Blogger of the Month for September 2007
Jim West Interviews Alan Bandy
Editorial Note: Alan Bandy authors the Café Apocalypsis at http://www.cafeapocalypsis.com/.
JW: Alan, tell us a bit about yourself.
AB: I married my high school sweetheart over twelve years ago. Over a year ago, in May, we welcomed our fourth child into our home. While many people typically raise their eyebrows and mutter some rude comment about how many children we have, nothing brings me greater joy than my three girls and one son.
I recently completed my Ph.D. in New Testament from Southeastern Seminary under the mentorship of Andreas J. Köstenberger. My dissertation focused on the prophetic lawsuit in the Book of Revelation. This topic was the result of a seminar paper I wrote concerning the witness terminology in the Apocalypse, in which I argued that the mart- word group always occurs with a forensic sense rather than a martyrological one. Soon I discovered that a number of articles and commentaries make mention of lawcourt/lawsuit language and imagery similar to the OT prophetic genre of a covenant lawsuit (i.e., the so-called rîb-pattern). My thesis is that John, writing in the tradition of the OT prophets, followed the broad pattern of the prophetic lawsuit of the OT. The prophetic lawsuit typically includes (1) a lawsuit against the covenant people of God for violation of covenant stipulations (listing the accusations, calling for repentance, and promising judgment or salvation); (2) a lawsuit against the nations indicting them for their idolatry, wickedness, and mistreatment of God’s people; and (3) a promise of judgment for the wicked and salvation/vindication for the saints. I could write all day about this but hopefully I will post more my dissertation anon.
In other news, I am starting as a professor of Christian studies at Louisiana College. It is such an honor and privilege to have been hired by LC. My position gives me the opportunity to teach a variety of subjects ranging from biblical studies to systematic theology. The reason why this appeals to me so much is because it will give me a fully orbed perspective (seeing how I have a tendency toward tunnel vision).
JW: Now, if you don’t mind, introduce your blog to those who may not have had a chance to read it.
AB: Café Apocalypsis (cafeapocalypsis.com) started in 2005 when I first begin writing my dissertation. Originally, it was a blog devoted to the study of the Apocalypse and other related writings. I have since broadened my focus to include all subjects related to biblical, historical, and theological studies. Although posts have been sparse over the last several months, I hope to get back to a regular routine with at least one post a week.
JW: What got you interested in blogging?
AB: My interest in blogging developed out of a necessity. I was a pastor while working on my Ph.D. and as such I lived several hours away from the campus. I soon discovered that I was loosing touch with my peers and missed the sharpening that usually resulted from discussions. In order to stay updated on developments in the world of biblical studies I discovered a number of blogs (NTGateway, Euangelion, Biblical Theology) that were quite stimulating.
Blogging became a way to participate in a community of scholars and students that was rather satisfying. It also enabled me to share some of my thoughts and receive instant feedback. Sometimes it was encouraging and at other times I realized that instant publishing reveals unsightly grammatical/factual blemishes. Once again, this has helped to enhance my writing skills by forcing me to examine my words very carefully before hitting “publish.”
JW: Why the Bible?
AB: Why not the Bible?
Plunging into its depths is more thrilling than diving into the Marianas Trench.
Ascending to its heights is more awe inspiring than climbing Mt. Everest.
The point is that I could spend every moment of every day exploring the canonical text and never exhaust all that it contains.
I realize this sounds devotional, but reading Shakespeare never stimulated this response in me. There is still so much to learn, examine, and question.
JW: Why are you interested in Apocalyptic literature?
AB: I have often asked myself that question only to arrive at the same conclusion — it just grabs my interest. I have always had a fascination with the odd and slightly bizarre. Apocalyptic literature explodes with colorful language full of symbolic weight and metaphorical imagery. It captures the imagination and peels back the veil shrouding our eyes from supernatural verities.
Aside from the fact that apocalyptic literature is interesting, I also choose it as my area of expertise for a very practical reason. When I looked at the field of NT studies it seemed that many new scholars were reworking theories and ideas that have been worked over rather intensely for centuries. Although Jesus and Pauline studies are extremely central to New Testament scholarship, I felt like the Apocalypse was still a wide open field for investigation. I believe I could make more of a substantial contribution to scholarship by focusing on a biblical book that makes even the most astute of scholars throw their hands up and gently back away.
JW: In your estimation, who is the most important biblical scholar today working on the subject of apocalyptic?
AB: For apocalyptic literature generally speaking, I would say that John J. Collins is probably the most important scholar. Yet, I would add A. Y. Collins, Christopher Rowland, and many others like Paul Hanson, George Nicklesburg, and Lars Hartman.
For the Book of Revelation, more specifically, I give the prize to David E. Aune as the overall brilliant genius and thorough scholar. I could spend the rest of my life trying to play catch up to him and never succeed. His three volume commentary is absolutely breathtaking, even though I do not agree with many of his conclusions. Greg Beale is a very close second, if not neck and neck in some areas. Theologically, I am much closer to Beale and his work relating the OT with Revelation is unsurpassed (note, however, that Moyise has also provided some noble contributions). Both Osborne and Smalley offer some of the best overall exegetical treatments of the text. I have also developed a love for Heinz Geissen’s commentary (Die Offenbarung des Johannes) and his collections of essays on Revelation (Studien zur Johannesapokalypse). Finally, I would like to mention the book by Philip L. Mayo titled Those Who Call Themselves Jews: The Church and Judaism in the Apocalypse of John. I started reading it this summer and was amazed that he put into words exactly the same conclusions I had come to regarding the relationship between the Judaism and the Church.
I have left so many scholars out, so please accept my apology.
JW: Would you describe yourself as a “dispensationalist”?
I appreciate them for their desire to affirm the truth of Scripture and their belief in a literal physical return of Christ in the near future. The problem I have with dispensationalist theology is that it results from a very rigid distinction between Israel and the church mandating the belief that God has to remove the church (People of God B) in order to return to dealing with Israel (People of God A). I believe that this sharp distinction fails to take into account the massive amount of material in the New Testament demonstrating that there is neither Jew nor Greek but the dividing difference is either being “in Christ” or “in Adam.”
I also think that dispensational theology employs a faulty hermeneutic for interpreting apocalyptic literature. Too often prophecy texts are read to conform to current events. The problem with this hermeneutic is most evident in the repeated failed fulfillments postulated by Jack van Impe. I have watched him, on and off, over ten years and in that time I have observed numerous subtle revisions to his prophetic interpretations due to the fact that things in the EU did not develop as he predicted.
JW: Do you believe that there will be something that many call ‘the rapture’?
I believe in the resurrection of the saints that will happen in a moment and twinkling of an eye when Christ returns to earth. I believe in the rapture, but I am working hard to change the terminology due to all the baggage in popular culture. In short, I believe that when Christ returns to earth the dead in Christ will rise first followed by those who are alive at the time of his return.
JW: To change the subject a bit, what importance do you attribute to blogging?
AB: Blogging is a great forum for staying abreast of current developments in the academic and church fields. My only concern is that the massive amount of people with blogs may dilute the overall quality of this medium. I do not want to suggest that it should be restricted to a privileged few, but as I once heard a journalist say: “everyone needs an editor.” It is a great format for discussing issues, books, articles, and developments in real time, but should not replace traditional models of scholarly publishing.
JW: Do you read many blogs?
AB: At one time kept track of a number of feeds spread across a very broad range. I still keep up with several that have been very helpful to me. Aside from the regulars, I usually follow links when someone recommends another blog (this has led to several good discoveries).
JW: Which ones are most interesting to you?
AB: I hesitate to name some blogs over others, because I do not want people to feel like they are worthless if not mentioned. So with apologies to all that I have not named, the blogs that have been become my favorites are the ones maintained by Mark Goodacre, Jim West, Michael Bird, Brandon Wason, Andreas Köstenberger, Michael Pahl, Sean du Toit, Chris Tilling, and Darrel Bock. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive and I am already thinking of many others that I failed to mention.
AB: They are consistent in the quantity and quality of their posts. At one point I tried to keep up with them and found that I was always thinking about a potential post more than other important responsibilities. They always seem to have their finger plugged into the socket of the latest discoveries, books, and insights. What is more, I would say that the main reason that I frequent their blogs is because I feel as if I have developed a friendship with many of them. So reading their blogs is like having a conversation with an old friend.
JW: Does your wife read your blog?
AB: She is always free to read it because there is nothing in it that I would not want her to see, but she hears enough of my incessant blathering that she usually does not want to read it.
JW: What do you see as the future of blogging?
AB: I have never thought about it . . . I guess more interactive blogging like in myspace.
JW: Outside of blogging and academic study of the Bible, what are your interests?
AB: Mostly I just like spending time with my wife and children. To be honest I have been a student for so long that I have forgotten what it is like to have hobbies. I like to play golf, although the trees usually run for cover when I step onto the course. I have even done a little hunting and fishing, which is nearly a requirement for all men living below the Mason-Dixon Line in the United States.
JW: Do you have a secret ability that readers would find interesting? That is, do you sing opera at the local opera guild or do you collect lizards from Asia? Or something in between?
AB: I like to cook and bake. I grew up watching cooking shows and often tried out the recipes afterward. My most exotic dish is paella.
JW: Finally, describe, if you will, what you hope to accomplish with your life.
AB: My life goal is to impact the lives of people to follow Christ, by leaving a legacy of scholarly contributions in biblical studies and walking in a manner worthy of the gospel.
My life verse is Acts 20:24.
In terms of academics, I would hope to at least be footnoted in a major scholarly work.
JW: Thanks very much!!!!
AB: Thanks Jim and Brandon!