After undergraduate studies (at the University of Copenhagen) in classics, I spent two years at Oxford University (1974-76) studying ancient and modern philosophy. My Danish ‘DrPhil’ thesis, Aristotle’s Theory of Moral Insight, was published in 1983 by Oxford UP.
In 1986-91, I was Research Professor at the University of Copenhagen, funded by the Danish Research Council for the Humanities. This resulted in a book on Stoic ethics: The Stoic Theory of Oikeiosis: Moral Development and Social Interaction in Early Stoic Philosophy, published in 1990 by Aarhus UP.
In 1989, I was appointed ‘lecturer’ (Associate Professor) at the Department of Biblical Exegesis, University of Copenhagen. This led to the third volume in my (inofficial) ‘trilogy’: Paul and the Stoics, published in 2000 in Edinburgh (T&T Clark) and Louisville (Westminster John Knox). This was also my Danish ‘DrTheol’ thesis.
In 2001, I became full professor of New Testament exegesis.
Primary fields of research
In Paul and the Stoics I articulated my ‘research programme’, which has been to show the fruitfulness of bringing in Graeco-Roman philosophy for the interpretation of the early Christian texts contained in the New Testament. To begin with I focused on the gains to be derived from the basic structure of moral anthropology and ethics for an elucidation of Paul, with special emphasis in that book on Philippians, Galatians and Romans. In a later book on Paul, Cosmology and Self in the Apostle Paul: The Material Spirit, published by Oxford UP in 2010, I focused on the relevance of Stoic cosmology, ontology and epistemology for Paul, ranging over the whole Pauline corpus. This book may be seen as ‘part two’ of the third volume in the ‘trilogy’.
During my ‘early Christian’ period, I have had the good fortune of engaging with, learning from and eventually becoming friends with a number of excellent scholars in the international field of Pauline studies, coming from all the Nordic countries, Britain, the United States and most recently Germany and Switzerland. This began during a semester’s stay at Yale University in the fall of 1987 and again in the spring of the fateful year, 2001, and has continued ever since with a great number of appearances at conferences, seminars, guest lectures etc. abroad. This whole side of the scholarly life of a modern exegete has had an immense importance for the directions my own scholarship has taken.
This has also resulted in a number of edited publications, e.g. Paul in His Hellenistic Context (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994); Paul Beyond the Judaism/Hellenism Divide (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), Early Christian Paraenesis in Context (co-ed. with James Starr, Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2004) and Stoicism in Early Christianity (co-ed. with Tuomas Rasimus and Ismo Dunderberg, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2010).
Through all the years I have greatly enjoyed co-operating with and learning from my colleagues at my home base in Copenhagen. One result of this (our of many) is a recent book on Mark, which I wrote on the basis of about 20 hours of interviewing my esteemed colleague, Geert Hallbäck, who is a specialist on Mark: Det første evangelium: En samtale om Markus-evangeliet (‘The First Gospel: A Conversation on the Gospel of Mark’, Copenhagen: ANIS 2014). During all the years I have no less enjoyed teaching a large number of alert theology students the secrets a good New Testament exegesis. I was particularly honoured (and I’m afraid quite proud) to be appointed ‘Teacher of the Year’ in 2013 by the students of the Faculty of Theology.
These days, a university researcher needs to attract so-called ‘external funding’ for research projects. Like everybody else I have had my proposals rejected. But I have also been fortunate to obtain Nordic funding (together with James Starr) for the Paraenesis project (2000-2001), Danish Research Council funding (together with Henrik Tronier) for a project on ‘Philosophy at the Roots of Christianity’ (2003-2006) and funding from the Rector of the University of Copenhagen (together with Niels Henrik Gregersen) for a project on ‘Naturalism and Christian Semantics’ (2008-2013). In the period 2009-2014, I have also been sitting on the other side of the table as a member (for religious studies and theology) of the Danish Research Council for the Humanities (Culture and Communication). Working together with my 11 excellent colleagues in the research council has been another extremely stimulating scholarly experience.
I am now working on the Fourth Gospel, trying to show the relevance of Stoic philosophy for this evangelist. The book, John and Philosophy, will attempt to apply my own brand of ‘philosophical exegesis’ on a narrative text. I contend that John addresses genuinely philosophical questions (e.g. how to explain that some people come to have faith in Jesus, while others do not) through his way of shaping the narrative itself. By bringing in both the questions and answers addressed in philosophy (and Stoicism, in particular), one may move be-yond seeing John as ‘riddled’, ‘opaque’ or ‘secretive’ into finding a quite considerable degree of clarity and straightforwardness. One side effect of this approach will be to show that attempts to divide up the transmitted text into different editorial layers quite often reveal an insufficient capacity or will on the part of scholars to follow and read the text as we have it.