My friend, Chris Keith is giving away a copy of his new book, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict (2014). Head on over to his blog and see how to enter to win. Or don’t. Because I would like to win this one. :-)
for all of my Reformed friends–no matter the type or level of your Reformedness:
is 1 Cor 2.6-16 (esp. 14-15/16) a key or central text for defending the inspiration and/or “illumination” of Scripture? if yes, how and why?
Let’s be honest: the book of Revelation (or, the Apocalypse) is a bit wild and even tantalizing, often resulting in confusion and debate. Unfortunately, these results persist due to the rather unhelpful (and other “un-” adjectives) interpretations of people like CI Scofield, Hal Lindsey, John Walvoord, and Harold Camping (just to name a few)–all of whom seem to find delight in debates, and who tend to read the text of Revelation through a predetermined (or pre-established) theological grid for the sake of maintaining that grid.
Fortunately, there are a handful of people who are committed to reading the text in a way that is sensitive to the history, culture, and theology of the time in which it appeared, with the hope of alleviating (some of) the confusion and debate, while allowing (most of) the wild and tantalizing bits to remain–primarily because they serve a purpose. Two of these people have written on the book of Revelation, and both now have lecture files available online for intellectual (and spiritual) consumption:
- The first is by M. Robert Mulholland. These are video files of his Seminary course at Asbury (KY).
- The second is by G.K. Beale. These are audio files of his lectures given at Lanesville Church (MA), back in the early-to-mid 90s, .
I cannot recommend either (or both) of these highly enough. While I have not listened to his lectures (yet), Beale’s work (especially his little pamphlet in the NIGTC series) was influential in my earlier studies and subsequent teaching of Revelation. I can only imagine that the lectures stress the needed balance between scholarship and pastoral concerns. And I can say that Mulholland’s lectures are worth every minute. He is engaging, insightful, knowledgeable, and deeply considerate of the needs of the students.
I need your help and would greatly value your input/insight. For the past two years (maybe more), I’ve been toying with the idea of writing commentaries on the NT–primarily, to begin with, the letters of Paul. I know: go figure. My plan is to start small(ish) and work my way toward the longer Pauline letters. I should say this plan also involves a consideration of the level of theological detail/content of the letters. In other words: I want to begin with letters that address only a small handful of topics and work my way through those where discussion is more involved. (NB: this is not to suggest that the ones with fewer topics are less important than the others). Accordingly, my tentative schedule is as follows:
- 1-2 Thessalonians
- Colossians and Philemon
- Pastorals (i.e. 1-2 Timothy, Titus)
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
However, when it comes to coverage and content, I’ve been rather stuck on what to include. There are loads of details that I find fascinating but would surely bore the socks off of just about everyone else. That is to say: I realize and accept that commentaries are not everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee) and that their often technical nature tends to be kryptonite for most would-be readers. Because of this, I thought it best to ask around and see what would be interesting or of value to readers. Hence, I need your help.
In the main, and if you are unfamiliar with commentaries, most writers will adhere to a general two-part format, which might include any number of sub-topics:
- Introductory matters
- Date and place of writing
- Occasion (i.e. why the letter was written)
- Major themes
- Structure (i.e. outline of the letter)
- Placement in the canon
- Detailed comments on the text/document
- Text-critical issues (i.e. dealing with variants in the Greek manuscripts)
- Analysis of key words, phrases, clauses, sentences–usually referring to the Greek
- Connections with (similar) NT ideas/themes/teachings
- Relevance for the church–whether past, present, and/or future
Riveting stuff, I know. By and large, this format and many of its features, specifically their content, reflect the ongoing dialogue between scholars in the field, with the hope that non-specialist wanderers will find it interesting or even informative. Moreover, the kinds of topics discussed–and the level at which they are discussed–are often determined by the aims or purpose of a given commentary series.
For example: the International Critical Commentary (ICC) series is geared more for academics while the Interpretation (Int) series is orientated more for pastors and church-goers. (NB: this is not to suggest that the Interpretation series is not academically minded; all of the contributors in this series are experts in their respective fields). For comparison, with regard to the letter to the Galatians: the ICC¹ expends 65 pages on introductory matters, while the Int² covers just shy of 11 pages. And in terms of total coverage, the Int falls short of 160 pages (excluding bibliography) and the ICC swells to just over 500 pages (excluding bibliography and indexes).
So, to come back round to my request for assistance: what kinds of things, or level of details, would you like to see in a NT commentary? What interests you? What bores you tears? What would be something that would enhance your reading and/or understanding of a NT text? What questions would you like answered–or at least addressed? What about style and/or format? I’m looking for insight from anyone who is willing to offer it, no matter if you are an expert in NT scholarship or if you have a scintilla of understanding about Christianity or somewhere in between. I would love to hear from you so that I can write for you.
¹ This refers to E. de Witt Burton’s 1920 commentary in the ICC series.
² This refers to C. Cousar’s 1982 commentary in the Int series.
Monday, 06-Jan-2014 marked the beginning of my first (official) online course that I’m teaching for Johnson University. The course is a 7-week intensive study of 1 Corinthians for the MA in Intercultural Studies program. To be fair, the course is really a 5-week intensive on 1 Corinthians, seeing that week 1 deals with introductory matters and week 7 is missions orientated–in view of what we learn from 1 Corinthians, of course.
While preparing for/writing the course, I had the opportunity to revisit the text in a rather detailed manner–something that I have not done since the middle of October. (I took a break from 1 Corinthians because I needed to, seeing that I spent nearly 5 years exegeting the thing). In this revisiting, I was also able to look at a few things more closely–things that I could only consider briefly when doing my PhD. One of these bits was the Thanksgiving portion of the letter (i.e. 1 Cor 1.4-9), which contains a number of salient details relevant to what Paul argues in the letter.
In my preparations for this course, I wanted to interact with English translation and consider how they deal with certain portions of the text. When I did this with the Thanksgiving section, something struck me as rather surprising. The specific passage in mind is 1 Cor 1.4-5, which I translate as: “I always give thanks to my God concerning you for the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus, since in all things you were made rich in him [Jesus]–in all speech and all knowledge” (εὐχαριτω τω θεω μου παντοτε περι ὑμων ἐπι τη χαριτι του θεου τη δοθειση ὑμιν ἐν Χριστω ͗Ιησου, ὁτι ἐν παντι ἐπλουτισθητε ἐν αὐτω, ἐν παντι λογω και παση γνωσει).
By and large, the majority of English translation agree on the big ticket items in this passage: God is always the recipient of Paul’s thanksgiving, the Corinthians are always the indirect object, God’s grace is always the “thing” given to the Corinthians, Christ Jesus is always the agent through whom God’s grace comes, the Corinthians are always rich in/because of Christ, and there is always something about “speech” and “knowledge.” Admittedly, some will add a flourish here and there, ostensibly to make the text “come alive” to its readers, and these flourishes range between “Hey, that’s quite good” (e.g. “Every time I think of you–and I think of you often!–I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus” [MSG]) and “Okay . . . I think I see what you’re doing” (e.g. “I never stop thanking my God for being kind enough to give you Christ Jesus” [CEV]).
Moreover, especially when comparing translations on the final clause (i.e. “in all speech and all knowledge”), there are a few that offer what look to be explanatory interpretations of what (they think) Paul is saying. For example, while the Greek simply says, “in all speech and all knowledge”, others will suggest further details:
- Amplified Bible: “in full power and readiness of speech (to speak your faith) and complete knowledge and illumination (to give you full insight into its meaning)”
- Complete Jewish Bible: “particularly in power of speech and depth of knowledge”
- Darby’s Translation: “in all word (of doctrine), and all knowledge”
- Living Bible: “He has helped you speak out for him and has given you a fill understanding of truth”
- New Living Translation: “with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge”
All of these kinds of flourishes and explanatory interpretations could be seen as exercising artistic or literary license, which is sometimes needed when doing translation. However, in one translation it appears as though the excitement of receiving their literary license caused the translators to forget everything else. The translation in question? The New International Reader’s Version (or NIrV)–published by the same people who did the NIV (and tried to corner the market with multiple types of it) and the late TNIV. The over-exuberant reading? Here you go (with reference to the Greek for comparison):
- Greek: ἐν παντι λογω και παση γνωσει (“in all speech and all knowledge”)
- NIrV: “All your teaching of the truth is better. Your understand of it is more complete”
Excuse me?! How the . . . Have you read 1 Corinthians!? Did you happen to pick up a commentary on 1 Corinthians or even a scholarly article and, I don’t know, see what scholars have to say?! “Better” and “more complete” than what–a rock? Two minutes more reading of the letter will demonstrate that the Corinthians’ teaching and understanding are precisely what Paul addresses. And it’s clear that he ain’t happy with either (or both). “All your teaching of the truth is better. Your understanding of it is more complete.” Give me a break. You should have your license revoked, or at least suspended.
 I happen to like this one, mainly because I think it brings out Paul’s sarcasm, which obviously appeals to mine.
 Although, you can still access this version online.
I truly wish I was making this up, but alas it is legit. A Baptist College in Elgin, IL has flexed its well-defined complementarian muscles and organized study programs it deems appropriate for men and
Here is the “General Studies for Men” track:Ah yes, the obligatory course on “Appropriate Music”, which none of the three schools I went to offered. It’s no wonder I still have struggles in my life–with all that Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, and (heaven forbid) the modern Yo-yo Ma blaring in my ears all the time. Maybe I can audit that course… And I know prospective (male) students are saying, “
Dude, Brother, I can’t wait to take ‘Biblial Counseling’ my Senior Year!” I can only assume that 2 hours on “Church Epistles” either means an incredibly truncated look at NT epistles, which is sad, or how to write killer church newsletters. And why do I have a feeling that 3 hours on “Manuscript Evidences” (in conjunction with “Biblical Apologetics”) means: how to defend and honor the KJV against all the pagan corruptions (e.g. NIV, NASB, or even the Catholic “Spirit of the Reformation Bible”)?
And here is the “General Studies for Ladies” track:Wait, what happened to all the theology courses? The Church education? Or even “Biblial Counseling”? Oh, I forgot; we’re talking about ladies here, which means they only need to know “Basic Keyboarding” and “Word Processing” skills so that they can tackle that “Secretarial Elective” their Sophomore year–can’t waste time on all that heady, abstract, theology stuff. Moreover, they can’t lose any ground on “How to Rear Infants/Children”, which also means they need to know how to “Sew”(!). And if they’re feeling really ambitious, they can take 6 hours of a “Domestic Science Elective”, which, for PBC, I’m assuming means operating hi-tech appliances in the home. Why else would you give it a fancy title if it wasn’t something technical?
…this kind of stuff truly breaks my heart.
 Why they use an imbalanced pairing in terms is beyond me. One would think that if you’re going to use “men” then its natural pairing would be “women.” Or, if you’re going to use “ladies” then its natural pairing would be “gentlemen.”
 Turns out, I’m not too far off the mark. Here are some course descriptions that I can only assume fit the Elective:
“CE307: Advanced Cooking. This course is designed to give the student the skills necessary to work with large group meal preparation.”
“CE308: Advanced Sewing. This course is designed to further develop the basic skills found in CE 206 Sewing.”
“CE410: Home Maintenance. This course provides basic principles of home care to include principles of color, line, fabric and room arrangements. Students will be required to develop ideas for the arrangement of a variety of rooms and presentations.”
Last year, in typical nerd fashion, I mentioned all of the books I was able to read (from cover to cover) in 2012. All of these were for pleasure reading, not the ones I had to read for my PhD research. That 2012 list wound up being 17 books long. Originally, I wanted to surpass that list this year, but I’m afraid it didn’t happen. I only managed 13:
- Jeremy Clarkson, I Know You Got Soul
- Jeremy Clarkson, Born to Be Riled
- Bill Bryson, Mother Tongue
- Bill Bryson, Walk in the Woods
- Bill Bryson, Lost Continent
- Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed
- P.G. Wodehouse, The Clicking of Cuthbert
- Martin Luther, An Open Letter on Translating
- Plato, Crito
- Walter Dunnett, Exploring the New Testament
- Lemony Snickett, Grim Grotto
- Robert Ludlum, Bourne Ultimatum
- Chris Tilling, Paul’s Divine Christology
If you’re paying attention, you will notice that I failed to complete a few books that were in process–noted in last year’s post. Part of the reason for not finishing them is because they were in boxes for months (being shipped from England) and I simply forgot I was reading them. Now that the books–along with the rest of our England stuff–are with us, I’ll get back to them this year. And finish them, this time. We’re not planning on any major moves.