just for fun

from the seedbed

In the mail yesterday, I received a copy of the Seedbed Sower’s Almanac. It’s a creative little booklet, with various bits of pastoral insight and adverts for new resources. It has also contains a few short articles related to Wesleyan theology. One of the bits of insight, by Howard Synder, caught my attention: the “Fourteen Favorite Ways to Twist the Gospel”. While I don’t think I am permitted to reproduce the entire contents, I think I’m safe in teasing you with the topic-points that Synder gives. Here they are:

  1. Interpret the gospel primarily through Romans
  2. Focus solely on “personal salvation”
  3. Make heaven the goal
  4. Support the clergy/laity split
  5. Think economics and politics are not directly gospel concerns
  6. De-prioritize community
  7. Neglect the Old Testament
  8. Limit justice to personal righteousness
  9. Neglect intercession
  10. Make believers instead of disciples
  11. Substitute heaven for the kingdom of God
  12. View faith as just a part of life
  13. Disregard Genesis 9
  14. Divorce discipleship from creation care

What he has to say about each one is insightful. I would encourage you to get a copy of it, if you can, so you can see the rest.

Robinson adopting Paul’s style?

I may be completely alone in this, but I find humor in Paul’s remarks in 1 Cor 1.14-16:

I thank God that I baptized none of you except Cripus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

Every time I read this passage I hear the first bit (“I thank God . . .”) spoken with passion and definiteness. And then I imagine Paul thinking, “Oh crap, that’s not right”, before–under his breath, maybe or in hushed tones–mentioning the first half of the second bit (“Now I did . . .”), and then resuming the original passion and definiteness for the final claim, “beyond that . . .”.  It’s almost as though Paul’s desire to make a point got the better of him and he suddenly realized it, thus requiring some self-correction. (Or maybe Sosthenes chimed in and reminded Paul of what happened).

But there is something else about this passage that I appreciate, and that is Paul’s decision to leave the self-correction in the text for everyone to see. Sure, since this comment was early on the in letter, Paul could have said, “Scrap that and let’s start again.” But he doesn’t. It’s almost as though he’s saying: “See, I’m not perfect; I screw up from time to time. But I’m willing to own up to it.” Could this be a part (or an illustration) of the wider argument he is making to the Corinthians? Maybe.

However, answering that question is not the point of this post. This post is about something I noticed this morning while reading a little handbook on Romans. I found what looks to be John Robinson adopting Paul’s style:

Perhaps the easiest way to picture the progress of the epistle is as though you were making a journey by canal across an isthmus. You could imagine the epistle going from Corinth to Rome across the isthmus of Corinth, though the first canal was not in fact begun until about ten years after Paul was writing. It was started by the emperor Nero in 66-67 with a work-force largely composed of indentured Jewish slaves, and then abandoned unfinished. Until that time, smaller vessels were apparently dragged over bodily on some sort of slipway. But imagine, for the sake of the exercise . . .

–J.A.T. Robinson, Wrestling with Romans (1979), 9

It’s as though Robinson realizes, as soon as he writes it, that his analogy is crap–or at least historically inappropriate–and has to correct himself. Hence the over-qualification. As with Paul, what’s interesting in this case is that Robinson retains the analogy for the sake of his argument (which is quite good, by the way) and we get to see it–despite its inappropriateness. Any other writer today would rework the argument or come up with a different analogy for the final manuscript so as to avoid embarrassment. Not Robinson. And that’s commendable.

human error and bible translation

C. Michael Patton posted a brief list of mistakes in various Bible translations since the 16th century. Some are quite funny, and others invite a chorus of, “Oh my”. What I found a bit humorous was that the majority of the mistakes came from the (so-called) divinely inspired, sovereignly protected, infalliable, only true translation: the KJV.

quotes for the morning

In the opening portion of his book, Here and There in the Greek New Testament (1898), Lemuel Potwin articulates the essential traits (or qualities) for exegetes of the NT.* Two stood out from the others, simply because their practicality (and dare I say necessity) is sometimes overlooked.  First:

Sympathy with the writer.  The New Testament was written with a religious intent. To understand it fully we must have a religious spirit. We go with the writer and put ourselves in his place. This  is not in conflict with the open mind [trait #1], for with open mind we get as near as possible to the writer in order to catch his thought and feeling, which together make his meaning. . . . Indeed it is a literary axiom that a writer, to be appreciated, must have a large measure of sympathy. “Not to sympathize is not to understand.” This need of religious sympathy is emphasized by the inspiration of the writers. The reader needs the same Spirit. Further, [and this is the point I wanted to stress] as the New Testament has several authors, this sympathy must be individualized. The matter-of-fact Mark, the mystical John, the warm-hearted Peter, and the profound enthusiast Paul, cannot be read well, all with the same feeling. The ideal exegete will enter into the mental states, and even the moods of each one. . . . (p. 13)

And second:

A logical power that is flexible and adaptive. If the New Testament were a collection of orations, like those of Demosthenes, or a continuous treatise, there would be full scope for formal logic and rhetoric. As it is, there is, perhaps, equal, but different, need of logic. The book to be expounded is made up largely of familiar conversations, off-hand speeches, and letters. The course of thought is often abruptly broken; diverse topics are packed together; the feelings press hard on the intellect; the graces of style are unknown or ignored. The well-trained logician finds the logic elusive, but it is there; only it requires mental nimbleness to follow and seize it. Rigidity will fail. There is danger, on the other hand, that different subjects that are brought together simply by rapid speech, or condensed report, be forced into an artificial logical connection. (p. 15)

And a third little gem, just because of its pointedness (or, pointiness):

A knowledge of human nature and quick perception of its springs of action. A mere book-worm cannot be a good expositor, because the New Testament is full of human life. Characters must be understood in order to understand their language. The ancients are not statues in gallery of art. We see them, real and living, in ourselves and our neighbors. Yet our knowledge of human nature must be broad, so that we shall not attribute nineteenth [or 21st] century manners to the men and women of the Bible. [Here’s the pointy bit:] This is about the same as to say that the exegete must have common sense. (p. 15)

* He gives 20 +1 distinct traits, all of which are insightful.  (I say “+1” because the last reflectively asks: “Must, then, one be a Meyer, or a Lightfoot, before he attempt to explain a book that, without explanation, is already plain enough to bring joy and salvation to the humblest mind?” [24]. Don’t worry, Potwin goes on to say the traits are more like an ideal or standard).