Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Passing of C.K. Barrett.

Another giant in the field of biblical studies has gone to meet the one to whom he dedicated his life of study. James Dunn has sent a message that Charles Kingsley Barrett has died. Here is Jimmy's message.

You will be saddened to hear that Kingsley Barrett, my predecessor, died last night (6.30 pm, 26.08.11) - aged 94. He was the greatest UK commentator on NT texts since J. B. Lightfoot, and much loved by a wide range of Methodist chapels to which he ministered for about 60 years. He will be much missed, but his commentaries will live on for many years, providing information and insight to future generations of students of the NT."

I was privileged to meet and interact with Professor Barrett on several occasions while I was studying at Durham. Here are a few of my reflections.

Early on in my time in the PhD program I was in need of an article from ZNW from the year 1939. The library at Durham, however, had no issues of that journal from the years 1938 to 1946. I remember thinking "I know there was a war on folks, but that was some time ago!" When I related my frustration to Loren Stuckenbruck, my supervisor, he suggested that perhaps Kingsley Barrett would have a copy. My surprised reply was "He is still living!?" to which Loren replied, "yes, you sat next to him in the New Testament seminar yesterday." I had no idea that this quiet, humble man sitting next to the past few weeks was a titan in New Testament studies. He never felt the need to announce who he was. He merely came to listen and to learn.

The next time I interacted with him was during a lecture day for perspective students at the university. Hoping to have a chance to hear him speak, I slipped into the room where he was lecturing on Acts. He was standing behind a table with a portable podium. I noticed that as he would lean on the podium it would slide across the top of the table. After several minutes, when the podium was now more than halfway off of the table, I quickly got up, apologized for interrupting, and slid the podium back to the center of the table. When professor Barrett realized what I had done he replied: "Oh, I see, I was in danger of depositing myself on to the floor." I still chuckle to myself when I think of his reply.

One of the last times I interacted with him was when we celebrated his 85th birthday. The department of Theology at Durham arranged for a day in his honor. Judith Lieu and Morna Hooker each came and presented papers and we had a reception at the end. It was obvious that professor Barrett thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Over the years I have been consistently impressed with him as both a scholar and a person. His commentaries on John, Acts. Romans, and 1 Corinthians are still "must reads." All of us are forever in his debt for his New Testament Backgrounds: Selected Documents. And his articles and monographs are so numerous it is impossible to list them here.

At the same time, I have met person after person, who relate how when they visited Durham professor Barrett would have them into his home where they would have tea with him and Margaret, and enjoy a pleasant afternoon of conversation. He was a scholar and a gentleman.

The world and the field of New Testament studies is worse off today for having lost such an individual. May there be others like him who take his place.

Ben Witherington, who was one of Barrett's students, has posted some thoughts as well.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Book Giveaway!

And the books keep on coming!

This week I am offering Christian Origins: A People's History of Christianity edited by Richard A. Horsely (Fortress, 2010). Here is the blurb.

Dealing with a time when "Christians" were moving towards separation from the movement's Jewish origins, this inaugural volume of A People's History of Christianity tells "the people's story" by gathering together evidence from the New Testament texts, archaeology, and other contemporary sources. Of particular interest to the distinguished group of scholar-contributors are the often overlooked aspects of the earliest "Christian" consciousness: How, for example, did they manage to negotiate allegiances to two social groups? How did they deal with crucial issues of wealth and poverty? What about the participation of slaves and women in these communities? How did living in the shadow of the Roman Empire color their religious experience and economic values?

So put your name below and I will select a winner on Sunday.

There will be a few week hiatus for the giveaways. But don't worry, we are not out of books yet.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Passing of Eugene Nida (1915 - 2011)

Word is spreading across the web at the passing of Eugene Nida. Below is an obituary from the United Bible Societies.

Eugene Nida, the giant of Bible translation in the twentieth century, died in hospital in Brussels on August 25. He was 96. Conveying the news, his widow Elena said, “My adored husband has passed away 10 minutes ago. Thank you for your prayers. He was a saint. The Lord is with him.”

For more than 50 years Eugene Nida was the leader of the translation program of the American Bible Society, and subsequently the intellectual leader of the global program of the United Bible Societies, as well as consultant to that organisation.

Dr Nida will be best remembered for the revolution he brought about in the field of Bible translation in the mid-twentieth century. The resulting impact on the growth and development of the Church continues to be felt as millions of people in hundreds of languages around the world have access to the Bible because of the approach he developed and promoted.

More on the Darkness of the Soul: CS Lewis

Yesterday I commented on a post by Chris Armstrong who is writing an article on the Dark Night of the Soul. Yesterday he talked about Mother Theresa. Chris has posted another section of his article, this time on C.S. Lewis. While most know Lewis for his Chronicles of Narnia, others will be aware that he wrote a variety of theological books as well.

One that most did not know he wrote until after he died was A Grief Observed. Lewis wrote the book under pseudonym, perhaps because he was bearing his soul and did not want everyone to know it was him.

Below is how Chris connects the story of Lewis to his article.

Lewis experienced, in other words, both the emotional and the intellectual pain of Absence—not just the absence of his wife, but the immense Absence of God. The “dark night of the soul.” In his words,

“Meanwhile, where is God? When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. . . . Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?”

What disturbs Lewis most at first is not the thought that God does not exist. Rather, it is the thought that he does, and that he may inflict pain from motives that we do not recognize as positive or even ethical: What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, ‘good’? Doesn’t all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite? What have we to set against it?” But even this angry thought, written early in his notebooks, he soon subjects to cooler judgment: “I wrote that last night. It was a yell rather than a thought.”

Yelling at God in times of darkness has a long history, beginning with Jesus himself: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” A vivid cinematic example occurs in Robert Duvall’s movie “The Apostle,” when evangelist Sonny Dewey, who has had his own share of darkness, paces up an down in his room, abusing God in a loud voice. “I love you, Lord,” he bellows, “but I’m mad at you!” Below, his mother is awoken by a phone call from a neighbor, complaining of her son’s raucousness. She only grins and says, “I tell ya ever since he was an itty bitty boy, sometimes he talks to the Lord and sometimes he yells at the Lord, and tonight he just happens to be yellin’ at him.” Somehow I think Jesus intercedes for those in pain and darkness who yell at the Father.

Read the rest of the post over at the Grateful for the Dead blog.

Chris also has a post up about Martin Luther's dark night.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Living through the darkness of doubt and abandonment

When Mother Theresa died in August of 1997 she was hailed by the world as a religious superstar. Her reputation as a tireless worker for the poor and oppressed in Calcutta India was well-known throughout the world. Her tireless, selfless life helped put her on the fast-track to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Then in 2007, her secret letters to her confessor were published in a memoir titled Come be My Light. In them we learned that this women who man thought to be a great example of faith was actually tortured by doubt and sense that God had abandoned her. Few people knew what was going on in her mind and heart.

Over at the Church History Blog Grateful for the Dead, Chris Armstrong has posted an article that he is working on about Mother Theresa. It is an interesting read. Here is a short sample.

Nothing expresses the intensity of this loss better than Mother Teresa’s own words: “Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—Heaven—souls—why these are just words—which mean nothing to me.—My very life seems so contradictory. I help souls—to go where?—Why all this? Where is the soul in my very being? God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.”

Neuner’s response was wise and to the point—and it freed Mother Teresa to continue her ministry in the assurance that this terrible experience of spiritual darkness was in itself both a confirmation and a magnification of the vocation God had given her: “My answer to the confession of these pages was simple: there was no indication of any serious failure on her part which could explain the spiritual dryness. It was simply the dark night of which all masters of spiritual life know—though I never found it so deeply, and for so many years as in her. There is no human remedy against it. It can be borne only in the assurance of God’s hidden presence and of the union with Jesus who in His passion had to bear the burden and darkness of the sinful world for our salvation. The sure sign of God’s hidden presence in this darkness is the thirst for God, the craving for at least a ray of His light. No one can long for God unless God is present in his/her heart. Thus the only response to this trial is the total surrender to God and the acceptance of the darkness in union with Jesus.”

Chris has done a good job of summarizing her life from the perspective of the darkness she suffered. You can read it here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Scot McKnight on the Gospel

Scot McKnight has a new book coming out called The King Jesus Gospel. I received a reader's version from Zondervan that I am reading now and will post on in the near future.

Here a description of what the book is about as well as a video promotion

If 90% of children who grow up in Evangelical homes accept the Gospel, but only 20% of them are still following Jesus as adults, could their be something wrong with our Gospel?

What if we are preaching a weak Gospel?

What if the Gospel we preach isn't the Apostolic Gospel, or the Gospel that Jesus preached?

In The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight challenges our assumption about the good news, and suggests that at its core the Gospel is the declaration that Jesus is Messiah and Lord, and that the story of Jesus completes the story of Israel in a way that saves.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Did this holey jar hold a tasty Roman snack?

The Museum of Ontario Archaeology has a bit of a mystery on its hands. They are the proud owners of a Roman era jar that has been reconstructed. The jar, however, is full of holes and no one is quite sure what to make of it. Here is what the article has to say.

The jar, just 16 inches (40 centimeters) tall and dating back about 1,800 years, was found shattered into an unrecognizable 180 pieces in a storage room at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. But even after it was restored, the scientists were faced with a mystery. So far no one has been able to identify another artifact like it from the Roman world. "Everyone's stumped by it," Katie Urban, one of the researchers at the London, Ontario, museum, told LiveScience. "We've been sending it around to all sorts of Roman pottery experts and other pottery experts, and no one seems to be able to come up with an example."

One suggestion is that it was a storage jar for keeping dormice alive, the main ingredient in a popular Roman snack.

Another possibility is that the jar was used to store dormice, rodents found throughout Europe; ancient texts suggest the mice were a popular snack for Romans. (One ancient recipe suggests eating a dormouse "stuffed with a forcemeat of pork and small pieces of dormouse meat trimmings, all pounded with pepper, nuts, laser, broth." Then, "put the dormouse thus stuffed in an earthen casserole, roast it in the oven, or boil it in the stock pot.") Urban said the problem with this theory is that dormice jars from elsewhere in the Roman world look different from this vessel. The rodent jars were equipped with a ramp that mice could run along and use to help store food within the holes.

Another possibility suggested in the article is that it was used to hold snakes used in religious ceremonies. Hmm, I wonder if any of these type of jars have been discovered in certain areas of the USA?

You can read the rest of the article here.

If you want that recipe so you can try it at home, go here.

What do you think? What might this have been used for?

Perhaps it was a Roman laundry hamper? The holes would have allowed the odor to escape from the owner's toga, especially helpful after a long evening of reveling with Nero and other notable Roman dignitaries.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Friday Book Giveaway!

Congrats to Adam Booth. He is the winner of this week's book giveaway.

Adam, please send your details to me at You have 5 days to claim the book or it goes back on the shelf.

Check back again next week for another giveaway.