Thursday, April 16, 2009

Daniel Kirk is Resurrecting Paul

Daniel Kirk, full time professor part time pancakier, is starting a new book project and he wants your help.  Daniel's project seeks to grapple with why so many people love Jesus but have a hard time with Paul?  He posses the following questions:

"Is there an exegetically sound approach to Paul that paints a different picture of the apostle than the one some Christians find distasteful, offensive, etc.? I think that there's a solid "Yes" to that question, but I need to make sure that the particular answers I give are directed at real-life concerns."
Well I am note sure how "real life" my concerns are, but my personal top 2 'problems' I have with Paul are as follows:

1. Paul and Power:  This is a complex set of ideas that has to do with popular representations of how Paul treats the government of his day, how he thinks of women and homosexuals, and our modern tendencies to use Paul to say what 'we' want, albeit under the guise of being exegetically sound. I imagine these issues all surround the 'politics of power' and the authority we place on texts and are questions that ought to be addressed in any enterprise trying to rescue Paul for the non-specialist.

2. Paul's Inconsistencies:  What I mean by this can probably best be expressed by a series of questions: Are Paul's letters timeless theological tracts, occasional, or some sort of mixture? Did/could Paul develop as a thinker? If so how do we determine his final conclusions on a topic?  Why in so many of todays debates can we read Paul against Paul ?  I imagine that most of the issues people react against are due to problems we have in the harmonizing of Paul's letters into a Pauline theology which often tells us more about the contemporary author, than it does about Paul.

Just for fun, I think Daniel  ought to construct a book about Jesus (perhaps the 2nd volume) that unmasks why people love Jesus so much.  Most of the reasons for a popular love of Jesus over Paul is that people probably don't get how subversive Jesus really is/was.

Sounds like a fun project, good luck Daniel!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Competing Paths to Faithfulness?

Pietas in its ancient Greco-Roman context has the connotations of "duty" or "devotion," and it simultaneously suggests both ones duty to the gods and ones duty to the larger family unit.  In the Greek language the term is the all too familiar "pistis" of faith/faithfulness fame.  Anyone familiar with Paul's appropriation of "pistis" and its cognates is aware that this term is at the center of a longstanding debate.  Thankfully we are naturally going to side step that debate and focus on what is happening in Romans 4.

Paul's letter to the Romans has many perplexing and vexing little issues that are often glossed over in many of the popular attempts to deal with the work, and naturally so, because who in their right mind would want to read a digest of all the interpretive problems in Romans.  Coherency is the name of the game in any successful reading of the letter, but working all these pieces into a readable whole is often more difficult than it would seem to appear.

One of these perplexing issues is why Paul highlights Abraham in Romans 4.  Now many people at this point will say to them selves, well that is easy Paul wanted to prove that even the Hebrews of old were saved by faith/faithfulness and not by works (read circumcision).  Elliott lays out a different position based on the Greco-Roman context.

Briefly the key to Elliott's interpretive move is to look at the role of ancestors in the Greco-Roman world, and specifically how Augustus was associated with piety and the vocation of civilizing the nations.  Ancient figures were often seen as representative figures, thus Augustus represents a history that is closely intertwined with the residents of Rome and their ability to be ushered into the civilized world.  Not to get into to much detail, but the crux of the problem is that the nations in Rome began to think of genealogy in a deterministic way, the Judeans deserve there present lot (jobless and homeless due to the recent mass deportations) because their God had lost.  Imperial ideology, which always interprets the present, saw the Judeans as a people born to servitude.  Paul's story about the Messiah and the program set forth in Abraham did not connect with the people on the ground because to them the Roman story seemed all too true. Thus for Elliott the issue was one of harmonization, could these two stories be effectively reconciled?  This is what some in Paul's day were attempting to do, thus the term "Works of the Law,"  were those Judeans who sought to harmonize the two stories and gain acceptance by utilizing the Roman Law in an effort to further their movement/interests (this is an extremely generalizing account of Elliott at this point).  Paul is thus contrasting two avenues, you could either, by following the works of Augustus, look for salvation through benefactions of the Caesar, or you could practice the kind of piety that Abraham is the representative of - a salvation through faithfulness that involves waiting patiently, expectantly, on the God who can reverse the present circumstances.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Homer Twitters!

homer, odyssey, iliad, twitter, epic poem

Bookshelfs for Nerds

For more visit:

Propaganda Model?


Here are two interviews on the Bill Moyers Journal you don't want to miss, first is William K. Blake who offers a scintillating analysis of the financial meltdown and how the media has failed us in reporting the news again.

Next up is Amy Goodman from Democracy Now, a news report that you really ought to watch, and Glenn Greewald from Salon.  Both are serious reporters that are outside the mainstream media, and thus actually report interesting news.

Both segments speak to how the Propaganda Model is still a viable rubric for understanding how the United States media works, or doesn’t work. 

Thursday, April 02, 2009