The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Sep 6, 2014

Review of Defending Hope: Semiotics and Intertextuality in 1 Peter by Justin Langford

Note: I was not given this book; rather, I purchased it with my own money (like almost all of the books I review) which means I can review it any way I want, bwahahahahahhahaha!!! [JUST KIDDING! I'll try to be fair.] Also, as a personal preference, I will always have at least a little bit positive and a little bit negative to say, my reasoning being that even Bart Ehrman is a zippy read and can contribute to the discussion, while only Scripture itself is inerrant (so only Scripture would get a perfect review by me!).

Dr. Justin Langford, at the time of publication, is an adjunct NT professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His book Defending Hope: Semiotics and Intertextuality in 1 Peter (Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf and Stock, 2013) seems to be a revision of his dissertation. I also had the privilege of hearing him speak at last Fall's ETS in Baltimore, and I look forward to interacting with his work on 1 Peter more in the future.

Defending Hope focuses on a branch of study known as "Semiotics" and its relation to the NT use of the OT in First Peter, especially 1 Peter's citation of Isaiah (or allusions, echoes, etc. of Isaiah). As Langford states early on, "The fundamental assumption behind intertextual study is the belief that 'no text exists in a vacuum'" [quoting Fewell, Reading between Texts] (xv). Yet Langford bemoans the fact that "no standard or agreed-upon method exists for doing such studies" [re.: "methodological applications of intertextuality"](p. xv). Consequently, Langford proposes using "semiotics" to pave the way forward. Thus, early on, he states, "The purpose of this study, then, is to explore the use of semiotics as an overarching method for doing biblical intertextual studies" (p. xvi). Soon after, he defines "semiotics" as "a broader term [compared to semiosis] referring to the scientific study of signs and sign systems" (p. xvii).

In the first chapter, Langford focuses mostly on a history of the theory and application intertextuality, eventually narrowing in on the history of intertextual studies in 1 Peter (noting also key dissertations such as Edward Glenny's discussion of NT use of the OT in 1 Peter). At the end of the chapter, he declares, "The importance of this book lies in both the application of a semiotic method for interpreting intertextual references and the treatment of Isaiah in 1 Peter" (25).In chapter 2, Langford focuses on developing a methodology for his study, stating that he will follow linguist Stefan Alkier--1. "Establishing a theory of textuality based on semiotics, 2. perform[ing] an intratextual investigation of 1 Peter, and 3. perform[ing] an intertextual investigation of the use of Isaiah in 1 Peter." Later in the chapter he focuses on the work of C. S. Peirce, Pierce's concept of "universe of discourse," and the concept of an "encyclopedia (including the role of "cultural knowledge," see p. 46).

In chapter 3, Langford focuses on "The Textual Universe of 1 Peter," which includes both the "epistolary" and "rhetorical" outlines of 1 Peter (Langford includes some helpful charts comparing various scholars). In chapter 4, "Opening the Encyclopedia of 1 Peter," Langford the social, historical, and cultural background of 1 Peter. After this, he focuses on how citations function in 1 Peter  (which texts are cited [LXX? Masoretic?], how they were cited, etc.).

Finally, in chapter 5, Langford discusses "'Signs' of Hope in 1 Peter." He (mostly convincingly, in my opinion) follows the thread of "hope" all throughout the quotations, allusions, and echoes of Isaiah in 1 Peter. He states,
      "A semiotic investigation of the use of Isaiah in 1 Peter demonstrates the integral role of the book of      
      Isaiah in the composition of the epistle. As the dynamic object, the book of Isaiah motivated the
      generation of numerous Isaianic signs in 1 Peter. The signs all point to one specific aspect of the book of
      Isaiah, their immediate object, and in doing so create an interpretant. Each interpretant was described in
      the sections above, and most of these interpretants were determined to communicate the idea of hope.
      While each interpretant communicates in its own right a picture of hope for the audience, the cumulative
      force of all the interpretants points to a message of hope, one that saturates almost every section of this
      short epistle" (p. 124; see also his excellent chart on page 125).

Now for critique: on the (very) plus side, this is a worthy addition to the panoply of scholarship on 1 Peter. Langford gives us a unique contribution (1 Peter, Isaiah, and semiotics), he delves deeply into the realm of semiotics, and artfully focuses on Isaiah in 1 Peter.

I believe that, for the most part, Langford demonstrates his thesis on hope in 1 Peter via Isaiah. Indeed, chapter 5 alone is worth the price of admission. Furthermore, Langford demonstrates excellent scholarship, interacting with almost all the major sources [with one major exception, noted below]. At an affordable price (thanks to Wipf&Stock's publishing model, of which I am also benefiting), it would be almost inexcusable for any budding scholar on 1 Peter or (more generally) NT use of the OT to not own this book. Let me stress again, this is an excellent discussion of 1 Peter's use of Isaiah.

And now for some quibbles (and please, dear reader, don't let the length of my discussion detract from the fact that this is a mostly positive review, and you should buy this book if you're serious about researching 1 Peter). First of all, I felt that for what the author was trying to accomplish this book was way too short. We do not see near enough discussion of the concept of hope in Scripture in general (what I feel would be a necessary precursor to discussing hope in both Isaiah and 1 Peter; however, Langford does clearly know the difference between concept and word, and he does discuss the concept of hope in the relevant chapters; I just think he could have done more, including a more clear definition of hope), and we do not enough discussion of the original contexts of the various Isaiah passages. I think this book would have benefited from another 50 pages (and yes, I know what it's like to have to add material to a book, so this is not just an armchair quarterback speaking!). In addition, I felt Langford could have segued into a more comprehensive "theology of hope" in 1 Peter.

Secondly, there is already an entire article devoted to the concept of "hope" in 1 Peter, and Langford does not cite it (John Piper's "Hope as the Motivation of Love: 1 Peter 3:9-12" on NTS vol. 26); now I know, I know, it's easy to nitpick and always find some obscure source that an author doesn't cite (I anticipate this if anybody reviews my own book on 1 Peter), and, to be fair, Piper does not focus on any of the passages that Langford focuses on (see Piper's article here). Nevertheless, I feel there is enough overlap in topics for at least a mention--after all, the whole point of the book is to provide an intertextual discussion of hope in 1 Peter, and New Testament Studies is a major, top-tier journal.

Thirdly, occasionally the author hurries over a statement that should need much more explanation, or at least a footnote. For example, on page 95, he states, "the formula pistos o logos . . . found in 1-2 Timothy and Titus reflects a phrase found in the Qumran Book of Mysteries that refers to a prophecy." Even without the controversial assertion "reflects a phrase . . ." I would expect a footnote for this (the only footnote in the paragraph is at the very first sentence). Another example: the whole socio-political situation of the recipients (metaphorical? literal? both?) of 1 Peter deserves more than the one paragraph he allocates on page 90 (if I'm missing something, I apologize, but that's all I saw in a thorough reading of the book), especially since this ties directly into the necessity of hope.

Finally, a complaint that is not unique to Langford's book: Scholarly, technical books need indexes!!!!!! Please let me repeat that: scholarly, technical books need at least a subject index and a Scripture/ancient sources index! This should not be optional! (but, as I said, a lot of books coming out these days, including revised dissertations, sadly do not have any).

In conclusion, though, let me state Langford's Defending Hope  is an excellent book on 1 Peter. It gives us an excellent introduction to semiotics, a decent discussion of intertextuality, and a fantastic overview of the concept of hope weaved throughout 1 Peter's use of Isaiah. Let me emphasize again, concerning the last point, Langford succeeds masterfully, and may my critique not detract from my praise.

I did not receive this book in exchange for a review; I purchased it with my own money, and it is well worth the price!

Aug 21, 2014

Priorities of a new Bible professor

Beginning August 1st, 2014, I have officially been the brand new professor of Biblical Studies at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, WI, for which I thank the Lord. Fortunately, I do not actually teach a class until late September (a 9-week block), but at that point I will be teaching Jewish History (junior-level college), Beginning Biblical Hebrew (seminary) and Composition and Rhetoric (college freshman level class, focusing on research and writing). [A Bible college prof has to be flexible J All this is somewhat ironic since I’m a New Testament guy, but I’m just happy to be teaching the Bible! All these will be fun classes, but I’m really, really looking forward to Hermeneutics, which I’ve been promised for Spring 2014]

Already, since moving up here, my father and I have attended an multiple-school faculty summit and presented papers, and I have also submitted said paper to a journal for publication (first time in about 3 years I’ve submitted a paper; we’ll see what comes of it). Here, however, are my priorities now that I’m preparing to teach: first tier, second tier, and third tier

First Tier Responsibilities: Those directly related to classes and the church
1.     My very first action as professor, which occurred technically before I was officially staff, was to choose a textbook for Beginning Biblical Hebrew (I went with Pratico/Van Pelt’s Basics of Biblical Hebrew after consulting with some esteemed Hebrew teachers). This was important because, although I made some minor changes to Jewish History, adding the Zondervan Bible Atlas (but still kept last year’s textbook, Merrill’s Kingdom of Priests), in Hebrew I was making some more substantial changes.
2.     Begin putting together syllabi: Jewish History has been a huge priority here, because laying out the class schedule and content is less intuitive than working off of the textbook in Beginning Biblical Hebrew. Also, the textbook does not go as far as AD 70, which is where the class is supposed to go. I’ve also begun putting together new syllabi for Hebrew and Comp/Rhetoric, but Jewish History definitely takes priority.
3.     Begin personal research for classes: once again, Jewish History takes priority here, since I’m starting from scratch; Hebrew will be fairly easy to construct a syllabus, figure out the content (although starting next week I intend to start my own program of Hebrew review; I’ve already started daily readings out of my Hebrew OT). For Jewish History, I’ve purchased a number of books at my own expense, especially benefitting from John Sailhamer’s short but handy Old Testament History and also Rooker/Merrill/Grisanti’s OT Intro The World and the Word, also K. A. Kitchen’s On the Reliability of the Old Testament.
4.     Become integrated with my local church: while this should be a high priority for any professor, it’s especially important for me since BCM is a ministry of a local church. As an employee of the college, I am also an employee of the church. I am looking forward to being plugged in to ministry here and contributing to the overall mission.

Second Tier Responsibilities: Personal Research, part 1; thinking of Spring ‘14
1.     I am extremely grateful that by this point my book is done, in the final stages of production, and I look ahead to my next publishing endeavors. First of all, though, I really, really need to get back into Theological German so I am going to try to start a nightly program of studying German and reading the German Bible. This is essential if I want to continue contributing to Biblical scholarship.
2.     Next two articles, next book: at this point I’ve started laying the groundwork for two more articles, ideally (and maybe naively) that I hope to finish by the end of the year and submit to publications. My next book has also started to coalesce in my mind, but it will be a simpler, less-academic and more practical book for which I have already started doing research.
3.     Looking ahead to next semester: I already have ideas for Hermeneutics. I need to start formulating what I want to do with that and the other classes.
4.     By the way, a really important note: in the fantastic book Those Who Can, Teach: Teaching as a Christian Vocation, ed. Porter, there’s an essay in there called “From Doctoral Program to Classroom” by Steven Studebaker which talks about how, even when you’re not teaching classes that necessarily tied directly in with your dissertation, you can still benefit from researching for those classes (both by broadening your horizons and figuring out how they can tie in with your research goals).

Third Tier Responsibilities: Personal Research, part 2
1.     Once I start fulfilling my other responsibilities and goals at a satisfactory clip, I can start to think of my next truly academic book (hint: something to do with Peter again . . .)
2.     And, I also have some other articles that I want to get off the carrier, at least, though they may be shot down by the SAM missiles of peer-review, but enough with this silly analogy, full-afterburners ahead!

And, always a 1st-tier, 2nd-tier, and 3rd-tier responsibility simultaneously, be thanking the Lord that I’m actually in such a position to be blogging on this topic as a teacher!

Aug 11, 2014

Dr Rodney Decker's last paper and other highlights of the 2014 Bible Faculty Summit in Clark Summit, PA

Last week, my father and I, as brand-new faculty at Baptist College of Ministry, had the privilege of attending the Bible Faculty Summit , an annual event for schools identifying within a broader fundamentalist tradition (which includes some Methodists and Presbyterians; also "more fun, less mental," I might add!). The various schools (e.g., BJU, MBU, BBC) take turns hosting a "Bible Faculty Summit" which functions as sort of a "mini-ETS" where, instead of choosing which papers to go to and only getting about 5 minutes of Q&A, everybody is in attendance for every paper and we end up with 30-40 minutes of Q&A! Some of the papers are quite interesting and provide a major contribution to discussions with broader evangelicalism as well as fundamentalism. One of the major contributors, Dr. Kevin Bauder, has become the intellectual face of moderate fundamentalism and has published essays in Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (ed. Naselli and Hansen)  and Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail: Evangelical Ecumenism and the Quest for Self-Identity (ed. Timothy George). Both my father and I presented papers (Dad presented on Eugene Nida's translation philosophy, and I presented on the use and meaning of didaktikos in 1 Timothy 3:2 and 2 Timothy 2:24).

The highlight, however, was a tribute to Dr. Rodney Decker and the reading of his last paper. Dr. Rodney Decker is one of the few genuine scholars to identify within the broader fundamentalist movement in the past few decades (not because fundamentalists are dumb, but rather because we usually don't have time to write as much academic stuff!). Dr. Decker taught at Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Clark Summit,  Pennsylvania, but recently succumbed to terminal cancer. His last paper, "The Christian and Self-Defense," was read both in a chapel and at our Bible Faculty Summit posthumously. Click here for the link to the paper. By the way, Dr. Decker has a few books coming out posthumously as well: Reading Koine Greek and Mark 1-8: A Handbook on the Greek Text (and the second volume to Mark, as well). His scholarship will be missed (final note: his revised dissertation, Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference to Verbal Aspect, was published by the prestigious Peter Lang publishing company).

One truly final note for this post: I always thought it would be neat if you could have a book, something like Tools for Studying the Bible, co-authored by Dr. Decker and my own adviser, because then you'd have something by "Black and Decker . . ."   (pity my students; this is the type of humor I'll be bringing . . .")

Aug 2, 2014

In praise of scholars who answer their e-mail!

Now that I'm a professor too (first day on the job was Friday, August 1st), I wanted to take a minute and mention something I've always appreciated about certain professors. About 7 years ago, when I was working on my M. Div., I sent a question via e-mail to a certain high-profile Greek and textual criticism scholar at Dallas Theological. Within 3 days he had responded. When working on my doctorate at Southeastern, my adviser Dr. David Black was extremely quick to respond to e-mails, usually within 24-hours. In fact, most of the profs at Southeaster were very good at that. Even those who were a bit slower would at least acknowledge that they'd gotten my e-mail and then respond in a week. A few weeks ago I had e-mailed a question to an OT scholar at Southeastern regarding his advice on beginning Hebrew textbooks (since, somewhat ironically, I will be teaching Hebrew this Fall--looking forward to it! :) );  within 24 hours he had responded. I've corresponded with two scholars at Wheaton Divinity, and both responded very quickly.

My point is this: I appreciate it when scholars respond to e-mails from students, especially those from a different institution whom they may not know from Adam.  It shows a desire to help and a desire to further the education of other Christians, even those they do not know. I can only imagine the staggering amount of e-mail high profile professors receive on a regular basis; to actually respond to somebody like me speaks to both their generosity with their time and their e-mail manageament skills.

Here, then, is my pledge as a new professor: I will try to treat genuine Biblical/theological questions from students and even non-students with a high priority. Now, some of that has to be filtered. About a month ago I received an e-mail from a certain gentlemen whom I did not know who was not interested in dialogue, only arguing. The "question" was just a set-up to tell me I was wrong (apparently that's a hobby of this person, to e-mail random Bible bloggers and/or professors? I didn't even know who this person is!) But if the Lord has called me to be a professor of the Bible, then I have an obligation to be willing to talk to people about the Bible, both within my school and without. May the Lord grant me the discipline to do so in the coming years!

Jul 11, 2014

Pedagogical book alert (Those Who Can, Teach, ed. by Porter) and some other academic resources

Since it looks more and more like I’ll have the privilege of finally teaching full-time, I have started giving more attention to the art of pedagogy. As a result, I am pleased to direct the reader to the fantastic book Those Who Can, Teach: Teaching as Christian Vocation, edited by Stanley Porter with contributions by various members of the faculty at McMaster Divinity College (Eugene, Oreg.: Pickwick, 2013). Click here for the Amazon link.

This book is a treasure trove of essays which cover everything from syllabus creation to lesson-planning, all within the context of Christian higher education. Here’s some of the highlights so far (I’m halfway through the book):

The first chapter by Stanley Porter covers “Developing a Philosophy of Education.” Now, as far as pure writing style, Porter is not my favorite author (though he’s essential for any student of NT Greek and linguistics), and this essay is not exactly the easiest to read in the world. Having said that, content-wise it is fantastic, and I learned a lot from it. Porter covers the various views of education (both historically and philosophically), the weaknesses and strengths of each, and how a Christian educator should go about interacting with his or her students. Especially significant is Porter’s statement near the end, drawing on the work of Gilbert Ryle, that “The ability to teach oneself and think for oneself is what distinguishes education from merely training” (p. 36).

My favorite chapter so far, however, is Mark J. Boda on “Designing and Evaluating Learning Experiences for Courses.” This essay alone is, in my humble but correct opinion, worth the price of the book. This essay is very much student-centric, in that it is designed to help teachers meet the needs of the student. Boda discusses such topics as consistency in grading (p. 68—“I have found that the more time I spend reflecting on why and how I evaluate students’ assignments and communicating clearly the evaluation I give to my students, the less problems I encounter with students over grading”), how to grade, etc. The section at the end on “Best Practices” is fantastic, especially his discussion on professor feedback on papers. One of my pet peeve is papers I received with a grade but no feedback, or unhelpful feedback. In one of my doctoral integrative seminars, I got an assignment back with the remark, “Not bad, but not great either,” at which point I wanted to scream, “Then show me how to do ‘great’!” In my opinion, feedback on assignments is part of teaching, and I hope to emulate Boda’s excellent advice.

Here’s a list of all the essays in the book, for those interested, as well as a link to the Amazon site for the book (click here):
1.    Stanley Porter, “Developing a Philosophy of Education”
2.    Michael P. Knowles, “Pedagogy and Course Objectives”
3.    Mark J. Boda, “Designing and Evaluating Learning Experiences for Courses”
4.    Cynthia Long Westfall, “Developing a Syllabus”
5.    Lee Beach, “Sculpting a Lesson: The Art of Preparing a Classroom Learning Experience”
6.    Lois K. Fuller Dow, “Teaching Introductory New Testament Greek”
7.    Paul Evans: “Teaching Biblical Hebrew; Practical Strategies for Introductory Courses”
8.    Wendy J. Porter, “Leading Intentional Theological Reflection in the Classroom: The Merging of Mind and Heart”
9.    Steven M. Studebaker, “From Doctoral Program to Classroom”
10.                  Gordon L. Heath, “The Upside-Down Professor: The Professor in a Christian Institution”
11.                  Phil C. Zylla, “Spirituality of Teaching and Theological Integration”

And while we’re discussing Christian pedagogy, let me also mention my friend Thomas Hudgins’ new book (a revision of his dissertation) Luke 6:40 and the Theme of Likeness Education in the New Testament (click here for the Amazon.com link).

Finally, for budding young scholars, click here for an excellent discussion of how to get your papers published. Almost all of what Dr. Kirsten Bell discusses here is both common-sensical yet nonetheless excellent advice for Bible and theology doctoral students, except for the part of nominating reviewers for your article (which I don’t think is an option in any of the Biblical/theological journals I’ve ever submitted a paper to). Her discussion about the need to actually be familiar with a journal before submitting a paper is especially key. Also, for good measure, here's a great article by Dr. Joli Jensen on "The Road to Scholarly Writing Utopia," full of more sound wisdom about motivation and time management (click here for the article).


Jun 5, 2014

Festschrift for textual scholar. Dr Maurice Robinson

I am pleased to announce the publication of a Festschrift in honor of Dr. Maurice Robinson; the book is Digging for the Truth: Collected Essays Regarding the Byzantine Text of the Greek New Testament—A Festschrfit in Honor of Maurice A. Robinson (ed. Mark Billington and Peter Streitenberger; Norden, Germany: FYM, 2014). 
 (from left to right: Pastor Abidan Shah, Dr. Maurice Robinson, Paul Himes)
 Dr. Maurice Robinson is professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He will soon be transitioning to a new role as research professor where he will have the privilege of producing a textual commentary on the Byzantine text of the New Testament. I had the privilege of grading for Dr. Robinson for many years during my doctoral studies, and I was pleased, along with pastor and doctoral student Abidan Shah, to present the Festschrift personally to Dr. Robinson in his office (a public presentation will be made during chapel sometime in the Fall semester).

The book (published in Germany) will soon be available from the US Amazon site at this link: (click here).  A brief description of the various essays is as follows:

First off, we have Dr. Timothy Friberg’s “A Modest Explanation for the Layman of Ideas Related to Determining the Text of the Greek New Testament.” This is probably the most accessible of the essays, and provides a basic overview both of the basics of textual criticism and manuscript transmission and the arguments for a Byzantine priority position (dealing with common objections to that position, as well).

Secondly, we have Andrew Wilson’s “Scribal Habits and the New Testament.” This is a somewhat more technical essay that deals with Wilson’s area of specialty, namely the nature of scribal habits and whether or not scribes really were more likely to omit rather than add (as is commonly argued, almost a “sacred cow” of textual criticism). By the way, Andrew Wilson has an article dealing with this same issue in Filologia Neotestamentaria volume 24 (2011).

Next, we have my father John R. Himes’ “A Translator Takes a Linguistic Look at Mark’s Gospel.” John Himes provides a basic introduction to the concept of “discourse analysis” and then delves into a study of Mark’s use of euquV/euqewV and its relation to the textual criticism of Mark’s Gospel.

Next, we have T. David Anderson, “Early Textual Recension in Alexandria: An Evaluation of Fee’s Arguments.” This article represents Anderson’s interaction with Gordon Fee over the relative merits of Codex Vaticanus, (B), especially regarding whether or not B was the result of textual recension.

Fifthly, Edward D. Gravely writes on “The Relationship of the Vaticanus Umlauts to Family 1” (drawing on his dissertational work under Robinson). Codex Vaticanus contains certain “umlauts” which mark textual variants between this text and other texts. This is a very detailed essay with a wealth of data (including a number of tables laying out the data in a helpful format). Gravely suggests that although “it seems possible that the scribe of Vaticanus making the umlauts was not marking every place of variation . . . but rather was marking places of interest,” yet nevertheless “there is a clearly demonstrable connection between the umlauts in the Vaticanus Gospels and the manuscripts in the Family 1 tradition” (page 72).

In what is probably the most technical essay, Timothy J. Finney discusses “Varieties of New Testament Text” using statistical analysis and various charts to demonstrate “clusters” of texts, their relation to provenance (e.g., “population centers” [see pp. 89-90]), etc. (see especially his charts on pages 79, 81, 82-86). Note that Finney provides the kind of statistical analysis that can only be done on computers; as such this is a major contribution to the discussion (though it’s a bit over my head).

Next, we have Abidan Paul Shah’s “The Alexandrian Presumption of Authenticity Regarding the Matthew 27:49 Addition.” Shah closely examines the situation of Matthew 27:49, where eclectic scholars prefer to argue that a particular phrase (“another one, having taken the spear, pierced his side, and water and blood came out”) should be omitted despite the fact that it has major Alexandrian support. Shah demonstrates that eclectic scholars are not consistently following their own methodology (both external and internal criteria) by too quickly abandoning this phrase.

The eighth essay in the book, Thomas R. Edgar’s “Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: A New Concept” is an extended critique of Bart Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Edgar deals with both specific passages and the overall concept of theological “corruption” in favor of a particular doctrine.

The ninth essay is James A. Borland’s “The Textual Criticism of Luke 24:53 and Its Implications.” Borland closely examines the issue of whether or not Luke 24:53 should read “praising and blessing” or just one of those actions (this text is an important one for textual discussions since it is one of the examples Westcott and Hort had originally given in favor of their  “neutral” text-type; see Borland, page 116).

Next, we have another essay by Andrew Wilson, this one entitled “The Adulteress and Her Accusers: An Examination of the Internal Arguments Relating to the Pericope Adulterae.” Wilson focuses on two things: 1. answering the objections raised against the Pericope Adulterae’s belonging in John, and 2. focusing on the themes of the John 7-10 and how the PA fits with those themes (e.g., “The Brilliance of Christ’s Words and Teachings,” “Judgment,” etc.).

The eleventh essay in this book is by Paul A. Himes (yours truly), entitled “‘Burned Up’ or ‘Discovered’? The Peculiar Textual Problem of 2 Peter 3:10d.” I’ll probably go into more detail in a future blog post, but suffice it to say I defend the Byzantine reading here on the basis of internal evidence (ironically!). I argue that despite attempts to make “the earth and all her works will be discovered” mean something along the lines of “judged” (or “revealed in judgment”), this still would not make sense because “the earth and her works”/”the works of the earth” is a Jewish-Greek idiom meaning “agricultural produce or vegetation.” Furthermore, the argument that the more difficult reading is to be preferred has not been appropriately applied to this verse, for it is difficult to see how (among other things) the writer would chose a more difficult word (the relatively rare “katakahsetai”) to add rather than something simpler.

Next we have a second essay by T. David Anderson, “Arguments for and against the Byzantine and Alexandrian Text Types.” This is probably the longest essay in the book, but it is nevertheless a very thorough examination of textual criticism and the Byzantine text, including such issues as text-types, patristic evidence, the dates of manuscripts, the habits of copyists, and the method of transmitting a text.

Finally, at the very end of the book, we have an immensely helpful “Byzantine Bibliography” by Mike Arcieri. This includes articles (including foreign language articles), book reviews, paper presentations, books, dissertations, and even relevant websites.

May 3, 2014

The Himes (partial) guide to serious Bible research from the comfort of your home

Since the golden age of Alexandria, a good library has been an indispensable part of academic research. Sadly, many of those interested in Biblical studies may not have access to decent-sized repositories of paper-bound information. There’s good news, however: with the advent of both the digital age and incredible library networking, you may not need more than your local city library to help you study whatever your heart desires, whether for personal enrichment or ministry.

One caveat, however: books will still be difficult to acquire copies of, unless they’re in the public domain. Articles may be printed out and distributed for various purposes (under the rules of “fair use”), but for obvious reasons books are a different breed of animal altogether. Having said that, inter-library loan at your local library may or may not be able to help (as I write this, I am planning an experiment which should be done by the time I’m finished with this blog post).

There are three phases to academic research (at least, the way I do it): 1. Finding what sources you need, 2. Actually reading/studying those sources, and 3. Putting your findings into a coherent frame of an argument (this all precedes the actual task of writing a paper or article). This blog post will try to help you with the first part of this process.

To begin with, finding primary resources (e.g., Josephus, Plutarch, Dead Sea scrolls) is fairly easy. At the moment of writing this, I am going to look online for Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities. And, there! http://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-1.htm
In less than a minute I have access to a primary source. Since primary sources like Josephus are public domain, you should have no problem (never underestimate the power of the Google!!!!). The more obscures source the more difficulty you have, but you never know. [note to students: your instructor might prefer you use a published, physical copy of a primary source; check first. For Ph.D. students, you need to be citing the original language of a primary source if at all possible. See if your schools has a subscription to the on-line Thesauras Linguae Graecae, which has been incredibly helpful to my own research--I have my own subscription].

For secondary sources, including journal articles by top Bible scholars, join a public library. Seriously, a public library membership will give you access to powerful search engines such as Ebsco (thanks to my buddy Alex, soon-to-be NC State engineering graduate, for pointing this out to me). So, with my membership in the Wake County Public Libraries system, I go to their website, log in with card number and pin number (no, you can’t have mine! It only takes a couple minutes to get your own library membership). Then I click on “OneSearch,” and then (this is very important), I click on the link to “Academic Search Career” which will take you to Ebsco; searching for a term just by clicking on a box is virtually worthless for some reason—you need Ebsco’s own search engine.

Now that I'm on Ebsco, I just do a simple search by typing in “Atonement” at the top and hitting “enter.” Immediately I have a ton of articles to look at, some of which I can download the full text. For example, at the very top, we have “Tertullian and Penal Substitutionary Atonement” by Peter Ensor in the most recent edition of Evangelical Quarterly, and you can download the full text. In other words, with just a simple membership in a local (non-academic) library, you have access to the full text of a recent scholarly article in one of the top evangelical journals. For those articles that you don’t have access to, at least you know that they’re out there and you can explore options for inter-library loans (this may very from library to library). One very important caveat: Ebsco through this particular local library will not yield the same range of results that Ebsco through a full theological library will (for example: I can access articles from the Journal of Biblical Literature but not Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society in the Ebsco database for Wake County. Utilizing Ebsco at Southeastern's library has a much better list of results since it utilizes different databases).

Once you have access to Ebsco, play around a bit with the search parameters and explore its potential. One problem I had early in my doctoral studies is that I kept getting numerous “hits” for book reviews on the same book when all I was interested in was journal articles. Consequently, I had to learn how to limit my results to exclude book reviews.

Now let’s have a little experiment. There’s a book, an expensive monograph, that I desperately want to take a look at for an article (hopefully!) that I’m writing on the meaning of a particular word in the Pastoral Epistles. The book I need is Claire Smith, Pauline Communities as “Scholastic Communities”: A Study of the Vocabulary of “Teaching” in 1 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. The book is not available at Southeastern’s library (a 20 minute drive for me), and since I graduated from there I no longer have inter-library lone privileges at SEBTS (though I can still check stuff out). It is, however, at Duke Divinity’s library (about a 30-minute drive for me); since it is not currently checked out, so we’ll call that “Plan B.” For “Plan A,” I want to see if I can get it via inter-library loan at my local public library. I do not know the results of the experiment, which I am starting . . . now.

Update! And I have indeed acquired a copy of Claire Smith's very thorough and expensive book Pauline Communities as "Scholastic Communities"! Utilizing the "WorldCat" database at my local library's website, I was able to request this expensive and technical monograph via inter-library loan, and I picked up it up about a week and a half after I ordered. Kudos to the Wake County library system!

One final note: if you just want some commentaries or something and don’t care how old they are, “Google Books” may have what you’re looking for. For instance, I can read a significant number of pages in Colin Kruse’s commentary on John by going here. You may or may not get the part of the book that you need, but obviously if this is something that you’ll be using often, just buy it.
Furthermore, even for more recent and expensive books, “Google Books” will have a limited number of pages available for free viewing.  For instance, if I go here, Ican read a surprisingly large number of the pages in Andreas Köstenberger’s essay “The Destruction of the Second Temple and the Composition of the Fourth Gospel” in what would otherwise be a difficult-to-acquire book of essays (Amazon list price for the book Challenging Perspectives on the Gospel of John is $100+). It’s a bit “hit-and-miss” with what you can read on Google Books, but it may cause otherwise un-acquirable resources to become accessible (at least partially).

One other final note: as I’ve pointed out before (here , here , and here), a lot of academic journals are accessible for free on-line, so make use of that resource as needed.

Apr 14, 2014

Book Alert! First Peter, Calvinism, and a Christian Autobiography

 Here’s some fairly recent books that my readers might be interested in.

Becky Lynn Black, My Life Story (Gonzalez, Florida.: Energion, 2014)
First off, lets step away from the strictly academic and focus on the practical and spiritually beneficial (not that “academic” and “spiritual” are necessarily mutually exclusive!) My Life Story, by Becky Lynn Black, is a blessing and a challenge to read. Mrs. Black was the wife of my doctoral advisor Dr. David Alan Black, and she recently pass away after a difficult struggle with cancer.

Mrs. Black is a missionary kid from Ethiopia with quite an interesting life story of ministry and struggle (by the way, the book includes full-color photos of ministry in Ethiopia, something which automatically elevates the “fun-factor” of any book, in my humble opinion!)  The book is a quick and enjoyable read (I finished it easily in a day, despite having to work), and the frequent pictures are a great bonus. The book is not meant to be an extensive autobiography, but more of a spiritual testimony. It is very exhortational and meant to challenge the reader. Thus chapter 9, for example, deals with the various “myths” that Christians are tempted to believe, myths that Mrs. Black herself had to deal with (e.g., the myth of the “Checklist Methodology that ‘Guarantees’ Positive Results”). Chapter 10, especially, is an important chapter since it provides us with a window into the very real struggle of a Christian dealing with terminal cancer (the last chapter, I believe, was written mere months before Mrs. Black passed away). Thus, although it is a quick read, it is not an “easy” read, nor is it meant to be. Ultimately this is a book that demonstrates the reality of Christian life, both struggles and joys, while challenging the reader to simply trust in Christ throughout it all.

Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, eds. E. Ray Clendenen and Brad J. Waggoner (Nashville, Tenn.: B&H Academic, 2008).
 Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue provides the reader with an important conversation between Southern Baptist Calvinists and non-Calvinists, ultimately demonstrating (I hope!) that there is room for both sides within the convention. Various sections showcase the two sides of such issues as the role of Calvinism/non-Calvinism [seriously, we gotta get a better phrase to describe the latter, but rare is the SBC member who wants to be called “Arminian”] in SBC history, the doctrine of election, limited vs. unlimited atonement, etc., as well as concluding with a discussion of how both Calvinists and non-Calvinists can work together within the SBC’s mission.

Some of the essays are better written than others (and no, it has nothing to do with the particular author’s theological position!), and a couple of the essays come across as a bit too “preachy” in their presentation of their particular side, but overall I believe the book serves its purpose.  Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have a place within the SBC, and both can contribute to the Great Commission. This is hardly the book that will convince somebody to change sides (or whatever), but if it causes somebody to be less harsh and more humble in the debate, than it has served its purpose. Personally, I wish somebody would write a book like this for my own Independent Baptist brothers and sisters, since we also tend to look down on those who disagree with our soteriological position, and we can definitely be guilty of creating strawmen and overacting (one of the few genuine independent Baptist scholars, Dr. Kevin Bauder, once said in a class I was in that “The problem with Fundamentalism is the shrill Arminians and the snooty Calvinists”; J ).

Two books on 1 Peter
Although I noticed it too late to include in my own published dissertation, I recently purchased and am looking forward to reading Justin Langford’s Defending Hope: Semiotics and Intertextuality in 1 Peter (Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf&Stock, 2013). I was able to hear Dr. Langford (adjunct prof. in NT at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) present a paper on this topic at 2013’s ETS meeting in Baltimore, and shortly thereafter I ordered a copy of his book (Wipf&Stock published dissertations are a significantly more affordable than others! My own dissertation is being published by the company’s Pickwick imprint). Langford basically looks at OT citation in 1 Peter, especially the Isaiah quotations, through the lens of “Semitics” (or the study of “signs” within the context of linguistics). This should be a helpful book to those interested in NT use of the OT within the general epistles; I'm hoping to do a full book review later.

Finally, once again too late to be used in my own book, we have a new collection of essays on 1 Peter entitled Bedrängnis und Identität: Studien zu Situation, Kommunikation und Theologie des 1. Petrusbriefes, edited by David S. du Toit (Beihefte zur Zeitschrfit für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft vol. 200; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013). The title roughly translates to Distress and Identity: Studies in the Situation, Communication, and Theology of 1 Peter. This tome, written in memorium of the great Leonhard Goppelt, contains essays by many of 1 Peter’s top scholars, including Karen H. Jobes (“Foreigners and Exiles: Was 1 Peter Written to Roman Colonists?”), Reinhard Feldmeier, (“Basis des Kontaktes unter Christen: Demut als Schlüsselbegriff der Ethik des Ersten Petrubbriefes”/ trans. “The Basis of Contact among Christians: Humility as the Key Concept of the Ethics of 1 Peter”), and David G. Horrell (“Das im Unglauben verharrende Judenvolk: 1 Peter 2:4-10, Its History of Interpretation in Germany (1855-1978), and the Important Contribution of Leonhard Goppelt”). For my personal research at this point, I am also hoping to study the essays by Lutz Doering on the significance of “Israel” in 1 Peter and Thomas Popp on the “Theology of Recognition” (i.e., in regard to the “elect strangers” of 1 Peter 1:1).

Mar 31, 2014

Academic journals accessible online: Part 3 (key foreign language journals)

The first post in this series focused on journals that would be beneficial to Christians in general, for any kind of research (e.g., gathering background info for your Sunday School lesson), while highlighting those available for free on-line. The second post focused on journals that grad students should be familiar with, depending upon their field of study, once again pointing out what was available on-line. Finally, this section will mention more obscure, foreign language journals that doctoral students might need to consult (at least 3 of these journals were cited in my own dissertation/forthcoming book). Please note that archive.org can be helpful as far as viewing older, public domain issues of some of the more long-lived journals.

One final comment. It goes without saying that doctoral students need to be citing foreign language sources in their papers, and quite a few foreign language articles and essays (but especially articles) should show up in his or her dissertation. You don’t have to be a genius to do this, but just persistent (working with a foreign language source would take me a lot more time than working with an equivalent English source, and it’s not like I was reading anything from start to finish, either!) Nevertheless, doctoral students need to be familiar with all significant research on their topic, not just what’s readable in their own language.

1. Archive für die Reformationsgeschichte. Website: click here.    Not available for free. Interestingly, however, older issues are viewable for free at archive.org (click here).

2. Biblica. Website is here, but issues are viewable for free here.

3. Biblische Zeitschrift. I struggled finding the actual website for this journal (might work on it later), but older issues may be viewable at archive.org, here.

4. Foi et Vie. Website is here. Could not find any options to view past issues.

5. Kerygma und Dogma. I don’t think I found the home website per se, but past issues may be purchased here.

6. Revue des sciences religieuses. Excellent! Full text issues are available up through 2009 (as of the time of this post). Go here

7. Revue d’histoire et de philosopie religieuses. Click here. In a reversal of the norm, articles since (not before) 2002 are available for free.

8. Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche wissenschaft. Click here. Articles must be purchased, but older issues may be viewable for free at archive.org (click here).

9. Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche wissenschaft. Click hereSame as above, articles must be purchased, but older articles viewable for free at archive.org (click here).

Feb 16, 2014

Academic journals accessible online: Part 2

We are fortunate to live in an age where you don’t necessarily need a quality seminary library to do serious study of Scripture, whether for personal benefit or for a class. In the previous post, I listed journals available online (for the most part broadly evangelical) that I thought would be beneficial even to those not going to seminary or grad school. Today, I am listing (with a minimum of commentary) journals for more academic study. Every grad student in seminary or other master’s degrees in Biblical Studies or theology should be familiar with and able to utilize these journals. Next post we’ll look at some of the more obscure yet important journals that will be beneficial to doctoral students.

So here we go (in alphabetical order), with links. Let me know if I’ve missed any that are important for MA/M.Div. level Biblical studies. Please note: I’m listing even journals that require a subscription or a purchase to view a back issue. I want students to be aware of the important journals, and $10 for a back issue may be worth it for a good paper grade, or a better understanding of a topic. In just a couple cases, articles do not seem to be viewable online at all (seriously, people, get with the times!)
Also note: a lot of the articles that are not free can be digitally “rented” for a 24-hour period for a reasonable fee.
Final, important note: obviously most of you don’t intend to take hours a day to browse through journals just to see if your topic comes up. The SAGE website offers a search engine, and many of the individual journal websites (e.g., Theological Studies) have a search engine for their own journal. The downside with SAGE is that you generally have to pay for articles you want to read.

The Bible Translator—click here.
All articles viewable for free through 2012.

Biblical Theology Bulletin—click here.
Available through the SAGE website. Unfortunately, purchase or a subscription is required to view back issues.

Catholic Biblical Quarterly—click here.
Unfortunately, a subscription is required to view back issues.

Evangelical Quarterly—click here.
Archived articles are viewable for free up until 2008. However, there are some broken links, and some earlier articles (e.g., 1930s) are not yet viewable.

Expository Times—click here.
Available through the SAGE website. Unfortunately, purchase or a subscription is required to view back issues.

Filologia Neotestamentaria—click here
Articles are viewable for free through 2008 (they haven’t updated this site in a while, but the archive links still work). May I admit a personal favorite, and recommend Jody Barnard’s excellent article on verbal aspect theory? (click here). It’s pretty much the main reason I have yet to buy in to verbal aspect theory à la Port, et al.

Harvard Theological Review—click here.
Unfortunately, articles must be purchased.

Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus—click here.
Unfortunately, individual articles must be purchased or rented.

Journal for the Study of the New Testament—click here.
Articles must be purchased or rented.

Journal for the Study of the Old Testament—click here.
Available through the SAGE website. Unfortunately, articles must be purchased or rented.

Journal of Biblical Literature—click here.
Sadly, I can’t figure out if back issues of this journal are viewable online or not, whether with purchase or for free. A pity, because this is the premiere journal of biblical studies (and has been in existence for 130+ years)

Journal of Semitic Studies—click here.
Articles must be purchased.

Journal of Theological Interpretation—click here.
Apparently not viewable at all online, except for a free sample issue. You can, however, view the titles of individual articles.

Neotestamentica—click here.
Articles are viewable for free up through 2000.

New Testament Studies—click here.
Purchase or rent required.

Novum Testamentum—click here.
Articles must be purchased.

Old Testament Essays—click here.
Articles are viewable for free through 2001.

Perspectives in Religious Studies—click here.
Sadly, there does not seem to be any way to view articles online (though you can look at the abstracts).

Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith—click here.
Basically every single issue is accessible for free! Wow! Some of the earlier ones are only available in HTML, and not PDF, but still, this is great!

Princeton Theological Review—click here.
Though a student-run journal, each issue is downloadable in its entirety for free (PDF format).

Reformed Theological Review—click here.
Articles must be purchased.

Review and Expositor—click here.
There does not seem to be any way to view articles online.

Scottish Journal of Theology—click here to search the journal.  Click here for list of contents.
Articles must be purchased.

Theological Studies—click here.
Articles available for free up to 5 years before the current issue. Also, this site contains its own search engine for the journal!

Theology—click here.
Available through SAGE, but articles must be purchased.

Theology and Science—click here.
Apparently articles are not viewable online (though the tables of contents are).

Theology Today—click here.
Apparently an archive is coming soon, but for now there doesn’t seem to be a way to view articles online.

Toronto Journal of Theology—click here.
Articles must be purchased.

Vetus Testamentum—click here.
Articles must be purchased.

Weslyan Theology Journal—click here.
Does not appear to be viewable online, though it does have a search engine.