Dec 15, 2012

Texts, Hermeneutics, Preaching, and Stained Glass

What do texts, hermeneutics, preaching, and stained glass have in common? Check out Abe Kuruvilla's interesting post here. Make sure to read the interaction in the comments as well.

Dec 14, 2012

Schnabel on the Authorship of Acts

I have long appreciated the work of Eckhard Schnabel which I have found to clear and helpful. So I am excited to be dipping into his brand new commentary on Acts. In his introduction to Acts he deals with the issue of authorship, noting that while the Gospels and Acts are technically anonymous there are two points worth making.Schnabel writes,

"First, neither the Gospels nor the book of Acts were "anonymous" in the first century. It can be reasonably assumed that the early churches knew-on the basis of personal relationships or oral tradition-the identity of the authors of these long books, which were foundational for the life and ministry of the churches. We may note the example of L. Flavius Arrianus of Nicomedia, who did not state his name in the preface of his description of the life of Alexander the Great, published in the first half of the second century AD under the title Anabasis; he explains this literary decision with the comment, "I need not write my name, for it is not at all unknown among men, nor my country nor my family."
"Second, the anonymity of the historical books of the New Testament is a literary feature that distinguishes them from contemporary Greco-Roman historical books. It has been suggested that this is a specifically Christian phenomenon, which can be explained with the authors' conviction that Jesus Christ is the exclusive authority besides whom any human authority should remain silent. Others assume that the anonymity of the historical books of the New Testament emphasizes "the complete dependence of their authors on tradition, rather than on any firsthand experience."

Eckhard Schnabel, Acts, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 23-24.

Dec 13, 2012

Website on Biblical Architecture

Recently while working on some teaching materials I came across this website related to biblical architecture. The site focuses on ancient housing in general, Jerusalem, Machaerus, Masada, Megiddo, Lachish, the Herodium, and Jericho. I do not know much about the site but I found some helpful material there. 

Dec 12, 2012

Review of Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet

Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet is part of the Welwyn Commentary Series, a series designed facilitate personal study, Bible class and sermon preparation. The author is John D. Currid is the Carl McMurray Professor of Old Testament at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.

Currid begins his volume with a very brief introduction. His discussion is fairly straightforward. There are four major themes: (1) the cost of disobedience, (2) God’s sovereignty, (3) faithful living, and (4) redemption and the book is divided by Currid into five “acts.” Concerning this latter point the author seems to be following Frederick Bush (who sees 4 “acts”) and others who utilize a dramatic approach. While this approach may be didactically helpful it might be anachronistic since drama as a genre does not appear until well after Ruth was likely written.

The commentary proper is divided into thirteen short chapters that generally appear to follow paragraph divisions. Each chapter contains an introduction, commentary, and points to ponder. The explanations are easy to read, fairly thorough for a commentary of this kind, and helpful. Currid interacts with the Hebrew text but proficiency in Hebrew is not required. There is minimal interaction with other commentaries but there is a lot of bang for the buck here. Although this work is not intended to be an in-depth exegetical commentary on Ruth, many of the significant issues related to this book are addressed. For example, Currid notes the importance and function of the character’s names in the book

My criticisms are fairly minimal and will be limited to three points. First, I wish that Currid had been clearer on some points. For example, the subtitle of the book, From Bitter to Sweet, suggests that Currid views the main character of the book to be Naomi (who asks to be called Mara or “bitter”) but this is not really explained in the commentary. While a relatively short commentary such as this one cannot be expected to discuss everything, who one understands to be the main character of the story seems to be fairly important. Second, while preaching paragraphs is a sound expository practice in some genres, it really does not fit as well with narratives such as Ruth. Dividing this short story into thirteen parts seems disruptive to the flow of the story and leads to unnecessary redundancy (e.g., the remarks concerning the morality of the threshing floor scene). I realize that thirteen can be a magic number of sorts for Bible study scheduling purposes, but I think that this commentary could be stronger and more helpful by reducing the numbers of chapters by at least a half. Third, there are a few typos. An en dash is missing on page 30 and the page numbers are absent from pages 136–37.

But these criticisms notwithstanding, Ruth: From Bitter to Sweet would be a good basic resource for laymen, Sunday school teachers, and preachers interested in the Book of Ruth.

Thanks to Shaun Tabatt and Cross Focused Media for the free review copy.


Dec 11, 2012

Interview with Elliott Johnson

A few weeks ago I posted a notice of a new book entitled Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant (see here). Today I am pleased to interview Dr. Elliott Johnson, one of the contributors to that book. Dr. Johnson joined the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary in 1972 and currently serves as senior professor of Bible Exposition. He is also the founder of the Asian Theological Seminary and has taught extensively overseas, including the Philippines, Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Russia. He also has ministered in Austria, Brazil, England, Germany, Israel, and Scotland.

1. What was your contribution to Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant?

Dispensationalism provides a model of biblical theology based on an exposition of texts. The most commonly recognized passage referring to the New Covenant is Jeremiah 31:31–34. While Jeremiah affirms that this covenant will be ratified with the house of Israel and Judah, yet the church today also seems to benefit from the covenant (Luke 22:20). How can that be? Three answers are offered in the book which attempt to be faithful to both the Old and New Testament contexts so that the reader can evaluate the answers and reach their own conclusions. My contribution relates to one of the proposed answers.

2. What is your view of the New Covenant?

My view sees the New Covenant as inaugurated with Israel in the Millennial Kingdom, when “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:27). Nonetheless, when Christ died on the cross the New Covenant was ratified (Heb. 9:15) as Christ is the mediator of the covenant. So through Christ, believers are beneficiaries of the New Covenant blessings today (Heb. 9:15–17) since Israel as the anticipated recipient rejected the covenant mediator.

3. Who do you think should read this book?

I believe that this book would be most helpful for leaders and teachers in churches which desire to teach the whole counsel of God. Also students desiring a grasp on a biblical theology and worldview that consistently applies Israel’s covenant to the church might also find this work helpful.

4. What one book or person has been most influential in shaping your understanding of the New Covenant?

I have found two works to be particularly influential. Charles Ryrie’s Dispensationalism is a classic treatment of issues related to dispensationalism, including the role of the New Covenant. Another work which I have found particularly helpful is Moshe Weinfeld’s article on berith “covenant” in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament edited by G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, 2:253-79.

5. How does a proper understanding of the New Covenant affect the ministry of the church?

The gospel ministry includes New Covenant blessings (2 Cor 3:1–18). So to understand the church’s ministry today from a biblical point of view, one needs to understand both the gospel and the relationship of the church to these New Covenant blessings.

6. What one or two things have you learned while interacting with other Dispensational scholars on the New Covenant?

Working with other dispensational scholars has helped sharpen my thinking in two ways. First, it has helped me in better answering the question, “What is the relationship between Israel and the church?” This question is important because the answer helps to establish the identity and ministry of the church. Second, interactions with others have provided opportunities to focus on the argument of the Book of Hebrews, namely, “How are promises and covenants addressed to Israel applied to the church?” 

I am thankful to Dr. Johnson for his willingness to participate in this interview. I would encourage anyone interested in dispensationalism or the New Covenant to check out Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant.

Dec 10, 2012

Ending a Sermon

John Acuff has a humorous but spot on article on Seven Signs a Sermon Is (Almost) Over." You can read it here.

Dec 9, 2012

Greidanus: Preaching Christ from Daniel

Sidney Greidanus' latest volume is Preaching Christ from Daniel: Foundations for Expository Sermons. The Eerdmans blog has a brief interview with Greidanus on the new volume here. I have found Greidanus'previous volumes on Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, Preaching Christ from Genesis, and Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes to be helpful.