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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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