George 2I owe my thanks to many people who have helped me in my academic pursuit. I thank Prof. Dr. George L. Parsenios of Princeton Theological Seminary, USA, for permitting me to enroll for the PhD Seminar on John’s Gospel during the academic year 2004-2005. As a ThM student of the seminary, it was a challenge and an honor to learn from such a reputed scholar. In our class, we profoundly discussed Alan Culpepper’s Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. That was the first time I was introduced to such a significant work. From then onward I never left Culpepper aloof from my theological discourses. I learned from George the lessons of interpreting John in connection with dramatic aspects, classical works of the past, and literary and narrative design theories. As a requirement of the course I also wrote a term paper under his supervision entitled “Seeing and Believing: The Role and Function of Thomas in John’s Narrative Framework.” That turned out to be the primary motivation (along with Prof. James H. Charlesworth’s inspiration in his class on “Life and Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth”) for my current work entitled “Dydimos Judas Thomas: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions”. I was again privileged to interact with him another time in Aarhus University, Denmark. His paper entitled “The Silent Spaces Between Narrative and Drama” brought me back to his own earlier propositions. I really enjoyed reading his books Rhetoric and Drama in the Johannine Lawsuit Motif and Departure and Consolation and applying several of his propositions into my PhD Dissertation. Thanks to Dr. George Parsenios for his significant contribution in my life.


George L. Parsenios is an associate professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his M.A. (Classics) from Duke University, an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Yale University. His teaching and research explore the interaction of early Christianity with classical literature, as well as the interpretation of the New Testament in the early church. He is the author of two books and several articles. He regularly teaches courses on the Gospel of John, First Corinthians, and Paul the Pastor.

Major Writings:

Rhetoric and Drama in the Johannine Lawsuit Motif, WUNT 1.258; Mohr Siebeck: Tübingen, 2010.
Departure and Consolation: The Johannine Farewell Discourses in Light of Greco-Roman Literature, NovTSup 117; Leiden: Brill, 2005.
“‘No Longer in the World’ (John 17:11): The Transformation of the Tragic in the Fourth Gospel,”Harvard Theological Review (2005) 98: 1–21.

For More Details Refer:

Princeton Theological Seminary site:

Jesus’ Wife:

Amazon site:

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

Walk with Prof. Harold W. Attridge

Posted: July 27, 2014 in General

Harold 2I started my contact with Prof. Harold W. Attridge, firstly, as a reader of his writings, especially his significant article “Genre Bending in the Fourth Gospel” (JBL, Vol. 121, No. 1, 2002: pp. 3-21), and, later, as a facebook follower and friend. When I met him first time in Aarhus, Denmark, for The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic conference I realized that he is a humble human who is able to accommodate the ‘other.’ His keynote address entitled “The Fourth Gospel: Does Genre Matter?” persuaded majority of the participants to take heed during the four days’ discussions. I never forget the four significant days we walked together (along with other scholars) back and forth from Radisson Hotel in the central part of the city to the Aarhus University conference hall. These 3-4 kilometers walk through the city, both in the morning and in the evening, gave us extra strength for our discussions all through the four days. During the meal times and during the walk times I didn’t forget to explore the rare opportunity to interact with this extraordinary scholar. We discussed the topics such as Dydimos Judas Thomas and Indian Christian traditions, US academia, John and Genre studies, and Dialogue in the Gospel of John. In one of the occasions in Aarhus I gifted him a copy of my dissertation. Another coincidence was that my Princetonian professor George Parsenios (Attridge’s student) clicked pictures for both of us.

Harold 1Prof. Attridge is currently serving as Sterling Professor of Divinity at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School from 2002 to 2012, has made scholarly contributions to New Testament exegesis and to the study of Hellenistic Judaism and the history of the early Church. His publications include Essays on John and Hebrews, Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, First-Century Cynicism in the Epistles of Heraclitus, The Interpretation of Biblical History in the Antiquitates Judaicae of Flavius Josephus, Nag Hammadi Codex I: The Jung Codex, and The Acts of Thomas, as well as numerous book chapters and articles in scholarly journals. He has edited twelve books, most recently, with Dale Martin and Jurgen Zangenberg, Religion, Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Galilee; and The Religion and Science Debate: Why Does It Continue? Professor Attridge is the general editor of the HarperCollins Study Bible Revised Edition (2006). He has been an editorial board member of Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Harvard Theological Review, Journal of Biblical Literature, Novum Testamentum, and the Hermeneia commentary series. He has been active in the Society of Biblical Literature and served as president of the society in 2001. Professor Attridge is a fellow of Saybrook College.

For more details refer the following links:

Yale University link:

Wikipedia link:

His Curricula Vitae:

Infancy Gospel of Thomas:

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

Jan 2Prof. Dr. Jan G. van der Watt is well known for his simplicity, integrity, and esteemed scholarship. When it comes to his personality it is hard to distinguish between the boundaries of friendship and professorship. He is both a friend and a professor at the same time. His ability to accommodate the ‘other’ and capacity to adopt extra steps to understand his students are conspicuous. Another significant quality we find in him is his ability to balance between ‘speaking’ and ‘hearing’. Prof. Jan is an excellent scholar who has a lot in store for his students and at the same time he is always willing to hear what others (especially his students) say. His expectation from his students is extremely high and he leaves them independent as much as possible. As a “world class” New Testament scholar, he does not compromise in the case of originality and global standards. At the intervals of our one-on-one discussions, he never failed to ask his usual question, i.e., “What is new in that?”  For me he is a New Testament mathematician who prefers to explain things with the help of tables and diagrams. Prof. Jan never forgets to advise his students to sustain clarity of thought and simplicity of style in the process of writing. I was really fortunate to have such a scholar as my Doktorvater. Read more about him below.

Jan (born 5 November 1952) is a South African biblical scholar and Bible translator who moved to the Netherlands in 2009 to take up a chair in New Testament and Source texts of early Christianity at Radboud University in Nijmegen. It was announced on 5 October 2010 that he has been appointed “vice-decaan van de Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen”. For a quarter of a century previously, he was professor at the  University of Pretoria, where he was named as one of the 100 most influential academic thinkers in the 100 year history of the University of Pretoria, South Africa (see under Leading Minds. Apart from other influential former South African scholars such as Cilliers Breytenbach (Belin) and David du Toit (Munchen), Van der Watt is also rated as international acknowledged researcher that is regarded by some of his South African peers as international leader in his field, though not verified by external international criteria (see under rated researchers). Van der Watt is internationally best known for his monograph: Family of the King: Dynamics of Metaphor in the Gosepl According to John.

He was born on 5 November 1952 in Germiston, South Africa. He obtained no less than eight university degrees, all with distinction. He also represented his university in rugby and athletics and received provincial colors for athletics which enabled him to be selected for the South African national competition. In 2008 he received the University of Pretoria Commemorative Research Medal – Honoring our Leading Minds (1908–2008). This medal is awarded to a select number of researchers (100) in all fields, called “Our (= Univ. of Pretoria) leading minds (1908-2008)”, that have played a significant role in establishing the University of Pretoria as a leading research institution over the past 100 years of the history of this institution. He has been acknowledged as a world leader in studies of the Gospel according to John, by the National Research Foundation of South Africa currently the highest rating for a theologian in South Africa. this indicates unanimous international recognition as well established researcher with significant recognition as world leader in particular field–this rating is done through international peer reviewing). He has successfully supervised 30 PhD’s and 84 masters candidates. He is currently the General editor of the Review of Biblical Literature (2005-), a member of the SNTS and an Alexander Von Humboldt scholar. He has been married to Shireen (née Crous) for three decades, and they have one daughter (Nireen), a medical doctor.

Jan 1Publications

Books (author, co-author or editor)

  • 1988 Christ is your hope. The letter to the Colossians – a semantic discourse analysis. UPTS 5, Pretoria, 134 pages.
  • 1990 Jesus of Nazareth. Proclamation in context Co-author with S. Joubert, Pretoria, 140 pages.
  • 1991 Co-editor of Theology in Context, Orion: Pretoria 1991, 618 pages.
  • 1995( ‘It is fulfilled’ The re-interpretation of the cross-events in the Gospel of John. Pretoria, 85 pages.
  • 2000 Family of the King. Dynamics of metaphor in the Gospel according to John Brill, 450.
  • 2004 Metodology of New Testament exegesis illustrated, (only electronically available in English and Afrikaans) currently being translated as book into Korean as well as in Russian to be used as textbook at Universities in Russia and South Korea.
  • 2005 Christology and Theology in the Gospel according to John. Co-editor with Prof Gilbert van Belle, and P. Maritz, Peeters:Leuven 560 pages (collection of essays by leading international scholars on Johannine literature. Most of these contributions were delivered at the SNTS meetings which were chaired by the editors.
  • 2005 Salvation in the New Testament. Perspectives on soteriology. Editor. Novum Testamentum Supplements 121, 550 pages.
  • 2005 Aprocypha of the Old and New Testament. The hidden library of the early Christians. Translation of these documents into Afrikaans. CUM: Vereeninging. 800 pages. Several reprints.
  • 2005 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).
  • 2006 Imagery in the Gospel of John/Bildersprache im Johannesevangelium, co-editor with Frey, J., van der Watt, J.G., and Zimmermann, R., WUNT 200, Mohr Siebeck:Tübingen, 495 pages.
  • 2006 Identity, ethics and ethos in the New Testament, Van der Watt J.G. (ed). BZNW, De Gruyter: Berlin. xiii + 645 pages.
  • 2006 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).
  • 2007 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).
  • 2007 Introduction to the Gospel and Letters of John. T&T Clark:London, 192 pages.
  • 2008 Imagery in Luke and John. Festschrift for Prof Ulrich Busse. Peeters:Leuven (co-editor with Proff. Jos Verheyden and Gilbert van Belle) 280 pages.
  • 2008 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).
  • 2009 Reading the Bible in Africa. A South African Perspective. (with N. Ndwandwe, E. Mahlangu, D. Forster). Brill. 230 pages. (forthcoming end of 2009).
  • 2009 Encyclopaedia for the Bible and its Reception. Vol 1 and 2 (area editor of Johannine writings and the General Epistles), De Gruyter:Berlin & New York. (forthcoming April/May 2009).
  • 2009 Ethics in the Gospel according to John. Eerdmans:Grand Rapids, 300 pages (forthcoming end of 2009).
  • 2009 Ethics and language, Van der Watt, JG and Zimmermann R (eds.) WUNT, Mohr Siebeck:Tübingen, 320 pages (forthcoming end or 2009).
  • 2009 Eschatology and the New Testament, (Ed.) WUNT, Mohr Siebeck:Tübingen (Forthcoming end of 2009).
  • 2009 Review of Biblical Literature. SBL: Atlanta. 600 pages (General Editor).

Academic dissertations

  • 1978: (A) The use of the term “in Christ” in Colossians. (BD-dissertation–New Testament) University of Pretoria.
  • 1979: (A) A semantic discourse analysis of Colossians (MA-dissertation – Greek) University of Pretoria.
  • 1986: (A) Eternal life in the Gospel according to John (DD-thesis- New Testament) University of Pretoria.
  • 1999: Dynamics of metaphor in the Gospel according to John (D.Litt.-thesis – Greek), University of Pretoria.


Through 2009, he has written 52 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and 36 articles in books and collected works. For one of them, the 1999 “Commentary on the Gospel according to John,” and “Commentary on Colossians” published in Bybellenium: A one volume commentary, CUM, 1314–1370, 1594-1604″ he won the Andrew Murray Prize as well as the South African Booksellers Association prizes for the best Christian publication.

Bible translations

  • 2002 Die Boodskap–die Bybel in hedendaagse Afrikaans(The Message–the Bible in everyday Afrikaans) (Not to be confused with ‘The Message’). Responsible for translating half of New Testament from Greek, sections of Psalms from Hebrew, and General Co-Editor. Won the South African Booksellers prize for best Christian publication in 2002.
  • 2003 The Gospel according to Mark. in The multi-translation of the Bible. CUM.
  • 2003 The Gospel according to John. in The multi-translation of the Bible. CUM.
  • 2003 The letter to the Colossians. in The multi-translation of the Bible. CUM.
  • 1999 The New Testament for children in language they could understand – translation of the New Testament Carpe Diem, 591 (together with S. Joubert and H. Stander)
  • 1999 The Message with Psalms and Proverbs, CUM, 1100 pages. (Not to be confused with ‘The Message’ in English). Over 100,000 in print. Won South African Booksellers Association prize for best Christian publication in 1999.
  • 2001 The Multi-reference Bible, CUM (editor of New Testament with F. Janse van Rensburg).
  • 2004 The Multi-translation of the Bible. Co-editor for the New Testament.. CUM. 2004.

Compiled by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

Frank TolmieProf. Donald Francois Tolmie currently serves as professor and Head of the Department of New Testament Studies at the Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa). He holds a DTh in New Testament Studies, as well as a PhD in Greek from the University of the Free State. He is a member of various international and national societies: Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS), Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the New Testament Society of South Africa (NTSSA). His fields of specialization includes the Gospel of John and Pauline literature and he furthermore focuses on narratology, rhetorical analysis, the translation and theology of New Testament texts. He has published the following academic books: Jesus’ farewell to the disciples (Leiden: Brill); Narratology and Biblical Narratives (San Francisco: International Scholars Publication) and Persuading the Galatians (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck). Currently, he is working on a “Commentary on the Letter to Philemon.” Prof. Tolmie served as one of the manuscript committee members (along with Prof. Ulrich Busse and Prof. Christoph-H. Hübenthal) of my PhD Dissertation at The Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Holland. His 1999 work entitled Narratology and Biblical Narratives: A Practical Guide (San Francisco/London/Bethesda: International Scholars Publications) was one of the significant resources I used for developing the methodological framework of my dissertation.

See the following links:

Character Studies:

Character Studies:

PhD Dissertation online:


By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

Ulrich BusseProf. Dr. Ulrich Busse serves as Professor Emeritus at Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany. His research focus includes Johannine and Lukan writings, biblical and Hellenistic imagery Design, and historical and bibliographic databases. His current projects are Introduction to the imagery of John’s Gospel, Contributions to the Lukan theology, and Computer Assisted Biblical Studies. His membership of Academic Associations consists Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, Cambridge (GB), Catholic Biblical Association, Stuttgart, German Society for the Exploration of Palestine, Wiesbaden. He also serves as Associate Professor of the Department of New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria (SA).

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Busse graciously served as one of the manuscript committee members that externally evaluated my PhD dissertation entitled “The Nature and Function of Dialogue in the Book of Signs (John 1:19-12:50)” in 2014. My personal interactions with him in Nijmegen as well as reading of his works, especially his Das Johannesevangelium, Bildlichkeit, Diskurs und Ritual: Mit einer Bibliographie über den Zeitraum 1986-1998 (Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium CLXII. Leuven: University Press/Uitgeverij Peeters, 2002), enabled me to understand the potential of this experienced New Testament scholar. For more details concerning him (CV) go here.

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India


Seminar Session:

11th Sep.: “Reading the Gospel of John to the Nepali Context”
At Nepal Ebenezar Bible College, Jorpati,  Kathmandu, Nepal


Other Sessions

6th Sep.: Preaching at Bethshalom Puthalisadak Church (Nepali Service)
7th Sep.: Preaching at Bethshalom Puthalisadak Church (English Service)
8th till 10th Sep.: Teaching Johannine Theology at Bethshalom Faith School of Ministry
12th Sep.: Facilitating an Academic Forum on “Nepal Christian Theology”
13th Sep.: Preaching at Baisepati Church (Nepali Service)



6-13 September 2014


Resource Person:

Johnson Thomaskutty, UBS, Pune, India

downloadMy long cherished dream came true when I received my PhD degree with distinction from the prestigious Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, The Netherlands, on 19th June 2014. The title of the dissertation in Dutch was “De eigen aard en functie van de dialoog in het Boek der Tekenen (Joh. 1:19-12:50).” In English it is, “The Nature and Function of Dialogue in the Book of Signs (John 1:19-12:50).” In his concluding speech my Doktorvater Prof. Dr. Jan G. van der Watt made the following significant statements to all those who have honoured the ceremony with their presence.


Dear Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty,

It feels like yesterday when we first met on that summer day at Serampore near Kolkata. I remember that I was very excited to see the place where William Carey worked and left such an important heritage. There I encountered William Carey, or at least his house and study room, with his desk and chair, and of course also Johnson Thomaskutty, a young scholar who was working on John and was eager to present to me his work on John. People spoke well of you in Serampore and told me that John will never be the same if John . . . Johnson finishes his studies. And today we are so far. You are now a doctor in New Testament studies and of course your field of specialization is John. Between Serampore and Nijmegen you did drink the water of Princeton, but you needed Radboud University Nijmegen to really taste the clean running water (for those who are not Johannine scholars, this is a pun on John 4 where Jesus offers the Samaritan woman running water). I am very glad that today we could finish what started so many years ago in Serampore. I am glad for you and of course I am also proud. Proud because you showed what it meant to work hard and diligently, to persevere and what it means to be a person who is always willing to learn and push yourself and the boundaries of knowledge a little further. That makes me proud.

I expect a lot from you in India—that is also why I did not hesitate to accept you as PhD candidate. You showed potential from the very beginning. You will make a difference, of that I am sure. Your personality, that is always friendly and open, your vision that always sees another opportunity and new challenges, your lust for life that makes it a pleasure to watch you plan and explain what is still to be done, all those things make me excited about your future.

I wish you a very good future as doctor in New Testament studies, for me and I am sure for you too, the most wonderful and exciting subject to study. Your career is now really taking off with force, since now you have shown and is acknowledged by your peers as a capable researcher who thoroughly deserved the right and earned the opportunity to partake in our academic quest for more and richer knowledge of the New Testament.

May God bless you in your further ventures as doctor in New Testament studies.

Prof. Jan G. van der Watt

Chair in New Testament and Source Texts of Early Christianity

Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen

The Netherlands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I started preparing a short travelogue concerning my second trip to Bangladesh, I opted to entitle it “Bible for the Bangladeshis.” It is mainly due to the reason that I would love to look at my time in Bangladesh from the biblical point of view. Moreover I witnessed the need of propagating the biblical lessons to both the rural and urban areas of life in the country. The 2014 Church of God [its international headquarters in Anderson, Indiana, USA] Convention held at The Church of God Mission Compound, Lalmanirhat, Bangladesh, was a rich experience for the organizers and the participants alike. The convention was inaugurated by The Honorable District Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Habibur Rahman. A Muslim by birth and practice, the District Deputy Commissioner keeps a solemn relationship with the Church of God Missions in Bangladesh. The festival was convened from 24 to 26 April 2014. There were about 700 delegates (including children), mostly from sixty-eight rural Bangladeshi churches, gathered during this great event. The meetings were blessed by the presence of youths and office staff from Dhaka (Senpara), Lalmanirhat, Kaunia, and Kakina. The general theme of the conference was “Let Your Light Shine!” based on Matthew 5:16. I along with others such as Rev. Donald Armstrong (the Asia Pacific Regional Secretary of Church of God Ministries) and Rev. Judith Milita Das were invited and honored as speakers of the conference. Rev. Tapan Kumar Borman, Chairman of the Church of God Ministries Bangladesh, takes active steps in inculcating the biblical lessons among the rural and urban communities of the country.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the very start of the convention itself the organizers and the speakers understood the need of expositing the biblical lessons to the contextual realities of Bangladesh. As the gathering was diverse and from the remote village set up, our speeches were not flavored by theological and rhetorical jargons. The organizers divided the gathering into three groups, youths, men, and women. Topics such as “Love Your God”, “Love Your Church”, “Love to Give”, and “Love Your Family” were expounded by the help of appropriate Old/New Testament passages. Our speeches were well connected to the theological, ecclesiological, give-ological, and family-ological lessons of the bible. But, the overarching theme of all the speeches was “vertical horizontal love.” In my speeches, I emphasized the aspect of God’s love with the help of John 3:16 and First John 3:1. How God exemplified himself as a God of Love in history and how the people of God responded to him? These questions were adequately addressed with the help of the contextual realities of Bangladesh. In another session, I expounded how church as an agent of God should function on the surface of the world. The role of Church as the body of Christ, community of believers, and the miniature form of the Kingdom of God was also interpreted with the help of appropriate biblical texts. The three levels of the church (i.e., individual, congregational, and universalistic) and its kerygmatic, didactic, koinonic, and diakonic duties were highlighted with precision. The aspect of the family is brought to the notice of the attendees in a very spectacular way. In the speeches it was pinpointed how individuals are connected to the families and how families form the society. Biblical references from the Book of Joshua, Book of Psalms (119:54), Book of Acts (16:15), and Gospel of John (4:53) were interpreted relevantly to the public. In one session, God’s giving of his Son to the world was expounded to instruct about the responsibility of “Christian Giving”. In another session, the aspect of “Believing and Unbelieving” was narrated from the Gospel of John. In all the speeches and lectures our attempt was to direct the attendees toward the biblical lessons as paradigms for the contextual realities.

The evening public meetings were organized at the convention ground. Rev. Donald Armstrong and I were the speakers. Rev. Armstrong spoke about the need of getting involved in Christian missions in the Bangladeshi context. In order to state his concern rhetorically, he brought his 15 years long Tanzanian mission experiences. The following two evenings, I spoke on themes such as “Believing is Living” (based on John 4:46-54) and “Five Models of Discipleship” (based on John chapter one). There were about 700 delegates attended the evening sessions. The issues such as poverty, religious fundamentalism, child abuse and child marriage, casteism and untouchability, communalism in its various forms, polygamy, and others were discussed during all the sessions. Through the sessions the youths were alarmed against drug addiction, smoking, alcoholism, pornography, and other evil practices. Biblical passages were exegeted and interpreted into the Bangladeshi context in order to teach the delegates concerning Christian morality and ethics. The delegates and the organizers together acclaimed our initiatives to throw light on the social issues on the basis of the biblical mandate of morality and ethics.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn 28th April 2014, The Church of God Ministries Bangladesh organized a Mission Consultation at The Assembly of God Church, Dhaka. We experienced the huge transition from the rural set up in Lalmanirhat to the thickly populated urban set of Dhaka. The consultation was scheduled from 10 AM till 3.30 PM. There were about 20 delegates attended the consultation. Most of them represented different theological institutions, mission and ecclesiastical bodies, NGOs, and other Christian organizations. While I presented my paper entitled “Globalization and Mission: Reading John’s Gospel” in the forenoon session, Rev. Donald Armstrong presented his paper entitled “A Pivot towards a Practical Christianity” in the afternoon session. In my paper, three important aspects were considered seriously: first, the ‘global’ aspects of the Gospel of John in relation to the ‘local’ concerns; second, the Trinitarian nature of John’s theology and its significance in a glocalized cultural context; and third, the mission theology of John in relation to a globalized cosmic order. The task of the paper was not analyzing the gospel as a whole. Rather to develop an interpretative frame for the gospel in a globalized social context. In Rev. Donald Armstrong’s paper, he cautioned the delegates about the bad effects of sex trafficking. He mentioned, “The Church of God, Anderson, Indiana is making a pivot to include an issue that is of prime concern by people in the United States and the Western world. This issue is one of Human Trafficking that is taking place around the world. With the increased ease of travel between countries, the ease of working across borders in places like the EU and North America due to the free trade pacts we find that Human Trafficking is on the increase instead of decreasing”. These two papers aroused among the delegates biblical and practical awareness in getting involved in the Missio Dei.

The rural and urban contexts of Bangladesh inspire outsiders for being engaged in missions in its entire means. Those who understand mission either as evangelization or as theological and ethical transformation or as social liberation have all can play their respective roles in the Bangladeshi context. While Indian theologians highly regard the western theologians and the reputed institutions universities, the Bangladeshi theologians have a great regard for the Indian Christian theologians and their contributions toward the scholarly world. In a context in which theological resources are scarce and theologically equipped personnel are less, the Bangladeshi scholars attempt their maximum to inculcate awareness concerning the biblical lessons among the masses. Rev. Tapan Kumar Borman (Chairman and CEO of Church of God Ministries Bangladesh) and Mrs. Shikha Borman deserve appreciation for organizing these programs at the rural and urban contexts of Bangladesh. We the Union Biblical Seminary faculty and authorities are delighted to see our graduates like Tapan and Shikha take active endeavors in leading organizations and institutions in varied contexts.

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

51W4VhPAfTL__SL500_AA300_Understanding the New Testament through a contextual lens

Scholars continue to unearth valuable understandings of the historical and religious worlds out of which the New Testament writings emerged. This beautifully-crafted introduction notes more than two dozen contextual crises and how the biblical text addresses and reflects them. From the ministry of Jesus, to the rise and progress of the Christian movement, to the epistles of Paul and other leaders, to a vision of God’s final cosmic victory, the New Testament books are succinctly introduced in literary, historical, and theological perspectivesDesigned for optimal use in a 14- or a 10-week undergraduate or graduate course, each chapter is designed with four primary features in mind: (a) contextual crises shedding light on the subject; (b) connections with the biblical writings being discussed in that chapter; (c) primary features of the book(s) being discussed; and (d) an application section dealing with the relevance of the biblical content then and now. Anderson also uses call-out boxes and shorter vignettes to heighten particular themes, while images, charts, and maps are used to make information accessible for students.

About the Author

Author of nearly 200 published essays and several books, Paul N. Anderson is Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University, where he has taught an annual introduction to the New Testament course for more than 20 years. Anderson also serves as Director of the George Fox University Congregational Discernment Project. He holds a PhD. from the University of Glasgow, Scotland; and a M.Div. from Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana.

Amazon details:

PhD Dissertation Defense

Posted: April 2, 2014 in General

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PhD Dissertation Defense


“The Nature and Function of Dialogue in the Book of Signs (John 1:19-12:50)”


Johnson Thomaskutty 


Prof. Dr. Jan G. van der Watt, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Netherlands (Promoter)

Prof. Dr. Kobus Kok, University of Pretoria, South Africa (Co-promoter)

Doctoral Thesis Committee:

Prof. Dr. C. H. Hübenthal, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Netherlands (voorzitter)

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Busse, Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Prof. Dr. Francois D. Tolmie, University of the Free State, South Africa 


The Aula of Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Comeniuslaan 2, 6525 HP Nijmegen, The Netherlands 

Time and Date:

16h30, 19 June 2014

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images of exposition

Exposition of John in the Context of Bangladesh


Church of God Convention

Church of God Mission Compound

Lalmanirhat, Bangladesh


April 24-26, 2014 


Rev. (Dr.) Johnson Thomaskutty

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

Thursday, 24 April 2014: Youth Seminar

Theme: “Youths, You Are Strong” (I John 2:12-14)

Session #1: John, Youths, Church, and Society (Part I)

Session #2: John, Youths, Church, and Society (Part II)

Session #3: John, Youths, Church, and Society (Part III)

Friday, 25 April 2014: General Gathering

Session #4: “I AM the Bread of Life” (John 6:1-59)

Session #5: “I AM the Light of the World” (John 8:12; 9:1-41)

Session #6: “I AM the Door/Gate of the Sheep” (John 10:1-10)

Session #7: “I AM the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11-21)

Saturday, 26 April 2014: General Gathering

Session #8: “I AM the Resurrection and Life” (John 11:1-45)

Session #9: “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:1-12)

Session #10: “I AM the True Vine” (John 15:1-14)

Aargus 1General Theme: “The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic”

Aarhus University, Denmark
June 23–26, 2014
The Student House Conference Center, Fredrik Nielsens Vej 4

Monday, June 23 (Venue: Preben Hornung Stuen)
John and Genre: Toward New Form Criticisms
3:00–4:00 p.m Arrival. Coffee/tea.
4:00–4:45 p.m Kasper Bro Larsen (Aarhus), “The State of Research on John and Genre—and Where New Paths may Lead Us.”
4:45–5:00 p.m Break
5:00–6:30 p.m Key note address: Harold Attridge (Yale), “The Fourth Gospel: Does Genre Matter?”
6:30–8:30 p.m Dinner
8:30– p.m. Sankthansaften (St. John’s Eve/Midsummer) at the bonfire by the sea (‘Den Permanente”)

Tuesday, June 24 (Venue: Preben Hornung Stuen)
The Gospel of John in light of Genre Theory
09:00–10:00 a.m. Sune Auken (Copenhagen), “Reading through Genre: Interpretation and Contemporary Genre Studies.”
10:00–10:15 a.m. Coffee/tea
10:15–11:15 a.m. Gerhard van den Heever (University of South Africa), ‘Always Historicize!’ Genre is not a Natural Object:
Communication Conventions and Theorising the Social Location of the Gospel of John.”
11:15–12:15 p.m. Ole Davidsen (Aarhus), “The Lover, the Lord, and the Lamb: The Gospel of John as a Mixture of Spiritualized
Narrative Genres.”
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch break

The Mosaic as a Whole: The Gospel of John in the History of Early Christian Gospel Literature
1:30–2:30 p.m. Colleen Conway (Seton Hall), “Genre and Gender: Revisiting the ‘Woman Question’ after Masculinity Studies.”
2:30–3:30 p.m. Jason J. Ripley (St. Olaf College, Minn.), “The Social Implication of the Genre of Biography for the Gospel of John.”
3:30–3:45 p.m. Coffee/tea
3:45–4:45 p.m. Eve-Marie Becker (Aarhus), ”What about John? The Fourth Gospel and the Current Debate on Early Christian
4:45–5:45 p.m. Hans Förster (Vienna), “The Use of Literary Devices and the Genre(s) of the Fourth Gospel”
6:00–7:00 p.m. Quick Dinner
7:00–8:00 p.m. George Parsenios (Princeton), “The Silent Spaces Between Narrative and Drama.”

Wednesday, June 25 (Venue: Meating Hall II)
The Tiles of the Mosaic I: Genre Readings in John 1–12
09:00–10:00 a.m. Michael Labahn (Halle), “A Narrow Gate to the Johannine Gospel? Rethinking the Relationship Between the
Johannine Prologue and the Gospel of John.”
10:00–10:15 a.m. Coffee/tea
10:15–11:15 a.m. Douglas Estes (Phoenix), “Rhythm, Rhetoric and Circumstance: The Impeccable Prose of the Prologue of John”
11:15–12:15 p.m. Ruth Sheridan (Charles Sturt, Australia), “Virtual Embedded Narratives in the Johannine Prologue: The Question of
12:15–1:00 p.m. Lunch break
1:00–2:00 p.m. George van Kooten (Groningen), “Heraclitus’ Axiom of Apollo ‘neither Telling nor Conceiling, but Signifying’:
Reading John Against the Background of Plutarch’s “The Oracles at Delphi No Longer Given in Verse”—An Ancient
Semiotic Interpretation of John’s “Signs” (σημεῖα), “Dark Speech” (λόγος σκληρός), and “Figures of Speech”

2:00–3:00 p.m. Johnson Thomaskutty (Pune, India), “The Use of Dialogue as a Literary Genre in the Book of Signs.”
3:00–3:15 p.m. Coffee/tea
3:15–4:15 p.m. Tyler Smith (Yale), “Characterization and the Genre of John”
4:15–6:15 p.m. Visit to Our Lady’s Church in downtown Aarhus / Aros: Aarhus Museum of Art
6:15–7:00 p.m. Quick Dinner downtown
7:00–8:00 p.m. Bernhard Lang (Paderborn), “Lazarus, Come Out! Hidden Meanings in a Johannine Miracle Story (John 11).”
8:00–9:00 p.m. David Svärd (Lund), “John 12:1-8 as a Royal Anointing Type-Scene.”

AarhusThursday, June 26 (Venue: Meating Hall II)
The Tiles of the Mosaic II: Genre Readings in John 13–21
09:00–10:00 a.m. Troels Engberg-Pedersen (Copenhagen), “A Question of Genre: John 13-17 as Paraklesis.”
10:00–10:15 a.m. Coffee/tea
11:15–12:15 p.m. Gitte Buch-Hansen (Copenhagen), “The Farewell Speeches as Liturgical Texts: A Phenomenological Approach to the
Problem of Johannine Sacramentality.”
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch break
1:30–2:30 p.m. Meredith Warren (Ottawa), “The Cup Which the Father has Given: Divine-Mortal Antagonism and the Christological
Implications of Genre.”
2:30–3:30 p.m. Christoph O. Schroeder (Hamburg), “Jesus, Caiaphas and Pilate in John’s Passion Narrative.”
3:30–3:45 p.m. Coffee/tea
3:45–4:45 p.m. Kasper Bro Larsen (Aarhus), “The Recognition Scenes and Epistemological Reciprocity.”
4:45–5:45 p.m. Carl Johan Berglund (Uppsala), “History Intended to be Interpreted Spiritually: Genre Expectations and Genre
Reflections of Origen of Alexandria in his Commentary on the Gospel of John.”
5:45–6:00 p.m. Break

6:00–7:00 p.m. Final Debate. Moderator: Kasper Bro Larsen (Aarhus)
7:00 p.m.– Dinner and symposium with farewell discourses

For more details go here:

moloneyAfter reading his commentary and other writings on John’s Gospel, I wrote a word of appreciation to Father Francis J. Moloney. His response to my short write-up was persuasive. He wrote: “Dear Johnson Thomaskutty, Thank you so much. I am delighted that I have done something to make John speak again and again. I wonder if you have seen my latest book ‘Love in the Gospel of John’. I follow your postings, but am too busy (and may be too old) to become actively involved in everything that is going on. Blessings!” The above statements of a celebrated Johannine scholar are more than enough for me to be inspired for the upcoming years. I requested him to write a few paragraphs about his new book and he sent the following write up that was already published in the Baker Academic Blog. I wish Father Frank Moloney a very warm birthday (today the 23rd March).

[[From my earliest encounters with the Gospel of John it became clear to me that this story might be about the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, but its message was really about what God has done in and through Jesus.  Reading the Prologue (John 1:1-18) left me in no doubt, as it begins in God (vv. 1-2), and ends informing the reader (but not the characters in the story) that no one has ever seen God, but the Son, who always has his gaze turned toward the Father, has told the story of God (v. 18).  The remaining 20 (21) chapters are that story.  If the reason why the Evangelist wrote this Gospel was so that readers and hearers of the story might have life through belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (20:30-31), then words found in the prayer of Jesus involve God again: “This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (17:3).

As time went by I became further fascinated by the question of “what sort of God” does Jesus make known.  That was easy, I thought.  The great sporting sign in the USA makes it clear: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish bit have eternal life” (3:16). God loves so much that the later Letters would declare: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  Jesus’ command that his disciples must love one another as Jesus had loved them was but a logical, and even missionary, consequence of Jesus’ task to make known a God of love (see 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; 17:21-26).

Only lately have I become aware that the loving process from God to Jesus to the disciple was all too easy.  I began to run into a strong critical rejection of the long-held admiration among Christians for John’s development of the theme of love.  Indeed, a veteran and highly esteemed Johannine scholar (Wayne Meeks) has suggested that the Gospel of John has only enjoyed its position as a much-loved book in the Christian tradition because it has been misinterpreted for almost a thousand years!  I was part of that history of misinterpretation.

9781441245748An increasing number of scholars, especially (but not only) in the USA began to see that the Fourth Gospel’s message on love was increasingly introspective.  Jesus, and then Matthew, Mark and Luke, teach love for God, for neighbour, and even for one’s enemies!  There is none of this in John, where the believer is never commanded to love God, neighbour or enemy.  Believers must love Jesus, and one another.  Only when this is in place, will they be swept into the love that has always united Jesus and his Father (John 17:24-26).  The Gospel of John was thus judged as the first and clearest indication that early Christianity was tending toward sectarianism.  We only look after one another.  Believers have a mission – to draw outsiders to belief … but not into a relationship of love.  As Jack T. Sanders puts it: “‘If you believe you will have eternal life,’ promises the Johannine Christian, while the dying man’s blood stains the ground” (Ethics in the New Testament: Change and Development [London: SCM, 1985], 100).

It was time to look again; Love in the Gospel of John is the fruit of that long, hard look.  Years of association with the Johanninestory led me to look beyond what Jesus teaches and commands about love in the Fourth Gospel.  All those words (and there are a lot of them) have their place within a narrative.  The problem with so much analysis of the Gospel of John (and biblical texts in general) is that we often forget the whole story as we focus upon particular words and commands.  I was as guilty of that as anyone, as I had been trained that way.  But love is best communicated by loving actions, not by loving words.  We all know that!  I have thus tried to interpret what the Fourth Gospel teaches about love by situating the words within their narrative context.  Both words and actions must go together.  In the end, actions really count when it comes to making love known.

This intuition has produced a study that features the unique Johannine message of the revelation of God in the lifting up of his son, so that all who gaze upon him may find love and life (see 19:37).  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15:13).  Christians and non-Christians experience loving self-gift most days of their lives.  Perhaps it is there that we should be seeking the face of God.]]

For more details about the book go here:

For buying the book through Amazon:

For reading the posting at the Baker academic blog:

Posted by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

johnWe started our journey of learning together from the Gospel of John in June 2013. When the eight student-friends in my company (of Master of Theology in Old Testament, New Testament, and Christian Theology) are preparing for their final exam, I requested them to write a paragraph about their learning experience all through the academic year 2013-2014. We started our learning experience by reading the Gospel chapter-by-chapter with the assistance of several commentaries of Raymond E. Brown, Rudolf Schnackenburg, Craig Keener, Andreas Köstenberger, Francis Moloney, C. K. Barrett, C. H. Dodd, Rudolf Bultmann, Leon Morris, Bernabas Lindars, Mark Stibbe, Alan Culpepper, Jan van der Watt, Paul Anderson, Moody Smith, Loius Martyn, and others. We discussed the gospel from diverse angles, i.e., from historical-critical, literary and narrative, and liberational perspectives.

In the second half of the academic year, the eight students were assigned to present two papers each (thus sixteen topics). The following were the sixteen topics we discussed in the class: (1) The Thought-World of Johannine Literature; (2) The Johannine Community Aspects; (3) The Similarities and the Differences between the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel; (4) Christology of the Gospel of John; (5) The Nature and Function of Signs; (6) Johannine Dualism; (7) Eschatology in John; (8) Metaphors in John; (9) Paraclete in John; (10) Johannine Sacramentalism; (11) The Sources and the Character of Johannine Passion Narrative; (12) The Formation and the Development of Johannine Resurrection Narrative; (13) The Use of the Old Testament in the Gospel of John; (14) Feminist Reading of John; (15) Dalit and Tribal Perspectives in John; and (16) Ethics in the Gospel of John. Moreover, they all attended my CMS Consultation presentation entitled “Glo[b/c]alization and Mission in the Gospel of John.” Now, you can read what the eight student-friends reflect in their own language below:

[One] M. Supongnungla, Department of Old Testament: “In the past several months of Johannine class I have been influenced by a New Testament lecturer who by his first class, taught a lot about what the book of John is all about/what I failed to see in John. I was fascinated by his vast knowledge about the book of John and at the same time awe struck at how precisely he quoted verses. I learned a mosaic of lessons from John’s literary devices and his style of writing (which kept me browsing through the text and for a time inspired me to think, write, and speak in literary terms). I never noticed that the book of John was in the style of a drama with a protagonist, antagonists and interlocutors. What’s more? The drama has a narrator, an audience, it has props, and it has dialogue and monologue which was spoken in performative language. I liked the style of double meaning, misunderstanding and clarification. The Gospel of John from Dalit/Tribal perspective? I never coupled them because I didn’t picture that the book of John could be read from Dalit and Tribal perspectives. It unlocked my mini brain to change the way I read the Bible. I also had a shift from the traditional understanding of Thomas as I knew him as the doubting Thomas and never looked at him out of the doubting box. Furthermore, I learnt that ‘Christ’ is the centre in John and ‘love’ is the centre of his ethics. To love inclusively, to be humble and to be the voice for the marginalized and the oppressed are some ethical traits I learned in Johannine literature. Finally, one peculiar thing about John is the way in which one can relate the Gospel to the Indian cultural background. The mysticism and the thoughts that are related to Indian religion are incredible. I will not forget the day when my lecturer told the class that the Gospel of John is considered as a Gospel with Indian spirit and that the best commentary can be written only by an Indian (I said to myself, ‘I wish and pray it’s you, Sir’). Besides all this, every class was a learning day for me (a new vocabulary, a new look at the passage, a new insight, a new inspiration). It has motivated me to think anew and enlarge my territory of knowledge and perspective. I thank my lecturer for his one hour forty minutes a week, for now I am inspired by the Gospel of John.”

[Two] Imlongchaba, Department of Christian Theology: “The study of the Gospel of John was very informative and helpful. First, to know the art of reading the text from various approaches such as reader-centered or author-centered approaches has helped me to approach the text in a grand new way. Importantly, the way of reading the text as a drama with different plots and with tragic and comic characters was something new that I have learnt from the study. Second, lessons on the techniques employed in the text such as the use of literary devices and other stylistic features were insightful. Third, the perspective in which the gospel was written is much clearer now and this has helped me to understand John’s theology in a new light. Fourth, the topics covered in the study were helpful in understanding the whole scheme of John’s theology – from academic as well as faith perspectives. Topics on the Feminist perspective, ethical, Tribal and Dalit approaches, and Christological understanding were very helpful in reflecting on the contemporary issues.  Fifth, emphasis on methodological precision in presentation of the papers has helped me to develop and improve in writing skills. Last, the study has not only helped me to learn lessons for academic exercises but it has also helped me to live a life of dedication and commitment represented by Jesus in John.”

[Three] Stephen Pangamte, Department of New Testament: “I have learnt many new things in the study of the Johannine Theology. Here are some points that I would love to mention: First, John writes his gospel from a post-resurrection point of view whereas Synoptic writers focus on the resurrection point of view. This was something new and important that I learnt in this very class. Second, in our Reading Assignment the employment of all those methods such as the use of literary devices, thematic development, plot structure, point of view, form, structure, and textual interweaving and many more which were new to me and all those helped me to know the text more meaningfully. Third, I have learnt concerning the thought-world of Johannine literature, Johannine community, and several themes such as Christology, signs, dualism, eschatology, metaphors, ethics, passion and resurrection. All the above mentioned topics have their own uniqueness within the Johannine narrative framework and provide more insights to reflect upon. Fourth, the contemporary reflections on John such as feminist/Dalit/Tribal readings persuaded me with more insights and knowledge to bring out the true meaning of the text and to contextualize the message in response to the contemporary challenges. Last but not the least, the study of Johannine Theology not only shaped me in my academic career but also strengthened my faith and gave better  insights to share and witness the true gospel to the world.”

[Four] S. Dhane Zhemai, Department of Old Testament: “The Gospel according to John is quite different in character and form from that of Mark, Matthew and Luke. It is highly literary and symbolic. To a much greater degree, it is the product of a developed theological reflection and it grows out of a different circle and tradition. The most logical reason as how John’s Gospel differs from the Synoptic Gospels is that John focuses on his message, primarily on Christ’s deity not on his kingship and kingdom. The prologue proclaims Jesus as the pre-existent and incarnate Word of God who has revealed the Father to us. The language of John’s Gospel is intentionally antagonistic at times toward Jewish tradition and toward Jewish sensitivities. The idea of the Passover of course is very Jewish but John tends to turn some of those ideas in a much sharper way against Jewish tradition. John’s Gospel is a witness to Christian traditions that move farther away from the Jewish traditions. The Gospel also attempts to reconcile varying religious traditions. In the Gospel Jesus declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (14:16). The author of the Gospel also takes pain to reveal that women are not inferior to men in the Christian community: the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4) is presented as a prototype of a missionary (John 4:4–42), and the first witness of the resurrection is a woman (John 20:11–18). In conclusion I would like to say that Ray Bystrom is correct in saying that John’s Gospel is like a river in which a Lamb may bathe and an Elephant swim – it’s both shallow and deep at the same time. As a consequence, both the new convert and the mature disciple will profit from a careful reading of the Gospel.”

JeevanDhara[Five] Sangeeta Adleena, Department of New Testament: “It was indeed a joy and great privilege to get acquainted with one of the most read and loved book of the Bible, the gospel of John. The journey through the text in the form of reading each chapter academically and discussing sixteen different themes of the text has greatly enhanced the understanding and shaped my thinking concerning the Gospel of John. The most important aspect of the getting to know the real message of the gospel is to know the authentic readers of the gospel. To whom the gospel was written? What was their background and what was the purpose behind the composition of the gospel? Yes, the study of the community behind the gospel- the Johannine community, has been the most beneficial in getting to know the whole essence of the gospel. The very nature of the Johannine community and the study of their internal struggles have greatly helped me in understanding the Christology, ethics as well as the eschatology of the Johannine gospel and the letters to a certain extent. This learning has though contributed to my knowledge so to say a considerable portion of the understanding of this vast book but the amount of interest that has been aroused will indeed go a long way in further digging deep to add to the knowledge of the text and to better interpret and apply it. I am deeply indebted to my teacher as well as my fellow-learners in this journey of Johannine study for their contribution in my learning.”

[Six] Zingyo Phungshok, Department of Old Testament: “The study of the Gospel of John has helped me to gain new insights and to look at the Gospel from new perspectives. First, I came to know that John is not only a simple treatise but also realized that it is complex in its composition and structure. It has enormous amount of literary devices to convey its message rhetorically. Second, deep study of the Johannine thought world, literary features and the community dynamics was enlightening. Third, I learned much about the uniqueness of the John’s Gospel, its vertical understanding of the eschatology, its semiotic function, and the peculiar feature of foregrounding the message beyond the cross. This has helped me to retrospect my faith journey relevantly. Fourth, I also learned how to read the gospel with an eye-view of an Indian Christian. I also learned to apply the perspectival approaches to the Gospel of John. Last but not the least, I have come to learn that John also has his unique teaching on ethics. The whole journey of learning the Gospel of John has helped me not only to learn the literary devices and the theology of the book but it also helped me to learn how to articulate and develop my argument of the studies.”

[Seven] M. D. Johnson, Department of Christian Theology: “Personally I could learn a lot from the ‘Theology of Johannine writings’ class. It provoked my thoughts and developed quest within self to learn further from the Johannine writings, in terms of its theological aspects as well as its relevance to the Indian context. Theologically the Johannine writings stimulated the thinking faculties to focus on God with deep insights. One among such is the ‘Resurrection of Christ’ which formulates core thoughts not only for John but for the entire Christendom’s credibility. Further, the themes such as ‘Passion narratives,’ ‘Christology in John,’ ‘The Use of the Old Testament in John’ and so on developed within me high regard for the gospel and motivated deep faith in Christ who is invisible yet visible in and through the Johannine writings. Finally the teaching methods of our lecturer were effective and informative in fact those added flavour to the ‘Theology of the Johannine Writings’ course. In short a marvellous heavenly dish in a clean Indian bowl satisfies and feels me proud to be a student of the theology of Johannine writings forever.”

[Eight] Lucy Zemy, Department of New Testament: “I would like to thank our lecturer for teaching us the course entitled ‘Theology of the Johannine Writings.’ Through the lectures, I learned a lot of which especially how to read the Bible critically. The lectures and reflections were very simple and informative that helped me to understand the text more clearly. What I learned new from the course are as follows: First, the Fourth Gospel reflects its influence from different thought-worlds/backgrounds, but a careful reading of the text teaches us that John composed the gospel in his own idiom. Second, the gospel shows us tenets of the existence of diverse faith communities side by side around the ethical and moral principles of Jesus. Third, some of the idioms, the narrative techniques, and the dramatic accretion show the unique style of John in comparison to the synoptic evangelists. For example, ‘sign,’ ‘figures of speech,’ ‘Paraclete-theology,’ ‘eternal life/abundant life expressions,’ and the like. Last, I understand that John developed his theology independently from that of the synoptic evangelists. Also I view that the theology of the Fourth Gospel is closer to that of the theology of the Pauline writings than that of the Synoptic Gospels.”

In recapitulation, the above post-Johannine class reflections of my student-friends encourage me to take further steps in my learning and teaching experiences of the Fourth Gospel and also the larger Johannine writings. I thank all of you for taking pain to write these reflections. Moreover, I am indebted to you for teaching me new lessons in the Johannine expedition.

Presented by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

poverty-5Another text Luke parallels with Matthew in 7:18-23. Putting Luke 7 in the larger context of 6:20-8:18, Bovon notes the mix of speaking (6:20-49; 7:18-35; 8:4-18) and action (7:1-17; 7:36-50), with a summary in 8:1-3 (cf. Bovon, 1989: 369). John the Baptist sends two disciples, since two witnesses would be necessary to attest to some event (vv. 18-19). The inquiry by the disciples of John is made after healings have been reported to him. The gossip network (cf. Luke 4:14-15) is reporting a new status for Jesus, and John seeks confirmation of it [1]. Word and deed progress side by side as Jesus moves through Galilee. While the words supplement Jesus’ actions, the actions in turn supplement his words. In that way, words and deeds are dynamically interlocked in Jesus’ mission. The arrangement is Luke’s, since there is a mix of material from Mark and Matthew, as well as unique Lukan material [2]. The Lukan passages have parallels in Matthew 11 and occur there in the same sequence as here, though with the omission of some materials that Luke uses (cf. Matthew 11:2-6, 7-11, 16-19; see Craddock, 1990: 99-101). Hence we are dealing with Q material again, even though Luke has modified or transposed some of it [3]. As we have already seen in the case of Luke 6:20 in comparison to Matthew 5:3, Lukan editorial tendencies are once again vivid in 7:22. The significance of the list in 7:22 (cf. Matthew 11:5) is that every activity is a healing of some kind, except the last item about preaching good news to the poor [4]. While Matthew presents the original Q material, Luke takes the passage to address an entirely different social context (see Stanton, DJG, 1992: 644-650). The sociolinguistic connotation of Lukan ptōchos is once again brought to the notice of the reader here.

The phrase ptōchoi euangelidzontai stands out in the list, not only because it comes last and so functions climactically, but also because of its distinct character. It alludes Isaiah 61:1 in Luke 4:18 and also looks to Luke 6:20, which gives a beatitude to the poor [5]. Craddock (1990: 100) says that, “Jesus is carrying out what he announced as his program in the synagogue at Nazareth, the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2”. The favor of which Isaiah spoke is being realized in the preaching and teaching of Jesus. Luke develops his specific message in relation to the contextual realities of his time (cf. Green, 1997: 295-297). The language he picks up shows the way he caricatures his surroundings. According to Charles H. Talbert, “both Luke’s choice of genre type for his message to the church and his development of the type chosen are rooted in the sitz-im-leben of his community” [6]. Thus, it is clear that Luke’s message was formulated out of his social context [7].

Jesus’ reply recalls the words from Isaiah, which he used in the synagogue at Nazareth. Here Jesus again refers to the poor; and, in addition to the blind, he also mentions those who suffer from lameness, deafness, and leprosy (cf. Green, 1997: 297). In the passage, the ptōchoi to whom Jesus announces the good news of the kingdom are a large group (cf. Davids, DJG, 1992: 701-710). They include not only the destitute [8], but also the illiterate, the socially outcaste, the physically handicapped, and the mentally ill (in the Gospel language: ‘the poor’, ‘the little ones’, ‘the tax collectors and sinners’, ‘the sick’, and ‘the possessed’) who form so large a part of the crowds that continually swarm about Jesus in the early days of his Galilean ministry (cf. Sean Freyne, Galilee, 1980). All these are the ‘poor’ (ptōchoi) because all are seen as victims of oppression—whether human (as with the destitute and outcaste) or demonic (as with the crippled, the sick, and the possessed)—which reduces them to a condition of diminished capacity or worth (see Green, 1997: 297). It is this diminution (whether social, physical, or economic), this being ‘bent’, this state of oppression, which is the specific feature defined the gospel ‘poor’ [9]. According to George M. Soares-Prabhu, “. . . the poor are a sociological rather than a religious group” [10]. Their identity is defined not by any spiritual attitude of openness, or dependence on God, but simply by their sociological situation of powerlessness and need. What Soares-Prabhu says here is more appropriate in the context of the Lukan poor.

Luke indicates that Gentiles were among those who benefitted from Jesus’ healing activity. Jesus also healed a relatively large number of women (cf. Scholer, DJG, 1992: 880-887). Luke indicates that Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever (4:38-39), that he aided a widow by raising her son to life (7:11-17), the he cured a woman who had long been afflicted with a hemorrhage (8:43-48), and that he healed a woman who had been beset by spirit that rendered her infirm for eighteen years (13:10-13; cf. Scholer, DJG, 1992: 880-887). Although Luke’s Jesus expressed a definite concern for the poor, the infirm, women, and Gentiles, it is also clear that Jesus is not portrayed as unconcerned about those not falling within these groups. Rather, universalism is a striking feature of Jesus’ social stance [11]. Again, it is noticeable that the term ptōchoi in Luke can accommodate all other vulnerabilities.

According to Luke, Jesus’ position is one of concern and compassion for people from all walks of life, but he does not passively accept values or practices that run counter to his own vision regarding healthy social relationships [12]. The sum total of six classes of unfortunate persons thus described in Luke 7:22 (i.e., tuphloi, chōloi, leproi, kōphoi, nekroi, and ptōchoi) stresses the kind of persons to whom the message of the Lukan Jesus is being brought. So the phrase ptōchoi euangelidzontai means good news to all those who are afflicted by social, economic, physical and other kind of oppressions (cf. Green, 1997: 297). Thus in both 6:20 and 7:22 Luke attempts to make the text socially relevant, and avoided the tendency of spiritualization of poverty. His social redaction of the text made it closer to the sitz-im-leben of the masses.

End Notes:

[1] Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary, 285. For more details about “Gossip network” in the gospel traditions, refer to Neyrey, The Gospel of John, 2007: 26, 55-56, 96-97, 193, 317, 319-320.

[2] F. Bovon, Das Evangelium nach Lukas: Luke 1:1-9:50, Vol. 1, Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 3/1 (Zurich: Neukirchener Verlag, 1989), 369. 

[3] Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke I-IX, 662.

[4] Boch, Luke 1:1-9:50, BECNT, 667.

[5] Ibid., 667f.

[6] Charles H. Talbert, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes, and Genre of Luke-Acts, Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series, Vol. 20 (Missoula: Society of Biblical Literature and Scholars Press, 1974), 135.

[7] Further, James H. Charlesworth says, “. . . Jesus’ unique words were shaped by contemporary Jewish thought and especially by the interpretation of scriptures by his fellow Jews”. See James H. Charlesworth, “The Historical Jesus: How to Ask Questions and Remain Inquisitive”, The Handbook of the Study of the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1, ed. T. Holmen and S. E. Porter.

[8] A fast growing population in the Palestine in Jesus’ time, where heavy civil and religious taxation led to large-scale rural indebtedness, the selling off of small land holdings, and the creation of a vast rural and urban proletariat, subsisting precariously on daily wage labor, begging, or banditry.

[9] George M. Soares-Prabhu, “Class in the Bible: The Biblical Poor a Social Class?” Voices from the Margin: Interpreting Bible in the Third World, ed. R. S. Sugirtharajah (New Delhi: Orbis Books, 1991), 156.

[10] Ibid., 157.

[11] Cassidy, Jesus, Politics, and Society, 24.

[12] Ibid.

Upcoming post:A Sociolinguistic Reading of ptōchos in Luke’s Gospel, Part VIII: ‘Lukan usage of ptōchos from Mark (18:22)’”

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

06kibas02_Iyer-Jesu_915994e(The author, V. R. Krishna Iyer, 99 years old, is a retired Supreme Court Judge of distinction, a former Cabinet Minister in the Kerala government, a great humanist, and a regular contributor to The Hindu. Republished from “The Hindu” Daily Newspaper, December 24, 2008)

[Was not the kingdom of god that Jesus held up but the forerunner to socialism, social justice, secularism and democracy? He was a raging egalitarian, an invisible socialist, and an economic democrat.

Jesus, born of humble parents in Bethlehem, rose as a glorious phenomenon. He became a world wonder of spiritual-temporal revolution against an imperial establishment and a corrupt priestly order. Judas Iscariot betrayed his master for a few pieces of silver. Every barbarity from those treacherous days still exists, indeed in magnified malignancy, to victimize the have-not humanity and slay the radical humanist and activist.

Lofty testament

For all of humankind, Jesus’ magnificent, yet militant, teaching was a lofty testament of egalitarian liberation from obscurantist faith, authoritarian politics, theological orthodoxy and big business freebooting. Similarly, the ring of his message constituted a de facto revolt against Roman imperialism, absolutist injustice and priest-proud godism. He stood for a higher culture marked by a sacred, sublime, compassionate ethos, and a divinity of humanity that is free from crass, class-mired materialism and gross, greedy, grabbing riches. This rare man of Nazareth resisted Jewish ecclesiastical domination, opposed discrimination among brothers and demanded, in God’s name, socio-economic justice. This is the essence of the Jesus jurisprudence of human dignity, inner divinity and fraternal obligation to help every brother in distress.

Born into a carpenter’s family, Jesus lived a sage and simple life and chose his disciples from a weaker section of society — indigent fishermen. He symbolised a revolutionary change in the theological-temporal establishment and advocated social justice and divinity, dignity and equity in the social order. Such a transformation was the truth of the kingdom of heaven, which was a challenge to the Roman Empire, the Jewish priestocracy and the arbitrary justice system that then prevailed. H.G Wells wrote: “This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus, is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought. It is small wonder if, the world of that time [and of our time, if this writer may add] failed to grasp its full significance, and recoiled in dismay from even a half apprehension of its tremendous challenges to the established habits and institutions of mankind.”

Rare daring

Jesus, the glorious rebel, proclaimed the reality of a universal moral order. He called it the kingdom of heaven and told the people that the kingdom of god was indeed within them. He outraged the hypocrites who did their commerce inside the temples and the shrines. He drove them out with rare daring. Now, right before our eyes, our temples and churches are again centres of big business.

Jesus, to the anger of the proprietariat, resisted the commercialisation of god and the commoditisation of man. Big temples, great churches, god-men, bishops, mullahs and acharyas are a mundane part of the capitalist establishment and are anti-Jesus in spirit. India’s Constitution mandates equality, secularism and economic democracy. What a marvel it was that Jesus preached ages ago — that God was equal in granting his favours to all, as was the sun. Jesus was a raging egalitarian, an invisible socialist, an economic democrat. Proof of this lies in his parables and preaching.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus cast scorn upon that natural tendency we all obey, to glorify our own people and to minimise the righteousness of other creeds and races. In the parable of the labourers he thrust aside the obstinate claim of the Jewish people to have a sort of first mortgage upon God. All whom God takes into the kingdom, he taught, he serves alike. There is no distinction in his treatment, because there is no measure to his bounty. There are no privileges, no rebates, and no excuses. H.G. Wells has presented these propositions in The Outline of History.

Barabbas jurisprudence

The abolition of poverty is a socialist feature of the societal structure. In order to wipe every tear of grief from every eye, you need a social transformation and an economic regeneration, a special concern for women and children, and a rage against those who rob the people’s resources. This is the majesty and humanity of true spirituality that was absent during the era of Emperor Tiberius. It was his administration and justice delivery system, presided over in the region by Pontius Pilate, which decreed, with perverse judicial power and under pressure from the priestly class and in exercise of state authority that Jesus, who argued for the kingdom of heaven, be put to the cross. When treason was the charge and the priestly order was exposed by the accused, there was terrific pressure on the Governor-judge to sentence him. The same judge set free Barabbas. Even today innocence suffers state punishment and robbery rides state power. Barabbas jurisprudence is in currency even today.

Jesus spoke for all time and all mankind when he, bed-rocked on the spiritual philosophy of the kingdom of god, told that court this truth of human rights and social justice. His advocacy of the humanist culture as the ultimate value, as against obscurantist godism, is evident from the admonition that sabbath is for man, not man for sabbath.

Advocate of unity and fraternity

Jesus advocated the unity and fraternity of humanity, like the doctrine of Advaita that Adi Sankara propagated as an upanishadic fundamental. Not only did he strike at patriotism and the bonds of family loyalty in the name of God’s universal fatherhood and the brotherhood of all mankind, his teaching condemned all the gradations of the economic system, all private wealth, and personal advantage. He said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

To my mind, this glorious dimension of the kingdom of god is the forerunner to socialism, social justice, secularism and democracy. The life of Jesus was absolute simplicity, matchless humility, compassionate humanity, gender reverence and pro-poor egalite. He washed the feet of his disciples, he defied godist superstition. To share and care for your neighbour, even your enemy, were the fundamentals he taught. He was thus a pioneer of world brotherhood, who advocated freedom from dogmas and obscurantist cults. Such a universalism is the testament of Jesus. This is the Christianity to be practised daily — not the Christianity for a Sunday ritual, or for an alibi to hold the world under imperial might and big business power. Not showy charity coupled with mighty rapacity. The Buddha was a predecessor of Jesus. The Mahatma whom Churchill called “the half-naked fakir” was his successor.

Yet, Jesus if born today will meet Pilate’s justice yet again. Barabbas is in power everywhere again. Judas the pretentious disciple and arch-betrayer is a subtle and slight presence practising diplomacy — the Cross in one hand and nuke bomb in the other. The terrorist incarnation today masquerades as the ruler of the earth.

The resurrection of the world and the elimination of the sufferings and slavery of millions are desiderata for many a million honest disciples of Jesus. Even so, the finest teachings of Jesus have perished, and the world today suffers a grave decline in the values of humanism, compassion, morality and divinity. Greed, vulgarity and the collapse of the public good have been a shock and a shame, a terror and a horror.

Structural splendour

Resurrection, not in the lexical or biblical sense, but in the grand moral dimension of the term conveying the spirit of trans-material mutation, is the structural splendour of the world order. Peace, not war; stability, not subservience; high morality, not any grab-based acquisitive success, is the new ethic. Exploitation has become the rule of law, and equity and justice have become the vanishing point of international jurisprudence.

The hidden agenda after a unipolar world is the malignant methodology of insatiable accumulation of wealth. This terrible trend must be trampled under the foot by a triumphant and dynamic generation. This should be done with socialist convictions and a profound prognosis — of work, wealth and happiness for every human being. This should be the ‘developmental drama’ of the New World Order.]

Teach-Girls-End-World-PovertyScholarly studies suggest that the very earliest NT traditions which are reflected in the ‘Q Source’ (i.e., non-Markan material common to Luke and Matthew) provide us with the most radical presentation of the NT teaching on the poor and poverty. In ‘Q’ the priority attention is given to the poor and good news to the poor. This is evident from the first beatitude in Luke 6:20 (= Matthew 5:3) and then from Luke 7:22 (= Matthew 11:55; cf. P. H. Davids, DJG, 1992: 704-705; Schnackenburg, Matthew, 2002: 47). A sociolinguistic reading of these two passages provides us with insights concerning the Lukan redactional intentions and community applications.

People in different sociological environments operate with different linguistic forms. The interaction between their sociolinguistic perspective and the language of a text results in a unique understanding about the power and meaning of the text. One therefore should not expect that person in one sociolinguistic framework would interpret a text in the same way as people living in a different one [1]. We can see the process already at work in the NT. In Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”, while Luke 6:20b, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (cf. P. H. Davids, DJG, 1992: 704-705; Schnackenburg, Matthew, 2002: 47) [2]. According to Brian K. Blount, “while Matthew moralizes the ‘poor’, Luke, ever cognizant of the socioeconomic dichotomy between the rich and the poor, identifies a social rather than a moral reality” [3]. This is a tangible means through which we can identify the way different evangelists used texts according to their socio-cultural contexts.

It is a matter of debate about who changed the original ‘Q’ form of the beatitudes [4]. Luke’s Greek has the same first three words as Matthew 5:3, makarioi hoi ptōchoi, but the Matthean form continues, “in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. By adding “in Spirit”, Matthew has adapted to the beatitudes anawim among the early Jewish Christians [5]. It is more probable to think that Matthew added “in Spirit” to his text rather than to think that Luke omitted the expression. According to Matthew’s version, Jesus’ blessings might be taken to apply to those who were actually rich in possessions as long as they were poor “in Spirit” (cf. Craddock, 1990: 89; Schnackenburg, Matthew, 2002: 47). This is not the case with Luke. For not only does Luke’s version name the poor and the hungry without any qualifications, Luke also includes a series of “woes” addressed to the rich and the comfortable that contrast with the preceding blessings of the poor and the hungry (cf. Green, 1997: 267; cf. P. H. Davids, DJG, 1992: 704-705). The overall effects is that those who are actually poor and actually hungry are the ones to whom the blessings are addressed [6]. In that sense, one needs to understand that Lukan attempt is to bring a contrast between the rich and the poor of his society. That further means that the author’s attempt is to introduce a social critique in rhetoric format.

In the text, Lukan rhetorical intentions are obvious. In 6:20 the blessings of the ‘poor’ are followed by a blessing on ‘those who hunger now’. In the following woes the poor and the hungry are contrasted with those who are rich and well fed in this world [7]. According to H. Kvalbein, “the text no doubt refers to socio-economic poverty and physical hunger; those who now are poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted will be raised to glory and enjoy the abundance of the Kingdom of God” [8]. The first three makarisms [9] deal with ‘the general human conditions of poverty and suffering’ and the fourth makarism is oriented towards the specific situation of persecution of Christian community [10]. The four makarisms describe someone who has lost both material wealth (poor, hungry), as well as social standing (loss of kin, ostracism). This ostracism entails total loss of all economic support from the family (food, clothing, shelter), as well as total loss of honor and status in the eyes of the village (a good name, marriage prospects and the like). Such persons would be ‘shameful’ in the eyes of the family and village, but Jesus proclaims them ‘honorable’ (makarioi; cf. Craddock, 1990: 89) [11]. As a rhetorical masterpiece the text introduces a transfer of order in a society characterized by ‘honor and shame’.

The evangelist encourages the reader to take side with the poor and the marginalized and to stand in opposition to the oppressive social structures. His beatitudes are statements consoling and supporting the socially disadvantaged groups. The social ostracism in v. 22 is always the fate of the poor in agrarian societies. Luke suggests that social ostracism may become the fate of the rich who join Jesus’ groups that include the poor [12]. The Sermon on the Plain in Luke is, directed towards the ‘poor’, the hungry, and the mourning (cf. Green, 1997: 267). The laments about the rich are parenthetically calling out to an absent group of people. Not just the rich, but also all members of the congregation are supported to lend to the fellow humans without hope of return (cf. Craddock, 1990: 89). For this reason John the Baptist, Paul, and also Jesus are central figures in Luke-Acts acting as promoters of horizontal compensations of possessions. At the same time, the rich are particularly being asked to perform this duty of sharing goods [13]. According to Philip F. Esler, “. . . social and political factors have been highly significant in motivating Lukan theology; in other words, that Luke has shaped the gospel traditions at this disposal in response to social and political pressures experienced by his community” [14]. A total reversal of social status is envisioned, a point made even more vivid by the contrasting woes upon the rich in Luke’s Gospel (cf. Craddock, 1990: 89). These words are addressed to the hungry, powerless, and socially dispossessed people around Jesus [15]. Thus, the beatitudes promise satisfaction and laughter to the poor, which is exactly what the rich now have (cf. Luke 6:25; 16:19; see Green, 1997: 267). Lukan pragmatic theology is vivid at this point as elsewhere in the gospel.

In Luke 6:20ff, hoi ptōchoi includes the following groups of people: hoi peinōntes (those who hunger), hoi klaiontes (those who weep), misēsosin (hated), aphorisōsin (excluded), oneidisōsin (reviled), and ekbalōsin (thrown out). Green (1997: 267) states that, “‘Poor’ and ‘rich’ . . . are socially defined constructs—and Jesus is overturning the way these terms have been constructed in ordinary discourse . . . . By asserting that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor, then, Jesus is redefining the working assumptions, the values that determine daily life”. Thus hoi ptōchoi is expressed here as a general term to address the above mentioned specific groups of people. Among the hoi ptōchoi living on the poverty line the am haaretz (i.e., ‘the people of the land’) are to be reckoned significantly. The hoi ptōchoi (and am haaretz) were overburdened with taxes, tithes, and rent and so often fell hopelessly into debt. Even worse of was those who lived either partially or fully on relief (cf. P. H. Davids, DJG, 1992: 704-705) [16]. Luke’s beatitudes address such a group of people. In recapitulation, the Lukan beatitudes, especially the one in 6:20, are carved out of his social realities.

End Notes:

[1] Brian K. Blount, Cultural Interpretation: Reorienting New Testament Criticism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 4.

[2] Abraham J. Malherbe sees a connection between the social patterns of the Palestinian context and their reflections in the literary works of the authors. Abraham J. Malherbe, Social Aspects of Early Christianity, Second Edition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 17ff.

[3] Blount, Cultural Interpretation, 4.

[4] The beatitudes (6:20b-23) and the woes (6:24-26) form the exordium of the Lukan sermon; they are like two strophes of a poem and correspond to Matthew 5:3, 4, 6, 11-12. See Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke I-IX, 631f.

[5] Cf. Ibid., 632.

[6] Richard J. Cassidy, Jesus, Politics, and Society: A Study of Luke’s Gospel (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1978), 23.

[7] H. Kvalbein, “Poor/Poverty”, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Eds. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner (Leicester/Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 689f.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Some of the beatitudes and other sayings of Jesus that are preserved in this sermon have their counterparts in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. In form, the beatitudes are related to makarisms found in Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Old Testament literature.

[10] John S. Kloppenborg, The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), 173.

[11] Jerome H. Neyrey, “Loss of Wealth, Loss of Family and Loss of Honor: The Cultural Context of the Original Makarisms in ‘Q’”, Modelling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the NT in Its Context, Ed. Philip F. Esler (London/New York: Routledge, 1995), 145.

[12] Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary, 285.

[13] Gerd Theissen, Gospel Writing and Church Politics: A Socio-Rhetorical Approach, Chuen King Lecture Series 3 (Hong Kong: Theology Division, Chung Chi College, Cuhk, 2001), 113.

[14] Philip Francis Esler, Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts: The Social and Political Motivations of Lukan Theology (Cambridge: University Press, 1987), 2.

[15] Walter E. Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor: Wealth and Poverty in Luke-Acts (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1981), 58.

[16] Ibid., 43ff.

Upcoming post:A Sociolinguistic Reading of ptōchos in Luke’s Gospel, Part VII: ‘Lukan usage of ptōchos from the Q Source (7:22)’”

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

unnamedNepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is the world’s ninety-third largest country by land mass and the forty-first most populous country, better known as “the top of the world”. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the North by the People’s Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. My 2013 visit to Nepal was in every means a refreshing experience. It was my honor that I was invited as a lecturer on the Gospel of John at Nepal Ebenezar Bible College in Kathmandu. The four days’ interaction with the students and faculty of NEBC and the churches around contributed long-lasting results in my life. During my stay at NEBC, Mr. Caleb Yashwanth, the Dean of Academic Affairs, arranged a time of interaction with Nepalese New Testament scholar Rev. Dr. Ramesh Khatry. I was told that Dr. Ramesh Khatry is the first and the only New Testament scholar with a PhD in the Nepalese context. His contributions as a New Testament scholar and relationship with the extended Nepalese church as a Christian minister are significant things to mention here. The following details about him are gathered from my one-on-one interaction with him.

In 1976 Ramesh Khatry left Nepal in order to pursue his Bachelor of Divinity (BD) studies at The Union Biblical Seminary, Yeotmal, India, and in 1979 he completed his studies with a distinction. He grew up as a Christian in the Nepalese Hindu environment and that shaped his interpretative outlook of the New Testament. When he left the homeland in 1976 there were only about 3,000 Christians in Nepal. But when he returned back in 1979 the Christian community was rapidly grown to 12,000 people. From 1979 onward Khatry was involved as an active worker and founder of The Nepal Christian Fellowship, The Nepal Bible Institute, and The Nepal Bible Ashram. Through these initiatives he persuaded many Nepali Christians for scholarly pursuit.

In the year 1986 he started his research work for earning his PhD in New Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, UK. In 1991 he successfully defended his dissertation and returned back to serve his nation. The dissertation was titled “The Authenticity of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and Its Interpretation”. He had completed his dissertation under the supervision of Dr. David Wenham. The dissertation seeks to demonstrate the authenticity (as dominical teaching) of the parable of the darnel (Matt. 13:24-30) and its interpretation (Matt. 13:36-43). The interpretation in particular is almost universally regarded as non-dominical, notably by Joachim Jeremias and his followers. But Khatry argues that the whole of Matt. 13:36-43 (and Matt. 13:24-30) should be seen as dominical. He also challenged the arguments of Geza Vermes and others that the Christological title ‘Son of Man’ was not used during the time of Jesus. His dissertation can be considered as one of the significant critiques toward the post-Jülicher interpretation of the parables.

Dr. Ramesh Khatry says that his five years of research toward his PhD taught him several lessons of writing. He authored the following seven books in the Nepali language: New Testament Background, A Commentary on Romans, A Commentary on Galatians, A Commentary on Revelation, A Guide to Biblical Interpretation, A Guide to Expository Preaching, and A Book on Paul. His contributions to the Nepalese churches and to the theological communities in the Himalayas are immense. He was principal of Nepal Ebenezer Bible College from 1992 till 1998. From 1998 he works as the Education Director of The Association for Theological Education in Nepal (ATEN). The primary purpose of ATEN is to upgrade and promote theological education in the country. ATEN has the largest theological library in Nepal with 19,500 books. Dr. Ramesh Khatry and his colleagues took active initiative to build theological foundation in Nepal. During the developmental stages of ATEN they had to confront several struggles such as lack of qualified students, faculty and research resources, financial barriers, and the problem of recognition and affiliation. Currently, ATEN authorities are in conversations with the Religious Studies department of Tribhuvan University for affiliation. My one hour conversation with Dr. Ramesh Khatry informed me the lessons of humility, determination, and scholarship. In rapidly growing native-church context of Nepal, Dr. Ramesh Khatry’s commitment for biblical scholarship has to be reckoned with significance.

See the Google Book here.

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARev. Dr. Dan Nighswander, along with his wife Mrs. Yvonne, spent about six weeks in The Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India, in order to work toward his forthcoming commentary on First Corinthians. We had a wonderful time with this couple. Dr. Dan was helping us in the NT studies department as a resource person. Dan has been the pastor at Jubilee Mennonite Church since August 2009. Before that he was a conference youth pastor, pastor at two churches in Ontario, part-time lecturer in New Testament at Conrad Grebel University College, denominational administrator for Mennonite Church Canada and missionary in South Africa. He holds Masters degrees from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Wilfrid Laurier University, and he completed his PhD in New Testament at Toronto School of Theology. He has a special interest in First Corinthians and he is writing a commentary on that New Testament letter. Dr. Dan and Mrs. Yvonne have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grand children. The below questions and answers are part of our various conversations in the UBS Campus.

Question #1: Dr. Dan Nighswander, may you share with us your experience of combining the academic and ministerial aspects together?

Dan: After I graduated from seminary I started my first pastorate and my second master’s degree at the same time. Five years later I started my doctoral program, which I completed while pastoring a church and teaching part-time. For me, it has worked well to combine academic and pastoral ministry so that I bring my best knowledge to preaching and I bring questions from the congregational experience to my academic pursuits.God has called me to both pastoral and academic forms of ministry. For some years my ministry did not allow time for academic pursuits and that created a personal as well as a professional loss.

Question #2: Who were the two significant New Testament scholars influenced you the most in your academic life?

Dan: In my doctoral studies Dr. Richard N. Longenecker was one of many teachers who was influential. More recently I have been shaped by Dr. N.T. Wright’s books.

Question #3: What are the areas of your interest in preaching and teaching?

Dan: In teaching I am interested in Pauline letters, especially 1 Corinthians; also synoptic gospels and John. I have found social scientific questions to be particularly fruitful for my understanding. In preaching I am especially interested in spiritual growth (the experience of grace, prayer, and awareness of God),discipleship (hence, understanding Jesus), and creating a lively encounter with the Bible that will inspire people to love, read and obey it.

Question #4: Tell us about your current writing project.

Dan: I am writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians for the Believer’s Church Bible Commentary series. These commentaries are for pastors and lay leaders, and in addition to exegesis they include comments on “The Text in the Life of the Church” for each section of text. It brings together my academic and pastoral interests.

Question #5: In your opinion, how the Eastern New Testament studies are different from that of the Western?

Dan: There are aspects of the culture and world view of the Bible that Western Scholars don’t understand because they were set in the Mediterranean and influenced by the East. Examples would include family systems, the value of honor and shame, authority and power, political systems and others.

Question #6: Do you think that bridging the Eastern and the Western New Testament scholarship is possible? How?

Dan: I think it is possible if scholars are aware of their own perspectives and open to other ways of reading the texts. Western scholars have less experience with this than Eastern scholars because the weight of publishing has been in the West and Eastern scholars have studied in the West. It would help if Eastern scholars would publish with a self-consciously Eastern world view. As an example, some Western NT scholars have explored the influence of shame and of patronage in the Bible. Eastern scholars could contribute a lot to this perspective. Some other cultural aspects of the Bible are more like the Eastern mind (see the writings of Kenneth Bailey and others), and Western scholars should humbly listen to what Eastern scholars have to say. Eastern and Western scholars are asking different questions of the texts, and we can be stimulated by listening to each other’s questions as well as to each other’s answers.

Question #7: What is your advice to the upcoming New Testament scholars, preachers, and teachers of the Eastern world?

Dan: Explore your own cultural perspective on the texts and be confident in the wisdom of your experience. Publish your insights, and when you teach require students to read more Eastern than Western scholars. Focus your scholarship on the service of the church in your own context rather than on impressing other scholars.

Interviewed by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

widowThe following are reflections 11-14. See reflections 1-5 (here) and 6-10 (here).

Reflection Eleven: “The Dalits, the majority community of India, are politically powerless, socially untouchyable, economically poor, and religiously voiceless. Even today casteism is practiced in several parts of the country, by which the interests of the elite are protected. Dalit women of India are victims of patriarchal and androcentric customs as well as natural and accidental catastrophes. They are still victims of a cruel and oppressive socioreligious order. The customs of the society traumatized the feelings of women, especially Dalit women, in the past even now it hurts their identity. Many of them are homeless, jobless, starving, sick, oppressed, exploited, persecuted, robbed, raped, hungry, and dying. Today, the Dalits are eagerly waiting for a paradigm message of transformation and equality to overcome the dehumanizing structures. Mark 12:38-13:2 is just such a text which provides powerful insights for developing a Dalit Theology” (See Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251). The story of the woman in Mark 12:38-13:2 can be considered as a sharp rhetoric in the context of prevailing exploitation and marginalization in the India.

Reflection Twelve: “The widow in Mark 12 is a victim of an imbalanced society in which she was oppressed as poor, subjugated as a woman, and dehumanized as a widow; she was indeed suffering from triple-oppression. A Dalit Christian woman is a woman, a Dalit, and a Christian. There is in India a tradition defining what each of these identities involve which is so strong that a Dalit Christian woman can be described as thrice handicapped or thrice alienated on the basis of her gender, her caste, and her membership in a minority religious community (i.e., Christianity in India). The Women’s Movement in India has emphasized that Dalit women are the dust of dust in the Indian society—the thrice oppressed, brutalized, and abused not only by the upper castes/classes but by Dalit men too. In Mark 12:38-13:2, while the rabbis walked around in long robes, the widows ended up with tiny coins; while the rabbis were greeted with respect, the widows were considered a public disgrace; while one people group was comfortable with their best seats, the other was without a place to lay their heads; and while one constructed their own splendorous mansions including the temple, the other had their houses devoured. These caricatures go well with the context of lower caste—higher caste or poor—elite disparity in the Indian scenario. The presentation of the Markan widow over against the giant men can be taken as a symbolic expression of a social reality. The life-situation of the widow in the narratives of Mark provides paradigmatic rhetoric for us to apply to the life-situation of India” (see Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251).

Reflection Thirteen: “Dalit women who are victims of patriarchal constraints within the Dalit-fold itself are emerging as a volatile force to challenge the status quo. They are targets of sexual abuse by upper castes in a context of caste/class clashes, of state-sponsored violence in various forms, and of domestic violence in the hands of their own men. The widow of Mark is a living testimony for all the widows, oppressed women, and all the Dalit people in India and elsewhere around the globe. She must not be looked at merely as a historical monument; instead we must place her into the real-life situation of all the oppressed and exploited classes as a directive force for transforming the dehumanizing structures that are prevalent in the contemporary global scenario. Not only in this story but throughout all the Gospels, Jesus stood firm for the causes of the marginalized and identified completely with them. Just as Jesus sided with the vulnerable as a prophet of social transformation, so too in the present-day situation the church should raise its prophetic voice on behalf of the Dalits, especially the Dalit women of India” (see Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251).

Reflection Fourteen: In recapitulation, the story of the needy-poor-widow-woman is not merely a ‘descriptive’ event of the past but a ‘gnomic’ story that can rhetorically intertwine readers ‘here and now’ and ‘everywhere and ever’. The woman of Mark 12:38-13:2 functions as a symbolical character who can influence the Dalit women of India, Black women of America, Minjung women of Korea, and all the needy-poor-widowed-women in different parts of the world. Similarly, Markan protagonist Jesus functions as the savior of the world with ‘gnomic effect’. Jesus is the liberator of humanity from clutches. The church of God as the miniature form of the Kingdom of God must take this as the kernel point and should stand firm with the poor and the oppressed. Let this message flourish among the people of God so that all may become ‘servants’ rather than choosing to become ‘masters’.

Reflections by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India