Over at Euangelion, Michael Bird blogged about the recent New Testament translation “The New Testament For Everyone” by N. T. Wright. In the preface of the the translation, Bird states that Wright is not doing a paraphrase. Some might jump into the critical band wagon here by giving critiques if a translation tends to go into that direction. The Message falls into that category of critique as I hear people saying it is not reliable. But I don’t see why these sort of bickering happens when they don’t read the original Greek or Hebrew texts. I’m quite happy if a translation is readable.
Wright aims for ““a less formal and academic, and a more deliberately energetic, style”. Thumbs up for that! And yes, like all of Wright’s writings, you will find in there his NPP leanings in his translation which, if you lean on the more Reformed camp, might not like it.
Bird was kind enough to give some samples of what to expect from the translation. Click here to read them.
Here are two samples for your perusal:
“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was close beside God, and the Word was God. In the beginning, he was close beside God.” (John 1:1-2).
“The jailer called for the lights and rushed in. Trembling all over, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside. ‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘will you please tell me how I can get out of this mess?’ ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus,’ they replied, ‘and you will be rescued – you and your household.’” (Acts 16:29-31).
Judging from the title of this post you would notice one thing. The letters N and T keeps on being repeated. Well, I’m exited about this! It’s N. T. Wright‘s translation of the New Testament from his For Everyone series. Thanks to Mason for the heads up.
The new translation comes with the title “The King’s Version.” If you’ve read Wright you will be sure to know that he constantly finds difficulties with the NIV translation of the New Testament and I’m guessing this would be a welcome translation to get a grasp of ideas conjuring up for a NPP (New Perspective on Paul) reading of the bible.
This week has been somewhat busy because of reading and stuff pertaining to books. I guess my life revolves around books that some might find boring due to taste.
Right now I’m driving myself to finish Vanhoozer’s “Drama of Doctrine.” I have to say that it is a difficult read but with some push of determination I just might not lose my soul in trying to understand every ounce of argument that he has. I read a few pages of Michael Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus” and his take on history and what it means. This will be another slow reading since I have time on my hands which is golden (I guess it’s a phrase I borrow from Barney-How I Met Your Mother).
A friend asked me about some suggestions on beginning a collection of good Old Testament books. This has not been an area that I can trust my own judgments but over at New Testament Perspective, there is a post on some OT titles. I guess it’s something to begin with. Do you have any suggestions for this?
And while I was browsing through the bookstore I found and then bought this book called “Exploring Theological English: Reading, Vocabulary and Grammar for ESL/EFL.” I just had a glance through and read some part and found it impressive, especially if one was beginning in theological education and found difficulty in grasping terms that theologians used in their writings. They also have a website which can be accessed here.
One of the most difficult subjects or rather doctrine in the Christian faith to explain exhaustively is the trinity. I’ve blogged about this here. And I’ve also found this blog post by Kevin DeYoung very helpful. I’m not so much a fan of DeYoung but he did a good job explaining the trinity. I hope to expand what I’ve written here for an assignment that I’m doing taking trinity as a case for explanation. These are my thoughts on rough edges.
Explanations could either confuse or become a case where Christianity is rejected. How can Christians believe in one God yet have the trinity as a core doctrine to ascribe to.
Rather than trying to explain the essence of trinity and its complicated nature, probably one of the best explanations is understanding the doctrine of the trinity as a community, a perfect community that represents oneness.
There are many benefits to this type of explanation. Like marriage between two persons is considered a coming together that represents oneness. A company consisting of many people is considered one company who have many departments who work together and creates a company. A family that consists of a certain number of individuals represents one family. So, it seems to me that trying to understand the trinity it would be helpful for it to be understood in the form of a community. Although this does not clear every explanation to the logical explanation of each person in the trinity as to why they are considered one, it does marry the strong sense of unity that brings them together as one. Especially in the New Testament, borrowing the list of bible references from DeYoung, (Matt. 28:19; Gal. 4:6; 1 Cor.12:4-6; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2 Cor. 2:21-22; 13:14; Eph. 1:13-14; 2:18, 20-22; 3:14-17; 4:4-6; 5:18-20; 6:10-18) we see trinity at working together in unity, as a perfect community where diversity is implied and the work of togetherness is applied.
God in an ontological sense was before history, was before anything created. So how can the idea of community exists if there was no ontological presence of the idea of community if it did not exist in the first place. So is love. The bible clearly states that God is love. but for love to be something foundational it must exist at the very beginning starting with God. If creation is patterned after the one who created it, it must assume that at the very beginning “love is.” Thus taking this into consideration, for the idea of community to have meaning, it must have a state where it had already existed.
According to Barton, Paul’s understanding, which is paved by a cultural understanding of what being a slave meant, became the interpretation tool that Paul used in expressing his obligation to Christ. This obligation, according to Barton is “an obligation finding expression in the service of others for whom Christ died also (1 Cor. 4:5).” Making comments on the word ‘win,’ Barton asserts that this usage reflects a “more liberal missionary practice” but that Paul’s accommodation in winning others was at the expense of abandoning the law. Secondly, making another comment on the same word, Paul used it in a pastoral sense where concern for the ‘weak’ was in response to his winning people to Christ. Thus Barton sees the conversion of a Christian is tied with the obligation of glorifying Christ in all areas, and namely in this manner winning other to Christ.
Paul strived under the belt of contextualization, taking into consideration the condition and situation of his listeners, with a degree of “flexibility and subordination” which boarders “racial and religious groupings, marks his practice where his main thrust was ‘by all means to save some.’ (1 Cor. 9:22)” Further, Barton expresses Paul’s statement “To the Jews I become as a Jew, in order to win the Jews’ (1 Cor. 9:20) in implying that it denotes Paul’s discontinued allegiance of ‘being a Jew.’ But at this point this freedom allows him to also adopt Jewish-law keeping for the reason of eradicating possible offence in his missionary activity among the Jews. Barton further comments that,
“It is the great paradox of Paul’s concept of freedom that while the gospel has freed him from the way of the law, it has freed him for service; a service finding expression in costly identification with men still bound to the law.”
Paul’s statement on being a gentile to win the gentiles is filled with controversy especially to the Jew. But as Barton argues, Paul’s allegiance is first and foremost to Christ, not bound by any boundary, be it Gentile or Jew. What is important is that his allegiance stays true to the gospel and for the sake of the gospel.
But this expression should not put into question Paul’s obligation to God, rather, his obligation, instead to the Mosaic law, is now found in Christ which now informs how he is to live. Barton further elaborates on this. First, Paul’s acceptance of the law of Christ marks his departure from “the casuistic living-according-to-rules which he sees as endemic to conformity to an external code.” Secondly his designation of being under the law of Christ conjures that Paul now ascribes to a different set of ‘rules’ for living. This understanding does not play out in where Paul is reverting to a set of codes but this is explained by way of sacrificial service (Gal. 6:2) in the context of love which is invoked by their life in the Spirit and which is displayed in the life of the believer by way of the fruits of the Spirit which are displayed in the life of the believer.
In other words the law of Christ is not based on a set of codes where Christians are to follow in the sayings of Jesus but this is informed by placing love as the epicentre of Paul’s understanding of this law of Christ. This law is the one that necessitates a Christian Ethic for living, not in codes but by way of service and by direction of the Spirit. 170-171
Freedom for the Christian is not under the authority of Law (which separates and is based on the ethnic ethic of a specific group, Jews) which frees the Christian to adapt and accommodate for the sake of winning others to Christ. But this should not spell freedom without a sense of control. The Christian, although being free is bound by another, and that is Christ. Paul calls this as being under the law of Christ. In further explaining, the law of Christ is not a new mosaic code but one that finds its ethic in love of the other by way of service invoked by the indwelling of the Spirit and exemplified in the life of the believer by way of the fruit of the Spirit which makes the mark of being under the law of Christ. In this case we can say with confidence that Paul was not a relativist.
Barton, Stephen. Was Paul A Relativist? (Source Unknown)
Bird, Michael F. A Bird’s Eye View of Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message. (Grand Rapids: IVP,2008)
Burge, Gary; Lynn H. Cohick; Gene L. Green. The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of The New Testament Within Its Cultural Contexts. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009).
Gundry, Stanley (Ed). Five Views on Law and Gospel.(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999). 247
Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Martin, Ralph P.; and Reid, Daniel G.; eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, c1993).
Hill, Michael. The How and Why of Love: An Introduction to Evangelical Ethics. (Kingsford NSW: Matthias Media, 2002)
Witherington, Ben.The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009).
 Barton, Stephen. Was Paul A Relativist?. Pg 166
c. Explain the relationship between “law and grace” in Paul’s writings.
Most people might make stark contrast when law and grace come head to head where the former is seen as something negative and the latter positive. The law condemns and grace gives life and access to God. Law and grace can also be compared in a manner where the former requires work and the latter requires faith and belief. But as we have discussed earlier in point (a) and (b) concerning Paul’s use of the term ‘law’ and what significance it has for the Christian life, in a specific sense, law as understood as the ‘Mosaic law.’ When we put it in this manner, law in a specific sense, the Mosaic Law, according to Paul has been superseded by Christ and under him a new Law evolves, which is the law of Christ.
While we noted in (a) and (b) that through the Law, where righteousness fails to be exemplified, but the nature of humanity which is marred by sin is condemned, grace on the other hand speaks of a different kind of realization. In Paul’s usage of grace which is charis in the Greek “carries the basic sense of “favour”…and when God or Christ is its subject, acting in grace towards humankind, it is undeserved favour.” 372
Paul’s letter to the Romans present to us some needed detail concerning the controversy displayed on the misconception of what Paul means by not being under law now but under grace (6:14). Ideally hearers of Paul would be shocked as to hear some of the ideas Paul presents in this letter. Stating that the law was unable to produce righteousness in humanity (3:20) and summing up that Jews and Gentiles suffer the same fate, being ‘under sin’ (3:9) and that it is through the law humanity is made conscious of their sin (3:20). Explaining further, Paul elaborates that a righteousness apart from law is made available by putting faith in Jesus through grace that was provided (3:21-24).
Though the notion of the graciousness of God seems to encourage sin (Rom. 6:1), Paul is seen as arguing this with a definite “No.” Where “while works of the Law (Gal. 2:16…) have no part in justification, which is solely of grace (Eph. 2:8-9), good works are to be the very centre piece of the life of gratitude, which is to characterize those who have been saved by God’s grace (Eph. 2:10).” This grace encourages a response of gratitude which entails ethical behaviour.
Some might have the misconception that grace is a New Testament Christian invention but Witherington argues otherwise. He states that Jesus, though not being the first Jew who modelled this idea where God was merciful, forgiving and loving, the OT and Jewish literature also echoes this idea as well. The problem might where some who designate grace as tied only to the NT might be that the concept of God being gracious is tied tightly to Christology.
Taking note of the considerations made above one can conclude here that, grace need not be seen as opposed to law in a sense that grace is seen as a licence to sin. But grace should be place more in the nature of God in both Old Testament and the New. God in his grace liberated the Jews in the Exodus narrative and in doing so gave them laws to live by in accordance with his character. Moving on to the New Testament, the Mosaic law, which is superseded in the coming of Christ become the Christian’s hinge for placing their trust as well as becoming their ethical dimension. By placing faith in Jesus, as noted above as well, righteousness is given out to those who put trust in the one who now takes over the role of the law now for the Christian. This is not done by any means of ‘work’ but based on God’s continuing character seen in the Old Testament who chose Israel not on the basis of what she did, we see grace being administered in both the Old and the New.
 Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Martin, Ralph P.; and Reid, Daniel G.; eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, c1993). pg 373
b. What is the place of “the Mosiac Law” for the Christian according to Paul, give some specific examples.
There might be two issues that pose confusion as well as misunderstanding concerning the place of the Mosaic Law according to Paul. Many find it a grappling issue concerning how Paul viewed the “Mosaic Law.” Was he positive or was he negative about that which was so central to the Jewish faith and community. There are instances where Paul seemed to have a positive stance to the Mosaic Law where he says that it is “holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12) and that he upholds it (Rom 3:31). Paul could also be seen as seeing the Law as coming to an end where he states that ““Christ is the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4a); “you are not under law” (Rom. 6:14; cf. V.15).” More daunting is what Paul said in 1 Cor. 9:19-22 where it seems he was somewhat of a relativist (This issue will be dealt with in detail later).
As for misunderstanding, apparently the contention of most Christians is that the death and resurrection of Christ has nullified the law and thus we are now living under the rule of grace and not law. Most, thus, contend for an extreme view that the law has nothing to do with the life of the Christian. Such views were also contested by the New Perspective which has done some extensive work in reconstructing an understanding of “Paul’s theology in the light of his Jewish context.” Amidst the rubble of these two issues, what can be said about the place of the Mosaic Law for the Christian according to Paul?
Michael Bird in his concise book “A Bird’s Eye View of Paul” discusses this sufficiently and shows us Paul’s view concerning the place of the Mosaic Law for the Christian. According to Bird, passages such as “Galatians 3-4, Romans 6-8, 10 and 2 Corinthians 3” are where Paul explains the “weakness of the law.” He gives examples of this where “In two places (Gal. 3:12; Rom 10:5) he quotes Leviticus 18:5: ‘The one who does these things [obeys the law] will live by them,’ but due to disobedience the law brings curses instead of life. In 2 Corinthians 3:6, he says, ‘the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’.” Bird further explains that the law, “which is bound up with the old age” is further intertwined in a triangle of forces, “consisting of law-sin-death” which ultimately condemns both Jews and Gentiles 139 and where under it blessing and salvation is confined to Israel alone.
After laying this out, there are three main functions of Law according to Paul, following the presentation given by Bird. First, the law heightens human’s sinfulness against God’s holiness (Rom. 2:2-4, 17-24; 3:5-8, 19-20; 7:7-13; Gal. 2:16). Moo elaborates that the law is not just a mere representation of God’s character for knowledge, but requires conformity where humanity always fails to ascribe to. Second, Galatians 3:15-25 makes the case that states the temporal function of the law, where it served as a guardian for the Jewish community on the Old Testament to “direct their behaviours until the time of maturity,” marked in the coming of the promised messiah. Third, the law served as a shadow to introduce a clearer picture in Jesus (Rom. 3:21-22; 1 Cor. 5:7; 10:3; Col. 2:17).
Thus from the description above the law, though being holy and ascribed to God, did not have the power to redeem (Gal. 2:21)but in the coming of Jesus and the Spirit, everyone can now be justified and live in righteousness (Gal. 4:4-6). This implies the demise of the law in chartering authority for the Christian, which has now been superseded in Christ. But before one tries to argue freedom in excess, Paul is not promoting a radical denying of the law. Hill explains this by saying that, although Christ is the fulfilment of the Old Covenant and its law, the foreshadowing aspects of the Old Covenant warrants us to learn the implications of what it means for us in the NT. In that manner, the Old, informs the New. We find Paul making this distinction as well in Rom 13:10. Thus one can then state that there is a sense of continuity between the Old Covenant and the New.
Thought the law reaches its goal in Christ, it does not negate a life of open freedom as what others might have thought of Paul (Rom. 6:1). Freedom from law actually opens up a new law taking place, which Paul states as the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). This is in other words a law that paves a new way of living, not enslaved to sin but to righteousness (Rom 6:18). Bird gives a good explanation of this new law as “signifying the full range of commands and exhortations that belong to the messianic age inaugurated by Christ, which would include the example of Christ, the teaching of Christ and the law of love.” This best describes how the Mosaic law though being superseded, encapsulated continuity paved by interpreting it in Christ.
 Moo, Douglas. The Law of Christ as a Fulfilment of the Law of Moses. Pg 319
 This type of teaching is made popular among Asian Churches by Pr. Joseph Prince who is an advocate for this view where Grace has overridden the Law. See for example Prince, Joseph. Unmerited Favor. (Lake Mary, Florida: Charisma House, 2010)
 See more on this in Burge, Gary; Lynn H. Cohick; Gene L. Green. The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of The New Testament Within Its Cultural Contexts. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009). Pg 264-265
 Bird, Michael F. A Bird’s Eye View of Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message. (Grand Rapids: IVP,2008)
a) What is “the law” according to the Apostle Paul? Explain the different usage of this word in his letters.
The Greek term for what Paul used for law is nomos. Westerholm notes that in designating nomos, the Greek term for law, it blends well in what the Hebrew word torah understand as the OT. He further explain that
“…when Paul speaks of a passage in Isaiah as coming from the “law” (1 Cor. 14:21, of Isa. 28:11-12), and provides a series of quotations from the Psalms and Isaiah (Rom. 3:10-18) as evidence of what “the law says” (v.19), his extension of the term “law” to include the sacred Scriptures as a whole can be paralled in both Greek and Hebrew sources.”
Thus on this detail we can note that “law” in its general sense of how Paul used the word incorporates the understanding that it is to the whole of the Jewish scriptures he is noting. This according to Westerholm is not disputed and many agree with this understanding.
Another way in which Paul mentions law is to designate it to something that is specific namely the Mosaic Laws. Westerholm, arguing from Romans 2 notes some peculiarity in how Paul used the word. The law, was something that Gentiles did not possess (v.14), that Jews used it to know God’s direction in how to live (vv.17-18), something that could be “done” (v.13) and “kept” (v.27). Noting this evidence, Paul in a more specific sense tell us that law “refers to the sum of specific divine requirements given to Israel through Moses.” Therefore, noting details above, when Paul mentions “the law” in a general sense of his use it points to the whole of the OT scriptures but in a more specific sense it talks about the Mosaic Law given to the Israelite community.
We can also note the different usages of the word “law” in Paul’s letters. Four can be mentioned looking to Romans where the law is seen as a controlling power (2:17-20; 9:31; 10:3-5), the Pentateuch (3:21b), the whole OT (3:19) and a principle (3:27). One might get confused if one reads Paul and interprets his use by designating the meaning of law in one meaning. As we have seen above the context and Paul’s use of the law in his arguments will determine what he means by telling his reader which designation of the law he is talking about. But one thing needs to be pointed out.
While Paul’s criticism of the Mosaic Law is not in the nature of the law but what it was unable to do in accordance with salvation, Paul tell us of another law in which Christians are to ascribe to, namely the law of Christ. Wayne G. Strickland states this as the third way in which Paul used law and this has its association to Christ. References to this law can be seen in passages such as Romans 8:2-3 and is in contrast to the Mosaic Law.
On this note, we can conclude that Paul i used ‘law’ in three different ways of understanding. On a general basis law is seen as the bulk of the Old Testament Scriptures as a whole. In further detail, Paul point to law in a specific sense where he designates it as the Mosaic Law that was given to the Israelite community at Sinai. In a third usage of law, Paul presents it as a Christian understanding where, while the control of the Mosaic law has ceased in the coming of Christ, a new law supersedes it, and that is the law of Christ.
 Westerhold, Stephen. Perspectives Old and New: The “Lutheran” Paul and his Critics. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004). Pg 298
 Westerholm also takes note of passages in Galation 6:13 where Paul’s opponents are those who do not keep the law and more strikingly in Rom 7:7-12 where law is used interchangeably. The idea gleaned here is that Paul cauld not have wanted to point to the whole OT scriptures but to something more specific. See more in 298 -299
5. Implications of Christ’s Death in 1 Peter for Christians Living in Malaysia
The Christology of 1 Peter with regards to Christ’s death as we have detailed above poses some viable critique to Christian living in Malaysia. One might find the exhortations that Peter gives to believers he wrote to somewhat hard to grasp. Where, the general consensus is for people to fight for their rights is an understandable case. No one wants to be stepped on. But for some situations, it might warrant Christians to heed the exhortations found in 1 Peter. The call for enduring unjust suffering is a foreign idea to most. The rich Christological insight that Peter gives might have a place for Christians living in Malaysia to emulate where, the quite ethical demand of patterning our attitudes to that of Christ might work more as a credible witness in a world that thrives of fighting for their rights.
Given also the conditions in Malaysia, though being claimed as a multi-racial and religious country, the designation of ‘multi’ is in fact a foreign concept particularly in terms of religion. Sharing the Christian faith to Muslims in Malaysia might lead Christians behind bars. But verbal sharing of faith is not the only way of going being faithful witnesses. Given the strong ethical stance of living in response of Christ death being the centre of that demand, living out the faith might form a basis for communicating the Christian faith to the Muslim community in a non-confrontational way.
As we have seen above, 1 Peter has a rich Christology in reflection on Christ’s death for the church. In responding to the question where we asked, “In what way did the author of 1 Peter reflected on Christ’s death?” to which it was answered as; 1) redemption from a former way of life; 2) as ethical conformity where we are made complete by his atoning death; and 3) Christ’s Death as vindication. 1 Peter informs us to the ethical as well as the pastoral stance of the doctrine of Christ’s death, where it dispels the idea that doctrine is mere head knowledge, rather, doctrine is exhaustively practical as well.
Generally, by looking at all the details that could be conjured from 1 Peter’s reflection on Christ’s suffering, one can note the strong pastoral concern that is poured out through the author’s concern for the people. He constantly bridges the experiences of the believers to that of Christ’s; in what is imaged in this parallel is the unmistakable connection of suffering; like in Jesus’ life, so too in the life of his followers. This connection thus informs upon us care and the mystery of Jesus’ incarnation, where he became like one of us so that we can share in his life in all its fullness.
Another thing that we can draw from in 1 Peter is how Christ’s death, provides for believers, a rich rationale of ethical living. Because Christ’s death is costly (1:18-19), it exhorts us in how we should live. Because Christ’s death is atonement for our sins (2:24), it paves the way for us being able to pattern our lives in the same attitude as how he responded to unjust suffering. Because Christ’s suffering accords to God’s will in that he suffered unjustly he was vindicated (3:18-22), it makes us possible to endure unjust suffering with the sure hope of vindication. Because Christ is our Lord, and if we like him share in his suffering, then, like him too we share in the promise of eternal glory.
Lest we forget the great importance of Christ’s death, lies in fact in what it accomplished for us. As the author of 1 Peter understands, through Jesus’ death we can trust in God though our circumstances are trying (1:21) because of the hope we have in him. Through Christ’s death, it forms a new pattern for living, where his death liberates us from an empty way of life (1:18; 2:24-25) to a way that was provided for us by being purchased by his blood (1:19) and his sinless life (1:19; 2:22-23; 3:18). This also implies to us that because of his death, we have access to God (1:21; 3:18).