Interview with N.T. Wright on Paul and the Faithfulness of God

Mike Bird recently posted a 25 min. interview with N.T. Wright on his new Pauline book Paul and the Faithfulness of God. It’s a nice interview giving a bit of the history of the book and Wright’s understanding of Paul in the context of Jewish expectation of YHWH’s return to his people.

You can watch the video here.

How to Find Allusions in the Bible Using Accordance

A friend of mine is writing a chapter on intertextuality in Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs and I explained to her how Accordance can help find possible allusions with the infer search command. I thought I would pass along how I use Accordance in order to help find possible allusions. If you use other tools to find possible links please share.

The first thing to do is to open a tab with one of the texts that you are looking for possible correspondence; in this case the Song of Songs.

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The second step is to open a second tab (Opt + N) and define the range of the second text you are looking for correspondence in. Here I’ve used the book of Ecclesiastes.

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Next while in the second tab you want to perform the infer search.

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After selecting the infer command, a box will pop up allowing you to define the parameters of the search. You can search for either lemmas or words, define the number of shared words you, choose the number of words that may be subtracted or added to the phrase, or ignore word order.

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After hitting return, Accordance then highlights the correspondences that meet the input criteria.

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You then double-click on the reference of any of the results and then click “Search Back Linked Text.” Below I’ve searched back in Eccl. 1:9.

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Accordance will then populate a new tab with the corresponding text. Below is what Accordance produced as corresponding to Eccl. 1:9 in Song of Songs.

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As can be seen the infer command can be a powerful tool to find possible allusions between texts. Obviously the researcher still has the hard work of determining if the links are meaningful but this search assists in finding the possibilities.

Reader-Response Criticism and Theological Interpretation

I have to admit that when I first came across Reader-Response Criticism in seminary I was skeptical about what insights could be gained from such a method. My experience has been that even when a method is agreed upon by readers agreement of a text’s meaning is still harder to come by. This has led me to be more open towards reader-response when such readings are done along the grain of the text. I think Robin Parry captures this well in his short essay in the Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker Academic 2006):

Christians can concede that different acts of reading are undertaken with different goals in mind and that theological interpretation is not the only goal a Bible-reader, even a Christian Bible-reader, may have. For instance, I may read Scripture in order to attempt a historical reconstruction of the events narrated, or to explore the gender relations encoded in the text. Such differing goals will yield different results and must be judged by criteria relevant to their goal. For the Christian, theological interpretation is the supreme goal for Bible-reading, and it too has its own rules of assessment (canonical context, the Rule of Faith, the gospel, etc.). Faith will also guide Christians in discerning which other goals may be legitimate subservient Christian projects (e.g., discerning a text’s redaction history) and which produce inappropriate ways of handling Holy Scripture (e.g., materialist interpretations) (661).

Old Testament Law and Living Biblically

Christopher Wright has an article over at Christianity Today on reading Old Testament law and the Christian life. The starting place for his article are two recent books: A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible and Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood which show how clueless many of us can be when thinking about how Scripture speaks today. In his article, Wright provides some helpful ways for us to think about how law still functions as Christian Scripture. My favourite line from the article:

The idea that all the imperative statements in the Bible should be taken literally, as if they all apply to me, is a nonsensical way of handling Scripture.

You can read the whole article here.

Greek Grammar and Scholarly Charity

I’m several days behind the news but I thought it was still worth posting. On his blog NT Discourse, Steve Runge posted about his article due out next year that critiques Stan Porter’s linguistic framework that was used in his seminal work Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood and subsequent projects. Critique always occurs in scholarly discussions but this one is much more personal for Steve because Stan was his Greek teacher and Steve even served as his TA.

Steve’s entire post is worth reading about the subsequent history between him and Stan as well as the stretches he went to in order to discuss the issues before deciding to write this article for publication.

You can read the post here.

A Short Yearly Review

This past Thursday I submitted my masters dissertation Topicalization and Focalization: The Function of Preverbal Word Order in Amos 3-6. Now that I have officially finished with the masters degree I have been trying to reflect on some of the broader things that I’ll take away from this year of study. The two things that stuck out to me were a desire to be faithful and the benefit I received from community.

I find it true that for most who study the Bible academically, it is easy to become distracted from the purpose of why they wanted to study the Bible in the first place. This is not to say that studying the Bible academically isn’t a worthwhile pursuit, only that academics should be for the benefit of others and too often the work isn’t thought through of how to make the work accessible to others outside the guild. Thankfully, I was able to step back and reorient myself at times this year that was crucial to how to approach the work. The one thing that really stuck with me was the desire to be faithful. I wanted to be as faithful as I could be to Scripture, to my dialogue partners, and to the gifts I have. I was constantly reminded that the work I do is never perfect and never fully finished; I would never fully please or satisfy everyone and there is always more I could have said or said differently. Stepping back and asking, “Was I faithful?” was critical to being content in the work while also knowing it will never be fully finished.

A second area that I reflected on was the benefited I received from community; both academic and ecclesial. Academic community for the most part is fairly easy to come by on a daily basis: shared study areas, lunches, reading groups, seminars. Twice this year many of my Old Testament colleagues and their families met up together at someone’s home for an evening for tea and coffee (and the occasional cupcakes with Ugaritic letters in icing or sugar cookie in the shape of a tablet). It was a great time for our families to meet socially. There is a definite sense of camaraderie when several families who are all going through similar life circumstances get together for an evening.

Perhaps maybe even a greater benefit to me this year was the community from the small group from our church, St. Paul’s and St. George’s. Meeting with others who are concerned with living their lives before God in his kingdom brought a lot of sanity and perspective. It is easy for me to make more out of being accepted by peers than serving and bettering the Church through the research.

It has been a tough but good year here in Edinburgh and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to study here. My program has ended and many others are getting ready to resume again. I wonder what types of reflections others have had when they had a chance to step back from the grind. Anybody have any thoughts?

Storied Typology

Over at Euangelion, Joel Willitts has written a couple of posts on doing Biblical Theology. I think Joel’s intuitions are correct that a typological approach tends to exalt “fulfilment” to the neglect of the “type.” Willitts wants to show the meaning and the significance of the “new” is profoundly shaped by understanding the “old.” He writes:

The new event is in the shape of the archetype and thereby embodying its importance. The idea is that the new event’s significance is dependent on the significance of the old event. The new event is “another manifestation of the basic archetype”. The new derives significance in relation to the old.

Be sure to read his whole post here.

Choosing a Divinity School in the UK

Matt has prompted me to try and answer a question a student of his had on how to choose a divinity school in the UK. There are many factors that one should consider; here are some that come to mind.

Masters or PhD?

I knew when I came to the UK that I wanted to do another masters degree. The education I received during my masters from Southeastern was outstanding, but it didn’t necessarily prepare me for the research that I would need to do at the PhD level. Not always, but usually, if you have not undergone any type of “real” research the universities you are applying to may want you to undergo a one-year masters degree before commencing towards doctoral work. I also considered that having two degrees from UK universities may open me up to opportunities that I may not necessarily have by only studying in the US. 

I am quite pleased that I did the masters degree. It has been a time of tremendous spiritual and academic growth. It has definitely prepared me for the research that will take place at the doctoral level and in some ways I feel a bit ahead of some of my friends who came straight from a seminary into the PhD.

Subject area and Supervision

Your subject area and supervision are pretty key to choosing a program. All faculties try and have a balance in what they can offer in their research but its interesting how each faculty also has a sense of identity and what they are known for and what kind of researchers they produce.

Because the UK PhD is all about the individual research you need to look for a program and or supervisor that suits what you want your research project to look like. This is why it is important to look at faculty bios and research. You should look for faculty members at the university that can provide supervision for the project you are wanting to do. More frankly, will the scholar want to supervise the project you are researching? Being able to find a supervisor you can work with will make your experience much more enjoyable. This looks different for each person. Some people may choose a supervisor because he or she is the best in the discipline. Others may choose supervisors who are not as prominent in the field right now but are brilliant at guiding the student through the thesis project. So also consider what type of supervisor you may need.

Residential or Distance?

There are options to do a PhD either residentially or at a distance. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to either. Most if not all of the major universities require all full-time PhD students to be residential. So, if you want a degree from any of the bigger named universities residential is probably what you’ll want to do.


This is not so much solely about the UK, but should be considered when pursuing doctoral studies. What kind of community is there at the university? Both academically and personally. New College has a wonderful sense of community among both faculty and researchers. Because I work in the Old Testament, several of us began putting together “gatherings” for Old Testament faculty/researchers and our families. We get together and just hang out. I can’t tell you how much we’ve enjoyed getting to know one another’s families. There is a real sense of community when you realise how many other families are doing exactly what you are doing and learn from others about living in the UK, traveling around Europe, and coping with being attached to such nerdy people.

Anybody else have any thoughts?

4 Gospels Website

I just read over at Mike Bird and Joel Willitts’ blog that there is a new gospel website: 4Gospels. Some of the authors of the website are Peter Williams (Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge) and Simon Gathercole (University of Cambridge). I’m sure it will be an interesting website with content on both canonical and non-canonical gospels.