The past month has seen an influx of new jobs into the university and seminary teaching job market, from Denmark to Phoenix, Santa Barbara to Zurich. Happy hunting.[Read more…]
By Justin Eimers
The influence of Cyprian of Carthage is felt to this day in some of the doctrines and theologies of the Roman Catholic Church on penance and church unity. Many have believed that because of this influence Protestants can take little to nothing away from what Cyprian has to say (especially since Protestantism is a schism of Roman Catholicism). However, in doing this the Protestant church cheats itself out of understanding how the church learned both how to deal with intense pressure due to persecution, as well as a working practical theology on a unified Christianity. To do this a walkthrough of Cyprian’s ministry is necessary so that his writings may be given context and in turn meaning to a modern audience that at times is grossly disinterested to it’s ancient forbearers wisdom.[Read more…]
The last month has seen new jobs come available at institutions prestigious and small, from Denmark to Canada, Korea to England. Happy hunting.[Read more…]
LISSA M. WRAY BEAL | PROVIDENCE UNIVERSITY
The Old Testament speaks of the importance of memory. For instance, Deuteronomy repeatedly calls for remembrance (5:15; 7:18; 8:18 et passim), Israel recounts its history in Psalms (105, 106), and failure to remember precipitates apostasy (Isa 17:10; Jer 17:2; cf. 2:2–8; Ezek 16:22, 43).[Read more…]
Christopher Croom | Columbia International University
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
This famous portion of Scripture that has been rendered as a standalone verse is directly related to the crucifixion scene of Jesus Christ. In this scene, Jesus stands before Pilate, questioned regarding charges leveled at Him by the Jews. In analyzing this verse, we do not want to overstep the boundaries provided to us by the context. Nevertheless, in examining this verse, we cannot help but acknowledge this deeply profound epistemological question. What is truth?
First, we should observe the possible attitude with which Pilate proposes this question. Is Pilate saying this in a mocking tone? Or does Pilate opine with genuine curiosity? John Calvin suggests that Pilate laid out this question in disdain. In his commentary on this passage, Calvin says, “For my own part, I rather think that it is an expression of disdain; for Pilate thought himself highly insulted when Christ represented him as destitute of all knowledge of the truth.”1 D.A. Carson notes something specific in his view of this passage. Carson offers this beautiful observation. “Moreover, there is an implicit invitation in Jesus’ words. The man in the dock invites his judge to be his follower, to align himself with those who are ‘of the truth’.”2 Carson also goes on to suggest that Pilate may be irritated with Jesus and categorizes the question as “curt and cynical.”3
Gerald Borchert stands in opposition, suggesting that perhaps this question did affect Pilate. While Pilate may have resisted the more profound implications for his life, it certainly left him with no condemnation against Christ.4 I tend to agree with Borchert’s position in that the surrounding evidence of the passage does not lend itself to frustration or irritation on Pilate’s part. Moreover, Pilate seems to meet this situation with a certain level of wisdom and prudence. When asking the Jewish leaders for the charges against Christ, he appears less than impressed and may even see himself being used as a pawn in their scheme to rid themselves of the Messiah. Finally, we see Pilate approach the mob and try to provide a way to back out of this act against a seemingly innocent man. I wholeheartedly believe Pilate’s question of “what is truth?” was a genuine question worthy of consideration.
Addressing the Question
Having now addressed the biblical aspect of this, we must face the question itself and its implications in our world. However, I do not want to address this from a predominantly “spiritual” perspective (or what Christians might perceive as spirituality), but rather, a practical aspect. After all, I am a Ph.D. student of practical theology (with a slight lean focusing on ethics and morality). So, I will do what I think I do best—talk about this question’s practical and ethical aspects.
The Greek word behind “truth” is ἀλήθεια (aletheia). The word itself carries an intensely distinct semantic range. English speakers may translate this word as “in truth,” or “upon truth,” or “sincerely,” or “genuine,” or “firmness,” among other similar options. Considering the 109 uses of this word in the New Testament, it is translated as we see it here, “truth,” 95.4% of the time (or 104 times). Jesus states just before this verse that He came to testify to the truth. Pilate responds with what this author believes is a genuinely inquisitive query. So, what is Pilate asking, and how can we use this in our lives?
Pilate is asking a question that many people ask today. “How can we know what is true?” Before we address the question, we should determine its significance. When we speak about truth, or as I will often refer to it as “intellectual virtue,”5 In the most practical and simple terms I can provide, what we are discussing is an agreement to the definition of words and concepts and the reality built upon those definitions. In other words, there must be some fundamentally agreed-upon terminology that allows us to understand and decipher the world around us. For now, we will (mostly) lay aside questions of authority for defining those terms and reality and frankly focus on its existence.
If I took some exegetical liberty with the text, as those before me have, I would like to suggest that Pilate is not so far off in his mindset from the subjectivists of our modern-day America. In other words, Pilate did not have an objective standard for truth, and so, this question persuaded his mind to argue with this philosophical difficulty in a way that those on the Areopagus of Acts 17 might have done. So much was Pilate interested in this; he tried to exonerate Christ after a brief consideration of Christ’s statement.
What does this mean for the Christian Scholar or Pastor? Well, in today’s world, the Christian Scholar or Pastor finds themselves in one of three positions. The first position: Understanding and struggling to live with biblical clarity in a rapidly changing world with changing definitions and conceptual truths. The second position: Believing they understand and struggle to live with biblical clarity in a rapidly changing world with changing definitions and conceptual truths, but sinking further into the world’s subjectivity. The third and final position is being oblivious to the difference between the two and sinking further into the world’s subjectivity.
A Brief Practice to Address Error
Because this is not designed to be a book or even a full paper outlining all the issues and potential solutions, this is where we shall consider, briefly, a remedy. Having been made aware of the issue that faces us, we should now consider a solution.
Scholars and Pastors: Addressing the world with presuppositional truth is not practical in today’s world. I understand how unpopular this will be as a position. Nevertheless, telling a subjectively oriented world of a coming Christ is, while accurate, ineffective—at least, in and of itself. Starting with that will lead to nowhere. However, leading to that point, starting with a classical exposition of the general revelation could yield a more profitable engagement. When Pilate asks, “what is truth?” he questions something already answered in the world around Him that leads back to the Creator of all things.
The General Revelation helps the created creature agree upon the definition of what exists inside of it. For instance, what does the creation (not explicitly Scripture) tell us about the nature of man and woman? The reason this approach is critical is that, as Jay Wood points out, “there are what are called “basic” or “immediate” beliefs; these form the bedrock of all that we believe, undergirding everything else we are justified in believing.”6 In agreeing upon what exists in the General Revelation, we create what Nicholas Wolterstorff refers to as a control belief.7 That control belief identifies the boundaries in which we can continue to move in our question to build a perimeter around valid words and concepts.
This reason alone is why the Christian Church and the Christian (Scholar, Clergy, or Laypersons) have lost their foothold in the battle for words and concepts. In stepping away from the pursuit of truth, exchanging it for some undefined or unspecific spirituality, the Church began to, like the world, pursue subjectivity in religion, seeking a feeling of connection to God rather than a knowledge of the truth—or even worse, conflating the two, instead of an emotional connection to God being the result of proper knowledge of Him (Jer 9:23-24). This order is the natural order of true faith and spirituality, rooted in truth and reason.
What Pilate expresses is no different from what the Church expresses; each time, we neglect the pursuit of fundamental knowledge about God or portend to others that a relationship to Christ is the fullness of true religion (to the neglect of reason, doctrine, and similar concepts). We especially, as the Doctors and Pastors of the Church, must avoid both logical fallacies and cognitive biases in his assessment of the truth. As those who have General Revelation on our side, we should strive to define truth by the created world, ultimately pointing to Special Revelation.
The world is currently busy changing the definition to well-established truths, such as gender, family, sex, and all the like. The result is that concepts are being redefined through that change. Now, love, good, evil, culture, and ethics are all being manipulated in an unprecedented way. The truth that Jesus proposes to Pilate is not just a truth that leads to salvation. It is a truth that leads to seeing the world as it was truly meant to be seen.
Pastors, Doctors, Scholars: I call you to a serious pursuit of the truth. A pursuit that starts by understanding how the General (or Natural) Revelation provides a piece of evidence to all men. Whether through the existence of a Creator or the law written on man’s heart and the active consciousness of knowing a right from a wrong, in earnest, that comes with it, Christians must answer the call to challenge the world cognitively. We must satisfy the curious nature of man’s mind and heart and respond to the question that Pilate once asked, and so many have asked after him, “what is truth?” because we are the only ones with meaningful access to the answer.
If we, the learned and shepherds of the Church, do not understand this, how can we teach those under our care and doctrine? And if those under our care and doctrine do not learn, how can they reach the world?
How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!
And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver. (Proverbs 16:16)
Christopher Croom holds a Masters’s Degree in Bible Exposition, from Liberty University and is a Ph.D. student of Moral Theology at Columbia International University. He also is the founder and Managing Member of CROSS & Culture, LLC (http://crossandculture.org), a relaunching platform committed to expanding Biblical Scholarship and Discipleship within the Church.
How can we define what is indefinable outside of itself? That is, how is the human mind able to consider a concept such as beauty, when it can only be known through mediums that are beautiful? In other words, is beauty an adjective, a noun, a Person? And what is our relation, as mortal humans, to a concept like beauty that lies outside the reach of time and death?[Read more…]
Mark S. Gignilliat | Beeson Divinity School
The proverbial mid-life whatever-you-wish-to-call-it exists in one form or another, and the academic is especially vulnerable. The hamster’s wheel of academic life can charm and dull at the same time. In early academic life, the world of teaching and research offers a limitless horizon. The career plane was all take-off and ascent—postgraduate work, land a job, publish or perish, tenure, promotion. All of these moments comingle excitement and anxiety—two of ambition’s more potent stimulants.[Read more…]
The last few weeks saw jobs introduced from Poland to Texas, Austria to Belgium. Happy hunting.
Professorship in Old Testament, Universität Innsbruck, Austria
Professor in Didactics and Comparative Pedagogy, Christian Theological Academy, Warsaw, Poland
Dean of Theology, St. Thomas University, Florida
Assistant Lecturer, Elim International Centre, UK
New Testament Lecturer, Elim International Centre, UK
Faculty Member (Old Testament), Prarie College, Canada
Biblical Studies Faculty, The King’s University, Texas
Assistant/Associate Professor and Director of the Accelerated Ministry Preparation Program, Grove City College, Pennsylvania
Online Professor of Greek Language & Literature, Missional University (Remote)
Asst or Assoc Prof Biblical Studies, Shaw University, North Carolina
Parker Library Stipendiary Early-Career Research Fellowship, University of Cambridge, UK
PhD researcher in Biblical Studies (LXX Studies), Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) Studentship – The Elect and the Damned: The Material Culture of Belief in Post-Reformation Scotland, 1560 to 1750, The University of Edinburgh, UK
Part-time Theology and Counselling Lecturer, London School of Theology, UK
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SETH M. EHORN | WHEATON COLLEGE
There it was—the most beautiful cathedral I had ever seen. But not just beautiful. Enormous! It was the summer of 2011, and I was spending the month of July studying French in Paris. As part of my experience, I decided to visit Cathedral Notre Dame and attend one of its daily mass services. The exterior of the building was massive. The interior, somehow, seemed even larger than the outside—a bit like the Tardis of Doctor Who fame. What was reinforced for me during this visit was that the experience of visiting a location (including getting to know how a site functions) had a profound effect on me. It was easy to think of it as an important church without having any real sense of its significance, scale, or functions. After visiting Notre Dame, I could not help but think about the site differently. That sense of profundity has not left me. Indeed, that experience has caused me to reflect on how I interact with material culture and how it shapes my understanding of current events, history, and even literature.
Fast-forward several years, and now I find myself in a classroom teaching undergraduate students in a course on “New Testament Literature and Interpretation.” I remain fascinated by the material world of early Christians (e.g., manuscripts, archaeology), and I try to bring this aspect into my teaching whenever possible. But how do I bring my students to “Notre Dame” along with me?
In my quest to help students understand the material world of early Judaism and early Christianity better, I developed an exercise to help them visualize the Herodian Temple and understand how it might have functioned for typical Jewish visitors. The exercise draws on several resources and involves several steps. First, students download the application “Virtual New Testament” on their compatible electronic devices. This application, developed by Brigham Young University, is a virtual model of the Herodian Temple that allows users to walk through the temple in first-person style, much like a video game. At first, students are invited to simply explore and discover.
Second, I ask students to read a recent article (2016) that appeared on the Biblical Archaeology Society’s (BAS) website that describes the floor of the Temple Mount. Here the students continue to visualize and now actually see some of the beautiful features of the temple. Students are also learning that websites like BAS exist, and they tend to spend time exploring its content.
Third, I ask students to read a selection from E. P. Sanders’s Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE (London: SCM Press, 1992). The reading helps students understand some of the lived experiences of ancient Jews in relation to the material reality of the temple. Within the text of the reading, my own annotations coach them about various locations they should stop and find in the Virtual New Testament app as they make their way through the reading.
Finally, after exploring the temple, learning a little about archaeology, and reading from Sanders, I ask students to reflect on what they have learned. They are invited to share their responses (“What surprised you?”) and to consider how they might think differently about the New Testament in light of their exploration. The exercise forms the basis for a class session in which we discuss the role of the temple in Second Temple Judaism.
The entire exercise is available as a PDF at DidaktikosJournal.com/Temple. It can be adapted to suit the needs of the class.
SETH M. EHORN’S research and teaching are focused on situating the New Testament within its literary, historical, and social contexts.
This article was first published in Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education. Subscriptions are free for theological faculty. Sign up today: