AACC Liveblog: Robert Gordon on the Former Prophets

Former Prophets (Joshua to 2 Kings) – Robert P Gordon

Called Former Prophets because they talk a lot about prophets, like Samuel and Elijah etc. In Jewish tradition (the Talmudic period) the idea was that the prophets wrote these books – Josephus thought Samuel wrote 1 and 2 Samuel. The term “former prophets” may owe a lot to assumed authorship.

Turning Points – Judges to Kings: Repentance in the Deuteronomic History

Martin Noth suggested the Deuteronomic history were works produced to explain why/how Judah found trouble. The book of Deuteronomy proceeded this material, it played a part in the formation of these books.

Deuteronomy is the engine pulling the books along – Deuteronomic language and theology imbues the following books.

It’s common to say that in Judges chapter 2:6-12 there’s a scheme at play that operates throughout the rest of the book.

Defection/Defeat/Repentance/Deliverance – a cycle.

Gordon says there’s no repentance in Judges 2.

Subsequently Israel calls out in despair, and they’re delivered, but they don’t “repent.” The verbs that would traditionally be used in a context of repentance are not used in the book of Judges. Except in chapter 2 (v18) where it is used to described God having compassion on Israel, and Israel returning to their corrupt ways. The verbs are used in close juxtaposition – perhaps a deliberate inversion/irony. Israel doesn’t repent, but a case could be made for translating the verb as God repenting.

In Chapter 10 the Israelites confess their sin against the Lord, but they are rebuffed, because God is literally “fed up” with them. This is the best you’ll get in Judges in terms of Israel’s repentance.

The question of Israel’s polytheism isn’t really relevant, or dealt with, within the text of Judges.

1 Samuel

Eli and Samuel continue the judging tradition. The issue of repentance comes up in chapter 7. “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts…” (shades of Deuteronomy 30). The Israelites aren’t lamenting about their own circumstances at this point but rather the situation with the Ark of the Covenant being held by the Philistines.

The narrative is portraiture not rather than photography. The text contains generalisations and hyperbole in order to make theological points. We have to be careful to understand what the aim of the text is. We can do this while still maintaining a high view of scripture.

What is the point of the Deuteronomic History?

Depends on your view on dating – is it a Josiaic composition withan exilic editor? Is it early? Is it to paint Israel as abject failures? To present post exilic theological options?

What are Israel to do in the hour of judgment? They are to turn and repent. Even after Josiah’s repentance God’s anger burns against Israel and seems to be a repudiation of the kingship in total.

Repentance is important and unavoidable in the New Testament – both John the Baptist and Jesus preach it first up, Hebrews 6:1 makes it a pretty foundational doctrine. It was also held to be very important in Hebrew theology. Repentance, in Jewish theology, converted unforgivable sins into ritual sins addressable through the law. “Great is repentance, for deliberate sins are accounted as sins of ignorance” – the Talmud. The Targum follows this pattern – repentance leads to forgiveness.

AACC Liveblog: Who is “you” and who are “we” – Phil Campbell

This is a proud moment for the Campbell family. The first academic paper to be presented by any of our line for eons, possibly the first ever. Dad has had this idea germinating for some time, so I’m really proud to be sitting here listening to its presentation.

A precis of the argument goes a little something like this:

In Pauline epistles, particularly Galatians, Ephesians, Philipians and Colossians, Paul deliberately employs the pronouns “us” and “you” to distinguish between Jewish Christians (us) and Gentile Christians (you). Commentators have suggested this might be a stylistic alternation. Which doesn’t make as much theological sense as reading the letters as addressing Jewish and Gentile Christians in different passages.

He’s following DWB Robinson, who in 1963, suggested that Paul used “the saints” to refer to Jewish Christians.

Paul consistently uses “we” or “us” language to talk about past bondage to the law. Galatians 3 is a key passage where this reading makes sense. There are plenty of corroborative passages where the language switches from you to us when Paul starts talking about the law. This doesn’t go the other way (from us to you).

Paul more often uses “you” to talk about being foreign to God, or not knowing God, being worldly or uncircumcised.

Passages with a we/you parallelism read better read in this light.

Galatians 2:15 provides an interpretive key “we who are Jews by birth,” while Ephesians 2:11 says “you who are gentiles by flesh.” There are a couple more instances of each of these distinctions.

So who are the saints?

All Christians? Spiritual beings?

After surveying the gospels, Revelation and the Epistles, Robinson found that the use of the term refers to Christians, and particularly Jewish Christians, and mostly the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

Robinson on Colossians 1:

“This means that we have an inheritance which ‘you‘ have been counted worthy to share. And ‘we‘ are ‘the saints’.

Robinson suggests the flow of Paul’s logic is:

  1. We, the saints, have enjoyed the blessings of God’s covenant fulfilment in Christ.
  2. You, the Gentiles, have been invited to join us.
  3. Now we, together, are united in Christ

Ephesians 1-2 Case Study

Paul spends chapter 1 claiming the privileges of Jewish Christians. The key comes in verse 12 “we who were the first to hope in Christ.” Paul develops a parallel between the Jews and Gentiles in 1:3-12 and 1:13-14. As a result the Gentiles are to have love for the saints (v 15).

The same logic and contrasts continue in chapter 2. You Gentiles were dead in your sins (2:1), we Jews were also dead (2:4).

In Ephesians 2:6 Paul fuses the two together into one category – using the same prefix on the verbs “made alive,” “raised,” and “seated” (the prefix translates as “together”).


This idea has some implications for some pretty major doctrines.

  1. Predestination – If Ephesians 1’s “we” refers to the saints of Israel being elected before creation where does that leave us?
  2. A new approach to Christians and the Law – Our position with regards to the previous efficacy of the law (or lack of position) rarely comes into consideration because we often read the OT as Christian prehistory.
  3. A fresh insight into the Spirit – Reading 3:14 and 4:6 in parallel suggests that the role of the Spirit post Pentecost is linked to the Gentile mission.
  4. A need to nuance “every member ministry” – The popular notion of “every member ministry” built on Ephesians 4:11-12 needs to be reconsidered in this light.
  5. A revised view of the Old Testament as Christian prehistory – we don’t need to see ourselves in terms of the struggle of removing ourselves from the curse of the law (our problem, as slaves to sin, was deeper).
  6. A revised Old Testament hermeneutic – Our desire to identify with Israel rather than the gentile nations (like the Philistines) might be misplaced.
  7. Evidence for common authorship of Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians – you may not be aware, but a bunch of academics don’t think Paul wrote these anymore – this theologically consistent use of the pronouns throughout these epistles suggests common authorship.

AACC liveblog: Getting Published: Bruce Winter: Advice from a Veteran

Bruce says “always contribute to the body of knowledge”…

Argument should take place in the main body of the thesis, not in the footnotes. Some have used footnotes to disown arguments.

In the metamorphous from student to scholar we need to move on from attributing every notion or idea in footnotes and be prepared to argue things out in the text.

What does it mean to be a Christian and an Academic?

Bruce resolved never to engage, in his writings, with trashing other scholars. He believes that evidence should be argued out in the pages without playing the man.

A non-Christian friend made the comment that one of Bruce’s books “wasn’t an easy read.” He came to the realisation that the first paragraph has to be engaging if we are to grab the attention of a reader. Bruce’s rules of thumb:

  1. The heading must entice.
  2. The first sentence must grab the attention.
  3. The second sentence must inform.

This, in my opinion, a good rule of thumb for writing anything. Basically you’ve got to think about how you yourself approach a text – how many academic books have you read right through?

Bruce resolved to agonise most over headings and sub-titles, and introductions. They are important.

Chapter headings need sub-headings. They need to be well thought out structures. We must write with purpose.

Bruce reads the preface, the chapter headings, the chapter introductions and the conclusions (including the links between chapters) before deciding whether to read the whole book. His approach to writing follows his approach to reading.

There must also be a Christian approach to criticism, and especially to the review process. Some journals offer authors the right of reply to reviews – how do you take this opportunity without trashing someone who has trashed your work? We want academic interactions to also be Christian interactions.

Bruce avoids fads in academic circles because they pass. Some publishers love fads and are always in search of the next new thing.

We are accountable to Christ – not to reviewers or audiences.

Questions to ask of your work.

  • Have we added to the body of knowledge?
  • Have we illuminated the text?
  • Have we built people up?
  • Who are we writing for?
  • What we write is the application of our gifts for the benefit of others. So does it benefit others?

Publish or perish is not the motto of the Christian.

AACC liveblog: Getting Published: Eisenbraun’s guide to getting published

If you have a monograph you want published here are Jim Eisenbraun’s tips for getting there.

  1. Start with a well thought out proposal – including your idea, its genesis, how it compares to other works in the field or underway, what need it meets. Is there a market?
  2. The right time to submit a proposal is a bit of a Goldilocks question – you want to have the ability to provide more information upon request without too big a gap in time, but you don’t necessarily need an entire manuscript. Sometimes things come in the form of an expanded article. Which is fine, and a good basis for decision making. Writing a Phd dissertation with publication in mind is useful (if the adviser will permit that). There are dissertations that aren’t worth publishing as a monograph. They’re always so tuned in to the adviser’s goals and philosophy that they can become unmarketable.
  3. Publishers like to be asked what they want, and they are fine with dispensing advice on how to edit a work to make it publishable.
  4. Don’t send an entire manuscript right off the bat – give something that can be read in 15 minutes.
  5. Put effort into your proposal – a badly written proposal will go no further. Grammar matters. Write well. Publishers love good writing. If they have to do a lot of work to your prose it will give them pause. The biggest cost in publishing is human – it’s not the paper and ink. Time spent fixing a manuscript raises costs.
  6. Good English is plain English. Sometimes academics get stuck in the notion that esoteric or made up words sound stronger. That’s not the case. Avoid jargon that I can’t understand what they’re saying. If the publisher, who works in the field, can’t understand what’s being said then what chance does the market have. Unclear jargon is faux-academic.
  7. How to Edit Your Own Writing is a great book full of “aha” moments. The Chicago Manual For Style is the American publisher’s bible.
  8. Eisenbrauns will ask for a proposal, then a chapter, then check with others in the field to make sure the idea will fly. They’re always looking for manuscripts that will advance the discussion, unless it’s a textbook that summarises the state of knowledge.
  9. If it’s a monograph that’s presenting a new idea the question is “will this carry scholarship forward?”
  10. Academic publishers care. They are engaged in the process of developing scholarship.
  11. Eisenbrauns’ review process is double blind and shared – reviewers and writers are not named.
  12. After the review process Eisenbrauns have to make a market decision. There are valuable materials that might only have 50 readers. Print on demand is an option but it looses some of the aesthetic value of the hardback high quality tome.
  13. Eisenbrauns still copy edits. Unlike some other publishers. Authors look at two sets of proofs. They print using traditional offset printing.
  14. The decision to publish, and a contract, may be made at multiple steps in this process. Even from the proposal. Especially if it is someone with a reputation. For first timers a contract is likely to come after seeing some of the finished work. If you want to be published multiple times avoid entering contract limbo.
  15. Finding the right publisher is an issue for writers – find the publisher that markets to your audience. Anybody can publish a book, with a few dollars, the test of publishing is to market. Rejection may not be a question of the quality of the work, find a shoe that fits. Publish with a publisher who prices things in a way that mortals can afford them. $200 monographs are unaffordable.

AACC Live: Getting Published – Jim Eisenbraun

I’m at the Annual Australasian Christian Conference this week – so expect a bunch of posts reporting on theologs and their new and interesting ideas.

Today kicks off with “Getting Published” a guide to those looking to get published now, or in the future.

This morning we’ve got Jim Eisenbraun, the CEO/owner of Eisenbrauns Publishing.

“The rate and volume of publication is expanding rapidly, and that is a challenge for everybody in the academic world.”

It’s no longer possible to read everything in your field – there’s so much out there in terms of the history and the stuff being written in our time, even last month.

The challenge is now to pick what to read.

The reality for publishers is that fewer copies of any work are selling. The rate of publication is increasing while the rate of purchasing is decreasing – you don’t have to be an economist to see a problem. This explains why academic books are so expensive.

Publishing in an esoteric area you’re looking to sell about 350 copies. Publishing is an economic exercise. Electronic publishing is becoming a factor.

You can charge for content, but people are unwilling to pay for content when it’s online. There’s a changing social component in the move from printed content to content online – are we willing to pay for something that we can’t physically carry away with us. There’s something psychological at play. There’s less of a reality in our minds.

Publishers are facing this difficulty. Publishers primarily provide a service, not a product. They take a manuscript and turn it into a reader friendly format. Print will stay with us for a while – but the future is electronic. Which creates piracy concerns.

Information wants to be free. Even as a publisher Eisenbraun agrees with that philosophy. But somebody needs to be paid for their efforts. This has an effect on the way publishers view their role and their product. Dealing with this clash between commercial imperatives and the public’s view that information should be free is the modern publisher’s job.

The Google Books program is kind of an uneasy marriage between Google and libraries, and Google and Publishers. Nobody is entirely happy with where it is going, but everybody sees the value of continuing.

There’s a view that the distribution mechanism for academic works is broken – and that the institution should own the copyright to works published by their staff. Harvard make any work produced by their academics freely available – which removes some incentive from academics to publish.

The manuscript review process is being scrutinised by academics and by those seeking to be published. There’s a perception that publication in the modern age does not signify quality. In the past, when a publisher had to put significant resources into publishing there was an understanding that the final product would be worthwhile. One solution is to let the market sort it out – buyers will decide what’s worthwhile and what’s not. Eisenbraun doesn’t think this works. I think The Shack is a case study in why this doesn’t work.