“All That the Prophets have Declared”: Perth Symposium
I arrived back last night from Perth (Australia), invited down to take part in a symposium, “All that the Prophets have Declared: The Appropriation of Scripture in the Emergence of Christianity” (22-23 July) sponsored by Trinity Theological College there. I was impressed at the interest (ca. 100 attendance), and also with the thought that had gone into the symposium. Dr. Matthew Malcolm and his team were very effecient in all respects.
There were four invited/main presentations. Mine led off: “Two Case Studies in Earliest Christological Readings of Biblical Texts,” in which I focused on the remarkable use in the NT of Psalm 110 (esp. v. 1) and Isaiah 45:22-25. Neither text seems to have been particularly prominent in pre-Christian Jewish tradition, and yet both were clearly important in earliest Christian reading/use of the OT scriptures. Moreover, the use of both texts is reflected in/from our earliest Christian evidence (letters of Paul). Indeed, in Paul’s letters a familiarity with these texts and their Christian meaning is presupposed, indicating that the novel reading of these texts goes back far earlier than Paul’s letters, and was also widely known among both Pauline and non-Pauline circles.
Psalm 110 is the most frequently cited and alluded to OT text of all in the NT, and seems to have been crucial for early Christian expressions of Jesus’ resurrection-exaltation. Isaiah 45:22-25, though far less frequently cited or alluded to (allusion in Philippians 2:9-11, and cited in Romans 14:11), also received a novel and remarkable reading (if anything, even more remarkable than Psalm 110), early believers seeing in this stridently “monotheistic” text reference to the universal acclamation of two figures: “God” and the “Lord” (Jesus).
I found the other main presentations very stimulating, particularly Roland Deines (Univ of Nottingham), “Scripture and the Self-Understanding of Jesus,” in which Deines probed the obvious (though often ignored) question of whether Jesus’ own sense of his person and purpose was shaped by his scriptures, and, if so, whether this too might have shaped earliest “post-Easter” use of the OT in circles of his followers.
In addition to Deines, the other main presenters were Allan Chapple (Trinity Theol. College), “Scripture and the Missions of the Apostles,” and Mark Seifrid (Southern Baptist Theol Sem, Kentucky), “Scripture and the Identity of Paul” (focusing on Paul’s argument in Galatians 3). There was a panel discussion on the afternoon of the 23rd, with a lively time of questions and panel responses. In addition, there were a number of unsolicited papers on various matters connected with the symposium-focus.