Mike Bird doing us proud!

31 07 2009

Mike Bird does all Australian theologians proud in this hilarious Zondervan interview.

Funniest thing I’ve seen all week.

Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians 1.9

26 07 2009

ὡς προειρήκαμεν

καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω·

↓εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εαγγελίζεται (παρ᾿ ὃ παρελάβετε),

ἀνάθεμα στω.

It is commonly assumed that Paul simply repeats himself in this verse, underscoring through repetition the pronouncement of a curse upon those who proclaim a false gospel. Certainly there are obvious parallels with the previous verse: the use of a conditional sentence; the same form of the same verb, εὐαγγελίζεται; and the same curse formula, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. But there are three differences from the previous verse that set this verse apart, which will be explored in turn.

First, it appears that Paul announces his ‘repetition’—As we have said before, I now say again—but this is not the most likely reading of the first half of this verse. The clue is the switch of number between the two verbs, as we have said and I now say again. While the epistle is sent from Paul and the brothers with him (1.2), it would be strange to regard verse 8 as something declared by the group, while verse 9 is declared by Paul alone. An additional factor, while less compelling, adds some support to this point: why does Paul need to say as we have said before if he is simply referring to the previous verse? Surely this would be redundant, and Paul could easily have flagged the repetition with I will say it again, or some variation, as he does in Philippians 4.4. Rather, Paul is alluding to something that has previously been communicated by the Pauline group to the Galatians, perhaps through face-to-face discussion. And what this previous communication involved leads to the second difference between this verse and the previous one.

Second, verse 8 warns of the consequences for Paul and his group, or an angel, should they alter the gospel—But even if we or an angel from heaven—while verse 9 warns of the same consequences for anyone (τις) who does so. While verse 8 depicted an unlikely hypothetical situation, in which Paul would proclaim a false gospel, verse 9 refers to something far more likely; in fact, some apparently are changing the gospel of Christ (1.7). This is the message that was previously communicated to the Galatians; if anyone proclaims an altered gospel, let him be accursed.

Third, verse 8 refers to an altered gospel as a gospel other than what we have preached to you, while verse 9 refers to an altered gospel as a gospel contrary to what you received. The genuine gospel is not only the one that Paul proclaimed; it is the one that the Galatians first accepted. Indeed, this is the gospel that created the churches in Galatia. This difference between verse 9 and the preceding verse complements the second difference in that the focus has been removed from Paul and his group: in verse 8 it is Paul and his group (and/or an angel) who stand condemned for preaching a false gospel, while in verse 9 it is anyone; in verse 8 the authentic gospel is the one we preached to you, while in verse 9 it is the one you received. The effect of this is to widen the issue beyond Paul and his apostolic witness. Ultimately this is not about whether someone challenges Paul and his authority; it is about the integrity of the gospel.

Indeed, one effect of verses 8 and 9 in the context is to demonstrate that the integrity of the gospel message is bigger than Paul’s apostleship. While we have seen that his apostleship is a significant issue for this epistle (1.1), even that does not trump the true message. If the apostle Paul and the authentic gospel were to clash, Paul has made it clear that the gospel triumphs. And this fact helps to prepare us for the apostolic quarrel between Paul and Peter (2.11–14) in that one apostle may rebuke another if the truth of the gospel is at stake. It shows the Galatians that even the great apostle Peter can be wrong, and that they must adhere to the authentic gospel even if that means taking a path contrary to Peter and his followers.

Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians 1.8

22 07 2009

ἀλλὰ  ↓καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος (ἐξ οὐρανοῦ) εαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν]

(παρ᾿ ὃ εηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν),

ἀνάθεμα στω.

The fact that there is no other gospel is not a mere intellectual issue; it has grave significance, for if another gospel (which is no gospel at all) is proclaimed other than that already proclaimed to the Galatians by Paul, those responsible are to be accursed. In fact, this verse underscores the grave significance of both the gospel message and the responsibility of those who proclaim it. On the one hand, the message itself must not be corrupted or changed on penalty of a curse. On the other hand, so serious is this message that those who proclaim a corrupted or changed message are held responsible. In other words, the integrity of the message is on view as well as the responsibility of those who proclaim it. There is no apparent leeway for those who proclaim a false gospel out of ignorance or good intentions; this verse contains no escape clauses. Without a doubt, this is one of the strongest and most sobering verses in Paul’s entire corpus.

The strong adversative ἀλλὰ sets the direction of the verse in that while there may be some who desire to change the gospel of Christ (1.7), Paul completely undermines their authority by saying that if even we or an angel from heaven should do this the consequences would be catastrophic—let alone anyone else. The verse is structured as a third class conditional sentence (ἐὰν + subjunctive in the protasis),[1] with a third person imperative in the apodosis (ἔστω). While third class conditions can convey ‘a broad range of potentialities in Koine Greek’,[2] Paul uses the construction to express a hypothetical situation, which he no doubt regards as being extremely unlikely: he and his coworkers are hardly going to begin to proclaim a different gospel, and nor is an angel from heaven likely to do so. And yet, while such a scenario seems highly unlikely, the prospect of others doing so is not remote; in fact, the proclamation of a false gospel has provided the very impetus for the epistle.

The verb εὐαγγελίζω in general usage refers to the announcement of good news, and in biblical usage refers more specifically to the proclamation of the divine message of salvation (BDAG). What Paul considers to be key to this message of salvation will be explored elsewhere, but for now it is clear that the message that was originally received by the Galatians is the genuine article; anything else is not. The preposition παρά with the accusative case can refer to ‘that which does not correspond to what is expected’ with the meaning of against, contrary to (BDAG), which is its most likely function here. Paul has in mind any proclamation of the good news that stands against, or contradicts, that which was originally preached by him to the Galatians.

While the word ἀνάθεμα can be positive or negative—a votive offering or something accursed (BDAG)—the biblical usage of the word is almost entirely negative (cf. Luke 21.5). While it is unclear in this context precisely what Paul means by ἀνάθεμα ἔστω, it is obviously negative, and his use of ἀνάθεμα in Romans 9.3 seems to imply that it refers to being separated from Christ: For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from the  Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my countrymen by physical descent. The phrase cut off is supplied by translations in order to capture the sense of ἀνάθεμα […] ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. In other words, Paul literally says accursed […] from Christ, demonstrating that to be accursed involves being separated from him.

Thus we see in this verse Paul pronouncing a curse on himself or an angel should they preach an alternative gospel. And yet, such a curse, which involves being separated from Christ, is at the same time a natural consequence of deviating from the true gospel. Since it is through the gospel message that people are united to Christ, it follows that a false gospel will leave others separate from Christ. On one level, then, Paul’s pronouncement is not particularly harsh or vindictive; it is simply the logical consequence of a false gospel.

Posted by Con Campbell

[1] See Wallace 689, 696–98.

[2] Wallace, 696.

Bodily resurrection now

21 07 2009

9781556351952Michael Gorman makes a great point about the present experience  of “bodily” resurrection in the following quote (it’s there in the second half of the quote, which I have emboldened).

What do you think?

To begin with, the resurrection of Jesus is itself also something in which we can participate, first of all existentially […] and then also physically […]: In Romans 6 Paul seems to draw metaphorically on the language of death and resurrection to depict the end of one way of life and the beginning of a radically new way of living. But Paul’s language is more than metaphorical; he is speaking about participation in the activity and story of God that centers on Jesus’ resurrection. In fact, in a very important sense, believers’ present resurrection is bodily, because it involves the re-orientation of bodily existence away from Sin and self and toward God and righteousness. Thus we may say that believers’ present resurrection in the body anticipates their future resurrection of the body. (Reading Paul, 106)

Posted by Con Campbell

Preaching Psalm 13 (Sermon)

10 07 2009
"Where angels fear to tread"
Image by vabellon via Flickr

How would I preach Psalm 13? Typologically, some will argue that David represents the Christ as in Psalm 22, ad so this (like other Psalms) should be preached the way the NT authors use Psalm 22. Here, Psalm 13 could be preached as Jesus trusting his Father and seeing the light of salvation at his resurrection.

I would want to draw attention however to the original context of the Psalm… meaning the audience to whom it was written. If an Israelite was made to sing this Psalm or to listen to others singing it, would the sole purpose be to magnify the king and his right response to God? Would it not also be that the king’s example would resonate with issues faced by those singing/listening. The center of the Psalm itself seems to be a right heart with God – not worrying troubles themselves – is the way to have confidence.

In this sense, I struggle with the thought that the original poetry of the psalm as it highlights the importance of the heart, would in a sense disappear as it does in a purely Christological reading. I would think rather that while David’s type of Christ should be emphasized, so too should his example of faith.

How then would I preach this? I would want to emphasize what the Psalm emphasizes: that troubles, no matter what they may be, should always direct us first and foremost towards God. Provided our confidence is in him you can have joy and anticipation that he will deliver you. Ultimately in the present this means we must put our faith in Christ, who is God’s deliverer for us. When we put our trust in Jesus, God’s savior, we can have utter confidence of his salvation.

Posted by Bruce Lowe

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Turbo links

1 07 2009

These are well worth the click:
(most have an ethical flavour…)


Tiananmen Tanks

A brilliant set of photos that remember Tiananmen Square 20 years on.


Chris Wright lectures
Chris Wright on Theology, Ethics and Mission.1


50 best business ethics blogs
50 Best Business Ethics Blogs

Fun (& slightly weird)

Strangemaps - Shoe World

Strangemaps Blog (it does what it says on the tin…)


1 Thanks to Mark Meynell for the link!