Learning a Proverb from a Pagan

Angelico Silence
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Earlier this semester in Exploring Religion, we discussed Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods, and one paragraph particularly struck me as an apt illustration of Qoheleth’s advice that עת לחשות ועת לדבר (Eccl 3:7b; there is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak):

When Cotta had spoken, Velleius said, ‘It was indeed rash of me to attempt to argue with someone who is both an academician and an orator. I would have no fear of an academician who had no gift of words or of an orator however eloquent who was not a good academic philosopher. I am not put out by a stream of empty words, or by subtle propositions quite devoid of eloquence. But you, Cotta, are  a champion on both counts. You only lacked an audience and a jury. But more of this another time. Let us now hear Lucilius, if he will favor us with his views. (123; underlining added)

Roughly the first half of bk. 1 is Velleius’s argument for the Epicurean position, and the second half is Cotta’s Academic rebuttal. At the beginning of bk. 2, therefore, Velleius could well have stood to attempt to refute Cotta’s initial rebuttal. Yet, he defers this attempt to “another time” and passes the discussion to Lucilius Balbus, the Stoic, who will also do the Epicurean position no particular favors in the body of bk. 2.

This action serves Cicero’s larger purpose of transitioning into a discussion of the Stoic position. Yet, how he does so—namely, Velleius’s reservedness toward Cotta and his yielding the floor to Balbus—suggests, perhaps, an interesting perspective for applying Eccl 3:7b not simply to situations where speaking in general might be out of place but also to situations in which one’s own speech might be out of place (e.g., because of its preceding quantity; cf. Prov 10:19) but another’s speech might not be so.

“But What about Israel?”

The Evangelical Theological Society’s southeastern, regional meeting begins tomorrow and will feature some interesting-looking papers, a couple of which I have been able to preview as they have come through Southeastern’s Writing Center. Fellow blogger Alan Knox will be presenting on “A Theology of Encouragement in Hebrews,” and my own paper, “But What about Israel?: A Biblical-Theological Approach to the Question of Individual and Corporate Election in Romans 9–11” has also been included in the program. To abstract this paper briefly:

Exegetes and theologians have repeatedly wrestled with the vexing issues related to Paul’s perspective on election in Rom 9–11. Some have assigned to Paul mainly an individual view of election in these chapters, and others have assigned to him mainly a corporate view. Yet, Rom 9–11 only fully satisfies its rhetorical obligations within Romans as a whole when both the individual and the corporate elements within Rom 9–11 have their full effect. That is, rather than arguing from either an individual or a corporate perspective on election over against the other, Paul prosecutes his argument in Rom 9–11 precisely by highlighting election as a divinely-established reality that takes shape in the interplay between its corporate and individual dynamics. Moreover, when the church attends properly to this interplay, Rom 9–11 provides an even more robust resource for her theological formation.

Writing this paper has been an interesting and stimulating exercise, and I am very much looking forward to the interaction and feedback that the conference should afford. For more information about the southeastern, regional meeting and other society news from the past year, those interested may see the annual newsletter, which has also become available fairly recently.

Snodgrass on a “Hermeneutics of Identity”

At the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectureship at Dallas Theological Seminary, Klyne Snodgrass discussed a “hermeneutics of identity” in four parts.

Part 1: Theory and Theology

Part 2: Gospels

Part 3: Paul

Part 4: Church and Ministry


The whole series is excellent and highly engaging. Snodgrass repeatedly observes the New Testament’s consistent concern with issues related to identity, but he also clearly distinguishes the direction of the New Testament’s robust concern in this area from the directions that this concern’s poorer cousins have taken. Each lecture is around 45 minutes long, and taking about 3 hours to listen to the whole series is fairly certain to be time well spent.

Header image provided by Covenant Ministerium

Defining “Theological Interpretation”

This morning, Scot McKnight has an engaging post that addresses some ambiguities present in descriptions of “theological interpretation.” To move toward decreasing these ambiguities, McKnight proposes his own description of what interpreting scripture theologically should mean—namely, “read[ing] individual passages in the Bible through the lens of one’s orthodox, community-shaped, and confessional theology” (italics original). Read the whole post, particularly the concluding paragraphs, for some other, very good reflections on the interrelationships between theology and hermeneutics.