Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah."

Decades ago, I remember reading a Joel Green review of commentaries (in the Cayalyst newletter),
and he used the word "indefatigable" to describe F.F. Bruce.
  I confess I had to look the word up to see for sure that it meant what I thought it did.
It did...and that word captured Bruce...and still does (even since he died in 1990).

But one of my favorite Bruce quotes comes not from one of hin 789,004 books and articles,
but from an informal conversation in his living room with Scot McKnight.

McKnight tells the delightful story (there's more to it than this excerpt, see p.207, or this blog post for context) to close off the penultimate (yes, you can look that word up) chapter his amazing book, "The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How We Read the Bible." p, 207:

"I think Paul would roll over in his grave
if he knew we were turning his letters into torah."


  1. I must, respectfully, disagree. I believe Mr. Bruce has a fundamental misunderstanding of the word "Torah". Torah has many meanings. It can mean the five books of Moses. It can mean all the commandments contained therein. It can mean any individual commandment contained therein. It can mean the so-called "Oral Law". And it can simply, in it's literal sense, mean any teaching or instruction.

    And it is this last sense in which Paul would, I believe, have meant for his letters to be taken as torah (note my use of the lower-case T, which is also used in the quote). His letters are quite obviously instruction, in particular a specific kind of instruction commonly called by the Greek term Responsa, or "she'elot u-teshubot" ("questions and answers") in Hebrew.

  2. Thanks Rabbi.. i tagged you as I knew you'd have an opinion. (:

    I don't think Bruce, who many would see as the #1 biblical scholar of our lifetime could have a misunderstanding of torah/Torah. I don't know if you clicked through to read the quote in context, but Bruce seems to mean it in a more specific sense. He's well aware the word can mean just "teaching"..and that may also be part of his argument

  3. Yeah, I read it. I just think he's wrong. Ah, well, nothing unusual there...

  4. Note to Steve: It is his blog and not ours.

  5. Note re: Steve's comment:
    The only comments I delete are spam and Steve's comments (here and in our church forum since 2004). He has always claimed I delete tons of comments i don't like.. But once in awhile i leave one this folks can see how much he obviously loves me.

    I love him, and fell bad for the poor guy.
    But unfortunately his next comment will probably be so
    abusive I'll delete it. (:

    Arn...Steve will claim i asked you to post that.

  6. Rabbi, sorry to have seemly hijack the train of thoughts. I would agree with you and said so in a post that was deleted. Paul is in full sight of his purpose. He knows his works with be carried to all Churches and read many times. In 2Ti 4:13 we can see his thought train and he is clearly tying to preserve and protect his works when he said: When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

    To say he did not know the full Plan for his works might be a clearer statement!

    @wainscott: I wish those that think that “I am a pain in toe” will only be frustrated enough to throw a whipped cream pie in my face (in the sprite of the Marx Brothers, of course!). Please keep all my comments “on stage” so that the true picture of so called “abuse” can be seen!!! I would love to have that. Also, I have been with you since 2000 (ah, the ole robe days... remember?). You married my best friend Phil and Ginger...also, I was your webmaster, a huge financial investor and was going to be on the Board in the 501c incorporation papers we were redrawing at the time of my departure from Third Day Fellowship of Fresno?? did you forget that?

    I never have been a “forum” poster only!!! Heck, I installed one of the boards you are referring to!


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!