same way, Peter Enns examines a number of Second Temple texts that expand on scriptural stories and suggests that the emphasis on final obedience raises questions about Sanders’s paradigm.19 142


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Gathercole notes that the Psalms of Solomon call attention to God’s mercy and election but at the same time final vindication according to works is taught.20 Bauckham thinks is characterized by legalism and works-righteousness, and Das agrees pointing to evidence of weighing of merits in the text.21 2 Baruch is more complex. In some ways it is akin to 4 Ezra which even Sanders admits is an exception to his pattern. It is difficult to categorize 2 Baruch; Bauckham sees a tension between merit and God’s mercy.22 Das, on the other hand, thinks the covenant and God’s election are virtually absent and that 2 Baruch “teaches a theology of worksrighteousness in the classic sense of the term.”23 Das sees 3 Baruch similarly, arguing that again the covenant has disappeared and that we find here a weighing of merits.24 Paul Spilsbury maintains that what we see in Josephus is a kind of “patronal nomism,” which stresses obedience to God’s law.25 Philip Alexander concludes, contrary to Sanders, that Tannaitic Judaism is “fundamentally a religion of worksrighteousness,” though this stands in “dialectical tension” with “the doctrine of the election of Israel.”26 Indeed, Sanders’ conclusions concerning the Tannaitic literature are called severely into question by Das. The latter maintains that the weighing of merits is quite prominent in some texts. God’s mercy and grace are not forgotten, and yet there is considerable emphasis upon human works.27 I hope this potted survey of some of the literature has been of some value. The point being made here is that Sanders overemphasized the theme of grace in Second Temple Judaism and underemphasized the importance of works. Significant challenges to Sanders’ paradigm have demonstrated that his view does not account for all the evidence in a satisfactory way. Besides those we have mentioned, Mark Elliott has demonstrated that Judaism during the Second Temple period did not typically envision the salvation of all of Israel but only those who kept the Torah.28 Francis Watson, against Sanders, remarks about the law and the covenant in Judaism, “If it is possible to generalize about these texts, there seems to be broad agreement that Israel’s observance or non-observance of the law is fundamental to the covenant itself.”29 Friedrich Avemarie has demonstrated that the two themes of election and works stand in an uneasy tension in Tannaitic literature, so that one cannot merely say that works are always subordinate to election.30 To sum up: the new perspective depends on the foundation that Sanders erected, but the foundation is not secure, and there is no consensus that it is correct. Hence, it should scarcely be accepted as an assumption which we bring to Paul. Legalism in Paul31 Indeed, when we examine the Pauline writings, there are indications that he engaged in a polemic against legalism. Legalism is defined here as the view that one’s works are the basis of a right relation with God, so that one can boast in what one has accomplished. In Romans 3:27, Paul asks whether boasting is excluded, Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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after having clarified that salvation is granted through the atoning work of Christ and is received by faith (Rom 3:21–26). The principle that rules out boasting is not works, for works are the very platform for boasting. Those who do the required works can boast that they have fulfilled what was demanded. Faith, on the contrary, excludes any human boasting because it relies upon what God has done in Christ (Rom 3:21–26). It receives righteousness from God through Christ instead of showing God how righteous one is. Hence, justification comes by faith apart from the works required in the law. Righteousness before God is obtained by believing rather than doing. Those who endorse the new perspective point to the inclusion of Gentiles in Romans 3:29–30 in support of the claim that the issue here is inclusion rather than legalism. But the argument poses a false either-or. Paul is concerned to emphasize the inclusion of Gentiles, but he stresses that they are included by faith rather than by works of law. The line of argument in Romans 4:1–8 is similar, though here Paul takes up the case of Abraham since he is the progenitor of the Jewish people. Dunn thinks that the works in view here focus on boundary markers, but this is mistaken since Paul refers to Abraham’s works, not works of the law. Indeed, many Jewish traditions venerated Abraham because of his works. In Jubilees 23:10 Abraham was said to be “perfect in righteousness.” Paul inquires, then, on what basis Abraham stood in the right before God. If Abraham did the required works, he could legitimately boast, but according to Romans 4:2 he could not boast “before God.” The point is not that Abraham’s works were impressive before human beings. The condition is a real one. If Abraham did the works God demanded, he could truly boast before God, and such boasting would not be wrong since Abraham would have fulfilled what God demanded. Such an interpretation of verse 2 is confirmed by verse 4 where an example is adduced from everyday life. If employees do what is required, their paycheck is not considered to be a gift, but something they deserve. So too, if Abraham actually did what God demanded, his boasting would be fitting. But Abraham had no grounds to boast before God because he failed to do the required works. He was, as verse 5 indicates, “ungodly.” Paul alludes here to Joshua 24:2 which indicates that Abraham once served foreign gods. Abraham, then, did not stand in the right before God on the basis of works, since he failed to do what God commanded. Abraham too “sinned and [fell] short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Abraham was counted as righteous before God as Genesis 15:6 verifies because he trusted in God, not because he worked for God. It is not those who work for God, but those who trust in a God who “justifies the ungodly” (Rom 4:5) who are counted as righteous.32 The interpretation offered here is confirmed by Romans 4:6–8. David also witnesses to righteousness by faith. David’s righteousness is “apart from works” (Rom 4:6). Hence, those whose sins are forgiven, covered, and not reckoned receive a blessing from God. These verses clarify that the works David failed to do consti144


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tute moral failures. The new perspective does not account well for what Paul says here, for David was circumcised and certainly observed purity laws and the Sabbath. Nor is he indicted for excluding Gentiles from the promise. He needed forgiveness because of his moral infractions: his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah.33 The example of David supports the interpretation offered relative to Abraham. Both of them were ungodly, in that they both failed to observe what God commanded. Their only hope of a right relation with God, then, was on the basis of the forgiveness given. We do learn from Romans 4:9–12 that the inclusion of the Gentiles was important to Paul. The new perspective rightly reminds us that this theme is important, but they wrongly conclude that there is no polemic against works-righteousness. Indeed, the same polarity that we found in Romans 4:1–8 between doing and believing also informs Romans 4:13–16. The inheritance promised to Abraham is not given because of observance of the law. The inheritance is received by faith. If the reception of the inheritance depended on doing the law, then faith is excluded and the graciousness of God’s promise is removed. Observing the law cannot secure the inheritance because human sin intervenes, and as a consequence brings God’s wrath. Faith, on the other hand, operates on a different principle. Faith is fundamentally receptive, so that it looks to God’s promise (not human performance) for receiving the inheritance. Works direct attention to human beings and their ability to carry out what is required. Faith rests on God’s grace and promise, recognizing that human beings are sinners. Against the new perspective, Paul’s polemic against works as the basis of salvation must be directed against some who believed that works qualified them to receive the inheritance. Otherwise, Paul’s remarks are merely theoretical and address a problem that he did not face in his ministry. Paul does not waste time in his letters to critique problems that did not exist. Apparently, some believed that their works were the basis of their right relation with God, and Paul counters that claim. Nor is the polemic against works reserved for only a few texts. Works of law are contrasted with faith in Jesus Christ in Galatians 2:16. Indeed, in this single verse Paul places works of law and faith in Christ against each other three times. Doing and believing are contrasted as well in Galatians 3:10–12. Those who think they can be justified by works of law are cursed since all fail to do what God requires. On the contrary, as Habakkuk 2:4 affirms, righteousness with God is not obtained by doing but by believing. Indeed, righteousness by doing the law and righteousness by trusting in God are specifically contrasted with one another in Galatians 3:12.34 The law demands works to obtain eschatological life, but faith operates on a different principle—looking to Christ for the removal of the curse (Gal 3:13–14).35 Hence, if the inheritance were received by keeping the law, then God’s promise and faith are ruled out and human performance becomes the basis by which the inheritance is obtained (Gal 3:18). Since the inheritance is given by Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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virtue of God’s promise, it will surely be realized, and it is received by all those who trust God instead of those who work for God.36 Paul’s argument in Romans 9:30 to 10:13 follows the same lines.37 Gentiles who have trusted in Christ are righteous in God’s sight, even though they were not pursuing a right relation with God. Israel, on the other hand, pursued the law to obtain a right relation with God. Such an attempt failed, however, presumably because of Israel’s disobedience, and because Israel pursued the law by works instead of faith. Instead of trusting Christ for righteousness, who is both the goal and end (telos—Rom 10:4) of the law, they tried to establish their own righteousness. Nothing is said in this context about exclusion of Gentiles or identity markers like circumcision (contra to Dunn and Wright), and hence establishing their own righteousness relates to works in general and cannot be restricted to boundary markers. The righteousness of the law is based on doing (Rom 10:5),38 but true righteousness comes by faith and looks to God who has raised Christ from the dead. Faith looks away from self and human performance to what God has done in Christ for salvation. Again, Paul’s polemic only makes sense if there were some Jews attempting to be righteous before God on the basis of their works. Otherwise, his comments are superfluous. Does Paul fall prey, therefore, to anti-Semitism? Philippians 3:2–9 assists us in answering that question. Paul rehearses his own history in warning the Philippians about those who insist on imposing circumcision and the law on believers. Paul’s observance of the law was extraordinary. He was circumcised on the eighth day in accordance with the law (Lv 12:3). He was a genuine Israelite and knew the tribe from which he hailed. Indeed, the tribe of Benjamin was one of the two tribes that remained loyal to David, and Paul was probably named after the first king of Israel—Saul. When Paul says he was “a Hebrew of Hebrews” he probably means that he spoke in Aramaic.39 He was from the sect of the Pharisees which was particularly rigorous in its observance of the law. His zeal manifested itself in his persecution of the church and he considered himself blameless in his observance of the law. Paul realized, however, that his accomplishments under the law were not genuinely pleasing to God. It was nothing less than “confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:4).40 His so-called blamelessness in law-righteousness was not true righteousness before God (Phil 3:6).41 He thought he was blameless before God, but in actuality he was guilty of profound sin. In persecuting the church, he was convinced that he was pleasing God, but, in fact, he was opposing God and Christ Jesus. As Paul looked back on his life, he never ceased to be amazed about God’s grace, since his sin in persecuting the church was so grievous (1 Cor 15:9; Eph 3:8; 1 Tm 1:13–14). The righteousness Paul had before his conversion, then, was his “own” rather than the righteousness that “comes through faith in Christ” (Phil 3:9). It is clear that it was a righteousness based on doing instead of believing. Faith stands in contrast to works as the pathway to salvation. The opponents who trum146


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peted circumcision and law observance, therefore, had fallen into the same trap that previously ensnared Paul. They were not depending on the Spirit or boasting in Christ but were relying on themselves. When Paul criticized Jews for self-righteousness, he indicted his former life. Nor can he be faulted for anti-Semitism, for the inclination to trust in one’s works is not fundamentally a Jewish problem but a human problem. If it were limited to the Jews, Paul would scarcely need to warn Gentiles about the danger of relying on one’s works. A polemic against relying on works continues in the later Pauline letters. Faith is opposed to works, for the latter leads to boasting, while the former exalts grace and God’s gift (Eph 2:8–9; cf. also 2 Tm 1:9; Ti 3:5). The new perspective on Paul rightly sees that Paul is concerned about the exclusion of the Gentiles from the promise (Rom 4:9–12). Salvation is open to all without distinction, both Jews and Gentiles by faith in Christ Jesus (Rom 1:16; 2:6–11; 3:9, 22–23, 29–30; 4:9–12, 16; Gal 3:7–9, 14; Eph 2:11–22). But Paul also engages in a polemic against works as the basis of salvation, for those who trust in their own works trust themselves and their own goodness rather than the grace of God.

Obedience and Final Justification I would like to begin by saying that the necessity of obedience in Paul should not be identified as a new legalism, for the obedience is the work of the Spirit in those who are the new creation work of Christ. Nor does it diminish the work of the cross, for the cross is the basis and foundation for the transforming work of the Spirit in us. Paul does not understand faith to be a momentary feeling that vanishes. Saving faith is a persevering faith. Those who “received” (paralambanō) the message of the gospel belong to God (1 Cor 15:1–2), but they have believed “in vain” if they do not continue to cling to the faith they embraced. People are converted when they turn to the Lord (2 Cor 3:16), and forsake false gods to serve the living and true God (2 Thes 1:9). Conversion can also be described as reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20), so that those who were previously God’s enemies have become his friends. Human beings accept the gospel proclaimed by Paul as God’s message (1 Thes 2:13). They place their faith in the truth of the gospel (2 Thes 2:13). Faith alone saves (cf. 1 Tm 1:16), but genuine faith produces fruit and leads to a change in one’s life. Paul speaks of a “work of faith” (1 Thes 1:3), and the noun faith here should be understood as a genitive of source.42 Faith in God is dynamic and produces fruit, and if the fruit is lacking it calls into question whether faith is genuine. The emphasis on perseverance and fruit in Paul does not contradict his teaching that justification is through faith and not works. Good works are always understood as the fruit of faith, and function as evidence that faith is genuine. They never stand independently of faith, as if works alone can justify. Those who are a new creation in Christ Jesus do good works that are ordained for them (Eph 2:10), but these works are the result of the new creation. Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Warnings abound in the Pauline letters instructing his readers to continue in the faith in order to escape eschatological destruction.43 Those who have fallen from the faith experience God’s “severity” (Rom 11:22). Believers must “continue in [God’s] kindness, or they “will be cut off ” as well (Rom 11:22). God’s severity here refers to eschatological judgment, for in the context of Romans 9–11 the fate of unbelieving Jews is considered. Believers who cave into the desires of the flesh will die, i.e., they will not experience eternal life (Rom 8:13), but those who rely on the Spirit and slay fleshly desires will enjoy life forever. The line of thought in Colossians 3:5–6 is quite similar. Believers must put to death evil desires and actions because God will pour his wrath out on those who disobey on the last day. God’s children are identified as those who are led by, i.e., yield to, the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14). Those who are indwelt by the Spirit no longer live in slavery to sin (Rom 8:15). Paul was worried about the Corinthians for a variety of reasons. In 1 Corinthians 6:1–8 he expresses astonishment that they engaged in lawsuits with fellow believers and called in unbelievers to adjudicate the cases. He indicts them for wronging (adikeite) fellow believers in 1 Corinthians 6:8. He warns those who do wrong that “wrongdoers (adikoi) will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9 NRSV).44 Paul then itemizes various sins that exclude people from the kingdom and remarks that a life of evil is incompatible with the saving work of God they have experienced (1 Cor 6:9–11). Paul does not assure the Corinthians that they will be saved on the last day regardless of what they do. A life of wickedness will disqualify them from the kingdom. When Paul declares that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), he addresses believers, warning them about the consequences of sin. The consequence is not merely physical death since death here is contrasted with “eternal life.” Death refers to the final judgment of the wicked. Those who give themselves over to wickedness so that they become slaves of sin will experience death (Rom 6:15–23). Such counsel is not given to those who are neutrally poised between death and life, as if Paul had no certainty about the direction of their lives. Believers have been transformed so that now they “have become obedient from the heart” (Rom 6:17). They have “been set free from sin” (Rom 6:18). The imperative is grounded in the indicative of God’s work of grace in Christ. The imperative becomes a reality because of the indicative.45 Nor does Paul reserve his warnings only for weak Christians. All believers need to be admonished about the need to continue walking in God’s ways. Paul lived in such a way that he might share in the saving blessings of the gospel (1 Cor 9:23). The image of the race and receiving a reward in 1 Corinthians 9:24–27 illustrate the need of perseverance to obtain end-time salvation.46 The context eliminates the idea that a reward above and beyond eternal life is in view (cf. 1 Cor 10:1–12). The Christian life is comparable to a race, and believers must run to win 148


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the prize. They must live in a disciplined way as athletes do in training. They must conduct their life purposefully as boxers do when they strike opponents. They must rule over sinful desires and conquer them so that they will not be “disqualified” (adokimos) at the final judgment.47 Such a warning does not fill Paul with terror and uncertainty, so that he began to doubt whether he would receive the reward. The warning played a salutary role in his life, calling him afresh to put his faith in Jesus Christ for final salvation. Paul also uses the picture of the race in Philippians 3:12–14. This text immediately follows Philippians 3:2–11 where righteousness by faith instead of works is emphasized. Hence, the need to run the race in Philippians 3:12–16 does not contradict the claim that righteousness is by faith rather than works. The need to run the race to the end, in Paul’s mind, does not revert to works-righteousness. The life of faith is expressed in running the race to receive the eschatological prize. Nor does Paul lose sight of the indicative here. Paul strains to grasp the prize because he has already been grasped by Jesus Christ. We return to 1 Corinthians and Paul’s warning to the Corinthians in chapter 10, which immediately follows the call to run the race to the end. Paul particularly addressed the “knowers” in these verses. The knowers had no compunctions about eating food offered to idols, and even celebrated feasts in the temple of idols. They reasoned that since there is only one God and idols are an illusion, food could not damage them, for there is no such thing as defiled food since God is the creator of all. Paul actually agreed substantially with the theology of the knowers. Nevertheless, he differed in some respects and worried about their presumptuousness. Apparently, they believed that their participation in Christ spared them from any concern about future judgment. The recollection of Israel‘s history (1 Cor 10:1–13) casts some light on the stance of the knowers.48 The Corinthians should not deceive themselves as if sharing in the sacraments magically protected them from any harm (cf. 1 Cor 10:14–22). Israel too enjoyed a baptism of sorts when they were baptized into Moses at the Red Sea. The manna and water from the rock symbolize the Lord’s Supper, so that Israel too, in a manner of speaking, enjoyed sacramental blessings. Such sacramental blessings and liberation from Egypt did not spare them from judgment. Most of them were destroyed in the wilderness, and this destruction functions as a type of the last judgment. The sins of Israel in the wilderness stand as a warning to believers, so that they will avoid the same fate. Those who presume that they will stand at the last judgment regardless of their behavior need to be awakened from their slumber, for those who disregard warnings are liable to fall. Paul’s word, of course, is not only one of warning. He comforts believers with God’s faithfulness, reminding them that God will sustain them so that they will be able to endure the troubles that beset them (1 Cor 10:13). Nevertheless, the Corinthians must flee idolatry and refrain from eating in idols’ temples, for God will brook no opposition or tolerate anyone competing with Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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his supremacy (1 Cor 10:14–22). It is sometimes difficult to discern where the line is between apostasy and significant sin. Believers who had blatantly sinned during the Lord’s Supper were disciplined with sickness and even death (1 Cor 11:17–34). Such judgments of the Lord spared believers from final condemnation (1 Cor 11:32). On the other hand, the factions present in the congregation clarified who was approved or “genuine” (dokimoi, 1 Cor 11:19) in the church.49 It seems, then, that those who fall away were never genuine believers. Their apostasy confirms their inauthenticity. Believers must examine themselves to see if their faith is genuine (2 Cor 13:5). If they persist in sin (2 Cor 12:20), they call into question their salvation. Believers must remain vigilant lest they accept God’s grace in vain (2 Cor 6:1). They must not become “mismatched with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6:14 NRSV), but “come out from them and be separate from them,” and then God will welcome them as sons and daughters (2 Cor 6:17–18 NRSV). Those who are deceived by the false teachers fall short of the purity needed to be vindicated on the day of judgment (2 Cor 11:2–3). Some might label this as justification on the basis of works, but such a conclusion would be mistaken.50 Those who capitulate to the false teachers stray from a life of faith and trust. That perseverance is rooted in faith is clear from the letter to the Galatians. Paul rejects works of law as the basis or means of salvation and insists that justification is by faith alone. Nonetheless, the centrality of faith does not preclude the need for stern warnings. Those who receive circumcision receive no benefit from Christ (Gal 5:2–4). They must observe the entire law to be justified, but such perfect obedience is impossible and therefore futile.51 Those who accept circumcision and attempt to be righteous by the law are severed from Christ and have fallen from grace. The faith that saves for Paul is clearly a persevering faith. It is a living faith that embraces a new reality, for genuine faith expresses itself in love (Gal 5:6). Those who practice the works of the flesh will be excluded from the kingdom (Gal 5:21), for the failure to manifest the fruit of the Spirit demonstrates that they have abandoned the pathway of faith (Gal 5:22–23).52 Those who sow to the flesh will harvest corruption, whereas those who sow to the Spirit will harvest eternal life (Gal 6:8). The contrast demonstrates that sowing to the flesh will result in eschatological judgment.53 Such a stern saying may seem surprising in Galatians, the letter of faith, freedom, and life in the Spirit. What it shows, however, is that faith and life in the Spirit lead to a new way of life, a way of life in which faith produces the fruit of the Spirit. Those who stand in faith until the end will receive the reward God promised (Eph 6:11–14). Believers will be presented “holy and blameless and above reproach” only if they continue in faith until the end (Col 1:22–23). Paul does not promise that believers will be vindicated on the last day regardless of their actions. Those who deny Jesus will be denied by him on the last day (2 Tm 2:12). Not all 150


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sin, of course, constitutes a denial of Jesus. Believers may act in a faithless manner and sin without committing apostasy (2 Tm 2:13).54 God is faithful to believers in such instances and will not reject them as his own. Some, however, claim to know God but they deny that they truly know him by the way they live (Ti 1:16).55 Only those who turn from wickedness will be residents in the Lord’s house in the end (2 Tm 2:19). Those who veer away from the truth never truly belonged to God (2 Tm 2:18–19).56 Paul will receive the final reward because he “finished the race” and “kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7–8, 18). Those who give their lives over to the love of money will be destroyed (1 Tm 6:9–10). Only those who continue in the good teaching will be saved (1 Tm 4:16).57

Conclusion To conclude: we saw first of all, that Sanders’ covenantal nomism is too simplistic. There is a complex tension between election and final vindication by works in Second Temple Judaism. The emphasis on works in the literature could easily be construed as legalism. Second, we also saw that there are good grounds to think that Paul engages in a polemic against legalism in his letters. If this is correct, we have further evidence that Judaism was not free from legalism. Finally, Paul teaches justification by faith and judgment according to works. Romans 3:28 is rightly interpreted to say that believers are justified by faith alone, and yet faith always produces good works, so that the faith that saves is a persevering faith. Works and faith are distinguishable but inseparable in Paul, for good works are always the fruit of faith. Faith looks outside of itself to the Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen Lord for salvation. It anchors itself to the God who gives life where there is death, trusting that God will raise believers from the dead on the last day. Hence, the call to good works in Paul does not focus on the inherent power of human beings to do what is good, right, and true. Every good thing is the fruit of faith and the power of God. Perseverance cannot be equated with perfection; it is nothing less than continuing to trust in God’s grace until the final day. No contradiction exists in Paul’s theology here, for such good works are the fruit of faith. Indeed, it seems that Paul and James, though they emphasize different truths, are compatible after all. Endnotes

1 E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977). 2 See, e.g., James D. G. Dunn, The New Perspective on Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008); N. T. Wright, What St. Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997). 3 Daniel Falk, “Psalms and Prayers,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 7–5656. 4 Robert A. Kugler, “Testaments,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of

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Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 189–213. 5 Simon J. Gathercole, Where Is Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul's Response in Romans 1–5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 72–78. See especially T. Jud. 26:1. “Therefore my sons, do righteousness on earth in order that you may find it in heaven. And sow good things in your souls, so that you might find them in your life” (T. Levi 13:5–6). T. Asher 6:1–3; T. Joseph 18:1; T. Benjamin 10:2–3. 6 Ibid., 86. Italics his. 7 Donald E. Gowan, “Wisdom,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 215–39. 8 Ibid., 37–40, though in Sirach the reward relates to this life. 9 Ibid., 71. Note the emphasis both on God’s election and human faithfulness in Ws. 3:14. 10 Martin McNamara, “Some Targum Themes,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 303–56. 11 David M. Hay, “Philo of Alexandria,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 357–79378. 12 Markus N. A Bockmuehl, “1QS and Salvation at Qumran,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 381–414413. 13 Ibid., 412. 14 Gathercole, Where Is Boasting? 91–111; A. Andrew Das, Paul, the Law, and the Covenant (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2001), 17–23. 15 Richard J. Bauckham , “Apocalypses,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 135–87148. 16 Gathercole, Where Is Boasting? 46–49. 17 Craig A. Evans, “Scripture-Based Stories in the Pseudepigrapha,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 57–72. 18 Gathercole, Where Is Boasting? 82. 19 Peter Enns, “Expansions of Scripture,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 73–98. 20 Gathercole, Where Is Boasting? 63–67. For the role of good works, see Ps. Sol. 2:34–36; 3:11–12; 9:1–5; 14:2–3, 10. 21 Bauckham, “Apocalypses,” 156; Das, Paul, the Law, and the Covenant, 61–64. We find in the Testament of Abraham that the covenant has receded from view and the author emphasizes the need for the majority of one’s deeds to be righteous. 22 Bauckham , “Apocalypses.” 182. 23 Das, Paul, the Law, and the Covenant, 57. See his entire discussion, 53–58. 24 Ibid., 58–61. 25 Paul Spilsbury, “Josephus,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 241–60259. 26 Philip S. Alexander, “Torah and Salvation in Tannaitic Literature,” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1, The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien,

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and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 261–301300. 27 Das, Paul, the Law, and the Covenant, 31–43. 28 Mark A. Elliott, The Survivors of Israel: A Reconsideration of the Theology of Pre-Christian Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000). 29 Francis Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (London: T. & T. Clark, 2004), 9. See his more detailed discussion (pp. 6–13). 30 Friedrich Avemarie, Tora und Leben: Untersuchungen zur Heilsbedeutung der Tora in der frühen rabbinischen Literatur, TSAJ 55 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996). 31 The remainder of this essay, except the conclusion, is reprinted with permission from Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, from my New Testament Theology with minor changes. cf. Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 530–34, 579–85. 32 Yeung argues that Sir 44:19–21 departs from the meaning of Gn 15:6 because now Abraham’s faithfulness is the “cause” of his righteousness, so that Abraham’s obedience becomes meritorious in Sirach. See Maureen W. Yeung, Faith in Jesus and Paul: A Comparison with Special Reference to ‘Faith That Can Remove Mountains’ and ‘Your Faith Has Healed/Saved You’, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 147 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 249–50. For further discussion of Jewish interpretations of Gen 15:6 which supports the notion that Paul interpreted the text in a radically different way, see her further discussion (pp. 237–71). 33 Hofius says that Paul certainly has in mind David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah the Hittite. See Otfried Hofius, Paulusstudien I, WUNT 51 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1989), 131. 34 Silva argues that Paul resists the notion that the law functioned as a source of life. See Moisés Silva, “Is the Law Against the Promises? The Significance of Galatians 3:21 for Covenant Continuity,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, ed. W. S. Barker and W. R. Godfrey (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 153–66. 35 OT sacrifices no longer atone now that Christ has offered himself as a sacrifice (cf. Paul, the Law, and the Covenant, 113–44). 36 Westerholm points out that Paul contrasts law and grace, and that such a contrast would have been rejected by Paul’s non-Christian Jewish contemporaries. Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 307–08. For the contrast see, e.g., Rom 11:5–6; Gal 5:2–4. Watson’s reading of Paul also sees a strong contrast between law and faith, arguing that such a construction arises out of Paul’s reading of the OT. Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith. 37 For an exegesis of Rom 9:30–33, see Hofius, Paulusstudien, 155–66. 38 For a defense of the Pauline reading of Lv 18:5, see Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith, 315–36 (though, contrary to Watson, I think perfect obedience is demanded). 39 See here Martin Hengel, The Pre-Christian Paul (London: SCM Press, 1991), 25. 40 Hence, the view that Paul does not oppose legalism here is strained. Against E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983); Reinhold Liebers, Das Gesetz als Evangelium: Untersuchungen zur Gesetzeskritik des Paulus (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 1989), 58–60; rightly R. H. Gundry, “Grace, Works, and Staying Saved in Paul,” Bib 66 (1985): 1–38: 13; Peter T. O'Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1991), 356, 362, 364, 394–96; Gordon D. Fee, Paul's Letter to the Philippians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 296–97. 41 Stendahl argues from this verse, among others, that the notion that Paul was plagued in conscience before his conversion is mistaken. Krister Stendahl, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 78–96. On this matter Stendahl is quite right, but other dimensions in his portrayal of Paul stand in need of correction. See John M. Espy, “Paul’s ‘Robust Conscience’ Re-examined,” NTS 31 (1985): 161–88). See especially here the thorough discussion in Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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O'Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, 378–81 and Stephen Westerholm, “Justification by Faith is the Answer: What is the Question?” Accessed at http://www.ctsfw.edu/events/symposia/papers/ sym2006westerholm.pdf on May 23, 2006. 42 Wanamaker identifies it as a subjective genitive. Charles A Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 75. 43 The motivations and norms for Pauline ethics are captured well by Eckhard Schnabel, “How Paul Developed His Ethics,” in Understanding Paul’s Ethics: Twentieth Century Approaches, ed. Brian S. Rosner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 267–97. 44 The link between the two verses is explicated by Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1987), 242. 45 For two important essays on the indicative and imperative in Paul, see Rudolf Bultmann, “The Problem of Ethics in Paul,” in Understanding Paul’s Ethics: Twentieth Century Approaches, ed. Brian S. Rosner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 195–216; Michael Parsons, “Being Precedes Act: Indicative and Imperative in Paul's Writing,” in Understanding Paul’s Ethics: Twentieth Century Approaches, ed. Brian S. Rosner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 217–47. 46 Rightly C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1st ed., HNTC (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 218; Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 440; David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 444. Against Judith M. Gundry Volf, Paul and Perseverance: Staying in and Falling Away (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991), 237; Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 716–17. 47 Paul consistently uses the word adokimos to refer to those who are disqualified from any eschatological reward, and hence will experience eternal judgment (Rom 1:28; 1 Cor 9:27; 2 Cor 13:5, 6, 7; 2 Tm 3:8; Ti 1:16). 48 For a survey of interpretation on the matter of perserverance and apostasy in this text, see B. J. Oropeza, Paul and Apostasy: Eschatology, Perseverance, and Falling Away in the Corinthian Congregation, WUNT 115 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 1–34. 49 The divisions in the church will reveal who truly belongs to Christ (so Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 538–39; Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox, 1997), 195; Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 858–59). Against Garland who thinks the “approved” refer to the elite members of the community sociologically (Garland, 1 Corinthians, 538–39). 50 Rainbow’s work on the role of works in justification is an important contribution, and he rightly argues that good works are necessary for final justification. Paul A. Rainbow, The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification (Waynesboro: Paternoster, 2005). In some instances he uses unfortunate language. He speaks of works as “the ground” for approval on the last day (p. 83), and some could read this to say (contrary to Rainbow’s view, I think) that good works are the ultimate ground for justification. 51 Contra, George Howard, Paul: Crisis in Galatia: A Study in Early Christian Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 16; F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 231 who think Paul argues that life under law is one of bondage. For an interpretation similar to the one argued for here, see Frank J. Matera, Galatians, SP (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1992), 181–82. 52 For Jewish antecedents to the theme of judgment according to works and for a discussion of Paul’s own contribution, see Kent L. Yinger, Paul, Judaism, and Judgment According to Deeds (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999). 53 Rightly Matera, Galatians, 216; James D. G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, BNTC (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993), 330–31. 54 So Martin Dibelius and Hans Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Pastoral 154


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Epistles, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972), 109; George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 406–07; Andrew Y. Lau, Manifest in Flesh: The Epiphany Christology of the Pastoral Epistles, WUNT 86 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 142; William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, WBC (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 517–18. Contra Hanna Stettler, Die Christologie Der Pastoralbriefe (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), 190–92. Marshall takes it that the Lord is faithful to the gospel and to those who suffer for his sake. I. Howard Marshall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, ICC (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), 741–42. But this ignores the import of the other texts where God is said to be faithful by keeping his own to the end. 55 It is common to see the emphasis on good works in the Pastorals as a departure from the authentic Paul, but our discussion here demonstrates that it fits with the other Pauline letters. Rightly Lau, Manifest in Flesh, 143–44; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, lxxviii–lxxx; cf. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 137–38. 56 Rightly Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 528–29. Against Marshall who limits the reference to the church (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 755–56). A reference to the church is included, provided that a distinction is made between those who are elect and those who fall away and prove thereby they were not elect (so Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 415–16). 57 The verb sōzō refers to eschatological salvation here as is typical in the Pastorals and Paul (so Ibid., 211–12; Marshall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 571; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles: 264–65

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The Problem of Paul’s Letters

Loss of Authority and Meaning in the “Canonical Approach”of Brevard Childs

Jeffrey Kloha

THE CHURCH’S GUIDE FOR READING PAUL: The Canonical Shaping of the Pauline Corpus. By Brevard S. Childs. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008. 276 pages. Paper. $23.31.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” appears on posters, bookmarks, and inspirational coffee mugs. This bare statement, separated from its context in Philippians 3, seems to offer unlimited possibilities of success if one only relies on God’s power. Yet, even though this seemingly general “promise” appears on a poster in the weight room in the Field House at Concordia Seminary, I don’t think it has helped too many seminarians bench press 400 pounds, in spite of their faith. At the same time, we struggle to understand and apply very specific passages such as this: “every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head” (1 Cor 11). How many sermons have you preached on this passage? It seems to have nothing to do with our context. At other times, we very easily read ourselves into the text: “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus.” In this great statement of justification by faith, which we hold on to dearly, do we ever ask the question: who is the “we” in Galatians 2? Is it all Christians? Is it us? Or is it Paul himself ? Or someone else? And, however you answer that question, how then does this confession become our confession? The problem of the particularity of the Pauline letters has vexed readers for generations. How does one read and apply these very specific and contextual letters, written to specific churches by Paul sometime between the late 40s and early 60s of the first century, when our setting and context are radically different? After all, are any married women in our worship settings whipping off their hats in defiJeffrey Kloha is Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.

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ance? Is any Christian today insisting on the necessity of circumcision for salvation? How does one approach these letters in order to understand—and apply— their message in our present context? These are questions with which the church has wrestled from the origins of the collection of Paul’s letters into a single corpus at the end of the first century down to the present day. The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul is the latest, and final, effort of Brevard Childs to attempt to help the church read the Scriptures as authoritative. Childs († Sep., 2007) focused his 41-year career as Professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School on the canonical question. Specifically, how are the Scriptures, Old and New Testament, to be read and interpreted as authoritative texts within worshipping communities and in our modern (and post-modern) age? Childs consistently maintained his position that critical readings of the Scriptures, primarily the Old Testament, but also the New, have failed to offer the church a helpful way to read the very texts that it wrote, passed down, and continues to read. Where critical scholarship removed the Scriptures and their normative authority from the church, Childs aimed to bring the Scriptures back to the church. Childs first applied his canonical approach to his own field of study, the Old Testament. However, his 1994 The New Testament as Canon [NTAC]1 outlined for the New Testament what he proposes more narrowly in The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul [CGRP]. Childs offers this goal for his final work: “The purpose of this monograph is therefore to explore the exegetical and hermeneutical implications of canon for understanding within the context of the church” (CGRP, 3). Before delving into the details of this most recent title, it may be helpful to clarify what Childs means by “canonical.” He has been criticized for using the term in unique and unclear ways,2 but in this monograph Childs continues to employ and defend his understanding of “canon.” Two lengthy citations, in Childs own words, may be helpful in order to get a handle on his terminology. The first is taken from his earlier New Testament as Canon: I am including under the term not only the final stages of setting limits on the scope of the sacred writings—canonization proper—but also that process by which authoritative tradition was collected, ordered, and transmitted in such a way as to enable it to function as sacred scripture for a community of faith and practice. Essential to the process is a hermeneutical function which structured occasional writings of varied historical and geographical background into such a form as to allow them to perform a particular role in the life of every succeeding generation of the faithful. The canonical process which estab-

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lished a special relationship between scripture and people reflected both the influence of the historical communities on the shaping of the literature and conversely the influence of the sacred writings on the self-understanding of the community. (NTAC, 25)

Significantly, Childs understands “canon” in this way in order “to avoid the error of traditional Protestant orthodoxy when it spoke of the authority of scripture as lying in the mind of God without regard for its human reception (autopistos)” (NTAC, 26). That is to say, in contrast to later dogmaticians and twentieth century modernist conservatism, which located the authority of Scripture in its source (the Holy Spirit, typically with reference to 2 Tim 3:16), Childs locates the authority of the Scriptures in the church. An immediate problem presents itself, however: Which church? That of the late first century? The second century, or fourth? Roman, Eastern, Protestant? Childs’ description of his method in The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul rings a similar tone: One of the major purposes of this monograph is to argue that the formation of a New Testament canon was, above all, a hermeneutical exercise in which its anonymous apostles and post-apostolic editors collected, preserved, and theologically shaped the material in order for the evangelical traditions to serve successive generations of Christians. The canonical shaping was indeed an interpretation of the traditions, but its rendering of the gospel into its written form echoed the earlier, oral Christological rule of faith, and established a norm by which all subsequent traditions were to be tested. (CGRP, 62–3)

Childs’ terse definitions require clarification. First, he assumes the results of modern biblical scholarship, so the Pastoral Letters, Ephesians, etc. are regarding as written by, in his words, “anonymous apostles and post-apostolic editors.” This reflects what he calls in other writings a “post-critical naïveté”—we know too much to attribute these writings to Paul, but in the end it does not matter who wrote them, or who carried out the process of composition and editing, because it is the final form which is canonical and hence authoritative in the church. Second, the individual writings themselves are not authoritative in and of themselves, either because of their apostolic authorship or some assumed process of “inspiration,” but because they have been “collected” and “preserved.” Third, and this is strikingly unique to Childs’ approach, the process of composition did not conclude with Paul sending copies of his letters to Rome or Corinth. Rather, the canonical process carried out by the church in the generation(s) after Paul “theologically shaped” the material as an act of “interpretation” in order to render it authoritative—indeed even intelligible—to themselves and to subsequent generations. 158


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Finally, there is no necessary connection between the theological tradition of Paul and the theological tradition of those (again anonymous) shapers of the canon. As Childs relates here, this later work of the canonical process “echoed the earlier, oral Christological rule of faith,” but as Childs demonstrates in particular with his discussions of Ephesians and the Pastoral Letters, went beyond the original apostolic teaching. A second observation, and this is a significant shortfall with Childs’ approach, is that the above-cited paragraph from Church’s Guide would describe with perfect accuracy the role of the early regula and creeds of the post-apostolic church. These creedal statements served to summarize the key elements of both the Old (“In the beginning God created…”) and New Testaments (in particular, its Christology). Yet they also helped to shape and form readers—within the church— to read the Scriptures properly.3 Therefore, even though Childs claims to situate the canon within the church, in fact his approach ignores the historical and theological role of the church in relation to the Scriptures. The church did much more than simply “collect” and “shape” the Scriptures. Through its confession of Jesus as Lord it continues to be the community through which the Spirit continues to make for himself a people, shaped and formed by the Word of and about Christ. A more robust understanding of the “church,” its confession of Christ as Lord, the work of the Holy Spirit through both the spoken and written Word, and the reading of the Scriptures by those in the church would resolve most, if not all, of Childs’ hermeneutical concerns.4 The Pauline Letters provide an excellent “test bed” for Childs’ canonical approach for several reasons. First, it is the first collection of New Testament writings to be gathered together. Second, it continued to be copied as a distinct corpus throughout the church’s life, and even after incorporation into the larger New Testament in the fourth century, it retained its distinct identity by always appearing with the same sequence of letters (with the exception of the intrusion of Hebrews, discussed below). Third, it retained a unique liturgical identity in the church, distinct from both the four Gospels and the rest of the writings. And, in the present context, Paul’s letters retain a central role, whether Paul is construed as the “founder of Christianity” or trumpeted as the clearest articulator of “justification by faith,” over and against both James and Jesus(!). Both historically and theologically, Paul’s letters occupy a unique place in the New Testament, in the life of the church, and in biblical scholarship. The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul is logically structured. Childs opens with definitions and rationales (CGRP, 1–28), proceeds through a critique of other approaches to Paul (CGRP, 29–64), then offers his own approach through various major themes in the Pauline Letters (CGRP, 65–218). After this, Childs attempts to incorporate Acts and Hebrews in the reading of Paul (CGRP, 219–52) and concludes with “Theological Implications” (CGRP, 253–59). This last section unfortuConcordia Journal/Spring 2009

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nately simply recapitulates some of the major themes of the book. It does not, as the heading implies, actually attempt to draw out further implications from his work. In The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul, Childs dialogues not with pastors, nor with “Bible-believing” evangelicals, but with modern (and post-modern) interpreters of Paul. In an extended discussion (CGRP, 29–63), he singles out Ulrich Luz, Richard Hays, Frances Young, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Wayne Meeks as producing deficient readings of Paul’s letters. He helpfully points out major problems in recent approaches. For example, Hays is rejected for producing what is essentially a “charismatic understanding” of the interpretive process, whereby Christians “now read the Scriptures with imaginative freedom ‘according to the Spirit’” (CGRP, 36–37). Young’s approach fails because it replaces the authority of the apostles and prophets themselves with present-day readers who “now possess the same warrant to interpret Scripture apart from the apostolic tradition in order to match the evolving sensibilities of modernity” (CGRP, 45). The work of Meeks has produced remarkable insights into the communities and contexts of early Christianity. Nevertheless, according to Childs, Meeks’ approach completely removes the cognitive dimension of theology and replaces it with the community, so that “the theological dimension is flattened into a sociological function of the community” (CGRP, 58). Childs is helpfully balanced in this section, pointing out both strengths and weaknesses in these various approaches. And Childs’ criticisms of these approaches do expose the ultimate failures of these attempts to remold the Scriptures into patterns amenable to (post-)modern sensibilities, particularly with respect to the major ethical issues of our day. Nevertheless, although we may cheer Childs on as he uncovers the problems inherent in other approaches, Childs’ own alternative likewise falls short of providing a theologically and historically appropriate way of reading and applying Paul. The heart of the book is sections three and four: “The Shaping of the Pauline Corpus” (CGRP, 65–78) and “Exegetical Probes: Introductions and Guidelines” (CGRP, 79–218). Here, where Childs demonstrates his approach, the failure of his proposals becomes clear. Most problematic is his use—or lack of use—of several individual letters, which proves ultimately fatal to Childs’ enterprise. Above all other writings, the “canonical function” of Romans and the Pastoral Letters (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) are critical to Childs argument: The structure of these books [Romans and the Pastoral Letters] at the beginning and end of the corpus sets the canonical context for its interpretation. They address the crucial hermeneutical issue of the interpretation of Paul, namely, how are his letters in their highly particularized, time-conditioned, historical settings to be used for future generations of Christians? The initial hermeneutical key is offered by the

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letter to the Romans, which covers the same topics dealt with in the earlier letters in a lengthy and profound reformulation. Romans and the Pastorals represent two very different literary genres from the highly particularized letters that form the bulk of Paul’s missionary message. How are they to be related? The solution is not one of harmonization. Nor is the proper hermeneutical approach one that blunts the letters within the corpus by various appeals to canonical abstraction. Rather, the canonical structure sets up a dialectical interaction within the context of the corpus between the general and the specific, between the universal content of the gospel and the unique needs of each congregation, between the sound doctrine of Paul and the particularity of its application by the apostle. (CGRP, 76; cf. also his similar summary statement on CGRP, 255–56)

Child’s program begins to disintegrate on the discussion of the canon itself. He repeatedly asserts that Romans takes on a pre-eminent role in interpreting the other Pauline letters because it stands first and serves to function as the “introductory letter” (e.g., CGRP, 254). The reader of the Corpus begins with Romans and works through to the Pastoral Epistles. This is a logical deduction from his argument that the composition process did not conclude until the formation of the Corpus Paulinum as a distinct literary object. Therefore, every subsequent discussion is read through the lens of Romans. To be sure, Childs also assumes that Romans is a more general letter and therefore less bound by contextual argumentation. This is a fatal flaw in many approaches to Romans, for this letter is just as constrained by the situation of its addressees as are the other letters.5 He also considers it the “most profound formulation of Paul’s theology” (CGRP, 7).6 But the primary reason for using Romans as the lens through which the rest of the letters are read is the fact that it stands first. However, this argumentation fails on several grounds. First, Romans was placed first in the Corpus Paulinum not because it was pre-eminent theologically, or reflected a more mature Paul, or was less contextually bound than the other letters, but simply because it was the longest of the letters included in the Corpus.7 For this reason, 1 Corinthians stands second (followed by its partner 2 Corinthians), then Galatians, Ephesians, etc. Following Childs’ logic one would seem to be led to conclude that Galatians is a poor stepchild in the Corpus Paulinum since it stands only fourth in sequence. Further evidence that the Corpus is arranged by the length of the texts is the shifting position of Hebrews in the eastern manuscripts of the Corpus. This non-Pauline homily is included in P46 (ca. 200) immediately after Romans since Hebrews is shorter than Romans but longer than 1 Corinthians. The same can be said of the so-called Western Order of the canonical gospels (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark) found in Codex Bezae and Old Latin manuscripts. And it is here where the interpretive assumptions fail on historical grounds. Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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If Romans is first simply because of length, should that actually give it any interpretive priority? Given the parallel situation in the gospels, should Matthew also be read as pre-eminent simply because it stands first? That is to say, should John, for example, be read through the lens of Matthew, as if its message and particularities should be washed out in view of Matthew? Theologians from Origen and Cyril of Alexandria to Luther and beyond would certainly find that line of thinking odd, if not harmful to the message of John. Consider an analogous collection. Shakespeare’s plays were first collected together in the 1623 “First Folio.” In this collection, the two plays of Henry IV stand first, followed by the three plays of Henry VI. Are these the key plays through which the rest of Shakespeare must be read? Does the last play in this canon, A Winter’s Tale, serve to somehow shape the reading of all those that precede? Of course Shakespeare’s plays are not authoritative Scripture, but the principle of reading a collection of texts based on the sequence of position in a corpus is just as problematic for Paul’s Letters as it would be for Shakespeare’s plays. Furthermore, the reading of the other letters through the lens of Romans skews their interpretation. A striking example is Childs’ discussion of “Abraham’s Faith in Galatians 3 and Romans 4.” Childs underscores the problem of the particularity of Galatians, here over and against J. Louis Martyn’s reconstruction of the false teachers who were Paul’s opponents in Galatia: “The danger of over-interpreting, psychologizing, and speculating is always present. But more serious from a canonical perspective is how such a surplus of meaning relates to the received letter of Paul that was soon read by other churches unable [sic] and unaware of the Teachers’ role beyond the written canonical text” (CGRP, 100). The problem of mirror-reading (assuming that Paul’s opponents can be accurately—and easily— reconstructed from the letter itself based solely upon the argumentation in the letter) is a well-known and not easily avoided problem. Nevertheless, it seems that early church commentators like Marius Victorinus8 and those who followed him in the Western commentary tradition (Ambrosiaster, Cassiodorus, Sedulius Scottus) were able to discern, with little difficulty, a rather accurate understanding of the situation in Galatia. If mirror-reading is a problem, so also is employing a “canonical approach” which loses the particularity and nuance of the argument of Galatians. Typical are statements like the following: “the function of Romans when reading Galatians assures that the context for Christian theological reflection will include the Old Testament and Israel’s struggle for God’s justification of his chosen people” (CGRP, 112). But why must this issue be brought up when reading Galatians at all? “Israel’s struggle” is a Romans issue, not a Galatians issue. Childs’ problem with Galatians, apparently, is that it is too specific and does not discuss that which Childs would prefer to have discussed in the way that he would prefer it. Childs writes: “He [Paul] allowed the urgency of the contingent crises to shape his message in a particular fashion, in fact, in a form that, without the framework of 162


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Romans, would have skewed the full richness of his understanding of the law” (CGRP, 111). In other words, we have to save Paul from himself by appealing to Romans. But is such a move necessary? After all, Paul himself brings back the Torah quite specifically and intentionally in Galatians 5 and 6, though not in the same way that he does in Romans. In Romans the issue is the salvation of the Jews (esp. Rom 9–11), whereas in Galatians the issue is the salvation of the Gentiles. And so what Paul appeals to in the Torah will, of necessity, make use of different themes and texts. Can it really be said, therefore, that Romans is less “contingent” than Galatians? And that Galatians alone of the two needs the “correcting”? If the question is “God’s justification of his chosen people” one simply does not read Galatians, just as one does not read Romans in order to understand the theology and practice of the Lord’s Supper. It is simply not addressed in the letter. A “canonical” reading that subsumes one letter under another simply privileges one contingent argument over another. A better approach would force us to learn from the very contingency of each letter that the Gospel proclamation of new life in Christ will shape and transform the very contingent situations faced not only by those early Christians, but also by us who today also “walk by the Spirit.” Childs’ use of Hebrews (CGRP, 237–52) is especially problematic, and highlights the historical and theological distortions present in his method. Indeed, the “canonical reading” can be turned on its head. For example, Childs concludes that “Hebrews, positioned on the edge of the corpus, provided a broad hermeneutical guide in addressing the larger question of the relationship between the Old and New covenants, an issue raised briefly in the Pauline letters but not fully discussed.” But, given the “introductory” and “coherent” nature of Romans as the lens through which to read the rest of the letters, should not that book teach us that the way that Hebrews approaches the OT is unnecessary and perhaps even flawed? Indeed, this is the way that Luther viewed Hebrews. Is it really the case that Hebrews was included in the canon because it solves a burning problem? If so, why was it ignored in the western church, as Childs notes, until the fifth century? Despite labeling a subsection “Reasons for the inclusion of Hebrews in the Pauline Corpus” (CGRP, 248–49), Childs never actually provides an explanation for its inclusion. The problem is that Childs does not have a historically defensible view of the history of canonization. A result of this is that he is unable to operate with the distinction between homologoumena and antilegomena, as did Eusebius, Jerome, Luther, and Chemnitz. In his desire to incorporate the now existing NT into his canonical framework he is forced to work with the same level canon of Gerhard and modern day fundamentalists.9 Childs does not interact with a wide range of NT scholarship on Paul’s letters, and so fails to include discussions that are counter to his argument. In his defense, his 1994 NTAC did handle a wider range of scholarship, but this work on Paul was not significantly updated on the basis of newer work. The chapter on Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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“The Apocalyptic Shape of Paul’s Theology” (CGRP, 194–218) shows this problem. Childs defines “apocalyptic” in terms of its Hellenistic-Jewish roots, exemplified in such writings as 1 Enoch and the New Testament’s Apocalypse of John. So “apocalyptic” entails such formal features as a sense of living in the last days, impending judgment of the wicked, the approach of a new age, etc. But this is not the sole use of “apocalyptic” as understood by recent NT scholars. The work of J. L. Martyn in this field has borne impressive fruit in his study of Galatians,10 but Childs seems to fail to grasp that Martyn (and others) have demonstrated that Paul adapts his apocalyptic theology from within his Jewish context via his Christocentric proclamation without bringing along the obvious features found in the apocalyptic literature. Another example is the surprising lack of reference to the work of Engberg-Pederson and Paul’s relationship to Stoic philosophy,11 except that the conclusion references, negatively, attempts to understand Paul in light of “the philosophical remnants of the Cynics and Epicureans.” This is likely a reference to the work of Pederson, but he is not cited, and the views are neither described nor critiqued in the volume itself. Particularly troubling is the use made of the Pastoral Epistles. For Childs, these books, situated at the end of the Pauline Letters, serve to “encompass Paul’s theology within the category of ‘sound doctrine.’ His teachings were assigned the function of establishing the normative context from which later generations of leaders were to combat the threats of heresy” (CGRP, 73). For Childs, the Pastorals are not read for their own content, rather they are read for what they do hermeneutically for the rest of the Pauline Letters. The lack of the use of the Pastorals in his discussions of individual topics in Paul is striking, and shows that for Childs the Pastorals only serve to help the church read the rest of the letters in subsequent generations. Even where there is extended discussion of their content, under the heading of “Paul’s Apostolate” (CGRP, 94–96), the Pastorals only demonstrate that Paul’s “teachings continue to be the standard by which Christian doctrine is to be measured for the next generations, indeed until the parousia (2 Tim 2:12)” (CGRP, 96). A canonical approach, apparently, will find little in the Pastorals that is useful for the life of the church. That his argument regarding the Pastorals is forced is evident from his odd use of the term “Scripture” (graphē) at 2 Timothy 3:16. The referent of the term is quite clearly the OT writings (if Paul is the author of these letters, then in his day the NT does not yet exist). The same word elsewhere in the Pastorals refers specifically to the OT (1 Tim 5:16; cf. 4:13). However, Childs reads this passage as a canonical action of bestowing authority on the Pauline Letters, so that “Scripture” refers not to the OT but specifically the rest of Paul’s Letters (see, e.g., CGRP, 111 and 177). That this reading is forced is shown by the fact that in other places Childs uses 2 Timothy 3:15–16 to refer to the OT, not Paul’s letters (CGRP, 251, 258)!

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Furthermore, a glaring omission is any reference at any point in CGRP to the letter of Philemon. I suspect it is because this letter actually stands at the end of the Corpus Paulinum as the last book, not the Pastoral Letters. And Philemon cannot be warped into evidence for the canonical reading of the rest of Paul’s letters. So it is ignored by Childs—further evidence that his canonical approach is neither historically nor theologically viable. In the end, there are two main obstacles which prevent the use of Childs’ “canonical approach.” First, Childs removes the authority of the Pauline writings from their apostolic voice and vests it in the community (or communities) that ultimately determined “the canon.”12 That is to say, the texts are authoritative not because, to use Luther’s language, they “urge Christ,” but because the church made them so. Rather than their authority being found in Christ himself (“you have heard it said…but I say”) and intrinsic to the texts written by those who taught by his same authority, the authority of the text is located in the church, potentially several generations removed from the apostles. How do we know that they got it right? Why shouldn’t we adopt the selections of another community, say that which produced the Nag Hammadi texts? As to the hermeneutical problems raised by Childs, the fact of canon itself resolves the problem of particularity. No individual letter possesses hermeneutical precedence. Instead, each individual letter stands as apostolic teaching and proclamation in many different contexts. The same Word that “worked” in Rome is the same Word that worked in Galatia and Thessalonica, and continues to work today wherever it is rightly taught. The fact of multiple writings standing together in the canon forces readers to recognize their contingency, and rather than obliterating their contextual nature seeks to be shaped by the same Word in new contexts. Unlike Childs’ proposal, this hermeneutical function actually has historical evidence: the fact of the Corpus Paulinum as a corpus. As Gamble puts it: “An edition that presented the letters as written to seven churches solved the problem [of the particularity of Paul’s Letters] in another way: it demonstrated the universal value of Paul’s letters in the form of the collection itself. The problem of particularity was at once embraced and overcome. An edition of this type, then, is closely linked to a problem that arose in the first century, when the letters began to circulate among the churches to which they had not been addressed.”13 The situation may be compared to that of the four gospels, which likewise circulated from a very early period (early to mid-second century) as a corpus. As noted above, placement of Matthew in the initial position does not require that the interpreter can only make sense of, say, John’s narrative with Matthew. In fact, it is quite likely that a rather distorted view of John would arise from reading it in light of Matthew. The same is true, though in less obvious ways, if Matthew were forced on Mark or Luke.14 Each gospel must be heard, individually, for its unique testimony to Christ. Although conveyed through gospels, the Gospel transcends any individual gospel.15 Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Particularity does not mean irrelevance or trivialization. The canonical fact of the Pauline Letters forces one to reckon with the specificity of each letter in that it establishes patterns of thought, behavior, and relationship that transcend the individual. These letters establish normative ways of thinking and living, not just for small clusters of Christians in Rome and Corinth, but wherever people call upon the name of Jesus. These letters continue to shape the life of the church today, not because of the decisive action of “canonizers” in the late first century, but because those Christ sent did their commissioned work by the power of the Spirit, and that same Spirit continues to work through their writings on us, upon whom the end of the ages has come.16 It is the individual NT writings that are authoritative in and of themselves, not the “final canonical form.” Therefore, the NT letters must be read as individual letters, written at specific times and specific places with specific goals to specific people. There is no denying that this makes reading and applying these texts challenging, since the letters were not written to us. We are not native Greek speakers living in cities of the Roman Empire, and our social, political, economic, and religious contexts are vastly different from those of Paul. At times this renders some passages very opaque. What, exactly, is “Baptism for/on behalf of/because of dead ones” (1 Cor 15:29)? Paul knew, and the Corinthians knew, but few outside the Mormon community are very certain that they know. At other times we simply read our own situation directly into the situations described in the letters. When Paul raises the issue of what happens when the Corinthians “come together as a church” (1 Cor 11:18 ESV) most of us will probably imagine a building set aside specifically for worship, complete with altar and organ. Difficulty arises when some items do not seem to fit readily into our framework, such as a few verses later when Paul criticizes what took place at those assemblies, where “each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.” We don’t have people eating meals or drinking substantial amounts at our worship services. When encountering passages like this we are often forced to ignore the items that are not readily apparent to us in our setting. As a result, there is the danger that we misread, misinterpret, and misapply the apostolic writings because we cannot read them as the Apostle assumed they would be read. Perhaps an analogy to Shakespeare may help to show our situation. At times the language itself is problematic to us. One needs a footnote to understand that when the character Sly in Merry Wives of Windsor calls the hostess “baggage” he is not deriding her as cumbersome, but as a harlot. Even though written in English, very rarely will a production be staged today that has not updated the language in some way. Likewise, not even a native Greek speaker can read Paul’s Greek as the Corinthians or Romans would have. But it is not the language alone that is difficult. The very staging of the play and the audience itself will frame how the play is understood. For example, I have seen The Merchant of Venice staged many times. All of the productions have been different, not solely because of the different talent 166


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levels of the actors. One production, staged by a university, depicted Shylock as a sympathetic character. His Jewishness made him a victim. Some of his lines were spoken as if they were comic lines, which made the audience like the character. And the actor delivered the famous “if you prick us” speech with pathos, as if Shylock were suffering and even saddened that he had to “revenge” because he had been wronged. In a western university setting, post-Holocaust, such a portrayal is not surprising. But Shylock was portrayed very differently, and would have evoked a very different response, in the numerous productions staged in Germany in the Hitler years.17 I saw another production of The Merchant of Venice at the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London. On the very patch of earth where the play may have first been staged, in a building as close as possible to Shakespeare’s own, this production (so the playbill read) offered a depiction of Shylock as close to what an Elizabethan would have understood him to be. That is, as someone to be derided, even driven out of London (which actually happened in Shakespeare’s time). And so the “If you wrong us shall we not revenge” line was delivered with vindictiveness. Yet a tinge of sympathy toward Shylock and rebuke of the government of Shakespeare’s day is to be seen in the portrayal of his “conversion” in the play (or so the playbill encouraged). But then again, is that not reading our culture’s pluralistic sensibilities into the play and assuming that Shakespeare thought that it was contemptible to force conversions of the Jews? Just as that same production’s depiction of the relationship between Bassano and Antonio as one of repressed homosexuality is likely only possible in our context. Nevertheless, even though we will never be able to see a play of Shakespeare with the same eyes and ears as his audiences, we can still understand what the playwright was trying to tell his audience. If not perfectly, at least very close. We can understand the themes of honesty and faithfulness in relationships even if we don’t get Shylock exactly right—indeed, Shylock appears in only four scenes of the play (just as “baptism for the dead” makes for a very minor point in 1 Corinthians 15). In the same way, it is not an all-or-nothing proposition when we read Paul. We are able to understand and appropriate his major themes of the centrality of the cross and empty tomb, the new life in Christ, the church, etc. even though we may never be able to precisely reconstruct how baptizing was connected somehow with those who died in Corinth. The better we are able to understand the language, setting, and context of Paul’s letters, of course, the better we will be able to understand the letters themselves. The specificity of the letters should not frighten us, or cause us to retreat into a delusion that they are not contextual and can be read as if addressed directly to us. Instead, their very contextual nature shows us that the Word of God given through his apostles was able to accomplish his work in very specific situations. And this same Word—in the same words—will continue to work in our very specific situations. Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Our theological tradition desperately needs further reflection on how these letters are authoritative and how their contingencies shape and inform our very different contexts. We have assumed for too long that distilling theological statements from the letters is all we need to do with them, and that this is a neutral activity which can be done on any of the letters in the same way without regard to setting and context. Childs raises the right questions, but he cannot bring us to the right answers. Endnotes

Brevard Childs, The New Testament as Canon (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1994). See his response to James Barr’s discussion of this problem in NTAC, 25–26. 3 Cf. James W. Voelz, What Does This Mean? 2nd ed. (St. Louis, Concordia, 1995), 217–29. 4 Childs actually makes this argument when critiquing Ulrich Luz: “Luz has thereby blurred the whole issue of truth, the test of which was offered by the apostolic rule of faith” (p. 32). Nevertheless, the “rule of faith,” taught by the church and contained in but also external to the Scriptures, has no material place in Childs’ canonical approach. 5 See Karl P. Donfried, ed., The Romans Debate, rev. and exp. ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005) and Andrew A. Das, Solving the Romans Debate (Philadelphia: Fortress, 2007). 6 A view shared by many throughout the history of the church, from Melanchthon to E. P. Sanders, the latter in Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 29ff, where he argues that Romans is a more mature reflection on Jew-Gentile issues. 7 As long ago as 1995, shortly after Childs’ earlier New Testament as Canon, Harry Y. Gamble was able to conclude “There is therefore substantial evidence that in the early second century (and probably earlier), there was a collection of ten Pauline letters arranged on the principle of decreasing length [emphasis mine] and counting together letters addressed to the same community, thus emphasizing that Paul had written to seven churches. Because of its interest in demonstrating Paul’s catholicity and because it seems to be presupposed by the edition Marcion used, this collection may be taken as the most primitive edition of the letters of the apostle.” Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 61–62. This argument was laid out in more detail, with the inclusion of the Pastoral Letters, by David Trobisch, Die Entstehung der Paulusbriefsammlung, NTOA 10 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989). 8 Marius Victorinus (fourth cen.) wrote the most influential commentary on the Pauline letters in the Western church, of which only portions now survive. However, most of Galatians has been preserved. Victorinus was able to recognize the contextual nature of Galatians, yet still draw theological and ethical application from the letter. An introduction to Victorinus’ life and method, along with a translation of the surviving Galatians commentary, is available in Stephen Andrew Cooper, Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on Galatians, Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 9 J. A. O. Preus, “The New Testament Canon in the Lutheran Dogmaticians,” The Springfielder 25 (1961) 8–33. 10 See esp. J. L. Martyn, Galatians, The Anchor Bible 33A (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 97–105. Martyn defines “apocalyptic” as “God’s invasive action in his sending of Christ…his declaration of war…his striking the decisive and liberating blow against the power of the present evil age.” See a review of the discussion of “apocalyptic” in Paul in R. B. Matlock, Unveiling the Apocalyptic Paul: Paul’s Interpreters and the Rhetoric of Criticism, JSNTS 127 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996); also J. D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 296–98. 11 Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Paul and the Stoics (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000). 1 2

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12 The same critical flaw is found in the so-called “Ecclesiastical Text” theory of textual criticism espoused by Theodore Letis. In this view, it is not the original form of the text that is authoritative today, but the form of the text that was current in the Eastern church around the time of the great ecumenical councils (see Theodore Letis, The Ecclesiastical Text (Philadelphia: Institute for Renaissance and Reformation Biblical Studies, 1997). This view locates authority in a church context even more remote from the apostles as that proposed by Childs—the fourth and fifth centuries. Furthermore, there is the additional problem of precisely which form of the “ecclesiastical text” should be authoritative, that used in the East, or that used in the West? 13 Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church, 60. 14 In any case, one is left with the historical problem of the “Western Order” of the gospels (Mt, Jn, Lk, Mk), found in Irenaeus, Codex Bezae, and the pre-Vulgate Latin tradition. This sequence is consistent with the ancient practice of ordering collections of writings by length, as occurred with the Pauline Letters. The question facing a “canonical” interpreter would be this: Which sequence would be the proper one for interpreting the gospels canonically? Any answer given as the “canonical” approach would be as arbitrary as deciding to add Hebrews and Acts to the “Pauline Corpus” while apparently omitting Philemon, as does Childs. 15 A historically and theologically persuasive argument for the origins and retention of the four gospels—and not one gospel writing only—may be found in Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, trans. John Bowden (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 2000). 16 A promising recent attempt to articulate the authority of the NT in light of Christ is Peter Nafzger, “‘These are Written’: Toward a Cruciform Theology of Scripture,” unpublished PhD diss., Concordia Seminary, 2009. 17 See the discussion and video at http://www.canadianshakespeares.ca/multimedia/ video/nfb.cfm..

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GRaMMARIAN’S CORNER

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The Simplicity of the Hebrew Participle, Part 1 of 1 While our last editions of the “Grammarian’s Corner” have focused on some of the subtleties of the Hebrew verb system, our Greek counterpart has, appropriately, been discussing the participle, and has reached “Part VII.” No doubt more installments are yet to come. If the participle is the most complex, if perplexing, Greek verb form, I would suggest that the infinitive might earn that honor within Hebrew grammar. But more about that in a future column. For now, let us observe the simplicity of the Hebrew participle, “part 1 of 1.” We begin with the observation that, while a participle is fundamentally a verbal adjective, in Greek it is much more a verb form and in Hebrew it is much more simply an adjective. For starters, unlike Greek, Hebrew participles do not have tense or aspect. The default mode is present tense, though the tense value will be nuanced by the context. The forms are simply those of the noun: m/f and sg/pl. (See Fundamental Biblical Hebrew, ch. 12, 1, p. 106ff for a review of morphology.) It should be noted that there is essentially one participle for each conjugation, and that the translation value is simply that of the conjugation. This is often confusing, since it would appear that the Qal conjugation, learned first, has two participles, an active and a passive. Actually, there is only one Qal (active) participle. And there appear to be two Qal passive participles, and both may be related to an historic and distinct, but extinct (rare forms do exist), conjugation, the Qal Passive. Somewhere back in the Bronze Age, this conjugation functioned as a passive to the Qal, as Pu’al is to Pi’el and as Hoph’al is to Hiph’il. (The Niph’al is really the “reflexive” of the basic stem [cf. Hithpa’el and the rare Hishtaph’el], and has assumed the function of the Qal Passive. See FBH, ch.19, 1. B. 2, p. 185, and ch. 21, 4 and 5, p. 206.) As adjectives, participles can function as either attributives or predicates. They also often function as substantive nouns, as in English (“the young and the restless,” “the good, the bad, and the ugly”). In fact, many vocables learned as nouns are really participle forms: jpevo (“judge”), !heKo (“priest” from a verbal root rarely used for “act/function as priest”). Often the participle can be translated as either substantive noun or via relative clause: “YHWH, the Creator” or “YHWH, who creates” (or, “has created...”). EG 1, Is 43:1

^a}r:Bo hwhy rm;a'; hKo “Thus said YHWH, your Creator” or “YHWH, who has you created you”

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hw"hy> ~veB. aB'h; %WrB''

“Blessed is the one coming (the coming one, he who comes) in the name of YHWH…”

(Cf. the messianic sense of the participle in the question of John’s disciples, su. ei= o` evrco,menoj (Mt 11:3), and the Palm Sunday acclamation!) The grammar of determining attributive or predicate use is easily reviewed (see FBH, ch. 12, 2, p. 108f.). As noted, often the attributive can best be translated with a relative clause, EG 3

aceYOh; vyaih'

“The man who is going out” (lit, “the man, the going out one”)

Certain ambiguities can occur, perhaps most famously Isaiah 40:3:

EG 4, Is 40:3

areqo lwOq

“a voice is crying” or “a voice of one crying” or “a crying voice”

Most commonly, and most simply, the participle is translated as present tense, but adjusted to the context. The simple sentence in EG 5 would be present, but embedded in a past narrative (EG 6), the participle would take the past tense. EG 5

EG 6, Gn 33:1

aB' wf'[e hNEhi “Look! Esau is coming.”

aB' wf'[e hNEh ar>Y:w: wyn"y[e bqo[}y: aF;YIw:

“Jacob lifted up his eyes and saw, and here was Esau coming.”

Indeed, the nuanced tense value of the participle can be theologically quite rich. Its natural translation links the present to the future by suggesting that something is in process—it is “happening.” It has begun, but it is not yet finished. Consider the repetitive use in Deuteronomy of the following phrases: EG 7, Dt 5:16

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%l' !tenO ^yh,l{a/ hw"hy>-rv,a] hm'd"a]h'

“the land which YHWH your God is giving to you.”


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HT('v.rIl. hM'à'V' ~yrIïb.[o ~T,a; rv,îa] #r<a'êB'

“in the land toward which you are crossing over to inherit.”

The gift of the land is already in process, in progress, in God’s mind as sure as the present, even though the sons of Israel have not yet entered the land. They probably wondered if they ever would really get there, but God’s words, to be trusted in faith, understood the history as well underway and headed, or better, heading toward the goal, which was as certain as God’s plan to realize what was promised. The default mode of the present tense is of key interest in the translation of Amos 9:11: tl,p,_NOh; dywIßD" tK;îsu-ta, ~yqI±a' aWhêh; ~AYæB; The participle tl,p,_NOh; is almost universally translated, not as a present but as a past tense. “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that has fallen.” The reason for this may have less to do with Hebrew grammar and more to do with the long-standing critical assumption that such hopeful prophetic assertions about the restoration of Jerusalem and the monarchy could only be made after the monarchy had fallen. By such logic, this section of Amos is to be dated post 586, and the translation follows accordingly. However, if one translates the participle as one would normally expect, “I will raise up the booth of David that is falling, (or, about to fall),” the text makes sense within both the historical context and the prophetic message of Amos who pronounces judgment also on the Southern Kingdom, at the same time that he asserts that hope for restoration lies only in the house of David, now described as a flimsy “hut.” (For a fuller discussion, see the comments of colleague Reed Lessing in the recently released Concordia Commentary on Amos, p. 577, 582ff.) Finally, the idiom of the so-called “imminent future” is actually a technical use of the participle, often with a personal pronoun, and introduced by the “attention getter” of hNEhi (hinneh). The general force of hNEhi is really to call attention to something significant, in the here and now, often woodenly translated, “behold,” but better, “look at this!” or “consider this!” Within this idiom, the verbal action is often best translated with the phrase, “is about to...” Much of the eschatology of the prophets is expressed in this idiom. Jeremiah 31:31 is a parade example: EG 9, Jer 31:31

hv'd"x] tyrIïB. . . . yTir:k'w> hw+"hy>-~aun> ~yaiÞB' ~ymiîy" hNEhi

“Behold, days are coming (about to come), oracle of YHWH, and I will (am about to) make . . . a new covenant.”

In fact, God’s people of old were kept, it would seem, on the edge of their proverbial seats, as it were, through the power of the participle: something is Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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“about to happen.” The process is underway; there is no turning back. But it has not yet happened, either. (We call to mind the carefully chosen title of the tome on Old Testament theology by colleague Horace Hummel, The Word Becoming Flesh.) We close with another example of the imminent future, one with significant import, Isaiah 7:14. EG 10, Is 7:14

!Beê td<l<åyOw> hr"h' hm''l.[;h’ hNEåhi

“Behold, the virgin is (about to be?) pregnant, and is bearing (about to bear) a son.”

Again, we have the “imminent future” introduced by hNEhi. The verb form hr"h' could be the stative adjective, “pregnant,” but it is more likely the participle (s.f.) of the stative verb, “be/become pregnant,” and the issue of time is critical (is she or isn’t she yet?!) The idiom is confirmed by the participle that follows, “is about to bear.” The context gives us the proper sense: she is not yet pregnant, but the course of action is already in process, she is “about to conceive and bear a son.” God’s plan is underway, and, again, we are on the edge of our seats, waiting for God to bring it to completion, knowing that his word is sure.

Andrew H. Bartelt

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homiletical helps

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Homiletical Helps on LSB Series B—Gospels

Editor’s Note: the Homiletical Helps for each issue are now also available online at www.ConcordiaTheology.org. Easter 4 • John 10:11–18 • May 3, 2009

The Good Shepherd. It’s such a well-known image. It seems to be relevant in every age—from the earliest times in the catacombs where Christ was so often depicted as a youthful Apollonian shepherd, to the modern Sunday school pictures of the gentle Jesus cradling a lamb, the Good Shepherd continues to be the most common and beloved image of the Savior. And this is true even apart from knowledge or experience with sheep, the pasture or the pastoral life. Perhaps, this is because when Jesus uses the image, he transforms it into something new and remarkable. If the essential characteristic of the Good Shepherd is that he “lays down his life for the sheep,” then we have entered into something unique and profound. No longer does the reader dwell on pastoral images. When Christ says that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd and know him by his voice, one could find analogies in the world of shepherds and sheep, but that is not its immediate or lasting import. Rather our affections are drawn to the kind of intimacy found between the likes of mother and child. My one-year-old might be happily sitting on my knee, when suddenly he hears the voice of his mother and, naturally, all is lost! He is nothing but squirm and scramble, in order to follow the voice that continues to shower him with incomparable love. But the metaphor of the shepherd also occurs within the larger context of John and the Old Testament scriptures. In the history of Israel, the shepherd image has a long tradition of being applied to the king. Israel’s greatest of kings, David, of course began as a shepherd and his call and anointing explicitly extend his former vocation into his new one: “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people” (Ps 78:70–71; cf. 2 Sam 7:8; 24:17). On the other hand, when the kings of Israel acted as shepherds who treated their sheep like prey, the Lord declared that “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep” (Ez 34:15). So it is that in the gospel of John, Christ as king is also a significant unfolding theme. Already in chapter one, Nathanael exclaims to Jesus, “You are the king of Israel.” In chapter six, after having fed the 5000, the people try to make Jesus their king. In his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus is hailed “King of Israel” by the crowds, and at the passion Jesus’ kingship is the central object of Pilate’s deliberations. So it is that we see the king and shepherd of Israel “lay down his life for the sheep.” In this death, the shepherd is, in fact, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Concordia Journal/Winter 2009

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The bleeding of one image into another transforms the image of Christ so that all previous expectations of the messianic shepherd and king are made new. “Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them” (10:6). Perhaps this is the case, because the promise of the Good Shepherd is only understandable and believable from the Resurrected One. We contemplate these words after Easter, for the Good Shepherd is he that lays down his life, so that he may take it up again (10:17). Without the resurrection, all this talk of the shepherd is frankly just plain silly. It is from the far side of Easter that we truly begin to experience the loving voice of the shepherd among us, even as he says to Peter, “feed my lambs … take care of my sheep.” Erik Herrmann Easter 5 • John 15:1–8 • May 10, 2009

The Great Fifty Days of Easter continue as the Church explores how it stays alive. Christ’s resurrection certainly makes us alive. To remain alive in Christ is to stay connected to him through his Word and the Sacraments. The idea of the vineyard and the vine is not new; it was already evident in Isaiah 5:1–7 (the Song of the Vineyard), where in the “house of Israel” the “loved one” planted vines looking “for a crop of good grapes,” but finding that it “yielded only bad fruit” (Is 5:2). Depicting God as the planter of “a choice vine of sound and reliable stock,” Jeremiah 2:21 reveals that the vine turns against God and becomes “a corrupt, wild vine.” This concept is explored in other Old Testament references: Ezekiel 19:10–14, 15:1–8, 17:7–8; Hosea 10:1; Psalm 80:8–19; Isaiah 27:2–6. Twice Jesus identifies himself as the “vine” or “true vine” (Jn 15:1, 5). He also identifies his Father as the “gardener” (v.1), the one who “cuts off ” (airō) “every branch in me [Christ] that bears no fruit.” While “cut off ” and “prune” are similar actions, there are nuances to take into account. To cut off (airō) has the sense of lifting up and carrying away, as reflected in John 1:29 where Jesus is identified as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 11:48 uses the same word in the sense that what is taken away is destroyed. The use of “prunes” in verse 2 is the only use in the New Testament of the form kathairô, related to others, such as katharizō, katharismos, katharos, katharotēs, using the stem (kathar-) that indicates the elimination of ritual impurities (Jn 2:6, 3:25, 13:10–11). Thus when God, the gardener, prunes the branches, he is cleansing or purifying the branches of his vine, his disciples.

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This cleansing, purifying, occurs through the Word that Jesus speaks, God’s Word (v. 3). This Word is powerful, “living and active. Sharper than any doubleedged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12). The fruit that the gardener expects from the branches is demonstrated in Galatians 5:22–23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” This is fruit that flows from a heart that trusts Jesus, that clings to his death for life, that believes his word. The branch that remains connected to the vine is a healthy branch, capable of bearing much fruit. Examples of bad fruit can be found in Galatians 5:19–21, which ultimately is no fruit at all, at least not in God’s vineyard. Often translated as “remain,” the word “menō ” also has the sense of “abide, stay, live or dwell, endure, continue.” Within this chapter of John 15, the word is used eleven times. It would seem from the commands to remain or abide that the branch has this responsibility. But looking at John 15:4, 5 and 16, puts it all in perspective; “Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.… apart from me you can do nothing….You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” So it is about Christ and his work in us. The fact that the “you”s of verses 7–8 are all plural implies that branches do not exist in isolation—going against much of the rugged individualism rampant in our society. The ultimate goal of bearing fruit is the glory of the Father. Our discipleship—our bearing fruit—is to give glory to God the Father. Our bearing much fruit will reveal ourselves as his disciples, reminiscent of John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Henry Gerike Easter 6 • John 15:9–17 • May 17, 2009

Preliminary considerations: In his recent book, The Lost History of Christianity (New York: HarperOne, 2008), Philip Jenkens writes: In the late ninth century, an elderly Egyptian monk shocked his Muslim listeners when he explicitly denied that Christianity could be supported purely on the grounds of reason, and agreed that ideas like the Trinity and the crucified God flatly contradicted reason. Instead, he said, “I find the proof of the truth of Christianity in its contradictions and inconsistencies which are rejected by intelligence and

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repelled by the mind because of their difference and contrast. Analysis cannot help it, though the intelligence and perception enquire and search into it” (76).

This seems reminiscent of the famous statement attributed to Tertullian but is not found in his writings, Credo, quia absurdum est (I believe, because it is absurd). I mention this ninth century quote above because I think it applies very aptly to this text and may help us avoid misconstruing its meaning. God has been called the mysterium tremendum and “the totally other” to emphasize his absolute transcendence in relation to the created order (See Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy [New York: Oxford University Press, 1958]). When we attempt to bring God into our finite world and make him completely comprehensible, we do both God and ourselves a great disservice by attempting to remake him into the image of a human being or something that fits neatly into the order of the finite world, thereby diminishing God and sacrificing our sense of awe and reverence. As the Egyptian monk asserted in the quote above, if we are to be intellectually honest, we must remember that God is a great, incomprehensible mystery, beyond all human reason. This applies not only to the doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, Predestination, and other divine activities and attributes—It also applies to God’s avga,ph love. Not only is God transcendent, he is also immanent. Even though Christ entered into our world to express God’s love for us in more human terms, his love is still a mystery, although a little more comprehensible. We often try to understand God’s love in terms of the various kinds of love that we experience in this world, such as the love of a parent, love for a spouse and children, love for our profession or occupation, or love for a favored means of relaxation or leisure. We tend to think that these human experiences of purely human types of love enable us to fathom God’s great love for us. In a limited way they can help us understand the love God expressed in the redeeming work of his Son since that was a love expressed in a human context with human beings as its object. Athanasius once said about the mystery of the Trinity: “[Man can] perceive only the hem of the garment of the triune God; the cherubim cover the rest with their wings.” We can do no better in our attempts to understand his love. As long as God’s love remains a mystery to us, we must stand in deep awe and respect for his love, and be motivated to keep his commandments as he says in verse 12. God’s command is twofold: love God in return with all your heart, mind, and soul; and love one another. Textual considerations: In our text, the love of God originates in the Father since he is the source of the Trinity itself and of all things visible and invisible within the created order. The first love mentioned is the Father’s love for his Son. Next he mentions the love of 182


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the Father for the Son. Then Jesus says, “Abide in my love” and “keep my commandments,” which is explained in verse 12: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” In experiencing the love of Christ we are commanded to keep his commandments and love others in the same selfless, avga,ph manner in which he has loved us. Christ has patterned this obedience and love for us in his keeping of the will of his Father and loving us as his Father loved him. Jesus’ love for us challenges us to rise above purely human love both in our relation to God and with one another. In verses 13 and 14, Jesus calls us friends, fi,loi, from the verb filei/n, the fraternal love between or among human beings. However, this love is usually between equals and motivated by self-advantage or a gain of some sort (the Vulgate translates avgapei/n and filei/n with words derived from diligere and amare, but these two words do not have the rich meaning and contrast of the Greek terms). This fraternal relationship is possible because of his assumption of a human nature. Since God is both a transcendent and an immanent being, the love of God as transcendent will always remain a mystery, while the love of God as immanent will be vaguely, but not completely, understandable to us. In the introductory overview for some of these verses in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament IV b, p. 172 (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), the editor lists these captions: “God reveals himself in our charity, as we love one another as God has loved us.” “When we love one another, we love God and, in effect, keep all that he has commanded, since love encompasses all other commandments.” “It is the love of God that motivates us to love one another as God’s love is intertwined with out own” (172). A sermon outline could be developed out of the three captions, or I would suggest the following outline as another organizational structure for a sermon: Outline: The Mystery of God’s Love I. God the Father is the source or cause of all true, genuine, God-pleasing love, beginning with the love that exists among the members of the Trinity itself. This love is a profound mystery. A. The Father is not only the source of the other two Persons of the Godhead, the created order, man’s salvation, but also of Christ’s love for us. B. God is the source and model of all unselfish, God-pleasing love. When by God’s grace we reflect that love back to God or to others in our world, it is a mystery to non-Christians. II. Since the love of the Son for mankind originates in the pure avga,ph love of the Father and is expressed within the realm of human existence, it is a semi-mystery. Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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A. Christ’s love is more comprehensible because he shared a human nature with us and we witness his love as it is expressed in a more human way. B. His love became demonstrable and tangible in his acts of mercy and regard for human beings, and especially in his redemptive, selfsacrificing work on the cross. III. The avga,ph love of Christians is a reflection of the Father’s love for his Son and their love for the world, to the degree that we can imitate the love of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Since our inter-human expressions of love fall short of the love of the Father and of his Son, it is less a mystery than the love of God, but still a mystery to our world. A. Since our human natures remain sinful, which they do this side of the saintly bliss of heaven, our love for others will never be a true, perfect reflection of God’s avga,ph love. B. However, we can rise above the purely selfish love of this world when our love for others is anchored in and patterned after the avga,ph of God as modeled by Christ in our world.

Concluding thoughts: Unfortunately we are often influenced by the popular conceptions of love that are fashioned by the Hollywood model, described in romance novels, magazines, and the entertainment industry generally. To try to use that model to understand the avga,ph love of God is a real tragedy and sacrifices the true, profound mystery of God’s love for us. When the sense of divine mystery is lost, we also lose the sense of awe and reverence necessary to truly appreciate God’s love for us and His efforts to transform our lives through the redeeming work of Christ. Quentin F. Wesselschmidt

Ascension • Luke 24:44–53 • May 21, 2009

A Journey for the Ages This homiletical help provides reflections on central themes for the Ascension in light of the liturgical context and hymnography for the feast. The Gospel reading for the Ascension of Our Lord is the Lukan account of Jesus’ final teaching and his return to his Father. It is the end of Jesus’ earthly journey, culminating with his entry into his Father’s eternal presence, but the beginning of the pilgrimage of the Church on earth. The post-apostolic church father Irenaeus’ great

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theme of recapitulation is accented in Luke’s own distinct way: the Church will, like her Lord, make the same pilgrimage of suffering and death that he has made from Jerusalem and the temple through every earthly Galilee to the heavenly Jerusalem. The church’s task is to proclaim to the world that all the spiritual tribes of Israel, Jew and Gentile, have been planted in Jesus in their final resting place (LSB 494, st. 4). It is a journey for the ages. What do I mean when I say that the ascension is a journey for the ages? As Hebrews 9:24–26 proclaims, “For Christ has entered . . . into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. . . . he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” The enthronement of Christ Jesus at the right hand of his Father restores the relationship which had suffered the great divorce―between God and his human creatures. Humanity now stands in the presence of the heavenly Father, as at the beginning in the first garden of paradise, in Jesus, the Son of Man forever. Eternity, which had been broken by the fall, is now one again. There are no longer any ages (periods of time, rules or reigns, peoples or nations) divided from the will of God in the ascended One. The age of all ages (see Galatians 1:5; Philippians 4:20; Revelation 1:6, 5:13, 7:12; translated most often in the West as “forever and ever”) has come. In Christ’s ascension, the final age of God’s reign has begun. In Christ the Church enters the ages (the plural signifies its totality and completeness) of all ages and begins its journey to the consummation of this final age. Embedded in the Gospel reading is the essential shape of Jesus’ journey and the pilgrimage of all Christians in him: the teaching of the Word; the journey through the Word’s death and resurrection by the Spirit; the final blessing of God before his presence in the ages of ages. Celebration of the ascension feast should accent this journey from the baptismal font through the Supper of the Lord’s body and blood to the final blessing at the eschaton of Christ. In this final appearance of Jesus to his disciples he opens their minds to see that the shape of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, is the shape of the entire Scriptures and of the Church’s life. The liturgical context should call to remembrance this journey in concrete ways (remembrance of baptism at the beginning of the service, celebration of the Lord’s Supper) and the preaching ought to immerse the assembly in the story of their journey from death to life. For instance, the ascension feast provides another opportunity to affirm and pray for those who have recently been baptized, catechized, and confirmed: adults, youth, children, and infants. The journey that Jesus makes is a journey from God to God as the promised Messiah, anointed and empowered by the Spirit to be the meeting place between God and humanity. At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, he comes from God to his people in the temple, revealing his Father. Through his exodus from death to life, his recapitulation as the true Son of God of Israel’s exodus from slavery to freedom, he offers salvation in the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the heavConcordia Journal/Spring 2009

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enly Father. This is the Word of God that has been fulfilled, revealed, and proclaimed in his person and his pilgrimage. It is also the life and pilgrimage of Christians which we make in worship week in and week out: in the hearing of the Word, in baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper. The journey that begins with God seeks to return his creatures to him. The ultimate destination in this journey is to stand before the throne of the heavenly Father with our earthly brother, Jesus. On this day the church triumphantly acclaims that Christ has laid the first fruits of humanity in his own body at the throne of his heavenly Father. The preaching should lead the hearer to rejoice that in Christ she already has a seat in the Father’s assembly hall. Thus, the Ascension hymns rejoice in the triumphant elevation of our humanity into the Father’s presence, as this hymn sings: He has raised our human nature On the clouds to God’s right hand; There we sit in heav’nly places, There with Him in glory stand. Jesus reigns, adored by angels; Man with God is on the throne. By our mighty Lord’s ascension We by faith behold our own (LSB 494 st. 5).

Yet, each person must by faith behold their own humanity as baptized into the humanity (and divinity) of Christ. Thus, Christ gives the promise to his disciples to clothe the church with the power from on high (the anointing of the Holy Spirit) once he has ascended. In the power of the Spirit the church is able to bear witness to the journey that it is making to the heavenly Father in Jesus, following his lead. In its witness it invites all people to join the journey and personally make the final pilgrimage with Christ and ascend on high on the last day. The impetus for the church’s call and invitation to all people is reflected in this Ascension hymn’s prayer: To our lives of wanton wand’ring Send Your Spirit, promised guide; Through our lives of fear and failure With Your pow’r and love abide; Welcome us, as You were welcomed, to an endless Eastertide (LSB 491, st. 3).

It is a journey for all the ages for which this poem by John Donne so eloquently offers its praise: 186


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Salute the last and everlasting day, Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son, Ye whose just tears, or tribulation Have purely washed, or burnt your drossy clay; Behold the Highest, parting hence away, Lightens the dark clouds, which he treads upon, Nor doth he by ascending, show alone, But first he, and he first enters the way. O strong Ram, which has battered heaven for me, Mild Lamb, which with thy blood, hast marked the path; Bright Torch, which shin’st, that I the way may see, Oh, with thy own blood quench thy own just wrath, And if thy Holy Spirit, my Muse did raise, Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.

Kent Burreson

Easter 7 • May 24, 2009 • John 17:11b–19

The vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of this text are rather simple. In fact, a pastor whose Greek has become rusty would be well advised to return his attention to the original languages with this week’s Gospel lesson. The impact and rhetoric of the text are another matter. Embedded in the narrative of our Lord’s Passion, this text is part of the High Priestly Prayer. Part of the challenge for the preacher is the problem of how to preach a sermon based on someone’s prayer. The application of a prayer may depend on who is doing the praying! It is common for us to read parts of Jesus’ prayer to the Father as implicit or indirect commands to the disciples. In other words, Jesus prays to the Father and expresses his deep desires and wishes, and prays in such a way that the disciples can overhear and thus be motivated to strive for the Lord’s desired ends. For example, in verse 11 our Lord asks his Father to keep his disciples in the Father’s name, “that they may be one, even as we are one,” and this petition can easily be converted to a sermonic exhortation to the congregation: “Remain in God’s holy name, and strive for the kind of unity that reflects the unity of God himself!” Or, toward the end of the pericope in verse 17, Jesus pleads with God the Father to “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth;” and we might translate that prayer as an encouragement to our people to continue and increase their personal and corporate devotion to the Word of God, since that word is the key to their sanctification. There is, of course, nothing wrong with exhortations and encouragements as such. But the problem is that this present text, the prayer of Jesus to his Father on Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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our behalf—and remember that we are explicitly included in his prayer in the verse immediately following this pericope!—does not cast any of these things as a command directed at Jesus’ disciples. These are our Lord’s prayers for us. He asks the Father to do these things for us, and give these things to us. We can be confident that these are precisely the things the Father does and wants to do, just as we can be confident that the Father will do what the Son asks of him. That confidence means we can read Jesus’ prayer as future indicatives rather than as disguised imperatives. The Father will do these things for us, because the Son has asked and prayed, with his words and works and blood on our behalf. And that way of reading the prayer is very different from reading these as indirect imperatives calling for action by us as his disciples. The difference is tantamount to the difference between reading this text as gospel and reading it as law. The slogan for one reading of Jesus’ prayer might be “Yes we can—and must!” while a gospel reading of the prayer would acclaim, “Yes he does!” Consider what it means to read the prayer of Jesus as gospel indicative rather than as sanctified imperative. Jesus prays that we disciples be “kept” in God’s name, kept from the evil one, filled with joy in despite experiencing the world’s hatred. As an exhortation—“Keep yourselves close to God, and be joyful even when you suffer!”—this seems like uncertain comfort in the face of danger and suffering. But if we remember that our Savior, just before giving himself for us, asks his dear Father to do these things for us, then we have no reason to doubt that the Father’s answer to the Son will be a resounding and unambiguous “Yes!” And since the Father’s “Yes!” is a response to our perfect Savior’s prayer, and not to our dubious performance, Jesus’ prayer for us comforts us and reassures us. The Father’s answers to the Son’s prayers for us (in this text and throughout the High Priestly Prayer of John 17) are a summary of the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is not mentioned by name in this text, but his work for us and among us is anticipated in Jesus’ prayers. He is the one who places God’s name on us in our baptism. He keeps us in that name, sanctifies us by the Word of God, which is truth itself. He protects us from the evil one. He fills us with joy in spite of all suffering or hardship, a joy which the world cannot give or understand. The Spirit is the one who calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth in the one true faith, applying to us the work and worth of Jesus our Savior. Jesus consecrates himself, and the Spirit sets us apart for holy service to God in Christ. So this week’s “gospel prayers” are a perfect preparation for Pentecost. The outpouring of the Spirit, to be celebrated next week, does not come unexpectedly out of the blue, but comes as the Father’s gracious answer to Jesus’ pleading for us. As the Father answers Jesus’ prayer with a huge, divine “Yes!” the Spirit can, will, and does keep us in the Father’s name, guards us from evil, fills us with joy, brings us Jesus’ word of truth, holds us together in holy unity, and consecrates us. This is the prayer that brings down Pentecost for us and for the world, the prayer the Father 188


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answers without fail, and the prayer that keeps us safe and makes us one—not by our efforts and accomplishments, but because the Father says “Yes!” to the Son for us. William W. Schumacher Pentecost • John 15:26–27; 16:4–15 • May 31, 2009

This is Pentecost, a day of celebration; a day to remember and hold fast to our identity as the people of God, and the purpose he intends for our lives in this world, and the new world to come. We are here to give him glory! Our Gospel Lesson is a Pentecost sermon preached by our Lord on Maundy Thursday evening (Jn 13–17). Here he gives us a wonderful promise: He will send his Holy Spirit —“the Spirit of truth” (Jn 15:26). He also tells us what the Holy Spirit will do upon his arrival. He will completely reverse the result of the trial of the next day. He will convict the world of sin, direct us to the righteousness of Christ, and assure us of Satan’s defeat (Jn 16:8–10). The Holy Spirit will personally confirm the Easter victory won by our Savior on the cross and the open tomb. This promise to the disciples was fulfilled on Pentecost, and it has been fulfilled for us as the Holy Spirit works in our lives through the means of grace. In his book, Make Disciples, Baptizing, Dr. Robert Kolb reminds us that Baptism played a central role in the life of the early church, and it should play a central role in our ministry today. As we address a culture that has a deep longing to connect with God, a Pentecost sermon—with a focus on God’s grace in Baptism—allows the preacher to address this “longing.” A focus on Baptism is also important due to the general lack of knowledge and understanding about Baptism. For some people, Baptism is seen as an act of obedience or as a membership rite for new members. For others, Baptism is a way for the congregation to join the new parents in celebrating the birth of a child. Still others view Baptism as a reception of God’s free gift of forgiveness, but fail to realize the impact of Baptism on the person’s life as it relates to family, to the body of Christ, and the mission of Christ. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit brought about significant change to the lives of the disciples and some 3,000 listeners. Even though we are living in a culture of change, the greatest change that we have experienced was that brought about by the same Holy Spirit at our Baptism. Paraphrasing the words of Hebrews 11:40, God was fulfilling his plan of providing “something better” for his people. In coming into our lives in Baptism, the Holy Spirit has given witness to the truth of God. Personally, he has taught us that our sins are forgiven in and through Jesus Christ, that we are connected with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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the fellowship of believers (we are the family of God!). Having received this witness, we are then empowered to be witnesses to others (Jn 15:27). It is the preacher’s task to assure his hearers of these great truths. On what basis can he assure them? The assurance is based on God’s word and promise. The story of God’s saving activity in the Christian life begins with Baptism. As this story develops, and as the Christian lives out the meaning of Baptism, lives are impacted for eternity. The Sacrament has a profound impact on the life of the baptized and upon the life of the family. In the liturgy of Baptism, parents and sponsors make a commitment before God to bring the child up in love of the Lord. The impact goes beyond the family, for in Baptism God is bringing the child into the family of faith—into his church, where together with our fellow Christians we serve our Lord— who gave his all for us. As members of the Lord’s Church we have been sent. We are sent to be witnesses, witnesses to God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ. We are sent to tell people that in Jesus Christ their sins are forgiven and that he has conquered our enemies of sin, death, and hell. We are the living people of God whom God is sending today (led and empowered by his Spirit) to bear witness to the truth of Jesus Christ as he seeks to save people from hell and send them to heaven. On Pentecost, we remember who the Holy Spirit is and what he is doing. Remembering our Baptism enables us to know who we are and what we are to be doing. Robert Hoehner Holy Trinity • John 3:1–17 • June 7, 2009

This text is perhaps too familiar to the typical hearer. Phrases like “born again,” “the Son of Man will be lifted up,” “God so loved the world . . .” may well wash right over the congregation and not sink in to challenge them in the way that Jesus challenges Nicodemus. A few comments on key phrases may help refocus hearers on the text itself.

“Born again/from above” (3:3, 7) The Greek anōthen can have either meaning (hence the Concordia Seminary motto: phōs anōthen = “Light from Above”). By his response, Nicodemus misunderstands this to mean “again.” But Jesus points him to a different meaning: birth “by water and the Spirit.” Already at 1:12–13, the Evangelist describes those who “received” Jesus as not having been “born of the flesh” but “born from God.” The point is not that there is a “second” birth, but that there is a difference between a 190


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birth brought about by humans and a birth brought about by God through his Spirit. The former accomplishes nothing, but the latter brings one into the Kingdom of God. “Born again” in American Christianity typically means “really Christian” as opposed to a more Johannine sense of “Christian.” For the sake of clarity it may be necessary to point this out.

“Water and the Spirit” (3:4) Here is a classic Johannine conundrum: Jesus says something that likely has no meaning to his listeners, but tremendous significance for those who are reading the Evangelist’s text. In chapter 6, when Jesus says: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood,” the audience in the gospel can hardly make sense of it. The lack of a Lord’s Supper narrative and the fact that this occurs in a context far removed from Jesus’ passion would not give any of the characters in the story any clue as to Jesus’ meaning. Nevertheless, for the recipients of John’s gospel, the passage cannot fail to evoke the Lord’s Supper. So also here in chapter 3. Various explanations have been given in order to avoid a sacramental understanding of “water and the spirit,” but here is one case, in spite of its frequent abuse by modern Lutheran preachers, where “water” actually does reference Baptism. The point of “by water and the spirit,” of course, is not to make baptism the exclusive means by which the Spirit creates “children of God,” but that for the readers/hearers of John’s gospel, it served as a reminder to them that they themselves had already been born from above through the waters of baptism. The preacher should allow it to function in the same way for his hearers.

Structure of the Pericope What does Jesus’ answer have to do with Nicodemus’ statement (3:2)? Nothing, and everything. Nicodemus recognizes Jesus as “from God” because of the signs, but Jesus shifts the focus from what he has been doing in the signs to what the Spirit does (3:3–8) and then to what Jesus speaks (3:11) and came to accomplish (3:14, 16). The invoking of the Bronze Serpent account in Numbers 21 shows that only through God’s chosen means are his people saved. Only by Jesus does birth “from above” happen, for he alone came “from above.” Furthermore, the flow of the discourse moves from the work of God in the individual (“unless one” . . . “the one who believes” 3:1–15) to his work for all of creation (“loved the world” 3:16–17). Unfortunately, the lection ends at 3:17; the pericope should have been allowed to continue to 3:21, where the consequences of both belief and unbelief are made clear. Indeed, reading 3:16–17 without 18–20 may leave the impression that Jesus is a universalist; God loves the world, but it is not clear without vv. 18–20 that those in the world are condemned apart from faith in Christ. Furthermore, without v. 21 the hearers may also get the false impression that faith does not result in new life, as if, for example, Jesus commanded his church only to Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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“baptize” but not also to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19–20). The preacher is encouraged to incorporate 3:18–21 into the Gospel reading and the sermon. Such will be assumed in the notes below.

Suggested sermon focus Is that all? Most all of us have had an experience where we have seen or met in person a sports hero, Hollywood star, or political figure, but have been left unimpressed. The person was not as large, beautiful, or friendly as we had thought he or she would be. With Jesus it seems to be the opposite. Our culture has taken him down a few notches: His miracles are explained away, some claim that his teachings are not really that unique or profound, there are many other religious teachers in the world who might be followed to reach “heaven.” Nicodemus approaches Jesus assuming the latter. He gives what he apparently thinks is a generous and profound interpretation of Jesus’ work. But it was not enough. Jesus did not merely have God with him – he was the Son of God come to down earth. And he would be lifted up, so that anyone who would look to him – and only to him — would be saved. But this saving act of God—lifting up the Son of Man on the cross and giving new life from above by water and the Spirit so that we may have “eternal life” does not mean that all we do is wait around to be “taken into heaven,” not caring what we do or do not do. We have been born from above to “do the truth.” Our deeds (ta erga) show that we are in the light, indeed, they have been done in the light because they are done through the one who is above – they are literally “done in God” (3:21). Life in Christ is not some kind of Gnostic existence where we merely attain some kind of knowledge, but a life lived “from above” is often fundamentally different from the lives of those who have not been born from above— they do “wicked things.” Preachers may be tempted to use this as an opportunity to blast away at whatever current societal problem is in the news, but the goal of Jesus in this text is to move his born-from-above people to confident living in him, by his power, focusing on him as the one lifted up, in whom we “do the truth.” Jeffrey Kloha Proper 6 • Mark 4:26–34 • June 14, 2009

Mark 4 begins and ends with references to Jesus as a teacher (4:1, 4:38). Yet it is clear from the central theme of his teaching (the kingdom of God) and from his authority over wind and sea that Jesus is much more than a teacher. In his words and works, the end-time reign of God is being “planted” in the world. A new age has begun and soon will come “fully”—the full grain in the ear and the tall and sprawling mustard bush of these Mark 4 parables. 192


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The kingdom of God This coming kingdom is not a New Testament innovation. It is the fulfillment (1:14) of God’s promise to restore David’s kingdom forever (Mk 11:10). It is the promised goal for which the hearts of all pious Israelites had long been longing (e.g., Joseph of Arimathea, Mark 15:43). That this reign of God is present in and established by the person and work of Jesus is accented by the kingly portrayal of Jesus in Mark’s passion narratives (15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26, 32). Jesus’ own preaching is summarized: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (1:14). Although the kingdom is “at hand” and the reference to “those outside” in 4:11 perhaps suggests that the disciples are (already) inside the kingdom, elsewhere Jesus can say that the disciples will see the kingdom come in power (9:1), that he will drink of the fruit of the vine anew in the kingdom of God. At the heart of our two parables lies this tension between the present dawning of God’s reign in Jesus and the continued longing for its fullness, still to come. The rhetorical goal of the parables, then, is to encourage weary or doubting Christians. As surely as Christ has come, as surely as he has died and risen again, as surely as his Gospel word is being planted in the world, so certain is the eternal, joyous, secure, righteous kingdom of God which is coming. Though it may take many “days and nights,” though Christ’s work in his church may now seem “small,” be sure that the harvest will come and that we will be given a place to “nest” in God’s presence forever.

The automatic seed (verses 26–29) This parable portrays a farmer who broadcasted his seed (ba,lh|–subjunctive aorist) and then keeps on sleeping and arising (kaqeu,dh| kai. evgei,rhtai–subjunctive present) while the seed goes about sprouting and growing. This miracle in the earth simply happens, as a matter of course, automatically (auvtoma,th), so that the seed’s “fruit” is produced (karpoforei/). The farmer “knows not how” all this happens (v. 27), yet he is confident that a seed, when planted, will grow. Seeds just do that. So it is with the full fruit of God’s coming reign. The work of Jesus and, especially in Mark 4, the words of Jesus (Mk 4:14) are being sown. There is no question that the harvest will soon follow. Verse 29 borrows imagery of eschatological harvest from Joel 3:12–14. This parable also contains significant linguistic and theological ties with Isaiah 5:1–7; 11:1; and 27:2–6. The context of Mark 4 pushes towards an identification of the “seed” with the word of the Gospel. To this, passages such as 1 Corinthians 3:6–9 and 1 Peter 1:23 could be added. Another interpretive possibility is to identify the seed (spo,roj) with the dying and rising of Christ (note evgei,rw in v.27 and cf. John 12:24). Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Ultimately, the saving work of Christ and the saving word which proclaims and bestows it go together. The planting of the Gospel word of the kingdom, so full of Christ and his saving death and resurrection, will not be in vain. The mustard seed (verses 30–32) As in the previous parable, the mustard seed contains the promise of its end: the full plant. In addition, this parable warns against despising the seed for its smallness. The cross may be foolishness, the means of grace unimpressive—but they are bringing about the end-time restoration of God’s reign among his redeemed people! Old Testament allusions are strong here. God’s end-time reign as an enormous tree is emphasized in Ezekiel 17:23 and 31:6. Jesus’ language also echoes the description of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingship in Daniel 4:12, 21. Just as significant, perhaps, is the king’s vision and its interpretation in Daniel 2:31–45. The great, layered statue represents a succession of powerful kingdoms, but in the end a mere stone (small as a mustard seed?) strikes the statue, breaks it to pieces, and then grows into a great mountain which fills the whole world. This stone is the kingdom of “the God of heaven” which shall “break in pieces” all other kingdoms and which shall “stand forever” (Dn 2:44).

Suggested sermon outline I. When God will be king forever! A. The joy and beauty of the kingdom Christ has prepared for us B. The “seeds” from which this kingdom are growing 1. Jesus’ saving life, death, and resurrection 2. Jesus’ continuing work through his Word II. Challenges A. The church’s failures (as if we must make the seed grow) 1. Startling statistics regarding church decline 2. We mill about in the garden, lurking over the seeds, wringing our hands about what we can do to make them grow B. Competing kingdoms (as if Christ’s kingdom is too small to really matter) 1. The greatness of nations, national interests, national events—the life of the church is marginalized 2. The glamour of a modern godless culture—reality television and supermarket tabloids garner much more attention than the church 3. The success of other religions and false Christianities—compare the annual budget of the Mormons with the LCMS! 194


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4. The largest threat of all: the reign of me! Every day I am turning from the light of God’s reign to the darkness of life as my own king! III. Responses A. The parable of the automatic seed (as reply to II.a.) B. The parable of the mustard seed (as reply to II.b.)

Thomas Egger

Proper 7 • Mark 4: 35–41 • June 21, 2009

Preface: Sometimes a boat is just a boat Although Mark’s account of the stilling of the storm did not occur in any historic lectionary, Matthew’s version of the story was the traditional Gospel reading for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany. So the story has been preached routinely in the history of the church, but not as we might expect. A brief investigation of sermons on the text shows that preachers commonly used it to discuss not the person of Christ but the church and its trials. Tertullian was likely first to equate the boat that carried Jesus and his disciples with the church. In On Baptism 12, he ridiculed the suggestion that the disciples had undergone a sort of baptism when the waves washed over them during the storm. Then he added, “That little ship presented a type of the Church, because on the sea, which means this present world, it is being tossed about by the waves, which means persecutions and temptations, while our Lord in his longsuffering is as it were asleep, until at the last times he is awakened by the prayers of the saints to calm the world and restore tranquility to his own” (translation by Ernest Evans, SPCK, 1964). Tertullian’s idea that the boat is the church and the storm the troubles it faces would cast a long shadow on the history of interpretation. Even Martin Luther and C. F. W. Walther succumbed to this seemingly irresistible bit of allegory in sermons for Epiphany 4. Luther, after briefly retelling the story from the text, describes the troubles the church faced historically, using the example of the Arian controversy, and then the troubles faced by the church in his day. “So, too,” he says, “we receive tremendous blows from the Enthusiasts and Anabaptists” (WA 49:334). Walther goes even farther than Luther in his spiritual interpretation of the boat, basing his theme and entire outline on it. The theme— Christ’s Ship on the Sea of Galilee, a Picture of the Church in Our Time—is divided into three parts: a picture of the danger the church is in; a picture of its members; a picture of the protection under which it stands (Amerikanisch-Lutherische Evangelien Postille, Concordia Publishing House, p. 79.). Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Normally I prefer to mine sermons from the past for good examples of preaching, but these present an important cautionary lesson not to leap over the point of the text to an application derived from it—even if that application is supported by traditional interpretations. (By the way, both Luther and Walther composed excellent sermons on the church. I just wish they had used a different text.) The problem with using the boat as a type of the church is that the boat is not the point of the story, nor is the storm. The boat is a prop and the storm part of the supporting cast for the main actor, Jesus. The point of the text is that Jesus has power over the storm; and to realize who Jesus is. So even though preaching on the text may come around to the dangers we face as individual believers or as the church, preachers should arrive at that point through Jesus as portrayed in the text and not apart from or despite the point of Mark’s, or Matthew’s, or Luke’s account. See, for example, the interpretation of Joel Marcus in number four below. The truth about Jesus delivered by this narrative is discussed here under three headings: Jesus is Lord of creation; Jesus is a Lord to be feared; Jesus is the Lord who saves. Jesus is Lord of creation Jesus commands the storm to stop with his words. Through this story Mark shows what the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed states with the phrase “by whom all things were made.” In the chapters prior to this text, Jesus had already demonstrated his power over the demonic. Now he demonstrates his power over creation, over the destructive forces of the natural world. In doing so, he uses the same word to rebuke the storm that he had used against the demon in 1:25. This word is stronger than the traditional translation be still suggests. Shut up would be a good colloquial alternative. The result of this utterance is the storm obeys immediately. Utter stillness, rather than a gradual dying down of the wind and waves, shows that the power of the Creator is present. Jesus demonstrates a power beyond the reach of any mere mortal. Whatever illusions of control human beings might have, such illusions dissipate rapidly in the face of violent storms—typhoons, hurricanes, and tornados. The fact that no human being can command the sea is something of a commonplace in historical writing. Antiochus Epiphanes, the villain of the story of the Maccabees, is described as one who “in his superhuman presumption, thought he could command the waves of the sea.” (2 Mc 9:8) A more pious ruler, King Canute of England, supposedly had his throne set up by the seashore as the tide was coming in for the very purpose of demonstrating his powerlessness over the sea. Seated on his seaside throne, he ordered the tide not to invade his territory or to wet his garments. When the sea failed to obey his command, he said, “Let all earth’s inhabitants know that the power of kings is vain and frivolous, nor is any king worthy of the name except Him by whose command heaven, earth, and sea obey eternal 196


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laws.” Canute then placed his crown on the head of an image of Christ on the cross (Henry of Huntingdon, Historia anglorum, VI.17). The stilling of the storm proclaims Jesus’ tremendous power. The story signals that it will not be an equal fight when Jesus faces even a “legion” of demons in the following chapter of Mark’s Gospel. The story also reveals the need for faith. The disciples had asked Jesus, “Don’t you care if we drown?” He responded with a question of his own, “Don’t you have faith yet?” Precisely what sort of faith the disciples should have had is unfolded as Mark’s Gospel goes on to answer their question, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Jesus is a Lord to be feared Jesus provoked fear in his disciples by displaying his power over the storm. Mark writes that the disciples “feared a great fear,” and this wording is stronger than that of the parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke. Fear seems to be used in the normal sense and in the sense of awe. For the disciples to fear Jesus would be justified, since they had just accused him of not caring if they drowned and he had responded by questioning their faith. The disciples would have been right to fear Jesus’ judgment of them, just as we today ought to “fear and love God,” i.e. fear his judgment upon us as sinners and love him for his gracious acceptance of us in Christ. Jesus’ calming of the storm also evoked the fear that is awe in the presence of divine power. Jesus displayed power over the chaotic sea ascribed in the Old Testament to God alone (Is 51:10, Jb 26:10–12, Ps 104:6–9).

Jesus is the Lord who saves Joel Marcus (Mark 1–8, The Anchor Bible, New York: Doubleday, 1999) observes that Mark’s audience would most likely have seen parallels between Jesus and Jonah. Both slept through a storm and once awakened were able to save the crew—Jesus by stilling the storm, Jonah by sacrificing himself to the waves. Jesus would, of course, also ultimately sacrifice himself for the salvation of all people. On this point, Marcus says, “[T]here is perhaps a hint of [Jesus’] resurrection in the use of the verb egeirousin for the disciples’ rousing of him” (p. 337). Marcus further suggests that by analogy the hearers of this text can place themselves in the story. According to his interpretation, the fact that Jesus and his disciples were moving to the gentile shore parallels the situation of Mark’s readers in their outreach to gentiles. Thus he believes the “other boats” of v. 36 gave Mark’s audience the opportunity to read themselves into the text and to see Jesus as coming powerfully to aid them against opposition. Whether or not you accept Marcus’ interpretation, the saving power Jesus displays in this text certainly has application beyond that particular storm. Paul Robinson Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Proper 8 • Mark 5:21–43 • June 28, 2009

Rendezvous with Jesus The healing of the woman and the healing of the daughter are part of a series of four miracles in Mark 4 and 5 which demonstrate Jesus as Lord over creation, over Satan, over sickness, and over death.

The Gathering (21) The story begins with Jesus in the boat again, and when he arrives, a gathering of people are there. His reputation was such that many wanted to hear and see him in much the same way as we gravitate toward the rich and famous today.

Jairus Comes, A Crowd Follows (22–24) Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, comes, honors, and makes a request of Jesus. He comes with the assurance that Jesus will heal his sick child. “Lord, you can heal her by your hands and she will live.” Notice how our Lord deals with him. Jesus cannot go fast enough for the pleading Jairus. How do you hurry God? A great crowd tags along. Who wouldn’t? They are curious; they desire to see what will happen. Is he all that they say he is? Where is he going? Can he do this? Is he really the one? They heard what Christ had done, now they follow him, but not from deep faith, to see it for themselves.

Woman’s Confession of Faith (25–29) Here is “Mark’s sandwich story” (the story within the story). This woman’s twelve year situation tugs at our heart: “discharge”, “suffered”, “spent all”, “no better”, “grew worse,” denote her hopeless and helpless predicament. What is this woman to do but try anything and everything! Being an unclean outcast of society, she hears of the “miracle worker.” He is coming and she plots—perhaps, day and night—saying over and over again, “If only I can touch him I will be healed (made whole).” With nothing left but her faith, the unclean one moves toward Jesus. She touches him. We were dead in our sins and unclean before God. While our culture does not readily recognize it, nonetheless before God we are unclean. Our misery manifests itself in an outlook of helplessness and hopelessness. At our baptism God moves to change all of that. By the touch of water and word, our lives change, we are freed from bondage and made his children. Simply, this is done without any merit or worthiness in us, but purely out of God’s divine goodness and mercy. God is not finished with us nor is he finished with this unclean woman. “Immediately” the world changes for this woman just like our world changes through baptism. From unclean to clean, from hopelessness to hope, all by the power of Almighty God. 198


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Jesus and the Woman (30–34) By faith the woman is healed, and Jesus knows that someone touched him. The power left him. Jesus asks the disciples a seemingly ridiculous question. “Who touched me?” The large crowd presses all around him, how would they know? Jesus realizes who it was. The woman bares her heart to Christ and tells him all the truth. Her emotions display a realization of what had just happened to her and publically she now realizes—Christ healed her! Luther describes her as believing in that power of God in Jesus and that he alone can answer the trust of her heart. Jesus, out of loving concern, calls her “daughter,” and assures her of peace and healing. In this moment Jesus restores her to the community. Test of Faith (35–37) Now, back to what may be a more serious test of faith. Up to this point, “where there is life, there is hope.” Jairus, likely impatiently waiting for Jesus to finish with this unclean woman, is brought a message, “She is dead. Why worry Jesus; he can do nothing for you.” In the grip of instant emotion the words of Jesus’ encouragement penetrate Jairus’ heart—“Do not fear, only believe.” Peter, James, and John accompany Jesus to the house in order to witness the work.

Christ Declares the Resurrection (38–39) Upon arriving, Jesus observes the beginning of a funeral. He declares that the young girl is merely sleeping. Death for the believer is but a sleep. In our culture that denies miracles, places God between myth and magic, and focuses on self, as was also true in Jesus’ time, it is predictable that our Savior’s words would elicit a laughing denial of what he is about to do.

Christ Enters the Chamber (40–43) Christ enters her bedroom with her father and mother. He takes her hand and tells her, “Arise.” God called her to life! She rose! The onlookers who “heard but did not hear” and “saw but did not see” were astonished. They should have recognized God engaged in compassion and tenderness and in meeting a human need. He charges them to keep silent about what happened and to give the young woman something to eat. Christ’s rendezvous with these two women is a powerful illustration of how God touches our everyday life. There is a sense of urgency here and a sense of secrecy. It is faith alone that overcomes death and that gives life. Sin remains our greatest problem and death our greatest enemy. Jesus remains our only solution. “It’s a good thing Jairus didn’t come to Buddha, for he may have been told that he was too attached to his daughter, and he must become unattached to the material world. It’s a good thing he didn’t come to Mohammad, for Mohammad did no miracles. It’s a good thing that he didn’t come to Marx, for he would have told Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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him that economic oppression was the source of his problem. It’s a good thing Jairus didn’t come to Freud, who would have suggested he would need psychological analysis after nature took its course. … But he came to ‘Jesus, who, by healing and rising from the dead, showed compassion and demonstrated His messianic identity’”1 Andrew Bacon Endnote

1 Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, eds. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Mark (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 73.

Proper 9 • Mark 6:1–13 • July 5, 2009

Here we are at the first week of July—Fourth of July weekend no less!—and the Gospel of Mark gives us no “summer vacation” from its cruciform sense of faith, discipleship, and the way of Christ. In this text (a continuation of last week’s Gospel text from Mark 5), Jesus has returned to his “hometown.” He is returning from his preaching tour of the Gerasenes (5:1), where he had been amazed by the faith of those on the outskirts of the promised land, particularly the abiding faith of one he calls “daughter” (5:34) and one he calls “little girl” (5:41). The terms of endearment are striking in the retrospective of his return home, where his own original family seems to share little affection for the course of life their eldest half–brother has taken. Of course, perhaps their lack of affection is only in response to his. The “offense” (v. 3) that is taken by the local yokels hearkens back to Mark 3:31–35, where Jesus has essentially disavowed himself of his blood ties. Or at least opened up those ties to a much broader family. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,” he had said (3:35). Those of us who are claimed by his Father in Baptism, and who now do his will in the new life he clothes us with, are part of this new family. I suspect that in any given congregation, there are those who have been around long enough that they feel like they know everything there is to know about their “hometown” parish. And there are those who are still new enough that they feel like the crowded–out woman who only wants to touch the Master’s cloak (5:25–34). If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, Jesus of Nazareth has a prophetic word for all of us, new and old alike. Whether or not we honor the Prophet’s work among us is a stickier business (v. 4). Verse 6 is a terrifying indictment: Jesus reciprocates their amazement at his power (v. 2) by being “amazed at their unbelief.” That is always the hazard of a homecoming: the one who returns may not be 200


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received for the person they have become. Too many in Nazareth would trade Jesus–the–Prophet’s hands of power for the former hands of Jesus–the–Carpenter. Of course, how he deals with their (and our) unbelief is work left to Jesus–the–Christ. In the meantime, Jesus leaves for the villages (v. 6). And he sends out the twelve, two by two, bestowing upon them the power and authority that come from his own hand (v. 7). But their discipleship is not without cost. Jesus warns them that they will likely have to “shake off the dust that is on [their] feet” in those places that do not honor the work of prophets (v. 11). The austerity of their mission is a hint that the only power they need comes from God. In discussing the parallel pericope in Matthew, the sainted Martin Franzmann poignantly writes, “The SPIRIT of the mission is the spirit in which Jesus worked—no small–souled care for self…but His confident dependence on God, the Lord of the harvest, who will provide food for His workmen, who give freely what they have freely received” (Concordia Self–Study Commentary, NT, p. 25). The same is true for our mission as the people of God—“sisters” and “brothers” of Jesus—in these austere times. But Mark does not dwell on the rejection; he saves the best news for last: “They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (v. 13). The news is so amazing that it reaches the desk of King Herod (vv. 14ff). Perhaps Mark knows what we know. The joy–filled astonishment of sheer faith born of water and Word always outweighs the amazement of unbelief. On a final liturgical note, it is worth marking the recent renewal of periodic services of anointing in many parishes. In my own experience, I have seen them become meaningful personal rites of healing, occasionally administered after services for all who wish to stay in the quiet of the sanctuary. Given the wondrous closing to this week’s Gospel reading, this eighth Sunday after Pentecost might be a fitting occasion to start or continue the practice. Travis J. Scholl Proper 10 • Mark 6:14–29 • July 12, 2009

Notes on the pericope One who wants to preach on the basis of this passage should recognize (as the lectionary does not) that this story, about the death of John the Baptist, is an intercalation, that is, an episode inserted within another episode (in this case, the sending of the Twelve). Intercalations are a prominent feature of Mark’s Gospel. They draw attention to and interpret the surrounding episode and its meaning within the whole story of the Gospel. For example, the Beelzebul episode (Mk 3:22–30) comes between the resolve of Jesus’ family to get him, because he is said to be out Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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of his mind, and the arrival of his mother and brothers, who call for him. This intercalation invites us to identify the family who thinks Jesus is out of his mind with those who have said, “He has an unclean spirit,” and it leads us to see that genuine members of Christ’s family are those who do the will of God. This intercalation also encourages to recognize that the Gospel as a whole directs us to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, to acknowledge that he came in the power of the Spirit, to listen to his Word, and to look forward to his return, when he will do for all who believe in him what he did in his first coming. Recognizing the episode concerning Herod and John as an intercalation will make it clear that vv. 14–16 are significant. These verses make the transition from the sending of the Twelve (6:7–13) to the death of John, and they indicate how John’s death relates to the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. Herod has heard of Jesus and his disciples, for his name was becoming known (v. 14). Some people were saying that he was John the Baptist, raised from the dead. Others said that he was Elijah. Still others said that he was a prophet like the prophets of old. When Herod heard about Jesus, he was like most of the people. He did not grasp the true identity of Jesus. He thought that Jesus was John, whom he had beheaded but now raised from the dead (v. 16). Then Mark relates why John had been imprisoned and how he was killed. Put very briefly, John was imprisoned and killed because he preached against the sin of Herod and Herodias, and because Herod valued his own reputation more than the life of this righteous and holy man. This intercalation shows that the suffering and death of John foreshadows the suffering and death of Jesus. Already Jesus has encountered opposition and has provoked unbelief. For instance, the Pharisees and the Herodians already are plotting to kill Jesus (3:6; see also 3:20–35 and 6:1–6 for other explicit indications of unbelief). It is not clear, however, that they will get their way. Jesus has shown remarkable power and authority and, because of this, he has drawn crowds in most places. Only with this intercalation does the story itself show that Jesus’ ministry will end in suffering and death. At this point, suffering and death are only suggested, but later Jesus reinforces this reading explicitly. He does this after the transfiguration, when the disciples ask why the scribes teach that Elijah must come first. Jesus explains that Elijah comes to restore all things. Then he adds, “How is it written about the Son of Man that he would suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I say to you, Elijah has come, and they did to him as they pleased, as it has been written of him” (9:12b–13). With this Jesus identifies John as Elijah who was to come, and he links John’s sufferings with his own. Jesus also does this after he asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The answers here correspond to the opinions of chapter 6: some say, “John the Baptist”; others say “Elijah”; still others say, “One of the prophets.” After Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Mark relates that Jesus began to teach how he had to suffer many things, be rejected, be killed, and after three 202


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days rise again. Moreover, he teaches that anyone who would come after him must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow him. This reinforces reading the intercalation as foreshadowing also the suffering of those who follow Jesus, because they also will encounter opposition (6:11). We should not, however, read into this the crucifixion without also reading into it the resurrection. In a wrongheaded way, Herod himself did this by identifying Jesus as John the Baptist raised from the dead. John did not rise, but Jesus said that he would (8:31; 9:9; 9:31, 10:34), and he did. He promised the same, moreover, for all who follow him: “… whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (8:35).

Notes for preaching The sermon based on this passage taken in this way might aim to encourage hearers to trust in Jesus and believe his Word. As I have been implying, this pericope should be preached as an intercalation. Explaining the concept is not necessary, and using the term is likely to be confusing. It would be necessary, however, to explain this episode in relation to the sending and the return of the apostles (6:7–13, 30–44), and also to other passages in the Gospel, including 8:27–9:13 (confession of Peter, first passion prediction, teaching on discipleship, transfiguration, question about Elijah). When we read this passage in these contexts, it becomes clear that it says much to us about facing and withstanding opposition, rejection, and persecution. This text, which brings together John, Jesus, and the apostles along with their preaching, applies most directly to those called to the office of the ministry. But it has something to say to all followers of Christ. Disciples today should not be surprised by such reactions, and they should not bend to such pressures. Mark shows us that what happened to John was not an isolated incident but a preview of things to come for Jesus and for his followers. Overt persecution may not be a problem for many congregations in the Missouri Synod, but opposition and rejection of Christ and the Gospel may arise in subtler ways or on an individual basis. The message today could be: Don’t try to save yourself, your reputation, your money, your family, or even your life by denying Christ and the Gospel. If you do, you’ll be sorry. But if you lose any or all of these things for Christ and his Gospel, then you will save your life. So take heart, no matter what you may face now or in the future. Just as Christ died but was raised, so also will you.

Given this text, it would be fitting to speak such words and make such a promise as one called, like the apostles, to speak for the Lord. Joel P. Okamoto Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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Proper 11 • Mark 6:30–44 • July 19, 2009

The Feeding of the 5000 I. Introduction: This pericope occurs within the critical events of chapter 6 of Mark. The chapter begins with Jesus’ rejection in his hometown (vv. 1ff) and continues with the twelve being sent out as “apostles” to carry forth his mission of preaching and healing (vv. 7ff). This is followed by the tragic end of John the Baptist (vv. 14ff) and then the return of the twelve (v. 30)—which causes the death of the Baptist to be part of an inclusio in which death for faithfulness is folded within and illuminates mission and witness. Verse 30 is, in fact, included in our pericopal arrangement. Our text is followed by the drama of the second water incident—this time walking on the water (6:45ff [cf. 4:35–41]) and then further healings (6:53ff), once again merely by touching the hem of his garments (cf. 5:28). II. Textual Criticism: A variant in v. 31 adds color to the story and is worth considering. It is not recorded in the normal Nestle–Aland text but is visible in the Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. Instead of the aorist middle imperative avnapau,sasqe, a number of manuscripts that give preferred readings in the Gospel of Mark (e.g., a, L, 565 [also D]) read the present middle imperative avnapau,esqe. This would make Jesus’ command either emphatic (appropriate given their arduous mission), or of some enduring force. III. Grammar: A. Note the historical present main verbs at the beginning of vv. 30, 31, again in the middle of v. 37, and at the beginning and in the middle of v. 38. Consider carefully vv. 37–38 in this regard. The tension of the conversation between Jesus and the twelve is palpable here. What little they have is really highlighted in this exchange. B. Verse 32 contains the interesting phrase “in the boat” (note the article). Perhaps there was a particular boat that was regularly at Jesus’ disposal. C. In v. 34, when it says that Jesus had compassion on the crowds, it uses splagcni,zomai, which is a strong word denoting gut-wrenching anguish on someone’s part. D. The subjunctive in v. 36 has, standing behind it, as it were, a question of deliberation, viz., “What shall we eat?” You might translate this: “…in order that…they might buy for themselves something to eat/what they should eat.”

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E. The authority of Jesus may be seen in the asyndeton (lack of connect ing words) in v. 38, as he says, “How many loaves of bread do you have? Go and see.” Neither sentence has a de, or an ou=n or some such connector near its beginning. Note the asyndeton also in v. 37 in the interchange there. F. Verse 37 contains a genitive of price (dhnari,wn diakosi,wn). G. In v. 39, avnakli/nai denotes reclining for a meal, not simply sitting on the ground. This is appropriate, in view of the noun sumpo,sion, which, in a Greco-Roman context, normally indicates a banquet with conversation, usually enhanced by wine [for a wide-ranging discussion of this and other concepts in this pericope, see Peter J. Scaer, “The Lord’s Supper as Symposium in the Gospel of Mark,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 72 (2008) 119–133]. The word for “green,” clwro,j, generally denotes fresh and young new growth. H. Note the “distributive doubling” (BDF 493) in vv. 39 and 40, with sumpo,sia and prasiai,, respectively. The first could be rendered “by eating/banqueting groups” and the second “group by group, like garden beds” (a prasia, is a garden plot). I. Verse 41 contains several grammatical points worth noting. First, the stringing of nominative participles (predicate position) is typical of Mark, but this feature can be found in classical authors. Second, note that the main verb euvlo,ghsen has the five loaves and two fish as its object. Frequently a sentence beginning with a predicate position participle whose object is also the object of the main verb will make the object expressed do “double duty,” as it were, and not repeat it. Third, note the move to present stem forms later in the sentence, after the breaking of the bread. He “proceeded to give them” (the loaves [also doing double object duty]) to his disciples, in order that they might “keep on placing them before them.” One gets the picture of a repetitive process. J. evcorta,sqhsan in v. 42 denotes eating to the full. It is often used of cattle being fattened. Along with avnakli/nai and sumpo,sia in v. 37, what is pictured here is something much more akin to dining than to having a snack. K. Verse 43 is a bit difficult syntactically, but it seems to mean some thing like: “and they took up broken pieces, “fulnesses” of (= the fill of) twelve baskets….” The word kofi,noj denotes a basket that was used, especially in later times, by Jews.

Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

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IV. The Narrative and Theological Content: A. Jesus is described as having deep-seated compassion for the people, because he saw them as sheep without a shepherd (v. 34). By this one must be reminded of Psalm 23, which declares that the Lord/Yahweh is the shepherd of his people, especially with the reference to pastures of “green,” which, as in v. 39, denotes fresh, green growth. But more, Ezekiel 34 comes to mind, especially vv. 11–17, where Yahweh says that he himself will be the shepherd of his sheep, seek them out, and that they will lie down in rich pasture. The eschatological vision of the presence of Yahweh at the end of time with his people, to shepherd them, comes to fruition in this text. Jesus is Yahweh, himself, come to be with his people. B. The very image of people dining with Yahweh should also bring to mind Exodus 24:9–11, one of the most amazing passages in the entire Bible. It speaks of Moses and the seventy elders going up the mountain and actually “seeing” the God of Israel (the LXX changed the text here!). 34:11 ends by saying that they beheld God, and “they ate and drank” (presumably, with him). Rikki Watts has argued strongly that Mark is filled with “New Exodus” motifs (see chapter 1, where Jesus experiences first water and then temptation in the wilderness). Dining with the Lord in the wilderness, as it were, would bring further confirmation of this accent of the New Exodus. C. Perhaps most important is the fact that several features of this pericope provide a foretaste of the powerful reign and rule of God (= Kingdom of God) that will be implemented fully at the end of time, but which also receives an initial instantiation in the person and ministry of our Lord, as the time/kairo,j “stands fulfilled” and the Kingdom “stares the people in the face”/h;ggiken (Mark 1:15—see the healing of the paralytic in 2:1ff, of the deaf/dumb man in 7:31ff, and of blind Bartimeus in 10:46ff, against the background of Isaiah 35:4–6, which depicts the eschatological reign and rule of God). In other words, this text exhibits proleptic eschatology (cf. Addendum 11–B in What Does This Mean?: Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Post-Modern World). 1. The people are told to sit down on fresh green grass—in a desert place! The desert has begun to bloom with the restoration of creation in the presence of Yahweh himself (cf. Isaiah 35:7— see also our Lord’s dwelling with the wild beasts during the temptation [1:13] and being unharmed by them [cf. Ezekiel 34:25, 28]). This accent is “confirmed,” as it were, by the phrase 206


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prasiai, prasiai,, which normally denotes garden plots— perhaps reminders of the Garden of Eden. 2. The entire banqueting theme (note avnakli/nai and sumpo,sia in v. 37 and evcorta,sqhsan in v. 42) is eschatological (in addition to being revelatory of Jesus as Yahweh himself [see b, above]). See especially Isaiah 25:6, which speaks of a feast of rich food hosted by Yahweh, the Lord of Hosts, at the end of time (when he will swallow up death forever [v. 8]). (It is interesting to connect the reference to wine in 25:6 to the normal connotations of sumpo,sia, though there is no indication of wine in this text.) Here the people feast with their God, just as they will do even more fully at the consummation of the age. 3. In both cases the end of all things breaks into this fallen world with the very Lord of creation standing within his people’s midst. D. Finally, it is worth asking whether the feeding of the 5000 should be seen as “eucharistic.” After all, a number of themes are similar, and some of the descriptions of the blessing (euvlo,ghsen) and the breaking (kate,klasen) of the loaves of bread (6:41) are very similar. We may see this connection, but only in a very complex way. The feeding of the 5000 is a foretaste of the consummation of the age to come and points to the final feast with Yahweh in the fully implemented Kingdom of God. When the disciples participated in the first holy communion with their Lord (Mk 14:22–25), they also received a foretaste of that final feast (see 14:25), indeed, even more fully than did the followers in Galilee. Both “foretastes” find their fulfillment in the full instantiation of the Age to Come, the Parousia. As a result, both may remind us of each other, but each is a quite distinct event, so a line can never be drawn directly between the two but must always be drawn through, as it were, the Parousia/ consummation of all things at the end of time. Note also that the feeding of the 4000 in chapter 8 of Mark (vv. 1ff), which takes place in Gentile lands (and which entails pieces of bread being placed into spuri,daj, which are Gentile baskets [cf. kofi,nwn in v. 43 of this text]), reminds us that the consummation will be inclusive, so that the feast of Yahweh “for all peoples” (Is. 25:6) will comprise both Jew and Gentile alike. James Voelz

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Proper 12 • Mark 6:45–52 • July 26, 2009

Exegetical Analysis and Homiletical Treatment: This text is conducive to the development of a sermon which is constructed inductively. This is not only because the text is narrative in form (and thus inherently inductive), but also because it presents a couple of areas of tension for resolution. These tension points are manifested as enigmas regarding Jesus’ behavior. Not only does Jesus do what is unexpected but also what seems contrary to expectations. Thus the quest of the sermon is to discover why Jesus does what he does in his actions toward the disciples—and ultimately toward us. The two ambiguities to be resolved relate to Jesus’ actions, which appear to put the disciples at peril. In the first case Jesus sends the disciples into conditions which are dangerous. In the second case Jesus appears to bypass attending to their plight. The question which the sermon may answer is why he does so.

Tension 1: Jesus sends the disciples into a perilous situation. The first area of tension arises at the beginning of the narrative as Jesus sends the disciples out onto the Sea of Galilee. The text is emphatic that Jesus compels them to make this maritime trip (v. 45 – hvna,gkasen). En route to the intended destination of Bethsaida, the small boat encounters a forceful contrary wind (v. 48). The trip should have been a short one—Bethsaida would be across only a relatively small bay travelling to the north-northwest. But the gale, probably from the north or northeast, drives the boat off course and into the middle of the lake (v. 47 – evn me,sw th/s qala,sshs, v. 48 indicates it was a severe headwind). Thus although the disciples had embarked on their journey before sundown, by 3:00 A.M. (“the fourth watch,” v. 48) they are still battling the wind and waves. Verse 48 indicates that they are sorely distressed in their plight (basanijome,nous), no doubt fearing for their lives. The enigma to be addressed here is that Jesus, who knows the future, sends his disciples into this traumatic context. The fact that he will walk on water and calm the wind signals that he can exercise divine power, which includes the ability to discern the events of the future (see Mark 17:18-21, 27-30). So although he foreknows that the storm will arise and threaten the disciples, he sends them forth onto the lake. The question to be pressed is this: Why does Christ deliberately send his followers into such a fearful situation? This is applied to the hearers’ lives as the preacher illustrates times in which obedience to God’s direction brings hardship. Tension 2: Jesus apparently intends to pass by the disciples in their time of peril. The second tension develops when Jesus, walking on the water, appears to bypass the disciples in their plight. Verse 48 states: “…he came to them, walking on 208


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the sea. He meant to pass by them (kai. h;qelen parelqei/n auvtou,s).” It seems remarkable—even contrary to Jesus’ propensity to deliver and rescue—that this clause appears in the text. Yet it is there. The preacher can address this tension by asking the question: Why does Jesus appear to neglect his followers in their time of need? This is applied to the hearers’ lives as the preacher illustrates perilous times in which God seems absent and aloof.

Resolution of the Tensions Ultimately, of course, these dilemmas will be resolved in the sermon. This will serve not only to provide rhetorical and emotional relief to the hearers, but also to deliver the proclamation of the Gospel to them. H. B. Swete summarizes the resolution in a single statement: “The purpose in each case was to try, and by trial to strengthen faith” (Commentary on Mark, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1977, p. 138). R. Alan Cole writes similarly but more thoroughly: “This episode is a good illustration of the life of discipleship seen as a constant experience of testing and deliverance; for it was not through stubborn self-will, but through direct obedience to the Lord’s command, that the disciples found themselves in this plight. Thus the storm in no way showed that they had deviated from the path of God’s will: God’s path for them lay through that storm, to the other shore of the lake…It was not that the Lord intended to pass them by, for it was because of their need that He had come; but they must be brought to realize the need for themselves.” (Mark: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961, pp. 115–116). This opens up the proclamation of the Gospel by demonstrating that Christ’s purpose for such times of testing is to benefit his people. Christ is willing and able to deliver us from that which will destroy us—ultimately from sin, death, and hell. Just as Jesus demonstrated to his disciples his presence with them in time of trial and his power to save them, so also he has demonstrated this supremely in his death and resurrection, which rescue us from the curse of our sin. Accordingly we can trust him in the face of all perils and hardship (see Rom 8:28–39). Focus Statement: God brings his children into difficult and fearful situations to strengthen their faith in his presence and power to deliver them from ultimate peril.

Goal/Function Statement: The hearer, during times of hardship, more fully trusts Christ’s presence and power to save. Suggested Outline and Homiletical Development of the Sermon: I. God sometimes sends his people into fearful situations. A. Jesus sent the disciples into a perilous situation (vv. 45–48a).

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B. God sometimes sends us into difficult contexts. C. The question is why God would do this. II. God sometimes appears to pass us by in the time of peril. A. Jesus appeared intent on passing by the disciples in their time of peril (v. 48b). B. It can appear to us that God isn’t paying attention to us in our time of need. C. The question is why God would do this. III. When God’s direction brings us hardship and he appears to neglect us, we often respond with fear and despair. A. The disciples failed to trust Jesus’ presence and power to deliver them (vv. 49–50a, 52.). B. When our obedience to God’s direction brings hardship, we doubt God’s presence and his gracious purpose. IV. But God’s purpose is to use this experience to benefit us. A. God shows how powerful he is by delivering us from that which would destroy us. 1. Jesus demonstrated to his disciples his presence and power to save (vv. 50b–51). 2. Christ rescued us from the ultimate perils of sin, death, and hell by his sacrificial death and victorious resurrection. 3. Christ delivers us from the need to fear or doubt. B. God uses these experiences of hardship to strengthen our faith. 1. The disciples were awed and amazed at Jesus’ power (v. 51b). 2. We are awed at God’s grace and power to save us.

David Peter

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book reviews

COncordia Journal


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THE GENIUS OF LUTHER’S THEOLOGY: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church. By Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008. 240 pages. Paper. $21.99.

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This succinct volume is an intelligent and intriguing effort to offer access to Luther’s theology without using code words that may attract or repel. Rooted in the authors’ broad and deep knowledge of Luther’s theology, it presents Luther as a “conversation partner for twenty-first-century Christians” (10). The authors seek to “aid readers in constructing their own matrix for reading and proclaiming Scripture out of the material left by these Wittenberg thinkers” (19). The authors explore the genius of Luther’s “way of thinking, the matrix within which he explored the text of Scripture and applied its truth to the everyday lives of people” (10). For this purpose they do not present a comprehensive description of Luther’s teaching, topic by topic. Instead they examine two “vital elements” of Luther’s theology, the “matrix” within which Luther studied, preached, and conversed (10). The first is “…the anthropological presupposition that God shaped human life according to two dimensions (two kinds of righteousness)” and the second is the “theological presupposition that God works through his Word in its manifold forms” (12). The authors describe these as the “nervous system” or “circulatory system” of Luther’s theology or as “two road maps” Luther used to help move through the landscape of biblical revelation (14). Thus, rather than focusing on topics, the authors focus on guidelines that move, Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

shape, and give life to the topics. The first half, “Our Theology,” examines Luther’s definition of the human through “Two kinds of Righteousness” and contrasts Luther’s anthropology both to his contemporaries and to assumptions today. This section begins with an analysis of what God intends for human relationships with other humans and with God. Chapter 1, “Luther’s Anthropological Matrix,” explains the basic contours of two kinds of righteousness: “…to be righteous is to be the human person God envisioned when he created us” (26). God has created us “for relationship with himself ” and “for service as his representatives within the world” (27). The crux of the Lutheran reformation rested on maintaining the distinction between the vertical and the horizontal dimensions, that is, between divine righteousness (which is salvific before God) and human righteousness (which is good for the world) (30). Chapter 2, “The Core of Human Identity,” discusses the passive righteousness of faith. It makes clear that the core of human identity comes from God and manifests itself in faith. Chapter 3, “The Shape of Human Performance,” describes the active righteousness of faith. Not only Luther’s robust theology of creation comes through clearly, but his deep and joyous concern for creaturely walks of life and even what some call the mundane. “The active righteousness of daily life as recovered by Luther carves out the necessary theological space to speak positively about life in this world and all that preserves our life—whether law, works, or human reason—in a way that does not compromise the passive righteousness of Christ” (76). The first 213


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three chapters focus on God’s good intentions for our lives and our relationships. Not until chapter 4, “The Subversion of Our Human Identity,” is sin discussed in depth. It examines our desire to be more than human, theologies of self-glorification operating in reformation times and today and the inevitability of human self-destruction. Sin as lack of faith, its impact on the whole person, God’s action to effect our rebirth, and Christian life as daily repentance are lucidly discussed. Chapter 5, “The Dynamic of Faith,” describes the new life faith brings, embracing the world as God’s creation and its everyday activities as God-given tasks. This approach rejects both a retreat from the world and the seeking of perfection within this world. The discussion of sanctification is helpful to anyone trying to understand Luther’s view. The book’s second half is aptly titled “When the Word is Spoken all Things are Possible.” Chapter 6, “The Functions of the Word,” after offering succinct historical background, describes at length how God’s Word functions: The Word creates, the Word re-creates, the Word establishes the relationship of conversation between God and his human creatures, the Word elicits faith, the Word simultaneously reveals God and hides God, and it kills and makes alive (135–159). This chapter alone offers rich material, particularly for readers unacquainted with Luther. I can well imagine that they might connect with one or the other of these functions then return at a later time to read again and appreciate other functions of the Word. Chapter 7, “The Enfleshed and Written Forms of God’s Word,” introduces the reader to Luther’s understand214

ing of the relationship between God’s Word in the flesh, Jesus Christ, and the authoritative inspired written Word. Chapter 8, “The “Means of Grace,” as “Forms of God’s Word” sets the discussion of Word and Sacrament in the broad context of how Luther understood how God works. “Luther was convinced that the Creator was quite comfortable operating within his material creation and that he used selected elements of it to effect his saving will and convey his saving power” (176). Chapter 9, “God’s Word Takes Form as His People Convey It to One Another,” discusses how God’s Word functions in daily life. Pure teaching is of vital importance not because theological nitpicking is necessary but rather because God’s Word conveys a new reality and therefore it is important that the Word deliver God’s intent. God’s Word is conveyed in proclamation and explanation and his people respond by doing his will as well as in prayer and praise. Throughout, the Word of God struggles against the lie. The prose is elegant and simple. Chapters are clearly and logically organized and neither exhaust with detail nor frustrate with lacunae. The book is an appropriate length for what it seeks to be—an inviting introduction. It is not an historic or systematic overview of Luther’s thought. It includes considerable historical background but you will find no chapter or section on “medieval background to Luther’s theology.” Rather, this information is carefully interwoven at appropriate places where it is most needed to clarify the insights of Luther. A helpful bibliography of primarily English language resources is included. Undergraduates, seminarians, adult class-


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es in congregations, and readers of all kinds will profit from this book. It is a thought provoking work for anyone seeking to grapple with the Christian faith today. My advice: Give this book to your non-Lutheran friends to introduce them to the “Wittenberg Way of Thinking.” Give it to your Lutheran friends to remind them of the genius of Luther’s way of thinking. Give it to anyone looking for a clear, basic, inviting and yet profound introduction to Luther’s theology. Give it to anyone interested in thinking about the Christian faith in today’s world. Mary Jane Haemig Luther Seminary St. Paul, Minnesota GALATIANS THROUGH THE CENTURIES. By John Riches. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. 336 pages. Hardcover. $99.95. Having reflected on much of the wisdom passed down through the ages, Martin Luther once encouraged his readers to “continue to be disciples of those speechless masters which we call books.” In some ways, John Riches’ Galatians Through the Centuries facilitates such learning, as he brings together some of the most influential “masters” of Pauline exegesis into conversation with one another and with the reader. In order to accomplish this, Riches does not simply juxtapose excerpts from various interpreters in the fashion of the medieval Glossa ordinaria or the more recent attempts found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture by Intervarsity Press. Rather he tries to map the history Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

of interpretation of Galatians as a kind of literary history, or as the first sentence of the introduction puts it, “This is a book about books about a letter written in the first century by a Jewish radical who turned his world upside down.” While this book does give some access to key interpretations of Paul, the larger goal is to highlight the interaction of text, commentary, and historical context in which those commentaries are produced. There is a balance between the cultural forces that inform the reception of a text like Galatians and the creative power of the text itself to shape culture and context. Riches begins with a lengthy introduction that not only spells out this methodology but introduces the various exegetes that will be handled. Here there is a justification for his selections, as well as an introduction into the context and approaches of the various interpreters. The principal commentators are: Marcion, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Perkins, F.C. Baur, J.B. Lightfoot, as well as more recent interpreters such as Rudolf Bultmann, Ernst Käsemann, E.P. Sanders, and James Dunn. The book is then divided into logical units through which Riches moves essentially in a chronological fashion, namely early church through modernity. However, even though space is limited, Riches does recognize the ongoing “dialogue” of the commentary tradition, especially before the nineteenth century, and tries to highlight the interaction of later interpreters with earlier commentaries throughout. His approach to the set structure is rather free, allowing him to bring earlier commentaries into explic215


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it conversation with modern ones when appropriate. In other instances, particular interpretations warrant larger excurses. For example, in Galatians 2:20, Paul declares that “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” The interpretations of this text which evoke the intimate relationship between Christ and the believer give Riches the opportunity to consider this text in light of the mystical tradition, even outside of particular exegetical commentaries. He also spends a few pages interacting with the reception of Galatians 2:20 by those outside the Christian tradition, namely the Kyoto school of Zen Buddhism, though the benefits of this excursus are more difficult to evaluate given the complicated nature of such a comparison. One of the drawbacks of Riches’ approach is that treatment of the premodern commentary tradition is far too brief to really understand what drives many of the particular exegetical choices of these commentators. Further, by limiting himself to commentaries, he runs the danger of missing more influential interpretations that fall outside this genre, for example, in sermons or treatises. This is, in fact, the case when it comes to Augustine. Riches looks only at texts contemporary with his Galatians commentary of 394—a very early work, and ignores the prominent role that Galatians plays in Augustine’s later works, especially his anti-Pelagian writings. This is a very unfortunate oversight for two main reasons. First, Augustine actually changes his mind on Paul’s argument on the law. Rather than limiting Paul’s statements to the ceremonial law, as evinced in his early commentary, Augustine forcefully argues for a reading that sees Paul’s statements 216

as focused on the moral law, first in his letter exchange with Jerome. It is this interpretation then that plays a large role in Augustine’s later anti-Pelagian polemic in such treatises as “On the Spirit and Letter.” The second reason this is important is that it is precisely Augustine’s antiPelagian writings and not his Galatians commentary that influences Luther and subsequent reformers in their exegesis. The result is that Riches repeatedly remarks how Luther’s interpretation stands in marked contrast with Augustine’s without recognition that Luther is often citing Augustine or dependent on him. This observation simply illustrates how difficult and involved the history of exegesis really is. Within the confines of a single volume, Riches accomplishes much that is useful in treating the entire epistle. Still, like many works, Galatians Through the Centuries, raises issues that need to be treated more fully in other studies. Erik Herrmann CONCORDIA COMMENTARY COLOSSIANS: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture. By Paul E. Deterding. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003. 200 pages. Cloth. $42.95.

Congratulations are in order to author Paul Deterding for his fine commentary on the book of Colossians in the Concordia Commentary series. In this book, Deterding sees his namesake Paul combining Christology, creation, and eschatology to refute the incipient Gnosticism that was threatening the


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young church at Colossae. As to the importance of Christology, I would suggest, generally, that if you get Christ right, you get theology right. The “cosmic Christology” of Colossians “is as exalted as any in the NT” (1), and for that insight the author is to be commended. The book of Colossians was written to a church, like the Roman church, that Paul had never visited, one apparently founded by Epaphras (2). The description of the Colossian heresy (7–12) is undoubtedly indebted in part to Martin Scharlemann, as Deterding indicates in his preface (xiii), and from whom I also took a graduate level course on Ephesians and Colossians. That it was an incipient form of Gnosticism can scarcely be doubted, and this insight is essential to understanding the message of Colossians. Likewise, the relationship of Colossians to Ephesians and Philemon is important to understand, given the similarities between these three books. For Deterding, and for me, “Colossians was written from Rome in A.D. 60 or 61 (14). Eight Excursi supplement the introductory and expository sections of the commentary, and inside the commentary Deterding distinguishes between Translation, Textual Notes, and Commentary. While the needs and wishes of pastors for good commentaries often reflect the variety of users, a few things can be stated about the value of the commentary. Taking a representative section of the letter, I offer the following comments on the Translation, Textual Notes, and Commentary for Colossians 1:15–20 (pages 43–65), what Deterding calls “The Christ Hymn.” Consistent with the presuppositions of the entire series as treating the revelaConcordia Journal/Spring 2009

tion of God rather than the religious strivings of man, the author does not descend to the level of splicing the text into various sources, but addresses the text in the form in which we have received it. The Textual Notes are helpful to an understanding of a passage, simple enough for the pastor whose Greek is weak, and deep enough for the pastor whose Greek is strong. In this section, Deterding clarifies the phrase “the firstborn from the dead,” insisting that, in this context, Christ is distinguished from creation and not a part of it, thereby preserving the full deity of the Messiah. While not reflecting an understanding of the modern position of Jehovah’s Witnesses (he does, however, write about Arius, whom Jehovah’s Witnesses consider almost their patron saint), for example, the notes refute that position which denies the deity of Christ. A reference to passages in the Formula of Concord and the writings of Luther (and other occasional references to the Lutheran Confessions) reinforce, but do not overwhelm the intent of the passage. Exegetical theology complements, and is complemented by, systematic theology. Appropriately, only in the Commentary section does Deterding take up the Colossian heresy. That is, first, he establishes the grammatical sense of the text, and then he describes the exegetical meaning of the text in context. After an overview of the rhetorical structure of these verses, Deterding proceeds to discuss various parts of the text. I found his exposition helpful for teaching and preaching purposes, especially his twocolumn contrast of Adam and Christ on page 51. Of special interest to me is the phrase “firstborn of every creature,” and 217


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Deterding takes more than four pages to rehearse the history of the interpretation of this phrase. The frequent use of “all” in verses 15–20, however, is not mentioned. Eight times in verses 15–19 the apostle Paul uses the Greek word for “all” to reflect the supremacy of Christ, Creator of everything, before all things, etc. I find the frequency striking and noteworthy exegetically for an expression of the allsufficiency of Christ. I had thought that he would include Jesus’ own words (e.g., John 14:9, 11 et al.) in his exposition of Christ as “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), but one can too easily criticize that which is omitted. The quality of the commentary does not suffer from this minor omission. The phrasing “One who is a member of Christ is to and does lead…” is awkward, but, again, this is minor. I thought some of the insights a bit redundant after a while, such as the idea of the restoration of the universe to what the Creator intended it to be, but this, too, is a minor concern. Two excursi conclude this section of Colossians, one on “The Cosmology of Colossians” and one on “Wisdom and Christ.” Both are well written, tying themes together into a coherent whole, and highlighting themes that need to surface in this portion of Colossians. The book concludes with an Index, although not an exhaustive one. For example, Eduard Norden appears in the bibliography (xxii) and in the text (43), but not in the Index. However, Deterding is consistent in not including scholars (other than Luther) in the Index. Finally, one seminary professor told us that the test of a good commentary is whether it answers the questions you are 218

asking. Does this commentary answer the questions that the student of Scripture is asking? Ultimately you have to decide that for yourself, but, for the most part, it does that for me. I heartily commend this commentary. Joel D. Heck Concordia University Austin, Texas LUTHER’S LECTURES ON GENESIS AND THE FORMATION OF EVANGELICAL IDENTITY. By John A. Maxfield. Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies 80. Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2008. Xiv + 242 pages. $54.00.

Martin Luther made a living by lecturing, a professor of biblical studies. He began his career with two years of lectures on the Psalms, and the lectures on Genesis he began in 1535 came to completion three months before his death, toward the end of 1545. His comments on the text (and on subjects he related more or less closely to the text) provide a window into his world, a gauge by which to measure his attempts, this author demonstrates, to shape the “evangelical” identity of his students and, through them, the churches of his Reformation. He did so in continuity with the Christian tradition, to be sure, but even more so “with elements that were radically untraditional,” particularly his view of “the very nature of Christian faith—therefore the very nature of Christian life in the present as well as in the past and future” (4–5), John Maxfield, a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Saint Francis, Minnesota, argues as he presents the


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fruits of his dissertation study at Princeton Seminary in this illuminating and carefully-wrought argument that the Reformer used his classroom as the means to solidify the public definition of what the church of Christ should be. In the process, Maxfield challenges some recent misinterpretations of the significance or impact of Luther’s teaching. Judicious use of sixteenth century woodcuts and engravings help confirm the author’s observations on Luther’s classroom instruction. After concisely and skillfully dealing with twentieth century arguments calling the authenticity of the Genesis lectures into doubt, Maxfield explores several focal points of the Evangelical identity that Luther fostered. At the same time, he assesses how Luther was using “a broad range of intellectual tools and sources, not only in the Christian tradition, but also in the texts of classical antiquity” (47) as he retold the narratives of Genesis to elucidate God’s saving work and his will for human relationships with himself and with his other creatures. Luther modeled for his students an attitude toward biblical study that submitted to the text and found in its stories the patterns for understanding how God acts toward his human creatures and how he had designed human life to be lived. He presumed that “scripture ‘absorbs’ the world of the reader” (16). “By his interpretation of the Old Testament as a Christian book, Luther viewed the church’s life through the interpretive mirror of the word of God and saw himself and his hearers in the lives of the patriarchs” (178). Maxfield offers readers a thorough investigation of Luther’s exegetical and Concordia Journal/Spring 2009

pedagogical approach to mining the text for God’s address to his students’ future sixteenth century hearers in the topics considered in these lectures. “The Arena of God’s Play—Christian Life and Holiness in the World” constitutes one focus. Luther transformed the image of the ideal Christian life from that of the monk or nun to that of every person who trusts Christ in the context of callings in family and economy, in political society, and in the church. Genesis texts provided perfect stages for modeling that life of faith active in love. “As Luther read the sacred text in the light of events in his own day, he described for his students a reconfiguration of a Christian society rather than a process of secularization” (88), Maxfield observes against those who try to depict Luther as a herald of the modern world in oversimplified ways. He makes clear how critical the reformer could be of abuses of princely power although he does not refine his focus to discuss the development of Luther’s attitude toward active resistance as well as passive resistance to secular government. Maxfield also clarifies issues surrounding Luther’s attitude toward women as he examines comments on texts regarding Sarah, Rebecca, and other “matriarchs.” The Christian life is lived in the midst of a hostile world, on the battlefield between God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom. This book shows how Luther expounded God’s role as provider and redeemer in the midst of human history, through the work of Christ and through the Holy Spirit’s shepherding and sustaining the church in the midst of the eschatological struggle that goes on in daily life. Maxfield places Luther in the context 219


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of the biblical humanists’ critical historical study that revealed the development of the apostasy of the papacy, as he viewed the course of the church’s history. The skirmishes of the patriarchal believers with evil of various forms prefigured those struggles and taught the students how to fight with the Word of God, faith, and prayer. This rested on a view of human history that diverged from its Augustinian foundations by defining the divide not between church and world, but between true church, faithful to the Word, and false church, seeking human power and abandoning trust in God. “Thus, Luther created a self-understand-

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ing for an Evangelical church that found itself persecuted even by that which claimed to be the church of God” (167). A helpful study for scholars wishing to explore how exegesis functioned in the Reformation and how Luther propagated his views to those who carried them to congregations, this volume also makes a delightful and helpful read for amateur historians who want to spend a few hours sitting at the feet of a master teacher, albeit one from a different culture with different methods. The book is commended to our readers.

Robert Kolb


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Upcoming Continuing Education Events

May 6, 2009 Day of Homiletical Reflection “Preaching Paul” Walter Wangerin, Jr., Dr. Reed Lessing, Rev. Justin Rossow May 26-29, 2009 Christian Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Rev. Steve Lee and others

July 27-29, 2009 “Faith and Creative Writing” Summer Workshop Rev. Travis Scholl July 28-29, 2009 Discernment for Interim Ministry National Association Lutheran Interim Pastors

August 3-5, 2009 “Teaching the Faith: Catechesis in the Parish” Summer Workshop Dr. Arthur “Andy” Bacon

September 22-23, 2009 20th Annual Theological Symposium “Science and Theology: New Questions, New Conversations” Dr. Daniel Botkin, Dr. Mario Beauregard, Dr. Benjamin Schumacher, Dr. Angus Menuge, Dr. Del Ratzsche, Dr. Robert Weise October 3-6, 2009 LutherHostel 2009 “Finite and Infinite Games” Rev. John Nunes October 7, 14, 21, 28, 2009 Lay Bible Institute Dr. Robert Weise

For more information on these events, please contact Continuing Education and Parish Services at 314-505-7486 or ce@csl.edu. Continuing Education and Parish Services 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, Missouri 63105 www.csl.edu


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Alumni Read

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

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!

Featuring Science and Theology: An Introduction by John Polkinghorne Alumni Read—read a book over the summer, to foster discussion between alumni and faculty, both online and in person during the Alumni Reunion this summer, June 2-4.

Alumni Read will tie in with the theme of this year’s 20th Annual Theological Symposium: “Science and Theology: New Questions, New Conversations,” September 22-23, 2009.

Alumni Relations 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, Missouri 63105 www.csl.edu


Concordia Journal | Spring 2009