August 24, 2012 by Jason Hood
Exposure to biblical scholarship and its conclusions often shocks laity and pastors. But one sometimes encounters shocking scholarly errors that plague evangelical pews as well.
Few things are more shocking in the academy than the dismissal (or more subtly, the downplaying) of Paul’s belief that Jesus was the Messiah. Craig Blomberg addresses the tendency to treat Christ as more or less Jesus’ last name, a problem that looms as large at the scholarly level as it is in local congregations: “There is no unambiguous evidence to demonstrate that ‘Christ’ in any of its 531 New Testament uses ever ‘degenerated’ into a mere second name for Jesus.”
John Collins observes that, thanks to the ecumenical movement and politically correct approaches to scholarship, “. . . we have the astonishing claim that Paul, the earliest Christian writer, did not regard Jesus as the Messiah . . . Jesus is called Christos, anointed, the Greek equivalent of messiah, 270 times in the Pauline corpus. If this is not ample testimony that Paul regarded Jesus as messiah, then words have no meaning.” Collins acknowledges that there is room for debate on the significance of Jesus’ Messiahship for Paul, but the basic idea should never have been in doubt.
In his summary of recent decades of scholarship on Paul in the English language, N. T. Wright similarly pushes back: “Jesus’ Messiahship has been a sleeping element in Pauline studies so long that many scholars seem not to know what to do with it if it was proved. But proved it can be, and major revolutions must follow.”
In a footnote to that sentence Wright cites the newly published dissertation (via Oxford University Press) of my friend Matt Novenson, who was recently appointed Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh. My dissertation is about the same price; Matt’s is far more important and truly worth some attention.
 “The Messiah in the NT,” in Israel’s Messiah in the Bible and the DSS, ed. Richard Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 141, emphasis original.
 The Scepter and the Star, 2, emphasis mine.
 ExpT 123.8 (2012), 374.
October 24, 2011 by Jason Hood
There’s an article in the latest Bulletin for Biblical Research in which I explore Paul’s heavenly experience in 2 Cor 12. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” in the same passage has been the subjection of much speculation (and I ponder that as well), but the more interesting question to my mind is what Paul saw on his “trip” to the third heaven.
We have a good bit of relevant data to consider. Jewish and Christian beliefs and Pauline descriptions of heavenly and ecclesiological realities suggest that in the “third heaven” Paul enters the heavenly model for the earthly temple. If so he would witness God and the Son of Man enthroned and glorified in the heavenly equivalent of the holy of holies.
But the “heavenly ecclesiology” of Paul and other NT authors stresses the temple nature of the church and the church’s access to the holy of holies in heaven. I explore the possibility that Paul would have seen the church-temple enthroned with God and the Messiah (Eph 2:6). If so, it makes sense that this event was formative for Paul’s mission and theology, and also explains why he might not have elaborated on what he saw for the congregation in Corinth.
Not two weeks after I submitted this article my grandmother asked me about this passage out of the blue. She was reflecting on a prayer service for my grandfather in which she believes she saw Jesus standing with a few deacons as they prayed over him. She’s no charismatic, but Church of Christ (and therefore not prone to alcohol, to put it mildly, and averse to charismatic sensations of any sort). She’s a sober, sane person not given to speculation or hyperbole.
She’s also not prone to asking me about biblical passages, other than chatting about Ephesus; her husband was stationed in Izmir (Smyrna) when my mother was a little girl, and they used to picnic at the ruins.
I can’t speak for my grandmother, but for my part our conversation was a very tender and encouraging moment, not least given the fact that I am prone to ponder the usefulness of deep academic study of biblical passages. And I can’t commend my article, but I can report that reflecting on the heavenly nature of the church is terrifically encouraging…2 Comments
September 6, 2011 by Jason Hood
In my forthcoming book I note that Paul sees himself as a “Suffering Servant” (Isaiah) after the model of Jesus. In Romans 15:21 Paul quotes from Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song, the famous “Song of the Suffering Servant” (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) and applies it to his own ministry. Luke presents him in the same way in Acts, which is one of the many reasons we have for believing that the author of Luke-Acts really was one of Paul’s co-workers.
He is a servant, suffering for Jews and for Gentiles.
These observations aren’t uniquely mine, of course. I recently dipped into a new commentary on 1 Corinthians and was pleased to see Brian Rosner and Roy Ciampa make the same case, but apply it to Paul’s mission. Relying on Hafemann and others, they discuss the role of suffering at the heart of Paul’s identity and mission. Because of his self-conception as a “suffering servant” as described in Isaiah, Paul can tie his ministry to the good news of the breaking in of God’s kingdom as promised in that same OT book:
Paul in his own person takes on the prophetic role of Israel—he is the light to the nations, the bringer of salvation.
Paul’s task of proclamation, therefore, is not the mere rehearsal of past facts. God is bringing to pass, through Paul, the eschatological fulfillment of salvation history. Just as the new eschatological age has already dawned with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so it is currently breaking in to the old age through the preaching of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s message is not idle chatter or some good news ideas; it is apocalyptic power (1 Cor. 4:20). As Paul proclaims and lives out ‘Christ crucified,’ all the structures of human existence are transformed, human pride is judged, and salvation comes to those who believe (1 Cor 7:17-25; cf. 1 Thes 1:5)….Paul sees himself as not only proclaiming but also actively bringing about, the new age of God’s direct rule over the cosmos in both judgment and salvation.
The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NTC; Eerdmans, 2010) p. 121 Comment
August 10, 2011 by Jason Hood
The glue that united Paul’s thought and life with the message he preached and the mission he conducted was his suffering as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul’s suffering was the vehicle through which the saving power of God, climactically revealed in Christ, was being made known in the world. To reject the suffering Paul was therefore to reject Christ; to identify with Paul in his suffering was a sure sign that one was being saved by the “foolishness” and “stumbling block” of the cross.
Scott Hafemann, “The role of Suffering in the mission of Paul,” ed. P. Bolt and M. Thompson (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 140. For a similar article by Hafemann that is available as a free PDF download, check out his “A Call to Pastoral Suffering“. (Hafemann is the Senior Theological Mentor for the First SAET Fellowship.)1 Comment