First century Christians were not unique in their use of ‘gospel’ language. In fact, this word group (which exhibits the εὐαγγελι- stem in Greek) actually comes into several connections in ancient literature. For instance, in his Jewish Wars, Josephus records the following:
So the men of power, perceiving that the sedition was too hard for them to subdue, and that the danger which would arise from the Romans would come upon them first of all, endeavored to save themselves, and sent ambassadors; some to Florus, the chief of whom was Simon the son of Ananias; and others to Agrippa, among whom the most eminent were Saul, and Antipas, and Costobarus, who were of the king’s kindred; and they desired of them both that they would come with an army to the city and cut off the sedition before it should be too hard to be subdued. Now this terrible message was good news [εὐαγγέλιον] to Florus; and because his design was to have a war kindled, he gave the ambassadors no answer at all (Josephus, Jewish Wars 2.418–20).
This ‘good news’ was actually only ‘good’ for Florus. The emissaries and those who sent them would have had, to say the least, quite a different perspective on the matter. This usage, consequently, highlights a very general application of ‘gospel’ language to something with which someone happens to be pleased, irrespective of what other people’s assessments might be.
A new page is now available that will eventually house several resources for learning New Testament Greek. Currently, the page features MP3 audio recordings of the basic verb and noun paradigms as well as some songs that have been translated into Greek. Repeatedly hearing these paradigms and the songs in which they are used can provide one more way of cementing New Testament Greek in memory.
Right now, the Greek resources page basically reflects my old faculty page at Faulkner University, but expect more material to become available and a more friendly organization to develop over the coming weeks.
Asking whether the New Testament specifically or the biblical literature generally has a divine or human origin and a divine or human nature imports a dichotomy that literature itself does not reflect. From this literature’s own perspective, the literature is not viewed as always either human or divine in origin and nature, nor is it sometimes human in origin and nature and sometimes divine. Rather, this literature and several significant figures in early Christianity represent the biblical literature as having both a human and a divine origin simultaneously (see 1 Tim 5:18; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21; 3:15–16; Ferguson 2:5–6).
Herman Bavinck 1:434–35, further reflects on this intermixture of origins and natures within the biblical literature, saying:
The theory of organic inspiration alone does justice to Scripture. In the doctrine of Scripture, it is the working out and application of the central fact of revelation: the incarnation of the Word. The Word (Λογος) has become flesh (σαρξ), and the word has become Scripture; these two facts do not only run parallel but are most intimately connected. Christ became flesh, a servant, without form or comeliness, the most despised of human beings; he descended to the nethermost parts of the earth and became obedient even to the death of the cross. So also the word, the revelation of God, entered the world of creatureliness, the life and history of humanity, in all the human forms of dream and vision, of investigation and reflection, right down to that which is humanly weak and despised and ignoble. The word became Scripture and as Scripture subjected itself to the fate of all Scripture. All this took place that the excellency of the power, also of the power of Scripture, may be God’s and not ours. Just as every human thought and action is the fruit of the action of God in whom we live and move and have our being, and is at the same time the fruit of the activity of human beings, so also Scripture is totally the product of the Spirit of God, who speaks through the prophets and apostles, and at the same time totally the product of the activity of the authors. “Everything is divine and everything is human” (Θεια παντα και ἀνθρωπινα παντα).
An incarnational model, such as the one Bavinck employs, has received some attention in the past few years, and some problems with it have been noted (e.g., Beale 298–301; for an alternative model, see Sparks 229–59). Nevertheless, with this model, Bavinck does find a way to hold together two principles in the biblical literature that may often be set against one another but which the biblical literature itself does not hold in such opposition: scripture’s divine and human aspects.
The Muratorian fragment curiously includes a book named “Wisdom” in the middle of its discussion of New Testament literature (see Westcott 562). The standard interpretation of this reference appears to be that the fragment refers here to the well-known Wisdom of Solomon (e.g., Carson, Moo, and Morris 492; Ehrman 241).
The relevant sentence from the fragment itself reads, “Moreover, the epistle of Jude and two of the above-mentioned (or, bearing the name of) John are counted (or, used) in the catholic [Church]; and [the book of] Wisdom, . . . written by the friends of Solomon in his honour [sapientia ab amicis Salomonis in honorem ipsius scripts]” (Metzger 307; Westcott 562). B. F. Westcott, however, in his Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, considers the phrase ab amicis Salomonis (by the friends of Solomon) to refer to Proverbs as a figurative designation for Hebrews (Westcott 245). This interpretation is prompted by the tension Westcott feels at having a document by this title listed with New Testament literature.
Yet, Westcott’s solution fails to carry much weight. The book of Proverbs (Liber Proverbiorum, Παροιμίαι) probably would not have been identified as the referent of Sapientia (Wisdom) in a context where other well-known works had ‘wisdom’-language in their titles [e.g., Liber Sapientæ (Book of Wisdom), Σοφία Σαλωμῶνος (Wisdom of Solomon), Σοφία Σίραχ (Wisdom of Sirach)]. Likewise, Westcott’s willingness to tie Paul to the phrase ab amicis Salomonis (by the friends of Solomon) seems rather to grasp at straws than to explain the Muratorian fragment’s text. Thus, probably one should understand the Muratorian fragment as designating another work, and because of its general popularity during the period and perhaps even with Paul, interpreting the fragment as referring to the Wisdom of Solomon is certainly reasonable, however awkward such a reference might be in a sequence that describes New Testament literature.
In the third book of his work, Against Heresies, Irenaeus takes up a defense of the fourfold Gospel tradition. This defense proceeds as follows:
It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” [1 Tim. iii. 15] of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. . . . As also David says, when entreating His manifestation, “Thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth.” [Ps. lxxx. 1] For the cherubim, too, were four-faced, and their faces were images of the dispensation of the Son of God. For, [as the Scripture] says, “The first living creature was like a lion,” [Rev. iv. 7] symbolizing His effectual working, His leadership, and royal power; the second [living creature] was like a calf, signifying [His] sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but “the third had, as it were, the face as of a man,”—an evident description of His advent as a human being; “the fourth was like a flying eagle,” pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the Church [Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.8 (ANF 1:428)].
In the middle of this quotation, Irenaeus draws together the point to which he believes the fourfold Gospel tradition finally moves: “From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains [συνέχων] all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit [ἑνὶ δὲ πνεύματι συνεχόμενον]” [Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.8 (ANF 1:428; PG 7:885)]. For Irenaeus, therefore, the Spirit produced a theologically exclusive, fixed corpus that existed before that corpus became a formally recognized, sociological reality in the church.
The journal is “committed to the ecumenical creeds, and to historic Reformed theology. . . . This is no mere idiosyncrasy, but stems from the journal’s desire to be faithful to Scripture: it is the firm belief of the editorial board that Reformed theology has value precisely because it is the most biblical theology” (editorial 1.1).
The journal intends to cover theology and various sub-disciplines. The first issue’s table of contents is:
The Maximalist Hermeneutics of James B. Jordan by R. S. Clarke
James B. Jordan’s maximalist hermeneutic seeks to read the Bible in a way that allows the depth and richness of its meaning to be discerned. The relationship between special and general revelation is important, as the world teaches us how to understand the Bible, and the Bible shows us how to interpret the world. The reader of the Bible should learn to be sensitive to all its literary tropes, in particular its rich symbolism and typology. Controls on this maximalist hermeneutic are not found in externally imposed rules but in theological and ecclesiastical traditions which themselves derive from the Bible.
The Poetry of Wisdom: A Note on James 3:6 by Sarah-Jane Austin
James 3.6 presents complex exegetical difficulties and is often declared textually corrupt. However, since James was probably influenced by Hebrew wisdom literature, and since this is typically poetic, a consideration of Hebrew poetic parallelism may help to make sense of the text as it stands. Viewed in the light of Berlin’s analysis of parallelism, James 3.1-12 is particularly rich in poetic devices, and this suggests that in 3.6 poetic function overrides the requirements of normal syntax. A reading is proposed which arranges the verse in three balanced couplets and situates it in the overlap of two major groups of metaphors.
John Owen’s Doctrine of Union with Christ in Relation to His Contributions to Seventeenth Century Debates Concerning Eternal Justification by Matthew W. Mason
In 1649, Richard Baxter accused John Owen of teaching eternal justification, whereby the elect are justified from eternity, rather than when they believe in Christ. More recently, Hans Boersma has also argued that Owen taught justification prior to faith. Through an historical examination of Owen’s doctrines of justification and union with Christ, I demonstrate that he distinguishes various types of union with Christ: decretal, forensic, and mystical. He is thus able to maintain a mainstream Reformed Orthodox doctrine of justification by faith, whilst also maintaining that faith is a gift of God, purchased by Christ, and applied through Christ.
Thinking Like a Christian: The Prolegomena of Herman Bavinck by Matthew Roberts
This article outlines the main contours of Herman Bavinck’s Prolegomena. Bavinck’s insight was that theological method must be grounded in the substance of theology itself, specifically in its Trinitarian and covenantal aspects. Theology is to be understood as a critical part of the image of God, as he is reflected in the believing consciousness of men in the Church, in response to God’s revelation in Christ. This concept is tightly integrated with Bavinck’s central understanding of the gospel as God fulfilling his creation design in Christ. In this way Bavinck derives a robustly Christian account of knowledge and certainty.