New Book: Tim Bulkley’s, Not Only a Father

I am happy to join in those voices that welcome the publication of Tim Bulkley's new book Not Only a Father: Talk of God as Mother in the Bible and Christian Tradition.

Tim's work is to be welcomed for two main reasons. First, the content. The book offers a clear and sustained case in support of the appropriateness of the use of maternal imagery and mother language in our descriptions and naming of God. That case is grounded in a comprehensive demonstration that such language is both biblical and traditional. It is directed towards appropriate reform in liturgical and spiritual practice whereby we are enabled to 'know God in motherliness'. Tim recognizes the provisionality of all God-talk, but understands that God-talk must always be shaped by the witness of Scripture and tradition. That witness makes the naming of God as mother a necessary aspect of our talk about God.

You may already agree with this idea, but on different grounds. You may react strongly against it. And that brings us to the second important feature of the book. You could buy it in print (SIGNS: Archer Theological Monographs; Auckland: Archer Press, 2011) and the link is here. But the author has also made the book available online, and the online version provides opportunity for you to comment on what you are reading; to be part of a conversation about the book's detailed content and overall argument. You will find the link here.

So this is a bold initiative in the world of theological publishing/ Go and take a look. If you like what you read, then say so. if you don't, then post a comment. And if you think the book might be useful for your ongoing study, teaching or research, then buy a copy.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works at up to 40% discount

The good people over at Eisenbraun's have marked the anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's execution (April 9th) by offering a substantial discount on all volumes of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works in English, published by Fortress Press. The sale lasts for 10 days, so there is still time if you have some gaps in your collection, or if you want to start (in which case I would recommend Discipleship, Life Together, Ethics, Conspiracy and Imprisonment as the best places to start). Go here for the details.

Boring, Commentary on Mark

I am teaching Mark again this year, both online in Semester 1 and face to face in Semester 2. It has provided a good opportunity to get to know some of the more recent commentaries on the Gospel that had previously passed me by (or that I had passed over as I made use of Hooker, Moloney and Marcus – the three commentaries I know best). It has been a delight to start to work in more detail with M. Eugene Boring's Mark: A Commentary (New Testament Library; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006). Although now a few years old, I have only just started reading and using it in earnest, and can thoroughly recommend it, not least to preachers in this Year of Mark.

Of special importance is Boring's insistently theological reading of the Markan story:

"[T]he story is about God, who only rarely becomes an explicit character, but who is the hidden actor in the whole drama, whose reality spans its whole narrative world from creation to eschaton, and who is not an alternative or competitor to the view that regards Jesus as the principal subject. To tell the story of Jesus is to tell the self-defining story of God." (3)

Boring makes the creative suggestion (building on his earlier research) that the author of the Gospel is suspicious of literary reminiscences of Jesus that took the form of sayings collections (Boring thinks that Mark knew Q or a Q-like collection). Such collections were 'dangerously open to contamination by sayings of Christian prophets' (14) and in their place 'Mark' writes an unparalleled (much less like a Graeco-Roman bios than many would suggest) and subversive narrative which is fundamentally kerygmatic rather than sapiential in its intent.

All of this has no small contemporary resonance. The teaching of Jesus in the Gospel takes its rightful place in the context of the claims that the Gospel makes about the identity of Jesus – no ethics without Christology. For that reason alone it would be a useful commentary for any preacher seeking to direct a congregation's attention towards the key kerygmatic intention of gospel texts (kerygmatic in the sense that they both narrate the gospel and call for decision). But this is a commentary that also draws on the latest Markan scholarship (throughout there is a judicious supporting case made for Marcus' deeply apocalyptic reading of Mark), leads the reader clearly into the detail of the Markan text, provides any number of helpful summaries and excurses, and is constantly alert to the text's capacity to surprise the reader into new ways of understanding.

The Markan text for the coming Sunday (2nd in Lent) is Mark 8.31–38. Here are a few lines from Boring's commentary on that section:

"The call to deny oneself does not mean to relinquish the enjoyment of certain things, as though doing without or enduring suffering as such made one holy or a disciple of Jesus. The word translated "deny" (aparnesastho) is found elsewhere in Mark only in reference to Peter's denial of Jesus (14:30,72). "Deny" is thus the opposite of "confess," "acknowledge"; the hearers are called to deny themselves rather than deny Jesus, that is, no longer to make oneself the top priority and the center of one's own universe … likewise, taking up one's cross does not refer to the inconveniences, or even the sufferings, that are a part of human life as such, as often interpreted when one's troubles are described as "just the cross I have to bear." The Markan Jesus is not commending endurance of the inevitable pains of life, but the voluntary taking up of the cross as sharing the suffering involved in discipleship and Christian mission." (244)

If you haven't yet bought a commentary to accompany you through the year of Mark, I can highly recommend the Boring commentary.

Larry Welborn’s New Book on 2 Corinthians

This is just a book notice, but some of you Pauline scholar type people might be interested to know that Larry Welborn's long awaited book on the background and purpose of 2 Corinthians, An End to Enmity: Paul and the 'Wrongdoer' of 2 Corinthians (BZNW 185) is now available from de Gruyter at the entirely manageable price of €129.95 / $US195!!! I saw a copy at SBL and it looks lovely (with a nice colour plate in the front of the book, which probably added $20 to the price).

Here is the blurb:

“An End to Enmity” casts light upon the shadowy figure of the “wrongdoer” of Second Corinthians by exploring the social and rhetorical conventions that governed friendship, enmity and reconciliation in the Greco-Roman world. The book puts forward a novel hypothesis regarding the identity of the “wrongdoer” and the nature of his offence against Paul. Drawing upon the prosopographic data of Paul’s Corinthian epistles and the epigraphic and archaeological record of Roman Corinth, the author shapes a robust image of the kind of individual who did Paul “wrong” and caused “pain” to both Paul and the Corinthians. The concluding chapter reconstructs the history of Paul’s relationship with an influential convert to Christianity at Corinth.

Welborn reads 2 Corinthians very differently from the way that I do. He holds to a complex partition theory (as does Margaret Mitchell who is writing the Hermeneia commentary on the letter), for example. But his scholarship is always first rate, so this will be a major interpretation of the letter.

Recent Publications from The Centre for Baptist History and Heritage

In the light of the demise of the earlier monograph series, Studies in Baptist History and Thought that Paternoster used to publish, it is a delight to see that the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage has taken up the mantle of providing excellent scholarly resources exploring key issues in Baptist history and theology. I have reviewed the inaugural volume in the series here, and made mention of the volume of essays for Brian Haymes here.

Further volumes are appearing, and I have just finished Peter J. Morden's book on Spurgeon, 'Communion with Christ and His People': The Spirituality of C. H. Spurgeon. I confess that much of my teenage years were spent reading Spurgeon, whose life story, theological conviction and preaching  I found attractive and persuasive in ways that I cannot now possibly imagine. Behind the largely apologetic and hagiographic accounts of his life that I read, one always had the sense of a more complex figure. Morden's book brings out that complexity, and as a result, makes a significant and fully scholarly contribution to our understanding of the Prince of Victorian preachers. Tracing key aspects of Spurgeon's theology in turn (puritanism; conversion; baptism; Bible; prayer; Lord's Supper; acitivism; holiness and suffering), Morden successfully integrates the theology with Spurgeon's life experience, and succeeds in drawing out the influence of puritanism, evangelicalism but also enlightenment rationalism and romanticism on those beliefs as they come to epxression in Spurgeon's voluminous writings. Morden is rightly questioning of certain aspects of Spurgeon's self-presentation (the material on the dubious account of his conversion that he perpetuated in later years is especially instructive). The book makes full use of the largely untapped archival material at Spurgeon's College in London. I enjoyed re-acquainting myself with an old friend, and those who admire or still read Spurgeon, as well as students of nineteenth century history and dissenting/Baptist theology will want to use this book's rich engagement with the primary sources as a model and resource for their own studies.  Highly recommended.

In addition, I have been sent copies of recent occasional papers published by the centre. 1b33a9d76c0f4334b5c5e336193439ec

E. Anne Clements, Wrestling with the Word: A Woman Reads Scripture is the 2011 Whitley Lecture and offers Clements' reflections on how Christian believers can read the Bible as authoritative even as they become aware of the fundamentally patriarchal dimensions of the text. She draws on her own work on the gospel of Matthew to illustrate a 'hermeneutics of hospitable awareness'.

Anthony R. Cross continues to explore the notion of Baptist Sacramentalism not least in relation to issues of baptism in Should we Take Peter at his Word (Acts 2.38)? Recovering a Baptist Baptismal Sacramentalism. Those who know Anthony's work will not be surprised by the reading of the tradition and Scripture offered here. It would be a good place to start for anyone wanting to understand how Baptists might hold a sacramental view of baptism.

Ian M. Randall has written a short study entitled 'Conscientious Conviction': Joseph Angus (1816-1902) and Ninteenth-Century Baptist Life.  This is a typically clear and 9c7ca3f204a74baa8760fd63e776f8f5well researched account of Angus contribution to Baptist life in the 19th century, with a particular focus on his work as Principal of Regent's Park College.

My thanks to the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage for sending these volumes through to me. I wish them well in their ongoing endeavours. Look out for more volumes as they arrive.  If you wish to purchase any of them then the links about will take you to the online ordering site.

Barth’s Dogmatics: A Bargain

My friend Fernando suggested that I should also make sure I included details of this bargain.

Apparently Hendrickson Press have managed to secure the rights to reprint the 'old' T & T Clark edition of the Dogmatics and are issuing it in hardback. It is being advertised here at the unbelievable price of $99 (US).

I got my own set of the CD only a couple of years ago, from a dead minister's library for about the same amount. I confess that I have never even contemplated the new edition not least because the only added value seems to me to be translations of the non-English citations, which is not worth the trade-in of a hardback edition for a paperback.

So, I see no scholarly reason why one should cite from the new rather than the old edition, and as a result, if you have never read Barth properly and always wondered what all the fuss is about, you can now do it at an affordable price. NB. – this post is of particular relevance to UCTC students.