Book Give Away

This week I’m offering Peter Williamson’s new commentary on Revelation (Baker Academic). I did a couple of posts on this last week (see here and here). It has quickly become one of my favorite commentaries on Revelation. Leave your name in the comments section by NLT Friday, April 24th 6:00 am EST. I’ll announce the winner that Friday. If I don’t hear back from the winner within 7 days the book will go to another entry.


Judgment and Wrath in Revelation

One of the things I really love about the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series are the numerous sidebars throughout the commentaries. The newest one on Revelation by Peter Williamson is no exception. Here’s on titled “Judgment and Wrath in Revelation.”

“Although most commentaries, including this one, refer to the calamities that occur in history at the opening of the seven seals and the sounding of the seven trumpets (chaps. 8 and 9) as ‘judgments,’ the book of Revelation never does so. Instead it reserves the terms ‘judge’ and ‘judgment’ for God’s final judgment at the end of history. In this way John draws a sharp distinction between chastisements that God sends or allows and that only affect part of the earth and God’s final judgment on evil that will bring eternal destruction upon it. The events that accompany the opening of the first four seals and the sounding of the first six trumpets are only dramatic temporal signs, warning-judgments, intended to bring human beings to conversion. In every instance that Revelation uses the words ‘judge’ or ‘judgment,’ it refers to the eschatological judgment and salvation.”

“Something similar is true about the words ‘wrath’ and ‘fury’ when they are ascribed to God or Christ in Revelation. They are never used to describe God’s attitude in sending or allowing the various calamities linked to the seals and trumpets, which have conversion as their goal. Instead, John uses these words only to refer to God’s definitive destruction of evil and all who obstinately refuse to repent at the end of history.”

“When the Bible refers to God’s wrath or fury it speaks metaphorically, ascribing human emotions to God in order to help human beings grasp that those who refuse to repent have reason to be afraid. The biblical authors do not intend to attribute  to God the unwarranted or disproportionate emotional reaction that all too often characterizes human beings. God’s wrath differs from human anger in that it is an expression of perfect justice and the radical incompatibility between his holiness and evil of every kind. When Scripture speaks of God manifesting his wrath it refers to his acting to render just judgment.” (p. 135)

Revelation (Baker Academic) is a paperback with 384 pages and sells for $22.99.

Peter S. Williamson (STD, Pontifical Gregorian University) holds the Adam Cardinal Maida Chair in Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of several books, including Ephesians in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture and Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture. He is also the coeditor of John Paul II and the New Evangelization.


Does Rev. 9:21 Prohibit Abortion?

I’ve been grazing through Peter Williamson’s new commentary on Revelation in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series. Revelation 9:21 reads “Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.” (NIV) The phrase here “magic arts” is translated as “magic potions” in the NABRE, “sorceries” in the ESV, “magic spells” in NET. Williamson notes that the word “literally means ‘drugs’ and, like its modern counterpart, could be used positively to mean medicine, or negatively, as in this case, to mean potions used as aphrodisiacs, abortifacients, contraceptives, or for other morally objectionable purposes.” (p. 173) In a footnote he refers to Michael Gorman who “suggests the possibility of an allusion to abortion in this text.” (p. 173n.12) I found the footnote pretty interesting so I checked Gorman’s book (Abortion and the Early Church). I recount here a little longer quote than is offered by Williamson.

“Although the New Testament makes no specific reference to abortion, the association of the use of drugs (pharmakeia) with abortion in pagan and later Christian writings suggests that there may be an implicit reference to abortion in such texts as Galatians 5:20 and Revelation 9:21, 18:23, 21:8 and 22:15, where words of the same group are used. This suggestion is by no means far-fetched. The word pharmakeia (and its cognates) can be a neutral, generic term for the use of drugs, but more often it has the negative connotation of drugs and potions supplied by a sorcerer or magician. It is also used to refer to poisons and mind-disturbing drugs. In Sorano’s Gynecology, it refers specifically to the use of one type of evil drug, the abortifacient. The word pharmakeia itself, then, can mean the used of drugs, evil or magical drugs themselves, or a specific evil drug such as a poison or an abortifacient. . . . Moreover, noncanonical condemnation of abortion before A.D. 125 is found in connection with the same related sins of fornication and murder which appear in the texts of Galatians and Revelation where pharmakeia is used. Thus, while a conclusive affirmation of explicit New Testament condemnation of abortion is impossible, the word pharmakeia and the contexts in which it is found suggest that Galatians and Revelation implicitly reject at least one major means of abortion in their rejection of magic, drugs, and poisons.” (p. 48. Page numbers are referenced to the original IVP edition. Gorman’s book is now published by Wipf and Stock.)

It’s something to think about.



Sex in a First-Century Roman Context

Scot McKnight offers a fascinating look at the sexual life of Roman (or Greek) men in his new book A Fellowship of Differents (Zondervan).

“Studies of the sexual lives of Roman (or Greek) men reveal a typical pattern: males had ‘procreational’ sex with their wives, with whom they shared a home, children, and a family life, and had ‘recreational’ sex with others. This was normal sexuality for a Roman male, and to a lesser degree for Roman females. Yes, that’s right. This was the norm. Those recreational others included young boys (pederasty), prostitutes (the percentage of prostitutes in Roman cities staggers the mind), and slaves. It is a sad fact of Roman history that when a female slave is mentioned, as she is in the New Testament several times, there is the likelihood that she was used for sexual gratification. Sex outside marriage was not a moral issue for most in the Roman Empire. . . . Romans believed in uninhibited sexual exploration, married or not. Sexual relations for males, then, occurred at two levels: at home with one’s wife, who was expected to be faithful, and in the public realm with others. At the center of the sexual relations among the Romans and Greek was dominance, for in penetrating another one exercised dominance and status over the other person. . . . In their sexual relations, some husbands participated in sex with women while some of these husbands also engaged in same-sex relations on the side. Paul is describing this sort of relationship in 1 Corinthians 6:9, which reads ‘men who have sex with men’ (NIV), but the explanatory footnote clarifies that the words ‘refer to the passive and active participants.’ Less discreetly, these words describe Roman husbands who have heterosexual relations with a wife, but who recreationally may prefer males–either penetrating them or being penetrated by them. When we ask, ‘Who were those who engaged in same-sex relations in Paul’s day?’ we are then to think mostly of married males engaging in same-sex relations recreationally. Since committed same-sex relations were known in the Roman world, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 could be describing faithful same-sex couples, but this is less likely than a Roman husband’s recreational sex with other men. Lesbianism existed but was not nearly as pervasive as same-sex relations among men.” (pp. 124-25)

McKnight says that the language of Romans 1 about “what is ‘natural’ is as wide as it can get: he [Paul] sees all same-sex relations as outside the divine order, created order and inconsistent with life ‘in Christ.'” (p. 128)

McKnight argues that the church must adopt a “church-shaped” script for helping those in the church who struggle with same-sex attraction. Leaning heavily on the work by Wesley Hill (Washed and Waiting) and Nick Roen he says we need to rid ourselves of the “them” vs. “us” mentality. Rather we need to see them as part of “us”. He quotes Roen: “What if they heard not simply, ‘Don’t have that relationship!’ but, ‘You are welcome in the church, and . . . we will seek to support you in your walk of faith with community, loving relationships, and hospitality’?”(p. 131)

McKnight concludes the chapter with the “church’s most recent challenge.” In his letters Paul was referring to those who “were not so much compelled by same-sex attraction as by sexual indulgence.” (p. 132) Our most recent challenge “is the person who has always experienced same-sex attraction.” It is here that the church must come with a broken heart sympathetic to their struggle and who will feel comfortable with us. “Our posture cannot be one of pity; it must be one of mutual fellowship in the cross and resurrection of Christ, the kind of fellowship where we minister to one another.” (p. 135)

A Fellowship of Differents is a hardcover with 272 pages and sells for $19.99.

Scot McKnight (PhD, Nottingham) is professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, Lombard, Illinois. He is the author of several books, including the award-winning The Jesus Creed, The King Jesus Gospel, One.Life, and The Blue Parakeet, as well as Galatians and 1 Peter in the NIV Application Commentary series.


Book Give Away

This week I’m offering George Hunsinger’s new book Reading Barth with Charity (Baker Academic). Here’s the catalog description:

“Karl Barth and his legacy have dominated theology circles for over a decade. In this volume George Hunsinger, a world-renowned expert on Barth’s theology, makes an authoritative contribution to the debate concerning Barth’s trinitarian theology and doctrine of election. Hunsinger challenges a popular form of Barth interpretation pertaining to the Trinity, demonstrating that there is no major break in Barth’s thought between the earlier and the later Barth of the Church Dogmatics. Hunsinger also discusses important issues in trinitarian theology and Christology that extend beyond the contemporary Barth debates. This major statement will be valued by professors and students of systematic theology, scholars, and readers of Barth.”

Leave your name in the comments section by NLT Friday, April 17th 6:00 am EST. I’ll announce the winner that Friday. If I don’t hear back from the winner within 7 days the book will go to another entry.

Reading Barth With Charity

Coming Soon – “Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation”

Coming this August IVP Academic will release a book featuring the ongoing conversation taking place between Mormons and Evangelicals. In Talking Doctrine nine Mormon scholars interact with ten Evangelical scholars on issues important to both parties. Here’s the table of contents:

Prefaces by the Editors, Richard J. Mouw and Robert L. Millet

Part I: The Nature of the Dialogue
1. The Dialogue: Backgrounds and Context, Derek J. Bowen
2. Reflections After Fifteen Years, Robert L. Millet
3. What Drew Me to Dialogue. . . and Why I’m Still Talking, J. Spencer Fluhman
4. My Dreams for Mormon-Evangelical Dialogues, Craig L. Blomberg
5. Responding to Millet and Fluhman, James E. Bradley
6. A Serious call to Devout and Holy Dialogue: Going Deeper in Interfaith Discussions, Gerald R. McDermott
7. Apologetics as if People Matter, Dennis Ockholm
8. From Calvary to Cumorah: The Significance of “Sacred Space,” Richard E. Bennett
9. Mormon-Evangelical Dialogue: Embracing a Hermeneutic of Generosity, Rachel Cope
10. Temple Garments: A Case Study in the Lived Religion of Mormons, Cory B. Willson
11. Mormons and Evangelicals in the Public Square, J. B. Haws
12. An Evangelical at Brigham Young University, Sarah Taylor

Part II: Specific Doctrinal Discussions
13. How many Gods? Mormons and Evangelicals Discussing the Debate, Craig L. Blomberg
14. The Trinity, Christopher A. Hall
15. Divine Investiture: Mormonism and the Concept of Trinity, Brian D. Birch
16. Praxis: A Lived Trinitarianism, Bill Heersink
17. Theological Anthropology: The Origin and Nature of Human Beings, Grant Underwood
18. “How Great a Debtor”: Mormon Reflections on Grace, Camille Fronk Olson
19. Authority Is Everything, Robert L. Millet
20. Revealed Truth: Talking About Our Differences, Richard J. Mouw
21. Two Questions and Four Laws: Missiological Reflections on LDS and Evangelical Missions in Port Moresby, C. Douglas McConnell
22. Becoming As God, Robert L. Millet
23. Is Mormonism Biblical? J. B. Haws

Afterword, Robert L. Millet

Watch for this in August. Talking Doctrine will be a paperback with 240 pages and sell for $20.00. It is edited by Richard J. Mouw and Robert L. Millet.

Richard J. Mouw (PhD, University of Chicago) now serves as professor of faith and public life after twenty years as president of Fuller Theological Seminary. He has written over twenty books on topics of social ethics, philosophy of culture and interfaith dialogue, including Uncommon Decency, The Challenges of Cultural Discipleship, Praying at Burger King, The God Who Commands, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, The Smell of Sawdust and Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals.

A leader in interfaith theological conversations, particularly with Mormons and Jewish groups, Mouw served for six years as co-chair of the official Reformed-Catholic Dialogue and as president of the Association of Theological Schools. For seventeen years he was a professor of philosophy at Calvin College and in 2007, Princeton Theological Seminary awarded him the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life.

Robert L. Millet (PhD, Florida State University) is a Latter-day Saint author and speaker with more than seventy published works on Mormonism, including A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate coauthored with Gerald R. McDermott and Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical coauthored with Pastor Gregory C. V. Johnson.

Millet serves as coordinator of the Office of Religious Outreach and professor emeritus of religious education at Brigham Young University. At BYU he also served as chair of the department of ancient Scripture and dean of the college of religious education. He appears frequently as a commentator on BYUTV and in other media roles as manager of outreach and interfaith relations for the LDS Church’s Public Affairs Department.

Talking Doctrine