Trends at ETS 2015

November 23, 2015 — Leave a comment


I was not able to attend all or even most of the sessions at ETS in Atlanta this year but here is a short summary of the topics that I both heard and heard about.

First, as expected, and as Denny Burk points out, the discussion surrounding homosexuality continued. Included in this were debates, implied questions, and remarks about the following.

Is same-sex orientation sinful?

Should evangelicals condemn reparative therapy?

Can one be an evangelical and affirm gay marriage?

Evangelicals need more theological and thoughtful dialogue and teaching on celibacy and singleness.

On the first issue (SSA) I am working on a primer to help people catch up on the debate. For the rest it is probably best to just go and read Denny’s blog. I won’t repeat here what he says.

Second, while homosexuality was a topic, it was not the only topic of interest nor the only thing spoken about. Evangelicals seem to be increasingly interested in ecumenicism how to incorporate tradition in more of our thinking. This was highlighted in a review of Scott Swain’s and Michael Allen’s book where Peter Leithart, Stephen Fowl, Timothy George, and Mark Bowald presented. Ecumenicism is not an issue that is going away.

Third, hermeneutics continues to be refined at ETS. More and more people are warming up to the idea of allegory, fewer speak of literal interpretation or nuance it, and the debate endures surrounding the benefits and limits of the grammatical-historical form of exegesis. Included in this is how Evangelicals should approach the issue of biblical theology and speak of the relationship between the two Testaments.

Fourth, Evangelicals continue to speak about and even disagree about how exactly to engage culture. All affirm we are now living in Babylon, but disagreement exists concerning what “option” we should take. Should we dis-engage, re-engage, be more pessimistic, or be more transformative? There is a lot of common ground between most people but also differences in both rhetoric and the underpinning convictions for the role of Christians in the world.

Fifth, Scott Rae gave a fascinating presidential address where he detailed some of the upcoming issues in bio-ethics. He rightly noted that most pastors and even scholars are not equipped to answer recent medical advances and it is one of the issues Evangelicals need to be constantly revisiting and applying a biblical and theological perspective.

I am sure there were other conversations that I missed or simply were not on my radar. Let me know if you saw any other trends that are worth noting.

  • Update: I did notice more female involvement this year. That does not mean there was a lot, but genuinely more. I also heard that there were some talks on hip-hop this year.




Blog comments are usually the worst, but every once in awhile you can find gold in them.

Scot McKnight and Douglas Campell had a little back and forth about the Apocalyptic Paul and on reading narrative on Scot’s blog the other day which I thought was instructive in terms of their different approaches to narrative.

I have reproduced the discussion below.

SCOT: Richard, I’ve observed the same and queried the same. In the intro to my Colossians commentary I say the apocalyptic Paul group is the most supersessionistic of the Pauline interpreters.

The old perspective was indeed supersessionistic; the new is less so; the apocalyptic revives the old on this one.

However, the one thing I’ve noticed is that the apocalyptic group tends toward more pluralism so they may see Tom as too evangelical for their pluralistic tastes.. so the charge comes perhaps from that perception more than the narratival vs disruptive side.

DOUGLAS CAMPBELL: Umm. This really isn’t it. The charge against Tom is that he erases torah-observant Jewish Christians in particular. Which he does. This is a bad sign, and what most of us are upset about. Good history suggests that the early church – at least arguably – comprised torah-observant messianic Jews and non-torah-observant (or less torah-observant) converts from paganism. This is a much more inclusive position than either the old or the new Lutheranism. It’s not pluralism for the sake of pluralism. It’s just good theology and good ethics, and provides very important resources for combating things like racism (“whiteness” anybody?).

The Apocalyptic crowd really don’t erase Judaism, or creation, despite how they are depicted. I should know. I am one of them. The Apocalyptic claim is simply that the truth about God is known definitively in Jesus. Everything is then clarified in the light of this. It’s an epistemological claim, and to a certain extent a phenomenological one. It’s not an ontological claim, which would lead directly to Marcionism. The persistent misrepresentation of Apocalyptic readers in radically discontinuous ontological terms is simply an attempt to discredit their approach in obvious terms, and thereby to remove them from further consideration for those who don’t know better. It’s a fundamentally dishonest – or, shall we say, unfair – move, although it’s rhetorically very effective. (I did discuss all this at SBL in 2002, published in Quest in 2005. And I was by no means the first. Lou Martyn was sitting next to me and liked the paper by the way. But really, you just have to read one of the main figures and it’s obvious they’re not Marcionites after about five pages.)

SCOT: Thanks Douglas, I read your piece in the LA Times about salvation history in NT Wright (quite exasperatingly critical, if I may) — narrative continuity, and I’ve read your three books … I see more than Torah-observant Jews not being observant in Christ in your critique of Wright in that approach, and I see the same in your Quest’s approach to salvation-history (Rom 9-11) vs. apocalyptic (Rom 5-8).

On inclusion of Jewish believers as Torah-observant… I suspect that is the case, at least for some (though 1 Cor 9:19-23 has some serious tensions), but the issue is just as much must all Jews believe in Jesus for redemption, right? Isn’t that also another cutting edge on the supersessionism debate? I see Tom’s so-called supersessionism to be a messianic eschatology making claims about the reorienting of Jewish history.

When I read the apocalyptic folks I confess I feel all sorts of discontinuity and all sorts of supersessionism. Saying one isn’t supersessionistic isn’t enough — one has to show continuity in spades and affirm Christ in spades and see where it all lands on the table.

One more, Douglas. If the Jewish believer remains observant, isn’t that observance in the Spirit and in following Christ a kind of new Torah observance out of sync with typical Torah observance? So I still see a kind of supersessionism even in Jewish believer Torah observance.

DOUGLAS CAMPBELL: Hi Scot. Not sure what piece you’re refering to here in the LATimes. I did something for Marginalia. Does that come out in something to do with LA? If it isn’t then it isn’t me.

You’re probably right to detect some other problems that I have at this point with Tom as expressed in other places, but the post was specifically responding to “supersessionism.” So that’s why I addressed the erasure issue.

In terms of the other problem with “salvation-history”: that’s not an issue of supersessionism for me primarily, although it leads that; it’s a more basic problem of theological foundationalism. If salvation-history is treated in the wrong dogmatic location it tends to function as a theological foundation. You must treat salvation-history at some point, obviously, but that needs to take place in second position, under Christological control. Then things should all unfold quite healthily and constructively – and inclusively.

I would also reiterate what I said below in response to Richard: I do affirm and at times applaud much of Tom’s oeuvre. I just don’t sign off on all of it. But this is just what scholars do, right? We scrutinize each other’s positions very carefully because a great deal is at stake.

SCOT: Douglas, thanks for this. You reviewed PFG in the LA Times (at least in my memory!) — Gorman and I both commented in the comments. (I’ll dig into finding where it was.) You were very critical of the continuity-narrative/salv hist approach of Tom in that setting.

Yes, Richard brought up the supersessionism issue — which operates at a number of levels, some criticisms are to the point but miss others, and while those who level criticisms have others kinds of supersessionism at work.

I’m for a priority in christology but “christ” means nothing apart from a narrative and salv-hist, right? It is a claim that Jesus is the fulfillment of a promise/narrative. So without the narrative, no christology; christology having priority? I’d agree with that, but I get nervous about disruptiveness.

Found it: LA Review of Books. Marginalia.http://marginalia.lareviewofbo…

DOUGLAS CAMPBELL: Well, I have no problem with the importance of explicating Christ within a narrative. The key question, however, is, to put matters at their absolute simplest: Who is in charge of the narrative? For me it’s absolutely crucial that Christ is in charge of his own narrative. That he would use prior narratives and resources is fine, but they must be under the control of Christ as and when he arrives. And some things are new at that moment. Newly perceived, etc.

Critically, it follows from this that we don’t formulate a narrative in advance that he then fits into. Then we take control of the narrative and take control of him. This is what I see Tom doing at times.

Do we, for example, formulate a problem in advance of Christ and independently of him that he then comes to solve? We have thereby, with the best of intentions, taken over his meaning in advance of his arrival. (Every problem contains an implicit solution.)

So it’s all very well to talk about narrative and salvation-history. But there are fundamentally different ways of formulating these. Which direction is “the pressure of interpretation” coming from? Tom’s tends to flow “forwards,” from plight to solution, whereas I would suggest the correct disposition is “backwards,” from solution to plight. More of a Damascus Road approach we might say. “I was blind, but now I see.”

SCOT: Douglas,

If I may: that approach is precisely the problem by formulating the hermeneutical posture as a false dichotomy. Either it is backwards (you) or it is forwards (Tom). The reality is that it is a both-and: both an existing narrative and one that gets singularly advanced with newness (and revolutionary at that) in Christ. Christ is in charge of how we frame the narrative, but the narrative he is in charge of is an already existing narrative he fulfills and expands. As in Luke 24?

DOUGLAS CAMPBELL: But these are not the same thing Scot. The first “forwards” refers to narrative resources that exist in history. The “backwards” move is epistemologically sovereign. There’s not epistemologically sovereign move working forwards. Putting things like this just confuses matters I’m afraid.


George Hunsinger gives an overview of different Protestant views of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. These categories come from Brian Gerrish (1966).

Category Description Adherents
Symbolic Memorialism the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper are simply signs or reminders of a salvation accomplished by Christ in the past and communicated to believers in the present through the Word of God. Zwingli

Markus Barth

John Howard Yoder

Stanley Grenz

Symbolic Parallelism As the bread and wine are received by the faithful, so also does Christ impart himself spiritually at the same time. Christ is present with (but not in) the consecrated elements. Calvin

Otto Weber

Herman Bavinck

G. C. Berkouwer

T. F. Torrance


Symbolic Instrumentalism the consecrated bread and wine become mediators of Christ’s body and blood. The bread and wine do not cease to be bread and wine, but Christ joins himself as they are received. Luther

Calvin (sometimes)

Wolfhart Pannenberg


Source: The Oxford Handbook of Sacramental Theology, p. 410-12.

Bates-Bookcover-1In have been going through a series of posts on Matthew Bates’ book (The Hermeneutics of Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012).

Today I will offer his summary and criteria for prosopological exegesis (PE).

PE is a technique of interpreting Scripture common in the early church. As Bates describes it, PE “explains a text by suggesting that the author of the text identified various persons or characters (prosopa) as speakers or addressees in a pre-text, even though it is not clear from the pre-text itself that such persons are in view” (183).

The sociocultural backgrounds to PE in antiquity are 1) literary composition as a divinely inspired endeavor, 2) the world of theater, and 3) educational activities.

Bates comes up with the following technical definition for PE.

Prosopological exegesis is a reading technique whereby an interpreter seeks to overcome a real or perceived ambiguity regarding the identity of the speakers or addressees (or both) in the divinely inspired source text by assigning nontrivial prosopa (i.e., nontrivial vis-à-vis the “plain sense” of the text) to the speakers or addressees (or both) in order to make sense of the text (218).

He says there are four criteria for detecting PE.

(1) Speech/dialogue: the pre-text must involve a person who is speaking.

(2) Nontriviality of person: the speaker in the pre-text must be ambiguous or not identified.

(3) Introductory formulas or markers: the exegete usually (but not always) indicates in the text who he believes the speaker to be.

(4) Intertextual evidence: especially in the case where (3) is absent, if contemporary or later texts use PE to interpret a given pre-text, it is more likely that the text under consideration is also using PE when interpreting the same pre-text. Bates seems to be particularly interested reception history here.

This means that when Paul interprets the OT he sometimes attributes the speech to the Father, sometimes to Christ, sometimes to the Spirit, and at other times to other people.

Here is an example. Romans 10:16 reads

But not all have obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “O Lord, who has believed our audible message?

The quotation in the latter half of this verse is from Isa 53:1a. This verse fits the criteria, as it involves a direct address to the Lord by a speaker, and this speaker is ambiguous (“our” cannot simply refer to Isaiah). Using the insights of PE, Bates argues that the ultimate “speaker” of Isa 53:1a is not the prophet Isaiah himself but Isaiah speaking “as” the apostles of Christ. This reading is confirmed by Justin Martyr and Origen.

Paul believed that Isaiah was speaking in the character of future apostles and that the dramatic setting was Paul’s own present.

Brief Evaluation

I think there is something to this, but I also find it overly complex. Can’t we get the same results by a simple recontextualizing hermeneutic acknowledging that the Scriptures have a divine author who speaks both in and across time? Paul may be using this method, but for the classroom setting I would be more prone to looking at some underpinning assumptions about the nature of Scripture and how texts are appropriated rather than going through this explanation which is hard to summarize.

This does not mean Bates is not onto something, but there could be different avenues of arriving at this conclusion.


practice_of_painting___realistic_face_by_mirellasantana-d74ct5jIn post one I introduced the book by Matthew Bates (The Hermeneutics of Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012). In post two I spoke about his critique of intertextuality.

In this post I will briefly discuss some of his points about typology, allegory, and mimēsis.


The popular way to use the terms “typology” and “allegory” are to mark the distinction between better and worse forms of nonliteral exegesis. Bates picks up on Frances Young‘s proposal that both typology and allegory are part of a larger strategy of reading which she called “mimēsis” or figural representation. Young writes:

“Mimēsis was a key concept in ancient understanding of literature. The performance of epic or drama created a ‘representation’ of life from which the audience learnt. In the ancient Church mimēsis or ‘representation’ was important. It underlay the enactment of the saving events in the sacraments, as well as the ‘exemplary’ use of scripture: great heroes were listed to illustrate a particular virtue, so a character like Job came to embody patience, and Christ’s life and death were set forth as a way to be imitated. […] ‘Mimetic exegesis’ assumes the replay of a drama – an act or plot – and so had a place in forming ethics, lifestyle and liturgy.”

bbecb5cfcb6b96b53280b81251ddb76cTypology makes use of iconic mimēsis: that is, “representation (mimēsis) through genuine likeness, an analogy, ‘ikon’ or image.” This “requires a mirroring of the supposed deeper meaning in the text taken as a coherent whole.”

Allegory, on the other hand, makes use of symbolic mimēsis: that is, representation “by a symbol, something unlike which stands for the reality” (210). Bates uses the example of a painting to illustrate their differences.

A realistic painting with genuine correspondence to the eyes of the subject who posed for the painting, while at the same time the eyes hold a proportional relationship to the rest of the subject’s face would be an iconic relationship. But if an alien code is brought in to interpret the painting such as the subject represented in the painting symbolizes greed, then the bright eyes in the portrait might be regarded as silver coins. Or if the face had a skeletal outline it might symbolize death. The point here is that there is not an iconic relationship (the subject’s eyes) but rather a symbolic relationship (silver coins or the skeleton).

Bates affirms that Paul uses both types of mimesis and because of the associations with typology and allegory we should adopt iconic and symbolic mimēsis.

What Generates Our Reading?

Bates takes the argument further than Young though. He argues that both types of mimesis are not generative, but rather ornamentative. What generates these readings is the apostolic kerygma and Paul communicates through the ornament of mimēsis (typology and allegory).

Bates argues that we have typology and allegory backwards. Paul does not use typology or allegory as a method, but rather the apostolic kerygma and the present application generate these readings. Paul then decorate these readings with either typology or allegory. As Bates says:

the engine that drives this identification of “types” does not move from text to present application, but rather in reverse. It is only in light of the efficacious results of the apostolic kerygma, and hence through its realigning grid, that these mimetic correspondences between past and present can be observed by Paul (148).

To speak of typology or allegory as generating scriptural interpretation is misguided. It is only by virtue of the guiding presence of the apostolic kerygma that the mimetic relationship between the past and present can be observed as deliberately anticipatory and metaphorically labeled as a type in post hoc fashion by Paul.

So is Paul’s hermeneutic typological? Bates says the best answer is both “yes” and “no.” No because typology was not a reified interpretative technique available in Paul’s day and age. Paul did not go searching the Scriptures for types in and of themselves. But “yes” since Paul noticed mimēsis occurring between chronologically separated people and after noting this mimēsis he employed τὐπος language metaphorically to draw attention to that mimēsis.

Thus for Paul, the selection of a suitable trope occurs subsequent to the linking of the mental images. Thus, in the final analysis, Paul does use a “typology” of sorts, but only if properly nuanced.


On the first point, Bates affirms that Paul uses both iconic and symbolic mimēsis, and I would agree. Yet he goes onto argue that because of the associations with typology and allegory we should adopt iconic and symbolic mimēsis as our new terminology. I tend to think we should retain the more “biblical” language of typology and allegory and work at redefining their connotations.

I do wonder if these things are even closer than Bates and Young suppose. Peter Martens has an article where he argues typology is actually a subcategory of allegory or a type of allegorical interpretation.

Concerning what the engine is or what generates readings, Bates proposal is very different than the way I (and I think most people) have conceived of things. I will need time to let it simmer. One point is worth bringing up though. It is hard for me to escape the notion that Paul uses typology and allegory as reading strategies in and of themselves. Certainly the kerygma is the foundation or the light to the types. But Paul still seems to “find” types and thus could both the kerygma and mimēsis generate readings in concert? In other words, has Bates set up a false antithesis or has he clarified the order and placement of these things?




Intertextuality 2.0

September 22, 2015 — 2 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 10.15.34 PMIn post one I simply introduced the book by Matthew Bates (The Hermeneutics of Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012).

Today I want to note one criticism Bates levels against current forms of intertextual arguments.

The study of intertextuality was popularized by Richard Hays in his book Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. The book has spun off a whole cottage industry of “intertextual” studies.

Hays describes intertextuality as the embedding of fragments of an earlier text within a latter one.

Although Bates is appreciative of Hays’ work he thinks that that Hays (and others) view needs expanding. Much work has been done comparing Pauline exegesis with that of other early Jewish interpreters. While this is indispensable, Paul was a certain type of Jew who has come to very specific and radical conclusions about Jesus as the Messiah.

Paul is a Jew committed to Jesus Christ and therefore these comparisons between Paul and early non-Christian Judaism cannot capture the central features of his hermeneutic.The closest comparison for Paul is with other ancient “Christians,” not with Paul’s fellow Jews who do not share his convictions regarding Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

Thus Bates summarizes Hays and others mistake.

Hays’ intertextual model obscures the need to look beyond the source text to coeval and subsequent texts within a fully healthy intertextual model…He centers only on prior-occurring texts (p. 51).

This problem pervades not only Hays but much of the OT in NT studies. Bates then gives the example of the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament which ignores early Christian sources, especially those beyond the horizons of the NT.

What interpreters should do in intertextual studies is include Christian “co-texts,” “post-texts,” and “inter-texts.”