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.

Mar 11, 2017

2017 Midwest Regional ETS meeting (Wheaton, IL)

I have just returned from the excellent 2017 regional meeting for the midwest chapter of the Evangelical Theological Society. This year's theme, which dovetailed nicely with last year's theme, was "Evil and the Suffering of God," with excellent and thought-provoking presentations by Dr. Andrew J. Schmutzer (Moody Bible Institute), Dr. Paul K. Moser (Loyola University), and Dr. Marc Cortez (Wheaton College).

The best line of the conference was by Dr. Schmutzer: "Apparently God is allowed to do things in Scripture that he's not allowed to do in systematic theology!" [in reference to the lamenting of God in Scripture]

For the first time, I had the privilege of participating as a judge in the student paper competition (for the undergrad side). Kudos to Kory Eastvold of Lincoln Christian University for winning the prize for undergrad students with his paper on "'What, Then, Shall We say': The Interpretation of Romans 4:1."

My own paper (attended by a grand total of 8 or so šŸ˜„ ) was entitled, "First Peter's Identity Theology and the Community of Faith: Tracing the Trajectory from Social Scientific Criticism to Biblical Theology and on to Theological Ethics."

The most helpful paper that I attended (besides the plenary addresses), in my opinion, was by David Wenkel (Moody Bible), "Eliciting an Intellectual Faith: The Paradox of High Christology in Hebrews 1:1-14." Wenkel explored the role of "paradox" within the logical argumentation of Hebrews. However, I also especially benefited from Dane Ortlund (from Crossway Books), "The Role of Teaching in Marks' Gospel" (a neglected topic since everybody always focuses on Mark as the "action" Gospel).

Also appreciated (with cordial disagreement in some cases šŸ˜„) was my friend Tim Miller's paper on "Reformed Theodicy: John Calvin on the Problem of Evil" (Tim teaches at Detroit Theological Seminary) and Tim's student, Jonathan Moreno, "A Good God in a Wicked World: Considering the Problem of Evil" (congrats to Jonathan for placing in the student paper competition for the grad level!)

As always, I appreciate the privilege of presenting a paper and pondering other papers, the fellowship, and the challenging plenary addresses (most of us presenting papers are "minor leaguers," but the plenary speakers are the major leaguers, and they always challenge me to think!)

Feb 21, 2017

The Difference between "Inspiration" and "Preservation"

I had the awesome privilege over this past weekend of ministering at Logansport, Indiana, to Hillcrest Baptist Church (with Pastor Brandon Hudson, an old Maranatha classmate of mine!). I basically gave a seminar on "How we got our Bible." The people were great, very gracious, and I had a blast!

I tried to emphasize the need to avoid both the extreme of "preservation is not taught in Scripture" and that of "preservation only applies to the King James Bible." [For a decent overview of which Scriptures passages do, and probably do not, teach preservation, see William Combs' article here]. In the process, I emphasized some key differences between the two:

1. Is supernatural (personally, directly guided by the Holy Spirit),
2. Cannot involve mistakes, 
3. Involved special people, 
4. Does not continue once the Canon is completed,
5. Involved three languages.

1. Uses secondary means (may be Spirit-led, but not Spirit-inspired; people led by the Spirit still obviously make mistakes),
2. Involves human mistakes (see, for example, 2Kings 22:8; either human error or malicious intent had let to the Word of God being temporarily set aside; however, it was not permanently lost and cannot be permanently lost),
3. Involves all Christians everywhere (of various competency!)
4. Continues until Jesus' 2nd Coming (and maybe beyond?)
5. Involves all languages

The take-away from this is that you, personally, dear Christian, are involved in preservation (i.e., it's not something unique to the KJV translators, or those of any other translation, for that matter). Every time you quote Scripture to a brother or sister in Christ, every time you teach your children God's Word, every time you witness to a co-worker, every time you memorize the Bible--in all those instances, you, personally, are involved in preservation (regardless of how "good" or "competent" you are, and regardless of whether or not you make mistakes).
So, Christian, get busy preserving God's Word!

I leave you with this quote which demonstrates that the King James translators themselves had solid grasp of the fact that their new translation was not the only preserved Word of God:
"Now to the latter we answer, that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English set forth by men of our profession contained the word of God, nay, is the word of God: as the King's speech which he uttered in Parliament, being translated in French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King's speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with the like grace, nor peradventure, so fitly for phrase, or so expressly for sense, everywhere." 
(From “The Translators to the Reader,” the preface to the King James Bible)

Jan 28, 2017

Peer-Reviewed Journals Pt 1 (and the benefits of Galaxie Software for the seminary student)

Anybody can publish (especially in an age of “e-publishing” and “self-publishing”), but whether or not what is written is worth reading is another matter altogether. For theological and biblical research, graduate school demands the highest quality of sources. This is where the concept of “peer-review” comes in to play. If a book or article has been “peer-reviewed,” this means that established scholars have read it and rendered a verdict as to its academic quality and contribution to scholarship (regardless of whether or not they agree with it). This provides a standard that (at least in theory) weeds out sloppy work, false information, and material that simply rehashes what others have said. While not a perfect system, this provides “quality assurance” at the academic level (though obviously not at the spiritual level).
            Most peer-reviewed journals are “anonymous” peer-review, which means that the articles were evaluated solely on the basis of content, not authorship. This eliminates favoritism and bias (in theory, any seminary student could be published in a mainstream journal if their work was up to par). In my next post, I will list the most important journals for graduate students to be aware of and utilize.
Many of these journals, especially the top-tier journals, are behind a “paywall,” which means they are not accessible for free unless an institution has an ATLA database subscription or something similar (ours does not). However, some journals are “partial paywall,” which means all but the last couple volumes are accessible for free online. For example, at https://www.ibr-bbr.org/bulletin-biblical-research you can access all volumes of the Bulletin for Biblical Research up through 2011. For journal websites that allow such access, my former student David Dzimianski has shown me how to search for key words and topics via google. For example, to search BBR for any articles that discuss “angels” you would type the following:   site:www.ibr-bbr.org filetype:pdf angels   Also, some journals that are “partial paywall” may not be accessible on the official website, but may be accessible through http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/articles_evangelical_quarterly.php (e.g. Evangelical Quarterly) or related sites.
            Finally, “Galaxie Software” (http://www.galaxie.com), for a recurring charge of only $5 a month, will give you fully searchable access to all or almost all of the volumes of the top evangelical journals. I believe “Logos” offers a similar option (though I am not sure if it is more expensive or cheaper than Galaxie). Also, just recently, Galaxie software added some sort of compatibility with Zotero software (I'll confess the technical details are beyond me; I don't use Zotero yet).
           I have strongly urged my seminary students to subscribe to Galaxie Software's journal library. At present they have a incredible 37 journals, fully-searchable (a few of them will not have the last two years or so available, but those become available over time). All of these are confessional journals, which means they are published by schools or organizations who would self-identify as Christian (I think almost all of them evangelical). On the one hand, the top-tier journals will be lacking (Journal of Biblical Literature, New Testament Studies, etc.). However, almost all the top evangelical journals (many of which are cited by mainstream publications, not just evangelical publications) are included, including the top two evangelical journals in the world, Tyndale Bulletin and Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (well, the top two according to my humble but correct opinion, at least!). In addition. other top academic evangelical journals include Bulletin for Biblical Research, Trinity Journal, Westminster Theological Journal, Bibliotheca Sacra, etc. At the academic level, the only major evangelical journals not included here, in my opinion, are Expository Times and Evangelical Quarterly.
      Not all journals in Galaxie's collection are of equal quality, of course (and some of them are more valuable for nostalgia or historical studies than academics per se). Having said that, there are a number of journals that, while less academic, are immensely helpful for pastoral studies or even personal spiritual reflection. In this category I would include Emmaus Journal, Faith and Mission (though since replaced with the more academic Southeastern Theological Review, also included in Galaxie), Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry (has some helpful material for non-Baptists, too, in my opinion), and Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry.
    Finally, for those interested in the debate on gender roles within evangelicalism, Galaxie Journals includes both sides with 1. Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Complementarian) and 2. Priscilla Papers (Egalitarian).
   At $5 a month, this is an incredible valuable resource for any seminary students or pastors who take their study time seriously (case-in-point: for a series of classes on the Trinity I'm presenting at Falls Baptist for the layman and laywoman, I have already utilized three journal articles I accessed via Galaxie for my research).
    Next post I will discuss what are the top-tier journals that graduate students and especially doctoral students need to have access to.

Jan 11, 2017

The latest, greatest, survey of scholarship on the Pastoral Epistles (C. Bumgardner, in the fine tradition of I. Howard Marshall)

For years, British NT scholar I. Howard Marshall was "the Man" when it came to surveys of scholarship on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (while contributing a substantial amount himself). Sadly, Dr. Marshall passed away recently, but it seems the baton has been passed on [unofficially] to my good friend Charles J. ("Chuck") Bumgardner, who is studying the Pastorals under Dr. Andreas J. Kƶstenberger at Southeastern Seminary (and had corresponded with Dr. Marshall before he passed away).

So, the latest issue of the Southeastern Theological Review, vol. 7.2 (Winter 2016), has soon-to-be-doctor Bumgardner's "Paul's Letters to Timothy and Titus: A Literature Review (2009-2015)." Bumgardner covers commentaries (including major foreign-language commentaries), articles, and essays.  This is not just a list: Bumgardner includes plenty of comments that will give the reader excellent insight into the current debates and scholarly trends of the PE.

Bumgardner spends a significant amount of space discussing Robert Wall's new commentary (Two Horizons; written with Richard Steele), Andreas J. Kƶstenberger's soon-to-be-released volume in the Biblical theology for Christian Proclamation series, Michel Gourgues' French commentary, the Cornerstone commentaries by Linda Belleville and Jon Laansma, and Aƭda BesanƧon Spencer's New Covenant commentary.

In addition, my takeaways from this literature review are that the following books are very significant: 1. Rick Brannan's Second Timothy: Notes on Grammar, Syntax, and Structure, which according to Bumgardner "frequently engages Runge's discourse grammar" (which is a very important work that all Greek profs should own); 2. Dillon Thornton's Hostility in the House of God: An Investigation of the Opponents in 1 and 2 Timothy; 3. Gary Hoag's Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy, and 4. the collection of essays in Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul's Theology in the Pastoral Epistles (eds. Andreas J. Kƶstenberger and Terry Wilder), a book which I personally own and have benefitted from.

(pardon the finger)
Actually, this entire issue of Southeastern Theological Review (edited by Dr. Benjamin Merkle, under whom I also had the privilege of taking Pastoral Epistles at the doctoral level) is dedicated to the Pastoral Epistles, with another article by Bumgardner on "Kinship, Christian Kinship, and the Letters to Timothy and Titus" and those others that you can see on the photo (the one article that you can't see in the photo is by Gregory J. Stiekes, "Paul's Family of God: What Familial Language in the Pastorals Can and Cannot Tell Us about the Church").

So anyways, this is a must-have issue of Southeastern Theological Review for anybody studying or teaching the Pastoral Epistles. Keep up the good work, Chuck!

Dec 26, 2016

Upcoming Review of N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began

This Christmas I received from my gracious parents a copy of N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus' Crucifixion (click here for the Amazon link). N. T. Wright is one of the most prolific and influential biblical scholars of the 21st century, and I have both immensely benefited from and strongly disagreed with his writings (indeed, I tell my seminary students that N. T. Wright is absolutely golden when dealing with the Resurrection, or skewering the Jesus Seminar, but much less helpful on Pauline theology. I identify much more strongly with the balanced views of Thomas Schreiner or Frank Thielman when it comes to the New Perspective, while also being appreciative of the work of Michael Bird).

In my opinion, Wright's masterful development of biblical theology is both his biggest strength and biggest weakness: on the one hand, he helps us see the "big picture" on so many theological concepts that we have neglected (i.e., we get so caught up in our Christian cliches such as "I'm going to spend eternity in heaven when I die" that we totally miss the point of biblical eschatology, namely Jesus Christ's victory over death and how we will be resurrected to spend eternity on the New Earth and the New Jerusalem; Wright is a healthy corrective to this). On the other hand, his own vision of biblical theology causes him to neglect key texts that don't quite fit with his big picture (in this regard, I especially recommend the excellent article by Josh Chatraw, "Balancing Out (W)right: Jesus' Theology of Individual and Corporate Repentance and Forgiveness in the Gospel of Luke," JETS 55.2 (2012), readable here.

I'm not totally sure what to expect with this book, but I anticipate an entertaining and provocative read. I'm hoping to approach this book from a more-or-less neutral position, an independent Baptist who appreciates much of broader scholarship, including Wright's work, while also disagreeing with some of it. In other words, I approach this book as neither a N. T. Wright "fanboy" nor a "N. T. Wright is Su-Per-Wrong" detractor. At the very least, I anticipate much quotable material that attempts to shake up the status quo of evangelical Christianity while being adamantly opposed to liberal theology!

Nov 12, 2016

Religious liberty for all (including Muslims); or, "How voting for Trump as a defender of religious liberty may come back to haunt Evangelicals"

As with many Christians, I have mixed feelings about this year's election. On the one hand, I do view Hillary Clinton as the enemy of religious freedom, somebody who would gladly make it illegal to hold the views I do (see this article for further details and a link to a video of Hillary Clinton herself). Also, I am grateful for election results in Wisconsin that would seem to protect freedom of conscience somewhat.

Having said that, I did not vote for Donald Trump, and I believe those that see him as a defender of religious liberty may have forgotten that Trump himself has already laid the groundwork for persecution of Christians.

Many Christian Americans, of course, see freedom of religion as one of the key defining characteristics of a great nation, and I would agree (though I would stop short of declaring America a Christian nation on this basis). Yet Donald Trump himself is on record as saying that he would ban Muslims from entering the country. I wish to stress here, the reason for such exclusion is irrelevant! The very fact that one who holds to a particular religion can be excluded from participating in American society, judged only on the basis of holding to that particular religion, means that whatever reasons are behind such a decision can also be used to justify excluding evangelical Christians from American society.

Consider the following: one may argue that Islam promotes violence, and thus should be excluded from American society. If this is argued successfully, and results in Islam being banned, then we have established the basic scenario where a religion can be banned in America. If that's the case, then all one has to do is make a case that evangelical Christianity, also, promotes violence, and presto, one may no longer be an evangelical Christian (already evangelical Christianity is being accused of hate speech, so it is hardly that large a leap from one to the other).

The point is not which religions actually promote violence and which do not. The point is that the minute anything becomes the basis for excluding a religion from American society, we have also provided a logical basis for evangelical Christianity itself to become punishable in America.

Consequently, to any Christians reading this blog: by turning a blind eye to Trump's statements regarding Muslims and American society, we are also sowing the seeds for our own persecution. In addition, as Christians we are supposed to be witnessing to Muslims. Given the difficulty of entering many strongly Islamic country like Iran, the best opportunity for many Christians to fulfill this part of the Great Commission is to befriend and dialogue with them here in America. How can this happen if our President refuses to allow them into American society?

I close with a happy thought in the midst of this dismal election, where the so-called "lesser two evils" (who actually matches much of the description of 2Timothy 3:1-4 pretty well) won. Despite all that has happened, God is still King!

Oh, one more thing: no matter what you may think of your elected officials, pray for them! (1Timothy 2:1-4)

Oct 13, 2016

Free from the anxiety of politics: reflections on a practical aspect of 1 Peter 2:16

Like many evangelical Christians, I've come to the conclusion that this year's US presidential election offers basically the worst two choices in the history of the country. On the one hand
[warning: tongue in cheek comments to follow, but only slightly tongue in cheek], 
if Trump gets elected we'll be embroiled in a thermonuclear war within the year, and the whole country will go bankrupt (hey, if he can't keep a Casino with his name running, how can he keep the country afloat?); not to mention giving evangelical Christianity a bad testimony due to our traditional support of the Republican party (Jimmy Carter notwithstanding). On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton is elected, folks like me will probably be thrown in jail for not being "progressive" enough in our Christianity (i.e., for daring to suggest that God made only two genders!).

Fortunately, First Peter has the solution. Written to a group of (literal and spiritual) strangers, the Apostle articulates how, in Christ Jesus, we are all part of a "holy nation," a "royal priesthood," etc. (2:9). In other words, the Christian's first and foremost loyalty is to a different nation, not the United States, or New Zealand, or Japan, or anything else.

This theological social-spiritual identity (both "new nation" and "strangers"), then, becomes the basis for ethics in 1 Peter (2:11 through much of the rest of the epistle). Peter urges us to honor all humans, in the process not-so-subtly asserting (in both vv. 13 and 17) that the Emperor himself should be respected only as another human, not as a demi-god, the "savior of the kosmos" that some were heralded as (see Travis Williams, "The Divinity and Humanity of Caesar," ZNW, for further discussion).

I'd like to focus on one fascinating word here: "free" (2:16). I believe Friedrich Schroger, in his book Gemeinde im 1. Petrusbrief ("Church/Community in 1 Peter") absolute nails it with this quote (forgive my rough translation from the German):
"The Christian is 'free' because he expects nothing from Caesar or from the governor, but all from the Lord--not from 'Lord Caesar,' but from 'Lord Christ.' The criteria and requirement for what is here meant as 'freedom' is that one is free from the anxieties of his own salvation, he stands completely in the favor of God, and he is free from anxiety in his interaction with humankind" (pages 147-148).

My Christian friends, Peter's concept of "freedom" does not mean "freedom to vote." Rather, it means "freedom to continue on as God's child and emissary no matter who wins the stinking election!" I.e., we do not depend on any political outcome to keep us free or to ensure are mental well-being. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can threaten our freedom in Jesus Christ--so what's the point in worrying? Have we forgotten that Peter, Mary, Luke, not to mention Jesus himself, lived under a tyrannical empire that routinely crucified its enemies, exposed infants to die on the hilltop, and reveled in such lascivious excess it would make a night in Las Vegas resemble an episode of "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood"? Yet Peter, Mary, and the others remembered something that we've forgotten: it's not our responsibility to change the word [i.e., "America"]; rather, it's our responsibility to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as emissaries of a different, much more sacred, nation! 

Now if, in the process of doing so, we can act as good stewards of our inherited democracy and so influence our nation in order to live "quiet and peaceable lives," so be it. Personally, I doubt either Trump or Clinton will help us achieve that goal, but whatever. The bottom line is, to paraphrase Schroger, no matter who wins, we are still "free" from anxiety; we owe nothing to any president, we still have a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, and we don't need to worry about how to relate to the world around us. Simply be a Christian, a child of the kingdom, and stop worrying about what happens to America. It's not really important in the grand scheme of things (the Lord said, "the nations are as a drop in the bucket," Isaiah 40:15) except to the extent that it helps or hinders the spread of the Gospel (and the Gospel might just as well spread better under more hostile circumstances). 

This also means, since I am "free" from worrying about the outcome of any political election, I am now free to vote my conscience. And contra a blog post I read recently, following my personal conscience means that if I know that my plumber or dentist or whatever was sexually harassing women and bragging about it, my personal conscience would not allow me to give them business no matter how good they were. How much more so with a president? [For the record, I won't judge anybody for voting for Trump! All I'm saying is vote your conscience, especially considering the issue of Christian testimony]

Cited sources:
Schroger, Friedrich. Gemeinde im. 1. Petrusbrief: Untersuchungen zum Selbstverstandnis einer christilichen Gemeinde and er Wende vom 1. zum 2. Jahrhundert. Katholische Theollgie 1. Passau: Passavia Univertatslag, 1981.

Williams, Travis B. "The Divinity and Humanity of Caesar in 1 Peter 2,13--Early Christian Resistance to the Emperor and His Cult." Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft vol. 104 (2014).

See also Paul A. Himes, Foreknowledge and Social Identity in 1 Peter (Eugene, OR: Wipf&Stock, 2014) for further discussion of social-spiritual identity in 1 Peter (chs. 2 and 6). Click here.