Apr 20, 2019

The Latest Issue of the Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below but unfortunately you must be a SBL member.

Carol Bakhos, The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations
Reviewed by John W. Fadden

Craig G. Bartholomew, Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture
Reviewed by S. D. Giere

Andrew K. Boakye, Death and Life: Resurrection, Restoration, and Rectification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
Reviewed by Dain Alexander Smith

Theodore S. de Bruyn, David G. Hunter, and Stephen A. Cooper, Ambrosiaster’s Commentary on the Pauline Epistles: Romans
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

Roy E. Garton, Mirages in the Desert: The Tradition-Historical Developments of the Story of Massah-Meribah
Reviewed by David Frankel

Erhard S. Gerstenberger; Ute E. Eisen and Christl M. Maier, eds., Die Hebräische Bibel als Buch der Befreiung: Ausgewählte Aufsätze
Reviewed by Catherine Petrany

Mark W. Hamilton, A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament
Reviewed by John Goldingay

Gudrun Holtz, Die Nichtigkeit des Menschen und die Übermacht Gottes: Studien zur Gottes- und Selbsterkenntnis bei Paulus, Philo und in der Stoa
Reviewed by Justin M. Rogers

Dru Johnson, Scripture’s Knowing: A Companion to Biblical Epistemology
Reviewed by Matthew Lloyd Halsted

Edward Lipiński, Toponymes et gentilices bibliques face à l’historie
Reviewed by André Lemaire

Kenneth Mtata and Craig Koester, eds., To All the Nations: Lutheran Hermeneutics and the Gospel of Matthew
Reviewed by Sung Cho

Jason Thompson, Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology 1: From Antiquity to 1881 

Reviewed by Jeffrey L. Morrow

Apr 19, 2019

What Is the Main Subject of Luke 7:1-10?

This semester I have been asked to help evaluate some of our student's preaching. This has been a helpful exercise for me and I hope also for the students. Yesterday, a student was preaching on Luke 7:1-10, the healing of a centurion's servant. There was much to commend about the message but the student seemed to struggle with the central idea of the text (i.e., the CIT or message). In my remarks, I suggested that one should remember that in narrative, dialogue/monologue when present, tends to do the heavy lifting an therefore one should start there in seeking to find the main subject. Indeed, when dialogue/monologue is present, the main function of the rest of the narrative is often to frame it. In 7:1-10, most would identify three monologues. 

The Jewish elders tell Jesus: “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue” (vv. 4-5).

The centurion's friends tell Jesus: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (vv. 6-8). 

And then Jesus himself states: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (v. 9).

Now if one looks at the words of the elders (vv. 4-5), one might think that "piety" might be the main subject of the passage. Piety might also find some affirmation in the words of the centurion's friends (vv. 6-8). But Jesus words in v. 9 do no highlight the centurion's piety.

One might also look at the longest bit of monologue (vv. 6-8) and guess that perhaps authority or humility are the main subject. Concerning the former, one could find some implicit support in that the Jewish elders are authoritative figures and the fact that another authoritative figure, a centurion is involved, and that ultimately Jesus has the authority to heal. But again, Jesus words in v. 9 do not seem to directly address the issue of authority or humility. Indeed, Jesus' authority to heal is implicit: "And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well" (v. 10).

As you might have guessed by now, Jesus' [1] words hold the key to the main subject, namely faith. The Jewish elders appeal is based on merit and not faith. Note the subtle rebuke in v. 9: "not even in Israel." The centurion's friends do talk about authority but as Jesus notes, the words ooze with faith. Jesus does not "marvel" at the centurion's piety, authority, or humility, but his faith.

So if this is correct, the main subject of 7:1-10 is faith. From there one might decide whether authority, humility, etc., might be complements and therefore still included in one's CIT.

[1] In examining monologues and dialogues one should also take into consideration "who" is speaking. Some words are more significant because some characters are more significant. This is generally true when you have round versus flat characters. In the Gospels, it is obvious that Jesus and his words have pride of place and therefore, his words trump the words of others. It is also word noting that Jesus' words are the most direct words in this pericope. The Jewish elders convey the request of the centurion and the centurion's friends convey the words of the centurion. Indeed, the centurion never addresses Jesus directly. Only Jesus speaks for himself.

Apr 18, 2019

For You Were (Not) Slaves in Egypt?

My students are often very surprised that many Jewish people deny that that the Exodus every happened. But as this Haaretz story unfortunately hidden behind a paywall states quite explictly, 
"The Passover narrative is one of the greatest stories ever told. More than any other biblical account, the escape of the enslaved Hebrews from Egypt is the foundational story of the Jewish faith and identity, one that all Jews are commanded to pass on from generation to generation.

"Also, it never happened."
This is akin to Christians denying Jesus' resurrection which unfortunately some do. Sad all the way around.

Apr 17, 2019


John Beeson rightly questions the popular but likely wrong-headed notion of self-forgiveness here.

Apr 16, 2019

Acts 28:1-6

Phil Long does a nice job explaining these verses here. I enjoyed preaching on this passage some years ago. Here is a simple alliterated outline.

I.   God’s Providential Preservation (v. 1)
II.  God’s Providential Provision (v. 2)
III. God’s Providential Protection (vv. 3-6)

Apr 15, 2019

Yahweh, the God of Amen

Claude Mariottini has a nice post here describing the term "amen" especially from a Hebrew Bible perspective.

Apr 14, 2019

Ancient Chicken Eggs in Jerusalem

I'm not sure whether or how the findings in this article on ancient chicken eggs helps to better understand the biblical text but it is interesting.