Evolved in the Image of God?

After my talk at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at the University of Cambridge last month, I was interviewed by biologist and blogger The interview has just been published on the Science and Belief website of the Faraday Institute.

Although the interview focused on what it means to be made in God’s image (imago Dei) in the Bible, and not evolution per se, the title given to the interview is “Evolved in the Image of God?”

Here is the interview transcript (which includes some very nice pictures and a link to the audio).

Coming Full Circle to Bristol—Twice!

This is the ninth (and final) post about my UK speaking tour.

After giving eleven talks in the previous two weeks in Scotland and England, I traveled to Bristol to speak at Trinity College—my last stop before returning home via Heathrow airport.

Coming Full Circle 1—Jamie Davies and Tom Wright

My contact at Trinity College was Jamie Davies, Tutor in New Testament.

Jamie is the author of Paul Among the Apocalypses? An Evaluation of the “Apocalyptic Paul” in the Context of Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature; Library of New Testament Studies (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016).

He also wrote a sympathetic review of my book A New Heaven and a New Earth (2014) for the Review of Biblical Literature (published last year).

I first met Jamie at the 2014 Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Diego. At the time he was a doctoral student at St. Andrews, studying with Grant Macaskill; but I met him because he was Tom Wright’s research assistant and the three of us had lunch together.

Jamie worked with Tom on PFG, the acronym they both use for Tom’s massive (1700 pages) two-volume work Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Fortress, 2013); Jamie worked on copy-editing and often had to track down missing footnotes and other references.

So there was a Tom Wright connection both at the start of my UK visit and at the end—full circle 1.

Presentations on Job and Eschatology

I did two presentations at Trinity College.

The first was an afternoon Research Seminar for faculty and postgraduate students, which focused on God’s second speech to Job from the whirlwind. My paper addressed what God was trying to communicate by reference to the monsters Behemoth and Leviathan; the paper is being published in the current issue of St. Mark’s Review (an Australian journal).

At the Seminar I met John Bimson, formally retired from being Tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College, but who still teaches a course on Job; he was a great dialogue partner and later shared with me one of his published papers on the monsters in Job, which articulated an interpretation very close to my own.

Later that evening I gave a public lecture on biblical eschatology, in essence summarizing the argument of A New Heaven and a New Earth.

At least half the evening attendees came at the urging of Richard Russell (yellow shirt, above). I first encountered Richard by reading his MA thesis from Bristol University (called “The Growing Crisis of the Evangelical Worldview and Its Resolutions”) when I was doing my initial graduate studies at the Institute for Christian Studies in the nineteen-seventies.  Over the years Richard has been an Anglican priest, a philosophy teacher, and a bookseller; he brought an array of relevant books for sale during the evening event.

Coming Full Circle 2—J. Alec Motyer

I first heard of Trinity College in Bristol when I was an undergraduate student at Jamaica Theological Seminary. During my B.Th. degree I attended a Keswick Convention in Kingston, Jamaica when J. Alec Motyer, then Principal and professor of Old Testament at Trinity, was the preacher.

It turns out that Motyer’s first speaking engagement outside of the UK was at a Jamaican Keswick Convention in 1964. I’m not sure how many times he spoke in Jamaica, but I heard him in the mid-seventies.

He did a series of expositions on Ezekiel 1–3 throughout the week of Keswick meetings, and these expositions were so inspiring that I have always credited them as one of the primary impetuses behind my growing desire to study and teach the Old Testament.

Beyond that, in my first year at JTS all the students were given a free copy of The New Bible Commentary: Revised (IVP, 1970), a one-volume Bible commentary edited by Motyer (along with three other biblical scholars). Although it has since been revised (there is a 21st Century Edition published in 1994), and is a somewhat predictable evangelical commentary, I found it to be a very helpful first reference work as a new undergraduate student.

When I first came to the UK to speak in 1997 at the invitation of David Hanson, I mentioned the importance of Motyer’s influence on me and David immediately phoned him up and put me on the line. I was able to thank Alec Motyer in person for his impact on my life and my sense of calling to Old Testament studies.

J. Alec Motyer (1924-2016) passed away the August before my second visit to the UK. His funeral was held September 2016 and Trinity College had a memorial service for him not long after I headed back to the States.

 

Perhaps the book Motyer was most proud of writing was A Commentary on Isaiah (IVP 1993), which he published in his retirement (he published some fourteen books after retiring!). As is typical of old-school evangelical scholars, he held firmly to the compositional “unity” of Isaiah, arguing that the entire book comes from the hand of the 8th century Isaiah of Jerusalem.

Almost all contemporary OT scholars (including evangelicals like myself) think it makes more sense to think that the oracles in chaps. 1-39 (with the exception of chaps. 24-27) are from the 8th century Isaiah; that chaps. 40-55 come from a prophet of the Babylonian exile who took up Isaiah’s mantle; and that chaps. 56-66 (and probably 24-27) are oracles from the post-exilic period, when Israel had returned to the land.

Beyond the three “Isaiahs,” there is clearly editing discernible throughout that weaves the entire book together. Despite its complexity, deriving from different historical periods, it is still the word of God, and constitutes a complex theological unity that speaks powerfully to our day.

At Motyer’s funeral, a story he sometimes told was recounted. He is reported to have said that when we get to heaven if you notice three men beating him up over in a corner, not to worry; their names are all “Isaiah” and he deserved it.

So, from hearing Alec Motyer speak as an undergraduate student in Jamaica, which fanned my love of the Old Testament, to myself speaking at Trinity College, where he used to teach—full circle 2.

Well, it was quite a trip; I got to speak to lots of different groups and I met old friends and made new ones. But I was very glad to get home, and even take a vacation!

Meeting up with a Variety of Biblical Scholars in Cheltenham

This is the eighth installment about my speaking in the UK.

After my second talk in Oxford (given at Wycliffe Hall), I got on a bus to Cheltenham, in order to speak on the same topic (biblical eschatology) at the University of Gloucestershire that evening.

My host at the University was well-known Old Testament scholar J. Gordon McConville.

I first met Gordon when I was invited to be the respondent to his keynote address at the Institute for Biblical Research annual meeting in 2013, on the topic of the Bible’s understanding of what it means to be human.

That keynote address ultimately led to his wonderful book called Being Human in God’s World: An Old Testament Theology of Humanity (Baker Academic, 2016). I wrote a short endorsement for the dust jacket, and I have now been asked to write a full-fledged book review for the journal Themelios.

There were some other biblical scholars at my lecture (some of whom I had known before), and we all went out for dinner afterwards (led by Gordon McConville).

Matt Lynch is an Old Testament scholar, who is both Dean of Studies and teaching faculty at the Westminster Theological Centre, with head offices in Cheltenham and learning centres throughout the UK, Channel Islands, and Northern Europe.

Two years ago (May 2015) Matt conducted an online interview (via Google Hangout) with both me and OT scholar William Brown on the topic of “Creation, Violence, and the God of the Old Testament” (the interview can be viewed here).

The morning after my eschatology lecture, I met Matt in a local coffee shop (called the Boston Tea Party, appropriate since Matt is American) where he interviewed me as part of a series of interviews with biblical scholars called On Script.” The interview is available as a podcast either to listen to online or to download.

Matt is the author of Monotheism and Institutions in the Book of Chronicles: Temple, Priesthood, and Kingship in Post-Exilic Perspective (2014). He is currently working on a new book on violence in the Primeval History (Genesis 1-11), which I’m dying to read (one of my MA students who wants to write a thesis on Genesis 4 is also looking forward to it).

Crispin Fletcher-Louis is an independent scholar, who works on Second Temple (Dead Sea Scrolls) and New Testament materials, with a focus on the imago Dei theme. Among his books are All the Glory of Adam (2001) and Jesus Monotheism, vol. 1: Christological Origins (2016). He is especially interested in how Adam, the High Priest, and Jesus (among others) are portrayed in Jewish and Christian literature as participating in God’s divinity (you can listen to an interview with Crispin about Jesus Monotheism here). While I don’t formulate these ideas in quite the same way, I have found his work helpful, and I cited him in my entry on “Image of God” in vol. 2 of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Theology (2015). it was good to meet Crispin in person.

Andrew Lincoln is a senior New Testament scholar who has just retired from teaching at the University of Gloucestershire. I met Andrew back when he was teaching at Wycliffe College, at the University of Toronto (he is a friend of Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat).

Andrew was probably the most outspoken critic of my eschatology lecture (and he didn’t hesitate to raise questions); I had read his book on Paradise Now and Not Yet (2004) when I was working on my eschatology book, so I expected his questions. He is a prolific author, and has a fascinating recent book on the virgin birth, which I don’t quite agree with. Nevertheless, disagreement doesn’t negate collegiality, and we had a friendly discussion over supper. In fact, my students will know that I have assigned his commentary on the Gospel of John in one of  my biblical exegesis courses over the past few years.

My speaking tour in the UK ended at Trinity College, Bristol, the topic of my final post.