Tag Archives: Review

Review: The Decalogue, Theologygrams

We’ve come along way from the giving of the Ten Commandments (AKA, the Decalogue or the Ten Words).  Do we still need them? Are they still relevant? Who doesn’t know that murder is wrong? If so many don’t believe in God, why have them around anyway? Should we enforce them as laws?

The Decalogue consists of two groups of five commandments concerned with loving God (1-5) and loving one’s neighbor (6-10). In his book, the Decalogue, David Baker believes the Decalogue “expresses the essence of the covenant but is not a treaty document in itself” (12). There are strong parallels between the commandments of the Decalogue and that of other ANE treaties (e.g., not to commit murder, adultery, theft, etc.). However, other ANE texts are not “as comprehensive in scope as the Decalogue” (19). The ethical appeals of the Decalogue are grounding in God’s character and how he says his “holy nation” should live to be holy as he is holy.

The Decalogue was spoken by God to all of Israel, the “whole people of God” (32). Baker believes it is Israel’s constitution. Far from being a burden to slog through life under, it (and the Book of the Covenant in the following chapters of Exodus) is their “charter of freedom to be embraced and celebrated,” as Psalms 19 and 119 point out (35).

After his introduction, Baker gives a chapter to each commandment, setting each of the ten commandments against their surrounding ancient Near Eastern cultures to compare and contrast the uniqueness of God’s instructions to his people. He then reflects on how that commandment was (or wasn’t) lived out through examples in the OT and NT. Baker makes comparisons with the Decalogue that is repeated in Deuteronomy 5, noting any changes and why they might have been made.

In his final section he looks at how we, as Christians, the people of God, should live in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He says that the Decalogue is the basis for Old and New Testament ethics. It reveals the character of God to us, and from there we can explore the rest of the Bible to see what he is like.

Lagniappe

  • Author: David Baker
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (April 3, 2017)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic

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A picture is worth a thousand words, and often a picture is easier to look at than 1,000 words. Rich Wyld has created a host of diagrams to help distill some of theology’s deeper points into forms that visual people can digest. Until I get permission to share some pictures, I’ll share some links to his blog. Some of these from his blog are found in his book, others are not. Wyld begins with (1) the Old Testament, then moves to (2) the Gospels, (3) the rest of the NT, (4) the life of the church, and he ends on (5) the life of the church.

In section 4, Wyld, an Anglican, uses references mostly from the Anglican church, but tries to be fair when representing other churches too. Some sections found here are:

  • A “breakdown of time spent during a hymn”
  • “Ministry in the church” (those being pastors and teachers, evangelists, prophets, apostles, and people who hoover and make tea).
  • And the very humorous looks at “what’s going on in the mind of the person reading the Gospel in church,” which, if you’ve ever had to read in front of a crowd, you can very well relate.

In section 5, Wyld asks where wisdom can be found, and looks at Proverbs, Jesus, James…and Mr. T.

Some examples which can be found on his blog are:

Bible references are provided for most pictures. The intention isn’t only to be silly, but to provoke thought and have the reader go back to the Bible to read that verse or section again. The intention isn’t to mock or belittle God, his creative works, nor his redeemed people.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Rich Wyld
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (November 14, 2017)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received these books free from IVP Academic and IVP Books. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Creation Care

Do Christians need to be concerned about the creation? Isn’t it all just going to burn up anyway when God recreates it anew? Aren’t all those climate fanatics just being a bit, I don’t know, fanatical? Douglas and Jonathan Moo have written a book to encourage God’s people to care for his creation “by showing that the created world remains important in God’s purposes throughout the story of redemption” (126).

Summary

The book has three sections: 

(1) Queuing the Questions

“What role does the non-human creation play in God’s plan?” (23). How does it relate to our proclaiming the gospel, and why should we be involved? The Moos write that through our involvement we (1) address current challenges facing creation, (2) serve as witnesses to God’s kingdom before the members of the world, and (3) confirm Scripture’s witness of our vocation as “keepers” of God’s creation (26-27). 

Biblical theology summarizes and synthesizes “the teaching of the Bible using its own categories and with attention to its redemptive-historical movement,” it’s books make up one book, and it addresses people in today’s world (35). But along with the Bible’s teaching, we are also influenced by culture and science. The goal of theology is “the formation of Christian character and the practical living out of biblical values” (42). Culture can help us see things that we have taken for granted or haven’t noticed in the biblical text (it can also make us blind to what is there), and science can help inform us on how God’s creation “keepers” can care for his creation.

(2) Arriving at Answers

God created the world as “very good,” but he is the divine Creator and the “very good” world is the non-divine created. This does not give a lowly status to the world. Relationships where one person idolizes the other and treats the other as a god/goddess are harmful. So dethroning the creation from a divine status shifts people away from pantheism and toward being able to know the creation and to live in it as God’s creation. We are not gods who can use the earth according to our whims.

“In what ways do we prevent others from perceiving creation’s testimony to God when we fail to care well for creation, to enact justice, and to ensure that the abundance of the earth is shared with all?” (60).

Some say God surely wouldn’t allow creation to crumble because of our doing. Is it unreasonable to think that he wouldn’t allow humanity to suffer for the consequences of trashing his creation? Israel was put into exile for not giving proper rest to God’s land (God just let Israel use the land, Lev 25:23). The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day told Israel that neither famine nor sword would come. The people continued sinning, and in the end judgment did come (111-112). The suffering of creation, as with us, is only temporary, and it will end when Christ returns. But he hasn’t returned yet, and it’s been 2,000 years since he left.

“The incarnation furthermore reveals a God who binds himself to all of his creation” (115).

As the Moos note, in the tenth edition of the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report in 2014, they (speculatively) estimate “that between 1970 and 2010 the total number of wild mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped fifty-two percent….The decline of terrestrial animals alone was thirty-nine percent” (199). This is “speculative” because it is hard to be so accurate with animals species and just how many animals there are, but the fact remains that even if the number were down to twenty-five percent, that is an astounding—a shocking—figure. Out of all the earth’s years, in just 40 years we have lost 25%, perhaps even 52%, of all our animals due largely in part to the ways of globalization and consumption.

But isn’t it all going to burn anyway? Doug Moo refutes that idea by spending some time leading the reader through 2 Peter 3. He briefly goes through some Greek and determines that verse 10 should read (as it does in the ESV, NIV, NET, and CSB), “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” The day of the Lord will not burn everything down but will expose the earth and the earth-dwellers to the majesty and terror of God. Nothing will stand in his way from seeing them in all their hatred for him (see Is 26.21).

The heavens and earth will not be destroyed and made brand new, but like us when we receive our resurrected bodies, it will all be renewed. The authors say, “The imagery we should have in our minds is not a log consumed in our fireplace but the piece of ore turned into a precious piece of metal” (164).

Even if the world is going to burn and be completely recreated, the one whom we serve created it all. Playing a small part in letting half of his animals die is to say, “We don’t care about your animals,” even if the Psalmist does. Psalm 104.21 says, “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.” In fact, all of Psalm 104 is about God’s delightful (even if also terrifying) creation.

(3) Reflecting on Relevance

Douglas and Jonathan Moo have given us a great theological work on caring for God’s creation. They give practical examples of how interconnected everything is, such as how a demand for beef, biofuels, and animals feed causes trees to be cut down for cattle farms or other means. The lack of trees means a decline in biodiversity, increased risks from erosion and extreme weather, and the climate changes due to the “loss of moisture-enhancing trees.” Forests seize carbon dioxide, and losing forests means large concentrations of carbon-dioxide rise into the atmosphere, which brings changed weather patterns and acidification.

Coral reefs give life to a quarter of all marine life. Due to pollution, fishing techniques (like trawling), warming seas, and acidification (from the air-riding carbon dioxide, a quarter of which is absorbed into the oceans), projections say coral reefs could disappear by 2050.

Recommended?

Will we ever see a direct result of our careful, caring actions? Possibly not. But, as the authors point out, at the height of the slave trade numerous Christians refused to buy or use sugar that had been made at the cost of another human’s life (226). None of those acts ended the slave trade, but it may have been one of the proper ways to follow Christ at that time. Paraphrasing Alister McGrath, instead of merely looking at creation, knowing and believing and that all of the earth belongs to God, we can behold it. We can appreciate his artistry and care for the earth, the animals, and for us (179). Maybe you’re on the fence about climate change. Perhaps you’re adamantly opposed to it. Maybe you’re all for it. In either case, pick up this book. Something needs to be done. Or, when Isaiah told him that the Lord would bring judgment, should we be satisfied as Hezekiah and think, at least there “will be peace and security in my days”?

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Douglas and Jonathan Moo
  • Series: Biblical Theology for Life
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (February 27, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon or Zondervan

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Beauty, Order, and Mystery

In the beginning God made an ordered creation. All things were good, good, and very good. “God created mankind in his own image… male and female he created them.” He created man and placed him in a garden, and then created women for the man. What happens after that gets complicated, convoluted, and disturbing. What do we do with marriage, sex, and sexuality in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the “profound mystery” found in the relationship between husband and wife.

In Beauty, Order, and Mystery, editors Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson—senior associate pastor and senior pastor, respectively, at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL—bring together essays from the 2016 Center for Pastor Theologians 2016 conference on the themes of human sexuality. Not all of the contributors agree on every point, but they all do agree on the “historic Christian consensus on sexuality,” which is centered around the importance of “biological sexuality” (3).

The books has three sections. 

Part one—a theological vision for sexuality

Part two—the beauty and brokenness of sexuality

Part three—biblical and historical reflections on gender and sexuality

To summarize each of the fourteen chapters below would be too much, so I’ll comment on a few that stood out to me.

Summary

Both Beth Jones and Matthew Mason emphasize that the bodies we have now will be the ones that are resurrected. Our bodies touch the core of our existence. This is why Paul says that the “fornicator sins against the body itself” (1 Cor 6.18). “Sex matters because it goes to the very heart of what it means to be human” (29). We can’t simply change our bodies to the way we think they should be. It is becoming increasingly difficult to say that maleness and femaleness are “created goods” (23). But that’s because we have fallen natures, and it is mistaken to think that the consequences of sin in the now created (dis)order are normal and good. As Mason points out, redemption involves both Christians and the whole created order (137). Our genders are shaped by our culture (e.g., different cultures and different eras have different standards on length of hair, style of dress, mannerisms), but “inscribed in our bodies” is our biological sex (139). Looking at 1 Corinthians 25.38, God has given each of us a body as he has chosen, and our resurrection body will correspond with our earthly body. To undergo reassignment surgery is to say humans—or each individual—are autonomous Creators.

In the same vein, Denny Burk’s “The Transgender Test” acknowledges that we should feel compassion for those who feel like they are living in two worlds, but his main point is the authority of Scripture. It is “nothing less than a shorthand for the authority of God” (91). What if someone has a “female” mind but a “male” body? iIs the Bible insufficient to deal with a situation like this? Popular opinion says God’s word is harmful to those dealing with these issues, but if that isn’t how Jesus tells us to love people, then it’s wrong. If we diminish Scripture’s authority, we’re hurting those we minister to.

Marriage is a “unity-in-difference,” says Wesley Hill (41). It represents the “other-oriented love of the Trinity” (208). The “trinitarian God gives himself in love to the other”—that is, the Son (who is not the Father) and the Holy Spirit (who is neither the son nor the Father). Jesus shares the perspective that marriage is between a man and a woman. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the picture of marriage—the Bridegroom with his Bride. The Christian who has homosexual tendencies cannot marry, but he/she can find love in Christ’s body. Similarly, single people can live well without a spouse, just as the married can live poorly with their own spouse. Within the body of Christ, deep, closely-knit friendships need to be encouraged. For that is how we will all survive.

Both my wife and I thought Daniel Brendsel’s chapter was an odd duck. About half of the chapter was spent talking about the selfie and where it came from. The other half talks about what the selfie portrays—I have a body that I can show off but is somehow separate from me, you can know “me” just through a picture and a paragraph, we are performers who can be someone else to different groups of people. We reap what we so, somehow. He says “we should consider what we as churches have been sowing and watering by way of our cultural practices and postures,” but doesn’t really say what church have been doing or what they should change beyond sharing meals with one another and confessing our sins—growing in our relationships with each other in order to know the real “me.” It wasn’t a bad chapter, it merely seemed out of place from all the rest.

Gerald Hiestand’s chapter took a very good look at the power inequality that exists between male and female. He examines third-wave feminist Camille Paglia’s argument on the relationship between biology and tyranny. Following the argument was difficult, and probably would have been better relayed if he had summarized it (though I understand it was part of his lecture). Also, compared to the other essays, Hiestand’s reads as though he is a PhD candidate. That being the case, men have more physical power, but we are to lay our lives down for our wives, the weaker vessel (1 Pet 3.7), as Christ laid his life down for his bride and continues to serve her.

Finally, Joel Willitt’s essay, “Bent Sexuality and the Pastor,” looks at “the pervasiveness of sexual trauma” and “the denial of our [pastors, specifically, but all people generally] own trauma around sexuality” (119). Being sexually bent comes as a result of a traumatic experience, often in the form of sexual abuse as a child. As a result, people try to survive snd work through it in different ways, often incorrectly (e.g., being paranoid, fatalistic, heroic, and optimistic). It often can lead them to have sexual difficulties (e.g., self-abuse, abusing others, porn addiction, not wanting sex, etc.). Willitts emphasized the difficulty that many go through as to how difficult it is to break through the trauma warfare. It “often… comes in fits and starts; it is the result of a long, painful process; and likely, it will not be completed until Christ’s return” (129).

I’m not sure, though, how to take his ending. Wanting to be careful about his essay, but he mentions having a hard time desiring sex with his wife (due to his childhood abuse), mentions having a porn addiction, but then doesn’t talk about how those two things work together. In the end, Willitts isn’t saying not to fight the trauma. Those who have been abused do need to fight through it with the power of the Spirit and know that they will be free in the resurrection, but the rest of us need to be gracious, empathetic, patient, and long-suffering. His essay gave me the most thought.

Recommended?

Yes, get this book. It is a great resource and will help you to think through these issues that are knocking on our doors. The contributors do not always agree (Mouw seems to have some reservations about how to apply the OT law to homosexuality, while Burk is for using the OT law). But Beauty, Order, and Mystery provided my wife and I with some good talking material, and with some excellent advice when we do face people who feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Center for Pastor Theologians
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 24, 2017)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: The Fear of the Lord is Wisdom

What is wisdom? Is it knowledge well applied? Is it ethical? Theological? Proverbs mentions the Lord, but is it more like a “Confuscious says” kind of idea which anyone can use, even pagans? In his book, Tremper Longman (the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College) believes that the heart of wisdom is “the fear of the Lord.” Throughout his book, Longman, who has written numerous books and commentaries on wisdom literature, engages in “canonical interpretation” (181). No biblical book is an island, but each is to be interpreted among the rest in the canon. Thus Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job must agree. Even if there are major differences, there is no discord among them. Even more, “the Lord” in Proverbs is the covenantal God of Israel—Yahweh. To fear him is to know him and follow him within a covenantal relationship.

Section one looks at Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job (abbreviated as PEJ from now on), which, though wisdom literature, have their differences. Yet we must read them together to know God’s teaching about wisdom.

Proverbs—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” with fear meaning to acknowledge God in all of his greatness and majesty. Our very “existence depends on him” (12). This fear does not make us run, but “makes us pay attention and listen” (13) and it leads to obedience. Wisdom is both ethical and theological. Because of who God is, we stand and listen and obey. Woman Wisdom represents God, and Woman Folly represents the false gods (for the gods live on the highest hills, cf. Prov 9.3, 14). So, in the second part of Proverbs (10-31), even when God is not mentioned the proverbs remain theological. For example, to be wise is to obey and honor one’s parents (10.1) for it means you are properly worshiping and honoring God (Exod 20.12).

There are two speakers (and two messages) in Ecclesiastes. The first is Qohelet (taken to be “a literary construct… to get the reader to think about the meaning of life”), the second is a father speaking to his son, with his perspective being the correct one (36). For Qohelet, God has set eternity in our hearts, yet we do not understand “when the right time occurs” (33). We do not know what God is doing from beginning to end. Yet Proverbs teaches that the wise man does know the proper time to apply certain proverbs. Rather, the father (at the end of the book) gives his son an “above the sun” look at life. Human wisdom comes up empty in the end, but fearing God leads to life.

Job—most of this chapter is a summary of key points throughout Job. Job’s three friends repeat a retributive theological argument ad nauseum. The argument never changes nor develops, the volume just gets turned up. Longman says that Job is not about theodicy, or how to persevere through suffering, it is a debate over wisdom, “and Job’s suffering is the occasion for the debate” (47). In fact, Job agrees to the friends’ retribution theology. Job’s take: he is blameless, but since he is suffering, God must be unjust. He admits that wisdom is hidden from all, even the sea and death don’t know where it is. Wisdom is found in God alone (28.28), and after Job meets God, the reader sees that submission is one’s proper response to God within a relationship with him.

Part two looks at wisdom sayings (ch 4) in Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Song of Songs, in the prophetic literature. Deuteronomy and the Psalms bring together (God’s) law and (God’s) wisdom, and the prophets show that having the law doesn’t equal having wisdom. Rather, fearing and knowing God and following his law bring wisdom. The Song of Songs, though not “wisdom” literature per se, connects with Proverbs in an ethical and practical way—love and be faithful to your own spouse.

Longman tries to cover a lot of ground in thirteen pages in chapter four, which, while leaving me wanting more, it also left me feeling quite empty. When talking about the prophets he spends a lot of time quoting examples but only gives brief statements about true wisdom and how they emphasized knowing God rightly. Those brief statements were often swallowed up by the many biblical quotations; it seemed to be a rehearsal of much of the text (though not completely).

In chapter six Longman views both Joseph’s wise actions in light of PEJ and Daniel’s wisdom in light of Proverbs. They were figures of wisdom. Part two ends with chapter 7, a look at Adam and Solomon who both had wisdom but who instead both chose folly. The king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 thought himself to be wise but was compared to prideful Adam. For both Adam and the king of Tyre, submission to God in all matters is wisdom lived out.

Part three observes the source of wisdom (ch 7). Is it revelation? Ultimately, wisdom comes from God. Proverbs testifies to the ten commandments, and even though Proverbs utilizes some Egyptian proverbs, ultimately the Egyptians were fools because they did not fear Yahweh. “All truth is God’s truth,” and to follow God and his instructions is wise.

In chapter eight, God in his wisdom created an ordered cosmos, and the more we discover the more wisdom we gain in living this life as his dependent creatures. Yet this ordered world is also a fallen one, and even the wisest of persons can, and might end up, in desperation due to the pervasiveness of evil. “The world is warped; we are warped,” and the ordered world, and especially its disordered citizens, does not always follow its order like we expect it to (142). Yet there is hope amid the frustration. Jesus, who experienced the world’s frustration, has brought redemption through his death and resurrection, and a new creation is coming our way where all vanity/frustration will be cleared away.

The rest of part three sets wisdom literature within its cultural ANE context (ch 9), and examines the relationship between wisdom, law, and covenant (ch 10). God’s law expresses how his covenant people should live.

In part four, Longman mines Proverbs for a retributive theology (ch 11). Job clearly teaches against it, but so many verses in Proverbs state that if one does/not do x, he will/not gain y (185). Doesn’t this sound like prosperity teaching? Yet Job was blameless but received suffering, and Qohelet sees injustice in the midst of righteousness. Proverbs are not promises, and Job and Ecclesiastes are “offering a corrective to a misreading of Proverbs” (186).

In chapter twelve, Longman then searches to see if there was a group/class of sages or a school of wisdom in Israel, and asks how a woman is to read the book of Proverbs which seems directed mostly to males (ch 13, see my post).

Part five looks at wisdom in the apocryphal books and Dead Sea Scrolls (ch 14) and in the NT writings (ch 15). Jesus is compared to Woman Wisdom, specifically that found in Proverbs 8. In Proverbs 8 (and all of 1–9 where she is mentioned) Woman Wisdom is a poetic personification, but one that is not a prophecy to be fulfilled (by Jesus or anyone else). Jesus embodies God’s wisdom, but he does not fulfill all of the details of Proverbs 8.

The book ends with two appendices—(A1) wisdom in the twenty-first century; (A2) is wisdom literature a genre? Appendix 1 brings some good application and perspective to living in today’s world. Longman believes that the Christian counselor is the best example of an OT sage. He or she must know Scripture well and be able to apply it, must have a good relationship with God, and ought to be able to, with practice, insightfully figure people out as they counsel them and then apply God’s real-world wisdom to their lives—practical, ethical, and theological wisdom.

Recommended?

As he notes in his book, the idea of wisdom has been given short shrift for a long time. It’s something that been likened to something stodgy old people have who have learned from their mistakes but they don’t want to admit they had fun doing it. Or some see it as having mass quantities of knowledge, like living in the ivory tower and waxing eloquently with every word. Instead, as Longman believes, it is EQ: emotional (and social) intelligence. It is knowing how to live in this world among its people, knowing how to serve them well, and how to survive this life without being ruined (at least by our own foolishness). Pastors, teachers, and students would be well served by Longman’s treatments.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon or Baker Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: The Divine Christ

How did a Jewish, middle class, Israelite man who was beaten, flogged, stripped, and nailed to a cross become to be believed and associated with the almighty God of Israel? In his book The Divine Christ, David Capes (associate dean of biblical and theological studies and professor of New Testament at Wheaton College) examines Paul’s texts and argues both historically and theologically that Jesus was believed to be divine early on in the history of Christianity.

In the first chapter Capes surveys the Hebrew and Greek words our English Bibles translate as “lord,” “Lord,” and “LORD.” In the Septuagint, kyrios, the Greek word for “lord,” is used as a title for certain humans who held authority, the Lord Jesus Christ, and for God. Capes briefly examines how the divine name is used in the biblical texts and in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS).

In the second chapter observes the work of Wilhelm Bousset who sought to understand Christianity as a historical phenomenon without analyzing their truth claims. He and his colleagues purely observed the historical outworkings of Christianity through situating the NT documents in their contexts with our Christian documents. Bousset wanted to explain how religion devotion to Jesus arose with a Greco-Roman environment. The DSS had not yet been discovered, so he was unable to place the NT within the Second Temple period. He believed that the first people to call Jesus “Lord” were Greek-speaking Gentiles in Hellenistic churches in pluralistic Syria. 

While these first two chapters weren’t too exciting for myself, regardless they are important. They situate Paul in a proper cultural context, and Capes shows that it would have been monotheistic, Aramaic-speaking Jews who first called Jesus “Lord” (see 1 Cor 16:22, maranatha, meaning “our Lord, come”) and not Gentiles in a pluralistic who called every god “Lord.”

With the discovery of the DSS, scholars are able to better understand how Greek-speaking Jews understood kyrios in all of its contextual forms. In chapter three, Capes examines Paul’s writings where he refers to Jesus as kyrios. He uses it in four ways: for those who hold authority over others, for other gods and deities, and for the one God of Israel. The fourth way, the majority of Paul uses, refer to Jesus Christ. At the resurrection, Jesus was given the name above all names: Lord. Jesus is not just any “lord;” he receives God’s unique covenant name (YHWH). Jesus holds dominion over the living and the dead. 

Generally, Paul uses certain titles for Christ in specific ways. “Christ” = Jesus’ sacrificial death, the cross/crucifixion (1 Cor 2.2). “Lord” = ethical statements with an emphasis on Jesus’ authority (Phil 4.1), eschatology (“the day of the Lord,” Amos 5:20; 1 Thess 5.2; 1 Cor 1.8), instructions on church life and worship (1 Cor 11.20). Just as YHWH (kyrios in the LXX) gave Israel ethical commands, so the Lord Jesus does too. Jesus, Paul’s contemporary who died a gruesome and shameful death on a cross, does now and will do in the future actions that were reserved for Yahweh alone. For example, “calling up on the name of the Lord” in Joel 2.32 [3.5 LXX] is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in Romans 10.9–13 (cf. 1 Cor 12.3). The Son and the Father are regarded as one, although they are still distinct. Jesus is both associated with the Father and is subordinate to him. The chapter ends with an excursus on the use of “Kyrios as Counterimperial Propaganda.”

In chapters four and five, Capes notes that Paul unambiguously quotes thirteen OT texts which use the divine name Yahweh. About half of Paul’s uses refer to the Father, with the others referring to Christ. Even his allusions to Yahweh texts refer to Christ. In chapter four, after briefly explaining the difference between a quote, an allusion, and an echo, Capes examines the OT texts which Paul quotes in reference to the Father (Rom 4.7–8; 9.27–29; 11.34; 15.9–11; 1 Cor 3.20; 2 Cor 6.17–18). Paul knew the divine name referred to the God of Israel and at times refers to him when he quotes OT “Yahweh” texts. Capes brings up three texts where Paul inserts the word kyrios to speak of God (Rom 11.3; 12.19; 1 Cor 14.21) providing more evidence that the use of kyrios for God was in Paul’s vocabulary.

My only (minor) critique of this chapter was that Capes believes 2 Corinthians 6:14–7.1 to be a self-contained unit of Scripture and so blows off the surrounding context. There are a few commentaries and writings which argue against 6.14–7.1 being a self-contained argument (Seifrid, Hafeman, Beale, etc.), and to treat it as such deflates the impact of Paul’s argument. However, Capes’ discussion was still good, and I gleaned much from it.

In chapter five Capes looks at those OT Yahweh texts in which Paul refers to Jesus and explains the surrounding context of each text (Rom 10.13; 1 Cor 1.31; 2.16; 10.26; 2 Cor 10.17). He also gives tie to explain a few allusions (1 Cor 10.21, 22; 1 Thess 3.13; 4.3; 2 Cor 3.16; Phil 2.6–11). Capes helps the reader delineate between texts which refer to God or Christ—Yahweh texts are reserved for God “primarily in theocentric passages such as Rom. 9–11” (149). When Paul wants the reader to understand that the Father is in view, he clearly states it in the context or in an introductory formula. If a title such as “Lord of hosts”/“Lord almighty” is added, then it refers to God. Paul uses kyrios to refer to Jesus in a pretty straightforward way, possibly because references to Jesus as kyrios make up most of Paul’s uses.

Capes examines the implications of Paul closely associating Jesus with the God of Israel in chapter six. He notes a few allusions in the DSS and other Jewish writings of figures who are closely associated with the God of Israel, but says that there is still a difference between those texts and what Paul is doing. Paul has a pattern of associated Jesus with God, Jesus is the only one associated with God, he has received the divine name from God, Paul quotes and alludes to OT Yahweh texts and uses some of them to refer to Jesus, and Jesus was a real, historical figure who was a contemporary to Paul. He was not a legendary person of old (like Melchizedek). And so, a high Christology can be traced back to the beginning of the Christian movement. On the Damascus road Paul saw the glory of the Lord; it transformed him and compelled him to be a light to the Gentiles. The disciples who lived with Jesus for three years saw his miracles and heard the way he used Scripture to present his authority before all. They saw the coming of God into the world, at through his death, resurrection, and ascension he received the divine name—that above all names.

Recommended?

Capes offers a good synopsis of Paul’s use of the Yahweh texts. He gives enough information for some to be satisfied and to pique the interest of others to go searching for more. The divinity of Christ will be debated with each new generation, and Capes provides a way for us to understand the apostles’ thinking, particularly Paul’s. Some will be disinterested in the first two chapters, but they lay an important historical foundation for the need for this study. Capes’ book could be read in tandem with Gordon Fee’s Pauline Christology (see his more accessible work, Jesus the Lord according to Paul the Apostle), and anything by Larry Hurtado, especially his upcoming Honoring the Son.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology
  • Author: David B. Capes
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (March 20, 2018)
  • David blogs at https://davidbcapes.com/

Buy it on Amazon or Baker Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: The Lost World of the Flood

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (Matthew 4.8)

…And distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house. (2 Sam 6.19)

And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. (Gen 7.19)

Was the Flood a local flood or a global flood? Does the Bible every use hyperbole? If so, can we still consider it inerrant? Does the physical earth show proof of a global flood? If it doesn’t, does the Bible remain trustworthy? Can it be possible that a local flood is hyperbolically represented as covering the whole earth to represent God cleansing the whole earth and starting over? That’s what Tremper Longman and John Walton argue for in The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate.

The authors argue that rather than using Mesopotamian flood sources, the Israelites sat within a “cultural river” of beliefs on the flood. The authors believe a flood really did happen, as can be seen in the writings of many cultures (e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh). However, they don’t believe in a worldwide flood, and we can’t know which flood lays behind the Noah story.

Yet doesn’t Genesis 7–8 state that the whole world was covered by water (7.21; 8.9). Enter part one (method): “perspectives in interpretation.” The Bible is an “ancient document,” which means very old. This is obvious, but it is easy to forget that people thousands of years ago thought differently than us moderns. When it comes to storytelling and history, since nobody wants to hear every detail, certain aspects must be carried along while others are left behind. Genesis uses rhetorical devices to interpret history for us. God shaped and fashioned an ordered creation; man corrupted it and brought disorder.

But the way this is told is put into a story, one that, according to the authors, uses hyperbole. This will be the most contentious part of this section, since the thought of the Bible using exaggeration seems out of the bounds of a literal interpretation. However, Longman and Walton seek to place the Bible in its historical context, and exaggeration was common among other ancient writings (just as it is today: “But, Mom, everyone is going to the concert. I will be the only one stuck at home all night long!”).

Though which details are actually exaggerated will be debated, exaggeration emphasizes the authors point. The teenager above may have different reasons for wanting to go to the concert (fitting in, having something to talk about at school, favorite band, not wanting to be bored at home while playing cards with Aunt Tina), but Mom knows exaggeration is being used. Readers 1,000 years from now might not know this is exaggeration unless they have read other writings from our time. For the authors, the exaggeration lies primarily in the (over)size of the ark and the extent of the (global) flood. 

In part two (background) the authors looks at the flood stories in other ANE texts to understand the similarities and differences between them and the Genesis text. Part three (text) provides five chapters/propositions on what the flood story (Gen 7-9) and the surrounding texts (6; 10-11) tell us about God and man and that no matter how many times man undermines his ordered presence, God will set his ordered presence among his people (cf. Rev 21-22). Examples are seen through the events of the sons of God intermingling with women, the flood, and the tower of Babel.

Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” represents a real starry night, but it would be madness for us to try to figure out which part of the night sky Van Gogh was looking at for inspiration. In part four (world), the authors write that while the flood story is based on a real event, it was local flood that is not supported by the world’s geology (a chapter written by geologist Stephen Moshier). The fact that there are other flood stories does not prove that there was a worldwide flood, but rather that many lived within the cultural river of knowing there was a great flood. (See Michael Heiser’s post on how to argue biblically for a local flood).

What if there really was only a local flood? The authors argue in the final chapter that science can purify religion and religion can purify science. What they mean is that the Bible was not written to teach us about science but about God and how we can come to know him through Jesus Christ. Galileo taught us that the earth revolves around the sun, and science should not conflict with the Bible. As with Galileo, the authors argue we should go back to the Bible to see if we understood it correctly. On the other side, science is not “the sole arbiter of truth” (175). Not all scientists think it is, but both Dawkins and Hawking spoke incorrectly about religion, embarrassingly so.

I appreciated the authors’ short discussion on the clarity of Scripture. The Bible is clear as to the way of salvation, but that does not mean that all Christian can understand all parts of Scripture just by simply reading the Bible. Even our translations disagree on how to translate certain verses of the Bible. This should not put us into a tizzy. We must mine the Scriptures for wisdom and knowledge to know the God who created and saved us.

The Spoiled Milk

In the preface the authors say that they aren’t trying to offer the “single ‘correct’ interpretation” of the flood. There is much more that could be said than what they say in their book. They aim to relay to the reader what the Bible is speaking. Their goal is not to “convert” nor even to “persuade” their readers to their view. Rather, they want to bring this information to the reader to show them another perspective, or perhaps more information about a perspective they already hold.

However, three times in their book the authors are reveal their hands and play the card of condescension. They say that those who try to rationalize the size of the ark make “rather stretched (to be kind) explanations” and “only the most gullible can possibly believe all of the exceptional conditions that are needed to understand the description of the flood story as anything but hyperbolic” (39, emphasis mine). They later argue “that the New Testament authors (and Jesus himself) were sophisticated enough to understand that [the Genesis story refers to a hyperbolically worldwide flood] (even if some modern readers are not)” (99). If the authors are only presenting their side, then why the dig? (See also page 26 where the authors mention intelligent people who believe in the literal seven days even when there were no celestial bodies, but how they may be “too intelligent (or clever)).”

This does only happen a few times, but the authors may “hope that at least [they] have shown how [their] particular interpretation is the result of faithful interpretation,” those small digs will only serve to distance those “readers who cannot accept our [Longman and Walton’s] findings” (viii).

Recommended?

Is this book dangerous or unorthodox? No. The authors make a good attempt to reconcile the Bible with science, but I don’t think they will convince many unless those readers are already heading in that direction. If this is the first book you read in the “Lost World” series, 180 pages won’t be long enough to convince you of the authors’ view of biblical inspiration and authority. One ought to read Walton’s The Lost World of Scripture for a more complete work. If you’re interested to read a book on the local flood by two well informed scholars, or if you’ve been following the “Lost World” series, then you should start here. If you hold to a global flood and aren’t bothered by a few digs, this book is a good discussion tool and will still help you to see the theological point of the flood and of Genesis 1-11.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon or IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: The Pastoral Letters (BHGNT)

The Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament (BHGNT) series is like a prequel, so to speak. When you as a pastor, or professor, or interpreter arrives at your text, you first translate your text. Then you turn to Wallace, Robertson, or any number of other grammars to tease out the details before you turn to your own exegesis. Now that you’ve done your own work, where should you turn next? This is where the BHGNT comes in. Before you turn to another commentary, and after you’ve done your own grammatical analysis, you pull open Larry Perkins’ The Pastoral Letters to double-check your work or perhaps to see what he says on a particularly sticky issue. Your order might go something like this:

Translation BHGNT Exegesis Commentaries

I’ve placed exegesis after Perkins’ BHGNT volume because you may want to double check your grammatical and translational work before you go ahead with your exegesis.

The BHGNT series deals with parsing, grammar, syntax, semantics, discourse (using Runge, but it mostly remains on the sentence level), and some text criticism. If you’ve ever scoured certain exegetical commentaries (e.g., BECNT, NIGTC) looking for answers to your specific Greek questions, you may have come away disappointed.

In his introduction, Perkins doesn’t explicitly come down on who the author of the Pastoral epistles is, but he does say, in his opinion, that “the Greek idiolect employed in these letters fits comfortably in the sixth decade of the first century,” in the final years of Paul’s ministry (ca. 63-65 A.D.) (xix). Household codes were commonly written about in this period (Perkins points to Aristotle, Politics, I.1253b1-13). Paul takes this motif and puts them into his letters to show how God’s household should live before the world. “Approved conduct in God’s household … is foundational for the accomplishment of the church’s mission… [and it] refutes the claims of false teachers” (xxii).

Perkins lists fourteen different kinds of rhetorical features in these three letters, such as: alliteration, asyndeton, hendiadys, paranomasia, periodic sentence, polysyndeton, and more. Deponent verbs are written as middle verbs as scholars have been working on understanding these verbs within their historical context. Perkins gives thirteen different semantic categories for middle verbs which appears in these letters. He has two sections on the use of the article with κύριος and with πίστις and a section on the meanings of οἶκος and οἰκία (xxviii-xxxi).

Example Passages

1 Tim 2.11, ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ: Manner. The sense of πάσῃ is ‘complete’ and suggests an elative idea. The noun ὑποταγῇ defines the relational posture in such learning contexts. It indicates a deferential attitude that recognizes the authority of the teacher and places a learner in the proper rank or order with respect to that authority. The nature of the deference offered will vary with the situation and the relationship. (43).

1 Tim 2.12, αὐθεντεῖν: “Pres act inf αὐθεντέω …. Baldwin’s analysis … given that the verb functions transitively here, suggests that it probably means ‘to compel, influence,’ or ‘to control, dominate.’ If this infinitive is understood as providing a more specific description of prohibited behavior (n.b. the repeated reference to ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ), a domineering or controlling exercise of authority exhibited by some women in teaching may be the activity prohibited in this verse. (44)

1 Tim 3.11, γυναῖκας: “Accusative subject of the implied infinitive εἶναι. This accusative plural noun continues the series begun with ἐπίσκοπον and followed by διακόνους (3:8). Debate arises over whether γυναῖκας refers to women who function as διάκονοι, to wives of the candidates for this function, or to women filling a function different from a διάκονος. The use of ὡσαύτως in v. 11 suggests another category similar to or belonging to διακόνους. (64)

2 Tim 1.7, πνεῦμα: Perkins understands this to be a reference to the Holy Spirit, referencing Fee who “supports a reference to the Holy Spirit by noting the writer’s use of τὸ χάρισμα in v. 6, which is often associated with the Holy Spirit. Note also the mention of the Holy Spirit in v. 14.” (163)

Titus 2.11, πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις: “Dative of advantage. This dative may also function as the indirect object of ‘επεφάνη, but its placement after σωτήριος suggests that it qualifies this adjective (i.e., “bringing salvation to all people”). πᾶσιν has an inclusive sense (i.e., “all people without exception”). (267-68)

Titus 2.13, τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ: Perkins says that “the Granville Sharp rule … seems to apply here” (270). Further down the page he adds, “If the analysis of the previous genitives as part of a TSKS construction is plausible, with this last expression the writer leaves no doubt as to whose glory is going to be revealed and equates Jesus Christ with ‘our great God and Savior.’”

Recommended?

Perkins refers to different grammarians and studies such as Campbell, Moule, Pennington, Porter, Runge, and others. Perkins covers every word, even if just to provide a curt description, while other words will receive a hefty paragraph. This book brings together the best insights to figure out the meaning and function of words. It is not meant to explain Paul’s flow of thought (at least, not broadly) nor how one section relates to another. It is an in-depth look at how the Greek works so that you can understand what Paul is saying before you move on to your own exegesis.

If you’re preparing for a sermon or a Bible study, if your learning Greek, or if you’re trying to keep the rust away, get Perkins’ volume on the Pastoral epistles and grow in the knowledge of God’s word (and the struggle of wrestling with Greek).

Lagniappe

  • Series: Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament
  • Author: Larry Perkins
  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (August 1, 2017)

Buy it on Amazon or Baylor University Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baylor University Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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