“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).

“Understanding ΚΛΗΣΙΣ in the New Testament”

Lois Dow has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Understanding κλῆσις in the New Testament.” In this article, Dow argues that:

First, the meaning position or condition in the sense of life situation or occupation for κλῆσις in the New Testament is unwarranted. Secondly, the meaning often includes the result of the call as well as the action of calling. It can mean a status of being a called person, with its concomitant responsibilities, privileges and expectations. In this use it is linked through passages about being called (named) by new appellations or designations to the idea of having a new identity or name (198; italics original).

“Heavenly Mindedness and Earthly Good”

Craig Keener has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Heavenly Mindedness and Earthly Good: Contemplating Matters Above in Colossians 3.1–2.”

This article traces in turn ancient philosophy’s contemplation of heavenly matters; evocations of such language in other early Jewish and Christian sources; the significance of our author’s christocentric [sic] focus in his adaptation of the language in 3.1; the behavioral implications the author draws from this christocentric [sic] focus; the intelligibility of those implications in light of ancient philosophy; and how the immediate context shapes eschatological implications in the author’s evocation of heaven. [The] focus and primary contribution [is] elaborating how ancient hearers would have received the passage, especially in view of ancient philosophy. [That is, f]or philosophers, the pure and heavenly deity was abstract and transcendent; for Colossians, the heavenly focus is Christ, fitting the christocentric [sic] emphasis of this letter. For Colossians, contemplating Christ also leads naturally to Christlike character, in contrast to the pursuit of earthly passions (175, 190).

“Early Readers of the Gospels”

Greg Goswell has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Early Readers of the Gospels: The Kephalaia and Titloi of Codex Alexandrinus.” Goswell observes that “there is substantial variation among the codices [Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Sinaiticus] with regard to where [chapter] divisions are placed” (135) and argues that

A survey of the kephalaia in the four Gospels [of Alexandrinus] indicates that their placement is not haphazard but reflects an evaluation of the flow of the narratives and shows insight into the meaning of the story. Some breaks are close together, but others are widely separated. There are considerable differences in the length of the sections, reflecting a perception of the nature of the text by those responsible for the sectioning. Even a glance at the headings assigned to the kephalaia reveal the large element of commonality between the four Gospels (e.g. the headings of Mt. A6, Mk A4 and Lk. A12 that all read ‘Concerning the leper’), but they also bring to light, at times, what is distinctive about particular Gospels (e.g. the differing themes of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke). . . . The function of a textual break in separating or joining material has at times provided . . . exegetical insights. One clear trend within all four Gospels is the highlighting of the element of the miraculous in the ministry of Jesus and (the reverse side of this) the downplaying of his teaching. The headings usually focus on the fact of controversy between Jesus and the religious leaders rather than what issues were controverted. The lack of attention given to dominical passion predictions and the paucity of divisions within the passion narrative itself suggest that there is little focus upon the suffering and atoning death of Jesus. Instead the divisions in the passion narratives reflect a homiletical tradition (or liturgical usage) in which there is a moralistic focus on positive and negative ethical examples (172–74).

“The Origin of ‘Alpha and Omega'”

David Lincicum has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “The Origin of “Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1.8; 21.6; 22.13): A Suggestion.” Lincicum takes his point of departure from the fact that

[Some] scholars have suggested that the title ‘Alpha and Omega’ in Revelation arose through reflection on the Greek form of the divine name, ΙΑΩ. This note takes up and extends that evidence to put forth the possibility that John ‘exegeted’ the divine name, in light of Isaiah 40–48 and emerging scribal practices of abbreviating the nomina sacra, as a reference to Jesus as the Alpha and Omega (Lincicum 128).

In particular, Lincicum concludes that

Steeped in the already considerable Christian tradition of identifying Yahweh’s predicates and actions with those of Jesus, often by means of the Greek translation of Yahweh as ‘Lord’ (κύριος), John wondered what it might mean to identify Jesus by means of that alternative rendering of the tetragrammaton into Greek, ΙΑΩ. He held ΙΑΩ in his mind while reading or hearing Isaiah 40–48 and the temporal merisms there applied to Yahweh, ‘the first and the last’ and ‘the beginning and the end’. Knowing by Christian conviction that ΙΑΩ ultimately was to be referred to Jesus, he was struck by the alphabetical merism, that is, the alpha and omega, included in the divine title, and with how well this might express and stand in continuity with the other two merisms derived from Isaiah. This left the initial iota unaccounted for; might this have been a divinely ordained reference to the initial letter of Jesus’ name? Thus: Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (Lincicum 132–33).

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