Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ETS Paper Available

The following is from Credo blog.

To start off this week we would like to highlight the ETS paper of A. B. Caneday, who is also a weekly contributor to the Credo blog as well as a contributor to the January issue of Credo Magazine, “In Christ Alone.” Caneday’s paper is titled: “The Advent of God’s Son as Judgment in John’s Gospel-Justification and Condemnation Already.” Ardel Caneday (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is Professor of New Testament Studies and Biblical Studies at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has served churches in various pastoral roles, including senior pastor. He has authored numerous journal articles, many essays in books, and has co-authored with Thomas Schreiner the book The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance (Inter-Varsity, 2001).

Caneday begins his paper:

Despite mistakenly construing John’s Gospel against the backdrop of second-century Gnosticism, skewing his interpretation of the Gospel, Rudolf Bultmann correctly identifies divine judgment as an important aspect of Johannine theology. He observes that Jesus’ activity as “Revealer of God,” whose unitary advent (John 3:19; 9:39) and departure (12:31), is the eschatological event, “the judgment of the world.” According to Bultmann, Jesus’ coming cast the whole κόσμος into κρίσις. Yet, this eschatological judgment “is no dramatic cosmic event, but takes place in the response of men to the word of Jesus.” He contends, “Thus the judgement is not a specially contrived sequel to the coming and the departure of the Son. It is not a dramatic cosmic event which is yet to come and which we must still await. Rather the mission of the Son, complete as it is in his descent and exaltation, is the judgement.”

Despite holding significant disagreements with Bultmann, New Testament exegetes do not miss the fact that divine judgment figures prominently in John’s Gospel. So, for example, Köstenberger observes, “in an important sense, God’s judgment was already brought about by the light’s coming into the world in the incarnation of the Son (1:14). This coming of the light into the world, in turn, confronts people everywhere with the decision of whether to embrace the light or to go into hiding and persist in darkness.” All who reject God’s Son incur divine judgment, but all who believe in him “escape judgment already in the here and now (5:24), though the final judgment awaits the end of time (5:28-29).”

True as this is, arguments to counter or to qualify Bultmann’s insistence that John’s Gospel contends for a “realized eschatology” versus the traditional Jewish end-time eschatology tend to overlook important ramifications of the Last Day’s advance arrival with the advent of the Son of God. The exclusive claim of Peter’s proclamation that “there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) finds expanded expression in the Fourth Gospel.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil.

The life of the Age to Come is resident in and mediated through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Hence, eternal life, which properly belongs to the coming age, is already present with the incarnation of the Word and is now being imparted to all who believe in God’s Son. Noteworthy as is the advance installment of eternal life, signaling resurrection’s encroachment into the present age, of equal significance is the announcement beforehand of God’s Last Day verdict of judgment, all who believe “are not condemned,” but whoever does not believe “is condemned already.”

With his advent, God’s Son already brings forward two correlated acts of God—resurrection and judgment—that belong to the Last Day which consummates the present age and ushers in the Age to Come. The mission of God’s incarnate Son sweeps forward both the wrath of God’s coming judgment now revealed in Christ’s sacrificial death and the gift of God’s resurrection life disclosed in Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead. Because Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, the Father authorized him to have “life in himself” to bestow this life of the coming age to whomever he desires in advance of the day of resurrection and to set in motion execution of the coming judgment upon both those who believe and those who do not (John 3:16-19; 5:21-29). Johannine scholars affirm these emphases. Yet, lacking within discussions of the Fourth Gospel’s emphasis upon the present arrival of future resurrection and judgment in the person of Jesus Christ is development of John’s doctrine of justification, expressed with neither the verb δικαιόω nor the noun δικαίωσις but through less direct but no less emphatic expressions. In these expressions the affirmative is emphatically stated by negating its opposite so that “are not condemned” and “do not come into condemnation” bear the sense, “most assuredly justified.”

Read Ardel Caneday’s entire ETS paper.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Conclusion from my Paper Presentation at ETS

For anyone who may be interested, here is the conclusion from my paper at the Evangelical Theological Society Conference which I present tomorrow, November 16, at 3:00 PM in San Francisco.


                  Absence of διακιόω and δικαίωσις from John’s Gospel inclines Johannine scholars to say little, except in passing, concerning the Gospel’s contributions to the New Testament teaching on the doctrine of justification. The fact that John frames his expressions concerning justification as negated understatements doubtless contributes to this. Nevertheless, two of John’s narratives provide fertile discourse that bears much fruit concerning a rich understanding of his teaching with regard to justification.
                  John’s contributions concerning justification come by way of recognizing Jesus’ use of litotes in his sayings of John 3:18 and 5:24. When he announces “the one who believes in him is not condemned” (3:18) and “the one who hears . . . and believes . . . does not come into condemnation” (5:24), Jesus is actually saying quite emphatically, “the one who believes is assuredly justified.” For by way of litotes, the emphatic us of understatement to affirm the positive truth by negating its opposite, Jesus is emphatically affirming that his coming brings forward the verdict of the Last Day so that already the verdict is being revealed in how people respond to him, either in belief or unbelief.
                  Jesus underscores the fact that his presence in this world establishes the presence of the future Last Day judgment when with performative words he announces “an hour is coming and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (5:25). Thus, the paradoxical saying indicates that the Son of Man who will call forth the dead on the Last Day is already giving resurrection life to all who believe in God’s Son. Yet, additionally, God’s wrath remains upon all who disobey the Son. Thus, the two antithetical verdicts of judgment in the Last Day—“resurrection of life” and “resurrection of condemnation”—already are being revealed wherever the voice of God’s Son is heard in this present age.
                  Indeed, resurrection and judgment properly belong to the Last Day. God’s Son came not to condemn the world, yet because the Light has come into the world judgment issues from his presence. His presence brings the Last Day verdict of justification to all who believe but the same Last Day verdict of condemnation to everyone who disobeys by unbelief. Thus, just as Jesus Christ already gives life to the dead who hear his voice ahead of the Day of Resurrection, so also, ahead of the Day of Judgment Jesus announces the verdict of the Last Day, that those who do not believe in the Son already stand condemned while those who believe in him already stand not condemned, which is to say, they are already assuredly justified (3:18).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Abstract of ETS Paper to Be Presented November 16

The Advent of God’s Son as Judgment in John’s Gospel:
Justification and Condemnation Already

Scripture’s announcement that salvation is found in “no other name” than in Christ Jesus necessarily entails an exclusive claim that apart from belief in him, no one will be saved. According to John’s Gospel, Jesus presents this exclusive claim in a familiar passage.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil.

With his advent, God’s Son brought forward two correlated acts of God—resurrection and judgment—that belong to the last day that consummates the present age and ushers in the age to come. The mission of God’s incarnate Son sweeps forward both the wrath of God’s coming judgment revealed in his sacrificial death and the gift of God’s resurrection life disclosed in his glorious resurrection from the dead. Because Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, the Father authorized him to have “life in himself” to bestow this life of the coming age to whomever he desires and to set in motion his execution of the coming judgment (John 5:21-29).

Thus, even though John’s Gospel never uses the verb δικαιόω or the noun δικαίωσις, the Gospel contributes much to the biblically coherent teaching concerning justification and condemnation as the divine verdicts of judgment on the last day brought forward in incarnate coming of God’s Son. Throughout his Gospel John portrays Jesus as God’s Son who has already brought forward and set in motion things that properly belong to the coming age including judgment, salvation, eternal life, resurrection, justification, and condemnation. Everyone who hears the gospel and believes the Father already has eternal life and will not be condemned, which is the inverse way of saying “will be justified.” So, for example, Jesus assures, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). When Jesus says “does not come into condemnation,” this is a figure of speech (litotes) that uses understatement that emphatically expresses the affirmative by negating its opposite. Thus, to say “does not come into condemnation” is an emphatic way of affirming “is most assuredly justified” by way of negating its opposite. If litotes does not sufficiently emphasize the correlation between eternal life and justification, Jesus underscores his announcement by asserting that everyone who believes the Father already experiences a phase of the resurrection life of the age to come because they have already crossed over from death to life.

Resurrection unto life which stands opposite resurrection unto condemnation (5:29), both verdicts of the Day of Judgment, are already manifesting themselves in responses to the Word of God’s Son, the gospel. God’s Son did not come to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved (3:17). Nevertheless, the arrival of God’s Son brings the Day of Judgment forward in that the gospel announces the verdict of judgment: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned [is most assuredly justified], but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (3:18). Justification and condemnation take place in two phases; belief and unbelief in Jesus Christ already signal the verdicts not yet issued on the last day.

Ponder This!

Think about the literary significance of John's account concerning Nicodemus. He reports, "This man came to Jesus by night" (John 3:2). It may not be evident upon one's first reading of this that "by night" is not just a time indicator concerning when Nicodemus came to Jesus. Given the prominence of the "light"/"darkness" motif in John's Gospel, surely the mention of "night" also describes Nicodemus's spiritual condition--at that time he was in spiritual darkness.

Yet, there surely is more that John is suggesting by telling readers that Nicodemus came to Jesus "by night." The darkness of night is often the cover evil people use to conceal their evil deeds. Yet, here, Nicodemus, a man who is yet in spiritual darkness uses the darkness of night to conceal not an evil act but a good act, his coming to Jesus.

Trace the other accounts of Nicodemus in John's Gospel to discover that he finally emerges into the light. He begins to move from darkness to light, daring to raise his voice in dissent within the Sanhedrin (John 7:50) and later, in the end, he even does a good act in daylight not at night by assisting Joseph of Arimathea to receive and to bury the corpse of the Christ (John 7:50; 19:39).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should proclaim to you a gospel other than the gospel we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed.

  Perhaps you have never wondered why Paul tells the Galatians, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel other than the gospel we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed" (Gal. 1:8). Nevertheless, maybe you have wondered what may have prompted Paul to make the statement. I would suggest that it was not simply his brilliance nor fanciful desperation that conjured up the specter of an angelic visitor that would subvert his gospel by proclaiming "a gospel other than the one we proclaimed to you." Instead, I would propose that Paul is alluding to an Old Testament precedence, an account in which an old prophet from Bethel deceived the man of God who came from Judah to prophesy against Jeroboam that a son born to the house of David, Josiah by name, would sacrifice the priests of the high places upon the altar Jeroboam had erected (1 Kings 13:1-10). The portion to which I am persuaded that Paul alludes follows:

Read more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Believers in Romans 2?

I have joined the team of writers at Credo blog which will also feature Credo, an on-line magazine, beginning in October. Here is my first entry at Credo. "Gentiles in Paul's Argument in Romans 2: Their Praise is not from Man but from God."

That Romans 2 should figure prominently within disagreements among contemporary Christian scholars about how to understand Paul’s reasoning concerning the gospel in relation to the law of Moses is no surprise, for this chapter has always posed exegetical difficulties, especially since the Reformation. Two contrasting interpretations of the passage dominate discussions. The one that dominated until the past twenty years is that Paul, in portions if not the whole of Romans 2, argues against his presumptuous and censorious but rhetorical or imaginary Jewish dialog partner by positing equally imaginary Gentiles whose salvation by keeping the law is only theoretical because sin renders every human helpless and incapable of doing good. The second interpretation, which has gained much greater acceptance in recent years, is that Paul is depicting Christians generally in 2:7 and 10 but particularly Christian Gentiles in 2:12ff and 2:25-29, by their conduct, the obedience of faith, in contrast to others whose evil deeds manifest unbelief. 

Read more.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Litotes in John 8:51-52. "If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death--ever!"

Two weeks in a row I had occasions to reflect carefully upon the starkness of Jesus' assertion in John 8:51. The first occasion was during a sermon at our church. The second was during a class that I was teaching at our church when a man made the claim that Christians do not die. He, of course, heard the same sermon as I did one week earlier. He took a central aspect of that sermon to a radicalized conclusion. Why did he do this? You may want to review the sermon for yourself to determine your own response to the question before I offer my own suggestion.

Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death" (8:51; ESV; emphasis added). The Jews who heard Jesus make this claim quote him with slight variation, "Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, 'If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death'" (8:52; ESV; emphasis added).

I would like to suggest that the ESV and most other English translations of John 8:51-52 do not adequately capture the proper sense of Jesus' assertion, and therefore, the translations do not sufficiently signal to English readers that Jesus deliberately uses a figure of speech that startles in order to emphasize the opposite positive.

Here is the Greek text of the two verses under consideration.
ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐάν τις τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον τηρήσῃ, θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (8:51).
νῦν ἐγνώκαμεν ὅτι δαιμόνιον ἔχεις. Ἀβραὰμ ἀπέθανεν καὶ οἱ προφῆται, καὶ σὺ λέγεις· ἐάν τις τὸν λόγον μου τηρήσῃ, οὐ μὴ γεύσηται θανάτου εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (8:52).
First, most English translations do not adequately account for the words εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα in either 8:51 or 8:52. The ESV "shall never see death" (8:51) and shall never taste death" (8:52) captures well the double negation of the verbs in the following: θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ (8:51) and οὐ μὴ γεύσηται θανάτου (8:52). However, the ESV does not adequately account for the added words εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα in both verses. Of the various English translations that I have consulted, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) captures the two verses best: "If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death--ever!" (8:51), and "If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste death--ever!" (8:52). The addition of "ever" is crucial, for it accounts for the words εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, unlike other translations.

Second, clearly, the gentleman who was in the class that I was teaching who also made that claim that Christians will never die took Jesus' claim literally. I asked him, "Do you mean that Christians will never die, that Christians will never depart this life? What happened to all our departed loved ones? Were they not Christians? Do you really mean that Christians will never die?" He insisted, "Christians will never die." Obviously, by taking Jesus' assertion literally he set Jesus' claim in opposition to reality, that Christians do die.

This is precisely where the sermon that both he and I had heard the week earlier would have been significantly benefited if it had included a clarification concerning the figure of speech that Jesus uses when he states, "If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death--ever!" (ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐάν τις τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον τηρήσῃ, θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, 8:51).

What is the figure of speech Jesus uses? It is litotes. Litotes is a figure of speech in which one generally makes an understatement to express the affirmative by negating its opposite, or uses a double negation to affirm the positive. For example, to say, "This is no small problem" means, "This is a huge problem." "His efforts were not unsuccessful."

John's Gospel uses litotes several times. For example, litotes occurs when Jesus says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (6:37). "I will never cast out" is litotes, for it expresses the affirmative by negating its opposite. It means, "Whoever comes to me I will most assuredly preserve" (cf. D. A. Carson, Gospel of John, 290; and here).

Likewise, then, when Jesus asserts, "If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death--ever!", he means, "If anyone keeps My word, he will most assuredly see life forever!" Likewise, even though the Jews failed to grasp properly Jesus' meaning, they essentially restate it correctly, If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste death--ever!" As such, given the use of litotes, it means, "If anyone keeps My word, he will most certainly taste life forever!"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

On "Literal Interpretation" and on "Symbolic Interpretation"

Some may ask, "Can any good thing come from BioLogos?" Well, at least one short video has. I actually agree with what Os Guinness has to say on this video. It comes the closest to what I have been saying, teaching, and writing for years. Evangelicals are wrong to squabble over whether the Bible should be "read literally" or "read symbolically or figuratively." A plague upon both approaches.

To speak of "symbolic interpretation" or "literal interpretation," using an adjective to modify "interpretation," creates confusion by focusing upon the act of interpretation rather than upon the act of revelation. For greater explanation see A. B. Caneday’s response to the question, Can you discuss the significance of typology to biblical theology?” in “The SBJT Forum: Biblical Theology for the Church,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10, no. 2 (2006): 96-98. There I address a focused application of so-called "symbolic interpretation" that many call "typological interpretation."
To speak of “typological interpretation” is to confound interpretation and revelation. We rightly say that God’s revelation is typological, but to speak of “typological interpretation” is to admit to a form of “reader response hermeneutics.” Interpreters of the Bible do not cast biblical types. God, who reveals himself and his deeds in Scripture, casts the Bible’s types. God invested things with foreshadowing significance—institutions (e.g., the Levitical priesthood), places (e.g., Eden, the tabernacle), things (e.g., the ark, sacrifices, kingship), events (e.g., creation, the flood, the exodus, events in the wilderness, entry into the land), and individuals (e.g., Adam, Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses, David). God invested these with significance to prefigure corresponding features of the coming age.
My concern is that Evangelicals have greatly confounded the matter by placing adjectives in front of the words "reading" and "interpretation." Regularly, Evangelicals, whether lay folks or scholars, prefix "reading" and "interpretation" with adjectives such as "literal," "figurative," "symbolic," "typological," or "allegorical" in front of the words "reading" and "interpretation."

Listen to Os Guinness on the video. He makes the same point I make, but focuses upon those who talk of "literal interpretation." Here is a summation of what he says. 

In this video, Os Guinness continues the dialogue regarding how Christians read scripture, and points out the common misconception that a choice must be made between reading scripture literally or faithfully.

Guinness suggests that the trend toward literalism can be illustrated by contemporary pollsters who query evangelicals as to how they read the Bible, that is, whether they believe it to be “literally” true.

Many respond in the affirmative—but what they likely mean is that they read the Bible faithfully, as opposed to literally. Guinness offers an example from Psalms that reads “The mountains skipped like rams” and points out that no one interprets this passage in a literal, wooden way. Instead, readers recognize it as metaphor––figurative language used to paint a picture, not language intended to transmit a literal history of events.

One of the advances in hermeneutics during the Reformation was the understanding that the Bible should be read in accordance with its collected genres. That is, history should be read historically; law should be read legally; and poetry should be read poetically. Christians today know this, but in an effort to remain faithful to their faith and the Bible, they have boxed themselves in by trying to defend a literal reading—even when this is not in keeping with Christian tradition.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Portion Excised from an Already Too Long Essay

Christ’s first advent sweeps forward two correlated acts of God from the Last Day—resurrection and judgment.[1] Paul’s gospel orients everyone to Christ’s cross, as the display of God’s wrath against sin (Rom. 3:21-31), and his resurrection, as God’s vindication of his Son (Rom. 1:4; 4:25; 1 Tim. 3:16), both indivisibly as the advance visitation of God’s courtroom of the Great Assize at the end of the age. The gospel message does not transport humans into the future courtroom of heaven to hear God’s verdict of condemnation or justification. Rather, the gospel announces that with the coming of Christ, God has revealed the verdict of his Last Day courtroom in advance in the crucifixion and resurrection of his Son: wrath and justification. So, believers, in union with Christ in his death and resurrection, enter the new creation, ahead of time, by way of mutual crucifixion in Christ—the world to believers and believers to the world (Gal. 6:14-15). In the gospel, God announces that he has already thrust his verdict—condemned or justified—forward from the Day of Judgment, which has not yet come, into the present with the advent of his Son (cf. John 3:16-21).[2]

So, according to Paul’s gospel, each of the diverse and rich imageries he employs—whether salvation or eternal life or resurrection or justification—portrays God’s saving power in Christ as piercing the darkness of this present evil age as revealed light emanating from the Last Day back into time, featuring Christ Jesus whose crucifixion is God’s demonstration of his righteousness by subjecting him to wrath in order to judge sin in advance of the final judgment and in order that all who are in him might be justified (Rom. 3:21-31). His death is God’s judgment of sin for all who believe. His resurrection is life for the same ones (Rom. 4:25), for his resurrection is God’s justifying declaration of Jesus Christ to be the Powerful Son of God (Rom. 1:4; cf. 1 Tim. 3:16; Acts 13:33), securing God’s justifying verdict for his people, already being proclaimed in the gospel in advance of the Last Day.

For Paul, justification is singular with discernible but indivisible aspects or phases, both now and not yet. He agrees with other New Testament writers that salvation, the kingdom of God, redemption, eternal life, resurrection, adoption, forgiveness of sins, justification, et al., are terms that depict two inseparable but distinguishable phases of both already and not yet. No more division exists between present and future aspects of justification than between first quarter and last quarter phases of the moon. It is the same and singular moon with distinguishable and discernible phases or aspects. Likewise, whether Paul speaks of justification now or not yet, it is the same and singular justification with distinguishable aspects, one present, the other future.

[1] See especially Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 73ff, 261ff.
[2] N. T. Wright is at his best when he makes this same argument: “The bringing of the future verdict forward into the present world is rooted, grounded, rock-bottom established on the brining of the Messiah forward into the-present, more specifically, on the extraordinary, unprecedented and unimagined fact of the resurrection itself coming forward into the present. The Messiah is not simply a figure who will emerge at the very end. Resurrection is no longer simply a last-day event in which God will raise all his people. Messiah and resurrection are middle-of-history events in which God has come to inaugurate his kingdom, his sovereign, saving rule of all creation. In and through the Messiah, God has dealt with the whole problematic fact of idolatry, sin and death and so has begun, in the Messiah’s resurrection, the new creation which is the great new Fact standing in the middle of time, space and human culture” (Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision [Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009], , 215).