“The Genesis Creation Accounts”—New Essay on Creation Theology

I have a new essay on the Bible’s creation theology, called “The Genesis Creation Accounts,” published in  The T&T Clark Companion of Christian Theology and the Modern Sciences, ed. by John P. Slattery, Bloomsbury Companions (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2020), 15–31.

What—not another essay on creation, Middleton! How much longer are you going to write on this topic? Do you really have anything new to say?

It’s true, I’ve been teaching and writing on creation theology for a very long time.

In a recent blog post I recounted how I got interested in creation theology in the first place and how my teaching and writing on the topic developed.

This T&T Clark Companion contains essays surveying the history of Christian thought for how various thinkers and traditions have understood the relationship of theology to the sciences. There are also essays on contemporary issues in science, from various Christian perspectives.

You can take a look at the Table of Contents here.

John P. Slattery , the editor of the volume, is currently Senior Program Associate with the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER), a program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in Washington, DC.

I met John Slattery at the the Society of Biblical Literature in 2018, where I gave a paper on New Testament eschatology grounded in creation. Based on that paper, John invited me to contribute an essay on New Testament cosmology. After I explained that my expertise was actually in Old Testament, he changed the invitation to that topic.

However, I suggested that the topic was big enough to warrant two essays and I nominated Bill Brown of Columbia Seminary to join me in the project. Bill wrote a beautiful essay on creation in the wisdom literature (“Wisdom’s Wonder and the Science of Awe”).

This allowed me to focus on Genesis 1–2. My essay, “The Genesis Creation Accounts,” addresses the ancient “world picture” (Weltbild) implicit in Genesis 1 and 2, in order to explore the “worldview” (Weltanschauung) or abiding theological vision of these chapters, which is relevant for our thinking about contemporary science.

Did I actually write something new on the subject of creation theology?

Yes and no.

The essay integrates new material from unpublished presentations I’ve given on Genesis 1 and 2 with some of my previous reflections on these chapters.

It’s a new synthesis,  articulating in one compact essay a contextual understanding of the symbolic world of the first two chapters of the Bible (as would have been understood by ancient readers).

The discussion of Genesis 1 addresses the relevance of the ancient biblical understanding of the world for contemporary readers who are aware of the immensity of the universe. The discussion of Genesis 2 focuses on parallels between ancient and contemporary understandings of our ecological embeddedness in the created order.

It is my hope that this synthesis will be helpful for pastors, students, and laypeople interested in thinking about the subject of creation in Genesis 1–2.

Introducing Christopher Zoccali—Visiting Assistant Professor of New Testament at Northeastern Seminary

I am happy to announce that Dr. Christopher Zoccali has received a two-year faculty appointment as Visiting Assistant Professor of New Testament at Northeastern Seminary, Rochester, NY.

I have known Chris Zoccali for many years, beginning when he was my student in an MA program at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (he graduated the same year that I began teaching at Roberts Wesleyan College). He then went on to do a PhD in New Testament from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Ceredigion, UK.

His dissertation has been published as Whom God Has Called: The Relationship of Church and Israel in Pauline Interpretation, 1920 to the Present (Pickwick, 2010), a book that received stellar reviews due to Zoccali’s expertise in clarifying multiple variants of the “new perspective” on Paul. Indeed, I have often had him as a guest lecturer on this topic in my courses, since he knows much more about it than I do.

On Jewish and Christian Identity in Paul

Zoccali has developed a nuanced understanding of Paul’s position on the relationship of Jews and gentiles in the church, where being “in Christ” is the “superordinate” identity of a Christ-follower, but which does not erase or nullify Jewish identity.  Indeed, Paul expected that Jewish Christ-followers would express their devotion to God in Torah obedience (though he did not expect this of gentile converts).

Zoccali was especially attuned to this insight by having to negotiate multiple identities, being born into an ethnically Italian family, yet being part of wider American culture. I myself understand this point, being a citizen of many nations (I immigrated from Jamaica to Canada, and then to the USA). I take it that Zoccali’s point about “superordinate” identity means that while I identify myself foremost as being a follower of Christ, this does not mean that I have to give up my Jamaican cultural identity. Nor do African-Americans or Asians (or people of any other ethnicity) need to suppress their cultural or racial heritage to be Christian.

Neither did Jews need to rescind being Jewish if they followed Jesus as Messiah—this was part of Paul’s argument in his writings. However, what could Paul mean in Philippians 3 about counting all his (Jewish) accomplishments as rubbish or dung, if he wasn’t simply trashing his past?

Because of his interest and expertise in this question, Zoccali was invited to write Reading Philippians after Supersessionism: Jews, Gentiles, and Covenant Identity (Cascade, 2017), to address precisely this issue. This book is part of a series called “The New Testament after Supersessionism.” His volume has received excellent reviews, both by academics and by those who deal pastorally with Jewish-Christian relations.

A recent review from a biblical scholar noted: “This volume does much to illuminate blind spots within traditional readings of Philippians and beyond. Reading Philippians after Supersessionism is well-researched, with compelling evidence for intertextual echoes within Philippians that illuminate Paul’s Jewish thought world.”

And the Executive Director and Academic Dean of the Messianic Studies Institute in Columbus, Ohio  encouraged his readers to “check out this volume on Philippians by Christopher Zoccali! I found it very difficult to put down, and read the lion’s share of it within 48 hours!”

Other Publications

Zoccali has written a variety of journal articles and book chapters on the subject of Pauline exegesis, social identity in the New Testament, and related topics.

His more technical articles are published in the Journal for the Study of the New TestamentNeotestamentica; and the Criswell Theological Review. More popular articles have appeared in the Journal of Beliefs and Values; the Dictionary of the Bible and Western Culture; and the Lexham Bible Dictionary.

He wrote an important article on Israel, gentiles, and Christian identity for the T&T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014) and has been invited to write a book on 2 Peter and Jude in the T&T Clark Social Identity Commentary Series.

A short commentary on Romans that he wrote for the T&T Clark Social Identity Commentary on the New Testament (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark) is currently at press. And he has a contract with Cascade to write an entire commentary volume entitled The Letter to the Romans: From Faithfulness to Faithfulness.

Editor of the Canadian-American Theological Review

Beyond having taught Christopher Zoccali in his early years, and having followed his career, I have had contact with him in his role as editor-in-chief of the Canadian-American Theological Review, the journal sponsored by the Canadian-American Theological Association (CATA), an organization of which I am past president. Since he began as editor in 2013, Zoccali has brought the journal from being two years behind schedule to being almost fully caught up (the second issue of 2019 will be published either by the end of the year or in early 2020). He also oversaw the journal’s indexing by ATLA (now Atla, since it is no longer an acronym).

Under Zoccali’s leadership the Canadian-American Theological Review has published articles by graduate students, young scholars, and established scholars; among the latter are theologians Steve Bouma-Prediger, Hans Boersma, and Eric Flett; Old Testament scholars Marion Taylor, Keith Bodner, and J. Gerald Janzen; and New Testament scholars Nijay Gupta, Michael Gorman, and N. T. Wright (Wright has the lead article in the current issue).

Canadian-American Theological Review 8.1 (2019)

Here is the line up of articles:

  • N. T. Wright, “History, Eschatology, and New Creation in the Fourth Gospel: Early Christian Perspectives on God’s Action in Jesus, with Special Reference to the Prologue of John”
  • James T. Turner, Jr., “Temple Theology, Holistic Eschatology, and the Imago Dei: An Analytic Prolegomenon in Response to N. T. Wright”
  • David A. Miller, “A Holistic Eschatology? Negotiating the Beatific Vision and the New Earth in Recent Theology”
  • Dale Harris, “Hospitality, Homosexuality, and the People of God: A Hermeneutical Study”
  • John Byron, “The Legacy of Cain in Pop and Rock Music”
  • Gordon Oeste, “Feasting with the Enemy: Redemptive Readings of Biblical War Texts”

The issue also contains a number of book reviews.

Ass you can see, this is an interdisciplinary theological journal, publishing articles and book reviews on a wide range of topics relating to Scripture, theology, and culture.

You can take out a journal subscription by becoming a member of the Canadian-American Theological Association (which is very affordable, especially for students). This is a digital subscription, which gives you access to the journal portal on the Association website, where you can read (and download) PDFs of any issue, including individual articles.

Exploring the Intersection of Scripture, Theology, and the Sciences—In Rochester

Hard copies of the latest issue will also be available for purchase at the next CATA Fall conference, which will be held on the campus of Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College, in Rochester, NY, October 25—26, 2019. The conference, entitled God’s Wisdom and the Wonder of Creation: Exploring the Intersection of Scripture, Theology, and the Sciences, will feature Old Testament scholar William P. Brown as the keynote speaker, along with some thirty papers on topics relating to the conference theme.

For more information about the conference, including registration, go to the Northeastern Seminary dedicated conference web page.

Zoccali’s Teaching Experience

Christopher Zoccali has plenty of teaching experience. He has taught some thirty courses at Roberts Wesleyan College (in both Old and New Testament), as well as courses at Nazareth College and Empire State College (in religious studies and biblical studies). Having had him as a guest lecturer in both undergraduate and graduate courses, over the past five years, I can testify to his sharp mind and winsome teaching style, which has had students asking when he will be back.

Well, he’s back. And will be teaching a variety of courses, primarily in New Testament, over the next couple of years.

Welcome Dr. Christopher Zoccali!

Kudos to My Colleagues at Northeastern Seminary (Rochester NY)

I am privileged to be part of a wonderful Seminary, and I work with excellent faculty colleagues.

Here I want to highlight three faculty members in particular, with a focus on their recent (and upcoming) accomplishments. Indeed, the first is still future at the time of writing this post.

Esau McCaulley

Esau McCaulley is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity.

Prof. McCaulley will be defending his PhD dissertation on Monday, April 3, at the University of St. Andrews (his supervisor is N. T. Wright)—that’s tomorrow, as of this writing. The defense is scheduled for 1:00 pm UK time (7:00 am EDT).

The defense was successful!

Prof. McCaulley’s dissertation topic is Paul’s application of the Old Testament idea of Israel’s inheritance to Jesus in the letter to the Galatians.

Last year (November 2016) he presented a paper based on his dissertation in the Biblical Theology Research Group of the Institute for Biblical Research. His paper was entitled Exile, Restoration, and the Inheritance of the Son: Jesus as Servant and Messiah in Galatians 1:4.

Josef Sykora

Dr. Josef Sykora (PhD, Durham University) is Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program and Assistant Professor of Biblical Interpretation.

Prof. Sykora’s 2016 dissertation on the elect and non-elect in the Old Testament (supervised by Walter Moberly) has just been accepted for publication by Eisenbrauns publishers, in their prestigious series called “Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures.” His forthcoming book is tentatively titled “The Unfavored: Judah and Saul in the Narratives of Genesis and 1 Samuel.”

Rebecca Letterman

Rebecca Letterman (PhD, Cornell University) is Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation.

Over the last few years Prof. Letterman has been hard at work with Susan Muto (executive director of the Epiphany Association and Dean of the Academy of Formative Spirituality in Pittsburgh, PA), co-authoring a book on spirituality and the developmental process of human life, based on the brilliant work of Christian psychologist and spiritual director Adrian van Kaam.

The co-authored book, called Understanding Our Story: The Life’s Work and Legacy of Adrian van Kaam in the Field of Formative Spirituality, has recently been published by Wipf and Stock. Both Doug Cullum (Vice President and Dean of Northeastern Seminary) and I have written endorsements for this intellectually and spiritually stimulating book.

Congratulations to my three faculty colleagues for these accomplishments. I am proud to know you and to work with you in theological education for the Kingdom of God.