vaca020.jpg

I met Art Boulet toward the beginning of my third year at Westminster Theological Seminary, since that meeting Art and I have worked together on different projects like the Emerging Churches Forum WTS hosted last Fall, a Liberti Church church planting lunch lecture, and I’ve been able to attend one of the ‘Doubt Nights’ Art leads with Pastor Steve Huber from Liberti church. I hope you enjoy this Westminster Tattoo Review.

Art where are you from, what in the heck are you doing at Westminster and UPENN at the same time, and what are you passionate about man? 

I was raised outside of Scranton, PA in a little town called Dunmore. My mother is a school teacher and my father in a minister. When I was 16 we moved to Florida, which is where I graduated high school. I then jumped around to a few colleges until Jesus finally drew me to himself. I ended up graduating from Davis College in Upstate NY with a degree in Greek and Hebrew.

I came to WTS because I wanted to be more grounded in the Reformed faith while still being in conversation with the broader academic community. The biblical studies department at WTS (Peter Enns, Michael Kelly, Doug Green, Stephen Taylor, and Dan McCartney) were my initial attraction and have proven to be more than helpful to me in my studies.

 

I started part time at Penn this past semester while continuing full time work at WTS. I’ve always had a passion for further learning and the opportunity to start further work while still at WTS was too good to pass up. I love my classes at Penn because I am in conversation with people who read the Bible, but they are not Christians. For instance, my course this past semester was called “Exodus in it’s ANE Context” and there were 3 Islamic students, two Jewish students, one agnostic, my professor was an ordained Jewish Rabbi…..and then there was me! It was a great class.

 

I am passionate about Scripture. I love Scripture more than anything else in the world. Because of this, I want to better understand the context of Scripture. This means learning as much as I can about the original languages, the documents of the ANE (Gilgamesh Epic, Emuna Elish, etc.), and 2nd Temple Judaism. My passion lies in learning these in order to better understand Scripture. It doesn’t stop there though….I have a passion for learning all of this, but also teaching it to people….all people, not just seminarians or graduate students. I think there is a need to convey all of this academic work to the person sitting in the pew so that they can also better understand Scripture.

Let’s get into man, why in the world did you get a bunch of numerals on wrist? 

I’m a prideful dude. That is my biggest struggle in life and it complicates my life by opening the door for more opportunity to sin. I got this tat to remind me of my struggle with pride and to remind me to humble myself before God and before others.

 

My tattoo has the Greek letter phi, which stands for the NT book Philippians, followed by a reference in Roman numerals referring to chapter 2 verse 3. This passage says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourself.”

The big “V” is not the Roman numeral for 5, but actually turns into a “greater than” sign when I turn my arm to shake someone’s hand. This reminds me that every person that I meet, every person that I greet, or every person that I point my finger at is to be treated as more significant than myself. It’s daily humbling for me, which is what I need. It’s also a bit ambiguous, which makes people ask me about it all the time, especially while I’m waiting tables downtown. I usually have about half of my tables ask me about the tattoo.

wristtattoo.jpg

 I sense that the original context and culture of scripture is immensely important to you, do you think the church in America gets why its so important, if not why? 

I think that some people do and are working towards a better understanding of Scripture, particularly those involved in biblical studies like Richard Hays, E.P. Sanders, John Goldingay, Tremper Longman III, James Kugel, and Peter Enns. Others are very comfortable with their current understanding of Scripture and their current systematic theology and do not want to do anything to ‘rock the boat.’ I think some people are a bit defensive or weary when it comes to studying the original context of Scripture because it has been an area that has been dominated by “liberal” scholars for such a long time.

What are some ways we as Christians can give cred where cred is due in terms of the original side of affairs? 

I think one way is to realize that Scripture is a book written for us, but it was not written to us. It was written to Israelites in Palestine, 1st century churches in the Mediterranean, and individuals of the 1st century struggling with figuring out what it means to be a follower of Christ at this moment. Modern day Christians need to love Scripture enough to also love the context of Scripture and seek to understand that better. We should be reading 2nd temple documents, apocryphal works, and ANE creation myths. We have to give credit to these documents in that these documents are what shaped the worldview of the biblical authors. It would be great if the church could realize that Genesis 1-3 was written to combat ANE creation myths, not the latest Darwinian article in Scientific American.

There’s a guy out in Mid-country named Rob Bell who likes to integrate the original side of things into his talks, what do think about what he’s doing? 

I think Rob is on the right track in that he sees the depth of Scripture and utilizes the original context to explore those depths. In that way he is a man after my own heart. But I feel that Rob needs to be more careful about his sources, especially when he is quoting Rabbinic material. He has a tendency to utilize Rabbinic midrash that originated in the medieval period (or sometimes even later) and throw that back onto the biblical text and has been critiqued in this area by key scholars such as Ben Witherington, III. Because of his popularity and because of his influence I think he has to be more careful about his use of the original context and, in some cases, make sure that what he’s using as a source was actually part of that original context.

As the world gets increasingly more global and the impression of Christianity as America’s folk religion becomes pushed to the margins do you think a renewal of interest in the 2nd temple context of the NT and the ANE context of the Hebrew Bible afford the church a new way to talk about and express the Christian faith, if so why? 

I definitely do. I think too many Christians have the idea that Moses, David, and St. Paul walked around with a copy of the Bible and just added some pages to it whenever they felt the urge to write. When we have a very shallow view of the origins of Scripture then it is easy to get nervous about the creation account mirroring other ANE creation myths, or the flood mirroring other ANE stories about a flood, or Moses’ childhood mirroring other ANE hero narratives, or Jude quoting a known pseudopigraphic work.

 

But when you have a deeper understanding of Scripture, you come to appreciate these facts. When you understand that Scripture is God’s revelation to his people and he accommodated himself to the context in which his people were living. The ancient Israelites would not have been able to understand the creation account if it was written in a modernistic, scientific way. But since it was written in a way that is like the other ANE accounts, his people were able to understand. “Oh,” the Israelites would say, “It was God who created the good world for his purpose….it was not the gods of the Assyrians or Babylonians.”

 

Knowing this affords the Christian the great opportunity to move beyond the 20th century “Battle for the Bible” and engage with unbelievers instead of being in a defensive posture. We’re able to say, “Of course our Bible looks like other books of the ANE or of the 2nd Temple era, because our God is great enough and humble enough to reveal himself to his people through words that they can understand. If it didn’t look like those, then you could probably prove that it didn’t even come from that time period!”

What are you hoping to walk away from Westminster with, who intrigues you the most on campus? 

I want to walk away from Westminster with a grounded biblical worldview, a deeper understanding of Scripture, and a love for making disciples to further the kingdom of God.

 

I’m most intrigued by Peter Enns. He confuses me. I don’t understand how someone can be such a brilliant biblical scholar, write compelling, paradigm shifting books, incorporate humor from Christopher Guest films into his lectures and yet still not be enlightened enough to step out of the darkness of Yankees fan-dom and into the marvelous light of the Red Sox Nation.

 

Art thanks for the time and words spent here brother; for the readers here please pray for Art’s hard heart toward God’s Yankees, just kidding man!