Two Upcoming Conference Papers

At the beginning of this year I submitted two proposals for papers to be read at theology conferences for March. As I am diligently working on my dissertation, these two papers will, hopefully, provide a way to see how my methodology and research do in formal settings. Hopefully both papers will meet the expectations of the conference hosts and provide real fodder for discussion.

Here are the two papers I’ll be presenting:

First Paper: Evaluating the Healing Miracles of Vespasian and Jesus

Conference: Evangelical Theological Society Southwest Regional Meeting

Abstract:  One criticism that is often brought by those questioning the messianic status of Jesus posits that his healing miracles are not uncommon enough in his first century context to be useful for proving either his messianic status or any divine attributes. Those who bring this claim often point a bevy of figures in the pre-modern world that were reported to have performed similar miracles. By way of directly engaging this criticism, this paper finds one individual who had characteristics similar to Jesus and was sourced from a near-contemporaneous situation. Vespasian, who would become the first Flavian Emperor of Rome in AD 69, is one figure who fits a criterion of similarity for comparison to Jesus. Jesus and Vespasian have miracle healings attributed to them by their biographers which carry many common attributes. In order to both delimit the number of Jesus’ miracles and provide the most reputable healings, specific attention in this paper will be paid to those healing miracles that are generally seen as authentic. To accomplish this, scholars such as Gerd Theissen, Walter Funk, and Graham Twelftree, among others, will guide the inquiry into Jesus’ healing miracles of the leper (GMk 1:40-45); Peter’s mother-in-law (GMk 1:29ff); the paralytic (GMk 2:1-12); the hemorrhaging woman (GMk 5:24b-34); the blind man of Bethsaida (GMk 8:22-26); and Blind Bartimaeus (GMk 10:46-52.) By laying these well-attested healing miracles alongside the reported healing miracles of Vespasian, the conclusions drawn will ultimately demonstrate that there is more authenticity behind Jesus’ healing miracles than even his most viable contemporary counter-example.


Second Paper: The Influence of Second Temple Clerical Structures on Pauline Ecclesiology

Conference: Houston Baptist University Theology Conference

Abstract: There is much to be said about the development and formation of the various New Testament churches between Pentecost and the Council of Nicaea. Given that many of the first Christians were Jewish believers, it is possible they would utilize familiar forms of religious structures in establishing their primitive communities while worshipping in local synagogues and at the Temple. How much, then, does early church ecclesiology owe to Second Temple Jewish clerical structures?

In the field of New Testament ecclesiological studies, there appears to be a gap in the research literature concerning the developing ecclesial structures of the earliest Christian communities and their relationship to Second Temple Judaism. With the Apostle Paul’s writings providing the great New Testament contribution about the form and nature ecclesiologies of this period, and given his background as a Jewish religious leader, how Paul leveraged existing Jewish clerical structures from both the Temple and the local synagogue are key to understanding his overall approach to the offices and authority in the New Testament church.

It is the proposal of this paper to study late Second Temple leadership structures and apply them against the Pauline ecclesiological model of leadership as provided in Paul’s Hauptbriefen. Though primary attention shall be paid to the leadership patterns from among the national Temple and local synagogues, additional forms from other, loosely affiliated, Jewish groups will also be in focus. As aspects of Second Temple clerical structures informed the developing Pauline ecclesiology, there continue to be influences seen in present day church method and theology.


The first paper is a from a previous PhD seminar in Miracles with Dr Gary Habermas. I’ve fine tuned the argument and broadened the discussion of Jesus’ healings to compare to my engagement with Vespasian. In the second paper, I will be taking a section from one of my dissertation chapters and modifying it a bit to fit the topic of the conference. I am looking forward to these two opportunities and am deeply grateful to the conference organizers for their diligent work. After the papers are presented I will attempt to post them here for public dissemination. Prayerfully, these will not lead to my ruin.

Feb 2014



Is Genesis 1 a Preface?

At lunch yesterday I read through Jason DeRouchie‘s recent article in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society “The Blessing-Commission, the Promised Offspring, and the Toledot Structure of Genesis.” (Yes, the title is as intriguing as the article.)

Though this is terribly concise, DeRouchie’s article explores the literary system of  Genesis whereby its author(s) used the phrase ‘eleh toledot (“these are the generations of ” or “this is the account of”) to begin new sections of the biblical book. The phrase ‘eleh toledot occurs in the following places:

Toledot Chart

In his piece DeRouchie goes on to discuss the difference between the toledot as chapter headings as opposed to colophons, or types of sub-headings. He ends up discussing how he sees several of these toledot structures as dominant section headers with sub-headers. It is a fine journal article.

So, I noticed that the first place the toledot phrase occurs is Genesis 2:4. Now this is interesting, since the content of 2:4-25 form a second account of creation, this one focused on the Garden of Eden, the author of the text has chosen to mark this with the toledot function. Here’s the text:

Standing at the beginning of this new section, the toledot structure is not a backwards referent to 1:1-2:3. As most contemporary commentators have pointed out, as reflected in some translations, the first account of creation does go from 1:1-2:3, not 1:1-31.

For the author of this section to have included a significant literary device such as the toledot feature, it is perhaps reflecting that the first account is, indeed, prefatory. That is, Genesis 1:1-2:3 reflects a preface to the book of Genesis that stands outside, or before, the rest of the content of the text.

The difference between Genesis 1:1-2:3 being a preface as opposed to an introduction is important. If prefatory matter stands outside the rest of the book in terms of linear progression, explaining the events leading up to the first true scene of narrative history in 2:4, than what is in the preface does matter to the text but is not entirely congruent with the aims of the remainder of the text. As someone else has put it: the preface is the book about a book and the introduction is about the content of the book. 

If we look at Genesis 1:1-2:3 as a preface, it details content or ideas that led up to the events that begin the actual narrative in 2:4.

Though this doesn’t mean we have to discard existing theories of interpretation, it does, perhaps, help us better understand the literary intent of the author in that first section. It does not appear that the first section (Genesis 1:1-2:3) is a foreword, that is a text written by another to discuss the rest of the text.

As we consider the first section the structure and pattern of the text appear, at least to me, to be written to first show how the God of Israel stands above and beyond the gods of pagan kingdoms. Then it also speaks about how glorious the God of Israel is in His creative act.

It should also be noted that YHWH, the Hebrew proper name for God, first appears in Genesis 2:4 whereas Elohim is the primary word used in 1:1-2:3 to refer to God.

So, is Genesis 1 a preface? If it is does it impact our interpretive approach at all? Does it allow us to see there is a larger literary function of the passage rather than a static, linear accounting that automatically flows into Genesis 2, then 3, etc?

The toledot structure appears to be important to the author of Genesis. Maybe it should be equally as important to us as we consider interpretive decisions and how they relate to our overall theology.