Archive for the ‘Biblical Scholars & Theologians’ Category

Peace and the Gospel: “Peace in Paul and Luke”

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Some of you may be interested in this little book I just published on peace.

SBL Suggestions for Atlanta 2015

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Following are the 2015 sessions of the SBL and AAR groups of which I am in one way or another a part, either on the steering committee, as a participant this year, or as the father of a participant (Mark is delivering a paper). If you go to everything listed here, you will have very little free time–and you will have to bilocate! (Of course I am not listing all the great SBL sessions!) My own direct involvement is chairing a session on C.S. Lewis and the Bible and responding to a panel review of my book Becoming the Gospel.


S21-148 Theological Interpretation of Scripture
Saturday 11/21/2015

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom B (Level 2) – Hilton

Theme: Theological Interpretation of Daniel in the MT and LXX
All papers will be read in their entirety.


Thomas Holsinger-Friesen, Spring Arbor University, Presiding (5 min)
Richard S. Briggs, University of Durham
The Eclipse of Daniel’s Narrative: The Limits of Historical Knowledge in the Theological Reading of Daniel (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Tim Meadowcroft, Laidlaw College
“One Like a Son of Man” in the Court of the Foreign King (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Break (5 min)
Bogdan G. Bucur, Duquesne University
Christological and Trinitarian Exegesis of Daniel 7 in Early Christianity (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jennie Grillo, Duke University
Reading Resurrection in the Additions to Daniel (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Discussion (20 min)


P21-123 GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics
Saturday 11/21/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: Courtland (Atlanta Conference Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Biblical Formation of the Congregation for Missional Witness
This session of the GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics includes papers on the theology and practice of biblical formation in the faith community: that is, the role of the Bible and its interpretation in the process of forming “Scripture-shaped communities” (Richard Hays) for mission in the world, in concrete contexts.


James C. Miller, Asbury Theological Seminary, Presiding (5 min)
Mark Glanville, Trinity College – Bristol
Radical Gratitude and the Mission of God: Nourishing Celebration and Inclusivism in Local Congregations in light of the Festival Calendar (Deut 16:1-17) (25 min)
Boaz Johnson, North Park University
Missional Theology and Congregation Formation in the Torah (25 min)
Michael Barram, Saint Mary’s College of California
To Serve God and Not Mammon: Reading Matthew 6 as Missionally Located Formation for Economic Discipleship (25 min)
Break (5 min)
Mark Labberton, Fuller Theological Seminary, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (40 min)


S21-249 Theological Interpretation of Scripture
Saturday 11/21/2015
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Room: A602 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Trinity in/and the Bible
All papers will be read in their entirety.


Brent Laytham, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Presiding
Murray Rae, University of Otago
Biblical Foundations of a Trinitarian Hermeneutic (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Mark S. Gignilliat, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Wish Fulfillment or Real Presence? The Old Testament’s Trinity (20 min)
Andrea D. Saner, Eastern Mennonite University
Trinitarian Judgments in/and the Book of Exodus (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Break (5 min)
Matthew Bates, Quincy University
Christology of Divine Identity? Septuagintal Dialogues in the New Testament as Trinitarian Critique (20 min)
Wesley Hill, Trinity School for Ministry
Paul and the Narratable Divine Identity (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)



S22-147/A22-121 Theological Interpretation of Scripture
Sunday 11/22/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: A704 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Bonhoeffer as Theological Interpreter
This session is co-sponsored with the Bonhoeffer: Theology and Social Analysis Group (AAR). Papers will be read in their entirety. This session investigates aspects of Bonhoeffer as a theological interpreter of Christian scripture. Papers explore Bonhoeffer’s own exegetical practice and its application in particular cases, examine the role of exegesis in the construction of Bonhoeffer’s own distinctive theological positions, and consider Bonhoeffer’s understanding of scripture and its consequences for contemporary debates about theological exegesis.


Myk Habets, Carey Baptist College, Presiding (5 min)
R. Walter Moberly, University of Durham
Bonhoeffer’s “Creation and Fall” Revisited (25 min)
Tyler Atkinson, Bethany College (KS)
Bonhoeffer, Qoheleth, and the “Natural Joy of Bodily Life” (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Break (5 min)
Chris Dodson, University of Aberdeen
“The Person Who Receives Blessing . . . Must Also Suffer Much”: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wilhelm Herrmann, and a Hermeneutic of Suffering (25 min)
Derek W. Taylor, Duke University
Nonreligious and yet Theological: Bonhoeffer’s Interpretation in a World Come of Age (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)


S22-211 Christian Theology and the Bible
Sunday 11/22/2015
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: International 5 (International Level) – Marriott

Theme: Special Session on C.S. Lewis and the Bible
This session concentrates upon the relationship between biblical scholarship and the figure of C. S. Lewis. Lewis himself was a specialist in medieval and Renaissance English literature, yet he was well known even before his death (on the same day as John F. Kennedy) as an apologist for Christianity, an author of semi-popular theological studies, and a writer of fiction informed by the Bible. His work on the Bible and academic biblical scholarship appears mainly in essays and letters, in passing throughout his fiction and monographs, and in biblical imagery and allusions in various works. Of particular interest is his use of polyvalence and narrative to explore debated or complex questions, his reactionary dismissal of quests for the historical Jesus and much of the historical-critical method, and his integration of biblical themes with symbols and concepts from various diverse contexts. Lewis is a writer whose continuing impact upon various readerships is undeniable, though he is less celebrated among biblical scholars and theologians than among those outside these guilds. Investigation into how he both confirms and challenges the assumptions of standard biblical scholarship provides a helpful bridge between biblical scholars and the broader constituency that continues to appreciate his work.


Michael J. Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Presiding
Leslie Baynes, Missouri State University
Lewis vs. Bultmann: Myth as Fact or Fiction? (30 min)
Patrick Gray, Rhodes College
C.S. Lewis and the Historical Jesus in the Screwtape Letters (30 min)
Myk Habets, Carey Baptist College
Mere Christianity for Mere Gods: C.S. Lewis and Theosis (30 min)
Edith M. Humphrey, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Checking the Demon and Saying What’s to Be Said (30 min)
Kevin Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (15 min)


S22-235 Pauline Soteriology
Sunday 11/22/2015
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: A602 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Paul, Poverty, and the Powers


Richard Hays, Duke University, Presiding
Bruce W. Longenecker, Baylor University
Malignant Forces, Perpetual Poverty, and the Body of Christ: Theologizing toward an Eschatological Reality (30 min)
Robert Moses, High Point University
Paul, Poverty, and the Powers: The Body of Christ as Response (30 min)
Break (10 min)
A. Grieb, Virginia Theological Seminary, Respondent (15 min)
Luke Bretherton, Duke University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (50 min)


P22-318 GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics
Sunday 11/22/2015
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Marquis A-B (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: Review Panel Discussion of Michael J. Gorman’s book, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Eerdmans, 2015)
As a leading voice among Pauline scholars, Michael J. Gorman has written a number of significant books and articles on Paul’s theology in recent years, including Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Theology of the Cross (2001) and Inhabiting the Cruciform God (2009). His most recent contribution, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Eerdmans, 2015), extends and develops some of the themes highlighted initially in earlier works, and places particular emphasis on mission as an interpretive rubric for the Pauline epistles—an outgrowth, in part, of his work with the GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics. In the introduction to Becoming the Gospel, Gorman calls his “affiliation with the Forum” “one of the most important professional developments for me in recent years,” noting that “learning to read Paul missionally—not merely as the quintessential ‘missionary’ but as a formator of missional communities—has been an exhilarating experience” (p. 10). Specifically, Gorman argues that “theosis—Spirit-enabled transformative participation in the life and character of God revealed in the crucified and resurrected Messiah Jesus—is the starting point of mission and is, in fact, its proper theological framework” (p. 4). Please join us for what promises to be a fascinating panel discussion—including responses by a fellow Pauline scholar, a congregational pastor, a missiologist, and a theologian—followed by an open-ended conversation about the missiological dimensions of Paul’s theology as illuminated in Gorman’s work.


Sylvia Keesmaat, Trinity College, University of Toronto, Presiding (5 min)
Michael J. Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Panelist (20 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Duke University, Panelist (15 min)
Eunice McGarrahan, First Presbyterian Church, Colorado Springs, Panelist (15 min)
Break (5 min)
George Hunsberger, Western Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
John Franke, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Panelist (15 min)
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Panelist (20 min)
Discussion (40 min)


A22-329 Wesleyan Studies Group

Theme: Wesleyan Culture and the Public Square since the Mid-Twentieth Century

Edgardo Colon-Emeric, Duke University, Presiding

Sunday 11/22/2015 – 5:00 PM-6:30 PM

Hilton-Grand Salon E (Level 2)

This session will focus on late twentieth and early twenty-first century leaders whose lives in the public square have been explicitly influenced by Wesleyan perspectives. Papers will draw direct connections between the person’s work in the public square and the influence of Methodism.


Dion Forster, Stellenbosch University

Nelson Mandela and the Methodist Church of South Africa: An African Christian Humanist Approach to Social Holiness

Mark Gorman, Centre United Methodist Church, Forest Hill, MD

The “Iconic” Methodist: George W. Bush and the State of Contemporary United Methodism

Natalya Cherry, Southern Methodist University

Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr., Called by King “The Greatest Teacher of Nonviolence in America”


Rebekah Miles, Southern Methodist University



S23-133 Pauline Soteriology
Monday, 11/23/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Marquis A-B (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: Review of John Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans 2015)


Alexandra Brown, Washington and Lee University, Presiding
Joel Marcus, Duke University, Panelist (20 min)
Margaret Mitchell, University of Chicago, Panelist (20 min)
Miroslav Volf, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
Break (10 min)
John Barclay, University of Durham, Respondent (40 min)
Discussion (40 min)


P23-118 GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics
Monday, 11/23/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: University (Atlanta Conference Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Biblical Formation of the Congregation for Missional Witness
This session of the GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics includes papers on the theology and practice of biblical formation in the faith community: that is, the role of the Bible and its interpretation in the process of forming “Scripture-shaped communities” (Richard Hays) for mission in the world, in concrete contexts.


Darrell Guder, Princeton Theological Seminary, Presiding (5 min)
Laura R. Levens, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
Many Voices, Many Contexts, One Faith: Engaging the Breadth of Scripture to Form Discerning, Missional Congregations (25 min)
Luke Ben Tallon, LeTourneau University and Aaron Kuecker, LeTourneau University
A Liturgy of Ascent and a Life of Ascent: Conforming Congregations to Christian Scripture (25 min)
Derek W. Taylor, Duke University
Forming Faithful Readers: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Missional Hermeneutic (25 min)
Break (5 min)
Benjamin T. Conner, Western Theological Seminary, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (40 min)


S23-314 Christian Theology and the Bible
Monday 11/23/2015
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Hanover E (Exhibit Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Spiritual Interpretation of Scripture
This panel will consider the relationship between spirituality and the Bible. Each panelist will respond briefly to the question, “What are the hallmarks of the spiritual interpretation of Scripture?” There will be time for discussion among the panelists as well as substantial time for Q&A and discussion between the panelists and those attending the session.


Pieter De Villiers, University of the Free State, Presiding (15 min)
Gordon McConville, University of Gloucestershire, Panelist (15 min)
Bo Karen Lee, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
Andrew Lincoln, University of Gloucestershire, Panelist (15 min)
Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Panelist (15 min)
Discussion (75 min)



S24-112 Christian Theology and the Bible
Tuesday 11/24/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Hanover F (Exhibit Level) – Hyatt

Theme: The Anagogical Interpretation of Scripture
This session will focus on the anagogical interpretation of Scripture; it is the fourth and final session in our series exploring the traditional four senses of Scripture (literal, allegorical, tropological, anagogical). In brief, anagogical sense of Scripture is the exegesis of Scripture in relation to eschatological hope and the life to come. Each of the invited panelists will respond to the following questions: respond to the following questions: “What is the role of the anagogical sense of Scripture in the figure or area that you study? And, why is the anagogical sense a significant and important way to read Scripture?”

Arthur M. Sutherland, Loyola University Maryland, Presiding
Hans Boersma, Regent College
Purity, Perfection, and Beatific Vision: The Upward Journey to Christ in Gregory of Nyssa (30 min)
Kevin L. Hughes, Villanova University
Ecclesia contemplativa: On the Relationship between the Mystical and Eschatological in St. Bonaventure’s Anagogia (30 min)
Eboni Marshall Turman, Duke University
Black. Life. Matter. Toward A Black Feminist/Womanist Eschatology (30 min)
Francesca Murphy, University of Notre Dame
The Bible and the Analogical Imagination (30 min)
Discussion (30 min)

A Friend’s Summary of My Work for the Academy and the Church

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

Byron Borger of Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, Pennsylvania (the best bookstore anywhere) has written a very insightful, if overly praise-full, summary of my work, highlighting most of my published books. I learned something about myself, and others might too!

Did Jesus ever Exist?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

The latest so-called scholarship arguing against the existence of Jesus has appeared from a University of Sydney graduate student and part-time lecturer. It started on the University web site and was picked up by the Washington Post, at least it’s online edition. (I’ve not yet seen it in the print version.)

I sent a letter to the editor despite the fact that the Post does not print letters responding to online articles. So here is the text of my letter:

Ralph Lataster’s “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up” (Dec. 20) is so full of factual error and sloppy argumentation that it is not worthy of publication by a scholar—or by a newspaper—no matter what one thinks about the issue.

First of all, Lataster misrepresents the debate. Discussions about the existence of Jesus are debates among historians, not disagreements among atheists. Furthermore, even if Christians believe in “the Christ of faith” (though this is a problematic term in many ways) and also affirm the existence of the historical Jesus, that does not disqualify academically trained Christians from rightfully participating in the debate about Jesus’ existence. Many historians who are Christians are able to believe, in part, because they are convinced that historical study supports the existence of Jesus.

Second, Lataster misrepresents the text of the New Testament. There are plenty of passages in the gospels that narrate a teaching, healing, law-abiding, and law-breaking first-century Jewish teacher that do not even begin to fit the description of a “fictional Christ of faith”—though there are certainly texts that do portray Jesus as more than such a teacher. Moreover, in considering Paul’s letters, Lataster ignores Paul’s allusions to Jesus’ teaching, as well as Paul’s reliance on oral tradition like that found in the gospels when he describes Jesus’ Last Supper. Furthermore, Lataster mischaracterizes Paul’s apocalyptic language as indicating belief in a “celestial” rather than a human” Jesus. He also conveniently fails to mention Paul’s statement that Jesus was born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).

Third, Lataster misrepresents the nature of oral tradition and of the sources for our gospels, and either he is ignorant of current debate about each of these or else he fails to mention them. Yet he draws conclusions about the existence of Jesus based on such misrepresentation and ignorance (or suppression) of contemporary gospel scholarship.

The word “atrocious” that he applies to biblical scholarship does indeed characterize certain forms of published work. (Let the reader understand.) Another word comes to mind, too—“insulting”—both to people’s intelligence and, this week, to their spiritual and historical sensibilities.

Michael J. Gorman
Raymond Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology
St. Mary’s Seminary & University
Baltimore, MD

Free Excerpt of “Death of the Messiah and Birth of the New Covenant”

Monday, August 11th, 2014

If anyone is interested, I have a free excerpt of my new book (Introduction and first chapter) to send out. (I would like to post it here but have failed in my attempts.) Send an email to mjg [at]

Interview about “The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant”

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Over at Crux Sola, Nijay Gupta and Chris Skinner have kindly conducted and posted an interview with me about the new book. Part 1 is here.

Paul and Apocalyptic

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Professors Ben Blackwell of Houston Baptist University, John Goodrich of Moody, and Jason Maston of Highland Theological College have organized a pre-SBL conference on Paul and Apocalyptic at which I will be presenting a paper. If you plan to be in San Diego for SBL, or even if you don’t, think about attending this (taken from  Dunelm Road blog):

With all the debates over the last few years at SBL about the nature of Apocalyptic in Paul, we here at Dunelm (John, Jason and Ben) thought we would facilitate a Pauline cage match to let the different schools of thought engage one another directly. So, plan to come to SBL early to catch this Friday afternoon session. You won’t want to miss this line-up. The fruits of this discussion will come out afterwards in a volume with Fortress Press.

Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination (S21-201)

11/21/2014 (FRIDAY)
12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Room: 300 A (Level 3 (Aqua)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Across various branches of biblical and theological study, there is a renewed interest in ‘apocalyptic’. This development is seen particularly in the study of Paul’s theology, where it is now widely agreed that Paul promotes an ‘apocalyptic theology’. However, there is little agreement on what this means. Scholars from different perspectives have, as a result, continued to talk past each other. This special session provides an opportunity for leading Pauline scholars from different perspectives to engage in discussion about the meaning of Paul as an apocalyptic thinker. Indeed, one of the strengths and aims of this event is that different and opposing views are set next to each other. The session will hopefully bring greater clarity to the ‘apocalyptic’ reading of Paul by providing much needed definition to central terms and interpretive approaches and by highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses.

Session 1
Jason Maston, Highland Theological College, Welcome (5 min)
M. C. de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – VU University Amsterdam
Apocalyptic as Eschatological Activity (25 min)
N.T. Wright, University of St. Andrews
Apocalyptic as Heavenly Communication (25 min)
Loren Stuckenbruck, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Apocalypticism in Second Temple Judaism (25 min)
Philip Ziegler, University of Aberdeen
Apocalypticism in Modern Theology (25 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Break (15 min)

Session 2
Ben Blackwell, Houston Baptist University, Presiding
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University
The Apocalyptic New Covenant and the Shape of Life in the Spirit (25 min)
Edith Humphrey, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Apocalypse as Theoria in Paul: A New Perspective on Apocalyptic as Mother of Theology (25 min)
Douglas Campbell, Duke University
Paul’s Apocalyptic Epistemology (25 min)
Beverly Gaventa, Baylor University
Romans 9–11: An Apocalyptic Reading (25 min)
John Barclay, University of Durham
Apocalyptic Investments: 1 Corinthians 7 and Pauline Ethics (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)

“The Death of the Messiah” is Out

Friday, July 11th, 2014

My newest book is now in print:

You can get it at Wipf and Stock, Hearts and Minds Books in Pennsylvania, or Amazon.

More from “The Death of the Messiah…”

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

As previously noted, my new book, The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant: A (Not So) New Model of the Atonement, should be available by the end of the month (by June 30) from Cascade/Wipf and Stock. Here is another excerpt, this time from chapter 1, “The Promise of the New Covenant”:

The Need for a New, More Comprehensive Model
There are at least four major problems with the traditional models of the atonement as a group. We will consider each of these problems briefly.

• The first problem is the isolationist, or sectarian, character of the models. Each one is constructed as a kind of stand-alone theory that supposedly tells the whole (or at least the most important) story and requires the exclusion (or at least the marginalization) of other versions of the story. In sympathy with certain postmodern complaints about the very idea of a doctrine of the atonement, Kevin Vanhoozer says [in “Atonement in Postmodernity], “The problem is that theologies of the atonement seem unable to articulate a theory that explains the saving significance of Jesus’ death without betraying the rich testimonies to the event of his death.” Only rarely, as in the case of Colin Gunton (The Actuality of the Atonement), does a theologian try to appropriate and integrate various traditional models.

• The second problem derives from the first: the atomistic, or nonintegrative, character of the traditional models. They do not naturally pull other aspects of theology into their orbit. “Atonement,” however interpreted, often stands apart, separated from ethics, spirituality, ecclesiology, pneumatology, and missiology. In some cases atonement becomes a narrow branch of theology that is almost irrelevant to the actual life of Christian individuals and communities.

• The third problem is individualism. The traditional models have a nearly exclusive focus on the individual, rather than on both the individual and the community, as the beneficiary of the atonement. Scot McKnight (in A Community Called Atonement) and others have, of course, also recognized and begun addressing this problem.

• The fourth problem we might call “under-achievement.” That is, the models do not do enough. We may summarize a model of the atonement in terms of its understanding of the fundamental effect of the cross on a person (or on humanity). In the satisfaction-substitution-penal model(s) the effect is propitiation, expiation, and/or forgiveness; in the Christus Victor model the effect is victory and liberation; and in the “moral influence” model the effect is inspiration. As I suggested in the Introduction to this book, the under-achieving character of these models means that, on the whole, they focus on the penultimate rather than the ultimate purpose(s) of Jesus’ death. In the new-covenant model I am proposing, the purpose (and actual effect) of Jesus’ death is all of the above and more, but that effect is best expressed, not in the rather narrow terms of the traditional models, but in more comprehensive and integrative terms like transformation, participation, and renewal or re-creation. The inclusion of terms like these in a discussion of atonement will seem odd to some readers, but I will introduce them because they capture the spirit of the new covenant promised by the prophets and inaugurated by Jesus’ death. It is precisely certain elements of the promised new covenant (which we will consider in the next two chapters), such as the coming of the Spirit and empowerment to fulfill the law, that are generally not considered to be aspects of atonement per se in traditional theories. This is, in part at least, why the traditional theories fall short of a fully biblical interpretation of the atonement.

“The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant” arrives at month’s end

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

My new book, The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant: A (Not So) New Model of the Atonement, should be available by the end of the month (by June 30) from Cascade/Wipf and Stock. I intend to post a few excerpts here over the next few weeks. Here are the first few paragraphs of the Introduction:

For most Christians, from professional theologians to lay women and men, the word “atonement” refers to the means by which Jesus’ death on the cross saves us and reconciles us to God. Was that death a punishment? a sacrifice? an example? a victory over powers? Some people have insisted strongly on one of these perspectives, often over and against the others. Recently, some discussions of the atonement have tended to be more generous, incorporating multiple theories, models, or images from the New Testament and Christian tradition into a more comprehensive—and therefore less precise—account of the atonement.

However, the fact that there is no theory or model of the atonement called “covenant,” “covenant-renewal,” “new-covenant,” or something very similar is, or should be, rather surprising. These terms refer, after all, to a biblical image connected to Jesus’ death—originating, it appears, with Jesus himself at his Last Supper—and the source of the term “the New Testament.” The latter fact rightly suggests, indeed, that “new covenant” is what the New Testament is all about. The neglect of the new covenant in discussions of atonement is likely due to an over-emphasis on the theological question of how Jesus’ death brings about atonement, salvation, etc.—the mechanics, so to speak. But this is not, I would submit, the focus of the New Testament. To put it a bit differently, I would suggest that most interpretations of the atonement concentrate on the penultimate rather than the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ death. This ultimate purpose is captured in texts like the following: [Mark 10:35-40; John 12:32; Rom 6:3-6; 2 Cor 5:15, 21; Titus 2:14; Rev 1:5b-6].

In texts such as these, we see that the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ death was to create a transformed people, a (new) people living out a (new) covenant relationship with God together. Moreover, this people will not simply believe in the atonement and the one who died, they will eat and drink it, they will be baptized into it/him, they will be drawn to him and into it. That is, they will so identify with the crucified savior that words like “embrace” and “participation,” more than “belief ” or even “acceptance,” best describe the proper response to this death. (Even the words “belief ” and “believe” take on this more robust sense of complete identification.) But most models of the atonement stop short of this goal,  focusing on absolutely necessary but nonetheless penultimate issues, such as forgiveness of sins or liberation from evil powers. To put it even more starkly, some discussions of the atonement may be compared to arguments over which type of delivery is best in dealing with a difficult birth situation—forceps, venthouse (suction), C-section, or whatever—when the point is that each of them effects the birth of a child, each solving the problem from a slightly different angle. But it is the result (a healthy child) that is most important, and it is the child, not the delivery process, that ultimately defines the word “birth.”

(This is not meant to underestimate the value of carefully exploring the meaning of Jesus’ death from various angles, but to urge a proper ultimate focus.)

In this book, therefore, I aim in a modest way to help in correcting the problem of penultimate models of the atonement by proposing a new model that is really not new at all—the new-covenant model. (I have no connections with the  developing theological movement within some parts of evangelicalism [especially Reformed Baptist circles] that calls itself “New Covenant Theology” as a via media between “Covenant Theology” and “Dispensational Theology.”) In fact, this model may legitimately lay claim to being the oldest interpretation of the atonement in the Christian tradition, going back to Jesus, the earliest churches, and the earliest Christian theologians (i.e., Paul, the evangelists, etc.). I will argue that this is not merely an ancient model in need of rediscovery, but also a more comprehensive, integrated, participatory, communal, and missional model than any of the major models in the tradition. It overcomes the inherent rift in many interpretations of the atonement between the benefits of Jesus’ death and the practices of participatory discipleship that his death both enables and demands. I contend throughout the book that in the New Testament the death of Jesus is not only the source, but also the shape, of salvation. It therefore also determines the shape of the community—the community of the new covenant—that benefits from and participates in Jesus’ saving death.

The purpose of this book, then, is not to develop some new theory about the mechanics of Jesus’ representative, sacrificial, nonviolent, and/or victorious death “for us.” There are plenty of those around, and many of them have great merit. Rather, the purpose of this book is to show some of the connections between the themes of atonement, new covenant, participation, and discipleship in the New Testament, focusing especially on the participatory practices of faithfulness, love, and peace. At first, this trio sounds like a new version of the Christian tradition’s three theological virtues of faith, love, and hope. It is, rather, the same triad articulated in a new (but not really new) way. What I will argue is that, throughout the New Testament, faith, as a practice, is about faithfulness even to the point of suffering and death; love, as a practice, has a distinctive, Christlike shape of siding with the weak and eschewing domination in favor of service; and hope, as a practice, means living peaceably (which includes nonviolently) and making peace. Thus the summary triad “faithfulness, love, and peace” is appropriate.

The surprising part of this interpretation of the theological virtues to some readers will be the notion of hope as a practice, and specifically hope as practicing peace. But a moment’s reflection on the theo-logic of this idea should reveal its inherent plausibility. The greatest form of hope in the Bible is for a new creation in which violence, suffering, tears, and death will be no more. We see this expressed in such lovely, inspiring texts as Isa 65:17–25 and Rev 21:1—22:5. Those who have this hope for a new creation and, more to the point, those who believe that this new creation has already been inaugurated by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, will begin to practice its vision in the present. Accordingly, the practice of hope is the practice of peace. This sort of practice may be referred to as anticipatory participation. Such participation, however, stems not only from hope about the future (a purely proleptic participation), but also from participation in the death of Jesus that makes such hope possible by creating peace.

With this emphasis on participation, and thus transformation, I will claim that the New Testament is much more concerned about what Jesus’ death does for and to humanity than how it does it. The New Testament employs a wide range of images and metaphors to portray God’s gracious action in Christ’s death. Yet this stunning array is part of a remarkably coherent picture of his death as that which brings about the new covenant (and thus the new-covenant community) promised by the prophets, which is also the covenant of peace. Many of the traditional and more recent models of the atonement related to the New Testament’s various metaphors can be taken up into the more comprehensive model I am proposing as penultimate aspects of the ultimate purpose of Christ’s death: the birth of the new covenant. Life in this new covenant is life in the Spirit of the resurrected Lord that is shaped by the faithful, loving, peacemaking (and therefore hope-making) death of the same crucified Jesus. Of course there is no Christian hope (or reason for faithfulness and love) without the resurrection of this Jesus from the dead. At points the resurrection will emerge explicitly, but even when it does not, we will assume its reality and significance throughout the entire book.