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.

Dec 29, 2017

My favorite new book of 2016-2017

Although it's my job to read broadly in biblical studies to keep up with theological trends (the good, the bad, and the ugly), every once in a while a book comes along that actually changes how I teach, a book that causes me to focus on something that I had been neglecting before in my own theological reflection

Such is Larry Hurtado's Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016). Hurtado was most recently professor of New Testament Language at the University of Edinburgh (he retired in 2011). Destroyer of the gods is about what made Christianity stand out like a sore thumb and, ultimately, become the recipient of so much hatred in the Greco-Roman world. I highly recommend Destroyer of the gods as my "book of the year" (well, "book of the last two years").

Here, especially, is what Hurtado's book is helping me reflect on and stress more in my teaching:
1. First, Christianity's religious exclusivism was unique in the Greco-Roman world outside of Judaism itself (which got something of a "pass" from the Romans because it was tied to ethnicity). The Romans had no problem with the worship of Jesus, as odd as they might have considered it. The worship and reverence of Jesus alone, however, at the exclusion of all other gods and the Roman Emperor (and, for some, the goddess Roma) was unique, and caused hostility (imagine the Anatolian boy who comes home from a long trip, announces to his parents that he is a Christian and can no longer worship the local gods--the next earthquake that occurs will be blamed on him!). Indeed, this is something missionaries would do well to remember: our job is not tell people simply to trust in Jesus and worship the one true God. Rather, our job is to tell people to trust in/reverence Jesus and worship the one true God at the exclusion of all others (1Thess 1:9), whether they be the emperor, dead ancestors, spirits, or various deities. There can be no "plan B" for either faith or worship. Many young person in Asia even in this modern era has been forced to make that choice and lost their family as a result (but gained Jesus).

2. Secondly, Christianity quickly became a trans-ethnic religion, solidified as such once the Jerusalem Council decreed that the Torah was not a necessary element of Gentile Christianity (Acts 15). This threatened to "create a nation within a nation" (to quote Reinhard Feldmeier) which repulsed the inhabitants of the Roman Empire (thus, for example, Tacitus is able to call Christians "a class hated for their abominations"). To become a Christian was, often, to give up both one's family and one's ethnicity in favor of a "holy nation" linked together not by DNA or nationality but by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2).

Some quick theological reflection. Christianity is an "all-or-nothing" religion. If Jesus Christ cannot save me, I have no "plan B," no Buddha or dead ancestors or good works that might come through in the fourth quarter of my life. There is no back-up quarterback. Every one of us, then, has come to the point where we declare with Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Christianity is not "Jesus + whatever" but rather "Jesus alone, without all others."
Happy New Year!

Dec 15, 2017

The difference between American exceptionalism and "seeking the welfare of the city"

In the past decade or so I've more-or-less ended up trending towards an Anabaptist, Hauerwas-style ecclesiology in regards to the attitude of the church towards the state and society (though I've actually only read one book by Stanley Hauerwas; for the record, I much prefer his ecclesiology to his soteriology). I've become very suspicious of too much patriotism within a church setting, and I unapologetically did not vote for President Trump (with all due respect to my many, many beloved friends who did!), simply because "the lesser of two evils" is not, in my opinion, the best guide for Christian ethics (I did vote, just not for President Trump or Hillary Clinton).

So, on the one hand, although I am totally okay with July 4th celebrations outside of local church corporate worship setting, or singing "The Star Spangled Banner" with my hand over my heart at a ballgame or other non-ecclesiastical setting, I am very uncomfortable with the singing of patriotic songs or displaying the US flag within corporate worship, as I think that can lead to a very flawed ecclesiology that neglects the fact that we are foreigners on earth, but part of God's holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). In other words, it is not America, but the Church, that is the true "Christian nation," and we must always keep that clear. I have more in common with a Christian from Iraq than I do with an unbelieving US citizen living in Wisconsin--sometimes, if we're not careful, a church service can call that fact into question.

Having said that, it's important we don't through the baby out with the bathwater. I own and appreciate Bruce Winter's book Seek the Welfare of the City: Christians as Benefactors and Citizens, which suggests that Jeremiah 29:7 is the backdrop for some of 1 Peter's ethics (I am less convinced by the rest of his thesis, which argues that 1 Peter has in mind "civic benefaction"; I believe this has been at least partially refuted by Travis Williams and Torrey Seland, though there is no doubt some truth to Winter's suggestion, since there were certainly at least a few rich Christians in Asia Minor who could at least contribute towards "civic benefaction"). Anyways, my point being, even if we Christians should consider ourselves as "in exile" (a very Hauwerwas-ian way of putting it, but one which I am fond of), we can still seek for ways to be a blessing to society at large, so long as this does not conflict with our allegiance to Jesus Christ or our Great Commission mandate.

Here's a positive example: my local church annually hosts a "Veteran's Day Banquet." This is not part of corporate worship, but rather an outreach event whereby we honor veterans in the US military (we even have some WW2 vets that come, and those are getting rarer!). After a free meal, good music by our college students, and an honor guard by active military members, we have a chaplain preach a Gospel message. This outreach event brings in lots of veterans (we pack out our "fellowship hall") and, I believe, has the effect of contributing to the welfare of society (a society were the veterans feel honored would be, I believe, more stable than one where veterans are disrespected).

Since our Veteran's Day Banquet is not part of our corporate worship, I do not believe it conflicts with biblical principles (in contrast to, say, a worship service that reverenced the flag on July 4th; I've seen some of those). To the contrary, it is simultaneously both an outreach event that annually sees veterans come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and it has the benefit of "seeking the welfare of the city [i.e., the state]."

Other possibilities for a local church to "seek the welfare of the city" and thus be a "do-gooder" community that 1 Peter speaks of would be such things as: feeding the poor, picking up trash, helping pregnant unwed mothers, etc. Indeed, the argument should be made that it is individuals through the local church, not Christians apart from the local church, that should be doing these things (see the discussion in Scot McKnight's Kingdom Conspiracy--McKnight appropriately critiques those who think that a good deed done in isolation from the local church is "kingdom work").

This does not, however, mean that the church pursues a "social gospel" whereby seeking the physical/economical welfare of others in society becomes the primary goal of the church. To the contrary, Acts 2:41-47 and Matthew 28:18-20 (among other texts) represent key purposes of the church, purposes that can be subverted both by politics and the social gospel. However, properly performed, "seeking the welfare of the city" can simultaneously silence the naysayers and provide opportunities to proclaim the Gospel which, I believe, is a key point of 1 Peter 2:15 (Along those lines, see one of my favorite articles on 1 Peter, Torrey Seland, "Resident Aliens in Mission: Missional Practices in the Emerging Church of 1 Peter").

One final note: I would even acknowledge that informed voting equals "seeking the welfare of the city," and thus voting in elections is important for a Christian who is both a good steward of God's gift a democratic republic and somebody who cares about his country. However, the minute a Christian exalts a particular party to the level of theological dogma (as if unbelievers in the Republican [or Democratic] Party were somehow capable building the Kingdom of God!), or the minute that political issues (no matter how important) became the key to the expansion of the kingdom, then we have misunderstood how, exactly, God's Kingdom is truly built (and may I remind my dear readers that the church in Acts was built just fine, thank you, without the benefit of Ronald Reagan's conservative America?)

Nov 10, 2017

Papers Delivered at the "Bible Faculty Summit" (August 2017)

Every year I try to attend the "Bible Faculty Summit" held for those professors and academics more-or-less identifying themselves as moderate-fundamentalist (this includes more than just Baptist). I've been meaning to give a brief description of this year's papers for my audience (however, if you want a copy of any of them, you will have to contact the individual authors).

This year's Bible Faculty Summit was held at the absolutely gorgeous Appalachian Bible College (seriously, this has to be one of the most beautiful settings in North America for a Bible college). The theme for this year (no surprise!) was "The Reformation" (and for the first time in my life I got to research and write a paper on the Anabaptists! Many thanks, by the way, to the "Mennonite Historical Library" in Goshen, Indiana, for facilitating my research).

Every year there's always one or two papers that stand out in making a unique and fascinating contribution to biblical studies, theology, or church history. For me, I felt this year's best contribution was:

1. Mark Sidwell (prof. of Social Science at Bob Jones U.) on "Did Women Have a Reformation? The Case of Katherine Zell." The reason this paper fascinated me was that it raised an issue that I had never even considered, namely how the Protestant Reformation created a new class of women, nay, even a new type of position in the church, namely the "pastor's wife" (a class of which Katherine Zell is an excellent example). Consider: up until this point in history, clergy were supposed to be single and celibate (supposed to be, of course, does not mean that they always were). However, the 1500s saw the Protestant repudiation of that standard with many clergyman taking a wife (Luther himself setting the example for many). Sidwell does an absolutely fantastic job of discussing what, exactly, that entailed and how Katherine Zell, for one, both embraced her role and struggled with the implications of this hitherto unknown (for 1200+ years, probably!) social concept of "the pastor's wife."

If the reader will pardon a joke on this topic: Two friends, a young catholic boy and a young anglican boy, were walking down the street. Along comes the local Anglican priest. "Hello, Father," says the Anglican boy, reflexively. His Catholic friend turns to him and says incredulously  "He can't be a 'Father'! He's got three kids!"

Other papers were:

2. Scott Aniol, who has produced some helpful publications grappling with church music and worship (including one that came out just recently with Kregel), gave a paper entitled "Polishing Brass on a Sinking Ship: Toward a Dispensational Philosophy of the Church and Cultural Engagement." Here he defends dispensationalism (properly defined) against the accusation that it does not possess any appropriate model to engage culture. In the process he deals with various philosophical positions, e.g., "Two Kingdom Theology," Neo-Kuyperianism, etc.

3. Brian C. Collins, who works for BJU Press, presented on "Soli Deo Gloria or Beatitude: Aquinas, Calvin, and His Heirs on the Chief End of Man." Drawing off the work of Thomas Watson and the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Collins explores how "blessedness" and "God's glory" are potentially interrelated as the telos of humanity.

4. Kyle C. Dunham, who teaches at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, presented on "'For Our Good Always': How the Intertextual Links between Deuteronomy and Ecclesiastes Reinforce Qohelet's Positive Message." As Dunham puts it, ultimately the Preacher of Ecclesiastes draws from Deuteronomy to "commend obedience and joy, but not merely as a means of obtaining superior wisdom. He commends obedience and joy as an antidote to the pain and suffering endemic to a fallen world."

5. C. J. Harris (Positive Action for Christ) wrote and delivered a highly informative paper on "The Huguenot Mission to Brazil, 1556-58," describing for us the trials and tribulations of what was essentially one of the first overseas missionary attempts out of the Protestant Reformation.

6. Troy Manning, who is a language specialist for Bibles International, presented on "Literacy in Bible Times." He noted that, in spite of (1.) the low literacy rate in biblical times, (2.) the fact that literacy itself was never a biblical, "moral obligation", and (3.) the effectiveness of oral transmission, nonetheless writing Scripture down was a necessity for God's community, and that even today,what may be a primarily oral culture will still ultimately benefit from having written Scripture.

7. My fellow Petrine specialist Tim Miller (prof of New Testament at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary; Tim also has a doctorate in theology from Westminster) focused on the "milk of the word" phrase of 1 Peter 2:1-3. He defended the more traditional reading of the phrase as a reference to the Word of God (his primary scholarly foil in this paper was naturally Karen Jobes, who has published some significant material on the topic). Those interested should note that Tim will also be presenting this same paper at ETS in Rhode Island this year (wish I could be there!)

8. Joel Pinter spoke to us on the "Refutation of Saracens by M. Luther Then and Now," i.e. a discussion of Luther's polemic against Islam, based off of Luther's own discovery of a 200 year old book (which has "just recently become available to the English-speaking world") by Dominican monk Riccoldo Pennini (1200s). The modern English version of this book is translated by Londini Ensis.

9. Jon Pratt, professor of New Testament at Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, Minnesota) presented on "The 'Israel of God' in Galatians 6:16," an exegetical paper that deals with whether or not the phrase refers to both Gentiles and Jews or only ethnic Jews. He concludes,
"In the end, the syntactical arguments point toward the Israel-as-ethnic-Jews position with the normal use of kai establishing a good foundation for this viewpoint and the use of the genitive providing solid evidence for a connection between Paul's usage of 'Israel' in Rom 9:6 and his use of 'Israel of God' in Gal 16:16, because the limiting function of the genitive requires a larger group (all ethnic Jews) from which the smaller group ('Israel of God') is distinguished. This leads to the strongest argument for the Israel-as-ethnic-Jews position: the consistent use of 'Israel' as referring to ethnic Jews throughout Paul's writings."

10. Mark Ward, who works for Logos/Faithlife, gave us a very practical and informative paper on "New Tools for Teaching Textual Criticism to Laypeople." He focused especially on: 1. "The Exploring Biblical Manuscripts" interactive feature of Logos software itself; 2. "The Lexham Textual Notes on the New Testament," and 3. his own ongoing project, "KJVParallelBible.org" (I might add, this latter one is a very helpful tool especially within Independent Baptist circles; it does not push an agenda, it merely points out all the areas where the King James differs from the standard critical Greek text). Ward also mentioned some helpful "introductory books" (I would especially like to highlight two from his list: David Alan Black, New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide and J. B. Williams and Randolph Shaylor, eds. God's Word in Our Hands: The Bible Preserved for Us). The reader should also note Mark's forthcoming book: Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible (Lexham Press). Mark's purpose is not to push one particular view of textual criticism, but simply to note how the difficulty of the KJV language (in this modern era) can lead to hermeneutical abuse.

11. Finally, my own paper, "A Canonical Anomaly: Why Did the Anabaptists Cite Wisdom of Solomon as Scripture" attempted to grapple with (and solve) a mystery that has bothered me since I took the excellent doctoral class "New Testament Canon" with Dr. L. Scott Kellum at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. That mystery is: why were the Anabaptists (part of the "Radical Reformation") quoting Wisdom of Solomon as Scripture when it seems that the Magisterial Reformation, although occasionally appreciative of the Apocrypha, were not granting it canonical status? In other words, how could the Anabaptists, generally speaking, have the same canon as the Roman Catholic Church even while radically different from them in theology?

Oct 24, 2017

Teaching and Preaching in Kenya!

In September, I had the great privilege of preaching and teaching in Kenya, my first trip overseas in over 12 years, and my first time ministering in any country other than Japan and the USA. A shoutout to Pastor and Mrs. Halstead for their awesome hospitality! (I stayed in Thika, Kenya, mostly, but the college and seminary are in in Nairobi).

Before I give you the highlights of my experience, some photos:

The student body of Independent Baptist College of Ministry and Theological Seminary (chapel service):


Giraffe (no fence between us, or between myself and any of the other animals below. The giraffe wouldn't let me get too close, though):

Impala (I think; with gazelles flanking it):

Zebra and Warthog:

And now, my highlights:

1. Teaching Kenyan theology students to refute the Bauer Thesis! (I was teaching New Testament Intro at the seminary, using my own doctoral advisor's book).

2. Preaching a total of 6 times (I almost lost my voice, since I was sick with a cold entering Kenya but the Lord was gracious!).

3. Meeting Kenyan believers, including pastors, and getting to know them. Also, fellowshipping with and getting to know the American missionaries.

4. Various culinary experiences, with fantastic Kenyan coffee and even more fantastic Ethiopian coffee (the missionary families and I went to an authentic Ethiopian restaurant in Nairobi).

5. Taking a Monday to go hiking in a place with plenty of wild animals!

The Lord was good!

Sep 30, 2017

Looking for a Pastor? Hire a Doctrinally-Sound Teacher! The Potential Practical Implications of my Recent Article in The Bible Translator

I am looking forward to blogging about my awesome ministry trip to Kenya soon (with pictures!). I think I'm just about over jet-lag. However, for now I'd like to focus briefly on the qualifications of a prospective pastor (since I've never been a pastor, of course I have all the answers [note to impressionable readers: that was self-deprecating sarcasm])

I was blessed recently to have an article of mine published in the prestigious journal The Bible Translator entitled "Rethinking the Translation of Didaktikos in 1 Timothy 3.2 and 2 Timothy 2.24" (vol. 68.2, 2017). Although somewhat technical, the article tries to make a strong practical suggestion for ecclesiology and the calling of pastors. 

In a nutshell, my proposal is that "apt to teach/skilled in teaching" (which is what most translations have--that or a similar equivalent) might be missing the point. If the word should be translated "experienced in teaching" or "a teacher" (as I try to argue) then this has the potential to impact how churches evaluate prospective pastors.

Granted, you don't want to hire a boring preacher or teacher for your pastoral staff! However, my point is that I don't think Paul is telling us that we should look at a preacher's skill in teaching, but rather the fact that he has been teaching. Consequently, since the prospective pastoral candidate has a track-record of teaching, it becomes much easier to analyze just what he has been teaching. This then does away with the oddity of didaktikos being the only word in those lists that would not, technically, be a moral qualification.

What would this mean practically? Students in ministry, if you wish to pastor, then start teaching first! Gain experience in teaching and establish a track-record of solid doctrine. Gain a reputation as a solid expositor of God's Word (this will take time, obviously, but why not begin with primary or teen Sunday School?). As for churches: don't be dazzled by raw pedagogical skill! The flashy preacher and teacher you're considering may be hiding a lack of doctrinal soundness or, even worse, heresy.

I should note, however, that there is an alternative interpretation of didaktikos favored by my doctoral advisor David Alan Black, namely that the word means "teachable," i.e., "humble" (although I am not yet fully swayed, I did find support for this view in the writings of Cyprian of Carthage). This view would also solve the conundrum of why didaktikos would seemingly be the only word in the lists that isn't a moral qualification. The practical takeaway here would be that churches should only call potential pastors that have a track-record of humility. There is no place in the ministry for a prima donna!

Sep 4, 2017

Going to Kenya, and my second book is out!

Just a quick note! I have the privilege of heading to Kenya this week to visit, teach New Testament Introduction at a small Baptist seminary there, and preach possibly as many as seven times! (Your prayers are appreciated; I'm not exactly at the "Billy Sunday" level on the "Scale of Preaching Excitement!")

In the meanwhile, I'm grateful to report that my second book is out, entitled Where Is Your Allegiance? The Message to the Seven Churches, published by Energion. Click here for the publisher's link and here for the Amazon link (where you can buy it on Kindle).

Basically, this book is a practical and theological look at the first three chapters of Revelation, drawing heavily on the social and historical backgrounds of the seven cities (a note to the wise; Colin Hemer's The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting is an immensely beneficial source). Also, unlike my first book (which could probably be classified as an academic snooze-fest, meant to be read by scholars and doctoral students), this one is meant for the "average Joe" and "average Josephine," with an eye towards practical application.

I have the privilege of teaching "Revelation" as an elective after I return from Kenya, so I'm grateful the Lord let me get this book out, and thanks to my (hopefully many!) readers (must resist checking "Amazon sales rank" every day . . . must resist checking "Amazon sales rank" every day . . .).

Jul 24, 2017

Trying to Solve a Canonical Mystery: The Anabaptists and Wisdom of Solomon

Though the connection between German, Swiss, and Dutch Anabaptists and the 16th-17th century English Separatist Baptists is not quite crystal clear, most of us who definitely trace our lineage to the latter also see some kind of affinity to the former (who, after all, taught believer's baptism, the authority of Scripture alone, and separation of church and state). Consequently, I'm excited that for the first time in my life I'm doing serious research on the Anabaptists in preparation for presenting a paper at the Bible Faculty Summit.

I am actually trying to solve a mystery that's been bothering me for about 9 years! In 2008, my first full class for the ph.d. at Southeastern was "NT Canon" with L. Scott Kellum. In the process of writing my paper (on a more-or-less unrelated subject), I noticed that the Anabaptists actually continued to quote from the Apocrypha while their "colleagues" from the "less-radical" Reformation had long left the Apocrypha in the dust.  This is not sporadic, either; the Apocrypha seems to be quoted as Scripture across quite a broad swath of Anabaptist characters, not just the main players, but also many of the lesser known characters that were martyred or at least imprisoned. For the former, see for example Conrad Grebel, his "Letter to Müntzer" (Zurich, September 5, 1524), where he argues that children below the age of accountability are saved and makes his defense "on the basis of the following Scriptures," followed by a list that includes Wisdom 12 (by which he means Wisdom 12:19). For the latter, Lenart Plovier (1560), in "A Testament," uses the formula "it is written" to introduce a direct quote of Wisdom 11:1. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Quoting Apocrypha as Scripture was quite common for the Anabaptists.

So what's with this canonical anomaly? So far I've only come across one other article anywhere on the topic (and it was on the Anabaptists and 4 Esdras), so this seems like an fruitful avenue of research. I have a theory, which will be tested today as I research at the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College.

Jun 8, 2017

Which academic journals in biblical studies give the best peer-review feedback? (A subjective, personal account)

Within the past few months, I've highlighted peer-reviewed journals, including what I feel are the top 50 or so for biblical studies. Peer-review has been going on for at least 150 years (see this fascinating article in Physics Today on "What it was like to be peer-reviewed in the 1860s"), and remains essential for the encouraging of cutting-edge research.

For the best journals, blind peer review is key. This means that a paper is sent anonymously to peer-reviewers, without the author knowing who they are and vice versa. This virtually eliminates favoritism, and in theory allows authors to make unbiased decisions based on the quality of the article and its contribution to scholarship. 

Blind peer-review often provides the opportunity for the scholars (or their grad assistants, in some cases!) to give feedback--feedback that may even lead to the article being improved and published in another journal despite being initially rejected (this has happened to me). For us minor-leaguers, such feedback is incredibly valuable, and even bona fide scholars would do well to take notice (for a fascinating account of how Albert Einstein himself would have benefitted from peer-review feedback, see this article in Physics Today).

Now, as a service to the educational community, I'm giving you my own perspective on which journals in biblical studies give the best feedback. This will be based solely on my personal experience (and only includes journals I've submitted papers to), and may not be totally fair to some journals (e.g., if I only submitted a paper one time, 8 years ago). So keep that in mind.  I welcome personal reports from other fledging writers like myself.

Also, for the record, I've submitted a paper a total of 19 times (some of those are the same paper submitted to a different journal after rejection), and 6 of those times the paper has been accepted for publication. So basically I'm batting .316. Not sure if that's good, bad, or totally average! I have yet to be published in a clear tier-1 journal, though I have a couple of high tier-2 journals.

Note: in none of these cases should this be taken as a criticism of the journals under discussion (or "sour grapes" on my part). They have good reasons for rejecting the papers they do. Having said that, there is some subjectivity in journals, as evidence by the fact that in two cases I have had papers rejected by one journal and then published by another journal on an equal tier. Still, I gladly acknowledge that I am not a real scholar, and no doubt sometimes my writing is just not up to the level of the journals I'm submitting to. Also, obviously a journal has the right to not offer feedback, if the editors so desire. My point is simply to help those budding scholars that wish to improve their writing via feedback.

Now, here we go: To start us out, I will acknowledge Tyndale Bulletin as the greatest journal for feedback, in my humble-but-correct opinion. I have yet to be published there (it's a career goal of mine), but each time I've submitted a paper I've received feed back that helped improve it. One of those rejected papers is about to come out in another tier-2 journal, and it was no doubt improved via the feedback I received from the first reviewers in TynB. So Tyndale Bulletin is the clear winner, in my opinion. 

From tier-1 journals, Journal of Biblical Literature is the winner. The feedback was extensive, clear, relevant, courteous, and filled two whole pages (I received a "revise and resubmit" from them: still not sure if I'll do that or revise for another journal). In contrast, New Testament Studies gave me a short paragraph, basically "your writing and research were good, but the reviewers were unconvinced by your thesis." Novum Testamentum gave no feedback, only rejection. Those are the only three tier-1 journals I've had the guts to submit a paper to.

Trinity Journal is a bit of a mystery to me. The first two times I submitted a paper I received some feedback from their committee (even though the paper was rejected); the latest submission (which is being published elsewhere), for all practical purposes I received no feedback. Still, it's a prestigious enough evangelical journal that I'll probably try again some day, but only if I feel my paper is a really good fit. Also, "review by committee" is a bit tough to get by unscathed (and TJ only publishes twice a year, which probably makes it tougher to get published by them. Kudos to those who have!)

If TJ is my "unlucky" journal so far, Bulletin for Biblical Research is my "lucky" journal. Both papers I've submitted to them have been published, and both times with very good, constructive feedback which, without a doubt, made the paper better. Frankly, for young aspiring scholars, I would recommend BBR as one of the best journals to submit your initial paper to (as long as its more in the realm of NT/OT studies than theology per se).

Let me start this next paragraph with a disclaimer: JETS is one of the two top evangelical journals (the other being TynB), and well-worth trying to publish in. Having said that, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society has given me virtually no feedback, regardless of being accepted or rejected (I've had one paper published with them, not counting my rejoinder to a response to my article, and two papers rejected); however, I've seen indication that this might be changing for the better. Similarly, Westminster Theological Journal, in my sole attempt, gave me no feedback, although it's obviously a journal worth publishing in.

I have never received what I would consider "mean" feedback. However, Journal of Theological Interpretation gave me probably the toughest feedback I've encountered; I think I seriously misunderstood what sort of paper would be a good fit with them, so this is not to cast them in a negative light, but it was definitely hard to swallow! (Also, I clearly adopted a too casual style; I need to watch out for that).

Filelogia Neotestamentaria published a paper of mine, but did not give feedback (this was about 6 years ago, though). I submitted a paper to Word&World in a student competition about 7 years ago; it was rejected, with no feedback, but I did get a free year's subscription! 

Bibliotheca Sacra, obviously a very prestigious journal worth publishing in, is also somewhat of a mystery to me. I submitted a paper that directly dealt with a topic covered before in the journal, yet significantly expanded the discussion, and was told the paper was not a good fit for the journal, with no other feedback. They did, however, encourage me to submit again to the journal in the future. I honestly don't know what to make of that: does this mean they liked my writing but not my topic? Or is that simply what they say to all writers that show at least a minimum competency in writing? Regardless, I'll probably submit again sometime, but only after making sure my article is a really good fit. (And Kudos to my friend, you know who you are, who has a forthcoming paper with BibSac!)

The Bible Translator, which accepted a paper of mine within the past few months (after two revisions), gave excellent feedback. In fact, one of the two reviewers actually suggested an avenue of research that I had not considered before, and this immensely improved my paper. Kudos and thanks to BT's anonymous peer-reviewers!

Finally, I had the privilege of publishing a paper in Science & Christian Belief (put out by the Victoria Institute), and received excellent feedback (interestingly, one of the reviewers was clearly a scientist, and the other was clearly a philosopher). I spent about 12 hours revising that paper for publication, but it was worth it! (Note: I had to try to change my spelling to British spelling for S&CB; not sure how successful I was!)

So there you have it: my own limited experience on which journals have provided helpful feedback. Now, dear young doctoral student or fledgling scholar, go out and submit your papers! (And feel free to share your experiences in the comments, so long as you are courteous and fair, with no "sour grapes")

Jun 1, 2017

Bridging the gap from Biblical Theology to Jesus Christ: Some positive thoughts on David Wenkel's book Jesus' Crucifixion Beatings and the Book of Proverbs

I have the privilege of teaching Hermeneutics twice a year at Baptist College of Ministry, and one new concept I introduce them to is "Biblical Theology," namely tracing the theme of a particular book or author. In addition, for each of their hermeneutics papers I require them to demonstrate how they can "bridge-the-gap" from their particular passage to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This can be somewhat tricky. On the one hand, we must respect the original author's intention and not allegorize (and both our textbooks, Duvall and Hays' Grasping God's Word and Sire's Scripture Twisting, do an excellent job of rebuking those who assume their own "spiritual" interpretation trumps the "common sense" reading of the biblical text!). On the other hand, Jesus himself indicated that the entirety of Scripture points to him (Luke 24:27--"in all the Scriptures"). Consequently, we must not be afraid to see a deeper Christological significance in any portion of Scripture (but only after we've grasped the original meaning of the author). We must acknowledge, for example, the "plain sense" reading of Song of Solomon as a (awkward!) celebration of "smooching" (and more) between a husband and wife (avoiding the temptation to "sanitize" it), while at the same time noting that God is the lover par excellence, as evidenced by John 3:16. Indeed, the apostles themselves were not afraid to see even technically 
non-Messianic OT texts "fulfilled" in Jesus Christ (case in point: Matthew 2:15's citation of Hosea 11 which, in my opinion, is basically telling us "Jesus succeeded where Israel failed").

Enter David H. Wenkel's new book: Jesus' Crucifixion Beatings and the Book of Proverbs (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan 2017). Dr. Wenkel, with a ph.d. from the University of Aberdeen, has taught at Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Indian Bible College. The purpose of his book is not to read Proverbs allegorically or without regard to the author's original intent. Rather,  Wenkel seeks to place Proverbs in canonical, Christological context. Thus, he states,

". . . this theme (the physical beating of fools) within the book of Proverbs has meaning related to Christ through its application to him as one who bears the punishments that a wicked fool should endure. This meaning is driven by grammatical-historical exegesis because the Proverbs apply to all sinners for whom Christ was a sinless substitute." Indeed, "The very genre of Proverbs directs the reader to apply them in an infinite number of ways. Therefore, this study argues that there is place for a legitimate application of this theme to Christ when read in a canonical fashion" (Wenkel, p. 8).

After the introduction of chapter 1, Wenkel then explores the various aspects of the "beating of the fool," both in the context of Proverbs and in the theme's broader canonical context. One key insight, for example, is his discussion of 2sam 7:14 and how the son of the Messianic king would be "chastened with the rod of men," and the covenant significance of this statement (Wenkel, p. 74). Wenkel summarizes: ultimately, "it was God's own covenantal promises that ensured his son would be disciplined through the rod" (p. 76).

Thus for anybody interested in the theology of Proverbs and/or its Christological significance (a topic that has not been explored as much as it should be), as well as a good example for how to "bridge" to Jesus Christ from the OT without allegorizing, I recommend David Wenkel's book.

May 13, 2017

Introducing a new class at BTS: "Using the Biblical Languages in Ministry" (with Logos!)

I am pleased to announce that on the week of Memorial Day, May 29th (though starting later in the day) through June 2nd, Baptist Theological Seminary (Menomonee Falls, WI) will be offering a new class, "Using Biblical Languages in Ministry," with myself and evangelist Bobby Bosler teaching.

Here is the official description:
"An overview of how a competent knowledge of the biblical languages can benefit both the study of the Scriptures and sermon preparation, especially when utilizing the tools that modern Bible software provides. Students will learn to use Logos Bible Software profitably while at the same time learning the basics of lexical semantics (and how to avoid exegetical fallacies), refreshing their knowledge of Greek syntax, and exploring the very basics of Hebrew grammar and syntax to enable them to utilize Logos with Old Testament texts."

The point of this class is to give pastors who haven't taken Greek exegesis or any Hebrew enough tools to utilize the biblical languages with Logos while avoiding exegetical, lexical, or syntactical fallacies. 

We will focus on basic lexical semantics (i.e., how words function), a super-basic, non-intimidating overview of Hebrew (for those that have never had Hebrew), hermeneutics-light, and, last but not least, how to use Logos (which will be required for the course, in addition to three modules: a Greek NT, a Hebrew OT, and the Rahlf's Septuagint). The work for this class will be very practical, "hands-on," and ministry oriented (especially focused on how Logos can be used for sermon prep, etc.)

Finally, I'm very excited about the textbooks for this class (in addition to Logos, which is sort of a "textbook" in of itself). 
1. First, we have a book by my very own doctoral advisor, David Alan Black, Using New Testament Greek in Ministry: A Practical Guide for Students and Pastors (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1993).
2. Secondly, we have a gem I recently discovered, Michael Williams' The Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software Users (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). This books is the perfect book for this type of class, and kudos to Dr. Williams for publishing something that I don't think anybody else has published yet.
3. Finally, we have D. A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996). Although there are parts of this book I disagree with, nonetheless this remains a classic, very valuable for ministry.

May 4, 2017

More on peer-reviewed journals: The difference between "Accepted Upon Revision" and "Revise and Resubmit"

Aspiring doctoral candidates and young professors generally try to get published in the peer-reviewed journals we've been discussing. The top scholars in the world are skilled enough to be able to get published in the top-tier journals at whim (or so it seems to us mere mortals!) while the rest of us will generally see a mix of successes and failures. Currently I reckon I'm batting .353 (6 for 17) with total submissions to peer-reviewed journals (including one that was recently accepted with revision), but 0-3 with tier-1 journals (as defined in the last post), so clearly I'm not exactly D. A. Carson or Andreas J. Köstenberger or [insert name of your favorite Bible scholar who writes a gajillion books and routinely gets published in snooty German journals]! Still, I'm grateful for those journals that have published my stuff, and here's hoping that they don't regret it! 

In a future post, I'll discuss which journals have given me the best feedback (here's a preview: Tyndale Bulletin is awesome in this regard; even though I've yet to be published with them, their feedback has always been helpful). In the meanwhile, though, let me share something I've discovered, namely the difference between "accepted upon revision" and "revise and resubmit," and why you should should jump for joy at the former and probably ignore the latter.

1. "Accepted upon revision" is what you will get probably 90% of the time your paper has been accepted (no matter how good your paper is, it's probably not so good that it can't use some tweaking!). "Accepted upon revision" simply means that the peer-reviewers liked it, think it's publishable, but need to see some changes. Always pay close attention to what the peer-reviewers say and try to follow their instructions and/or recommendations (there is a difference) to a T, when at all possible. If for some reason you think the two (or more) reviewers have contradictory opinions on what you should change, or if you don't think you can institute the changes without weakening your thesis, then contact the general editor (usually he or she is the person who e-mailed you to let you know your paper had been accepted contingent upon revision).

I repeat: "accepted upon revision" is a cause for rejoicing; however, you should expect to put in quite a few more hours of work to get it published. "Revision" is usually not light. For my paper for Science & Christian Belief (here), I received fantastic feedback from the two anonymous reviewers, but since this topic was not my specialty I put in, by my reckoning, approximately 12 hours of hard work revising and implementing their feedback before it made it into the journal. But it was worth it!

2. Now, "Revise and resubmit" is a totally different matter. This is, technically, a rejection, but a rejection with a glimmer of hope. This means that at least one of the reviewers (or, possibly, the editor) sees potential in the paper. This rejection will probably accompany some helpful feedback from the reviewers. It means, however, that you have to go through the whole submission process again (potentially with different reviewers).

Now, here's the thing; I've received 3 "revise and resubmit" judgments in my career so far. With one of them I think it was less the reviewers that saw potential and more the editor (though I was immensely grateful for the positive feedback from the editor). Despite all the effort I put into that revision, the reviewers were unimpressed; in fact, I got the sense they were even less impressed than the first submission. So that one failed. Likewise an earlier "revise and resubmit" that, if I recall, was reviewed by a committee (it's tough enough trying to impress 2 reviewers; but a whole committee of them?). Same thing: no go.

Consequently, for this most recent "revise and resubmit" rejection I've received (from a tier-1 journal), I believe I'm going to ignore it and try a totally different journal. I did receive some helpful feedback that I hope to implement, but otherwise I don't believe "revise and resubmit" has much potential. The problem is that if they weren't convinced of your thesis the first time, they probably won't be convinced of it the second time, at least short of a major re-rewrite that, for all practical purposes, creates a totally different paper. Since there is a degree of subjectivity involved in the review process (which can't be avoided), you probably have a better shot with totally new reviewers at a different journal than with impressing the same reviewers you failed to convince the first time. 

So, in summary, if you get a "revise and resubmit," you're probably better off going to a new journal (after implementing any suggestions you believe are helpful). I can definitely attest that reviewers at a totally different journal may very well be more sympathetic to your thesis. However, this post represents my own personal experience; I am very interested in hearing from those who had a "revise and resubmit" and successfully resubmitted to the same journal.

Apr 20, 2017

The Festschrift is out! New Testament Essays in Honor of David Alan Black

I am happy to announce the official presentation of the Festschrift for my former doctoral advisor, New Testament scholar David Alan Black:
Click here for the publisher's page and click here for the amazon.com page.
For the last few decades, Dr. Black has combined scholarship par excellence with a dedicated heart for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many thank to Dr. Black for his academic and spiritual mentorship!
Thanks to the editors, Daniel L. Akin (president of Southeastern) and Thomas W. Hudgins (a friend of mine, scholar and professor at Capital Seminary and Graduate school)!
The contributors and their essays are as follows:
1. Stanley E. Porter, "So What Have We Learned in the Last Thirty Years of Greek Linguistic Study?"
2. Constantine R. Campbell, "Prepositions and Exegesis: What's in a Word?"
3. Michael Rudolph, "Reclaiming Γάρ: Correcting the Conjunctive Errors of New Testament Lexicography."
4. J. K. Elliott, "Majority Text or Not: Which Criteria Should Be Adopted When Assessing Textual Variation in the Greek New Testament?"
5. Tommy Wasserman, "A Short Textual Commentary on the Lucan Travel Narrative (Luke 9:51-19:46)."
6. Maurice Robinson, "'It's All About Variants'--Unless 'No Longer Written.'"
7. Christian B-.Amphoux, "L'origine de la parole de Jésus sur la réunion du masculin et du féminin."
8. Jesús Peláez and GASCO, "The Definition and Translation of ἀλήθεια in the Gospel According to John: The Case of John 1:14, 17."
9. Israel Munoz Gallarte, "The Meaning of πίστις in the Framework of the Diccionario griego-espanol del Nuevo Testamento."
10. Alexander E. Stewart, "The Infancy Narratives and the Synoptic Problem: Reassessing the Evidence and Arguments."
11. Antonio Pinero, "The Origin of Jesus' Speeches in the Fourth Gospel."
12. Paul A. Himes [yours truly], "Wisdom and the Sojourning Saints or Christ and the Wandering Sinners? The Wilderness Wandering Motif in Hebrews as a Reaction to Wisdom of Solomon."
13. Stephen H. Levinsohn, "Contextualizando y actualizando la traducción al espanol de la gramática griega de David Alan Black."

A couple quick comments:
First of all, this is one of the most multi-cultural Festschrifts I've ever seen, with essays in 3 different languages and scholars from seven different countries represented (I repeat: seven different countries).

Secondly, I'd like to lay claim to being the first professor to have a student cite from this book in a paper, since a couple days before the official presentation of the book to Dr. Black I had a student borrow my copy to cite Dr. Rudolph's essay on γάρ.
Once again, many thanks to Dr. Black, a true scholar and servant of Jesus Christ!

Mar 31, 2017

Peer-Reviewed Journals Pt 2: The Top 50+ Academic Journals for Biblical Studies (Ranked)

[Progressively updated as I get feedback, etc.]

In part 1 of this series of posts, I highlighted what were the top Evangelical peer-reviewed journals and how to access most of them (either online or via the immensely helpful Galaxie Software at $5 a month). The focus of this post will be on the strictly academic ranking of journals (laying aside theological benefit). In part three of this series I will highlight some journals that combine scholarship with spiritual/practical benefit.

For serious graduate work, having access to the top evangelical journals is not enough. You also need access to the top mainstream journals. Some of these will still be, technically, confessional (e.g., Catholic Biblical Quarterly) while some will be technically secular (e.g., Journal of Biblical Literature), but both types will focus more on the academic quality and originality of the submitted article than on theological belief. Consequently, you will find a large variety of articles ranging from liberal to conservative, post-modern to neo-orthodoxy, feminist theology, liberation theology, devoutly religious to agnostic and atheist.

I here rank the journals according to their general academic reputation in three tiers or levels. Which ones are most likely to be cited in scholarly books? To which ones do the top scholars send their prospective articles? I will mention, however, that many articles published in mainstream journals do have the potential to help committed Christians understand scripture better. For example, in a future post, I will discuss the excellent article in German by Dieter Böhler, "Liebe und Freundschaft im Johannesevangelium. Zum alttestamentlichen Hintergrund von John 21, 15-19," Biblica 96.3 (2015), available online here. Although I disagree with the author's take on the difference between Philew and Agapaw, I still greatly appreciated his perspective on how the "sheep/feeding" language in this passage is most likely drawing from Ezekiel 34. I had never thought of that before, and Böhler makes a very good argument here. In other words, I, an independent Baptist, benefited in my understanding of Scripture from a German article in a Catholic journal!

Keep in mind that the following list represents my perspective as a North American researcher and professor, so some of the European journals are under-represented (with the obvious world-class exceptions such as Biblica and Zeitschrift für neuentestamentliche Wissenschaft).

So without further ado, here are the top journals that grad students in Biblical studies need to have access to (list subject to change; some of this is my informed opinion, but much of it is the scholarly consensus, so far as I can tell). I also list the official SBL handbook (1st edition) abbreviation next to the title (with a ? where the 1st edition did not include the journal). I rank them according to 3 tiers/levels, but within those levels they are simply listed in alphabetical order (with the exception of the first 5 in Level 1).
Feel free to post in the comments if you disagree with the rankings or have suggestions on something to add!

Level 1
These are the journals universally acknowledged as top-tier, indispensable for any serious graduate level library. Except for the first five, they are all in alphabetical order.

*Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL)--probably the most widely distributed of all, with a very wide range of topics and perspectives. Has been around since 1881!
* Biblica (Bib)--the official journal of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome; considered very prestigious (and has been around since 1920).
* Catholic Biblical Quarterly (CBQ)
* New Testament Studies (NTS)
* Zeitschrift für neuentestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche (ZNW)
Note: The above 5 are probably the "Big Five" for New Testament Studies.
Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses (ETL)
* Harvard Theological Review (HTR)
Hervormde teologieses studies (HvTSt)
Jewish Quarterly Review (JQR)--this would probably be the premiere journal for Jewish studies, and has been around since 1889!
* Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages (JNSL)
Journal of Theological Studies (JTS)
* Novum Testamentum (NovT)
* Old Testament Essays (OTE)
* Revue biblique (RB)
* Scottish Journal of Theology (SJT)
* Theologische Zeitschrift (TZ)
Vetus Testamentum (VT)
* Vigiliae christianae (VC)--probably the premiere journal for church history.
Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (ZAW)

Level 2
All of these belong in any decent library for biblical studies, and top scholars would gladly submit to these journals, especially if their article was a "niche" fit for such a journal. In this list I also include the top 3 evangelical journals.

* Bibel und Kirche (BK)
* Biblical Interpretation (BibInt)
* Biblical Theology Bulletin (BTB)
* Biblische Zeitschrift (BZ)
* Bulletin of the John Rylands Library (BJRL)
* Christian Scholar's Review (CSR)
* Church History (CH)
Currents in Theology and Mission (CurTM)--probably the premiere journal for missions
* Early Christianity (?)--although not listed in the SBL handbook, this fairly new journal may soon become tier-1.
* Estudio bíblicos (EstBib)
* Ex Audito (ExAud)
* Expository Times (ExpTim)
* Faith and Philosophy (?)--while technically not for Biblical studies per se, this can still be helpful since it is the top journal for Christian philosophers.
* Filologia Neotestamentaria (FilNet)--a journal devoted exclusively to the study of the Greek of the NT and its textual criticism.
* Hebrew Studies (HS)
* Interpretation (Int)
Jewish Bible Quarterly (JBQ)
* Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and  Roman Period (JSJ)
* Journal for the Study of the New Testament (JSNT)
* Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (JSOT)
* Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha (JSP)
* Journal of Early Christian Studies (JECS)
* Journal of Ecclesiastical History (JEH)
* Journal of Jewish Studies (JJS)
* Journal of Near Eastern Studies (JNES)
* Journal of Reformed Theology (JRT)
* Journal of Semitic Studies (JSS)
* Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies (?)--This journal used to be known as the Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies; fortunately they switched their title from 24 syllables to 10 syllables!)
* Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS)--probably the #2 academic evangelical journal.
* Judaica (Jud)
* Kerygma und Dogma (KD)
* Neotestamentica (Neot)
* Perspectives in Religious Studies (PRSt)
* Princeton Seminary Bulletin (PSB)
* Pro Ecclesia (ProEccl)
* Scandanavian Journal of the Old Testament (SJOT)
* Science and Christian Belief (S&CB)--technically not biblical studies per se, but is probably the most prestigious journal to deal with the intersection of science and Christianity. Published by the Victoria Institute.
* Semeia (Semeia)--a little bit of an avant-garde journal, if your methodology is just a bit too radical for other journals!
* The Bible Translator (BT)--the premiere journal for Bible translation theory and practice (a technical issue alternates with a more practical issue). Sometimes deals with some topics as exegesis or discourse analysis.
* Theological Studies (TS)
* Tyndale Bulletin (TynB)--the premiere evangelical academic journal, and apparently the most cited by mainstream scholarship.

Level 3
Although these journals still have a solid reputation for academic excellence, they are not as well-known and not as prestigious, and consequently not as likely to be cited by mainstream scholarship. Also, some of these journals are not peer-reviewed, or at least not as frequently.

* Acta Theologica (AcT)
* Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS)
* Anglican Theological Review (AThR)
* Asbury Theological Journal (AsTJ)
* Asia Journal of Theology (AJT)
* Australian Biblical Review (ABR)
* Bibleotheca Sacra (BibSac)--this is the oldest journal on the list, and as far as dispensational or pre-mil theology goes, it's probably the best (it's published by Dallas Theological Seminary).
* Bulletin for Biblical Research (BBR)
* Calvin Theological Journal (CTJ)
* Currents in Biblical Research (?)
* Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal (DBSJ)
* Evangelical Quarterly (EvQ)
Evangelical Review of Theology (?)
* Foi et Vie (FoiVie)
* Horizons in Biblical Theology (HBT)
* International Journal of Systematic Theology (?)
* Jahrbuch für Biblische Theologie (JBTh)
* Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament (?)--I'm really hoping this journal will get noticed and become more significant, but it's still not as well known and I've hardly ever seen it cited (though they've had some solid evangelical scholars contribute)
* Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters (?)--brand new, not mentioned in the SBL handbook, but will probably go up to tier-2.
* Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism (?)--fairly new, may move up the ladder to tier-2 soon. We'll keep an eye on how often it is cited.
* Journal of Theological Interpretation (JTI)--this fairly new journal will probably move up in the ranks soon as it continues to demonstrate its relevancy to biblical studies (currently it's the only journal I know of devoted to the "Theological Interpretation of Scripture," and it's received quite a bit of "buzz"!).
* Journal of Translation (?)--the official journal of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL); I think (though am not positively sure) that this replaced their older journal Notes on Translation.
* Journal of Translation and Textlinguistics (JOTT)
* Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (?)
Reformed Theological Review (RTR)
* Restoration Quarterly (ResQ)
* Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology (SBET)
* Southeastern Theological Review (?)--brand new (replaces the older Faith&Mission). I'm not sure if it's peer-reviewed, and it includes a lot of invited papers, but still has some immensely valuable material (like a recent issue devoted to the Pastoral Epistles, including the epic survey of scholarship by my friend Chuck Bumgardner)
Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT)
* Southwestern Journal of Theology (SWJT)
* TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism (TC)
* Themelios (Them)--though technically peer-reviewed, it occasionally seems like this journal focuses more on thematic studies and invited authors. Having said that, once in a while a highly valuable, "tier-1" level article appears (I'm thinking specifically about W. Edward Glenny's recent survey of theological interpretation of the LXX)
* The Master's Seminary Journal (MSJ)--along with BSac, the best source for dispensational theology.
* Toronto Journal of Theology (TJT)--really more known for its book reviews than ground-breaking articles.
* Trinity Journal (TJ)
* Westminster Theological Journal (WTJ)

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 😄 ) 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 😄) 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)