Extracurricular Activities — January 18, 2014
The Houghton Library at Harvard University holds a vast collection of important historical papers, letters and manuscripts. There are works there from Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Keats, Louisa May Alcott and many other notable authors and poets. Deep within that library is a fragile old volume, worn, faded and crumbling. It is a handwritten manuscript labeled simply “Vol. 2.” Yet that otherwise unremarkable volume has great historical significance because it contains half of the portion of hymns that John Newton contributed to the final published version of Olney Hymns. It is the next of the twenty-five objects through which we are tracing the history of Christianity, for Olney Hymns directs us to the rise of the hymn as a distinctive component of Christian worship.
Where does eschatology, the belief in the future, begin for the Christian? for Paul? Right here:
If Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead, then it meant either that the whole cosmos had gone completely mad or that ‘the resurrection’ had come forward into the present, in just this one case, with Jesus leading the way and everyone else following in due course.
So N.T. Wright, in Paul and the Faithfulness of God (1062). It is crying pity that so much of Christian eschatology has become debates about the rapture and whether or not there is a real, live 1000 year millennium, and just how tribulation and rapture are connected. No, no, 1000x no, eschatology is front, left, right, and center and back about the resurrection of Jesus. Everything else (and everyone else) follows suit. Without resurrection it’s nonsense; with it everything else falls in line.
As indicated in the title, the originating and “traditionally” principal goal of NT textual criticism was typically stated as attempting to re-create the “original” text of NT writings. This usually meant (using critical methods and criteria) wording as close as feasible to the wording of the text as it came from the author. But it is now recognized that there are several complications.
One problem is the ambiguity of the term “original text.” If one means the “autograph” as it came from the author, there was already likely a copying/transmission process involved from the outset, which likely means that there were at least some differences among even these very first copies (as one expects of any text copied by hand). And in some cases, authors might have released more than one copy or even more than one “edition” of a given writing (e.g., Acts??).
One of the most misleading headlines imaginable recently appeared over an opinion column published in USA Today. Tom Krattenmaker, a member of the paper’s Board of Contributors, set out to argue that there is no essential conflict between evolution and religious belief because the two are dealing with completely separate modes of knowing. Evolution, he argued, is simply “settled science” that requires no belief. Religion, on the other hand, is a faith system that is based in a totally different way of knowing—a form of knowing that requires belief and faith.
A number of people lately have been intrigued to meet a French theologian, and have asked me to tell them the story of how I, a French atheist, became a Christian scholar. Even the theologians and apologists I met recently at the ETS Conference in Baltimore (where by God’s grace I was delivering my first scholarly paper) seemed to care (understandably) more about my conversion from atheism than my immediate theology paper! Therefore, it seemed fitting to type it up properly, to have a clean telling of that story of God breaking into my life, ready to be shared with people who ask. So here it is (and please let me know if you spot spelling mistakes or awkward sentences, I’m still French after all!)
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