Jul 12, 2008

Paul, Preaching, and Exegeting the Culture

See how Paul, preaching, and exegeting the culture converge in Cal Habig's post

Jul 11, 2008

"What's So Great About Seminary?"

aid at Southern has a nice post on "What's So Great About Seminary." In sum his main points are:

1. It’s a great privilege to be instructed in God’s Word by godly men.

2. It’s one way to become competent in many skills useful in ministry.

3. It’s an opportunity to make lifelong friends who will encourage your ministry.

4. It’s a intense experience that will train you in perseverance, a quality essential for pastors.

5. It’s a safe setting for theological reflection and to confirm the reliability of the scriptures.

6. It forces most students to live in greater dependence upon God.

7. It’s a time to clarify the mode of ministry to which God is calling you.

8. It’s a chance for younger men to gain valuable maturity.

9. It’s a system that screens out many who are unqualified for the ministry.

10. It’s a time that eventually will come to an end.

Michael Bird on the Rhetorical Function of Colossians 1:15-20

Michael Bird has posted a discussion of the rhetorical function of Colossians 1:15-20. See the post

I have to admit that I am not often interested in attempts to slot passages into rhetorical slots. (I am not suggesting that this is being done in the post in question.) My disinterest in general from such exercises is for at least two reasons. First, even those (or especially those) who are well-versed in ancient rhetoric often cannot agree on the rhetorical labels/function of particular passages (as illustrated in the post). Second, I get the feeling sometimes that so much effort is expended in trying to label the passage (propositio, narratio, etc.) that there is little energy left to explore the meaning of the passage (speaking generally and not of the above post in particular). Or in other words, so much is done in slotting of a passage, that once it is slotted, the meaning of the passage is now constrained by the slot it has been placed in. This can lead to a bit of circular argumentation. Something like, "This passage is obviously functioning as a narratio. How do you know? Be cause it is in the narratio slot of the epistle."

While I am at it, as archaic as it may be, I am often even less interested in speculative discussions of the origins of so-called pre-hymnic material in the New Testament. But that is another discussion at another time.

In any case, I am open to correction or rebuke for my disinterest.

Jul 10, 2008

Thanking God for "Bad" Things?

See this interesting
article on theodicy in the Jerusalem Post.

World of the Sages: Blessings for the bad
By Levi Cooper

While it is natural to thank the Almighty when we are favored with good luck, it is more difficult to acknowledge God's hand after a mishap. Our sages tell us that just as a person blesses God for the good, thus a person is obligated to bless God for the bad (M. Brachot 9:5). The source for this idea is the biblical verse, "And you shall love the God, your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5). Playing on the alliteration of the Hebrew word me'odecha (all your might), our sages expound: Whatever measure (midda) the Almighty metes (moded) out to you, whether it be good or bad, you are to be modeh (give thanks).

Thus a blessing is mandated for good tidings - "Blessed are You... who is good and does good" - as well as for bad news - "Blessed are You... the true judge" (M. Brachot 9:2). The Talmud clarifies that though the blessings are different, we are expected to accept both the good and the evil with pleasure, for both are the Almighty's will (B. Brachot 60b).

This may indeed be a tall order: Can we truly expect someone to joyfully give thanks to God for the bad just as for the good?

Hassidic lore recounts the attitude of the beloved Reb Meshulam Zusha of Anipoli (1718?-1800). His teacher Reb Dov Ber, known as the Maggid (preacher) of Mezhirichi (1704?-1772) was once asked: How is it possible to accept the good and the bad with true equanimity, thanking the Almighty for both equally?

The Maggid responded: "Go and ask my student, Reb Zusha." The questioners sought Reb Zusha and found him sitting in a corner, in torn rags, a picture of pain and suffering: "Reb Zusha, the Maggid sent us to you. How is it possible to accept the good and the bad with true equanimity?"

Hearing the question, Reb Zusha was surprised: "You must be mistaken; I am not the person to ask, for I - thank God - have never experienced any bad!"

Reb Zusha was able to wholly see the divine hand in everything. From God's perspective all is good; bad fortune is only a human assessment. Reb Zusha was able to see past the temporal perspective and recognize everything as the Almighty's will.

The level of Reb Zusha is truly lofty; perhaps out of reach for those faced with the vicissitudes of life. A later hassidic master, Rabbi Yitzhak Friedman of Bohush, Romania (1835-1896) suggested a more attainable goal: The Talmud offers further prooftexts for the mishnaic tenet. One sage recalled the verse, "Distress and grief I will find and I will invoke the name of God" (Psalms 116:3-4). Further in the same chapter we find, "I will raise the cup of salvations and I will invoke the name of God" (Psalms 116:13). The name of the Almighty is invoked in periods of distress and grief as well as in times of salvation.

The Bohusher Rebbe noticed a subtle difference between the cited verses. The first quote is made from two biblical verses - "Distress and grief I will find" (verse 3) "and I will invoke the name of God" (verse 4), while the second quote is a complete verse.

When we bless for good tidings we do so without hesitation. When we are called to bless the Almighty in the wake of bad fortune, it is understandable that we have reason to pause while we digest the event. Once that stage has passed, we must acknowledge the divine will. A hiatus for consideration and meditation - as indicated by the structure of the biblical verse - is reasonable. The Bohusher Rebbe explained that this interval ensures that the thanks given for the bad is heartfelt, not merely an empty statement.

Another hassidic master took this idea further, not only granting a license to mull over misfortune, but seeing the gloom as an important and necessary stage. In 1882, Rabbi Mordechai Dov Twersky of Hornistopol, Ukraine (1839-1903) - a descendant of Reb Zusha - was traveling when word arrived that a great fire ravaged his hometown. His home and his beit midrash (study hall) had gone up in flames, and his precious library with a number of valuable manuscripts was destroyed. Perhaps most painfully, a manuscript on the laws of divorce that Rabbi Mordechai Dov himself had penned was lost.

Hearing about the calamity, Rabbi Mordechai Dov sank into a depression. Suddenly his sullen look gave way to a smile and he turned to his disciples: "Our sages taught us that we must bless over the bad as we do over the good. Had I been presented with good news that I had just earned a fortune we would drink l'haim (to life) together; why do we not drink l'haim now?

The students hastily gathered to drink l'haim, but one pupil queried: "Master, it is true that we now fulfill the directive of our sages who required us to bless over bad tidings like over good news. Alas, at first you were saddened by the news of the fire; were you to hear about a wealth, you would not be cheerless for even a moment?!"

The teacher explained: "We are commanded to bless; we are not commanded to ignore. Indeed we should taste the bitterness of the misfortune that has befallen us, for the tribulation has been sent by the Almighty. Just as on Pessah we are enjoined to chew the bitter herbs not swallow them whole (B. Pessahim 115b), so to we must taste the disaster that God has sent and ponder why this is the divine will. After this stage, as we realize that it is the Almighty's will, we offer a blessing even for the calamity."

Bad things happen in our lives, and while we are instructed to bless God even in the face of adversity, it is legitimate and perhaps even imperative to pause before uttering the blessing. This temporary halt, gives us the opportunity to contemplate the blow before acknowledging the divine hand.

The writer is on the faculty of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and is a rabbi in Tzur Hadassah.

Zondervan Being Sued for Homosexuality Verses

See this article in CitizenLink
here. According to the article,

A Michigan man is suing Zondervan Publishing and Thomas Nelson Publishing, claiming biblical references to homosexuality as a sin violate his constitutional rights and have caused him emotional pain and mental instability.


Klyne Snodgrass' Book on Parables

here for a brief discussion of Klyne Snodgrass' recent book on Jesus' Parables, Stories With Intent. Below are a few snippets from the article.

Stories with Intent is the culmination of decades of study—and frustration. Snodgrass has taught a class on the parables every other year for 35 years, but says, “There was never anything I felt good about using as a text that really did the job.”

After a relatively brief introduction, the book discusses all 35 of Jesus’ parables. Each chapter is broken into sections that focus on the type of parable, issues requiring attention, excerpts from primary material including early Jewish and Christian writings, textual features, cultural information, explanations for each of the issues raised earlier, and ways of adapting the parable for the modern hearer.

Snodgrass hopes the book will help others move beyond many of the common misconceptions and poor preaching on the parables. “The title is a protest because so often people manipulate the text to say other than what Jesus was saying as a prophet,” he says.

Jul 9, 2008

Latest Issue of Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of the Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews that may be of interest to those interested in Bible exposition include:

Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, S.J., and Tom Thatcher, eds.
John, Jesus, and History, Volume 1: Critical Appraisals of Critical Views
Reviewed by Jan G. van der Watt

Richard J. Clifford, ed.
Wisdom Literature in Mesopotamia and Israel
Reviewed by John Mason
Reviewed by Andrew E. Steinmann

Richard M. Davidson
Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament
Reviewed by Gerrie Snyman

Peter Dubovský
Hezekiah and the Assyrian Spies: Reconstruction of the Neo-Assyrian Intelligence Services and its Significance for 2 Kings 18-19
Reviewed by Aren M. Maeir

Daniel K. Falk
The Parabiblical Texts: Strategies for Extending the Scriptures among the Dead Sea Scrolls
Reviewed by Lee Martin McDonald

David Flusser, with R. Steven Notley
The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus' Genius
Reviewed by Robert L. Brawley

Dan Jaffé
Le talmud et les origines juives du christianisme: Jésus, Paul et les judéo-chrétiens dans la littérature talmudique
Reviewed by Oskar Skarsaune

Alexander Jensen
Theological Hermeneutics
Reviewed by Anthony C. Thiselton

Philip S. Johnston, ed.
The IVP Introduction to the Bible
Reviewed by Douglas Estes

Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta
Acta Andreae Apocrypha: A New Perspective on the Nature, Intention and Significance of the Primitive Text
Reviewed by Lee Martin McDonald

Jaroslav Pelikan
Reviewed by John B. F. Miller

F. E. Peters
The Voice, the Word, the Books: The Sacred Scripture of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims
Reviewed by Kirk R. MacGregor

Kocku von Stuckrad, ed.; Robert Barr, trans.
The Brill Dictionary of Religion
Reviewed by Wolfram Reiss

Geza Vermes
The Resurrection: History and Myth
Reviewed by Tony Costa
Reviewed by Michael R. Licona

Gale A. Yee, ed.
Judges and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies
Reviewed by Victor H. Matthews

MacArthur on Honoring God in the Gray Areas

John MacArthur has a brief article on honoring God in the gray areas of life. His main points in the form of questions are:

1. Will it benefit me spiritually?
2. Will it put me in bondage?
3. Will it defile God’s temple?
4. Will it cause others to stumble?

Read the entire post here.

Rediscovering the Psalms

Joe Holland has a nice write-up on rediscovering the Psalms in the sense of singing them. In the post Joe points out the following benefits of singing the Psalms.

  • When you sing psalms you literally sing the Bible.
  • When you sing the psalms you interact with a wealth of theology.
  • When you sing the psalms you are memorizing Scripture.
  • When you sing the psalms you guard against heresy.
  • When you sing the psalms you engage a collection of songs that address the full range of human emotions.
  • When you sing the psalms you praise the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  • When you sing the psalms you are training for spiritual warfare.
  • When you sing the psalms you are engaging the communion of saints.

Joe also offers the following advice on how one can go about learning to sing them.

  • Find a Psalter you can sing. Know your Bible.
  • Understand how the psalms direct us to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  • Have the willingness to try something new.

Read the entire post here..

Thanks for Justin Taylor for pointing this out

Jul 8, 2008

Wayne Grudem on Bible Interpretation

Thabiti Anyabwile has a nice summary of Wayne Grudem's advice on Bible interpretation from the recently released book Preach the Word. You can read it here.

Advice for Preaching Problem Passages

Peter Mead has some helpful advice for preaching problem passages. He offers three main points.

  1. It is important not to avoid the complexity as we preach
  2. It is helpful to acknowledge the difficulty.
  3. It is important not to let the complexity overwhelm the main idea.

Read the entire post here.

Expository Preaching, Church Plants, and Leviticus

Expository Preaching, Church Plants, and Leviticus. Many would wonder, what if anything, these things have in common. The answer is given in a post by Rodney Decker. Check it out here.

Jul 7, 2008

Get Your Own Jewish Priest Outfit (sort of)

According to an Associated Press

The Temple Institute has made priestly garments in the past for display in the small museum it runs in the Jewish Quarter, but those were hand-sewn and cost upward of $10,000 each. The institute recently received rabbinic permission to begin using sewing machines for the first time, bringing the cost down and allowing them to produce dozens or hundreds of garments, depending on how many orders come in.

If you are a descendant of the Jewish priestly class, a full outfit, including an embroidered belt 32 cubits (48 feet) long, can be yours for about $800.

The Top 15 Biblical Ways to Get a Wife

Maybe you'll get a good chuckle from this:

The Top 15 Biblical Ways to Get a Wife

(Don’t try this at home…)

1. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. - (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)

2. Find a prostitute and marry her. - (Hosea 1:1-3)

3. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. - Moses (Ex 2:16-21)

4. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. - Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)

5. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. - Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)

6. Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you. - Adam (Gen 2:19-24)

7. Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a wife. - Jacob (Genesis 29:15-30)

8. Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife - David (I Samuel 18:27)

9. Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you’ll definitely find someone. (It’s all relative, of course.) - Cain (Genesis 4:16-17)

10. Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. - Xerxes or Ahasuerus (Esther 2:3-4)

11. When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a … woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” - Samson (Judges 14:1-3)

12. Kill any husband and take HIS wife (Prepare to lose four sons, though). - David (2 Samuel 11)

13. Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It’s not just a good idea; it’s the law.) - Onana and Boaz (Deuteronomy or Leviticus, example in Ruth)

14. Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity. - Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3)

15. A wife?…NOT? - Paul (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

You can find the original list here.

Todd Bolen on Gabriel's Vision (Messiah Stone)

A couple of days ago, I
mentioned a New York Times on a
recently discovered tablet that has ignited some controversy on Christian claims concerning the resurrection. Todd Bolen has now posted an excellent discussion on this issue here.

Top Five Commentaries on Luke

Ligonier Ministries has a
list and discussion of their top five commentaries on Luke. I would generally agree with the list but I would not rank Nolland or Morris as high. And I would place Fitzmyer in the top five. To the runners up I would add Craig Evans (NIBC), Bovon, Liefeld (EBC),Talbert, and Tannehill. In any case, the top five they have listed are:

1. Darrell L. Bock -- Luke 1:1-9:50; Luke 9:51-24:53 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 1994, 1996).
2. Robert H. Stein -- Luke (New American Commentary, 1993).
3. Leon Morris -- Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1988).
4. John Nolland -- Luke 1:1-9:20; Luke 9:21-18:34; Luke 18:35-24:53 (Word Biblical Commentary, 1989,1993, 1993).
5. I. Howard Marshall -- The Gospel of Luke (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1978).

Jul 6, 2008

Prayer and the Sovereignty of God

Dan Phillips has a balanced and thoughtful post on prayer and the sovereignty of God. Check it out

Israel and Romans 11

I have posted a couple of notices to an ongoing discussion of Matt Waymeyer at the Expository Thoughts blog. See
here and here. Matt has now provided the following links dealing with the salvation of of Israel as predicted in Romans 11.