This Easter marks three years since news of the notoriously controversial Jesus Seminar splashed across the pages of every major weekly news magazine. No doubt the seminar members welcomed the media attention they had tirelessly sought through carefully orchestrated news releases throughout the country years previous to this popular coming out party. After all, one of their key objectives was to bring the results of biblical scholarship beyond the hallowed halls of the university into the mainstream and to provide competition to the stranglehold TV evangelists and other conservative preaching has had on the Christian public.
Two years earlier, in Christianity Today (April 25, 1994) Don Carson had already critiqued the results of the seminar published in The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. Quite rightly, he questions whether the colored bead voting system on the sayings of Jesus could qualify as scholarly. In his highly publicized The Real Jesus (New York: HarperSanFransisco, 1996) Luke Timothy Johnson, among other things, blasted the seminar members for claiming to represent a consensus of biblical scholarship. Not only were the 74 fellows not all Bible scholars, those that were could not be said to be a fair representation of Bible scholarship. The balance of power within the seminar was clearly tipped in favor of scholars who are skeptical of gospels as historical documents.
Many books by evangelical scholars have come out in recent years critiquing the seminar. It was even a topic in a session presented by Robert Kurka of Lincoln Christian College as part of the Archaeology and History section at the North American Christian Convention last summer (1998).
I recently read a new book which pairs together reputable scholars who posit in one book their carefully considered views of the historical Jesus. It is called The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (New York: HarperSanFransisco, 1999). In this book, Marcus Borg, a leading spokesman of the Jesus Seminar, and N.T. Wright, a British evangelical scholar, each write as if they are in a conversation on such things as How Do We Know about Jesus? What Did Jesus Do and Teach? The Death of Jesus, and Was Jesus God? Both claim to be committed Christians but on historical issues are miles apart. What is so good about this book is that there is no name calling or cheap shots, even though it is written on a popular level. With mutual respect, each patiently explains his views and the basis for them in light of the other. The reader comes away with an understanding of the two positions. I commend this book to SCJ readers who wish to get a better grasp of the historical Jesus debate that has swarmed around the Jesus Seminar.
What I can?t help thinking about, though, is the reaction the Jesus Seminar?s findings must have had on the unsuspecting Bible-believing Christians like those in the pews and in the classrooms of most churches and colleges in the Stone-Campbell tradition who saw the headlines and read the articles in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. I don?t for a minute think that many Christians were enthralled by what the seminar had done. Rather, I tend to think they simply dismissed it as scholarly mumbo jumbo, just the latest in the history of attacks launched by so-called scholarship against the Bible and the church.
Unfortunately, such a reaction reinforces the tendency of people, particularly in the independent Christian churches and Churches of Christ, to distrust all biblical scholarship. For some it will recall similar-sounding scholars who, at the turn of the century, became enamored with European biblical criticism. These scholars, such as William Rainey Harper and H.L. Willet moved the Disciples colleges and churches into liberalism, which ultimately led to independent churches withdrawing their membership and to the formation of new, preacher-training, true-to-the-Bible, Bible colleges.
The editorial board of SCJ has hopes that its pages will help dispel the notion that scholarship inevitably undercuts the Bible. We believe the current generation of scholars, in the A Cappella Church of Christ and in the independent Christian churches, as well as some among the Disciples, are both committed to the Bible and to scholarship. Their entry into scholarship, usually at considerable personal sacrifice in terms of time and finances, is driven by their love of the Bible and their deep desire to understand it well. They wish to teach their students with conviction borne from the fruit of careful research. They desire a wider audience to share what they have learned in their study. We believe people want to learn from them. We strive for SCJ to be a reliable resource people can look to for top-notch Christian scholarship undergirded by commitment to the Bible.
One of the best examples of such a scholar graces the pages of this issue of SCJ. Jack Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Harding Graduate School, provides an encyclopedic-quality article regarding the messianic interpretation of Mal 4:2 that ranges from Hebrew to patristic sources, topped off with the history of English translation up to the present day. Dr. Lewis, who holds doctorates both in OT and NT, has long been a model of persistent, precision scholarship joined with biblical commitment. Many scholars throughout the spectrum of the Stone-Campbell Movement know him as the one who sponsors the much-appreciated early Sunday morning worship service?complete with the sharing of the Lord?s Supper?at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting. This is the only so-called "Additional Meeting" of its kind, a spiritual oasis in the midst of over 5,000 Bible and religion scholars from universities all across the world.
Another exciting feature of this issue is Phil Kenneson?s carefully reasoned response to John Castelein?s article in the inaugural issue (Spring, 98) of SCJ. The issue of what "truth" is confronts everyone in our postmodern society. How this affects Christianity?s posture in culture is being debated in evangelical periodicals and books everywhere. How this impacts the relevance and articulation of the "plea" which originated with forebears of the Stone-Campbell Movement in the mid-1800s is a vital issue in need of open discussion that Castelein, and now Kenneson, ably supply. The editors invite continuance of this discussion in future issues.
Lee Snyder provides well-researched substance for the commonly heard claim that Acts was the most important book of the NT for Alexander Campbell. His poignant reference to Campbell?s interest in the gospel "facts" incorporated into Acts are all the more poignant when set alongside Kenneson?s critique of how truth is established.
Groover and Fiensy share with SCJ readers some of the top-quality scholarship occurring within the Fellowship of Professors that has gathered over thirty Christian Church and Church of Christ scholars at Johnson Bible College the third weekend of September for over fifteen years now. Fiensy demonstrates how diligent study of background literature for NT research can enlighten our understanding of important NT passages like Luke 11:34. Groover puts his toe into water which at times has been turbulent with regard to the A Cappella Churches of Christ and the independent Christian Churches. He explores whether what has been interpreted as Alexander Campbell?s opposition to instrumental music should be subsumed under his general disdain for fancy, urban churches.
Krause brings us into the netherworld of translation theory with a very readable assessment of Luther?s Bible translation principles to see whether Luther should be so wholeheartedly embraced as the father of dynamic equivalence translation as is sometimes claimed.
Finally, Gresham supplies a short article intended to help those who might wish to do research on one of the four early pillars of the Stone-Campbell Movement, evangelist Walter Scott.
William R. Baker, Editor
Alexander Campbell often wrote about what the church ought to be as
he reacted to fashionable religion as he perceived it. While he became
somewhat less iconoclastic as the years passed, he continued to promote
the repudiation of many aspects of fashionable religion in his day. He
called for simplicity in church buildings, furnishings, apparel, and
manners. It is against this backdrop that Campbell wrote disparagingly
(though infrequently) about the use of instrumental music in
This paper discusses the importance of the Book of Acts to Alexander
Campbell. It explains why he found it so important and describes five
uses he made of Acts. Finally, the contemporary relevance of Campbells
position on Acts is discussed.
In the past two years we have celebrated the sesquicentennial of
Walter Scotts birth. He died in relative obscurity, deeply distressed
about the dissolution of the political union to which he had given himself
as a Scottish immigrant. However, his contributions to the nascent
Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement were of such significance that
he has been dubbed one of the big four leaders. His life was short,
but to him we give the honor of understanding and restoring to the
church the simple evangelistic process of primitive Christianity.
This article attempts to continue the discussion initiated by John
Castelein in the inaugural issue (Spring, 1998) of the Stone-
Campbell Journal. After briefly raising some preliminary issues, the
essay examines the metaphors that are routinely employed in speaking
of truth, noting their strengths and weaknesses. The article closes by
considering some of the benefits for Christian thought and practice of
thinking and speaking of truth as neither objective nor subjective,
but as intersubjective.
I endeavored to make Moses so German that
no one would suspect he was a Jew.
This article examines this claim that Martin Luther as a translator
was a pioneer in the dynamic equivalence translation method. The
study examines the historical context of Luthers work and several
examples of his translation. It concludes that Luther sometimes
exhibits characteristics of this method, although it would be anachronistic
to see him as an early champion of dynamic equivalence.
The study of NT background is a pursuit that should not be taken
lightly. It is crucial to understand the cultural and literary milieu of
the events and people of the NT. This can only be accomplished by a
knowledge of the biblical and cognate languages, a mastery of the relevant
literature, a study of archaeology, and a basic knowledge of the
ancient social world. After a survey of these topics, a test case is presented
in which the concept of the evil eye mentioned in Luke 11:34 is
Sun of Righteousness, not definitely applied to Jesus in the NT and
not considered messianic in Jewish sources, becomes a messianic title
in Christian interpretation without regard to its original context.
The paper surveys interpretations of the phrase from the early to the
modern period. While the messianic interpretation continues to be
popularized in songs, the English Bible translations reflect a divided
scholarly opinion over its validity. Champions of the messianic interpretation
in the twentieth century have been few.
Timothy L. Hall, Separating Church and State: Roger Williams and Religious Liberty
Douglas Jacobsen and William Vance Trollinger, Jr., eds., Re-Forming the Center: American Protestantism, 1900 to the Present
Jon R. Stone, On the Boundaries of American Evangelicalism: The Postwar Evangelical Coalition
Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century
Millard Erickson, Christian Theology
Anthony B. Pinn, Varieties of African American Religious Experiences
John C. Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (The Terry Lectures)
Stephen E. Fowl, ed., The Theological Interpretation of Scripture
Donald McKim, Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters
Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, eds., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Gregory A. Boyd, God At War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict
Francis J. Moloney, SDB, A Body Broken for a Broken People: Eucharist in the New Testament, revised
Michael Root and Risto Saarinen, eds., Baptism and the Unity of the Church
Walter Brueggemann, Cadences of Home: Preaching Among Exiles
David W. Henderson, Culture Shift: Communicating God?sTruth to Our Changing World
Joseph M. Webb, Preaching and the Challenge of Pluralism
John Barton, Ethics and the OT
Herbert Chanan Brichto, The Names of God. Poetic Readings in Biblical Beginnings
Raymond Brown, The Message of Nehemiah: God's Servant in a Time of Change
Richard Clifford, The Wisdom Literature
Andrew E. Hill, Malachi
Alfred J. Hoerth, Archaeology & the Old Testament
Tremper Longman, III, The Book of Ecclesiastes
John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66
Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke
Craig S. Keener, The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts
Max Turner, Power from on High: The Spirit in Israel's Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts and The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts: Then and Now
James D. G. Dunn, The Acts of the Apostles
Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
E. Best, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians