Anakin & Luke Skywalker = Adam & Christ

3 02 2010

I’m reading Mike Bird’s great little book, Introducing Paul, and had to share this analogy of Paul’s contrast between Adam & Christ. I’m sure the analogy should not be pushed too far, but it’s great for what it’s worth.

In want of a modern analogy, George Lucas’s six-part saga Star Wars can be called a ‘Tale of Two Skywalkers’, and in many ways mirrors the Adam–Christ contrast of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, where Adam and Christ stand for the two respective heads of humanity. They are representatives or types of either a corrupted humanity (Adam) or a redeemed humanity (Christ). The first Skywalker (Anakin Skywalker) faced the temptation to give in to the dark side of the force: he gave in to it and death, destruction and chaos followed. In contrast, the second Skywalker (Luke Skywalker) faced the same temptation, but was faithful and obedient to the Jedi vocation, and consequently hope, life and the triumph of good followed. In fact, Luke was able to redeem the first Skywalker, his father Anakin, from evil through his faithfulness.

Introducing Paul, 43

Posted by Con Campbell

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

Reading Paul

15 06 2009

9781556351952I’ve just starting reading Michael Gorman’s book Reading Paul (Cascade, 2008). This is his ‘glimpse of Paul’s grand scheme’ in one (very) long sentence (he has clearly been influenced by Paul in more ways than one!):

Paul preached, and then explained in various pastoral, community-forming letters, a narrative, apocalyptic, theopolitical gospel (1) in continuity with the story of Israel and (2) in distinction to the imperial gospel of Rome (and analogous powers) that was centered on God’s crucified and exalted Messiah Jesus, whose incarnation, life, and death by crucifixion were validated and vindicated by God in his resurrection and exaltation as Lord, which inaugurated the new age or new creation in which all members of this diverse but consistently covenantally dysfunctional human race who respond in self-abandoning and self-committing faith thereby participate in Christ’s death and resurrection and are (1) justified, or restored to right covenant relations with God and with others; (2) incorporated into a particular manifestation of Christ the Lord’s body on earth, the church, which is an alternative community to the status-quo human communities commited to and governed by Caesar (and analogous rulers) and by values contrary to the gospel; and (3) infused both individually and corporately by the Spirit of God’s Son so that they may lead “bifocal” lives, focused both back on Christ’s first coming and ahead to his second, consisting of Christlike, cruciform (cross-shaped) (1) faith and (2) hope toward God and (3) love toward both neighbors and enemies (a love marked by peaceableness and inclusion), in joyful anticipation of (1) the return of Christ, (2) the resurrection of the dead to eternal life, and (3) the renewal of the entire creation. [p. 8]

Posted by Con Campbell

Is Paul Divided? 02

26 05 2009
Copenhagen c.
Image via Wikipedia

Here is the second good quote. This one comes from Troels Engberg-Pedersen of Copenhagen:

Paul should not be seen against a ‘background’ from which he would stand out in splendid isolation. Such a picture would not do justice to the many and complex ways in which he interacted directly with his cultural contemporaries. Instead, we should view Paul as one among them, as a coplayer within a shared ‘context’ that would allow any player to stand out momentarily and for a specific issue of interpretation, but also to receded again later into the shared context.

It does seem to me that we often do Paul and ourselves an injustice when we oversimplify his background, and separate him unnecessarily from his own “culture.” Your thoughts?

Posted by Bruce Lowe

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Conference papers I’m giving this year

4 05 2009

italy-rome-colosseumjpgFor those who may be interested, I’m giving the following papers at the following conferences this year. Come and say hi if you’re around.

In Sydney:

The Paradox of Paul Conference, Society for the Study of Early Christianity, Macquarie University

A Disconnected Epilogue?: The Relation of Ephesians 6:10–17 to the Rest of the Epistle.

Ephesians 6:10–17 has sometimes proved a conundrum for scholars who seek a coherent reading of the epistle. The main themes of the letter–participation with Christ, salvation, unity, church–do not appear to intersect with the picture of spiritual battle that is found in its closing section. Is 6:10–17 an epilogue that bears little inherent correspondence to the preceding five chapters? Or does it consist of subtle ties that require elucidation? This paper will argue that 6:10–17 is, in fact, inextricably woven from the fabric of the Epistle to the Ephesians. By exploring the notions of eschatology, corporate personality, and participation with Christ, this paper will seek to demonstrate that 6:10–17 not only coheres with the rest of the letter, but is in fact a compelling and masterful conclusion to this magisterial epistle.

In Rome:

Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting: Hellenistic Greek Language and Linguistics

Breaking Perfect Rules: The Traditional Understanding of the Greek Perfect

For some time, scholars have questioned the traditional Aktionsart understanding of the Greek perfect tense-form. The understanding that the Greek perfect communicates a past action with present consequences has come under fire from various quarters and for various reasons. While Greek scholarship is yet to reach a consensus on what the perfect does communicate, one issue that has almost reached the level of consensus is that the Aktionsart understanding is flawed. This paper will suggest that, as a community of scholars who are engaged with Greek, now is the time to leave the old behind. We may not yet see eye-to-eye on what the successor should be, but, it will be suggested, we now know enough to agree on this point. Rather than rehearse the various arguments that have been leveled against the Aktionsart approach to the perfect, most of which are easily accessible, this paper will mount a new type of argument against it. The argument is simple: translators choose to translate the Greek perfect “against the rules” most of the time.

Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting: Paul and Pauline Literature

A Disconnected Epilogue?: The Relation of Ephesians 6:10–17 to the Rest of the Epistle.

(same as above)

In New Orleans:

Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting: Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics

Verbal aspect in the Synoptic Gospels: idiolect, genre, and register

The Synoptic Gospels employ verbal aspect with varying patterns. From Mark’s frequent use of the historical present through to Luke’s sparing of the perfect indicative, the Synoptics provide a valuable case study through which to examine the use of verbal aspect within Greek narrative. This paper will explore the nexus between idiolect, genre, and register with respect to verbal aspect as it is employed within the Synoptics.

Posted by Con Campbell

“I want you to Know Brothers, that…” 01

12 02 2009
2004ish - Carolyn - work appreciation - reworked
Image by ClintJCL via Flickr

(I must apologize. With thesis, teaching an intensive then straight into semester I was down for the count over the last few weeks and the blog suffered. I’m really sorry (not least to Con and Rick!). But I am back now and…)

I don’t know if you realize it, but there is a golden key to understanding Paul‘s letters! It may sound too good to be true, and some people will say it is. But I’ll let you be the judge.

Letter’s in the first century followed a form just like letters today (see the picture). Here’s an example of ancient form:

Petronius Valens to Ptolemaios, my most honored father, greetings.

Most of all, I pray you are well, as at Alexandria I also [prayed] to Sarapis that you live for many years until having grown up I return your kindnesses; for you are worthy of these good things.

I wish you to know that on the twentieth I returned to barracks ten days before my furlough. Therefore I ask you, father, to compel Alima to pursue (the matter of the cloths)…

The above letter looks amazingly similar to Paul’s letters: “Paul… to the Church in Rome… grace… First I thank my God… I do not want you to be uninformed brothers that…” One part is particularly interesting: “I want you to know, that…” (or equivalent). This formula occurs in almost all Paul’s letters and it is meant to be the place where the writer alludes to the purpose of the letter. This ought to be where Paul states why he is writing! Yet it is often ignored or dismissed because we think – “that can’t be it.” What happens when we take this formula seriously? That will be the topic of next few articles, starting with Romans.


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Philippians 1:1-5 (Graeco-Roman Commentary)

7 12 2008
same books, different light
Image by trollshard via Flickr

I’m developing (what I think) is an interesting angle on PhilippiansPaul’s concerned he’ll lose their support because he’s (supposedly) “out of the Ministry” (i.e. in prison where he can’t preach the gospel). Not totally new, but don’t know of a commentary taking this line. So why not start writing one?!! Would love your questions & comments!!! Note v3f. IS WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING (if you need to jump to there):

Phil 1:1
Παῦλος καὶ Τιμόθεος δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus)
Paul begins (as usual) Introducing himself & (for whatever reason) Timothy. Maybe a “Macedonian thing” (c.f. 1&2Thessalonians).

πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Φιλίπποις (to all those who are set apart in Christ Jesus, who are in Philippi)
The “From A… to B” common formula in Paul, standard letter form for the day. Greek most resonant with Rom 1:7… interesting… Rome & “little Rome.” No mention of “church” in either letter… maybe Christians not a registered society… Maybe ekklesia too provocative a term for a Roman.

σὺν ἐπισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις· (together with overseers and deacons)
This is interesting. Why make a distinction with those in office – is he asserting his authority, but in a softer way than starting “Paul an Apostle”?

Phil 1:2
χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Grace & peace to you from Father God and Lord Jesus Messiah)
Very interesting verse, but standard greeting for Paul. Read any good commentary on Paul for more.

Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ μνείᾳ ὑμῶνἐπὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ ὑμῶν (I give thanks to my God upon your every remembrance… [and] upon your partnership)
Seems to me that the parallel ἐπὶ phrases suggest he is giving thanks for parallel things… and quite possibly the same thing! If this is true, the first bit means “I give thanks every time you remember me [with contributions]” because what he is going to go onto say about partnership is their support of him.


Posted by Bruce Lowe

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Understanding Faith (05)

7 12 2008
The Crucifixion, central panel of the Isenheim...
Image via Wikipedia

Well the time has come to bring this discussion back to the Pistis Christou Debate. If pistis (faith) is a word like “Charis” (grace/thanks) and “eucharistow” (thanks/grace) who’s meaning is determined by the position of the different parties in a relationship, then what would we expect in a relationship like God ↔ people? In Rom 3:1-8 Paul claims that the Jewish promotion of the law has turned it into a contractual relationship. But this is not the way it should be. Rather, over and again, God is presented as the great patron who freely gives in grace to people, so they may honor him. Under this perspective, we would expect God to be performing acts of Pistis towards people (=kindness, faithfulness) because that’s what patrons do. And we would expect people to be expressing Pistis back towards God (=trust), because that’s the appropriate response from people who have a patron. This would then account for pistis Christou. It is Christ’s pistis not towards the God but towards us! To which Christians then respond in a reciprocal way with trust. So pistis Christou may be subjective genitive, but of a sort which actually doesn’t turn human pistis into a following of Jesus’ example… rather, most naturally, it is defined by the relationship itself as trust! Ironically then there is a way of taking pistis Christou as a subjective genitive, but arriving at a place where most proponents of the objective genitive come to!

Posted by Bruce Lowe.

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Union with Christ: prepositions (2)

3 12 2008


img_3696The theme of Union with Christ is conveyed by a series of phrases that employ different prepositions: ‘in Christ’ (ἐν Χριστῷ); ‘into Christ’ (εἰς Χριστόν); ‘with Christ’ (σὺν Χριστῷ); and ‘through Christ’ (διὰ Χριστοῦ). An important question to ask is: what do the prepositions mean within these phrases? Take ‘in’ (ἐν) for example. This is the most common preposition in the Greek New Testament (by far), and is enormously flexible in its usage. It’s difficult to know how best to read it within the ‘in Christ’ phrase. Is the ‘in’ like ‘in New York’, or ‘in command’, or ‘in an hour’, or ‘in jeans’? In fact, the word is even more flexible in Greek than it is in English. It could also be translated as ‘with’, ‘by’, ‘into’, ‘on account of’, or ‘while’. And that’s a shame, because this is the key phrase related to union with Christ. I’m sure that one of the reasons union with Christ is such a puzzling theme is that the key phrase, ‘in Christ’, includes this ambiguous preposition.

Con Campbell

Union with Christ: what is it? (01)

4 11 2008
Image by Peter Riches  

Union with Christ is a prevalent theme in Paul’s writings, yet seems to be somewhat underdone in preaching. The theme is expressed through phrases such as ‘in Christ’, ‘with Christ’, ‘through Christ’, ‘in the Lord’, ‘in him’, and other related phrases. Notice how often such phrases occur within Ephesians 1:3–13.

‘3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; 4 for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.

11 In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.

13 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—in Him when you believed—were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.’

(Ephesians 1:3-13 HCSB)

There’s little question that ‘in Christ’ and related phrases are common for Paul, appearing all over the place in his letters. As readers of the New Testament, then, we would do well to contemplate two related questions: what is union with Christ? and what are the implications of this theme for preaching? I’ll be exploring these questions in my next few posts.

posted by Con Campbell