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G. Kyle Essary

Good words...a couple of your phrases inspired a grin. When one accepts only what pleases him and rejects the rest, then they are the ones setting themselves upon the petestal as a deity. This is the ultimate form of idolatry.

Peter Kirk

John, I don't seek vengeance on complementarians. God may judge them for their anti-Christian view of authority, but I won't take things into my own hands. ;-)

David Ker

"Either you are a human being..."

And you accuse me of either/or logic! :)

"The Christians of the New Testament were Old Testament Only Christians..."

That's a terrific paragraph. I agree completely.

I kinda like that Broadbent quote, but I think the canon within a canon which you reject is not only normative but positive. We don't despise the basement because we live above it on the main floor.

Term Papers

Thanks ever so much, very useful article. Great information! Very smart, thanks for kindly sharing it with us. Very well done indeed


Oh my!

Too much coffee this morning?!

John I have read you on the warpath before, but I don't know if I have ever read you to be more incendiary towards people you disagree with. I can't help but think you will get a kick out of the furor that will/should follow some of your statements.

As someone who would probably consider herself pretty close to a "New Testament Only" Christian I think a lot of your points are silly.

Most of your quotes talk about God hating things, sins, attitudes that his people had...though you do have Jeremiah with his I "hate" her. Hating evil isn't incompatible with NTOnly Chrisitans. The question is what are we to do with that hate and righteous anger?

You can quote liberal theologians and make them the impetus for WWI....but how many have gone to war inspired by the OT and their perception of what God "hated"?

That's a sword that cuts both ways.

Fred Phelps has no problem hating and has the OT to back him up on it. So, is he the example of the attitude we should have?

I think the idea of NTOnly is one that is based on practicality. In everday circumstances if we're looking for some sort of guidance about how we should act towards enemies, or in trying circumstances....the NT wins out over the OT. That is largely because much of the NT is not about history and law, but about putting theology into practice in relationships, churches, and society.

While some of those lessons can be gleaned form the takes much more work to get there and requires working through a lot of incomprehensible practices that most people just don't know what to do with.


Hi Peter,

The juxtaposition of your two posts was fascinating. I much prefer the old-school abolitionist honesty of a hymn like the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe to your "Vengeance is not ours."

That is, if you really believe that vengeance is God's, it will probably put you yourself on the warpath in one sense or another. And of course you do take things into your own hands when you take on God's enemies as you understand them.

But, as you know by now, I think your war on complementarians bespeaks a lack of discernment on a par with your praise of Todd Bentley. The amount of misreading that is going on, so far as I can see, is enormous.

Gary Simmons

A particular manifestation of this mentality that I simply loathe is how Jesus said "I chastise those I love" in Revelation 3. Somehow, the rose-tinted glasses envision Jesus as a really sweet beggar asking people to let him live in their hearts.

Yes; we also avoid the covenant curses in the book of Revelation, don't we? And by neglecting the scroll, we more or less remove words from the same. Oh, and that just brings down a curse, doesn't it?

If anything John, your post was too generous.



I'm glad you can make sense of the post without just flipping out (as I suspect some will). The register I chose is pretty much of a piece with the post to which it replies. It's polemical but I hope the fire and the smoke are somehow distinguishable. David and Terri are right that I indulge in either/or logic and caffeinated prose. It's meant to read more like Galatians than Romans.


I honestly think it is forbidden, a heresy pure and simple, to have a canon within the canon. The great productive and necessary problem of the canon has always been that it is an *inclusive* canon. The canon was providentially designed it seems to me to leave us without excuse whenever we decide to offer a new and improved version of the gospel such that, wonder of wonders, the militant attitudes and actions of others are condemned, but ours are justified.

It's not a canon within a canon that we need. It's a regula fidei, a creed which does not pretend to sum up or recapitulate everything found in scripture, but a creed that polemically lays out in razor-sharp definitions a baseline of truths on which the church stands or falls. That is what the Nicene Creed did so well, and does still. That is what the Barmen Declaration did under Hitler. Just examples.


How can you have a creed which doesn't attempt to sum things up?

Isn't the very nature of reducing core beliefs into a collection of statements an act of summing up....especially if those statements are "razor-sharp"?

The only way not to have a cannon within a cannon is to become a hyper-Calvinist. There are many people who go down that path and love it.

For those of us who think it leads to nonsensical doctrines and theories which aren't found in Scripture but crop up as a result of trying to make texts agree that don't agree in spirit with one another...that's not a viable option.

The question isn't "Is there a cannon within the cannon?" It's "How large is the cannon within the cannon?"

Find me a person, church, or even a nation, like Uganda, who has gotten off into some sort of weird, cult-like theology and 9 times out 10 it's going to be based on some OT passage taken out of context and not interpreted or overruled by the NT.


Hi Terri,

Thank you for taking the time to interact with the substance of my post notwithstanding its caffeinated prose.

You say,

"The question is what are we to do with that hate and righteous anger?"

It is sometimes possible to hate the sin and love the sinner. Honesty requires admitting however how often appeal to this principle is simply a justification for a "live and let die" attitude. In practice, it gets us off the hook such that we neither hate the sin nor love the sinner.

Given that the version of choice of Christianity of most people is a guide to self-help and personal wellbeing, an utterly limiting and self-serving approach if there ever was one, I remain convinced that Psalm 139, and especially its last few verses, the ones David wants to expunge, need to be learned by heart. The hatred modeled needs to be thought through and become second nature.

You say,

"You can quote liberal theologians and make them the impetus for WWI....but how many have gone to war inspired by the OT and their perception of what God "hated"?

That's a sword that cuts both ways."

I might have quoted an abolitionist campfire rabble-rouser like the Battle Hymn of the Republic instead.

It's not just *liberals* who, rather often, go to war for the wrong reasons, occasionally for the right reasons (FDR, WW II). It is *hot-headed radicals* who, once in a while (rarely) go to war for the right reasons.

Or perhaps you believe that the Revolutionary War and the Civil War should never have been waged.

I wonder if you are looking for a shortcut of the kind: hate: bad. Love and random acts of kindness: good. War: abolishable. Peace: let it be.

My problem with Phelps is not that he is a hater, but that he doesn't have any love. That he is a false prophet. That he doesn't have the hierarchy of truth right.

For the rest, I can't quite make out where you are going. The principle of enemy love in personal relationships is an OT principle:

Perhaps you want to say that the OT, where it deals with law and politics, remains illuminating. Fine, but I think it remains illuminating in all domains of life. I am radically opposed in fact to your stated approach, which plays the NT off against the Old.

That isn't how Jesus did things. He played with a full deck of cards, all of which were taken from the OT. Here's an attempt to describe the approach, which is not his alone:

"Cannon within a cannon" - love it. If I wrote that, it would have been a Freudian slip.

It is not the case that either the Nicene Creed or the Barmen Declaration are meant to be a canon of the canon. They are meant to be canon, a standard of truth, in the midst of stark controversies in which the soul of the church and even the future of humanity were at stake. If the distinction is not clear, let me know.

Proponents of *canons of the canon* today do not bother to put up the pretense of extracting their canons' content from Scripture. I prefer that kind of honesty, found in some feminists, post-colonialists, queer theorists, etc., to those who take a few select verses from the NT, spin them, and define a *canon within the canon* on that basis.

It is not just a few brave Calvinists who resist the canon within the canon approach. So do all true Catholics, small "c" or capital "C." Go here:

I hope that helps. Entire theological traditions lie behind almost every line of the incendiary prose of this post.


You could definately have a canyon within a canyon.



That is so rude, but I guess I opened the door. Now I can't write a single phrase without thinking about puns I do not intend.


cannon...ack...spell-check doesn't find homonym errors!

Hand me some of that coffee that you're drinking so I can wake up my editing skills!


The coffee I drink I make in a caffetteria from Italy, what is called espresso-style here. It would have you bouncing off the walls if you are not used to it. Black Thunder.


I never said anything about pacifism.

I only pointed out that associating liberal theologians with war isn't really fair because I'm sure we could find conservative theologians entangled in the same cultural/religious motivations for war. It just doesn't prove anything.

Look...for bibliobloggers and the strange people, like me, who read them, this is a very interesting conversation and debate.

For the vast majority of Christian people who are trying to know how God wants them to be, and how they should interact with the world around them, most of their principles and beliefs are going to pulled from the NT and how the NT views the OT.

It isn't about whether or not people should read the OT, or whether it has any is about the usefulness of it, in general.

Now I know that it is heresy to theologians and bibliobloggers and scholars who spend their life's work entrenched in the study of the OT and trying to explicate everything going on there.....but when my son comes to me with an ethical quandary, I'm not quoting Mosaic Law to him.

And when I have been wronged, I'm not seeking retribution or praying for God to decimate my enemies.

When I encounter a practicing "witch", I'm picking up a rock and throwing it at them.

I think that's really the main point of David Ker's original post and where many of us "NTOnly" freaks are coming from. ;-)


Ack again!

I'm *not* picking up rocks and throwing them at witches!


I promise!

I really wish there was a comment editing tool.

Gary Simmons

But we need an all-inclusive Grand Canyon that encapsulates the others. Any smaller cannon is a sure-fire way to miss the mark.


LOL. If you want me to edit a comment, just email me at jfhobbins at gmail dot com.

I think you overlook my main thesis. The NT authors were OT Only Christians. They viewed the OT as an inexhaustible source of principles and prophetic types and far-from-outmoded spirituality. It was a compass, a toolbox, a mirror, and blinding light all rolled up into one.

I'm just inviting you to follow the example the NT authors, in so many very different ways, model for us.

Your reference to the law of Moses touches on a sore point for me (hence my series on slavery laws in the OT, which are far less accommodating of established convention than are the household codes in the NT). It really would be a great step forward if we Christians learned to read Torah again, Torah in the sense of Pss 19 and 119.

It's not about following in all specifics one or the other of the moral-aesthetic blueprints found in the Bible: the Covenant Code, the Holiness Code, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, the Sermon on the Mount, the letter of James, Paul's ethical counsels, etc. We fool ourselves if we think that it is even possible. It also isn't possible to speak of a single ethics of the New Testament. We can't, because there wasn't.

But each and every one of the moral-aesthetic blueprints found in the Bible is immensely illuminating. Each one leads us into all truth in its own way. None of them have been superseded. At the same time, not one of them applies to us in a straightforward way.

For the rest, much of the prophecy and promises found in the OT remain just as valid and yet-to-be-completely fulfilled as they did 2500 hundred years ago. A long-standing Christian devotional practice is to read a Psalm and a chapter from the book of Proverbs every day.

But I don't think it does any good to say, but I will never pray that God decimate my enemies. Now I suppose that's true. It's not a very American thing to do.

We prefer to vaporize our enemies, and innocent women and children as collateral damage, with bunker bombs set off by people in FL switching back and forth on their computers between doing that and watching episodes of CSI-Miami.

I raise the following questions in all seriousness: are those who wrote and cried and prayed the words of Psalm 137 moral pygmies compared to us?

What if the opposite is true?


Actually I'm switching back and forth between doing laundry and waiting on an e-mail from a lawyer about some business that I'm trying to wrap up...and I don't like CSI Miami, and as of yet haven't pressed any ominous buttons. (a comment subscription option would be a nice feature to prevent the switching back and forth)

But..I am an American so I guess that makes me guilty of murdering innocent women and children with bunker-busting bombs.....somehow? :-s

Sometimes I don't understand where you're coming from.

In one breath you eviscerate pacifism and in the next you turn your rhetoric towards war and draw a picture of hypocritical Americans who mouth peace but really just want to kill everyone.

It seems either position is getting both barrels aimed at it.

That's your prerogative, but how do you make sense of it all?


I wasn't thinking of you personally, Terri.

I was just trying to imagine the military brass in some base in FL (or Texas or Dubai) pressing the buttons while peering into a computer screens, button-presses that rain death and destruction on the Taliban and others with so-called precision.

By extension, all of us who supported and still support Obama (McCain would have done the exact same thing) who oversees all of this, triples the number of troops in Afghanistan, and the number of deaths to go with it.

I don't actually know of a lesser evil approach in the situation.

My point is that I don't see how we have any grounds to think of ourselves as morally superior because, instead of crying and praying the words of Psalm 137, we are co-responsible for the things just mentioned. I honestly consider the author of Psalm 137 to be a far better example of moral virtue, in word and deed, than we are. Does that make any sense?

Armchair pacifism is a favorite target of my scorn. I admit that. It seems self-serving to me, especially when armchair pacifists really don't mind war much, as long as one of the good guys - Obama, for example - is at the helm.

On the other hand, I think the world of costly and consistent pacifism of the kind some Mennonites and Quakers are famous for.

The historic peace churches who practice true separation from the world are just as praiseworthy as the Rechabites of old.

But Jeremiah, when he described the Rechabites as the only category of people in his day who had kept covenant faithfully with God, did not therefore become a Rechabite. Total lifestyle non-accommodation is a form of witness which by definition as it were will always involve a small minority.

Gary Simmons

If it's not butting in to comment, I don't see any of John's comments as bashing pacifism, per se, though certainly disagreeing with it.

John, please don't assume that a pacifist is a reductionist. I say this in response to a conversation you had with Peter. In all the links, I forget when that convo took place, so it may not be recent. Anyway, I'm with you on this canon-within-a-canon thing. I deeply love the Psalms -- even 137 (the band Sons of Korah bring the psalms to life).

I have no problem allegorizing this psalm in connection to my own prayers. Nor do I necessarily condescend the author, who had gone through such horrific tragedy. Denial is the first shield to acknowledging pain. Anger is the second shield. The psalms would not reflect human spirituality if they did not reflect utter anguish spoken as honest anger. As I see it, the author wanted God's intervention for the sake of knowing that God is still enthroned between the cherubim, rather than for petty vengeance. After all, it is a cry to God rather than a call to the exile community to commit infanticide.

So, in short: please do not make an unwarranted connection between pacifism and reductionism. That's all.

Also, have you read Richard Hays' Moral Vision of the NT? I'm a fifth of the way through it at the moment, and it's quite good so far.

Gary Simmons

I see we were both writing at once, John. I hadn't seen your reply to Terri before I posted my comment.

Armchair pacifism is another example of loving good but not minding evil. While I certainly don't have a detailed theology worked at at the mere age of 24, I truly care about pursuing just peacemaking. Thank you for clarifying.



I have read Richard Hays' Moral Vision. Very fine work. BTW, I'm very impressed by the suppleness of your approach on this question and others.

James Gregory

If the OT was all that the early church needed, then why did the NT come about? The development and presence of the NT clearly suggests that the OT was not all that they needed.

With that said, I completely agree that we need to follow the model of the early church in its dependence upon the OT. I do not believe the NT alone is sufficient, just as the OT alone is not.

And, as others have pointed out already, and I am late to the dinner table here, those who are dependent upon the NT only seem to also be selective in which parts of the NT they follow.


John, sorry for the canyon business. I am actually following the serious discussion here, i've just not got a consistent enough opinion to warrant writing anything that contributes. i'm a proper layman when it comes to biblical interpretation yadda yadda....

Although I will write this: In many respects I'm with Terri. For me, I end up reading scripture though the lense of love. Of course, I realise that justice can be part of love (but also mercy). I guess it seems that there's just a lot of stuff in them there texts that portray God as rather unjust and unmerciful at specific times. Yet the overarching theme tends to be one of justice, love and mercy. So I end up filtering out the "yukky" God bits that don't seem to match the overarching theme. If I start pulling each piece out and trying to justify them, I start doing all the mental gymnastics so common among xtian apologetic circles... and it rings hollow.



No problem at all. I'm with both you and Terri on a number of fronts, but I'm minimizing our common ground in order to move us all to take on the task of not neutralizing the biblical texts, Old and New. A model reader in this sense is John Goldingay. Go here for an introduction:



The first shall be last, and the last first.

The NT became necessary in order to fight growing sectarian tendencies within the church. It is in fact a "big tent" collection - a far bigger tent than any one church tradition encompassed at the time.

It would be centuries in fact before the entire range of texts found in the NT would seep into the bloodstream of the church universal. In most places before the NT canon became operative, perhaps one of the gospels only was a touchstone, and some of Paul's letters.

So yes, the NT is a wonderful providential gift of God to the church from my perspective, a gift given, strictly speaking, from the 4th century onwards.

James Gregory

Yes, I agree that the NT is a gift, and as far as canonicity goes, yes, from the 4th century onwards. But, the documents were written early in the existence of the church. Why did Paul write in the middle of the First Century if the OT was all that was needed? Why were his letters preserved and circulated if the OT was all that was needed? It seems to me that the OT was the necessary and essential foundation of the church, but it was supplemented early in the existence of the church with the work of the Apostles as well as the letters, gospels, homilies and documents of the NT, to meet the needs, as you indicated, of fighting against growing sectarian tendencies. Therefore, I conclude that the OT was not all sufficient, but it was absolutely essential.

Regardless if you disagree with my aforementioned conclusion, and I reserve the right to change my mind, I am certain we both agree how sad it is that for many Christians today the OT is not only non-essential but also nonexistent, even though the NT quotes and eludes to the OT very often. I have heard phrases such as "The OT has a short appendix" and "The NT has a long introduction" (heard in class from Peter Rodgers while I was at Fuller), but, regardless of whichever one is preferred, at least these phrases acknowledge the importance of the two testaments together. The Christian Bible consists of two testaments (as Goldingay puts it, "the First and Second Testaments"), and Christians ought not to forget or exclude either one, i.e., they are to be taken up together.



All good questions. Paul wrote his letters of course for the one-time occasions he had in mind. They were not written with the idea that they would someday be read by others without the background knowledge the letters assume. Still, it is the case that a tradition developed whereby they were periodically read and then commented on in a growing number of congregations in generations hence. The practice of reading passages from scripture, taken over from the synagogue was not abandoned, but supplemented. There are ancient lectionary traditions extant in which a portion of the Torah was read in Christian worship week by week, but fairly early, perhaps from the start in some cases and not before the 3rd or 4th century in others, reading of the Torah portions was suppressed even if readings from the Prophets and the Psalms continued in one fashion or another.

In short, readings from writings that came to form part of the NT supplemented reading from what came to be known as the OT. Readings from Paul's letter and/or a Gospel *came* to be regarded as essential in weekly worship, but the question is: when? Maybe not until 3rd or 4th centuries in most cases.

None of this changes the fact that we in our day need to be Two Testament Christians if we are Christians in the first place. Harnack was wrong. To be anything less would involve scorn for God's providential gifts.

Gary Simmons

I really appreciate that, John. Thank you.

I'm not uncritically inclusive of all possible views of Scripture, but I do allow myself to be challenged by the voices found within Scripture. They all have their place in God's plan and our canon.

Phil Sumpter

I find David Kerr's comments bordering heretical, if not in fact the case. The idea that we can select what we want to believe is quite common though. In a recent conversation with John Barton he justified this kind of thing on the Lutheran principle of "was Christus treibet." It's certainly done by certain OT scholars here in Bonn (e.g. Graupner). But then the theology here in Bonn is not something to be emulated anyhow.


If Lutherans thought a little bit more about where Luther's version of the two kingdom teaching took them, a logical consequence of a theory of law and gospel in which law has no acknowledged positive role *after* the gospel, but is, on the other hand, the unquestioned and unquestionable domain of the state, they might begin to see the importance of law as a form of grace within the context of the gospel, obedience to which becomes a bulwark against a totalitarian state.

In other words, there is a providential reason that the NT contains the Epistle of James, and, as Luther's Catechism implicitly acknowledges, the law in the form of the Ten Commandments remains a lamp unto the feet of New Covenant believers.

But not just the Ten Commandments. All of the commandments even if some of them no longer apply today analogically, and not straightforwardly.

That was one of the weakest links in David Ker's argument, in which he throws out the Ten Words and suggests that the Golden Rule suffices. It's not that simple.



Good to know you weren't talking about me's just that I live in Florida and I had been switching back and forth to this conversation while doing other things. Coincidences make me paranoid. ;-)

After thinking more about this, I have begun to suspect that it isn't really about OT vs. NT specifically, but about trying to assimilate what we have and make some workable, practical approach to Scripture and its purpose and use.

I think James makes several good points about NT writings.

It's not that the OT wasn't enough, or that it was's the interpretation and assimilation of what the OT meant that was key. seems obvious to me that while Paul and the author of Hebrews use the OT to further their messages, they only use the parts that work with where they're going theologically.

When Paul is counseling Onesimus and writing to Philemon, why doesn't he bring up slavery laws from the OT? He could have either told Philemon outright to release Onseimus or compelled Onesimus to return to his position as slave.

A lot of Paul's advice and recommendations aren't really looking to the OT for corroboration. When he write 1 Corinthians 13, he is working out theology of love which isn't really represented in such a compelling way in the OT. He's formulating principles and ideas founded in Christ and what he thinks Christ has done and what that means for the things that are "passing away".

Paul is all about application and when he uses the OT it is usually as a jumping off point to something else, or to give some substance to an idea he is developing.

When the council in Jerusalem makes its decision to approve of the gentile christians who are popping up everywhere, they make the move to release them from any obligation of the LAw and only institute a few guidelines in regards to sexual immorality, eating food with blood, or food sacrificed to idols.

I can only imagine how mind-bending that must have been to men who had lived their whole lives learning Mosaic Law and trying to conform to it.

Like Peter, with his vision of unclean creatures that he is told to eat, this is a huge shift and one that didn't come easily. While none of the apostles/writers of Scripture would ever jettison the OT they were certainly transforming which parts of it were most meaningful to them as they tried to bring a simple, coherent message to the people.

I don't see how letting NT principles override OT principles is really any different in scope.


Thanks, Terri, for continuing the conversation. Lots of interesting points of discussion here.

First of all, there is no doubt I think that the NT represents a providential gift of God to the church, a gift, people seem to forget, given to her from the 4th century onward, not before.

Even then, it took forever for the fullness of the NT witness to become an effective part of the church's self-understanding - that process continues to this day.

Before the canon of the NT came to be, local congregations were fortunate to have *some* of the components of what became the NT as part of their de facto canon; that is, texts that would be read and commented on during worship, alongside of OT texts. The range of texts the church inherited from its Jewish matrices was larger than Protestants are used to; thus, one would hear sermons on the Maccabees and so on.

David Ker's idea that one should preach on the NT texts in most situations but not OT is very quaint. OT texts, then as now, create bridges to converted and not-yet-converted audiences better than NT texts, though of course OT texts were and are interpreted in light of Christ crucified and risen.

Of course Paul uses only those parts of scripture that were useful for his purposes at any given moment. We all do. But potentially, he had the whole range of texts we now call the Old Testament to work with. There is no reason to think that Paul had a canon within a canon he worked with.

To be sure, he was trained as a Pharisee, and in many ways he follows traditional Jewish interpretation, in terms of method always; in terms of result, often.

That explains why he did not argue for the abolition of slavery among Christians based on Lev 25. He could have. But he didn't, just like non-messianic Jews of the time did not argue for the abolition of slavery among Jews. Except for the Essenes by the way. The Essenes did abolish slavery, at least in the sense that Essenes could not enslave fellow Essenes. The Essenes were more radical, in precisely the sort of illiberal way radicals often are, than other Jews of the time, including the movement known as "the Way" (the early Christians).

Paul was a social conservative who nonetheless had some radical ideas. Jesus was more of an outlier, but not like some people make him out to be. He was not a social radical. Sorry to bust anyone's bubble.

The church has always been home to social liberals and social radicals as well as more moderate types, and conservatives. In the early church, the ascetic movements were a form of social radicalism. Note how these movements have some basis in OT and NT teaching, but go far beyond that teaching, and strike out into new territory.

What gets old is when radical movements make themselves into the standard by which all others are judged. What is heretical is for such movements to exclude moderates and social conservatives from the fold of the church. Non catholic-minded social conservatives also have a track record of doing the same.

I think you radically misinterpret the decisions of the Jerusalem Council. You make it sound like the decision was to release both Jewish and Gentile Christians from the obligations of the law of Moses except with respect to sexual immorality, eating food with blood, or food sacrificed to idols.

That's not it at all. First of all, Jewish Christians were to remain obedient to the law of Moses in ways Gentile Christians were not expected to.

Hence Timothy is circumcised *after* the fact of his being a Christian, with Paul's consent, since Timothy was also a Jewish Christian (but from a Jewish family, like others in the Hellenistic world, kind of like today, which avoided practicing parts of the Torah that made them subject to bigotry and racism).

Secondly, the statutes of the law of Moses continued to be a forum of appeal beyond the ones mentioned by the Jerusalem council. The ones mentioned are simply those that were bones of contention at the time.

Furthermore, the decisions of the council must be seen as provisory, subject to subsequent revision.

On the one hand, the decision of the council on food sacrificed to idols came to be ignored, by Paul first of all.

On the other, when figuring out what to do on a host of issues, like divorce or slavery, Christians depended, not on Aristotle, but on a combination of Torah as understood by Judaism at the time and Torah as interpreted by Jesus.

Take divorce. Jesus was a stickler on divorce. He didn't allow it, period, or almost. Paul is more liberal. And he knows the difference. "I say this, not the Lord [Jesus]," Paul remarks.

You are free to call this "overriding" if you wish. Looked at from the inside, it was considered faithfulness in changed circumstances. Jesus understood his own interpretation of Torah as fulfilling, not abolishing. It's possible, for purposes of analysis, to "demythologize" Jesus' own understanding and rhetorical depiction of what he does. But it's not possible to do that from an emic point of view, from the inside. When that is done, the constitutional function of Torah is put to one side. Insofar as Christians have done this, I submit, they have left the examples of Jesus, Paul, and James behind.

To sum up. The whole OT/NT polarity is hogwash. Still, one cannot read off from any text, OT or NT, a set of ethical or ecclesiastical guidelines that are equally appropriate to all circumstances in all cultural situations. To do so is to engage in *biblicism,* which is quite different to faithfulness to the inner dynamic of the Bible itself, which has a self-emending feature built in.

Phil Sumpter

I'm looking forward to reading Ephraim Radner's commentary on Leviticus (Brazos) to see how Christians can/ought to appropriate that book.

dave b

I think part of my frustration as an aspiring OT scholar is not that many people prefer the NT over the OT because the NT is easier to understand and appropriate (which I admit is problematic in itself and also a simplification--but perhaps tolerable), but that they read bits of the OT, think they get it and then reject it based upon their caricature of it.



I have great respect for Radner as a theologian, but I don't know what kind of exegete he is. I'm interested in seeing what he does as well.

Dave B,

I lay it down as a principle: if someone traffics in caricatures of the OT, then they caricature the content of the NT, too, unawares.


That's not it at all. First of all, Jewish Christians were to remain obedient to the law of Moses in ways Gentile Christians were not expected to.

In what way, exactly?

Are you saying that Jewish Christians were expected to keep kosher, continue circumcising their children, continue making animal sacrifices?

If that is what you are saying, how do you support that contention?

As far as Timothy's circumcision, we don't know exactly why he was circumcised. I would chalk it up to Paul's pragmatism, because that's how I tend to see and make sense of Paul and his sometimes contradictory attitudes.

I don't see him as a social conservative or radical, though I think he could be either.

I see him as an idealist with a strong pragmatic streak.

There's only one thing that truly matters to Paul and that his message about Jesus. He'll do anything and go anywhere and advocate just about anything to see that message go as far as it can. He even admits this when he says that he "became all things to all people" and when he declares that he doesn't care if people with dishonest motivations and sinful attitudes preach the gospel. As long as that message is being declared, he sees it as a "win".

So...if circumcising Timothy opens doors for Timothy and Paul to carry their message to more people...then that's what Paul was going to do.

He's a wily one...but I still like him.


This is probably the most articulate rant of it's kind I have read heretofore concerning the subject matter. However, it is fundamentally still a rant. Having agreed with your conclusion I still disagree with your premises. Shall I deliberate?

1. New Testament = Body of Text?

Actually, "testament" is a legal word ascribed to a written testimony that has been testified. Thus in short when we say "new testament" we are referring to a new "covenant". But this brings us to a rather obvious, but not so oft' asked question: "When is the New Covenant and What is it?"

To answer this most important theological question we must first establish a few things. Namely: "When and what is the FIRST covenant?"

What was the First Covenant not that which was given at first? Then what does God promise and what does He require? Salvation wasn't required since sin had not bequeathed it to posterity. Thus the original covenant and intent was that men should perpetuate in God's ways but we chose to disregard His blessings. The old covenant then was found of null effect because man was condemned. It was at this juncture that a new covenant was begotten. That is, that Messiah would come. This is the clear and scriptural definition of New and Old.

2. Hating Sin = Hating Sinner?

When one turns in Teshuvah he is no longer estranged but grafted into the people of Hashem separated for Himself. These people He promises not to leave or forsake. Thus, we must conclude that He intends to rid sin from us. Definitely He hates unrighteousness. But He does not hate THEM or US. He hates unrighteousness. He hates our choices against Him. butt the hate is not directed at us. Only what we have held onto. If we will let go of sin that we held and turn to Him... THIS is hi love!

3. What is love?

The hate of love is jealousy. He hates anything that would jeopardize our relationship with Him. Anything we would do to destroy ourself, THIS He hates. If we do not understand a healthy definition of love it becomes impossible to understand what it means to say, "God loves you."

4. What is the Gospel?

If we get focussed on obedience our of fear of hate or pretense of salvation on misrepresented love we have lost all understanding of God's purpose. His Gospel is so simple that every child who can speak should be able to understand it.

God loves us and want us to live in safety in happiness. We were stupid and sometimes too adventurous, turning away from His ways. That disobedience brings undesirable consequences (eternal death). But if we turn from our rebellion and follow God and love His ways He will cover us and protect us from the death that we deserve. This atonement is done through a substitution of Himself as Messiah in our place. He takes our guilt but because He is God He can take even death and continue to live. Thus we can come back and live with Him. But if we reject His love we are left on our own.

This is the main point of the Sermon on the mount and most other sermons. Repent, Return and Remain in the Loving Will of our Father in Heaven.


I say these things all to say one final statement. We must always put the gospel foremost in our presentation of these things. If we don't remember that His hate is out of love we have already done our readers a dis-service. More than anything, God wants to redeem us and share the world with us. But in a way that doesn't destroy.

The word Hate conjures the thought of the underlying desire to destroy. But if we are not pinpoint-accurate in describing the object of hatred. Likewise in love we should be just as accurate in describing the direct object of His love. When we neglect clarity in either the entire communication can be easily twisted - hence modern doctrines of harsh observance or lenient indifference...

...Rods ;-)



Sorry I missed your questions earlier. You ask:

"Are you saying that Jewish Christians were expected to keep kosher, continue circumcising their children, continue making animal

Something like that was the case in many if not all cases. The gospel of Matthew suggests that the community it was written for did. Many Jewish Christians continued to see the Temple as a primary focus of worship, so long as it remained in existence. There is no reason to assume that they stopped making animal sacrifices.

"If that is what you are saying, how do you support that contention?"

Look at how Jewish Christians are reported to have continued to make the Temple and the synagogues places in which they would worship God and hear the scriptures with all other Jews. The only thing that is said to set them apart from their fellow Jews was their belief in Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah (not a minor detail!).

"As far as Timothy's circumcision, we don't know exactly why he was circumcised. I would chalk it up to Paul's pragmatism, because that's how I tend to see and make sense of Paul and his sometimes contradictory attitudes."

Fine, but Paul's attitude is pragmatic only on the assumption that circumcision was the norm for Jewish Christians.

"I don't see him as a social conservative or radical, though I think he could be either. I see him as an idealist with a strong pragmatic streak."

It all depends on the terms of comparison. Paul comes across as a social conservative relative to the Essenes on the issue of slavery; relative to the Zealots, on the issue of Roman authority; relative to (some of) the Pharisees, on the issue of divorce (like Jesus). I can't think of any way in which he was a radical except in that he invites people to be married as if they weren't. Of course he qualifies that strongly in his advice about sex in marriage.

I agree though that Paul mixed idealism and pragmatism. That's compatible with the points I'm trying to make.



(1) You are right about the primary meaning of "New Covenant." The terminology of course goes back to prophecies in Jeremiah. I used the term in its derivative sense, as referring to the literature that speaks of how the new covenant was effected, by whom and whose followers.

(2) The Tanakh makes it clear that God hates his own people when they flout his teaching and dig their own grave. It's strong language. In a sense, you don't bother to hate, despise, and abhor people unless you love them even more.

I understand the distinction between sin and the sinner. Sometimes Scripture makes it. Sometimes it doesn't. "I loved Jacob. I hated Esau." In order to safeguard the whole truth, we need to allow for both aspects.

(3) Agreed. Among humans, jealousy is such a strong component of love that it leads people to murder the one they love.

In God, jealousy folds back its heat into love its source. Nonetheless, on occasion, it works itself out as destruction, not only of the sin, but of the sinner. How else to account for the terrible destructions the prophets foretold? It wasn't just sins that were destroyed.

(4) We are back again to the problem of destruction. You want a God who loves us but never destroys us. But in the Bible, God both loves and sometimes destroys the objects of his love: an entire generation in the wilderness; Ananias and Sapphira; just examples.

Carl Kinbar

"Are you saying that Jewish Christians were expected to keep kosher, continue circumcising their children, continue making animal sacrifices?"

John responds, "Something like that was the case in many if not all cases."

I'm a modern day "Jewish Christian" (we call ourselves Messianic Jews). That in itself doesn't give me any particular authority in these matters. I just want y'all to know that there are arguably tens of thousands of Messianic Jews in the U.S. alone who deal with these matters all the time. So here's how it is for me.

It is almost sundown here in Austin. Time for me to gear down and prepare to observe the Sabbath. I enjoy the ongoing Sabbath rest that belongs to everyone who cleaves to Jesus, but have no desire to be severed from the joyous yet difficult obligations of the covenant between God and Israel.

BTW, if pragmatism is the real issue, I admire Timothy's more than Paul's.

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