Dec 31, 2009
Ruth 1:16–17 is one of the most powerful statements of faith and friendship in the entire Bible. Both faith and friendship come together in Ruth’s vow in v. 17 (%nE)ybeW ynIïyBe dyrIßp.y: tw
Concerning the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12 and Luke 6:20–26, Kenneth Bailey notes the following
1. Luke presents four pairs of blessings and woes. Matthew has nine blessings. Persecution is prominent in each collection.
2. Bless-ed refers to a spiritual condition of divinely gifted joy already present, not a requirement to be fulfilled in order to receive a reward.
3. In the light of Isaiah's usage, the "poor in spirit" are the humble and pious who seek God. The kingdom of God is theirs.
4. God will comfort the bless-ed who mourn.
5. To deny suffering or to find it darkly entertaining are both wrong.
6. Suffering can become a doorway to profound wisdom.
7. The house of mourning can make the heart glad.
8. The righteous mourn over injustice and do not succumb to compassion fatigue.
9. The righteous mourn over their own sin and are comforted.
10. For Jesus, "the land" meant the land of Israel, and only the meek had rights of inheritance, not the violent or the members of a particular clan. The text expanded in the later church to include the whole earth.
11. The meek are those who humbly seek God. They are neither too bold nor too timid.
12. Being meek is in harmony with being angry over injustice inflicted on others.
Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2008), 74–5.
Dec 30, 2009
See Denny Burk's discussion on yearly Bible reading plans. Denny also makes available a plan that he created. Whether you use this plan or another, I would encourage you to make it a habit of reading through the Bible every year. I started this habit a number of years ago, but have been only keeping records of it for the last thirteen years. During that time, I only failed to finish one year.
Most familiar with working through Bible books know that one way to do biblical theology or identify themes in a book is to note how often a word is used. One visual tool that some have use is www.wordle.net. You can view all sixty-six books in Wordle here.
HT: Stephen Smuts
Dec 29, 2009
“The narrated events of 15:l–35 focus on the two dominant churches mentioned thus far in the narrative: the Jerusalem church and the Antioch church. The structure of this literary section reflects these two settings. On the one hand, the section begins and ends with scenes in the Antioch church (15:l–5, 30–35). On the other hand, the section’s central part (15:6–29) includes the discussions and decisions of the Jerusalem church, as Paul, Barnabas, and others from Antioch travel to Jerusalem and meet with the Jerusalem Christian leaders — a meeting frequently called the Apostolic Council or the Jerusalem Counci1. Thus, both churches function as significant characters in this narrative section, and the interaction between them, depicted typically as representatives from one group interact with the other church, is a potentially significant aspect of the characterization of the Christian churches in the book of Acts.”
Richard P. Thompson, Keeping the Church in its Place: The Church as Narrative Character in Acts (New York: T & T Clark, 2006), 182–83.
Dec 28, 2009
“Yes, there is a role for sermons other than expository ones. So-called topical preaching, for example, does sometimes participate in God's transformation of people’s lives. But the communicator runs two risks in preaching typically. One one hand, topical preaching leaves too much to the preacher's ability to come up with the content of the sermon. And on the other, topical preaching can give an impression about the Bible that is not accurate. The preacher has to rummage through all kinds of different verses and try to make some coherent sense of them; too much is left to the preacher's ability to pull a message together. Such an approach suggests the Bible is a collection of sayings about various topics, a depository of principles to live by, rather than what it is, the story of the living God creating and redeeming a people for himself, for a world truly filled with the knowledge of his glory.”
Darrell W. Johnson, The Glory of Preaching: Participating in God's Transformation of the World (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009), 54.
Dec 27, 2009
“A careful reading of Hebrews shows why it is that separating theology and ethics in the New Testament is an exercise in futility rather than fertility. It is true that one can talk about the two separately with profit, but if one actually wants to describe the New Testament thought world in some reasonably holistic way, such a way of parsing things out is inadequate. The two things are so intertwined that even one as exalted as Christ, one as divine as the Son is believed to be in Hebrews, one as appropriately worshiped as the Son of Man is asserted to be, can nevertheless become the ethical paradigm of faith and faithfulness for the audience of this magnificent sermon. Going back and forth between exposition and exhortation, we find Christ in both sorts of materials and in both theological and ethical categories.”
Ben Witherington III, The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament, Volume One: The Individual Witnesses (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009), 461.
Dec 26, 2009
“The mention of the Holy Spirit here is significant for several reasons. First, the grammatical form of the statement, rather than asserting that human judgment is the same as divine, is a Greek (and possibly Semitic) way of indicating a decree. Thus, what is to follow is meant to have binding force. Secondly, the decree has this force on the basis of the work of the Holy Spirit. This seems to be a recognition on the part of the church that the Spirit was involved in this last decision, in the same way that it had been involved in previous events in the development of the Church (cf. Acts 5:3, 9; 13:2), including the incorporation of the Gentiles (15:8, 12). Thirdly, as Johnson [L. T. Johnson, Acts, 277] points out, ‘The invocation of the Holy Spirit as a partner to the decision has an odd sound to contemporary ears, but it nicely captures the dynamics of the process as portrayed by Luke,’ including the role played by the Spirit and humans in Acts 13:1–3. Fourthly, there is no specification regarding how it is that James or others had it communicated to them or knew that it was good to the Holy Spirit to act in the way specified.”
Stanley E. Porter, Paul in Acts, Library of Pauline Studies, ed. Stanley E. Porter (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), 76–7.
Dec 25, 2009
John Sailhamer has added to his published works on the Pentateuch with the recent release of The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition, and Interpretation.
According to the publisher:
The Pentateuch is the foundation for understanding the Old Testament and the Bible as a whole. Yet through the centuries it has been probed and dissected, weighed and examined, its text peeled back for its underlying history, its discourse analyzed and its words weighed. Could there be any stone in Sinai yet unturned?
Surprisingly, there is. From a career of study, John Sailhamer sums up his perspective on the Pentateuch by first settling the hermeneutical question of where we should set our attention. Rather than focus on the history behind the text, Sailhamer is convinced that it is the text itself that should be our primary focus. Along the way he demonstrates that this was in fact the focus of many interpreters in the precritical era.
Persuaded of the singular vision of the Pentateuch, Sailhamer searches out clues left by the author and the later editor of the Pentateuch that will disclose the meaning of this great work. By paying particular attention to the poetic seams in the text, he rediscovers a message that surprisingly brings us to the threshold of the New Testament gospel. The
Table of Contents:
Part One: Approaching the Text as Revelation
1 Understanding the Nature and Goal of Old Testament Theology
2 Finding the Author's Verbal Meaning
3 What Is the "Historical Meaning" of Biblical Texts?
4 Finding the Big Idea in the Final Composition of the Text
Part Two: Rediscovering the Composition of the Pentateuch Within the Tanak
5 Textual Strategies Within the Tanak
6 The Composition of the Pentateuch
7 Exploring the Composition of Legal Material in the Pentateuch
Part Three: Interpreting the Theology of the Pentateuch
8 The Nature of Covenant and Blessing in the Pentateuch
9 Is There a "Biblical Jesus" of the Pentateuch?
10 The Purpose of Mosaic Law in the Pentateuch
11 The Theme of Salvation in the Pentateuch
You can read a pdf of the book’s introduction here.
Thanks to Adrianna Wright for the review copy.
The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews that may be of interest from a Bible Exposition perspective include:
Margaret P. Aymer
First Pure, Then Peaceable: Frederick Douglass Reads James
Reviewed by Wesley Wachob
Michael F. Bird and James G. Crossley
How Did Christianity Begin? A Believer and Non-believer Examine the Evidence
Reviewed by Leif Vaage
Recent Research on Paul and Slavery
Reviewed by Lars Kierspel
Carl P. Cosaert
The Text of the Gospels in Clement of Alexandria
Reviewed by Michael Bird
David G. Firth and Jamie A. Grant, eds.
Words and the Word: Explorations in Biblical Interpretation and Literary Theory
Reviewed by Jacobus Kok
John Goldingay, ed.
Uprooting and Planting: Essays on Jeremiah for Leslie Allen
Reviewed by Wilhelm Wessels
Anton Grabner-Haider, ed.
Kulturgeschichte der Bibel
Reviewed by Birger Olsson
Scott J. Hafemann and Paul R. House, eds.
Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity
Reviewed by Paul Sanders
Christine E. Joynes, ed.
Perspectives on the Passion: Encountering the Bible through the Arts
Reviewed by Lee Jefferson
Text to Praxis: Hermeneutics and Homiletics in Dialogue
Reviewed by Robert Kysar
Moses: Envoy of God, Envoy of His People
Reviewed by Eugene Merrill
El Evangelio de Juan en las versiones siríacas
Reviewed by Ilaria L. E. Ramelli
James F. McGrath
The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context
Reviewed by Lori Baron
Dec 24, 2009
Ben Witherington III has an article posted at the Biblical Archaeology Review website entitled, "Mary, Simeon or Anna: Who First Recognized Jesus as Messiah?" You can access the article here.
Darrell W. Johnson, The Glory of Preaching: Participating in God's Transformation of the World (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009), 53–4.
Dec 23, 2009
Ken Bailey notes the following four points concerning Matthew’s inclusion of four women in Jesus’ genealogy.
1. He includes men and women. This is major. Jesus included women into his band of disciples (Lk 8:1–3) and women have a prominent place in his ministry. His teachings are often geared for both men and women listeners. Matthew may have included women on his genealogy as a sign of the new kingdom of God, where there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not ‘male and female’” (Gal 3:28, my translation).
2. He includes Jews and Gentiles. If Matthew wanted to include Jews and Gentiles in his genealogy, how could he do so? All the males in the family tree were Jews. The only way he could include Gentiles at the beginning of his Gospel, looking forward to “The Great Commission” at its end (Mt 28:18–20), was to include these women. Ruth and Rahab were Gentiles, Tamar was probably a Gentile, and Bathsheba was originally married to a Gentile. The starting fact of the presence of women in “a men’s club” (a genealogy) would catch the attention of and first-century Jewish reader/listener. After some reflection that same reader/listener might catch the Gentile connection between the beginning and the end of the Gospel.
3. Among the women selected Matthew included saints and sinners. Tamar struggles for justice and was called “righteous.” Yet she slept wither her father-in-law. Rahab appears on stage as a prostitute. Bathsheba commits adultery and is certainly not innocent. Ruth, by contrast, is a saint throughout the book that carries her name. Mary’s saintliness concludes the account.
4. All four women demonstrate intelligence, boldness and courage. As Raymond Brown writes, “The women showed initiative or played an important role in God’s plan and so came to be considered the instrument of God’s providence or of His Holy Spirit.”
Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2008), 42.
Dec 22, 2009
M. Eugene Boring’s discussion of Jesus’ transfiguration event in his commentary on Mark, begins by suggesting that, “On the way to its incorporation in Mark, several influences may have played a role in the formation and transmission of this story in which the human Jesus not only converses with heavenly beings but is himself clothed with an otherworldly glory.” Apparently by “formation” Boring believes that Mark’s account has been so influenced by other similar accounts in such as Ovid’s Metamorphosis and 1 Enoch that, “It is thus difficult to regard the account as simply a straightforward reporting of an event in the life of Jesus.” Boring goes on to reject subjective interpretations (i.e. “a group visionary experience”), rationalistic explanations (i.e. natural phenomena [lightning, thunderstorm, fog, sunset or sunrise glow]), and literary-theological explanations involving “a misplaced resurrection account.” Boring suggests that these explanations have “failed to meet the test of scholarly scrutiny.” Rather according to Boring, “While the transfiguration is not a story of a specific resurrection appearance retrojected into the pre-Easter life of Jesus, the Markan narrative as a whole is indeed seen from the perspective of the risen Lord of the church’s faith, so that there is a sense in which much of his narrative is a retrojection of post-Easter faith onto a pre-Easter screen. In early Christian theology in general and in the Gospels' narrative theology in particular, the line between historical Jesus and risen Lord was not firm or crisp.”
M. Eugene Boring, Mark, Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), 260–1.
To be honest, I fail to see why it is so hard to accept Mark’s account as reflecting an event that actually happened in Jesus’ life. I am unpersuaded by the suggestion that Mark must have been so influenced by either similarities to other literary accounts or by a post-Easter faith to the extent that his recording of the Transfiguration account involves either fabrication or retrojection.
Dec 21, 2009
Dec 20, 2009
" . . .that for the early Jewish Christians the primary medium of theological development was exegesis, meticulous and disciplined exegesis of scriptural texts deployed with the sophisticated exegetical techniques of contemporary Jewish scholarship. Thus from the beginning a few biblical texts were of central importance for understanding the status of the exalted Jesus, some of these closely linked by catchword or other connections. Psalm 110, as already mentioned, along with Pss. 2 and 8, was prominent, and Hebrews situates itself within this christological focus especially on psalms, making the more traditional christological reading of certain psalms the basis for its more creative developments in interpreting these same psalms and others. Famously, of course, Hebrews exploits the full implications for a christology of divine identity already familiar in Christian reading of the first verse of Ps. 110 and extends the exegesis to v. 4. The extent to which the argument of Hebrews is structured as exegesis of Ps. 110, with other texts cited to aid this exegesis, is such that more than one scholar has called Hebrews itself a commentary on Ps. 110."
Richard Bauckham, “The Divinity of Jesus Christ in Hebrews,” in The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, ed Richard Bauckham, Daniel R. Driver, Trevor A. Hart, Nathan MacDonald (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 18.
Perhaps there is a sermon illustration here (or maybe I just like Christmas cookies).
Christmas Cookie Rules...
1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free.
2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.
3. If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calorie free, (rule #1) yours is also. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.
4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.
5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.
6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!
7. Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street" have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.
8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.
9. Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories Rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!
From The Cybersalt Digest
"In the course of a very few decades much of the church has embraced the way of mass culture in its drive to reduce everything to play and attractive entertainment. It has bowed to the demands of a consumer society and offers a message that more often distracts for the moment than comforts for the long run. Adjustments in content and form to match the perceived needs of future possible converts eat away at the content necessary to understand God, the fall of man, and redemption. Marketing priorities preside. The product is matched to the customer’s expectations. There is little room for the doctor to prescribe the medicine or for God to set forth judgment and conditions for redemption. Both sources could give much deeper insight if it only mattered at all to the patient."
Udo W. Middlemann, The Market Driven Church: The Worldly Influence of Modern Culture on the Church in America (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), 124.
Dec 19, 2009
Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, “James in the Minds of the Recipients,” in The Catholic Epistles and Apostolic Tradition: A New Perspective on James and Jude, ed. Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr and Robert W. Wall (Waco, TX Baylor University Press, 2009), 51–2.
Dec 18, 2009
One of the books that I am currently working through is Jason Meyer's recent book The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. Here is the publisher's blurb and table of contents
Commonly understood as the first theologian of the Christian faith, Paul set forth the categories by which we describe our relationship with Christ. Did he understand the new covenant Jesus announced at the Last Supper primarily as a replacement of the old Mosaic covenant God made with Israel, or as a renewal and completion of the old? Jason Meyer surveys the various differences that have been argued between the two covenants in The End of the Law, carefully and inductively perfoming a semantic, grammatical, and contextual analysis of all the Pauline texts dealing with covenant concepts.
Table of Contents:
List of Abbreviations
2. A Transhistorical Understanding
3. The Old and New Antithesis in Paul
4. Contexts of Contrasts: 2 Corinthians 3-4
5. Contexts of Contrasts: Galatians 3-4
6. Contexts of Contrasts: Romans 9-11
7. The Mosaic Covenant on Old Testament Terms
Thanks to Jim Baird at Broadman Holman for the review copy.
The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews that may be of interest from a Bible Exposition perspective include:
Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, vol. 4
Reviewed by David Fiensy
Gary Burge, Lynn Cohick, and Gene Green
The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context
Reviewed by Mark Fairchild
«En commençant par Moïse et les prophètes...»: Études Vétérotestamentaires
Reviewed by Philippe Guillaume
J. de Waal Dryden
Theology and Ethics in 1 Peter: Paraenetic Strategies for Christian Character Formation
Reviewed by John H. Elliott
Duane A. Garrett
Amos: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text
Reviewed by John Engle
The Theological Epistemology of Augustine's De Trinitate
Reviewed by Mark Weedman
Daniel M. Gurtner
The Torn Veil: Matthew's Exposition of the Death of Jesus
Reviewed by Felix Cortez
Esther Regina: A Bakhtinian Reading
Reviewed by Mercedes García Bachmann
Roger L. Omanson
A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger's Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators
Reviewed by Zeba Crook
Carol Poster and Linda C. Mitchell, eds.
Letter-Writing Manuals and Instruction from Antiquity to the Present: Historical and Bibliographic Studies
Reviewed by Jan-Wim Wesselius
Kavin C. Rowe
Early Narrative Christology: The Lord in the Gospel of Luke
Reviewed by Troy Troftgruben
Louis A. Ruprecht Jr.
God Gardened East: A Gardner's Meditation on the Dynamics of Genesis
Reviewed by David Maas
Plato and Theodoret: The Christian Appropriation of Platonic Philosophy and the Hellenic Intellectual Resistance
Reviewed by Jeremy Schott
R. M. M. Tuschling
Angels and Orthodoxy: A Study in Their Development in Syria and Palestine from the Qumran Texts to Ephrem the Syrian
Reviewed by Jan G. van der Watt
Karen J. Wenell
Jesus and Land: Sacred and Social Space in Second Temple Judaism
Reviewed by Cecilia Wassen
Dec 17, 2009
I found this quote from the December 13, 2009 edition of the Dallas Morning News interesting
"Henry was incapable of overstatement, so when he spoke, we all listened. When he didn't speak, we listened." -Senior Rabbi David Stern of Temple Emanu-El on the life of Dallas real estate icon Henry S. Miller Jr. (dallasnews.com, Tuesday).
Dec 16, 2009
See Michael Gorman's discussion of Paul on the incarnation here. Near the end of the post Gorman offers the following five conclusions:
1. Incarnation and cross are inseparable.
2. Both incarnation and cross are necessary for our salvation.
3. Both incarnation and cross express the self-giving love of God in Christ.
4. Both incarnation and cross should narratively shape the Christian believer and community into the image of Christ, decisively affecting Christian praxis in multiple ways and in all areas of life.
5. A Pauline theology/spirituality of theosis (becoming like God, in Christ, by the Spirit) is able to hold incarnation and cross together. And with that link, incarnation, cross, and resurrection/exaltation are all tied together in Paul.
Eugene Merrill's Kingdom of Priests (rev. ed) is the offering today for Logos Bible Software's "Twelve Days of Logos" sale for $19.95. The special is only good for today and you must use the code 12DAYS8. You can see the special here.
Peter Mead has a great reminder to preach with the passage's original purpose in mind. Too often passages are used to answer questions or address issues that were not part of the author’s intention. You can read Peter's post here.
Dec 15, 2009
Dec 14, 2009
Although I have not used Eugene Van Ness Goetchius' Language of the New Testament, I have heard some good things about it. So some might be interested to know that Westminster Bookstore has the book on clearance sale at 75% off ($13.80) here.
Dec 13, 2009
Darrell Johnson, in his recent book The Glory of Preaching identifies the following three foundational convictions concerning preaching.
1. When the living God speaks, something always happens.
2. When the preacher speaks God's speech, God speaks.
3. Therefore, when the preacher speaks God's speech, something always happens. Always?
Darrell W. Johnson, The Glory of Preaching: Participating in God's Transformation of the World (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009), 10.
Dec 12, 2009
"The theological importance and hermeneutical potential of the letter can best be developed by hearing it and taking it seriously as a message from James, the Lord’s brother, to the people of God living in the Dispersion. This insight is accompanied by the recognition that the theological nature and aim of letter can be derived neither from its relation to Paul and his letters nor from a historical origin hypothetically reconstructed and attributed to any “Christianity of the second of third generation” (which in former times used to be called early Catholicism, horrible dictu). Instead, it should be accepted as a theological position of its own value, derived from the characteristic connection of faith with life. In this context, the letter opening 1:12/13–25, and not the subsection 2:14–26, is of decisive importance. This basic statement of the theology of the letter, seen in connection with the prescript, leaves no doubt that the connection of faith and work to which the author is admonishing his addressees has received its fundamental stimulus from Jesus and is based in the Christ event."
Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, “James in the Minds of the Recipients: A Letter from Jersusalem,” in The Catholic Epistles and Apostolic Tradition: A New Perspective on James and Jude, ed. Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr and Robert W. Wall (Waco, TX Baylor University Press, 2009), 49.