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 27, 2011

Recent journal articles and some thoughts on publishing

For those readers who are interested in scholarly contributions to theology but don't have time to browse their local seminary library, here's a few articles that I think are noteworthy (granted, this subjective selection reflects my own interests and bias. Can't apologize for that, though!)

Before we begin, however, I'd just like to express my gratefulness to the Lord for bringing my parents safely back to the states from a term of service as missionaries in Japan. This past week has been the first time in 6 and a half years I have actually spent time with both my parents at one time, the first time all three of us have been together (they have both taken separate, very short trips to the US in that time, but I only got to see one or the other for a few short days)

Another quite unrelated thought: in light of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I'd like to direct the reader to an excellent piece by Allan Bevere on "What Pastors Should Say on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11":
http://www.allanbevere.com/2011/09/what-should-pastors-say-on-tenth.html    He concludes with the powerful statement, "This Sunday is an appropriate time to remind God's people that in Jesus Christ God plans to put this world to rights, and that evil will, in God's own time, be defeated-- the evil that impinges upon us and the evil we perpetrate. Despite what happens in life, in the end, God will get God's way."

Now, on to a potpourri of journal selections, and then a quick discussion of peer review and the power of encouragement!
We start with what,  for me at least, is a somewhat surprising source, the journal Word & World vol 31.3 (Summer 2011). On the one hand the journal is always well-written, but generally its pieces don't interest me as well and are too far away from me theologically (though I am fortunate and grateful to have gotten a free subscription for this past year). However, this latest issue has a wealth of fascinating articles on Bible translation. David Burke starts us off with "The Enduring significance of the King James Version," where he examines both the history and the methodology of the translation and those involved with it. Mary Jane Haemig discusses "Luther on Translating the Bible," an accessible discussion that pays special attention to Luther's own words on his translation methodology. In addition, Bohdan Hrobon, in "The Kralice Bible: Czech-mate to the KJV," gives us a look into the history of the Czechoslovakian "Kralice Bible" (articles on the history of non-English Bible translations are hard to come by!) while Steven J. Kraftchick gives us both a theoretical and practical discussion of  Bible translation with his article, "Mr. Johnson's Axiom: Thoughts on the Tasks of Translation and Preaching." The issue contains  other articles relevant to Bible translation and/or ministry, but I'd like to especially point out and congratulate  Michal Beth Dinkler from Harvard for her winning student essay "Telling Transformation: How We Redeem narratives and Narratives Redeem Us" (doctoral students take note: even a essay that fails to win might still get you a year's subscription to the journal! It's a contest worth entering, regardless).

Next we turn to Bulletin for Biblical Research volume 21 (July 2011). While all five of the journal articles here are interesting (and also let me give a shout-out to my friend Alex Stewart's review of Joseph Mangina's commentary on Revelation), I must point out that possibly for the first time ever we have three consecutive articles written by Southeastern Seminary authors (including my own first attempt at a contribution) in a non-Southeatern journal.  The first article, by Dr. Heath Thomas (OT prof at SEBTS), examines "Building House to House (Isaiah 5:8): Theological Reflection on Land Development and Creation Care." Here  Dr. Thomas carefully explores the theological significance of Isaiah 5:8-10. Newly graduated  Dr. Keith Campbell writes on "NT Scholars' Use of OT Lament terminology and its Theological and Interdisciplinary Implications" where he laments (no pun intended) the  inconsistency among NT scholars in their labeling of certain texts as "lament" without evidencing an awareness of OT scholarship on the definition of lament, esp. the work of Hermann Gunkel. Finally, my own contribution ("Peter and the Prophetic Word: The Theology of Prophecy Traced through Peter's Sermons and Epistles")  attempts to link the Petrine material in Acts with 1 and 2 Peter in order to develop a "Petrine Theology of Prophecy."

My own interests in both 1 Peter and Koine Greek drew me to The Westminster Theological Journal vol 73 (Spring 2011), where Travis B. Williams is "Reconsidering the Imperatival Participle in 1 Peter." Williams ultimately argues against the idea that the imperatival participle somehow represents a "softer" appeal than the imperative mood itself. Williams concludes by stating, “[we] address[ed] the question of whether or not individual authors (in particular, the author of 1 Peter) used the form because it communicated something different than the finite imperative. But even this was a dead end. As we examined each usage in the context of the Petrine argument, not set patterns are developed. It appears right alongside finite forms with no distinguishable disparity. Overall, it would appear that there is little, if no, added connotation in the participle form.” (77). This is definitely one article I hope to keep in the back of my mind in order to examine Williams' thesis more thoroughly when I get the opportunity.

In The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54 (June 2011), we are still seeing articles appearing as a result of last years fantastic national conference in Atlanta on justification, featuring the panel smackdown. . . er . . . "friendly dialogue" . . . . between Thomas Schriener, N. T. Wright, and Frank Theilman (a  conference which I had the great privilege of attending in person). For the articles by those main speakers, see the previous issue of JETS. For this issue of JETS we have Mark Seifrid's critique of N. T. Wright ("The Near Word of Christ and the Distant Vision of N. T. Wright"), as well as Michael Bird's more moderating tone in  "What is There Between Minneapolis and St. Andrews? A Third Way in the Piper-Wright Debate." I was able to hear Bird present this article back at the ETS meeting in Atlanta, and I will state that Bird is one scholar I would gladly pay money to hear. Okay, technically I would force myself to pay money to hear most NT scholars for my own betterment, but Bird is one scholar I would actually enjoy hearing, due to his wittiness, dynamic presentation, and perhaps also that fascinating Australian accent. Anyways, in his article Bird analyzes and critiques both John Piper and  N. T. Wright, and I think he makes some valid points.

Elsewhere in JETS, archaeologist Bryant G. Wood (whom I also had the privilege of once hearing in person, years ago), writes on "Hittites and Hethites: A Proposed Solution to an Etymological Conundrum," where he deals with some of the confusion that has arisen from the term Hittite, concluding that a technical distinction should be made between the "singular gentilics"  hitii and hitiith, which "were used in the OT exclusively for the descendants of the eponymous ancestor [heith], who were indigenous residents of Canaan from pre-Abrahamic times" and the "plural gentilics"of hitim and hitiy-yith which, "on the other hand, were used in the OT exclusively for the Indo-Europeans who resided in Anatolia and northern Syria ca. 1700-717 BC"; sadly, though, "early translators failed to distinguish between the two groups" (249; the reader will forgive my poor attempt at transliteration; naturally Dr. Wood uses the actually Hebrew text in the article).

Finally, we also have in JETS my second attempt at a contribution, an article on "When a Christian Sins: 1 Corinthians 10:13 and the Power of Contrary Choice in Relation to the Compatibilist-Libertarian Debate" where I argue that if peirasmos in 1 Cor 10:13 is taken to mean"temptation to sin" as opposed to "trial/tribulation," then the text seems to assume the existence of libertarian free-will (the power of contrary choice) whenever a Christian (as opposed to an unbeliever) is faced with temptation. For the record, please note that the main theme of this article has absolutely nothing to do with soteriology and election; seriously, I don't even want to touch that topic here! (okay, I kind of poke at it in a footnote, but I may come to regret that).

Finally, we come to the journal Science & Christian Belief 23 (April 2011) where R. J. Berry has written an excellent article on "Adam or Adamah," i.e. whether or not the "Adam" in Genesis 1-3 (and elsewhere) should be taken to refer to a literally, historical figure. Berry's conclusion is that although boththe  “individual” and “generic” sense of “Adam” may be possible, “which interpretation we adopt depends on our understanding of sin, and particularly of Romans 5-8: if the comparison between the first man and the last man is taken to be a firm equivalence, then it seems we must accept that there was a historic Adam. The more seriously we take sin, the more it seems better not to avoid the possibility of “Mr Adam’” (48; emphasis mine). Berry argues that “the Adam of early Genesis may be a way of speaking about a group of our earliest ancestors. Romans 5 can be interpreted to accommodate this concept";  however, "this seems to me to diminish the burden of reponsibility [sic] which the Genesis account lays upon us individually to care for creation”; furthermore, “Christ on the cross reconciled all things to the Father (Col. 1:20). There is a sense in which we are corporately redeemed. But we all need to be personally reconciled. It is obviously grossly misleading to take individuals out of the gospel message; we are ‘in Adam’ because we are not in our intended relationship to the creator” (48). Although I am certainly not in total agreement with the author on everything in that article  (though I am in agreement with the main thesis), I have to admit Berry is an excellent writer with a lot of quotable lines. Another great line is on page 47 where, following J. J. Bimson, Berry states, “The ‘Fall’ is not primarily about disease and disaster, nor about the dawn of self-awareness. Rather is is a way of describing the fracture in relationship between God and the human creature made in his image.” The various theological issues in Genesis 1-3, of course, will continue to be a somewhat divisive matter in modern evangelicalism (I believe the latest Southern Baptist Journal of Theology devotes the entire issue to this matter). Those interested in the discussion would do well to read Berry's contribution.

A couple quick thoughts to close out today's blog post. First of all, the power of a little bit of encouragement cannot be discounted. The only reason I had the guts to send in my first article (the BBR article on Petrine theology) was because my prof encouraged me and told me that it was worth sending in, and I remain grateful to him. Encouragement can go a long way.

Secondly, prospective writers should remember that trying to get an article published is a lot like dating: you can expect to get rejected quite a bit! (okay, maybe that's just me)  Yet persistence can pay off. My very first article, the one that the prof encouraged me to send in, was initially rejected by one journal, then accepted a couple months later by BBR. Ironically, a lot of the changes that I had made to the article in the meantime (changes I thought were improving the article)  had to be dropped. I was told, for example, that BBR did not want to publish a "survey of scholarship" (and I had a killer survey under that second footnote!). So each journal will have different standards and a different focus. Also, just like dating/courtship, there is a certain level of subjectivity involved in acceptance and rejection; the peer reviewers of "journal A," for example,  may quite simply not like your thesis or your style of writing, or they may think that your topic is irrelevant to moderns scholarship. Those at "journal B," however, may think your article is just what they want for the upcoming issue. As with dating, rejection by one does not necessarily  mean a lack of quality on your part. Having said that, if you are getting consistently rejected by different journals for the same reason, then maybe you need to either shelve your article or start from scratch on the same topic. I currently have a paper on Hebrews that was rejected by two separate journals for exactly the same reason: namely, that  I didn't really prove my thesis (i.e. my argument was weak). As a result, I've shelved it for now while I concentrate on other matters. If I revisit it in the future, it will probably need to undergo a major rewrite.

Finally, a word of praise for anonymous peer-reviewers. granted, Some subjectivity is involved: one reviewer may reject your article simply because he or she doesn't like the way you use semi-colons, while another reviewer may think the same article will split scholarship wide open with its exciting thesis. Nevertheless, peer-reviewers know their business and are generally already established scholars in their own right. If you are fortunate enough to get feedback, pay close attention to it. If they suggest changes, try to follow what they say to the extent that it will not mess with your overall argument, even if this means a few more hours of work for you (one forthcoming article of mine, although "accepted contingent upon minor revision," took me 12 hours to revise satisfactorily. "Minor revision"?--yeah, right :) That is a bit on the extreme side, though, and some journals won't even suggest revision)

Merely keeping up with all the recent research in one's field of study can quite easily threaten to overwhelm. Yet for those who feel they've been called to academia, reading a well-written journal article becomes just one more great benefit of the job.