Leading New Testament Scholar To Give Truett's Parchman Lectures

Sept. 27, 2007
News Photo 4262Dr. Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary will bring another in a long line of world-renowned theologians to the Baylor campus, when Dr. Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, delivers the annual Parchman Endowed Lectures Oct. 2-4 in the seminary's Paul Powell Chapel. The lectures are free and open to the public.

Widely regarded as one of the leading evangelical New Testament scholars in the world today, Witherington will give four lectures on "The Shifting of Paradigms," as he focuses on the latest methodologies in the historical study of the New Testament and the forming of the New Testament canon.

"We're at a juncture now where a lot of the newer methodologies have borne considerable fruit, including rhetorical criticisms of the New Testament," Witherington said.

Witherington will argue such questions as the authorship of Paul's letters or "speeches," the closing of the New Testament canon in the first century A.D., as opposed to the fourth century, and the possibility that the "beloved disciple" in the fourth gospel was Lazarus.

"The reason his gospel is so different than the other ones is that this is somebody who Jesus had raised from the dead, and that will change your worldview," Witherington said. "This gospel is a tad different than Matthew, Mark and Luke because this gospel was written by somebody who had experienced the miraculous work of Jesus."

Witherington will present his first lecture on "Sacred Texts in an Oral Culture: How Did They Function?" at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2. That evening at 7:30 p.m., he will discuss "Canonical Pseudepigrapha: Is It an Oxymoron?"

On Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 9:30 a.m., he will speak on "Rethinking the Canonizing of the New Testament."

"In effect, the canon was closed in the first century A.D., not in the fourth century A.D., because the criteria for writing apostolic documents is you have to be an apostle and the criteria for being an apostle is you have to have seen the risen Lord," Witherington said. "Christians from the very first generation had a sense that these are our sacred texts and since they go back to the apostles and the eyewitnesses they have the best chance of telling us the truth about this and we're going to keep them. What I'm arguing is what happened in the fourth century was not the forming of the canon but the recognition of documents that had always been thought to be inspired, authoritative and canonical."

Witherington's final lecture on "The Historical Figure of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel" will be at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 4.

"Those who attend these lectures will have an opportunity to (re-)think about subjects that are central to New Testament Studies with a well-informed, clearly-spoken, widely-traveled and sure-footed guide," said Dr. Todd Still, associate professor of Christian scriptures at Truett Seminary. "For roughly a quarter of a century now, Ben Witherington III has been offering both scholars and students of the New Testament serious, yet accessible, work on a wide range of topics. The day is coming when one will mention Ben Witherington alongside F. F. Bruce and I. Howard Marshall. Baylor and Truett Seminary are truly fortunate to have a scholar of his stature, standing and commitment among us for the 2007-08 Leo and Gloriana Parchman Endowed Lectures."

Witherington is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received a master of divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and his doctorate from the University of Durham in England. He is an elected member of the prestigious Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, a learned society dedicated to New Testament studies.

A popular lecturer, Witherington presents seminars, papers and sermons for churches, colleges and biblical meetings both in the United States and throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. He is the author of more than 30 books, including The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. He also writes for various church and scholarly publications and is a frequent contributor to the Beliefnet website.

The Parchman Endowed Lectures bring world-renowned theologians to the Baylor campus and enable George W. Truett Theological Seminary to make a significant contribution to the realm of theological dialogue and the life of the church. The lectures were established in 1999 by Leo and Gloriana Parchman to encourage dynamic discussion on topics related to theological studies.

Past lecturers include:
The Story of Christianity author Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez,
• theologian and The Message author Eugene Peterson,
• Riverside Church (NYC) minister James Forbes Jr.,
• New Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann,
• Templeton Prize winner John Polkinghorne,
• Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey (now Bishop of Durham) N.T. Wright,
• theological ethicist Lewis B. Smedes, and
• preeminent theologian Jürgen Moltmann.

For more information, contact Dr. Todd Still at Truett Seminary at (254) 710-7347.

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