January 2009


Apparently my spellchecker does not recognize the word Superbowl. The options it gives for correcting this misspelling are ‘super bowl’ or ‘superb owl’! I much prefer superb owl. I think this year, I’m going to try and attend a Superb Owl party! Because everyone knows, owls are superb!

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I’m reading through N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God and I came across perhaps the best single description of the troubling book of Ecclesiastes I’ve ever seen. Here it is:

Ecclesiastes, who sometimes seems to cast himself as the Eeyore of the Old Testament, would simply shrug his shoulders and tell you to make the best of what you had. (Wright, 108 )

That’s right, according to N.T. Wright, Ecclesiastes could be viewed as the Eeyore of the Old Testament. Hilarious!

(This is a summary of my longer paper titled: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Context: Jesus’ Interpretation of Isa. 5:1-7 in Light of Second Temple Jewish Parallels. The current version of my paper is available here.)

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mk. 12:1-9/Mt. 21:33-46/Lk. 20:9-19; also GThom 65-66) is one of the most important and most variedly interpreted parables in the New Testament. Many commentators suggest that the only plausibly historical way of interpreting this parable is to strip it from its synoptic context (in the midst of Jesus’ Temple controversy) and to remove from it its reference to Isa. 5:1-7 which forces an allegorical interpretation of it. I suggest, however, that if we are looking for an historically plausible Jesus, then we are looking for one who both fits plausibly within the Judaism of his day, and yet is controversial enough within that Judaism to have been crucified and founded a community which later broke with that Judaism. By looking at several other Second Temple Jewish interpretations of Isa. 5:1-7 we can see that Jesus’ interpretation of Isa. 5:1-7 in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants fits these criteria perfectly. (more…)

I am not an apologist, nor the son of an apologist. However, in my reading I have recently come across a discussion about why one is convinced by ‘evidence.’ 

In the ideal detective story the reader is given all the clues yet fails to spot the criminal. He may advert to each clue as it arises. He needs no further clues to solve the mystery. Yet he can remain in the dark for the simple reason that reaching the solution is not the mere apprehension of any clue, nor the mere memory of all, but a quite distinctive activity of organizing intelligence that places the full set of clues in a unique explanatory perspective. (Lonergan, ix.) 

In other words, it is not for lack of evidence that understanding escapes someone, but the simple fact that they have not been put in the right context that would allow for understanding. Ben Meyer puts it this way: “what has been lacking is not evidence but the subjective conditions that would allow the speaker to grasp the evidence as ‘enough.'” (Meyer, 78 ) 

The importance of this observation can be felt in many contexts, but the one that struck me was in the context of Christian evangelism and apologetics. As Christians we often say that you cannot logically argue someone into accepting Christianity. Yet, at the same time, we confess that our faith is intellectually defensible. It seems to me that the problem for those who do not accept Christianity as intellectually defensible or even the most probable explanation for our human existence is not that the evidence is lacking but they are lacking “the subjective conditions that would allow [them] to grasp the evidence as ‘enough.'” 

The next question would then be, how can we, as Christians, encourage people to get into the ‘right subjective context’ that would allow them to grasp the evidence as ‘enough’? I’m sure that there is not one right answer to this question but I propose these two criteria that may get us a long way toward helping people get in the right context. (more…)