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.

Jul 5, 2018

Didaktikos: A New Journal for Bible and Theology Teachers

[Normally I try not to make my blog sound like advertising, but since Didaktikos is a great resource for those interested in making a career out of theological studies, I figured it's worth mentioning]

For all full-time and part-time teachers out there, broadly connected with biblical and theological studies, I'd like to make you aware of the brand-new journal, Didaktikos. Billing itself as a "journal of theological education," Didaktikos is packed full with insightful articles on such topics as teaching bible and theology, what it means to be a theology teacher, developing future Christian leaders, etc. The editor is Douglas Estes, who plays an important role at Logos (Faithlife/Lexham press). Many of those featured in Didaktikos, as well as those on the editorial board, are all-stars in their field, including Karen H. Jobes, Grant Osborne, Mark L. Strauss, Edith M. Humphrey, and Darrell Bock.

The best news is, the journal is free to professors! Simply sign up for Logos' "Academic Status," which is free in of itself and includes a discount to Logos products and a free subscription to Didaktikos.

The journal began last year; the latest issue includes such articles as "Teaching and Virtue" (Douglas Estes), "Cultivating Leaders in the Arab World" (Elie Haddad), and "Explore New Avenues for Popular-Level Publishing" (Chad Hall). In addition, this issue features a segment on "Currents: Trajectories in Theological Education," while the main feature is an interview with Edith M. Humphrey (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) on "The Professing Life."

On a side note, Didaktikos is published by Faithlife, which runs Logos Bible Software. Since BibleWorks is sadly going out of business, both Logos and Accordance are offering "cross-over" packages to help those who own BibleWorks. This also means that instead of the "Big Three" of Bible software, we now have the "Big Two" (both of which have their strengths--I use both!)

Jun 22, 2018

Reflections on having taught "Reading and Syntax in the Prison Epistles"

This past Spring semester I had the privilege of teaching a graduate-level class, "Reading and Syntax of the Prison Epistles" (NT 531), for the first time at Baptist Theological Seminary (Menomonee Falls, WI). The prerequisite for the class was 5 semesters of Greek (including grad-level "Introduction to NT Exegesis").

For this class, I tried something different. Although my lectures covered all four books, each student was required to choose their own "track," the options being (1.) Ephesians, (2.) Philippians + Philemon, or (3.) Colossians + Philemon (the latter two options are about equal in length to the first five chapters of Ephesians). The "track" they choose to focus on determined:
1. The textbooks they would purchase
2. Their research paper (which culminated in a sermon outline and in-class presentation).
3. Their final exam (customized for each track)
4. Their article review (each student had to analyze an academic journal article by a scholar and present its pros and cons in class). 

For the required reading for Ephesians and Philippians, I had a general idea of what they should be interacting with, but for Colossians I initially had no clue. I am pleased to report, however, that David Pao's "Zondervan Exegetical Commentary" on Colossians is excellent, at the exegetical, theological, and practical level (I have noted in a previous post that this commentary even mentions the 1950 Wheaten Student Revival).

The required, main textbooks were:
1. For those on the Ephesians track: 
(a.) Harold Hoehner's stand-alone commentary (still the standard!) and 
(b.) Clinton Arnold's Zondervan Exegetical Commentary. 
2. For those on the Philippians track:
(a.) Gordon Fee's NICNT
(b.) The revised WBC by Hawthorne and Martin (2nd ed.; it was initially just Hawthorne's). I generally am not a fan of the WBC format or content (though Mounce on the Pastorals is one of the best), but I had heard good things about this particular commentary.
3. For Colossians (both of these commentaries also covered Philemon):
(a.) David Pao's Zondervan Exegetical Commentary
(b.) Douglas Moo's Pillar NT Commentary

In addition, there was plenty of supplemental reading required (to balance things out, I had the "Philippians" group read the "Philemon" section in N. T. Wright's small Tyndale commentary of  Colossians and Philemon).

Now, a couple random thoughts on the content of the class:
1. Gordon Fee's NICNT on Philippians remains, in my humble-but-opinionated-opinion, one of the greatest commentaries ever written. His treatment of Phil 2:1-11 is masterful.
2. Speaking of which, I had no idea until relatively recently just how significant the intertextuality of Phil 2:9-11 is, and the deeper sense it adds to Paul's message (here's a hint to get you started, dear reader: read Isaiah 45:23-24, preferably in the LXX if you are able to). Also, "All praise to Thee for Thou O King Divine" (Tucker) is a really, really cool song based off of this passage.
3. "Cosmic" is a key word when it comes to all the Prison Epistles. We should embrace it! The Jesus Christ of Paul's Prison Epistles does not wield authority only in the hearts of believers, or even on this earth, but over the entire Cosmos!
4. Gordon Fee's article "To What End Exegesis" is a great article to read to get started in this kind of class (all my students had to read it by the first day of class). It can be accessed here.
5. Markus Barth has some excellent material in his Anchor Bible commentary (all those on the Ephesians track had to read 50 pages from this). His discussion on Ephesians 5:25f is excellent. [Markus Barth is a much more profitable and edifying read than his father, in my humble-but-opinionated opinion, though with that radical statement I become an outcast to mainstream theological scholarship :) ]
6. The Greek "Skubala" is not a vulgarity, though it can certainly be a word with "shock value." Josephus uses the word about how you'd expect as the equivalent of simply "manure" or "excrement" (e.g., War 5.571) not in contexts where it would make sense as a vulgarity. So Paul in Phil 3:8 is not being "edgy", though he is certainly being "shocking."
7. Philippians 3:11-16 is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult passages to exegete in all of the prison epistles, though Col 1:24 comes in a close second.
8.This was really my first exposure at any level to an in-depth study of Colossians. I've come to the conclusion that the heretics Paul was opposing in the Epistle to the Colossians is probably some kind of a syncretic Torah-centric mysticism with elements of pagan mythology added [more-or-less; it's complicated!].
9. I shall end with this great quote from Scot McKnight's new NICNT (an occasionally helpful commentary, but not one I would use as a textbook; Pao's is much better, imo, but McKnight has some great quotes):
For McKnight, Colossians is about "Vision for the cosmos with Christ at center." Amen!

May 31, 2018

Humpty Dumpty and Biblical Interpretation

I have the privilege of teaching my favorite class, "Hermeneutics," twice a year (Spring and Summer School). Hermeneutics is, in a nutshell, "how one should handle the Bible." Quite often I feel that the question of "good" vs. "bad" hermeneutics is a matter of who is the master, the preacher or the inspired text (for Christians, the answer should be the latter!). To illustrate, I'd like to quote a famous section on lexical semantics (tongue-in-cheek!) from Lewis Carroll's book Through the Looking Glass:
Humpty Dumpty:
"As I was saying, that seems to be done right--though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now--and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents--"
"Certainly," said Alice.
"And only one day for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you."
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,'" Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't--till I tell you. I meant, 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,'" Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all."

The problem, of course, is that Humpty basically exalted himself above language, believing that he can "force" a meaning onto a word regardless of whether or not anybody else can or should recognize such a meaning.

The same problem occurs in preaching. Let me use Jesus' "Parable of the Good Samaritan" as an example (Luke 10:25-37).
Twice in my life I have heard bizarre takes on this parable, preached from a pulpit. The first case was the classic allegorical interpretation à la Augustine, where Jesus is the Good Samaritan, the victim is "everyman," the Levite is "organized religion," etc.

The second occurrence was more bizarre. The preacher said at the beginning, "Now I'm going to give you a new twist on this" (at which point I believe I literally put my head in my hands in despair), and then proceeded to give us an allegory on Christian sanctification where "Jerusalem" is the "spiritual Christian life," "Jericho" was "worldliness," or something along those lines (it got a bit blurry at that point; my memory is probably subconsciously suppressing the details).

Now, what's the problem with those two perspectives? The same problem as Humpty Dumpty had. Why? Because they were forcing their own meaning onto the text. They were declaring themselves the master, rather than the Spirit-inspired Word. This is clear when one considers that Jesus Himself has already given us the "point" and "application" of the parable (read Luke 10:36-37; dear reader, may we keep reading it until we get the point, then may we follow Jesus' command).

When preaching takes liberties with the text in such a manner, the result is an interpretation that comes not from the Word itself but from the preacher's rich and fertile imagination. Now, imagination is a good thing when it helps the preacher illustrate or contextualize the text, but not when it helps him come up with alternative meanings (I find it highly ironic that many very conservative preachers are basically post-modern in their approach to Scripture: "Here's what it means to me!")

One of the keys to proper hermeneutics, then, is something called "Reproducibility." I am drawing here from a fascinating blog post by Philip B. Stark on the Nature magazine website.
Stark states, "Science should be 'show me,' not 'trust me.'" I would say the same for hermeneutics. Every preacher should be able to demonstrate what a text means by methods that are, in theory, all available to his audience (even drawing on the original languages is, in theory, a reproducible piece of evidence; anybody can, with the right tools, check your claim that "this present tense verb implies this," or "this Greek word was used by the Greek OT to signify . . ." etc. ). In other words, a preacher should never have to say "trust me, this is what the text means, you're too unimaginative to check it out for yourself" (after all, remember what made the Berean Christians "more noble"? [Acts 17:11])

Consequently, if there's no way anybody in a preacher's audience could have possibly come up with that particular interpretation, despite having the same tools, then that preacher may in fact be preaching an invalid message, saying "thus saith the Lord, when the Lord hath not spoken" (Ezek 22:28). In other words, the fertile depths of one's own imagination is not where proper interpretation resides.

Let me demonstrate. Many interpreters have enjoyed reading Revelation 2-3 as representing different "eras" in church history, despite the fact that no evidence exists in the words of Rev 2-3 to indicate this (indeed, it's overly anglo-centric, as well; seeing Laodicea as the current era minimizes the suffering and poverty of genuine believers in China, India, etc.). Yet why stop there? How many potential interpretations can you, dear reader, force on those 7 churches (after all, you are the master of the text, are you not?) Here's a list to warm you up:
1. Seven types of church music (not original with me, sadly, though the next four are)
2. Seven types of Bible versions (your least favorite can be Laodicea! However, we are not starting a flame war about Bible translations on this blog)
3. Seven types of church youth group activities.
4. Seven types of Christian marriages (adds new meaning to "you have lost your first love . . .")
5. Seven types of Christian bloggers (feel free to link me to whichever "church" you feel appropriately describes this blog)

Where's the limit? Eventually, I hope, we would all get tired of this game and go back to the "radical" thought that each church was a literal church at the end of the 1st century, and that Jesus' message to each of them holds promises and warnings for all of us, no matter what era. Then we might begin to pay attention to what Jesus is actually saying (which would involve not ignoring verse 17 next time we preach on Laodicea).

This blog post has been something of an over-simplification, of course. It has not dealt with legitimate questions regarding the difference between "meaning" and "significance," the possibility of occasional "double-meaning" or "double-prophecy," proper contemporary application,  etc. But I trust I've made my point. If the meaning  somebody pulls out of the text could not have been arrived at by the audience (especially the original audience) through careful study, that meaning has more to do with one's imagination than with what the Holy Spirit intended.

For the interested reader, the (quite excellent) textbooks I use for my hermeneutics class are:
1. Grasping God's Word by Duvall and Hays,
2. Scripture Twisting by Sire

May 26, 2018

It's Out! My article in Evangelical Quarterly on 1 Peter and the hermeneutical value of social scientific criticism.

I am grateful that Evangelical Quarterly has just published an article of mine: Paul A. Himes, "First Peter's Identity Theology and the Community of Faith: A Test-Case in How Social-Scientific Criticism Can Assist with Theological Ethics Via Biblical Theology," Evangelical Quarterly vol. 89.2 (April 2018): 115-132.

I fully acknowledge that the title is not exactly the must conducive to generating interest!

However, what I'm trying to accomplish with this article is to show how the study of the social world of the audience of 1 Peter is actually relevant to Hermeneutics. My argument is that the author (Peter) responds to his audience's social world via biblical theology, and this can help us determine how to apply the biblical truths Peter develops in relation to our own world without misapplying and abusing Scripture.

Now, a word of encouragement for budding doctoral students wishing to publish. This article had a long, tortuous journey involving 2 complete rewrites, at least 2 significant revisions, and multiple rejections, before finally being accepted for publication by Evangelical Quarterly. The kernel for this article originally was planted in 2009 or 2010 as a submission to Word&World's student paper competition, where I focused on the Christian's relationship to the government; the paper did not win, but I did receive a free year's subscription to W&W for trying!

Then, fast-forward about 5-6 years. I totally rewrote the paper to focus more on "Identity Theology" in 1 Peter (material I had begun to explore in my dissertation), drawing on some new material recently published by Travis Williams on 1 Peter 2:13 that had changed the way I thought about that passage; I still kept the focus on "the Christian and government" and presented it at the "Bible Faculty Summit" in 2015 (rewrite #1). I then revised it and sent it in to "journal A", which rejected it so fast I figured my approach was completely wrong (for one thing, I believe I was focusing too much on attacking American exceptionalism).

I completely re-imagined and rewrote the paper once more (so: rewrite #2), this time relegating the topic of "the Christian and government" to the final section of the paper, envisioning it as the telos [goal] in a hermeneutical process that begins with "social scientific criticism," passes through "biblical theology," and then leads to ethics (and I found a great quote by Adolf Schlatter to start it off!) I then sent it to "journal B" at which point I made a tactical mistake, misunderstanding the nature of the journal (let's face it: I thought I knew what they meant by "theological interpretation of Scripture," but apparently I have no clue). I promptly sent it to "journal C," which also rejected it albeit more politely and with feedback for further revision.

So, then, with slightly more revision, I sent it in to Evangelical Quarterly, where it was tentatively recommended by the anonymous peer-reviewer, albeit not exactly with oodles of enthusiasm! Still, the article at least makes some kind of contribution to scholarship, so I'm grateful for EvQ and the opportunity to publish with them (this had been my first time sending a paper to EvQ). Normally my motto for submitting articles for publication is "3-strikes and I'm out" (i.e., if three journals reject it, the paper is probably not worth publishing). However, in this case, since the paper was a radically different paper than what "journal A" had rejected, I justified sending it to EvQ as my 3rd journal, and I'm glad I did! [For the record, EvQ gives pretty good feedback for revision, at least in my case]

Here's the point, for budding doctoral students and even those past doctoral studies that are working at getting published: keep working at it!  There is a point at which you should shelve a paper, but not until you receive a few unambiguous rejections (and even then, you may consider rewriting it and trying again elsewhere if you truly feel you have something worth publishing and have received positive feedback from objective academics).

Although my EvQ article is behind a paywall, if somebody wishes a copy they may e-mail me at phimes@gmail.com and I am allowed to provide them a pdf for personal/educational use. Here is the abstract [note the British spelling: "recognise" is not a typo]
"Evangelicals recognise that exegesis must ultimately lead towards ethics, or practical Christian living. Unfortunately, too often the roadmap for that process has been neglected, and the link between the two becomes disjointed. This article discusses SSC, biblical theology, and ethics in 1 Peter, but attempts to contribute to the discussion by showing how the three interrelate, in that the identity theology of 1 Peter represents a reaction to the social-religious circumstances of its audience. This reaction, in turn, naturally allows the author to transition into ethics for the Christian. By being aware of this interrelation (with biblical theology as the 'hinge’ between SSC and ethics), the modern Christian can properly apply 1 Peter’s theology to their own circumstances and avoid potential abuses."

Apr 27, 2018

Regarding academic journal articles, part 3--Journals that can be spiritually beneficial

In previous posts (here and here), I have discussed the importance of journal articles for academic research, including the top evangelical journals and the top journals for biblical academia overall (a ranking that is open to constant revision!). Now I'd like to discuss something a bit outside "normal" academia, namely specific journals that can challenge you spiritually (and by "challenge you spiritually," I don't mean "Good gravy, that's the worst heresy this side of Marcion! I must immediately post something on social media comparing it to Nazis!"; instead, I mean "Possess the potential to help me become a better servant of Jesus Christ").

1. Themelios: available here. My hat is off to this journal for offering an excellent blend of academic and practical. Although not devoid of solid academic articles (I'm thinking especially of Edward Glenny's ground-breaking discussion of different theological approaches to the LXX), this journal consistently publishes material that is meant to speak directly to the Christian's spiritual life. It trends towards the Reformed-Calvinistic side, but nonetheless has very helpful material even for those not of that theological persuasion (including myself!). Case in point: D. A. Carson ("the Albert Pujols of New Testament scholarship" [you may quote me on that]) writes an excellent mediation on "Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture in Our Lives."

2. Emmaus Journal: once again, an excellent hybrid of academic material and practical theology, published by the faculty of Emmaus Bible College. Back issues up until 2012 (as of this moment) are available on Galaxie Software. EMJ consistently deals with practical, church-oriented matters. Case in point: volume 13.2 (2004), the dialogue between Jay Swisher and Lisa Beatty on "What Kind of Music Does God Like?" (I greatly appreciate Lisa Beatty's gentle corrective to Jay Swisher that music being "intelligible" is very important!). Another example: David J. MacLeod in vol 21.1 (Summer 2012) offers a theological and practical discussion on Christian singleness (a discussion that has been often neglected).

3. Faith & Mission: this used to be the official journal of my own alma mater, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is no longer published, and has been more-or-less replaced by the Southeastern Theological Review, which probably has higher academic standards (and, too be fair, STR itself quite often has excellent articles). However, F&M had some excellent practical-minded, church-oriented articles, especially in the 2000s after the completion of the conservative resurgence. I think, for example, of David R. Beck's helpful theological and practical study of "Evangelism in Luke and Acts" in the Spring 2003 issue of Faith & Mission (vol. 20.2). F&M provides solid examples of scholarship combined with readability and practical value.

Plenty of other practically-minded journals exist, of course (for example, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Priscilla Papers both focus on the relationship of men and women and how that plays out in the church and in the home, although the two journals approach the matter from two radically different perspectives!). Furthermore, even among top-tier mainstream journals, occasionally an article will crop up that has practical ramifications. For example, the [in my humble-but-correct opinion] excellent article by Hae-Kyung Chang, "The Christian Life in a Dialectical Tension? Romans 7:7-25 Reconsidered" in Novum Testamentum 49 (2007), on the second page of the article, makes it clear that Chang's exegesis is directly concerned with the practical-theological ramifications of this passage for Christian counseling. [And, for the record, Chang's article convinced me of his position, broadly speaking; thus I cite his article favorably in my dialogue with Steven Cowan in JETS vol. 55.4].

In conclusion, "academic study vs. spiritual application" can be a false dichotomy. Reading academically may, in fact, benefit you spiritually.

On the humorous side, I conclude with this excellent quote by John Wesley, which I found in Dr. Beck's article discussed above. Wesley once received a letter from a man saying "The Lord has told me to tell you that he doesn't need your book learning, your Greek and your Hebrew." Wesley responded:
"Thank you sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need of my 'book-learning' as you put it. Howeveralthough the Lord has not directed me to say soon my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance either."

Apr 5, 2018

A Mention of the 1950 Wheaton College Revival in David Pao's Colossians Commentary

This year, I have the privilege of teaching "Reading and Syntax of the Prison Epistles" at the seminary level. I allow my students to choose which "track" they want to go on, which determines their textbook, their assignments, and even their final exam. For those who take the Ephesians track, I require  they purchase the commentaries by Harold Hoehner (standalone) and Clinton Arnold (Zondervan Exegetical), though I also require a certain amount of reading from Markus Barth's Anchor Bible commentary. For Philippians, I require Gordon Fee's classic NICNT commentary (still worth its weight in gold) as well as the revised WBC by Hawthorne and Martin. For Colossians, I require Douglas Moo's Pillar commentary and David Pao's Zondervan Exegetical Commentary.

Now, Baptist College of Ministry and Falls Baptist Church are revival-oriented, and I'd occasionally heard mention of a key student revival that had taken place at Wheaton College in 1950. I was surprised and delighted to find that David Pao actually discusses (in a positive way) this event in his fairly recent commentary. Even more significantly, he quotes a student from that era, a quote that provides evidence that this was not just a wide-spread emotional experience, but rather an event which had tangible results:
"Of the senior class, one-third of us became foreign missionaries. That's the only class in the history of the school with such a percentage. Other classes had one missionary or two or three. We had one hundred, and I think that's a very telling fact" (quoted on page 179 of Pao's commentary).

I do not, of course, have time on this blog to provide a deep exegetical or theological discussion on the nature of revival. I do want to say two things in closing, however: 1. the proof of any real work of the Spirit among the people of God will involve tangible results that benefit the local church or expand the kingdom; and 2. kudos to David Pao for a solid commentary that very much cares about the practical application of exegesis.

Mar 24, 2018

Beware of Archaism! Some positive thoughts on Mark Ward's new book Authorized: The Use and Abuse of the King James Bible (and further discussion)

Mark Ward is a scholar at Logos Bible Software and has a PhD from Bob Jones University. I have been acquainted with Mark for some time now and believe that he holds to a very balanced perspective on textual and translation issues, even when I don't necessarily agree with all he says. He has recently published Authorized: The Use and Abuse of the King James Bible (available on both Logos and Amazon Kindle). I believe this is a great book that deserves your consideration if you have any sort of ministry that involves preaching, teaching, and interpreting Scripture (this includes you, Mr., Mrs., or Miss Sunday School leader!), or if you are interested in Bible translation issues.

Now, before we look at what Mark has to say in his book, let me state that I, personally, am approaching this whole issue from the following perspectives: (1.) Byzantine priority perspective (à la Maurice Robinson, one of my mentors at Southeastern), that nonetheless has a high regard for the TR (which, as I explain to my students, is a branch of the Byzantine tree, though not identical with it), and (2.) A perspective that believes that the KJV is, all things considered, probably the best English translation in history to this point, but not inerrant or incapable of being criticized. The analogy I use with my students is that of quarterbacks--no quarterback in the NFL is perfect (that would take a supernatural work, and supernatural work has only occurred with the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic originals), but the KJV is, essentially, Aaron Rodgers (or, if you prefer, Tom Brady).

Now, back to Mark's book Authorized.
The strength of Mark Ward's book is that it focuses precisely on that area where even the most ardent traditionalists should be cautious, that of readability and archaism. Here Mark's book is golden: it examines, openly and honestly, the need to understand how language has changed in 400 years (or even 250 years, if we consider that the edition of the KJV we use is from 1769).

To be clear, this is not a minor matter. If, by misunderstanding what a word in the KJV means (or, rather, meant 250-400 years ago), I teach one thing when the apostle meant another, I am thereby guilty of saying "Thus saith the Lord" when, in fact, "the Lord hath not spoken" (Ezekiel 22:28), even if my intentions are pure. Ignorance can only go so far as an excuse. At the very least there should be an assumption that all preachers and Bible study leaders have made an attempt to figure out the meanings of words before teaching theology on the basis of what one thinks a word means. I am not talking about necessarily knowing Greek and Hebrew (though that helps). There are plenty of tools for the layperson to use that will help them understand a word in the KJV w/o knowing Greek and Hebrew (a topic for another time).

Two examples on archaism will suffice (Ward gives many, many more):
1. From my own experience: while leading a Sunday morning Bible study on James 3:1, in the part where we "put the verse into our own words," the word "masters" was understood as referring to slave/servant owners. Yet the Greek is didaskoloi, or "teachers" (there is no textual variant here). 400 years ago "master" could mean "teacher" (that is why, after all, many of us get "Masters degrees"!) Yet the language has changed. To teach this passage as referring to the concept of "one who owns slaves" would be to completely misunderstand and misrepresent the Apostle James.
2. And now a more significant example from Mark's book (page 44): "Before a wildly clapping and shouting audience, he [popular prosperity preacher  Rod Parsley] read the following statement out of the KJV, and it was projected on the television screen in front of him: 'And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine' (John 2:3 KJV). 'I'm tired,' Parsley preached, 'of the kind of sermons that promise that God will supply only your needs. That only goes halfway. This verse shows that God delights to give us not just what we need, but what we want!'"
The problem, of course is that the Greek reads kai husterēsantos oinou, "and whey they lacked wine . . .." Four hundred years ago "want" in the King James meant "lacked" (cf. Psalm 23:1!); thus "when they lacked wine" was (for 1611) a good translation. It is not, however, an adequate translation in 2018, because the language has changed!!

Let me reiterate: to teach John 2:3 as if it is referring to desire ("want"), on the basis of our reading of the King James (a reading that actually misunderstands the language of the King James) is to misinterpret and abuse Scripture, and thus become guilty of what Ezekiel 22:28 is condemning.

Mark Ward's book is valuable because it demonstrates just how easy it is to do this on the basis of archaic language (often without our even realizing it!)

Now, what is the solution? For some churches (such as my own), the solution is not that we stop using the King James. However, even in our case, even as we preach and teach from the King James, we must be aware of, and explain, archaic language. Our final authority lies with the original intention of the Apostolic and Prophetic authors, not the language of the King James. Once again, even though we respect the King James as the "Aaron Rodgers" of Bible translations, our final authority lies with the original Greek words of the Apostles, not the English words of Anglicans (be they ever so intelligent or articulate!)

Practically speaking, what this means is that every preacher of the Word, and every Bible study leader must be aware of anachronisms and properly interpret the words according to the original intent of the inspired author. Failure to do so is to abuse God's word (hence the title of Mark's excellent book). Today there are a plethora of tools (many available online at blueletterbible.org) that can enable anybody to do that, even without a Bible-college degree (maybe I'll post on that sometime in the future!). In other words, ignorance is no excuse.
[To to those who wish to comment: All comments are moderated before posted, so please make a courteous contribution to the discussion, or ask a legitimate question, or it may not be posted]

Mar 8, 2018

Introducing the new Master of Arts in Bible Translation at Baptist Theological Seminary

I am pleased to report that Baptist Theological Seminary (Menomonee Falls, WI), where I teach, is now officially offering a 40-credit "Master of Arts in Bible Translation."

On the one hand, this could be viewed as a variant on our Master of Arts in Bible, since we retain the theology classes, NT Intro and OT Intro, etc. So this is not a MA focusing exclusively on translation.
We have essentially added on four classes, however:
1. Bible Translation Theory and Practice
2. Morphology and Syntax
3. Translation Linguistics and Discourse Analysis
4. Translation Issues in Greek and Hebrew
Each student also has to have 1 year of Hebrew (Grammar and Syntax/Exegesis) and one semester of Introduction to New Testament Exegesis (basically 3rd year Greek; 2 years of Greek is required to to start seminary here).
Also, we require "Language Acquisition I and II" (or similar 3-credit courses in linguistics) as pre-requisites to take the MA.

I feel our teaching crew for this MA is just the right blend of academics and hands-on work.
1. My father was a missionary for 30+ years in Japan, at one point was teaching Koine Greek to Japanese students in Japanese (how many scholars can brag they taught Greek in a language other than their native tongue?), and, most importantly, has spearheaded a new translation of the Greek NT into Japanese (rough draft has been out for a while; final draft of John and Romans is being distributed right now). My father has a  master's from Maranatha Baptist University and is currently working on his D.Min. He is teaching "Bible Translation Theory and Practice" and splitting the class  "Translation Issues in Greek and Hebrew" with me (I do the Hebrew, he does the Greek).
2. In addition to assisting my father on his new translation, I have a PhD in New Testament from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (under NT/Greek scholar David Alan Black) and have had articles published in a variety of journals, including The Bible Translator.
3. Kathy Birnschein is finishing up a Master's in linguistics from the prestigious Summer Institute of Linguistics (her specialty is Hmong), teaches Spanish in our academy (as well as language acquisition in our college), and will teach: 1. Morphology and Syntax, and 2. Translation Linguistics and Discourse Analysis.

Now, BCM (and and our seminary, BTS) is somewhat of a niche school, with a very specific philosophy of ministry and a preference towards a formal-equivalence translation philosophy (i.e., KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB), with a strong preference for a TR or Byzantine text-base (personally, I am a follower of Maurice Robinson's Byzantine approach). Anybody interested should check us out here.

Feb 17, 2018

Did Markus Barth anticipate the NPP in his Ephesians commentary?

[Warning: much of what is posted here is a bit of an over-simplification, but space precludes a fair treatment of all of the issues involved in the NPP!]

In the New Testament Intro seminary class that I teach, we spend a significant amount of time discussing the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). My take is mostly negative, i.e., I disagree with most of what the NPP brings to the table (I was there for the 2010 ETS debate in Atlanta and, in my humble but opinionated opinion, the best response to N. T. Wright's take on the NPP and his view of justification is the address delivered by Thomas R. Schreiner, revised and published here)

However, having said that, there are a couple places where I believe the NPP is correct. For example, the NPP rightly showed us that Judaism in the Second Temple period was, at the least quite often, a "religion of grace" (dear reader, please take a look at the "Prayer of Manasseh" sometime--it's an absolutely beautiful plea for forgiveness hinging on nothing more than the pure grace of God!)   In other words, to say that Judaism, as an entity, was legalistic is to build a straw man (now, the NPP does swing the pendulum too far to the other side, because some of Second Temple literature [e.g., Tobit 12:9; Mishnah Avot 3:16] did give us the sort of "works-righteousness" that Paul [Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5] and the Reformers opposed).

To reiterate, then: the NPP is at its strongest when it is pointing out that we should not build a "strawman" that characterizes all of 2nd Temple Judaism as legalistic/works-righteousness-oriented.

So, imagine my surprise when, while reading Markus Barth's magisterial Anchor Bible commentary on Ephesians, vol. 1, page 248 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974), a book which predates Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism (generally considered to mark the beginning of the NPP) by three years, I found the following statement by M. Barth:

"Therefore, it is misleading (and probably nothing less than slanderous) to consider 'justification by works of law' a doctrine that is distinctly and typically Jewish and basically maintained by all Jews. Jews are not, as it were by definition, Pelagians. Augustine's and Luther's deep insights into Paul's doctrine of grace and the successful use they respectively made of Paul's anti-'Judaistic' utterances when condemning Pelagius and medieval concepts of meritorious works have led Paul's interpreters to a caricature of 'the Jews' which is not supported by historical and literary evidence. 'The Jews,' including the early Judaeo-Christian congregation, have been falsely accused of representing a doctrine of salvation in opposition to Paul's. If Paul really intended to strike at the Jews in the polemical excursus of Eph 2:8-9, it is inconceivable that he could speak as positively of the reconciliation of Israel and the Gentiles as he does in 1:11-14; 2:11-22; 3:6." (emphasis added)

Now, in so far as this paragraph goes, it is golden, and represents the strongest point of the NPP, even before the NPP truly began: "Jews are not, as it were by definition, Pelagians." Markus Barth's words should warn us not to broad-brush an entire group so carelessly, especially when the NT writers themselves were (almost all) Jewish. Interestingly, on page 248 Barth cites the Tübingen School (e.g., F. C. Baur) as representing the school of thought that sees "all Jews (except Jesus and Paul) guilty of the teaching repudiated by Paul." To the extent that the NPP is pushing back against that, I believe the NPP is correct (though as I noted above they swing the pendulum too far to the other side sometimes!) Also, for the record, I disagree with Barth's view that "works" in Eph 2:9 is"works of the Law" like in Galatians (p. 244). Surely a generic "works," without contextual qualifiers, is broader than "works of the Law"! But I digress.

On a closing note: I have a much higher opinion of Markus Barth than his father Karl Barth. Markus' message to us about a husband's duty in Ephesians 5 is something his father, apparently, did not always live up to (i.e., as we see in the recently translated correspondence). Also, Markus Barth's Acquittal by Resurrection remains one of my favorite books, as it absolutely demolishes the  idea that one can be truly Christian without the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ.