November 2008

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006). 508 pp. + indices.

Bauckham begins his study by introducing what is to me the key contribution his work makes: the category of eyewitnesses. He points out that the way a lot of form critics of the NT operate it is as if they assume that the disciples (or eyewitnesses) first told the Gospel story and then went on permanent retreat, never to be heard from again. The argument that the Gospels are in the majority constructions of later Christianity is nonsensical in light of the fact that “The gospels were written within living memory of the events they recount” (7). Furthermore, he points out that contrary to our modern view of history, in the ancient world the most reliable witnesses to an event were those that were not only present at the event, but were intimately involved in the event which allowed them “to understand and interpret the significance of what [they] had seen” (9). In this regard, Bauckham notes, “the Gospels are much closer to the methods and aims of ancient historiography than they are to typical modern historiography” (11) but they must be understood as historiography in some form.

He next turns to a discussion of Papias (who we know only through citations in Eusebius). He will return to examine in detail Papias’ view of the Gospels in chs. 9 and 16. For his purposes here, he establishes the importance of eyewitness testimony in that it was considered “the best practice of historians” (27) to be most reliant upon eyewitness testimony in constructing a history.

The next several chapters (chs. 3-5) (more…)

Several weeks ago I mentioned that my wife and I had the opportunity to hear Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. I really tried to pay attention to the music and take advantage of the opportunity. As I listened I noticed something, that I later learned is typical of symphonic or big orchestral pieces. That is, the development and allusion to continuing themes. For example, the theme notes that open the first movement and form the backbone of that part of the symphony also begin the second movement but then disappear. Another example is the ‘Ode to Joy’ theme, that is so recognizable to all of us, which is hinted at early in the fourth movement but doesn’t really fully flower until the choir kicks in later in that movement.

As I thought about this technique, it occurred to me that perhaps this is a good way to view the book of Isaiah, which is a research are of mine at the moment. I’m less interested in theories of authorship or redactorship than I am about understanding how the book works as a whole. I think the paradigm of a symphony with separate movements and recurring themes is a good way to talk about Isaiah.

Whether you hold to one author of Isaiah or many, it is clear that there are at least three major movements in the book (1-39, 40-55, 56-60). But within these movements are recurring themes that tie the piece together. So, for example, in Isa. 5:1-7 we have the Song of the Vineyard, which uses a story about an unproductive vineyard to talk about Israel’s relationship with God. (more…)

Michael Crichton died of cancer last week. He was 66. It has been a long time since I’ve read a Crichton novel, but that has little or no bearing on how much his novels affected me over my life.

I think I was in 6th grade when I read Jurassic Park (incidentally, the same version as the picture to the left). It was the first, and I think may be the only novel that I read cover to cover in one day. I remember that Saturday. I had gotten the book from the library on friday and started reading on a rainy Saturday morning. I finished the book that night. Wow what a ride!

His books were always a wonderful blend of imagination, suspense and science. A doctor by training, as a kid I always felt like his books were within the realms of possibility and thus stretched your imagination to further ask questions about what could be scientifically possible. His books were fantasy in the real world so that rather than escaping to another world, he brought the fantastic to you in a way that you could almost believe was possible.

I don’t care what anyone says about the quality of his writing or his views of environmentalism, I will always remember him as a writer who was able to keep a twelve year old boy enthralled in a book for an entire saturday. After reading Jurassic Park, I proceeded to read most of his most well known novels, Andromeda Strain, The Lost World, Sphere, Congo, etc. And while none of his works quite captured me like Jurassic Park I never read a Crichton book that failed to entertain.

As someone who considers himself a life-long habitutal reader, I know that I owe a lot of that to the thrilling novels I read as a sixth grader. For that reason I will always think warmly of Michael Crichton, for that reason I will always be in his debt. RIP Michael Chrichton.

(for a great little article on his life see the NY Times article)

I originally posted this on Western Seminary’s ThM blog, but I thought it would be worth re-posting it here.

The purpose of this post is to stimulate discussion and to the thoughts of others on an issue that I consider to be of the utmost importance for evangelical faith. Those of us here at Western are mostly from a certain theological camp. The professors have all signed the same doctrinal statement and many of us students are members of ETS which means we have all signed the following statement:

“The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.” 

My question is 1) how useful is this doctrinal statement and 2) how do others understand it? My purpose in this post is not to undermine this doctrine but have a more meaningful and more mature discussion than is often found when talking about inerrancy.

Here are my reservations. (more…)