What Does 1 Thessalonians Say about Masks?

This post is a few months in coming because I’m woefully behind on my writing for all kinds of personal reasons (maybe more on that some other time). But we’re also preaching through 1 Thessalonians at Arise Church right now, so I was reminded about a post I’d started a while back. I write this post not as any sort of personal attack, but rather as an example of the importance of reading and interpreting the Bible contextually.

The genesis for this post was a conversation that I had with a fellow Christian with whom I was having a conversation about COVID world and the American church.

As we were talking about the various things that our churches have done in response to COVID, this person mentioned “a verse in 1 Thessalonians that prohibited the wearing of masks.” This struck me as odd, so I asked them to send me the verse. Sometime later, they sent over 1 Thessalonians 2.5, which in the NIV reads: You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.

Now certainty, in the NIV the word mask appears and is used in a negative sense. Paul is saying that he never masked. On a very surfacy reading of this passage, I’m not terribly surprised that someone used this as a prooftext for not wearing masks. “Look, Paul says that he didn’t wear a mask, why should I?”

Putting aside the fact that throughout his writings, Paul is very consistent in his calls to serve another in love and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, I want to be crystal clear: Paul is not even remotely addressing the issue of wearing masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in this passage.

In the first place, the context of this passage is Paul’s recounting of his time spent doing ministry in Thessalonica. At issue is the truthfulness and authenticity of their work. In contrast to his Judaizing opponents who chased Paul and his companions from Thessalonica, Paul claims that he and his companions only spoke the truth. Nothing in this passage points to medical masking or political motives; the issue is the importance of honesty and telling the truth rather than hiding behind flattery or greed.

Reading this passage in another translation will make this clear. The ESV renders this phrase as “a pretext for greed,” the CSB “greedy motives,” and the NRSV “a pretext for greed.” Even the KJV translates this as “a cloak for covetousness.” No masks to be found.

In the Greek, the word in question is πρόφασις (prostasis), which the LSJ defines as “a motive or cause alleged.” There’s certainly evidence of this term appearing in ancient legal and medical contexts. Indeed, this is the context suggested by the seven appearances of this term in the New Testament.

Prostasis does seem to have had one other primary use in the ancient world: the theater tradition. In Thessalonica (which, we must member, is in Greece) a prostatis may well have been understood as a reference to the theater tradition. The Greeks had been putting on plays for hundreds of years (if not longer), plays which often incorporated the use of masks. And while entertaining, there is evidence that the theater was viewed with an air of skepticism and incredulity. It was, after all, people pretending to be something they were not.

But even if the NIV is right in rendering prostasis as mask here, the issue remains Paul’s authenticity before the Thessalonians. He’s communicating that he wasn’t acting, that he wasn’t pretending to be something he wasn’t, and he didn’t try to deceive or flatter the Thessalonians.

All of this is to say that you should absolutely form your own opinions on masking (and other COVID responses). But please, for the love of interpreting the Bible contextually, don’t bring 1 Thessalonians 2.5 into the conversation. This is about telling the truth and being authentic, not a statement about pandemic procedures.

Book Review: Spurgeon and the Psalms

In trying times, there are few things more comforting than the Psalms. And in an era when contemplative faith is increasingly difficult, fewer pastors bring the depth of insight than Charles Spurgeon. I was delighted, therefore, to receive the new text of Spurgeon and the Psalms from Thomas Nelson.

This slim volume includes each of the Psalms along with devotional readings from Spurgeon. Accompanied by a short introduction and plenty of space for notetaking, this book features the New King James Version of the Psalms in easy-to-read type. While devoid of certain study features common to other Bibles, numerous cross references are included.

Spurgeon’s notes, while certainly the devotional center of this volume, enhance—rather than distract from—the text of the psalter. Far too often with these kinds of writings, the words of Scripture become secondary. In this reviewer’s perspective, this book does an admirable job pairing the devotional commentary with the psalmists’ words.

If there is any deficit in this book, it is the paper. While not the tissue thin paper that some Bibles are printed on, the paper stock is definitely on the lighter side for a volume that highlights its note-taking capacity. Even a slightly more robust paper quality would have made an excellent resource even better.

That aside, I highly recommend Spurgeon and the Psalms for anyone looking for a tool to engage the Psalter, as well as for any Spurgeon fans. May this book bring profit and pleasure to all who read it.

I received this volume from the publisher in coordination with Bible Gateway in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

How Can We Respond?

“How should we respond when terrible things happen?”

It’s a question that I’m asked all too frequently these days. Our world is filled with senseless violence, abuse, coverups, disagreement, and brokenness. And while none of these tragic things are new, the media and technology of our present moment enable us to see and experience these terrible realities up close and in real time.

What can we do? How can we response to the evils that surround us? What’s the appropriate reaction from someone following Jesus? Let me offer seven suggestions.

Weep. In Romans 12.15, Paul tells us to weep with those who weep. This should be our first response to evil. We must weep with those who are weeping. We must grieve with them. We must focus first on those who have been deeply wounded by evil and stand beside them as they mourn. And here, we must resist the urge to swoop in and explain the tragedy away or offer our solutions. First, we must stop and weep.

Slow down. In our culture of hurry, every tragedy evokes a flurry of responses, oftentimes with pundits weighing in even before pertinent details are known. We must resist this impulse. It’s okay to take time and process something. It’s okay to take time to reflect. It’s okay to not have an answer an hour, a day, or even a week after something terrible happens. It’s okay to slow down.

Seek justice. Those following God are commanded to seek justice and correct oppression (Is 1.17). When evil occurs, we must do that which is within our power to right the wrong that has been done. People and systems must be held accountable. And this is not the place for empty rhetoric, blame games, and politicization, where people act like there are easy answers to complex problems. Christians must pursue holistic justice, as challenging and difficult as it may be.

Pray. Our postmodern world pokes fun at those who offer “thoughts and prayers.” And if those words are only a social media token of concern, then those criticisms are well-founded. But followers of Jesus are called to bring everything to God in prayer, including the burdens and wounds of others (Gal 6.2, Phil 4.6, Ps 55.22). Prayer is a right and ready response in the face of evil, not something to be glibly tossed around, but an avenue for providing peace, presence, and perspective when tragedy strikes. And when all other words fail, we can simply pray, “Lord, have mercy.”

Get tangible. If something breaks your heart, do something about it. Don’t just post about it on social media or talk about it with your friends. Get tangible, put your money where your mouth is, do something about it. Passive concern is no substitute for action. Do your research and connect with an organization or person who is doing something to make a difference.

Remember. Christians are called to be people with long memories, and so we must remember the plight of the downtrodden and destitute even after the news cycle has moved on. The crisis that dominated the news and effected people five years ago is almost certainly still a problem for people, even if we don’t think about them in the day-to-day. And so we must remember what has happened and continue to stand beside those who are hurting.

Hope. Those living in a dark and broken world will often experience evil and suffering; but those who follow the Risen King need not despair, for we can have hope. Hope that, one day, evil will be destroyed. Hope that, someday, there will be no more tragedy. Hope that, one day, everything broken will be made new. Even as we weep, slow, pray, get tangible, and remember, we can hope that evil is not the end of the story. And so we hope and we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Hilary of Poitiers: Commentary on Psalm 53

Translation of Hilary of Poitiers’s Commentary on Psalm 53 (LXX 52)

In the end; according to Maeleth; understandings to David. The fool said in his heart: There is no God and the rest.

The present psalm is almost harmonious with the thirtieth psalm, but it does have in this a little understanding, not a likeness of words, first in the power of the inscription itself. For the thirtieth (psalm) is thus written: In the end of that David, by which title it is being indicated that the psalm was by the prophet David. This/here truly: In the end; according to Maeleth ; understandings to David. For wherever there is: in the end understandings, there is the signal of exhortation and of admonition, the end of which was ordered to apply knowledge to our understanding of judgment, in order that we understand to be announced in the psalm that which will be accomplished in the end according to the apostle: Then is the end, when he will hand the kingdom to Good the Father; when he will empty all principalities and powers and strength, and then he will place under himself all those having been placed under him. But death is the last enemy he will empty. This, therefore, is the end, which is being understood in the psalm. Those, however, which are being titled the psalm of that David, are all being revealed to be prophesied about Christ, who is the real David, because where of that is being inscribed, there shows him who will speak; truly where to that is, there reveals him to whom it is being said.

The fool says in his heart: there is no God. Shameful eloquence is (that) of human fault with the words of the mouth, not to intend to bring together, but, the urgent instinct of interior wickedness (that within the heart speaking) is the necessity of desire struggling against public decency with unevenness, provided that anything makes ashamed to say (but) not ashamed to be thought. And on that account the fool says in his heart: there is no God, because, unless he desires to speak this by the words of the mouth (to be a fool, as he is), he would prove the judgment of public belief.  For who does not believe that God is looking at the universe? But it frequently happens that, although the necessity of truth compels us to confession of God, the fool nevertheless is persuaded that our God is not delighting, and because we believe against confidence, we nevertheless speak out from the heart concerning wicked counsel. About which that (word) of God was spoken through the prophet: This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, because they do not desire to believe that which they are not able to deny.

He reveals the true cause of the most foolish speech in his heart, speaking: They are corrupt and they are detestable in their iniquities. Unjust is whatever is beyond the law. And they are first exceeding the law of God in the corruption of subordination, then in abomination, because iniquity brings corruption, while corruption merits abomination. For when anyone will transgress the law of God, then he will deny God, and corruption is to deny God. For to drive out corruption, our Lord became the fleshy word. Indeed, according to the apostle it is right (that) corruption be clothed in incorruption. But whatever is unjust and whoever does not believe that the Word is God become flesh, because he will say in his heart God does not exist, he will remain corrupt and abominable. Insofar as the thirtieth psalm (says) They were made detestable in iniquity, so it says They were made detestable in his invention. He neither puts off sense and guilt, because pursuing men (those who themselves are pleasing) transgressed the establishment of divine law.

Then follows this complaint: There is none who does good. We will treat this verse in its own place, because it was exposed below also (together with the approach). Now, however, everyone was suitably and properly (increased), all parts having been corrupted and detestable, no one to have learned in good works, because, although we are in the habit to speak of things which are good, nevertheless he persists in the same difficult things which are good.

And lest the will of God consider to be careless toward men, he adds: The Lord looks out from heaven upon the sons of men, in order to see if there is one understanding or seeking God. With the Lord gazing down from heaven, much was being known, often the agitation of the sins of the human race, the cause of our salvation. He chose Noah before the flood, justified Abraham through faith, promised the heir Isaac of the solemn promise, shaped the birthright of the people in the posterity of Jacob, put the prophet and leader Moses in charge and instituted the mover of the law, and inspired the prophetic law in all time. Therefore, through these thing of his own power and influence of that manner He look out upon the sons of men, in order to see if there was one understanding or seeing God.

Ammonius of Alexandria on the Psalms

Ammonius of Alexandria

Commentaries on the Old and New Testament which Remain

Relatively little is known about Ammonius of Alexandria (5th-6th century CE) apart from his service as presbyter in the Alexandrian and church and his brief literary fragments. This being the case, he has often been confused with an earlier Ammonius from Alexandria, the neoplatonic philosopher Ammonius Saccas (3rd century CE). According to Minge, around the year 458 CE Ammonius may have written letters for the bishops of Egypt to Pope Leo concerning the Council of Chalcedon. He did, however, have a penchant for writing Biblical commentaries, as fragments from his works on the Psalms, Daniel, John, Luke, Acts, I Corinthians, and I Peter remain extant.[1]

Translations from Fragments of Ammonius on the Psalms[2]

PSALM 3.4 “You, however, Lord, are my guardian, my glory, and you exalt my head.” First indeed it is said that God is his guardian, then his glory, and afterward the one exalting his head. Certainly he is a guardian, in order that he may liberate him from many tribulations and surroundings. Truly, then, after guardianship is glory: for first God guards, then he glorifies, and finally he exalts the head of him whom he has glorified.

PSALM 3.7 “I will not fear the thousands of people who have surrounded me.” For just as you all supply those to whom you are favorably inclined, the favorable Savior and King considers the well-being of his very own.

PSALM 3.8 “Because you struck all my adversaries without cause.” He certainly stuck his adversaries; he truly destroyed the animosity of sins. Indeed that he may heal those again: For I strike and I will heal again. Moreover, he crushes the bitterness of sins, that is, perverse things, gossips, and carnivorous actions, desiring to thoroughly destroy them. Truly, perhaps, he crushes even the same accused adversaries and sinners. For in Christ all are against sinners, but especially that infidelity of the Jews, of whom animosity was exhausted. Truly, this is the ill will of those about whom in another Psalm it is said: Whoever devours my people in the food of bread, God will not pray for. For this animosity—that is, the sly words of the Jews—he thoroughly crushed, when he rose from the dead.

PSALM 3.9 “The Lord is salvation, and your blessing is above your people.” On account of this, there was the name, and this event: And you will call his name Jesus.

[1] CPG III, 5500-5509. PG 85: 1361-1610; 1823-1826.

[2] PG 85: 1361-1364.

Paul and Justin: Conclusions and Bibliography

This post marks the end of our series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

In this series I have argued that the reception of Paul’s letters in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho demonstrates a transformation of Pauline concepts. Although Paul and Justin shared certain foundations—such as the authority of the scriptures of Judaism and ancestry of Abraham for the people of God—they worked from different contexts and divergent philosophical trajectories. The different theological grammars and cosmologies of Paul and Justin led them to conceive of pneuma differently, which caused Justin to misread Paul on the relationship between the Judaism and the Christian community. This “parting of the ways”[1] advocated by Justin would only deepen in the decades and centuries following his Dialogue. By the mid-second century, “Christian and Jew were clearly distinct and separate.”[2] By the fourth century, the model for Gentile inclusion had been transformed into an argument for Jewish exclusion.[3]

Justin’s theology thus marks a seminal moment in the history of Jewish-Christian interactions, a moment influenced by the shift from Paul’s Stoic conceptions of reality to Justin’s Platonic ideals. It is not that Justin failed in his reading of Paul or purposely misread the Apostle. Rather, we may more properly think of Justin as attempting faithfully work out the implications from Paul’s theology, and (unwittingly) finding himself operating under a different set of interpretive lenses. Although he was not the sole perpetrator of this misreading (which the pseudepigraphal Third Corinthians also employs), the Dialogue proved to be a considerable influence for later Christian understandings of the separation between the Way and Judaism.[4] Justin’s Platonically-informed misreading did effectively finalize early Christian grammar concerning the relationship of the Church to Judaism. The migration from Paul’s arguments for Gentile inclusion within the covenant promises of God to Justin’s arguments for Jewish exclusion from Gods purposes offered a new understanding of the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles, now rooted in faithfulness and ontology rather than ethnicity and genealogy. One can only wonder at how Paul would respond to the reception and transformation of his theology.


Primary Sources

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Cicero. On the Nature of the Gods. Translated by H. Rackman. LCL 268. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933.

Diogenes Laertius. Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Translated by Robert D. Hicks and Herbert Strainge Long. LCL 185. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.

Eusebius of Caesarea. Ecclesiastical History. Translated by G.A. Williamson. Edited by Andrew Louth. London: Penguin Books, 1989.

Justin Martyr. Apologie pour les christiens: Introduction, Texte Critique, Traduction et Notes par Charles Munier. Edited by Charles Munier. Paris: Cerf, 2006.

—–. Dialogue avec le Tryphon: Edition Critique. Two Volumes. Edited by Philippe Bobichon. Fribourg: Academic Press Fribourg, 2003.

—–. Dialogue with Trypho. Translated by Thomas B. Falls. Edited by Michael Slusser. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2003.

New Revised Standard Version: Harper Collins Study Bible Revised Edition. Edited by Harold W. Attridge. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2006.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 28. Online: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2015. http://www.nestle-aland.com/en/home/

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Adair, John A. Paul and Orthodoxy in Justin Martyr. Ph.D. dissertation. Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 2008.

Allert, Craig D. Revelation, Truth, Canon and Interpretation: Studies in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 64. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2002.

Andresen, Carl. “Justin und der mittlere Platonismus.” ZNW 44 (1952-3): 157-95.

Bauckham, Richard. “The Parting of the Ways: What Happened and Why.” Studia Theologica 47 (1993): 135-151.

Bauer, Walter. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. Translated by R. Kraft and G. Krodel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.

Baur, F.C. Das Christenthum und die christliche Kirche der drei ersten Jahrhunderte. Tubingen: Fues, 1860. Reprint edited by Klaus Scholder. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann, 1966.

Binyam, Yontan. “Depends on Whom You Ask: The ‘Parting of the Ways’ in the Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, and Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.” MA Thesis. Wheaton, I.L.: Wheaton College Graduate School, 2012.

Bird, Michael F. and Joseph R. Dodson. Paul and the Second Century. Library of New Testament Studies 412. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Bobichon, Philippe. Justin Martyr. Dialogue avec Tryphon, edition critique, traduction, commentaire. Paradosis 47/1-2. Fribourg: Academic Press, 2003.

—–. “Justin martyr: ‘etude stylistique du Dialogue avec Tryphon, suivie d’une comparaison avec l’Apologie et le De resurrection.” Researches augustiniennes et patristiques 34 (2005): 1-61.

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—–. Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

—–. “Justin Martyr Invents Judaism.” Church History 70.3 (2001): 427-61.

Bucur, Bogdan C. “Justin Martyr’s Exegesis of Biblical Theophanies and the Parting of the Ways between Judaism and Christianity.” Theological Studies 75 (2014): 34-51.

Buell, Denise Kimber. “Constructing Early Christian Identities Using Ethnic Reasoning.” ASE 24 (2007): 87-101.

—–. Why This New Race: Ethnic Reasoning in Early Christianity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Campbell, William S. “Gentile Identity and Transformation in Christ According to Paul.” Pages 23-55 in The Making of Christianity: Conflicts, Contacts, and Constructions: Essays in Honor of Bengt Holmberg. Edited by Magnus Zetterholm and Samuel Byrskog. Winona Lake, I.N.: Eisenbrauns, 2012.

—–. Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity. London: T&T Clark, 2008.

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—–. The Parting of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of Christianity: Second Edition. London: SCM Press, 2000.

Engberg-Pedersen, Troels. “Paul’s Body: A Response to Barclay and Levison.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 33.4 (2011): 433-43.

Foster, Paul. “Justin and Paul.” 108-125 in Paul and the Second Century. Edited by Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson. Library of New Testament Studies 412. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

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Georges, Tobias. “Justin’s School in Rome—Reflections on Early Christian ‘Schools.’” Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum 16 (2012): 75-87.

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—–. Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996.

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Schmithals, W. “On the Composition and Earliest Collection of the Major Epistles of Paul.” Pages 274-329 in Paul and the Gnostics. Translated by J. Steely. Nashville: Abingdon, 1972.

Schneemelcher, Wilhelm. “Paulus in der griechischen Kirche des zweiten Jahrhunderts.” Zeitschriftfur Kirchengeschichte 75 (1964): 7-9.

Segal, Alan F. “The History Boy: The Importance of Perspective in the Study of Early Judaism and Christianity.” Pages 217-237 in Identity and Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean: Jews, Christians, and Others: Essays in Honour of Stephen G. Wilson. Edited by Zeba A. Crook and Philip A. Harland. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007.

—–. Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism. Leiden: Brill, 1977.

Sena Pera, Juan Pablo. The Polemic Construction of Judaism at the origins of Christianity: from Paul to Justin Martyr. PhD dissertation. Bologna: Universita di Bologna, 2015.

Setzer, Claudia J. Jewish Responses to Early Christians: History and Polemics, 30–150 C.E. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

Siker, Jeffrey S. Disinheriting the Jews: Abraham in Early Christian Controversy. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1991.

—–. “From Gentile Inclusion to Jewish Exclusion: Abraham in Early Christian Controversy with Jews.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 19 (1989): 30-6.

Shepardson, Christine C. Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy: Ephrem’s Hymns in Fourth-Century Syria. Washington, D.C.: CUA Press, 2008.

Oskar Skarsaune. “The Development of Scriptural Interpretation in the Second and Third Centuries—except Clement and Origen.” Pages 373-442 in Hebrew Bible, Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation I/1: Antiquity. Edited by M. Saebø. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996.

—–. “Jewish Christian Sources Used by Justin Martyr and Some Other Greek and Latin Fathers.” Pages 379-416 in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Edited by Oskar Skarsaune and Reider Hvalvik. Peabody, M.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007.

—–. “Judaism and Hellenism in Justin Martyr, Elucidated from His Portrait of Socrates.” 585-611 in Geschichte–Tradition–Reflexion. Festchrift fur Martin Hengel zum 70. Geburtstag, III, Fruhe Christentum. Edited by H. Cancik, H. Lichtenberger, and P. Schafer. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996.

—–. “Justin and His Bible.” Pages 53-76 in Justin Martyr and His Worlds. Edited by Sara Parvis and Paul Foster. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

—–. The Proof from Prophecy: A Study in Justin Martyr’s Proof-Text Tradition: Text-Type, Provenance, Theological Profile. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 56. Leiden: Brill, 1987.

Slusser, Michael. “Justin Scholarship: Trends and Trajectories.” Pages 13-21 in Justin Martyr and His Worlds. Edited by Sara Parvis and Paul Foster. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Smith, Shawn C. “Was Justin Martyr an Inclusivist?” Stone-Campbell Journal 10 (2007): 193-211.

Stendhal, Krister. Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.

Stowers, Stanley K. “Paul and the Terrain of Philosophy.” Early Christianity 6 (2015): 141-56.

—–. “What Is ‘Pauline Participation in Christ’?” Pages 352-371 in Redefining First-Century Jewish and Christian Identities: Essays in Honor of Ed Parish Sanders. Edited by Fabian E. Udoh, Susannah Heschel, Mark Chancey, and Gregory Tatum. Notre Dame, I.N.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008.

Strawbridge, Jennifer R. The Pauline Effect: The Use of the Pauline Epistles by Early Christian Writers. Studies of the Bible and Its Reception 5. Berlin and Boston: de Gruyter, 2015.

Stylianopoulos, Theodore. Justin Martyr and the Mosaic Law. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 20. Missoula, M.T.: The Society of Biblical Literature and Scholars Press, 1975.

Thiessen, Matthew Paul and the Gentile Problem. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Thorsteinsson, Runar M. “Justin and Stoic Cosmo-Theology.” Journal of Theological Studies 63.2 (2012): 533-71.

—–. “Justin’s Debate with Crescens the Stoic.” Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum 17.3 (2013): 451-78.

von Campenhausen, Hans. The Formation of the Christian Bible. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972.

Waszink, J. H. “Bemerkungen zum Einfluss des Platonismus im frühen Christentum.” Vigiliae Christianae 19 (1965): 129-62.

Wendel, Susan. “Interpreting the Descent of the Spirit: A Comparison of Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho and Luke-Acts.” Pages 95-103 in Justin Martyr and His Worlds. Edited by Sara Parvis and Paul Foster. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Werline, Rodney. “The Transformation of Pauline Arguments in Justin Martyr’s ‘Dialogue with Trypho.’” Harvard Theological Review 92 (1999): 79-93.

Westerholm, Stephen. “The Judaism Paul Left Behind Him.” Pages 353-370 in The Making of Christianity: Conflicts, Contacts, and Constructions: Essays in Honor of Bengt Holmberg. Edited by Magnus Zetterholm and Samuel Byrskog. Winona Lake, I.N.: Eisenbrauns, 2012.

White, Benjamin L. “Justin between Paul and the Heretics: The Surprising Salvation of Gentile Christian Judaizers in Dialogue with Trypho 47.” Under Review. Online. https://www.academia.edu/13325138/Justin_between_Paul_and_the_Heretics_The_Surprising_Salvation_of_Gentile_Christian_Judaizers_in_Dialogue_with_Trypho_47

Willitts, Joel. “Paul and Jewish Christians in the Second Century.” Pages 140-168 in Paul and the Second Century. Edited by Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson. Library of New Testament Studies 412. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Wilson, Stephen G. Leaving the Fold: Apostates and Defectors in Antiquity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004.

—–. Related Strangeness: Jews and Christians 70-170 CE. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.

Wright, N.T. Paul: In Fresh Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005.

Wright, Walter C. “The Source of Paul’s Concept of Pneuma.” The Covenant Quarterly 41 (1983): 17-26.

[1] On the parting of the ways, see Richard Bauckham’s Middle Judaism model (Richard Bauckham, “The Parting of the Ways: What Happened and Why,” Studia Theologica 47 [1993]: 136-8), James D.G. Dunn’s broad stream analogy (James D.G. Dunn, The Parting of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of Christianity: Second Edition [London: SCM Press, 2000], 301-11), James McGrath’s pushback against Dunn (James F. McGrath, The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context [Urbana: UI Press, 2009], 90), Alan Segal’s two powers heresy thesis (Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism [Leiden: Brill, 1977], x.), Judith Lieu’s work on the influence of perceived persecution (Judith M. Lieu, “Accusations of Jewish Persecution in Early Christian Sources, with particular reference to Justin Martyr and the ‘Martyrdom of Polycarp’” in Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity [ed. G.N. Stanton and G.G. Stroumsa, Cambridge: CUP, 1998], 284.), Stephen Wilson’s divergent times and places model (Stephen G. Wilson, Leaving the Fold: Apostates and Defectors in Antiquity [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004].), and Daniel Boyarin’s siblings model of Judaism and Christianity (Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism [Stanford: Stanford Press, 1999].).

[2] Dunn, Parting of the Ways, 318.

[3] See Christine C. Shepardson, Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy: Ephrem’s Hymns in Fourth-Century Syria (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press, 2008).

[4] Livesay, “Theological,” 79. Segal, “History Boy,” 234. Laato, 122.

Paul and Justin on the Identity of Israel

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

As noted previously, in Paul’s day the conflagration centered on whether or not the Gentiles could be brought into the people of God.[1] For Paul, belonging to Christ did not negate the importance of proper genealogy; on the contrary, genealogical descent continued to be of the utmost importance.[2] Gentiles were brought into the Abrahamic People of God—although not into Israel proper—through Christ. The Gentiles, therefore, do not replace Israel as the People of the Covenant, but instead stand alongside Israel as Peoples of the Covenants. Perhaps no writing of Paul makes this clearer than Romans, where on multiple occasions Paul espouses the continued importance of the Jewish people.[3] Paul demonstrates great concern for Israel (Rom. 9:1-5, 10.1, 11:1-2a, 11:13-16), lamenting over their stumbling and seeking to explain why they have not immediately accepted the Messiah (Rom. 11:11-16). For the Apostle, Israel still possesses the adoption, glory, covenants, law, worship, promises of God, patriarchs and ancestry of the Messiah (Rom. 9:4-5). Even circumcision retains its value for Jews when properly practiced and understood (Rom. 3:1-2). Although “not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true seed” (Rom. 9:6b-7a), Paul looks forward to the day when all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:25-26). In sum, for Paul the identity of true Israel included actual Israel, although the nations were being inaugurated through the power of Christ.

In contrast, for Justin Martyr true Israel no longer included ethnic Israel, only those who belong to Christ. Dialogue 11.5 reads, “For the true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham…are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ,” a turn of phrase that is widely recognized as dependent upon Galatians 3:6-7.[4] By faith Christians have become children of Abraham (Dial. 119.5) and as a result of Christian faith the faithless Jews have been removed from the “righteous nation” of God (Dial. 119.6, 123.9).[5] In a word, Christians have become true spiritual Israel. Contrary to Paul’s expressed concern and hope for Israel, Justin offers little lament for the ethnic children of Abraham. While Jewish Christ-believers who did not advocate Torah observance for Gentiles were acceptable, in Justin the destruction of the temple and defeat of bar Kokhba illustrate the truth: Judaism as a whole was coming to an end.[6] According to Justin Martyr the “true spiritual Israel” consisted of spiritual genealogy in Christ, not the Jewish race.[7]

But why was this happening, why was ethnic Israel replaced by the Church as true Israel? Justin suggests three reasons. First, proper interpretation of Old Testament prophecy reveals the superiority of a supercessionist Christian hermeneutic (Dial. 29.2, 32.2).[8] Second, the end of Judaism serves as punishment for the rejection and killing of Christ and his followers (Dial. 16.1-4, 25.5, 108.3).[9] Third, the Jews have misunderstood circumcision. Whereas “Abraham received circumcision for a sign” the Jews have interpreted it as “justification itself” (Dial. 23.4).[10] Because of this, circumcision became “not a sign of a covenant with God, but rather ‘a medium for punishment.’”[11] For their inaccurate interpretation of the scriptures, rejection of Christ, and misunderstanding of circumcision, Justin argues that God disinherited the Jews and made the Church true Israel. In similar manner to how Justin began with Pauline thinking on Abraham and developed it, so also on the topic of true Israel Justin began with Paul’s thought and recast its meaning. True Israel still descends from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but now genealogy depends on faithfulness rather than ethnicity. As a result, ethnic Israel now stands on the outside of the people of God looking in, in no small part due to the fact that they do not possess the pneuma of Christ that enables them to interpret properly or belong to Christ. Once more, then, Justin’s development of the Pauline notion of true Israel represents a transformation of Pauline thought, here based on differing concepts of who belongs to the truly spiritual Israel.

[1] Thiessen, 107.

[2] Ibid., 115

[3] Livesey, “Theological,” 74.

[4] On this passage, Adair remarks, “Dialogue 119.5 alludes to Gal 3:7, a companion to the allusion of Gal 3:6 in Dialogue 119.6. This is not a direct quote, substituting ‘children’ for the ‘sons’ of the Galatians passage. Also, the grammatical construction is different, but there is congruence in the meaning—faith has made the Christians children of Abraham. The combination of the references from Galatians in such close proximity makes it likely that Justin is dependent on a Pauline idea here. Also, as noted above, this faith is connected to the confession that has been heard through the voice of the apostles and prophets, the Christological confession.” See Adair, 227. See also Werline, 8.

[5] Daniel Boyarin, “Justin Martyr Invents Judaism,” Church History 70.3 (2001): 435-6. Livesay, “Theological,” 74. Boyarin suggests that “The threat of Gentile Christianity to the borders of Jewish peoplehood represented by the claim to be Verus Israel, first attested in Justin but surely not originated by him, was the catalyst that gave rise to non-liturgically formalized, or even popular, curses on Gentile Christians and reviling of Christ in the synagogues.”

[6] Willitts, 159. Chilton, 83-4. Wendel, 95.

[7] Goodenough, 100. Yontan Binyam, “Depends on Whom You Ask: The ‘Parting of the Ways’ in the Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, and Dialogue with Trypho the Jew” (M.A. Thesis, Wheaton, I.L.: Wheaton College Graduate School, 2012), 80-1.

[8] Chilton, 82.

[9] 1 Apol. 47-49. Wendel, 95.

[10] Lieu, Image and Reality, 119. Binyam, 71-2. See also Dial. 16.3, 19.2.

[11] Binyam, 71.

Paul and Justin on the Ancestry of Abraham

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

Paul refers to Abraham nineteen times in his undisputed letters, often citing God’s promise to Abraham, his faith, or status as intermediary.[1] Key for Paul’s theology was the genealogical function Abraham filled. Galatians 3:1-9 suggests that, for Paul, Abrahamic sonship was intimately connected to reception of the pneuma.[2] That is, to receive the pneuma of God was to be brought into the Abrahamic family of God. This new ancestry further transformed Gentiles-in-Christ, legitimating if not actualizing their existence within the pneuma and kinship of the People of God.[3] Both Abraham and Christ stand as faithful followers of God; as Israel participated in Abraham’s blessed faithfulness, so now Gentiles—through Christ’s faithfulness—participate in Abraham as well.[4] Summarizing this viewpoint, Thiessen writes,

“Since those who are out of faith receive the pneuma of Abraham’s seed, Christ, they too become Abraham’s seed. The reception of the pneuma thus provides gentiles with a new genealogy so that they become truly descended from Abraham, not through the flesh, but through the pneuma. Paul does not reject genealogical descent; instead, he envisages a newly possible pneumatic form of such descent.”[5]

Justin refers to Abraham 103 times in the Dialogue, employing him in relation to the question of circumcision, the promises of God, and Christ.[6] While Justin summarily denigrates circumcision as a “sign of suffering,”[7] Abraham avoids this fate. Justin focuses instead on Abraham’s faith before circumcision.[8] He writes, “Abraham, indeed, was considered just, not by reason of his circumcision, but because of faith. For, before his circumcision it was said of him, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him unto justice’” (Dial. 92.3). While Jews and Christians alike may claim Abraham as their ancestor, Jewish emphasis on circumcision clearly aligns them with “later Abraham” and Christian rejection of the need for circumcision aligns them with “early Abraham,” that is, the Abraham who was justified by faith prior to his circumcision.[9] Justin thus divorces Abraham from Jewish faith and practice, using the two stages of the patriarch’s life as the boundary formation between corrupted fleshliness and spiritual faithfulness.[10] 

What then are the differences between Paul and Justin? In the first place, where for Paul Abraham has two sorts of children—those according to the flesh and those according to the promise—Justin argues that only the children of the promise (Christ-followers) are Abraham’s true children.[11] Building on the Platonic notion that the new pneuma of faith must transcend the old, Justin argues that, “And along with Abraham we shall inherit the holy land, when we shall receive the inheritance for an endless eternity, being children of Abraham through the like faith…. He promises to him a nation of similar faith, God-fearing, righteous, and delighting the Father; but it is not you, ‘in whom is no faith.’” (Dial. 119)

Secondly, circumcision—for Paul only rightly part of the covenant with Israel—is entirely useless for Justin. Although he follows a Pauline reading of the Abraham story in Dialogue 23-24 (where Abraham received circumcision as a sign of justification), Justin developed this claim to mean that “the blood of circumcision is now abolished, and we now trust in the blood of salvation. Now another covenant, another law has gone forth from Zion, Jesus Christ” (Dial. 24). That is, the covenant now brought about by the logos transcends and interiorizes the demands of the old covenant.[12] Similarly, in Dialogue 18.2 (and repeated in Dial. 92), Justin builds on Paul’s notion in Romans 2-3 that true circumcision occurs in the heart, enjoining Trypho to, “Wash therefore, and be now clean, and put away iniquity from your souls, as God bids you be washed in this laver, and be circumcised with the true circumcision.” Likewise, Dialogue 19.3 argues that, “Even you, who are the circumcised according to the flesh, have need of our circumcision; but we, having the latter, do not require the former.”

Finally, while Paul employs Abraham to argue that both Jews and Gentiles inherit the promise made to the patriarch, Justin uses Abraham in concert with the new covenant to indicate Jewish unfaithfulness and rejection.[13] Dialogue 11, 23, and 119 make clear that the Gentile Church is new, true Israel. Because Christ—the true descendent, the true seed of Abraham—has come, only those fully in fellowship with him belong to the family of Abraham and, consequently, the People of God.[14] Those who think otherwise are deluded and “beguile themselves…supposing that the everlasting kingdom will be assuredly given to those of the dispersion who are of Abraham after the flesh, although they be sinners, and faithless, and disobedient towards God, which the Scriptures have proved is not the case” (Dial. 140).

While Justin clearly relies on Paul to start his thinking about Abraham and Abrahamic sonship, he significantly recasts the apostle’s arguments for his own purposes.[15] Underlying these differences is Justin’s Platonic worldview, which lead him to summarily ignore Paul’s dynamic Stoic cosmology and posit significant differences between the old and new covenants. Justin’s pneumatic ideal presumes a contrast between old and new, and the new covenant ushered in by Christ cannot possibly be identical to the old perceptible law of Judaism. New Israel’s Abrahamic sonship—rooted in the higher reality of Christ—wholly surpasses Old Israel and its fleshly existence.

[1] Rom. 4.1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, 16, 9.7, 11.1; Gal. 3.6, 7, 9, 14, 16 18, 29, 4.22; and 2 Cor. 11.22. Jeffrey S. Siker, Disinheriting the Jews: Abraham in Early Christian Controversy (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1991), 18-28.

[2] Thiessen, 107-9.

[3] Johnson Hodge, 76. Thiessen, 122.

[4] Gal. 3.6-9. Rom. 4.16. Johnson Hodge, 91. Thiessen, 126. Sena Pera, 202.

[5] Thiessen, 105-6.

[6] Siker, “Gentile Inclusion,” 34-5.

[7] Dial. 16.2. Livesey, “Theological,” 62.

[8] Siker, “Gentile Inclusion,” 34-5. Siker, Disinheriting, 163.

[9] Dial. 92.2-4, 15.7. Denise Kimber Buell, “Constructing Early Christian Identities Using Ethnic Reasoning,” ASE 24 (2007): 98. Nina E. Livesey, Circumcision as Malleable Symbol (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 125-30.

[10] Livesay, “Theological,” 56. Siker, “Gentile Inclusion,” 35.

[11] Thiessen, 121. Rom. 9.8, 11.28-9. Siker, Disinheriting, 13. Siker, “Gentile Inclusion,” 30.

[12] Werline, 84. See also Andrew S. Jacobs, Christ Circumcised: A Study in Early Christian History and Difference (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).

[13] Ibid., 86.

[14] Werline, 93. Sena Pera, 192-3.

[15] Werline, 92.

Paul and Justin on Pneuma

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

Turning to Justin’s views on pneuma, it is instructive that the Dialogue opens with reflections on his philosophical journey to Christianity, wherein he remarks that he learned “nothing new about God” while studying under the tutelage of a Stoic (Dial. 2.3). As Justin goes on to explain his journey through Platonism in Dial. 2.6-8.2, he highlights the Platonic priority of the spiritual—that the eternal and unchanging is superior to the ephemeral and changing.[1] In clear contrast to the Stoic concept of the ultimate, in Justin’s mind the ideal remained detached from materiality.[2] We must be wary to not over-read Cartesian dualism back into Justin’s Platonism. However, his Platonic dualism—wherein God was the transcendent ideal which was distinct from perceptible reality[3]—stood at odds with Paul’s Stoic pneumatology—wherein God was made of the same stuff as the rest of reality, albeit in a higher and more animate form than the rest of the cosmos.

The divergence between an immanently accessible pneuma and a categorically ultimate pneuma begins to demonstrate Justin’s shift away from the cosmology and grammar of Paul. For Paul, the boundaries of the People of God are somewhat malleable, as the pneumatic motion of Christ animates the cosmos. For Justin, the ultimate stands as a measure which must be met by those claiming God’s inheritance (Dial. 11.2-3). In other words, “This eternal covenant establishes who is a true, spiritual Israelite and Judaite, and who is not, taking the place of all other aspirants to those names.”[4] Justin still speaks of the pneuma, but when he does so he contrasts its higher reality with lower fleshliness, as in Dial. 135.6, where he compares the two houses of Jacob: “the one born of flesh and blood, and the other of faith and the Spirit.” To summarize the differences between Paul’s and Justin’s views on pneuma: Paul operates under Stoic presuppositions, believing that all reality is material. Justin thinks, like a Platonist, that reality is divided into the ideal and the perceptible. When Paul talks about being in the pneuma he takes that to mean corporeal participation in the stuff that constitutes God. When Justin talks about being in the pneuma he presumes it means existence in an ideal and that there also exists a contrast—the perceptible. Justin believes there is a difference between the new ideal of life in the pneuma of Jesus and the old perceptible law of Judaism. This is a development from Paul, for whom there is only one level of pneumatic reality into which Gentiles can be grafted. These different cosmologies and their attendant theological grammars result in several divergent aspects of practical theology.

First, while Justin would affirm along with Paul that Christ-followers possess the pneuma, he would have understood the implications of that statement differently than Paul. For Paul, participation in the material pneuma meant reception of the “very DNA” of Christ’s body.[5] For Justin, participation in the pneuma meant standing on the “ideal” side of divided reality.[6] Second, where Paul spoke of the pneuma as power to enact the fruits of the Spirit in the Christian life (Gal. 5:25),[7] Justin viewed the pneuma primarily as a one who speaks through Jesus-followers.[8] Third, whereas for Paul the pneuma inhabits all of reality, Justin has moved onto to the logos as that which inhabits all of the cosmos.[9] This is due at least in part to Justin’s interpretation of the pneuma as belonging to the realm of the ideal, thereby necessarily preventing its mixing with the corporeal. For Justin, the incarnate logos stands in the gap, uniting the pneumatic ideal with the materiality of the perceptible in the mystery of the incarnation.[10] Finally, where Paul viewed the work of the pneuma as bringing the Gentiles into the family of God, Justin interpreted language of pneuma and sarx as references to the new transcending the old. Indeed, Justin stands as the first Christian writer to “explicitly argue for the cessation of the Spirit from Judaism following the coming of Christ.”[11] These differing conceptions of pneuma in hand, I now turn to aspects of Justin’s reception and transformation of Pauline thought concerning the ancestry of Abraham and identity of the true Israel.[12]

[1] Dial. 2.6, 4.1-7. de Beer, 376.

[2] Thorsteinsson, “Justin,” 533. de Beer, 376-7. On this, de Beer writes, “Of the utmost importance for the Christian religion is Plato’s doctrinal insistence on the priority of the spiritual: the eternal, unchanging soul is superior to the ephemeral, changing body and precedes it in time, both for the world as a whole and for human beings. It is further maintained by Plato that the highest life, which is spiritual and eternal life, is made possible by the presence of the soul, while the soul is contaminated by matter, including the physical body. Thus, both the Platonist and Christian traditions teach that the invisible things are more important than the visible things.” See de Beer, 376.

[3] John M. Dillon, “Platonism” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary: Volume 5 (O-Sh) (ed. D.N. Freedman, New York and London: Doubleday, 1992), V.380.

[4] Chilton, 83. Dial. 11.5. See also Isa. 55.3-4.

[5] Thiessen, 117.

[6] Dial. 11.5.

[7] W. Wright, 17, 22. 1 Cor. 6.11. Rom. 8.1.

[8] Dial. 56.14. Kyle R. Hughes, “The Spirit Speaks: Pneumatological Innovation in the Scriptural Exegesis of Justin and Tertullian,” VC 69 (2015): 465, 470. See also 1 Apol. 36.1-2.

[9] Dial. 62.2-3, 128-129.

[10] Dial. 35.5, 39.4-6, 61.1-5, 84-85.

[11] Hughes, 481. Lieu, Image and Reality, 103-48. Susan Wendel suggests that, in Justin’s view, when Jesus received the pneuma, it departed from Israel’s prophets. See Susan Wendel, “Interpreting the Descent of the Spirit: A Comparison of Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho and Luke-Acts” in Justin Martyr and His Worlds (ed. S. Parvis and P. Foster, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 97. Dial. 87.1-2.

[12] Another aspect of possible divergence between Paul and Justin concerns the miraculous. See Dial. 30-31, 35, 39, 76, 85. On this Kelhoffer concludes, “Despite their common assumptions, Paul and Justin have strikingly contrasting goals in their appeals to the miraculous. Paul is usually concerned with defending his own authority by virtue of his own miracles…. In contrast with most of Paul’s statements, Justin Martyr refers to exorcisms performed by others and maintains that these wonders demonstrate the validity of certain parts of his larger apologetic enterprise.” See James A. Kelhoffer, “The Apostle Paul and Justin Martyr on the Miraculous: A Comparison of Appeals to Authority,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 42 (2001): 183-4.

Books I Read in 2021

Every year, I commit to reading as much and as widely as possible and (as a means of remembering everything I’ve read and holding myself accountable to my reading goals) I track the books I’ve read each year. (Click here to see what I read in 2020)

A couple of notes before my list. First, I read a fair amount of churchworld and theology, so please don’t read this as one of those “what you should read” lists that you might see floating around. Second, I’ve found that breaking down what I read by category is helpful for me, so this list appears that way (and includes some sub-categories as well).

Please also note a couple of special markers. My favorite books (and the one’s I recommend you consider reading) are marked with an asterisk and hyperlinked. Additionally, the books I’d read prior to this year but re-read are marked with a [re-read] notation. The best book I read this year is marked by three asterisks and will come as no surprise to many of you: Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night. I can’t recommend it enough.

Finally, my goal the past several years has been to read 150 books (~3/week) and that was again the case this year. However, I’m pleased to say that this year’s list of books read includes some 185 titles completed. So, without further ado, what I read in 2021:

Biblical Studies – General

Biblical Studies – Old Testament

  • Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis
  • Daniel and the Twelve Prophets, Goldingay
  • Haggai and Malachi: NAC, Taylor and Clendenen
  • An Introduction to the Old Testament, Goldingay
  • Answering God, Peterson*
  • The Epic of Eden, Richter*
  • Genesis: The Book of Beginnings, Sacks
  • When Pain is Real and God Seems Silent, Duncan
  • An Unsettling God, Brueggemann
  • Deuteronomy: Love the Lord Your God, She Reads Truth
  • Prophetic Lament, Rah
  • The Lost World of Genesis One, Walton

Biblical Studies – New Testament

  • The Letter of James, Moo
  • James, The Bold Movement
  • Women in the New Testament, Thurston [re-read]
  • Gospel Women, Bauckham
  • The Gospel according to St. John, Barrett
  • Encountering John, Kostenberger
  • The Gospel of John, Core Christianity*
  • The Gospel according to John, Carson [re-read]
  • What if Jesus was Serious?, Jethani*
  • The Chosen: I Have Called You by Name, Jenkins
  • Rappin’ with Jesus, McCary
  • New Testament Exegesis: Revised Edition, Fee
  • The Power of Parable, Crossan
  • This is the New Testament, She Reads Truth


  • An American Life, Reagan
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou
  • Steve Jobs, Isaacson
  • The Answer Is…, Trebek
  • Brainiac, Jennings
  • Hitler’s Last Days, O’Reilly
  • A Burning in My Bones, Winn*

Churchworld and Pastoring

  • Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Starts, Griffith and Easum
  • Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership, George
  • The New Pastor’s Handbook, Helopoulos [re-read]
  • Letters to a Young Congregation, Peterson
  • Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, Peterson
  • Growing Young, Powell, Mulder, Griffin
  • The Fabric of Faithfulness, Garber*
  • Letters to the Church, Chan [re-read]
  • Study Guide for Letters to the Church, Chan [re-read]
  • Kingdom Conspiracy, McKnight
  • Servolution, Rizzo
  • Sermons to the People, Augustine
  • Branded, Sinclair
  • The Divorce Dilemma, MacArthur
  • For the City, Patrick and Carter
  • The Living Church, Stott [re-read]
  • Small Preaching, Pennington
  • The Social Church, Wise

Cultural Issues

  • iGen, Twenge
  • White Fragility, DiAngelo
  • Going Clear, Wright
  • A Practical Guide to Culture, Stonestreet and Kunkle*
  • How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Gates
  • Counter Culture, Platt
  • We Will Not Be Silenced, Lutzer
  • This Book is Not Garbage, Thomas
  • You Found Me, Richardson
  • You Lost Me, Kinnaman
  • The Rise of the Nones, White

Family Life


  • Ready Player Two, Cline
  • Norse Mythology, Gaiman
  • AAAA!, Amend
  • The City of Ember, DuPrau
  • Timmy Failure, Pastis
  • The Strain, Del Toro and Hogan
  • The Fall of Arthur, Tolkien
  • More than a Skeleton, Maier* [re-read]
  • A Week in the Life of Corinth, Witherington
  • The Hobbit, Tolkien [re-read]
  • The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien [re-read]


  • Maphead, Jennings*
  • The Cubs Way, Verducci
  • The Professor and the Madman, Winchester*
  • The Room Where It Happened, Bolton
  • Founding St. Louis, Fausz
  • Killing Crazy Horse, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing the SS, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • The Fall of Richard Nixon, Brokaw
  • Killing Lincoln, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing Reagan, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • How to Lose a War at Sea, Fawcett
  • 100 Bible Verses that Made America, Morgan
  • Black Hawk Down, Bowden
  • Killing Patton, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing Kennedy, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • In This Generation, Ahrend
  • The Evil Empire, Grasse
  • Killing England, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing the Rising Sun, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing the Mob, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Music Society and Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. McKinnon


  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni
  • Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, Maxwell
  • Christ in Church Leadership, Winslow and Followwill
  • Essentialism, McKeown*
  • Game Storming, Gray et al
  • Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes, Straker
  • Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets, Stanley*
  • Mastering Our Passions, Kuhatschek
  • Spiritual Leadership, Blackaby and Blackaby
  • Effortless, McKeown

Mental Health


Reading and Writing

  • How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, Fish
  • The Horse in My Garage and Other Stories, McManus
  • The Complete Poems and Plays, Eliot
  • On Reading Well, Prior*

Theology – General

  • The Best Things in Life, Kreeft [re-read]
  • A Guide to Christian Ambition, Hewitt [re-read]
  • New Girl at Church, Martin
  • (Un)Qualified, Furtick
  • The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Keller
  • Managing Our Finances God’s Way, Warren et al
  • Abide in Christ, Murray
  • Proper Confidence, Newbigin
  • From Christ to Christianity, Edwards
  • A Little Book for New Theologians, Kapic*
  • Who Is This Man?, Ortberg
  • Faith and Doubt, Ortberg
  • My Utmost for His Highest, Chambers [re-read]
  • The Language of God, Collins
  • Humility, Murray
  • He Chose the Nails, Lucado
  • How to Think Theologically, Second Edition, Stone and Duke
  • Credo, Williams [re-read]
  • Delighting in the Trinity, Reeves
  • The Liturgy of the Ordinary, Warren [re-read]
  • A Year with C.S. Lewis, Lewis

Theology – Heaven, Hell & the Afterlife

Theology – Identity

Theology – Spiritual Disciplines