Phoebe, carrier of Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians

Romans 16 has been the subject of growing attention in scholarship for the last few years. Where an earlier generation might have thought it an addition, or an aside, commentators increasingly now see it as exemplifying a number of Paul’s concerns expressed earlier in the letter, and giving a vital window into Paul’s understanding and practice as … Continue Reading

How should Luke 16.19­–31 shape our view of heaven and hell?

The story of the rich man and Lazarus appears on first reading to depict a detailed ‘map’ of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, but is this the right way to read it?

First, it is worth noting that the words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ themselves do not occur in the parable. The NT talks about post-mortem life in a range of ways, not all of them easy to reconcile with one another. Perhaps the most controlling one would be the idea of ‘sleep’ as used by Paul in, for example, 1 Cor 15. ‘Heaven’ in the NT mostly appears to refer to the realm of God’s presence, reign and reality, and the central NT hope is not that we will leave the earth to go to heaven, but that God’s realm will come down to the earth (see Rev 21). (See Tom Wright’s Grove booklet for the most accessible exposition of this.)

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Undesigned coincidences and historical reliability

Dr Tim McGrew of the Library of Historical Apologetics just posted a fascinating document in a private Facebook group of which I am a part:

Sometimes two historical records incidentally touch on the same point in a manner that would be very unlikely if one of them were copied from the other or if both were copied from a common source. For example, one account of an event may leave out a bit of information, leaving some natural question unanswered, while a different account indirectly supplies the missing detail and, in so doing, answers that question. When this happens, the best explanation is that both records are grounded in the actual historical event; that is why the two bits fit together so well.

Forgers do not want to leave loose ends like this that might raise awkward questions; they take care to tie everything together neatly. But these are just the sort of things we would expect to find in authentic records of the same real event told by different people who knew what they were talking about.

He then goes on to give some key examples from the gospels:

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Women and authority in ministry

I have posted this comment in response to some reflections on John Richardson’s blog. I am hoping we might have a further exchange of views based on a more detailed critique from John. You can find extracts from the booklet at these posts: Gen 1, 2 and 3, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Cor 11, 1 … Continue Reading

Women and Authority

My Grove booklet Women and Authority: the key biblical texts is now available (after a small printing hiccup!) from the Grove website. My final conclusion was a reflection on the process of engaging with these texts: “On a personal note, engaging again with these texts has been a challenging and transforming experience for me. I … Continue Reading

Is the NT mostly forged?

Attacks on the reliability of the NT have moved in recent years from focussing on the question of historical reliability to the question of how the NT documents were written, handled and included in what was to become ‘Scripture.’ This is because of the continuing discovery of earlier and diverse manuscripts, and the related discipline of textual criticism.

Chief amongst the antagonists has been Bart Ehrman, about whom I wrote here in connection with the BBC’s ‘Beauty of Books‘ which began with a critique of Codex Siniaticus.

Last month, Ehrman’s latest work Forged was published, claiming that the majority of books in the NT were actually written by people other than the ones later attributed to them. Renowned scholar Ben Witherington has written a detailed eight-part critique of Ehrman’s book; links to all parts can be found here at the last one and I include the links at the bottom of the page here. They are really worth reading if you have the time, since they offer a great education in the facts of early Christian writing, and assumptions in the wider first-century world. But I cite his

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