Dec 31, 2014

The Richness of the Psalms

“This great diversity of emotion and perspective is the source of Psalter’s richness for believers. Because the Psalter is a collection of poetry, it does not have a plot in the same way that narrative books of the Bible do. Nor does it have a central argument in the same way that the epistles of the New Testament do. Nor does it have a unified vision or source as many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament do. Comprised of a 150 compositions from many authors, the Psalter more resembles a great choir of witnesses than it does a story, or letter, or collection of visions. The Psalter gives voice to the faith struggles, theological insights, and liturgical witnesses than it does a story, or letter, or collection of visions. For this reason and others, even though more than two thousand years separate us from days when they were first written, the psalms continue to be central to the life of faith for both Christians and Jews. Near the beginning of life, people of faith memorize them as children at their mother’s feet. They sing or chant them when they come together for weekly worship. In times of trouble they recall the psalms’ words of promise and hope. And to mark the end of life, they utter them solemnly when they bury their fathers.” 

Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobsen, and Beth LaNeel Tanner, The Book of Psalms, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, ed. Robert L. Hubbard Jr. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 1–2.

Dec 30, 2014

Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2014

I found this list of the top ed-tech trends of 2014 to be interesting.

Dec 29, 2014

Traveling in the Holy Land: Then and Now

For fun, I have been reading Herbert Rix’s Tent and Testament: A Camping Tour in Palestine with Some Notes on Scripture Sites, a book published 1907. I came upon the following statement and was reminded of two points. First, traveling in the Holy Land, even with the hassles of security, lost luggage, etc., is still much easier and safer now. Second, some things have not changed that much. Nablus is still a somewhat difficult to visit and photography is not allowed, at least at Jacob’s well.

“I should have preferred to encamp at Nablûs, in that Vale of Shechem concerning whose beauties I had heard so much. But Hanna strongly dissuaded us from any such plan. The people, he said, were rude, and it was impossible to keep them from invading the tents; and they were fanatical to such a degree that they often became dangerous to Christians. He further took occasion to remind us that pictures were forbidden by the Mohammedan religion, so that when we entered Nablûs I must not attempt to photograph, otherwise we stood a fair chance of all being killed. It may be that for reasons of his own he exaggerated the dangers, but, of course, for the ignorant there was nothing to do but to follow his advice” (
Herbert Rix, Tent and Testament: A Camping Tour in Palestine with Some Notes on Scripture Sites [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907], 22).  

Here is a picture of Jacob's Well from the book. I am not sure how he secured the picture though.

By the way, can download Rix’s book for free at Google Books here.

Dec 28, 2014

Some Thoughts on Baylor's Handbook on the Greek Text Series

FWIW, I own most of the volumes published in this series so far and have found what I have used has to be helpful.

Dec 27, 2014

Bible Reading Plans

One of my personal disciplines is to read through the Bible every year. Over the years, I have followed a number of different plans and utilized a number of different translations. So I am not devoted to any singular approach but I am committed to the value and importance of the practice. If you are planning to join me in 2015, you might want to check out this extensive list of Bible reading plans compiled by Nathan Bingham. By the way, it is said that George Mueller had read the Bible through almost two hundred times in his lifetime.

Dec 26, 2014

Learning Chinese, Hebrew, and Greek

This article is about translating and writing Chinese but some of the tips are probably applicable to Hebrew and Greek and for doctoral students, French and German.

Dec 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish all of you, from our family to yours, a very blessed Christmas.

Dec 24, 2014

Top Five Biblical Sites to Visit

This article identifies their suggested top five biblical sites to visit. I'm not sure that all of these would make my top five. For example, how could one choose the Mount of Beatitudes over Capernaum? In any case, here is their list.

1. The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
2. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
3. Sea of Galilee, Israel
4. The Mount of Beatitudes, Israel
5. Mount Sinai, Egypt

Dec 23, 2014

Robert Alter on the New Exodus Movie

See this NPR interview with Robert Alter on the new Exodus movie.

Dec 22, 2014

The Star of Bethlehem

See the Air & Space Smithsonian article on the star of Bethlehem (Matt 2:2, 9) here. There is not much new here for those familiar with the various astrological theories but I was interested to learn that over 400 books have been written on the topic.

Dec 19, 2014

The Psalms as Christian Lament

Those interested in the Psalms might also be interested in The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary. This volume written by Bruce K. Waltke, James M. Houston, and Erika Moore offers “Informed historical-theological-pastoral insights into ten lament psalms ten lament psalms, including six of the seven traditional penitential psalms, covering Psalms 5, 6, 7, 32, 38, 39, 44, 102, 130, and 143.” The eleven chapters of the book are as follows.

1. The Psalms as Christian Lament
2. Psalm 5: A Royal Petition for Protection from Malicious Liars
3. Psalm 6: Pursuit of Royal Excellence
4. Psalm 7: A Royal Petition for Cosmic Justice
5. Psalm 32: Forgiveness for the Justified
6. Psalm 38: The Dance between Deserved and Undeserved Judgment
7. Psalm  39: The Lament of Silence in the Pastoral Theology of Erasmus
8. Psalm 44: Lament in National Catastrophe
9. Psalm 102: The Prayer of an Afflicted Person
10. Psalm 130: Lament of the Sinner before the Triune God of Grace
11. Psalm 143: The Lament of the Justified

Each section consists of four parts: (1) voice of the church, (2) voice of the psalmist:translation, (3) commentary, and (4) conclusion.

Dec 18, 2014

Why Books Make Great Christmas Gifts

Read this lighthearted reminder why books make great gifts. See the post for further explanation but here are the first ten reasons.

1. They’re easy to wrap.
2. They don’t need to be plugged in.
3. They don’t expire.
4. They don’t go out of date.
5. One size fits all.
6. They don’t make loud noises.
7. By God’s grace, a good Christian book will build the faith of your family and friends.
8. Books can be shared.
9. They are aesthetically pleasing.
10. They are sugar, gluten and dairy free.

Dec 17, 2014

Hearing Babylonian Songs

This article provides an interesting explanation of how ancient Babylonian songs were recreated. The article also contains a link to allow you to hear one of the recreated songs as well.

HT: David Burnett

Dec 16, 2014

Advice for Preaching Christmas

Peter Mead has some really good advice on what to do and not do in preaching about Christmas here.

Dec 15, 2014

Five Questions with Dr. Steven Anderson

I am excited that my friend Dr. Steven Anderson has agreed to be interviewed about his new Bible study resource. This resource, Dr. Anderson’s Interpretive Guide to the Bible, consists of eight volumes covering the entire Bible. The entire series is over 1,200 pages! All of the interpretive guides follow the same basic format and order: a brief introduction to the biblical book; a discussion of introductory issues (such as author, date, writing style, and addressees); a paragraph-level subject outline of the book; an “argument” which traces the flow of thought throughout the book but also deals with macrostructure, theology, and interpretive issues; and an annotated bibliography.

1. How are your interpretive guides different from a standard commentary?

These interpretive guides provide a synthetic overview of each book of the Bible, giving special attention to the development of a book’s argument. Although some interpretive issues are addressed, they are not addressed with the detail of a commentary. As the name “interpretive guide” implies, my books are meant to be a guide or a starting point for developing more detailed interpretations, rather than containing all the details in themselves. My books are also different from other published works because they are the product of my own study of the biblical text, and contain many original ideas and observations.

2. You devote a fair amount of space to addressing introductory issues. Why is it important to deal with issues such as authorship, dating, original audience, etc.?

Understanding the background of a biblical book is the key to understanding the book as a whole. A clear statement of background issues will allow for a consistent and uniform interpretation of individual passages within the book. For example, understanding 1 John as a test of life will result in one way of interpreting individual passages throughout the book, while understanding it as a test of love will result in another way of interpreting these passages. Someone who approaches 1 John without any understanding of its background or purpose would have more difficulty in understanding individual verses within the book, and also in finding a consistent argument made from start to finish.

I would also point out that people who say background issues don’t matter still are bringing many background assumptions to the table. For example, pastors who say that it doesn’t matter who wrote Hebrews are still assuming that Hebrews was written by some apostle or apostolic associate in the first century AD, which gives the book authority for the church. Critical scholars often attack traditional claims about the authorship of biblical books, which is dangerous because these attacks raise questions about the inspiration and authority of these books.

3. Your interpretive guides contain an argument. Can you explain what an argument is and how it helps one to better understand a book of the Bible?

An argument shows how a biblical author’s thesis and message is developed throughout his book. It shows how each section of the book is related to the book’s purpose, and how the different sections relate to each other. For example, in accordance with Matthew’s aim to demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah, Matthew 1:1–4:11 describes Jesus’ entitlement to the messianic role. Within this section, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus had messianic genealogical qualifications (1:1-17), a messianic birth and infancy (1:18–2:23), a messianic forerunner (3:1-12), a messianic anointing (3:13-17), and a messianic test (4:1-11).

4. In writing these interpretive guides, what area of Scripture or which book did you find the most challenging and why?

Overall, the Old Testament prophetic books were the most challenging for me. Published outlines and interpretations of these books vary widely, and for some books (e.g., Jeremiah and Hosea) some commentators think there is no logical outline. I felt that I had to dig especially deep to come to a satisfactory understanding of these books.

5. Who are some of the biblical scholars that most influenced and shaped your approach to the Bible?

My major formative influence in Bible interpretation was the late Rev. Raymond Befus, Sr., who was pastor of the church that I grew up in (Bethany Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan). Pastor Befus was a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and an “old school” dispensationalist. We often had speakers from the seminary at the church, such as Charles Ryrie and John Walvoord. When I was working toward my M.Div. and Th.M. degrees at Capital Bible Seminary I formed a close relationship with Dr. Thomas Edgar, who was a major influence on my New Testament exegesis. Of the professors in my Ph.D. program at Dallas Theological Seminary I felt closest to Dr. Stanley Toussaint, who taught the doctoral seminar on Hebrews–Revelation. I also had the privilege of taking the last course that Dr. Harold Hoehner taught prior to his passing, in which he communicated to us his rigorous method of doing scholarly research.
Those interested in purchasing one or all of the interpretive guides can go here You can purchase the interpretive guides in PDF format for $39.99 for the complete series or individual volumes at $5.99 each. You can also purchase print copies for $12.99 to $15.99 per volume. Do check it out.

Dec 13, 2014

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis

Watch Rob Plummer's thoughts on the newly revised 5-volume New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis edited by Moisés Silva. 

Plummer notes that Zondervan is offering this resource at a 50% discount Until December 31 with free shipping.  You can

call 1-800-727-3480 and mention promo code NIDNTTE50 and ISBN 9780310276197, or go to But for some an even better deal is being offered by Christian Book Distributors who is offering the same price with free shipping, but CBD does not charge state taxes. You can use this link.

Dec 12, 2014

Why Preachers Struggle with Sermon Application

Earlier this week, I posted on ten ideas for sermon application (see here). If you found that interesting you might take a look at Shane Lems' post here summarizing Murray Capill's explanation why so many preachers struggle with application here.

Dec 11, 2014

NICOT Psalms Commentary by deClaisse-Walford, Jacobson, and Tanner on Sale

Eerdmans has put the new Psalms commentary by Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner, in the NICOT series on sale for $36 (40% off) for three days only (until Saturday, December 13. But please note that there is a charge for postage of about $3 and the sale is not available through the Eerdman's website. To access this offer, either email here ( with with "3-Day NICOT Psalms (978-0-8028-2493-6) Sale" in the subject line) or call in your order at 800-253-7521 and use promotional code 739.

Köstenberger's Top Ten Books of 2014

Andreas Köstenberger has identified his top ten books of 2014 here. Make sure to read his annotations, but here is Köstenberger’s list.

1. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5 vols. Second edition. Edited by Moises Silva.

2. A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude. Biblical Theology of the New Testament. By Peter H. Davids.

3. How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature: A Response to Bart D. Ehrman. By Michael Bird, Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, Charles Hill, and Chris Tilling.

4. 1 Peter. Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. By Greg W. Forbes.

5. Galatians. By Douglas J. Moo. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

6. 1–2 Thessalonians. By Jeffrey A. D. Weima. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

7. Heaven. Theology in Community. Edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson. Crossway.

8. Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond. Edited by Benjamin L. Merkle and Thomas R. Schreiner. 

9. The Acts of the Apostles: A Newly Discovered Commentary. Lightfoot Legacy Set. By J. B. Lightfoot. Edited by Ben Witherington III and Todd D. Still.

10. Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery. By G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd.

Dec 10, 2014

Review of Early Explorers of Bible Lands

Jack P. Lewis, Early Explorers of Bible Lands (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2013). Early Explorers of Bible Lands is a fascinating, inspiring, and sometimes humorous glimpse into the lives of ten nineteenth-century men who made significant contributions to our understanding of the geography, and to some extent the archaeology, of the Bible lands. The highlighted explorers include John Lewis Burckhardt, Giovanni Battista Belzoni, Conrad Schick, William Francis Lynch, James T. Barclay, Charles William Wilson, Charles Clermont-Ganneau, Selah Merrill, Claude Conder, and Archibald Henry Sayce.

This book is fun to read. The individual stories are relatively short and focused primarily as one would expect, on their times in the Bible Lands. But there is sufficient personal detail to give the reader a sense of the person. Lewis also does a good job highlighting the personal sacrifices that were often made, and the dangers and interpersonal conflicts that each one seemed to encounter. There is even a bit of humor thrown in. For example, William Lynch’s affirmation while staying in Tiberias that the rumor, “the king of the fleas holds his court in Tiberias” was true (p. 78). The book also contains a fairly thorough bibliography although it does lack a subject index. Those who have traveled to, or are interested in, the Bible lands should consider reading this book.

Much thanks to Abilene Christian University Press for providing the copy used in this review.

Dec 9, 2014

Ten Ideas for Sermon Application

Craig Schill has some really good ideas and suggestions regarding sermon application here.

Dec 8, 2014

Catching My Own Typos

I struggle with catching typos in my own work although I am pretty good at spotting them in general. I continue to work at it but this article at least gives a bit of an explanation of why I struggle.

Dan Wallace on Lexical Fallacies by Linguists

See this post by Dan Wallace on lexical fallacies by linguists here.

Dec 5, 2014

The Law in Romans

Skimming through a book I picked up last year, Reading Paul’s Letter to the Romans, I particularly enjoyed the essay by Francis Watson on the law. Here is Watson’s very first paragraph which is also a nice summary of the topic. 

“Paul uses the word nomos (‘law’) on seventy-two occasions in Romans, and in all but a few cases the reference is to the Torah, the law of Moses whose five books are foundational to Jewish Scripture. Thus the law was given though Moses (Rom 5:14), and before his time 'there was no law' (5:13). The law was entrusted specifically to the Jewish people (2:17), or 'Israel' (9:31), for whom it is a legitimate source of pride (2:24). Gentiles are basically ignorant of the law although they sometimes unknowingly observe it (2:14). The law is associated with wrath (4:13) and with sin or transgression (3:20; 4:15; 5:13; 7:7, 8). It is disassociated from the righteousness of God (3:21), promise (4:13–14), and grace (6:14, 15). Although its commandments are many, they can be summed up in a single negative or positive statement: 'You shall not desire' (7:7), or 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself (13:8–10).” 

Francis Watson, “The Law in Romans,” in Reading Paul’s Letter to the Romans, ed. Jerry L. Sumney, Resources for Biblical Studies 73, ed. Tom Thatcher (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012), 93.

Dec 4, 2014

Latest Issue of Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below. 

Constantine R. Campbell
Colossians and Philemon: A Handbook on the Greek Text
Reviewed by Alan Cadwallader

Cynthia Edenburg and Juha Pakkala, eds.
Is Samuel among the Deuteronomists? Current Views on the Place of Samuel in a Deuteronomistic History
Reviewed by David G. Firth

Scott S. Elliott
Reconfiguring Mark’s Jesus: Narrative Criticism after Poststructuralism
Reviewed by Thomas P. Nelligan

Scott S. Elliott and Roland Boer, eds.
Ideology, Culture, and Translation
Reviewed by Todd Borger

Eun-Woo Lee
Crossing the Jordan: Diachrony Versus Synchrony in the Book of Joshua
Reviewed by Thomas Römer

Jack R. Lundbom
Jeremiah Closer Up: The Prophet and the Book
Reviewed by Richard G. Smith

Martin O’Kane, ed.
Bible, Art, Gallery
Reviewed by Bryan J. Cook

Robert Kimball Shinkoskey
Do My Prophets No Harm: Revelation and Religious Liberty in the Bible
Reviewed by J. Gordon McConville

Michael E. Stone
Adam and Eve in the Armenian Tradition, Fifth through Seventeenth Centuries
Reviewed by Linda S. Schearing

Chris Tilling
Paul’s Divine Christology
Reviewed by Benjamin A. Edsall

Dec 2, 2014

Free Audio Book: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper is offering John Piper's Advent devotional, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, as their free audio download for the month of December. To read more about the book and to get your free audio download in either MP3 or M4B formats go here.

An Introduction to Advent

Whether you participate or just want to know what others are talking about, Mark Roberts has a fairly thorough blog post on Advent here.

Dec 1, 2014

Daniel 9:24-27 among the Interpreters

My Digital Seminary is running a series of question and answer posts on Daniel 9:24-27 (the well-known "Seventy-Week Prophecy") with various Bible scholars. I am not sure how many participants they will ultimately have, but here are those who have been posted so far.

Thomas Ice
Robert Chisholm
Peter Gentry
Wendy Widder
Dale Ralph Davis

Nov 30, 2014

Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo

I noted yesterday that one noteworthy part of the recent 50th anniversary dinner and program celebrating the commissioning of the NIV was a presentation of a festschrift in honor of Doug Moo. The book is entitled Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo and was edited by Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, two of Moo’s former students.

There are sixteen essays divided into three categories: Exegeting Paul, Paul’s Use of Scripture and the Jesus Tradition, and Pauline Scholarship and His Contemporary Significance. Authors include G. K. Beale, Craig Blomberg, Ardel Caneday, D. A. Carson, James D. G. Dunn, Matthew Harmon, Jonathan Moo, Grant R. Osborne, Thomas R. Schreiner, Mark Seifrid, Jay Smith, Verlyn Verbrugge, Chris Vlachos, Stephen Westerholm, N. T. Wright, and Robert Yarbrough.

Nov 29, 2014

The 50th Anniversary of the Commissioning of the NIV

Three parts of the recent 50th anniversary dinner and program celebrating the commissioning of the NIV at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in San Diego are worth noting. First, there was a paper presented by Doug Moo. His paper was printed and distributed by Zondervan as a free booklet but you access the free PDF here. Second, there was a lively and interesting panel discussion involving Moo, Richard Hess, Karen Jobes, Bill Mounce, Jeannine Brown, and Mark Strauss. See this live blog for a transcript of the questions and answers. And third there was a surprise presentation of a festschrift for Doug Moo. I will talk about this book in a future post.

You can read a story about the meeting here.

Nov 28, 2014

Josephus as Historical Authority?

I recently picked up Steve Mason’s book Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins: Methods and Categories and found this introductory statement to be interesting.

“The following study addresses what seems to me a fundamental problem in the use of Josephus’ writings for studying Roman Judea, namely his status as an authority. I begin from the observation that Josephus is, and has always been (though for changing reasons), regarded as a peerless authority for first-century Judea, and this assumption runs even more deeply than we perhaps realize. My argument, simply, is that he should not be so regarded. This is not because he is unworthy or ‘unreliable’ or only partially reliable—or because of anything to do with reliability. It is rather because the whole appeal to reliable authority in the discipline of history is an error of categories. History has, or should have, a problem with authority” (Steve Mason, Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins: Methods and Categories [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009], 7).
I am not sure that I agree with Mason, and I know this is not his main point, but I find it annoying that whenever Josephus and the Gospels or Acts appear to be in conflict regarding a historical matter, Josephus is usually treated as sacrosanct. I have argued that this is not good historical method.

Nov 26, 2014

Vern Poythress' Proposal Related to the Human Authors of Scripture

Vern Poythress makes a provocative and interesting suggestion regarding the human authors of Scripture in an article that appears in the most recent Journal of the Evangelical Society. Here are the first four paragraphs introducing the article.

How important is it for biblical interpreters to focus on the human author and his intention? For many books of the Bible, we know little or nothing about the human author, except what we might tentatively infer from the text itself. We who are inerrantists say that we believe that Scripture has a divine author, and that we have come to know him. What gains are there in focusing on the human author whom we do not know?

People might list several benefits: (1) focus on the historical and social environment, as a context for the text; (2) reckoning with human capacity, the characteristics of human linguistic communication, and the limitations of human understanding; (3) reckoning on limited canon available at the time; (4) reckoning on the structural coherence of a single biblical book, written by a single human author.

All of these are indeed valuable benefits. But a robust conception of divine authorship and divine purpose leads to exactly the same benefits. In addition, focusing on the divine author leads to fewer interpretive problems, because problems are generated by what we do not know about an author.

We will use Zeph 1:2–3 to illustrate the difficulties. In the process, it may seem at times as if we are multiplying the uncertainties about human intentionality. But I believe we can have confidence on the other side of the uncertainties."
Poythress goes on to conclude the following. “My concluding advice with respect to the focus on an isolated human author is that we give it up. Period. There is no gain to it, and much loss. We who are scholars work on the intentions of human authors as if this focus will give us answers. But we are living an illusion. Instead, let us seek God. If we do so, we will get more spiritual health, because we are encountering God seriously. We will get more accuracy, because we can settle many interpretive questions concerning authorial intention. We will get more candor, because we can give up concealing from ourselves that in most cases we do not know anything about the human author except what we infer from the text, and that many such inferences are questionable.”

My take

Poythress raises interpretive problems related to the relatively scant information regarding many, if not most, of the human authors of Scripture. And it is probably true that many interpreters pay little if any attention to the divine Author. But I am not sure that Poythress’ proposal is the way forward. My concerns are threefold. First, the attribution authorship, as in Zephaniah, is part of the inspired text. Simply put, God apparently wanted us to know that Zephaniah was the author. For me, that suggests that we should strive to understand how and why the authorial attribution might be important. If jots and tittles are important surely the name of a prophet might be as well. Second, while focusing on the divine Author is commendable, I wonder whether we can assume to know His intentions any more than we know the human author’s. Or in other words, the same ambiguities that dog the human author might also apply to the divine Author as well. Third, I get the feeling that many of the issues raised by Poythress are not so much related to ignorance concerning the human author but of how prophecy should be interpreted and how it functions in general.

In sum, I found the article to be thought-provoking but remain unpersuaded. If you have read the article, please feel free to leave you feedback in the comments section.

Vern Poythress, “Dispensing with Merely Human Meaning: Gains and Losses from Focusing on the Human Author, Illustrated by Zephaniah 1:2–3,” JETS 57 (2014): 481, 499.

Nov 24, 2014

Dale Ralph Davis on Joshua 22

In looking at the altar-making crisis in Joshua 22, I found the following point by Dale Ralph Davis to be spot on.

“Now to chapter 22; let us try to mount the right hermeneutical horse at the outset. Clearly, the keynote of this chapter is the pervasive passion for fidelity to Yahweh (e.g., vv. 5, 19, 29, 31). Hence, we must beware of moralizing the text into anything less, such as the peril of rumor, the tragedy of misunderstanding, or the need to talk out problems reasonably. Those may be commendable concerns, but they do not constitute the main freight of chapter 22” (No Falling Words: Expositions of the Book of Joshua [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988], 167).

I know that Davis’ point may cause some sermons to be reworked but he captures the issue at hand so well and so succinctly.

Nov 23, 2014

Satan and Isaiah 14?

See this post by J. Carl Laney on Isaiah 14 and its possible connection to Satan. Whether one agrees with Laney or not, he does raise textual issues that need to be considered.

BiblePlaces at SBL

A few days ago I noted that those going to SBL might want to stop by the Bibleplaces booth (#411). I did today. They have significant discounts on the collections, plus a free volume of choice for just stopping by. If you teach the Bible and are looking for an outstanding collection of Holy Land photos then you really should check it out..

Nov 22, 2014

Review of Invitation to James

Donald R. Sunukjian, Invitation to James: Persevering through Trials to Win the Crown, Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church (Wooster, OH: Weaver, 2014).

Invitation to James is a collection of fourteen messages on the book of James. The author, Don Sunukjian, has written the award-winning Invitation to Biblical Preaching and has taught homiletics for many years. This work is part of a projected six volume series (Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church). “The purpose of this series is to offer models of the principles presented in the textbook” (p. xi). The fourteen messages are slightly-edited versions of actual sermons preached by the author. Most of the messages run about ten pages. Sunukjian includes a brief introduction to James. In the introduction, he suggests that James is writing pastorally (although he does not appear to conclude that James is a homily) on the theme of trials. “James’s purpose is to tell his friends and us how to act both as individuals and as a church, when we find ourselves in stressful and difficult situations” (p. 3).

This volume provides solid examples of expository messages. Each message attempts to deal with the main points of the text through explanation and illustration. The illustrations in particular are very good. The author also has a nice way of phrasing things. He is clearly a wordsmith.

But several aspects of this work would, I believe, add to its usefulness for preachers (the main intended audience). First, outline headings would really help. One would not have to preach the outline, but seeing the outline would help the reader see the flow of the text. I would have preferred a bit more direct application. Second, providing a clearly articulated message (topic and assertion according to Invitation to Preaching) for each preaching passage would make this work more valuable. Seeing how a seasoned preacher crafts such statements would be an education in itself. And third, I would have preferred to see more direct application in these messages. I recognize that this is more a matter of methodological preference, but I would have loved to have seen these principles fleshed out in more concrete and measurable ways. At bottom, Invitation to James will not replace exegetical commentaries, and in fact, would be most effective if consulted after one has done their exegetical work. But if one is looking for a good collection of sermons on James then this volume might just hit the spot. You can access a free PDF excerpt here.

Thanks to Weaver for providing the free book used in this unbiased review.

Nov 21, 2014

Review of Illustrated Life of Paul

Charles L. Quarles, Illustrated Life of Paul (Nashville: B&H, 2014).

The writings, theology, and life of the apostle Paul continue to generate interest. Some works seek to present new and novel ways of approaching the subject, whereas others take a more traditional approach. This work by Quarles falls into the latter category.

This volume is commendable for several reasons. First, it is clearly and concisely written. The discussion is fairly thorough but not exhaustive. But those who are looking for a presentation, critique, and examination of recent trends in Pauline studies will likely be disappointed. Second, this work is faithful to the biblical narrative. The book of Acts is treated like a reliable historical source and the author accepts the thirteen epistles of Paul as genuinely Pauline. For those interested in such things, Quarles holds the South Galatian view and two Roman imprisonments. Third, in keeping with its title, this volume is nicely illustrated. There is a good blend of photos and illustrations throughout. Finally, the volume includes both subject and Scripture indices that help to contribute to the usefulness of the volume.

There are a few weaknesses of this volume. I do wish that a few more excurses on some disputed issues would have been included (e.g., the new perspective, Romans debate, etc.). I noticed only one excursus related to the relationship between Galatians 2 and Acts 15 (p. 78).The author’s description of the oft-referenced immorality of Corinth (p. 120) should be more nuanced in light of the work of Jerome Murphy O’Conner and others. A third issue is more of an issue of preference, but I believe that this volume would be easier to use with footnotes rather than endnotes.

But these criticisms notwithstanding, Illustrated Life of Paul is a solid option for those interested an introductory level resource to the life, ministry, and writings of Paul.

You can access a PDF excerpt here.

Nov 20, 2014

C. H. Dodd, Zacchaeus, and a Daughter's Shoes

Here is a snippet for my readers who are at ETS and SBL this week. This comes from William Baird’s delightful third volume on the history of New Testament research and concerns the esteemed C. H. Dodd. 

“Like Zacchaeus, Dodd was self-conscious about his small stature. W. D. Davies (in a recording made in 1986) told me that when, as a student, he would visit in Dodd’s study, the furniture would be so arranged that he would sit in a low chair and Dodd would sit above him on a higher one. Dodd was notorious for his absentmindedness, once appearing for a lecture wearing one of his own shoes and one of his daughter’s. He lectured with vitality and eloquence and was famous for his sense of humor, which even crept into his publications. In the introduction to his Romans commentary he gives the reason for a ‘clumsy made cut’ at 16:23 as the ‘illimitable stupidity of editors’” (William Baird, History of New Testament Research: Volume 3: From C. H. Dodd to Hans Dieter Betz [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013], 35).

Nov 19, 2014

NIVAC Ebooks on Sale

All NIVAC Commentaries in Ebook format are on sale for $4.99. But note that the sale is only good until November 23. You can check out this deal at the Zondervan Academic blog here.

Nov 18, 2014

Replacement Theology

Dr. William Varner has a good post listing some of the biblical problems with replacement theology (aka supersessionism) here.

Review of Persuasive Preaching

R. Larry Overstreet, Persuasive Preaching: A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion (Wooster, OH: Weaver, 2014). 

Like the author I came to faith and cut my teeth on a persuasive preaching style that typically included some kind of invitation. It was only later that I was exposed to a different style of preaching that was less confrontational and more contemplative. This book by Larry Overstreet is an examination of homiletical theology in general and the use of persuasion in particular. It is an apologetic for, and a call to, return to a more directly persuasive form of preaching. 

Persuasive Preaching is laid out logically, moving from need, to theory, to practice. So in part 1, Overstreet identifies issues and challenges related to persuasive preaching. This is followed in part 2 by a comprehensive discussion of biblical texts and terms that relate to persuasion. Here the author finds ample support for the use of persuasion. Having established that biblical legitimacy for the use of persuasion, part 3 identifies four structural approaches to persuasive messages (motivated sequence, problem-solution, cause-effect, and refutation). The final part of this work relates to three pertinent issues that relate to the application of persuasive peaching. Here Overstreet addresses the issue of persuasion versus manipulation and outlines an ethical use of persuasion. He also discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching and do’s and don’ts related to the use of invitations. Appendices, bibliography and indexes round out the volume.  

Persuasive Preaching is an interesting and rare study. As the author notes, many preaching texts assume persuasion (of some sort) but don’t often talk about it. I have read a number of volumes on preaching and can say that this volume is the most comprehensive treatment on the topic that I have ever encountered. This will likely be both the strength and weakness of this volume. 

Those interested in a thorough examination of the biblical foundations of persuasion (including some fairly significant interaction with Greek) will enjoy this volume. Less interested readers will probably skim or skip this section as being too technical. Those looking for a detailed presentation of structural approaches to persuasive messages (motivated sequence, problem-solution, cause-effect, and refutation) will be delighted, but less patient readers will probably feel a bit frustrated although the sample sermons in Appendix E will probably help. 

I enjoyed this volume. I learned much. But I suspect some of my preaching peers would be less enthusiastic. This is not a quick or light read. But in the end, while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think that Overstreet has provided a valuable resource for studying the topic of persuasion in preaching and a persuasive argument for its use in the pulpit.

You can access a PDF excerpt here

Thanks to Weaver for providing the free book used in this unbiased review.

Nov 17, 2014

Free 1 Samuel Bible Study

Those interested in a free 1 Samuel Bible study written by George and Koula Athas can go here. Here are the titles of the individual studies. 
  • Study 1 The blind leading the blind (1 Samuel 1-4)
  • Study 2 Putting God in a box (1 Samuel 5:1-7:14)
  • Study 3 The people’s choice (1 Samuel 7:15-10:27)
  • Study 4 An eye-catching king (1 Samuel 11-12)
  • Study 5 Mishmash at Michmash and dismissal at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13-15)
  • Study 6 The LORD’s choice (1 Samuel 16-17)
  • Study 7 Loyalty and disloyalty amongst the royalty (1 Samuel 18-20)
  • Study 8 Seek and destroy (1 Samuel 21-24)
  • Study 9 Friend or fiend? (1 Samuel 25-27)
  • Study 10 The LORD keeps his word (1 Samuel 28-31)

BiblePlaces Resources at SBL

If you are looking for an outstanding collection of Holy Land photos and if you are headed to SBL you will want to stop by the BiblePlaces exhibit, #411. They will have major discounts on the collections, plus a free volume of choice to anyone who stops by.

Nov 15, 2014

Latest Issue of Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below. 

Ian Boxall
Patmos in the Reception History of the Apocalypse
Reviewed by Craig R. Koester

Joseph D. Fantin
The Lord of the Entire World: Lord Jesus, a Challenge to Lord Caesar?
Reviewed by Michael F. Bird

Gordon D. Fee and Robert L. Hubbard, eds., with commentary by Connie Gundry Tappy
The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible
Reviewed by Paul S. Evans
Reviewed by David M. Maas

Scott Hahn
Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church
Reviewed by Sonya S. Cronin

Jan Willem van Henten and Joseph Verheyden, eds.
Early Christian Ethics in Interaction with Jewish and Greco-Roman Contexts
Reviewed by Cornelis Bennema

Jonathan Huddleston
Eschatology in Genesis
Reviewed by James S. Lee

Daniel D. Lowery
Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11: Reading Genesis 4:17–22 in Its Ancient Near Eastern Background
Reviewed by Thomas L. Brodie

Anne Porter and Glenn M. Schwartz, eds.
Sacred Killing: The Archaeology of Sacrifice in the Ancient Near East
Reviewed by William L. Lyons

Voker Rabens
The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul: Transformation and Empowering for Religious-Ethical Life
Reviewed by Nélida Naveros Cordova

Nov 14, 2014

All that You Wanted to Know about Bible Paper but Were Afraid to Ask

The Crossway blog has an interesting post on Bible paper here. Although I have complained about the size and weight of some of the Bibles I have owned, it really is amazing how much can written information, pictures, and maps can be put into a study Bible.

Nov 13, 2014

Interview with Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler

The OUPBlog has a brief interview with Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler here. The interview is related to a revision of the Jewish Study Bible that Berlin and Brettler worked on but also includes questions related to biblical studies in general.

Nov 12, 2014

The Supposed Theological Divide between Hebrews and Hellenists

Larry Hurtado has an engaging post here challenging the commonly-held assumption of a theological divide between Hebrews and Hellenists. This piece also serves as a good caution related to making the historical and/or theological leaps that most if not all involved in biblical studies make.

Nov 10, 2014

Mark Seifrid Interview

See this interview of Mark Seifrid related to his new 2 Corinthians commentary in the Pillar series. Here is an excerpt from the interview.

"Listening to the text is the most difficult part of writing a commentary, or any interpretation of Scripture. Listening, listening, and listening again. There is a fourfold responsibility here. First, to let the text speak in all its particularity and detail, even (or especially) where it challenges our thinking. Second, not to lose the forest for the trees. We have to be able to synthesize, to gain a perspective on the whole of what the text is saying. Third — and here many New Testament scholars fail — we have to be aware of what we are saying with respect to the Christian tradition, with respect to what Christians have believed, taught, and confessed before us. Fourth, we have to remember that we are writing for others. Their needs and concerns must be in our minds. Someone has described preaching as being placed between the upper and lower millstones of the Word of God and the congregation, and attempting to come through the grinding. Writing a commentary is something like that."

Granville Sharp

Those who have taken Greek are familiar with the Granville Sharp rule or construction. Dan Wallace in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics spends 21 pages discussing this construction. In any case, Granville Sharp was born today in 1735. You can read a bit more about his fascinating life here.

Nov 9, 2014

Sermon Application

My friend Craig Schill has a good post on the need for application in sermons here. Make sure to read the entire post, but here are Craig's three main points.

1) Doctrine and Duties Go Hand in Hand.
2) You are a Shepherd not just a Spokesperson.
3) Knowledge without Application is Dangerous.

Nov 7, 2014

Interview with Dr. Stephen Bramer

I am delighted to be able to interview my friend Dr. Stephen Bramer. He chairs the Bible Exposition Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Bramer is also a teaching pastor at Waterbrook Bible Fellowship in Wylie, Texas and speaks and travels extensively both nationally and internationally. He recently published The Bible Reader’s Joke Book and graciously agreed to answer a few questions about this latest project.

1. You have been working on this project for some time. Can you tell us how you got started?

When I first began to teach in Bible College in the early ‘80’s I began to write some jokes in the margins of my lecture notes. When I used them in my classes I found it helped develop a rapport with the students so I continued to use them and add to them year after year. When I got my first computer in the early ‘90’s I began to collect all my jokes in a document. Finally, after a couple of decades, I have now published the collection so that others in ministry can have access to them.

2. There are number of books containing jokes that have been published and an internet sites that also are a source of jokes. What makes your book different and how is it potentially more helpful?

All joke books and internet humor sites that I have seen have collected jokes topically. The Bible Reader’s Joke Book is unique in that the jokes a categorized according to the 66 biblical books. So if you are leading a Bible study in 1 Timothy all you need to do is turn in this joke book to the section on 2 Timothy and there are pages of jokes related to the material of this biblical book. This saves time which is in short supply I find in the ministry. I have found my jokes in many different sources but the difference is that they are now attached to a specific passage or verse. I have included a fairly extensive topical index at the back so if the joke say on marriage in Gen 2:24 is not one you want to use the user can consult the index to find other jokes on marriage such as those in Song of Solomon. This resource is available in both paperback and kindle which allows the user to choose the best format for their personal use.

3. Effective speakers understand the potential value of humor but do you see humor in the Bible itself?

The Bible itself is dealing with serious issues including our salvation. Many times the author is dealing with disobedient followers or false teachers/prophets. This doesn’t lend itself to humor! In fact you wouldn’t expect a great deal of humor is a theology or discipleship manual either. In addition, much of the content is condensed from how it might have originally been delivered orally so there are few illustrations etc. However, when the donkey speaks or Jesus uses the humorous illustration of the camel trying to go through the eye of a needle it shows me that humor is not unbiblical and can be used with profit. In the process of now transferring the biblical material to a modern audience and having maybe a half hour to orally present, what might only take 5 minutes to read, gives the speaker today the opportunity to include humor.

4. While using humor is helpful, are there kinds of humor and certain occasions when you don’t think it is appropriate. 

In my introductory pages I have a page titled “Read this First, before you Use this Tool!” Anyone who purchases a tool finds such a page in the owner’s manual since any tool can be misused. The audience, the subject matter, the occasion, all can indicate that humor may not be appropriate. If the speaker’s goal is to communicate then the communicator must be careful not to say anything that would hinder this. And yet, in certain situations, with a particular audience on a specific topic, humor is of tremendous help in communication.

5. What advice would you give to young preachers and teachers on how to best use this book? 

  I would encourage young (and older!) preachers and teachers to use this resource like many of their other resources. Have it on your desk and consult it when you are preparing a message. In keeping with your personality, your need and the availability of a joke use it as appropriate.

You can purchase The Bible Reader’s Joke Book in print or Kindle versions using this Amazon link.

Nov 6, 2014

Latest Issue of Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below. 

Walter Brueggemann
The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word
Reviewed by Leonard Mare

Michael H. Burer
Divine Sabbath Work
Reviewed by Margaret Daly-Denton

Timo Eskola
Beyond Biblical Theology: Sacralized Culturalism in Heikki Räisänen's Hermeneutics
Reviewed by Vernon K. Robbins

Irmtraud Fischer and Mercedes Navarro Puerto, eds., with Andrea Taschl-Erber
Reviewed by Elaine T. James

Philip Goodwin
Translating the English Bible: From Relevance to Deconstruction
Reviewed by Stephen Pattemore

George Anton Kiraz
The New Syriac Primer: An Introduction to The Syriac Language
Reviewed by H. F. van Rooy

Aaron J. Koller
The Semantic Field of Cutting Tools in Biblical Hebrew: The Interface of Philological, Semantic, and Archaeological Evidence
Reviewed by Stephen J. Bennett

Zhixiong Niu
“The King Lifted up His Voice and Wept”: David’s Mourning in the Second Book of Samuel
Reviewed by David G. Firth

Mark Allan Powell
Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee
Reviewed by Brian C. Small

Emmanuel L. Rehfeld
Relationale Ontologie bei Paulus: Die ontische Wirksamkeit der Christusbezogenheit im Denken des Heidenapostels
Reviewed by Lars Kierspel

Nov 5, 2014

Babylon Links

One of my favorite bloggers is Ferrell Jenkins at Ferrel's Travel Blog. If you are interested in the intersection points between the Bible, the Holy Lands, and archaeology, this blog might be for you. Every now and again, Ferrell produces a topical index of links related to posts on his blog. A case in point are the links related to Babylon here. If you are preaching or teaching in a book or passage that relates to Babylon you will want to check it out.

Nov 4, 2014

Options for Preaching the Bigger Books of the Bible

Peter Mead offers some options for preaching bigger books of the Bible here. While I do think that, all things being equal, we should preach even the bigger biblical books expositorily and consecutively, there might be occasions where this is not possible or advisable. In such cases, these other options are worth considering. 

Nov 3, 2014

Plummer on Louw & Nida

Rob Plummer commented on BDAG last week (here) and this week he offers a brief introduction to Louw & Nida. 

Nov 2, 2014

Free Audio Book: The Attributes of God by A. W. Tozer is offering A. W. Tozer's book, The Attributes of God, Volume 1: A Journey into the Father's Heart, as their free download for the month of November. To read more about the book and to get your free audio download go here.

Oct 31, 2014

Free Audio from the 2014 Advanced Expository Preaching Workshop

Free audio from the 2014 Advanced Expository Preaching Workshop focusing on the book of Jonah has just been posted. You can access the audio page here or click the individual messages below.

Jonah 1 – David Allen

Jonah 2 – Steven Smith

Jonah 3 – Vern Charette

Jonah 4 – Matt McKellar

You can also access notes from David Allen's presentation here.

Oct 30, 2014

Preaching Amos

David Allen has another helpful post on preaching. In this case, he makes some helpful comments and observations related to preaching the prophetic book of Amos. You can check it out here.

Oct 29, 2014

Old Testament Tabernacle Resources

Those interested in studying the Old Testament tabernacle might be interested in this website

Oct 28, 2014

Preaching Hebrews . . . from Hebrews

See David Allen's thoughts on "Lessons on Preaching Hebrews . . . from Hebrews" here.

Oct 27, 2014

Rob Plummer on BDAG

Watch this somewhat humorous video discussion on A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature or what is simply and commonly known as BDAG.

Oct 24, 2014

Learning from Leviticus

Jay Sklar has a nice post on "4 Things That Happen When You Study Leviticus More Than 10 Years" here.

Sklar also has the helpful article "Suggestions for a Sermon/Teaching series on Leviticus" here and some audio here.

HT: David Murray

Oct 23, 2014

A Look at the Occupation of Canaan

The animated video "This Land Is Mine" by Nina Paley has apparently been out for a couple of years but I had never seen it before. It is a semi-dark look at the history of warfare in Canaan. You can access Paley's website which includes some explanation here.

Oct 22, 2014

Review of James the Just

David Friedman and B. D. Friedman, James the Just: Ya’akov Hatzaddik Presents Applications of Torah, Messianic Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Lederer, 2012).  

The commentary at hand is to be commended for attempting to read James and his book in light of a Jewish context. Many students of the New Testament have long recognized that the author James (or Ya’akov as preferred in the commentary) and his work are one of the most Jewish-oriented of the so-called general epistles. The authors contend that James was the chief rabbi of the messianic Jewish community and that the book is best read as a yalkut, a compendium or collection of teachings of a rabbi. They further contend that the book of James is a reflection on Leviticus 19 and perhaps interacting with the Parasha readings associated with this chapter.

This was a difficult “commentary” to evaluate. One problem is that so much of the “commentary” is devoted to the author Ya’akov and less is related to an examination of his book. While an examination of Ya’akov might be helpful (and has been done) much here is ultimately speculative, and even if correct, is only marginally helpful. I am not sure that many serious students of James would deny that he was a chief leader of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. Additionally, an entire section is devoted to explaining why the Hebrew name Ya’akov was changed to the anglicized James. Not a problem, but the conclusion presented in the book is unwarranted: “this situation is minor, but where else has man changed the truth of the Bible” (p. 8). Now my preference would be to use the name Jacob rather than James, but is using “James” really changing the truth of the Bible? Indeed, the authors might be guilty of this very same thing when they change the divine name YHWH to Adonai (e.g., p.17). I understand that this qere reading is a traditional Jewish practice but should the one who follows a tradition be so critical of others who also follow another tradition?

A reader also gets the sense that using the Hebrew pronunciation of certain words adds authenticity or gravitas to the discussion. It is akin to the equally mistaken assumption held by a previous generation that the KJV’s “thees” and “thous” were somehow more pious than more commonly used pronouns. This mistaken notion also results in textual overkill. Many passages are reproduced in Hebrew/Greek, Hebrew/Greek transliteration, and English. I am not sure what the point is. Those who can read the Hebrew and Greek don’t need the transliteration. Those who can’t really can’t do much with the transliteration other than pronounce it. But pronunciation does not produce meaning. There is a further problem with the Greek and Greek transliteration. The Greek does not include breathing marks or accents and fails to utilize the final sigma at the end of words. The absence of breathing marks is carried over to the transliteration so that the rough breathing “h” is not included and this will affect proper pronunciation.

A methodological problem also relates to the use of the rabbinical traditions often utilized in this work. Namely, there is the potential of anachronistic interpretations. The authors are apparently aware of the possible problem (p. 28) but I am not sure that this awareness really affects the authors’ approach in the use of Jewish sources. 

Finally, if this series intends to reach a broader audience than a Jewish messianic one, then more care will need to be exercised in defining terms. For example, although this volume contains a four-page glossary, some terms such as B’rit Hadesha (p. xv) are not found there. Likewise, less familiar or unfamiliar abbreviations need to be explained or defined (e.g., CJB, p. 17).

In the end, a commentary should be evaluated primarily on how successfully it explains the text in question. Here it is a mixed bag. There are interesting insights here and there but a number of passages are under-discussed and/or ignored altogether. I doubt whether this volume does enough to distinguish it from better, more informative, and balanced commentaries to appeal to more than a niche Jewish messianic audience.

Thanks to Lederer Books for the free review copy used for this review.