Children, Mission and Education Symposium

My colleague Chris Barnett has asked me to spread the word about a forthcoming Symposium coming up next month.

Children & Spirituality Symposium, Friday September 11, Parkville, Melbourne

A unique event on the Australian ministry calendar, the Children & Spirituality Symposium  is a wonderful opportunity for theologically engaged practitioners (including chaplains, RE teachers, Christian educators, ministers/pastors and children & families ministry leaders), those who are currently undertaking research around ministry with children and families and those who have previously completed such research, to gather, engage and explore together.

This year’s Symposium explores the topic of Child, Mission and Education. Drawing together three significant thinkers, writers and leaders in their respective fields, this Symposium offers the prospect of challenging in-put, fascinating conversation and robust group engagement. The 2015 presenters are…

Rev. Dr. John Flett                  Co-ordinator of Studies (Missiology),  Pilgrim Theological College
Dr. Larissa McLean Davies   Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching, Graduate School of Education (University of Melbourne)
Beth Barnett                             Learning and Theological Engagement, Victorian Council of Christian Education

…and this will be a great day for anyone willing to be stretched in both their undergirding theological understanding and actual practice of ministry engagement with children and their families.

Child, Mission and Education Symposium
Friday September 11
9.45am to 3.30pm
$40 (includes lunch)
Centre for Theology and Ministry (29 College Cres, Parkville, Melbourne)

More Information: Child, Mission and Education Symposium
Registration: Children & Spirituality Symposium 2015

Daniel Kirk in Melbourne: Seminar, Tuesday 11th August at 12.45 pm.

The fi2015 Daniel Kirk Lecture - FINALrst lunchtime Research Seminar at Pilgrim Theological College will take place next Tuesday, 11th August at 12.45 p.m. – 1.45 p.m.

It is great that New Testament Scholar Daniel Kirk, who is visiting Australia, will be able to join us to present a summary of his recent work on the human Jesus of the Synoptic gospels. All are welcome to join us at the Centre for Theology and Ministry, 29 College Crescent, Parkville, 3052. Please spread the word.

Book Notice: Suffering in Romans by Siu Fung Wu have just received notice that one of my former PhD students, Siu Fung Wu, now has his thesis, Suffering in Romans, published with Wipf and Stock.

You can find the details here.

Along with several others, I wrote an endorsement for the book, and Todd Still has written a nice Foreword. (you can see them all on the website). This is what I wrote:

“Exegetical rigor meets existential reality in this important study of the theme of suffering in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. Wu highlights the ways that Paul explores the theme of suffering in the light of his gospel of hope. But his focus on the audience of Romans also reminds us that Paul’s gospel is no abstract reflection but a transformative message–for the first audience and for today.”

Call for Papers: ANZATS Conference 2016 in Melbourne

Along with colleagues at Trinity College Theological School and the University of Divinity, Pilgrim Theological College will be hosting the 2016 ANZATS Conference next July. The keynote speaker is Serene Jones from Union Theological Seminary and the Conference theme is the Atonement.

The Call for Papers has just been issued. See below (click on the image to go through to the full .pdf)2016-ANZATS-Conference-flyer-_Page_1

Back to the Historical Jesus

The first ever university level class I ever taught was on the historical Jesus: a seminar class based on Sanders’ Jesus and Judaism, taught at Bristol University in 1989–1990. For several years in Manchester I taught a unit called ‘Images of Jesus’, which included aspects of historical Jesus studies but also considered the uses to which the historical figure of Jesus had been put (everything from liberation theology to the Manchester Passion).

I am about to launch into a new course on the Historical Jesus at Pilgrim Theological College. There are two reasons why I felt it important to offer the unit. The first relates to a whole set of problematic appeals to the historical Jesus in many parts of the church. But what really propelled me to work with the issues again was the shift that has taken place in historical Jesus studies in recent years, particularly in the direction of a more nuanced and relevant historiographical method (Schröter and Le Donne) and the challenge to a ‘criteria’ based approach to issues of authenticity (Keith, Rodriguez, Allison). In fact I have joked with colleagues that I should just title the course ‘Why Dale Allison is right a shed load of the time’, but in the end I went with ‘The Historical Jesus’.

The importance of the more recent scholarship can, in my view, hardly be overstated. A few weeks ago I wrote a popular piece for the Uniting Church’s newspaper Crosslight in which I try to spell out some of the issues for a popular audience. You can read it here (and for an example of the kind of viewpoint that I feel is so problematic you might look here, an article that appeared on the same page as mine in the printed issue of the paper). I have just written this morning a further piece for The Conversation which will be published online soon. [Update: this piece is now available here].

The programme for the course I am teaching goes as follows:

  1. Week of 28th July: Introducing the Historical Jesus: The Questions and the Quest
  1. Week of 4th August: Unscrambling the Historical Jesus: The Gospels, History and Historiography
  1. Week of 11th August: Remembering the Historical Jesus: Memory and Methodology
  1. Week of 18th August: Jesus the Jew: Remembering Jesus in Context
  1. Week of 25th August: Jesus the Eschatological Prophet: Remembering Jesus’ Message
  1. Week of 1st September: Jesus and Torah: Remembering Jesus’ Challenge
  1. Week of 8th September: Jesus the Teacher: Remembering Jesus’ Parables
  1. Week of 15th September: Jesus the Healer: Remembering Jesus’ Power
  1. Week of 6th October: Jesus at the Table: Remembering Jesus’ Company
  1. Week of 13th October: Jesus the Messiah: Remembering Jesus’ Self-Understanding I
  1. Week of 20th October: Jesus the Son of Man: Remembering Jesus’ Self-Understanding II
  1. Week of 27th October: Jesus the Crucified: Remembering Jesus’ Death

Two further points. First, the historical Jesus is not my area of expertise, but in the course I will be relying heavily on the research done by those named above, as well as other scholars in the field, some of whom I count as friends. I am amazingly grateful for their work (not least its clarity) and hope I can do justice to it. I believe it to be profoundly important, historically and theologically.

Secondly, there is still time (just) to enrol for the course as a credit or audit student: Tuesday nights, 6–9 pm. Or, of you prefer, you can come along to the Pilgrim Theological College Open Day on October 20th, find out more about the College, and sit in on what will be a fascinating class on the Son of man problem. Contact us here for more information.

New Perspectives on Paul and Judaism: Lecture Event in Melbourne, 2nd August 2015

I will be speaking to the Victorian branch of the Council for Christians and Jews early next month on the topic ‘”To the Jew First?” New Perspectives on Paul and Judaism’. Here is the blurb:

The period from the 1970s-2000 saw a fundamental shift take place in the discipline of Pauline Studies. The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ has succeeded, in many ways, in placing Paul back firmly into a plausible Jewish context and articulating the ways in which his theology constitutes a reworking of basic Jewish convictions. Since 2000, however, new emphases in Pauline studies challenge the view that Paul’s theology was intended ‘for the Jew first’ in ways suggested by the New Perspective. In this presentation I will give an overview of three such developments: Paul and apocalyptic; Paul and empire; Paul and contemporary philosophy, and argue that in each case Paul’s theology remains firmly Jewish, even as it extends the covenant promises made to Israel to the whole of humanity.

Sunday August 2nd 3.00pm

Shira Hadasha Synagogue

222 Balaclava Rd Caulfield North 3161

$10.00 members $12.00 non-members

If possible please advise attendance by ringing the CCJ office 326 Church Street Richmond 3121,

Tel 9429 5212, Email

Poster here

J. Louis Martyn: A Tribute

indexNews has come through, via Facebook and Twitter, of the death of Lou Martyn. I never met Martyn, even though I attended the 2012 Princeton Conference on Romans 5–8 for which he was something of a ‘patron saint’ (John Barclay’s phrase from memory).

Martyn had the rare distinction (shared above all with Bultmann) of setting a scholarly agenda both in Johannine and Pauline studies. Many are of the opinion that his own particular solutions to the historical and theological issues raised by the Fourth Gospel and Paul’s letters are crucially misguided (again, Bultmann comes to mind as the nearest equivalent). My own view is more sanguine about his legacy but this is partly due to the fact that reading History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel as an undergraduate and Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul as a postgraduate were both transformative experiences. In both cases Martyn’s scholarship changed the way I read the relevant texts in relation to their purported historical context and, most importantly of all, theological Sache.

Perhaps the lesson I have learned above all from Martyn is that historical, exegetical, critical engagement with the New Testament texts can be generative of theological exegesis of the most profound kind. That is not the only way that biblical scholarship can or ought to be done, but it is the way I try and want to exercise my vocation as a biblical scholar.

So as a tribute, here is a quotation from the essay that opened up, for me a least, a new perspective (pun intended), on Paul’s theology.

Paul writes [Galatians]…confident that by hearing it the Galatians would once again be seized by that apocalypse, will once again be known by God (4. 9). So known, they will once again know what time it is, thereby coming once again to live in the real world. For, knowing what time it is, they will perceive that they are in fact former Gentiles who, in Christ, are united with former Jews. They will know that although they are united in Christ, the advent of the Spirit has caused the world in which they are living to be the scene of antinomous warfare on a cosmic scale. They will learn once again where the front line of that cosmic warfare actually lies. And they will be summoned back to their place on that battle front, perceiving experientially the pairs of opposites, the apocalyptic antimonies that are its hallmark…In the first instance such soldiers do not need exhortation about choosing the better of two ways. They need once again to be seized by the apocalypse of Jesus Christ, that invasive disclosure of the antinomous structure of the New Creation. Paul writes a letter, therefore, that is designed to function as a witness to the dawn of a New Creation, and, specifically, as a witness of the apocalyptic antinomies by which the battles of that New Creation are both perceived and won.

J. Louis Martyn, ‘Apocalyptic Antinomies in Galatians’, NTS 31 (1985), 421.

Hermeneutics Conference in Melbourne

News has come through of an important looking conference in Melbourne later this month.

Contemporary Questions in Philosophical and Theological Hermeneutics

The Institute for Religion and Critical Enquiry (Australian Catholic University) and Catholic Theological College (University of Divinity) present a 2 day colloquium titled Contemporary Questions in Philosophical and Theological Hermeneutics on 19 & 20 June in Melbourne

Though originally restricted to interpreting legal and biblical texts, hermeneutics now makes a distinctive contribution across the full extent of both philosophy and theology.  This colloquium opens up a wide range of questions in which hermeneutics is engaged, drawing together important scholars from France and across Australia.

The colloquium will feature leading international academics Professor Claude Romano (University of Paris-Sorbonne & ACU), Professor Jean-Luc Marion (University of Chicago Divinity School and Immortel, Academie Francaise) and Professor Kevin Hart (University of Virginia and ACU) as well as renowned local philosophers and theologians.

Access the colloquium program

Lunch will be provided to participants on the Friday.

You can register via the website here.

University of Divinity Research Day

cropped-pilgrim-and-ud-for-email1.jpgWe are holding our annual Faculty/Research Student Research Day next Wednesday, June 3rd.

Students and Faculty from Pilgrim Theological College will be well represented, including:

John Flett,
‘Human Rights and Contextualization: An Area of Contest?’

Kerrie Handasyde,
‘Pilgrims in Palestine: A Land Twice Imagined’

Geoff Thompson,
‘A God Worth Talking About for a Life Worth Living: The Accidental ‘Public Theology’ of Terry Eagleton’

Fotini Toso,
‘The Eschatological Psychomachia in Old English Poetry’

I am giving a paper entitled ‘Defending or Building?: 2 Corinthians 12:19 and the Purpose of 2 Corinthians’. The abstract is as follows:

In 2 Corinthians 12:19 Paul writes: ‘Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up.’ Commentators who read 2 Corinthians as a sustained exercise in apostolic apology or self-defense struggle to interpret this verse. This paper surveys a number of scholarly strategies designed to get the exegete, or Paul, out of this conundrum. I propose that the preferable strategy is to take Paul at his own word, and offer reasons why 2 Cor. 12:19 supports the view that the epistolary purpose of 2 Corinthians is that of ‘building’ up the Corinthians rather than ‘defending’ Paul and his apostolic co-workers.

Other New Testament papers include:

Mary Coloe, “Are you greater than our father Jacob” (John 4:12)? Jacob’s role within John 4.

Brendan Byrne,‘One has died for all; therefore all have died” (2 Cor 5:14)’

Rosemary Canavan,‘Exploring a Rhetoric of Peace in Colossians’

Joe Capuana, ‘Rethinking the Western Non-interpolations: Evidence for Luke Re-editing His Gospel’

Terry Falla, ‘Gathering Earth’s Daughters: Recovering the Meanings of Syriac Words for Future Volumes of A Key to the Peshitta Gospels’

Australasian Journal of Bonhoeffer Studies Volume 2/2 (2014)

My copy of the latest issue of The Bonhoeffer Legacy: Australasian Journal of Bonhoeffer Studies 2.2 (2014) arrrived by .pdf today. Here is the table of contents:

Re-Writing the Icon: Exploring and Exploiting the Bonhoeffer Legacy, Mark Lindsay 1
‘Present-ing’ the Word: The Use and Abuse of Bonhoeffer on the Bible, Sean Winter 19
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Struggle for Jewish Emancipation in Nazi Germany, John A Moses 37
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and War: His Challenge to German Christianity, Derek McDougall 59
Standing on the Promises, Standing in the Middle: Certainty and Ambiguity in Luther and Bonhoeffer, Christopher Dodson 71
The ‘Unbroken Course’: Finding the Unity of Bonhoeffer’s Religious Ethics, James Mortensen 93

My article is a slightly edited version of a conference paper given in July past year. Its the third piece I have published on Bonhoeffer and biblical interpretation, part of a larger project that I hope to complete ‘some day’.