Sep 29, 2012

Genre as Family Resemblance

Jonathan Pennington has a helpful explanation of genre in his new book, Reading the Gospels Wisely. Pennington writes:

“When we use the word ‘genre’ top describe a recognizable type of writing with a certain style, purpose, and identifiable features. Genres are neither purely prescriptive nor descriptive. That is, there are no concrete, unbreakable rules for a genre, or even a set number of genres that exist (such as in a classical prescriptive view). However, this does mean that genre is a useless term that has as many meanings as there are different works of literature (thus only descriptive). Rather, a genre is an overall term that we can use to describe a grouping of literary works that share a set of common characteristics, allowing flexibility for any particular work to manifest or omit some of these characteristics or to emphasize others. A genre is a matter of culturally understood conventions. The best analogy to describe this is that of ‘family resemblance.’ Even as the various members of the family might share identifiable characteristics, such as height or shape of cheekbone or nose, yet remain distinct people, so too we can note that the members of a family of literary works—or genre—clearly overlap with one another yet are not identical. Thus we can speak of a genre we are discussing certain characteristics that are identifiable as overlapping between different pieces of literature. These are conventional and may vary by culture.”

Jonathan T. Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 19.

Sep 28, 2012

Keener on the Message and Historicity of Acts

I just received my copy of Craig Keener's brand new commentary on the first two chapters in Acts. My initial impressions are very positive. Here is a quote from the prolegomenon that I appreciated.

"Although my interests lie more in Luke's message than in questions of historical reconstruction, these subjects are not as readily separated as some modern writers assume. In addition to its moralistic and propagandistic value, ancient historiography also made claims about past events that differentiated it from other genres that communicated ideas differently."

Craig S. Keener, Acts an Exegetical Commentary: Volume1: Introduction and 1:1–2:47 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 24.


Sep 27, 2012

Bethsaida Photo Book

Mark Hoffman has posted a twenty page photo book on "et-tell," the possible site of ancient Bethsaida. There are real questions about the identification of et-tell with Bethsaida (see here). Bethsaida is mentioned about seven times in the Gospels and is identified as the hometown of Philip, Andrew, and Peter. Mark has done a nice job with the photo-book and you can access it here

Sep 26, 2012

The Circumcised Walls of Jericho!

I had a good chuckle when I read Chuck Swindoll illustrate the dangers of using words in preaching that are easily mispronounced. He writes, "When I preached on the Hebrew conquest of Canaan, I described how Joshua and the people of Israel 'circumcised the walls of Jericho.' Why I had chosen to use the word 'circumscribed' I don't know. At first I didn't realize what I had said, but the congregation kept laughing. Finally, I got it. Oh my!"

Charles R. Swindoll, Saying It Well: Touching Others with Your Words (New York: Faith Words, 2012), 190.

Sep 25, 2012

Sep 24, 2012

Thinking About Psalm 2

While teaching recently on Psalm 2, I was struck with verse 8. But before I state what I found so interesting in this verse, let me step back and talk about the psalm for a moment.

Psalm 2 is typically classified as a royal psalm, that is, a psalm that focuses on the anointed king. There are three commonly identified criteria for royal psalms: “(1) refer to the ‘king,’ (2) mention the ‘anointed’ one as a noun or make use of the verb, and (3) they refer to David by name” (C. Hassell Bullock,
Encountering the Book of Psalms, Encountering Biblical Studies, ed. Eugene H. Merrill [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001], 178). Psalm 2 meets two of these three criteria (absent is David’s name). I would sum up the message of this royal psalm as rebellion against the Lord and His mediated rule through His Anointed King is doomed to fail because the Lord is sovereign and so the only appropriate response is not rebellion but subservience.

For many Christian interpreters, Psalm 2 is also either a messianic psalm or perhaps a psalm with messianic elements. Such a reading is consistent with the fact that the psalm is quoted four times (Acts 4:25–26; 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5) and alluded to fourteen times in the New Testament (according to the index in UBS4), most often in connection with Jesus the Messiah. The lion’s share of attention for this messianic connection is given to verse 7.

He said to me, “You are my Son;
     today I have become your Father.”

This focused attention is probably merited, but I was drawn to verse 8, where the Anointed King is quoting the Lord’s decree (see v. 7a).

“Ask of me,

     and I will make the nations your inheritance,

     the ends of the earth your possession.”

What interests me iss that many interpreters do not adequately explain how this psalm could be royal and not Messianic. Which Davidic descendent ever enjoyed this kind of dominion? Surely, Goldingay is incorrect in suggesting that “apparently an Israelite king never took up the invitation to ‘ask of me . . .’” (John Goldingay, Psalms, vol. Volume 1: Psalms 1:41, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, ed. Tremper Longman III [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 105). If this psalm was indeed part of some royal coronation ritual (as many interpreters suggest), then it seems quite unlikely that no king would have ever thought to actually take the Lord up on His offer and simply “ask.” The inconvenient truth of Israel’s history is that they have never enjoyed the kind of dominion alluded to in verse 8 under David or one of his descendants. One might suggest that perhaps some kings did ask, but they did not enjoy the promised dominion because they failed to meet certain conditions. Of course the problem with this explanation is that no conditions are actually stated other than to “ask.” Another solution might be that the promise is conveyed in hyperbolic poetry and thus perhaps Israel under David or Solomon did enjoy such hegemony. But this also seems unlikely, for even if the promise were poetic and hyperbolic, surely the “nations” and “the ends of the earth” would have been understood then, and should be understood now, as being more than even Solomon’s empire. For me then, I see verse 8 as finding its fulfillment in the coming kingdom of Jesus the Messiah.


Sep 23, 2012

Reminder: Advanced Expository Preaching Workshop

This year's Advanced Expository Preaching Workshop is about two weeks away. This year the workshop will focus on the Sermon on the Mount.

The workshop will take place on Monday, October 8, 2012 in The Riley Center on the campus of Southwestern Seminary. Registration is $25 for all participants and includes lunch. For more information, call 1-877-474-4769 or email

For overnight guest accommodations, please call 817-921-8800. For more information go here.