Jesus as Paul’s Hermeneutical Key

Regarding the place of Jesus in Paul’s hermeneutic, James Aageson suggests that

[Paul’s] hermeneutic is inherently theological and is governed by his experience on the Damascus road and its legacy. From a persecutor of the early church, Paul was transformed into a man with a mission to carry the name of Jesus to the Gentile world. The divine mystery that was revealed to Paul in Christ opens for him new ways of reading and listening to the ancient texts of the Jewish people. His belief in Christ is both an experience and a conviction that, in his eyes, allows him to comprehend the “true” meaning of the religion of his people and their sacred texts (155–56).

The scare quotes (“true”) suggest, on Aageson’s part, at least some reluctance to give an imprimatur to what he considers to be Paul’s view of proper meaning(s) for scripture read in light of Jesus (cf. 158, 180), but Jesus certainly played a constitutive role for Paul’s hermeneutic and, under Paul’s influence and teaching, the churches that Paul planted and the congregations that he addressed.

In this post:

Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament
Stanley Porter

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52.4

The winter issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society arrived in the mail today and includes the following:

New Testament

  • Al Wolters, “ΑΥΘΕΝΤΗΣ and Its Cognates in Biblical Greek” 719–29
  • Nicholas Lunn, “Jesus, the Ark, and the Day of Atonement: Intertextual Echoes in John 19:38–20:18” 731–46
  • David Huttar, “Did Paul Call Andronicus an Apostle in Romans 16:7?” 747–78
  • Joseph Hellerman, “ΜΟΡΦΗ ΘΕΟΥ as a Signifier of Social Status in Philippians 2:6” 779–97

Jewish Scripture

  • Leslie McFall, “Do the Sixty-Nine Weeks of Daniel Date the Messianic Mission of Nehemiah or Jesus?” 673–718


  • Keith Johnson, “Augustine’s ‘Trinitarian’ Reading of John 5: A Model for the Theological Interpretation of Scripture?” 799–810
  • David Barshinger, “‘The Only Rule of Our Faith and Practice’: Jonathan Edwards’s Interpretation of the Book of Isaiah as a Case Study of His Exegetical Boundaries” 811–29

Jim West Is Back

With a post titled “Why?”, Jim West has reentered the biblioblogging sphere at, still reflecting the new title that he gave to shortly before he deleted that blog. Although the first post at Zwinglius Redivivus ostensibly presents a quotation from Calvin regarding apostolic vocation, it has some amusing inter-(hyper)textual connections with Dr. Jim West (the blog) and Zwinglius Redivivus.

HT: Joel Watts. Kudos also to Loren Rosson for successfully predicting Jim West’s return.

Normal Science and the Role of Crises

Normal scientific endeavor can suggest beneficial refinements to a given paradigm, but because the paradigm defines normal science itself, the paradigm’s essential components stand beyond normal science’s refining the influence (Kuhn 46–47, 66, 73, 128–29). In other words, although normal science may suggest refinements of the reigning paradigm that account for the observed difficulties, these refinements, by definition, can only be ad hoc accretions rather than systemic revisions (Kuhn 68–71, 75, 78, 86–87; cf. Hung 78–79).

To provoke a change in a paradigm under which normal science operates, a crisis that demonstrates a “pronounced failure” of the previously accepted paradigm is required (Kuhn 67, 74–75, 77, 92, 97–98; cf. Thiselton 711). A crisis usually follows persistent failure to resolve sufficiently problematic difficulties that a current paradigm raises on that paradigm’s own terms (Kuhn 67–68; cf. Ricoeur 271). Alternatively, when a body of ad hoc problem solutions becomes too substantial to ignore, a crisis still occurs, and this crisis may symptomatically produce several different articulations of the current paradigm that struggle to salvage the paradigm in the context of the necessary body of qualifications (Kuhn 70–71, 83–84).

Therefore, difficulties with a given paradigm by themselves do not necessarily induce a crisis; rather, to induce a crisis these difficulties must be perceived as assaulting the paradigm’s essential components or as having too great a practical significance to ignore (Kuhn 81–82; cf. Hung 16–18).1 Although a new paradigm may be foreshadowed in normal scientific work performed under an old paradigm, this foreshadowing may well be ignored in the absence of a crisis that provides scientists with sufficient motivation to reject the old system and adopt a new one (Kuhn 75, 86).

1 Kuhn also suggests that additional, normal scientific research may aggravate previously small problems until they become too problematic to resolve, but this manner in which difficulties with a paradigm may cause a crisis appears to have its crisis-causing effect because it constitutes a subset of one of these other two categories (Kuhn 81).

In this post:

Beyond Kuhn
Edwin Hung
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Paul Ricoeur
Paul Ricoeur
Thiselton on Hermeneutics
Anthony Thiselton

Two New Dead Sea Scrolls Resources from Brill

Brill recently released the following two new resources for Dead Sea Scroll studies:

Biblical Texts from Qumran and Other Sites (Dead Sea Scrolls Concordance, Volume 3)

Biblical Texts from Qumran and Other Sites
Martin Abegg Jr.
According to the publisher,

For decades a concordance of all the Dead Sea Scrolls has been a major desideratum for scholarship. The Dead Sea Scrolls Concordance covers all the Qumran material as published in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series, as well as the major texts from caves 1 and 11, which appeared elsewhere.

This keyword-in-context concordance, prepared by Martin G. Abegg in collaboration with other scholars, contains a new and consistent linguistic analysis of all the words found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The total number of entries is around 134,000. Every entry includes the keyword with its context, exactly as published in the editions referred to above, with notes on some readings. All keywords have an English translation, and they are listed in alphabetical order rather than by verbal root, which makes the concordance easier to consult for the non-specialist.

Revised Lists of the Texts from the Judaean Desert

Revised Lists
Emmanuel Tov
According to the publisher,

Many details in the inventory list of the texts found in the Judaean Desert have altered since their initial publication by E. Tov in DJD XXXIX (2002) 27–114. Such changes were inserted in some twenty-five percent of the lines of the database, and this information is now presented to the public at the end of the publication procedure of the DJD series. The updating reflects corrections made to imprecisely recorded details, the data published in the last DJD volumes, inscribed archeological evidence not recorded previously, new fragments, changed names, new identifications and arrangements of fragments, updated bibliography, etc. The volume also contains an updated version of the categorized list of biblical texts from the various sites in the Judaean Desert.

Judges as Shepherds

In an essay on “Jesus, John, and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Craig Evans observes that

Jesus’s appointment of the twelve (Mark 3:14; 6:7) is an extension of John [the Baptist]’s typology. The Jordan River has been crossed, and now representatives of the restored tribes have reentered the promised land, announcing the rule of God. If the nation repents, restoration will take place. It will be a time when the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, judging not in a condemning sense but in an administrative, even shepherding sense (Evans 60; emphasis added).

That is to say, according to Evans, Jesus’ description of the apostles’ judicial vocation (Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30) resembles much more the situation in the book of Judges, where the judges rescue Israel from her enemies and, at least when they executed their office properly, guide Israel in faithfulness to her God, than it resembles the role of one who decides a dispute or passes sentence on someone convicted of a crime (cf. Gundry 393; Keener 479–80).

In this post:

Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Collins and Craig Evans
Robert Gundry
Craig Keener
Craig Keener

The Commonality of Communication

In an introductory essay for his edited volume Modelling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the New Testament in Its Context, Phillip Esler observes that

All human groups, however diverse, are capable of communicating with one another. Merely to entertain the possibility of one culture seeking to understand or even translate another presupposes the necessary foundations in human nature and human sociality which transcend ethnographic particularity (Esler 6).

Consequently, despite all of the task’s attendant dangers, there is this good reason, among others, to be hermeneutically hopeful when approaching the New Testament or other ancient pieces of literature, for “[t]ime is no[t] primarily a gulf to be bridged because it separates; it is actually the supportive ground of the course of events in which the present is rooted” (Gadamer 297).

In this post:

Modelling Early Christianity
Philip Esler
Hans Georg Gadamer
Hans Georg Gadamer

Was the Teacher of Righteousness Considered to Be a Messiah?

John Collins rightly argues that the possibility of a positive answer to this question depends heavily on what one means by משיח (messiah) (“A Messiah before Jesus?” 15–35). Most notably, messianic language at Qumran refers to the so-called “Davidic” and “priestly” messiahs (1QS 9:11; 4Q161 3:22–29; 4Q174 3:7–13; 4Q252 5:1–7; 4Q266 f2i:11; f10i:12; 4Q285 f7:1–6; 4Q479 f1:4; 11Q14 f1i:5–15; CD 12:23–13:1; 14:19; 19:10–11; 20:1; cf. 4Q504 f1-2Riv:6–8),1 but some Qumran texts also use messianic language about prophets (28). For example, one may cite the following texts (cf. 28):

  • ויודיעם ביד משיחי רוח קדשו וחוזי אמת (and he taught them by the hand of the ones anointed by his holy spirit and the seers of truth; CD 2:12–13)
  • דברו סרה על מצות אל ביד משה וגם במשיחי הקודש (they spoke rebellion against the commands of God by the hand of Moses and also by the holy anointed ones; CD 5:21–6:1; cf. 4Q266 f3ii:9–10; 4Q267 f2:6; 6Q15 f3:4)
  • וביד משיחיכה חוזי תעודות הגדתה לנו קצי מלחמות ידיכה (and by the hand of your anointed ones, seers of decrees, you told to us the times of the wars of your hands; 1QM 11:7–8)

4Q521; 11Q13 2:18 may also arguably fall under this category (28–29), and if the Teacher is to be assigned to the category of ‘messiah’, he should be so assigned under the rubric of this third, prophetic type of messiah (32–33). Yet, nowhere do the “Teacher Hymns” claim any anointing for their author (30, 33), even though there is ample reason to affirm that the Teacher saw himself as a prophet (32). Thus, in a loose sense by which anointing and prophetic vocation were held together, the Teacher might be termed a messiah, but Collins thinks that “it is misleading to speak of him as the eschatological prophet or as a messiah, in the definitive eschatological sense” (33).

This point is well taken, and the desire that Collins consistently expresses throughout his essay to describe the Teacher, messiahship, and Jesus on their own individual terms is both appropriate and commendable. Still, texts like CD 1–2; 1QpHab 2:1–10 may well set up for the Teacher a “definitive eschatological” role that also differs distinctly at certain points from the “definitive eschatological” role that the early Christian community assigned to Jesus (cf. 29). Perhaps most obviously given Qumran’s likely witness to Davidic and Aaronic messiahs as well, the Teacher does not constitute the sole person in whom יהוה’s purposes for his people ultimately come to fruition. Rather, taken as a whole, the sectarian manuscripts may be understood as divvying out to several parties what the New Testament assigns collectively to Jesus (e.g., 2 Cor 1:20; Gal 1–2; Heb 6:19–7:28; Rev 5). Thus, the exclusivity of influence for the Teacher’s “definitive eschatological” role may be comparatively smaller and otherwise expressed for the Qumran community than it was for the role that Jesus exercised on the early Christian community, but because the Teacher was יהוה’s appointed guide (e.g., CD 1:1–11), there seems to be good reason to suppose that the Teacher’s eschatological definitiveness would have been quite strong within its own designated sphere.

Despite this qualification, “A Messiah before Jesus?” offers concise summary of and engagement with the theses that André Dupont-Sommer advanced early in the history of Qumran scholarship and that others (e.g., Michael Wise, Israel Knohl) have more recently revisited. Particularly, Collins’ conclusion helpfully draws attention to some key points of difference between Jesus and the Teacher that those who have taken the Dupont-Sommer line may have insufficiently appreciated (33–35). This essay and its sister (Collins, “An Essene Messiah?” 37–44) are generally both judicious and informative, and the rest of the volume promises to be quite engaging also.

1 The reference system adopted here follows the conventions of Martin Abegg, Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts.

In this post:

Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts
Martin Abegg Jr.

Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Collins and Craig Evans


The following poem, “Epi-strauss-ium,” by Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861) playfully draws attention to D. F. Strauss’s then recently published Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (Life of Jesus Critically Examined; NAEL 2:1452 n. 1).

Matthew and Mark and Luke and holy John
Evanished all and gone!
Yea, he that erst, his dusky curtains quitting,
Through Eastern pictured panes his level beams transmitting,
With gorgeous portraits blent,
On them his glories intercepted spent,
Southwestering now, through windows plainly glassed,
On the inside face his radiance keen hath cast,
And in the luster lost, invisible, and gone,
Are, say you, Matthew, Mark, and Luke and holy John?
Lost, is it? lost, to be recovered never?
The place of worship the meantime with light
Is, if less richly, more sincerely bright,
And in blue skies the Orb is manifest to sight.

This assessment generally seems quite apropos and its language quite arresting, though one might well be grateful for how more recent scholarship has arguably provided some means for brightening the “place of worship” both “[more] richly” and “more sincerely” (e.g., Bauckham; Dunn; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God; Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God).

In this post:

Norton Anthology of English Literature (7th ed; Volume 2)
M. H. Abrams et al.
Richard Bauckham
Richard Bauckham
James Dunn
James Dunn

N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright

“Blessed Be the Ties that Bind”

Cynthia Westfall has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Blessed Be the Ties that Bind: Semantic Domains and Cohesive Chains in Hebrews 1.1–2.4 and 12.5–8.” Based on her investigation, Westfall concludes,

[A]n analysis of semantic domains provides a vital lens through which we can view every text. At times, it seems that the [Louw-Nida] lexicon does not do enough, and it is easy to find what appear to be shortcomings in the failure to place some words in certain semantic domains. For instance, the truncated classification of προφήτης under ‘Religious Activities’ does not remotely begin to describe the features that ‘prophet’ shares with other lexical items. In this case, the authors did not follow one of their guiding principles that a derivative (e.g. προφήτης) should be placed as close as possible to its semantic basis (e.g. προφητεύω). However, when the theory is understood, the reader realizes that the entries and glosses are suggestive, and the referential (meaning) range of any lexical unit can only be determined by a careful and, above all, a coherent reading of the surrounding context (216).