Altruism vs. Grace

In the presentation below, New Testament professor John Barclay explores whether pure altruism should be the Christian understanding of true gift-giving and what the New Testament actually says about the gifts, both human and divine. To answer this question Dr Barclay covers the philosophical history of altruism, its relationship to Christian ethics and how the New Testament, within its ancient context, answers the question of what is the proper nature of gift giving. Continue reading “Altruism vs. Grace”

The State of Faith

In the last five years or so, there has been a huge shift in New Testament scholarship on the meaning of faith during that era. Researchers have begun to recognize that faith in the New Testament and the ancient world it was part of was not primarily about belief, that is “mental assent” to a set of propositions or even a personal “cognitive” or “psychological” state. While not denying that there is certainly an aspect of the inner state of mind, faith was primarily about relationships between people and manifest displays of trust and loyalty. In other words, when it came to faith, there was a great emphasis on external behaviour rather than just inner beliefs. Continue reading “The State of Faith”

Faith in the Roman World of the Early Church

Over the last couple of years, one of the most significant works I have come across in biblical scholarship is Matthew W. Bates Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of King Jesus, Baker Academic, 2017. I have referenced Dr Bates’ work multiple times on this platform. What I have neglected to mention is the seminal work Bates builds off, which is Teresa Morgan’s Roman Faith and Christian Faith: Pistis and Fides in the Early Roman Empire and Early Churches, Oxford University Press, 2015. Morgan writes in her article The Invention of Faith:

Modern understandings of faith depend heavily on Augustine of Hippo, who defines it (De trin.13.2.5) as fides quae and fides qua, belief in the body of Christian doctrine and the faith which takes place in the heart and mind of the believer. In 2015 I published Roman Faith and Christian Faith, which argues that the earliest Christians understood pistis/fides very differently. Faith was a relationship of trust and faithfulness between God and human beings, which also shaped relationships between human beings, the authority structure of churches, and the way Christians imagined the kingdom of heaven. Christians were unique in putting trust at the heart of their relationship with God and Christ, but their understanding and practice of pistis/fides were continuous with those of contemporary Greeks, Romans and Jews.

Continue reading “Faith in the Roman World of the Early Church”

Faith vs. Optimism

“You just lost your job. Rent is overdue. Utility bills are piling up. Your roommate just told you that she is moving out next month. Then you receive the notice that your tuition payment for next semester is due in three weeks. Enter your well-intentioned Christian friend, who offers the following words of consolation: “Everything is going to be all right—you just need to have faith,” or “God brings about these sort of events to test our faith—just believe in God and he will deliver you from this trial.” Continue reading “Faith vs. Optimism”

The New Perspective on Judaism

In the later 70s, a radical change happened in the study of Paul that forever changed the landscape of New Testament scholarship. This paradigm shift became known as “the New Perspective on Paul“. In the video below. esteemed New Testament scholar Scot McKnight explains what it is and how it is actually a new perspective on the Judaism of the New Testament era. Continue reading “The New Perspective on Judaism”