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Paul’s “Participationist” Model of Salvation.

I started explaining that Paul has different ways that he conceptualizes the act of salvation – how the death and resurrection of Christ restores a person to a right relationship with God. The judicial model that I laid out can be found in several of Paul’s letters, especially Romans and Galatians. But he has other ways of understanding how salvation works, other models involving Jesus’ death and resurrection. The other BIG one can be called the Participationist model. Here is what I say about it in my textbook on the New Testament: ****************************** The Participationist Model. Most of us today have no trouble understanding how a judicial process can be seen as analogous to the act of salvation. The participationist model, however, is much harder to get our minds around. This is partly because it involves a way of thinking that is no longer prevalent in our culture. Under this second model the human problem is still called "sin," "sin" is still thought to lead to "death," and Christ's death and resurrection still work to [...]

2022-01-29T17:25:22-05:00February 6th, 2022|Paul and His Letters|

Do We Have Any Reliable Sources for Pontius Pilate?

I recently was asked in a comment what kind of independent information do we have, outside the Gospels, for Pontius Pilate?  Answer: not much.  I told the commenter that I thought I had once written about the matter, and lo and behold, I was right.  It was in my book Did Jesus Exist? The book was written to show why -- contrary to what you sometimes hear these days -- there doesn't seem to be any reason to doubt that, whatever else you might think of him, there was a man Jesus of Nazareth (a Jewish teacher from Galilee who was crucified on orders of Pontius Pilate --- and about whom we can say a good deal more. This is not an issue I want to re-address here again on the blog.  But I do want to show why it's not weird that Jesus isn't talked about much in ancient sources.  Here's what I said about it in my book (slightly edited for the sake of the blog): ****************************** I have often pointed out that [...]

2022-01-25T13:06:39-05:00February 5th, 2022|Historical Jesus|

Are the Teachings of Jesus Realistic? Platinum guest post by Douglas Wadeson

Now *here's* a challenging post, by Platinum member Doug Wadeson.  Read it and see!  Doug will be happy to reply to responses. Many thanks Doug.  Others of you who want to do a post -- go for it. ********************** Jesus is generally thought of as a great moral teacher, but I have heard that questioned on occasion.  For example, Jesus said, “Do not show opposition against an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also” (Matthew 5:39).  Really?!  Does Jesus want us to be target practice for bullies?  Won’t that just enable and embolden them?   And on a society scale, if America is attacked are we not supposed to defend ourselves?  Otherwise evil will win.  A real sore point for some people is that Jesus never condemned slavery, which was a common institution in his day (e.g., Matthew 10:24, 24:46, etc.).  Apologists sometimes rationalize this by explaining that slavery was not that bad in the Roman empire; it was more like indentured servitude. Yet a truly wise [...]

2022-01-31T10:52:22-05:00February 4th, 2022|Historical Jesus|

How Did Paul Understand Salvation? The “Judicial” Model

I am currently in the middle of a thread discussing the significance of Paul to the history of early Christianity.  So far I have been trying to argue that Paul is of utmost importance to the New Testament itself, but that it is very difficult to know how much of what we think of as Pauline theology (the doctrine of the atonement, for example) was *distinctive* of Paul (I doubt if he came up with the idea himself) and that there are some prominent features of Paul’s thought – e.g., the importance of Jesus’ resurrection – that he must have inherited from Christians before him. One of my ultimate points is going to be that whatever one thinks about Paul’s originality, it is clear that the gospel that he proclaimed looked very different from what Jesus himself taught.  To get to that point, I have to deal a bit more with what it is that Paul proclaimed. Nowhere does Paul lay out his gospel message more clearly than in the book of Romans.  The reason [...]

2022-01-24T00:30:13-05:00February 3rd, 2022|Paul and His Letters|

What Was Paul’s Innovation?

I was recently recording the monthly Q&A that I do with Gold members of the blog (if you're not a Gold member, this is one of the perks of moving to that level: every month Gold members ask me questions -- in writing -- and I record a 50-55 minute audio Q&A answering them; since the Gold members get audio versions of the posts, as well as written, this is an add-on they get every month.  Think about joining!).  In this Q&A I received a lot of really interesting questions, but one was very important for understanding the life and ministry of Paul.  And now I see that it was closely related to a question I received on the blog years ago, which is exactly what I was going to post on today anyway!  Here's the original blog question and response.   QUESTION What do you make of Paul’s statement that he didn’t get the good news (= the resurrection and thus the triumph over death) from other humans but from the ‘risen Christ’ himself? [...]

2022-01-24T00:24:20-05:00February 2nd, 2022|Paul and His Letters|

What Do You Think? What’s It Mean to Study Religion in a Secular University?

One of my classes this semester is a First Year Seminar, designed, obviously for students in their first year of college (either semester) and meant to be a bit more hands-on and with an unusual creative component.  I’ve mentioned the course on the blog in previous years; it is called “Jesus in Scholarship and Film.”   (The creative element: for a final writing project they have to write a Gospel.) In preparation for the second meeting of the semester this time I asked the students to reflect on what they thought would be the difference between studying religion – and especially the New Testament and the historical Jesus – in a faith context such as a church, synagogue, or Sunday School, and in a secular research university funded in part by the state. It led to an interesting discussion and the students had good ideas.  Most of the comments were along similar lines, that there must be a difference between discussing biblical writings in light of your faith / personal beliefs and studying them as historical [...]

2022-01-22T13:02:11-05:00February 1st, 2022|Public Forum|
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