Month: November 2008

Desktop Challange

Per the request of a fellow blogger, Jim West, I am contributing to the cause.  The cause: what is the background for your desktop?  The task: to take a screenshot and post it on your own blog.  The reason: it’s just fun to see what people have as their background.  Here’s mine:

picture-1

This picture was taken when Jenn and I went to visit some dear friends (Tony & Maureen) in Coventry, England.  On the way, we stopped at the home village of Maureen (in Priors Hardwick) so that she could tend to the grave site of her late mother.  After paying our respects, we walked around a bit and I took this picture as we toured the inside of the village church.

UPDATE/CORRECTION:  While looking back through my pictures of this trip, I realized that I gave the wrong location for this picture.  To correct the matter: this picture came from inside the church at Berswell, which is the birthplace of our friend, Tony.  This church was built around mid-12th century.

Points of revision (2 of 4)

The first part of this series can be found here, and it should be consulted before reading this one.

 

This part of the series will examine the concept of “the Antichrist”.  I mentioned in the first post that the common assumption is that this figure is linked with “the man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2 as well as the “beast out of the earth” in Revelation 13.  The first problem with this is that it assumes what cannot necessarily be proven.  Those who hold otherwise have to do some interesting logical gymnastics—not to mention some painful theological contortions. 

FIRST THINGS FIRST

On a basic level: the terminology used when speaking about these figures is exclusive and unique to where they are found in the texts of the New Testament.[1]  In other words: in 2 Thessalonians, no mention is ever made of “the Antichrist” (using that specific term).  Likewise, in the letters of John, no mention is ever made of “the man of lawlessness” (using that specific term).  And, for good measure, in Revelation (as a whole), no mention is ever made of “the Antichrist” or “the man of lawlessness” (using those specific terms).  This exclusivity continues in that these references are not found anywhere else in the whole Bible.

The common way around this dilemma is to see the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, and the beast out of the earth as sharing the same essence.  Because they share the same function—i.e., they all oppose God in some way, they all cause havoc and persecution for the faithful, and they are all (assumed to be) end-times figures—the distinct references must necessarily be talking about the same individual (or, entity).  This then allows for flexibility in the language used when referring to these (apparently) distinct individuals in the individual texts.  With this logic, an “unholy trinity” is proposed.

However, if we were to examine the biblical texts that speak about these three individuals, we would quickly find that the overlap simply does not work.  In fact, it would become immediately apparent that references about one cannot be used in the same way to refer to another one of the three.  This post will consider the references to the idea of “the Antichrist” and will use these as a basis for examining the other terms—i.e., “man of lawlessness” and “beast out of the earth”.  

THE ANTICHRIST” (OR, ARE THERE OTHERS?)

There are four passages in the New Testament that speak about “the Antichrist”.  I’m not trying to hide the truth in any way by saying these are the only four.  I am simply saying what is.  In many ways, this makes matters easier because there is not a massive amount of material to cover.  In other ways, this makes matters rather difficult because there is not a massive amount of material to use for comparison.  So, we will deal with what we have.  (Just for clarity: all of the New Testament texts cited are my translations from the Greek).

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour (1 John 2.18)

First of all, before dealing with the obvious, it is important to see that the writer[2] views himself (and the body of believers) as already being in “the last hour.”  The more modern version of this phrase: “the last days” or, “the end of days.”  The reason why this is important to see is because it places the beginning of the end right in the time of the early church—i.e., the first century CE.  In other words, for the early church, “the end” was not something well off in the future; it was believed to be not only on its way (in full) but also something that was already starting (in part).  This is generally the reason why I tell people (if they ask) that we have been in the “last days” for almost 2000 years–we don’t have to wait for it it start.  

Second, there does appear to be a belief within the early church that some “antichrist” figure was meant to appear, which would be the telltale sign that “the end” has begun.  The obvious question is therefore: where is this mentioned if the letters of John are the only places (in the whole Bible)–much less earlier Jewish writings–that talk about this “antichrist”?  The honest answer is: we really have no clue.  At best, we have theories but nothing ironclad.  

There is a slim chance that this belief is a modified version of something that Jesus taught in Matthew 24.23-28 (or, the writer of John is correcting a misunderstanding of what people believe about Jesus’ teaching).  In that reference, in response to the (boneheaded) question of: “When will we know that the end is about to happen?”,  Jesus teaches that many “false Christs” and “false prophets” will emerge in order to lure the faithful away from the truth.  (He says other things, but we’ll deal with those in another post).  The reason this is slim is because “antichrist” is not the term used by Jesus—he uses “pseudo-christ”, which is not really the same thing. 

Finally, and this addresses the obvious dilemma, the writer of this passage in 1 John explicitly says that there is not just one antichrist—there are many.  This, by itself, creates problems for those who seek a singular person who will kick-off “the end”–a person who also happens to be the embodiment of evil, treachery, infamy, etc.  If anything, the fact that so many antichrists are present—from the writer’s perspective—simply (but massively) justifies his initial point: the “last hour” has already begun.  The fact that there are “many antichrists” is not a theological problem when we keep in mind what an antichrist really is, which takes us to the next couple of passages. 

Who is the liar if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist—the one denying the Father and the Son (1 John 2.22)

I would like to say that this passage is clear and simple, but its really a bit vague in some respects.  However, this is the first passage where we see what it is that the antichrists teach, promote, stand for, etc.  This begins to set the boundaries for how someone is labeled an “antichrist.”  The teaching of the antichrists—in this passage—is a denial that Jesus is the divine-Messiah (or, Christ); or, to use Wolfhart Pannenberg’s terms: “the God-Man”. 

However, there is an even bigger denial at work in this passage.  This bigger denial is related to the sovereign will of the Father.  God’s plan, as promoted throughout the early church (and still today), was to send his Son as a substitutionary sacrifice, which would bring about the salvation of mankind and creation.  For the early believers, the reality of this overarching sovereign will of the Father began at the incarnation of Christ (or, the infleshing—a lovely neologism).  Therefore, to deny that Jesus was the divinely appointed incarnate Messiah would be to deny the validity of God’s plan.  The teaching of the antichrists does precisely that.[3] 

Beloved, you are not to believe every spirit but you are to test every spirit [to see] if they are from God, because many false-prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you will know the Spirit of God: every spirit that is from God confesses Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh, and every spirit that is not of God does not confess Jesus—this is the spirit of the antichrist, the one you have heard is coming and is now already in the world (1 John 4.1-3) 

Now we get to the more detailed version of the antichrist message.  Here we have the gist of the condemning statement that would definitely affix a, “Hello, My Name Is: Antichrist” sticker on someone’s shirt.  However, lest we become too ambitious, these is still a small degree of vagueness in this passage.  It is best understood in light of what has already been said–not only here in this post but, more importantly, what has been said in the letter itself.  It is also worthy to point out the re-emphasis of the fact that these antichrist figures are already present in the world at the time of the early church.

The controlling idea here is the issue of truth versus falsehood.  In typical dualistic fashion, there is a strong either-or at work.  On the one hand, there is the Spirit of God; on the other, there is the spirit of the antichrist.  There is no overlap.  On the one hand, there is an admission that Jesus Christ came in the flesh; on the other hand, there is a denial that Jesus came in the flesh.  There is no overlap–it’s either-or. Those who confess Jesus as coming in the flesh have the Spirit of God; those who deny Jesus coming in the flesh have the spirit of the antichrist.  This winds up being a question of status before God.  This is when matters get interesting.  

Now many deceivers have gone out into world—those not confessing that Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh: this is the deceiver and the antichrist (2 John 1.7)

The reason things get interesting with this passage is that it becomes another implied reference for the “origins” of the antichrists.   The implication is supported when we think back to the idea of false prophets, which can be found in 1 John 4.1 (quoted above).  By and large, false-prophets come from within the faithful.  It is when their falsehoods are made known that they are ousted from community of believers.  (Think back to the either-or dualism).  

So, in light of that, we can see here in this passage that the antichrists are those who emerge from within community of believers and their falsehood is that Jesus has not come in the flesh.  It is because of this falsehood (or, heresy, if you like) that they have “gone out into the world.”  They are removed because truth and falsehood cannot coexist–with both claiming to be truth.  If we are paying attention, this is why there is a slim chance this is a reference to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24.  The false-prophets in the letters of John nearly mirror (in what they do) the false-prophets in Matthew.  

SUMMARY OF THE ANTICHRISTS

So, is the antichrist–or, I should say: are the antichrists–some mysterious, evil, treacherous, infamous, apocalyptic (end-of-the-world) figure yet to appear in the world’s stage?  According to the common assumption, yes; according to what we see in these texts, not a chance.  An antichrist is nothing more than a false-teacher who deceives people into believing that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh.  Instead, these false-teachers present “another Christ”, which is the literal translation of the Greek word, antichristos.  This is not to say that they did not believe in Jesus Christ, period; it simply suggests that they believe that Jesus did not come to the world in the flesh.

This belief is also why this group of false-teachers were ousted from the community of believers.  If the community stands for what is true, and if they adhere to what is true; then anyone in the community who speaks what is not true (regarding the person of Jesus), and yet they believe that what they speak is true; they must be removed because truth and falsehood regarding the person of Christ cannot coexist.  There is no, “Let’s just agree to disagree” (which is really a logical impossibility).  Either Jesus came in the flesh, or he did not.  If one believes that Jesus did, that person is of God; if one believes that Jesus did not, that person is an antichrist.  And guess what: there are plenty of antichrists–even today.  

Throughout this brief look at these four texts, I have been implying something that needs to be made explicitly clear.  One of the key features about these antichrists is that they are always defined as being human.  More importantly, with respect to how we are to understand these figures: these antichrist figures are never described as having divine or supernatural characteristics and they are never described as taking political office and having some Messiah-complex.  Also, they are never described as doing any of the things that are attributed to the “man of lawlessness” and the “beast out of the earth.”  Antichrists are simply false-teachers.  They simply profess that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh.  That’s it.  

____________________________________________________
[1] “Antichrist” is only found in 1 John 2.18, 22; 4.3; 2 John 1.7.  “Man of lawlessness” is only found in 2 Thessalonians 2.3. 
[2] There is a massive debate over the authorship of the three letters bearing the name, “John.”  I am not going to get into that debate—don’t really want to—so I will use the ambiguous title of, “writer”. 
[3] See also, John 15.23; cf. 5.23; 8.19; 14.7, 9; 16.3.

Points of revision (1 of 4)

HEADS UP 

I have decided to conduct a small(ish) discussion on a topic that has been around for some time, but has recently become faddish again–the reasons for which it has become faddish are rather disturbing.  This discussion will come in four stages.  First, this post will explain the reason for doing this as well as lay the groundwork for what I want to do with the whole discussion.  Then, three posts will follow–each providing a bit of information for why I think this discussion is relevant.  (A further explanation for this is given at the end of this post).  I might do a fifth posting to summarize everything, but we’ll see what happens.

I originally wanted to do this in one post, but it wound up getting the better of me–i.e., it was way too long.  (Those who know will not be surprised).  I have written on this before to individuals, and I have taught on this topic in various places.  That is to say: I’m not just shooting-from-the-hip on this.  What follows comes from a long period of reflection, study, and dialogue.  I readily admit that this sort of discussion is extremely delicate and controversial.  For those who wish to comment or ask questions, let’s try to keep things civil and adult-like.  

A BIT OF CONTEXT 

My wife and I are happy Facebookers, which means we not only have the ability to keep in touch with our friends, we also have the ability to see the expressed thoughts and feelings of those same friends–and sometimes more.  Recently, in light of the presidential election, a friend of one of my wife’s friends (gotta love Facebook references) said something like: “Hey, maybe Obama really is the Antichrist.”  In many ways, I was hoping that this remark was said tongue-in-cheek; but even then, it’s not necessary.  

It’s one thing not to like someone’s politics or what they stand for; it’s entirely another thing to attack who they are personally.  Calling someone “the Antichrist” (in the common use of that term) is problematic for me on so many different levels.  The most basic is that it is simply mean-spirited because it is ultimately a personal attack.  The more troublesome is that it is often said (in a mean-spirited way) without much understanding of what is actually being said.  In other words: people tend to have a bad, wrong, and/or poor understanding of what “the Antichrist” is.  Or, to borrow a line from a great movie: 

You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

A LITTLE MORE CONTEXT  

By and large, the common notion of “the Antichrist” has its roots in two interconnected circles of influence, which are anchored securely to a third.  The first is the collection of Christian fictional books known as the Left Behind Series, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.  The second is less tangible than the first but it is conceptually absorbed almost as much: the so-called theological position of Dispensationalism, which, in many ways, is foundational to doctrinal positions within many denominations in America.  It is also the bedrock theological position for a small handful of leading (and influential) Christian colleges/seminaries in America.  And the third, the anchor for the previous two, is the pairing of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921).  Both of these men have gone down in history as the champions (and pioneers) of the Dispensationalist movement in America.

(Just for clarity: Dispensationalism has undergone significant revisions since its inception.  My concern here is not get into that discussion–it is too long.  My concern here is to analyze a particular view that stems from this theological position).  

These three points of influence have perpetuated an understanding of “the Antichrist” that is not only held without much questioning but is also promoted without much grounding in Scripture.  In other words: the way in which “the Antichrist” is spoken of by these points of influence is quite different from how “the Antichrist” is portrayed in the Bible.  What I want to do in this series of posts is offer a critique of this standard perception and offer some points of revision (or, clarification) in light of what is found in Scripture. 

COMMON ASSUMPTIONS  

Typically, when the term “the Antichrist” is used, it is often an off-handed reference to some evil, destructive, end-of-the-world figure who is yet to appear on the world’s stage.  The apparent underlying reason for “watching out” for this figure is because of the assumption that when he comes, the world will in fact come to an end.  The reasons for labeling someone “the Antichrist” are usually tied to preconceived notions about the character (or, essence) of the person in question–e.g., they are evil, treacherous, “infamous” (to borrow from another great movie), and/or have a serious Messiah-complex.  Because of these two assumptions, many different (singular) options have been offered throughout history.  But the question must be asked: what is the foundation for these assumptions?

The common answer to that question reveals another major assumption that is maintained without much thought.  More times than not, “the Antichrist” is portrayed the way he is because of various beliefs (or, interpretations) of what the Bible teaches.  These assumed beliefs (or, interpretations) strategically link three distinct teachings and claim they are all referring to the same person.  The teachings in question are: 1) the “Antichrist” in letters of John; 2) the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians; and 3) the “beast from the earth” in Revelation 13.  It cannot be denied that when these three distinct teachings are held together and viewed as referring to a singular person, a rather dark and troublesome portrait emerges that would certainly make for a great book series.  (Oops. . .that slipped).

POINTS OF REVISION 

Now, I specifically said in the previous comment that the foundation for the common understanding of “the Antichrist” comes from “three distinct teachings”.  That specificity was intentional–as most specificity is.  However, when these teachings are examined in their own right, one is simply left scratching his or her head in trying to figure out how this common portrait of “the Antichrist” came from these teachings.  The next three posts will examine these three distinct teachings in their own right.  My hope is, at the end of this discussion, we will have not only a better understanding of what we mean by “the Antichrist” but also how speak on such things.

Scot McKnight review (1)

41ewim5wwcl_ss500_First of all, I owe a massive apology to the wonderful people at Zondervan simply because I have not been able to post any sort of review as promised.  I hope to remedy that in this series of posts.  

The book in question is by Scot McKnight, who is a professor, student of the Bible, commentator (on many things), public speaker, writer, avid coffee drinker, a prolific blogger, and a family man.  The book, as should be apparent from the nice little picture, is entitled, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible.  

In some ways, from what I’ve gathered thus far from my reading, this book is a book on hermeneutics (i.e., the study of interpretation).  However, it is unlike most hermeneutical texts available, which tend to be quite dull simply because of the technicalities and are geared toward a particular audience.  Where McKnight’s book differs is not only in its liveliness but also in its approach.  

McKnight addresses the discipline of hermeneutics at a more fundamental level by dealing with the basic (and sometimes overlooked) questions of: “what are we doing?” and “why are we doing it this way?”  Most hermeneutical texts assume the answer to the first question, and most will slide right past the second; but McKnight (rightly) points out that both have to be understood before any adequate interpretation can happen.  (After all, part of the interpretation process is making available for a modern audience what was a near priceless gem for an ancient audience).  More importantly, McKnight’s audience is much more practical–he is addressing anyone and everyone whose life has been shaped by the Bible and who continue to seek to live by it.

What I hope to do in this series of posts is review the larger “Parts” of the book (and there are four) in order to understand not only the contents of each part (which varies) but also how the parts fit together as a whole.  This first review-post will look at the two introductory chapters that precede the first Part of McKnight’s new book.  These two chapters are the broad-brush strokes of what McKnight is doing.

*NOTE: the page numbers used in this posting reflect the sequence I have in my “advanced reader copy”; the actual page numbers might be different in the final, printed edition of the book*

CHAPTER 1:  While McKnight’s conversion story is quite different than some, the commonality between his story and those of others needs to be noted: when God is allowed to change a person, in many ways, the effects of that change are beyond comprehension.  Yet, and this is another commonality, there is sometimes the nagging question of: what hasn’t changed, and why?  The answer, for McKnight, is that some things have not changed partly because of the assumptions with which people read the Bible and partly because the Bible is perceived to be a book that is to be obeyed and not necessarily lived.  But even the obedience side of things is not fully and faithfully practiced by those who claim to have their lives governed by the Bible.  

McKnight addresses all of these problems simultaneously with the overarching problem of people “picking and choosing” which bits of the Bible are read and/or followed (see, 13-17).  Sabbath-keeping, tithing, foot washing, charismatic gifts, giving up one’s stuff, and what he calls “contentious issues” (17) prove to be examples of things that are inconsistently lived out by those claiming faithful obedience to the Word.  The underlying issue with these examples is the modern tendency to say, “That was then; things are different now, so we have to interpret them differently”.  However, McKnight is not comfortable with this response for the simple fact that no (consistent) explanation is given for how and why these things have to be interpreted differently (see, 18-21).  This lack of consistency seems to be the reason for why varying interpretations on individual texts are given by so many different people; and it is the problem that McKnight wants to confront (and hopefully solve).

CHAPTER 2:  McKnight begins the second chapter with a seemingly tangental story about a blue parakeet in his back yard, which initially disrupted the status-quo maintained by the other birds in the same yard.  This apparent tangent becomes foundational to McKnight’s purposes when he describes what took place after the other birds got over the initial shock of the newly arrived blue addition.  The story serves as a reminder (or, a heads-up) for what happens when we–as readers, students, and followers of the Bible–are caught off guard by something that seems to alter our world.  For McKnight, such experiences are not to be avoided, let alone explained away with combative arguments (see, 24-25).  However, there are (at least) three ways in which most people have responded to such experiences, and these responses affect how the Bible is read and understood.  McKnight gives a good summary to each of these three ways:

1) Reading to Retrieve: this is the idea of returning to the time and culture in which the biblical ideas were expressed and bringing them forward into the present so that consistency is maintained (see, 25-27).  This winds up being based on a rather literalist reading of the text, which, in some cases, can create serious problems.  McKnight is also reluctant to accept the practice of returning to the time of the Bible and only bringing forward what is culturally relevant for the modern world (see, 27).  The problem here is that an ever-changing culture determines what is good and useful.  The key for McKnight is that students and followers of the Bible need to listen to and be guided by God’s Spirit so as to be relevant to a modern world (see 27-29).  

2) Reading through Tradition: this is the idea of safeguarding oneself from individualistic readings (and interpretations) of the Bible that are later claimed to be just as valid as someone else’s individualistic reading–even when the conflict (see, 29-33).  For McKnight, we as students and followers of the Bible need to acknowledge not only the indebtedness we have to the great minds of the past but also the reality that these minds never intended the Bible to be read in isolation.  It was generally the case that these isolation readings wound up creating variant and even heretical ideas.  However, McKnight rightly notes that there is a delicate balance between respecting tradition and revering it (see, 31-32).  The six-step progression that comes with overly revering tradition is definitely worthy keeping in mind (see, 32).

3) Reading with Tradition: this is the idea that neither God nor his truth are static.  In this regard, McKnight has a great comment with noting:

“Anyone who stops and wants to turn a particular moment into a monument, as the disciples did when Jesus was transfigured before them, will soon be wondering where God has gone” (33)

The notion of reading with tradition is the answer to how students and follower of the Bible are able to listen to and be guided by God’s Spirit so that they become relevant to a modern world.  This notion of reading with tradition is also the way in which the balance between respecting and revering tradition is maintained (see, 34-35).  By maintaining this balance, the truth of God can be transmitted (effectively) to any and every culture in ways that radically (re)shape cultural identity.

Latest pursuits

The past few weeks have been quite a blur in so many different ways, which might account for my lack of posting.  In light of the posting hiatus, I can offer no good excuses–just a heartfelt apology.  

To bring everyone up to speed on things: with respect to both Jenn and me, life here in England continues to go well.  We are beginning to get a handle on how to do laundry without the benefit of a dryer.  It’s really just become a matter of thinking two to three days ahead with what we need, and also keeping track of what we still have on reserve.  We are also getting used to walking everywhere and not being burdened with a car–and all that comes with owning one.  The only concerns we have to worry about with walking are: getting splashed by passing cars when it rains, the occasional poop from a wandering/stray dog, and “bomber” pigeons as we walk under bridges.  

On the more exciting front: Jenn has an interview for a receptionist position on the 17th with the major hospital here in Cheltenham.  (We have found it to be quite difficult to secure a job, but we are remaining hopeful).  The nature of this position is right up Jenn’s alley, which is always a good thing.  So, please remember her in your thoughts and prayers as she goes into this interview.  In more immediate news: Saturday (08-Nov), Jenn and I took a trip to Bath with a group of international students from the University.  I wanted to surprise her with it because I knew she had been once before (many years ago) and has not been back since.  So, when this opportunity arose, I knew we had to take it.  Even though we had to wake up at 5:30a, it was a great trip–long, but great!  We took plenty of pictures, and you can see them here if you like. (If the link doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll see what I can do).

We respect to me and my studies: lots of things have been progressing, and some things have been dragging.  I believe in my last (major) post I mentioned that I was going to meet with my supervisors about my research topic.  Well, I did meet with them and we did discuss the topic in some detail–especially its viability.  The conclusion of the meeting was that the topic needed to be reworked in light of recent publications from either other PhD students or other scholars working in the same field.  I admit that such an outcome was a fear I had going into the meeting, simply because my original topic was submitted almost two years ago; thus, I knew it would be a gamble for it still being a good possibility.  We chatted for a while more and concluded that I needed to come at the topic from a different angle.  My responsibility then was to pour over all of the texts in Paul’s (undisputed)[1] letters that deal specifically with my topic and see what emerges.  I was given four weeks to complete this task, which was quite generous.  

One week into the project, on the first run-through of the texts, I began to notice a theme that struck me as very curious.  I wrote down some initial thoughts and then read the texts again.  It showed up once more, only this time with slightly more intensity.  So, at the end of my second week, I e-mailed both supervisors with a rough draft of the new approach and they both came back with positive remarks.  I was given the additional task of jotting down notes on the specific texts I read, which highlighted this newly found theme, so that we could discuss it at an informal interim meeting.  For three days, I did just that.  At the end of those three days, I went in to talk with my supervisors–with notes in hand–and we discussed every single relevant passage.  However, it became immediately clear that I had come prepared in a way quite different than they had wanted/expected.  

My default mode of thinking is “big-picture” and trying to find how the all the pieces fit.  So, I was prepared to discuss how the pieces I had found connected with larger themes within the rest of the Bible.  I was quickly, and respectfully, told that such was not to be my concern at this point in my research.  My concern needs to be establishing a starting point and determining the significance of that starting point.  Thus, my preparation and discussion with the supervisors needed to be based on: “What is Paul saying in this specific text; why did he say it in that way; and what does he want to show by saying it?”  The rest of our meeting was a re-review of the texts I brought with me, but it was a re-review with me having to think in completely different terms–and doing this (admittedly) on-the-fly.  I struggled through the rest of the meeting with my explanations for three concerns noted above.  It was exhausting; but certainly worth it.

The end result of that meeting was that I needed to go back through those same texts and survey them exegetically–i.e., determine the function of Greek terms and phrases and how they operate within the whole of the argument.  I was specifically given the task of focusing on about nine major chunks of material–three of which were entire chapters from Paul’s writings.  The “part-B” of this task is to determine, after doing the exegetical work, what Paul is saying about my particular topic of interest.  The point here is to determine which texts speak either in favor of or against what I’m seeing.  This new task began just over a week ago and I am starting to make some decent head-way through a notoriously difficult text: Romans 8.  (I’m also working on 2 Corinthians 3 simply because I want to get the bigger, and more troublesome, texts out of the way first).  In this initial research, I have found things that do support what I am seeing, and I have certainly found some things that will require significant revision.  I’ll let you know what happens.

Just in case you’re wondering: yes, I am being intentionally cryptic about my new approach/topic simply because it is this stage of flux.  Once I have something more defined, and once the supervisors give their stamp of approval, I will spill my guts on what the topic is.  (Naturally, I will update the “MA, PhD, etc” page so that there isn’t any [more] confusion).  Until then, I will keep plugging away and keep pushing myself to go beyond what I’m used to–both mentally and academically–and try not to go insane in the process (haha).  I will say that having a wonderful and supporting wife, and having all of your thoughts and prayers makes this whole process both doable and rewarding.  I am thankful for all of you.  

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[1] For those unaware, scholarship has divided off the letters into three categories: 1) those undoubtedly from the apostle Paul; 2) those debatably from Paul–most likely from a close disciple of Paul; and 3) those that are definitely not from Paul–most likely from someone simply writing in his name.  The first lot generally includes: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon (these are the focus of my research).  The second lot generally includes: Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians.  And the final lot includes 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus.