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January 2015 Blog Archives

Thursday, January 29

6:38 AM Who is a missionary?

... God’s call to salvation and His call to mission are one and the same. To follow Christ in this way is not optional for the one who is truly “born again.” It is to this life of mission that he must respond. Not only is this possible and practical in this day of over-professionalization; an emphasis on anything else is a perversion of the Gospel.

Read Every Member a Missionary.

P.S. Taking a brief blogging break. Don't miss us too much! :-)

Wednesday, January 28

6:18 PM Photo update:

1) Survived the "Blizzard" of 2015.

2) Had dinner last night with one of our international students. Can't wait for the day when our campus is majority non-Anglo.

3) Was in the mood for Korean today.

4) The proprietor was surprised that I had a book in Korean.

5) LXX class with Chip Hardy.

6) I tried to teach the class how to do a discourse analysis of a Greek paragraph.

7) While on campus I finally got around to reading the Hays Festschrift.

My favorite chapter was the last one, written by Richard himself along with his wife of over 40 years. It's called "The Christian Practice of Growing Old: The Witness of Scripture." The chapter makes several excellent points:

1) Older characters in Scripture are often mentioned for their special wisdom or insight.

2) New Testament elders are worthy of honor and respect if not also special care and attention.

3) Aging "was never seen as a problem by the earliest Christians."

4) The elderly bear a special responsibility to be models of faithfulness, temperance, and endurance.

5) The New Testament predicts unusual fruitfulness in old age (think Elizabeth and Zechariah).

6) Nowhere in the New Testament are the old said to be pitied or treated with condescension.

7) Like Jesus, we should seek the will of God no matter how old we are or at what age we die. "Consequently, as we grow old, we should seek to discern how to give our lives for others" (p. 660).

8) T. S. Elliot: "Old men ought to be explorers."

9) "The special responsibility of older Christians is to lead, to teach, to counsel, as their gifts allow and as opportunities arise" (p. 664).

Amen to that! Folks, I realize that aging is not without its mysteries. But when older people choose to serve rather than be served, bless rather than curse, love their enemies rather than fight, truly the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Those who know that they are not much longer for this old world have a heavenly-mindedness that has plenty of earthly good! So -- let those of us who are older imitate Jesus. Let's develop a radical vision of the kingdom. Maybe we could even become out-of-the-box thinkers, given the kind of radical God we serve. Talk about a good reason to grow old! Nothing could be more rewarding than surrendering your gray hair and arthritis to Christ. There's a choice to made about life, and it is simply this: Will we sacrifice ourselves for others, with whatever resources the Lord has given us? I don't know about you, but this 62-year old geezer -- *creak, creak* -- can't wait to do just that.

Tuesday, January 27

8:40 AM Thoughts on getting a doctorate:

When I was looking into doctoral programs back in the late 1970s, I well remember meeting students who told me they went to Aberdeen because of Marshall, or to Manchester for Bruce, or to Princeton for Metzger. To me, that seemed the only sensible thing to do. Many years ago in Germany students were constantly migrating from one university to another in order to profit from some course being taught that year by a famous scholar. There is, I think, much wisdom in that method.

Read Advice to Prospective Doctoral Students.

Monday, January 26

7:20 PM Last week a student of mine asked me what I thought about the now infamous mummy mask. I had a one word reply. There is nothing to be said until more -- much more --information has been released to the public. Until then, I think it's counterproductive to talk about a first-century "copy of the Gospel of Mark." It's a fragment, at best.

7:14 PM A few links:

Agree or disagree, these posts will get you thinking.

11:42 AM Stopped at the local CVS this morning and saw a sign I had never noticed there before.

At a distance it looked like it said "Singles Shots." Boy could I use a singles shot today! I am missing Becky. I mean big time. It's been 14 months and my heart hurts as bad as when I first held Becky's cold hand in death. It all started last night. On the drive home from Raleigh I stopped by the MacDonald's Becky and I would frequent on our way home from UNC after chemo, radiation, or one of her hospitalizations. Becky always loved getting a frappe mocha. As soon as I entered the restaurant I knew I had made a huge mistake. It was like being punched in the gut. This morning one of my daughters texted me and asked me how I was doing. I replied, "Ok." When she asked for details I said:

It's called grief. Trying not to fight it. But embrace it. Let it do its work. Mourn and weep. As with surfing, the more you fight the waves the more exhausted you become. But waves eventually run out of energy. You resurface to live again.

I'm sitting cozily in a warm house right now and the word "hope" keeps coming to mind. I hope it doesn't snow tonight. I hope I can get to campus safely if it does. I hope my students do well on their first exam. I hope I can get a seat on my flights (I'm flying standby). Right now, hope is my anchor that is helping me make it through the storms of life. It is rooted in an unchangeable, trustworthy God.

As the author of hope, God is asking me to let go of Becky again. Argh! Again, God? Letting go doesn't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean not caring. It doesn't mean that I block out my memories of Becky. It means taking the emotional investment I once made in that relationship and applying it elsewhere. When I learn how to do that, I will learn how to say to myself and others: Go, my sweet Becky. I entrust you to God. You have simply gone on to the banquet table before me. But we will see each other again. Hope begins with accepting (again and again and again) the reality of your loss, learning how to cope with the pain, and then adjusting to life without your loved one. Does it mean forgetting the emotional grief of Becky's death? A thousand times no. Am I able to move on with my life without her? A millions times yes.

Even without a Singles Shot.

Sunday, January 25

8:38 PM Hey folks! Just back from Christ Church. It was great. Enjoyed the architecture:

The choir music:

And the organ postlude:

My favorite hymn was Phos Hilaron, which dates back to the fourth century. The words in Greek are:

Φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δόξης ἀθανάτου Πατρός,
οὐρανίου, ἁγίου, μάκαρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,
ἐλθόντες ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλίου δύσιν, ἰδόντες φῶς ἑσπερινόν,
ὑμνοῦμεν Πατέρα, Υἱόν, καὶ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, Θεόν.
Ἄξιόν σε ἐν πᾶσι καιροῖς ὑμνεῖσθαι φωναῖς αἰσίαις,
Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, ζωὴν ὁ διδούς· διὸ ὁ κόσμος σὲ δοξάζει.

The program translated the opening words as "O gracious Light." The Greek of course says, "O gladsome light." Picky, picky, picky! Yup. That's me. Can't help it!

I loved tonight. Now it's time to watch Gettysburg and chillax. This week's gonna be crazy busy.

2:40 PM Hola, amigos! You'll have to forgive me but I'm in a Spanglish mood today. I just got back to the farm after enjoying some wonderful Mexican cuisine at Los Banditos in Clarksville ("our fair city"). Of course, I couldn't resist giving the staff a copy of Becky's book.

Right now I'm stuffed with a cheese enchilada and a chili relleno. Prior to that I got "stuffed" real good with some of the finest fellowship and spiritual cuisine this side of heaven. Our good friend Tim Bowes brought a great message today from Phil. 4:4-7. Among my many takeaways (I took three pages of notes) was this: "When you're being dragged this way and that by worry, let the Holy Spirit drag you to your knees." Thanks Tim -- I'll never forget that one-liner! As you can see, the church prayed for me and my upcoming trip to Asia.

Just think, this will be my 10th visit there in four years. I'm coming to realize that this is all a part of God's healing process in my life since Becky's diagnosis and death. So they prayed for me. And as they prayed, I felt my faith renewed from the inside out. I know I can face any situation, no matter how lovely or difficult, can bask in the sunshine of God's love, in the secure knowledge that I'm walking the purest path and pursing the highest calling. I have never been more in love with Him than I am today.

I submit that days don't get much better than today. And it's not over yet. Tonight (Deo volente) I'll be attending the Celtic Service at Christ Church Raleigh. You see, even though I'm not on the Canterbury Trail, I can't get enough of great sacred music. Tonight's program includes Herbert Howells​' Magnificat (Song of Mary), Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon), and a new setting of Phos Hilaron (the oldest known non-scriptural prayer in Christendom), composed by David Jernigan. I sometimes find myself bitterly regretting I didn't continue singing with the Northeast Piedmont Chorale. I sit and marvel at these great Latin compositions. If there's a ukulele in heaven (and I'm sure there will be at least one for me to strum), there will also be a gigantic pipe organ playing Bach and Buxtehude. In the meantime, all I can do is let my heart sing His praises and keep waiting for Him to make the way. Because I know He is alive. I know He hears my prayers. I know He listens to us even when our groanings are too deep for words (like mine were last night). I know His heart breaks whenever ours does. And I know He can perform the miracle we're all waiting for.

P.S. In two days, music lovers all over the world will be celebrating Mozart's birthday. Did you know his full, given name? Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. You Greek students will immediately know what Chrysostomus and Theophilus mean: "Golden-Mouthed" and "God-Lover." I'm told Mozart was responsible for over 600 compositions during his lifetime. My all-time favorite is his chamber ensemble called Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. What's yours?

10:30 AM It was exactly four years ago this month. Becky and I had just had a very important meeting with the thoracic surgeon at UNC. The bottom line was this: Becky's lung tumors were inoperable. This meant that surgery was no longer an option (if it ever had been), just as more radiation and chemo had been ruled out as therapies since they had proven to be ineffective. There remained only the possibility of treating her with a procedure called Robotic Radiosurgery, which UNC "just happened" to specialize in. It involved shooting the larger tumors with extremely high levels of radiation. Pending approval by the surgery committee, we were looking at this procedure taking place in about two weeks. Before that could happen, "fiducials" had to be placed into Becky's lungs by a thoracic surgeon to help the oncologists know exactly where to concentrate the radiation.

How did we respond? I guess like Paul in Philippians. Just as he could write that his imprisonment had turned out for the progress of the Gospel, so Becky and I knew that our cancer journey had worked out for our best. Our one fear is that we would betray Christ by our lives and testimony. Our single desire was to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Phil. 1:27) – to live in a way that commended the Gospel to our friends and neighbors and to the hospital personnel. We desired to be more concerned about the needs of others than our own – to be unselfish, unconceited, to take the path of obedience, to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the companionship of His sufferings. We knew we could do all things through Him who strengthens us. We were confident that our God would supply all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

After our appointment with the surgeon I remember taking Becky out for dinner at the Outback Steak House in Durham. As we ate we thought about our many friends who had been such faithful prayer partners with us through this entire journey." Then Becky put down her fork and looked at me with a wistful glaze in her eyes. "Won't heaven be wonderful, Dave?" she said. "We'll get to meet in person all of the wonderful people we only know now by name."

All I could say was, "Amen, honey, amen."

10:20 AM Need a doctorate? 

10:12 AM This week I wrote a note to someone who had invested a great deal of time in my life. It's not that they needed my approval. It's just that I felt the need to say "Thank you" for their investment in me. Sometimes I'll get a letter or an email long after I've finished teaching a Greek class. I wonder, Do people think twice before sending it? Do they say to themselves,"He probably doesn't need it?" Well, they would be mistaken. This came the day before yesterday:

You do not remember me, but I took Greek 1 at the master's level with you in the fall of 2007 at SEBTS.  You made the material interesting and accessible and I greatly appreciate the way that you taught the class.  I know that you have made a difference in numerous students through your teaching and this morning as I was praying, you came to mind and I just wanted to send you a simple note saying thanks for investing in so many!

Whenever I get such letters I put them in what I call my "encouragement file." I grab this file whenever I think I've been too much of a nobody for anyone to have noticed.

Maybe we all ought to send these kinds of letters more often. Wouldn't it be a lovely thing for your former teacher -- or perhaps a spouse or a parent or a sibling or a friend or a son or a daughter -- to know that a footprint they left on the trail heartened someone else's life? Each of us is God's special project. He is at work in our lives -- and He's not done with us yet. Think of those people in your life who try your patience like nothing else. Then write down a few ideas of how you can encourage them. Be like Christ toward them. God doesn't see all of the negatives in our lives and then beat us over the head with a stick (or the Bible) until we make it right. He woos us with His love until we decide to become what He wants us to become. In the days to come this week, think of one person who needs encouragement to follow hard after God, ask God to help you practice appreciation, and maybe even write them a little note. Don't give up or give in. The "fruit of righteousness" is well worth waiting for.

Saturday, January 24

11:28 AM Anybody want my copy of Hays' Reading Backwards? Just send me an email at If more than one of you requests it, I'll draw straws in the morning.

10:42 AM LXX students! RBL has just published a review of Georg A. Walser's Old Testament Quotations in Hebrews: Studies in Their Textual and Contextual Background. Walser's first purpose in writing is the following:

First, he seeks to establish the textual background upon which Hebrews bases its Old Testament quotations. He contends that the Hebrew Vorlage of the Greek Septuagint (LXX) is different and perhaps older than that found in the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT). It is quite likely that by the time Hebrews was written there were already multiple versions of the Hebrew text, Greek translations from the Hebrew, and even revisions of the Greek text. It is possible that the author of Hebrews was cognizant of more than one version of the Old Testament text. If so, how did the author select the version he would use, and what is the interrelationship between the author’s interpretation of the text and the version he used?

These are precisely the kinds of questions we will be asking ourselves this semester. To read the review, click here. Highly recommended.

8:44 AM If good things come in small packages, yesterday I received two very good things. Most of you know that I love anything having to do with exegesis, and the Baylor "Handbook" series is right up my alley.

I'll use Garrett's book as we walk through LXX Amos this semester. As for Rod's tome, I read it in its entirety last night. It's an excellent tool for Greek students but it is more of a quick reference guide than an actual commentary. I would highly recommend it for anyone who is learning Greek. Its format is clear and easy to use, and occasionally you'll find a gem here. It will probably be most useful for elders and Bible students who still require help with basic parsing and with some of the less common grammatical constructions in the Greek New Testament. The best part of the book is getting Rod's take on things. I have nothing but the greatest respect for Rod as a Greek scholar even when I disagree with him. The book was remarkably free of typos. (An exception is p. 159: "an very difficult text.") It will make a good first step in exegeting Mark and will prepare readers for going on to the Markan commentaries by Edwards, Stein, Witherington, Lane, France, Green, Evans/Martin, and Marcus.

Additional thoughts:

1) A feature I usually discuss with my classes (but one that seems to have been generally overlooked by Rod) is Mark's use of prepositional prefix morphemes with what appear to be an intensifying function. Examples include sullupeomai in 3:5, diarpazo in 3:27, diegeiro in 4:39, parakouo in 5:36, kateulogeo in 10:16, and (perhaps the most difficult one of all) kataphileo in 14:45. However, when Rod does discuss a prepositional prefix morpheme, his discussion is excellent. A good example is the compound verb katadioko in 1:36, where Rod writes, "The prefixed kata intensifies the semantics of the verb" (p. 35). Thus, Simon and those who were with him "hunted him [Jesus] down." Nice job, Rod.

2) Rod tends to see verbal aspect functioning as essentially a discourse marker and thus he (in my opinion) tends to undervalue aspect as marking kind of action. He is lothe to admit the use of "inceptive" imperfects in the New Testament, preferring instead to see them as "background explanation rather than as part of the main storyline" (p. 35). He is thus critical of translations that use "began to" in rendering the Greek imperfect (see p. 24) -- the NLT (11 times in Mark), the NASB (13 times in Mark), the HCSB (14 times in Mark), and -- the greatest offender of all -- the ISV (15 times in Mark!). Rod also assigns a discourse function to "historical presents" and is somewhat leery of allowing for a sense of vividness (see, e.g., p. 24). Speaking personally, I fail to see why a construction cannot have two functions simultaneously, both as a discourse marker and as a marker of aspect.

3) Mark's highly descriptive way of saying things is sometimes faulted by Rod for being redundant, as in 1:32: "In the evening, at sunset." Referring to the expression "at sunset," Rod writes, "The temporal clause is redundant in English" (p. 33). A couple of pages later, Rod comments on the language of 1:35 ("very early, while it was still dark"), noting that "this expression is almost without parallel in the Gospels ...." I tend to view such anomalies as best explained by the tradition that asserts Mark was not so much the author of his Gospel but rather Peter's stenographer who faithfully recorded what Peter said -- and Peter's oral style strikes me as quite a bit different from Matthew and Luke's more formal style as bios-type literature. See my Why Four Gospels?

4) Textual variants are discussed, though infrequently. Rod accepts "Son of God" in 1:1. In 1:41 he explains why "being compassionate" is to be preferred to "being angry," despite Ehrman's arguments to the contrary. Perhaps the lengthiest text-critical discussion in this volume concerns the confusion of pronouns in 6:22, too lengthy to summarize here. I was disappointed that Rod chose not to comment on the significant variant in 6:20. Was Herod "greatly perplexed" at what John the Baptist was telling him, or did he "do many things" that John had asked him to do? The difference in Greek is barely recognizable: eporei versus epoiei. For a defense of the latter reading, see my New Testament Studies essay, The Text of Mark 6.20.

I still have to get volume two but when I do I know I will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed devouring (katesthio) this volume. Recent books on New Testament Greek have tended to be onerous and overly complicated. Not so this handbook by Rod Decker. It is a very useful resource and it will advance your understanding of the Greek New Testament to a degree you never would have thought possible with such a "small package." Buy it and read it. It will do you a world of good.

Friday, January 23

3:45 PM Required reading for next week's LXX class: Doug Moo's We Still Don't Get It: Evangelicals and Bible Translation Fifty Years After James Barr.  Moo asks:

If these observations about lexical semantics are so well known, why do we still find ourselves speaking and writing about the “literal” meaning of words?

I could wish that every seminary student graduates with the concept of polysemy firmly implanted in their minds!

3:36 PM Miss Mary brought me a key lime pie yesterday and I just had to share it with a little girl whom I know just loves that flavor of pie. It made the perfect dessert after our pizza in Roxboro.

Can you tell I like to spend time with family?

10:30 AM Parents, interested in homeschooling your children in Greek? See the Homeschooling page at our Greek Portal for some tips.

9:20 AM This morning I have been meditating on 1 John 3:17-19, which addresses those Christians who are rich in this world. John says that if they see a need and refuse to provide help, God's love does not "abide" in them. That's a powerful statement. Over and over again the New Testament emphasizes the importance of meeting the needs of our fellow Christians. No genuine need should go unmet in the body of Christ. I find a similar theme in 2 Cor. 8:14, which I've been studying in my daily Bible reading. Paul mentions the need (chreia) of those in Jerusalem. Again, in Titus 3:13, he directs the church in Crete to help Zenas and Apollos on their way. The clear implication is that these men had needs which they themselves could not meet. The church is therefore asked to meet those needs.

Was Paul himself ever "needy"? In 1 Cor. 9 he discusses this topic, asserting that frontline evangelists and church planters have the right to receive financial support for their work. He himself accepted no gifts from the Corinthians because he was able to meet his own physical needs by the grace of God and through his own diligence. I think there are several principles at work here. If evangelists have legitimate needs, and if they cannot provide for these needs themselves, these needs can and should be met by the church. In such cases, our giving should be grace-driven, voluntary, generous, and according to or even above our ability (2 Cor. 8:2-3). In fact, Paul seems to imply that believers should not be asked to give; they should eagerly seek out ways to give to the needs all around them (2 Cor. 9:2), looking for opportunities where they can invest the resources that God has entrusted to them as stewards. (We own nothing.) Of course, no one should end up in debt through giving either (2 Cor. 8:13)! Paul's main point is that no Christian should go without their legitimate needs being met.

What are the needs you see today? Are you in a financial position to meet them? Pray for wisdom to distinguish between those whose needs are genuine and those who are seeking a handout and mooching off the charity of the church (1 Thess. 4:9-12). Missionaries should consider tentmaking as a legitimate alternative to support, as did Paul. They should be aggressive in finding employment wherever they serve. This way they will be a position not to get but to give, which Jesus said is more blessed. Still, there will always be needs in the church. "Share what you have with God's people who are in need" (Rom. 12:13). This is my life verse. Every generous act of giving, and every donation given, comes down from the Father who created the heavenly lights (James 1:17). May He receive all the glory as He gives through us!

Thursday, January 22

7:54 PM On Wednesday I encouraged my LXX students to learn Latin if at all possible. Being a Romance language, it will make you better looking and get you some dates. At the very least it can help you acquire Spanish, French, Portuguese, and (my mother's native tongue) Romanian. The similarities between Latin and Spanish are just plain eerie. The Germans have a saying: "If you don't know another language, you don't know your own." Latin will even make learning Greek easier.

Chew on it.

7:23 PM My daughter Liz phoned from New York to say that Barack Obama ended up meeting with the family of imprisoned pastor Saeed today in Boise. Thank you, Mr. President. For Saeed's wife's account of what transpired today, see her Facebook page. How would you feel if you were imprisoned for your faith? This is precisely the question the author of Hebrews asks his readers in Heb. 13:3. He says, "Put yourself in their shoes!" Summarizing his message on Acts 12 (When Prison Doors Open), Ray Stedman writes:

The word of God grew and multiplied, despite all the opposition. And two men were there whom God particularly wanted to instruct in how to handle tough situations -- Barnabas and Saul. They were keen observers of all that took place in Jerusalem at this time. Saul would draw upon his experience many times later in his turbulent career -- remembering how God could work to set people free, to open prison doors, to change a situation, to move a tyrannical ruler -- all in response to the believing prayer of his people. That is what prayer can do. May God grant that we will find out, in our day, how it can work. Let us close in prayer.

Amen, brother Stedman. That is indeed what prayer can do. When things get tough, it's time to pray. Let prayer be our first and last response to times of crisis.

I urge us to continue to pray for brother Saeed and his precious family.

6:32 PM Today I finished reading all of my "quest" books including Return to Rome by Frank Beckwith and Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie. It seems I disagree with just about everything these writers have to say. Beckwith, responding to an (erroneous) accusation that he was attracted to Roman Catholicism because of its "stately buildings," writes (p. 14):

One could, of course, turn the tables on this account and draw attention to Evangelical Protestantism's disproportionate number of gaudy mega-church monstrosities that have more in common with Wal-Mart and abandoned warehouses than sacred places of worship.

One wonders how either approach to church buildings squares with Stephen's argument in Acts 7 that God doesn't dwell in buildings made by human hands. On p. 18, Beckwith goes on to say:

Upon entering the confessional, I sat face-to-face with the priest. I said, "Father, forgive me, if I have sinned. It has been over 30 years since my last confession." Then I said, "I'm not sure I can remember all of my sins." In his thick East Indian accent, he replied, "That is all right. God knows them all." I responded, "I was afraid of that." The priest then heard my confession and granted me absolution. I found my way to the main sanctuary, where I did my penance, which consisted of one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary."

Once again, and despite Beckwith's salutary attempt at humor, I find all of this very confusing. Currie's book was far more interesting and lucid, I felt. I can't possibly do justice to it in a short blog post (maybe I can flesh his arguments out later). Currie goes to great pains to define and defend the Catholic position on the Real Presence, Scriptural authority, the Bible, salvation, the incarnation, Mary, moral issues, and many other topics. He describes one of his initial visits to a Catholic service as follows (p. 26):

I tried to picture myself worshipping God in such surroundings. My mind revolted. The experience was like a kick in the stomach. The church seemed much too beautiful, the statues too numerous, and the atmosphere too other-worldly (and yet so intensely physical) for me.

He adds:

I was used to simplicity, if not austerity, in my worship surroundings. The Church of my childhood did not even display a cross anywhere.

Well, I doubt if the early church did either. It was, above anything else, the mass that drew Currie to Catholicism -- "the Church's teaching concerning the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist" (p. 28). He notes that "The Eucharist is central to worship in the Catholic Church" (p. 44). Again, I fail to see the Lord's Supper described in the New Testament either as a mass or as a ceremony to be tacked on to the main "preaching" service. I agree with Howard Marshall that the Lord's Supper should be celebrated as a full meal on a weekly basis. As far as I can see, the early church was keen to focus on Jesus during their gatherings. So I'd like for our churches to observe, if you will, the "Real Absence" of Christ -- to celebrate His death, resurrection, ascension, session at the right hand of the Father, and imminent return. Indeed, our Lord commanded us to do as much. He told us to celebrate the bread and the cup even though, for the time being, He could not personally be present to enjoy the fruit of the vine with us.

I enjoyed Currie's book immensely. It's probably the best apologia I've read to this point for crossing the Tiber. Much more could be said, but I'll leave you with what is probably my favorite part of the book. My Greek students will love it. On p. 24, Currie writes:

I took about three years of Greek at Trinity. I came to love and respect my professor. He could be ruthless in his pursuit of what the text actually said. God help the student in his class who was sloppy in his exegesis.

My sentiments exactly.

3:10 PM Just crossed another item off my "To Do" list.

Sure feels good.

2:32 PM This came today:

Dear Prof. Black,

We are holding a free colloquium on February 9th (11am-4pm) with guest speaker Steve Runge, who will discuss the strategies the NT writers used to prioritize and structure their message, both at the sentence level and above the sentence level. Lunch is provided for those who RSVP, resources will be available at reduced cost, and Logos discounts will also be available.

If you would be so kind as to forward the attached flyer to students who might be interested in learning more about Greek discourse features, it would be most appreciated. Our students loved your previous colloquium session on Greek, and I am hopeful this colloquium will inspire them (and local pastors) to think at the discourse level when exegeting text!

Grace and peace,


W. Andrew Smith (PhD, University of Edinburgh)
Assistant Professor of New Testament at Shepherds Theological Seminary

For details, go here.

2:25 PM My daughter Kim and I took "Miss Mary" from Bethel Hill Baptist Church to lunch today at Appleby's in South Boston.

Mary went twice with Becky and me to Ethiopia -- the first time when she was "only" 80 years old.

Here's our June 2007 team. Seems like ages ago now. We all looked so young!

I will never forget what the Burjis told us when they saw Mary walking down the dirt road in town. "Now we know you truly love us. You have sent us your best." The people were amazed that Mary would leave behind all of her comforts in America and travel 6,000 miles to love on them.

Mary, I am amazed too. Thank you for your love for so many, including Becky and me. We will always be grateful for you.

Oh, got gas in South Boston today.

Yall paying $2.15 in North Carolina -- eat your hearts out!

11:22 AM More "commandments" about classroom protocol here. It gets off to a very bad start:

Thou shalt have no other object of attention in the classroom. No devices — phones, gadgets, computers, guns — or distractions; I am a jealous and wrathful instructor.

May I rewrite this commandment?

Instructors shall make the course so interesting that students will gladly refrain from checking their emails (or brandishing their handguns) during lectures.

But I'm beating a dead horse.

10:38 AM Nathaniel Cooley shows how one vowel in Hebrew can make a world of difference. I tried to make a similar point yesterday in our LXX class about Greek accents. Take lalei for example. LA-lei means one thing ("Speak!"), while La-LEI means something altogether different ("He speaks"). That's why I always ask my students to accent the accented syllable when reciting Greek. Of course, the Greeks themselves didn't need accent marks. They were added for us foreigners. All the more reason to pay attention to them I guess. 

10:28 AM I hope I didn't surprise anyone in our LXX class yesterday when I defended the Bible's inspiration down to the smallest detail (tense, voice, mood, person, case, word order, etc.). After all, surfers have always read the Bible littorally.

10:08 AM Quote of the day (Gary Shogren):

If you like the King James Version, by all means use it – although I recommend that you do not read as Scripture the books of Sirach, 1 Maccabees, and the other apocrypha which the original 1611 version contained! If you like the Textus receptus, which reliably transmits the Word of God, then fine – although I would recommend the New King James. My goal is not to take the KJV or NKJV away from you, but to demonstrate that they are not the only reliable Bibles in English.

Read The Eclectic Text of the New Testament -- a conspiracy against the Word?

9:08 AM Odds and sods ....

1) Teaching through the so-called Pastoral Epistles? Paul Himes has some suggestions about resources.

2) If you've transferred into my beginning Greek class from another section and need to review your Greek, Jacob Cerone's videos are well worth checking out.

3) In lieu of our final translation in our LXX class, students can opt to recite a section from the book of Amos. Here you can watch a former LXX student recite all of Psalm 1 in Hebrew. Were I a student, I'm sure I would take this option.

4) Last night I watched the PBS Frontline special League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis. The picture isn't pretty. The video showcases the long-term consequences of playing football. The NFL, a multi-billion dollar business, is pushing back of course. Steve Young said: "I really worry about my linemen brothers." And former pro Harry Carson is quoted: "The human body was not created to play football." Great insights and brutal intensity earns the video 4 stars. It's amazing to me the level of pain players go through just to get through a season. I unplugged from watching the NFL years ago. But I've played a good number of basketball games where seemingly NFL rules were in play. I much prefer cross-country riding. O wait -- a guy can get hurt doing that too. At any rate, the video is definitely worth a watch, especially if you're an NFL fan.

Wednesday, January 21

5:55 PM Photo update:

1) Yesterday's convocation.

2) Lunch today with Edgar and Sarah Aponte in their beautiful Wake Forest home.

3) Greek 2 class working on translations together.

4) Only two more books to go on the topic.

P. S. Regardless of what you thought about the content of the president's speech last night, I came away with the feeling I had just attended a high school pep rally. "Let's get it done!" "We can do this!" "We can achieve this together!" "I still believe we can do great things!" I have no doubt that Mr. Obama wanted to approach the podium with a "knock 'em dead" attitude. Ironically, I felt the speech was subpar at best. I felt he neither made the right points at the right time nor "shook hands" with his audience. I questioned the necessity of gloating over being reelected when you claim you're trying to pass unified legislation with your Republican counterparts. To cap it off, there were too many standing ovations. In a good speech there ought to be variations that allow the audience to catch its collective breath. Still, it's hard not to admire a man who believes in his political philosophy and who is not afraid to speak his mind. I've been known to do that myself from time to time. "Let's stop talking about missions and just get the job done!" I don't care how many times I have to say that; I believe it's true. May I dare challenge you, dear reader, to pledge your allegiance to Christ in such a way that you'll surrender everything to Him? Determine right here and now that you will live as Christ would have you live in your financial affairs. This is what Christ is calling His followers to embrace in these last days -- a life of servanthood and sacrifice. Ask not what others can do for you; ask what you can do for others.

Tuesday, January 20

7:18 AM I was up late last night watching the centennial tribute to the life and legacy of Bruce Metzger. The speaker was my friend Mike Holmes of Bethel University, who was one of Bruce's many doctoral students.

It was a very well-spent 54 minutes I can assure you. Metzger was remembered as teacher, author, editor, and Christian gentleman. My first experience with Bruce's writings was using his word lists in my Greek class at Biola. And who can forget getting their hands on their first copy of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament that Bruce co-edited? Later still, his textual commentary graced my office desk and was constantly consulted, even if I often disagreed with its conclusions. Bruce was particularly fond of his work as editor of the NRSV. As the initial translator of the ISV New Testament, I know a little about the joy (and drudgery) of working on a Bible translation. One of the highlights of my own writing career came when Bruce agreed to contribute as essay to Scribes and Scripture, the Greenlee Festschrift that I had the honor of editing. Bruce's essay was, of course, on the NRSV. Mike pointed out that Dr. Metzger carried out his writing and editing work while teaching a full load at Princeton. I guess there was no "research professor" status in those days! As with my own Doktorvater (Bo Reicke), Mike's Ph.D. advisor served as the president of the prestigious Society for New Testament Studies (SNTS). Mike concluded his talk by reminding his audience that Bruce Metzger was "gifted with an erudition few can ever hope to achieve, but also with a confident humility that more should aspire to emulate." Thanks to Mike for a job well done, and to Dr. Metzger for a life in Christ well lived.

Monday, January 19

5:28 PM I see that "Q" is being discussed again in the blogosphere. I think there are at least four reasons why we should dispense with Q. To read them, see my Why Four Gospels?

5:14 PM First Things has published an essay called To Students: Close Laptops, Use Pencils. My philosophy? Use your laptop all you want. The essay presupposes a certain delivery system in college and university -- the lecture. You know, "You sit still while I instill." If all we are talking about is lecturing, then I might agree that the pencil is mightier than the computer chip. But creative teachers have students acquire the lecture material in one fourth the time by reading a good book on the subject (maybe even their own) beforehand. That way, class time can be used to discuss important and relevant macro-issues. My students are all over 18 and footloose and fancy-free. I treat them like the adults they are. No sooner would I disallow the use of computers in the classroom than I would forbid their use when I was "preaching" in a church service or teaching a Sunday School class. Expect them to act like mature adults -- but also give them the freedom to do so. Irresponsible users can be dealt with politely but firmly outside of class.

2:35 PM Thom Rainer's latest is well worth reading: Eight Reasons Why Some Full-time Pastors and Staff Should Go Bivocational.

2:20 PM This just arrived by email:

 I think better in my socks too!

2:10 PM Quote of the day:

Although there are many resources that can help improve your reading of Hebrew, one that I have recently benefited from is the Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible Series. I have been working through the volume on Amos authored by a professor of mine, Duane Garrett. In the book, Garrett walks through every stanza, strophe, and line of Amos, describing the syntax and function of each grammatical construction, with a little commentary. This book does not address the text-critical problems of Amos, except where necessary for intelligibility, but focuses on the present form of the text.

Read So You Want to Improve your Hebrew? Then buy this book!

2:05 PM Done with Dines. Now working through James Arieti's Stanford dissertation A Study in the Septuagint of the Book of Amos. A few observations:

1) "There are a great many differences between the Greek and Hebrew texts of Amos."

2) "Some of the differences between the texts are relatively unimportant; others might perhaps change the sense of an entire passage." E.g. Amos 2:7: et shem qadoshi = to onoma tou theou auton (my holy name = the name of their god).

3) "The Septuagint often supplies objects, both direct and indirect, when they are absent in the Hebrew." E.g. Amos 5:6: and devour = and devour it.

4) "The LXX occasionally added pronouns to give clarity to its text."

5) "There are also additions to the text in the form of double translations, translations of one Hebrew word by two in Greek."

6) "The translator of Amos evidently encountered many difficulties in translating proper names, especially those of geographical locations." E.g. Amos 1:1: among the herdsmen = at Makkarim.

7) "There are many examples in the LXX of Amos of differences owing to a different vocalization of the consonantal text."

8) "Verbs are frequently altered in the LXX version of Amos. Active verbs become passive, perfect verbs are translated as imperatives or as futures, the person of verbs is changed, and they are translated sometimes by a verb and a noun." E.g. Amos 5:16: they will say = it will be said.

9) "There are many cases in Septuagint Amos where nouns and verbs which are singular in Hebrew are translated as plural." E.g. Amos 4:13: adam becomes anthropous.

10) "Differences between the texts of the Hebrew and Greek Amos result from the confusion of similar letters in the Hebrew alphabet." The most common confusion occurs with vav and yod.

Both Dine's book and this one by Arieti will, I'm sure, prove indispensable as our students prepare for their class presentations.

1:08 PM The poor UPS guy. Has to work today. But I always love getting new books.

Meanwhile, I've been slogging through a doctoral dissertation (University of London) by Jennifer Dines called The Septuagint of Amos: A Study in Interpretation. I have my colleague and co-teacher of our LXX class Chip Hardy to thank for this unenviable task. Actually, I'm enjoying this work thoroughly (in my stocking feet).

The author discusses all of the significant differences in Amos between the MT and the LXX. Then she examines the effect of the special material as it appears in the patristic biblical commentaries up until the mid-fifth century CE. (Amos is not quoted by Jewish authors.) Some passages in the LXX diverge considerably from the MT. I think she's going to end up arguing that the translator reveals his partisan leanings (pro-Maccabean Revolt) in his translation. We'll see. I'm only a fourth of the way through the dissertation.

Amos, of course, is the book we'll be translating in class.

12:14 PM I mentioned earlier that our message -- er, one of our messages -- yesterday was about Euodia and Syntyche in Phil. 4:2-3. What did Paul hope to accomplish by calling out these ladies in front of the entire congregation? That was the question posed in the message yesterday, and it led to several observations on how Paul dealt with conflict and disagreements in the body. For what it's worth, here are the 5 points our brother shared yesterday:

1) Paul doesn't give us details about the conflict.

2) Paul doesn't take sides in the conflict.

3) Paul appeals equally to both of the women who were at loggerheads.

4) Paul enlists the help of the church body in resolving the conflict.

5) Paul calls on the church to remember what it was like when everybody worked together for the Gospel.

There is nothing like unity in the Gospel. Paul wasn't interested in embarrassing these ladies. But unity is so important that it's vital at times to enlist the help of others to get through it.

Wonderful message. Thank you Jason.

12:02 PM In discussing the character of his ministry (and in contrast to the ministry of the false teachers), Paul lists the hardships he endured, including "labors" (2 Cor. 6:5). In his talk to the pastors of the Ephesian church, Paul said:

I have never coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that with these hands of mine I have worked to provide everything my companions and I needed. I have given you an example that by working hard like this we must help the weak, remembering the words that the Lord Jesus Himself said, "There is more happiness in giving than in getting."

Paul's teaching about Christian finances has always offended people. What makes it so difficult is that it is not simply a theological doctrine but a way of life. Paul was one of the greatest apostles who ever lived, yet he didn't demand his rights – least of all his right to financial support. It's all simply a part of his theology of suffering.

11:12 AM Folks, I'd appreciate your prayers. Today I'm embarking on a study of 2 Corinthians with a view to recovering Paul's theology of suffering. It's part of the work I'm doing on my book Godworld. Today I'm focusing on the so-called Peristasenkataloge -- the two lists of trials we find only in this epistle. As some of you may know, I enjoy thinking. Some of you like the way I think. Others not so much. Anyway, one thing I do try to do is put my thoughts into writing so that others can consider what I have to say (or ignore it). My views about Gospel origins and New Testament authorship, for example, have not been hidden away. My plan today is to begin the process of thinking deeply about the role of suffering in the Christian life, and you may well find me blogging about where I'm at in the process. It is exciting to live in an age of information overload, but it's also dangerous! Negotiating the deep waters of New Testament theology demands a great deal of discernment, probably more than I can muster. I believe the apostle Paul sounded the warning note against the prevalent tendency in evangelicalism towards extremism and imbalance. My goal is the same. But it will take a lot of prayer.

Blessings on you,


10:30 AM Read this today:

The federal tipped wage of $2.13 per hour hasn't changed in 20 years. A White House report this year recommended raising that wage, and noted that women make up nearly three-quarters of tipped workers. Restaurant servers are almost three times as likely to experience poverty as workers in other industries. The median wage for New York's 133,550 waiters and waitresses is $19,103.

Folks, when you eat out, tip generously. Last night my daughter and I ate in a Mexican restaurant. The bill was $18.00. The tip was $10.00. I never tip less than $10.00, regardless of how low the bill is. These hardworking folk depend on tips and, with rare exceptions, deserve them.

9:55 AM Good morning, über-bloggers! I finished Scott and Kimberly Hahn's Rome Sweet Home last night. It's an apologia pro vita sua written not for scholars but for the average Christian. At the same time, it's an apologia for the Roman Catholic Church and, perhaps implicitly, an attempt at prosyletization for the ancient faith. Basically the writers are saying, "Here's why we became Roman Catholics. Perhaps you would be willing to consider the reasons yourself." To be sure, it's a fascinating intellectual pilgrimage, but I remain unconvinced. For example, Scott writes: "From then on, I kept sensing how praying the Rosary actually deepened my own theological penetration of Scripture. The key was meditating upon the fifteen mysteries, of course, but I found the prayer itself imparted a certain theological outlook for pondering all the mysteries of our Faith according to something that went beyond (but not against) the rational powers of the intellect, what certain theologians have called the 'logic of love'" (p. 69). Forgive me, but that's all Greek to me. Nevertheless, the Hahns do offer some substantive criticisms of Protestantism. One in particular deserves consideration: "Why is our church so pastor-centered? Why is our worship service so sermon-centered?" (p. 44). I ask this question myself in Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. Perhaps it is not too great a generalization to say that in a good many evangelical churches today we have the cult of the speaker. That is truly a scary proposition.

Another thing we learn from reading the New Testament [I write] is how varied the teaching ministry of the early church was. Nowadays we almost always focus on the ministry of the pulpit. “I go to Dr. So-and-So’s church” – the good doctor usually being noted for his prowess in the pulpit. In a church like Corinth or Philippi, we might expect to find a “senior pastor” who was known for his “dynamic expository preaching.” But you will find nothing of the sort in the pages of the New Testament. We do not even know the names of the pastors of the churches in the New Testament. (Timothy and Titus are often incorrectly referred to as “pastors.”) The reason is clear. Leadership in the early church was a shared ministry. Their churches enjoyed a “fellowship of leadership” (the term is Michael Green’s). How wise they were! There was no pulpit-centricity in these early congregations such as we find today in so many of our churches. Formal teaching undoubtedly existed. But this does not mean that the leaders did all the talking. Even Paul, when meeting with the believers in Troas, engaged in a dialogue with his audience rather than delivering a lengthy monologue (Acts 20:7).

Not only that. The Holy Spirit could lead several speakers to bring a word (1 Cor. 14:29), and believers themselves were expected to be “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16). I believe there is no single lesson we need to learn more earnestly today than the importance of mutual ministry when it comes to the teaching of Scripture. To say this is not to belittle the ministry of pastor-teachers. I have trained a good number of them through the years! And who among us has never benefited from a message that was prayerful, biblical, Christ-exalting, and delivered in the power of the Spirit and with humility? Nor am I pleading for an “anything goes” mentality when it comes to our gatherings as believers. I am simply pleading for such a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that it should not be impossible for the Spirit to get a message across to the people through any member of the congregation He should inspire to speak. This is no pipe dream on my part. I have seen it happen in many congregations, my own included. I believe that most churches could do a great deal more to encourage this outlook. In this way many in the congregation will be prepared to put into practice the teaching of Heb. 10:24-25. The gathering would move from being a time of passive listening to an opportunity to engage in mutual edification. There is nothing so attractive in the world as a gathering where Jesus is dominant, not one particular teacher, regardless of how able he may be. This was perhaps the supreme secret of the early church: it insisted that Jesus Christ Himself, the church’s “Senior Pastor” (1 Pet. 5:4), have the first place in everything (Col. 1:18).

Yesterday one of our elders brought a magnificent teaching from Phil. 4:2-3 on unity and conflict resolution. It was fabulous: simple without being simplistic, well-researched, Spirit-filled. Yet at the same time there were numerous other "words" from the congregation bringing "edification, encouragement, and consolation" (1 Cor. 14:3). Is it priggish of me to say that I would like to see this happening in all of our evangelical churches? I make no plea for disorderly meetings, for that is forbidden in 1 Corinthians 14. But freedom during the service, genuine words of encouragement legitimately given -- these must be expressed and not suffocated.

I had to force myself to finish the Hahns' book. But I'm glad I read it. I feel obliged to add, however, that if some think that crossing the Tiber is dangerous, the anthropocentricity of a good many Protestant churches is almost equally as dangerous. There can be no doubt that the early Christians experienced great freedom in their congregational meetings, which were highly participatory. Too many of our gatherings today encourage mere spectatorism. The truth, as I see it, is that we need both formal teaching and informal teaching, and if these can be combined in the same meeting, so much the better.

Sunday, January 18

5:40 PM Check out the What's New? page at our Greek Portal. Might find something you like. Special thanks to my assistant, Joshua Covert, for bringing the portal up to date.

10:15 AM Missions moment:

The call of the kingdom is not about how we confront social evils. It is about we get involved in sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others, including our enemies. What we need to see is that this is not going to happen until I do my part. As long as we buy into the lie that we can outsource missions to professionals and still further the Great Commission, we think our part isn't all that essential. But it's a lie. It's a grand, satanic delusion.

Read One Person at a Time.

Saturday, January 17

8:15 PM Nothing quite like Pizza Hut with your family. Marvelous time.

Mr. Photogenic himself.

And then I drove home and found that these had come in today's mail. I'll have both of them read by tomorrow.

As I got out of the car it was pitch black. I just stared up at the stars. If you're ever tempted to think that we are too much like God, just look at the night sky. I stood there and worshipped for ten minutes.

"To whom will you compare Me?"

"Lift up your eyes on high and behold the one who has created these things, who calls the stars by number."

"The Lord, the Creator of the ends of earth, faints not, neither is weary."

"Marvelous are Thy works, O Lord."

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

"If I should go up into heaven, I could not hide from Your presence."

"O come, let us worship and bow down."

How flabby has been my worship of late. But not tonight. Not tonight. The Eternal, the Infinite, the Almighty -- I saw Him tonight, there in the night sky. And I thought, There, beyond the stars, rests my Becky. And the tears began to well up, tears of joy and anticipation of the day when I too shall fly away and be joined with the Lover of my soul forever -- Jesus!

5:15 PM Been working on Godworld today. I'm thoroughly Baptist in my theology, as you know. Yet I love Gregorian chants. I love cathedral architecture. I love organ music. I love to sing in Latin. A recurring theme seems to run though all the conversions from evangelicalism to Catholicism or Anglicanism in the books I've been reading, and that is a love for liturgical worship and the centrality of the mass along with a disapproval of what many perceive as the passing fads of self-centered "worship." Yes, I realize that New Testament worship is not be confused with contemporary services. Worship is described in Rom. 12:1-2 as something that is 24/7. We don't come to the fellowship to worship; we come as worshippers. At the same time, the call for a more Christocentric gathering resonates with me. I make much of this in my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. At the Lord's table we experience a spiritual and communal understanding of what it means to be the body of Christ. I may never cross the Tiber or hike the Canterbury Trail, but I long for a more New Testament style of the Lord's Supper as a full, celebratory meal. Until then, I think I'll always find my own church tradition as wanting. Our individualistic, narcissistic worship experience differs little from our experience at Starbucks or a shopping mall. Space matters. Gestures matter. How we speak matters. Even architecture matters. For starters -- and I'm just throwing this out -- how about placing our "worship teams" off to the side of our sanctuaries or even behind the congregation? I realize that this sounds very high church -- the choirs in a cathedral are generally seated off to the side, and I've been in many a church in Europe where the organist is situated at the entrance with his or her back to the congregation. One never sees them! Just point me please to the finished work of Christ. Give me an opportunity to focus on God rather than on loud people gesticulating up front. Let's make it so that nobody would think twice if someone were to drop down on their knees in adoration during our gatherings. Speaking as a life-long musician who once played the trumpet semi-professionally, I view much of contemporary worship as musically and esthetically stultifying. No, I don't want more liturgy. I just want less of us and more of Christ. So why not a table front and center instead of either an altar, a pulpit, or a music stand?

12:38 PM My good friend Alvin Reid has published a very thoughtful post today about his need to downsize his life and ministry. It's called The End of an Era. This is blogging at its best. (I don't say that often.) Like yours truly, Alvin has entered his "second adulthood." This is truly a wonderful time. Nobody grants us permission to change. We grant it to ourselves. And change often means downsizing. It's a time to be more accepting of yourself and of others. It's a time to make more friends and be less busy doing things that won't last. When I evaluate where I am in life right now, one word comes to mind: content. I am content with myself. I am content with my accomplishments. I am content with the number of books I've written. I'm content with my years of teaching. I'm content with how I've released my children so that they can be all that God is calling them to be. I am thankful that I'm not co-dependent. I am grateful I've never experienced job dislocation. I so appreciate the good health God has given me. And oh how grateful I am for all the years Becky and I were able to serve Him together. Marriage is the most pure and most practical earthly metaphor of God's love for us. For in marriage, we must give ourselves to another. For 37 years Becky and I did just that. Love is to see all the weaknesses, all the shoddiness, all the sin in one's spouse and then to be enabled not only to accept them but to love them. This is a miracle of grace, pure and simple. Although I don't expect to ever again be caught up so closely in the vortex of another's humanity, I will always be thankful for the marriage I had to Becky Lynn. There is something about putting your mouth on the mouth of another human being, releasing all of your inhibitions to a complete stranger (and regardless of how long you've been married, your spouse will always be, in part, a stranger to you), consenting to the dizzying thing called marital love. There is nothing like it in the world. I did not realize it at the time, but each day's kiss was planted on the bones of a human being I knew I would not always have by my side. No matter. I am content. And like Alvin, I am excited about the next chapter. 

12:02 PM I received this book yesterday and have begun reading it. I can't seem to put it down.

The author takes John at his word and explains the book's interconnecting themes in such a way that you are drawn deeper and deeper into the theology of this amazing New Testament Gospel. I'm not a theologian but I appreciate theology, and this book is written so clearly that even a novice like me can understand what the text is saying. Thank you, Herold, for giving the church such a marvelous book.

For the Amazon link, go here.

11:45 AM And to think that this guy is actually one of my Th.M. students.

11:12 AM My seminary dean asked his faculty for a short list of books that we felt students should have read before entering seminary. Here's what I wrote him:

Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century

Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity

Estep, The Anabaptist Story

Black, The Jesus Paradigm

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist the last one!)

10:06 AM Good morning to you on this sunny winter day! As you know, this week I will begin team-teaching (with Chip Hardy -- a really smart guy who holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago) the book of Amos in both Greek and Hebrew. The course is officially listed as "LXX," and I'm quite sure the Greek text can and should be read on its own terms, but LXX Amos is a translation of the Hebrew after all, and I think it will be helpful if we keep a close eye on the Hebrew as we work our way through its nine marvelous chapters. However, beyond the question of translation and exegesis -- which itself could keep us very busy -- there is the message of Amos to be dealt with, namely, the preservation of a covenant people of God until the day God raises up a Son of David in the person of Jesus Christ who shall right all wrongs and provide full and final salvation.

When Amos turned his gaze on the society in which he lived and worked, everywhere he looked he saw nothing but counterfeit religion -- exercises in self-pleasure, protection of religious property, and careless indifference to the needs all around them. People lived for frivolity (think American football) and money, and the divine displeasure went completely unnoticed. Amos addressed himself to all who would hear his prophetic word that with privilege comes great responsibility, and that to whom much is given, much is required. Amos was a man gripped by a God of holiness, a God who loves His frail and needy people -- His wrath-deserving followers -- as much as any God ever could and yet who also insisted that whenever grace is abused and the law is forgotten, a terrible price is to be paid.

And what of today's church? Is the Lord holding up his plumb line and measuring our lukewarmness? Has America reached the autumn of her probation? Amos was surely written for our admonition. Our God is a different kind of claimant. He demands our complete and undivided allegiance. This is the exclusivity that Jesus so often spoke of. There is no other God! -- no matter how many times we hold our inter-faith services or acquiesce to a syncretism that would allow a Muslim call to prayer to emanate from a Christian bell tower.

And what of missions and evangelism? I wonder.

  • New Testament scholars attend their academic conferences, pursuing the intellectual (as well they should). But the true combination of humanitas and pietas, of intellectualism and spirituality, should be apparent in Gospel preaching as well as in the understanding of Scripture.

  • Pastors continue to erect their magnificent temples ("churches") as if God lived in houses made with human hands --  and the church in the Third World goes without. Don't read Amos unless you're prepared to have your priorities turned upside down.

  • Seminaries act more like watchdogs than gadflies to sting into action for change.

  • People in the pews remain indifferent to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters in foreign lands. I do not know of a better statement of our double standard than that made by W. A. Visser 't Hooft in 1968: "It must become clear that church members who deny in fact their responsibility for the needy in any part of the world are just as guilty of heresy as those who deny this or that article of the Faith."

Church, we are playing it too safe. This very day there is a Christian orphan in India you can support for what it would cost your family to enjoy a monthly meal at MacDonald's. I can hook you up today with an evangelist in northern India who, for a mere $60 in monthly support will take the Gospel fearlessly to a completely unreached people group on the border of Sikkim. Would you consider becoming like the apostle Paul -- rather than asking for money for the mission work you do, trying your best to become self-supporting so that the resources of God might go to the needy in other nations?

Our Anabaptist forefathers of the 16th century understood this principle well, at least in its application to missions. They knew they would never reach the world with the Gospel if they continued to outsource the task to professional clergy, and so they all stepped out by faith to get the job done themselves. Our conservative churches today claim to "be like Jesus" -- and we are when it comes to holding and defending a high view of Scripture. But Jesus was also a radical who wasn't afraid to sweep away centuries of tradition so that God's word might be understood and obeyed.

This Friday I am meeting with one of our former doctoral students at SEBTS who practices his trade as an academic in a country where Christianity is at best tolerated. As he lectures in his university, he shares his faith and develops friendships with a view toward Gospel conversations. I want to do everything I can to support and promote that kind of strategic work. In India, as you know, more and more missionary dollars are being sidetracked into charitable social programs by denominations that equate social action with evangelism. How far we have drifted from the faith of the apostles! There is a need for a revolution in missions today, and that change will begin when we admit that Western missionaries are less effective at evangelism, church planting, and establishing local churches than are the local missionaries and evangelists. Foreign governments may close their borders to foreign missionaries, but they cannot close them to their own people. The native missionary movement in Asia is one of the most exciting developments I have seen in my 38 years of missionary work. Week after week on this blog I continue with this one message: native missionaries are waiting by the thousands to be sent to the next village with the Gospel. All they need is our prayer and financial support. As I said, any family in the U.S. can do this. Pray about it, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and God will show you what to do.

Thus is the message of Amos. Special privileges involve special obligations. Special revelation requires special obedience. Special love requires special responsiveness. Jesus says (as Amos did long before Him) that it is of absolutely no consequence to say "Lord, Lord" and then to turn from doing the will of God when it comes to global evangelism. Jesus' last words are lasting words (as Danny Akin is wont to say). We have our marching orders (Matt. 28:19-20). Millions of souls depend upon our obedience.

Thanks for listening,

Brother Dave

Friday, January 16

8:12 PM Sitting on the kitchen floor feeding the dogs their nightly cookie and having an interesting discussion with them.

Yes, I speak fluent Doggy.

7:32 PM In the opening verses of the Bible we are reminded that we worship a God of order and beauty. I thought about that in Greek class today as we finished our J-term course. I told the students that I have a real weakness, as it were. I simply cannot teach Greek without helping us to think in an orderly way about the language. Language is learnable because language is logical. Even beneath the most absurd "irregularity" in language lurks a rule that makes what seems illogical perfectly understandable. This is why I bore my students so often with extemporaneous excursions into linguistics and Indo-European philology. Can't help it. I have found linguistics so helpful, so insightful, that I can't refrain from sharing at least a few simple insights into how language actually works. So to all my beginning students: Thank you for your hard work and diligence in this course. Thank you for your perseverance. And thank you for putting up with an eccentric professor who gets carried away whenever he talks about language. It's just one of the ways he's learned to worship his Creator. 

7:04 PM Energion Publications has just put up a link to my forthcoming Siete Senales de una Iglesia del Nuevo Testamento.

From the publisher's catalogue:

What is the church? What does it look like? What should it look like?

For answers to these questions David Alan Black looks to the first century church and our founding documents in the New Testament. What were the characteristics of a Christian assembly in the first century? In his study he finds seven things that defined the church then: Evangelistic Preaching, Christian Baptism, Apostolic Teaching, Genuine Relationships, Christ-Centered Gatherings, Fervent Prayer, and Sacrificial Living.

For more Spanish resources, go here.

6:44 PM Event update: Please join us February 10-11 for the annual Adams Lectures, this year featuring Daniel Block. Dan teaches Old Testament at Wheaton. In 2013 he was justly honored with a Festschrift called For Our Good Always: Studies in the Message and Influence of Deuteronomy in Honor of Daniel I. Block (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2013).

6:30 PM Tommy Wasserman calls our attention to a pro-Byzantine textual commentary on the New Testament. I am very impressed. A good example is its discussion of Matt. 5:22, which, I note with delighted surprise, cites my 1988 Novum Testamentum article.

7:16 AM Friday morning update ...

1) And the winner is ....

Paul in Wisconsin

Framing Paul will go out in today's mail.

2) Amazon is a fabulous source of books and other products. I am amazed that so many users actually take the time to write book reviews. In case you have nothing better to do, take a peak at the latest review of my beginning Greek grammar. Wow. For myself, I use my book not because I think it's a great deal better than other books out there but simply because I couldn't teach Greek any other way.

3) Next week will mark my 76th semester of teaching Greek. So how does that make me feel? Productive. At peace with myself. Thankful that I don't have to look in the mirror and ponder such questions as "Why am I here?" or "Where is there meaning in life?" I'm so grateful to feel like I'm still making a difference, regardless of how microscopic it may be. Above all, I'm grateful to God that I don't have to make the gut-wrenching admission that I climbed the ladder only to find that the ladder was placed against the wrong wall. For every Christian who reaches 60 and says "Is that all there is?" there are a dozen who can say, "I can't believe how rich my life has been." I haven't read it yet, but I've asked my assistant to check out for me from our library the book The Word Leaps the Gap -- a book that honors Richard Hays. I've got my eye on the concluding chapter written by Hays himself: "The Christian Practice of Growing Old." For surely growing old is as much a discipline of the Christian life as is prayer or Bible reading. Even with all its disruptions of late, my life is better than I could ever have hoped for. I continue to encounter rich new learning situations and am discovering that even an old brain can spout new foliage. Re-learning Latin has been an exhilarating challenge. It's sort of been my preemptive strike against senility -- or maybe its the proof thereof! I want to get out and explore my rich American heritage and see places I've never seen. I want to find new channels to express my passions in life. Since Becky's death I've discovered a new side to me -- and it's been quite a discovery. (Jorge Luis Borges: "While we sleep here, we are awake elsewhere and ... in this way every man is two men.")

I feel dread over losing my youthful energy but I'm doing my best to outwit the inevitable changes ahead. The road that was once smooth in my thirties and forties has turned bumpy. I think I am maturing as a person (God only knows), but I am less reluctant to grow today than I was in my fifties. Although I try to live a healthy life, I don't obsess about the outer shell. I still love the classroom. In every class session I feel like the guy who's up at the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. I may not hit it out of the ballpark, but I'm going to give it my best. I do know one thing for sure. I can't go back. "Don't back up; severe tire damage" is more than a parking lot sign for me. Regardless of what has happened in your past, you just move on. I want to become like a great wizened orchestra conductor who discovers and helps launch others' careers. Look at this YouTube of an orchestra performing Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."  Focus your attention on the conductor -- his ecstasy, his sheer joy, his expertise that has earned him worldwide recognition of his professional accomplishments.

Without any music, with scarcely a wave of the baton, the old man conducts. Study his face. His eyes alone speak volumes. Aged, he's nevertheless a handsome man. His conduct fires our imaginations.

May we who have grown older do the same.

Thursday, January 15

3:28 PM The news today went from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the first place, let's talk about the sublime -- El Capitan. What a cliff hanger. I love watching people push themselves to accomplish great feats. And the best part of it all was watching Tommy as he waited for Kevin to catch up with him so that they could both finish the climb together. When I saw that I said to myself, "That's the church!" When one of us falls or slips up, we stop and make sure our buddy gets up so that we can all finish the race together.

The ridiculous was the report I saw today about one of the world's most "prestigious" publishing houses. According to The Telegraph, Oxford University Press has banned the use of the word pig and any reference to pork in their children's books lest such language violate the sensibilities of a certain religious group. Tell me it's not true. I recall once publishing a book with one of North America's leading academic publishers. Then I noted one day that they had inaugurated a policy requiring their authors to use inclusive language in all of their books. That was the last time I submitted anything to that publisher. Not that I'm against using inclusive language. I'm not. In fact, in my last 5 or 6 books I have chosen to use inclusive language. But that was my choice. My feeling is that editors have no right telling authors how to write.

Finally, an interview on NPR on my drive home really nailed something I have been thinking about for a very long time. The person being interviewed said something to this effect: We are not the products of our environment; we are the products of our expectations. Bingo. When I was three years of age, my parents decided to split up, and so I grew up without a father. Talk about a fork in the road. Divorce is an atomic bomb, and the children experience the fallout, big time. I went through junior and senior high school basically spinning my wheels. Then I found the Lord to be real, I found myself, and I discovered that God had a wonderful plan for my life and that I didn't have to live in the past. I went to college and began teaching Greek there while a student in seminary. When I would go back to the Islands during my semester breaks I would always check up on a buddy of mine with whom I had surfed in Kailua. We went to the same high school, graduated the same year, and came from broken homes. One year while on vacation on Oahu I went to his house to say hello when his mother told me he was "ma-ke." He had committed suicide by driving his car off the Pali. She told me, "We're glad you were able to live up to your expectations. I wish my son could have lived up to his." Actually, we both lived up to our expectations. That's why I see it as one of my greatest priorities in life to help underdogs like me achieve their God-given potential. The saying goes: "We're born, we're made, and we make ourselves." Heredity, environment, self-achievement. I would rather put it this way: "We're born, we're made, and we're remade -- remade by the power of a loving Savior who can take losers and give them a reason to live.

Life is chock full of things we cannot do anything about, but which we are supposed to do something with. Our prayer, each and every day, should be, "Lord what have you given me today that I can offer back to You?"

Keep on climbing,


Wednesday, January 14

9:18 PM In Greek class we often talk about what the church should look like and what church leaders should be like. We've talked about the metaphor of a pastor as a "shepherd' -- indeed, this is what the Greek word poimen normally refers to.


It only makes sense to retain the metaphor in Eph. 4:11 since every other occurrence of the word in the New Testament is translated that way. In class, I mentioned that in one of his books (The Contemporary Christian, I believe) John Stott had written a marvelous description of what a good pastor looks like, and the passage he draws our attention to is, of course, that famous passage in John 10 where Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd/Pastor. Stott lists several ways the good shepherd cares for his sheep: he knows his sheep; he feeds his sheep; he leads his sheep; he guards his sheep; he seeks his sheep when they go astray; and he calls them by name. The antithesis to a good shepherd is, of course, a bad shepherd, who is described in John 10 as a man who is "paid" to do his work and therefore has no real interest in the flock. This "hireling" is motivated solely by big bucks and will run away at the first sign of trouble or danger. I'm not a pastor. Never will be. But I have nothing but the greatest respect and appreciation for pastor-elders who lead us in this way, the way of John 10, the downward path of Jesus. I wish the words of John Stott could be preached from the mountain tops. We need pastors with this kind of character. And what is their purpose? To prepare all of God's people for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12). God entrusts ministry to the whole membership of the people of God. How cool is that?

Changing the subject, I've perused Doug Campbell's new book and I must say it's not at all what I was expecting, and I therefore must lay it aside in view of all the other pressing books I need to read for my research on my book Godworld. This means it's contest time! I will give my copy of Campbell's book to the first person to correctly identify the following building that played a hugely important role in my European education.

It's where I would hold up about 8 hours a day researching and writing my dissertation. It had a room containing every dissertation in the area of theology ever published at the university. It's where my seminars with Barth and Reicke were held. It's where pipes were smoked (not by me, of course), doctrines were debated, and lifelong friendships were made. Any guesses? Get it right and the book is yours, gratis.

7:04 PM Doug Campbell's new book arrived today.

By the way, I'm very impressed with the used book dealers at Amazon. Even without paying more for speedier delivery, most books arrive at the farm within three days of me ordering them. But the big question tonight is: Do I start reading Campbell or watch a Clint Eastwood western?

See you tomorrow, Doug! 

5:26 PM Hi folks. I'm sitting here listening to NPR discuss the fight over the Obama Presidential Library. I think Chicago will get it. Of course, Hawaii wants it, but poor old Oahu is already sinking under the weight of traffic and overpopulation. The decision will be announced in March. In other news, I've been keeping up with those two free climbers who are about to summit El Capitan. (Video at BBC.) I'm stupefied as I follow their story. As someone who just recently stepped onto the sixth green of life, I keep telling myself, "You've got to have the same attitude toward your own mountains, old boy." You see, I've found that the older I get, the sand traps and pitfalls of life don't get any easier. Like those climbers, you've got to know how to spot signs of trouble and combat any creeping despair. I like the story I once heard about comedian George Burns. He lost his wife Gracie when he was 80. But he never lost his love for living. Ten years later, NBC TV came to him and asked him to sign a five-year contract to do a TV show. Burns replied, "Five years? You gotta be kidding me! How do I know you'll be around for another five years?" I'll say it again: I don't feel old. But even if I did, I wouldn't act my age. Americans over 65 are living longer, and more of them are remaining healthy enough to enjoy their extended lease on life. The last thing I want to do is become inactive. Nope. I want to be engaged, useful, a risk-taker, even in my dotage. Norman Mailer wrote his thirtieth book when he was 74. John Glenn asked to be rocketed back to space at the same age. He returned aboard the shuttle Discovery. Way to go, Johnny boy!

Why should I slow down just because the finish line has creeped a bit closer? God has blessed me with career, family, and good health. He's balanced these blessings with the pain of loss. In his book The Late Hour, Mark Strand noted how older men almost invariably need a spouse to keep them going and vibrant. I understand that. But I am content. I've developed an avocation if you will -- a parallel career as a missionary that has become a source of enormous satisfaction to me. Some things that once seemed so important to me no longer seem that important. I have become both more outgoing and more introspective. So, until I reach MANopause -- the time when I will dramatically slow down physically and mentally -- I think I'm gonna stay engaged. Getting older isn't all that bad, after all. I feel I have more control than I ever did when I was a younger man. My daily routine demands that I call upon a full range of capacities from tossing out bales of hay to gentle empathy. I've got my own El Capitans to conquer, thank you very much, and I've got the blistered hands to show for it. But who would want it any other way?

Well, it's time to walk the dogs, feed the animals, and cook supper. This afternoon I had a very enjoyable time just sitting back and reading the book of Joshua ("Jesus"!) in the LXX on my iPad.

Earlier, Thomas Hudgins (translator of my Greek grammar into Spanish) sent along a wonderful endorsement he received today from Jesus himself. Well, Jesús Peláez in Córdoba. Many years ago Jesús and I founded the journal Filologia Neotestamentaria, and later he invited me to lecture at the Complutensian University in Spain. Here's a snippet of what he wrote about the book: 

Es una gramática muy pedagógica.... Por todo ello, esperamos que sea sumamente útil para quienes desean aprender a leer el Nuevo Testamento en su lengua original.

I'm grateful beyond words for these kind sentiments. What great friends. What great blessings. The simple fact is that I'm called upon to follow Jesus, regardless of my age and circumstances.

OKAY, OKAY -- enough of this rambling already!

12:20 PM Looking forward to this Thursday night's edition of Henry Neufeld's Google Hangout on the Gospel of John. This week he'll be covering the prologue, 1:1-18.

John’s presentation of the Logos who is Jesus Christ moves from God who is the Creator in the beginning, to God who reveals the Father because He knows the Father intimately. The way to sharing in this intimacy with the Father and becoming children of God (1:12) lies in believing ( Gr. pisteuein). Throughout the Fourth Gospel, this belief (often to believe in, eis) is understood as an active commitment, one which "involves a willingness to respond to God’s demands as they are presented in and by Jesus."

One can see just how practical this kind of study can be. Faith as an "active commitment" -- I love it! Oh, I asked Henry if he had read the prologue in Latin yet. He said he had -- and then added that he had also looked at it, if you can believe it, in Syriac. Now that's one edumacated feller!

11:34 AM People we lost in 2014:

Robin Williams, Joe Cocker, Lauren Bacall, Joan Rivers, Ann Davis (Alice in the Brady Bunch), Casey Kasem, James Garner, Shirley Temple, Richard Attenborough, Maximillian Shell, Pete Seeger, Sid Caesar, Ralph Waite (the father in The Waltons), David Brenner, Mickey Rooney.

My childhood is officially dead.

11:22 AM To Bajrang Dal, a Hindu radical group, the world says: "Je ne suis pas un Indien."

Eight Christians have been imprisoned following a brutal attack in which a pastor and seven members of his congregation were stripped naked, whipped with belts, and punched before being arrested by local police.

On November 4th, Reverend Rana had just begun a meeting with members of Bethel Pentecostal Church in Madhya Pradesh province to prepare for a prayer service when a mob of local Hindu radicals, known as the Bajrang Dal, stormed abruptly into the meeting. Following the mob's brutal attack, police arrived on the scene and surprisingly arrested the eight victimized Christians.

Yes, Christians in India need our prayers too.

11:11 AM So I'm done reading Timothy Law's book on the LXX. This book was exactly what I was looking for. His overview of the LXX is both complete and engaging. He does a very good job of explaining current scholarship. I'll refer back to it often as I team-teach the LXX course this coming semester. Its message is hindered only by its brevity. (I know, look who's talking!) Maybe the best part of the book is its "Further Reading" section (11 pages). An annotated bibliography would have been most welcome. But overall -- nicely done, Sir, nicely done!

10:16 AM Iced in?

Time for some deep Bible study!

10:04 AM Timothy Law (When God Spoke Greek, p. 34) writes: "Bilingualism or multilingualism was, and still is, a prerequisite for any translation and was a skill possessed by a small number of highly educated scribes right through from the ancient Near East to the Greco-Roman world." The context of this quote is one of translation and translation theory. His point is that translations and translators were not at all unknown when the translators of the LXX set about to do their work.

I agree with Timothy. Being bilingual or multilingual is very helpful indeed if one is to be able to think or speak intelligently about the art and science of translation. It's one reason why I urge my doctoral students to acquire not just a reading ability in German and French but a speaking ability. I even support a conversational approach to ecclesiastical Latin. A lot more people today speak Latin than ancient Greek. The purely natural approach to language, with all of its benefits (not the least of which it just looks fun!), violates one of my goals for teaching, that is, revealing the underlying order of what is being taught. That's what I found when I stopped by an airport kiosk one day and tried out the Rosetta Stone program for German. (I didn't tell the nice lady that I already spoke German.) After a few minutes of parroting some lines of conversational German, I asked, "So what am I saying here? Which part of the sentence is the verb, and which part is the noun?" Her answer was, in essence, "Oh, we don't deal with grammar around here; our approach is purely conversational and inductive." In highly inflected languages like Latin or ancient Greek, I think this approach is simply overwhelming.

But back to my (and, I think, Timothy's) main point. Being somewhat fluent in another language is, I believe, a real desideratum if one is to be involved in exegesis and Bible translation work. I know how fearsome learning a language like German can be. But there is no shortage of fine helps online, and you can even probably find a German chat group where you live.

8:56 AM I got about a quarter of a mile before turning around. There's an inch of ice on the roads and the county schools have all been canceled for the day. Traction was completely gone even with my winter tires. So my ever-faithful assistant will take my class today. Please be safe out there!

7:18 AM Biblical truth is not given for knowledge' sake alone. I emphatically agree with the old Scottish proverb that says: "Greek, Hebrew, and Latin all have their proper place. But it is not at the head of the cross, where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Jesus." The ultimate reason for teaching and learning New Testament Greek is that, properly applied, it can issue in a "readiness for every good work" – that is, a life that is equipped to do God's will and go God's way.

And that's why it's important to learn Greek.

Tuesday, January 13

5:50 PM As I drove home from campus today I was reminded of just how blessed I am. I love teaching. I love my students. I love what I do. It isn't work, never has been. Who is it that makes this possible? Who is it that determines whether we live or die or are sick or well or become a teacher or a nurse or a builder? "My frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret" wrote the Psalmist. "In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me." What a promise. Yes, that and many others. All creation praises Him all the time. Even my dogs and donkeys and goats, even the stars in their courses above, even the mountains and the trees and the ocean waves. Imagine! We can worship Him at all times regardless of who or what we are. I am sure I have lost out spiritually when I have forgotten to take time to worship God with hymns of praise.

This afternoon has been another normal routine of cooking and eating and animal care and reading and writing. Right now I'm finishing Augustine's magnificent Lectio sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum (6:24-33). It begins, "Nemo potest duobus dominis servire." As someone who has lived longer than threescore years, I often think about growing old. I feel as young and energetic as I did when I was 20, but a look in the mirror tells me the evidence is against me. I long, yes long, to be filled with such unselfish love that I should be far gladder to see others succeed than to find success of my own. I desire, yes yearn, to see God use my feeble writings to glorify the great Mystery that underlies all of creation and help others find that Fountain of Life that alone can satisfy. I really don't mind getting old, even growing old alone. I've stopped asking God why He took Becky away from me. I cannot fathom why He would allow it. But He can. In His book are written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me. No, I do not have Becky. But I have Him. And if we who have experienced loss are truly willing to obey, He will show us the way.

The days pass so quickly, don't they? It's hard for me to believe that in exactly one week our new spring semester will begin and I will again enter the classroom. My plea is that my students will begin and end with the Word of God in all that they do, that they will give Scripture the first hearing and the last word, that they will allow the Bible to reveal to them the Lord of the universe and the only reliable frame of reference for life. The Word is correction when we need it and reproof when we go astray and encouragement when we falter and stumble. At the same time, this Word never allows us to wallow in the trough of self-pity or self-righteousness or any other form of "self." Worship is ascribing Him worth, not ourselves. The other night, as I prayed alone in my room, I began to pray in Latin -- spontaneously. I'm not sure why. But the words came quickly and easily: "Tu solus sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe. Te laudo, te benedico, te adoro, tibi gratia ago." The underlying theme was: I may not have it my own way. His will is best -- always. Becky is gone. Mission accomplished! Now it's my turn to be faithful to the end. There is an eternal Verbum that has been spoken. For two thousand years, men and women have taken their stand on that Word. We opted out of our rights when we decided to follow a man who Himself had relinquished all of His. Oh joyful, wretched, happy, heartbreaking obedience! I cannot operate in two kingdoms. I must love the one and hate the other. Is it even possible? Yes, a thousand times yes.

So it was He who determined my "frame." I know that Creator. He's given me new life. A hopeless failure, I know He's forgiven me. Where would I ever be without Him?

7:08 AM Yesterday I was the recipient of many kind emails and well wishes for feeling better. Love, as has often been noted, is like currency. But unlike mere money, there is an infinite supply of love. In fact, the more people spend love, the more it increases. The more you give it away joyfully, freely, generously, the more you keep and the richer you become. God gave us other people because He knew we could never meet all of our own needs. In 2015 I desire to more willing than ever to lend a helping hand whenever I can. It is imperative, in the day in which we live, to learn how to love like Jesus loved. "The proud man and the covetous man never have rest," wrote Thomas à Kempis, "but the meek man and the poor in spirit live in great abundance of rest and peace." Our love for others is simply a response to His love for us. So thanks to everyone who took the time to write or text me yesterday. He has answered your prayers; I feel a thousand percent better; I am eager to get back in the saddle. 

Monday, January 12

4:40 PM This arrived in today's mail.

Looking forward to reading it -- as soon as I grab a bowl of pistachio nuts from my daughter Liz.

3:26 PM Reading Scot McKnight's superb JETS essay called From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic.

3:22 PM Amazing photos from The Atlantic. The essay is called A World Transfixed by Screens. What in the world did I do before I got my iPhone!

12:26 PM Really looking forward to traveling again this year, should God grant me the strength:

  • January = Asia

  • February = Revival services in South Carolina

  • March = Conference in Dallas

  • April = Lectureship at Mid-America Seminary in Cordova, Tennessee

  • May = Guyana

  • July = SNTS meeting in Amsterdam

  • August = Surfing trip to Hawaii

  • September = Asia

I also need to fit in another visit to Odessa to teach at the Baptist seminary there. (I've already purchased the ticket but the trip was postponed due to the political situation.)

"I visited Indians at Crossweeksung," wrote David Brainerd in his diary, "apprehending that it was my indispensable duty...." I feel the same way about the doors God opens for me. How about you? Where is God leading you this year? Across the street or around the world -- it matters not, as long as we obey His voice.

11:52 AM Were there football games over the weekend? Really?

11:05 AM Thanks to a reminder by Arthur Sido, I just made a contribution to the Haiti Orphan Project. Go here to make your contribution today, which is the 5th anniversary of the disaster there. Note that 100% of all contributions are used for orphan care and other Haiti projects.

9:52 AM I'm home today nursing a cold (again), reading Scripture, and thinking a lot about prayer. If you've got a minute, I'd like to talk with you about verbal aspect in the Greek imperative. (Yes, there is a connection to prayer here.) I want to begin with a section heading I found in Markus Barth's magisterial commentary on Ephesians in the Yale/Anchor Bible Commentary series. The section heading reads as follows:

"Love Her, Love Her!"

(Barth was one of my New Testament professors in Basel. I was in his home and am witness to the fact that Barth not only talked about loving his wife but lived it.)

You will note that both statements are commands, but they both have different emphases. Read the first statement out loud: Love Her!  Where did you place the emphasis? On the verb Love did you not? The idea is, "You are to love her!"

Now say the second statement out loud: Love Her!  Notice how the emphasis shifts from Love to her. The idea now is, "You are to love her!" Now, to indicate this change in emphasis, English must resort to what are called extralinguistic devices, in this case italics. (Other languages employ bold letters. Some place extra spacing between the letters of the emphatic word.) In English, the italics are necessary; otherwise we would default to placing the emphasis on the verb Love.

Now let's look at one more sample sentence:

"Love Her Continually!"

When you say this sentence aloud, you will notice that you tend to emphasize the last word -- the adverb continually. Again, the emphasis has shifted, this time from the fact of love to the way in which that love is to be expressed -- without ceasing. We might paraphrase this as follows: "You are to love her continually!"

Let's return to our model sentences, this time reducing them to two:

1) "You are to love her!"

2) "You are to love her continually."

In Greek, the first sentence ("You are to love her!") would normally be expressed by the aorist imperative, while the letter sentence ("You are to love her continually!") would normally be expressed by the present imperative. Of the two patterns, the aorist seems to be the default pattern in New Testament Greek. The aorist seems to be intentionally refraining from commenting on how the action is to occur. Instead, the emphasis is on the verbal idea: "Love!" However, a departure from the aorist may be exegetically significant. If the present tense is used in a Greek command, we seem to be presented with two ideas. Either the idea is to do something continually (as we saw above); or else the idea seems to be to do that activity habitually. Thus, to our sample sentence "You are to love her continually!" we can now add "You are to love her habitually!" or even "You are to make it your habit to love her!" Of course, only the context can determine which emphasis is in view.

To take a New Testament example, Jesus once commanded His followers to "Ask, seek, and knock." These commands have been recorded by the Gospel writers in the present imperative. Because of this fact, some English versions have a footnote that says something to this effect: "Lit. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking." The idea is, Do this all the time.  But is this what Jesus meant? Right now I am typing on my keyboard, not asking God for anything. I think what Jesus may have had in mind was this: "Ask as the need arises, turn to God as a pattern of life, ask habitually." Thus James can say that if we lack wisdom, we are to do what? Ask! Whatever we need comes to us as Christians on the basis of grace and not as a reward. If you need something, ask God. He is a good and loving Father and He delights in giving good gifts to His children.

Here's another New Testament example. Paul tells us that we are to "Pray without ceasing!" Again, the command to pray is couched in the present imperative. And so we have two options: "You are to pray continually!" or "You are make it your habit to pray as the need arises!" Which idea is in view here? It would seem the former: "You are to pray continually!" Why? Because of the adverb that follows: without ceasing. The thought might be something like this: "You are to pray continually, that is, without ceasing!" I think what Paul means here is that we are to go through our day in a constant attitude of prayer, of communing with God. The Keswick Movement called this "Practicing the presence of Christ." That is, Christians have the privilege of walking daily in the conscious awareness of the presence, purpose, and power of their great God. This is communion with God at its very best. This communing with God may or may not issue in spoken words of prayer. But prayer is always on our minds if not on our lips. I think the following BBC program contains a good illustration of this. The program is called Amish: A Secret Life. The story is of an Amish family in Lancaster County who allow themselves to be filmed. It is a wonderful story, beautifully told. You and your entire family could watch it in an hour. It would, I think, be one of the best time investments you could ever make. At any rate, at the 38 minute mark, the wife Miriam is hanging her wash on the clothesline and she begins to pray out loud for her children. One wonders if Miriam doesn't do this all day long. She seems to be in a constant attitude of prayer. Sometimes that attitude of prayer spills over into uttered words.

And so I ask myself today, "Am I praying without ceasing? Am I practicing the presence of God? Is His presence what animates me, drives me, heals me, guides me, blesses me, renews me, restores me? Am I truly centered on Christ today? Is He at the core of my life, regardless of what I happen to be doing?" If you desire to give your all to God and abandon yourself to the mind of Christ, then prayer will become a precious and well-loved part of your day. I want to have a closer relationship with my God and simply acknowledge His presence in all things. Bible knowledge can support and hasten this spiritual intimacy I am describing, but it cannot replace it.

P.S. If you are a husband and need a word of challenge and encouragement, read pp. 700-720 of Barth's Ephesians commentary. You will not regret it.

Keep centered in the Savior,


Sunday, January 11

7:32 PM As part of the research I'm doing for my book Godworld (on church and kingdom living), I ordered the following tonight:

  • Rome Sweet Rome: Our Journey to Catholicism

  • Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trial

  • Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church

  • Evangelical Is Not Enough

  • Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic

It was interesting to see the comments about these books over at Amazon. Many were written by converts to either the Anglican or the Catholic communions. Many readers seemed to feel lost and annoyed by a church culture that had grown in on itself. They seem to share a growing sense of historical identity and a passion for church history. They are growing weary of the anthropocentrism and pulpit-centricity of their churches. They are sensitive to the esthetic side of existence. I think they are especially turned off (as I am) by the entertainment format of contemporary "worship." Should make for some pretty interesting reading.

7:04 PM Got gas tonight for $1.97 per gallon. Whoohoo! 

7:02 PM I am told that the longest word in Classical Latin is subductisupercilicarptor. According to the Oxford Latin Dictionary, it means something like "an eyebrow-raising fault-finder." Subduco, of course, means raise. Supercilia is Latin for eyebrows. And a carptor is a criticizer. Hence: an ultra-critical person. Me? I've always thought of myself as an incurable infracaninophile (lover of the underdog). Right now in our Greek class I need to be just that. Language learning is a struggle for many of us. It's not that we can't memorize the material. We can. It's just that we can't seem to be able to understand it. Both Greek and Latin have a language "code" that works differently from the code used in English. It's the English DNA to express meaning through word order. Not so in Latin and Greek. The code they use places more emphasis on word formation than on word order. When you first learn Latin you might memorize a sentence like Servus dominam salutat. "The slave greets the mistress." This is a common enough word order in Latin, which literally says The servant the mistress greets. In English, the subject normally comes before the verb, and the object normally comes after it. Thus The dog chases the cat and The cat chases the dog are two completely different sentences with two completely different meanings. The -um in servus tells you that it is the subject of the sentence, whereas the -am in dominam tells you it is the object of the sentence. In Latin, the normal word order is SOV -- Subject, Object, Verb. About 45% of languages follow this order ("I him greet"). 42% have the English word order SVO -- Subject, Verb, Object ("I greet him"). Another 9% are VSO ("Greet I him"), while 3% are VOS ("Greet him I") and 1% are OVS ("Him greet I"). So if you're going to master a foreign language, you have to learn its language "code." Admittedly, I could not do this when I first began studying Greek in college. The memory work was simple enough. But I never could grasp the concept of word formation (inflection). I therefore dropped my Greek class after three weeks.

If you are struggling with the language code of Greek, I hope you will not let that discourage you. You can get it. You will get it. Just hang in there and please don't give up!

11:28 AM Feeling ragged today so am staying home and resting. Have a busy week ahead. Looking forward to a time of quiet worship here. In the meantime, some odds and sods from the web:

1) John Meunier is pondering the question What makes worship United Methodist?

2) Steve Sensenig notes how Jews are leaving Paris in droves.

3) The farm said goodbye today to the young pro leaders who enjoyed a weekend retreat here. Grateful for my colleague and friend Alvin "Doc" Reid who mentors this group.

4) The first new church in Turkey in 90 years.

5) An Ethiopian Airlines 737 cargo plane crashed yesterday in Ghana. Crew is fine. But how in the world does a jet engine get in front of the nose of a crashed airplane?

9:46 AM Oh, the ambiguity of language. The French verb être ("to be") and the verb suivre ("to follow") share the first person singular present tense form suis. Hence "Je suis Charlie" can be read either as a defiant ""I am Charlie [too]" or as "I follow [support] Charlie." Of course, we could resort to "Nous sommes Charlie," which can only mean "We are Charlie" and not "We follow Charlie." After the 9/11 attacks, the world rallied around the U.S. The Star Spangled Banner was played at Buckingham Palace; the French newspaper Le Monde ran an article called "We are all Americans"; Cubans offered medical supplies; and children in India taped up signs saying "This is an attack on all of us." Today we see this being repeated in the aftermath of the tragedy in Paris.

Businesses know the power of a slogan, especially when it doesn't work (Verizon's "Can You Hear Me Now?" comes to mind). Occasionally, a slogan can get lost in translation (Chevy's Nova became "It doesn't go" in Spanish). The problem with slogans is that they are here today and gone tomorrow. In addition, a slogan can mean whatever you want it to mean. In my circles, "Every Christian a Great Commission Christian" has been bandied about for some time. It's the easiest thing to say but the hardest thing to do. (Remember "Yes We Can"?) A good slogan may be memorable, but it does little good unless it leads to action, as Richard Miniter noted in his recent column in Forbes (No, We Are Not All Charlie Hebdo). Somehow we need to move beyond silly fads and sloganeering. Believe it or not, people can actually say something meaningful without creating a hashtag for it.


Saturday, January 10

6:14 PM Today was my first day to drive to capitol square in Raleigh and actually get out of the car. I was there to visit the North Carolina Museum of History where the Raleigh Civil War Round Table holds its monthly meetings. Today Ed Bearrs rocked the lecture hall as only Ed can do. Ed knows what he's talking about. He was the chief historian for the National Park Service from 1981 to 1994. Today, at the ripe young age of 91, he regaled his audience for a good hour and a half and didn't miss a beat. I wish I had half his energy. Afterwards I decided to take a look around the square. The capitol building is a magnificent sight, especially on a bright and sunny day. As you can see from the photos below, North Carolina provided the country with three presidents. Church buildings also grace the square, including Christ Church (Episcopalian) and the First Baptist Church, whose steeple rises majestically toward heaven. Since I was so close to North Carolina State University, I decided to drive down to Western Blvd. and grab a quick bite of Ethiopian fare at the Abyssinia, where I could also practice my terrible Amharic. My server Frew even lit some incense for me (the only customer). I used to take Becky here back in the day. Such happy memories. There is simply no power or influence that is more penetrating in life than that of a spouse to a spouse. At the same time, I felt the Lord so close to me while dining, and He is every bit as close to me as my wife was at one time, only unimaginably more so.

Tonight I'm chillaxing (as one of my daughters would put it). Only three more weeks before I leave for Asia again. In the meantime, I hope to "take life blithely, like birds and babies," as Luther once stated.



8:10 AM The Richland Creek Church young pros group are having a leadership retreat here this weekend. Here are the guys sipping coffee in my kitchen.

The ladies are over at Maple Ridge cooking breakfast. What fun. Right now I'm off to the Raleigh Civil War Round Table to fight the Battle of Mobile Bay!

Friday, January 9

6:38 PM Thomas Hudgins has published an excellent review of David Allen's new commentary on 1-3 John. You can access it here.

6:15 PM See this time lapse of European air traffic. Amazing.

6:08 PM This came in today's mail. Eager to read it.

But what kind of an alpha is this?

5:16 PM La liberté de expression ne mourra jamais!

5:04 PM It's time to take a break from writing to blog a bit about allusions in the New Testament. Hebrews, for example, is simply saturated with Old Testament allusions and types. This only makes sense. The New Testament writers were steeped in the Old Testament. As my friend Radu Gheorghita has noted, "The many allusions in Hebrews to OT material are the result of the Author's vast knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures" (p. 99 of The Role of the Septuagint in Hebrews). I ran across an interesting allusion the other day in a book I'm reading about John Wilkes Booth. Judging that a certain Dr. Stuart had treated him inhospitably, Booth wrote him a nasty little note that included these lines:

It is not the substance, but the manner in which a kindness is extended, that makes one happy for the acceptance thereof. The sauce in the meat is ceremony; meeting were bare without it.

Booth sent the letter to the good doctor along with an insulting offer to pay for Stuart's grudging "hospitality." Few notice an allusion in Booth's letter but it is there nevertheless. Booth invoked Shakespeare's Macbeth (Act 3, Scene 4), in which Lady Macbeth complains about a feast that was given without being graced with assurances of welcome. She says, "The feast is sold/That is not often vouched, while 'tis a-making,/'Tis given with welcome. To feed were at best at home; /From thence, the sauce to meat is ceremony./Meeting were bare without it." Here Booth is quoting Lady Macbeth almost verbatim. Want to eat? Do it at home. Want to celebrate? The spice to any feast is "ceremony."

The other day I was listening to Chicago, one of my favorite 1970s rock bands. Ever notice at the very end of Feeling Stronger Every Day the allusion to a famous line in the Rolling Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash, it's a gas, gas, gas!" I cannot recall listening to this piece by Chicago without being awed by the tribute they are paying to the Stones.

Allusions. Important indeed!

12:12 PM Quote of the day (Grant Howard):

Some people can't say no. They take on too many relationships, and too many responsibilities. They enroll in two many courses, hold down too many jobs, volunteer for too many tasks, make too many appointments, serve on too many committees, have too many friends. They are trying to be all things to all men all at once all by themselves.

11:26 AM Retreatants have begun arriving. Sweet. Becky's dream is still alive.

10:52 AM Just got this from Amazon:

The author talks about three kinds of rest: physical (the least important), emotional (more important by several magnitudes of importance), and spiritual (of supreme importance). His point is that life is more than work. It's a hard lesson to learn for a 62-year old geezer who thinks he's still a 25-year old.

9:44 AM Making beds this morning so that our guests can have fresh sheets. Yep, just call me Mr. Mom.

9:34 AM My good friend and colleague Edgar Aponte just returned from Cuba. This morning he tweeted, "Nuestro Dios es Señor de las naciones." Amen!

9:30 AM Last night I listened to an interview with John Stott's former personal assistant, John Yates. Yates, an evangelical Anglican, now pastors in Raleigh. You can listen to the interview here.

Yates emphasized three traits of Stott:

1) His intellectual rigor.

2) His global perspective on the church.

3) His great humility.

Listen and be both challenged and blessed.

9:22 AM Heat wave today. 40 degrees.

Thursday, January 8

9:04 PM Eager to get my hands on the latest issue of the Criswell Theological Review (Fall 2014), which contains an essay by my former doctoral student Mel Winstead. Mel's essay is called "The Significance of Verbal Aspect on the Participles in Hebrews 6:1–12."

8:58 PM Enjoyed the discussion. It turned out to be pretty Black and White (Weiss). *Dumb joke.*

8:55 PM The Hangout is winding down. Henry is encouraging his listeners to get a copy of Weiss's book Meditations on According to John

8:51 PM Henry is discussing "the Word was made flesh," a foundational image throughout the book of John.

8:48 PM "You can be critical about the critics." 

8:44 PM To read John is to read two stories: one about Jesus, and one about the early Christian community.

8:40 PM Is there internal evidence that is sufficient to overturn the eternal evidence?

8:38 PM On the basis of the external evidence, Black argues that the apostle John is the author. But what of the internal evidence?

8:30 PM Henry is discussing the dating of John. A key element is the Rylands papyrus (p 52). Its date precludes scholars from dating John in the middle of the second century.

8:25 PM The external evidence must be weighed against the internal evidence.

8:23 PM Henry cites p. 71 of my Why Four Gospels? to show how authors can reach opposite conclusions from the same evidence.

8:20 PM Weiss discusses sources in the Gospel of John. These lack a solid foundation. The text displays an amazing integrity.

8:17 PM There are two varieties of evidence when it comes to studying the background of a NT book -- the external and the internal evidence.

8:13 PM Henry is introducing introductions to Bible books.

8:11 PM "Studying [John] has impacted me so profoundly." 

8:09 PM Henry is discussing Harold Weiss's books on John. John is so difficult to read in pieces. The theme must constantly be kept in mind.

7:28 PM I'll be watching Henry Neufeld's Google Hangout tonight at 8:00 pm (EST). The topic is the Gospel according to John. Henry is always worth listening to. Care to join us?

7:10 PM Quote of the day (Michael Green):

It would be a gross mistake to suppose that the apostles sat down and worked out a plan of campaign: the spread of Christianity was, as we have seen, largely accomplished by informal missionaries, and must have been to a large extent haphazard and spontaneous.

Read this and 40 other quotes from Green's outstanding book Evangelism in the Early Church here. Green, by the way, would qualify, I think, as a New Testament student who has an uncanny ability to simplify truth without being simplistic. A true "scholar" indeed in my book.

6:46 PM Chris Seitz says that at the heart of the debate over homosexuality is a crisis in biblical hermeneutics.

If the Bible’s consistently negative word about homosexual conduct is wrong, or outdated, who will then decide in what other ways the Bible is or is not to be trusted or cannot comprehend our days and its struggles, under God? Appeal to Scripture’s plain sense is born of the conviction that the Bible can have something to say without other forces needing to regulate that or introduce a special hermeneutics from outside the text so we can know when and where it can speak.

Well said indeed. If a Christian is anything, he or she is someone who lives under the authority of the word of God.

6:30 PM Heute habe ich mehrere YouTubes von Pegida gekocht. In Deutschland 1970 gab es nur drei Moscheen, aber heute sind es mehr als 3000. In Deutschland 1970 gab es nur ein paar Tausend Moslems, aber heute sind es zwischen 4 und 5 Millionen. Einige sind der Meinung, alle Moscheen geschlossen werden müssen und der Islam verboten werden muss. Die sagen z. B.: "Ich habe ja kein Problem mit Ausländern, aber ...." Im heutigen Deutschland ist die Frage eigentlich ob es einen friedlichen, toleraten Islam gibt, oder ob die Moslems in Deutschland den Islam als dominante Ideologie durchsetzen wollen. Meiner Meinung nach bliebt die Frage offen. Jedenfalls glaube ich dass die Pegida abzulehnen ist.

5:58 PM A student just sent along this link to The Marriage Pledge:

Therefore, in our roles as Christian ministers, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.

Could you sign it? Why or why not?

5:46 PM Stop the presses! I just read an essay called "Three Reflections on Evangelical Academic Publishing" by Andrew Naselli. You can access it here. It just blew me away. It's a must read for every aspiring Christian writer/scholar. You'll find here a nice balance between evaluation and critique of the works of Ladd, Carson, Porter, Witherington, and others. Writing is a lonely job. It's also a very personal journey. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to academic publishing. As a writer myself, what I liked most about this essay is that it is full of practical ideas and suggestions for writing. Here are at least three of my takeaways:

1) I agree with Carl Trueman (who is quoted in the essay) that one should never apply the title "scholar" to oneself. "It is something that others give to you when, and only when, you have made a consistent and outstanding contribution to a particular scholarly field...."

2) I also tend to agree that just because you may have earned a doctorate in your field does not necessarily make you a scholar. We have all known people who were educated beyond their intelligence.

3) Finally, I especially liked the discussion dealing with the question of whether scholars should write for popular audiences. Here good scholars disagree, as this essay shows. I, of course, would answer this question with a resounding yes.

Many of us need the admonitions found in this fine essay. For not only can we easily get caught up in the need to "prove ourselves" as a "true" academic, we feel that writing for a popular audience is beneath us and, for the sake of our scholarly reputation, we desist from putting the cookies on the bottom shelf. This pretense then becomes a part of ourselves that we just can't let go of. On the other hand, the other temptation we face is that of not working hard enough to produce essays and books that are both rigorous and scholarly. Among the seven deadly sins of medieval lore was sloth -- a spirit of apathy that can easily lead to a critical cynicism for anyone who dares to challenge our point of view on a subject. Behind this insipid condition sometimes lies the wounded pride of one who bemoans that fact that he or she has never been duly recognized by the academic guild for the scholarship they have produced. Clearly, writing is just one facet in the lives of those who work in academia. We can be sure that even if no one else recognizes our efforts to contribute to the world of knowledge and understanding, the God who created logic and the ability to think and write does. The effect of His gift of writing is to make us more humble and grateful. I, for one, am thankful for young, gifted writers like Andy who are are seeking not to frustrate the wise purposes of God by neglecting to pursue a kind of knowledge that in this world is not always appreciated -- a knowledge that strives to balance the academy and the church, family and work, the educated and the not-so educated. May their tribe increase. 

5:08 PM An encouraging note about my book Why Four Gospels?

This book was so well written and easy to understand that I read it in one sitting and learned more than I had about the New Testament in ages. I highly recommend this book for everyone, and essential read for young New Testament scholars.

From a recent review at Amazon. My thanks to the reader for taking the time to post a comment.

3:05 PM It's winter in the South. It was 8 degrees when I left the house this morning. We also lost all electric power but thankfully it's been restored. Today I had Greek class, then lunch with Nate, Jessie, and my grandsons at Red Robin. Today and tomorrow I welcome 14 retreatants to the farm.

Loving life.

6:40 AM Check out "What's New?" at our New Testament Greek Portal.

6:34 AM Read Confessions of a Missional Greek Prof.

Wednesday, January 7

7:34 PM Thanking the Lord for a wonderful day. Graded our Greek exams. Taught chapter 7. Came home and welcomed my daughter and grandkids from New York to the farm. Matt had to stay behind and work. With Caleb's help, Liz cooked Vietnamese food for me for dinner. Delicious. She also prepared my all-time favorite dessert. (Hint: It contains Mountain Dew.) Then she played hymns on the piano. Beauty. Love. Food. Music. Family. Peace. Jesus.

6:34 AM Last night I watched an interesting YouTube in which Prof. Peter Beyerhaus of Tübingen University was interviewed. Imagine that, said the interviewer -- a university professor who prays! Beyerhaus responded: "Without prayer, we couldn't exist." "Prayer changes the world." You can watch the interview (in German) here.

Beyerhaus was professor of world missions at Tübingen from 1965-1997 and is the author of such books Die Religionen im Licht des Evangeliums, Das Geheimnis der Dreieiningkeit im Zeugnis der Kirche, and Liegt Allein in Christus das Heil? As I report in my academic autobiography (It's All Greek to Me), I met with Prof. Beyerhaus in Tübingen in 1978 to discuss working with him on a doctorate. (He accepted me.) Thus I almost ended up in Tübingen rather than Basel. It was a difficult decision, but in the end I believed I needed a doctorate in New Testament more than I needed one in missions.

Tuesday, January 6

9:06 PM Ethiopian tonight. Fun fun fun!

4:45 PM Did you know that the New Testament speaks about a gift of "giving"? I know several Christians who have this wonderful gift. They all seem to have certain traits in common:

1) They appreciate what they have and recognize that all of it belongs to God.

2) They are very keen to be good stewards of the Lord's possessions.

3) When they see a need, their immediate response is to ask, "Can I meet it?" If they can, they do.

4) They have invested their money wisely and have carefully reserved a part of their income for mercy ministries.

5) Nothing seems to give them greater joy than to give away what they have to others.

6) They especially seem to rejoice when their gift is an answer to someone else's prayer.

7) They rarely respond to the appeals of professional fund-raisers.

8) They are both thrifty and lavish at the same time, as paradoxical as that sounds.

9) They are happy. When they give, they do it cheerfully (Rom. 12:8).

10) They tend to choose servant-oriented occupations.

11) They are Biblicists. They take verses like 1 John 3:17 literally and seriously.

12) They sincerely want to make the world a better place for others.

The New Testament places a great deal of emphasis on helping others as part of one's Christian obligation. Caring for orphans and widows is the definition of pure and undefiled religion (James 1:17). Words are cheap; actions are what counts (James 2:15-16). Christians are commanded, "Share what you have with God's people who are in need" (Rom. 12:11). The early church followed this practice. Sacrificial giving is highlighted in the Shepherd of Hermas, the writings of Origin, and the Apology of Aristides (130 CE), which describes Christian charity as follows:

And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast for two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.

To the extent that charity was needed, it was provided. "Freely have you received; freely give." The pagan writer Lucian even mocked Christians because of their generosity:

The earnestness with which the people of this religion help one another in their needs is incredible. They spare themselves nothing for this end. Their first lawgiver put it into their hearts that all were brethren.

I once had Becky speak in my New Testament class at SEBTS on the subject of giving from 2 Corinthians 8-9. She had been a very successful financial planner in California and had helped many a pastor and missionary with their finances. A student happened to tape her lecture and it is available here. Need help with your finances? I think Becky's got some excellent advice for you.



1:15 PM A day in the life of a Greek prof....

1) My view as I left the farm this morning:

2) The campus never looked prettier:

3) My Greek students taking a mock exam in preparation for their take-home exam tonight.

4) Small groups work well for review.

5) Finally, I've posted to Moodle the guidelines for student presentations in our LXX class this spring. In case you're interested, they are listed below. We'll be translating the book of Amos, both from the Hebrew and the Greek.

Your presentation should follow these steps:

Present the Hebrew and Greek of each verse of your chapter side-by-side for ease of comparison.

Produce your own translation of both the Hebrew and the Greek. You may, of course, consult the NET version or any other helps at this point. But do make the translation your own as much as possible. This means that, where there is ambiguity (as is often the case), you will need to decide between competing English glosses. 

Then discuss any important textual variants (in both Hebrew and Greek) that affect the interpretation of your chapter. Minor variants need not be examined. Focus on those variants that affect both translation and interpretation. The exegetical commentaries on Amos will be a source of tremendous help to you at this point.

Next, do a lexical analysis of your chapter, looking at the most important (or debated) lexemes. Include in your discussion any Hebrew lexemes that seem to be either mistranslated or over-translated in the Greek.

Then share with us any important or debated syntactical constructions you found in your chapter. How does the Greek translator render the Hebrew verbs? Does verbal aspect come into play in the Greek? How is the Greek definite article used? Does the Greek tend to follow the Hebrew word order? Many such questions can be asked of your chapter.

This will lead into a discussion of the overall literary structure of the chapter. How do the paragraphs relate to each other? Does one seem to be more salient than the others?

Next, please produce a discourse analysis of one Greek paragraph in your chapter. (There is not enough time to do this for every paragraph.) I will show you my method on the first day of class. This method (called colon analysis) emphasizes identifying the main clauses in your paragraph and then indenting to the right all subordinate clauses. After you have produced your heuristic display of the paragraph, walk us through the passage, showing us how the clauses are interrelated.

This will be a good time to discuss the key rhetorical features used in both the Hebrew and the Greek. You can probably expect quite a number of these. Again, any good exegetical commentary on Amos will assist you in identifying the devices used here.

Then summarize for us the main theological themes of your chapter. What is the “message,” if you will, of Amos in these paragraphs?

Next, how have the New Testament authors used any of the verses in your chapter? Give at least one example (if possible).

Penultimately, please give the class at least three sermon/teaching outlines of the chapter. Feel free to cite commentaries and sermons at this point. Ask yourselves, “How has this chapter been taught/preached? How would we do that?”

Finally, summarize for the class the techniques used by the LXX translator in dealing with the Hebrew text.  Is the Greek literal? A quasi-interlinear? A paraphrase? Or a combination of all of these?

7:08 AM Yesterday in our Greek class we talked about just how anemic the church has become. Students who claim to be Christians, who grew up in the church, are often biblically illiterate and almost always inadequately equipped to do "the work of the ministry" to which God has called all Christians. In fact, "the" ministry has been redefined to apply only to those who have received a special "call." But beyond that, I think the problem of biblical illiteracy sets the church up for an over-dependency on its gifted "preachers" and for being spoon-fed the truth. This is, of course, the age-old problem of who exactly the New Testament pastors were, and  it is here that I think reformation is most needed. As I posted the other day, our concept of "pastor" is such that it rarely encompasses what I see as the New Testament norm, namely believers pastoring each other. An example: You will look in vain in the writings of Paul for a passage in which he addresses the leadership of the church in a way that implies that problem-solving and church discipline falls exclusively on their shoulders. I address this issue in my book Paul, Apostle of Weakness. Pastoral ministries such as warning, comforting, and supporting are functions to be carried out by the whole Body (see 1 Thess. 5:14). Any responsibility of the elders -- take that of teaching, for instance (Eph. 4:11, 1 Tim. 3:2) -- is shared also by the church (see Heb. 5:12; Rom. 15: 14). These facts are nothing new. They are clearly evidenced in the New Testament we read each day.

So how would I go about resolving the problem of anemia? Here's where I would start. If I were teaching pastoral theology, for example, I would put a lot of effort into the exegesis of specific texts from the New Testament. So, for instance, should someone argue that teaching is an exclusively "pastoral" function, I think it would be helpful to examine in detail the passages I listed above in their immediate contexts. Then, on a broader scale, I think it would be helpful to expose our students to the different models of church leadership that are being debated today in evangelical circles. For the Reformed approach, one could read John Owen or the Southern Baptist Frank Owen. In their writings you'll find arguments for the "preaching office." The opposite perspective -- that the New Testament knows nothing of offices -- might be found in the writings of Ellul, Zens, and Yoder. I would expose students to the debates going on in the blogosphere about church leadership. I would especially want to drive them back to the text of Scripture. For example, why should we continue to call 1-2 Timothy and Titus "Pastoral Epistles" when the term is merely a fairly recently-coined scholarly convention? Neither Timothy nor Titus appear to have been the pastors of the churches in which they served.

In sum, if you think the church is anemic, don't just talk about it. And don't just follow your favorite Bible teacher. Above all, don't take anything you read here (or on any website) as gospel truth. The fundamental question concerns our ecclesiology: Is church a place we go to or something we are as the people of God? Are relationships, encouragement, empowering through the use of gifts etc. the primary aspects of our gatherings? I ask all this in a sincere desire to see the church grow in knowledge and truth.

Back to Greek class.

Monday, January 5

8:40 PM I was very much looking forward to today as I knew it would be full of delightful relationships. First, of course, there was my Greek class, and then I returned to Maple Ridge and Bradford Hall where my daughter Kim and her husband Joel helped me with a long list of household jobs.

The kids, meanwhile, had a blast at "Papa B's" as always. Here they are playing the piano much to my delight and joy.

Then it was back to Mexico Viejo for dinner with my sweet daughter Leigh and her husband Marshall and son Thomas.

God created the family and no doubt I've got the very best one on earth. Tonight I'm reading Flood's book Lee: The Last Years. (Actually, I'm re-reading it for the fifth time.) Robert E. Lee died when he 63 years of age. That's just one year older than I am. His last years were spent as a college president in Lexington, VA. Thus he ended his life as an educator, as I will end mine. He loved horses, as I do. And, of course, he was a very flawed man, as is every human being. I'm grateful that Flood tells it like it is when it comes to the life and legend of Lee. Too many biographies of Lee are guilty of gross idolatry. As much as I enjoy reading Freeman's biography, sections of the book read more like a hagiography than a biography. Some of Freeman's work is so devoid of objectivity that one wonders about the author's real purpose in writing. Jones' Personal Reminiscences and Life and Letters likewise border on the idolatrous. I am probably as guilty of Southern nostalgia as anyone, but Lee hated pretense, so why shouldn't we? Like every great man, Lee was great in the midst of his fallibility. He transcended the vicissitudes of life because he faced them with unflinching courage. His example of perseverance -- regardless of what you may think about his cause -- has left an enduring mark in America. There is even a federal military installation named after him. As someone has said, the greatest compliment we can pay Robert E. Lee is to remember him for who he actually was rather than as a superhuman icon. Lee took no pleasure in the adulation of his peers and ignored publicity. Praised for his leadership as president of Washington College, he nevertheless chafed under the burden of academia and still longed to own and run a simple farm out in the country somewhere. Above all, like the apostle Paul, Lee let the past be the past. He repudiated war and felt oppressed by the great memories of the conflict. He showed the veterans he had led in war how they could rise above defeat and show themselves superior to misfortune.

It is evident that circumstances alone do not define a man's spiritual condition. As Christians, we can be joyful within when all is dark and gloomy without. We rejoice, as did Paul, in the Lord, for He is willing and able to supply our every need and use us, in all our brokenness, for His glorious purposes. The Christian who is aging (like me) cannot truly be happy without striving to be a blessing to others through what Paul calls "big-heartedness" (Phil. 4:5). (The Greek term is epieikes.) Our last years can be our best years if we make it our heart's determination to substitute big-heartedness for bitterness. And so, in 2015, I will strive to be a blessing to others, to set my hope on the Day when the entire creation will be delivered from its present condition of corruption and futility, and seek to allow God to use me to advance His kingdom in this world. "I will sing to the Lord, for He has risen up in triumph. The Lord is my refuge and my defense. He has shown Himself my deliverer. He is my God, and I will glorify Him" (Exod. 15:1-2).

Till tomorrow,


7:02 AM I once gave a lecture on New Testament textual criticism at Biola. In case you're interested, here's the link to Key Issues in New Testament Criticism.

6:56 AM I continue to find Rod Decker's materials to be extremely useful and informative (see this page). His 2009 ETS paper called Markan Idiolect should be required reading. Rod discusses such features as Markan parataxis, redundancies, multiple negatives, periphrasis, and indefinite plurals. A feature I usually discuss with my classes (but one that seems to have been overlooked by Rod) is Mark's use of prepositional prefix morphemes with what appear to be an intensifying function. Examples include sullupeomai in 3:5, diarpazo in 3:27, diegeiro in 4:39, parakouo in 5:36, kateulogeo in 10:16, and (perhaps the most difficult one of all) kataphileo in 14:45.

6:50 AM Here's a great quote by John Stott (The Gospel & the End of Time, 90):

"… it is an expression of love to support others who are in need; but it is also an expression of love to support ourselves so as not to be supported by others."

I found this quote in a superb essay called Work With Your Hands: A Theology of Work in 1 Thessalonians 4 by John Byron of Ashland Theological Seminary. I couldn't agree more. I have argued as much in my essay, The Thessalonian Road to Self-Support.

6:40 AM Beginning Greek students! If you are producing your own vocabulary cards, here's a tip for you: Write the Greek on both sides.

In this way, you are associating the original Greek word (i.e., the “bell”) with its definition (i.e., the “food”), so that, when you turn the card over to the front side, even though it’s not really there, after repetitive viewings you will actually “see” the definition under the Greek word on the front side of the card as well! In a sense, you can “salivate” all the way through your study of frequently used New Testament Greek vocabulary in gaining a mastery of those words. Try it; it really does work!!

Sunday, January 4

7:22 PM My colleague Tony Merida is spot on:

Through things such as humble acts of service, neighborly love, and hospitality, Christians can shake the foundation of the culture. In order to see things happen that have never happened before, Christians must to do what they have always done. Christians need to become more ordinary.

You can get Tony's book Ordinary for only $5.00 here.

7:18 PM Learning German? Then check out German for Neutestamentler. (Even if you're not a Neutestamentler.)

7:08 PM More great family time today. Met with my daughter and her husband. This time it was Indian food at the Rasa Restaurant in Chapel Hill.

I also listened to a lecture entitled "Quakerism and the Religious Society of Friends" at Duke Divinity School.

I took copious notes, of course.

Like the early Anabaptists, the Quakers have historically placed loyalty to Christ over loyalty to the state. They also sought to have simple meetings without sacraments, altars, and even clergy. And, of course, their commitment to pacificism is well known. Our speaker today discussed the "business meeting" among Quakers in which voting is not permitted. Attendance is expected by all, and the meeting begins with silence as the congregation waits upon the Lord's guidance. Our speaker mentioned that if there is a small minority, even if one person has a differing opinion, that one person is heard because he or she might have an insight that the others have overlooked. I was surprised to hear that unanimity was required before the "sense of the meeting" could be announced. I had read that 100 percent agreement was not necessarily expected or sought after. In any event, the lecture was both stimulating and provocative, and I look forward to delving deeper into the idea of the "sense of the meeting" in future weeks and months. I then attended the worship service in the main chapel -- which, with its "high church" flavor, could not have struck a greater chord of contrast with the lecture I just heard about the Quakers.

God is so good to me. I have health. I have a wonderful seminary home that loves me and cares for me. I have happy work to do. I have family. I have interesting places to visit like Duke.

I just got off the phone with one of my daughters. Once again, I'm finding my role as the aged "patriarch" (in a good sense I hope!) to be strangely satisfying. Last year was a year of paradoxes. Will things settle down, make more sense this year? Either way, bring it on!

8:08 AM Last night Thomas Hudgins was kind enough to send me the following two links about the authorship of Hebrews:

This is point and counter-point at its finest. It is now an "old" tradition that Pauline authorship of Hebrews is to be rejected. If I have dealt with this old tradition, it is to show that for Christians to take a position in favor of Pauline authorship is nothing new at all. From all quarters nowadays we are told that the rejection of the Paulinity of Hebrews is one of the most remarkable developments in modern hermeneutics and, thanks to it, we shall finally get rid of the conformism that has so long marked the churches. Not so. At best, modern scholarship represents a healthy skepticism toward "traditional" points of view of any kind. I do not disparage that. I was taught to do that at Basel, where I received my doctorate in theology from some of the world's leading thinkers. But I would like to see its partisans moderate their enthusiasm a bit. Certainly the earliest Eastern fathers held to Pauline authorship -- or at least the Paulinity of the letter we call Hebrews. Eventually the Western fathers agreed. Moreover, Hebrews always circulated among the Pauline corpus in the ancient church, and there remained a sort of universal inclusion of Hebrews among the genuine Paulines. It seems to me -- and I can only state my views briefly here -- that the attempt to drive a wedge between Paul and Hebrews is a mistake -- as even a younger generation of New Testament scholars is beginning to realize. As a case in point, in the introduction to my book The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul, I cite the outstanding work of two critical scholars who have defended the Paulinity of the letter in a prestigious group of essays edited by Stan Porter and Chris Land and published by Brill. In my book I wrote that:

...  a recent study by Andrew W. Pitts and Joshua F. Walker has challenged the consensus opinio by reexamining the raw data, drawing heavily from my previously published work on the subject. Their essay is entitled "The Authorship of Hebrews: A Further Development in the Luke-Paul Relationship." In it they conclude that Hebrews is "Pauline" in a very real sense, Luke having taken a discourse given by Paul in a diaspora synagogue and subsequently publishing it as a written text. They write, "Although Hebrews has been handed down to us without an author, we have argued that both external and internal considerations suggest that Hebrews constitutes Pauline speech material, recorded and later published by Luke, Paul's traveling companion."

In my view, this essay marks a milestone of sorts in contemporary Hebrews research. Few have attempted this kind of close scrutiny of the text because it necessitates a highly critical stance toward recent tradition, in this case at least a century of tradition that has rejected the Paulinity of Hebrews. I am grateful for essays like this one. They ask us to "revision" the text in ways that are perhaps more faithful to the evidence, both external and internal. Revisioning is a difficult process. It is difficult because it is hard for us to look past our own traditional blinders in the light of serious exegesis. It can create dissonance between ourselves and our theological heritage. It is fraught with problems and challenges. Yet the rewards can be remarkably satisfying.

Such, then, is the way I envision the task of interpretation today. Let us see to it, then, that our own quest for wisdom takes the form of a quest for truth from any corner, and that we do not frustrate the wise purposes of God by neglecting to examine all of the evidence in order to pursue a kind of knowledge that is only superficially called knowledge.

Below: Heb. 1:8-9 in p46.

Saturday, January 3

8:04 PM Some brain food (Thomas Hudgins): 

I don't think we have to postpone talking about this exegetical step [textual criticism] in our Greek courses. If it's important, and I believe it is, then it needs to be discussed. I think by avoiding it in our beginning Greek courses, we do two things: (1) We let the critical apparatus scare our students, and then they never touch it later; and (2) we unintentionally and subliminally communicate to them that they don't really need that apparatus in their ministries. Truth is, nothing could be further from the truth.

7:53 PM Love my family!

And Mexican food!

11:32 AM Okay, I'll admit it. In a weak moment, I read some Greek last night even thought I promised you I would only read Latin this weekend. But it's really really hard to resist the Akropolis World News site. Modern news stories in ancient Greek. How cool is that? Here are just some of the stories that caught my eye:

Περὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὃς τὸν Πάπαν ἀποκτείνειν ἐπειράσατο καὶ περὶ τοῦ ἀφανισθέντος ἀεροσκάφους

Ἆρα τίς ἀπέκτεινε τὸν Βῖν Λάδεν; Πλείονες Ἀμερικανοὶ στρατιῶται πρὸς τὸ Ἰρᾶκ, καὶ... οὐκ ἂν φθάνοις κύνα οὐ κεκτημένος ἐν τῷ Ἰρᾶν

Συνθήκη ἐν τῇ Νιγερίᾳ, δύο Γερμανοὶ πολῖται ἐλευθεροῦνται καὶ ὁ Κῖμ Ἰὸγγ-Οὖν φαίνεται

Παῖς μετὰ τῶν Utah Jazz ἀγωνίζεται καὶ ἡ Μαλάλα τὸ Νόβελ Ἆθλον δέχεται

Ἀνάστασις ἐν τῷ Χὸνγκ Κόνγκ, ὁ δὲ “Βάβυ Δὸκ“ ἀποθνῄσκει

Give it a try. You might like it.

11:20 AM Conference alert: In March, Adela Yarbro Collins will be speaking at TCU in Forth Worth on the topic, Who is Jesus According to Mark? I'll be there -- it's part of the research I'm doing for my book on Jesus and the kingdom called Godworld.

11:12 AM A horrific murder almost in my backyard makes the national news. How evil is man. No place is "safe" except in the center of God's will.

11:04 AM Also ordered: Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness, by Richard Hays.

10:58 AM I've just ordered Doug Campbell's new book Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014). In it, I'm told, Campbell argues for two somewhat "non-traditional" views about Ephesians: Pauline authorship, and a Laodicean destination for the letter. As someone who enjoys espousing an occasional non-traditional view myself (Pauline authorship of Hebrews, Matthean priority, value of the Byzantine text type), I am eager to read what Campbell says about "Ephesians," which he calls Laodiceans. There are, however, several dimensions to the problem that need to be explained. It might be helpful to backtrack a bit and examine a question raised by textual scholarship: Is the reading en Epheso original or not (Eph. 1:1)? Most scholars answer no. Others, like myself, answer yes. In any case, in whatever context, textual criticism again serves as a compass -- raising questions and (hopefully) answering them. When all is said and done, all exegesis is ultimately "textual" in nature for the simple reason that a text cannot be studied apart from one having determined what text is to be studied.

Please, let no one bring up again the inevitable and useless argument: "the earliest and best manuscripts read...." We must not forget that the date of a reading and the date of the manuscript that contains that reading may in fact be two very different things. Hort, for example, argued that he had recovered the "New Testament in the Original Greek" on the basis of two fourth century Greek manuscripts. I have tried to show in my essay The Peculiarities of Ephesians and the Ephesian Address that the inclusion of en Epheso entails important consequences. Here the correct reading must meet two conditions. The first, of course, is that it must be acceptable on the basis of the external evidence. The reading en Epheso is more geographically widespread than is the omission. It is not easy to resist the conclusion that it has genuinely strong external attestation. The second condition is that the original reading must be corroborated by the internal evidence. I must say (and I want readers to be absolutely clear about this) that it is a fatal weakness to fail to show a concern to seek out, to find, to examine the internal evidence in favor of the inclusion. If I assume that the greater Paul knew a local church the more personal greetings he would have supplied in a writing to them, then my thinking flies in the face of the evidence. As Harry Gamble pointed out years ago, the particularity of the Pauline epistles was a major problem in the early church. The three most widely read Pauline letters (Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians) all show evidence of tampering in their place designations. The principle seems that the better Paul knew a church, the fewer personal greetings he would have included in any writing addressed to that congregation. To wit: The letter to the Romans (written to a church Paul had never visited) contains numerous personal greetings, whereas the letter to the Ephesians (written to a church where Paul had spent many months) contains none. Mind, I am not saying that the internal evidence is probative in this instance nor that we should place undue confidence in the tenets of intrinsic or transcriptional probabilities. But the internal evidence implies that it is justified to conclude that the longer reading is compatible with what we know about Paul's method of writing. All of this amounts to textual criticism as necessity. In writing this, I certainly do not want to indict Campbell; I have yet to read his book. I merely want to point out that it is easier, more pleasant, more comforting to believe that all such questions of textual criticism have been permanently resolved. Unfortunately, that is an illusion.

Below: Eph. 1:1 in p46.

Friday, January 2

8:46 PM Interested in reading through the Greek Psalms in a year? Then click here.

7:02 PM I've begun a study of the Quaker practice called the "sense of the meeting," which replaces voting. According to one website:

The purpose of meeting for business is for the membership to achieve unity in its discernment of a decision. Both the practice and the end result are called "sense of the meeting" (as in: "We make decisions by sense of the meeting" and "It is the sense of the meeting that we will take the Harleyville Worship Group under our care"). Unity is not to be confused with unanimity. It is not necessary for every member to fully agree with a decision, but rather for Friends to discern that as a body they are called in a particular direction. Some Friends use the secular and more modern term "consensus" to describe Friends decision making practice, since no voting occurs, but many adhere to this older term, which emphasizes that it is a religious exercise.

I'm not unfamiliar with this practice. Granada Heights Friends Church in La Mirada, CA, where we used to live when I taught at Biola, practiced this. I am particularly intrigued by the idea of going beyond "consensus," which, to most Quakers, is a secular process. How can a body of believers truly be united when a decision is to be made? I often hear the argument that unity in decision-making was fine as an option for the early church but we are not bound to copy it. What works "best" for us is surely what the Lord wants for us today. Or is it? This seemed to be the way of Christ and the apostles. In my book Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, I discussed this issue briefly:

In the third place, here was a church where unity was valued. We saw in our last chapter how this unity played out among the leadership of the church in New Testament times. There was no hierarchy, no senior pastor (other than Christ), no so-called first among equals. Their leadership was shared. How rarely is this seen in a modern church, even one that practices plural eldership. I am quite certain that nobody would object if the “senior pastor” in their church rescinded his title and receded into the group!

Unity was also seen in their decision-making. A feature of the early church that fascinates me is the way in which consensus was built. They spent time waiting upon God before making a decision. Today we need Robert’s Rules of Order before we can decide on anything. Hardly anybody sits down nowadays to ask where the idea of voting came from. Part of the value of having every-member ministry is the weight it assigns to consensus-building. It seems to me that there are good reasons to reject our manmade method of decision-making. Not only does it lack a biblical foundation, but it undermines the example of the early church itself. In Acts 15 we read of a time when the early Christians made an important decision. Together the believers sought the will of God, and together they found it. There was nothing mechanical or business-like about their decision-making either. Their protocol was minimal, and the unity it produced was amazing. As James put it (Acts 15:28), “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us….” We vote, and leave an aggrieved minority. They waited upon the Spirit, and it produced a unified whole. Of course, the situation in Acts 15 need not necessarily be considered normative. But it is full of insight for us twenty-first century Christians. This way of making decisions could make a huge difference in the life of many a church today. Why do so many of our business meetings end up in shambles? Are we afraid of the work and prayer needed to come to a common mind? There was no such fear among the earliest Christians. We have a long way to go until we reach their sensitivity to the Spirit. He is well able to guide a congregation to a unanimous decision if everyone really looks to Him for guidance.

I think what has happened is that churches today have adopted fragments of the apostles' method and have tried to incorporate them into alien systems. This is one reason I love symphony orchestras so much. The orchestra requires a great sense of concern for unity, harmony, and oneness amidst great diversity. In many respects it illustrates what should happen in the body of Christ which, too, should produce a beautiful symphony. But for this to happen, we must all agree on who the conductor is.

This Sunday at Duke there will be a lecture on Quakerism and I'm thinking about attending. I could hardly find a more important topic in day when many churches are being divided because of a vote.

6:38 PM Just added to my "social" calendar: The Schola Cantorum of Westminster College in concert, Monday, March 16, 2015 at the Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh. Music by Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Go here for more information.

6:16 PM Introducing my faculty colleague Keith Whitfield. Great guy with a great philosophy of teaching.

The task of theology is a missional task, because the lordship of Christ is a missional truth. Doing theology demonstrates how all things unite under Christ and equips the people of God to engage in his mission.

6:12 PM "I brought glory to You here on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do." In the 33 years He lived on earth, Jesus Christ had no unfinished business. Do I?

6:06 PM New Year's resolution: Resolved, in 2015, to develop relationships that are less superficial and shallow and focus instead on fewer friends but deeper friendships.

5:48 PM I'm devoting the weekend to reading nothing but Latin. Should you care to study this language, I recommend the following books:

  • Let's Read Latin

  • A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin

Both are indispensable resources for anyone wishing to learn how to read (and speak) ecclesiastical Latin. I've also been following the pope's twitter account, along with a website that "exegetes" the tweets. Here are a few of the pope's recent tweets. See if you can translate them:

  • Gratia debetur tibi, Domine!

  • Apud Iesum est verum gaudium.

  • Fides mensuratur amore.

The latter tweet is discussed here. And here are some good reasons to study this beautiful language.

5:04 PM Jonathan Merritt asks: Considering Seminary? Here Are 5 I Recommend. His top 5 are:

  • Duke University Divinity School

  • Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

  • Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

  • Emory University's Candler School of Theology

  • Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary

I would like to second the motion and issue a personal invitation to come and study with us here at SEBTS. Our Biblical Studies faculty includes:

  • David Beck (Ph.D. Duke)

  • Dave Black (D.Theol. Basel)

  • Todd Borger (Ph.D. SBTS)

  • Chip Hardy (Ph.D. University of Chicago)

  • Scott Kellum (Ph.D. SEBTS)

  • Andreas Köstenberger (Ph.D. TEDS)

  • David Lanier (Ph.D. SWBTS)

  • Chip McDaniel (Th.D. DTS)

  • Ben Merkel (Ph.D. SBTS)

  • Allan Moseley (Th.D. NOBTS)

  • Chuck Quarles (Ph.D. MABTS)

  • Maurice Robinson (Ph.D. SWBTS)

  • Mark Rooker (Ph.D. Brandeis)

  • Heath Thomas (Ph.D. University of Gloucestershire)

In addition, our faculty is well-published. Here's my Old Testament colleague Tracy McKenzie with his book Idolatry in the Pentateuch: An Innertextual Strategy.

Tracy, by the way, is currently working on his second doctorate in Germany. Other reasons to consider moving to Wake Forest include:

  • Small town flavor with all the amenities of a big city.

  • Family-friendly.

  • Beautiful campus.

  • Employment opportunities.

  • Bucket loads of local churches.

  • Fellowship (we now have over 3,000 students in our college and seminary).

  • Great Commission and Great Commandment emphasis.

Here's what Jonathan writes about Southeastern:

If you’re Southern Baptist and looking to catch a tuition break by attending a one of the flagship schools, there isn’t a better choice for your money in my opinion than Southeastern. President Daniel Akin has been able to build this school into a true contender, by constructing the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and nurturing a culture that embraces contemporary church trends in a way most seminaries don’t (or won’t). Among the magnolias on this beautiful campus in historic Wake Forest is a budding faculty that includes David Black, John Hammett, Nathan Finn, and Andreas Kostenberger. But most importantly, it is the best Southern Baptist seminary in terms of freedom of thought. Unlike some institutions, for example, you will not feel like a lesser mind because you happen to be reformed or not. I may be biased as an alumnus, but I always suggest Southern Baptists at least give this school a look.

Come and give us a look-see. I'd love to show you around!

6:52 AM "Difficile est longum subito deponere amorem." (Catullus, Carmina 76.13). How true. How very true.

6:45 AM Some advice for my Greek students this week:

Festina lente.

Or, "Make haste slowly." The Greek reads:

σπεῦδε βραδέως.

6:41 AM "I really don't consider myself a scholar. I consider myself just a student of the Scriptures." Listen here: Hoi Polloi Episode 2

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