September 28, 2013
We are back from the bustling metropolis of Berlin. Although we were in the city for five days, I feel like we did not even scratch the surface of this international city. According to my doktorvater, the only real way to experience Berlin is to live there, which refers to the layers of cultural and historical features. And speaking of scratching the surface:
I would not be accurately describing the city if I failed to mention the endless construction and cranes. There was so much construction it was comical (this picture does not do it justice). We international students joke with each other about the construction in Germany: whether one is in Munich or Berlin or any Germany city, one finds construction zones. This stems from several features. First, it is a sign of the German economy, which is booming. There is money for bigger and better and newer. There is no such thing as a recession over here and the unemployment rate, for example, hovers nationally around 5%. Buildings are constantly being renovated, streets are being repaired, and workers enjoy incredible benefits and vacations. Second, the construction reflects a German concern for things to be well taken care of. Third, the endless construction is in no way related to an inordinate lengthy time period or delays in competing projects.
One example of the construction shows what I’m trying to say. Recently the Subway line near our apartment was renovated. Shortly thereafter, a seemingly nice square in front of this station was completely remodeled. Then one day on our way to the subway, what had been a perfectly fine looking apartment complex had been torn down, and within a matter of days another was being constructed in its place. In come the cranes. Later that week on our way to the Subway again, there were now two other buildings on the same street undergoing renovation, hence more cranes and scaffolding. So now the joke is that one German sees another beginning a construction project and says, “Quick, our neighbors are renovating. Let’s build something too!”
This is the inside of the Reichstag, where the famous glass dome is also situated. We heard a lecture here, which was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I am still trying to get a feel of German politics. The system is so different, and I think better, than in the US. Being in the Reichstag was particularly interesting in light of the elections that took place this month in Germany.
We had a great trip but there is no place quite like home–we are glad to be back in Munich!
September 22, 2013
After a grueling summer, my friend Seth and I decided to unwind by taking a hike in the alps.
One of the things I enjoyed about this hike was all the alms along the way. These alms are scattered all along the trails so that hikers do not need to bring all their own supplies, but can rather stop for snacks and drinks, or even spend the night in a guest room (which we did).
Another amazing view. The most amazing part is that Seth is sitting on the very edge of the cliff, looking down across the valley (you can just barely see a little dot on the edge of the cliff–that is him)
This is where we took the wrong turn, which led to us getting waaay off track. It turns out that instead of staying in this nice green valley, we were supposed to climb the ridge (seen in the upper left corner of the picture). A sign or a trail would have been really helpful!
September 21, 2013
September 20, 2013
During my time in Germany, I’m trying to read my fair share of German theologians. I enjoyed this quote by Bultmann:
Humanistic education does not at all pretend to have a direct and practical meaning for life, but rather is based on the view that the spiritual world transcends practical needs and has its own autonomous value for man. Humanistic education shapes the spiritual universe and furnishes man with a richness, a joy, and a happiness beyond the fulfillment of practical needs. This education forms character, shapes the person (Bultmann, “Humanismus und Christentum,” 1948).
There’s something about reading German theologians on German soil that makes it that much more interesting. I doubt, however, that I will have much of a chance to read this next week, since we are going to the Oktoberfest parade tomorrow morning, and then leave on an academic trip on Monday. The Destination? Berlin and Jena. Life is ruff.
August 2, 2013
Greetings after a long and unexpected blogging pause (it’s been two months since my last post). As you may have deduced from one of my previous posts about my summer schedule, I have been swamped. In addition to preparing my four papers for conferences this summer, we hosted my family from the US for a month. Our time with them was wonderful and busy: we not only showed them around Munich and Germany, but we also trekked to Venice. I have also been to Scotland and back. To enjoy the time with my family, I did very little school work and absolutely no blogging. All of this to say, hello, I’m still here (although sometimes sporadically).
June 3, 2013
Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Karen H. Jobes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011, xvi + 478 pp., $44.99, hardcover.
Karen Jobes is professor of NT Greek and Exegesis at Wheaton College. Some of her previous publications include commentaries on Esther (Zondervan, 1999) and 1 Peter (Baker, 2005), as well as the popular Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker, 2000).
This work is intended for those studying the General Epistles for the first time. Matters are kept simple and to the point. Chapters conclude with recommended readings that offer helpful sources for further study. Information is organized by headings and subsections and each chapter contains outlines and summaries. Charts and pictures are abundant throughout. Challenging words and concepts are written in bold, indicating that they are defined in a special section in the back of the book. These various features enable Jobes to deliver a highly readable and inviting survey for readers of the General Epistles.
The book contains four main sections: (1) Hebrews, (2) letters from Jesus’ brothers, (3) letters from Peter, and (4) letters from John. Within each of these sections there are chapters introducing the epistles and highlighting their key points, such as audience, author, date, purpose, etc. Additional chapters are devoted to Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter—each containing chapters focusing on Christology and other key issues.
One of the book’s many strengths is the years of research and teaching that Jobes has devoted to the General Epistles. For example, Jobes is able to draw upon her commentaries on 1 Peter (Baker, 2005) and the Johannine Epistles (Grand Rapids, forthcoming), not to mention her numerous articles and essays. As a result, the reader benefits from Jobes’s years of seasoned reflection on these Epistles.
Another strength is Jobes’s attentiveness to the many times these epistles rely on the OT. Jobes devotes an entire chapter to this topic in Hebrews (pp. 57–77), a large section in James (pp. 203–11). In her discussion of Jude, Jobes insightfully explains Jude’s allusions to the Hebrew OT, rather than the Greek LXX (pp. 251–52). Elsewhere, Jobes sheds light on important yet often overlooked OT allusions (e.g., see her discussion on the allusion in James 3 to Hosea 14, pp. 207–08).
Despite the book’s many strengths, one weakness was apparent, and it related to the book’s numerous pictures. Pictures can be quite helpful in an introductory survey, and several were helpful in the present work, such as the maps and pictures of ancient papyri. Many, however, seemed out of place and redundant. In the discussion of Peter’s theology of suffering there are two large pictures of footprints (pp. 287, 346). In two separate discussions about the Torah there are large, modernized pictures of the Ten Commandments (pp. 74, 207). There are also two identical pictures of the Rylands fragment (pp. 9, 407). Pictures were not only redundant, but in many places unnecessary, such as the huge chart displaying 2 Peter’s steps to maturity (p. 376), or the cartoon image of animals prescribed in the OT for sacrifice (p. 95). Furthermore, there are numerous paintings of biblical characters and events that do little to illumine the content of the text. While the pictures do not detract from the book’s content, they do little to enhance it while at the same time burdening the length by at least 100 extra pages.
One surprising omission was a discussion regarding the possible coherence and theology of the General Epistles. This is a topic that is receiving increasing attention by scholars of the General Epistles (see, e.g., Robert Wall’s essay in Catholic Epistles and Apostolic Tradition, Baylor Press, 2009). Jobes does a commendable job interacting with the theology of the individual books, but her text could have been enhanced by including a chapter that considered these epistles from a broader view, perhaps considering their overarching theme or their unique contributions and distinctives.
Teachers and professors will find Jobes’s work useful in the classroom. Other works that might be comparable to Jobes’s include Donelson’s From Hebrews to Revelation (Westminster John Knox, 2001), Harner’s What are They Saying about the Catholic Epistles? (Paulist, 2004), and Chester and Martin’s The Theology of James, Peter, and Jude (Cambridge, 1994). Jobes’s survey is an ideal introduction for a college course on the General Epistles—the student will not only be equipped with a solid grasp of each letter’s background issues but also with the content and theology of these important New Testament writings.
June 3, 2013
This picture pretty much sums up what Spring has been like in Munich this year: cold, wet, and rainy. We have really not had much of a Spring to speak of, except for a few sunny days here and there. When the sun does occasionally show its face, everybody flocks outside to the parks and gardens in droves, trying to soak up the much-needed warmth. With this cold, wet Spring coming on the heels of a record setting cold, dark winter, many people are talking about how depressed and gloomy they feel. Many cities are dealing with flooding at the moment. On a positive note, however, my family is coming in two weeks for a visit. We are all sooo excited. Melody is now talking about her “Abi, Ada, and Sara” everyday now. Let’s just hope we will get some nice weather when they are here so we can do some adventuring!
May 21, 2013
This summer is shaping up to be an exciting one. I will be presenting the following papers this summer in Scotland and Munich (the ones on James are already written; I am in the process of writing the ones on desire):
- ” ‘A Delight to the Eyes and Desirous to Make One Wise’: The Hellenistic Reception of Desire in Genesis 3,” Paper to be presented at the International Congress of the International Organization for the Old Testament, Munich, Germany, August, 2013.
- “Ouk epithymēseis: Examining the Role of Desire in 4 Maccabees and its Significance for the Interpretation of Romans 7:7.” Paper to be presented at the International Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies, Munich, Germany, August 3, 2013.
- “The Fruit of Righteousness in the Epistle of James: A Study in Discourse Analysis.” Paper to be presented at International SBL, St Andrews, Scotland, July 11, 2013.
- “James 1:20–27: A Text-Critical Analysis Interacting with the New Nestle-Aland Edition.” Paper to be presented at International SBL, St Andrews, Scotland, July 10, 2013.
- “A Semantic Investigation of Desire in the Fourth Book of Maccabees.” Paper to be presented at the New Testament Kolloquium of the Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München; Munich, Germany, June 14, 2013.