Nov 25, 2015

The Ascension and Atonement in Hebrews

Mike Skinner has an interesting post suggesting that, "the locus of atonement as happening in heaven at the time of the ascension." You can check it out here.

Nov 24, 2015

Book Review: A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

Philip Wesley Comfort, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2015).

Those who preach, teach, or study the Bible seriously will at some point encounter issues related to variant readings in the text and whether they do so knowledgeably or not, will practice a form of text criticism. So having reliable and helpful resources is invaluable. Philip Wesley Comfort’s  A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament attempts to be such a resource.

The commentary proper is broken down into seven chapters covering the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, Acts, Paul’s epistles, Hebrews, the general epistles, and Revelation. It is important to know that Comfort’s general approach is to give greater weight to external rather than internal evidence, and to give great preference to the early manuscripts, so in most cases to the papyri (p. 31). So Comfort states, “In this volume, manuscript evidence is given priority of place inasmuch as the readings of the earliest manuscripts are always followed” (p. 31). This is important because Comfort states that he practices “reasoned eclecticism” (p. 31) but his approach differs from others who also claim to practice “reasoned eclecticism”

By way of evaluation, there are several admirable features of the book. First, it contains a good introduction to manuscripts, texts, and nomina sacra (chapter one). I especially enjoyed the discussion on nomina sacra. Second, I also believe that the annotated discussion of manuscripts is helpful (chapter 2). Third, on a more practical level, the volume is deliberately sized to match the UBS and NA28 Greek New Testaments. Finally, the volume is fairly reasonably priced at $29.99.

Now for what I don't like. First, the repetitive parenthetical definition of nomen sacrum as sacred name. The parenthetical definition does not appear every time but many, many times and it got to be annoying. Second, this work curiously refers to the somewhat outdated BAGD instead of BDAG and NA 27 and UBS 3 and 4 instead of NA 28 and UBS 5 respectively. Similarly, some of the volumes referenced in the bibliography are not current. For example, the first rather than the second edition of Kurt and Barbara Aland's The Text of the New Testament is listed.

Those who have cut their teeth like me on Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament may wonder whether Comfort’s volume replaces, supplements, or is redundant to Metzger. I think it is is best utilized as a supplementary text. Its approach is different from Metzger and also tends to highlight the nomina sacra more but I think as a whole that I prefer Metzger's discussions. Nonetheless, Comfort's volume can serve as a handy counterpoint to Metzger.    

Thanks to Kregel for providing the free copy used in this unbiased review.

Nov 23, 2015

Rare Christian Papyrus on eBay for $99?

Apparently a papyrus fragment containing a small portion of the Gospel of John was being listed on eBay for an opening bid of $99. You can read about it here.

Paul and Bedbugs

Recently while going through some old articles in my files, I reread this piece by Jerome Murphy-O'Conner. I thoroughly enjoyed going through it but especially tthe following excerpt about bedbugs. 

"Those who could afford better rented beds in the rooms. The snorting and stamping of the animals outside was sometimes drowned out by the snores of others who shared the room, anyone of whom might be a thief. Paul’s anxiety that he might lose the tools of his trade was hardly conducive to a sound night’s sleep. And sound sleep was made infinitely more difficult by that perennial occupant of all inns, the bedbug.
"The menace posed by the bedbug is graphically— and amusingly—described in a tale from the Acts of John written in the third century A.D. about a journey from Laodicea to Ephesus.
“On the first evening we arrived at a lonely inn, and while we were trying to find a bed for John we noticed a curious thing. There was one unoccupied and unmade bed, so we spread the cloaks which we were wearing over it, and begged him to lie down on it, while all the rest of us slept on the floor.
“But when John lay down he was troubled by the bugs. They became more and more troublesome to him, and it was already midnight when he said to them in the hearing of us all, ‘I order you, you bugs, to behave yourselves, one and all. You must leave your home for tonight and be quiet in one place, and keep your distance from the servants of God.’ And while we laughed and went on talking, John went to sleep, but we talked quietly and, thanks to him, were not disturbed. 
“Now, as day was breaking, I got up first, and Verus and Andronicus with me, and we saw by the door of the room which we had taken an enormous mass of bugs. We were astounded at their great number. All the brethren woke up because of them, but John went on sleeping. When he woke up, we explained to him what we had seen. He sat up in bed, looked at the bugs, and said, ‘Since you have behaved yourselves and listened to my correction, you may go back to your own place.’ When he had said this, and had got up from the bed, the bugs came running from the door towards the bed, climbed up its legs, and disappeared into the joints” (#60–61).'"

“On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul: Travelling Conditions in the First Century,” Bible Review 1:2 (Summer 1985).

If you enjoyed this excerpt, you might want to check out, “On the Road with Paul” by Edwin Yamauchi at the Christian History Institute website. Use this link

Nov 21, 2015

Supersessionism: Three Issues

Michael Vlach in Has the Church Replaced Israel?, argues that supersessionists (those that hold that the church replaces Israel) need to prove their position in three areas to be considered a biblical doctrine.

1. “Supersessionists need to explain how God can multiple eternal and unconditional promises and covenants to the nation of Israel and then not fulfill these promises with this specific group.” 

2. “It must be shown that the church is now considered the new or true Israel.”

3.”Supersessionists need to show that the church inherits national Israel’s promises and covenants in such a way that we should not expect a future fulfillment of these with national Israel.”

I think that Vlach is correct and supersessionists have failed to provide persuasive arguments especially as it relates to 1 and 3.

Michael J. Vlach, Has the Church Replaced Israel? (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 2.

Nov 20, 2015

Adele Berlin on the Message of Job

I do not agree with everything Adele Berlin argues for in her explanation of the main message of the book of Job, but I think that her concluding paragraph is worth thinking about.

“If Job was wise at the beginning of the story, he is even wiser at its end, especially about God’s ways. His wisdom far surpasses that of his friends, who “did not speak correctly” about God as Job did (42:7). And we the readers, who saw in the prologue a God that Job did not see and thought that we knew more about the workings of God than Job knew, must now admit that our knowledge of God was also severely limited. By learning first-hand about God’s wisdom, Job learned about what it means to be human. Our human-ness is most evident in our drive to acquire wisdom at any price, as we see from the Garden of Eden story, a story which, by the way, not only says that the acquisition of wisdom eliminated the possibility of immortality, but also tells us that the result of this acquisition is that the human condition is one of pain and toil. At the same time, despite God’s concern that wisdom renders humans God-like, human wisdom will never reach the level of God’s wisdom. It can only approximate divine wisdom when it is accompanied by the fear of the Lord, the Bible’s sine qua non for wisdom. This, of course, is the teaching of all the biblical wisdom books. Job, however, needed to learn it for himself, for throughout the book Job based his knowledge on personal experience rather than on traditional teachings. Does the book of Job, then, add nothing to the traditional teachings? Does it take us on that tortuous journey of the mind only to return us empty to our starting-place? Yes and no. Like Gilgamesh, whose quest for immortality is the flip side of Job’s quest for understanding, we return home without the answer we set out to find, but we are much wiser for the journey. So what does the book add to traditional teachings? Let me suggest that if traditional teaching says that the fear of the Lord leads to wisdom, the book of Job shows that wisdom leads to the fear of the Lord.”

Adele Berlin, “What Is the Book of Job About?” in A Common Cultural Heritage: Studies on Mesopotamia and the Biblical World in Honor of Barry L. Eichler, ed. Grant Frame; Barry Lee Eichler; et al. (Bethesda, MD: CDL, 2011), 119.

Videos on Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

The video for this year's Advanced Expository Preaching Workshop held on October 5 focusing on the topic of preaching Christ from the Old Testament is available on Youtube using the following links.

Nov 19, 2015

Was Balaam's Donkey an Agent of the Lord?

I am enjoying a read through Kenneth Way's book, Donkeys in the Biblical World. In his discussion of the Balaam story, he addresses the "exceptional treatment" of the animal as evidenced in Numbers 22:33: "The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live" (ESV, my bold). Way proposes the following explanation.
Why is the jenny exceptional? Baruch Levine opines that "she would not have been slain in such an encounter, as she was only an animal." But the fact that "she is "only an animal" may just as well be a reason to slay her along with her rider.

In Num 22:22–30, I would suggest that the jenny has a special function as YHWH's agent (cf. §1.6.4). YHWH not only employs her natural behavior for his purposes (vv. 22–27), he also endows her with supernatural ability for his purposes (vv. 28–30). The jenny is the vehicle that YHWH uses in this story to remind Balaam that he may only speak the words of YHWH.  The jenny is therefore quite exceptional and shares a status akin to that of the angel of YHWH. The reason why the angel feels differently about the jenny is that they are both employees of YHWH.
 Kenneth C. Way, Donkeys in the Biblical World: Ceremony and Symbol, History, Archaeology, and Culture of the Levant (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011), 190-91  

Nov 18, 2015

How to Read Job

Although I do not have a copy yet of How to Read Job, a new book by two well-known Old Testament scholars, John Walton and Tremper Longman, it looks interesting. I look forward to getting it and perhaps incorporating it into my Old Testament wisdom and poetry course. Here is the table of contents.

Part One: Reading Job as Literature
1. What Is the Book of Job About?
2. What Is the Rhetorical Strategy of the Book of Job?
3. Job in the Context of the Ancient Near East
4. Is Job a Real Person?

Part Two: Getting to Know the Characters of the Book of Job
5. What Do We Learn About God from the Book of Job?
6. Who Is "Satan" in Job?
7. What Is the Role of Job in the Book of Job?
8. How to Assess Job’s Human Advisers
9. Who Is Job’s Advocate?
10. Behemoth and Leviathan, the Most Powerful Creatures Imaginable

Part Three: The Theological Message of the Book of Job
11. The Retribution Principle and Theodicy in Job
12. The Retribution Principle in Wisdom Literature
13. Does Job Believe in the Afterlife?
14. Learning About the Cosmos from the Book of Job
15. The Theology of Suffering in the Book of Job
16. Job’s View of God

Part Four: Reading Job as a Christian
17. Job and Jesus
18. The Message of the Book of Job for Today
19. Does the Book of Job Provide Comfort?
20. Applying the Book of Job

Appendix: Commentaries on the Book of Job
Author Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index

Nov 17, 2015

How I Preach: Paige Patterson

Abraham Kuruvilla continues his "how I Preach" interview series with this interview of Paige Patterson. Here are a few of Patterson's responses that stuck out to me.

Most used English Bible version:

New King James Version.
(I am not at all a King James-only type, but I am so old that I knew some of the 1611 translators personally.
Indeed, I even dream in Elizabethan English, so my commitment to the KJV is a matter of habit and memory.).

Use of Greek and Hebrew (light/moderate/heavy)?
Pretty heavy. I never preach without translating the passage for myself.

What tools/aids for sermon prep can’t you live without?
I depend heavily upon my 30,000-volume personal library.

One word that best describes how you preach:
Text-driven or expository.

Now go and read the rest of the entire fascinating interview.

Nov 16, 2015

New and Improved Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts Website

Just in case you missed it this weekend, The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts has launched a new and improved version of their website here.

Five Words that Weaken Sermons

Jason Allen provides interesting insight on five words that weaken any sermon here.

Nov 14, 2015

The Death of Printed Academic Books?

See this interesting article.

HT: Ben Blackwell

Nov 13, 2015

The Provenance of Philemon

Phillip J. Long has a nice summary of the proposed provenances of Paul's letter to Philemon here.

Nov 12, 2015

Capturing and Saving Quotes

Wayne Stiles has a helpful post on how to capture and saving great quotes found in a variety of formats here.

Nov 11, 2015

Leland Ryken on What Every Book of the Old Testament Is About

See this post at the Crossway blog in which Leland  Ryken provides a brief paragraph explaining what every book of the Old Testament is about.

Nov 10, 2015

Granville Sharp's Birthday

Anyone who has taken Greek in either Bible college or seminary has probably heard of the Granville Sharp rule. The rule regarding a certain construction involving the definite article was first articulated in Sharp's book, Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament: Containing many New Proofs of the Divinity of Christ, from Passages which are wrongly Translated in the Common English Version. In any case, Granville Sharp was born on this day in 1735.