Sep 13, 2008

Latest Issue of Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews that may be of interest from a Bible Exposition perspective include:

Frederick E. Brenk
With Unperfumed Voice: Studies in Plutarch, in Greek Literature, Religion and Philosophy, and in the New Testament Background
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus

James H. Charlesworth, ed.
The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Second Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins
Reviewed by Matthew Goff

Zeba A. Crook and Philip A. Harland, eds.
Identity and Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean: Jews, Christians and Others: Essays in Honour of Stephen G. Wilson
Reviewed by Thomas W. Gillespie

Rodney J. Decker
Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers
Reviewed by Pierre Johan Jordaan

Matthew Kraus
How Should Rabbinic Literature Be Read in the Modern World?
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz

Larry J. Kreitzer
Hierapolis in the Heavens: Studies in the Letter to the Ephesians
Reviewed by Daniel Darko
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Roger Ryan
Reviewed by Victor H. Matthews

Daniel L. Smith-Christopher
Jonah, Jesus, and Other Good Coyotes: Speaking Peace to Power in the Bible
Reviewed by Hector Avalos

Nili Wazana
All the Boundaries of the Land: The Promised Land in Biblical Thought in Light of the Ancient Near East [Hebrew]
Reviewed by Shalom E. Holtz

B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort
The Greek New Testament with Dictionary
Reviewed by Allan J. McNicol

Apocryphal Rope Tied to the High Priest's Ankle?

Many who read this blog have probably heard sermons, lessons, lectures on the supposed Jewish tradition that the high priest had a rope tied to his ankle so that if something should go wrong while he is in the temple, he could be dragged out without endangering anyone else. The problem with is that there is not much evidence for this supposed practice. See this interesting
post though.

See also this follow up post.

Sep 12, 2008

John Walton on Bara (Create?)

John Walton has a nice discussion on the Hebrew term
bara. Here is a lengthy excerpt from his post which can be read in its entirety here.

The verb bara’ occurs about fifty times in the Old Testament. As often noted, deity is always either the subject or the implied subject (in passive constructions) of the verb. It can therefore be confidently asserted that the activity is inherently a divine activity and not one that humans can perform or participate in.

It is of interest that few commentators discuss the objects of the verb, but this is the most important issue for our analysis. Since we are exploring what constitutes creative activity, then the nature of that which has been created is of utmost significance.

The following chart provides a comprehensive list of the objects of bara’:

Gen. 1:1 Heavens and earth
Gen. 1:21 Creatures of the sea
Gen. 1:27 People
Gen. 1:27 (2) People
Gen. 2:3 X
Gen. 2:4 Heavens and earth
Gen. 5:1 People
Gen. 5:2 People
Gen. 5:2 People
Gen. 6:7 People
Exod. 34:10 wonders
Num. 16:30 Something new (debatable)
Deut. 4:32 People
Ps. 102:18 People not yet created
Ps. 104:30 Creatures
Ps. 148:5 Celestial inhabitants
Ps. 51:10 pure heart
Ps. 89:12 North and south
Ps. 89:47 People
Ecc. 12:1 you
Isa. 4:5 Cloud of smoke
Isa. 40:26 Starry host
Isa. 40:28 Ends of the earth
Isa. 41:20 Rivers flowing in desert
Isa. 42:5 Heavens
Isa. 43:1 Jacob
Isa. 43:15 Israel
Isa. 43:7 Everyone called by my name
Isa. 45:12 People
Isa. 45:18 Earth
Isa. 45:18 Heavens
Isa. 45:7 Darkness
Isa. 45:7 Disaster
Isa. 45:8 Heavens and earth
Isa. 48:7 New things, hidden things
Isa. 54:16 Blacksmith
Isa. 54:16 Destroyer
Isa. 57:19 praise
Isa. 65:17 New heavens and new earth
Isa. 65:18 New heavens and new earth
Isa. 65:18 Jerusalem
Jer. 31:22 New thing
Ezek. 21:30 Ammonites
Ezek. 28:13 King of Tyre
Ezek. 28:15 King of Tyre
Amos 4:13 wind
Mal. 2:10 Covenant people

The grammatical objects of the verb can be summarized in the following categories:

Cosmos (10, including New Cosmos)
People in general (10)
Specific groups of people (6)
Specific individuals or types of individuals (5)
Creatures (2)
Phenomena (10)
Components of cosmic geography (3)
Condition (1: pure heart)

What is obvious from this listing is that grammatical objects of the verb are not material in nature, and even when they are, it is questionable that the context is objectifying them. What would be the alternative? Is there anything else “creation” could refer to other than bringing something material into existence? Even a quick look at English usage would alert us to alternatives. For example, we might speak of creating a committee; a curriculum; a masterpiece; havoc—none of these are material in nature. We would instead refer to these as the creation of something functional.

It should be noted that a large percentage of the biblical contexts require a functional understanding. If the Israelites understood the word bara’ to convey creation in functional terms, then that would be the most “literal” understanding that we could achieve. The truest meaning of a text is found in what the author and hearers would have thought. Incidentally, analysis of ancient Near Eastern creation literature confirms that ancient priorities were focused on the functional rather than the material.

Scripture in Acts

According to Jacob Jervell,

"In the New Testament, we have no parallel to Luke’s use of Scripture. This is already evident in part from the standpoint of form. We note three different usages. First, there are direct quotations, as we find them everywhere, but especially in the first half of Acts. Second, there are summary references, where all that the Scripture says is referred to in summary fashion (Acts 3:18, 24; 10:43; 17:3; 18:28; 24:14; 26:23; and Luke 24:26, 46). Third, there are the many recitals of narrative and indirect quotations in the two historical presentations, or resumes, of Acts 7 and 13:17–25."

Jacob Jervell, The Unknown Paul: Essays on Luke-Acts and Early Christian History (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1984), 123.

Sep 11, 2008

Deuteronomy in the New Testament

See Nijay Gupta's
review of the recently released by Continuum and
edited by Steve Moyise and Maarten J. J. Menken. The following information is from the Continuum website.


This book brings together a set of specially commissioned studies by authors who are experts in the field and provides an overview of the status, role and function of Deuteronomy in the first century. It considers the Greek and Hebrew manuscript traditions and offers insights into the various hermeneutical stances of the New Testament authors and the development of New Testament theology.


Deuteronomy in the New Testament brings together a set of specially commissioned studies by authors who are experts in the field. After an introductory chapter on the use of Deuteronomy in the second temple literature, each of the New Testament books that contain quotations from Deuteronomy are discussed: Matthew, Mark, Luke-Acts, John, Romans & Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Hebrews, the Pastoral Epistles and Revelation. The book provides an overview of the status, role and function of Deuteronomy in the first century. It considers the Greek and Hebrew manuscript traditions and offers insights into the various hermeneutical stances of the New Testament authors and the development of New Testament theology.

Table Of Contents


List of Contributors
1. Deuteronomy in the Judaism of the Second Temple Period - Timothy Lim
2. Deuteronomy in Mark - Steve Moyise
3. Deuteronomy in Matthew - Maarten Menken
Deuteronomy in Luke-Acts - Dietrich Rusam
5. Deuteronomy in John - Michael Labahn
6. Deuteronomy in Romans and Galatians - Roy Ciampa
7. Deuteronomy in 1 and 2 Corinthians - Brian Rosner
8. Deuteronomy in Hebrews - Gert Steyn
9. Deuteronomy in the Pastoral Epistles - To be confirmed
10. Deuteronomy in Revelation - Michael Tilly
Index of Quotations and Allusions – New Testament Order
Index of Quotations and Allusions – Deuteronomy Order
Index of Modern Authors

Preaching Warning Passages

Peter Mead has some interesting
advice concerning preaching the warning passages of Scripture. Mead writes,

I was just reading a little commentary on Joel by Thomas Finley. On page 38 he makes a comment that is worth our attention as preachers. It’s not new, it’s not profound, but it’s easy to leave this out of the equation as we evaluate our ministry.

According to Finley, the prophets, such as Joel, “had the power as preachers to motivate people to repent on the basis of warning them of the judgment to come. Although the New Testament focuses on the Lord’s grace and mercy, the warnings of judgment are not absent there either. In light of Joel and the rest of Scripture, one might wonder whether contemporary pastors who tend to avoid “fire and brimstone” preaching in favor of a steady diet of mercy and forgiveness provide an incomplete presentation of God’s Word.”

While we must recognize that culturally our listeners have changed over recent decades, and consequently their appreciation for a dramatic and aggressive pulpit pounding has dropped, this does not mean we cannot preach warning of judgment. The culture in which we preach, the people to whom we preach, behoove us to give careful attention to our tone, attitude, word choice and so on. But the Bible text has not changed, and if we are to preach the whole counsel, then we will be preaching passages like Joel - heavy on warning, powerful in presentation of divine judgment.

The calling of expository preaching demands not only a sensitivity to our listeners, but an absolute commitment to hearing the Word of God, and presenting it accurately, faithfully and clearly.

Sep 10, 2008

Toward a Definition of Biblical Exposition

Cal Habig has been posting a series related to preaching workshops given by Kent Hughes. One recent blog entitled "Toward a Definition of Biblical Exposition" contains the following helpful list from Hughes.

The preacher has done his work when...

  • he has worked out the theme of the book - the "melodic line."
  • he has prayerfully interpreted his text in its context, using the established principles of interpretation
  • he understands the text's application in its historical setting, and in the whole of Scripture.
  • he has discerned wherein it is a revelation of Jesus Christ, and has made the appropriate inter-canonical connections;
  • he has made the trip "from Jerusalem to Portland," [fill in your city's name] and he understands its present relevance
  • he has stated the theme of the text, its "Big Idea"
  • he has outlined his exposition using the literary structure of the text as a guide to his sermon's symmetries
  • he has used stories and illustrations which really do illuminate the text
  • he has written or outlined his sermon using language that actually does communicate in today's culture
  • he has submitted himself to the text so that it has so plowed his soul that he is sympathetic to, and desires the truths of the text to be active in his life;
  • as he stand in the pulpit in full dependence upon the Holy Spirit, the exposition of God's Word passionately flows from the inward affections of his heart without affectation.

Ghosts and the Gospel of Mark

Josh Macmanaway has an interesting
post on ghosts and the Gospel of Mark. I must admit that I am not up on the primary literature so I am not sure what I think. But here is an excerpt from the post.

. . . I had just read Jason Robert Combs' (of Yale Div) article in RBL [JBL see the footnote] titled, "A Ghost on the Water? An Absurdity in Mark 6:49-50."(1) Combs' argument is that Mark uses this story to show that Jesus is not, in fact, just a ghost by virtue of the fact that he's on the water. Combs goes through primary sources from antiquity showing that it was a common belief that ghosts could not walk upon water.

Mark's "ghost sighting" is characteristic of ancient ghosts stories in three ways:

1) It occurs at night (6:48 - τεταρτην φυλαχην της νυχτος) during the fourth watch, which allowed for there to be some early morning light - (2)which was thought to be necessary to see ghosts, as the ancients did not share our sentiment that spirits luminesce. And 3) it caused the disciples fear.

However, Mark departs drastically from the typical ghost story by having Jesus appear on the water. Combs gives the rhetorical reasoning:
"The disciples' lack of understanding has long been recognized as a Markan theme that appears throughout the Gospel. Here it forms a striking narrative portrayal of cognitive dissonance: the disciples clearly want Jesus to be something that he is not, to the point that they are willing to believe the absurd (JM: That Jesus is a ghost) when Jesus approaches them as something much grander than they had imagined. Gods and divine men walk on water; ghosts do not. But when the disciples see Jesus walking on water, they believe the impossible rather thant he obvious. Mark's insertion of this absurdity, "because they saw him walking on the sea they thought he was a ghost" (6:49), emphasizes in dramatic fashion the discpiles' misconstrual of Jesus' messiahship."

(1)Journal of Biblical Literature; Summer2008, Vol. 127 Issue 2, p345-358.

Sep 9, 2008

Literary Studies of Acts

Here is another bit from some of the material I have been reading.

"Luke-Acts will continue to invite historical inquiry. It is a ceucial source for any historical reconstruction of Christian origins, and knowledge of its own historical setting informs our reading of the narrativr. Yet literary approaches occupy center stage as Lukan scholarship enters its third millennium. Rhetorical critical studies examine the way Luke's artful composition achieves its intended effects on readers (Hearers). Reader-response critics shift focus to the reader and explore the ways in which the readers seek to find coherent meaning in the text. And narratological approaches are multiplying exponentially. Especially valuable is the current work on the characterization in Luke's narrative."

John T. Carroll, “Luke-Acts,” in The New Testament Today, ed. Mark Allan Powell (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1999), 60.

Sep 8, 2008

Messages on Colossians by Doug Moo

Justin Taylor has provided
links to four messages on Colossians by Doug Moo.

Part One - Col 1:3-14
Douglas Moo gives a broad overview of the book of Colossians of how they were trying to fit Christ into the worldview they'd already adopted. He homes on some key thoughts in the book, such as bearing fruit and growing and God's rescue and redemption, like that in Exodus.
Part Two - Col 1:15-20
This section of Colossians celebrates the supremacy of Christ in creation and the new creation. All you could possibly know about God is found in Christ. He is not some "blurry, impressionistic view" of God but the exact image of the Father.
Part Three - Col 1:21-23; 2:6-15
The message of Colossians is that you don't need to go running after spiritual truth in other places in the "religious marketplace" outside of Christ. What is a life lived in Christ look like? It's rooted in Him, built up in Him, strengthened in Him, and full in Him.
Part Four - Col 2:6-23
Doug tackles the difficulties surrounding the text concerning baptism and seeks to understand it in its context in the chapter. Baptism is a "last act of conversion" where it is more or less a "sealing" upon our conversion. "Your Christian life needs to be directed by the transforming work of the Spirit within," he underscores, "creating the mind of Christ in you, leading you to live a life that pleases Him and honors Him.

Sep 7, 2008

The Provenance of Colossians

Michael Bird has a nice
discussion on the provenance of Colossians. He argues that for an Ephesian imprisonment rather than the traditional Roman imprisonment. I still hold to a Roman imprisonment though.

Irrelevant Preaching

“. . . the in-breaking of the gospel must embrace a tragic moment, reading the Scriptures against the world for the sake of the world. Ironically, pastors must learn to preach against the culture in order to interpret the Scriptures for their congregations in a way that makes their own gathering as the church significant. We may discover the ultimate relevance to our preaching by becoming appropriately irrelevant. Preachers must be willing to take their congregations into the abyss where the Holy Spirit, speaking through the biblical texts, challenges our deepest convictions about the Christian life.”

John W. Wright, Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2007), 76.