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Cambridge-trained scholar calls for Extension of the New Testament Canon
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Press Release

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Cambridge-trained scholar calls for Extension of the New Testament

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{Acta Pauli press release} Toronto, Canada. Christians around the world were shocked and the bedrock of confidence in the Bible was shaken when Peter W. Dunn, PhD, announced the formation of the “Committee for the Inclusion of the Acts of Paul in the New Testament Canon” on the website Acta Pauli on April 23, 2009. The echoes resounded around the world and the buzz on the street has been nothing less than astonishing. In Perth, Australia, Martin Foord, Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Church History at Trinity Theological College calls it, “The discovery of the millennium.” Dunn has devoted the better part of a decade to the study of this ancient book. Many of his findings are in his newly published doctoral dissertation, “The Acts of Paul and the Pauline Legacy”, for which he was awarded a PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1996. The Acts of Paul recounts Paul’s missionary experience from the time of his commission to preach and ends with his martyrdom. During his missionary trips, Paul even converts and baptizes a wild lion.

In recent months, Dr. Dunn has formulated new theories about the Acts of Paul which have led him to create the Committee. “Initially, I thought the Acts of Paul should be dated to the middle of the second century. But now I am leaning towards a much earlier date around the end of the first century. That is almost 100 years earlier than scholars have heretofore believed,” said Dunn. When asked who was the author of the Acts of Paul, he replied, “Well, Tertullian at the beginning of the third century (ca. 205) reported that it had been written by an Asian (modern Turkey) priest who had to step down from his job. But we have reason to believe that Tertullian may have been misinformed. A good case could be made for Timothy. The Acts of Paul never mention him by name and that is strange. Timothy would have been only about 20 when he met Paul in the 50’s. So that would make him about 70 years old at the end of the first century when the Acts of Paul were written. St. Timothy, according to tradition, became the bishop of Ephesus. This accords well with Tertullian’s claim that it was a presbyter (priest) from Asia.”

Clearly the Acts of Paul will frustrate scholars such as Bart Ehrman and John Dominic Crossan, who have questioned the orthodox foundations of the New Testament Canon. The Acts of Paul is an anti-Gnostic tract which affirms God as creator of the world, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and reliability of Old Testament prophets. These are all tenants of orthodox faith. Ehrman was unavailable for comment.

The Rev. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill, noted expert on the Bible, says that the Paul of the Acts of Paul is too much of a wimp. He opposes making the Acts of Paul part of the New Testament. “What does Paul do when he hears the lion roar? He runs and hides! That’s not the Paul I know, nor is it the Paul of the Bible.” Driscoll was referring Acts of Paul 9:15, “When the [lion] roared wildly and ferociously, Paul broke off his prayer in terror.”

In contrast, feminist scholars of early Christianity have been raving about the Acts of Paul for decades. Two entire chapters of the Acts of Paul describe the exploits of the most important woman in the early Church, St. Thecla. She miraculously survives two martyrdom attempts, experiences a divine baptism, and finally, is commissioned by Paul as an apostle. “It is about time someone took the initiative to make the Acts of Paul canonical. Finally women will have a voice in the church,” said one anonymous source, a feminist scholar at the Catholic University of Notre Dame, where President Barack Obama will be challenging the graduates on May 17.

The announcement has the world scrambling to learn more about the Acts of Paul. Commentaries are unavailable, and scholarly treatments have been sold out of most bookstores. It has the public searching online for information and translations. Google has reported increased activity around the search terms, “Acts of Paul” and “Thecla”. Suddenly Coptic scholars are in demand, because the only manuscript of the Acts of Paul available today is a fragmentary papyrus in Coptic at University of Heidelberg. According to Dunn, now that the Committee is mobilized, it will be making a concerted effort to find a complete manuscript either in Coptic or Greek among the unopened Oxyrhinchus papyri at Oxford. They have commissioned Jim Leonard, specialist in the Coptic New Testament at the University of Cambridge, to begin the search. The {name of news agency} reached Leonard who commented, “The acceptance of Acts of Paul into the Canon will assure new jobs for Coptic New Testament scholars in Christian colleges and seminaries for years to come.”

But it is too early to tell how the church hierarchy will react. Typically the church is slow to move on new discoveries and ideas, but Dunn’s committee may indeed have a ground-breaking impact. To find out what New Testament scholars are thinking, the {name of news agency here} telephoned N. T. Wright, Gordon Fee, Luke T. Johnson, and {add NT scholar}; each of them said in turn that they were scrambling to get information about Acts of Paul and were not ready to comment. A spokesman for the Catholic church however has said that there is little chance that Pope Benedict would permit the inclusion of the Acts of Paul. The Roman Catholic Church, he said, is a conservative institution, and she is not troubled by the whims of biblical scholars.

Protestant church officials are not ecstatic about Dunn’s Committee either. An undisclosed source from the World Council of Churches said, “The Acts of Paul puts too much emphasis on sexual continence,” referring to Acts of Paul 3.5-6, beatitudes devoted to a life of chastity. “We believe everyone has the right to have sex anytime they feel like it,” said the official.

humanity
Category: Doc-notes News

Christianity is perhaps the first voice to have spoken about the transcendence of blood and ethnicity (even gender).

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:27-29 NKJ)

And Christ Himself:

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luk 14:26 NKJ)

Such verses are easily given a false understanding and are easily elevated in modern culture (the Galatians passage has almost become a slogan of contemporary Christianity). But the meaning of such statements in the context of relatively stable blood and ethnic geography is quite different than in the contractual multiculturalism of modernity.

There may be neither slave nor free, but in our culture economic status and condition are perhaps the strongest cultural markers. Very few Churches transcend economic barriers. Nor is there any transcendence required for something that doesn’t exist (the extended family).

Christ did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). Neither is it proper to say that He came to abolish kinship, family, blood ties, nationality, ethnicity, geography, nor gender. Rather He came to fulfill them.

Christ did not come to abolish these things because human beings do not exist in their proper fulness apart from them. Their fulfillment, however, is another matter. Contractual existence is not the fulfillment of our humanity and its true life - but its abolition.

Thus the Christian struggle is how to rightly appropriate (fulfill) our gender, our ethos, our nationality, our family and blood ties, etc. Our family was not given to us as a curse or genetic predestination to be overcome. Simon bar Jonah does not overthrow his father, Jonah. But as Peter he becomes the fulfillment of his father Jonah in a manner that he himself could not have foreseen.

Because we only live a short time, some seven or eight decades, we are able to maintain many fictions. For the emptiness of the modern man is fortunately cut short by his death. And this is a mercy of God. And the emptiness is not cumulative. One generation does not begin its own pursuit of emptiness (the modern Dream) at the same point of emptiness where its predecessor left off. Again, this is a mercy of God.

But there is a trajectory that can be discerned, a reading of a collective ethos that reveals the true nature of our emptiness. Suicide rates, birth rates, addictions and the like are all manifestations of a modern despair. We are empowered to reinvent ourselves according to the modern imagination, but the further this imagination strays from the fulfillment of gender, ethos, nationality, family, blood, etc. the greater the emptiness that accompanies it.

The way of transcendence is not above our lives, but within their depths. The way of ascension is the way of humility. Christ not only became flesh, but became man. He not only became man, He became a man. As a man, He became a Jew. He not only became a Jew, but a Galilean from Nazareth.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name... (Phi 2:8-9)

And in His self-emptying, Christ fulfilled what it is to be a  Nazarene and a Galilean. The meaning and purpose of the Jews became wondrously apparent. And He revealed that a man was meant to sit at the right hand of the Father, the fulfillment of Adam.

This is the path of being truly human.

Bible software for everyone
Category: Doc-notes News

Few seminary students in the States have made it a year before recognizing the incredible benefits of Bible programs like Logos, Bibleworks, and Accordance. These tools, in many cases, have radically changed the way we study texts, store books, and search for data. I have spoken with several missionaries serving overseas who, growing tired of lugging hundreds of books all over the world, have moved their entire library into a digital environment. As valuable as these electronic tools are, they have largely been cut off from the church in the developing world. In these countries internet cafes are a staple for internet access, and the idea of a personal computer with expensive software on it is simply out of the question. Thanks to Tyndale House in Cambridge, this situation is about to change.

The STEP program (Scripture Tools for Every Person) has been established to give anyone with internet access or smartphone a robust Bible program that is able to equip and aid church leaders around the world. STEP is designed to easily run in multiple languages (currently: German, English, Spanish, French, Latvian, Hungarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Swahili, and Vietnamese. They are always looking for people who can work in new languages!). The basic window is a search window that opens 187 different versions of the biblical text and commentaries, from ancient to modern. Some ancient texts include a tagged version of the Hebrew Bible based on the Leningrad Codex, Rahlf’s Septuagint, several tagged editions of the Greek New Testament, the Vulgate, Syriac Pepoota (NT), and the Samaritan Pentateuch. The tagged texts are extremely helpful for those with a basic level of knowledge of the original languages, since you can simply click on the word and get the root and different definitions. The program can be operated with a double-panel view that allows for linking two texts (e.g. MT/GNT and English), or a passage and a selected commentary. Another nice feature, for those who are more textually savvy, STEP has a more “advanced” view where the researcher can select multiple texts and compare them in interlinear fashion (e.g., MT, LXX, and Vul). This is a very nice resource for free.

The project is still being developed with much more in store. But for those who will be teaching overseas in the next year or so, I would highly encourage you to direct students and pastors to this website. It might actually be beneficial to build an assignment into the course that requires them to get online and use the program to increase familiarity. Regardless, I am excited about the goal of STEP and hope professors, pastors, and missionaries utilize these helpful tools. You can learn more about the overall direction of the project here.

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