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Monday, May 22 

7:10 AM Learning Greek is so much like learning to run. In running, you focus on running one mile at a time. In our 6 week class, you've already done one week. DON'T PANIC! You got this. Yes, five more weeks seems like a very long time. Focus on finishing this week well. Remember, you are building a base. Don't rush it. The hardest part is adjusting to the daily grind of studying. Focus on winning small victories. Today is review day. What, no new material? Nope. Welcome to your first review exam. We'll do this every 5 chapters or so. Enjoy your kickback day! Keep going because you're doing amazing.

Coach Dave

7:06 AM I'm ordering this book on the Greek perfect today.

6:54 AM Thinking of adding this race to my 2017 schedule. Flat course. Yay!

Sunday, May 21 

7:22 PM Evening yall! Tomorrow begins week 2 of Greek class. I'm more excited than when the Big Mac was first introduced. Experts say that it only takes 3 weeks to develop a new habit. That's only 21 days, folks. So tell yourself you're now one-third of the way to establishing your new habit of LOVING GREEK. That's right. Your life will never be the same. I'll never forget when I ran a mile without stopping for the first time. I was ecstatic. I'll never forget where I was: Kainalu Avenue in my home town of Kailua. I haven't stopped running since. My second happiest memory is finishing my first 5K. I will tell you, when you cross that finish line for the first time, no matter how fast or slow you are, it will change your life forever. Martyred missionary Jim Elliott once said, "Wherever you are, be all there, and live to the hilt whatever you convinced is the will of God for your life." Friend, you're in this class not just because you chose to attend. God is sovereign, and I believe He wanted you to be here, I'm completely convinced of that. And, because He's the One leading you, you can trust Him to carry you to the finish line. Your part is to set your sights high. Once upon a time I was a doctoral student at the University of Basel. One of the greatest influences in my life was my doctoral advisor, Prof. Bo Reicke. Before I embarked on my dissertation project he wanted to know, "What difference will it make in anybody's life?" More and more I'm becoming a language pragmatist. Why should I study Latin if I'm never going to use it? Or German? Ditto for running. As a runner newbie, I find it's so easy to get caught up in all the techy stuff like apparel and food supplements. But the only thing that makes any real difference is running. Even if I come in last place, even if I look like an old man with a goofy stride, I am rewarded by the race itself. Greek student, listen. You're in a race that will bring you more joy and satisfaction than you could ever imagine. In racing, if you're motivated to train for an organized running event, you're a runner, regardless of what your pace per mile is. Likewise, Greek is for people of all shapes and sizes, people with language aptitude and people with none, people with good memories and people with lousy ones, people who take an hour to master the lesson and people who take five. You are a Greek student because you believe you are. And no one can tell you you're not.

May week 2 be one more step in attaining your goal. I'm behind you 1,000 percent!

6:54 PM O my. This is soooo true! Lol!

 

2:36 PM While I'm cooking my meals for the week, I thought I'd list here my sporting goals for 2017:

1. Run the Flying Pig Marathon. (Done.)

2. Run 20 5Ks. (Eight down: January 28, February 12, March 4, 11 and 18, April 1 and 9, and May 20.)

3. Run 4 Half Marathons. (Two down: March 25 and April 22.)

4. Run the Raleigh Half Marathon on June 3.

5. Run the Chicago Half Marathon on July 15.

6. Surf in Hawaii August 3-11.

7. Climb Mount Elbert (the highest 14er in Colorado) in September.

8. Run the Richmond Marathon on Nov. 11.

9. Lose 10 pounds of body fat.

10. Listen to my body.

11. Have fun.

You might have noticed that I changed my mind about running the Savannah Marathon in November. The course can be extremely humid and I HATE humidity. In fact, a couple of years ago they diverted runners from completing the entire 26.2 miles because of heat and humidity. I plan to do the Richmond Marathon instead. I might be the slowest kid in the park, but I'm determined!

7:46 AM Was up early finishing my review of The Synoptic Problem: Four Views, edited by Stanley E. Porter and Bryan R. Dyer (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016). It's now been sent to JETS. I almost ran a 10K in Raleigh today but decided against it. I had been eying this race for several weeks. No biggie, though. My body needs a break.

Saturday, May 20 

6:16 PM A few thoughts of mine on Philippians 4. Here Paul runs the gamut, from women in leadership to reaching the "up and outers" among us.

Thus ends our overview of this wonderful letter. This leads to my response to one of the questions I'm most frequently asked: "When do you plan to stop teaching Philippians in your Greek classes?"

Never, of course.

1:50 PM If you're like me, you're counting the days and weeks until your next big race, which for me happens to be the Race 13.1 Half Marathon in Raleigh on June 3. Time flies, and it will be here before you know it. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy a few 5Ks just for the fun of it -- and to raise funds for great causes. Today's race was called the NC DNA 5K Run. This is the second year I've participated in this event. The goal is to connect scientists from all over the Triangle (Duke, UNC, etc.) with high school classrooms all across the state of North Carolina. I had mixed emotions as I drove to the UNC campus this morning. You'll recall that this was the same drive that Bec and I took hundreds of times for her countless cancer treatments, hospitalizations, surgeries, checkups, etc. I needed Jesus to help me through the day because I knew my mind would be flooded with memories of her. The weather was very pleasant for race day, around 70 degrees. I felt I was well prepared for the race both physically and mentally, though I sensed an underlying desuetude probably caused by me coming off of a marathon high two weeks ago. For the first mile or so everything felt good, but once the hills started I was in a psychological mess. I can honestly say the air was being knocked out of me. Everything in me wanted to stop or at least walk the rest of the race. I had run out of steam long before the finish line. I realized it would be a miracle if I could come in under 40 minutes, if I came in at all. Then I remembered Becky. I remembered all the times she could have quit when the going got tough. I remember how she would always push through her tiredness and her aches and pains, and how she'd always do it with a smile on her face. My mind went back to the last essay she published on Dave Black Online. It's called Running to Home Base. In it she wrote these courageous words:

I am not going to get to home base by just looking at it. I can’t just sit down and wait. Any baseball player runs with all his might to reach that home base. The race is not done. God still has work for me to do. God still has challenges for me to conquer by faith. God still has ministry for me, even as my body is failing. And I want to be faithful all the way to the end. And that means taking every advantage to influence others for Christ. That means pushing through the fatigue, pushing through the pain, pushing through the discomfort to pray, to communicate, to obey the Spirit.

I knew, at that point, that unless I did my very best for the rest of the race, I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror again. So I mustered up the remaining strength I had to cross the finish line. Minutes later, by the grace of God and the sheer will-power He gave me, I had done it! I finished 83rd out of 243 runners and even placed first in my age division with a time under 30 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly!

I stayed for the awards ceremony, and when my name was called to receive my medal I knew, I just knew, I had done it for Becky, inspired by her example. My head was filled with many happy memories as I ran, and some unhappy ones too. I relished every second of the race. Eventually my thoughts shifted to today and how happy I am despite my singleness. Running has helped me learn a lot about myself. On a regular basis, it clears my head and gives me perspective. It makes me happy when I think how far I've come. Everyone there today did such a great job. I stayed at the finish line until the last person crossed it with a time of 57:51. I shouted, "You got this! You're almost there! This is what you trained for! You can do it!" Unconcerned with what others are doing, each of these runners is driven by the need to do their best, to make the effort, to finish. For those few moments, all of us became equals, regardless of our finish times.

I want to thank the running community for being so wonderful. After the race a guy about 30 years old came up to me and said, "Thanks for being such a good pace setter for me today. I needed that. I just followed you from beginning to end." When I told him that at one point I had wanted to stop, he said, "Thanks for not quitting." I'm really writing this recap so that I can express to everyone how grateful I am for the blessing of being able to get up in the morning, let alone to run in a 5K race. And I'm so glad for the inspiration God gave me to finish the race today. Why, I think I would have crawled across the finish line if I had to. I dedicate this race to the one who is living happily in heaven with the Lord she loved so well. I love you, Becky!

Again, thanks to all, and let's all get ready for our next race! 

Friday, May 19 

6:48 PM Soaking wet but happy. Humidity felt like it was 100 percent. Otherwise, it was a good day for haying.

Rain storm began just as we parked the last trailer. Believer, we get to rest in the provision and protection of the Lord.

Tomorrow's race at UNC is iffy. My left knee is talking to me. Nothing major. A couple of Ibuprofen and I'll probably be good to go. We'll see. I run because I enjoy it. I don't feel like I have to run. Does this mean that I always feel like running? No! That said, I never regret it when I get up early and get in on one of the many races in the greater Raleigh area. The best way to look at it is this: Running is an avocation of mine, not the core of who I am. If I do run tomorrow, I look forward to sharing my experience with you. And mighty bored you'll be!

7:04 AM Today it's the Greek adjective. Many adjectives can be used interchangeably. On the other hand, synonymous adjectives can sometimes have different connotations. For a good overview of how adjectives function in New Testament Greek, go here. Yesterday in class we went on several rabbit trails (intentionally, of course), including one that addressed the 8th qualification for an overseer: didaktikos, which we rendered "teachable" in the ISV.

How can you teach unless you are a good learner? We also discussed whether book learning is the most effective way to train up leaders in the church. Arguably, the best way to produce Christian leaders is through apprenticeship, which could well be supplemented by the more formal training one gets in a seminary. There is real value is being mentored by someone more experienced than you are. In Basel, my professor was called my "Doctor Father," and for good reason: the first month I lived in Basel, I stayed in  his home. I had access to his personal library. He viewed his job as training, not merely teaching. I love the emphasis in our own doctoral program on mentorship. I like the way students are asked to do and not just think. Remember, a "disciple" (mathetes) is more of a "trainee" than a "pupil." Perhaps as a result, more and more students are taking teachers and not classes. This is a far cry from simply enrolling for a course because it's required!

Biblical insights on leadership? Ah yes. Greek can help us aplenty here!

P. S. Greek student, this quote from Augustine will "encourage" you!

Why then did I hate the Greek classics, which have the like tales? For Homer also curiously wove the like fictions, and is most sweetly vain, yet was he bitter to my boyish taste. And so I suppose would Virgil be to Grecian children, when forced to learn him as I was Homer. Difficulty, in truth, the difficulty of a foreign tongue, dashed, as it were, with gall all the sweetness of Grecian fable. For not one word of it did I understand, and to make me understand I was urged vehemently with cruel threats and punishments (Confessions 1.13-14).

Thursday, May 18 

9:04 PM It was a terrific day in every way. Taught all morning, then got up hay all afternoon and evening.

I've never worked so hard in my life. Well, at least since yesterday. I know a group of people who also worked very hard today. They learned the first declension. They're in it for the long haul. They running to win.

You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself (1 Cor. 9:24-17).

Why, you'd think the apostle Paul worked for Adidas or Nike! Paul seemed to know something about running. He knew how easy it is to give excuses for not doing our best. But not him! He wasn't going to "get caught napping"! How 'bout you, my friend? Why not take a few minutes and make a list of the 10 biggest obstacles that hold you back from achieving your goals -- whatever they may be (learning Greek, losing weight, etc.). Write them down. Then ask God for help to run your race with endurance. Starting is easy. Finishing? That's another story!

Keep running your race,

Dave

5:54 AM My next half marathon is in only 16 days, and I couldn't be happier! 10Ks and Half Marathons are my favorite distances right now. I need to focus on getting in more miles, however. I did 3 the other day in Wake Forest so I'm getting back on track. If you're in the midst of training for a race, all the best! Be sure to go at your own pace. You're competing against yourself, period. Also, be sure you do races you enjoy. I love Raleigh's Race 13.1 because the course has easy parking at North Hills Mall and takes you through the Crabtree Creek Greenway before heading back to the starting line. You have to register early for this event because it's limited to only 1,500 runners. There's also a 5K and a 10K in case you're interested in coming out.

Where do I go from here? The Chicago Half on July 16. Surfing in Hawaii August 3-11. Then the Savannah Marathon in November. In each of these races I'll be ecstatic to cross the finish line regardless of time. I am driven to do better, and I will. Continuous improvement is a constant goal of mine. When I turn 65 on June 9, I hope to leave 64-year old Dave in the dust!

I'm so grateful for running. Life sucks at times, it just does. This past month has been particularly difficult for me because of Becky's birthday and Mother's Day. But the Cincy Marathon was a huge encouragement. When I reached the finish line I was so happy. I almost cried when the kind volunteer placed the finisher's medal around my neck. I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I had done it and had raised not a little amount of money for a great cause. My purpose here is not to brag but to remind myself that when I need Him the most, God is always here. I love, love, love my life today, despite all the emotional ups and downs. Reflecting on the past 3 years, I don't think there's one thing I would have done differently. Starting new hobbies like running, and resurrecting old ones like surfing, made a world of difference. My love for the classroom still runs deep, and I'm so thankful to be part of a guild of New Testament scholars who truly love the Lord. I'm really looking forward to what He has in store for me in the coming years.

5:14 AM Enjoyed some Latin poetry before hitting the hay last night.

4:48 AM Up early this morning meditating and praying. And blogging (wink). We've now covered the first three chapters of Philippians. For whatever it's worth, here are a few takeaways I've jotted down.

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 1.

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 2.

Lasting Lessons from Philippians 3.

In chapter 3 we read that our Savior is going to return and transform our humble bodies into glorious bodies. Nobody knows the date of His coming. But He urges us to live in anticipation of it at all times. This morning my mind plays the same tune over and over again: "Come soon, Lord Jesus, come soon." For two thousand years He's been preparing a place for us, and I imagine it's going to be quite a habitation. In the meantime, I'm to hold forth His life-giving word to all who will listen.  

Wednesday, May 17 

8:35 PM Attitude is everything. That's true whether you're studying Greek grammar or running a foot race. This week we introduced the Greek verb (present and future active indicative) and the Greek noun (second declension). It's the concept of inflection that we're after, not just memorizing paradigms. I praise the Lord for helping us to grasp these difficult concepts. Here's the class taking their first quiz yesterday.

So proud of them!

Got home today and got up tons of hay.

Ain't nothin' I like doing more.

My body worked so hard I treated it to Fajitas Texanas tonight. Buenísimo!

I saved half of this gignormous meal for lunch tomorrow. This Saturday, of course, is race day again. This time we're running to help raise money for science education in Chapel Hill's high schools. Life is good.

Stay positive folks! Attitude is everything. If you're struggling with your mojo, try adjusting your attitude. 

Monday, May 15 

7:08 AM Back to Phil. 3. For the sake of Christ, Paul has willingly experienced the loss of all things. But does he call those things "dung" (3:8)? Or something else? For a discussion of the options, see Gary Manning's fine essay Did the Apostle Paul Use Profanity?

I'll add this. Let's not think of Paul as some sort of wannabe when it came to status. No, he had in fact acquired well-nigh unmatchable personal achievements. His grounds for boasting were impeccable. It's one thing to say, "I could have gone to Duke (or Harvard, or Cambridge, or Oxford) for my Ph.D., but I chose a state institution instead." A good question might be: Were you accepted at Duke? Or at Oxford? And turned them down? Paul had studied under Gamaliel II in Jerusalem. Didn't get much better than that in those days if you were a Jew. I'm reminded of the famous words of Malcolm Muggeridge:

I may, I suppose, regard myself as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets: that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the highest lopes of the internal revenue. That’s success. Furnished with money and even a little fame, even the elderly if they care to may partake of trendy diversions. That’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently headed for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time. That’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you and beg you to believe me. Multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing – a positive impediment measured against one draft of that Living Water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.

"They are nothing -- less than nothing." Indeed. Why not take some time today and write what you would say about your achievements in light of the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ?

Sunday, May 14 

7:04 PM Yesterday I walked a mere 5 miles. Today my goal was to walk at least 10 miles. (Notice I said "walk." My family would kill me if they knew I was running a mere week after Cincy.) Well, I got 5 miles done. My body is fine externally -- no aches or pains whatever. But there's an underlying lassitude and weakness that I'm having a hard time describing to you. So I came home and mowed the yard instead, and believe me, it needed it badly.

My mower threw a fuel filter at the worst possible time, and it took three weeks for me to get it fixed. I still have a couple of acres to mow but I'm done for this evening. I need to cook my meals for the week and then finish reading a wonderful book called Griego Para Pastores. It even has a section on sentence diagramming.

If you read Spanish, do yourself a favor and check it out. You're welcome.

Earlier today I was browsing the Nerdy Language Majors website (which I do daily) and noticed that Mike Aubrey resurrected a couple of his essays on Ephesians. In one of them he mentions (in passing) that he's still a bit agnostic about the letter's destination. Let me ask Mike (and any one else who's interested) to put aside the variant in Eph. 1:1 for a minute. Let's just assume, for the sake of argument, that the epistle was originally sent to the Ephesian church. We would still have to explain the noticeable absence of personal greetings in the letter. That is, how we do account for the impersonal nature of Ephesians if it were indeed sent to a church that Paul knew so well? These are good questions that deserve our careful consideration. Believe it or not, I think there are good answers to these questions, and if you're interested in them I invite you to take a glance at my essay on the topic. Yes, I know the essay originally appeared way back in 1981, but if Mike can resurrect an oldie but goodie, so can I!

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out my training schedule for my next half marathon, which is coming up in only 20 days. To me, running is a wonderful sport. It's a time for me to be alone, collect my thoughts, and decompress. Plus, the internet allows me to connect with runners all over the globe. There's nothing I crave more when I'm stressed, sad, or lonely than time in nature with the Lord. I know I'm not alone on this. For me, running is the perfect sport to build stamina physically and mentally. In fact, I'm still on a "high" a week after the Cincinnati Marathon. I have a feeling of exhilaration that just won't go away. Odd thing: I'll carry this same sense of exhilaration into the classroom tomorrow morning at 9:00 as I begin my 41st year of teaching Greek. Running is a very daunting hobby no matter how fast you are. I think the same thing is true of language learning. My advice to people just starting out: it's hard in the beginning, but keep trying, because YOU CAN DO THIS. 

Catch you later!

Dave

8:14 AM This is how the syllabus for my summer Greek course begins:

There are at least three very important reasons why you should study Greek. The first, of course, is to be able to intimidate your pastor. The trick is to sit in the front pew with your Greek New Testament wide open and watch the poor soul sweat to death. (Note: This procedure is considerably less effective if your pastor is preaching from the Old Testament.)

Second, you also need to take Greek to be able to impress others with your considerable learning. You see, anyone can say what the Bible means, but only Greek students can say what the Bible really means. The key is to use all kinds of impressive jargon—aorist passive imperative, for example—that nobody understands but all can be impressed with. Take a lesson from your medical doctor: Why say a child is turning blue when you can say he's cyanotic?

The final reason to take Greek—and the most important one—is because some day, if you're really lucky, you too can become a Greek professor!

7:42 AM The Bible, as you know, is full of genealogies. Names were important to God! More than any other label, your name symbolizes who you are. It's so personal that some marathon runners have their name printed on their running bib. When they hear their name on the lips of a bystander, they seem to get a real psychological push. My Hawaiian name is Kawika. In Ethiopia I'm Dawit. The author in me uses David Alan Black. But mostly I'm just Dave.

Today we come to Philippians chapter 3. The first major shift in the letter body took place between 1:11 and 1:12. There Paul moved from thanksgiving and prayer to the body proper. Here in 3:1 we find the second major shift-- a shift so sudden and seemingly unexpected that many scholars resort to theories of multiple letters to explain it. Not necessary.

Beginning in 3:1, Paul takes up again the theme of pride and personal ambition -- the lack of humility being the greatest obstacle to Christian unity (2:3). Paul, if you will, reverts to his Jewish moniker "Saul" for a moment. In contrast to their opponents, who (like Paul once did) set their minds on earthly things, the Philippians are to have an attitude shaped by their heavenly citizenship. The passage in 3:1 opens with a vocative ("brothers and sisters"), a command ("keep on rejoicing"), and the adverbial phrase to loipon, which here cannot mean "finally" (Paul's got 44 more verses to go!) but rather "furthermore." Thus, 3:1 serves as a transitional element to Paul's warning against the Judaizers beginning in 3:2. These "dogs," "evil workers," and "mutilators" rely on dietary laws, works, and circumcision, just as proud Saul once did. The Philippians, by contrast, are to worship God by the Spirit and place no confidence in the flesh. Then Paul sets forth his own life as a pattern for them to follow in this regard. I love how Eugene Peterson puts it:

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

In short, Paul voluntarily renounced all of his "gains" for the sake of something far better -- to know Jesus personally by conforming himself to Christ's death and taking up his cross daily. In other words, Paul is no longer Saul.

This fall I'll have the privilege again of teaching the letters of Paul in my New Testament 2 class. It's impossible to find anything to say about Paul that's not been said before by other scholars. But if there is one theme I would like to emphasize (hopefully not at the expense of other equally important themes), it's this: When Jesus really gets a hold of you, your life begins to move in a different direction. People take on new importance because of who they are rather than for what they can bring to the table. Jokes at the expense of others now seem like a waste of time. Now scholarship is not a goal in and itself but a mere tool for the Master's use. Becoming a follower of Jesus is an acceptance of these facts and many more. It's not a striving after something, a ceaseless seeking for credit and recognition. Slowly you begin to notice that Christ is working in you both to give you the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him. He gives you new purpose, new values, new goals, and a whole new pattern of life shaped not by the evangelical cult of the superstar but rather by men like Paul and Timothy and Epaphroditus.

I truly sympathize with people who have been told (and believe) that the book of Philippians is all about joy. But for Paul, joy is at best the byproduct of living for others. It's the result of what happens when we stop just telling people we're Christians and start showing them. And above all, Jesus' own example provides the best guideline for us:

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Saturday, May 13 

8:12 PM The greatest of Boston's greatest hits. Ever. Don't look back (Phil. 3:13).

6:24 PM Greek Syntax and Exegesis students, take note of this series on Philippians, a letter we'll be exegeting in class this fall. The series is called "The Cause." Friends, let's live for "the only thing that matters" (Phil. 1:27) and penetrate the darkness with the light of God's love!

6:12 PM Check this out, Greek students!

5:48 PM As an avid student of Hebrews, I'm eager to get my hands on this new Festschrift.

5:10 PM Have you ever noticed the parallels between Paul's speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:18-35 and the book of Philippians?

  • Paul claims to be a servant in both.

  • In both he insists that humility is an indispensable Christian virtue.

  • He speaks about persecution in both.

  • In both he emphasizes his financial independence.

  • In both he exalts the Gospel over all other messages.

  • In both he notes how courage is necessary for the servant of the Lord.

  • Unselfishness is emphasized in both.

  • In both he calls upon his audience to imitate him.

Interesting! Incidentally, this is the only message in Acts where the audience is exclusively Christian. Preaching in the New Testament is otherwise to the lost, not the saved. Yet we often call our pastor the "preacher" and the 11:00 service the "preaching service." Intriguingly, Luke records that Paul met with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Pastors/elders/overseers are "teachers" (Eph. 4:11). They must be "able to teach" (or "teachable," 1 Tim. 3:2). The implication is that each of the Ephesian elders was teaching. Apparently none was the church's "preacher." Is this an argument for team teaching in our churches? Thom Rainer seems to think so. Personally, I think a team teaching approach is immensely attractive, not least for the reasons Thom mentions (as well as those who left comments on his blog post). At any rate, there are many takeaways (real and potential) in Paul's address to the Ephesian leaders, and I feel I've only scratched the surface!

12:18 PM Bank, post office, workout at the Y, a 5-mile walk -- been a pretty normal Saturday around here. The highlight was definitely the local farmers market, where I found these detectible stir-fry ingredients (including fresh snow peas!).

If you value your food at the peak of freshness, there's probably a farmers market near you.  

A certain Mr. Yoder and I chatted away in German (Pennsylvania Dutch for him, High German for me). His family is part of the growing Amish community in Charlotte County, VA, which boasts that it's the only country in the state that doesn't have a single traffic light. The Yoders recently moved here from Dover, MD, after their eldest son was killed when a car collided with their buggy. I can only imagine the heartbreak this family has gone through. People, please slow down around the Amish. Anyhoo, right now it's time to relax and enjoy the last of the rainy weather, as the rest of the week will be perfect for getting up more hay. By the way, if you have a chance, listen to Scott Simon's interview about the English language on NPR that aired this morning on Weekend Edition Saturday. The point is that we often use the English language not to communicate but to obfuscate. I think of the technical jargon we Greek teachers sometimes use in class. Listen, our students have enough trouble memorizing Greek words let alone having to adopt all of our neologisms!

(Yes, I just used "obfuscate" and "neologisms"! Sigh!)

6:44 AM Greetings to you students taking summer Greek with me starting on Monday! Please keep in mind that there are many tools besides my beginning grammar you will want to consider purchasing eventually. Here's a list for your consideration. There are some honest disagreements among sincere Greek scholars about the best approach to learning Greek, but we all agree on one thing: Greek will help you live out your faith in very ordinary ways and trust God in very extraordinary ways!

6:40 AM Yesterday I signed up for the Chicago Rock N Roll Half Marathon on July 16. This will be sort of a running vacation for me, having just taught 6 weeks of summer Greek. I'll be staying at the host hotel, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. I hear the second half of the course is pretty brutal. You're away from the crowds and by that time the sun is beating down brutally on your head. Still, they say this is one of the best races in Chicago (right up there with the Marathon). Besides, I love the Chicago skyline. Prior to this race, I'm registered for the Race 13.1 Half Marathon in Raleigh on June 3. I did this one last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The race takes you through three beautiful greenways, and they've even added a downhill finish. The race tech t-shirt you get is pretty cool, as is the finisher's medal. I would recommend this race to anyone looking for a challenging but certainly do-able half marathon. The other big race of 2017 will be the Savannah Marathon on Nov. 4. I hear there can be a lot of heat and humidity at this event (even in November!). I'll probably do this race as a fund raiser for UNC Cancer Hospital since the event comes just two days after the fourth anniversary of Becky's homegoing. I'm told this is the premier racing event in all of Georgia, so it should be fun.

So when's your next race?

Friday, May 12 

6:28 PM She would have been 64 today.

Honey, I'm so grateful for the 40 years I knew you and so honored to have been your husband for 37 of those years. Today you and I are both experiencing the sweet presence of the Savior, just in different ways. I never knew until the day you died just how much of my self was gambled away upon the heart of another. I miss everything about you, but especially your smile. For all I know, you might have been an angel in disguise! Was there ever a more powerful demonstration of the grace and power of God than when we went through our cancer journey together? I watered this day with tears, but they were mostly tears of joy and happiness at every thought, every memory, and the anticipation of That Day. Happy 64th Birthday, Becky Lynn. I love you.

6:14 PM Celebrating the goodness of the Lord in the lives of our graduates.

 

7:38 AM No marathon would be possible without a vast array of volunteers. Think: information booth (who? what? where?), gear check (pre- and post-race), corral ("chute 'em!"), aid station (hydration support), cheer station (cheer, laugh, scream), course entertainment (are you an Elvis impersonator?), post-race area (hand out medals, distribute food and water), tear-down crew (which, well, tears everything down). Even runners are "volunteers" in the sense that we pay our own way to run, and many of us are running for a charitable cause of one kind or another. This year the Boston Marathon had 9,400 volunteers supporting 30,000 athletes.

As I was running on Sunday I saw these volunteers everywhere. They literally kept me going.

If you want to see a good picture of a what New Testament "deacon" should look like, look no further. Deacons are servers, plain and simple. And get this: we are all to be serving one another, whether or not we have the title "deacon." I say this because many churches today have two categories of people: the ordained, and the ordinary. But there's good news. More and more I'm seeing in my students a willingness to challenge this way of thinking. In fact, today God is ordaining the ordinary. Shepherds (pastors) gladly see themselves first and foremost as fellow sheep. There is a great deal of New Testament teaching about spiritual gifts, about serving one another in love. Every single writer mentions its gravity. Fellow-service -- isn't this part and parcel of our salvation? Then why isn't it a reality for so many? What happened to the spirit of volunteerism?

Today is commencement. To our graduates I say: May the world see in you committed family members who can't get enough of each other, members of a body that requires a thousand moving parts to function optimally. You are capable of that kind of Spirit-filled life without constant management by your profs. The tools for kingdom service are yours for the asking: the Bible, willing hands, and a heart full of Jesus.

Love God.

Serve others.

Happy Graduation!

Thursday, May 11 

7:55 PM This classic is yours for the asking.

I got it when I studied in Israel. The book is personally signed by Anson Rainey. I need to hear from you by 6:00 pm tomorrow. If more than one of you requests the book, I'll pick the recipient by random.

7:38 PM Great time with Nate, Jess, and the grandkids today at THE happiest place on earth. Well, in Durham, at least. Four sons, with another on the way. :-)

8:18 AM Endless gratitude and appreciation to everyone who's already sent me feedback (some emails several pages long!) about my idea for a linguistics conference. In what follows, I've incorporated a good many of your helpful suggestions. There are so many special challenges our guild faces -- nomenclature confusion, pedagogical disagreements (some major), hermeneutical disputes, etc. Right now I'm looking at invited papers (possibly) followed by discussion groups. Let me mention here the main topics I'm thinking about. Feel free to offer any feedback you like via email, including the names of possible speakers. (I've got my ideas, but I'd like to hear yours.) There are four major areas of research I'd like to see discussed:

  • Lexical semantics

  • Linguistic theory

  • Pedagogy

  • Syntax

I would probably want sessions on the following specific topics:

  • Semantic domains

  • Lexicography

  • Discourse analysis

  • Linguistic "schools"

  • The use of electronic tools

  • Pronunciation

  • The living language approach

  • The ideal beginning grammar?

  • Tense and aspect (including temporality in the indicative mood)

  • Voice (including deponency)

  • The perfect

  • Word order

  • Linguistics and exegesis

Your thoughts are welcome. I'd especially like to hear from you Greek students out there. Just write me at dblack@sebts.edu.

Dave

7:05 AM Today's assignment -- grade these essay exams.

6:58 AM Good morning fellow bloggers! Here are a few lessons from my first marathon:

1) I need encouragement, and I need to be an encouragement to others. The energy you draw from the bystanders during a race makes a huge difference in the outcome of the race. For me personally, it allowed me to achieve a sub-6-hour PR. The day before the marathon I was on the sidelines cheering for the 10K runners. It was as though I was experiencing their race with them. The first half marathon I ever attended was as a cheerleader. The point? We're in this together.

2) Run light. I took nothing with me that I could leave behind -- iPod, iPhone, snacks, etc. As a result, there was less to weigh me down. I could do this because the race was so well-organized with plenty to drink and eat along the course.

3) Stay positive. I smiled -- a lot. I kept my head up. I fought through the rough spots. Sure, you could spot a frown on me from time to time. But overall, I was cheerful. Again, Phil. 2:14 -- one of my favorite verses from this wonderful letter -- came to mind.

4) Sleep before the race is vital. So is rest afterwards.

5) Your feet are the key, both to avoiding injury and to enabling you to make good, comfortable strides. God has undeservedly blessed me in this area -- no blisters, no feet pain, no knee pain, etc.

6) The finish line is as amazing as everybody claims. I first noticed it about a half mile out. It took me over two years to train for this event, and all of a sudden it's right there. The Finish Swine! The goal was attainable! At that very moment I forgot all about my tiredness. As I crossed I raised my arms in gratitude to God because it was a deeply personal victory. I didn't have any family members there to hug on, so I just bent over and sort of gave the Lord a big hug. Running, like all of life, is an extraordinary event. It's not a sprint but a marathon. But the finish line will come, trust me on that.

I can't really explain it, dear friends, but running has changed me for life. I no longer see barriers in my life as insurmountable, as long as I take it one step at a time. Awesome feels awesome. The sense of achievement I felt on Sunday, May 7, will stick with me forever. As the old saying goes, "The more you work to get there, the more you'll appreciate the result." My goal in life today is to help others run the race set before them with as much gusto as they can muster, relying completely on God to supply their needs. This goes for my students too. That's why today I'm giving away a copy of this book.

It's the story of how the Lord took me from Kailua Beach to Basel and beyond. If you're contemplating a doctorate in biblical studies, and if you'd like to have a glimpse into my personal journey, the book is yours for the asking at dblack@sebts.edu.

Keep running your race!

Dave

Wednesday, May 10 

5:22 PM I'm excited to share with you that my vision for a Greek and linguistics conference is moving forward. Everyone I've talked to so far loves the idea. I'll know more in the next couple of weeks. Feel free to shoot me your ideas about topics, speakers, format, etc.

Yesterday my assistant and I had our final mentorship meeting of the semester (he's also my Ph.D. student).

I love my students. They're moving forward, growing in grace and faith. God hasn't failed us once.

Oh, today Ben Merkle and I spent time over lunch talking about our possible linguistics conference and what we would like to see happen.

Many of you are using Ben's remarkable books in your New Testament and Greek classes. Much appreciation for the insights, friend!

Finally, saw this 0.0 car sticker and had to laugh out loud. Ya gotta love their honesty!!!

Time for supper!

Tuesday, May 9 

8:02 AM I have to say it again even though I've said it ad nauseum. Take the first step toward better fitness. I know. It's going to hurt. You will think it's IMPOSSIBLE. There will be doubts galore, but the only way to overcome them is to push through them. Take a second to ask yourself: Am I taking care of the temple? Accept where you are now. Ignore any shame you might be feeling. The past is past. Today is today. In exactly one month I'll turn 65. But that doesn't mean I have to slow down. Working out isn't about looking cool or being the "best" at what you do. It's about taking nothing in life for granted.

I want to be a cheerleader for you. People, we're stronger and better together. Looking towards the rest of 2017, I want to see more people taking ownership of their health. Hard work really does pay off. I want you to know that the fitness community is inclusive. Even if you're never exercised a day in your life, you are still invited. Come exactly as you are. Feel proud that you are making an effort. All you have to do is take that first step.

7:35 AM The crowd support at the race was, as I said, amazing. Along Eastern Ave, in Linwood (about 8 miles to go), was a group of seasoned citizens that had everybody in stitches.

A few miles later and there was the theme from Chariots of Fire. Corny? Nah. Inspiring! I would do this race again if only for the crazy signs and great music (including an Elvis impersonator who was really good!).

Monday, May 8 

9:10 PM Hey folks!

I arrived back on the farm just in time to get up this trailer load of beautiful Orchard Grass. It's gonna make some horses very happy.

But methinks my reading audience (all two of you!) are expecting a post-race report. So here goes ....

As you know, yesterday's Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati was my very first marathon experience. I've been running now for about two and a half years, and I've managed a few half marathons plus gobs of 5Ks and 10Ks. But I felt it was time to go for the "big one." I chose the Pig because it just sounded like fun, plus (and this was a huge plus) it had a very generous 7 hour time limit, which makes it the perfect race for newbies like me (despite the hills). So .... Cincinnati it was!!!

Friday at noon I hopped a flight to Atlanta and then flew to the Cincinnati Airport (which is actually in Kentucky). It was raining cats and dogs when I arrived and the interstate was a parking lot, so our shuttle driver decided to take us via a "short cut" along the Ohio River, and I'm so glad he did. We passed bucket loads of quaint ante-bellum homes snuggled up against the river. Beautiful! Before we knew it we were in Porkopolis itself, and there I checked myself into the plush downtown Hyatt.

Then I walked across the street to the Duke Energy Center to get my bib and race shirt in what they called the "Expo." The Expo itself wasn't very interesting -- mostly salesmen pitching their wares. But boy was it packed! After finding a place for dinner I settled into my room and slept hardly a wink that night, I was so excited. Saturday morning I took my legs for a 5-mile walk along the Ohio River and then rested all of Saturday afternoon and evening. I really prayed hard for a good night's sleep on Saturday night and the Lord came through for me. When I awoke at 5:00 am I was refreshed and ready for whatever lay before me. I ran downstairs for a cup of coffee and a pastry and then walked down to the river to find my race "pig pen" (corral). My nerves were fine and, in fact, I was eager for the excitement to begin. I was in the very last corral with a few thousand other runners, many of whom I'm sure were first-timers like me. Everyone was in good spirits. There was no jostling for position or anything like that, just joking around and lots of laughter and picture-taking. I wish I had had my iPhone with me, but I felt I should run as light as possible, so -- alas -- no pics of the race! At 6:30 on the nose the horn sounded and the first wave of elite runners were off. It took about 20 minutes for our pig pen to get moving, but eventually we were off and running too.

The race was SO MUCH FUN!!!!

I was in the back of the pack but I think we slow pokes had all the fun. I began tiring around mile 16 and was worried I wasn't going to make the 7 hour time limit. But God seemed to give me extra strength, and all of a sudden there was the Finish Swine! I turned on the afterburners and not only beat the 7 hour time limit but came in UNDER 6 HOURS!!! I was in absolute and utter shock. Yes, I know I trained hard for this race, but coming in at 5:56 was beyond belief.

The race itself was perfectly organized I'd say. Gatorade and water every mile. Tons of cheering fans along the course. Porta potties everywhere. And you could choose from a large variety of snacks along the way, from orange slices to gummy bears to cookies and gels. There was even bacon (of course!) As I said, the course was hilly, and I mean HILLY, especially miles 6-9 or so. It felt like I was climbing the Alps again!

But then again, there were so many volunteers and supporters on the course that you knew you couldn't stop for anything. As mentioned above, when I realized that I only had about a mile or so to go, I felt I could break the 6 hour barrier if I really poured it on. As I approached the Finish Swine I began to hear the crowd roar with shouts of encouragement. I turned my head, eager to see who they were cheering for. It was ME! In fact, the announcer had even called out my name. So there I was, finishing my first marathon, to the shouts of complete strangers who must have known I had come to run my best race possible. I got my race medal, and then (since I didn't have a camera) asked one of the race officials if she would be kind enough to snap a photo of me so I'd have something to send to my kids and grandkids. Thank you, Robin!

Right now I'm sitting here at the computer savoring yesterday's accomplishment. God has been sooooooooo good to me. But we can't live in the past, folks. Yesterday's finish line was not the end. Finishing a marathon only gives you permission to plan and dream. What's the next adventure? Climbing the second highest mountain in the contiguous U. S. in September to celebrate what would have been Becky's and my 41st wedding anniversary. You know, running allows you to do that. You've been humbled by both your potential and the fragility of your body. You've discovered what you thought were limits and gone beyond them. You've also discovered what keeps most people from achieving their dreams -- the confines of their imaginations. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned yesterday is a lesson for all of life: it comes down to taking each mile one step at a time.

This week I'll face a special post-race challenge. John Bingham likens a long-distance race to being in an auto accident. Your body has taken a beating. It needs time to heal. For a marathon, a person needs about a month to recover. I'll try to be a big boy and lay off running for a while, but I'm sorely tempted to get out and run tomorrow!

I want to thank the Flying Pig organization for putting on a race that can only be described as spectacular. I will definitely run this one again. I did this marathon as a fund raiser and to pay tribute to a pretty wonderful gal named Becky. I won't say it wasn't tough, but to be perfectly honest, I enjoyed every single minute of the Pig, even the hills! Now I've got my sights set on the Savannah Marathon in November. In short, I still can't get over the race yesterday. As unbelievable as it sounds, I finished. Even more unbelievable is the fact that I can now humbly say these words:

I AM A MARATHONER.

Dave

Friday, May 5 

7:48 AM Well, it looks like a perfect weekend for a marathon. I'm adopting John "The Penguin" Bingham's marathon strategy:

Finish the same day you start.

I'm not kidding! Beyond that, I'll just chew off one bite of the course at a time. You'll recall that I'm using the "5 Mile" trick. The idea is to convince yourself you're only running 5 miles. They you do the same thing for the next 5 miles, and then for the next 5 miles, etc. I'll also take along a few mini-candy bars for nutrition. I plan to eat about one per hour -- but who knows? As you know, for this race I'm trying to put the "personal" in "personal record." It's all about cancer research. I get to train for and run the race for Becky and then share my experience with all of you (plus, hopefully, a check for $4,000 to UNC). Life don't get much better than that. This is a huge deal for me, both physically and emotionally, as you can imagine. I could go on and on but that's really not the point I want to make here. So let me get to my POINT.

(Deep breath.)

Why aren't you out there running? Of course, you might not be ready for a marathon. But how about a 5K race? You could walk it or run it or do a combination of both. The causes you'll be running for are out of this world. Plus, when you join the running community, you'll have a built-in support system. Sign up your whole family (there's usually a kids' "fun run" mixed into the fray). As you know, I try and use my blog to inspire others. If only one person started walking or running or climbing or biking or going to the Y because of me, I would feel like I've accomplished something important. In fact, the reason I'm running today is because someone I know asked me to attend a half marathon as an observer a couple of years ago. How amazing is that??!! They managed to inspire the laziest guy on the planet to get out and do something healthy. O sweet irony. So go online and sign up for a race today. Don't even think about it. Just do it. Then go on Facebook and tell everyone about your new adventure. Get out there on the course and be proud of yourself. You'll find that "fitness" quickly becomes a lifestyle. And, believe me, you'll never go back to your couch potato days. I can't wait to hear about your first race!

Okay. It's time to pull the trigger. Sooooo excited. I'm feeling good, thank the Lord. No aches and pains. As I said, my grand plan is to (hopefully) finish. I really do love my crazy life. I'm grateful that I'm still safe and sound after all the training I've done. Loving all your emails too. Keep 'em coming. I so appreciate them -- and you! You keep me g oing. Thank you for cheering me on and making me laugh with all your great comments. I'm so thankful to be on this journey with you.

See ya at the finish line.

Dave

P.S. Hope to get into many Jesus convos this weekend. Taking copies of Running My Race to give out too. See how great running is? The blessings are everywhere.

6:54 AM Summer School Greek (which lasts for 6 weeks) starts a week from Monday. Thus far there are 30 enrolled. To you (and to any audits who might attend) I want to extend my warmest welcome. When I think about Greek, of course, I think back to my own introduction to the language in 1975. In subsequent years, the language seemed to take hold of me. For me, language study is truly a foretaste of heaven. I hope your own experience will likewise be enjoyable. If you're after mediocrity, you can get it easily. But if you want to attain excellence, you're gonna have to work with all your might. For starters, you may wish to take a moment and peruse our New Testament Greek Portal, which I hope will give you a pretty clear picture of what's available today in terms of online helps. I am well aware that our website is incomplete, so if you find something that's not there please let me know and we'll add it. On the first day of class we'll be learning the Greek alphabet and how to pronounce Greek words, and it might help if you listened to the MP3s that are available on the portal. Until then, I just thank God that each of us, regardless of the world's standards, stand equal before God. The only thing that truly matters is that we measure up to His standards. And for that, we'll need our Bible.

Thursday, May 4 

6:44 PM This is probably the next to the last post I'll be able to publish before I head out to Ohio.

Today I got in my final training by doing an easy 5-mile walk at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in Brodnax, VA. Folks, I entirely needed this. "Just a little walk with Jesus makes it right," the old song says. Trust me, nobody wants to begin a race feeling lonely or isolated. For the past four weeks I've not been myself. I've been more scatterbrained than usual and more unfocused than I like to be. It's been like taking a detour along life's journey, a walk on another path that at times seems to lead to Nowhere. For me, running this race is a chance to honor Becky's life and memory, but at the same time, even while remembering her, I'm filled with a huge sense of loss, where all the "right answers" fail me, where I've begun this monumental dialogue with God about death and resurrection and pain and joy. I've been forced to press extremely hard on the Gospel and ask the hard spiritual questions. AGAIN. That's why this walk today was so meaningful to me. Because God never turns away a seeker. He walks side by side with us through our valleys of fear and grief. He is my heart's full joy, and with Him in my life, everything else falls into place. Just look at the beautiful weather He gave us for our walk.

It's as though He was saying to me, "You're doing a wonderful job, Dave. I know that life without Becky is mind-numbingly hard, but I am here with you as your friend -- and your Savior. My light is greater than any darkness the evil one can throw at you." I am a grown man and I already know all these things, but sometimes it's good for the Lord to walk beside you and just remind you of what you mean to Him. I guess I'm just saying this: I'm at home with myself, at peace with the world, even ready for the weekend, come what may, because He is saying to me, "I will see you through this."

While I was walking I got this email from the good folks at Map My Run and I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. It's my performance summary for April.

140 miles of training in a single month. I fully intend to keep up this pace as long as my body allows me to do so. The possibilities of running other races excites and motivates me. God truly operates in mysterious ways, and I am shocked that I'm even attempting the race this weekend. But this is who I am, folks -- as unbelievable as that may seem. This is who I've become in Christ. Friends, Jesus is the only one who can define us. Learn to be who He has made you to be. Let Him walk into your home and determine what matters to you. I am either a man who is passionate about being all that God is calling me to be, or I'm not. We cannot have it both ways. I either follow where He leads me, or I don't. The fund raiser I'm doing for cancer this weekend might seem like a very small thing. Our culture has tricked us into thinking that a piddly amount like $4,000 can't make a dent. But hear me on this: Enjoy the little things that God allows you to do for Him in His strength. Invite Him into the chaos of your life and watch Him open the doors of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is embedded in the kitchen sink and a financial crisis and a crumbling marriage. It's everywhere -- even in Ohio.

Well, I've got to go and fix supper, but I did want to thank all of you who've written me today with words of encouragement. Your advice is timely, I assure you:

Dave, stay within your ability.

Listen to your body.

Don't start out too fast.

You can do this.

Really, I can't thank you enough. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say that each of you is at least a solid 26.2.

7:40 AM Who taught Greek to F. F. Bruce ? To C. H. Dodd? To Oscar Cullmann? To Bruce Metzger? I'd like to know. Wouldn't you?

7:30 AM Having just discussed "diminutives" in Greek class this week, I thought I'd post a link to this outstanding essay by Mike Aubrey.

7:16 AM Sending wishes your way for a fabulous weekend! The marathon officials sent me an orientation email that's left my head spinning. So much to decide! One matter of utmost importance: Which "pig pen" to join for the race?

Well, it's a no-brainer, really. I'm certainly no better than a G or an H. I almost hate to write this for fear of jinxing myself, but I really feel I have trained hard enough to finish under 6 hours unless something catastrophic happens to me on the course (which is ALWAYS a possibility). Of course, the irony of even mentioning a time is that if you don't reach your goal you'll feel like a loser, but at the same time setting a (tentative) goal pushes you toward it. Make sense? I'll be the first to admit that I can be really hard on myself. I've always been that way, even in my studies. But one thing I know I'm good at is not comparing myself with others. Just focus on what you do well and forget about "beating" anyone else. After all, there will always be people who are smarter, more productive, faster, etc. than you are. I am the Father's son, beloved and treasured, and that's good enough for me.

Like I said, enjoy your weekend. I'll try and do the same (said he while shaking in his boots). 

6:54 AM Since this subject came up recently ....

Wednesday, May 3 

8:32 PM Evening update:

1) I love work. I could watch it all day.

2) Can't we trade lives with our animals for just one day???!!!!

3) The oldest building on the farm (ca. 1790). Even predates me. Now that's old.

4:32 PM Howdy pards! Just back from our beautiful campus.

It's so hard to believe that in just four days my marathon experience will be over. (Insert the sound of me babbling like an idiot.) Since my thoughts have begun creeping me out, I've turned to reading fiction again (which always seems to settle me down). And what better fiction to read than Arthur Conan Doyle?

Regaining focus is my motto for the next three days. Prayers appreciated!

Oh, here's the latest weather forecast for Cincy.

Isn't God good??? Cool and sunny on Sunday! If you'll indulge me another pic or two, I wanted you to see my Greek class taking their last quiz of the semester.

I'm so proud of them and beyond excited about what they will now be able to do when they read their Greek New Testaments. Greek is challenging but worth it! Speaking of Greek, these guys are in my LXX class.

We had a blast eating Mexican and yakking about all things Hellenistic. Finally, endless gratitude to my former student Chris Jones for his outstanding lecture today on "Shepherding in the Gospel of John."

Our Lord transforms our ideas of "leadership." The way we acknowledge Jesus as the Great Shepherd of the Sheep and Senior Pastor is a big deal to Him. Thanks tons for the reminder today, Chris, and best wishes on your doctoral studies!

Time to get up hay!

Tuesday, May 2 

7:12 AM Quote of the day (source): 

Das paulinische Missionswerk wurde vornehmlich durch (mit-)reisende und lokale Mitarbeiter vorangetrieben. Erstere haben vor allem in der Erstverkündigung gewirkt, neue Missionsgebiete erschlossen und Gemeinde gegründet. Letztere waren vor allem für die Konsolidierung der gegründeten Gemeinden und die Missionierung des Umlandes zuständig. Sie alle waren einem gemeinsamen Werk verpflichtet, dass sie in der Verantwortung vor Gott wahrnahmen.

Of course, I didn't try to translate this into English. I just read it in German. German is German, and English is English. The goal of language learning is not translation but comprehension.

Let's remember that as we study the biblical languages.

7:06 AM I saw this amazing video this morning:

I know many of you have told me you'd like to be in Cincy rooting for me. I also know you can't be there in body. But I'll take your love and encouragement with me every step of the way. Thank you.

6:58 AM This is such a great letter from UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Obesity and diabetes are associated with increased risk and worse outcomes for endometrial cancer. Metformin is a drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Dr. Bae-Jump finds that metformin has anti-cancer activity, due to its indirect effects within the body (insulin, glucose) and direct effects on endometrial cancer cells through inhibiting signaling pathways involved in metabolism, including suppression of fatty acid and lipid biosynthesis. Thus, it is logical that metformin may break the link between obesity and endometrial cancer and emerge as a new targeted agent for the treatment of this cancer. A portion of this work was recently presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology in March 2017.

Based on this promising preliminary data, Dr. Bae-Jump has an ongoing randomized phase 2/3 clinical trial evaluating metformin versus placebo, in combination with standard of care paclitaxel/carboplatin for the treatment of endometrial cancer, sponsored by the NRG Oncology Group (GOG 286B). The phase 2 portion of this study has completed, and the trial subsequently re-opened to phase 3 in December 2016. Dr. Bae-Jump hypothesizes that predictors of metformin response will include both molecular and metabolic biomarkers, specifically obesity, insulin resistance, upregulation of insulin/glucose signaling and heightened fatty acid/lipid biosynthesis. From this work, Dr. Bae-Jump hopes to validate metformin as an innovative treatment strategy for obesity-driven endometrial cancer. Funds from the Becky Black Memorial Fund to Fight Endometrial Cancer will be used to support the biomarker research that is vital to this study.

It's pretty much all Greek to me. The gist is this: Vickie Bae-Jump's research on endometrial cancer is progressing well, thanks in part to yall's generosity through the Becky Black Memorial Fund ($25,000). Let replicate that effort this weekend. Our Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure fund is still open. This oinker appreciates every dime donated.

Monday, May 1 

8:50 PM Had a great workout today at the gym. The local gym. As in really LOCAL. Think hay field. That's where I picked up a few hundred 60 pound bales today. Like I say, it's as good a workout as you'll get at LA Fitness, for sure. Plus, just think of all the bonuses you get: runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing, and post-nasal drip. All for no extra charge. We started haying at 12:00 noon and stopped at 8:00 pm. We ended up getting two trailer loads up today, and in the nick of time too -- a storm system was heading our way. But as usual, the Lord took care of us. No sooner had we parked the last trailer under the barn than the rain started in earnest. All glory to God!

Right now this tired old man has got to take a long hot shower and cook his meals for the week. Lots of pasta on the menu, I see. Wonder why?

Over and out.

10:44 AM Hey folks!

Well, after months of training, the big week is finally here. The planning is over, and the tapering is done. It's time to roll.

This marathon marks a turning point of sorts in my life. By God's grace, I've navigated three and a half years without Becky. I feel I'm finally out of the woods. It's time to mark my success by running this marathon in her honor and memory.

Running a marathon is like winning a major award in life, say an Oscar. For the rest of your life you can say you're an Oscar winner. And, like winning an award, you'll be thanking everyone who helped you reach your goal. My family members are not runners but they understand my commitment and are totally supportive. The miracle is not that I might finish. The miracle is that I had the courage to start the process. Marathoners give themselves permission to dream about the perfect race. It may not happen that way, but that doesn't stop them from dreaming. As in the Christian life, faith is what keeps them going when nothing else will. They've faced down their fears and have been humbled by both their strength and their fragility.

That's the grand lesson I've learned on this long journey. I've learned that life boils down to taking one step at a time. I've learned that I can't accept anything less than my potential. I've learned that life is lived not alone but in the company of others. I've learned to be grateful for my strengths and to accept my weakness.

So here we are.

I've put in the training. I'm ready to give it my best. I'm now a long-distance athlete, fitter and better trained than about 99 percent of the population. Somewhere in front of me is a finish line and a medal. I'll be surrounded by 30,000 other runners whose example will spur me on. At the front of the course will be the elite runners. They'll finish the race in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I couldn't finish that fast if the race were vertical and they dropped me down from an airplane. I'm filled with terror and excitement. My emotions are a cross between a child on Christmas morning and a soldier landing on Omaha Beach. My greatest danger now is not the course. It's my unwillingness to accept the difficulty of the challenge. Every mile marker will effectively start a new race for me. I will take whatever talent I have and go out and see what happens. I'll experience the limits of my body, the limits of my mind, and the limits of my spirit. But I know you'll be with me every step of the way.

Thank you for joining me on a journey where the finish line is just the beginning.

Dave

8:20 AM Ah, the discourse structure of Philippians. What a happy theme to return to on a beautiful Monday morning. What's Paul done so far in the body proper of the letter? He's shown us what kind of man he's turned out to be in prison: someone who lives completely for the Gospel (1:12-26). He's pleaded for a unified Gospel witness among the Philippians (1:27-2:18). Now he's going to do something that won't surprise anyone who's studied Paul. In accordance with the pattern set down by his own Master-Teacher (Luke 6:40), Paul encourages his readers by giving them two models to follow as they set about trying to live out their heavenly citizenship in a manner required by the Gospel. Against worldly ambition and self-seeking (2:3-4), Paul sets forth the striking examples of Timothy (2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30). Note: Paul is not only making it clear to the Philippians that these men are excellent examples of what it means to put others first. He is promoting them and their ministries, "esteeming others as better than himself," if you will. Of course, their work was done in a "supportive" sense relative to Paul's. But Paul implies that all of them are equally valuable to the work God is doing in Philippi. In fact, Paul himself started his ministry as an "assistant" to Barnabas. Frankly, I don't think Paul was very interested in status and titles. He calls Epaphroditus -- an otherwise unknown "lay" person from Philippi -- his "brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier." The two of them shared the same Father, shared the same work, and even shared the same danger. And think of the trust Paul placed in these men. He could rely fully on them!

Do you have people like that in your life, men or women who will drop everything to help you out when you need assistance? When I got home from Wake Forest last Wednesday, the water pump was out on the farm. No water for the animals. No water to take a hot shower with. No water to cook with. I called a man in the HVAC business whom I knew would help me out if he could. I asked him if he'd be willing to come over and trouble shoot the matter and then advise me on what to do next. Not only did he promise to help me, he sent his very best workers (including himself!) the very next day to replace the water pump. His gracious ministry to me reminded me of Paul's words about Epaphroditus. Here were two humble servants of the Lord, faithfully carrying out their normal duties, willing to sacrifice for the sake of others.

When brother Jason Evans and I trekked among a fierce tribe in Ethiopia years ago, the only Ethiopian who would volunteer to translate for us was a young 24-year old university graduate named James. He knew his mission carried its own particular risks. But James was James, a courageous person willing to take enormous risks for the Gospel. After Jason and I had returned home, we got word that James had been found dead, suffocated in his sleep. There are no words to describe the honor and respect and love we have for brother James. His life stands as a rebuke to a hot tub religion that makes no demands and calls for no self-denial.

Friend, don't wait for some kind of formal ordination before getting your hands dirty in ministry. Put your faith to the test by getting involved in people's lives. Don't just pray for others. Roll up your shirt sleeves and help. Anyone can say they are a Christian. But how many of us are willing, for example, to spend time with that elderly person we know or have lunch with the most unpopular kid on campus? Faith like that speaks louder than words.

Sunday, April 30 

7:40 PM You probably know that world famous mountaineer Ueli Steck has died in the Himalaya while training to summit Everest and Lhotse. He was only 41. Just the other night I was watching a YouTube of him speed-climbing the Eiger. Ueli was the inspiration for my own attempts on the Breithorn, Oberrothorn, Klettersteig, and Matterhorn last July. He was an adventurer who loved to climb without fixed ropes. I am saddened to hear of his death. Just today I was talking with our Nepalese friends at the race in Morrisville and I mentioned to several of them my desire to trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal one day. I'm no professional climber, not by a long shot, but I know that climbers must constantly make yes-or-no decisions. It's just inescapable. All of the fateful decisions in history have been made, in the end, by a simple response to a dilemma. Climb or not climb? Go solo or not? Use the fixed ropes or bypass them? Attend UNC or State? Say yes to Jesus or not? It was so tough when I had to decide last October to climb Mt. Bierstadt and Huron Peak in the Rockies by myself. Perhaps that's why I insisted that the weather conditions had to be nearly perfect for me to even think about climbing these 14ers. I'm glad I'll be accompanied on my climb of Elbert in September by an experienced mountaineer.

But today my thoughts and prayers are with Ueli's family in Switzerland.

7:08 PM In case anyone was wondering, yes, I did another 5K today in preparation for Cincy, this one in the great town of Morrisville, NC. Stats?

Finish time: 29:55

Pace: 9:38

Stacked away in some deep dark corner of my memory is an event that literally shook the earth, or at least a large part of the planet. I'm referring to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday, April 25, 2015. 31 out of 75 districts in the nation were affected, and nearly 9,000 people were killed and another 22,000 injured. It will take years for Nepal to recover, considering that (for example) 8,000 schools were severely damaged or collapsed. Well, Run 4 Nepal 5K to the rescue!

I was at last year's event as well. For many of us runners, the name of the game is service.

We love to run and compete, yes, but we love to help out even more. A natural disaster is a mindboggling event. To strike back, I can tie up my running shoes and make a donation of not only money but time and effort. I had no idea the Nepalese population of the Raleigh/Cary/Morrisville area was so large. Here I am with the deputy mayor of Morrisville, himself Nepalese.

And, of course, after the race I just had to visit one of the local Nepalese restaurants for some curry chicken.

If that wasn't blessing enough, I was asked to share a bit of my life story with some of the local youth. As a general rule, I don't speak at running events!

Friends, all around us are people who are "different" from us. I say, "Viva la difference!" God has brought the nations to Raleigh. Relax. Get comfortable. Enjoy your surroundings. Most of all, realize that God doesn't play favorites. He loves all people. He causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. And He has given each us the ability (at least to a degree) to reach out and help others when they face times of crisis.

P.S. Our haying season has officially started.

Picking up bales tomorrow. Each year I soooooo look forward to this day.

6:18 AM The final exam in our LXX class this semester allows students the option of 1) taking an exam over Amos, or 2) memorizing a portion of Amos 7 in the Greek and reciting it to the professor. Which would you do?

6:10 AM This morning I read a devotional book, actually a chapter in it dealing with the famous woman-taken-in-adultery passage. The author made several telling points:

  • Where was her partner in crime? (They had been caught in the very act, you'll recall.)

  • Why were women in that day held accountable for the sins of men?

  • Men could divorce their wives seemingly for any infraction no matter how menial, but women?

  • Jesus walks right into the trap and defends her.

  • Interestingly, the only person without sin and innocent enough to throw a stone doesn't. "Go and leave your life of sin."

Jesus came to set us free. It takes courage to stand bare before Him and offer Him our failings. But that's just what Jesus is calling me to do. My blind spots are so terribly blind. If I can blame you for my sins, then my place is better secured. John 8 reminds me that such cheap tricks don't work. May the world see in me and my family a committed group of men and women who love their God, can't get enough of one another, and teach and lead each other by having earned the right to speak truthfully.

5:52 AM MISSION POSSIBLE. That's Paul's point in Phil. 2:12-18. We can be on business for the Gospel, but the key is be passionate about reaching and submerging into that space with love and mutual respect. When we align our values with those of the Gospel, we automatically share common ground with our fellow believers. Church, what if we really loved our neighbors and offered them genuine community, showing them what a healthy church looks like rather than just inviting them to one? What if we purged our churches of the partisan identification that has plagued the body of Christ since Constantine? Discipleship is not a purely personal matter. It's a lifestyle where everyone is valued. Paul is here not talking about the mere mechanics of doing church. He's thinking about what people do in their real lives as they embrace an authentic faith manifested through mercy and community. "Go out into the world uncorrupted," writes Eugene Peterson, "a breath of fresh air in this squalid and putrid society. Carry the Light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns" (Phil. 2:14-16). And a key element of such authentic faith is sacrificial living (2:17-18).

With verse 17, Paul's about to make a significant shift in his argument in Philippians. He's already shown how Jesus put self-sacrifice before self. Now he appeals to them on the basis of Christ's own humble attitude to display the same willingness to have one's life poured out in sacrifice for others. Paul's a good example of that attitude (2:17-18), and so are Timothy (2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30) -- three men who lived for the sake of the Gospel and who put the needs of others before their own. Could your name be added to that list? Could mine?

Saturday, April 29 

5:46 PM Here's "nerdy" question: Most of the imperatives in Phil. 2:12-18 are in the present tense. What significance (if any) do you attach to that, and how would that affect the way you'd go about translating these commands into English?

5:24 PM When I first began to study the book of Philippians, 2:14 made absolutely no sense. Why this command to "Do all things without grumbling and complaining"? The exhortation seemed to appear out of nowhere. But wait -- discourse analysis to the rescue! Philippians sings one tune, and it sings it well: unity in the cause of the Gospel. Nothing -- including personality differences and especially not selfish ambition -- must come between us as together we "contend for people's trust in the Gospel" (1:28). The Gospel is the life that surges into our lives as followers of Jesus, pushing off the old self-centered ways and making room for the new. Of course, if you think that Paul has only personal sanctification in view in 2:12-13, you might think differently. "Dave, work out your own salvation!" "Mary, work out yours!" "Jose, work out yours!" Yet, as F. F. Bruce writes,

In this context Paul is not urging each member of the church to keep working at his or her personal salvation; he is thinking of the health and well-being of the church as a whole. Each of them, and all of them together, must pay attention to this.

"So then, my dear friends," writes Paul in 2:12-13, "since you always followed my instructions when I was with you, now that I'm away it's even more important that you do this. Work hard as a church to show the results of your salvation, with deep reverence and fear, because it is God who is at work among you to give you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him." The idea can be summarized as follows: "I plead with you to obey me and to work at bringing healing to your community. For God is already at work among you to foster good will instead of ill will."

Unity -- working together for something much bigger than our personal agendas -- is the mark of a true church. Serious Christians daily display the "marks" of following Christ. And one of these is that we "do everything without complaining and arguing." That way, when we carry the life-giving Message into a dark world, people will listen to us. We'll work together cheerfully and readily without bickering and backbiting. Yes, even on the 100th day of a president's administration, we'll realize that politics itself doesn't have to divide us.

The peace Christ gives is different from what the world gives. Take some time today to write down the ways He has brought peace into your relationships. Don't give up or give in -- the "fruit of patience" (James 5:8) is well worth the wait.

12:38 PM Well, the 5K at Liberty University is now history. The event was fabulous. I was pumped before, during, and after the race. The runners appeared to be mostly students from Liberty or Lynchburg College.

As usual, I started off slowly, near the back of the pack.

But out of pure habit, I began running a bit outside of my comfort zone, and by the time the hills began I was dying. Oh, did I mention HILLS?

Even some of the younger runners were walking at this point. Still, I plowed ahead and finished 100th out of 300 runners. As you can see, I've lost about 10 pounds in the past month during my pre-marathon training.

I'm eating better too. I've said goodbye to potato chips, Pepsi, and even diet Pepsi. It was a beautiful day for a race. Blue sky, a bit of cloud cover, and average humidity for this time of the year. I'm satisfied with my day. Hope yours has been great.

On to my next race. Lets see what this surfer dude still has left in him!

6:25 AM I still can't believe I used a 13.1 race last week as a practice run. (Dawning panic.) By the way, did you know that half of all runners are faster than average? (You're supposed to chuckle).

Anyhoo ....

Off to the races!

5:52 AM Is a sub-two-hour marathon possible? Nike thinks so.

5:44 AM I believe in the way God brings texts into being. Something sacred happened in that moment. God meets us in those places, in those texts filled with meaning. Here's the overall structure of one such text (Phil. 2:5-11).

A Christ Jesus is God (5-6a)

     B He descended to earth and became subservient to humanity (6b-7)

          C He died a horrible death (8)

     B' He ascended to heaven and became exalted over humanity (9)

A' Jesus Christ is acknowledged as God (10-11)

It is this humble, self-emptying, and self-sacrificing attitude after which the Philippians are to pattern their relationships. Here the statements in A' and B' provide the logical outcome of Christ's self-emptying (described in A and B), while the midpoint of the chiasmus (C) calls special attention to the most striking element in the paragraph: Christ's humiliating death by crucifixion. Did you catch that last part? Christ's conduct is our ultimate pattern. Is there any more we could ask for? Paul, almost wishing to answer that question, will later give us three flesh-and-blood examples of the same selfless mind: himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. But for now, let's major on modeling the Master. This is our task as Christians. We must teach others who this Jesus is any way we can. We can't assume they'll just pick it up from church.

Friday, April 28 

5:38 PM There are 36 million victims of slavery in the world today. That's one reason I'm participating in the Running 4 Their Lives 5K tomorrow in Lynchburg. Register here. And remember: "Freedom isn't free."

5:02 PM A few utterly predictable posts:

1) These arrived today -- my cheesy "Petersburg Half Marathon Poses." Maybe I should start a Facebook page called "Nerdy Dudes (and Dudesses) Who Run." Any takers?

2) My assistant and Ph.D. student Noah Kelley finished a week of teaching in Colombia, South America today. Here he's giving a copy of our Greek grammar (in Spanish) to his translator. Journey mercies as you fly home tomorrow, Noah!

3) Am I the only one who reads their former professors' books?

2:02 PM Just said goodbye to our red Odyssey, which we bought when Becky was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. It had 45,000 miles on it when we got it. When I traded it in yesterday it had 207,000 miles. That's lots of trips to UNC. During those trips God was teaching us to accept suffering as a gift and then offer it back up to Him. Christ says, "I am with you day after day after day." He sure is.

1:54 PM The best moments of the 2017 Boston Marathon. Loved this quote from star Galen Rupp about his coach Alberto Salazar:

The biggest thing I’ve learned from him is toughness. He pushes us (his athletes) mentally harder than any other coach pushes their athletes. I might feel like I’m at my max, but his training is all about pushing through that.

Sounds like Salazar would make a great classroom teacher.

1:48 PM Glad our local farmer's market is open again. I bought some yellow squash for dinner tonight. Those maters look awesome.

7:30 AM Believe it or not, this runner grapples with the "theology of racing" all the time. Turns out that a marathon can teach you tons about real life and how to face the obstacles the evil one throws at you. Face it: Heb. 12:1-2 has a lot more to do with living the Christian life than running an actual foot race. But the parallels are astounding, don't you think?

Others have run their race and successfully completed it. Now it's our turn. Since we have this large crowd of witnesses surrounding us, let's rid ourselves of everything that gets in our way, especially the sin that holds on to us so tightly. Let's run with determination the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes focused squarely on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from the starting gun to the finish line.

In a week, Lord willing, I'll get on a plane for Cincinnati, Ohio. There awaits me the greatest athletic challenge I've ever faced, bigger than the Alps or the Banzai Pipeline. There I'll pick up my race bib and shirt, then use my cell phone to send everyone a picture, glomp down some carbs, and try to get some sleep. I know I'll be inspired by my fellow runners. I may even buy a 26.2 bumper sticker. I'll listen to live music trying to psych all of the racers up for the event (pleeeease, not Springsteen's Born to Run again!). Soon after sunrise on the morning of Sunday, May 7, I'll position myself with the slower runners at the back of the pack (probably about a half mile from the starting line) and listen for the countdown: Three, two, one, and then the horn. I'll follow the 26.2 mile course as it winds its way through Ohio and Kentucky. In many ways, this will be like any other foot race I've done. Places will change. Paces will vary. I'll run next to somebody for a while and then someone else will take his or her place. We are, after all, instant kin. Off we'll go, sharing the same feelings and fears, joys and woes, successes and failures. Non-verbal communication will bind us together. But in the end, each one of us has to run our own race. Nobody can run it for us.

Let's go over Hebrews' "list of things to do" again:

  • Draw encouragement from our fellow runners.

  • Rid ourselves of every little thing that would slow us down.

  • Determination is crucial, so don't leave that behind when the gun goes off.

  • Focus on the finish line.

Better to be entirely apathetic than to be unprepared for a race of this proportion. You'll notice that I no longer run with my iPhone. As dearly as I'd loved to take it along (for pictures), it's just another dead weight and will slow me down. (Thanks to my Garmin, I can still track my pace and time.) Most of all, I'll draw on that God-given determination that enables a person to keep on going when they just want to quit.

Training for this event has been such a blessing. I see life as a gift, and every race becomes a lesson in living that I'll never forget. I will make progress toward the perfection that always seems beyond our reach, filled with zeal, fired with enthusiasm. To get to the finish will take everything I have, and more. If I do finish the race, it won't matter if I come in 3,000th or 30,000th. Winning doesn't matter. It's the running that counts.

If anyone makes you feel like you'll never be able to finish the race of life, write a new narrative in your heart. Run your race. You don't have to be fast, just determined. Will you make it? You will. We will. Together.

6:44 AM The structure of Phil. 2:1-4:

(1) So if Christ brings you encouragement (and He does),

If His love comforts you (and it does),

If the Spirit has brought you into fellowship with one another (and He has),

And if you have kindness and compassion for one another (and you do),

(2) Then make me completely joyful by sharing the same thoughts,

Having the same love,

Being one in soul,

And intent on one purpose.

(3) Don't do anything from selfish ambition or a cheap desire to boast,

But with humility regard one another as more important than yourselves.

Don't look out for your own interests,

But also for the interests of others.

My dream is that when we see others' needs, we'll put them before our own whenever we can. It doesn't seem like much, maybe, but this selfless attitude meant everything to Paul, and it can literally show a watching world that this Christianity deal is for real.

Thursday, April 27 

6:48 AM This and that ....

1) Eager to get my hands on these:

2) I need to thank everyone who's sent me feedback about a possible conference on Greek linguistics at SEBTS (you know who you are). My questions are relentless and I appreciate you allowing me to pick your brains on the subject matter. Your enthusiasm -- feigned or not -- is a blessing. Conference or not, I definitely think there's a need for a volume of essays explaining the status quaestionis in terms that are accessible to students who've had only a year of Greek. The essay on verbal aspect, for example, would not be an apologia for the author's own views as much as it would be a history of interpretation treating the various schools of thought and how they affect the exegesis of the New Testament. I love books that are simple without being simplistic. And why can't we who belong to the so-called guild work together to serve our students in this way? The more we laugh and cry and pray and labor together, the stronger this journey gets.

3) I've got an extra copy of F. F. Bruce's NICNT commentary on Acts. It's yours for the asking at dblack@sebts.edu.

4) In yesterday's class, Maurice Robinson mentioned what he thought was the Alexandrian text's penchant for omission -- a point I see is being made by James Snapp in part 2 of his summary of and response to the Tors-Costa debate on textual criticism. I've referred to the same "Alexandrian-omission-Tendenz" in my essays on John 3:13, Matt. 5:22, and Eph. 1:1 (go here for PDFs if you're interested). In each of these passages I've defended a Byzantine reading but not because it was a Byzantine reading, as I have no preference for any single text type -- which, I note, seemed to please Keith Elliott no end in his discussion of these readings in our FS. (Keith's chapter is available here.) Incidentally, in his essay Snapp also makes a reasonable defense of the Byzantine text's "in the prophets" in Mark 1:2 -- something I will take into account if and when I revise my book New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, in which I argue that the Byzantine reading is an obvious "correction" of "in Isaiah the prophet," which may or not be true. Take a peek at the evidence for yourself sometime and let us know you think.

Incidentally, after Maurice finished his lecture I couldn't help but urge the class to reconsider the evidence for the originality of the PA and encouraged them to prayerfully consider proclaiming it to their congregations. Frankly, it makes my blood boil to see how the religious leaders of the day tried to use a woman as a weapon against Jesus. Jesus is radically pro-women. And He looks at all of us with the same compassion that He engaged the adulteress woman with in John 8. But don't get me started on that rabbit trail ....

5) It's almost here!

As everyone knows, this will be my first full marathon. I'm looking forward to it and the automatic PR if I finish. When I completed my 20-mile run 3 weeks ago, I thought about my running journey that got me to this point. The love, support, and prayers of my family and friends has been incredible, and I know that they will be with me every step of the race even though they can't be present in Cincy physically. I've learned so much about myself in this journey and I can't believe I'm about to become, Lord willing, a marathoner. The excitement is building like you can't believe. Tomorrow I'm going to UNC to meet with Vickie Bae-Jump to get an update on her research on endometrial cancer. What a great cause to run for, all in memory of my Becky. I'm positive you're sick of me saying it by now, but I hope you will go to the UNC website, make a donation if you can, and make Papa Dave proud of you. 

Wednesday, April 26 

4:40 PM Wonderful time on our beautiful campus.

Enjoyed lunch with one of our VPs.

And, as always, appreciated Maurice Robinson coming to my Jesus and the Gospels class to lecture on the Pericope of the Adulteress.

Cheers!

Dave

Tuesday, April 25 

7:25 AM What would we ever do without our dogs? 

 

6:44 AM Musings of a caffeine-deprived early bird:

1) Cooked this for supper last night.

Stir-fry, Bradford Hall-style. Chinese restaurants, eat your heart out.

2) Here's the only mention of "Ethiopia" in Amos.

But use caution: Today this region more closely approximates southern Egypt and northern Sudan than modern-day Ethiopia (Abyssinia).

3) Our outline of 1 John.

Right thinking should lead to right living.

4) Preaching the Christ-hymn in Phil. 2:5-11? Be sure to understand its place in the discourse structure of the letter first.

5) Finished this book last night.

The main thing I got from it is a renewed commitment to presenting Christ not only as the only means of our salvation but as the goal of our discipleship.

6) This year malaria patients in U.S. hospitals will number more than 1,000.

Researchers found that between 2000 to 2014 there were 22,029 total malaria-related hospitalizations....

I was one of them.

This group of malaria patients often required multiple days in the hospital. They spent 4.36 days, on average....

I spent 7 days and lost 23 pounds. I once felt that the Christian life was something like an insurance policy. No kidding, I really did. Then I said to myself, as Rommel puts it in the movie The Longest Day, "Wie dumm von mir!" Who said we'd be exempt from the thorns and thistles of life? Not Jesus.

Keep on running,

Dave

Monday, April 24 

6:18 PM 13 DAYS. Yes, I'm nervous. 

5:38 PM A few takeaways from Louw's Lexicography and Translation:

  • Since the range of meanings of words in any two languages never match completely, one must look for and expect structural inconsistency rather than one-to-one correspondence in detail (p. 1).

  • One reason why people have not recognized the diversity of meanings of a particular word is that they feel that there must be some kind of core nuclear meaning which exists in a word and which is relevant in all of its occurrences (p. 2).

  • An etymological approach to meaning can often be completely misleading (p. 3).

  • In no case does the range of meanings of apparently corresponding words in two languages ever match completely, neither does any one set of corresponding meanings match in every and all contexts (p. 4).

  • The three primary semantic functions of words are naming, marking, and substituting, with the primary function being naming (p. 5).

  • Words may also be semantically complex in that they may consist of more than one semantic class (p. 8).

This is one reason I do NOT translate, say, Amos 9 into English from the Greek. What the Greek says and what the English says are two very different things.

More anon.

5:22 PM Just curious. Does anybody use Alexa any more? I remember the early days of blogging when everyone was checking their stats and there was even a competition (of sorts) to see who made the Biblioblogs Top 50. I for one am glad those days are over. Today, most bloggers I know have a very different agenda for a very different age.

1:06 PM I just got back from South Boston and boy is there a lot of rain out there. The creeks and even the Dan River are almost to the point of cresting. I sure hope that people living in the low-lying areas are spared flooding. Of course, the rain is good for our pastures, but flooded fields aren't good either. The Lord knows and I trust Him. The reason I drove into town today was to have "major surgery" on my poor old toenails.

Since I began running a couple of years ago I've had dozens of black toenails. Thankfully, I've never had issues with fungus or infection, and my nails have never really bothered me all that much (except to look at). I think it was Jeff Galloway who said that the best way to deal with black toenails is to ignore them. Keeping them cut, however, is a different story, and today I got the royal treatment. Nothing too good for my stinking toes! Then it was off to the Y to run a 5K indoors coz it's way too wet to run outdoors.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of treadmills. On a treadmill it's too easy to just "lock in a pace" and then forget about what you're doing. Besides, it's just plain boring. I need scenery to take my mind off the blinking lights in front of me. But on a rainy day like today, you have no choice. Right now I'm going through Amos 9 in the LXX and also reviewing our LXX page over at the Greek Portal. Here you'll find links to some great websites, including Will Ross's Septuaginta &c. (By the way, congratulations to Will for his new article in Biblica. I'm eager to get my hands on it tomorrow when I return to campus.) Right now I'm reading (online) Albert Pietersma's A New Paradigm for Addressing Old Questions: The Relevance of the Interlinear Model for the Study of the Septuagint. Might this be the doorway to bring about a new understanding of the LXX? Hmm. That said, I'll confess that whenever I read the LXX (say, Amos, as I'm doing now), I read it as a text qua text long before I even consult the Hebrew. This always sets me to thinking. Then I carefully compare the Hebrew Vorlage (such as it is) and turn into The Translation Investigator. It's not a very efficient method, but being the Greek guy that I am you'll understand why I start with the LXX text. Later today I'll busy myself with reading Dines on Amos -- she's always got something to add to the discussion -- and then turn my attention to my Greek 2 class preparation. It's wonderful to have so many helps at our fingertips, isn't it? 

7:48 AM This and that ....

1) Last night I finished rereading the novel Gettysburg by Gingrich and Forstchen. If you've read The Killer Angels, you'll want to read this novel as well. You'll recall in The Killer Angels where Longstreet turns to Lee and says, "Let's move around to the south and get between Meade and Washington. Then they'll have to hit us and we'll have them, we'll have them!" Well, in Gettysburg, this is exactly what happens. The Federal Army is soundly defeated at the Battle of Westminster and sent scurrying for cover to Harrisburg while Lee marches on DC. This is a very compelling fictionalization of an event that very well could have happened -- and almost did. I loved the style of writing!

2) Will Ross of Cambridge University was kind enough to email me with a link to their upcoming workshop on Greek prepositions, to be held June 30-July 1. I'd love to sit in the audience but, alas, I'll be teaching summer school Greek.

3) Motivation! That's the key to so many things in life, not least running. As a complete novice, I should know. I'm a fairly new runner. A newbie with a gleam in my eye but very little background as a runner. Recognizing this, I created a training program aimed at taking me from 5K races to 10Ks and then to half marathons until I felt comfortable enough with my progress to sign up for a full marathon. Not every runner has a plan. But we achieve more in life when we plan properly. I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir here. But if you haven't set a specific race goal for your running, who not do that today? Find a 5K in your area and put it on your calendar. Same with that language you're trying to learn. I know many doctoral students who struggle with their German. When I ask them, "What's your review schedule?" they often answer, "I don't have one." Prior to going to Basel I taught myself German, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Latin. I knew I'd need these languages once I arrived at the university. I recall learning Dutch while sitting in a coffee shop in La Mirada waiting for the gas station to open. These were the days of gas rationing and long lines. So once a week I'd park my car at the pump at 2:00 am and study Dutch grammar until the station opened at 6:00 am. Interestingly, as a runner I've discovered that the more I run, the most impressive gain is in the amount of oxygen utilizable by my tissues. I huff and puff less. Of course, you can't attain that efficiency the moment you decide to take your first running steps. But you have to have a goal. The heart is like any other muscle; it strengthens with exercise.

Greek student: Are you getting "fitter"? If not, maybe you're just not "exercising" enough.

4) A free copy of Getting into the Text will go to the person who writes a brief two-paragraph answer to this question: "How has your study of New Testament Greek made you a better person and follower of Jesus?" If I get more than one submission I'll pick the winner from a hat tomorrow (or by casting lots) at 8:00 am. My email address is dblack@sebts.edu.

5) Are you single? Then read this outstanding essay by Ekimini Uwan. Paul called both marriage and singleness a charisma, a gracious gift from God. Don't necessarily assume that marriage is right for you. And if you are called to singleness, rejoice.

Sunday, April 23 

7:32 PM This will be a fun week of training! It will probably be my lowest mileage all year as I continue my taper before Cincy. On Saturday, if I'm feeling good, I'll participate in my last pre-marathon race. The event is called Run 4 Their Lives Lynchburg. Proceeds will go to Christine's House in Gulu, Uganda -- a home for sexually exploited women and girls. If you live near Lynchburg I hope you'll join me and bring your friends. The 5K starts at 9:00 am. Here's hoping for nice weather on race day!

P.S. In case you're new to my blog, the 19th running of the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati is scheduled for Sunday, May 7. This year's race has 40,000 participants. I'll be there to raise funds for cancer research. If you'd like to make a donation, please go to my Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure page. Needless to say I'm getting super excited!

8:30 AM It's hard for me to believe, but it's been 30 years since I first published my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. The book reflected the story of my heart, the arc I found most vital and relevant to my generation of Greek students. I had no concept then that the field of New Testament Greek linguistics would take off as it's done since. I can't tell you how thrilled and grateful I am that others much better qualified than I have advocated on behalf of a linguistically-informed approach to the study of the biblical languages. Something beautiful and thrilling is happening. A sense of global solidarity is taking the academy to incredible new heights, as several recent publications have proved:

  • Porter's Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

  • Campbell's Advances in the Study of Greek and Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek

  • Runge's The Greek Verb Revisited and Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

I'll tell you this: God has enriched my life through books like these. I believe He is doing a new thing today, just as He did 30 years ago. I'm convinced that the new generation of Greek students stands on a tiny spot in history in which it is their turn to experience the benefits of linguistic science in a new way. Forty-one years into my teaching career and I'm more convinced than ever that we have to come face to face with the issues dividing us today in terms of Greek theory and pedagogy. The gap between biblical studies and linguistics remains large, in numerous areas:

  • Lexical semantics

  • The usefulness of "semantic domains"

  • Verbal aspect theory

  • Developing oral competency in Greek

  • The place of electronic tools in Greek pedagogy

  • Replacing the Erasmian pronunciation

  • Deponency

  • Discourse analysis

  • Linguistic "schools"

What am I missing here? What topics should be included in a major conference on the Greek of the New Testament should I decide to try and hold one on our campus? This would be my third (and possibly final) colloquium that I would plan. The first 3 were held in 2000, 2007, and 2014. They treated topics that can, at best, only be considered ancillary to the topic of New Testament Greek per se -- to wit, textual criticism, the synoptic problem, the authorship of Hebrews, the ending of Mark, the Pericope of the Adulteress. Each of these conferences began as a small flicker in my consciousness -- a tiny flame that sparked and caught and eventually engulfed my life. Not surprisingly, my mind still thinks along these lines. The result of holding those conferences was not only the published volumes that ensued, including my Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, Rethinking the Synoptic Problem (co-edited with David Beck), Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, and The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research (co-edited with Jacob Cerone). Clarity on these issues began to crack through. At the very least, students now had access to the thinking of some of the leading scholars of the day on their respective topics.

I believe the question on the table before us today is: "Is it time for a similar conference on New Testament Greek?" Personally, I see no way around this. You see, I read the same websites and Facebook pages you do, and I'm witnessing the same lack of unanimity and consensus that you see. I see a tunnel of chaos in our future -- not least concerning nomenclature -- and we are heading straight for it. However, ignoring the problem is not an option. We need a way forward. Progress will not be easy, of course. Addressing new ideas and challenging entrenched positions will make for a difficult transition. I think back to a book I edited under the title Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation: Studies in Discourse Analysis. That book was the direct result of a first-ever conference at SIL in Dallas that assembled 1) field Bible translators, 2) Ph.D.s in linguistics, and 3) biblical language scholars. For two weeks we probed each other, presented our papers, and even ate and roomed together. (I shared a room with Randall Buth.) This is certainly my bent -- to tackle a problem head-on. The Lord richly blessed our conference. Never did scholars stand with such open hands, clinging to nothing, ready for anything. I went there as a learner -- we all did. I shudder to think how sour that meeting might have become. It required courage to abandon formerly vital things like position, control, reputation. But this is the way true scholarship moves forward.

First obvious question: Who should be invited to participate? Who might God be calling to SEBTS?

Second question: I listed a few possible topics above. Agree? Disagree? What have I left out?

Third question: Shall we read papers or have discussion groups instead? I'm thinking both might work well. As far as I'm concerned, the more warm, relational, and informal, the better.

There are several very encouraging developments I see that point in this direction. Today we have such stimulating websites as Nerdy Language Majors and New Testament Greek Club (both at Facebook). Scholars such as Porter, Aubrey, Campbell, Halcomb, Levinsohn, Varner, Pennington, Mounce, Wallace, Carlson, Zacharias, Streett, Reed, and Fanning continue to post regularly on this subject. What fun it would be to mobilize this army for the cause of the Gospel. Everyone of us has an opinion about verbal aspect, the proper method of doing discourse analysis, etc. But truth is not a chimera -- you have your view, and I have mine. Yes, I have my convictions, but I will be the first to acknowledge that I may be wrong. Of course, I don't expect one conference to solve all of our problems. Yet imagine with me for a moment a scenario in which we all sit down in the same room and just talk to each other. "Could that person be right?" "Could they have seen something I've missed?" Too much of New Testament scholarship involves scholars talking past each other. This is frankly disastrous. So is the absence of grappling with the issues by our students.

It was Paige Patterson who agreed to hold our first colloquium on our campus back in 2000, just after I had arrived on the faculty. I sought his blessing to invite to our campus not only leading evangelical scholars but also scholars who might not have otherwise ever visited the Forest of Wake, including Eldon J. Epp, William Farmer, and Keith Elliott. When I presented my proposal to the president in his office, he turned to me and said, "Are you trying to get me in trouble?" The twinkle in his eye told me everything I needed to know: Full speed ahead! And so, the spring of 2,000 saw the likes of Blomberg, Bock, McKnight, Farmer, Osborne, Epp, Holmes, Elliott, Silva, and several other scholars grace our campus with their presence. Can that happen again? Should it? I await your feedback at dblack@sebts.edu. Or talk about it at your Facebook page or on your blog. I'll be listening.

P.S. In chapel on Thursday I was honored beyond measure to receive a Festschrift by scholars I have long admired and respected. A very special thanks to Danny Akin and Thomas Hudgins for this labor of love on their part as editors, and to each of the 13 contributors. The table of contents may be found here. In the first essay in the volume (which you can read online at the publisher's site linked to above), my friend Stan Porter asks the question, "So What Have We Learned in the Last Thirty Years of Greek Linguistics?" He concludes (p. 32):

My survey of at least some of the major discussions of the variety of topics has made clear that much has been accomplished in the last thirty years, but that there is much that still remains to be done.

I, for one, am far from satisfied with the status quo. I am not convinced that we are doing as much as we can to seek a way forward, together. Greek students have a right to expect their leaders to lead courageously. I'd love to see greater unity and unanimity in the field of New Testament Greek linguistics. Will you join me in asking God to guide us? And if it is indeed His will that we should assemble, I am willing to try and organize the event.

Thank you.

Dave

Saturday, April 22 

5:42 PM Wow, that was a nice long nap. The rains have started up, just as predicted, and they should go through Wednesday -- which is exactly what all of our fields here need before we start our first cutting. Meanwhile, I'm prepping to teach the imperative mood in our Greek class on Tuesday. Which sort of makes me smile. You see, my new Garmin likes to talk to me. Especially when I haven't been active in a while. In which case I feel a little buzz on my arm and the word "Move!" appears on my watch face. Isn't that cute? Moving is not easy for any of us. Yet we all know that physical energy is necessary for anything we plan on doing in our daily lives. "Moving" develops that energy. It produces fitness of muscle, but it also produces another kind of fitness, a fitness beyond that. I'd describe it as a readiness to pursue whatever the Lord brings into our lives. Running makes people athletes in every area of their lives. They are ready for whatever comes. Like a race we do with our legs, life is made in doing and suffering and creating. All of these elements are present in a marathon race: courage, determination, discipline, will power. It creates what Maslov might describe as "peak performance." Running can trigger that. There's no word in English that can describe what it felt like to cross the finish line today. Some might call it a "runner's high." For a brief moment, I was the only one crossing that finish line. I was the only one being cheered on by the crowds. The ground may have been below my feet, but heaven was above my head. Despite the warm sweat and the aching muscles, I was reborn and renewed in my soul. The fact is that we humans are whole beings: body, soul, and spirit. The concept of "lifestyle" therefore includes our physical, mental, and spiritual selves. The race is for me what the mountain is to the climber. It's a contest in which I go out and do battle with myself. Maybe you're not into running. No problem. Go with whatever works for you. Be sure to make it fun. But wherever you are in life, take some physical exercise. In other words:

Move!

1:28 PM The past two weeks have been all about building my miles for the BIG DAY in Cincy. I continue to do my core work and my cross training at the Y, but this week's goal was to get in one final long run before marathon day. If you've been reading my blog, you know how excited I was to run in today's Petersburg Half Marathon. I drove up to Petersburg yesterday and got my race bib (and number) at the old train station downtown before heading out to one of their fine Italian restaurants to load up on carbs. Then I checked into my hotel and hit the hay early. I knew I needed a really good night's rest if I was going to run well today, and in fact I woke up at 5:30 completely rested and raring to go. I drove to the course and began my warm-ups. The race was very well organized. I got into the corral I had selected (the 2:30-pace group) and before I knew it the gun had sounded. While everyone began running I just stood there with my mouth hanging open. Seems I had forgotten to connect my Garmin to the satellite -- a process that normally takes about a minute or two and something you ALWAYS do long before the gun. Well, not silly me. A couple of minutes later I finally crossed the starting line -- dead last. The first three miles went exceptionally well and I was passing people right and left (they had probably gotten into the wrong corral at the start). By mile 6, I was drinking water and Gatorade pretty regularly, as the day was beginning to get hot. By that time we had passed the inner city (with its old church buildings and creepy "adult" bookstores) and had entered the Petersburg National Battlefield Park. I listened to the reenactors (both North and South) taking pot shots at each other with their Enfield rifles but noticed that they must have been poor aims because no one seemed to go down with a hit. (Must be them Kevlar uniforms they wear.) It was obvious, however, that their "performance" pleased many of the runners, for whom doubtless this was their first Civil War reenactment. I thought it was kinda cheesy, but you have to remember I've done some pretty big reenactments that involved over 30,000 -- and I'm talking only about the reenactors! Finally, we reentered Petersburg and started to head for the finish line. I still couldn't believe how good my legs felt. I crossed the finish line and checked my Garmin. I had PRed again! My official time today was 2:27:30, which took over 11 minutes off of the PR I got in Martinsville a month ago. My average pace today was about 11:16-per-mile. All I could think of was, "This is soooooooo awesome, Lord! Thank You!" Although the conditions today were far from ideal (about 100 percent humidity), thankfully the temps hovered about 70 degrees and never went any higher than that. I'd much rather run in the cold than in humidity. Humidity is the absolute worst! Half way into the race I was pouring water on my head just to stay cool. I felt strong and confident at the finish -- which bodes well (I think) for my marathon in two weeks. Of course, a marathon is a LOT harder than a half, but I try to keep my negativity in check.

I just got an email from the race sponsors and they tell me I was number 446 out of 645 finishers in the half (they also had a 5K). I'm also told that professional pictures will be posted to their website on Thursday, so I might purchase one to post here. Until then, here's a shot of the super-duper medal everyone got today. Glad I'll never have to wear it because the thing weighs a ton!

So yay! Another half under my belt and a great run to boot. Life don't get much better, folks!

Keep running your race,

Dave

Friday, April 21 

7:48 AM Odds and sods ....

1) In our Jesus and the Gospels class next Wednesday (12:00-2:50), our guest speakers will be Andreas Köstenberger and Maurice Robinson. Our subject is John's Gospel. Both of these men have done yeoman's work in this writing. Andreas will be lecturing on what I am told is his favorite verse in John (20:21). Here Jesus is said to be our model as a missionary, and we will succeed only as we imitate His example. Maurice will spend an hour treating the Pericope of the Adulteress (John 7:53-8:11) and will defend the passage's authenticity. If you live in the greater Wake Forest area and would like to sit in on one or both of these lectures, send me an email and it will be my pleasure to make arrangements for you to do so.

2) In our Greek 2 class next Tuesday we will begin our translation of 1 John and discuss the letter's epistolary structure. For an excellent introductory to this letter, see Barry Joslin's Getting Up to Speed: An Essential Introduction to 1 John. Another stimulating resource is Alistair Begg's message introducing 1 John to his congregation. You can listen to it here.

3) This weekend I'm rereading an old favorite of mine that many of you might not know about: J. P. Louw's Lexicography and Translation. I wish every pastor and teacher would read this book. In fact, I'm tempted to say, "Don't touch that Greek lexicon of yours until you have digested the contents of this book." Johannes Louw was the one who introduced me to the field of lexical semantics back in the mid-80s, and his works on Greek lexicography and semantics were indispensable as I began writing my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek. His book will not only keep you from committing exegetical fallacies but will assist you in your daily walk with Jesus.

4) One of the reasons I decided to do the Petersburg Half Marathon tomorrow is the views I'll be treated to along the course.

Located at mile 12 is the Trapezium House -- so-called because the house has no right-angles. Sadly, I won't be able to take pictures because I'm leaving my iPhone behind now that I have my Garmin. (Jesus told us to "travel light," remember?)

Thursday, April 20 

6:48 PM I had a great week on campus. Today and Tuesday we held our "commissioning" chapels for our students going overseas or planting churches in North America. I've never known men and women who work so hard, love so deeply, and care so genuinely. What an honor to belong to the SEBTS community. Really, I can't imagine ever teaching anywhere else.

A couple of friends showed up in my classes this week, including Thomas Hudgins of Capital Seminary and Graduate School in DC. He lectured in my Greek 2 class on Tuesday about the use of electronic tools in the study of Greek, and then yesterday he shared with my Jesus and the Gospels class about the subject of his doctoral dissertation, "Jesus and Likeness Education" (Luke 6:40).

Also yesterday, my SEBTS colleague David Beck, who earned his Ph.D. under Moody Smith at Duke and is an expert in Johannine studies, told the class how narrative interpretation works in the New Testament and in the Gospel according to John specifically.

The time and energy my friends put into their guest lectures in my classes are extraordinary gifts of love to me. I'm now back on the farm and eager to run my half marathon this Saturday and my full marathon in 2 weeks. There's nothing like the feeling you get from setting an audacious goal, sticking with it, and then (by the sheer grace of God) accomplishing it. I would be lying if I said this was easy. But.... I'm healthy. I'm eating cleaner than I have in years. I'm pretty sure my weight is about where it's supposed to be. I ran 5 miles early this morning in Wake Forest and it felt GOOD. I'm just trying to keep my life simple and efficient. Here I am two weeks away from possibly getting this gorgeous medal.

Yep. Looks like I'm becoming one of "those people" (ha-ha). I think I'm going to continue this lifestyle because it makes me feel so good about the person God made.

How all is going well for you!

P.S. I'm giving away these 4 books. Please ask for 1 only when you write me at dblack@sebts.edu. And be sure to include your mailing address. These books are in great shape and a couple have never been used.

Tuesday, April 18 

7:40 AM In yesterday's race, about 5 percent of the runners were "elite" runners. The other 95 percent were not. But they were no less runners for that reason. Ironically, the people who garner the most attention are the few favored runners who are doing only 5 percent of the work. Likewise in our churches, it's easy to develop a leader-centric paradigm in which discipleship is staff-driven. The result is a consumer culture where people think that their growth is ultimately dependent on Sunday morning sermons and Thursday evening discipleship groups. Intentional or not, the result is a church subculture in which spirituality is measured by church attendance and program allegiance. I am suggesting, not a lessened emphasis on qualified leaders in our churches, but a renewed emphasis on every member ministry wherein spiritual responsibility is transferred from leaders to Christ-followers. How can pastors help? By enabling and equipping. By celebrating "ordinary" Christians from their pulpits. By beating the drum for simple virtues like humility, prayer, faithfulness, and sacrifice. In yesterday's Boston Marathon, over 8,000 volunteers assisted the 35,000 runners to achieve their personal goals. Every person at the race counted. Likewise in our churches. We rightly place grave responsibility on our pastors. They will answer to God for their care of souls. But I wonder what would happen if we placed more expectations on the great majority of us -- mere men and women of God who have the same 24 hours in which to serve King Jesus? In the early church, every person pulled their weight. Just read Acts 2. Each was capable of a Spirit-filled life on mission with Jesus. For them, the kingdom was simple: Love God, love others. When church members are not given responsibility, they do not grow in ministry. On the other hand, when we entrust ministry to "lay" people and grant them plenty of scope for initiative, you get a church that begins to function as Paul describes in Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12. Of course, things will look less "professional" than if the vicar did all the work. But if everyone in the congregation realizes they are parts of the body, with their own special gifting, I think the whole church would begin to function in ways we can't even imagine.

Fellow "lay" person: You have so much to offer. You can raise kids who love God and serve others. You can model faithfulness to the next generation. You can open your Bible and lead a friend to Christ. You can preach peace to the poor. You can teach and admonish (Col. 3:16). You can do the "little" things that in the kingdom are never truly little. You are gifted, endued with power from on High, so loved, so permitted. Even if others make you feel invisible, God knows and sees. Embrace your gifts and callings. Serve the Lord with gladness. For great is your reward in heaven.

Monday, April 17 

7:15 PM I can't make it but I sure wish I could. It's the Paris Colloquium on the LXX Twelve Prophets. Papers include:

  • Jennifer Dines (University of Cambridge), “Design or Accident? Rhetorical touches in the Twelve, with special reference to the Book of Amos”

  • Nesina Grütter (Universität Basel), “«On ne peut pas tout avoir.» Un rapport fictif du traducteur des Douze.”

  • Takamitsu Muraoka (University of Leiden), “How did our translator of the Greek Minor Prophets cope with multiple synonyms?”

  • Adrian Schenker (Université de Fribourg), “En faveur du peuple en hébreu, des nations en grec en Am 9:12, Soph 3:8-10 : une différence textuelle?”

  • Emanuel Tov (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), “The Textual Value of the Minor Prophets in the Septuagint”

  • Myrto Theocharous (Greek Bible College, Athens), “Angelology in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets”

  • Alison Salvesen (University of Oxford), “Symmachus’ version of the Minor Prophets: does it arise from a theological agenda, or just from better philological understanding?”

  • Sigfried Kreuzer(Universität Wuppertal), “Stages of the Greek Text of Dodekapropheton and its Quotations in the New Testament”

This is pretty obscure stuff for most of us but pretty important stuff too. Here's hoping the papers will be published in a conference volume.

Right now I'm making my way through the translation of Amos 8.

6:38 PM The CV joint problem turned out to be a flat rear tire, which is a great relief. I put the balloon tire on the van, and then drove into town to have my flat repaired, but all of the stores were closed -- all three of them. Seems it's "Easter Monday." So I did a 5K on the track while watching the finale of the Boston Marathon live on my iPhone. The Kenyans swept, like the Ethiopians did last year. Bravo! No new course records obviously -- it was just too hot for that. The signs along the course were fabulous this year, as always. Before the race had even begun, 15 runners were disqualified, mostly because they had skipped parts of races they had used to qualify for Boston. Ugh. But on the good side, the marathon spirit was on full display today. Here Jake Morgan of San Francisco is carried to the finish line by four of his fellow runners, two of them in uniform.

Talk about camaraderie. This is the same spirit that Paul enjoins on his readers in his letter to the Philippians. We run the race of life TOGETHER. Of all the things I'm thankful for right now, it's the connection I have with friends and colleagues who are right there for me anytime I need them. And nothing has connected us and reconnected us more than honesty, than taking responsibility, than seeing our very souls as intertwined and seeing our lives as gifts we can give each other. So Happy Patriot's Day to all of you who had the courage to run in today's race. I am determined by God's grace to transform myself into the kind of man who would put the interests of my fellow runners over my own. Running taps into all the fears I have about myself. But it also holds the potential to tap into something vastly more important and beautiful.

Tomorrow morning I'll need to have my tire patched and then head back to campus for what's shaping up to be another full week. We're nearing the end of the semester. Feels like we're in the spin cycle, if you know what I mean. The amount of grace that life requires is unfathomable. Let's allow the Lord to fill our containers to the brim this week -- pushing through exhaustion like a marathoner, and wrapping our arms around each others' necks when we have to.

9:34 AM Today's the Big Day in Boston. And, for the first time in 50 years after nearly being pulled off the course due to her gender, Kathrine Switzer will be running the Boston Marathon. She's only 70.

You go, girl! The weather promises to be dry but blustery, with winds gusting up to 30 mph. 

Next, I want you to know that I just registered for the Savannah Marathon to be held on Nov. 4. I'll be my way of commemorating the fourth anniversary of Becky's Homegoing on Nov. 2, 2013. Grief is a long journey, and each step is a necessary precursor to the following one. Not sure what stage of grief I'm in, but the light grows brighter and brighter as I go. I've been drawn more deeply into the knowledge of Jesus and the mystery of the Gospel. Still, sometimes I feel like a baby learning how to crawl. I know the steak will come some day, but for now it's milk and pabulum. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do this year on the anniversary of Becky's death. I chose the Savannah race (1) because I absolutely love that city, and (2) it's for a really great cause (and you can make a donation to it when you register for the race). This is from the race website:

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food - because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children.

I love causes like this one. I know it will take lots of work for me to train for this event, but that's a good thing. I have a will of iron, even if I'm not fast. My Map My Run app tells me I did 144.7 miles of training in the last 30 days. So I might as well keep up the pace through November if I can. Of course, there's a lot of room for this project to go south. And I've clearly got plenty of faults. But sloth isn't one of them. Or shyness. Which reminds me: If you're hurting today, say it. The path to healing often leads through confession. God uses ordinary tools. So let's go ahead address all the "stuff" in our lives. Allow yourself to be human and God to be God, and who knows what can happen.

Well, I've got tons on my TO-DO list for today. My lawn mower won't start. My truck battery is dead. And my van threw a CV joint yesterday on the drive home from DC and I'm taking it into the Honda dealership. Thankfully, they've a got a loaner car I can use, otherwise I'd not be able to make it to campus this week. Yes, I'm looking at a trade in. Go figure. My 2006 Odyssey has 206,000 miles on it. I'm not sure where I'll get my new van, but I've heard some really good things about Carvana.

7:20 AM Our Philippians passage today is 1:18b-26. Good leaders are always self-critical. They regularly assess their motives and methods, their goals and aspirations. We need people in the church who will constantly be asking themselves, "Am I in God's will?" This seems to be the main emphasis of this passage. Paul's torn between two goals. He wants to depart and be with Christ, "which is better by far." For him, dying is a positive thing, a plus, not a minus. In the unforgettable words of 1:21, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Evangelicals are often accused of being too heavenly-minded. We are much better at personal ethics than social ethics. Of course, life is short, and we can't do everything. But there's no need to choose between being fully involved in the here-and-now and aspiring to be with the Lord in heaven. There can be no doubt that Paul regarded going to heaven as something positive. Yet he was still very much interested in remaining on earth, and his reasoning was as follows: "If I hang around here, this means fruitful labor for me. I can continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith." There he goes again -- always putting others' needs before his own! The supreme reason why the Lord allows us to remain on this earth is to glorify Him by serving others. In other words, when Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," he is really saying, "For to me to live means serving others, and to die is gain." Our Lord put it this way: "For even the Son of Man didn't come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." (Thanks for the idea, Jesus!) So while we're struggling with finances and sick children and sour relationships we're also thinking about, praying for, sharing Jesus with, spending time with, and sharing our worldly goods with other people. Where self-indulgence once resided, Jesus takes up residence. This concept is sooooo hard to grasp in a self-serving culture like ours. But the world is watching us. Our kids and grandkids are watching us. Time is flying by. Are we willing?

Sunday, April 16 

7:20 PM Happy Resurrection-Day, folks! I am truly blessed. I am. I spent the weekend in DC visiting my daughter Karen who lives there. I stayed at an Airbnb that was right next to Rock Creek Park.

I didn't have to walk more than 100 yards to reach the most fantastic series of running trails I think I've ever seen. I spent over an hour running in the park yesterday morning and put 5.5 miles on my Garmin. Perfect! You can see how the trail meanders through the hills of the park.

There are both paved trails and dirt ones. I opted to stay on the paved trails because I didn't want to ruin my marathon chances by tripping on a tree root and tumbling into Rock Creek -- not this close to Cincy! I enjoy running in nature soooo much. The beauty is breathtaking. This picture doesn't begin to do it justice.

As I was finishing up my run, I really put it into high gear. I could hear by-passers saying out loud, "Look at that guy run. I bet he's a professional athlete." Okay. So that didn't happen. But they MUST have been thinking that because that's the thought that was bouncing around in my brain!

Anyhow ....

The night before, I had arrived in DC totally wasted from my drive. I had gotten caught in traffic and was in no mood to do anything except go to sleep. But eat I had to, and I saw there was a local Ethiopian place called the Nile Restaurant nearby. I drove there thinking I'll just grab a quick bite and go to bed. An hour and a half later I was still yakking with the Ethiopians there. We had such a blast -- just like old times in Addis. They got a copy of Becky's book and joked and smiled and giggled and patted me on the back when they saw all those pics of Becky as a kid growing up in Hosanna and Burji.

Last night I took Karen there because everyone just HAD to meet her. They were so excited to see her that they did a coffee ceremony for us and actually served us an Ethiopian delicacy called Fandisha (pop corn). Prior to that I drove over to Karen's place. We were both starved so we ate some tasty lamb at a nearby Greek restaurant.

Then we rode the Metro to Ford's Theater in downtown DC.

The hit musical Ragtime was playing and we were both eager to see it. I am about to go crazy trying to describe to you what a phenomenal performance we witnessed. We sat right under the "presidential box" -- the exact spot where Abraham Lincoln was murdered almost exactly 152 years ago to the day.

As for the musical itself -- what's NOT to love about it? The actors/singers were magnificent. The orchestra was incredible. And the story line couldn't have been more relevant. The musical is based on E. L. Doctorow's book about immigrants to America and their fight for racial and religious justice in the first two decades of the 20th century. I won't spoil the plot for you -- that's because you HAVE to see Ragtime in person -- but just about every major dramatic theme is present in this play -- romance, race, class, gender inequity, you name it. The show is a mindboggling potpourri of contemporary issues matched only by an enormous 3-story scaffold.

In my opinion, the show-stopper was Kevin McAllister, who plays Coalhouse Walker, a pianist who transports the audience into every conceivable human emotion, including anger, joy, sorrow, shame, rage -- again, you name it. The dark side of our "American experiment" is explored in a way that's both honest and without being pedantic. See it you must!

Today, after visiting Karen's home church in Anacostia, I drove back from DC and, as usual, took country roads and back lanes.

It's a longer drive that way, but I simply had to get off I-95, which was a (barely) moving parking lot. Besides, this is Amurca, folks! The land of the free(ways) and the home of the crazed.

Here's to DC!!!!

Dave

P.S. Yes, this picture is true.

Do you think I can do it? It's scary and hard and incredibly challenging. But runners don't just run; they run unapologetically.

So ...

Cincy, in 21 days, HERE I COME!!!

Friday, April 14 

7:56 AM Phil. 1:15-18a is a parenthesis. A what? A parenthesis in grammar is a remark or passage that departs from the main theme of the discourse. You can call it a digression if you like (though the latter term has a slightly different connotation). I just made a parenthetical remark, by the way. So, then, in Phil. 15-18a Paul offers his readers an aside. He says in passing that he rejoices that the Gospel is being proclaimed even by people who are opposing him out of personal animosity. Who cares? Ti gar! The only thing that matters is that Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice!

When you were young, did your parents ever tell you, "Watch the tone of your voice"? Sometimes it's not what we say that's wrong. It's the way we say it. Paul's is prison. He's facing possible execution. What's more, not everybody there likes him. He could have grumped, griped, complained, and made life miserable for himself and for all those around him. Instead, he looked at the bright side of everything. Even when he's pointing out selfishness and impure motives (as he's doing here), he does it with a tone of grace and kindness. It doesn't mean it lessons the seriousness of the problem. It just means we don't have to add to the problem by the way we speak.

By the way, in case you didn't see the connection, Paul is again "telegraphing" to his readers (us included) that in this letter he is going to deal directly with the problem of disunity in the church (see 4:2-3). Disunity occurs when we "look out for our own interests rather than the interests of others" and when we "esteem ourselves as being more important than others" (2:3-4). The antidote for our self-centeredness is, of course, a good dose of tapeinophrosune -- "lowliness of mind" (2:3). Today, I can choose to be other-centered. I can choose to forgive that relative who has hurt me. I can choose to be patient rather than fly off the handle. I can choose to pray more and wimp less. I can choose to be like Jesus: generous and loyal. Let's pinky promise today -- you and me -- that we're really going to make an effort to listen to the people in our lives. That we'll be slow to speak and quick to hear. I pray that the Holy will invade our lives today, that we would see (as Paul did) where God is hiding in plain sight in our lives, that even when we feel taken advantage of we will remember that we are the chief of sinners.

The Gospel is more important than people's motives. If our inner monologue is constantly negative toward those who don't act and think the way we do, it's time to move back to grace. Isn't that what Paul is saying?

It's true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they'll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I'm out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.

So how am I to respond? I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

It will take me an entire year to fathom the depths of what Paul just said. I absolutely understand why we would criticize people who are hoping to take advantage of our misfortune. But it's sadly possible to bend the universe too sharply toward our own feelings. I suspect that the real culprit is our failure to unpack the root motives behind our own actions. Love God and serve Him. Really, nothing else matters. If you are ever unsure how to treat other people, just remember how Jesus treated us. He loved us even when we despised Him. This gives me such comfort. It also reminds me that I never -- never! -- have to compare myself with anyone else. Play the "Gospel competition" game? You can have it!

Coming up: "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Thursday, April 13 

11:02 AM Nope, no pain this morning, no soreness even. I felt so good I drove to the Y and did a strenuous workout with free weights. Afterwards my legs were begging me for some exercise, even though they had been put through the ringer yesterday. So off we went (my legs and me) to the track, where I performed a sauntering stroll for an hour and a half and put 5 and a half miles on my new Garmin. While walking I was able to write several emails and make several important phone calls. Now why didn't I think of this sooner???

Honestly, I think walking has to be one of my spiritual gifts. It comes naturally to me. I think I could walk forever. Hmm. Maybe there's an ultra walking event I could enter? Probably not. Running, on the other hand .... It's not so much a spiritual gift as a spiritual challenge. Nevertheless, I have a great time running. My calves are YUUGE. Anyway, I've got to cook lunch and dinner and then get back to mowing. The day is PURFECT for being outdoors!

7:14 AM New book, free for the asking (dblack@sebts.edu).

7:10 AM Great feeling!

6:50 AM Scattershooting....

1) Greatly enjoyed listening to Matthew Harmon's sermon on Phil. 1:27-30. It's entitled Citizens of God's Kingdom.

2) Speaking of Philippians, be sure to check out William Varner's Philippians Facebook entries.

3) Coming April 19. Should be good.

4) Joshua Covert is learning theological German.

5) Loved this!

6:12 AM In Phil. 1:14-16, Paul has moved from the letter opening (1:1-2) to the body opening (1:3-11) and now to the body proper. It's a significant advance -- think of moving from your introduction to your thesis statement and then to the main body of your term paper. The first part of the letter body (1:12-2:30) contains the theme of the letter. Here the main argument of Philippians comes into particular focus: the need for unity and an end to factionalism. The chiastic structure  of this section sets it apart from the rest of the letter:

A News about Paul's imprisonment (1:12-26)

       B Instructions for the church (1:27-2:18)

A' News about Paul's companions (2:19-30)

Section B is clearly the focus. Here Paul begins his exhortation to the church. Note, however, how sections A and A' bracket the central section of the letter. These biographical sections do more than provide information. They take the theme of unity for the sake of the Gospel and exemplify it in the lives of Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. Take Paul, for example. In 1:12-14 he explains to his friends in Philippi how his imprisonment has (unexpectedly) worked out the way he wanted it to: the Gospel is being preached by all kinds of people, and he rejoices. Paul is showing us that he lived for one purpose and one alone: the advancement of the Good News. As long as the Gospel is making progress, he is content, even in prison. I might entitle this section "The Gospel Is Not Chained."

So what to make of all this?

Although it's a bit reductive, I categorize most Christians as either missional or not. In general, people trend toward one circle of the Venn diagram or the other. One guess which way Dave and Becky leaned. Listen, life is not about homeschooling or agrarian living or elder-led congregationalism, all of which I think are pretty nifty. Can I tell you my goal in life? To seek to work with other Christians to advance the kingdom. And believe me, there are people doing a lot better at this than I am. They're parents who are refusing to raise tiny narcissists who think everything revolves around their needs. They're unknown and unrecognized pastors who are marching to a different drummer and could care less about fleeting fame and superstardom (and, I might add, church tradition). They're believers whose marriages waste no energy trying to keep up with the Joneses; they are simply two imperfect people who love representing a perfect Savior. Why, they even endure hardship and suffering for the sake of others.

Doesn't that sound like a wonderful relief from the me-me, I-I culture in which we live? If it does, we have Paul to thank, at least in part. Life really is that simple -- a pure kingdom life lived in ordinary ways by ordinary people with Gospel intentionality. Even regular old sinners like me can participate in this grass-roots movement. God is big enough and good enough to lead us into a Gospel-centered lifestyle, and together we just might see His kingdom breaking into earth.

Wednesday, April 12 

5:24 PM Hooray! I finished my 20-mile workout today. It went pretty well, really. I did the walk-run method. The trail I used is a 2 and a half mile crushed gravel out-and-back in South Boston, VA. Which means the total distance is 5 miles. Today I decided to do four of these non-stop and back-to-back, totaling 20 miles.

My walk-to-run ratio was approximately 1:1, which means that I either (1) speed walked for 2 and a half miles then ran for 2 and a half miles, or (2) speed walked for one mile and then ran one mile. You can really tell how much the intensity of my workout changed from activity to activity.

When I got to the 13.1 mile mark (= the distance of a half marathon), I looked at my Garmin and it read 2:49:50. Round that off to 2 hours and 50 minutes and then multiply it by two and you get 5 hours and 40 minutes -- well within the 7-hour time limit they give you in Cincy. Of course, I know I won't be able to run the second half of the race as fast as the first half, but still, these stats give me hope. After my workout I treated myself to Mexican food (again!) and then took an hour nap. So what's next? Back to the Y tomorrow for more work with weights, and then I'll do some cross training with my bike. In the meantime, I'm seeing the positives of working out so much and so regularly. I need to get in good shape for surfing August 3-11 in Hawaii, and then climbing Mt. Elbert in September (the highest of the 14ers in the Rockies). Soon it will be time for my half in Petersburg. So watch this space. I'll update it with reports as time goes on. Hopefully I'll be ready when the marathon gun sounds.

Can't wait!

7:54 AM Good morning, fellow language geeks! A Greek prof reads a book with an eye on grammar and usage. That's just the way I'm wired. So when I saw the following while reading Newt Gingrich's fascinating novel Gettysburg, I had to stop and cogitate. The context is Union General Henry Hunt's arrival at the camp of his commander, George Meade.

He caught the eye of a staff officer and asked directions. A tent pitched at the edge of a peach orchard was pointed out.

I suppose I was struck, first, by the use of the passive voice in the second sentence. Such usage breaks one of the most hallowed rules of English composition:

The passive voice is to be avoided.

(Note: This rule ranks right up there with "Prepositions are not words to end sentences with," and "Always avoid the apt art of alliteration.") Why not just say, "The officer pointed to a tent pitched at the edge of a peach orchard"? Language, after all, should be as kosher as Mazor's dough. Not for nothing I tell my Greek students that we are going to learn the entire active verb system before we delve into the middle and passive -- which is exactly what my beginning grammar does. The idea is to go from the most common to the least common constructions in Greek.

Why, then, would an author use the passive voice? The answer seems to coalesce around the idea of emphasis. The active voice is the norm. No special attention is called to the grammatical subject. But with the middle and passive voices, this seems to be turned on its kop. (Sorry, I've got Yiddish on my mind.) Changing the voice perhaps makes us wonder why Meade's tent is pitched at the edge of a peach orchard and not in the center of the encampment. For some reason, Newt apparently thought this point important enough to "break the rules." In the Greek New Testament, we don't find "Blessed are those who mourn, for God will comfort them." Instead, we find "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted [by God]." I'm pretty sure this is intentional. I can say, "Let us forget the past," but I can also say "The past should be forgotten." There's a difference, verdad? Or take, "An error has occurred" -- a confession of wrong doing on my part. Am I possibly trying to avoid saying something here?

One final New Testament example (3 John 12):

Demetrius has received a good report from everyone (ISV).

Everyone speaks well of Demetrius (GNT).

Such literary emphasis is quite common in the New Testament. Of course, I may be reading too much into a grammatical construction. (It wouldn't be the first time.) Then too, the passive voice may be used for reasons other than emphasis, as when the person performing the action is unknown or unimportant. But it seems to me that every writer -- Newt included -- "reinvents" his or her own idiolect when writing. And they often feel free to break the "rules" of grammar when they feel like it. (I'm referring to writing here. The rules of spoken English are another story.) So remember: Every act of reading is a quest (even when it's not). Why, just yesterday on this blog I wrote a sentence filled with ambiguity. It was not intentional on my part, of course, but see if you can detect it:

152 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln gave his last speech from the north portico of the White House.

What I meant to say was:

152 years ago today, from the north portico of the White House, Abraham Lincoln gave his last speech.

I hesitate to state what should be obvious. Not writing clearly doesn't make you a bad writer. That said, anyone who wants to write in public needs to be aware of grammar.

And with that I'm off and running.

Tuesday, April 11 

7:04 PM Here's what I looked like when I began to run today. Just two flat Hawaiian luau feet with ugly toenails ensconced in a pair of simple running shoes.

But who cares? Every time I think about Becky and the privilege I have of raising funds for cancer research in her memory I get tears in my eyes. Out of something horrific God is bringing something good. Other blogs have spread the story (you know who you are -- thanks a million times over!). If it feels right to you, please blog about my marathon and let me know. This run symbolizes something much bigger than any one of us. I hope we can come together and make a huge dent in endometrial cancer. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring so much about Becky and about me running in her honor. Much love to all of you.

Here's the link to my Piggin' Out for a Cancer Cure.

6:22 PM Miscellany ....

1) More on the "re-accommodation" heard around the world.

2) America is two nations. Many of us live in both.

3) Did Jesus really say, "Father, forgive them ...."? This author says no

4) Christians who don't go to church. "I'm not a Christian, but a Christ-follower." What do you think?

5) The pro-life argument that needs to die. Jordan Standridge nails it.

12:58 PM Hello! Hope you're having a great week so far. First off, a huge thank you and shout out to the South Boston DMV. I had to get a new license plate for my truck and I tell you, the service today was both efficient and friendly. A tip of the kepi to all yall! Then I ran 5 miles at the Tobacco Heritage Trail in SoBo. I would have kept on going but the sun was hot and I had forgotten my sun screen. It's just as well. I'll let today be an easy day, because either tomorrow or Thursday I plan to do my nonstop 20-miler at the same place. I'll be better prepared, though: Vaseline, sun screen, and lots of bottled water planted in strategic places along the course. I've convinced myself that if I can do 13.1 miles, I can do 20 miles. And if I can do 20 miles, hopefully on race day I can complete 26.2 miles. I tell you, it was gorgeous out there today. I'm really surprised I didn't get a scenery gawker injury. Right now I have a pretty bad case of imposter syndrome. You're not a real runner, Dave, so why are you even thinking about competing in a marathon? There's no possible way you'll survive! Then the angel on my right shoulder whispers in my ear: "You've worked hard for this, Dave, and you deserve it. You can reach your goals, buddy, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise." So there you have it. My name isn't Thomas, but I'm quite a doubter. Well, tomorrow or the next day it's my super long run. Then next week I'll taper to 15 miles. Then next weekend it's a 13.1 mile half marathon in Petersburg.

Then I'm going to Cincy!

8:22 AM 152 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln gave his last speech from the north portico of the White House. It was, some say, the speech that got him killed. After applauding the army and navy, he defended his policies on amnesty and reconstruction, expressing his desire for reunion to proceed swiftly. He called for a national day of thanksgiving. In passing, he also endorsed black suffrage, at which point John Wilkes Both, standing in the audience, uttered his now famous words: "That is the last speech he will ever make." Three days later, the president was dead.

You can listen to Lincoln's entire speech here.

7:55 AM I'll confess to you that I'm blown away by the structure of Phil. 1:9-11, our next paragraph in this marvelous book. I think it's time for the church to start leaning into the "now" of the kingdom of heaven more than we ever have before. That will be Paul's theme when he gets to 1:27-30, where we have the letter's first verb in the mood of direct command: "The only thing in life that matters is that you live as good citizens of heaven according to the pattern of the Gospel." But even here, in the letter opening, we see yet more hints of what kingdom living looks life. 

First of all, it looks like the bride of Christ, filled with love for one another, making light dance in our lives like dry bones coming alive again. Paul prays that their love might increase yet more and more. Abounding love -- love for God yes, but that's not enough. We must also love each other. You'll recall that this is a deeply divided church, polarized around two women whom Paul actually names in 4:2. Believers were backbiting, and the backbiting was leaving deep teeth marks. We see glimpses of this divided spirit in our own churches today, do we not? It drifts like smoke through a darkened room, taking our breath away. Believers though we are, we are still sinners, capable of envy and pride and a host of other sins that Paul describes in 2:2-4. We realize, oh God, we need You. Thus Paul "prays" -- he turns to God. The hina ("in order that") introduces the content of Paul's prayer, which can be divided into petition ("that your love may keep on abounding yet more and more," v. 9), purpose (a twofold one at that, both near and remote: "that you may choose what is of greatest importance in life," and "that you may be pure and blameless on that day when Jesus Christ returns," v. 10), and provision ("seeing that you have already been filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ our Lord," v. 11). If I may quote my Novum Testamentum essay, "Thus Paul's prayer in 1:9-11 borders on exhortation in that it encapsulates his purpose in writing: to encourage the Philippians toward greater unity and amity." This is what God intends for us. This is what the church is to be moving toward each and every day. We were made for this life of mutual love. And note: Love is not self-produced. It's simply the "fruit" of abiding in Christ. Only He can rescue us from our tendency to put ourselves first and others last.

By the way, I don't think we give Paul enough credit for his tactfulness here. As we've seen, the main argument of the letter is the need for unity around the Gospel and the end to factionalism. It's this issue that Paul addresses directly in 4:2-3. But there he builds on points already proven. In admonishing his readers in 1:27 to live as worthy citizens of a heavenly commonwealth, Paul makes it clear that this means first and foremost standing firm and struggling with one soul for the faith of the Gospel.

Together. In love.

Now that's radical. I think my discovery of the difference between "believer" and "disciple" has changed me forever. It's given me a new direction for my life. The kingdom of God is now my work and the work of every follower of Jesus. Our lives -- yours and mine -- are prophesying the kingdom of heaven right now by entering into the very heart and mystery of our faith, the mystery of the Christ who surrendered His rights to live out the kingdom in extravagant, furious love. That's the kind of movement I want to join. Love is a force that burns away everything that stands in the way of being truly human at last. When I think of the Gospel now I think not merely of forensic justification (though I will never surrender that truth) but also of moving with God in His mission to rescue and restore and redeem. The kingdom is already and not yet. There's a tension between these two realities. We live in a very fallen world, but we can still live our lives as if the kingdom was already here, as if it's already come, because in a sense it has, and it is the loving bride of Christ that breathes new life into this doctrine.

A couple of final things.

1) You can listen to me reading Philippians in Greek here.

2) Here's the structure of our paragraph:

Paul Prays for the Philippians

    Petition

        Purpose (twofold)

           Provision

Καὶ τοῦτο προσεύχομαι

    ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον περισσεύῃ ἐν ἐπιγνώσει καὶ πάσῃ αἰσθήσει

         εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τὰ διαφέροντα

         ἵνα ἦτε εἰλικρινεῖς καὶ ἀπρόσκοποι εἰς ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ

               πεπληρωμένοι καρπὸν δικαιοσύνης τὸν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς δόξαν καὶ ἔπαινον θεοῦ.

Monday, April 10 

6:14 PM Farm life can be dull. It can be monotonous. But for those very reasons it's never tiresome. Bored you'll never be. You circle around the seasons, waiting for summer to come, or perhaps winter (if you like snow). Boredom is not an option, however. In the spring you mow the grass.

It's a monotonous task, yet it's never boring. That's because it gets you outside, back into nature, like a vagabond or a lost highwayman. Mowing becomes a communion with the Creator, a contemplation of the landscape. It restores you like the calm of sleep. For all around is peace and solitude.

Mowing. Ahh.

1:02 PM I think a big part of running is being able to track your distance, speed, pace, etc. Well, today I tried out my new Garmin 35 for the first time. To say I was pleased with it would be an understatement. It doesn't look enormous and is very comfortable on your arm. I love the square face, the wrist-based heart rate monitor, the black band, the digital watch feature, the data fields it offers, the easy-to-use charging cable, and the fact that I can sync it to my Map My Run app. It also connected to the satellite in no time to provide an easy-to-read map. I don't really care much for the side buttons, which can be awkward to use. I can't say how the battery life is, since this is my first day using it, but I'll let you know. I don't plan on wearing it except when I'm working out so I don't imagine the battery will be an issue, even when running a marathon. For an intermediate runner like me, it certainly does the job and is a very nice complement to my MMR app.

Today I lifted at the Y, then biked for 5 miles and ran for 5. Below are some of the Garmin features based on my run. You can see that I really slowed down during miles 2 and 3 because of shin splints. Afterwards I got a "Vulcanito" at Mexico Viejo for a mere $5.50 -- and even got two meals out of it. Off to take a power nap, and then it's time to mow!

8:02 AM I'm now registered for the Petersburg Half Marathon on April 22! It should fit perfectly into my tapering program. The course takes runners through Battlefield Park where a live reenactment will be underway. Just think: If I poop out, I can always "take a hit" and find a shady tree to lie under. Between now and then, no new shoes, new socks, new clothes, new diet. The countdown is on!

7:32 AM Our next paragraph in Philippians is 1:3-8. It follows the opening salutation (1:1-2), where Paul has already telegraphed to us his theme: "Unity in the Gospel through Humility." I'd entitle 1:3-8, "The Necessity of Sharing in the Work of the Gospel." In other words, just as Paul and Timothy are partners in the Gospel, so they and the Philippians are to be partners. As Christians, all of us are to be "Together for the Gospel" (to borrow a phrase that's popular today in certain circles). Here Paul moves from non-verbal material in 1:1-2 (verbless clauses) to the letter's first verb, eucharisto. The parallelism between 1:3-8 and 1:9-11 indicates a close connection between these two paragraphs and separates them from the section that follows. If 1:1-2 comprise the letter opening, 1:3-11 comprise the body opening. It's as simple as that.

Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ μνείᾳ ὑμῶν, πάντοτε ἐν πάσῃ δεήσει μου ὑπὲρ πάντων ὑμῶν, μετὰ χαρᾶς τὴν δέησιν ποιούμενος, ἐπὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ ὑμῶν εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἀπὸ τῆς πρώτης ἡμέρας ἄχρι τοῦ νῦν, πεποιθὼς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, ὅτι ὁ ἐναρξάμενος ἐν ὑμῖν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐπιτελέσει ἄχρι ἡμέρας Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ· Καθώς ἐστιν δίκαιον ἐμοὶ τοῦτο φρονεῖν ὑπὲρ πάντων ὑμῶν διὰ τὸ ἔχειν με ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμᾶς, ἔν τε τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀπολογίᾳ καὶ βεβαιώσει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου συγκοινωνούς μου τῆς χάριτος πάντας ὑμᾶς ὄντας. μάρτυς γάρ μου ὁ θεὸς ὡς ἐπιποθῶ πάντας ὑμᾶς ἐν σπλάγχνοις Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. 

The main theme of 1:3-8 may be stated as follows: "I thank God that you, Philippians, are faithful partners with me in the Gospel." Later, Paul will use the same language of "partnership" to describe the agreement that existed between him and the Philippians in terms of "giving and receiving" -- an obvious reference to the sharing of financial resources (4:15). Significantly, this reference to the sharing of one's material goods -- an important aspect of Christian unity -- relates not only to the body opening (1:3-11) but to the body closing (4:10-20), and thus argues against dividing the letter into two or three different and unrelated epistles.

Thank you, Paul, for being so clear!

I clearly hadn't always thought this way about the Gospel. For me, missions was putting money in an offering plate. Then I realized that Jesus was saying, "Dave, YOU go. YOU get involved personally." So I flipped a switch. 17 trips to Ethiopia since 2004. 13 trips to Asia in the past 7 years. Honestly, I just decided to serve other people, especially where the needs seemed to be the greatest. I still have space for self-improvement. Lots of space. But this one thing I've decided: We can't go a mile wide and an inch deep in terms of church planting. If the church at large can use my teaching and equipping gifts, I'm ready to offer them, gratis.

Dear church: partnering in the Gospel is noble, necessary work. May we come alongside the body of Christ in whatever country (our own included) and ask, "Good brother, good sister, how can I help you?"

Sunday, April 9 

8:30 PM The good people over at Map My Run are so encouraging. (Yes, I know. They're also a business and eager to make money for Under Armour.) They just sent me my first quarter stats.

While I haven't exactly been dragging my feet, I'm wondering if I'm working hard enough to prepare for Cincy.

I'm off to the gym tomorrow to work out with weights (as I usually do on Mondays), and I'll probably run some as well. I took today off after a grueling week and weekend. How often should I run this week? How far should I go? What pace should I average? I hate these kinds of decisions. But honestly -- what a total honor to be doing this for cancer research. If you've run a marathon, any thoughts or insights would be welcome.

Well, enough blogging for one day. I'm signing off. I'll close with a picture of Ulysses S. Grant's great-great-grandson, whom I had the privilege of meeting today in Appomattox. Boy the stories he told!

7:54 PM Hey folks! Living history is one thing our National Park Service does really well. It's interesting that April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House, was Palm Sunday, as it was today (for only the seventh time since 1865). Care to take a journey with me today to this historic site?

1) A bright and sunny day welcomed about 3,000 guests to the park.

2) The surrender occurred in the parlor of the McLean House.

3) Then ...

4) ... and now.

5) The federal encampment. Brought back memories of 25 years of reenacting.

6) Chatting with the colonel of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. I once rode with the 1st Maine.

7) A period sutler selling his goods.

8) Live fire demonstration. The kids loved it.

9) The county jail.

10) Grant with his staff.

11) And Lee with his.

12) Blue and gray on the McLean House steps.

13) Grant was magnanimous.

Lee, for his part, told his men to go home and be as good citizens as they had been soldiers. The healing had begun.

14) Grant set up a printing press in town to facilitate paroles for the Southern troops.

15) The stacking of arms.

16) The actual surrendering of arms took place the next day, April 10. It took 6 hours and 30 minutes to complete.

 

17) Louis, my server at El Cazador in Appomattox, with a copy of Becky's memoir in Spanish.

Few places evoke such emotions as Appomattox Court House. The surrender that took place there exactly 152 years ago today was but the first act in a long national journey that continues still. Thanks for sharing it with me.

8:18 AM Should Greek and Hebrew students use an interlinear? That's the question posed to me (again) over at the B & H Academic Blog when I read my dear friend and colleague Scott Kellum's essay about improving one's use of the biblical languages. He's been waging a "mini-war" against the use of interlinears, and cites Con Campbell (of Trinity International University) in his defense: Burn them! (Note: I found the link to Scott's excellent essay while perusing the Nerdy Language Majors site, which I mentioned the other day as being a completely wonderful resource for language students.) For what it's worth, I'll throw in my drachma. The ultimate proof for this Greek prof that interlinears are useful is that I've used them to my great advantage over the years -- and still do. Yes, there's an ugly underbelly to any tool we can use in biblical studies. But as I noted in my book Using New Testament Greek in Ministry, "Halitosis is better than no breath at all." Now, when I was in seminary in the 1970s, it was a different world from today. The "helps" we used were all written in things called books, to wit, Rienecker and Rogers' Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament or Sakae Kubo's Reader's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Today, of course, there's Logos and Bible Hub and Bible Gateway and La Parola and the Reader's Greek New Testament. Even Bill Mounce (no schlep when it comes to Greek) published an ingenious Reverse-Interlinear New Testament. And should we overlook Con's own colleague, the librarian at TIU, whose comments on the use of interlinears are hardly of the book-burning variety? I taught myself all of the languages I know (except Hebrew and Greek) from a book. I recall teaching myself Latin and finding an interlinear of Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War. It was love at first sight. The publisher wrote: "The interlinear is admittedly the student's most effective aid in translating the classics."

I can say a hearty "Amen" to that. Aid or crutch? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I reckon. My thinking is that interlinears are ideal for language learners who have a modicum of knowledge about the language they're learning but don't yet have the vocabulary to easily read the literature in that language. With a tongue like German, where the word order can be crazy at times, I'd argue that an interlinear is not only helpful but indispensable. Try this one on for size:

As for the New Testament, here's Mark 1:1 in Bible-Hub-ese.

Personally, I think such interlinears are a very good way for beginning-intermediate language learners to become independent readers of a language. Even if you're a bit more advanced you will still find them helpful, especially if you've become rusty. You'll learn an incredible amount of vocabulary in an incredibly short time. Once you know the basic rules, rapid reading is a pretty good way to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of grammar.

Dear reader, become a language warrior. Fight to retain (and improve) your reading knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. And believe you me: it's a battle. Sometimes things get a little rough, so be patient with yourself. My best advice is to use whichever helps you find useful. I guess all of us profs have different techniques that work for us when we're teaching, but interlinears work well for me. Maybe start your own reading group like the one my assistant Noah Kelley is doing this summer with my students who have completed a year of Greek. This will require, of course, your hottest commodity: time. So decide to give it. Create space for language acquisition and mastery. And remember: this is sacred work. It counts. Take Scott's suggestions to heart. And if you end up using an interlinear in the process, I promise I won't tell him.

Saturday, April 8 

8:55 PM "It's time to taper, Dave." That thought ran through my mind as I sat on the front porch this evening with Sheba, sipping a glass of white wine (well, sparkling grape juice) and watching the sunset.

This week I need to get one last long run in -- a 20-miler. Then it's taper time. I'll begin shortening my runs. I'll do one medium run a week. I'll try and do everything at a relaxed pace. I'll also need to be sure I'm getting enough protein in my diet -- eggs, meat, dairy, soy products. Reducing weight training is also a good idea. The goal is to minimize accumulated fatigue. Or so I'm told. Hey, I've never done this before.

While I was sipping my grape juice I was also looking online for my next half marathon. I'm torn between the Bryce Half in Utah (July 8) and the Chicago Half (July 16). The nice thing about Chicago is its flat course. The nice thing about Bryce is that you run through some of the most beautiful scenery in all of North America. Plus, the race is mostly downhill. Well, I don't need to decide right away. Age is catching up with me, folks, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet.

6:32 PM Working through Philippians in my wonderful Greek New Testament.

(Note: Never write in your Bible. But if you do, might as well go overboard.) Here's my paragraph title for 1:1-2: "Servants and Saints." In teaching this passage one might focus on the following:

1) Introduce Paul ("Little") and Timothy ("God-honorer"), as well as the Philippians (can you guess how that could be over-translated?).

2) Note Paul's use of douloi ("servants," "slaves") instead of his usual word "apostle."

3) Introduce the theme of the book: "Unity in the Cause of the Gospel."  

4) Note how hints of this theme are seen even in this opening salutation:

Paul includes Timothy as an equal "greeter/sender."

Paul writes to ALL of the believers in Philippi, regardless of which "side" of the controversy they're on (see 4:2).

Paul mentions their leaders in such a way as to emphasis that they are extensions of the church ("along with the overseers and deacons") and not over the church ("under the overseers and deacons"). Shepherds are still sheep!

5) Note that both "overseers" and "deacons" lack the article in Greek, perhaps emphasizing not their titles but their activities ("those who oversee and serve").

If you're teaching through Philippians, please feel free to use my Power Point on the letter's structure and also consult my essay on the same topic. This book is structured fabulously, you have no idea. When I first saw it I heard the angels singing.

Cheers!

Dave

5:30 PM Hey mates! This morning my son-in-law Joel and I drove to Cary to participate in the Cary Road Race 5K. It was a great event and we enjoyed it tremendously. My official time was 30:19 so I'm pretty chuffed. (Don't you love the English language?) There were a total of 533 participants -- 287 in the 10K, and 246 in the 5K. I finished 125/246 in the 5K and third place in my age group. I'm probably in the best condition I've ever been in but I'm always surprised at how grueling a 5K race is, especially when you're giving it your all. It's pretty hard not to feel enthusiastic after a race like today's. Joel did super great for his first 5K and I think he liked the experience. You're the best, son! Here are a few pix with some commentary for all of you running nerds out there:

1) We arrived at the race site in Cary a half hour before gun time for the 5K, which worried me a little, as it gave us barely enough time to get our race bibs and warm up. As you can see, the parking lot was FULL.

2) Here's Joel getting his first-ever racing bib. He told me he had three goals today: to finish, to enjoy himself, and to learn. I tell you, he was stoked. Reminded me of my first race. :-)

3) The perfunctory pre-race photo.

I told Joel we'd both feel a few aches and pains after the race. But hey -- it's either stay in bed on a Saturday morning or get out and run. The former option is always tempting, but the latter option will have you feeling better in the long run (pardon the pun).

4) Here's the starting line. For some reason that was never explained to us, the race was delayed for about 15 minutes. It was difficult to just stand there. These young dudes were chafing to get going!

5) A lot of people scoff at the idea of entering a 5K. Not Joel. Here he is crossing the finish line. Joel: I think your life just changed forever!

6) Then it was time to drive to Red Robin and grab a burger with fries. Yes, that's a Pepsi I'm drinking, the sinner that I am. It tasted SOOOO GOOD!

Those are today's highlights. I think Joel is gonna blog about today's race, and if he does I'll link to his post here. I really like the quote, "Run with your heart, not your legs." Joel gave it his whole heart today, and I somehow suspect it will not be the last time he races with me.

7:02 AM Alice in Wonderland with some wonderful racing advice:

Begin at the beginning and go on 'til you come to the end; then stop.

Hmm. Think I'll try that today.

6:45 AM My view right now. Yep. A great day to run. 

6:40 AM Message to everyone doing their first 5K this weekend:

You are a runner.

You are a runner because you ran.

In order to be a runner you don't have to earn a degree.

Or apply for a license.

Or pass a test.

Or give an oath.

You ran. That's good enough.

You're now an official member of the running community.

Welcome to the 'hood.

Friday, April 7 

6:25 PM Today my goal was 20 miles. I got 15 of them in at the High Bridge Trail in Farmville, and I plan to finish the last 5 this evening. 2017 has gotten off to a great start in terms of running goals as far as I'm concerned. Sure, I haven't gotten much faster. But I have nothing to complain about. I've got a strong set of legs, sound lungs, a strong heart, and bucket loads of determination. I can't help but be a bit emotional when I think that in just 4 short weeks I'm actually going to try and run a marathon in memory of Becky. I'm feeling good about my training. I'm determined to be in the best shape possible for the race. Is it hard? Are you kidding? I'm just a normal guy who's pushing himself as hard as he can. This morning I said to my body, "I'm going to run a long ways today, and I'm taking you with me, so you might as well get with the program." Do my shins ever hurt? Huh? Do I ever feel tired? What? Still, I feel like I'm the most blessed man I know. My cup is waaaaay overflowing. I'm motivated each and every day to get out there and work hard at whatever tasks God gives me for that day. Tomorrow I'll race again. I may not run well and I may not run fast, but run I will.

Need to close by mentioning something completely unrelated, but I've totally gotten back into reading Hebrew again, especially my Hebrew New Testaments. No one ever said that scholarship is easy. But you've got to keep up with your knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, German, French, Latin, etc. etc. etc. Yes, I have to look some words up. And yes, I'm better at some languages than others. (My spoken Spanish sucks.) And yes, I use the snazzy apps that everyone else uses. But lose my languages? I'd no sooner lose my lunch than do that.

Off to dinner with a pal. See ya!

8:15 AM Last night I met for dinner with one of my outstanding doctoral students. I'm eager for him to get started on his dissertation. It's on a subject we think is completely overlooked in New Testament studies. Anyhoo, one of the areas he will be examined on during his orals is textual criticism, and I want to recommend to one and all an excellent website that will keep you coming back for more: New Testament Textual Criticism. Its aim is to be "a forum for casual discussion of the textual criticism of the Greek text of New Testament books, especially the Gospels and related topics." Had I not visited the site today I might have missed an excellent essay called How to Count Textual Variants, which asks "Just how many variants are there in the Greek New Testament?" At ETS last Friday I mentioned in passing that I thought there are about 2,000 significant variants in the New Testament, most of which are treated in the apparatus of the UBS Greek New Testament. One of these "significant" variants is Matt. 5:22, or so I argued -- despite the variant being overlooked in some recent commentaries. My point here is this: We live in a millennium where the study of textual criticism is gloriously possible for anyone willing to take the time and make the effort. And yes, this includes seminary students -- as the essay above reminds us in a (somewhat comical but true) footnote!

When the term "layperson" is used here, it also includes seminary students, who may even have a 93-hour M.Div., as textual criticism is almost never a part of the curriculum.

7:56 AM On Wednesday, Alvin Reid blessed me with a copy of his latest book called  Sharing Jesus. I read it last night. I loved this chart, which I had never seen before.

This is so spot on. As a fulltime "missionary" (I teach Greek but that's my job, not my "business"), I used to think of evangelism from a proclamation perspective, not realizing that relational evangelism is not only an option, but actually works better in certain situations (probably most situations). We are to have lives saturated with the Good News of the love of Jesus -- not just verbally, but physically, tangibly, relationally. Sharing our faith will always require a message, but it's also about lifestyle, community, and service. Living the Gospel is the best witness to our preaching. Paul said, "Woe to me if I don't preach the Gospel." I want to keep doing it until my dying day. There's no greater joy than sharing the love of Christ with others, though we may have to learn new lessons in courage and be open to new approaches.

Thank you, Alvin, for the reminder.

Thursday, April 6 

2:25 PM From my training log: Did 9 miles today. Ahead: a 10-mile workout, followed by a 15 and then a 20. Then start tapering for the marathon. Thankfully, I'm beginning to get stronger by the day. When marathon day comes, I know there's a chance I won't be able to finish the race. People drop out for any number of reasons, not least because of an injury. But today I'm feeling pretty good about the race. If something does happen and I have to drop out, it won't be because I didn't train hard enough. I'm reminded of something my pastor in La Mirada once told me: "Dave," he said, "it's better to be prepared and never called, than to be called and not prepared." So true. Just think: U.S. Marine. One of my toe nails is a complete mess. It's the color of a grape. That's not to say I'm gonna stop training. I think they call it runner's foot, or something like that. Oh well. I'll just see how I do next month in Cincy. Meanwhile, I'll just keep pushing my soon-to-be 65-year old bones.

Stay tuned!

7:14 AM What I'm reading:

1) Nerdy Language Majors. An informative site that can be entertaining as well.

2) Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King. Actually, Amazon will deliver this book tomorrow. Can't wait to dig into it.

3) Very interesting article in CT about Muslims in America and how the church is missing an opportunity to reach them for Christ.

"This is the best case we've had in human history to share the love of Christ with Muslims," according to David Cashin, intercultural studies professor at Columbia International University and an expert in Muslim-Christian relations.

4) What's keeping these Dead Sea Scrolls fragments from being published?

5) Paul Himes lists the top 50 academic journals in biblical studies.

Wednesday, April 5 

6:44 PM Hey friends. I thought I'd just check in and let yall know what's been goin' down in my life these days. There are so many good, God things to report about I really don't know where to start. So off we go, into the wild blue yonder!

1) The Glasgow Daily Times is reporting about a 65-year old runner who's qualified for Boston. His wife, who died of cancer in 2014, is his inspiration. Becky's mine! 

2) Here's the course map for this Saturday's 5K in Cary.

This will be my first time racing on this course. I know I'll love it. Seems it's that time of the year again. Weekly races. Warmer weather. Great causes. Even better comradery. One of my sons-in-law will be joining me for the race. Now that is waaaay toooo cool!

3) A gazillion thanks to my friend Mark at the Chick-fil-A in Wilkesboro, NC, for becoming my very first race sponsor!!!! Everyone, please note his logo on our fund website and be sure to pay them a visit whenever you're down that way. Kinda odd, but I really hate to ask people for money but I really do enjoy fundraising. We're almost half way to our goal of $4,000 for cancer research. Thank you for being part of this journey of mine!

4) I love this passage. It's Heb. 6:4-6.

We discussed it in Greek 2 class yesterday since we were studying participles, and this text has oodles of them -- in fact, a whopping 7!

A word or two. The diagramming method I use is based on what's called "colon analysis," which itself is based on how the ancients approached the text, according to Johannes Louw. Here's what you do. You place each main clause to the left, and then you indent any subordinate clauses to the right. In this particular passage, the key to interpretation -- in my humble opinion -- is the shift from the 5 aorist tense particles to the 2 present tense participles. The author is simply saying, "For those have once been enlightened, etc., it's impossible (for God or man) to renew them again to repentance as long as they continue to crucify to themselves the Son of God and expose Him to public ridicule. Here's my diagram in Greek (the participles are in bold):

Ἀδύνατον γὰρ πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν

τοὺς ἅπαξ φωτισθέντας

γευσαμένους τε τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐπουρανίου

καὶ μετόχους γενηθέντας πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ

καλὸν γευσαμένους θεοῦ ῥῆμα δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος

καὶ παραπεσόντας

 

ἀνασταυροῦντας ἑαυτοῖς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ

καὶ παραδειγματίζοντας.

And here's the passage in English (cf. the ISV):

For it is impossible to keep on restoring to repentance time and again

people who have once been enlightened

who have tasted the heavenly gift

who have become partners with the Holy Spirit

who have tasted the goodness of God's word and the powers of the coming age

and who have fallen away

 

as long as they continue to crucify the Son of God to themselves

and expose Him to public ridicule.

The bad news is that it's possible to privately and publicly repudiate Christ. Peter apparently did as much. The good news is that repentance is possible as soon as one discontinues that behavior (as did Peter, who went out and wept bitterly). So this passage is not only a legitimate warning against "falling away," it's holding out hope to those who might succumb to the temptation to forsake Christ. God intensely loves us. He is always working for us, no matter how far off the beaten path we may wander. The obverse is also true: No genuine believer can ever persist in repudiating Christ. If they do, it's pretty certain they've never had a genuine conversion experience to begin with. Deeper still, note the significance of verses 7-8, which are often forgotten. The principle there is: Where there is fruit on the tree, there is life in the tree. That's why in verses 9-12 the author can say that his readers are "saved," because he's witnessed the fruit of salvation in their lives (not only did they minister to the saints in the past, but they continue to do so). So much more could be said, but I think you get the point.

5) After Greek class, I sent the students home with their second take-home exam of the semester, which covers chapters 17-21 of our textbook, Learn to Read New Testament Greek. This is soooooo exciting. There are only 5 chapters to go.

6) This morning my colleague Fred Williams (who has a doctorate in linguistics and probably knows more languages than the rest of us put together) gave his retirement lecture on Jonah and the Whale. Well done, Fred. We're gonna miss you!

7) Oh. Here's Alvin "Mr. Evangelism" Reid himself. Running over. That's how I felt when Alvin finished. His lectures are always so STIMULATING. If he can't light your fire about becoming missional, your wood is all wet.

8) As you can see, it's almost time to get up hay again. Boy, is the grass greeeeen.

And to think: this weekend I'm mowing the yard for the first time this year. Springtime, I is ready for ya!

9) This is my reading for tonight: Grammatik der Septuaginta. I loved this quote:

For researching the language of the Septuagint, our method must observe two things: First, the LXX is a translation, and second it uses the language of the day, that is, the Koine.

#ObssessMuch!

10) Finally, this week I'm giving away the following books. Yes, I'm beginning to thin out my library again. Most of my books go to the Majority World, but my more technical tomes go to those of you who want/need to build up your exegetical library and perhaps don't have the wherewithal to do it. (Just tryin' to help out a brother or sister ....) Write me at dblack@sebts.edu for your free book, and please be sure to include your mailing address.

Hope all is well with you!

Dave

Tuesday, April 4 

7:56 AM Odds and ends ...

1) There's corruption at SBL! Read about it here.

2) A friend of mine ran his first 5K on Saturday. I'm so happy for him. Do me a favor. Pick a 5K in three months and sign up for it. Your life will be totally changed. You'll find a new level of fitness and confidence. There's something about setting a definite goal that makes a world of difference. You might have to walk but that's AOK. Enjoy your journey. Maybe I'll see you at a race one day. Let's bring crazy to a whole new level.

3) I think my new running mantra is: "Do it for those who can't." Since Ella can't, I will. Since Kacie can't, I will. Since a wounded warrior can't (though many do), I will. When I'm running, I like to think about the cause I'm running for. On Saturday it was the Texas Special Olympics. This coming Saturday it will be to enhance existing greenways and trails in the Cary area. My marathon in Cincy will be for cancer research. Visualization is a huge part of a runner's success.

4) Tomorrow in our Jesus and the Gospels class our guest speaker will be none other than Alvin Reid. Check out his books here. Alvin's topic will be "Jesus and Evangelism."

5) I read this book in one sitting over the weekend. It's such an inspiration. Dick Beardslee overcame incredible hardships. Love his self-deprecating humor.

Monday, April 3 

8:40 PM I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend and got everything done they needed to. I had a very nice time in Dallas. It was a good chance to let my motor idle for a while. Not that I was inactive. A lecture on Friday. A 5K on Saturday. Church services and concert on Sunday. And lots of eating out with mom and dad. I got in two 4-mile runs and one 7-mile run as well. Here's a quick rehash of Saturday's 5K race in memory of Kacie Brekhus:

The gun goes off and I'm running like a bat out of Hades. I really revved up the pace-ometer. A mile into the race and I'm still feeling good. I was hoping to cover the 3.1 miles in under 30 minutes. Mile 3 and I'm still holding my pace. I peek at my Map My Run app -- a 9-minute/mile pace! This is ridiculous. Run finish time: 28:55. Yes, you read that correctly. Let me sum up the race in one word: AWESOME. Physically, I felt better after the race than before it. The event really energized me. To be sure, I'm not very coordinated, and my momentum is about as powerful as a poached egg, but life is good, right? I loved, loved, loved this event. I even got to meet and hug on Kacie's mom and dad. They are super nice people who are handling their daughter's death as well as can be expected. By the way, I think I'm turning out to be a very competitive person -- surprise! I'm learning so many valuable lessons about myself by racing. Here's a sampling: I'm basically a lazy and comfort-prone person, but one who is always ready to push through. I enjoy endorphin baths! The 5K is still my most challenging race. I love the simplicity of this sport (all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other). My fellow racers have hearts of gold. Running is just about the best therapy one can get (a real confidence-builder). Running sure beats mountain climbing as far as safety is concerned (I would hate to end up sliding off the side of a 14er in the Rockies). By divine intervention, I've managed to complete every race I've started. Folks, it's just plain great to be alive and ready to face life no matter what it throws at you. I have a lot of running to do before my marathon in 5 weeks and for me there's no greater way to achieve calm than to participate in races like the one I did on Saturday. I'm nervous about Cincy, but I know that everything will be okay once I get to the starting line and the gun sounds.

What a fantastic year it's been so far. I can't wait to do more adventurous, crazy things. It was such a joy to attend the ETS meeting in Fort Worth. I can't tell you how many people I met at the conference who thanked me for the books I've written. Some even asked me to autograph their books. I must express thanks to all of my publishers -- Zondervan, Baker, B & H, T & T Clark, Energion, Kregel, Eisenbrauns -- for their bold vision to publish this material. I've been amazed over the years to see how broadly God has used these books in peoples' lives and continues to use them. Life rolls on at an astonishing pace. Only our great God and His word remain unchanged. Whatever you may be enduring, my friend, look up, in reverence. Discover anew what God is doing in your life. Well, I've got to cook my meals for the week. I marvel at the goodness of the Lord. This was one of the greatest weekends of my life. Here are a few pics:

1) Posing with a few of the many Korean students that attend Southwestern.

2) Enjoying Korean cuisine with two Ph.D. students from Southern Seminary.

3) Here's a silhouette of me during my talk. Spooky or what?

4) Me at the start of the 5K in Carrolton. I usually start in the middle of the pack.

5) Like my pink ribbon?

6) Kacie's sweet parents.

7) Having real barbeque.

8) Mom singing in the choir.

Thursday, March 30 

7:42 AM Should be a fun weekend. Nate will be watching the farm while I'm in Texas. I'm running a race on Saturday, one I've really been looking forward to. Not every race in life is like that. Losing Becky has been a marathon I didn't choose to run. But by the grace of God, I'm giving it my best effort. I've overcome more obstacles than I could have ever imagined. But a lot of good has also come my way. Like getting to know mom and dad better. There's no secret, folks, to taking care of one's aging parents. It's called love, faith, effort. Nothing prepares you for losing a daughter. They've faced a tough race. My thanks to Becky's parents for their visits, their emails, their support. As I'm running my post-cancer marathon, they've prayed my progress. Despite my grief and loneliness, I've found peace and wholeness again. My voice praises as well as laments. Every day I run my race I ask God, as do you, for perseverance and renewal, courage and humility, as we take each painful step. That's where we are now -- dad is there, mom is there, I am there. No, aging isn't romantic. But it's a race that must be run until there isn't anything left between us and God anymore. This weekend, visiting Texas is my vocation, my calling. I've had to let go of life as I might have planned it, yet every day I'm more grounded in His love. Immanuel. God with us. Hope. Joy. Family. Jesus. We have more than enough in Him.

What else is there to say?

Wednesday, March 29 

7:55 PM A quick P. S. then I'll get back to my book. Three links to be exact. The first is by Noah Kelley (yes, that Noah Kelley), who today posted an excellent overview of the Greek perfect that will most sointenly repay a reading: Recent Views regarding the Greek Perfect Tense. The second link comes from the ever-busy pen of James Snapp and is called "Developments in New Testament Textual Criticism in the Past Twenty Years (1997-2017)." To access it, click here and then scroll down. Finally, Thomas Hudgin's new primer on New Testament textual criticism is now available for purchase. While nobody has solved the riddle of New Testament textual criticism, least of all by producing yet another introduction to the subject, certain things are clear. We must make use of all the information available to us today, whether it has to do with theories of textual transmission or editions of the Greek New Testament or Facebook posts. We must welcome new voices to the discussion. We must not remain locked into our "tradition," whatever that may be be, but be willing to think outside of the box and even rethink the "wineskins" of our text-critical forebears. We ancient ones must go to great lengths to encourage the younger scholars in our midst. And we must always be willing to subordinate our scholarship to what is best for Christ's body, the church. Scholarship on fire must be our hallmark.

5:48 PM Hello, bloggerites, and welcome back. I love teaching. It's what I do. Yesterday my assistant (and current Ph.D. student) Noah Kelley and I worked on a semantic-structural analysis of the opening paragraph of Galatians (1:1-5).

If you just recently joined my blog, you probably think I'm obsessed with New Testament Greek. Well, you're right. The textual patterns in this text are amazing.

In fact, as someone has said, the opening prologue of Galatians reads like a "table of contents" to the entire letter. Here Paul moves from the topic of his apostleship, to the topic of Jesus' self-sacrifice for our sins, and finally to the topic of living the Christian life in light of the Gospel, as this commentary points out:

Hooray for Paul! Folks, our understanding of the New Testament comes from close observation of the text. We need to see what's there and take note of it. This is certifiable insanity, I know, but so much fun. Speaking of fun, I had a great time enjoying supper with a student and his wife last night in their home in Wake Forest. The meal was delicious and the fellowship -- ditto. Thank you soooooo much, Christian and Jenna, for your hospitality. Keep it up and your guests will praise you at the city gates.

Here's another blessing. These guys are headed to teach in a Bible school in Nepal this summer.

And now they have some of my books to add to their school library. (Did you forget that I don't collect books? I don't need them as much as these schools do.) Have a great trip yall, and let me know when you want me to come. Thanks finally to my colleague and dear friend Ant Greenham for his lecture today in my NT class. His topic was "The Gospels and Muslim Evangelism."

Ant earned his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and has lived in both Tel Aviv and Amman, so he knows his subject backwards and forwards.

Say, I'm giving away this book:

It's practically brand new. It's yours for the asking. If I get more than one request (cut-off time is 7:30 am tomorrow), I'll draw straws. Be sure to send me your snail mail address when you write me at dblack@sebts.edu.

For now I'm packing for my trip to the Big D tomorrow, then I'm going to kick up my feet and read. My life is pretty hectic right now, but God always give us what we can handle, when we can handle it. I can't explain how happy I am to see Bec's mom and dad again. Love them so much!

Blessings,

Dave

Tuesday, March 28 

8:58 PM I think I must still be in "runner appreciation mode" because last night I picked up this fabulous book and couldn't put it down.

I loved this book. Both Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardslee gave everything they had during that epic 1982 Boston Marathon. How many of us can say that about ourselves? My philosophy is: if you're going to do something, Dave, might as well go all out. No, I'll never come close to winning a race. But as John "The Penguin" Bingham -- who began running marathons in his 40s after leading an unhealthy, sedentary life -- puts it, "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." If a flabby Oprah Winfrey could run the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994, anybody can run one. I don't know how long it will take me to finish the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati -- except that I'll be faster than anyone still lying in bed that morning. I'll be at the back of the pack and smiling all the way. The truth is, I suck at running. Who cares? Friend, if you get out there and put one foot in front of the other, you're a runner in my book. Anyone can enjoy (and even become "addicted") to this insane lifestyle.

Read this book. It's one of the best to get you motivated to do something to change your lifestyle and activity level. Running is a metaphor for anything you do in life. I read the book from start to finish in one sitting, and so will you. At heart, I've never been a celebrity fan. But this book is not about famous celebrities. It's about two men who led very normal and pain-filled lives. Life is a series of heartaches you just have to overcome. For me, the miracle is not the finish line. It's the fact that I have the courage to start.

Well, I'm in teaching mode again, but before I leave for school, here are a couple of great links:

1) This weekend Danny Akin is hosting his annual family life conference. Becky and I attended together a few years ago and took 8 couples from our church with us. Danny and Charlotte are the real deal. You will LOVE this conference.

2) The Jesus film reaches 1,500 languages.

3) Jacob Cerone (currently a doctoral student in Germany) wants to help you learn theological German

Waddling on .... :-)

Monday, March 27 

7:02 PM My lecture at Liberty is now history! I'm excited to share with you a few pictures:

1) Gary Bredfeldt and I enjoying comida mexicana.

2) With a great group of D. Min. students. One came all the way from Liberia.

3) Yours truly beginning his talk.

4) Afterwards I met with one of my former SEBTS students. Ben went on to earn his doctorate from Aberdeen and now teaches Greek and New Testament at Liberty. Congratulations, Ben!

5) Finally, I attended a much-needed "healing service" in Lynchburg, where they "operated" on my ugly toenails. I tell you: Pedicures rock!

Stay centered in His love.

Dave

8:56 AM More thoughts about turning 65 this year ....

I've always had a bad case of Wanderlust. I love the unknown. I love getting on an airplane or loading up my van and just driving off into the distant sunset. Even a short car ride is exciting. My dream is to one day get to Alaska. It's the only one of the 50 states I haven't visited yet. There are so many places on my "to see" wish list it's dizzying. I've left my heart in several countries. I recall first traveling while I was growing up in Hawaii. When I was 6 and again when I was 16, our family made trips to Youngstown, Ohio to visit my mother's family. Both times we took the Greyhound bus across the country. For $99.00 we could each travel for 99 days anywhere in the contiguous 48 states. And we did. You meet a lot of interesting characters on trips like that. Today I travel mostly by plane. When I fly from RDU to DC I always try and get a window seat on the port side. I never know when I'll look down and see my farm. One year I was invited to give a lecture at Oxford. At first this was a shock: I felt I knew nothing about the inner workings of the UK university system. On reflection, however, I realized I could contribute something, because my views on the authorship of Hebrews (my lecture topic) were not widely known at the time. I have done some ministry in Germany, Switzerland, Ukraine, Armenia, Romania, France, Spain (a lecture on the Costa del Sol -- that's called "suffering for Jesus!"), Greece, Israel, Egypt, Ethiopia, Korea, and India. I've also been privileged to minister in the Muslim world and Central Asia. I am no expert traveler, but by the providence of God I have been around. It humbles me to think that I have had such a special privilege of seeing the church of God in so many parts of the world. One is impressed by the warmth of the body of Christ wherever one travels. I am also intrigued to see what goes on in terms of theological education, since I'm a teacher. I have the happiest of memories of lecturing in South Korea on 6 different occasions. The eagerness of the students to learn Greek made an enormous impression on me. A visit to Armenia was also very instructive. The nation is dominated by the Orthodox Church, and so it was a great surprise to be invited to lecture in that body's seminary in the capital of Yerevan.

Earlier I was honored to teach a course at Tyndale Seminary in Holland. In my class on the New Testament we had students from no less than 14 nationalities, if my memory serves me right. It was moving to see Africans and Eastern Europeans and Americans loving one another so well. Another memorable trip was the one I made to India to speak at the dedication of a new Bible college in the state of Kerala. Conditions were spartan, but there was no lack of love among the pastors I met there (who enjoyed holding hands with me!). There is a massive growth in the church in places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America, despite the difficult living circumstances. I can't help wondering how different things might have been in southern Ethiopia had not Becky's parents brought the Gospel there over 50 years ago. I must also mention the work in Asia I'm doing. It is a remarkable thing to work among pastors whose training in the biblical languages is nil but whose eagerness to learn is unmatched. I could wax eloquent about the food I've eaten there (including donkey) but I'll restrain myself!

I want to conclude by mentioning that this Wanderlust I've been describing has seemingly rubbed off on my students. A few have gone on to Europe for their doctorates. Several are eagerly accepting invitations to teach abroad as the Lord opens to them doors of ministry. My task in life is not merely to teach Greek. We can't substitute knowledge for involvement. It's refreshing to see a new generation of Jesus-followers willing to go anywhere and do anything to serve the King of kings. They believe in and practice every-member ministry. They expect the Holy Spirit to lead them and to work in and through them with power. My brief today at Liberty is to remind us all that life is a mission trip, and that we are all fulltime missionaries. Because you know what? The church is nothing other than a bunch of ordinary people doing ordinary things with Gospel intentionally.

Sunday, March 26 

4:30 PM Odds and ends:

1) My thanks to Gary Bredfeldt of Liberty University's Theological Seminary for the kind invitation to lecture in his D. Min. seminar tomorrow afternoon. My theme is "Every Member a Missionary." I pray for authenticity and realism as I present, courage so that all of us would find our place in the kingdom, bravery to take the Gospel to the hard places in this world, perfect love to cast out all fear, cynicism to be replaced by the holy, and eyes to see what God is hiding in plain sight.

2) During the message this morning the speaker read Matt. 5:22, the very text I'll be speaking on this Friday at ETS. I mean, seriously. What dear people are in my life.

3) Finally, running has become epically transformative in my life. It affects practically everything I think about, including breathing. Yes, breathing, as in inhaling and exhaling. You see, long races (like half marathons) leave you with plenty of time to think about things you normally don't care about. Remember: you have to fill about 3 hours with thoughts about something. So yesterday I decided to take a break from the mundane thoughts of a runner -- you know, "I love running; running is so great" or "Man, how long is this street?" -- and focus on my breathing, which is a subject most humans never think about. But realize: shallow breathing is every runner's nightmare, and so deep breathing is all-important. I observed that, while I was running, my breathing pattern changed. I started off with a 2-2 pattern (breathe in while stepping left-right, breathe out while stepping left-right), to a 4-4 pattern (breathe in, step left-right-left-right, breathe out, step left-right-left-right). In other words, even without trying, my inhales and exhales became coordinated, which helped me to breath with more efficiency. And, because I'm lazy, I'm always looking for ways to be more efficient. The idea is to get as much air in and out as you can, as easily as possible. Now naturally, my mind yesterday wasn't completely devoted to the art and science of pneumatology. Other thoughts crept in to break up the monotony: "Seriously, why does anybody run?" and "Still 6 miles?" But soon I returned to "Breath in, breathe out." I even began to spiritualize about the experience. (I detest people who have to spiritualize everything in their lives, but since I'm a hypocrite, I do it anyway.) "God," I told myself, "is teaching me to take one step at a time in life -- daily, simply, quietly, rhythmically. It's just like breathing. It's just a simple kind of unconscious communion with the Lord, as natural as drawing a breath." Hmm. I'm beginning to wonder if the sport of running is a spiritual issue as much as Bible reading is.

Okey dokey.

Honestly Dave, I think you might be going overboard.

Again.

Time to cook supper!

7:58 AM Well, yesterday was certainly an interesting day. As for today, I'm feeling great. No aches and pains whatsoever. First of all, this ain't unusual for me. Somehow I always feel better the day after an event. I chock it up to training I suppose. I could use a full body massage, however, and a pedicure. Remind me to get those this week in Wake Forest if you will. Yesterday I was reminded why I run.

1) Praise. Running reminds me how shockingly gracious God is, and how free we are to love Him back with all our mind, soul, strength, and bodies. Yes, with our body, that physical thing wrapped around me that tells me I'm 64 when I'm really only 35. It's His, all His, but it matters what we do with it.

2) Appreciation. For the men and women and boys and girls I see out on the course every time I lace up. Who would have known how great the running community has turned out? I've met some really amazing people from all over the nation and even the world at racing events. Now if only fewer of them over 60 would run, I might have a shot at a medal.

3) Fitness. Live long enough and it becomes clear that health is a pure gift of the Lord. One of the best parts of being human is taking care of the "tent" He's given us. No, we don't live and breathe for health. We live for the love of Jesus and for the love of our families and for the love of a lost world. Honestly, that's why taking care of our bodies matters.

4) Challenge. Every day, every week, every month there are new goals to accomplish. What a chance to really test our limits. I deeply believe that God wants this for us, that He delights in seeing us challenge ourselves with bigger and greater goals. So few of us live up to our God-given potential. What a loss. What a tragedy. We can never get those years back again.

5) Happiness. Running is like a drug. I am a happier person because of activity. It helps me cope with all the "stuff" in my life. Thank you, running!

So what to do today? After church I'll do more exam grading and then prep for this week's classes. I'm also be putting the final touches on my Power Point presentation for the ETS meeting at Southwestern Seminary this Friday. You can check out the parallel sessions here. If I counted correctly, there are 55 presenters this year. While in Dallas, mom and dad and I will be taking in another Vocal Majority performance. Here's a preview of Sunday's concert. Live choral music don't get no better than this, yall.

 

Saturday, March 25 

5:10 PM No words can describe today's race. It was a nail-biter for sure. When I woke up this morning I felt good. I knew I had strong legs and a heart of determination. I'm not very fast, but my will is unwavering. I know this picture of my finish medal is cheesy, but I can't help but be a little emotional as I post it because I ran this race in memory of Becky, and finishing today's event meant the world to me.

But it was a close call. When I arrived in Martinsville yesterday I immediately noticed that the downtown area had been built on a wide conical mountain overlooking the river below. Which meant: more hills. Not again! As I've mentioned before, the was my fourth half, and my PR going into today's race was 2:48. But I earned that time in Raleigh on a relatively flat course. As soon as I got to Martinsville I knew I was in for the mother of all long races. The temperature was 50 degrees at gun time. The course followed Church Street onto Main Street and then it descended to the river below. There it picked up a former railroad bed that had been turned into a running/biking path. Here the course was fairly even as it followed the contours of the river. 10 miles into the race the final ascent began -- 3 miles of continuous uphill slogging. Many of the runners began walking at this point in the course, and I began praying that I would be able to finish the race before they closed the course after the 3-hour time limit. I hung on for dear life. Earlier, about 6 miles into the race, I was suddenly hit with an excruciating pain in the bone below my right knee (the tibia, I think it's called). I prayed for the pain to go away but it persisted. I couldn't concentrate and could barely run. I've never had to DNF in any of my previous races, but I began to think, "This is it, Dave, unless the Lord intervenes." I felt miserable as I took step after step to see if I could loosen whatever it was that was hampering my running. Sure enough, about 25 minutes later, my leg was as a good as new -- after a very nerve-wracking experience! This puppy was do-able after all! There's not much more to report. The ol' legs somehow carried me to the finish line, where everyone was met by a screaming crowd of well-wishers. I'm humbled to report that not only did I finish under the 3-hour time limit, but I also PRed! I drove home, took a 30-minute hot shower, then weighed myself. I had lost 6 pounds! I have to say a HUGE shout out and thank you to everyone who wrote me this morning with their pre-race well-wishes. It meant the world to me. Thank you! I can honestly say I've never come as close to quitting a race as I came today. But thanks to the Lord, I never fell apart, and after I tweaked a few things I felt strong enough to finish the race despite the inordinate amount of energy I had to expend on negotiating that final hill. This race will definitely go down as one of the most memorable I've ever done. We had the very best weather, thank the Lord, and the event was organized to perfection. Many of my fellow racers joined me today in honoring a loved one on the Inspiration Wall. What an honor!

So there you go. You're probably asleep by now and I don't blame you, but I write these posts mostly so that I, myself, can reflect back later on the incredible experiences God so graciously brings into my life. (I deserve none of them.) Lord willing, my next 5K is a week from today in Dallas, then I have a 10K scheduled for April 8 in Cary. The big question I'm facing is whether or not I should do another half before marathon day in May. If so, I'm praying about entering the Petersburg Half Marathon, where you actually run on a Civil War battlefield during a live show battle!

Well, friends, I hope you have the happiest of weekends and lots of smiles. Here in Dave's-World, it was a great day!

P.S. I just went online and saw that my official time today was 2:43:44, which took 5 minutes off my previous PR. Woohoo!

P.P.S. A couple more pix:

 

Friday, March 24 

9:32 AM Heading to the races again. I see that a documentary about the Boston Marathon is in the offing. It will premier in Boston next month. I've already watched HBO's Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing and Wahlberg's Patriots Day, both of which are outstanding. Life is much like running. Both take dedication and endurance. Boston, of course, is everybody's marathon. The movie should be great.

Tomorrow's half marathon has been on my calendar for a while now. My coach (= me) wants me to get at least one super-long run in before my marathon on May 7. I see that last year's Martinsville half had about 100 runners participate, which is pretty small but I'm sure will only add to the "home town" flavor of the race. I'm about 90 percent ready. I just need to be sure to take all my gear with me. I love spring racing weather. Will I laugh or cry if and when I cross the finish line? I'll probably be too tired to do either. The half is one of the hardest distances to run. You have to go hard but in control. I'm definitely going to go out conservatively and forget about an aggressive time goal. I'm always afraid to push myself too hard for fear of injury. At the same time, there's a 3-hour time limit to the course. I try to keep in mind that a full marathon is NOT equal to two halves. Just because someone can complete a half doesn't mean they are ready to run a full. Oh well. God knows what I'm doing even if I don't.

Wee. It's gonna be so much fun!

8:30 AM Good morning! People who turn 65 this year include John Goodman, Vladimir Putin, John Kasich, Rex Tillerson, Bob Costas, Roseanne Barr, David Petraeus, Dan Aykroyd, Liam Neeson, and ...

In my 64 (soon to be 65) years, I've found life to be an exciting journey of faith. In the coming days I'd like to share my unusual journey with you, my cyber friends. My growing up days in Hawaii are almost a blur today. The beach was my favorite playground. I lived an amazingly full life in those years, leading Bible studies and painting seascapes and playing my trumpet in a local band (soul music + Tijuana Brass). The decisive moment in my youth was not my conversion at the age of 8 but the day in 1967 when I fell in love with Jesus and the Bible. The fall of 1971 saw me taking off in a 747 to attend Biola College in Southern California -- a place I would live for the next 27 years. It was a strange providence. Not only did I get my start in teaching at Biola, I met the love of my life in the cafeteria line. Nothing, of course, interrupted my passion for the Scriptures. In 1976 I was asked to teach Greek at Biola. Stunned, I accepted. Sometime in the summer of 1980 Becky and I moved to Basel. It was a tremendous blessing. I "felt" I should get my doctorate under Bo Reicke, and today, 33 years after my graduation, I'm still thrilled by the memory of those happy days along the Rhine. It didn't take me long to realize that God was calling me into a ministry of textbook writing. In those days, no one wrote like they spoke. How dull books were! That's why I resolved not to write in a boring manner if I could at all avoid it. I've never regretted that decision. One day it occurred to me that nobody had written a book integrating New Testament Greek with the art and science of linguistics. I asked myself if I should write that book. I couldn't think of a reason not to. Later, I was asked to write a beginning textbook in Greek for a denominational publisher. It had an immediate and far-reaching circulation, and today it's available in Spanish and Mandarin. Though it's gone through several revisions, it's never been put out to pasture, though I am rather keen to see it replaced by the younger brood of New Testament scholars. Meanwhile, I found myself becoming interested in "ministry and mission," and felt it was time to write on those topics. That's been a fascinating experience for me. I continued to be interested in the so-called "marks" of a New Testament church, and came to insist in my teaching that there is no distinction between clergy and laity except in their spheres of ministry. Other books of my mine that I'm especially proud of are It's All Greek to Me and The Jesus Paradigm. From time to time, I've tried to provide something for Christian nurture by writing essays for my website.

Perhaps my fondest memories as a teacher come from the trips I've been blessed to make internationally to teach or evangelize or come alongside the persecuted church. I would love to see more scholar-teachers of New Testament do the same thing. Today, I'm watching the world go by at a whiz. We're living in a fascinating time. I'm still struggling with how to understand the times more effectively. As a teacher, I've seen many changes for the better in our classrooms. I like the way students are being encouraged to do a lot on their own rather than sitting still all day. I love the emphasis of my faculty colleagues on not only teaching evangelism but exercising ownership. This does not go unnoticed by our students. There's also the question of church leadership, and it brings me no end of joy to see my students affirming a "fellowship of leadership" model. The apostles Paul and Peter consistently worked with a small leadership team, and no one was allowed to have top billing other than the church's Senior Pastor.

It's been said that the true test of a leader is the legacy he or she leaves behind. I bow in gratitude today for Christ's willingness to take the bitter cup the Father gave Him, a cup immensely more bitter than the cup He could ever give us. If mine is a legacy that counts, it will only be because it has been sweetened, as Rutherford put it, "at the lip of sweet Jesus." As Paul wrote, "The only thing I really care about is to come to know Christ in a personal way and to experience the power of His standing-up-again through the sharing of His sufferings, in growing conformity with His death" (Phil. 3:10). Jesus, for the joy set before Him, embraced the cross-life, and for all who follow hard after Him, that same joy is available in bucketsful.

More later ....

Thursday, March 23 

7:22 PM Man, there's so much inspiration in this video clip from the famous "Duel in the Sun" between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardslee at the 1982 Boston Marathon.

That day, both men broke the American record and the course record. Alberto's time? 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 51 seconds. Dick's time? 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 53 seconds. Can you say, "One one-thousand, two one-thousand"? For the first time, the 2 hour and 9 minute barrier had been broken.

Neither man ran that well again. But both remain upbeat about the race. "I have no regrets at all," wrote Beardslee years later. "There was no loser on that day. It doesn't matter that I finished second. To have run so well against somebody I respected so much was enough. I'll not forget that day -- it left such a positive mark on my life. I have absolutely no regrets. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't change a thing."

A fitting conclusion indeed.

Crossing a finish line is one of the most incredible feelings you will ever have. The sense of accomplishment simply can't be beat. You trained. You prepared. You gave it your best. You finished. As Dick Beardslee puts in the video: "If you know at the end of the day you gave it 100 percent, you can't do any better than that."

Dear friend, life is an amazing adventure. Watch this video with your family. It is truly inspirational.

Health and blessing on all of you,

Dave

6:12 PM Believe this? 

5:50 PM Seen this report? A recent labor dispute in Maine illustrates the importance of a comma. Reminds me of when I worked on the ISV New Testament. The passage in question was 1 Thess. 2:14-16. Here's a peek from my Greek New Testament:

The question was: Does a comma belong between verse 14 and verse 15? The NASB reads:

"... for you also endured suffering at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets ...."

Note the comma between "Jews" and "who" -- a construction implying that all the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ. Here's how we did it in the ISV:

"... you suffered the same persecutions from the people of your own country as they did from those Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets ...."

Jeff Weima notes that "Jews" here could also be rendered "Judeans."

What's more, the apostle is not even referring to all Judeans but only a portion of this group: those who participated in some way in one of the specific activities mentioned in the following verses (2:15-16)" (1-2 Thessalonians, p. 168).

Weima goes on to argue that the comma after "Jews" in most translations "must be removed."

The apostle's anger is directed not against the Jewish people in toto but against the Judean persecutors in particular.

Here a comma makes a world of difference. It's just a simple extralinguistic device, but it matters. God is teaching me to watch out for the "little things" in the text. (Gotta be honest, I've been trying to do this for years but I still feel like a child wading on the shore of a limitless ocean). Straight up: We never outgrow our need to study the text carefully. May we never take the Scriptures for granted. 

My workout at the Y this morning was awesome. That was followed by a 4-mile run. Tomorrow's my day off before Saturday's half marathon. My calves and thighs feel good. My left hamstring is a little tight. My weight is down (yay!). The weather promises to be dry (looks like the rain has been postponed until Sunday). It will be 52 degrees at race time. Pace: I have no idea. Maybe a 13-minute mile. Maybe a 14. Hydration: Every water stop. Race day clothes: Depends on the weather. I'd love to wear shorts but it might be too cool. iPhone: Yep.

It's no secret that I'm a little nervous about this distance. So here's my plan. Have fun. Listen to my body. Come in under 3 hours if possible.

Whaddya think?

8:22 AM It's another random Thursday so today is as good as any to share with you a few disconnected thoughts running through my mind. Only one month and two weeks to my marathon. This running thing is so crazy. If you told me two years ago that in 2016 I would run, walk, or bike a total of 1,557.3 miles, I would have flipped out. That's the distance from Raleigh, NC, to Albuquerque, NM. My Map My Run app for last year shows a total of 375 workouts that consumed 297 hours of my precious "free" time. And that doesn't include the time I spent climbing the Alps or surfing in Hawaii. I'm trying to remember why I got on the running bandwagon in the first place. O yeah, I wanted to have a fun goal that would keep me motivated. Running is mostly mental. It's hard to get started, but once you cross the finish line of your first 5K, you're hooked. It's amazing what your body can do if you train, prepare, and push yourself. All it takes is diligence, dedication, and a whole lot of crazy. By the way, you'll have to cut back on lots of things like junk food, sodas, and late nights out. Expect some aches and pains when you start exercising. And your body will tell you you're nuts. You'll begin to ask yourself, "Am I really up to this?" Here's what I've discovered. When I began to walk (and eventually run), I realized that I actually enjoyed exercising. I was being active not because activity would help me lose weight but because I actually liked being active. Moving my body makes me feel good. Today I would no sooner skip a workout than not brush my teeth. Best of all, I'm more at peace with my aging body than I've been in a very long time. If I can do it, then you can too. Just keep it slow and steady. Don't add miles too fast. And ENJOY the ride.

Last night I enjoyed reading this article on "asides" in John's Gospel.

"And it was night" (John 13:30) is perhaps the most famous (and eerie) example. There are no asides in John 15-17, which are entirely the words of Jesus. Based on numbers alone, chapter 21 stands out from the rest of the Gospel. "This is another argument," writes the author of this essay, "to be added to those for holding that the last chapter was not written by the one who gave most of the form to the preceding chapters" (pp. 218-219). Then he wisely adds, "However, the criterion of asides per verse has to be used cautiously, since the asides differ from one another at times considerably by their length" (p. 219). As is so often the case in exegesis, I think it's possible to bend the evidence too sharply toward our preconceived conclusions. You know what Greek is good for? Learning. Telling you what's possible. You know what else? Seeing the beauty of the text. The meal is so delicious you will cry tears. (I love Greek, but if you feel overwhelmed by languages, just skip it. But honestly? Greek deserves more love than it gets. And yes, this is an aside.)

Today I'm grading this stack of exams.

Suffice it to say that essay exams take a lot more work -- for both student and teacher -- than objective exams. That's why I like them so much. If I seem to dwell at length on this it's not because I consider myself an expert in pedagogy. Hardly. There are few teachers who do not struggle with their methodology. Most of what our students learn in class today will be forgotten in a few years. To analyze the goal of education is another matter, however. I suppose the first requirement in any leader is total loyalty to Jesus and His word. Undershepherding requires personal surrender to the one Peter calls the "Senior Pastor" (Chief Shepherd) in 1 Pet. 5:4. Any Christian ministry that fails to reflect loyalty to biblical truth is not modeled on the leadership of Jesus. Content is vitally important in any class, and I have certainly found this to be true. Students still have to make the final decisions, however, about what they will or will not believe. Is the classroom essential for this to occur? Maybe. But the body of Christ got along wonderfully without theological colleges or seminaries for about 1,900 years of its history. Pastoral work was learned primarily when you were apprenticed to an experienced co-laborer. The older I get, the more convinced I am of the rightness of student involvement in the learning process. So we'll see how it goes. But I know for sure that you don't have to have a course from me in New Testament to understand your New Testament.

Listen, I need to get off the computer. The day is simply far too gorgeous for me to wile away the time by working all day. Getting outdoors is a home run, dear ones. Go out and have a little walk with Jesus. You will feel incredibly loved and cared for.

Wednesday, March 22 

6:12 PM Highlights from my week so far:

1) This book awaited me when I got to my office yesterday. I want to thank Zondervan and the author for this extremely kind gift.

I never knew questions could be so, well, complicated. Doug Estes talks about polar questions, variable questions, alternative questions, set questions, composite questions, open questions, speculative questions, lyric questions, deliberative questions, aporetic questions, sequence questions, proof questions, means questions, indexical questions, endoxical questions, phatic questions, test questions, inapposite questions, riddle questions, dilemma questions, counterfactual questions, decision questions, conformation questions, request questions, negative polar questions, biased questions, loaded questions, leading questions, first-turn questions, second-turn questions, middle-position questions, and question strings. I kid you not. So if you have any questions about questions, the answers to your questions, without question, are in this book about questions. As the author writes, "[Questions] are included in the NT for a reason -- and now, thanks to modern linguistics and related disciplines, we have an opportunity to interpret them with greater skill and acuity than ever before" (p. 18). Now, if you're questioning who the writer is, he's the author of The Questions of Jesus in John (Brill, 2013). I can't think of a New Testament scholar who loves questions more than he does. My dream is to be able to find time to sit down with this book and digest it. It is clear that questions influence how we read our Greek New Testaments. So thank you, Doug, for just complicating my life a thousand-fold. And yes, I will get around to reading your tome. I really do appreciate your keen powers of observation but, honestly, I'm just a bit overwhelmed right now.

2) Thank you, David Lanier, for a very stimulating retirement lecture today in Appleby Chapel, which was packed to the gills. You keep me humble. I also appreciate all your jokes. Well done, friend.

3) Finally, meet Slava from Odessa, Ukraine, where I've had the honor of teaching 3 times. Slava is spending a couple of months doing research in our library. One guess where I took him for lunch yesterday. I don't really "do" Mexican. I is Mexican.

Tomorrow it's back to the Y and then I'll do a run. The running community is awesome, folks. If you don't believe me, just check out this super-inspiring testimony of a woman who began running at 349 pounds. Friend, get out there and exercise, even if it's only a half mile. Just do it!!!

Enjoy your journey wherever it takes you,

Dave

Tuesday, March 21 

8:16 AM More from Barth on Eph. 5:16 ("the days are evil"):

The realized eschatology preached in this epistle includes a realistic appraisal of the "evil" time of temptation and persecution, but the same eschatology does not permit any judgments or lamentations of a dualistic or fatalistic world view" (p. 579).

This is so right. I'm loving Barth's discussion of the last days. It's in the interest of all kingdom people to point out the sharp contract between "this age" and the "age to come." The bottom line for me (and maybe for Paul) is that we passionately reject the pessimism of the secular, humanistic worldview. Not only this, but I agree with Barth that Christians need to keep religion out of politics, because, as history shows, the mixing of Christianity with politics has always been disastrous for the church. Paul begins this chapter with the reminder that as Christians we are called to do one thing: mimic Jesus' loving service to all people, including our enemies (Eph. 5:1-2). Let's let our refusal to engage in partisan politics be proof to the world that we belong to a different kingdom, a kingdom that is not of this world. Or, as Barth puts it, "[The saints] are neither a lost or a doomed generation, but shall 'stand' as witnesses to the victory of God's light over darkness" (p. 579).

Today it's back to school. Really looking forward to hearing today's chapel speaker. On his blog in January he wrote the following powerful words:

Eight years ago neither my party nor my candidate was victorious in the presidential election of The United States of America. I remember a sense of heartbreak and, to be honest, an initial sense of hopelessness. As I spent time in the Word of God and praying, and thinking; I concluded that The Lord is and always has been on His throne and that He really is in charge of all things. As my spirit was lifted my flesh still groaned. I joined the masses who felt like I did and consistently ridiculed our president as often as he provided ammunition. I had, of course, found righteous loopholes to justify my public condemnation. This was purely my flesh. There is a time for sin to be called sin and for the righteous to defend what is of God. These moments are led by The Holy Spirit of God and must be obeyed. This was not that. This was my flesh. This was my flesh not having caught up with what God had taught me about His lordship over all things, even the presidency. My rebuke came from The Word of God and His still, small, and powerful voice. It did not come from the celebratory Democrats and Liberals that condescendingly posted the same scripture that God used on my heart.

These are wise words indeed. If you're interested, you can read his entire essay. It's called What I Learned from President Obama. Tomorrow my colleague in New Testament David Lanier is giving his retirement speech. My thanks to David for his friendship and kindness to me during the past 20 years. Today in Greek 2 I'm teaching the Greek participle (in one chapter, no less), and tomorrow I'm giving an essay exam in NT 2. My appointment calendar is chock full. I love my work. Like, love it. For all of my adult life I've been a teacher. But knowledge is a tricky thing. Doctrine is easier than incarnation. I suppose the highest level of theology actually involves love over knowledge. Of course, to "know" that, you have to read God's word. The truth is, God delights in rescuing people out of their traditions, from our blind spots. Later this month in Fort Worth I'm speaking on the text of Matt. 5:22, where (according to my reading of the textual evidence) Jesus forbids "causeless" anger. I'll admit that this is a minority opinion. Most of your Bibles say that Jesus forbids all anger, that His statement is black and white, and to be honest, I wish that's what the text said, because it's a lot easier to live in the black-and-white than in the gray, to have a "rule" that clears everything up, to have clear boundaries that make us feel safe. Then we can be sure of standing before God and having "gotten it right." Unfortunately, if my reading of the text is correct, life isn't quite that simple. I hope the world sees in us evangelicals a community that is willing to ask the hard questions and is determined to live out the hard sayings of Jesus by showing love in big and small ways. At times that will mean embracing righteous anger, and at other times that will mean eschewing anger. It's like our chapel speaker said above: there's a time for sin to be called sin and for the righteous to defend what is of God. May the world see in the church a thankful, discerning family that is grateful and kind even when calling a spade a spade.

Saturday, of course, is my half. I am a schizophrenic runner. I'm eager to race but I'm also dreading going that distance. Anyhow, I've got to get two more short runs in this week before the Big Day. Let's face it: Racing bites. I'm really gonna have to be motivated to get 'er done.

Later!

Monday, March 20 

5:40 PM So, what do you do on a perfectly gorgeous day when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping? Do a 4-mile run, of course. Prior to that I worked out at the Y again with a couple of buddies, knowing that resistance training is the single most effective way to lose body fat and achieve a high level of strength, muscle mass, and fitness. I can honestly say that without weight lifting I would never have been able to climb last summer, either in the Alps or the Rockies. Nothing in the whole wide world of exercise can begin to compare to resistance training when it comes to creating a fitter you. Today I worked exclusively on my upper body. A normal routine includes dumbbell flies, dumbbell bench press, bench press (I'm up to 150 pounds), one-arm dumbbell row, and incline dumbbell press. Afterwards it was time to head to Toreros in Roxboro to celebrate my grandson Gabriel's first birthday. It's unbelievable that he already has 8 teeth and counting. Finally, today I've been reading Ephesians 5 and, as always, am blown away by Markus Barth's commentary. When Paul writes, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil," he doesn't clearly state what he means. "Not even the means to be employed or the price to be paid for the redemption of time is mentioned," writes Barth. "Only one thing is clear: the transitoriness, deceptiveness, and adversity of the time in which the saints live does not excuse the people of God from using every opportunity and tackling each task they are given" (pp. 578-579). I keep thinking about the bodies God has given us. We take care of them -- hopefully, good care of them. And why? Because gave us these bodies, and we value them. But as certainly as He created us in His image, He also created the earth. So why do we fear "creation care"? And what about our work? Clearly, labor is important to God. And did I mention rest? Not only do I not take rest all that seriously, I act like it's not even in the Bible. No, I'm not a sabbatarian, but sheesh -- I need to learn how to stop filling my calendar with so many activities that I feel exhausted. Honestly, I need to get a lot better about redeeming the time. I think the solution is just simple moment-by-moment communion with God -- a natural kind of relationship between two people who spend a lot of time together. I serve a Savior who finds a way to remind me that my decisions about "time" matter to Him. This is why walking in the Spirit is so crucial. So right now I'm going to sit on the front porch and just chillax with my dog and a cup of hot tea. Goodbye little screen world, at least for an hour!

8:20 AM I read somewhere that the latest issue of Novum Testamentum features an essay on hyperbaton in Hebrews. I'm eager to get my hands on it tomorrow. We all have so much to learn from each other in the New Testament guild. In my essay Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews I noted several examples of hyperbaton, including:

  • 1:4 -- "a superior (than theirs he has inherited) name"

  • 4:8 -- "not about another (he would speak about later) day"

  • 10:11 -- "the same (he would repeatedly offer) sacrifices"

  • 10:12 -- "one (for sins he offered) sacrifice"

  • 12:3 -- "such (he endured from sinners against himself) opposition"

The author's phrase-building technique is out of this world. The simple fact is that there are probably many such overlooked nuggets in the New Testament. Imagine! God using figures of speech to communicate divine truth. I think I've must have read Hebrews 40 times and yet I still see something new time every time I encounter it. God bless New Testament scholars. What often begins as an innocuous glance at a text turns into a full-blown journal article.

Off to the Y. Someone has been brainwashed into thinking that exercise is good for the mind and body. 

Sunday, March 19 

6:25 PM Oh yeah!

 

5:22 PM Can't believe this is already the third month of 2017. I worked on my taxes today and graded a Ph.D. entrance exam, but otherwise I just loafed this afternoon since this is, after all, my day off from training. I came to realize, early on this year, that this would be a challenging year for me running-wise. I'm going to have to train hard if I want to reap the rewards for my effort. Doing my 2016 taxes today caused me to look back at the year past and to reflect on the goodness of the Lord. The third anniversary of Becky's passing to glory came and went and somehow I survived. I've learned that I'm a pretty fierce fighter and I don't give up very easily. Like many of you, I've been through some pretty dark tunnels in my life, but there is a limit to what God allows to come into our lives. Let's not forget that. No, my questions were not answered, but He held me. Hope, I've learned, has teeth. It sees the Father's care in even the darkest hour. The third stanza of "O, Worship the King" delights me whenever I sing it: "Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?/ It breathes in the air, it shines in the light:/ It streams from the hills, it ascends to the plain,/ And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain." When we look back over our lives, we become nostalgic. We realize that even the lowest we've been could have been a lot lower. Where would I be today without Jesus? I'm not the least bit bashful about saying that. Every year I age I'm a year nearer to absolute bliss. I think about all the incredible adventures I had in Switzerland last summer and how many times when I reached the summit of a mountain I would shout, "By God's grace I did it!" I truly couldn't have been more grateful. Now I'm sitting here at my desk contemplating doing an actual marathon, where, again, I'll need to push myself right out of my comfort zone, big-time, all the while telling myself, "Remember, Dave, you like to do hard things." You probably do too. Let's just be sure that God's in it. Our only safety is the will of the Father.

So it's on to the future, on to more races and new challenges. Let's see what this dude's got left!

1:02 PM Thoughts on running a half marathon:

1) The biggest challenge of running for me is the mental part. On the other hand, I'm stubborn and never give up. I know it will take lots of grit to finish the race but I'll give it my best shot.

2) I really don't want to run in the rain (again) but I can't control the weather.

3) During a long run (like yesterday's) I always try to buddy up with someone on the course if only for the sense of camaraderie it gives you. Yesterday I ran alongside a guy in (I'd say) his 40s who was going about my pace. I had no idea who he was but I was thankful for his company. 13.2 miles is a long ways to go but I'm hoping I can buddy up along the way.

4) I'm really looking forward to getting to know a new group of runners. This will be my first race in Martinsville, VA, and the sponsor is the local Y. The night before the race the Y is hosting a spaghetti dinner for runners and their families and I know that will be fun. 

5) I've booked a room for Friday night at the local Comfort Inn so that I don't have to get up unreasonably early on Saturday morning. Thankfully the race organizers decided on a sensible starting time of 8:00.

6) I have no other plans than to run easy enjoy and myself. If I have to walk later on in the race I'm perfectly fine with that. I also plan on taking a few breaks during the first 6 miles. My goal is to finish with a smile on my face.

7) I know this race will be a terrific benchmark for my upcoming marathon. If I can go to Cincy with a positive half in my memory, I'll be ahead of the game I figure!

8:15 AM So I'm sitting here getting caught up on all the goodies that were in yesterday's race bag and I came across a flyer for a race called "Starry Night Triangle 5K." It's already on my calendar for Saturday, September 30, at 6:00 pm. The race is sponsored by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, which also hosted yesterday's race in Raleigh. The goal is to fund cutting-edge medical research and to provide support services to families during their cancer journey. At the end of the race everyone lights a lantern to fill the nighttime sky with hundreds of lights as a symbol for the 28,000 children in the U.S. who live with a brain tumor. The event also includes a 50-yard dash for kids and live entertainment. I read a story recently, written by a serious runner, in which he admitted he wouldn't run a race if it didn't support a good cause. I'm with you, bro! The people you meet at an event are people you may never see again in your lifetime. But for this one time -- for these few minutes -- we can scream our hearts out for each other and help those who are facing cancer go further. We aren't only cheering them in their race of life but squeezing our encouragement into them for whatever they might be facing next. After all, we are all running our own races in life and need all the encouragement we can get. Yesterday another runner passed me toward the end of the race and both of us attempted to smile at each other but physically we couldn't. The best we could manage was a head nod in acknowledgement of the other's existence. Life is like that at times. All you can manage is an audible grunting noise! But you keep on going. You have to. I've heard runners say, "Fake it till you make it," meaning if you act like a runner long enough you might just eventually become one. And the best part of the sport is that we can be there for each other.

7:48 AM Training totals:

  • Month to date: 59.5 miles.

  • Year to date: 232.3 miles.

  • Last 30 days: 114 miles.

Here's the story of a 65-year old who trains 35-40 miles weekly. Her weekly long run is 12 miles. She's been named USATF cross-country athlete of the year 11 times since 2000. Feel free to re-read that story whenever you feel like you can't accomplish one of your goals. If I'm slow and can finish an endurance challenge, you must now believe that you can, too. Push your doubts aside. Don't be someone who only thinks about exercising. It's when you actually do it that you can look yourself in the eye with respect. Running will always be a struggle for me. I'm too slow, too tall, too heavy, too old, too klutzy to be a "real runner." I have days when my legs feel like 500 pounds apiece. But I also have days when I do race and encounter head nods and waves along the way. Yesterday's 10K reminded me that running offers rewards beyond your expectations. So don't let the fear of running a 5K keep you from doing it. You may just be the inspiration someone else needs. Simply Google "Races within 25 miles of _____ [your city]" and sign up now. 

Saturday, March 18 

7:10 PM This is the course for my half a week from today.

And here's the elevation graph.

I'm constantly eyeballing weather reports for Martinsville. The latest are calling for rain and temps in the 50s-60s. The course itself seems kind of hilly. My training program is calling for me to run-walk this event. Since it's an unfamiliar course I really have no idea what my average pace will be. My PR thus far in the half marathon is 2:48. Guess it will be what it will be. It will be good to get another long run in, though. I may even reward myself with a Pepsi afterwards.

6:52 PM Marathon thoughts ...

1) Get to the starting line healthy.

2) Even if you train, you'll never feel ready.

3) Have a strategy for race day. Even a bad strategy is better than no strategy at all.

4) Be well-rested before the race.

5) My greatest danger is not the distance. It's my unwillingness to accept the challenge.

6) Take water at every fluid station.

7) Run one mile at a time.

8) Cotton kills.

9) Beware of overhydrating.

10) Give injuries time to heal.

11) Think "mind over miles."

12) Running is a journey, not a goal.

6:35 PM A super cell just passed through the area. Sounded like a freight train. Double rainbow ensued. Love the rain. 

12:20 PM Today was my big 10K race!!! I woke up around 5:30 am, snacked on a power bar, then drove down to Raleigh through the rain. Had to park quite a ways from the start but this allowed for a nice pre-race warm-up. The race began at 8:00 sharp, with the 10K runners starting out, followed 10 minutes later by the 5K racers. There was a nice drizzle falling but nobody seemed to notice. We were flying! The first 3 miles were almost all downhill, which meant that the last 3 miles were all uphill since this was an out-and-back course. I felt strong today and maintained a solid 11-minute mile pace, finishing with a time of 1:08 according to my Map My Run app (the official times haven't been posted online yet). The course whizzed by, and I made a point of thanking the volunteers who were passing out water and doing traffic control. Love these folk! I managed a third place finish in my age group -- as well as a new PR! Some days you have it, and some days you don't, I reckon. It was a tough race but I'm feeling good, ready even for my half marathon next weekend. Today for the first time I met a SEBTS student at an event. She had taken me for Greek last year. I applauded heartily as she won first place in her age group in the 5K race.

I needed this race. It was a huge confidence-booster. It also reminded me that running is fun. And if you're not having fun, why do it? The best part, of course, was seeing Mark and Renae Newmiller again. The last thing any of us wanted was "Ella's Race," but you do what you have to do to cope with your loss. I'm so proud of them.

Well, another week of training down. Only 42 days until my marathon!!

1) Why we got wet to the bone today.

2) Mark and Renae and their newly adopted kids from Haiti.

3) Meet Samantha, a brain tumor survivor. She's been cancer free for 5 years!

4) At the start of the 10K.

5) No medal today, but I did get a nice cowbell!

6:08 AM Off to run 6.2 miles. I'm dedicating each mile of the race to someone I love. Hopefully the thought of each one will get me through the race!

Friday, March 17 

4:50 PM I love charity races. I feel honored and blessed to be able to support them. There is so much we take for granted in our lives. It's not unusual to see so many survivors, friends, family, and supporters at a charity event. The race itself is fun. But it's always good to keep in mind the bigger picture. No, running a race will not heal Becky. But it will heal me a little bit. It gives me strength to go forward, strength to be what I need to be for my kids and grandkids. What a blessing it would be to see my grandchildren grow up loving running for causes as much as I do.

P.S. Couldn't resist:

12:34 PM Ella's Race kicks off at 8:00 in the morning in Raleigh. I've never been more eager to run a 10K than I am today. There's a 50 percent chance of rain at gun time so I'll leave my final decision until early tomorrow morning. Running in the rain is never enjoyable, and you end up a bit slushy and with rain-soaked shoes -- as if the race isn't challenging enough. I suppose true "runners" will race no matter what the weather conditions are. My main concerns are blisters and chafing. Not to mention trying to stay warm. I know that once the race starts I'll be okay. I'll get into my groove and get 'er done. I'll throw all my race goals out the window and just try and stay positive.

Oh, the Blacks came by for lunch today. They were in the area placing some new headstones in their church cemetery. I served spaghetti. I think they enjoyed it.

9:32 AM Miscellany: My friend and colleague Brent Aucoin gave a dynamic lecture in chapel on Tuesday about Christianity and racism .... Expect a warmer spring, says the NOAA .... Larry Hurtado reflects on Jesus in the Gospels ....  Study the LXX this summer at Trinity Western University ....  The meaning of Saint Patrick's Day .... Thomas Edison's unbelievable 1906 surfing film.

8:54 AM It's hard to believe that Becky's 64th birthday would have been in only 7 weeks, or that the 4th anniversary of her death will be in only 8 months. Walter Brueggemann once said, "Churches should be the most honest place in town, not the happiest place in town." Okay. Let me start. "My name is David, and I miss my wife terribly." Ultimately, all of us suffer. And all of us can be healed. Let's not forget the gravity of that. All of life, every breath and every second, is grace. When I got married, I expected God to operate my way. But He knew what I really needed was sanctification, to be put through the fire, so that I could know Him and seek His meaning in every event that touched my life, including Becky's death and other crises. If we believe in a good and all-powerful God, our faith is not necessarily derived from the facts all around us. It is our faith that overcomes the world. There isn't a man or woman anywhere, I'm convinced, who doesn't long for close human relationships. But marriage is an illusive thing. If we're not careful, we soon cling to the gift and not the Giver. As I lay in bed last night, I knew I'd never come to any final terms with the mystery of Becky's passing, not in this life anyway. What shall I do? Prayer is a good place to start. I continue to pray repeatedly, earnestly, that I would seek the lessons God wants me to learn during this time in my life. Secondly, I must yield again to His will for my life. God disciplines us because He has a purpose for us, and nothing can thwart that purpose if we trust Him. I look in the mirror and see a lonely man, but I'm reconciled. Whatever years I have left are His years. The same Psalmist who wrote, "Now that I am old and my hairs are gray, forsake me not, O God" wrote "Songs of joy shall be on my lips" (Psalm 71). I am more grateful than ever for the memory of Becky. She loved me well through thick and thin. She perhaps shaped my faith more than any other individual. If I've learned anything from her example, it's that God surprises us by showing up in the most mundane details of life -- a visit from the grandkids, a PR during a race, a student who finally masters the subject matter, an awesome rainstorm. There is nothing magical about any of these things. They are merely carriers of healing and grace. Mine is a stubborn faith. And so, with God's help, I will keep on. The powers of hell can never prevail against the soul that stands on God and His word.

Thursday, March 16 

7:04 PM So grateful to Nate for coming over today and replacing the broken water pump on my tractor. While he was here, he also changed the oil. Nathan, you're my hero. I love you and am proud of you. And to think you'll be 34 this Saturday.

 

2:45 PM 5 random things:

1) Today I did a high-volume, high intensity workout at the Y with a couple of friends. It required a lot of resting between sets. Of course, if I had to chose between volume and intensity, I'd go with intensity every time. Thankfully, I don't have to chose. Since I hope to climb the Alps again this summer, building my upper body strength is one of my primary goals.

2) Then I biked 5 miles on crushed gravel. See what a super-duper photographer I am? I can even take a picture while biking!

I have my camera with me at all times, and I'm not afraid to use it either. Sometimes I go overboard (who moi?), but you never know when you'll end up with something you like. Sometimes even the most mundane shot can surprise you with its originality.

3) After that? A 5K at the local track. You can see how crowded the place was.

Actually, I don't mind running alone. You get to make all the decisions about where, when, how long, how fast to run, etc. It also gives you the chance to really listen to your body. Are you breathing too hard? How's your posture? What does the sound of your feet hitting the ground tell you about your stride? Are you starting to shuffle? Is your pace increasing? I love the quiet of a solo 5K run. I would, otherwise, miss these beautiful moments of life.

4) Afterwards:

I deserved it, folks.

5) Have you seen "Speak English, you're in America"? Oh my. I'm so embarrassed. For us all. Brothers and sisters of all nationalities and ethnicities: this should not be. Reminds me of the encounter on a NY subway that has also gone viral. At least in the latter video someone had the guts to stand up for those on the receiving end of the vitriol. Today I was talking with my server. She told me that while she was serving a customer recently, she asked him "What would you like to drink?" His reply shocked her, as well it should have: "Do you have a green card?" Ugh. Edmund Burke once said, "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength." I know this server and her parents. She's a U.S. citizen. She was born here. She speaks fluent English without an accent. Her parents are both U.S. citizens. But they are Hispanic. Folks, our silence only shows our approval. Remember that, when you watch the videos I linked to above. I hope I would have politely but firmly spoken up in both situations and not just stood there like a cowardly turtle afraid to show its face, even if that meant getting beaten up in the parking lot afterwards. All forms of racism and prejudice are affronts to the Gospel.

8:50 AM The frigid weather is now behind us, at least until the next storm system comes barreling down from the north. Thankfully, the sun is shining today even though there isn't much warmth in it. I've got some grading to do today as well as some writing, then I hope to get outdoors. This has got to be one of the mildest springs we have ever experienced here in the Piedmont. I think all 48 of the contiguous states were substantially milder this year than last. This allowed us to disc, seed, plant, and fertilize much earlier. Virginia is now the 7th driest state in the nation, so we never complain when we get precipitation. Unfortunately, the local vegetation is about two weeks in advance of normal spring. I see that in Kailua, Oahu today, the sun is shining brightly and the temp is a perfect 70 degrees. Hope the Obamas are enjoying it. I saw they ate at Buzz's Steak House the other night, which is right down the road from the house I grew up in. I could never afford it when I lived there but I hear the food is fabulous. I'm anxious to get back home to surf. My "aloha" days this year are August 3-11, and I'm hoping against hope that the surf at Ala Moana will be big. Long and short boards work at Kewalo, and the swell can reach 6-10 feet during the summer. My favorite spot is the Bowl, which can, however, be super-crowded on a summer day. It breaks a lot like the Banzai Pipeline; a perfect tube ride is not out of the question. Other than the coral reef, the only other hazard is the shark you spot from time to time.

Speaking of sports, yesterday CNN posted this unbelievable story about a 70-year old woman from Missouri who just ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 different continents. She's still working, but when she retires she says she wants to hike the Appalachian Trail. I sometimes ask myself, "If I didn't have a mirror, would I be old?" I'm just a few years this lady's junior, but I want to set big hairy audacious goals too. I don't really feel like an old man. I feel like my younger self with something the matter with him. I am aging, but I can become younger if I work at it -- if I'm determined to do so. Even in my 60s I'm aware of unused capabilities resident in my body. And in my mind, too. I need exercise for my mind as well as for my body. And, as long as I do my best during a race, I share with the runners up front the same qualitative experience, even if I can't match their speed or form.

Long legs are especially challenging. The taller you are, the more weight you tend to have, the harder you have to work to lift your body, and the lower your speeds will be. Larger legs = larger loads to carry. Frankly, physics is against me. I'm too tall and too big-boned to become an elite runner. "The smaller you are, the better you are at running" is not false just because it's a truism. Here's what I tell myself to work on:

1) Stop running like a Neanderthal, Dave. Head up. Chest out. Take the pressure off your quads and engage your buttocks.

2) Take shorter strides and rock your arms at the shoulders more rapidly. Feet follow arm cadence, not vice versa.

3) Respect the distance and always listen to your body. Training is a journey, not an end. And improvement comes not only when you're exercising but when you're resting.

Not sure what my body feels up to doing today. A walk? A run? A bike ride? The day's far too beautiful to waste indoors. Any cross-training is better than no cross-training. Today, millions of Americans are dreaming about walking or running in a marathon. But they're just dreaming. They aren't doing it. Long distance runners are fitter, better trained, and more disciplined than about 99 percent of the population that's ever lived. I want to belong to that club. And raise big bucks to fight cancer at the same time!

My chores are calling me but before I leave you I was thinking this morning about the essay exam I'm giving next week in my New Testament class. There will be 4 topics, and the students will have 3 hours to discuss them. I like essay exams. I liked them when I was in college and seminary. It's not that I don't use quizzes in my classes. I do. Objective tests are well suited for testing a student's broad knowledge of content. That's where they get the "ABC's" of the subject -- "What is the Septuagint?", "Define "Pharisee," "What was Herod's capital city in Galilee?" Essay questions, on the other hand, test higher-level learning objectives. This semester, our essay exams are designed to test a student's ability to accurately summarize the content of one of their lectures or a chapter they were assigned for reading. And, because the test is preceded by a set of study questions, guessing is eliminated. The downside is that essay exams take time to write -- and grade. Poorly prepared students will often try to "pump sunshine," so the teacher has to read each essay carefully. (My "graders" don't grade for me.) Still, I think the whole process is useful and can be an effective learning tool. Of course, I'm spoiled. I studied in a European university setting where there were no quizzes or tests of any kind! 

Tuesday, March 14 

8:40 AM March is half way over if you can believe it. I love this month: March Madness, spring begins, spring break, the running season is getting into high gear, ETS regional meetings, weather turns warmer, etc. I think I love spring mainly because it's a reminder that God is granting His creation new life, new colors, and eventually a new Eden. It's also a reminder that nothing about my life is perfect. Like all of creation, I'm a-moanin' and a-groanin' for that Day. I wish I could say that everything about my running life was perfect. But life is rarely perfect. I'm worried about some minor aches and pains I'm experiencing since this weekend. I'm still able to walk normally and could probably bike but I'm going to take it easy for a few days and refrain from running. The angst of not being able to run this weekend worries me. The sport of running can be become addicting. Since I started running I've felt so good about myself. The joy of racing is like no other. Running is now a part of my daily life, as much as teaching is, or writing. I run because I enjoy it. I'm not trying to be something I'm not, or trying to overcome my problems by exercising. Running is an important part of my life but it's not the main thing. But -- oh my goodness -- running has offered me rewards beyond my expectations. I'm doomed! If you run long enough you'll run across some really phenomenal people, people who will inspire you, people who will remind you that all of us have a God-given ability to overcome so much. If you've ever gone through something really hard, you can appreciate what running can do for your spirit. While I was running yesterday in Cary, volunteers along the course would yell out support or give a thumbs up. After I finished the race I stood at the finish line for 30 minutes cheering on my fellow runners. So much of running is like life. By running we push against all the No's that try to trap us into apathy. The human being is wired with a desire to strive for something bigger than themselves. When I do a 5K instead of sleeping in, I feel like a superhero. Running has taught me that I can persevere in the race of life. I become a more balanced and responsible version of myself. The crazy adventures I've had while training and racing definitely satisfy a craving in my soul that is vastly different from the world one sees only through a computer screen. As cliché as it sounds, I know running plays a role in my ability to work harder as a teacher and scholar. It helps me set goals in other areas of my life. As my son-in-law told me yesterday, signing up for a race forces you to prepare for it. Honestly, the finish line is nice, but the prize is in the journey. The fun, the excitement, the comradery, the promise of a good story to tell later on -- all these are reasons why I keep doing races. Running has taught me what I'm capable of. Of course, it's also given me ugly toes and aches and pains. So I'll rest up and see what the Lord has in store for me. I appreciate everything running has taught me, even if it's a lesson in patience.

Monday, March 13 

6:12 PM You never want to see "pediatric" and "brain tumor" together. Ugh. In 2008, Ella Newmiller was diagnosed with a non-operable brain tumor. Four years later she went to be with Jesus. Hence Ella's Race, coming up this Saturday. I have met Ella's parents. They are radiant followers of Jesus. Like them, I've learned what it means to descend, to face a disease that often left me gasping. There were days I was so buried in grief I could hardly get out of bed. I had no idea how excruciating the process of watching a loved one die from cancer could be. I've battled. They've battled. And both of us are doing what we can to hopefully make a difference. Mother Teresa once said, "We cannot do great things, only small things with great love." Herein lies the reason why so many of us act like nuts on the weekend. It's pretty simple and awful, all at the same time. I get why there's an Ella's Race. This is why the Gospel is such good news. Jesus' resurrection promises our own. The more we understand that, the more we serve Him. So be it in my life, and so be it in all the church. How will I do in a 10K race? I think I can finish under 1:20. However, it's hard to say what the course looks like. This 2-dimensional map doesn't help very much with elevation.

This is only the second 10K I've ever "officially" run, so it's a little nerve-racking. I'm just going to keep on reminding myself: Stay within your ability. Be present. Enjoy the scenery and your fellow runners. Think about Ella, and Becky. Smile. Time doesn't matter.

12:25 PM This Wednesday in our LXX class we'll be looking at Amos 5:1-17, a passage that I'm discovering is notorious for a number of reasons, including the (mis)translation (?) of the Hebrew in verse 15. Here the Greek takes the command "Hate what is evil and love what is good" and transforms it into direct speech: "We have hated evil things and have loved the good things" (so the NET). Dines notes that "The opening words have been turned into a statement of conversion, instead of a call to it" (p. 162). It'll be interesting to see what the class makes of this. Dines opines that the LXX translator was trying to make sense of the last word of verse 14 ("you said"). Another interesting verse is 11, where we seem to have a play on the Greek root for "house" or "building" (oik). Here we might translate the Greek as "You have built buildings of hewn stone, but you will certainly not live in them," but even this over-translation fails to do justice to the word play, much as most English versions completely miss Paul's use of the same root oik in Eph. 2:19-22:

Ἄρα οὖν οὐκέτι ἐστὲ ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι ἀλλ’ ἐστὲ συμπολῖται τῶν ἁγίων καὶ οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ, ἐποικοδομηθέντες ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν, ὄντος ἀκρογωνιαίου αὐτοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ἐν ᾧ πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ συναρμολογουμένη αὔξει εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ὑμεῖς συνοικοδομεῖσθε εἰς κατοικητήριον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πνεύματι.

Here oik carries the nuance of "house," "household," "building," etc. To take just one example from this text: The word normally translated here as "aliens" could also be rendered "those who are alongside the house," or "those who are separated and away from the house." No English translation that I'm aware of brings out this nuance, and maybe it's impossible to do so. How would you translate this passage? Keep in mind that Paul is attempting to distinguish between two distinct socioeconomic and/or religious groups: the "out group" and the "in group." In Christ, the farthest outsider becomes the nearest insider. And because God Himself will "dwell" in this house, all of those who believe in Christ will be at home in the same house.

This is amazing stuff. I'm sitting here trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I may have missed something so central. I love the Greek text. I love every molecule of it. I'll never do it justice, that's for sure.

9:18 AM Here are some takeaways I'm getting from reading a remarkable little book called Younger Next Year: Use the Power of Exercise to Reverse Aging and Stay Strong, Fit, and Sexy. (Okay, I'll settle for two out of the three.)

  • 70 percent of the illnesses we are prone to are lifestyle related.

  • We can take a lot of them off the table -- heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, fractures, even Alzheimer's -- through regular exercise.

  • Getting weak and out of shape is different from getting ill.

  • Aging is inevitable. Decay is optional. It's a choice we make by how we live.

  • Decay can start in our forties or even earlier. An obese child can have the arteries of a 45-year old.

  • You and I will never be peak athletes, but we can slow the muscle loss of aging.

  • We have forgotten how joyful is it to truly move -- a joy many Americans think is lost in the rearview mirror.

  • You can become a better version of yourself at any age.

I like that last one. Statistically, we are all likely to live a long time. The question is: how well will we live that life? The sad thing is that so many of us outlive the quality component of our lives by years or even decades. Exercise is simply amazing. And you -- yes, you -- are invited to play.

So congratulations! You've got longevity.

Now what?

8:40 AM During our semester break last week our LXX students did a take-home exam over Jobes and Silva as well as Tov's The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research. Here are a few of the study questions we gave them. Care to try them out? How well did do you?

1) According to Tov, as a rule, textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible aims neither at the compositions written by the biblical authors, nor at previous oral stages, if such existed, but only at that stage (those stages) of the composition(s) that is (are) attested in the textual evidence.  T   F

2) What are the two stages into which textual criticism proper can be divided?

3) MT (usually codex L) is taken as the point of departure for describing textual variations because it has become the textus receptus (received text) of Hebrew Scripture, and this procedure implies a preference for its contents.  T   F

4) The assumption of parallel pristine texts provides a possible alternative to a "single original text" model and is one of the theories supported by the textual evidence.  T   F

5) The term Vorlage means:

  • A retranslation into the supposed Hebrew/Aramaic ground-form

  • Any detail in a textual source that differs from a specific form of MT

  • The “underlying text” or “parent text”

6) Which is a description of Margolis' editorial technique, which can be applied equally to the volumes of the Göttingen Septuagint:

  • The text at the top of the page is the nearest approach to the Greek original as it left the hands of the translator(s)

  • The text at the top of the page consists of the text of Codex Vaticanus, with variant readings found in the apparatus

  • The text at the top of the page attempts to reconstruct the revision of Lucian of Antioch

Sunday, March 12 

7:48 PM Just call me the "Comeback Kid," I reckon. This afternoon I participated in my second 5K of the weekend, this time in the great city of Cary. The race was called the "Running Over Cancer 5K" and it was held in what has got to be my least favorite venue of all time, the WakeMed Soccer Park. I mean, this place is the Mother of All Evil Courses. Talk about hills. Then more hills. I have never had a PR of under 34 minutes on this course, and I didn't really expect to do that today either. But once the race got underway I felt pretty good. I was strong on my feet, and my pace was fast and even. The first mile passed in a blur. In the second mile you're confronted with the first of two gignormous hills. This is where your legs and lungs start burning and everything in you says, "Walk, you idiot!" At the top of the first hill things leveled out a little bit, just in time for me to catch my breath. I was determined as all get out not to walk in this race and, sure 'nuff, I ran the whole thing (if, that is, you call a slow uphill jog "running"). That last steep hill was brutal but at long last I saw the end of the race. I eyeballed the clock when I crossed the finish line. It was a substantial PR on this course. Later on the official times were posted. I saw that I had finished 92 out of 538 registered runners and fourth in my age group with a time of 31:17. Let the good times roll! I would have loved to have run this race in under 30 but that's for another day (and probably for another venue as well). I'm very content with how my body performed today, especially coming off a challenging course yesterday. Above all, I'm so grateful to God for the ability to run. As all runners will tell you, making it to the starting line healthy is perhaps the biggest goal of running. I sure wish, however, that Raleigh (and Cary and Morrisville -- yall listening?) would stop throwing in those giant-hill-right-before-the-finish-line tricks. And why in the world do so many old guys living in the Triangle have to be so FIT!!??

To celebrate my finishing time today I drove a mere 5 miles to the Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant in Raleigh, where I enjoyed some scrumptious doro wat and got to meet the restaurant's new owners: Berhanu, along with his wife (cook) and daughter (server). What wonderful people. They did an amazing job of serving up some of the best migib I've had in a long time, and I do wish them well in their new business enterprise. If you're ever in Raleigh, check them out (and tell them I sent you.) Finally, as I walked to my car after eating I stumbled upon some guys who were shocked spit-less when I began speaking to them in Amharic. We had a nice chat, took the compulsory selfie, then off I drove for home, thankful for everyone who has run beside me in my races, including (and especially) the race of life. Thanks especially to God for giving me the ability to enjoy running as much as I do, and for talking to me during my runs, even if what He says is sometimes terrifying.

1) The wall of honor at the race.

2) Rarin' to go!

3) I wasn't the only one.

4) I'm used to coming in dead last, LOL!

5) Mouth-watering good.

6) Betam amasagenalo!

7) Salamno!

9:58 AM Today I registered for "Kacie's Run" (5K) in Carrolton, TX (near Dallas) on Saturday, April 1, the day after my ETS paper in Fort Worth. The race benefits Special Olympics (good cause!).

I still feel that I haven't reached my potential in running 5K races. And even though I've done gobs of them, each race is different -- and the distance is ALWAYS worthy of respect. I continue to make little tweaks in my training but I still feel afraid to push myself too hard and be super brave. I tend to tank in the last half mile anyways. After all these races I still feel like a baby learner. 3.1 miles is totally doable but I still have to psyche myself out before a race. I'm so grateful for the encouragement of all my fellow runners. The running community is truly a great family.

P.S. One of my sons-in-law is going to run a 5K with me next month. That will be sooooo much fun. He went for a run this morning (first one in a good while) and told me it was both exhilarating and murderous at the same time. I know the feeling well!

9:40 AM Important announcement: Launch of new LXX lexicon. It's called the Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint. The editors are Eberhard Bons and Jan Joosten, both of the Université de Strasbourg. According to the book's website:

During the last twenty years or so, the Septuagint has come out of the shadow of its Hebrew source. Historians of Judaism, linguists, and biblical scholars have come to view the Septuagint as a significant document in its own right. As the discoveries in Qumran have shown, the Hebrew source text of the Septuagint was not identical to the traditional text received by the synagogue (the Massoretic Text). Also, the translators appear to have taken a degree of liberty in interpreting the text. Dominique Barthélemy used the term 'aggiornamento': the Septuagint is a kind of update of the Jewish scriptures.

It'll be interesting to see how well the editors succeed in providing students with a "theological" lexicon. As Stephen Baugh reminds us:

One obvious problem with a dictionary approach to theology is that it is not established by an examination of individual scriptural words across their range of meanings but by a careful, exegetical reading of biblical statements in their various contexts.

Baugh goes on to illustrate his point by discussing the Greek text of Eph. 2:8, perhaps one of the most detailed descriptions of "salvation" in the New Testament. I have sometimes told my students that if they want to study the concept of "church" in the New Testament, rather than looking up ekklesia in a theological dictionary it might be better to exegete the entire book of Ephesians. For if we stick only with "words" such as "church," we will miss all of Paul's wonderful metaphors for describing the very same thing (body, bride, building, etc.). Perhaps we do a greater justice to Scripture when we distinguish between word and concept, between lexicography and theology. Without such a nuanced approach to language, the danger remains very real that we will end up with dangerous or misleading "theologies" of the New Testament rather than helpful ones.

Saturday, March 11 

6:20 PM Tonight I'm reading through an excellent commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. It's by Jeff Weima. I'm looking at Paul's exhortations in 1 Thess. 5:12-22, a passage I studied in my doctoral dissertation in a great bit of detail. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jeff follows my interpretation of "the weak" in 5:14. These believers are neither "sick" (Witherington) nor "weak in the faith" (Best) nor "ethically weak" (Frame) but people "who are excessively anxious about their status at the eschatological judgment connected with Christ's return" (p. 395). If this view is correct (of course it is), then Paul describes these "weak" believers in 5:1-11.

All well and good. But journey with me on a quick sidebar for a moment.

I'm puzzled with what Jeff does with "idlers" in 5:14 -- the ataktoi. While he acknowledges that the adjective ataktos usually means something like "idle" or "lazy," he also notes that that the word can be rendered "rebellious" in certain contexts. It is what he does next that I find so interesting. In essence, he combines both of these ideas into one translation: Paul is referring to "rebellious idlers" (p. 393). This raises, for me at least, an interesting question about Greek lexicography. No doubt, in this context, the idlers in Thessalonica had a rebellious attitude toward the obligations of work, as Jeff correctly notes on p. 392. These people were not working, but not because there were no jobs. They were "slacking off" in view of the Parousia of Jesus. The problem I have with Jeff's rendering "rebellious idlers" is that it implies that idleness is okay as long as you're not rebellious. This is exactly what Paul does not say. Actually, he's not all that specific with the term ataktoi, thus allowing the audience to deduce from the context the kind of idleness he's referring to and the motives behind it. In all fairness to Jeff, he does recognize this objection (and seeks to clarify his position in a footnote on p. 393). But I still think it's confusing to render the Greek term "rebellious idlers." Perhaps -- and this is only a perhaps -- we also have here a fallacy called illegitimate totality transfer, a fallacy that states that all of the uses of a particular word are in view wherever that word appears in the New Testament. (The term itself was coined by the inimical James Barr, who "demythologized" Kittel.) I'm not saying that Jeff is actually doing that here. But he might be. To take an example from the term "weak" discussed above, Jeff and I would agree (against most interpreters) that the "weakness" Paul is describing here is due to the anxiety that some of the Thessalonians were experiencing in view of the Second Coming of Christ. I suppose, then, that we could render the term "anxiously weak." Hmm. I'm not sure I would go that far. The "weakness" Paul has in mind is inferred, not from the lexeme he chose to use here (which, like most Greek words, is polysemous, that is, it has several different "meanings," only one of which is it semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs), but from the context. (I'll bet you a hundred bucks that the Bible says, "There is no God.") It was the context of the book of 1 Thessalonians that forced me (and Jeff) to conclude that Paul's "weak" in 5:14 might in fact refer to the believers he addresses in 5:1-11. And it was the context of Phil. 1:27 that led me to conclude that politeuesthe was referring to the Philippians' heavenly "citizenship" (rather than mere "conduct"). Exegesis is like that. We struggle constantly with Greek terms and their meaning. And so we should. We live far from the original setting of the New Testament. Even Greek lexicography is as much an art as it is a sconce. The sad thing is when our interpretations zip along, unchecked and automatic. Verses should not remain separate from all the others. Jeff knows this well, and so his rendering "rebellious idlers" hits the nail on the head in one sense. Interestingly, these people never seemed to have "gotten the memo" from Paul, because he has to deal with them again in 2 Thess. 3!

Now go and read Don Carson's Exegetical Fallacies or I will never speak to you again. And remember: God helps those who help themselves, as the Bible says. (Wink.)

11:44 AM Howzit, bruddahs and sistahs! I slept soundly last night and was a bit worried that I wouldn't wake up in time for my race today. But my subconscious mind remained alert and I awoke at exactly 6:00 am. I felt good, so off we went. The drive to North Raleigh only took an hour, so I had a chance to get a cuppa at the cafe before the race.

It's a good thing, too. I needed the caffeine -- and the warmth. The temp at race time was a bone-chilling 33 degrees. I had a very modest goal for this race: to come in under 33 minutes. The race started in front of the host business (SOLA Coffee and Cafe). There were about 300 runners and everyone looked FIT.

A 93-year old WW 2 vet shouted "Start" through the bullhorn and everything began to move. I started out slowly but things got rolling shortly thereafter. I kept getting faster and faster. There were some awesome downhills, matched, however, by some miserable uphills.

I was managing a 10-minute pace until the final hill, which seemed to suck all of my strength right out of me. In the end, I finished 158 out of 297 with a time of 31:44.

At the finish line, a ragtime band was there to entertain the racers. Nice touch, I thought to myself.

I'm looking forward to running this race again next year, though this time I'll be better prepared for that final obstacle. Oh, my new shoes worked out fine except that I forgot to clip my toenails before the race and paid the price for my sin of omission.

All in all, though, it was a perfect race day (though cold) and the cause couldn't be matched. It was nice to be able to raise some money for our North Carolina war vets who need assistance. All I can think of now is next Saturday's 10K and then my half in two weeks. The good thing is that the weather will begin warming up again soon, though we're expecting snow tonight. Welcome to "Spring" in the Piedmont I guess.

Friday, March 10 

7:54 PM Miscellany: Just made a reservation for my daughter and me to attend the musical "Ragtime" at Ford's Theater in DC on April 15. Two Christmases ago we watched "A Christmas Carol" in the same venue. There are 101 reasons why I enjoy live theater, but when you add such a historical site into the equation ... Meanwhile, the brine trucks are rolling ahead of a bit of white stuff Saturday night and Sunday morning... Time Magazine (web edition) just posted a piece called "Happiest and Healthiest Cities in the U.S." along with a picture of Kailua Beach (my home town) ... America's most popular national park is .... This has got to be the zaniest video of the year ... The BBC reports why it's so easy to get English wrong ...  Rob Plummer talks Greekonomics ... There's a famous boulder at Gettysburg ... How to run your first 5K.

12:28 PM Feeling great. Just added a 5-mile run to my totals. Thank you, Jesus.

  • Miles this month: 38.5.

  • Miles year-to-date: 211.3.

To ice the cake, I got rained on during my run. Yeesh. Thankfully the weather isn't cold!

9:10 AM Looking forward to giving a guest lecture at the Rawlings School of Divinity at Liberty University on Monday, March 27. The D. Min. course is called "Strategic Evangelism and the Local Church," and I've been asked to speak on the subject of "Evangelism As a Lifestyle." My good friend Gary Bredfeldt is teaching the class. My main point will be that Jesus' kingdom continues in the same way it began: through scandalous love, sacrifice, subversion, and behaving like we truly believe that the meek will inherit the earth. Now the question is: How do I compress all of this into two hours?!

8:42 AM An email from the Flying Pig Marathon reminded me yesterday that it's less than two months from the BIG DAY in Cincy. Here's the view as you cross from Ohio into Kentucky.

It seems like I spend half the month in wet clothes. So how's my training going? I'm trying "religiously" to follow the standard advice for first-time marathoners:

1) Set a conservative goal for the first time out. As in "finishing." Amen to that.

2) Be flexible. If you're not meeting your training goals because you're burned out or feeling ill, don't be afraid to push back on your monthly goals. Push through when you're really ready.

3) Be prepared. People say, "I think I'm going to run a marathon." It doesn't work that way. If you decide to do a marathon, you have to train for it. Once you have your training program in place, stick with it (but keep #2 above in mind always). No one should be running in a marathon who hasn't already done 5Ks, 10Ks, and at least one half. I've adopted a 3-4 times a week training schedule, and I try to stick to it.

4) Slowly build up your endurance. The standard recommendation is that you run for at least a year before you consider trying to do a 26.2-mile race. The slower the build-up, the less likely you are to sustain an injury.

5) Find the right shoes. This wasn't easy for a guy like me who has huge flat Hawaiian "luau" feet. But thanks to New Balance, that problem has been solved. Caveat: Don't wear your shoes for more than 300 miles. Just today I broke out another pair of new running shoes even though the frugal part of my brain kept telling me, "No, your old shoes still have mileage left on them!" Actually, no they don't, brain!

6) Enjoy yourself. Your first marathon will always be special. Think: first date. First kiss. First day on that new job. You're a marathoner!

May the course be with you,

Dave

P.S. I lost Becky from endometrial cancer. Please help me to end uterine cancer by joining the fight. Read the details. I can't tell you how much inspiration and motivation I've drawn from watching Becky struggle with her cancer. She finished her race with humor, class, and honor. Her strength and dignity keep me going even when I'm feeling  I can't take another step. I'm doing this race for her.

Thursday, March 9 

7:06 PM The workers have left and I've been sitting on the front porch watching a three-quarter moon rise at the end of a wonderful day. I'm rereading a book I acquired a year or so ago: Return to Rome, by Frank Beckwith. It's the story of his reversion to Roman Catholicism while endeavoring to stay true to his evangelical convictions. Beckwith had initially left the Catholic Church to become a Protestant. It's a fascinating read about a topic I know very little about. Beckwith is an important modern intellectual, although I wish his memoir had been a little more detailed. At any rate, I smiled when I read the following on page 33:

On our kitchen table, this friend had left for my father a copy of the Good News for Modern Man New Testament (Today's English Version). The following afternoon I picked it up and began reading it. I had no idea, until days later, that I had been reading a Bible.

Boy, did that bring back memories. I recall being 16 and discovering the Good News Bible for the first time. I couldn't put it down. Sometimes I wonder whether we have worked hard enough, as Bible translators, to produce translations that are readable (as well as accurate). Page after page, word after word, my life began to change as the result of reading the word of God in language I could understand. In the morning when I woke up I would sit down and read. The Bible was too good to sit on my bookshelf. As an artist, I loved the simple line drawings my Bible contained.

And when I didn't know what a term meant, I could look it up in the glossary in the back. No, this wasn't a perfect translation. Of course not. Bible translation is a complex subject, yes, but oh, such wonders I discovered in the TEV. My teen years were challenging for me. That wasn't a bad thing. God was trying to grow me, and He was trying to do it, partly, through His word. Now I find myself wondering at times if my zeal has flagged a bit. I grew out of a happy-clappy Christianity years ago, but sometimes I can become so serious about life that I fail to enjoy the Bible like I once did. It occurs to me, however, that if I really want to get to know God, to follow and love Him, I need His word. Without it I can't spot all the counterfeit Jesuses in Christendom that are out there vying for my attention. Picking up the Bible 48 years was a turning point for me. That pricking of my spirit and mind, I know now, was the Holy Spirit. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

12:04 PM Can Daylight Saving Time affect your health? The answer may surprise you. 

11:56 AM Here's the HVAC team hard at work at scarfing down the sloppy joes I made for them. And no, I did not offer them sodas. Ain't nothin' better for you than good ol' fashion Virginia well water. LOL!

11:48 AM Children in the big church? Kevin Brown says yes. Watch or listen today!

10:18 AM I see that James Snapp has posted a list of some YouTube resources on New Testament textual criticism. I think you'll find his response to John Macarthur to be very interesting. When it comes to textual criticism, I think we can hold both the questions and the answers lightly. And I think it's always a good idea to challenge our own assumptions. In fact, I'll be addressing this issue later this month in my paper at Southwestern Seminary. Recent commentators fail to even mention the variant in Matt. 5:22, as if it doesn't even exist. In Novum Testamentum, I argued for the originality of the adverb eike against the majority of writers and scholars. I'm going to rehash my arguments but more importantly I hope to show why it's necessary 1) to discuss this variant and 2) to present both sides of the argument. That is, those who argue that eike was added to "soften" Jesus' otherwise harsh teaching about anger have a legitimate point. But they usually fail to mention that the other alternative is just as likely: that a scribe omitted the word in order to make anger for the Christian a "black and white" issue. If we want to know what the New Testament teaches about anger, then we've got to get this verse right. It's tempting to become a defender of the status quo without ever examining the evidence for ourselves. I don't think it's possible to overstate how important and relevant textual criticism is to the exegetical process. The art and science of New Testament textual criticism is, I believe, one of the great challenges and invitations for us today. I'm too good at being a pretender. I default to attempts to control instead of the freefall of personal investigation. I'm good at following the consensus opinio. I do not obey my own inclinations to follow through. But one of the great gifts of my seminary and doctoral programs was the challenge to go wherever the evidence pointed me. Disagreeing about our conclusions is one thing. But getting the facts wrong is another.

In other news ...

1) I'm having both HVAC units replaced. It will take a crew of 5 two days to finish the job. My old units served us well but they had definitely given up the ghost.

2) Saturday, Lord willing, I'll be racing again, this time in Raleigh. It'll be a repeat performance at the Sola Hot Mini 5K. This is such a hugely important event. The proceeds will support Hope for Warriors of North Carolina, which provides care for service members, their families, and families of the fallen. It's a bit jarring when you realize just how great the need is for this kind of assistance. I hope they raise tons of money. Once again, I'm realizing how impossible it is to separate the sacred in my life from the so-called secular. Actually, I don't see any separation between my spiritual "ministry" and running in 5K races. Both are opportunities to move with the Spirit, to embody Christ in the world, and to bring hope and goodness to others. If you believe in the undivided life, and if you live in Raleigh, why not consider coming out and joining me?

3) In North Carolina, two-thirds of all adults are overweight or obese. North Carolina ranks fifth worst for childhood obesity. Four of the leading 10 causes of death in the U.S. are related to obesity. The three key activities associated with obesity are physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and soft drink consumption. That's why I was a bit taken aback when I saw an ad on YouTube by one of our great soft drink corporations promoting their campaign to fight obesity. The bottom line is "soda isn't healthy in any amount and there is absolutely no reason or justification for consuming it." I'm ashamed at how I once limited God to my "spiritual" life and neglected to take care of His temple. Now, I find Him alive in a walk in the wilderness, a climb to a mountaintop, a 5K race, in art and literature and work and dishwashing and cooking. Please take a moment and read the essay I just linked to. I don't want to point fingers. Lord knows we all struggle with our weight. It's okay to struggle. But we can make progress, one step at a time. Besides, it's Lent! :-)

Wednesday, March 8 

6:50 PM I drove to the High Bridge Trail in Farmville today, intent on getting in my 10 miles. I wore my sweatpants and a wicking jersey over which I placed a sweat shirt and a parka. Not that I thought it was gonna rain. The sky was a shade of Carolina Blue, and the sun shone brightly.

Then I was off. By the third mile I knew I wanted to go farther than 10 miles. "Why not a half, Davey old boy? That's only 13.1 miles." My body seemed to give me a green light, so off we went, averaging about a 14-minute mile pace. At 6.55 miles, the halfway point rolled under me and I turned around. Running. You are running. You are fine. My legs and feet began to show signs of weakness -- a pain here and a bolt of something there -- but nothing major. Just keep running. Keep on running. Eventually I crossed back into Farmville. I broke no records. But that didn't matter. I had finished.

When I checked my emails I noticed that the SNTS had sent me their newsletter featuring the upcoming annual meeting in South Africa in 2017, which I'm going to have to miss.

Then I saw the venues for 2018 and 2019. Athens? You bet! Marburg. Yes! I live near a small town on a small farm with a quant house and a dog and some donkeys and goats. But nothing satiates my Wanderlust. "Belonging" to the guild of New Testament scholars defines my life as much as running does these days. I'm not trying to break any records either as a runner or a scholar. I'm not trying to set new PRs. I just want to be out there, be involved, be me. When I started teaching 40 years I thought becoming a New Testament scholar was a Sisyphean task. Eventually I realized I was wrong. I will keep turning to teaching, and to running, until I can teach and run no more.

7:48 AM Today I hope to get in 10 miles of training. I struggle with knowing what my body is capable of doing. I think for me personally, I need to decide what my long-range goals are. At this stage of life, endurance is the name of the game. I'm slow and a bit overweight for my body's frame, and every extra pound only makes it that more difficult to run. I have seen some small improvements in both my form and endurance. It's fairly easy for me to run 5 miles now, whereas a year ago I was huffing and puffing to finish a 5K. I think doing trail runs has helped me improve this year. I have two weeks to go until my next half, and I'm hoping that this time around the race will be easier. With age comes wisdom (so I'm told), so I'm really trying hard not to burn out. I'm aiming for consistency, not speed. I suppose people look at me like they'd look at a constipated snail. I'm okay with that. Someone has to be last so that others can beat somebody! My goal is just to cover the distance without falling apart at the seams. At 64, I know I'm running out of time to improve, but I feel a deep need to release my potential, whatever that is. Just being able to put my running shoes on today was an accomplishment, I feel. I am old but I love running! At least running gets your heart in shape. What I've learned over the years is that it's quality, not quantity, that counts in the end. I have only a handful of close friends but they're good ones. Food is the same way. Here in America we have far too much cheap food available at our fingertips. So cutting out things like junk food and sodas can move the needle toward a less obese society. One thing I know for sure: I don't plan to kill myself getting ready for Cincy. I'll train hard, rest, and try to be sensible. Se we'll see how it goes today. I'll listen to my body. It always knows best.

Tuesday, March 7 

7:16 PM This morning a former student (thanks Nate!) sent me a link to this powerful story about Terry Fox and his attempt to run a marathon a day across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

Terry's leg had been amputated due to cancer. His story is incredibly moving. Parents, watch it with your kids. They will be inspired for life. Terry's a national hero in Canada but hardly known in the States. People who stand up against the odds and who fight for hope and change make the world a better place. I was touched by watching this film. You will be too. 

1:48 PM The ladies are hard at work.

Earlier I drove into town to make a contribution to the capital campaign at the Y. I am a firm believer that people who participate in groups are more likely to achieve their fitness goals than those who try to go it alone. Though it's okay to exercise by yourself -- I do most of my running, climbing, and biking alone -- I strongly believe that finding a like-minded group will increase the chances of you becoming your best you. "Hey guys, can I join you?" are life-changing words. So, for that and many other reasons, today I became an official supporter of the Y.

Their capital campaign is called "A New Day Dawns," and their projects include lobby renovations, new family changing rooms, locker rooms renovations, and (as you can see) parking lot repairs.

Afterwards I got in a 5K at the local high school track and then went grocery shopping. I did something I've never done before -- bought shrimp for dinner. Can't wait.

Make it a great day!

8:06 AM Today we're doing spring cleaning here at Bradford Hall. Not that it needs it or anything. (Right.) One of my daughters is coming over with her daughter to do most of the work since I am a complete house-cleaning klutz. Dirt? Where? Not sure what all we hope to accomplish today but I imagine the list would include washing windows and window sills, dusting other furnishings, washing walls and trim, sweeping and scrubbing floors, washing mirrors, cleaning tubs and toilets, washing the kitchen counters and stovetop, organizing the pantry, etc. Just writing that last sentence makes me tired. LOTS to DOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

7:48 AM Last night I watched "All the President's Men" starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. I was in college during the Watergate era. In fact, the summer I was taking both of my required American History courses at the University of Hawaii was the summer that showcased the Watergate hearings in DC. That summer I, along with probably most Americans, became obsessed with politics.

The Watergate affair had all the elements of a work of fiction -- intrigue, courage, mystery, and danger. Yet that summer reality became infinitely more fascinating than any work of fiction could ever be. Even today, whenever I hear "Watergate" I shudder to think what can happen to the presidency. I'm also amazed at the dogged determination that two reporters had to understand the larger story in all of its sleazy criminality. There's a reason Woodward and Bernstein are famous today. Their willingness to challenge a sitting administration led to the type of exhaustive investigation that Congress was apparently unwilling or unable to pursue. The cast of characters reads like a Who's Who of American government --  the president, the vice-president, the White House chief of staff, the former attorney general, the acting director of the FBI. What began as a minor break-in became an administration-crushing scandal. In my mind, this is an important movie for three reasons. First, it will help those under 40 to understand an important era of their own national history. Second, it's a salient reminder of the importance of a free press in a democracy. And finally, it's a telling reminder that persistence pays off. Of course, nothing would have been gained without the contribution of "Deep Throat" (who we know today was Mark Felt -- a source who insisted on being "on background" and unnamed). This is a long movie. It's not only the story of the Watergate debacle. It's not only the story about two investigative reporters who refused to shy away from the hard facts. It's not only the story about the kind of corruption that could (and did) bring down an American president. It's the story of how incredibly fascinating American politics is and always has been. And it's no less fascinating today.

Monday, March 6 

5:32 PM It's often (but not always) the case that formal biblical education drives people toward the Scriptures with renewed zeal. This was very much the case with me when I began doctoral studies in Basel under Prof. Bo Reicke. He had been trained in the highest tradition of European theological education. I was struck by the caliber of the men who taught us theology in Basel (there were no women instructors at the time). I remember writing an essay during my first year, in fact my first published journal article: The Peculiarities of Ephesians and the Ephesian Address. Today, I'm intrigued to note how that essay is still quoted  because (I suppose) it's one of the few articles in print to argue for an original Ephesian destination for "Ephesians." The day in Basel when I received the page proofs from the publisher was a reminder to me of the value of old-fashioned apprenticeship, for, you see, my essay was the result of study I had done under that outstanding textual scholar Harry Sturz at Biola. I loved the emphasis I received under his tutelage on textual criticism. In many seminaries today, I suspect this topic is notable for its absence, and students are trained as though they didn't need to know how to read the bottom half of their Greek New Testament. This is frankly disastrous. If young pastors can't give a good reason for the textual choices they make, perhaps they aren't as much to blame as their seminary curriculum. The essence of a biblical education is its commitment to preparing and equipping students to think for themselves rather than merely following the party line. This week in my Greek 2 class, my students are doing a take-home quiz over my little book New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide. There are strengths and weaknesses in my approach. It's easy to oversimplify a complicated subject. My model for writing my book was a scholar named Harold Greenlee, whose primer on the subject was noted for combining profound insight with clarity. He treated the subject in simple, non-technical language -- a quality that is rare among writers. In these ways he embodied for me what a "scholar-for-the-church" should be, but frequently is not. I well recall attending Prof. Reicke's lectures in Basel and being struck by the same balance between humanitas and pietas he seemed to have. Basel had enormous strengths, not the least of which was its emphasis on self-study and self-motivation. Unlike what I just did this week, students were not forced to take quizzes over anything they read. They were, well, just expected to be so much in love with learning that they read without extrinsic pressure to do so. The academic work was dominated by research rather than exams and term papers. In essence, in Basel they put all of their eggs in one basket -- your dissertation. I long for a similar kind of pedagogy today. Scholarship is vital at all levels of the church. It is, after all, only by being stretched intellectually and academically that we grow. Unfortunately, in many churches no thanks are given for those who have truly mastered their subjects.

I loved my studies in Basel. Becky and I were very happy in our one-room apartment, and we threw ourselves completely into learning the language and culture of our fair city. Becky and I did a lot of entertaining, and discovered the joy of sharing life with our fellow students, most of whom are nearing retirement age today (how time flies). It was a joy to study under some of the great intellects of the day. It was also an awesome privilege to speak regularly in my little Baptist church, and it taught me not only to prepare in general, but to always pursue a deep understanding of the text.

Such was my introduction to the world of academia. What was yours like?

4:30 PM What I'm reading:

1) The Difference between "Inspiration" and "Preservation."

2) Watergate 45 years on: Why was it so important?

3) "Nomina Sacra": Further Observations.

4) There's a blizzard warning in Hawaii.

5) Daily Dose of Greek. 

9:14 AM Wow. What a weekend. The Twitter wars have erupted again. A Sikh man is shot in his driveway in Washington. Hawaii got more snow than Denver. (I'd sell my "Hamilton" tickets to see that.) My downstairs heater went out. (Brrrr.) North Korea launches more missiles. "Logan" destroys box offices. Arnold quits "The Apprentice." Patrick Stewart is becoming a U.S. citizen. As for little old moi, I'm feeling much better today (thank you, Airborne) and hope to get to the Y (after I get my HVAC working again). Then it's back to work on a book review and a power point for my ETS presentation on the 31st. I'm filling 3 orders for my Greek DVDs today. Then it's off to the Post Office and the bank. I'm looking forward to this weekend's 5K for the American Cancer Society though they're calling for a "stray shower" on Saturday. Sigh.

Oh, did I mention a trash run today?

Sunday, March 5 

5:52 PM Marathon training update: Stats for the week of Feb. 26 - March 4.

  • 6 workouts

  • 6.7 hours

  • 46.4 miles

  • 4,103 calories

Today I feel so-so. Hoping to get back in the saddle tomorrow. I am considering today a recovery day. :-)

5:45 PM 20 miles. I day. O cars. It's called the DC Bike Ride and it's on May 14 of this year. I've signed up to ride with my DC daughter. Why not join in the fun?

11:20 AM If you live in the Dallas Fort Worth area, please join me at the ETS regional meeting on the campus of SWBTS March 31-April 1.

11:12 AM Grieving the loss of a friend and former colleague, Michael Travers.

9:58 AM Good morning, all! The messed up thing about running when it's cold is having to deal with post-race issues. This morning my head is stuffed up (more than normal) and I'm sneezing and otherwise feeling tired. Why? Yesterday's temps I could deal with. Ditto for the hills. But combine them together? No way. That's a bit too much for a 64-year old I guess. So today's a day for a bit of R & R. Of course, it might have helped if I refused to go all out in yesterday's race. But you know me. Impossible. So I'm keeping my eye on the weather and am hoping against hope that next week's race will be in warmer temps. At least there wasn't any wind yesterday. Even with the challenging weather I felt great yesterday. Running outdoors is the only way to go (sorry, you treadmill users).

I've been trying to think of things that are interesting to blog about this morning and I keep coming back to -- duh -- Greek. Now I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I think proof-texting has become a huge problem in our evangelical circles (I've never done it, of course), and perhaps the reason is because we look at individual verses as if they could stand on their own. You'll notice that when I quote Bible verses on this blog I often omit any reference to their "addressees" (chapter and verse). I want people to think of "locatedness" in different ways. In fact, verse and chapter divisions don't always make sense. Here's a study of Rom. 12:9-13 I once did.

(My essay was published under the title The Pauline Love Command: Structure, Style, and Ethics in Romans 12:9-21, in case you're interested.) Please notice the mid-section of the chiasmus above, highlighted in yellow. Section "C" contains two clauses: "being fervent in spirit," and "serving the Lord." However, the clause that precedes it in section "B" -- "not slothful in business" (KJV) -- is placed in our English translations in the same verse that contains "being fervent in spirit" and "serving the Lord." (Check out Rom. 12:11 in your English Bible.) This "breaks the rules." It seems pretty clear that Paul arranged his text so that the two lines in "C" would stand out against the backdrop of sections "B" and "B Prime." Remember, during the New Testament age the text of the Bible was something that was engaged mainly aurally and orally, whereas today we engage it primarily through our eyes. That is to say, when the New Testament was written, there were no "extra-linguistic" devices to help the "reader" along, such as capitalization, indentation, paragraphization, and versification. Wordswerewrittenwithoutspaces. The author had to rely on other kinds of aids to help the listener follow the flow of thought -- including rhetorical devices such as homoioleteuton and homoioarcton (both of which are used in this passage). The upshot? We should probably take line 3 of "B" ("being fervent in spirit") with what goes before it instead of what comes after it. "But understanding the text in this way would play havoc with our Bibles," you say. Exactly my point. I'm not picking on Bible translations. And I'm not trying to be dogmatic about my interpretation. My point is that we have to use caution when following the verse divisions in our Bibles. A case in point is 3 John. Some Bibles have 15 verses in 3 John, while others put the content of verse 15 into verse 14.

I am no expert at any of this, and I'm trying not to sound like a fanatic, but I'm wondering if from time to time it might be a good idea to consult a Bible translation that doesn't contain any verses or chapter divisions. The English Standard Version Reader's Bible comes to mind. Doing this might help us view the Bible less as a dictionary that we look up things up in and more like a continuous narrative. I prefer to study Scripture as a series of complete thought units. These are sometimes a part of a verse or a group of verses. This can make a difference in interpretation. Returning for a moment to Rom. 12:9-13, we can see how Paul seems to separate the "title" of this section in 12:9 ("Let love be unhypocritical") from the reminder of the passage. "This is what unhypocritical love looks like" seems to be the main idea, an idea that is then "unpacked" for us in the clauses that follow. Sincere love hates what is evil. It clings to what is good. It causes us to be devoted to one another like a loving family. It shows us how to excel in showing respect to each other. It reminds us that we can't become lazy in showing such devotion. Sincere love keep us fueled and inflamed, serving the Master. And so on.

I could say much more about this but I've already rambled on long enough. Suffice it to say that I do enjoy Bible study. Scripture is one of the supreme means by which Jesus invites us to learn about Him. It drives us to our knees as we recognize our failures and shortcomings. It elicits in our hearts profound gratitude for what the Father did for us when He sent Jesus to the cross. It is one of the great means by which the Lord Jesus pours Himself into our lives. The purpose is to help us discover our way to Christ by showing us, among other things, what true love looks like.

Praise God for His word!

Saturday, March 4 

6:16 PM Here's our final book offering:

12:32 PM Schreiner is claimed. Stay tuned, though. I'll have one more book giveaway this weekend. 

12:22 PM Just back from my 5K. The hills were brutal. My race goal? Survival. Seriously! I took one look at the hills and practically fainted. I need some serious therapy, obviously! After the race I got another t-shirt for my grandkids and another medal but mostly I came away with a sense of accomplishment because I gave it my best. Just because I got beat out by dozens of other runners doesn't mean I am deterred in my pursuit of excellence. It's not the finish line that challenges me but the race itself. Here's my race recap:

1) I drove an hour and a half to Camp Hydaway and found a parking space in a crowded lot.

2) The perfunctory race picture.

3) Lining up for the start.

4) Then the roller coaster began. As you can see, my hill work sucked.

5) My final time was 34:44. I placed 83 in a pack of 164 and came in second in my age group.

Okay, I think that's about it. I had lots of fun today and met some great people. Enormous shout out to everyone in my family (and others of you) who sent me a word of encouragement this morning. You all make me so happy. Thank you for always believing in me and making me braver and better. I love you. I really do.

Run strong, my friends!

6:46 AM Howell is claimed. So here's another never-used book, free for the asking. First come, first served.

Friday, March 3 

8:38 PM Temp at race time tomorrow morning in Lynchburg: 33. Which means:

  • Gloves

  • Ski cap

  • Chapstick

  • 2 tops over long-sleeve base layer

  • Jacket or protective shell

  • Thick wool-blend socks

  • 30 minute warm-up jog

  • Gradually build into race pace

  • Drink!

  • Change into dry clothes immediately afterwards

I love running in the cold. Makes me feel alive.

8:16 PM Vanhoye is claimed. Here's my next offering. Just send me an email and it's yours if you're first.

7:58 PM I don't know about you, but I think it's creepy when people get all pedantic on me. Recently I read where someone famous was asked whether he thought Christians should own dogs. You know, is it good stewardship and all that. That drives me nuts. Such a matter clearly falls into the category of the adiaphora -- the "indifferent things" -- doubtful matters of no importance that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14-15. We can't judge the thoughts and intentions of others. What may be sin to you might not be sin to me. I am a dog lover. It's been proven that dogs can reduce stress levels and even help people cope with grief. Mine is a laugh a minute. She knows how to "politely" beg for a cookie and then tell me it's time to go outside for a walk. If I've had a bad day, she knows it. I've read that children who have pets are often less self-centered than those who don't. Sheba provides me with all kinds of emotional and psychological benefits as well as companionship, loyalty, and affection. Okay, she can also be a pain in the neck at times (Shelties shed something awful and like to bark). That said, having Sheba around makes a huge positive difference in my day. Good reader, let's try not to be so teachy. (I hasten to add that I am preaching to myself.) Let's put the responsibility where it belongs: on the individual. If your conscience troubles because you own a dog (or a boat or an iPad or whatever), then follow it. Are there drawbacks to pet ownership? There can be. They require time and attention. They require a financial investment. They require daily exercise to stay well-balanced. They make it difficult to be away from home for long periods of time. There's no way I could have animals on the farm if I didn't have someone to take care of them during my travels. Bottom line: There's no cookie cutter answer to the question: Should I own a dog? Do your due diligence, check your budget, determine your needs, pray about it, then go with your heart. As Paul would say, "Let every person be convinced in his or her own mind" (Rom. 14:5).

Thank you, Sheba, for being you -- for wanting to follow me around, for teaching me how to live one day at a time, for cheering me up when I'm down, for loving me for just being me, for enriching the lives of everyone you touch, for getting me out of the house, for making me laugh, for making every day special, for being a true and faithful companion through thick and thin, and for showing me just how great is the Creator God I love and try to serve. You are a joy and a delight. I thank God for you, girl.

6:54 PM I noticed that my little book on the Pauline authorship of Hebrews is now available on Google Play.

6:44 PM Book giveaway to the first person to write me at dblack@sebts.edu:

6:28 PM "I am NOT a runner!" But have you tried? Look for a race near you, register, and then walk in it. That first step is the hardest. But I know you can do it.

Join the rest of us out-of-shape people who are trying to take care of our bodies. I pray you'll be brave enough to run with passion, not only a race but also this thing called the race of life. You won't regret it!

1:12 PM Did 4 miles today. I cut it short because of a wild dog on the trail. Bummer. Exercise fail.

12:58 PM "Green Is Spring."

Green is spring,
Bright, fresh, and new.



Yellow is the sun,
Bright, bold, and true.



Blue is the sky,
Shimmering and cool.

Purple is the king,
Quite royal in his rule.

Orange is fire,
Burning hot in the night.


Red is fall,
Bold, brilliant, and bright.



All these vivid colors combine,
So that in this world,
We never get bored.


9:02 AM Hey folks. I realize the inanity of what I'm going to talk about here, but please indulge my enthusiasm. Years ago I decided to study Paul's list of sufferings in 2 Cor. 6:4-10 while I was preparing the base translation for the International Standard Version New Testament. The Greek seems to have neither rhyme nor reason to it.

But then I said to myself, "Dave, you make lists all the time: to-do lists, grocery lists, lists of books you want to buy or movies you want to see, farm projects that need to be finished, etc. When your lists get long, don't you rearrange them so that they have some kind of order about them?" So you can imagine how tickled pink I felt when I took a closer look at Paul's list and -- lo and behold -- saw that he had done exactly the same thing.

In other words, by the time I finished studying the Greek of this passage, my arrangement of the list in English was a fait accompli. I have to hem and haw a bit before I say what I want to say here, but listen, folks, not only are the words of Scripture inspired by God the Holy Spirit. Yes, I look at the words. I look also at the tense, the voice, the mood, the person, the number, the word order, the phrase order, the clause order, and many other things. Just like your monthly food budget, when it comes to Scripture, you gotta do the math, crunch the numbers. Downside: If you try to express in English everything that's in a biblical text, you'll go crazy. Just can't be done. But can't we try harder?

Here's an example. Notice how Paul begins his list. In effect, he says this: "In every way we demonstrate that we are God's servants by tremendous endurance." Then follow "three threes" -- three sets of difficulties that detail for us what Paul means by "endurance." They are:

  • difficulties, hardships, calamities

  • beatings, imprisonments, riots

  • hard work, sleepless nights, hunger

Oh my stars, how beautifully and wonderful made! Hence our rendering in the  ISV (please note the semi-colons):

... in the midst of difficulties, hardships, and calamities; in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger....

Even better is Eugene Peterson's rendering:

... in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating....

Wowsers!

So why don't we care about this? Eugene and I don't want to be the only ones gobbling up the goodies! Like it or not, exegesis requires a close look at the Greek, which will handsomely repay your effort -- every time. Let me tell you, the way Paul ends his list is phenomenal. That's just like God to do that -- the One who crafted ecosystems and integrated colors and designed the earth so extraordinarily. The Greek has, "As having nothing and possessing all things." Most English versions do something like that. But again, Peterson insists on replicating the figure of speech in the Greek when he writes, "having nothing, having it all." Perfect!

My land, do we have far to go! But we can't get there without a deep, dark, unhealthy obsession with Greek. Okay, I'm kidding. But at least a sideward glance at the Greek might come in handy from time to time.

Wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, March 2 

6:32 PM Just did 5 miles on my bike. March totals so far: 10.1 miles.

1:48 PM This is what you deserve after running 5 miles.

I ate half of it for lunch and I'll have the other half for dinner. That's TWO meals for only $5.50. I'm really gearing up for the race in just two days. I'm turning into a trail run lover. I don't do it often, but when I do I find it completely different from road racing. The trails are so serene and peaceful. Then too, the trail running community is very laid back and seems to be much less "competitive" than what I find when I do a 5K in Cary or Morrisville. Still, I'm always scared of falling, so my pace is slower than normal. But I do enjoy going outside my comfort zone. I have the same feeling when I'm climbing tall mountains. Right now I'm putting the finishing touches on a couple of lectures for my NT class this semester. That is, after a half hour power nap!

9:54 AM This and that ....

1) The Lord gave us a good, soaking rain last night. The fields are HAPPY!

2) Ben Merkle's lecture in our NT class yesterday was superb. (No surprises there.) He challenged the popular "Left Behind" thinking behind such passages as Matthew 24 and Luke 17 (the "Olivet Discourse"). You can read his thoughts here. I am always pleased when people challenge the status quo. I have never read LaHaye and Jenkins and don't really plan to do so in the future. Truth is, too many of us allow our eschatology to influence our exegesis when it should be the other way around. Thanks for that reminder yesterday, friend.

3) Last night CNN broadcast George W. Bush's interview live at the Reagan Library in California. Bush was plugging his new book of portraits. You can read about it here.

Never was president Bush more regaling or pleasant to listen to. I kept nodding my head in agreement as he waxed elephant about this or that topic, mixing in both dry wit and self-effacing humor. Example: Portrait drawing is just a gigantic Charley Horse between the ears. Landscapes? Easy. Seascapes? Duck soup. But it takes lots and lots of practice to get a face right. In my own experience, practice doesn't make perfect. It makes permanent. You just gotta keep working at it because you'll never do it perfectly. You have to turn off that part of your brain that tells what you think something looks like and begin listening to the part of your brain that tells you what you are actually seeing. It's sooooo hard to get past the flat 2D outcome. Believe me, I know.

The other part of the Bush interview I enjoyed was hearing the man's heart for our nation's vets. Fund raising for veterans is the legacy 43 wants to leave behind him, and I give him solid kudos for that. Let's all be Americans who silence the screaming voice that yells "GET" and instead listen to our better angels that whisper "GIVE." I'm betting politics would lose its sheen if we did this. I'm also betting that materialism would lose its grip and we'd discover a whole new world of community responsibility. President Bush, I salute you, sir!

4) This says it all.

5) Please partner with me in ministry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (With thanks to Warren Throckmorton.)

6) I love springtime, don't you? The birds are chirping and the grass is growing and the buds are budding and the race season is officially underway. The first two months of 2017 were tough. I struggled to find my running groove, and a brief coughing bout didn't help. I'm still off my game, so I'm hoping I can get back on track during this Saturday's trail run. I'm itching to try my hand at another difficult race, with lots of hills (as you can see):

As always, I will be slow and outrun by everyone on the planet. But I'm okay with that as long as I can say I did my very best. I know I'm a runner because the passion for racing lies deep within my heart. I may be the slowest kid on the trail, but nothing can take away my desire to finish strong and push myself beyond what I think is possible. As always, I'll be running this race for Becky, and if you'd like to help the cancer fund I've set up in her memory, feel free to click here. As you can see, I've got a ways to go to reach my goal but I'm not giving up. Bec's worth it, and so is the cause.

Time to exercise!

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