Oct 24, 2009

God in the Book of James

I am currently working on a paper that I will deliver at this year’s Evangelical Theological Society meeting on the doctrine of God in the Book of James. On this topic, Craig Blomberg and Mariam Kamell write:

“It seems strange to put God so far down on a list of James’ doctrines [see this post for the list], arranged in roughly descending order of important. Doubtless, belief in Yahweh is a fundamental presupposition for James, but God is not as central or direct a focus for doctrinal reflection in this letter as the six preceding themes. Nevertheless, James teaches us that God dispenses wisdom (1:5) and reward (1:12). He cannot do evil but only good (1:13–18). He chooses those who turn to him as their only hope (2:5). He is one, both in his existence as the only true God and in his unwavering constancy (2:19). God is Creator and Redeemer (1:17-18), Lawgiver and Judge (4:12), compassionate and merciful (5:11). His righteousness requires us to be righteous (1:20), but this can be accomplished only by faith (2:23). He embraces those who humble themselves before him while he resists the proud (4:4–8). He may be viewed as a benefactor (one who gives freely and graciously) but not as a patron (requiring reciprocity). He is father (3:9), not in any authoritarian sense but as a nurturer of widows and orphans, a caregiver to the most dispossessed (1:27).”

Craig Blomberg and Mariam Kamell, James, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 259–60.

Exploring the German Language

Note: I have been informed by Nick Norelli that there might copyright issues with the links provided. So I have removed the link per his request (see his comment in the comment section).

For those readers interested in learning German, Sally Johnson and Natalie Braber’s Exploring the German Language, 2nd ed. is available as a pdf download here.

HT: Nick Norelli

Jeremy Duff's The Elements of New Testament Greek

Note: I have been informed by Nick Norelli that there might copyright issues with the links provided. So I have removed the link per his request (see his comment in the comment section).

Jeremy Duff's The Elements of New Testament Greek, 3rd ed.is available as a pdf download here.

HT: Nick Norelli

Oct 23, 2009

Pets in Heaven?

For whatever reason, I am asked this a lot. Here is how one pastor answers the question.

The Relationship Between Proverbs 1–9 and 10–22

Concerning the relationship between Proverbs 1–9 and 10–22, Richard J. Clifford, “Reading Proverbs 10–22,”
Interpretation 63 (2009): 243, makes the following observations.

"I see three ways in which chs. 1–9 define chs. 10–22 and save them from being a dead collection: the chapters situate the pursuit of wisdom in the fundamental task of (metaphorically) building a house, living one's life fully; they remind us that wisdom comes from God in order to make us civilized and fully human so that we might be good servants of God; and chs. 1–9 show us that studying and "understanding learned sayings" (1:2) are an important means of gaining wisdom."

Preaching Interpretive Options

Peter Mead has a helpful
discussion concerning how to handle interpretive options in preaching. He lists four suggestions.

1. Don’t allow an academic discussion to overwhelm the main purpose and content of the message.
2. Remember who you are preaching to – some groups just can’t handle options, others love them.
3. Don’t over-explain, sometimes interpretive options can be offered quite subtly.
4. Recognize the opportunity to teach some Bible study skill.

To these I would add, Try to do is point out how what the options have in common. It is easy to see how views differ. By at noting commonalities you will less likely alienate those listeners who have views different than your own or the one you are presenting.

Read Peter's entire post here.

Oct 22, 2009

Beware of Seminary Professors

Jonathan Leeman provides some provocative thoughts on professors, the seminary, and the academy. Read it

HT: Tim Challies

Preacher as Theologian

Martin Downes has a great reminder that preachers ought to be theologians. Indeed I would argue that they are already theologians. The real question is whether they are good theologians. In any case, you can access Martin's post

The Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2

Philip Long has a nice discussion of the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2 here.

McKnight Recommended Commentaries on 1, 2, 3 John

See this post for Scot McKnight's recommendations concerning commentaries on 1, 2, 3 John. McKnight lists:

Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John (Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries).

Judith Lieu, I, II, & III John: A Commentary (New Testament Library).

John R. W. Stott, The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries).

I. H. Marshall, The Epistles of John (New International Commentary on the New Testament).

Martin Culy, I, II, III John: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament).

S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John (Word Biblical Commentary).

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:

Roland Boer
Last Stop before Antarctica: The Bible and Postcolonialism in Australia
Reviewed by F. Rachel Magdalene

T. E. Clontz and J. Clontz, eds.
The Comprehensive New Testament
Reviewed by Alastair Haines

Göran Eidevall
Prophecy and Propaganda: Images of Enemies in the Book of Isaiah
Reviewed by Maire Byrne

Joseph A. Fitzmyer
The One Who Is to Come
Reviewed by Francis Dalrymple-Hamilton

Carol Hupping, ed.
The Jewish Bible: A JPS Guide
Reviewed by Gilbert Lozano

Richard James Fischer
Historical Genesis: From Adam to Abraham
Reviewed by Paul L. Chen

Michael Kaler
Flora Tells a Story: The Apocalypse of Paul and Its Context
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Vashti Murphy McKenzie
Swapping Housewives: Rachel and Jacob and Leah
Reviewed by Randall L. McKinion

Uwe-Karsten Plisch
The Gospel of Thomas: Original Text with Commentary
Reviewed by Christopher Tuckett

Marius Reiser
Bibelkritik und Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift: Beiträge zur Geschichte der biblischen Exegese und Hermeneutik
Reviewed by Günter Röhser

Hagith Sivan
Palestine in Late Antiquity
Reviewed by Steven Fine

Guy G. Stroumsa
The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz

Tom Thatcher and Stephen D. Moore, eds.
Anatomies of Narrative Criticism: The Past, Present, and Futures of the Fourth Gospel as Literature
Reviewed by Craig Koester

Stephan Witetschek
Ephesische Enthüllungen 1: Frühe Christen in einer antiken Großstadt. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Frage nach den Kontexten der Johannesapokalypse
Reviewed by Martin Karrer

Oct 21, 2009

Preaching Proverbs

“If more professors of Bible and homiletics had seen what the advertising industry has seen, we would doubtless hear and do more preaching on Proverbs, and it might be some of the most helpful preaching in the church. Both biblical proverbs and advertising slogans are designed to speak directly into the heart of a culture, to ordinary people in their daily lives. With just a few words, they epitomize certain core values, and if they catch on, they become a powerful way of communicating those values. They may be adapted to new contexts within the culture, some of those quite distant from a given saying's original Sitz im Leben, its setting in life: ‘Where's the beef?’”

Ellen F. Davis, "Surprised by Wisdom: Preaching Proverbs," Interpretation 63 (2009): 259.

Interesting List of Essential Books for Preaching

Jason Goroncy has posted an interesting list of books on preaching
here. After looking at the list I wonder if this might be better called an essential list of books to be read by preachers. In any case, check out the list. It is quite eclectic.

HT: Glen Scrivener

Several New and Free Resources at Desiring God

Several new and free print and audio resources have been posted at the Desiring God website. You can see what is available with links here.

Oct 20, 2009

Hairstyles and the New Testament

Josh Mann has an interesting post on ancient hairstyles and the New Testament (1 Pet 3:3-4; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 1 Timothy 1:9). Read the post here. If this interests you then you might also want to see this post.

Willimon on Conversions in Luke-Acts

"Conversions in Luke-Acts are stories about beginnings–the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the church, the initiation of a new mission, as well as the beginning of a new life for the individual person. Conversion is the beginning of the Christian journey, not its final destination. Moreover, conversions in Acts are stories about vocation–someone is being called for some godly work. Conversion is not for the smug individual possession of the convert, but rather for the ongoing thrust of the gospel. Finally, conversions in Acts are stories about the gifts of God–God is the chief actor in all Lukan accounts of conversation. Even the smallest details are attributed to the working of God. Conversion is not the result of a skillful leadership by the community or even the persuasive preaching or biblical interpretation. In many accounts, such as those of Philip’s work with the Ethiopian, the mysterious hand of God directs everything. In other stories, such as the story of Peter and Cornelius, the church must be dragged kicking and screaming into the movements of God. Manipulation, strategic planning, calculating efforts by the community aimed at church growth are utterly absent. Even our much beloved modern notions of ‘free will’ and personal choice and decisions appear to play little role in converserion in Acts. Conversion is a surprising, unexpected act of divine grace. 'By his great mercy we have been born anew to the living hope...' (1 Peter 1:3b; author's itals.)"

William H. Willimon, Acts, Interpretation (Alanta: John Knox, 1988), 103–4

Oct 19, 2009

Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009)

I just learned that Spiros Zodhiates passed away on Oct 9. Readers may know him through his prolific writings which often focused on Greek and Hebrew. You can read a press release here.

HT: James Ernest

Lutzer on Principles for Pastoral Success

Erwin Lutzer discusses five principles for pastoral success

Wallace on the Interpretive Issues in 1 Timothy 2:12

Dan Wallace has posted a succint but helpful introduction to the interpretive complexities to 1 Timothy 2:12. You can access the post

HT: Mike Aubrey

The Dating of King Saul's Reign

There has been some good blogging on King Saul lately (see
here). Chris Heard has now chipped in with a discussion of the dating of Saul's reign. You can see Chris' post here.

Witherington on Vertical and Horizontal Universalization in Luke-Acts

I noted in a previous post that I am currently working through volume one of Ben Witherington’s The Indelible Image and hope to post a review in the near
future. Regular readers also know that I have a particular interest in Luke-Acts. So I was intrigued by a statement on p. 669 which states: “Basically, the book of Luke focuses on the vertical universalization of the gospel, whereas Acts focuses on its horizontal universalization across geographical lines and through various ethnic groups and regions.” To further clarify the meaning of this statement I asked Dr. Witherington three questions and he graciously responded (He has given me his permission to share his answers below).

Question 1. I think I understand the horizontal aspect (e.g. Acts 1:8), but I am less clear on what you mean by the vertical aspect (perhaps Luke 19:10?). Can you elaborate on what you mean by "vertical universalization"?

Witherington’s answer: “By vertical universalization I mean up and down the social scale from the lowest of the low to the elites. Luke stresses that the least, last, and lost can become the first the most and the found, and the reverse of course. But his concern is to show the Gospel is for everyone from the down and out to the up and in. This is the focus of Luke’s Gospel.”

Question 2. Is it fair to say that vertical focus in Luke anticipates the horizontal focus in Acts and the horizontal focus in Acts presumes the vertical focus in Luke?

Witherington’s answer: “I would say the vertical universalization doesn’t really anticipate the horizontal universalization as it is a different matter in some ways. But it does prepare the hearer of the Gospel for the notion that the Gospel is for everyone.”

Question 3. What role do you think that the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 plays in the “horizontal universalization”?

Witherington’s answer: “As for my views on Acts 15.... please see now my artic
le on Eidolothuton in my recent book What’s in the Word.

Oct 18, 2009

Triads in Jude

Many who have studied Jude know of the author's propensity for triads (grouping of threes). But the exact number of triads tends to vary from interpreter to interpreter. Sources that I have read have had as few as ten and as many as eighteen. William Varner in a recent blog post has identified twenty-one. You can read his post here.

Clifford on Reading Proverbs

In his discussion on how Proverbs work, Richard J. Clifford, “Reading Proverbs 10–22,”
Interpretation 63 (2009): 243, makes the following helpful observations.

“Proverbs do not provide us with information. Does the saying ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ tell us anything we don't already know? Is it found in the curriculum of apprentice tailors? Listen to one of the greatest aphorists of English literature, the eighteenth-century essayist Samuel Johnson: ‘Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”[1] To paraphrase: human beings require the infusion of fresh ideas and perspectives at key times, typically when they have a question or are about to make a decision. Proverbs stimulate reflection and enable us to see things in a new way. They are a stimulus to insight and decision.

“The performance aspect of Proverbs, its orientation to decision-making, explains a remarkable feature of the book of Proverbs. It does not provide factual data, its instructions are notably empty of ‘content,’ and its maxims can seem trite if one expects new data. Rather, Proverbs’ sayings give readers a perspective. Listen to Johnson again, this time in his essay on the achievement of the poet Alexander Pope: ‘. . . new things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new.’[2] Proverbs are sharpening agents; they remove the ordinariness from everyday actions. They are about vision and action.”

[1] Samuel Johnson, “Rambler, No. 2,” cited in W. J. Bate, Samuel Johnson (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), 291.
[2] Samuel Johnson, “The Life of Alexander Pope” in Lives of the Poets: Pope, cited in J. P. Hardy, Samuel Johnson: A Critical Study (London: Routledge, 1979). 200.