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Reading the Gospels Smithly

I’ve been teaching as a Visiting Professor this week at SEBTS in Wake Forest, NC. It has been a great delight to walk through the history of interpretation again with a bright group of PhD students and to connect with many old friends and make new ones.

Part of my academic opportunity here this week included the opportunity to present a paper for the PhD colloquium at the Center for Faith and Culture. I used this opportunity to pull together my thoughts on JKA Smith’s books, Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom and put them in dialogue with some of my own thoughts on the Gospels and theology in general. It was a great delight to prepare the paper and to present it to an eager audience of professors and students. I was pleased with the reception and there was good Q&A afterwards.

The session was recorded and will be posted in due time by SEBTS. I will likely also publish the paper in some format somewhere.

In the meanwhile, below is the outline in its most skeleton form:

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Memory Techniques in Medieval Christianity

In preparation for my lectures on medieval interpretation of the Gospels I just re-read Mary Carruthers’ fascinating essay, “Memory, Imagination, and the Interpretation of Scripture in the Middle Ages” (pp214-234 in the Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible).

Here is my summary of her argument (my comments in italics):

A common trope in antiquity was that of a learned person as a living library, making him- or herself into a mental chest of memorized texts that were then ready at hand as a reference or meditation tool. There are many famous examples including people like Didymus the Blind.

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Reception History of the Bible

In preparation for my teaching of a PhD seminar on The History of the Interpretation of the Gospels (July 2014 at SEBTS; Fall 2014 at SBTS) I have been reading (and sometimes re-reading) more on Reception History.

The newish Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible is very large and very interesting, eclectic as it is. Today I read two insightful and helpful essays therein — the Introduction by Jonathan Roberts and Mary Carruthers’ essay on memory and imagination in the Middle Ages. I’ll post a subsequent reflection on this latter essay. For now I want to just make a few comments about Roberts’ introduction to the handbook.

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Commonweal Project Lecture on “Human Flourishing and the Bible”

Stemming from my 2013 ETS paper on “Blessedness and Wholeness” in Scripture I received a grant to do further work on the language and idea of human flourishing throughout the Bible. I wrote a rather technical paper on this. This led to another invitation to write a book chapter stemming from these same ideas. The video of the lecture I gave here comes from this chapter. I took that material, with some slight modifications (particularly the references to John Piper’s Desiring God), and read it at an invited luncheon for the Commonweal Project at my seminary, Southern. Continue reading

What I’m Reading — Josef Pieper’s Happiness & Contemplation

As I wade slowly and cautiously into blogging my goal is simply to provide some working thoughts on what I’m reading and what I’m writing. Because I believe writing is the best method of figuring out what I think and understand, self-forced self-reflection on what I’m reading and what I’m writing is good for me. I hope it might benefit my readers as well. Continue reading

Re-post: What is the Unforgivable Sin?

Continuing with re-postings of elsewhere posts, here is a little theological piece I did for The Gospel Coalition on the “unforgivable sin” –

What is the Unforgivable Sin?

As an aside- and behind-the-text note, I have fond memories of writing this piece in the summer of 2013 while speaking for a week with the beautiful people of the Bible Study Fellowship at the international HQ in San Antonio. It was a warm and wonderful week teaching them on Matthew and I look forward to being with them again in 2016 to teach for a week on the Gospel of John.

Thoughts from a Semi-Successful Writer, Part 1

I’m creeping into this blogging world with a soft opening — re-posting some things I’ve blogged elsewhere. I thought it would be good to have them in one place.

First up is a piece I wrote and posted on my friends’ blog

NB — When I say “semi-successful” writer I’m not making a claim of huge academic sales figures (that will come with my planned retirement book, “The Purpose-Driven Prayer of Jaybez for those Left-Behind to Live Their Best Lives Now”), but rather, I’m referring to my own current self-evaluation — I’m writing more and getting better at writing, but I’m still very much in the learning stages.

Enough prolegomena. Here is the post:

Writing as War

PSA: Reading Wisely and Upcoming Sermon Book

Welcome Scholars, Internets, and Aspiring Pennington Fan Clubbers!

280167438_640Dr. Pennington is hard at work writing his next book on the Sermon on the Mount and will be blogging regularly here soon, stay tuned! Along with this book, he is working diligently on his upcoming commentary for the Pillar NT Commentary series on the Gospel of Matthew.

In the meantime, follow Jonathan on Twitter, pickup his latest book Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction at Amazon, or learn more about the book at

Yours ever,


Reading the Gospels WiselyFor the past ten years I have been working on the hermeneutical issues of what the Gospels are and how we are to read them. I'm thrilled to be finally done with this book!

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Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of MatthewThe theme of heaven and earth is a much-overlooked aspect of the Gospel of Matthew. In this work, rising scholar Jonathan Pennington articulates a fresh perspective on this key interpretive issue, challenging both the scholarly and popular understandings of the meaning of Matthew's phrase, "kingdom of heaven." Pennington argues that rather than being a reverent way of referring to God as is typically assumed, "heaven" in Matthew is part of a highly developed discourse of heaven and earth language.

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