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Wheaton Theology Conference - Markus Bockmuehl

Note, that after the question and answer that I realized that I missed an esential element of Bockmuehl's paper, so I added to the third paragraph.

The first talk this afternoon was by Markus Bockmuehl. On a side note, his Philippians commentary needs to get more attention than it does. I think it's the best one on the market.

With that said I found his talk today to be very interesting but also somewhat curious. Either Bockmuehl or I have misread Wright (or I misunderstood Bockmuehl). He claims that Wright would claim that Paul didn't go to heaven when he died. Really? I don't think Wright would say that. I've heard Wright say that heaven is important but it isn't the end of the world. Or say that what he's really interested is in life after life after death. At any rate, Wright will sort out my confusion here in the Q&A. Here's a very short summary of Bockmuehl's talk.

Bockmuehl's talk was fairly straightforward. He attempted to show that we cannot postualte that the Christian hope is not in some sense other worldly. He believes that both Colossians and Ephesians suggest future non-earthly hope. Our hope is with Christ in heaven. [Additions start here] Additionally he notes that he believes that Wright makes a false dichotomoy between earth and heaven. One isn't up there and the other down here, rather the two overlap.

Second, he noted that Paul's earliest interpreters, the Fathers viewed things the opposite of Wright in some manner. Yes all in the early church except the gnostics claim that there is a physical resurrection, but many, like Justin Martyr, still affirm heaven as their home. Even a millenarian like Irenaeus does. He sees a millenial state here on earth to be the intermediate state, with heaven being the final state (still in a body). Notice that's the opposite of Wright. Wright's read isn't the only non-gnostic read.

On a related note, implicit here is a critique by Bockmuehl that Wright needs to read the Fathers more. Humphrey hammered this idea at the end of her talk too, that Wright needs to not ignore the great tradition of the church (to summarize her by stealing a phrase from Scot McKnight).


  1. It is NTW that explicitly says there is no dichotomy between earth and heaven, and essentially that "One isn't up there and the other down here, rather the two overlap." Where are you getting this?

  2. I'm trying to cite as best as possible what Bockmuehl said. If you listen to the Q&A, Wright was a little taken back when Bockmuehl said Wright said that, because Wright didn't remember saying anything like that.

    Bockmuehl did cite in the talk where he got that from, but unfortunately I didn't write the source down and the audio hasn't been made available yet.

  3. I should add that I think that part of Bockmuehl's issue with Wright is his hesitance to say that we are ever in heaven. Wright will admit it but only begrudgingly.

  4. Sorry for the deluge of replies, but in my haste to write the last comment before I left for work, I was a little vague in that last comment. I should have said something along the lines of '...his hesitance to say that we are in heaven after we die or after Jesus returns.'


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