Re-Reading a Book on Romans That Asks Us to Re-Read Romans

Nice title to an article, I suppose. But a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a book I had read a few years back. Well, I’m mainly re-reading the parts I had underlined, which totals a solid chunk of the book.

The book?

the-future-of-the-people-of-god-perrimanThe Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom by British scholar, Andrew Perriman. When I first read the book, I posted a review, or walk-through, of the book’s content. You can read that here.

If you know and have engaged with the new perspective on Paul, you’ll know the challenges to much of typical evangelical theological talk concerning aspects like justification. However, what Perriman does is take the new Pauline perspective a step (or three) further. He’s like NT Wright or James Dunn on steroids.

Perrimans’ thesis concerning Romans is this. It’s “a stone firmly embedded in the cobbled road of a particular historical narrative” (p153).

Seems simple enough. Except that most people approach Romans, and Scripture, as a very abstract text, a floating-above-actual-time-and-space text. We might proclaim the glories of the grammatical-historical hermeneutic. Yet, we still find it very hard to allow Scripture to be written within a particular historical narrative, without seeing it as an “it’s-written-to-each-and-all text.” Thus, I would agree with this statement as describing Scripture’s intent: Scripture was not written to us but it was written that we might benefit from it.

Each document, scroll, letter, etc, is very earthy, speaking into an historical context of a particular people (many times whatever situation national Israel/Jews found themselves in) or a particular church, etc. It’s not as supra-cultural in its original intent as we might first expect.

Hence the subtitle of the book – Reading Romans Before…Western Christendom. Or better yet, reading Romans in that “particular historical narrative” which Paul and the early church were facing and about to face in the AD 60’s. Reading it before the history of Christendom being established in the west and, for Protestants, before the lens of Martin Luther.

And the implication is that, if we can read it better in it’s true, organic setting, then it will help us as we read it well today in a world in which western Christendom has fallen – meaning Christianity no longer stands as the imperial religion of the west, including America.

I want to share two rather lengthy quotes from the first chapter. One is Perriman’s thesis about Romans and the other is the practical implications for us.

“What I will suggest is that Paul’s argument in Romans in effect presupposes – in a way that is critical for interpretation – a narrative about the concrete existence of the “people of God,” that runs, roughly speaking, from the exile as a paradigmatic judgment on Israel, through the painful experience of subjugation by foreign powers, including the disastrous war of AD 66-73, through a traumatic bifurcation set in motion by Jesus and his followers, through a period of intense conflict with the paganism of the Greco-Roman oikoumené [“Greco-Roman inhabited world”] (more on the scope of this term in chapters 5), to reach a provisional but nonetheless momentous conclusion in a victory over the gods and nations of the old world, represented most clearly by Constantine’s deliverance of the churches from persecution and the subsequent elevation of Christianity to the status of imperial religion by Theodosius. The point is not that Paul foresaw with any great clarity or precision what would be the historical consequences of his “gospel” – and certainly not that he foresaw what lay beyond the horizon of the birth of Christendom. But we will have to reckon with the fact that his argument in Romans about the righteousness of God is geared towards future events that were to have a decisive impact both on the Jew and on the Greek, both on believers and on unbelievers; and that we are likely to distort both his theology and his practical instruction with regards to the life of the community if we lose sight of the concrete political and social reality of these events.” (p3-4)

Not your typical Bible study on Romans, to say the least! But one can at least begin to note Perriman’s aspiration to have the text well-embedded in it’s historical narrative.

And here are some practical thoughts of how this might affect us today (the “Reading Romans…After Western Christendom“). For ease of reading, I break his paragraph up where he makes numbered points.

“I take it as a rough guiding hypothesis, therefore,

1) that the church faces a massive, and insufficiently understood, crisis of identity and purpose on all levels as a consequence of having been unceremoniously and sometimes quite contemptuously sidelined by the dominant culture of the West;

2) that this marginalization is self-evident in Europe, but in the long run is likely to be no less of a challenge for the ostensibly stronger global church;

3) that we will not in the end grasp the seriousness of the problem, or find answers to it, by framing it in terms of polarities internal to the Christendom mindset: between ancient and modern, between divergent Reformation traditions, between mainstream and dissident or conservative or liberal theologies;

4) that we need to address critically the entire legacy of the Christendom phenomenon, from the first rewriting of the biblical narrative in the language and thought-forms of the Greeks, through the long ages of cultural domination and slow decline, to the increasingly desperate endeavors to conserve, commandeer, deconstruct and reinvent that we are confronted with today;

5) that in order to imagine a viable future for the people of God in a rapidly mutating culture we need, in the first place, to reconsider how the New Testament reads as a narrative-historical and theological precursor to the emergence of Christendom; and finally

6) that this hermeneutic is likely to lead both to a more coherent and plausible understanding of Scripture and to a far-reaching reconstruction of the theological identity and practical purpose of the church for the age to come.” (p7-8)

A challenging perspective for our re-reading of Romans, one I’m sure many will disregard. But I believe this book should be brought to the table in our discussions both on Paul and hermeneutics in general. And, it might be worth noting that, on the book’s back cover, New Testament scholar, Craig A. Evans states, among other thoughts: “This is a great book. Highly recommended.”


62 thoughts on “Re-Reading a Book on Romans That Asks Us to Re-Read Romans

  1. Aye, so before Perriman, we poor Pauline theolog’s were just dumb as hell, eh! Indeed “disregard” is a light statement! Poor Dr. Martin Luther! He just lived by God’s grace to bring a blessed Western Reformation of the Church! Btw, Calvin was almost a second generation Reformer, but thank God for the great Genevan Academy, which gave us men and their ministry and writings, like Theodore Beza and Francis Turretin. Oh Lord bring us back to a historical and Judeo-Christian theology! The Apostle Paul was the great Greco-Roman, Jewish Hellenist, and always the Jewish Pharisee. Btw too, always opposed to the Sadducee’s! The the very early apostolic church had much to fear from the Sadducees (Acts 4-5). And as the party of the priestly aristocracy they were bound up with the Temple and the sacrificial cult, which led to the tragic events of 70 A.D. It seems we still have many “Sadducees” with us today, even in the Church!

      • Yes, your somewhat right here! 😉 Note “somewhat”, as I am myself a Paulinist and Pauline Christian, but a Historic Premillennialist with the Progressive Dispensationalist position to degree, and somewhat a “Biblical” Zionist… And quite here unashamed! And one of the great banes of the Church today, is this ever modern and even postmodern “supersessionalism”, as N.T. Wright likes to say: “Reworking God’s people”! But of course the Reformers missed it here also! Judeo-Christian theology is properly a progressive revelation! Luther, as Calvin got it part right with their borrowed Christological meaning, noting Irenaeus!

        Btw, I would recommend David Wenham’s book: Paul, Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? (Eerdman’s, 1995) I don’t agree with all the details, but it is generally a fine work! Also, Richard Longenecker’s classic book: Paul Apostle of Liberty is worth reading, (though again I would not a follower all his lines). I think it is in re-print? (I have the 1964 First, Harper & Row, London). Also, I really like the Introduction and Part One: Life and Work, of Gunther Bornkamn’s book: Paul (Paulus), (English translation, Harper & Row, 1971)…of course leaving aside his Appendix, on Authentic And Inauthentic Pauline Letters! Of course too I believe in the whole Pauline Corpus myself.

      • Scott: I can’t help but wonder just how much in-depth reading and study you have made of both Luther and Calvin? Especially the former! Simply, Luther is quite unknown to most Evangelical’s today, even Lutherans!

      • I would challenge you and the many so-called theolog’s here, to find a copy of Gordon Rupp’s (1910-1986, London born Methodist, Ernest Gordon Rupp) of ‘The Righteousness Of God, Luther Studies, A reconsideration of the character and work of Martin Luther’, (Hodder And Stoughton, London, 1953, 375 pages). This book is I believe anyway, to be one of the very best on the real and historical-theological Luther! Originally these were: The Birkbeck Lectures in Ecclesiastical History Delivered in the University of Cambridge, 1947.

        Rock on scholars! 🙂

  2. Scott, I have not commented here in a very long time. But I simply do not think I can keep quiet at this time.

    I do not at all understand how you can keep on promoting the writings of Andrew Perriman with no warning or disclaimer at all concerning his Christological understanding. He is far from promoting an orthodox Trinitarian understanding of the person of Christ and has not been for quite some time.

    Do you think that is harmless to the body of Christ? Do you not think that someone may read Perriman on your repeated recommendation of him here and be influenced to believe the Christology he is promoting? I truly do not understand how you can seemingly have no concern or problem with that if you are one that still believes in the orthodox Trinitarian understanding of the person of Christ.

    • Sadly Cherylu, many of our young men that go away today to seminary learn more about the latest non-sense about some so-called scholars ideas, than learning about the depth of the Holy Scripture, and how to preach and teach it! And simply but profoundly many of these students are biblically illiterate! They have an open Bible, but they know more about the latest theological fad, than their memory of Holy Scripture! Very sad, but as I keep saying over and over like a broken record, we have begun the great Gentile Apostasy, that will surely take us to the end, i.e. the eschatological! To use an old adage, Rome burns while the theologians fiddle!

    • Cheryl –

      Yes, a long time it has been. I think we’ve walked this path before together, talking it through. I’m not sure I can add much more.

      I think Perriman has expressed he’s not wanting to through out the orthodox view of Jesus, throw out the baby with the bath water. But he is wanting to challenge our abstract, systematic theologizing about certain texts that would not involve such conclusions in a Jewish narrative construct.

      When you deal in the realm of academic scholarship, and I am no biggie hear, you read a lot outside your context. A LOT. In some cultures, and for many folks, they stay within the safe realm of what they are used to. That’s ok. I’m not doing that and I’m not convinced I need to put disclaimer after disclaimer on all I think wrong. So I am ok to read the Ehrman’s, Crossan’s, Borg’s, Bell’s, McLaren’s, or even the Perriman’s, of today.

      I actually think the new Pauline perspective is a helpful theological framework in dealing with the NT writings. Though Perriman is a step or two beyond that in desiring the narrative historical framework, the stronger pendulum swing, at times, helps me find a good center.

      I’m not sure we’re going to fully agree on how to approach theological reading.

      • “I think Perriman has expressed he’s not wanting to through out the orthodox view of Jesus, throw out the baby with the bath water. But he is wanting to challenge our abstract, systematic theologizing about certain texts that would not involve such conclusions in a Jewish narrative construct.”

        Scott, he may have mentioned that, and mentioned it more then once, but the fact remains that over the period of several years now that I have been reading his blog, he has been very systematically reinterpreting every Old and New Testament passage of Scripture that he has dealt with that the church has understood for many centuries as referring to Jesus ontological divinity. There are multiple posts on his blog that do this very thing. So, if he wants to throw out the orthodox view of Jesus or not, that is what he is in effect doing on a continuing basis on his blog.

        If he ends up leaving people believing that there are no Scriptures that actually teach that Jesus was ontologically God, the second person of the Trinity as He has been understood to be for many centuries, it he not indeed throwing out the “baby” of His divinity with the bath water? I can certainly see it no other way.

      • He’s challenging a systematically theological paradigm that formulated when the church moved a) more from a Jewish to a Greek-thinking people, b) then moved to an imperial religion under Constantine’s creating peace for Christians, c) which then created an institutional Christendom that ruled “the world”, and d) which then morphed for us westerners into modern-day Protestant/evangelical approaches to Scripture.

        There are a lot (A LOT) of layers in the way to getting back to the original intention of the text. And Nicaea, Chalcedon and the church history is part of our narrative. But that narrative cannot affect what the first century Jewish narrative was, and how we then think about our own present-day narrative in the 21st century where Christendom no longer exists.

      • Indeed who really wants to sit around and imbibe “emergent” so-called theology? Crazy! But this is the new pop-culture kind of so-called Christian thinking. This guy does not deserve or merit my time at least! The list of good and faithful theolog’s and their theology is quite real and profound, and many are before the Throne of God’s grace & glory! May we spend our time there, especially in this late hour of the Church of God on earth! But again, my thoughts at least!

      • For a better understanding here of the early Church Councils, the fourth century (of course this includes Constantine), and the “Evangelizing Metaphysics”, one should read Peter Leithart’s book on “Athanasius” … “Athanasius launches the Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality series, which critically recovers patristic exegesis and interpretation for contemporary theology and spirituality. Each volume covers a specific church father and illuminates the exegesis that undergirds the Nicene Creed.” (Back of the cover, Baker Academic, 2011)

        Again, I cannot follow Leithart everywhere here, but this book is generally in-sink with the classic doctrines of both the Trinity and the Incarnation, which always press us back to the Holy Scripture itself! (Eph. 2: 18) In the end, the historical Church is quite nothing without the fulness of Holy Scripture and Canon! (2 Peter 1: 16-21)

        And btw, I think I am “challenging” you Scott! 😉 This is an open blog, eh?

  3. We do not agree on these issues Scott. And we maybe never will. 😦

    If folks want to undo the theological understandings of the church that have stood the test of time for centuries and were indeed based diectly on the Bible, I guess that is what they are going to do..

    But if “reimagining” and “deconstructing” of the faith continues in the way it has been, the historic Christian faith as it has been known is in danger of ceasing to exist.

    • This paragraph describes quite pertinently a little man in Germany in 1517:

      “If folks want to undo the theological understandings of the church that have stood the test of time for centuries and were indeed based diectly on the Bible, I guess that is what they are going to do…”

      • There is only comparison between the two if you believe that the Trinity/divinity of Jesus was not something that was believed at all by the early church. And if you put belief in the Trinity and the fact of Jesus ontological divinity in the same category as a system of righteousness that developed over years time and came to such ridiculous heights as the selling of indulgences.

      • Wow! If your going to try to pass your liberal bent and interpretation off as an act of Luther, as per a Perriman, your surely very ignorant of Luther! Luther was very proud of his Doctorate of Sacred Scripture, and he remained till his death – after his conversion – as a ‘Captive To The Word!’ “Luther’s entire theology can be said to stand or fall with the divinity of Christ. Nothing is more important to him than the Nicene “homoousios”. In Christ, he maintains, we are confronted by God Himself, for Christ is ‘very God’. If his theology is Christocentric, in the sense we have described, it is not less true to say that his Christology is theocentric.” (Philip Watson, Let God be God, An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther, Fortress Press, 1947)

        *And Luther btw was not “a little man”!

      • Yes, sadly for many today theology is something that just ebbs and flows, and even changes, but always for the true Church of Christ, theology is itself, the teaching & doctrine of God ‘In Christ’! And that is quite the central and non-changing event that is Judeo-Christianity! (1 John 4: 1-6)
        Verse 6: “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Here “us” is both the Apostolic Church, and the Word of God! But the Apostolic Church is itself bound by this “Word”, both the “Logos” and the “Rhema”, again “Christ Jesus” Himself! Simple, and yet oh so profound!

      • Cheryl –

        You are trying to imply one issue here: the Trinity (though this isn’t just a discussion about “a system of righteousness that developed over years,” as you’ll find out when you ask any true-blooded, reformed theologian. This was the issue for them because it was about the gospel, which was connected to the Christ).

        I’m simply wanting us to remember the greater picture that, for 1500 years, or for its 2000 year existence, the Church has argued the mantra, “the church has always held to…,” on not a few issues. I believe in the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. I love our story, warts and all. I just started reading some church history stuff this week. And that is part of forming a healthy theology – knowing our story and remembering the ancient paths (Jer 6:16). That must be included in our theological development, which I think evangelicals don’t appreciate the context of church tradition for theological development until/unless it benefits them. But this is not the final answer as we look to engage in forming healthy biblical theology.

        The goal, for me, is not abandoning the belief of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three distinct & divine personal beings but of one essence. This is about abandoning what could be unhealthy systematic formulations and approaches to a very ancient Jewish narrative and making it as if it were a 4th-5th century systematically organized Greco-Roman text or, better yet, a 16th or 20th century systematically organized western European text.

        It’s a challenge for me, and Perriman is not THE answer. But he is one contributor of material that needs to be brought to the table along with new Pauline perspective theologians, traditional evangelical theologians, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, etc.

  4. Let me amend the last paragraph in my last comment to say this: “But if “reimagining” and “deconstructing” of the faith continues in the way it has been, the historic Christian faith as it has been known is in danger of ceasing to exist except in the hearts and minds of a comparatively quite small number of people.”

  5. Yes Scott, I have been very much focusing on one issue here. And it is not accurate to characterize it as simply “the Trinity” either. Perriman is still using that term himself. But it does not have the same meaning behind it when he uses it as when I use it.

    The main issue for me here is Perriman’s understanding of the ontology of Christ as he understands it from multiple Scrioture passages. If you get that wrong, you rip a huge hunk of the very foundation of Christian faith right out from under us.

    That is my biggest concern. And it will continue to be my concern. And to continue promoting Perriman without recognizing that concern or giving people any waning of that danger will continue to be my concern.

    I believe him to be on a very dangerous path. And you are doing nothing in your ongoing promotion of his other ideas to warn people of the dangers that Perriman is promoting if they should stray into them because of your unwavering promotion of this man.

    • I wish this site had an edit feature. I seem to almost always find typos after posting no matter how much proofing I do ahead of time.

    • Indeed Rock on Cherylu! Since Scott had mentioned the EO or Eastern Orthodox, they would surely shred Perriman’s views here! If a historical church have given us a more blessed Christology, both creedal and biblical, it would surely be the Orthodox. From Nicaea, to the Council of Chalcedon!

      But let us simply look and listen to Saul/Paul, recorded by St. Luke, the good Gentile physician! Before Herod Agrippa II, son of the last named, before whom St. Paul delivered his great Jewish Defense in Acts 26! Btw, Agrippa died much later in 100 A.D., he ruled long and peacefully, so perhaps Paul DID make some kind of effect on him? He was a younger man when Paul stood before him here:

      “Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently, “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, I I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion. And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O king, I am being accused by Jews.” (Acts 26: 1-7)

      So here we see that Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was always still one sent also to his own people, Israel and the Jews! As Paul sought, “to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentiles).” (Rom. 1: 16)

      In 1st. Cor. 8: 6, Paul writes: “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist trough Him.” Here is the great essence of Paul’s “Christology”, which is found in the ontological reality and unity of God the Father, and His Christ or for Jewish ears His Messiah… Jesus/Yeshua, the masculine name of God’s help and the Savior; Jehovah Yahweh, for the people, His people! (Matt. 1:21) What “revelation” here! And as I have quoted from again Paul’s text of Eph. 2: 18, “for through HIM we both (Jew & Gentile) have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” Again the great fulness of God’s ontological reality, ‘In Christ’, one of Paul’s favorite Christological expressions!

    • Cheryl –

      How do you envision this warning-disclaimer? Posting a line in bold print at the top of every article in which I talk about his works, or any work that doesn’t fit a particular evangelical paradigm?

      What of every work I read/engage with, including some that are systematized evangelical approaches that seem to do a great disservice to Scripture?

      I’m sorry I cannot approach things exactly the way you think is best. In academic study, one engages across the board with topics (and I’m engaging with his narrative-historical hermeneutic with this one particular book, which is focused on Romans). And as one engages across the board, they cannot throw out a disclaimer.

      Again, Perriman has not denied actual Nicene orthodoxy, though he challenges our western systematized approach to particular texts, showing some glaring holes and problems. And I think his hermeneutical approach, though it challenges “what we’ve always believed” (about how to approach Scripture, not the Trinity itself), is a worthy contributor to proper biblical exegesis.

      Now, if I do a series on the Trinity, and decide to discuss Perriman’s thoughts on that, then I can engage on the matter there. But, again, he has not denied Nicene orthodoxy, but a particular western, systematized hermeneutic that, in many respects, has approached Scripture not in the way it was originally intended. That’s the champion call of the Reformation and evangelicalism – grammatical-historical hermeneutic. Then let’s make sure we are doing it, which I think the NPP guys and historical-narrative folks (including Daniel Kirk) are doing a better job.

      Ok, I think that’s good for me on this topic. Blessings on you.

      Robert, I’m not sure who you’re conversing with here!

      • @Scott: I think you know, you just don’t really want to engage! And just what is Perriman’s challenge to the true Reformed historical exegesis, and where is this so-called error in the overall western hermeneutical approach?…and just what is, “what we’ve always believed”? I don’t think he even has a clue? Straw men, and domino’s! People just love the journey, though again they really don’t know where their going? Indeed even Luther cries foul here, as to the lose of the Nicene “homoousios”! As surely Calvin, and his best men, Beza and Turretin, etc. And with our loses today of men like Roger Nicole just to give one example, our ranks are poorer! And btw, you really do need to read Luther! Again emergent so-called theology is sure and certain poison! But, to each man his own choice! 😉

        And btw also, let me challenge you in reading The Lutheran Confessions, if this does not help you, then nothing I can say will make much sense! The whole point to all this, is that the true Church catholic & reformed is biblical and theologically “Confessional”! If we loose this, then we loose the true Apostolic and Evangelical Church! Have you lost the Church? That is a grave question we must ask ourselves constantly today! “The church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3: 15) And surely Perriman’s emergent ideas ain’t part of it! Well, that my belief!

      • Scott,

        If you can read the section of the Nicene creed that speaks about the person of Christ and who he is and then read Perriman’s writings and still believe that he is saying the same thing that the writers of that creed were saying, we are simply not reading the same creed!

        He has not come out is so many words and said that the writers of the creed were in error. But following the course of his writings on the subject over several years time, unless I have missed something major, it is obvious that he does not see Scripture as telling us that Jesus is of the same essence of the Father or very God of very God. He has made way too many statements to the contrary for me to believe that.

        If you see no problem with that, that is your choice.

        And if you see no danger in writing a blog that many people read who may investigate Perriman’s writings further because of your promotion of him here and then begin to believe what he says in this area of the Trinity and Jesus ontology, that is also your choice.

        I know I would not want that possibility hanging over my head. To perhaps be responsible in that way for the ship wrecking of someone’s faith in Jesus as “very God of very God” is quite a hefty responsibility to take on.

  6. There are too many people now who are happy to inhabit the evangelical world and to give room to opponents of the Christian faith ( in fact Perriman allows Jacob van zyl. An aggressive socinian to roam freely on his blog) whether the issue is core biblical morality or christological doctrine. Our blgs are public and all of us teachers have a duty of care to our watchers, perriman is a false teacher and shouldn’t inhabit the evangelical world in my opinion. Oops sorry for being blunt!

  7. A aargh I just lost a huge post. I’m with cherylu, forget trinity for the moment, forget Chalcedon et al, let’s look at nicea. The creed only included ONE non biblical word, we know what it is ….homoousios. We know the reason, Arians were slippery, awkward, tap dancing duckers and divers ( excuse my use of theological terms). Forget Greek philosophical constructs. Let’s ask perriman so writings the same questions that the orthodox asked arius. Did Jesus exist before he was born in Bethlehem, did All things get created by him or through , it matters not.? Did he share the same nature not similar nature with the father? And now is he sharing the fathers throne, is he alpha and omega, The Lord of all, our Lord and God? These are biblical terms and issues. No matter what political, religious or historical emphasis we can recover. These issues still remain. Perriman is bluntly a false teacher , every single high christological passage he reinterprets in an Arian or a socinian way, it’s not subtle, it is clever but it’s false teaching…..and he has written for the EA! The nicene creed is good enough as a definition of orthodoxy and he can try and pin the blame on later definitions but nicea reflects the NT at least in part and in response to false teaching just like Permian and Jaco van zyl.

  8. I’ve had discussions with another full time professional theologian/ lecturer. Who casually plays a game and he is currently adoptionist and has taken Dunn as the base for his teachings. When convenient he hides behind ‘most scholars disagree with bauckham, or hurtado, or wright’. Most scholars don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. We must not mix up academic theology with bible teaching and feel any of us can get away with saying what we like when we like no matter who hears this stuff. Let’s talk deep and long and hard. This isn’t a game, it’s not an intellectual excercise , my library Is full of anti Trinitarian tosh, some of it very academic, peri mans is just a bit more nuanced , a bit more clever a bit more difficult to pin down. It’s just taked time listening, it’s not nice, …..well it’s not nicea ( or the bible) anyway.

  9. For anyone wanting a glimpse of what I am referring to regarding Perriman, take a look at this very recent comment of his found here:

    I am only quoting the first part of the comment here.

    Peter, I don’t see how this addresses the fundamental point that the close association of Jesus with God the Father has come about because God the Father raised the man Jesus and seated him at his right hand, bestowing upon him—temporarily—the authority to judge and rule the nations. This is certainly an authority that YHWH previously reserved for himself, but the point is not that Jesus is included in the divine identity. It is that God gives away something that previously belonged to the divine identity. Israel’s king is given the power to rule in the midst of his enemies; the Son of Man is given the kingdom that is taken from the fourth beast; Jesus is given the name which is above every name. The fact that he has been “placed alongside” God does not mean that he loses his independent identity. On the contrary, the continuation of the narrative strongly suggests that he keeps it: he comes to deliver his followers from wrath, and ultimately he gives back the authority to rule to God the Father.

    • Indeed, I did not want to really get into Perriman myself, since he is an obvious emergent, adoptionist… and as has been mentioned an arian! But trying to get our blog host to realize this, since he himself follows another close to this club, in N.T. Wright, is not easy! But Cherylu has dropped the mother-load on Scott with the above quote from Perriman’s again obvious adoptionist views of Christ! “It is that God gives away something that previously belonged to the divine identity.” And note his, i.e. Perriman’s use of “give”, “gives” and “given” toward Jesus! Case closed for Perriman, as Scott! Note, I quoted from 1 Cor. 8: 6, surely that Text is a hammer blow towards Perriman! What else really can we say? It is really too obvious! This is again where our theological labels really do become important! And “Perriman” is NO real Evangelical!

      • Robert,

        I don’t regard myself as “emergent” in theological terms. The emergent view of scripture is broadly “progressive” whereas my approach is, if anything, regressive—a return to a historically conditioned reading, which is by and large what New Testament studies does, and which systematic theologians generally don’t understand. I think I have a very high view of scripture.

        I don’t think I have ever used the terminology of “adoption” to describe the relation between Jesus and the Father. My argument is that the dominant strand of New Testament thought about Jesus speaks of him as having been given authority to rule as the embodiment of faithful Israel. YHWH does not adopt Israel’s king as his Son, but he does give him power and authority to rule, he does give him the nations as his inheritance (Pss. 2; 110). It’s not about ontology, it’s about kingdom.

        That is the thrust of the paragraph which Cherylu quoted above, but it is not the whole story. The New Testament also clearly needs to say something about Jesus and creation which is not entailed in the apocalyptic-kingdom narrative, and probably draws on Jewish wisdom motifs in order to do so. The Word became flesh, and so on. This is the thread that the church later developed, which is why Trinitarian thought relies so heavily on John’s Gospel. That’s fine, but it seriously misplaces the centre of gravity in the New Testament.

        So I really don’t see what the problem with “give”, “gives” and “given” is. In what is probably the most important Pauline text about the lordship of Jesus, the name which is above every name (not YHWH) is bestowed upon him as an act of grace (echarisato). Peter says that God raised Jesus to his right hand and “made him both Lord and Christ”. All I’m saying is that this narrative is not adequately explained by later Trinitarian thought and needs to be recovered.

        I have no objection to the later formulations of christological orthodoxy as theological statements. My objection is to the assumption that it is good and right uncritically to read those formulations back into scripture, because more often than not it leads to the obscuring of a political-religious narrative about the rule of Israel’s God with respect to the nations that is, in my view, central to the New Testament. If theology causes us to misunderstand the New Testament, then I think it is right to provoke discussion on that point.

        What continually frustrates me is that people take issue with the narrative-historical argument simply because it doesn’t sound like orthodoxy. Of course it doesn’t sound like orthodoxy. It reflects the self-understanding of the church 3 or 4 centuries earlier, under thoroughly Jewish conditions. But where is the discussion of the text? Cherylu has complained frequently on my blog but has very rarely, if ever, addressed the details of interpretation. If I am wrong, show me why I am wrong as a matter of exegesis. I am very happy to receive criticism from people who have taken the trouble to read and understand what I have written.

      • @Andrew: First, I really have not read much of your blog, and certainly not your books! But, what I have read from you, is simply not orthodox Christianity and nor theology! And it is Cherylu who is actually putting the knots on your head from what you have written, and showing your complete “miss” on the biblical and theological reality of Christology and the Trinity of God, theologically and historically, i.e. Creedally! And I am myself one who as an Anglican, is an historic classic churchman, and believes and follows the Thirty-Nine Articles, and I am as I have written on my own wee blog, a Neo-Calvinist, as something of a “biblicist” (note here the work of Geerhardus Vos, “Redemptive History And Biblical Interpretation”.) And I am most certainly a conservative, both biblically-theologically, as politically (and a retired RMC officer, Recon & Intell. I am 64, 5 in late Oct.) My father, uncles, and even one great-uncle, all were WW II Vets, British! (RIP) Btw, I live now in the USA, for about the last 6 years or so, due to my wife’s illness, i.e. chronic COPD, and she is younger than I. And my little brother (52) is now an American citizen, and onetime US Marine, (1980s).

        Whatever you call yourself matters little, but in your theological writings you most certainly manifest the reality of the “adoptionist” and even “arian” theologically and biblically! But I will let our sister Cherylu continue her dialogue here with you!

        Btw, A Blessed Memorial Day to my American friends and people, especially their Vet’s! And of course a shout-out to the American Marines, especially the Marine Force Recon to whom I was “attached” as an RMC, a few times. Semper Fi!

  10. Come on Andrew. In the comment I quoted above you tell us that “the close association of Jesus with God the Father has come about because….” If a person believes Jesus to be ontologically God, why would they tell us that the association between Jesus and the Father came about because God gave Him authority and Lordship? If He is ontologically God, the close association has been there from eternity past.

    • Yes, because this seems to me to be how the particular argument about lordship works. It’s not an argument about ontology in the sense you mean. It has to do with something—authority, status—that is given to Jesus because he has acted the part of obedient Israel, because he is the suffering servant. The mistake you keep making is that you frame this whole discussion as a matter of what we should believe. I am not trying to assert what we should believe—or for that matter what I believe. I am trying to clarify how the New Testament arguments, narratives, etc., work.

  11. Remember these statments Andrew? The doctrine of the Trinity may not come into quite the same category of redundant intellectual furniture as theories of the atonement, but if we are going to retain the construct, I would argue that it has to be done in a way that is much more transparent to the dominant lines of biblical thought. Clearly we still need to be able to speak coherently about Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but I seriously wonder whether the Western ontological-relational paradigm still serves a useful purpose. As with the atonement, I suspect that the narrative-historical approach has a lot to teach us.

    That is true, but it does not amount to an argument for identity. What is said in Philippians 2 is that God gave Jesus the name which had until then been reserved for God himself. This is consistently the argument in the New Testament: Jesus is given the authority to forgive sins, still the storm, judge the nations, etc. This is certainly an authority that properly belongs to God alone, but the extraordinary claim made in the New Testament is that it has been given to Jesus. Giving someone the authority to act on behalf of someone else does not make him identical with that person. So as long as Jesus reigns—that is, up to 1 Corinthians 15:28—he is God for us.

    That whole article and comment section has a lot of information in it regarding this subject. And while you may make an “I think” statement regarding your views on all of this, implying you may ot be sure, the rest of what you say has been said in a very certain, “this is the way it is,” sort of way.

    This thinking leaves Him as nothing more then Him having been made, “God for us.” And that temporarily.

      • I am somewhat pressed for time here, but most surely I would agree with Fee (and at least here, with Wright) that the Shema, and 1 Cor. 8: 6 is NOT a “convergence” (development) but a “”bifurcation” (two parts from a whole, i.e. Christological, as a theocentric whole). Yes, we must use some scholastic reason here!

        I have, and love Fee’s: Pauline Christology, etc. As Wright’s work too. But for me anyway, Wright is always an “eclectic” mess! Though all we theolog’s must be somewhat eclectic, its how we use our “eclecticism”! Which MUST be biblical, and even within a “Biblicism”! THIS is the Apostles Doctrine, or from which we must seek our Biblical doctrine and teaching! (Acts 2: 42)

  12. And for the record, here is Andrew’s take on the prologue to the Gospel of John. At least it was evidently still his understanding of it it in 2012 as this article was refereneced in the article I just linked above. As can be seen, he does not pursue the orthodox understanding of these verses either.

    • You noted the following statement, I trust: “What these verses would assert then, in effect, is not that Jesus was (or was with) God, though that conclusion still might be reached by an extended detour, but that the creative force known to the Greeks as logos was in fact the creator God of Israel—an identification aided by the mediating story of wisdom’s participation in the act of creation.” I would argue that my reading is highly orthodox and missionally compelling.

      • Yep, you might be able to reach the orthodox conclusion that Jesus was God or was with God. By an extended detour perhaps. How that qualifies as being orthodox I am not sure.

        And after you have basically argued away any chance of Him actually being ontologically God from eternity past, but made Him out to be rather a man that was exalted to Lordship and became “God for us” for a limited time, I am not at all sure what good it would do to argue otherwise for some other part of Scripture. If that is the case, you have part of the the Bible declaring Him to be not God and another part of it declaring Him to be God. Great confused mess that would be. Who of the Biblical writer’s are we to believe to be telling the truth at that point? He can not be merely a man that was exalted to be God and God from eternity past at the same time.

        And even if you do reach that conclusion by an extended detour,

      • Cheryl –

        The discussion here can be good. But I’d encourage you to offer exegetical arguments as an effort to engage the texts brought up, rather than posting links to articles on his blog & declaring, “This guys pretty much not orthodox/heretic.” I love engagement with the texts here. Though I might offer we get back to the original point of my post – reading Romans better in its original context.

      • Btw Scott, Perriman has taken us all over the Pauline, and somewhat the Johannine map! How about, 1 Cor. 15: 20 thru 28? And too, 1 Cor. 8:5-6, the latter is right in the middle of the question somewhat of “idols” and idolatry! And note, I have already spoken myself, as to Saul/Paul’s great Jewish Hellenism, as his Greco-Roman background! THIS is quite Paul’s historical-theological backdrop! (Acts 21: 39 ; 22: 3 / Gal. 4: 1-7)

  13. I see I left my last comment in the middle of a sentence. That is what I get for being rushed I reckon. Also, this comment box continues to be difficult to use at times IMO as it only allows you to see a couple of lines of comment at a time. It also often keeps jumping back to the top of the comment when you scroll down through what you have written.

    At any rate, it is a holiday here in the good ole USA and I have a famly gathering to get ready for. Which means I do not have any more time for this discussion at the moment.

  14. Scott, it would seem that there is perhaps nothing less popular anymore then pointing out where any form of teaching departs from the orthodox Christian understanding of the last approximately 2000 years. And being concerned that there are dangers in such unorthodox teaching is just as unpopular.

    As I said, I have a family gathering to prepare for so I am out of here.

    • But we have to do this with good and proper exegesis. That’s all that is being asked.

      My family are in from England, so I’m looking to enjoy this also. A blessed time for the holiday!

      • Btw, I have not seen much “exegesis” from YOU Scott? And, as usual you have blown me to the winds! And I always quote Holy Scripture, and seek a bit of exegesis too! But again, Perriman’s words themselves cry “adoptionism”, and even “arianism”! One does need to know “theological” definition here too! Which I have not seen in Perriman! He just cries his own ideas! And Cherylu has yet to be answered straight-up!

      • @Andrew: Sorry, but I am too right in the middle of my American neighbor’s ‘ou-rah’ here! 😉 But, have you read old J.N.D. Kelly’s classic book: Early Christian Doctrines? I still have not found a much better book on these great subjects! And let’s get real, but you surely must concede your quite un-orthodox positions, to say the least? Again, compared to people like J.N.D. Kelly!

        Shall we move on to John’s Prologue? Of which I still find myself Bishop Wescott’s Commentary on John to be rather good! But today too, I would recommend the American J. Ramsey Michaels NICNT on John, (2010, Eerdman’s). He gives his backdrop to John in the Jewish Bible, Second Temple Judaism (both Palestinian and Hellenistic), and primitive Christianity…with something general in Gnosticism as well, but he does not over-press the “background” itself as he states in his preface. Noting the great Apostolic but biblical Jewishness itself in John! (As too in Paul!)

      • @Scott: But too, you have not even expressed Perriman’s all that well? Are you too, going to assign “Christ Jesus” to an adoptionist and arian type position? Can’t you see how Perriman leans here, if not makes this expression?

      • My goal is to explore the narrative-historical hermeneutic, not deny orthodox Christianity. To me, it’s better than abstract systematic approaches.

      • A good goal Scott! But we can NEVER escape proper “systematization” of God’s Word! That is what makes the WHOLE! The biblical voices here are not with Perriman’s “convergence” (development) on Christ or the Trinity! Simple as that really!

  15. The issue though (it seems to me) not the exegesis of the texts, it is though whether Andrew perrimans views are within orthodoxy. In my discussions and observations on the blog he has provided his alternative exegesis and comments on Jesus talking about his being with the father before the world was, on whether Jesus was the creator of al things or the means by which ALL things were created. His approach to The Carmen Christi is obviously to say it does not mean Jesus was with the former and in the form of God etc. I also notice that Andrew will make comments if orthodox trinitarians say anything but never when Jaco takes part (jaco is an aggressive anti Trinitarian very much in the Anthony buzzard camp). I credit the pre nicene fathers and the NT writers with much intelligence. They addressed these issues and if we have to hold a position by sidelining the gospel of john or allowing gymnastics in interpreting PHp 2 (even if Dunn agrees with us!) we are not allowing the NT to speak but reading back in non Trinitarian thought into it. Let’s ask these questions….

    1. Was the Son of God pre existent personally?
    2. Was he created (in the sense of not existing personally before)
    3. Is he part of the created order or outside of it.
    4. Should we worship him?

      • Btw too, here’s a quote we need to hear!
        “We know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate him in his works whereby he renders himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates himself.” (Comm. Old Testament, I,v. 9. , John Calvin)

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