Dec 26, 2009

New Greek Website

The prolific Michael Halcomb has created a new Biblical Greek website with a number of free resources. You can access it here.

The Role of the Spirit at the Jerusalem Council

“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

Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch

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 understandin
g 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

Author Index
Subject Index

Scripture Index

You can read a pdf of the book’s introduction here.

Thanks to Adrianna Wright for the review copy.

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:

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

John Byron
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

Abraham Kuruvilla
Text to Praxis: Hermeneutics and Homiletics in Dialogue
Reviewed by Robert Kysar

Mosheh Lichtenstein
Moses: Envoy of God, Envoy of His People
Reviewed by Eugene Merrill

Jesús Luzarraga
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

Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas or for you Greek-ers out there
Kala Christougenna.

Dec 24, 2009

Witherington on the First Recognition of Jesus as the Messiah

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

The Miracle of Preaching

“The miracle of preaching, where does it happen? In what mode does human speaking of human words become speaking words that are the word of God? And the answer I want to commend to all who preach is in expository preaching. It is the only place I know where I can stand and have confidence that what I say is what the living God is saying. It is the only place I know where we mere humans can dare to say or think, ‘Thus says the Lord.’”

Darrell W. Johnson, The Glory of Preaching:
Participating in God's Transformation of the World (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009), 53–4.

Dec 23, 2009

Apostle Paul Rejection Letter

Most have heard or used a version of the humorous Apostle Paul's rejection letter. Here is one version of the letter.

HT: Chris Price

Bailey on the Women in Jesus' Genealogy

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

Managing the Clock in Preaching

James O. Davis has some helpful suggestions on managing one's preaching time

Pritchard on When You Have Two Good Choices

Ray Pritchard has some good counsel on navigating between two good choices. You can read it

Mark and the Transfiguration

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

Jesus' Genealogies

Grant Osborne writes on Jesus' genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3

Residential Building from the Time of Jesus Exposed in Nazareth

See this announcement from the Israel Antiquities Authority concerning a residential building from the time of Jesus in Nazareth.

HT: Stephen Goranson

Dec 20, 2009

Bauckham on Jewish Christian Exegesis, Psalm 110, Chriistology, and the Epistle of Hebrews

" . . .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.

Christmas Cookie Rules

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!
10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. It's a rule!

From The Cybersalt Digest

The Influence of Mass Culture on the Church

"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.