Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Corinthians 11:2-16 (Veils and Christians) Resources

I have to thank Dan Lewis for telling me about Bruce Winter's excellent study, After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change. This book places the specific difficulties and conflicts in the Corinthian Christian communities within the broader context of Roman law and Greco-Roman culture.

This book is particularly helpful on the issue of veils (head coverings) that the apostle prescribes for women (more precisely, wives) and forbids for males in I Corinthians 11:2-16. While my youthful understanding of this passage focused on the issue of the length of women's and men's hair, the actual meaning of this passage concerns wearing or refraining from wearing veils in public places (including meetings in house churches). The passage addresses both men and women (wives) arguing for head coverings for wives along one line of reasoning and against head coverings for men along an entirely different line of reasoning.

Winter's After Paul Left Corinth has led me into further study and I thought I might share a brief bibliography for interpreting I Corinthians 11:2-16 with you. Some of these resources are free; others can be purchased via Amazon or other book sellers.

Let me begin by highly recommending three books:

Bruce Winter, After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Eerdmans, 2001). See especially the chapter on ""Veiled Men and Wives and Christian Conscientiousness." Available at Amazon.

Bruce Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Eerdmans, 2003). Available at Amazon.

E. Fantham et. al., Women in the Classical World (Oxford, 1994). See especially the chapter on "The 'New Woman': Representation and Reality." Available at Amazon.

The following journal articles and conference presentations are available free as Internet downloads:

Benjamin Edsall, "Greco-Roman Costume and Paul's Fraught Argument in I Corinthians 11.2-16", Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism. Available here.

A. Phillip Brown , "A Survey of the History of the Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11.2-16", Paper presented at the Aldersgate Forum. Available here.

Mark Finney , "Honour, Head-Coverings, and Headship - I Corinthians 11.2-16 in its Social Context", Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Available here.

David W. Gill , "The Importance of Roman Portraiture for Head-Coverings in I Corinthians 11.2-16", Tyndale Bulletin. Available here.

Troy M. Martin, "Veiled Exhortations Regarding the Veil - Ethos as the Controlling Factor in Moral Persuasion". Available here.

Troy M. Martin, "Paul's Argument from Nature for the Veil in I Corinthians 11:13-15", Journal of Biblical Literature. (This one is a little off the wall, but interesting nevertheless.) Available here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Theological Purpose of the Book of Acts: Part 2

If, then, the purpose of Luke's second volume, the Book of Acts, is about how the gospel crossed ethnic barriers so that the initial community of faith, which was exclusively Jewish, gradually broadened its scope so that it also included non-Jews in the circle of God's chosen people, then this greatly affects the way one reads the narratives. It means that while the Book of Acts indeed may have something to say about salvation, what it says about salvation is corollary to the main issue, and therefore, must read as a corollary. Does the Book of Acts say something about how a person is set right with God? Certainly it does in a series of incidents and reflections that are intertwined with the main story, this crossing of ethnic boundaries between Jew and Gentile. Indeed, there are more than thirty descriptions of people accepting the Christian faith, and a survey of how Luke describes these salvation accounts is instructive:

 Jews at Pentecost:  Faith/repentance/baptism (2:37-38, 41)

Jews in Jerusalem:  Believed the message (4:4)

Jews in Jerusalem:  Believed in the Lord (5:14)

Priests in Jerusalem:  Obedient to the faith (6:7)

Samaritans:  Believed the message, accepted the Word, baptism (8:12, 14)

Simon of Samaria:  Believed, baptized (8:13)

Ethiopian at Gaza:  Belief, baptism (8:36-37)

Saul at Damascus:  Baptized (9:18)

Jews at Lydda & Sharon:  Turned to the Lord (9:35)

Jews at Joppa:  Belief in the Lord (9:42)

Gentiles at Caesarea:  Belief, received the Word of God, baptism (10:43, 47-48; 11:1)

Greeks at Antioch:  Believed, turned to the Lord (11:21)

Sergius Paulus in Cyprus:  Believed (13:12)

Jews in Antioch:  Believed, converted (13:39, 43)

Gentiles in Antioch:  Honored the Word of God, believed (13:48)

Jews & Gentiles in Iconium:  Believed (14:1)

Gentiles in Derbe:  Put their trust in the Lord (14:21-23)

Gentiles in Asia Minor: God opened the door of faith (14:27)

Gentiles in Asia Minor:  Converted, heard the message of the gospel and believed, purified by faith, saved by grace, turned to God (15:3, 7, 9, 11, 19)

Lydia & household in Philippi:  Opened her heart, baptized, believed (16:14-15)

Jailer & household in Philippi:  Believed, baptized (16:30-34)

Jews & Greeks in Thessalonica:  Were persuaded (17:4)

Jews & Greeks in Berea:  Believed (17:12)

Greeks in Athens:  Repented, believed (17:30, 34)

Jews & Greeks in Corinth:  Persuaded, believed, baptized (18:4, 8)

Achaia: By grace believed (18:27)

Jews & Greeks in Ephesus:  Heard the Word of the Lord, believed (19:10, 18)

Jews in Jerusalem:  Believed (21:20)

Gentiles: Turned from darkness to light, received forgiveness (26:18)

Damascus, Jerusalem, Judea, Gentile nations:  Repent and turn to God (26:20)

Jewish leaders in Rome: Convinced of the message (28:23-24)

         Clearly, the basic response to the gospel is faith. Luke's language is especially instructive, and while he describes the event of salvation in various ways, his intended meaning is that the message of salvation is primarily something one believes and embraces rather than something one does as a religious ritual. Repentance and baptism are mentioned occasionally, but Luke’s favorite descriptions of those becoming Christians is simply that they believed the gospel. This doesn’t make repentance and baptism unnecessary, but it does show that Luke’s basic purpose in this book was not some sort of three-step plan for how one should be saved—or at least it if was, he managed to miss most of the opportunities to talk about it, which seems absurd.

        Hence, readers of the Book of Acts should not be scouring its pages as though it were the most important book in the New Testament for how one should be saved. This is not primarily what Luke is writing about, and any attempt to truncate the book along these lines violates a basic hermeneutical principle and skews the narratives along artificial lines. Rather, while Luke does offer insight into how he understood the event of becoming a Christian, such information is secondary to  his essential reason for compiling these narratives, which was to show how the gospel widened the Jewish circle so that God's ancient promises that the nations would be saved had actually been fulfilled in the life of the early church.

The Theological Purpose of the Book of Acts: Part 1

I grew up in a branch of the Christian church that placed great emphasis on the Book of Acts in the New Testament. As a Pentecostal group, it was natural that it should gravitate to a document that emphasized the Holy Spirit (though the Pentecostals largely seemed to miss the fact that Luke’s first volume, the Gospel of Luke, equally emphasized the Holy Spirit, using much the same language as found in Acts but not so easily coerced into supporting certain favored theological themes). Especially, they gravitated to a document that was easy to interpret experientially. To up the ante, they also added the corollary that the basic purpose of this book was to describe the way to be saved. Four passages, in particular, they singled out as primary: Acts 2:38; 8:12, 17; 10:44-48; 19:1-5. Here, they alleged, was all the necessary elements for a three-step plan of salvation, repentance, water baptism by immersion using the shorter formula, and the gift of the Spirit as authenticated by the phenomenon of other tongues. Some were even more insistent that not only did the Book of Acts detail how to be saved by this three-step process, it was the ONLY book in the New Testament where one could discover how to be saved. Twenty-six of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament were inadequate to answer this basic issue.

The more foundational question, what was Luke’s theological purpose in writing the Book of Acts, is a critical interpretive issue. Because Acts is a narrative, average readers tend to approach the book as though it were an objective account by a disinterested reporter. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Greater or lesser degrees of objectivity can be debated, but there is no reason to think that Luke was a disinterested writer. He was unabashedly Christian, wrote out of his concern and support for the Christian movement, and intended to tell the story of Christian origins with particular goals in mind that would be compelling to his patron, Theophilus, and to the larger Gentile world. He was both a historian and a theologian.

Any careful reader will easily observe that his primary goal, far from being a manual on how to be saved, was to show how the good news about Jesus Christ and the Christian movement became international as a fulfillment of God’s ancient purpose. I. Howard Marshall makes the cogent observation that in the opening of the book, Luke’s description of “things brought to fulfillment” (Lk. 1:1; cf. Ac. 2:23) is in the passive voice, suggesting that it is not only the distant past, but also the present that is a fulfillment of what God intended. What was true about the story of Jesus was equally true about the beginnings of the early church, for what Jesus “began to do and teach” is carried on through the apostles as directed by the Holy Spirit (Ac. 1:1-2). In fact, the opposition to Jesus (Ac. 4:27-29), the outpouring of the Spirit (Ac. 2:16-17), the mission to the Gentiles (Ac. 13:47), the expanding boundaries of God’s people to incorporate non-Jews (Ac. 15:13-19), and the general refusal of the Jewish constituency to accept the Christian message (Ac. 28:25-28) all were fulfillments of the Scriptures as directed by God.

Luke’s manner of approaching this history addresses a profound problem. How was it that God, who chose Israel to be his special people and gave them profound promises for the future, now had fulfilled those promises to those who were not from the Jewish community? Could God’s promises be trusted, especially if the group to whom these promises were made ended up largely on the outside, while those who had no certainty of the promises from the start were on the inside? In one sense, at least, Luke’s approach is very much along the lines of Paul’s statement, the gospel is “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Ro. 1:16b; Ac. 3:26; 28:25-29). In his gospel, Luke intends to show how God indeed fulfilled his promises to Israel in the life and ministry of Jesus (Lk. 1:54-55, 68-75, 80; 2:25, 38), but especially, he wants to demonstrate how the fulfillment of these promises spilled over beyond the Jewish circle (Lk. 2:32, 34; 24:46-47). Similarly, in Acts he shows how the Jerusalem church, which was entirely Jewish at the first, through divine providence began to reach beyond its confined circle. Acts 1:8 is programmatic toward this end: the message spread from Jerusalem to all Judea to Samaria and to the larger Roman world.

 The first half of the book describes the birth of the Jerusalem Church and its struggle to break out of the confines of Jewry and exclusive Judaism. Given the life, ministry and death of Jesus, the disciples of the Lord could never go back to “business as usual.” They had been forever changed by the teachings of Jesus, and even more, by the atoning crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. Still, there was both continuity and discontinuity between the past and the future. In the earliest period, Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem made no attempt to break completely with Judaism nor reject their standing in the Jewish community. Some of the early Christians still claimed to be Pharisees (cf. Ac. 15:5; 23:6), and to varying degrees they participated in the temple and Torah observation (Ac. 3:1; 21:20-26). On the other hand, the gospel of Jesus widened their scope, both theologically and ethnically, beyond anything they had ever experienced in their native Judaism. What the prophets had promised had now happened! The Messiah had now come, and this affected everything!

Luke details how this widening vision occurred, first in the dispute between the Hellenists and the Hebraists (Ac. 6:1-7), then in the outreach to Samaria (Ac. 8:1-25), then in the conversion of a Gentile proselyte (Ac. 8:26-39), then in the conversion of Saul, who was marked to be a missionary to the Gentiles (Ac. 915; cf. 22:15, 21; 26:17-20, 23), then to a Gentile God-fearer (Ac. 10) and finally to the Antioch missionary church that sent missionaries to Asia Minor and Greece (Ac. 13-20). The heart of this mission to the non-Jews of the world occupies the last half of the book, detailing the missionary work of Paul. In particular, it describes his final trip to Rome, which was at the very center of the empire. The closing words of Acts are particularly telling in the Greek text. What seems to be an unfinished conclusion is Luke’s artful way of intentionally suggesting that the proclamation about Jesus would be ongoing until the consummation of the kingdom of God. The very last word in the Greek text of Acts is akolutos (= “unhindered”), a suggestive ending implying more than just the freedom of Paul to preach. The story that began in Galilee, proceeded to Samaria and Judea, and climaxed in Jerusalem with the passion of Jesus in the Third Gospel now had followed the reverse pattern in the Book of Acts. It went from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and now to the ends of the earth. Paul’s arrival in Rome becomes a symbol of the gospel to the nations of which Rome was the capital.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Top Twenty Jesus People Songs

I recently read Larry Eskridge's wonderful God's Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (2013). I highly endorse this informative and insightful book.

Eskridge rightfully points out that the Jesus People movement did not just begin and end in California in the late 1960s. Rather it eventually spread to middle class evangelical youth across the United States in the early 1970s.

A major tool of the dissemination of this message and movement from West coast counter-culture to evangelical suburbia was the great music that has since laid the foundation for Contemporary Christian Music.

I recently promised my lifelong friend and fellow lover of Jesus People music - Chris Rossetti - that I would offer my Top Ten list of Jesus People songs. But I could not stop with just 10. So here are my Top Twenty choices.

Country Faith - Ballad of the Lukewarm

Love Song - Front Seat, Back Seat

Children of the Day - For Those Tears I Died

Malcolm & Alwyn - Fool's Wisdom

Debby Kerner - The Peace That Passes Understanding

Honeytree - Clean Before the Lord

2nd Chapter of Acts - Which Way the Wind Blows

Larry Norman - I Wish We'd All Been Ready

Tom Stipe - Come Quickly Jesus

Jamie Owens Collins - Hard Times

Love Song - A Love Song

2nd Chapter of Acts - Easter Song

Malcolm & Alwyn - Tomorrow's News

Love Song -Think about What Jesus Said

Day By Day - Original Cast of Godspell

Love Song - Welcome Back

Marsha Carter (of Children of the Day) - Can I Show You

Church Girard - Sometimes Alleluia

They Will Know We Are Christians (By Our Love) - Everyone who sang it

Pass It On - Everyone who sang it

I also want to strongly recommend the "A Decade of Jesus Music 1969-1979" presentation at the web site. Check it out and leave a message of appreciation.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Personal Reflection on Heretics and Politics

I wrote the personal reflection below in response to Ed Kozar's inquiry in June 2014 about my reaction to Thomas Fudge's recently published Heretics and Politics.


I was a little depressed—I guess is the right word —when I finished reading Thomas Fudge's new book. I was unaware of the details of the "collapse" of Don Fisher's life—especially his treatment of his family. This left me feeling quite sad. I wonder if any good he ever did or any vision he ever had can survive this final legacy.

My involvement in all of this was limited to Jackson College of Ministries (JCM)—the first half of the book—and I thought Thomas made a pretty good presentation here. I think he correctly depicted the dynamic between my scholarly drive and Dan Lewis' application of these ideas to United Pentecostal Church doctrine. Thomas made the point —but I wish he had made it a bit stronger—that in my teaching at JCM I was not really dealing in the traditional apostolic Pentecostal categories at all. In fact, I consciously avoided talking about UPC distinctives.

At this time, I was very much influenced by the "new evangelicalism" of Fuller Theological Seminary. The NT theology of George Eldon Ladd pushed me into serious study of the synoptic Gospels. I was deeply influenced by the moderate thought of C. H. Dodd and Joachim Jeremias and even the more challenging thinking of Bornkamm, Conzelmann, Kasemann, and Norman Perrin. I read but was not greatly influenced by the form criticism of Bultmann. (NOTE: I bought all these books at Luther Seminary and read them while a student at Apostolic Bible Institute (ABI) in St. Paul. Everything the late Rev. Robert Sabin said I should not read, I immediately purchased. Surely, he must bear some of the blame for my academic adventurousness.)

At JCM, I taught about the inauguration of the kingdom of God as central to the teachings of Jesus and primitive Christianity. I taught about the historical roots of Pentecostalism in Wesleyan and Reformation circles—clearly an outgrowth of the influence of Robert Sabin. When I taught about water baptism, I took at strongly sacramental position that baptism was a means of grace—that something happens to you when you are baptized—which ran in opposition to the Pentecostal Church Incorporated (PCI) teachings on baptism often associated with JCM instructors. I always affirmed that the most primitive baptismal formula was "in Jesus' name"—although I said nothing about the validity of any other form of baptism. When I spoke of the Holy Spirit, it was always in the context of Joel 2:28 and the primitive kerygma's assertion that a "new thing" had happened in Jesus and that with the dawning of the kingdom, the promised Holy Spirit was available to all. (Clearly, my "kingdom theology" was an obvious attack on dispensational premillennialism, although I do not ever remember attacking these ideas explicitly. The first step of many evangelical scholars—both Dan Lewis and I included—toward broader academic thinking is often the rejection of Darby's dispensationalism and the structure it imposes on reading the Bible. For us, "rightly dividing the word of truth" came to mean more than applying Scofield's notes to all biblical interpretation.)

In my JCM instruction, I also placed a lot of emphasis on the 8th century prophets—something I learned from Wendell Gleason at ABI—and the centrality of ethics in ethical monotheism. I introduced students to the social dimension of Christian obligations that had largely been missing in apostolic Pentecostalism. I portrayed Jesus as a conscious successor of the Hebrew prophetic tradition. I was even beginning to approach—at this early date—the "Jewishness" of Jesus which has been the center of my study to this day.

In my earliest time at JCM, I honestly did not think I was attacking UPC doctrine. I felt that UPC doctrine would be strengthened by restatement in Reformation terms of grace and faith. (Interestingly, David Bernard's subsequent writings take a step in this direction.) I did not—and still do not—see how serious Bible study using the best methods available could ever be a bad thing.

But I was VERY young—22 years old in the fall of 1979—when I largely rewrote the JCM curriculum and embarked on my teaching career. I was only 25 when the "JCM tragedy" came to an end.

I am more than willing to bear my share of blame for this debacle. I was so naïve. Initially, I really believed that I was faithfully serving the community of my heritage. (My grandfather was a Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC) man before the merger with the PCI formed the UPC. I was raised under O. C. Crabtree's ministry. I had no roots in the PCI tradition that is sometimes associated with the influence of C. H. Yadon on JCM.) Apostolic Pentecostalism was my theological home as much as anyone's. Clearly, I knew that we were stretching the limits. But by the time I realized we had stretched them too far, it was too late. Don Fisher was my great "protector" in all of this. At the time, I thought this was a great blessing. With hindsight, I am not so sure.

Since my departure from JCM, I have tried to do the honorable thing by withdrawing from the UPC public view. My dissertation topic was "demanded" by my graduate committee. My post-doctoral writings and research have been in other areas. (Actually, I was so isolated from the UPC world that I was unaware of the change in Don Fisher's life and his eventual death until I was contacted by Thomas Fudge for an interview for his book Christianity Without the Cross. I knew almost nothing of the Westburg Resolution until I read about it in Thomas' book. Much of that interview made its way into the pages of Heretics and Politics.)

Of course, social media (as well as Fudge's publications) have brought me back into contact with many of my former colleagues from JCM and ABI. But even now, I try to play down the events of the JCM years. Those debates and deep feelings are probably best left to the past.