February 2013 Blog Archives
Thursday, February 28
7:22 AM In her latest essay, Becky defines our partnership with India. What can you do? What will you do?
7:16 AM Last year in my New Testament class, I had my students prepare weekly written assignments. I recall that one week I had asked them to prepare a paper on 1 Peter 3:13-4:9. The paper was to be called “Summarizing Suffering.” Well, with his family's permission, I post here the response given by Marcus Twisdale. You remember him.
He was my wheelchair-bound student who would always be the first to volunteer to read his papers to the class. This is what Marcus shared with the class that day, and it really moved us.
Like I said, his paper brought tears to our eyes. Marcus is now with the Lord. He had a crucified Master whom he loved with all of his heart. May our lives reflect the belief that the hope of the world lies only in the power of the cross.
7:02 AM Yesterday I read a "Christian" defense of the invasion of Iraq, a defense partly based on a positive comparison of the Iraq War with the Crusades during the Middle Ages. Honestly, I do not see how followers of the Prince of Peace can say that they "like the Crusades." Jesus' teaching about radical love of enemies should make us pause when we read such statements. In my opinion, a defense of "just war" that ignores Jesus' unconditional refusal to engage in violence fails to wrestle with both the example and teachings of Jesus – which is ironic because we live in a day when millions of people are waking up to the truth that the kingdom of God is trans-national, and that followers of Jesus don't need to practice power other than the power of self-sacrificing love, even for their enemies. Millions are abandoning the Constantine paradigm and taking up their towels and basins, recognizing that the heart of Christianity is loving the unlovable and laying down our lives for others. Millions are recognizing the danger of mixing the kingdom with nationalism, and some churches have even been willing to rethink their views about "just" war.
Our commitment as followers of King Jesus is to advance His peaceable reign throughout the earth by non-violent means. The unmistakable message of the New Testament is that Jesus is the unsurpassable definition and revelation of God, who is the "exact representation of God's own being." So, whatever position you take on the Iraq War, whatever else is at stake in America's projection of military power abroad, be sure you're fixing your eyes on Jesus. The question is not whether the church should be profoundly affecting society. The question is how. We must remember that we are only foreigners and exiles in a strange land, and that we are to "please our commanding officer" (2 Tim. 2:4), Jesus. Yes, we are called to be warriors, but soldiers who conquer by living Spirit-led, counter-cultural lives and by putting Christ's self-sacrificial character on display. Our soldiers in the Middle East display incredible courage. I pray that we as Christian warriors would have the same kind of courage, realizing that violence only begets more violence. (We armed Saddam in his fight against Iran and bin Laden in his fight against the Soviets.)
Anyway, I encourage you to join the Christian Archy movement. Hold your political allegiances if you wish, but do not label your party as distinctively "Christian." Get involved in politics if you feel so led, but be careful not to divide your loyalties between God and your political views. Our only loyalty and our only trust must be placed squarely in a God who uses Jesus-like actions to expand His rule in this fallen world of ours. Our job is simply to imitate Him.
This year, let's commit to doing that 24/7.
Wednesday, February 27
7:44 PM Our favorite "Abnormal Anabaptist" Robert Martin links to a video called Ten Tips for a Happy Marriage. Robert seems to like it. I watched it, and I'm not so sure. Becky and I have a good friend who is about to get married. He's a former student of mine. In an email Becky sent him yesterday, she wrote these words: "A marriage is no marriage if it isn't centered on the Gospel." The apostle Paul put it this way:
And elsewhere I've said the same thing, though with different words of course:
Hey, please don't accuse me of being against happiness in marriage. But happiness should not be in the forefront of our minds. So my message to young married couples, in a nutshell, is this: Serve Christ in your marriage! Not in a selfish way. Not in a "Look at us, we have a great marriage!" sort of way. But simply in a way that acknowledges that marriage is a precious gift of God to enable you to partner with another human being in living a Jesus-looking life.
Happy marriage to all!
7:18 PM Hey virtual friends! It's time to get caught up, don't you think? Got a minute or two for a few odds and ends?
1) Recently PBS published a story called Colorado Springs Evangelicals. The new head of Focus on the Family is interviewed in depth. His goal? To engage the culture without becoming "wrapped around the axle of politics." He is so right about this! The bottom of the bottom line is simply this: politics and religion don't mix. Look, you are I are called to follow Jesus and advance His kingdom, which is "not of this world." It's also important to remember that the earliest Christians loved and supported their communities. They did not look down on lost sinners. It's a beautiful thing when you begin to hear people at Focus on the Family admit that it was a mistake to become cultural warriors. The truth is that our activism has been a loud gong that has drowned out quiet voices, so that the culture has lost interest in anything we have to say. The people who have changed the world have always been risk-takers who climbed down through torn up roofs while the rest of the world slammed doors. I was a stranger at first to this kind of thinking, but my reading of the Gospels completely changed all that. (See my The Jesus Paradigm.) I don't believe that God needs an advocate in DC or a faith-based organization to promote His kingdom. So I urge us all to be careful who we pledge allegiance to. Let's be careful to raise the banner of the cross high above all other flags. So watch (or read) this interview. It should make us all uncomfortable. But the more you read the Gospels, the more your comfortable life will be interrupted.
2) I am very glad to recommend this Virtual Qumran Tour. Fabulous!
3) Ralph Martin of Fuller Seminary is now with the Lord he served so well.
His commentary on 2 Corinthians was the first to cite from my then-recently-minted doctoral dissertation, Paul, Apostle of Weakness. I well recall having several conversations with him about Pauline theology as a result when I lived in Southern California. Biblical scholarship has suffered a severe loss.
4) Really had a superb time at Mount Vernon on Sunday night. Nigusse spoke from Phil. 1:27-30 on persevering in unity and courage for the sake of the Gospel.
I loved the multi-ethnic diversity of the congregation. Languages spoken during the service included Cambodian, Vietnamese, Spanish, German (me), Greek (me), and Hebrew. Afterwards brother Mark took us to the Seoul Garden for some great food. Nigusse loves spicy cuisine. I think I hear God calling me to be a fulltime missionary in South Korea.
5) The ETS meeting at Dallas Seminary is this weekend. I'm eager to hear the following papers.
I'll keep you posted on how the conference goes.
6) This email was a joy to receive:
7) No, no NO! This can't be true, can it??!!
8) Finally, rummaging through the internet yesterday I ran across an interesting piece over at IMDb called Top 30 good looking actors over 60 years old. On the list are the likes of Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, and Clint Eastwood. Boy, if that doesn't make me feel old. Yes, folks, I am officially "not young" anymore. And I'm totally okay with that. It seems to me that life has its various stages, and I am rather enjoying the one I'm going through right now. Hindus believe there are four stages of life. They call them the student stage, the householder stage, the retired person stage, and finally the ascetic stage. Each stage is preceded by a ritual that ushers that person into the next stage of life. In my book The Myth of Adolescence, I argued that there are only three stages of life, all based on the transitions that Jesus experienced in His humanity: childhood (pre-adulthood), novice adulthood (12-30), and senior adulthood (30 +). The goal is for all of us to move into the final stage of maturity (known in 1 John as "fatherhood") – a stage in life where we become the experienced teacher or mentor in the lives of others. Dionysus, who lived about 500 years after Christ, called these three stages purification, illumination, and union, corresponding to the familiar triad of "faith, hope, and love."
Now, the interesting thing is that in our culture rarely if ever do we go through designated "rites of passage" to help us negotiate these stages of life. At least I didn't. It seems that life has been a roller coaster of rapidly occurring events. Wasn’t I just 16 and surfing Pipeline just a few years ago? Who would have thought that I would be 60 today? Yesterday I was sliding down the banisters of life, while today I am holding onto the hand rails and watching every step. When I was young, I dreaded becoming old. Now that I'm "old," I feel young and vibrant, at least on the inside. I now see beauty in places I would have never thought before I aged. Who would have thought? I realize that I can choose whether or not to view my life as way beyond the "expiration date" or else as something fresh and crisp. All my life I've wanted to travel. All my life I've wanted to reach a level of maturity in which I felt I could mentor others. Aging has made me both more decisive and accepting. As I've grown older, a bump in the road no longer seems like the end of the world. (According to one study, "The brain's forget-the-bad-retain-the-good memory function appears gradually as we age." See Aging has its benefits). My mission is to grow older with grace. I want to be more active for the Gospel than ever before. I want to take more risks, even if they seem foolish, remembering the wise words of C. S. Lewis, "When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
Not long ago I spoke to a large youth gathering in Raleigh. I showed my pictures of Ethiopia. We prayed together, sat around and talked, sang songs. It was wonderful. I think they saw in my age and brokenness their own capacity to love and serve and give sacrificially. I recall being a college student myself and being in the presence of the Jim Elliotts and the Hudson Taylors of my generation. Looking into the eyes of a true servant of the Lord may be the clearest glimpse of Jesus some people may ever get in this world. Even today I long for friends who will get in my face and stir up debate and challenge me to be all that God wants to be. I am dumbfounded and outraged by the apathy of many of our youth. My message to them is, "Don't wait as long as I did to become a fool for Jesus, a disturber of culture." Sometimes I wonder, in the midst of all of our youth rallies and sermonizing, if we are really preaching the Gospel. We are tempted to enshrine bigger and stronger when God wants us to grow us smaller and weaker so that His kingdom can take over the world.
So, folks, I am getting older. But the real question is, "Am I getting better?" Aging is meaningful only as it grounded in genuine relationships, love, and interdependence with our brothers and sister around the world. For too many people, Christianity is a religion of frowning gray-haired people trying to live their lives vicariously through someone else (often their children). Well, I have rejected that kind of Christianity. I hope you have too. There are so many people longing for significance in this life, people who deeply want to fall in love with God again, people who want to grow wiser and not just older. This is the spirit of searching that drives us to imagine new alternatives, driven by a vision of a kingdom that, like a tiny mustard plant, grows smaller and smaller until it eventually takes over the whole world.
P.S. I know my confessions at this point are going to disappoint some people who want to place their teachers on some sort of a pedestal. I'm sorry, but what else can I do? I'm convinced that the best blogging is done with transparency. I'm not very good at this, but I am working on it. Maybe you should too.
Enough for now.
Sunday, February 24
1:40 PM Jacob, I still think we can do better :)
1:34 PM An FYI. The good folks at Logos Bible Software announce their new Baker Academic Biblical Greek Collection. It sells for a mere 78.00 dollars. Contents:
1:28 PM Good afternoon, friends. We just ate the most wonderful Sunday dinner consisting of homemade chicken pot pie and a fresh salad. Wonderful, honey. We were famished, having spent 4 hours at the Emergency Room at Halifax Regional Hospital this morning having Becky checked out. Don't worry -- nothing major. On Friday night she was opening the back porch upright freezer when she was attacked by a package of frozen fettuccini. The result was a gash on her lower right leg. We went to the ER this morning simply to make sure we were treating her as we were supposed to. Her booboo has now been examined by professional hands (I am a "doctor" but not one who's good for anything), and she is now on Cipro prophylactically.
Have you looked outdoors today? It is a glorious spring day -- even though the calendar says it's still February -- but the ravages of the recent rains have made the farm a sea of puddles and mud. One greets this precursor to spring much like one would welcome a returning prodigal. The salubrious skies should stay with us at least until Tuesday. Looking ahead ... tonight Nigusse is speaking in the main service at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in North Raleigh. The service starts at 6:30, in case anyone is interested in attending. Looking back ... Becky reminded me to post this picture of the infamous "dungeon" built yesterday by that expert in all things Lego, Master Elias. If only I had as much imagination.
Makes a wonderful centerpiece for the dining room table, don't you think? Finally, I was delighted to receive this wonderful email today:
Man, you guys really know how to encourage a brother. Speaking of encouragement, do say a prayer for my esteemed colleague and friend Rod Decker, whose cancer journey has just made an unexpected twist. I know he'd be grateful.
Saturday, February 23
4:42 PM So grateful for the Ramiscal family coming all the way from Wake Forest to help Becky and me "deep clean" Maple Ridge today. Sure made our work go much faster.
1) Here's Miss Gianna with her beautiful handwork. (Becky's been teaching her.)
2) Elias going for broke.
3) Gianna hard at work.
4) Sonya on a sweep.
5) Becky the kitchen queen.
6) Jayson gettin' it done. (Almost as hard as your LXX class, right?)
7) And now for the finished products. Here's the west upstairs bedroom:
8) The north upstairs bedroom:
9) The south upstairs bedroom:
10) The downstairs library:
11) And finally the upstairs Jack-and-Jill bathroom (featuring the chief seat in the synagogue):
12) The men were also assigned the task of filling in potholes with bricks and gravel.
Right now the lady folk are in the cocina preparing lasagna for supper. How do you say "famished" in Italian? Again, many thanks for blessing us today, Ramiscals! We love you!
8:46 AM Hey there folks!
This morning I read a very interesting book review over at the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary blog. The reviewer was Bob McCabe, and the book was Peter Enns' commentary on Ecclesiastes. Bob extols the book because it succeeds, in his opinion, in doing what every good commentary should do -- bridge the gap between exegesis and theology. But is that the only gap we must bridge today? I noted that the heading at the DBTS site is "Theologically Driven." Is that what drives us or should drive us?
For what it's worth, I offer a few random reflections. I think we've gotten sidetracked from our first love, Jesus. We all too often lack a hunger and thirst to be His faithful disciples. How different would we think of theology if Jesus in human form were sitting and talking and walking with us every moment of every day. "The one who claims to abide in Him ought himself to live even as He lived" (1 John 2:6). And how did Jesus live? He was never satisfied with orthodoxy. He was never satisfied with fulfilling externals that may be prescribed by an organization or any other traditions of men. To live for Christ and follow Him we must surrender our desires and plans for our lives. That's the only sure way to avoid the trap of an intellectualized form of Christianity. We must yearn to become like Christ. How different is this kind of self-sacrificing faith from the the comfort-seeking, self-serving, cognitive-oriented religion that is so often preached and practiced in our churches. The only way that Christ is incarnated today to a lost world is through us -- people who carry on and extend His presence, His Word, and His works to a new generation. This glorious "ministry of reconciliation" is now ours as we reveal the heart and mind of the Savior to the lost all around us.
As you know, I have been asked to teach Advanced Hermeneutics at Odessa Theological Seminary next month. You also know that I am calling my approach a "hermeneutics of obedience." My thoughts are still very much in the formative stages at this point, but let me close this post with a few axioms that I believe the Lord has shown me through 36 years of teaching and writing:
What all this implies is that if we are to move from the classroom to real life we will have to prize what we learn and view it as a life skill and not merely as an educational attainment. Of course, this is not easy. Almost all of us feel tremendous ambivalence as we wrestle with the question of just how to apply what we learn in the classroom to the real world. Obviously, knowledge of Greek is essential if we are to have a firm foundation upon which to build our exegesis of the New Testament. On the other hand, I must say forcefully that facts, no matter how brilliantly taught or diligently acquired, are nothing more than the raw building blocks of life. How we put them together, and for what use (and whose glory), is another matter altogether.
In my book The Jesus Paradigm I told about my life-changing encounter with this Jesus who loved lost souls so desperately that He was willing to spend His ministry reaching out to sinners of all kinds. He saw what was of ultimate importance in life. No wonder He could live for others as a selfless servant. This is also, I believe, the acid test of any seminary that claims to honor Christ. Does what we do square with the Great Commission? Or is our institution just another tangent that detracts from the other-centeredness of the Gospel? It is when we realize that we are building the kingdom and not our own little ministries that the great growth really begins in our lives. When we stop focusing on ourselves, we are free to act on the really important questions. Plainly, I did not always view the purpose of graduate theological education in these terms!
Please pray for me as I smooth out these rough-hewn thoughts. In the meantime, let's keep thinking, praying -- and obeying!
Friday, February 22
7:50 PM We've just added three very exciting new links (pdf) to our Greek Portal. All of them were written by my former doctoral student at SEBTS, Matthew McDill, and all treat the topic of discourse analysis.
They are all very good, but I think I like the first one the best, as Matthew attempts a rejoinder to those who claim that modern linguistic approaches to New Testament exegesis are based on a very faulty hermeneutical foundation. By the way, to see why Matthew loves shared leadership/eldership in the local church, go here.
Wonderful essays all, Matt!
7:25 PM It occurred to me today that I have neglected to keep India before your eyes, ergo -- I list here the essays we've already published about that great nation:
02/15/13 Introducing the Peniel Gospel Team
02/10/13 Looking at Hinduism
02/04/13 Introducing India
01/19/13 Me, Nigusse, and a New Work
It's difficult for me to conceive of such a needy land, and each of us, I suppose, can do something to help spread the Good News there. I discovered long ago in my own life that I am no longer a doctor or a professor or a scholar, but a missionary who is asked to abandon himself and embrace the joyful duty of servanthood. Degrees, diplomas, earthly honors mean nothing to me. In the kingdom, pride is impossible. God is seeking true worshippers who have abandoned their own plans and have said, "I'll go." So do read these posts, all written by Becky in her wonderful prose. Who knows -- God may use you to do something pretty radical in that nation as a result.
In other news, you're probably wondering why I'm always talking about Maple Ridge as though there never seems to be anything happening around here that's worthy of comment. I suppose the answer is that we couldn't be more excited to see how God wants to use this home for His purposes. I do hope you don't get tired hearing about it. Today Becky continued painting while Nigusse and I made several trash runs and repaired the door to the old smoke house.
The new hinge screws squawked at having to be driven through such old wood, but you've got to figure that a 220-year old piece of pine is bound to be as hard as a rock by now. Alas, we finally succeed, and here's Nigusse in his victory pose.
Altogether it was a very pleasant day. I feel like a fool for saying it, but it was almost a gala day for all of us peons on the farm.
8:10 AM Saw this today:
"Assuming the dominant view of Mark's priority." This is precisely, I argue, what we cannot and must not do today.
8:10 AM As everyone knows, I am an incurable infracaninophile (lover of the underdog). I have taken to various "lost causes," not the least of which involves being one of the few New Testament scholars to support the Pauline authorship of the book of Hebrews. My views on the origins of the Synoptic Gospels are just as unpopular, as is my reticence to take sides in the Majority/Byzantine text-type debate (I argue neither for the primacy of this text-type nor for its secondary nature – much to the chagrin of many of my esteemed colleagues).
I was pleased, then, to see that today marks the 33rd anniversary of the "miracle on ice" in Lake Placid, NY -- the day the U.S. Ice Hockey Team defeated the Soviets in the winter Olympics. What a strange and unhappy time it was in our history. Think: The Iran hostage crisis. Think: The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Think: The U.S. boycott of the 1980 summer games in Moscow.
Then the scrappy underdogs defeated the pros.
Paul and Silas were two nobodies jailed in Philippi. Yet they caused such a commotion that there was an earthquake at midnight, and a jailer was converted. A genuine revival in America would make the "miracle on ice" pale. We've got to get over this idea that ministry means becoming some sort of accredited "professional." God has planted you in a strategic place right where you are. He calls all of us -- normal, everyday people like you and like me -- to be fulltime "ministers of the Gospel." The devil, alas, has his ministers as well, and Satan is far more effective as a mock angel of light than as a roaring lion. Professing believers who patronize God instead of obeying Him are no believers at all. The early Christians were the ultimate underdogs, yet they turned the world upside down. They didn't dodge the obstacles. They met them head-on, and there were plenty of them too.
So hurray for the underdogs! Hurray for the weak and the downtrodden! Hurray for those uneducated fools like Peter and John whom everyone still admired because "they had been with Jesus"!
7:06 AM A pleasant Friday morning to you! Yesterday was a mellow day for me. I had to take the farm truck in for an inspection and oil change. Becky, meanwhile, kept up her painting over at Maple Ridge.
My pretty wife gets the St. Becky Award for her perseverance alone. What a joy to watch that house taking shape. I went to lunch on Wednesday with the new director of our Ph.D. program at Southeastern. I introduced him to a good friend of mine who serves overseas fulltime. I've been to his country to work with him several times in the past three years. I'm now trying to get him connected with my colleagues at the seminary. I think I'm succeeding :) I see there's a wintry mix out there this morning. Apparently global warming is on hold for now. (Of course, the system now moving across the nation is being hyped by the media as some sort of super storm. Folks, it's called winter.) Last night Becky and I met with some friends for dinner in the big city of South Boston.
How it got that name I have no earthly idea. No one here says pahk the cah, and I've never met anyone who's seen Hahvid Yahd. I am really looking forward to going to Dallas next week with Becky. The ETS conference at Dallas Seminary is always interesting. The frustrating thing to me is that many scholars are pretty content to do scholarship and that's it. Of course, scholarship is important. But the Gospel is a lot more than that. Becky and I will be staying with her parents near Plano. Mom and dad are heroes of faith to us as well as just plain fun to be around. They have been our greatest prayer warriors and cheerleaders since we began this wild journey withy cancer. Bec and I are determined to continue to live life as normally as possible, placing no limits on what God can do. At the same time, we are not so presumptuous as to tell God what to do. His strength and peace are enough, and we are prepared to receive from His kind hand whatever He wills for us. Above all, we pray that the Lord of reconciliation would do His powerful work in and through us, and we plead, "Thy kingdom come."
Oh, one more thing. A couple of Nigusse's friends from Maryland have been visiting us. On the left is Samuel whom I knew in Ethiopia. He remembers taking two courses with me at the Alaba Bible School. Good days, those.
Well, friends, that's all for now. Always enjoy our little chats.
Thursday, February 21
9:26 AM Howard Hendricks will always be remembered as a master teacher. His books on pedagogy have shaped my life in many ways. Among the takeaways from his writings?
I am still learning from him and will be forever grateful for his writings.
Which of your teachers impacted you for eternity? Why not send them an email today, thanking them for the impact they made in your life?
Wednesday, February 20
8:20 PM Well, folks, Nigusse I survived our gastronomic experience. I conclude today's blogging with a few pix from campus for your amusement:
1) This was my view as I walked over to the library this morning for a meeting with Conan the Drill Sergeant (aka Shawn the Hebrew scholar Madden, my LXX co-conspirator and chief librarian). A gorgeous campus, wouldn't you say?
2) Today was a first for me. I was given my very own SEBTS LIBRARY coffee mug and told I could actually fill it with coffee for free. Finally, I've attained Baptist nirvana. I chose, of course, the Ethiopian Sidamo.
3) There's a deeper significance to this photo than meets the eye.
4) Et voila!
I think we've decided that the final exam in our LXX class will be to translate our SEBTS coffee mugs.
5) As for the class itself, today Shawn did his best to explain to everyone exactly how the Hebrew verb system works. Talk about opening a can of worms. (I actually requested that he do it.)
6) He was ably assisted in his obfuscation by several of our international students, including Nigusse, who in this photo is telling us how the verb system in Amharic operates. Very interesting, to say the least.
7) C. K. then chimed in with a brief description of the verb in modern Chinese (Mandarin). By this time I was developing a severe Charlie Horse between the ears. The dust finally settled, and we all agreed to, well, disagree for the time being. Hey guys, we've only got 13 more weeks to figure this thing out!
8) Finally, here's the tale of two Alexes. First, my Advanced Greek Grammar student Alex Madlinger teaches my Greek 2 students about adjectives of the first and third declensions.
And a fabulous job it was. I am giving my advanced students the opportunity to guest lecture in my beginning Greek classes under my supervision. I enjoy the mentoring, and the students enjoy the variety.
9) The other Alex is surnamed Stewart and is on his way to teach fulltime at Tyndale Seminary in Holland.
Alex is a former Ph.D. student of mine. You can follow his journey at The Stewart Chronicles.
So there you have it -- another crazy, enjoyable, zany, wild, fulfilling time on one of the best campuses in the world working with some of the best people in the world. No, I do NOT take it for granted.
Gratia et pax vobiscum,
6:45 PM This and that ...
1) If you love Latin as much as I do, you will enjoy listening to these audio files. I think I would have loved living in the 1600s and speaking Latin all the time.
2) Today I happened to stumble upon this profound blog post by John Piper: How Much Is Left to Do in the Great Commission? Piper notes:
Piper then concludes:
Amen and amen.
3) Congratulations to Jamie Dew, my colleague and dean of the college here, on the publication of his new book, God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain. From the publisher:
God has blessed us with a well-published faculty. All praise and glory to Him.
4) Finally, I received this email today from Mark Bailey, the president of Dallas Theological Seminary:
I sure have a lot respect for this gifted educator, partly because of his difficult upbringing.
If you are the product of a "broken home" (like I am), take heart. God delights in using weak but yielded vessels in His service.
Rest in peace, Dr. Hendricks.
6:21 PM Greetings and salutations, fellow bloggers! We're back home again after a wonderful two days on campus. I'll blog more about that later. Right now, what say we have a little fun with Greek?
1) Michael Halcomb writes:
I realize there is a debate over verbal aspect going on these days, but isn't the perfect passive verb in Gal. 2:20 to be rendered "I have been crucified" or "I am crucified"? Am I missing something?
2) Over at Every Ethne, we read:
Ethne, of course, is plural. Thus Every Ethne literal means "Every Nations"! Perhaps they meant "Every Ethnos" (using the singular)?
3) Welcome to Agape Church. Must be an amazing place. The OED defines "agape" as:
4) Ecclesia Church in Houston is a "Holistic Missional Christian Community." Their name, of course, means "Church Church."
5) This author writes:
Of course, this is patently false, at least for Koine Greek. And the author should have known better. (His initials, by the way, are DAB.) I think I need to talk to my students sometime about the amphiboly fallacy, and call myself the chief of sinners!
Well, time to cook supper for Nigu and me. Becky's speaking at a women's Bible study in Raleigh tonight. The B-Team to the rescue!
(Chinese, of course.)
Monday, February 18
6:25 PM The suicide of Mindy McCready hit me harder than I would have expected. One can only imagine the inordinately difficult life she lived. Basically, hope wasn't there for her. She had no one to turn to in life. A year ago she wrote:
All that changed yesterday.
One thing I've discovered is that relational pain is difficult to share with others. Our culture demands strength, not weakness. But the pain is there. For you and for me. All of us have been impacted by evil to a greater or lesser degree. At the same time, if we are followers of Jesus, we get to see the soft warm reality of His love that overcomes pain, His light that overcomes darkness. I have said it before on this blog but it bears repeating, I could not make it through a single day without Jesus in my life. I doubt that you could either. The Christian life is not simply lived by His help. The Christian life is Christ (Phil. 1:21).
Did Mindy know Him? Do you? Do I? How we take the Gospel for granted. Things fail to make sense, the demons dance in their glee, and the harsh reality of life mocks our faith, but we rejoice in a God who is infinite in understanding, compassion, and love. Well may we driven by our desperation to meet Him in our extremity. His grace is sufficient for everything the devil throws at us.
Faith. Hope. Courage. Jesus.
Thanks be to God.
5:33 PM Since Becky will need the computer this evening, I will announce our contest winner early. And his name is:
Beni hails from Sibiu, Romania -- which may well explain why he got the answer so easily. The venue is none other than the (in)famous Bran Castle, also known as Dracula's Castle.
Congratulations, Beni, and thanks for playing. The book will go out in tomorrow's mail. I hope you enjoy it!
5:10 PM Been a busy day on the farm.
1) Care for a jar of blackberry-fig jam, courtesy of Becky Lynn?
2) The paint queen. She has been working up a storm!
3) It's been years since I put together a crib. We got this one just in case the family who moves in needs it.
4) Finished the upstairs bunk-bed/futon combo today.
5) These came today. We put the washer and dryer upstairs where the bedrooms are, hopefully making life a bit easier on the lady of the house.
6) The poor trees -- don't know which season it is. This maple is already putting out her buds.
7) Last but not least, here's Nigusse feeding the donks. Like that form?
Becky said to me today, "Honey, do you realize we've finally gone from the construction phase of Maple Ridge to the furnishing phase?" Big step indeed. All praise to the Lord!
1:39 PM B. and I have been working all day long at Maple Ridge. I'm almost done with my list -- I think. Enjoyed some homemade burritos for lunch. Excellent! We're expecting the washer and dryer to be delivered any minute now.
Thot you'd like to know :)
Sunday, February 17
7:42 PM It's contest time again! Whose famous castle in Eastern Europe am I standing in front of? Free copy of my Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism to the winner, who will be selected (by random) tomorrow night at this time.
Note: I am trying to pose as I imagine the former owner might have done.
6:34 PM How many of you out there both blog and write for publication (or for a degree)? Ever have to meet a publishing/writing deadline? Sure you have. In my career I've had to meet a zillion of them and, thanks to the grace of God, I've never missed one. This coming year, when I will be on sabbatical, I will face a few more of these deadlines. Will I meet them?
Bishop Stephen Neill once said that writing is all about self-discipline. "You must make yourself write." He was absolutely correct. Most writing -- at least for publication or for a degree program -- involves firm deadlines. If you are ever going to meet those deadlines, you've got to do three things, in my humble opinion:
Sit yerself down.
Shut yerself up.
Write yerself silly.
In addition, you've got to control distractions and restrict your other passions. For some of us, that may well include our blogging. If it's getting in your way, take a hiatus. Your readers will understand. I don't know of anyone who blogs more than I do, yet I have never missed a publishing deadline because of it. If blogging is a distraction to you, lay it to rest -- at least for now. Squelch it, or it will rise up from the dead like a blood-starved vampire.
I have edited many books for publication. Some have contained essays by as many as 20 contributors. When an author missed a deadline, the result was aggravation, to say the least. It's perfectly plain that he or she had a thousand other things to do. But to me as the editor, this one thing mattered most. Of course, grace abounds. It must. But deadlines are there for a reason. Missing one means throwing not only your own schedule our of kilter, but someone else's.
So let's do our best to heed the words of Bishop Neill. Writing is largely a matter of self-discipline. And a deadline is a deadline, even when it is self-imposed.
1:32 PM Winter update:
1) Nigu is loving the snow!
2) The view of Bradford Hall this morning.
3) On our way to the car.
4) And here's Maple Ridge.
5) And the pond field.
6) Ice is coating everything.
7) Our drive to The Hill this morning.
Praise God for such beauty!
7:30 AM What do you do when you find a New Testament scholar whose "tone is very disrespectful and abrasive towards those who do not apply his methods"? That question was recently posed by a blogger. I would hope that the Christian scholar, whether the lowest on the totem pole of the faculty or the highest ranking professor, would be distinguished from the world not only by conscientiousness of work but also by a gracious, kindly, and humble attitude. There is nothing inherently wrong with being opinionated, but the attitude behind those opinions makes all the difference. "If you want to be chief, you're got to be the servant." Thus said Jesus. Do we really need a dog-eat-dog mentality in the world of Christian scholarship? The medium is, to a large degree, the message. I have changed my mind several times in my academic career about huge issues (such as the synoptic problem and New Testament textual criticism). I was motivated to do so not merely by the arguments that were presented to me but also by the winsome and charitable demeanor of those doing the persuading. Who could ever forget the modesty of a Bernhard Orchard or the unflappable courtesy of a Harry Sturz? The distinguishing mark of a Christian scholar is love, not knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1). It was what set the apostle Paul apart from all others. It was what got, in the end, Jesus crucified. As you know, I recently attended a convocation of Roman Catholic seminarians. I marveled that their curriculum included training in spiritual poverty, chastity of mind, purity of heart, and humility. I urge all of us who claim to accept moral responsibility for students to remember that we do scholarship in community and that it is often our pride that causes us to judge others as though we ourselves are immune to the same standards. Let us take our stand with the childlike, the pure, the meek in the kingdom. For the key to effective scholarship is, to a very great degree, Christ-like meekness.
Saturday, February 16
9:47 PM Took Becky out to Chinese dinner in South Boston tonight, then we stopped at Lowe's to get some paint for Maple Ridge. A light snow was falling but nothing bad. We returned to find Nigusse Skyping with one of his Ethiopian friends. What a blessing, the Internet! I have begun putting the final touches on my lectures for my class in Odessa next month. One thing I need to do is review the Russian alphabet. In some ways it's very similar to the Greek one. Greek students, I took this picture on my last trip to Odessa. Care to translate this sign?
5:08 PM David Rausch, a church history professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, once wrote a disturbing book called A Legacy of Hatred: Why Christians Must Not Forget the Holocaust. Rausch concludes that the church failed the Jews during the holocaust by not doing all it was possible to do on their behalf. Rausch cites the words of a delegate to the 1950 Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany: "In every train which carried Jews to their death-camp in the East, at least one Christian should have been a voluntary passenger." In 1945, Martin Niemöller declared, "If we had been ready to go with Him to death, the number of victims might well have been only some ten thousand." In 1946 Niemöller asserted, "Christianity in Germany bears a greater responsibility before God than the National Socialists, the SS and the Gestapo." After World War II, the German Kirchentag called the church to be the church where it was. The evangelical academies, like the ones at Bad Boll or Bad Liebenzell, called tradesmen and businessmen together to recapture their Christian citizenship and put it to work in their vocations.
I pray that all of my students catch a glimpse of this vision of the kingdom. The church must understand that it is not a organization to be served but a work force to be deployed. We cannot shun the hard places or the difficult task. We must even risk death if necessary for the sake of the Gospel.
4:35 PM Quote of the day (from Marva Dawn's The Hilarity of Community, p. 116):
Amen and amen. I think we could add to the list the ministry of painting. That's what Becky's been doing all day at Maple Ridge. All for one purpose: to serve the Lord and others through this ministry house.
11:52 AM I clearly remember the day when we bought our Honda Odyssey for Becky three and a half years ago. She had just been diagnosed with cancer, and we knew we were going to need dependable transportation for all the trips we would have to make from our Virginia farm to UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill. After we purchased the car, Becky decided she wanted to get a personalized license plate for it. She chose:
You guessed it. It's from that great old hymn of the faith, "It Is Well With My Soul." Becky selected that plate because its meaning was absolutely true -- it was indeed well with her soul, and she wanted the whole world to know it. (The "S" had already been taken -- hence the "Z.")
While we were at the Virginia DMV, I said to Becky, "Since we're here, I think I'll get a personalized tag for my car too." So I said to the receptionist, "I'd like to have the following tag, please." The letters I wrote out for her were:
She scratched her head. "Oh, I explained, that's the Greek word for 'grace.' You see, I'm a Greek prof, and that's my all-time favorite word in the Greek language." A few keystrokes later, the receptionist looked up at me and said, "I'm sorry, Sir, but that word is already taken." I could not believe my ears. Why in the world would anybody want those 5 letters? Never a quitter, I asked her to type in the following:
This, of course, is the noun "grace" in the genitive case. "Sorry, Sir, but that's also taken." "Okay," I said, "let's try this."
This being the dative case. "No go, Sir. That's also been taken." Guess what I did then? I gave up. I had to admit to Becky, "Well, honey, it appears that the Lord doesn't want me to have that license plate!"
Even though I never got that license, "grace" remains my favorite word in Greek and in every other language for that matter. If you're home is a boxing ring, you need grace. If you're facing trials, you need grace. If you're getting old and bitter, you need grace. Life requires kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness. At the heart of the Christian life is "grace." Be gracious enough to forgive. Be gracious enough to wipe the slate clean. Be gracious enough to allow others to fail. Be gracious. And at the very heart of grace is the person of Jesus Christ. The greatest example of grace took place on Calvary. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Of course, God's grace can be abused. I warn all of us against twisting the grace of God into an excuse for rationalizing away our sinful behavior. Still, I love God's grace. I need it every day, as do you. For me, "grace" is not just a word on a license plate. It is the watershed for an aging, sometimes struggling professor of ancient Greek.
No, grace is not just another word in my vocabulary. It has become a part of my life.
10:44 AM Is there anything wrong with this picture?
I don't mean the photo only. This page appears in a book published by Brill no less. The essay had two authors; the book had two editors. The lesson for all of us? Proof read your work. Then proof it again. Then have someone else proof read it. Egregious errors of this kind are both inexcusable and avoidable.
(Three fingers pointed right back at yours truly.)
9:03 AM Look Nigusse! Just for you!
Friday, February 15
6:58 PM Had a great time today with Nate, Jessie, Nolan, and Bradford. Here are some pix of the boys. They are really growing up fast.
6:42 PM The Great Commission in Matthew 28 speaks of making disciples of "all the nations" (Greek: panta ta ethne). A modern interpretation of "nations" would have us believe that our Lord is sending us to the "unreached people groups" of the world rather than to geo-political "nations." This view rightly calls our attention to the need to evangelize ethno-linguistic groups. The summons to reach these people groups for Christ has always been strong and searching, and there is no question that it has raised our awareness of how dire the need is. There is, however, a debit side. As Don Carson writes in his magisterial commentary on Matthew (p. 596):
In Wednesday's LXX class I will attempt to flesh all of this out, partly by reexamining the use of the Greek work ethnos as it is used in Rev. 5:9 (in contrast to laos, "people"). I began this study last Wednesday in my office. Here's what my desk looked like then!
5:58 PM This email made my day:
9:00 AM Becky's just published part three of her series on India. It's called Introducing the Peniel Gospel Team. Grateful for the amazing work God is doing through them in northeast India.
Thursday, February 14
8:20 PM Ever been to the Berry Hill Plantation? It's only a 30 minute drive from the farm in Southside Virginia. The Berry Hill Estate was a 105,000-acre tract granted by the English Crown in 1728 to William Byrd II. The mansion is one of the finest examples of Greek revival architecture in Virginia. This evening Becky and I had dinner at the Carrington Restaurant on the first floor. Let me tell you, the filet mignon was fabulous. Here are a few pix of our Valentine's Day Day jaunt. (Sorry, no pix of the hot fudge sundaes we got at MacDonald's on the drive home).
8:12 AM On this Valentine's Day, can we talk about the heart for a moment? Do you share a sense of urgency about the lost? Many times, when Becky and I talk about the 1.2 billion people who are without the Gospel in India, the response is predictable. You and I have heard these numbers so many times that they have lost their impact. In the U.S. everyone has heard about Jesus. In places like India, millions of people will be born, will live, and will die without once hearing His name. Soon it will be harvest time here on the farm. The hay will need to be baled and put up into the barns. Jesus said the fields are white unto harvest. Every farmer knows what that means. When you've got to get a crop up, everything else stops. You either harvest the crop or you lose it.
This, my friend, is what I am most grateful today about my Valentine. She is constantly comparing herself not with her neighbors and friends but with the high calling of God given to her. Becky, as a direct descendant of the Mayflower, has every right to be satisfied with living the America Dream. But she realizes that all these blessings are temporal. May God help all of us to love the nations as she does. May He open our eyes to the unreached billions of this world. May He so move in our hearts this Valentine's Day that we begin to ask ourselves seriously how He would want us to leverage our tremendous material resources for the Gospel. It's time for the harvest. It's time to carry out the Lord's orders and finish the task He began on the shores of Galilee.
Honey, I'm glad we share the same heart today, a heart for what matters. Happy Valentine's Day. I love you.
Wednesday, February 13
9:50 PM Tonight Nigusse is producing audio files of the translation of Charles Ryrie's Survey of Bible Doctrine.
It's so wonderful hearing Amharic wafting through the house.
9:13 PM In April of this year I will (Lord willing) be returning to a faraway nation where I have taught many times in the past three years. My topic this time around will be "The History and Theology of Pentecostalism." The churches there have requested that I address, in part, the matters of tongues and healing. Actually, I've already prepared my lectures, as I was asked to give them on one of my trips to Seoul, where the pastors were most anxious to know how to deal with this issue theologically and pastorally. In six days of intense instruction I can do no more than lay out a road map rather than a full 12-course meal. As for the historical part of the series, I do not begin with Azusa Street but with the Montanists of the early church. And as for the theological part, I attempt to exegete from the Greek text all of the relevant passages in Acts and 1 Corinthians 12-14. This is an overwhelming assignment, as you can imagine, but I entertain the hope that it will help these national pastors arrive at their own conclusions on a very difficult and often controversial topic. One can be truly thankful today for the willingness of Bible-believing Christians to receive instruction in this area.
Come, Holy Spirit!
6:22 PM Looking ahead ... I'll be interviewed by Steve Walton, host of Called 2 Action, on WDRU tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 pm. The topic will be the benefits and dangers of studying New Testament Greek.
6:08 PM I just received the preliminary program for the regional ETS meeting on March 1-2, 2013 at Liberty University. Glad to see these two papers in the program:
Abidan is a former personal assistant of mine, while Wesley is a current Ph.D. student. I wish both of them well. I'll have to miss the sessions as I will be in Dallas with Becky.
5:55 PM I'm about to be arrested for kidnapping. I'm taking Becky to one of her favorite spots for Valentine's Day dinner tomorrow night. All she knows is that she needs to be ready to leave at 5:00 pm.
5:46 PM Good Wednesday evening to you, thoughtful bloggers! I've been preparing for my course on hermeneutics at Odessa Theological Seminary next month in Ukraine. For what it's worth, I've been jotting down some initial thoughts about hermeneutics. I'm calling them "Tentative Tenets of a Course in Hermeneutics." I want to be clear that I'm exploring this train of thought. Here goes:
1) In studying hermeneutics, the emphasis must always be on "praxis" as opposed to mere abstract thinking. We need to "do" theology and not just teach it.
2) This means that theology must be incarnational, must be brought down to earth, must always be oriented to the pastoral needs of the church.
3) In my view, missions and theology belong together. As Paul says in Rom. 12:1, we must present our "bodies" to God as living sacrifices because deeds can be done only through bodies. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, His heart and mouth.
4) Thus hermeneutics -- the science of interpreting Holy Scripture -- is an eminently practical discipline. The Bible itself stresses the importance of practicing the truth. The apostle Paul places an extraordinarily high value on deeds (see Eph. 2:10).
5) That said, hermeneutics, as I understand the task, is a high-risk enterprise. We study so that we may love and obey Christ. And He promises us trouble.
6) In short, hermeneutics is from beginning to end a way of life. Great theology must always produce relevant Christianity. Once this is recognized, we can begin to separate ourselves from the dark seductiveness of modern-day Gnosticism. At the heart of hermeneutics lie sacrifice and service, endurance and suffering, and above all fidelity to the Great Commission and a rejection of any lesser cause.
Anyone taking my class in Odessa will be faced with these questions. These are monumental issues. I trust that my students will leave the class championing the inextricable link between theology and spirituality, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, knowing the truth and practicing it. We need to rediscover the fact that hermeneutics does not mean merely the study of Scripture but rather the relational activity of trusting, living, obeying, serving, and glorifying God, through death if necessary. Knowing Scripture, in other words, involves obedience. It is the chief function of hermeneutics to unleash the power of the Lord in the midst of His people so that we do His will and thus bring glory to His name.
Friends, we need constant vigilance against substituting knowledge for action. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep My commandments." To live this way is to revolt against everything in our lives that is inconsistent with the reign of God. To honor the King rightly, we must never forget this.
Long live the King!
Tuesday, February 12
5:23 AM Odds and ends ...
1) Brother Jeff comments on Peterson's The Message.
Read more here.
2) Jacob Cerone is trying to "accentuate the positive" when it comes to reading Greek aloud. What extreme step has he taken to help him do that? The answer is only a click away!
3) Brian Fulthorp congratulates Joel Watts on his new book on Mark.
4) The University of Mississippi announces an opening in Biblical Studies.
5) Kevin Brown sounds the warning against divorce. I might add: No conflict is beyond solution. Working through conflict may be harder than walking out, but it is God's way. Good job, Kevin.
Monday, February 11
7:32 PM Calling all Kindle users. This was just listed at Amazon. And it sells for a mere .99 cents!
7:12 PM Looking ahead, Becky and I are planning a trip to Dallas this month to attend the ETS meeting at DTS and to visit her parents near Plano. This will be perhaps my twentieth trip to Dallas. One of the earliest is still with me. Becky had just graduated from Biola and, like all sensible Southern belles, returned home. When she left California (and me behind!), I was brought back to reality.
The first item of business was to meet with my pastor's wife, who reminded me in no uncertain terms that I was "to marry that gal." (I already knew that, but we guys are just plain slow.) So off I went to propose, and we were wedded at Grace Bible Church in Dallas just a few weeks later. What I craved in that first year of teaching was a companion who would be by my side my entire career. That was 36 years ago. It is pleasant to remember those early trips to Texas, and I have grown very fond of my visits there. I think I can honestly claim that I've never once taken for granted the joy and pleasure of visiting Becky's family.
6:15 PM Just got this email:
The answer? May 20 - June 8. A six week marathon! Hope to see some of you then. This will be my final classes before a one-year sabbatical begins.
Hey folks! Lots of new stuff over at the
So much so that I can hardly keep up myself. Take a gander:
6:05 PM Just back from my "other job" over at Maple Ridge. I hereby announce that the following tasks were crossed off my list-of-things-to-do:
I think that deserves a good long rest this evening, along with a great novel!
9:35 AM Working on a "missions strategy"? I've got a few practical suggestions:
1) Rely solely on the Holy Spirit. Not your missions textbook or the latest fad in missiology. The early church had a secret for its success: It was Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. They were guided by God.
2) Be flexible. The Holy Spirit will affirm some of our ideas and reject others. Sometimes He works despite our plans. But be careful not to devise your strategy and then ask God to bless it. Instead, let's ask God for the strategy.
3) Beware of busyness. Religious activity is not the same as spirituality. The church at Ephesus is proof of that (Eph. 2:1-7). Spend time with God. Seek His face. Rest in His sovereignty. Simply signing up more Ephesians to do more works without their first love will only lead to disaster.
4) Finally, ignore numbers. Our Lord never trusted the multitudes. He spent most of His time not with the crowds but with a few disciples. Don't try to attempt with a host what can be done with a handful of committed Christians. Gideon's 32,000 need to be whittled down to 300 patterned after Christ.
Friend, the Lord alone can guide our missionary efforts. If we work independently of Him we will fail every time. Frustration will kill us if we try to do it on our own.
9:26 AM Here's a word to my doctoral students. I trust that you will be open to any legitimate approach to Greek pedagogy, while at the same time developing the habit of deferential listening, flawless courtesy, and, above all, an abhorrence of what the ancient Greeks called hubris. Humility still counts for something, you know.
9:14 AM There are few more subtle temptations in life than the temptation to go beyond one's physical strength. I was glad to give up cross-county riding a few years ago. The ability to control my Thoroughbred was now beyond me. Looking back at it, I have no regrets. So I congratulate the pope on his decision to retire from his duties. To tell the truth, I think he's a little afraid that the horse might run away with him. The day will come when I too will retire. But a scholar can maintain his or her intellectual integrity in the home as much as in the classroom. If my contributions to scholarship are fewer than I might have wished, it is almost too late to regret it. The roll-call of my books is probably too long already, but I must yet add three or four items to the list. It amuses me to think of the number of copies of Learn to Read New Testament Greek I have autographed for students who could not be bribed, I fear, to read any of my more "theological" books. However, as the great Thackeray once said, "One ought to be glad if they like anything."
And indeed I am.
7:38 AM Here's an interesting interview with a proponent of the so-called Living Language approach to teaching Koine Greek. It is a fascinating read and I learned a lot about the approach from it. You can be sure it will be added to our Greek Portal. I must confess, however, that I was a bit taken aback when I read the following exchange:
Well, folks, I have made a good many blunders in my teaching, and I would be the first to admit that my books on Greek are far from perfect. I am always seeking ways by which to improve my teaching methods and classroom instruction. I'm even open to adapting and improving my methodology if I can be convinced that I should. That's why on our Greek Portal we have included a section on Pedagogy, in which the Living Language approach is featured rather prominently.
What is more, I am actually a huge fan of the Living Language approach -- when it comes to any living language. Just this week in DC I had the chance to speak Spanish, German, and Amharic (some better than others). For example, Dr. Stock (from Munich) was an extremely affable conversation partner, and we exchanged views freely and without hesitation in the German language. Of course, fools do not always betray themselves at social functions, but I could not help wondering what I would have missed had I insisted on "English only" with my conversation partners. What I have tried to emphasize in my Greek classes is that our goal is to soundly exegete, teach, and obey our Greek New Testaments, though I suppose -- as an incurable language lover -- I possess a subconscious yearning for a wistful opportunity to actually converse with a first-century speaker of Koine Greek. That, alas, will probably never happen, for the simple reason that there are no native first-century Koine Greek speakers alive today, at least ones that I'm aware of.
So read the interview. It is, as I said, very enlightening. I am not against scholars speaking their minds. Au contraire! I do it all the time, and I love it when you do. Purveyors of the Living Language method claim to have discovered the infallible method of making conversation in Koine Greek. Are they correct? Time will tell. I should be proud to serve as a cheerleader for the cause, but I have no desire to jump on the bandwagon -- yet. In the meantime, it seems to me that the sensible thing to do is to subject this approach to the test of productivity. (Of course, you and I must do the same thing with our approaches, since no approach is truly "infallible.")
6:52 AM In our Sunday School class yesterday we discussed the parable in Luke 15. (Yes, there is only one parable in this chapter!) I noticed an interesting variant reading in verse 21. Whereas the text of my Greek New Testament reads "Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son," here Aleph and B (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus -- two fourth-century Greek manuscripts) add, "Treat me like one of your hired workers." The reading is clearly secondary; it is an interpolation from a preceding verse where the younger son actually plans to say those words but never does when he meets his father. So here we seem to have an obvious case where Aleph and B are wrong. My question: If they can be wrong here, why not in other passages, including Mark 16:9-20?
If you'd like to consider other examples, try these on for size:
I say all this to illustrate a simple point. No automatic preference can be given to the so-called "earliest and best manuscripts." Please do not succumb to what my friend Keith Elliott of Leeds has called "the hypnotic effect of Aleph and B." The bottom line is that no one can provide a scientific reason why anyone should conclude that Aleph and B are always correct when they agree with each other.
I rest my case!
Sunday, February 10
6:51 PM Can you believe it?
The daffodils are already in bloom. Sweet-tastik!
6:45 PM I mentioned this essay in my lecture on Friday. Other than my own work on the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, this is the first published work in a long time on the topic.
And -- surprise surprise! -- it actually agrees with me (mostly). The letter is the work of Luke, who faithfully recorded what Paul said. Hence the letter is truly "Pauline." I might differ in that I would argue that the letter could still be directly from the hand of Paul -- stylistic objections notwithstanding.
Is a major paradigm shift in the making?
One quibble: The essay appeared in Porter and Land, Paul and His Social Relations. It sells for a mere $189.00. Inexcusable for a book under 400 pages.
3:40 PM Good afternoon, fellow Jesus freaks!
I will never forget my trip to Kerala, in southern India. Little did I realize what prayer meant to these believers. Prayer was the powerhouse of their faith. And what about missions? Many had left the relatively "Christian" south to evangelize the unreached regions in the north. Many times I've asked myself, "Why is it that we in the West know so little about prayer? And why do so few of us pay attention to the needs of the Majority World?" I think that our prayerlessness and apathy highlight our spirit of entitlement and self-sufficiency. We have countless opportunities to trust God for great and mighty movements of His Spirit in the world, but it is so rare to find congregations moving out in reliance upon the Lord.
In India, this very day, 30 million Hindus will bathe in a river hoping that they will be cleansed from their sins. Thousands of people groups are still without the Gospel in that great nation. Yet we go on blandly and blindly -- holding our Bible conferences and annual revival services, without giving at least equal time to prayer and missions. Today Becky presented a God-sized opportunity for our church to be involved in a mighty work of the Lord in India.
She emphasized that every Christian has work to do in this great task of global evangelization. God is asking us to do something very personal and life-shaking with our lives. He is asking us to completely rethink our priorities. How can we claim to love the world for whom Christ died and let our neighbors go to hell on an express train? James says, "The one who has the world's goods and sees his brother having a need, and yet shuts up his compassion from him -- how can the love of God dwell in him?" Friends, church is about giving. Church is about sacrificing. Church is about loving. Church is about missions. The whole purpose of the local church can be summarized in that one command: Go.
I'm so glad to be part of a fellowship that understands the importance of prayer. I'm so glad Becky and I belong to a family that is learning how to seek His kingdom first. As Becky said this morning, God has assigned each of us to a different place in the harvest, and each of us will answer to a holy God as to how we handle our finances and material blessings. I'm convince that if all of us should adopt the kind of radical lifestyle that Jesus requires of His followers, we would see thousands if not millions of lost souls in India brought to Christ almost overnight.
Also today, Becky published part two in her series on India. This instalment is called Looking at Hinduism. In her next one, she will tell us more about those churches in northern India we're seeking to partner with in the months and years to come. I believe that God can use her essays in our lives to bring us to a place where we have no attraction for the idolatrous love of money that characterizes American society. May it be, Lord. May it be.
8:30 AM I had to run over to Maple Ridge this morning and thought I'd snap a few pix of the new kitchen wall tiles.
Just so happens that our carpenter Robby does tile engraving, so Becky thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to tell the story of Jesus, from creation to the new heavens and the new earth?"
Pretty cool, eh? On the way back I just had to stop and visit with the calves, of course. They have really bonded with me (i.e., they have really bonded with the oats I feed them).
Heading to the fellowship!
7:18 AM This is a very special day for us. Becky will be sharing with the Bethel Hill family a new love for India that God has given us. As you know, India has been in the news lately. In fact, on the BBC's home page, India is the lead story today (it has to with Hinduism). Becky will recount the story of how India began to sneak its way into our hearts. "I am as sure of His direction as I am of His salvation," Jim Elliott used to say.
Strong words, those. You say, "But Dave, you and Becky have never moved to the foreign mission field!" True. I imagine there is so much more we could do for the kingdom. But can't we at least make a start? Can't we at least begin to leverage what we have for the sake of the Gospel? Sometimes I feel like we are only taking baby steps. But at least they are steps.
This is a new adventure for Becky and me. But we are as sure of His direction as we are of His salvation. If it is God's will, we even hope to travel to India in the fall to see the work in person.
Now wouldn't that be a miracle of grace?
7:02 AM Had a wonderful group here last night. Becky served up a superb supper, then it was Nigusse's turn.
He rambled joyfully about his experiences in Israel. Imagine a 3-week trip to the places where Jesus walked. Nigusse led us on a wondrous journey that was more than just a travelogue. He shared with us the spiritual journey God took him on and the many spiritual truths he was able to ponder anew.
It was exciting for us to hear him recounting some detail of the Bible he'd never notice before until he stood at the actual site.
If you ever do visit the Holy Land, I hope it will be more than a travel tour but a spiritual journey based on sound academic preparation. Thank you, Nigusse, for sharing your heart with us last night.
Now, back to studying for your LXX class!
Saturday, February 9
9:58 AM It's a beautiful day outdoors. Here are the calves in their new pasture.
They've adjusted well to their new surroundings. Like them, I am taking it easy today. I leave for the funeral at 11:30. In the meantime I am slowly picking away at my farm chores and list of things to do. Very slowly. Got to save my strength for this evening, when Nigusse will regale us with stories of Masada and Nazareth and the Garden Tomb.
7:10 AM First of all, I want to thank my new friend Ted, who took the following pictures for me during my stay at the seminary. He was also my chauffeur to and from the airport.
As I understand it, the invitation to speak came about when James Swetnam (of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome) taught a course on Hebrews there last year and mentioned, in passing, that he was not alone in espousing the Paulinity of Hebrews. There was an obscure scholar somewhere in the South whom they should invite to share with them his views on the matter. Now I have never met Dr. Swetnam, but we have corresponded through the years, and I have the greatest respect for his scholarship in Hebrews. If per chance you should be reading this, Sir, thank you for arranging this invitation and for paving the way for such a joyful and positive reception on the part of the students.
My little talk focused on the statements of the church fathers, including Clement, Origen, and Augustine, which we attempted to exegete in the original Greek and Latin. After my talk there were questions aplenty, and if nothing else I hoped to have piqued their interest in the topic.
Through the generosity of Henry Neufeld at Energion, I was able to present each of my co-speakers with a copy of Why Four Gospels? -- a book that similarly came about as the result of my studies of the Greek and Latin church fathers. Here Dr. Stock from Rome and I exchange a few pleasantries in the his native language (he hails from Munich).
Finally, what would a visit to DC be like without a trip to one of the many Ethiopian restaurants in the area?
All in all, my trip was exhaustingly delightful. The bottom line, as one of the sisters reminded everyone, is that God is the author of Hebrews (amen to that!), though history shows us that he used the apostle Paul to bring His words to light. Let me say that I have the utmost respect for those who disagree with my position on the authorship of Hebrews. It's just that I'm convinced they are wrong.
Dave Black, authorship critic at your service.
P.S. I see that Dr. Swetnam has a website. It's called Close Readings. Lots of good stuff here, especially on Hebrews.
Friday, February 8
10:06 PM I'm back! Had a wonderful time. My thanks to William Duraney and the entire staff for their warm hospitality. Lord willing, I'll have a fuller report tomorrow with some pictures. I just wanted to let you know that yesterday, while I was in DC, I received word that Marcus Twisdale had passed into the arms of Jesus. Becky and Nigusse attended the viewing this evening in Raleigh while I was flying home. I'll attend the funeral tomorrow. I could tell you a thousand things about Marcus. Instead, I'll just say this: I saw Christ in him. The joy that he radiated in the midst of great suffering will never be forgotten. In him I saw the broken body of Christ -- for we are indeed the congregation of the broken, clutching onto our wheelchairs, overwhelmed at times by feelings of inadequacy yet fighting on, fighting for as long God gives us the strength and breath to fight on.
The battle is now over for Marcus. He fought it well. He will be missed. I will never forget his strong faith and joyful outlook on life. Now it's our turn to run, and run well. Will we?
Thursday, February 7
8:02 AM Shortly I'll be heading to the airport. Thought you might like to see the schedule for the conference:
Thursday, February 7, 2013:
4:15 pm - Fr. Carlos Pereira, IVE - Centro San Bruni di Altri Studi
Natural Knowledge of God in Sacred Scripture and St. Thomas.
5:45 pm - Fr. George David Byers, CPM - Holy Souls Hermitage
The Immaculate Conception, Mother of the Redeemer, in Genesis 3:15 - How, with Original Sin, we are Soldiers of the Incarnate Word in the Church Militant.
Friday, February 8, 2013:
9:30 am - Dr. David Black - Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
On the Pauline Authorship of Hebrews.
10:45 am - Dr. Joseph C. Atkinson - Pontifical John Paul II Institute
4:00 pm - Fr. Thomas J. Lane - Mount Saint Mary's Seminary
Jesus as the Fulfillment of Judaism and Jewish Feasts.
5:30 pm - Fr. Klemens Stock, SJ – Pontifical Biblical Institute
The Person and the Word of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel: At the heart of Evangelization.
Wednesday, February 6
8:22 PM The title of a forthcoming JETS article is "The American Evangelical Academy and the World: A Challenge to Practice More Globally." One excerpt that captures the heart of the author's argument is:
Please, if you're considering going on for a doctorate in biblical studies, do not limit God's ability to use your degree on the foreign mission field. With this in mind, let me remind everyone again about tomorrow's chapel at SEBTS. The speaker is Daryl McCarthy, who is the president of the International Institute for Christian Studies.
8:15 PM One of the great takeaways from my seminary Greek courses back in the late 1970s was the joy of translating from English into Greek. We began with very short sentences obviously, and then moved on to more difficult compositions. I confess that one of the changes I will be making in the fourth edition of my beginning grammar will be the addition of English-to-Greek sentences, along with an answer key. (The English-Greek dictionary has already been produced by my assistant Jacob Cerone). If you go to my Greek Portal, you will see that many books on Greek published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries contained large sections with composition exercises. For work like this, one will need a pretty sizable vocabulary and a fairly good understanding of Greek grammar and syntax.
Well, taking a cue from many of these works containing composition exercises, Shawn Madden and I decided to have our LXX students translate a simple passage from English into both Greek and Hebrew today. As you can see, it is fairly simple prose:
Learning a language this way is not only pedagogically sound but just plain fun, especially when the students work together in teams. Related to all of this, of course, is the guilt one feels when one realizes how far he or she has fallen behind in both grammar and vocabulary. Kudos to our students for tackling the beast with such enthusiasm. A few photos:
7:54 PM Hey there, blogging buds! Nigusse and I had a great time on campus, as usual. There is so much to be grateful for. How can I express thankfulness to God for such a great place to work and study? It's a huge blessing. On the other hand, there remain so many hurting people. Please continue to pray for my student Marcus Twisdale in the CCU at Rex Hospital. He is doing a bit better and they are hoping to send him home soon. I am praying that the Lord will allow him to complete the book he is writing. Tomorrow I'll be flying to DC for a conversation about theology with my Catholic friends. Big prayer request item is that I can magnify Christ and not myself. What a joy to write and travel and publish and speak. I'm so thankful for these simple pleasures. I'll post pix when I get back. Busy time!
Tuesday, February 5
4:52 AM Gotta run. Nigusse can't be late for his 7:30 class. Oh wait -- I've got a 7:30 class too.
4:40 AM Speaking of Henry Neufeld, this quote of his from yesterday resonated with me:
That is profound. If we spent more time doing the kingdom and not just talking about it, unity might well be the result.
4:32 AM Did you know that Henry Neufeld runs a website called Why Four Gospels? Most of the entries have been culled from my blog, but it is nice to have them collected in one place. Thank you, Henry.
4:24 AM In tomorrow's LXX class we will be discussing Gen. 1 in both Hebrew and Greek. With that in mind, I might encourage my students to look at this interesting discussion: Genesis 1.1-3, Hebrew Grammar, and Translation, along with its comments section. This article raises many of the questions we hope to discuss in class.
Monday, February 4
8:13 PM Bradford Hall just turned into the Waffle House.
6:35 PM Well, just finished supper, and it was a good one too. Becky's become quite the Chinese chef, and tonight's noodle dish with dumplings was straight out of Beijing. Sure hit the spot after working 8 hours at Maple Ridge. To top it all off, she told me about an email we got this morning with a You Tube attached. I've embedded it below.
I see it was an ad at the Super Bowl. Really packs a punch. Life on a farm is hardly idyllic. But it is a blessing. One thing's for sure: Your Dodge Ram truck could never begin to compare with my Massey-Ferguson 135.
7:06 AM Just taken:
7:02 AM Speaking of missions, do you know who mentored John Stott, a truly great missionary statesman? The answer is here.
6:55 AM Becky has just published the first of four essays on India. It's called Introducing India. Part 2, on Hinduism, will appear Thursday. Enjoy!
Sunday, February 3
9:12 PM Oh, oh. Read Dave and his heretical views.
7:01 PM Now here is a great quote:
It's from Bruce Epperly's new book called Transforming Acts. Kudos to Henry Neufeld and Energion Publications for this new addition to an already excellent lineup for 2013.
6:53 PM Did someone say there's a game on tonight?
6:50 PM Wafting though the house right now? The smell of liver and onions cooking. Yummy. After the church meeting I took Becky and Nigusse out for Mexican food. I insisted that Nigu speak Spanish like the rest of us. I tell you, that man can roll his r's.
6:38 PM If you missed the 20/20 Conference we just had on campus, you can now access all of the videos at the seminary's archives. The theme was "Gospel and Mission." Sounds sorta like SEBTS, don't it?
6:35 PM Has the hardest verse in the New Testament finally received a definitive explanation? Paul Himes says yes -- maybe.
6:32 PM Hey there Greek students! Check out what's new at our updated Greek Portal. Good stuff by Porter, Runge, Gentry, and Decker, among others.
6:23 PM Today Becky and I added a few pictures of the persecuted to our meeting hall's walls, including brother Haile who is suffering in an Eritrean prison.
Speaking of missions, Becky is preparing 4 essays that we will be publishing here on DBO, beginning tomorrow morning, about the spiritual needs in India and how we believe God is leading us to get involved. Stay tuned for an exciting series.
8:32 AM Good Sunday morning to you, fellow bloggers! I am devoting a portion of this afternoon to the task of laying out my Friday lecture on the Pauline authorship of Hebrews. I intend to speak, as always, from memory rather than from manuscript. I will try to emphasize the linguistic, stylistic, conceptual, and theological affinities between Hebrews and Paul and stress the external evidence supporting a canon of 14, not 13, Pauline epistles by the close of the fourth century. I suspect that my array of facts and theories will prove more or less interesting to a Catholic audience, yet it is always easy for a lecturer to delude himself as to the actual force of his arguments. I have found that people listen courteously enough, but there is no available cardiogram to measure their innermost thoughts, and I suppose many will conclude that I am much like their eccentric but lovable uncle. The statement about which I am most often questioned is, of course, the one by Origen ("But who wrote the epistle..."), which has been transmuted somehow into a pronouncement on authorship, when it is anything but that. When I gave this talk over a decade ago at Regent's Park College in Oxford (pictured), I was received with official courtesies and warm applause -- at least on the part of the students, who had quite possibly never heard such heretical views before.
The presentation seemed to win over the audience, though it may not have mollified the faculty. In Odessa this March I will resurrect this topic as I teach "Advanced Hermeneutics." I hope to rise to scholarly heights without disgrace, although privately I consider my views treacherous. After all, if one surrenders the consensus opinio in one area of scholarship, who knows where that might lead? So it will be interesting to see what kind of response I get this Friday. Not that it matters very much. After all, I will be there to lecture professionally, rather than to receive memorable impressions.
By the way, did you see that the French inventor of the Etch A Sketch has died at the age of 86?
This little drawing tool was my introduction to the wonderful world of drawing at the ripe old age of eight. Aside from the obvious spiritual applications one could make here ("You can shake it up and start all over again" = "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation"), for me the toy had a more significant impact. After I mastered drawing on the Etch A Sketch I graduated to the drawing pad and eventually became a fairly capable portrait artist.
Portraits take a lot of time and are a lot of work. But draw a sketch in an Ethiopian village, and you'll soon be surrounded by an enthusiastic audience.
You've just opened the door to share with them the love of Jesus.
I can see clearly enough now what I owe to that little toy I got when I was eight. It's a reminder to me that we can leverage our God-given talents for the sake of the Gospel, whatever those talents might be.
Have a great Lord's Day!
Saturday, February 2
7:26 PM This week we'll put an end to A. T. Robertson. It served as required reading in my Advanced Greek Grammar class. None of us, naturally, will ever learn to write like A. T., whom scholars have sought to emulate for generations, but all of us, I'm sure, have gained something from his training in acute observation and accuracy of phrasing. His was the era of the mot juste, and I crave for myself as well as my students a greater mastery of exact expression. Reading this tome will also prepare my students -- especially those who are going on for their doctorates -- to anticipate the scholarly jealousies they will inevitably encounter. I recognize that this reading assignment was a costly expenditure of time and energy, but the inspired quotes one takes away are precious. Did I mention that B & H once asked me if I would be willing to revise the "Big Grammar"? "Leave it alone," I said. Let students read it as is, and thus begin a friendship with an author that will last forever.
Next week: Funk's magisterial grammar. My poor students; they must be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
7:20 PM So glad to welcome the Bradshers to Bradford Hall today.
Joel used to serve as our associate pastor at The Hill. Today he is pastoring at Clement Baptist Church in Person County, NC. He was one of the best Greek students I had at Southeastern -- the few times he actually showed up for class (just kiddin', Joel!). Here their son is trying to teach Nigusse how to use the exerciser. Poor Nigu -- scared to death.
Becky took them on a grand tour of Maple Ridge and also fed us a wonderful lunch.
Thanks Joel and Kimberly for stopping by. Yall made our day!
9:26 AM Is there some sort of game on TV tomorrow?
9:22 AM Quote of the day (David Livingstone, missionary to Africa):
9:11 AM Urgent prayer request: A former student of mine and his wife (who are now missionaries on foreign soil) just had a baby weighing 1 pound 13 ounces. Please join Becky, Nigusse, and me in praying for that child. Thank you.
6:47 AM Is Ephesians the "center" of Paul's thought? This question has been raised of late (see Brian Fulthorp's entry here). Since I have been known to dabble through the years in Pauline theology, I find the question an interesting one. No one knows, unfortunately, the answer. If indeed Ephesians were the center of Paul's thinking, what does that do for Colossians, of which Ephesians is merely the expansion? And if you argue that Ephesians is an encyclical epistle -- and hence more universal in its message than, say, Romans -- you have, in my mind, underestimated the strong arguments that can made in favor of an original Ephesian destination (see my essay on the topic here). Yet it may be a sign of a new dispassionate wish, this quest for the center of Pauline theology. What a passionate defense of Christian unity Paul makes in the letter! Yet is that the "center"?
Occasionally I will think that I have discovered something really profound about the apostle Paul, some deep secret hidden from the counsels of the world since ages past. And then I wake up, roll over, and thank Heaven that I need never make such a profound discovery.
Friday, February 1
7:59 PM Let's all congratulate Andy Bowden. His paper for the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament has just been accepted. Not bad for a New Testament guy.
The meeting will be held in Munich this summer. Or is it München?
7:50 PM Here's something to keep your eye on. Don Carson will be speaking at the Advancing the Church Conference at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. The dates are March 5-8. More information is only a click away.
(This summer I will have the honor of teaching "The Exegesis of Philippians" there during the third week of June.)
7:33 PM Looking ahead to next week...
This is truly an idea whose time has come. Don't miss either service.
2) Next Saturday Becky and I will be hosting a dinner party here at Bradford Hall. Afterwards, Nigusse will share about his experience in Israel. Lots of pix, for sure. Join us if you can.
3) On Thursday, I fly to DC to give my paper on the Pauline authorship of Hebrews at the Lagrange Biblical Conference. Klemens Stock will be there, and I am looking forward to speaking German again.
4:56 PM Next year's beef supply just arrived:
Each weights about 650 pounds. We'll keep 'em in the barn for a week or so until they get used to us. A few buckets of oats and we'll be friends in no time.
12:17 PM Brrr is it freezing out there. I feel like the spy who came in from the cold. Had a lot of odd jobs to do today. Here's one I just finished.
You can see this barn sorely needed repairs. And here's the finished product.
The donkeys seem to approve.
I think I'll stay indoors for a while and get some caulking done!
9:52 AM Yesterday Al Gore made the news. He said that the U.S. government had been "hacked" by special interest groups. Government is supposed to be responsive to the people. Instead, it bows to the lobbyists on Capitol Hill. It's been hacked -- just like a computer that has been taken over by some outside force.
I thought, "That's true of education as well." Harvard has been hacked. It started out as a Bible-affirming institution, but somewhere along its journey it misplaced truth. Then I asked myself, "Have our evangelical seminaries been hacked?" Yes and no. Undoubtedly we still affirm the Bible as true. But we have, for the most part, failed to transfer that belief into discipleship, sacrifice, and suffering. We've been taught a welter of pseudo-remedies for spiritual renewal. It's time to return to the basics. Faith without works is dead. The Gospel needs to be lived out and not just believed. So yes, we've been hacked.
Consumed by the bountiful blessings of our society, it is difficult for us to comprehend the situation in the Majority World. We are content to act out a Christianity of externals, a lifestyle strangely disconnected from the world's unreached peoples. Like Harvard, we have lost touch with our roots. We have shamefully hoarded our resources while failing to take advantage of the opportunities all around us.
Let me state it clearly: Christ meant His church to be primarily a missionary organism. We must therefore be fellowshipping and worshipping and teaching and preaching and edifying with one goal in mind -- giving our lives to recapture lost souls from darkness and hell. Instead, what has happened is that we've made our churches into imitations of ourselves. That's why we're so dependent on consultants and seminars and conferences -- handy shortcuts that do not require us to actually do anything. We have fallen victim to hyper-activism -- denouncing this evil and promoting that "righteous" cause. But in the wake of all this busyness are often lives that are barren of any real spiritual fruit. We have not manifested the life and power and love of Christ. Instead, we have succumbed to our own "special interest groups." In short, we've been hacked.
Authentic Christianity begins when we come face to face with the living God, surrender our self-appointed attempts to rescue the world, and adopt a correct vision of who Jesus is. Until then, someone other than He will control our hard drives.