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For Philippa: A short history of the Old Testament

Recently my daughter asked me what I knew about the history of the Bible—not history in the Bible, but how the Bible came to be written down, how it was put together, and how it reached us. So this post and the next are dedicated to you, Pip. And I soon realised that I didn’t have as many answers as I thought I had, so I looked for something on these topics and found Nick Page’s God’s dangerous book,[1] a distillation of a lot of scholarship for the layman. These posts are just a gentle scratch on the surface of what he writes.When were the Old Testament books written?Figuring out when the books of the Old Testament were originally composed is tricky. Certain bits of certain books were apparently written down around 1100 BC, and the youngest bit is probably the second part of Daniel (I come back to it below). The problem with the dates of writing is that much of the Old Testament was probably composed from oral traditions that had been passed from generation to generation, so parts of…

Review of Greg Boyd's "Cross vision: How the crucifixion of Jesus makes sense of Old Testament violence"

Gregory S. Boyd, 2017, Cross vision: How the crucifixion of Jesus makes sense of Old Testament violence (Minneapolis: Fortress).Shortly before this book was published, Greg Boyd published a massive two-volume scholarly work, The crucifixion of the warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s violent portraits of God in light of the Cross(which, I confess, I have not read). It took Boyd ten years to research and write. Its subtitle sums up its theme: How do we interpret the Old Testament (OT) tales of God’s violence in the light of the totally loving, never coercive God revealed in Jesus? The present book is a much shorter presentation of Boyd’s answer to this question, aimed at a wider Christian audience.Boyd’s question presupposes that we should reinterpret the Old Testament by viewing it through the lens of the New, and his compelling examples are the New Testament writers themselves, not to mention the risen Jesus, who re-expounded the OT scriptures to his listeners on the road t…

Review of Gregory S. Boyd (2001), Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a trinitarian warfare theodicy (IVP Academic, Downers Grove IL).

Gregory S. Boyd, 2001. Satan and the problem of evil: Constructing a trinitarian warfare theodicy. Downers Grove IL: IVP Academic.Why I read this bookDo you believe that God is sovereign and has everything under his control? Do you believe that he determines the future? And yet you still ask him to do things that would have him change his mind and change that future? Is this you? I know it’s me, and I know it's seemingly paradoxical.It was a search for answers to this paradox that took me to Gregory S. Boyd’s Satan and the problem of evil: Constructing a trinitarian warfare theodicy (Downers Grove IL: 2001). I certainly wouldn’t have read it for its title. But it isn’t really about Satan. It’s about the topic of the subtitle (which didn’t mean much to me at first). I had read somewhere that in this book Greg presents his version of Open Theism, a school of theology I wanted to know more about, and the only proponent of Open Theism whom I knew a bit about and respected was Greg Boy…

The Revolution 8 (final): The revolution continues

Eighth (and last!) post on N.T. Wright, 2016. The day the revolution began: Reconsidering the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion. London: SPCK.The previous post (The Revolution 7) in this series on Tom Wright's book is here.Introduction In Parts 1-3 of The day the revolution began Tom Wright has shown us that when Jesus died on Good Friday, something happened that made the world a different place. Early Christians saw his death as the ultimate victory over evil, the dawn of ‘the age to come’. The first sign of that difference came when Jesus was gloriously raised from the dead. With wickedness and suffering still pervasive, though, it felt and feels as if the ‘present age’ has yet to end. In the midst of this, the mission of Jesus’ followers is to work for the kingdom of God, announcing God’s amnesty to sinners wordwide. But a mission that promises only that the forgiven will go to heaven ignores Jesus’ claim to be launching the kingdom of God. Mission requires Jesus’ followers to be G…

The Revolution 7: What happened on Good Friday? Romans 3:21–26

What happened on Good Friday? Romans 3:21–26Seventh post on N.T. Wright, 2016. The day the revolution began: Reconsidering the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion. London: SPCK.The day the revolution began is divided into four parts, and this post is an attempt to summarise much of the sixth chapter of Part Three. The previous post (The Revolution 6) in this series on Tom Wright's book is here.Wright returns here to Romans 3:21–26. He does so because, he says, it summarises a first-generation Christian interpretation of Jesus’ death. To quote his conclusion: Romans 3:21–26 ‘does not, then, focus on the point that most of us, including myself in earlier writings, have assumed. Paul is not simply offering a roundabout way of saying, “We sinned; God punished Jesus; we are forgiven.” He is saying, “We all committed idolatry, and sinned; God promised Abraham to save the world through Israel; Israel was faithless to that commission; but God has put forth the faithful Messiah, his own self-rev…

The Revolution 6: What happened on Good Friday? Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapters 1–8

Sixth post on N.T. Wright, 2016. The day the revolution began: Reconsidering the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion. London: SPCK.The day the revolution began is divided into four parts, and this post is an attempt to summarise the fifth chapter, and bits of the sixth, of Part Three. This and the following chapter are the most complex chapters of the book, partly because Wright raises a number of issues early on, which the reader has to hold in memory for answers later; partly because (with good reason) Wright’s exposition does not follow the order of Paul’s presentation in Romans; and partly because, as is unavoidable with Romans, the argument is intricate. I recommend the interested reader not to rely on my summary in this and the following post, but to read what Wright has written.The previous post (The Revolution 5) in this series on Tom Wright's book is here.Wright sees Romans as ‘an extremely subtle and careful composition’ with four sections: chapters 1–4, 5–8, 9–11 and 12–16. B…

The Revolution 5: What happened on Good Friday? Paul’s letters

Fifth post on N.T. Wright, 2016. The day the revolution began: Reconsidering the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion. London: SPCK.The day the revolution began is divided into four parts, and this post attempts to summarise the fourth chapter of Part Three. This is the second of four chapters in which Wright examines the New Testament texts—here Paul's letters other than Romans—to answer the question, What exactly happened on the first Good Friday?. The previous post (The Revolution 4) on Tom Wright's book is here.Paul's letters other than RomansWright's goal in this chapter is to make sense of the ‘bewildering range of imagery’ in these letters. Passages from them say in various ways two things that the early Christians had recognised:Humans were to be saved for the new creation, sharing in royal priestly work in the present world and in world to come.
That goal was attained by means of ‘the death of Jesus, through which the powers of sin and death were defeated’: ‘Jesus, r…