Jesus is the Embodiment of Lady Wisdom in 1 Cor 10:4

I am experimenting with my new screen capture program and thought I would make a short video on 1 Cor 10:4. In this short clip I demonstrate that Paul was interacting with many Jewish interpreters of his day regarding the identification of the rock which provided water to the Israelites during the Exodus wilderness trek. If Paul regards Jesus precisely as the true embodiment of Lady Wisdom (i.e., God’s personified wise interaction with the world) then Paul can typologically label that rock as “Christ.” This would sugggest that 1 Cor 10:4 was never intended by Paul to refer to Christ as a physically preexistent person. 

Let me know in the comments below what you think of this interpretation.

The Epistle of Jude and Greco-Roman Associations

Here are the lectures on the somewhat unknown epistle of Jude. In the introductory issues I wrestle with the problem of authorship, its relationship with 2 Peter, date, and the intended recipients. I draw heavily on Philip Harland’s Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations which allowed me to realize that Jude was writing to communities which either viewed themselves or others viewed them as Greco-Roman associations. I introduce my students to these ancient associations and suggest they are key to understanding the particularly heated and selective language used by Jude in this letter.

Let me know in the comments below what you think of reading the epistle of Jude in light of ancient associations.

Enjoy!

 

Critical Introduction to Jude – part one

 

Critical Introduction to Jude – part two

 

Exegesis of Jude – part one

 

Exegesis of Jude – part two

 

3 John – Introduction, Content, and Theology

If I had to guess I would say that you have not heard very many sermons coming out of the small epistle of 3 John. Many have a hard time understanding what is taking place with this letter and what were the social issues precipitating its composition. Fear no further, for I offer here three videos dealing with critical aspects of 3 John, its social situation, and its application for the Church today.

Let me know in the comments below what you make of the message of 3 John.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction to 3 John – part one

 

Introduction to 3 John – part two

 

Exposition of 3 John 

Critical Introduction of 2 John with Commentary

Here are the video lectures critically introducing 2 John and commenting on each of its verses. I find this epistle significant because it was written precisely to highlight the christological humanity of Jesus as a critical Christian doctrine. Failure to confess the human Jesus was akin to labels of “antichrist.” Our class also wrestles with how the honor the command to refuse hospitality to those who do not honor this teaching (according to 2 John 10). Tough issues for sure.

Let me know what you think of 2 John and its unique message.

Enjoy!

 

Critical Introduction to 2 John

 

Exposition of 2 John part one

 

Exposition of 2 John part two 

 

Exposition of 2 John part three

1 John – Message, Theology, and Application

I got a lot of good feedback on yesterday’s post in which I critically introduced 1 John. Here are the videos on the contents of 1 John taught against the backdrop of the introductory material covered yesterday. I focus at the end on practical applications which the wider Church can take from this document.

Let me know what you think of the exegesis.

Enjoy!

 

1 John – part one

 

1 John – part two

 

1 John – part three

 

1 John – part four

 

1 John – part five

 

1 John – part six

 

 

Critical Introduction to 1 John

I do not know about you, but when I used to read 1 John as a teenager I felt that there was a disconnect between the author and myself. It was as if I did not quite fit into his social world, as if I were missing a large piece of the puzzle. Thankfully I now have the benefit of modern scholarship on the Johannine literature so as to fill in that large puzzle piece, thus making it possible to responsibly reconstruct the social setting of 1 John and thereby read the document with greater understanding.

In these three videos I outline the social situation which precipitated the writing of 1 John. I also wrestle with critical issues, particularly regarding what sort of document 1 John is and who wrote it. I also attempt to tackle the interesting issue regarding 1 John’s relationship with 2 John, 3 John, and the Gospel of John (which I regard as having experienced a final form of revising at the hand of the author of 1 John).

Let me know in the comments below what you make of the critical issues surrounding 1 John.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction to 1 John – part 1

 

Introduction to 1 John – part 2

 

Introduction to 1 John – part 3

Ephesians – Introduction, Content, and Theology

Here are some short lectures on the epistle to the Ephesians. I take time to wrestle with the fact that Ephesians was not likely not originally penned to the city of Ephesus in addition to using the epistle to the Colossians as a literary source. This latter point, of course, directly influences the issue of Pauline authorship (which I also explore). Furthermore, Ephesians is the only epistle in the New Testament where there is no crisis being solved by the author!

Let me know in the comments below how you personally wrestle with these difficult and critical issues.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction to Ephesians

 

Ephesians chapters one through three

 

Ephesians chapters four through six

Colossians – Introduction, Content, and Theology

Here are my short lectures discussing Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. I take some time to address the issue of authorship, the likely Jewish identity of the opponents, and I even deal with the christological hymn in chapter one. I am convinced that Paul regards Jesus as the embodiment of God’s personified wisdom, being God’s wise ordering and interaction with his creation. Let me know in the comments what you think about Jesus being the embodiment of God’s wisdom.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction to Colossians

 

Colossians chapters one and two

 

The christological hymn in Col 1:15-19

 

Colossians chapters three and four

Philemon – Introduction, Content, and Theology

In today’s lecture we will be looking at the short (but very important) epistle to Philemon. I encourage you to look more closely and more critically at this oft-neglected letter. Perhaps you might find a message bigger than the letter’s size might initially suggest.

In my exegesis I challenge the popular reconstruction which states that Onesimus was a fugitive who stole from Philemon. Let me know if my reconstruction is persuasive.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction to Philemon

 

Philemon chapter one

Philippians – Introduction, Content, and Theology

Today’s lectures are on the epistle to the Philippians. Special attention is given to the christological hymn in 2:6-11, particularly in how it fits into Paul’s overall ethical argument exhibited throughout the letter.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction to Philippians

 

Philippians chapters 1-2

 

Philippians 2:5-11 

 

Philippians chapters 3-4

Galatians – Introduction, Content, and Theology

Here are my short lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians. I discuss issues involving the New Perspective on Paul, the famous 4QMMT document, the important phrase “works of the law,” the relationship between the imperial cult and the church in Galatia, and what Paul likely meant by his “faith of Jesus” phrase in Gal 2:16.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction to Galatians

 

Galatians chapters 1-2

 

Galatians chapter 3

 

Galatians chapters 4-6

2 Thessalonians – Introduction, Content, and Theology

Today’s short videos are on 2 Thessalonians. These build on top of the videos regarding 1 Thessalonians which I posted yesterday. I give some meaningful attention to the issue of contested authorship as well as what I think 2 Thes 2:1-12 is all about. Feel free to share them with others if you think they might find them useful.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction to 2 Thessalonians

 

2 Thessalonians chs 1-3

Free 25 Hour Course on the Synoptic Gospels

synopticg.JPG

Here is the link to an older class (Fall of 2014) I taught on the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I introduce to the students the Synoptic Problem and the Q document on the first day and use the Two-Source Hypothesis as the basis of my examination of these three New Testament documents. Furthermore, I am influenced by the scholarship of James Dunn in regard to the oral Jesus traditions and how they took their form and shape within a predominantly oral culture.

I hope you enjoy these lectures!

 

PS: the final lecture was lost in production, so I apologize in advance for that.

 

Six Hours of Lectures on the Book of Hebrews

I want to keep sharing my lectures for the public. I recently gave four weeks worth of lectures on the Book of Hebrews in a junior level undergraduate Bible course, totaling something like six hours of material.

We begin by examining introductory critical issues and then move into the exegesis of the document. Critical attention is given to christological issues involving Hebrews, passages which have troubled Christians for a long time. The course also gave attention to modern theological reflection and practical applications.

The link below will take you to a YouTube playlist possessing all of the video lectures.

Enjoy!

My Lectures on the Epistle of James

Last semester I taught an undergraduate course on Non-Pauline Epistles were my class examined critical issues involving these oft-neglected New Testament documents. Here is the four hour playlist of the lectures dealing specifically with the Epistle of James.

Note that the first video also has the introduction to the course (so you might want to fast forward past that part to get to the discussion of James).

Enjoy!

My Free Course on the Book of Acts (25 hours)

Last year I got to work through the text of the Book of Acts with a bunch of bright undergratuate theology students. I recorded the lectures and decided to open them to the public. The course covered a typical fifteen week semester, making the videos span for around twenty-five hours of material.

I apologize in advance for the sound, as the AC sometimes is loud in the background.

Enjoy!

How Jesus Understood Daniel’s ‘Abomination of Desolation’

jesusolivetdisc.JPGI have been misunderstood in light of my recent posts about responsibly interpreting the Book of Daniel, with some of my critics suggesting that I have ignored what Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse regarding the abomination of desolation. I would like to take this opportunity to respond to my critics in a manner which allows for a responsible, historically-critical interpretation of both the Book of Daniel in its original context while also taking seriously the words and teachings of Jesus. There is no use taking Jesus seriously and ignoring Daniel (and vice versa).

I will make my argument in successive numerical points.

Point 1The abomination of desolation in the Book of Daniel is an object, namely, a pagan altar, and not a person. This is confirmed by the earliest interpretation of this phrase in 1 Maccabees (“they set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar” – 1 Macc 1:54). This point is observed by the consensus of modern commentators on Daniel, Bible dictionary articles on the phrase “abomination of desolation,” and lexicons attempting to offer definitions without bias. In Daniel, the little horn is distinguished from the abomination of desolation. Particularly in Daniel chapter eleven the final king of the north is likewise distinguished from the abomination of desolation. We need to define our terms carefully.

 

Point 2The historical Jesus almost certainly was aware of the events surrounding the Maccabean Revolt, especially Antiochus Epiphanes and his abominable altar which was cleansed in December of 164 BCE. The Gospels portray Jesus as a faithful Jew, indicating that he likely kept the Jewish festivals, including the Festival of Lights (known today as Hanukkah). “Hanukkah” is the Hebrew word for “dedication,” and Jesus went up to Jerusalem for this particular festival according to the Gospel of John:

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. (John 10:22-23)

During this festival the events of the Maccabean Revolt would have been retold along with the tale of how the zealous Maccabean family led the Jews in revolt, purging Jerusalem of pagan forces and subsequently cleansing the temple. In sum, Jesus would have been well aware of what the abomination of desolation meant back in the history of his Jewish heritage.

 

Point 3Jesus, around the year 30 CE, spoke about a future event in which the abomination of desolation will be standing in the holy place. Both Mark 13:14 and Matt 24:15 tell how Jesus spoke in the Olivet Discourse of the “abomination of desolation.” It is precisely how Jesus understood and reinterpreted this phrase which is the focus of this point. The Greek translated “abomination of desolation” (τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως) is a neuter noun, but Mark modifies it with the masculine participle “standing” in a way which indicates a personal figure. Stated differently, Mark’s Jesus has taken an image from the 160s BCE and reused it in a different way to refer to an abominable personal figure in the future. Note how these commentators likewise understand what Jesus is doing with this phrase:

Daniel is clearly oriented to the great crisis brought on by Antiochus IV. Jesus’ appeal to Daniel’s “abomination of desolation” should be understood in a typological sense. That is, the crisis of long ago, which threatened to bring Judaism and Israel’s national life to an end, will once again threaten Israel and Jesus’ followers. (Craig Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20, Word Biblical Commentary 34b, 319)

 

Since the specific events of the Maccabean period were now far in the past, its use in the first century could be understood only of an event or horror which in some recognizable way corresponded to what Antiochus had done. (R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, 520)

 

A climactic event in the period of the final tribulation is the appearance of the “desolating sacrilege” in the holy place. This phrase originally referred to a desecration of the Temple in 167 BCE by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, which became an apocalyptic image reinterpreted many times (see Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mark 13:14). (M. Eugene Boring, “The Gospel of Matthew,” in the New Interpreters Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, vol. VIII, 442)

 

‘The abomination of desolation’ is, as Matthew makes explicit, from the prophet Daniel, where it refers to the pagan altar and/or image of Olympian Zeus set up in the Jerusalem temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC (9:27; 11:31; 12:11)…But it is no less likely that our evangelist has in mind some future, eschatological defilement and destruction, and perhaps even activities of an anti-Christ” (W.D. Davies and Dale. C. Allison, Matthew 19-28, International Critical Commentary, 345-6)

As we can observe, many modern experts note that the abomination of desolation had an explicit meaning back in Daniel (referring to the pagan altar) and that this image was reinterpreted by Jesus to refer to someone/something new in the future. I regard Paul’s discussion of a future “man of lawlessness” in the temple claiming to be divine along the same lines of thought (2 Thes. 2:3-4).

 

Point 4Both Mark and Matthew insert their voice in Jesus’ teaching about this abomination of desolation as “let the reader understand,” thus signaling that the reader is to carefully note that Jesus is in fact reinterpreting Daniel typologically. Mark in particular uses these editorial remarks often to direct the reader to understand the teachings of Jesus as Mark himself regards them (cf. Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:19; etc.). The command for the reader to understand what Jesus is saying calls for a discerning attitude, rather than a naive approach.

 

Point 5Jesus did not teach that there will be a ‘three and a half year’ period of tribulation once the abomination of desolation is set up, but instead clearly stated that he does not know the day or hour of his second coming (Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32). If this point can be taken seriously, a lot of end-times reconstructions would simply disappear. In other words, Jesus did not use any numbers of periods of time in Matthew 24 or Mark 13 (or Luke 21 for that matter) in which one might use to mark their calendars. He did, however, say that he was completely unaware of the day and hour of the second coming. We would be wise to not presume ourselves as more insightful than Jesus himself.

 

In sum, Jesus Christ taught that there would be a future, personal abomination of desolation in the Jerusalem temple. In doing so, he reinterpreted the image from Daniel from a pagan altar under Antiochus IV to a future abominable person.

 

Responsibly Interpreting the Visions in Daniel 12 (with application)

In this final post on responsibly interpreting the visions of Daniel, I will offer up my thoughts on chapter twelve. Furthermore, I have included at the end of each section the practical applications (in italics) which seek to demonstrate how this book would have been used to direct and comfort the original readers.

 

Daniel 12:1-3

This chapter begins with a temporal phrase “at that time” which connects it with the previous verse, Dan 11:45. The death and demise of Antiochus is predicted by the author of Daniel, and the beginning of chapter twelve attempts to understand this event in light of what is taking place within the heavenly realm. Michael the prince, the angel who is guards the Jewish people (in contrast to the angels representing other nations in 10:13, 20), will arise to action. What particular action Michael takes at this point is not answered by the narrator. The next thing mentioned is a time of distress/trouble unlike anything which had taken place up to that time. Sadly, we wish that the author would offer up some specifics regarding this time of distress. The only clue we receive is the comment regarding how those written in the book (literally: scroll) will be rescued. But what kind of rescue? Deliverance from battle? Or could the promised deliverance be in reference to the resurrection mentioned in the next verse (12:2)? If so, Dan 12:1 serves to encourage that those recorded in God’s book/scroll to rest assured that they will indeed be vindicated from their distress. The verse then has more of an encouraging ethical slant to it than being a specific account of verifiable events in history.

graves.JPGDaniel 12:2 gives readers arguably the first clear reference to bodily resurrection in the Bible. If this verse was intended to expand upon the nature of the deliverance mentioned previously, then the particular details offered are likely the intended emphasis stressed by the author. Many persons are described as “sleeping,” a metaphor for unconscious death in the grave used in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Where are they sleeping? In the dust of the ground (not in heaven). What will happen to those sleeping? They will awake (i.e., be raised from the grave). Then those raised are described as belonging in one of two groups. Either they are resurrected to everlasting life or they are raised to shame and everlasting abhorrence. The promise that the faithful will be raised from the dead to unending life would again encourage the readers to remain loyal and true, even if faced with martyrdom.

The maskilim appear again in Dan 12:3, this time indicating that their resurrection state will be glorious and bright like the firmament of heaven. The passage then notes how these will lead many toward faithful covenant behavior (“righteousness”). The reference to stars might indicate that they will share in the state of the host of heaven (cf. Dan 8:10; Luke 10:18; 20:36). If the maskilim will be thus rewarded then this passage would encourage the readers to either adopt the maskilim ideology and response to persecution or to dedicate themselves to following their leading.

 

Daniel 12:4

At this point, the mediating angel turns to Daniel and commands him to seal up these words. This implies that he has been writing down these visions all along, although the text only now mentions this point. These words are to be sealed up until “a time of an end” (no definite articles). Some translations wrongly translate this Hebrew phrase as “the end of time,” which is both unfair as a translation and utterly nonsensical (will time cease to be?). One needs to conclude as to which “end” the angel is referring. Since the crisis of Daniel 11 (not to mention chs. 2, 7, 8, and 9) has always ended with struggled involving the Greek kingdom, often explicitly in conjunction with the little horn setting up the abomination of desolation, the “end” naturally refers to his demise and the subsequent relief of the faithful people of God. The act of “sealing” involved a signet ring with both authenticated the document and protected it from tampering. Those living in the midst of the persecution under Antiochus IV would feel extremely privileged to be reading these insights, thus encouraging them to make the appropriate social and ethical responses to the ensuing Syrian persecution.

The mention at the conclusion of 12:4 regarding many who will “go back and forth” draws upon Amos 8:12 which states that,

People will stagger from sea to sea

And from the north even to the east;

They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,

But they will not find it.

The sense in Amos is that people will actively seek God’s word and direction, but will come up short. Daniel, in contrast, declares that “knowledge will increase.” The unsealing of these words will provide the appropriate response for the people of God in the midst of persecution in addition to providing them with the hope that if they suffer as martyrs then they will indeed rise from the grave on the last day.

 

Daniel 12:5

At this point the narrator becomes Daniel, who hasn’t spoken since chapter ten. He observes two other angels standing on opposite sides of the Tigris River (cf. 10:4). This recalls the dialogue back and forth with two angels in 8:13-14. It is no surprise that both in 8:14 and in 12:6 the very same question is asked (“How long…”). If this phrase keeps showing up, as it commonly appears in other prophetic works seeking to comfort those in the midst of pagan persecution (cf. Rev 6:10; Hab 1:2), then it would here serve to offer authoritative guidance from heaven as to when God’s intervention will soon take place in order to deliver the afflicted from the situation’s plight, thus encouraging the faithful to loyally stick it out just a little bit longer.

 

Daniel 12:6-7

One of the angels asks the other the important question. Daniel again is situated as the listener of this important dialogue between heavenly messengers, just as the reader gets to share in the same receptive experience. The specific questions deals with how long it will be until the end of wonders. The Hebrew translated “wonders” (hapilaot) appears in two other places in Daniel, so it would be prudent for interpreters to see to which “wonders” are being alluded here. The phrase shows up in 8:24 and 11:36:

His power will be mighty, but not by his own power, and he will destroy to an extraordinary degree (literally: “wonderful things”) and prosper and perform his will; He will destroy mighty men and the holy people. (Dan 8:24 NASB)

Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things (literally: “wonderful things”) against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done. (Dan 11:36 NASB)

Both in Dan 8:24 and in 11:36 the subject clearly is Antiochus Epiphanes. Therefore, the question asked by the angel in Dan 12:6 seeks to know “how much longer will the wonderful acts of Antiochus continue?”

“When will they end?”

“How much longer do we have to suffer?”

This question, worded differently, was also raised by the two angels back in 8:13, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” Put differently, Dan 12:6 asks how much longer until the end of the wonders of Antiochus and Dan 8:13 asks how long will the horrifying transgression interrupt the sacrifices leading to the persecution of the Jerusalem temple and the host. Both questions cover the very same events. This is also argued by John Collins in his Hermeneia commentary on Daniel:

The question, “How long?” is the one raised in 8:13. The root פֶּ֫לֶא, “wonder,” is used in a different form for the deeds of Antiochus Epiphanies in 8:24 and 11:36. If the reference is the same here, the angel is asking not about the end of the resurrection and judgment but about the end of the events descried down to the end of chapter 11. (p. 399)

In other words, the question of the angel deals with the end of the extraordinary/wondrous atrocities committed by Antiochus and not about the number of days between the wonders and the resurrection spoken of in 12:2. The second angel responds in 12:7 by giving a cryptic phrase “time, times, and half a time” (referring to three and a half years). After this designated period of time, “all these will be completed.” The Hebrew construction here indicates that “all these” are feminine plural, matching the plural feminine word hapilaot specifically asked about in the question of 12:6. In sum, the heavenly messengers give encouraging news that Antiochus will only perform his wondrous acts of evil for a short period of three and a half years before God intervenes.

 

Daniel 12:8-10

The protagonist does not seem to understand this cryptic response, so he asks for clarification. The angel responds by telling him to go on his way, as these oracles are sealed up for “a time of an end” (again, no definite articles in this Hebrew phrase). The angel continues by noting how those with insight (the maskilim) will purge, purify, and refine. The wicked, however, not understand. This emphasis on the three verbal actions of the maskilim has already appeared in their description back in 11:35. Daniel’s readers are again encouraged to follow the lead of the maskilim, namely, their nonviolent and faithful ideology.

 

Daniel 12:11-12

In this verse (12:11) the angel gives a numerical answer which is clearer than the previous cryptic phrase of “time, times, and a half a time.” From the moment when the regular temple sacrifice is interrupted and the abomination of desolation is set up in place of that altar there will be 1,290 days. This number equates out to three and a half years, and it is not a coincidence that the pagan altar (abomination of desolation) remained from its erection in the summer of 167 until its removal in December of 164.

Then Dan 12:12 offers a revised number, offering a blessing upon those who wait for an extra forty-five days, totally in 1,335 total. As I noted in my previous post, there are three increasing numerical answers to the same “How long?” question asked. Daniel 8:14 answers it in what was likely the first prediction: 1,150 days. Daniel 12:11 answers it with a revised number: 1,290 days. Then the very next verse (12:12) revises the prediction yet again to 1,335 days. In the end, the final verse (12:13) gives a specific answer to Daniel which serves to definitively conclude the dialogue and the book itself. Needless to say, readers of Daniel in the midst of the persecution begun by Antiochus and his Syrian forces can rest assured that God will intervene and defeat the evil king in roughly three and a half years from the setting up of the abomination of desolation on top of the sacrificial altar.

 

Daniel 12:13

The angel turns to Daniel and speaks about his fate. Daniel will indeed die (“rest”) and rise up in resurrection. He will come to his allotted portion of inheritance upon arising resssfrom his grave. All of this will take place at the “end of days.” What is interesting for critical readers is that the Hebrew words used here for “rest” and “rise” both differ from the synonymous words used in 12:2 (“sleep” and “awake”), strengthening the case that the final verses of Daniel chapter twelve were added by the final redactor in order to revise the predicted 1,150 and 1,290 day periods. Regardless of how the predictions turned out, the final word in Daniel is that he, the prototypical maskil who refused pagan accommodation and idol-worship, would be rewarded with a resurrection unto his allotted inheritance. This would serve to again encourage the reader to follow in the footsteps of Daniel in hopes of attaining the same resurrection hope and reward.