Purpose:

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 29, 2022

Testing the Conspiracy Theory: "Orthodox" vs. "Non-Orthodox" Variants in Jude

I am a Byzantine-priority New Testament prof who had the privilege of being mentored by Dr. Maurice Robinson to a certain degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Dr. David Alan Black was my doctoral advisor). I have a forthcoming article in TC (I think the next issue, in a few months), so I have begun "dabbling" a bit in Textual Criticism.

 Recently I had the privilege of being interviewed by Mark Ward on textual variants in Jude.  The video can be viewed here. This video was based off of a paper I presented at the Bible Faculty Summit in 2022, entitled "Testing the Theological Conspiracy Theory: Utilizing Jude as a Test-Case for the 'Heretical Alexandrian' and 'Suppressive Orthodox' Positions on Deliberate Corruption in Textual Transmission."

The paper itself interacts with both KJV-onlyists and Bart Ehrman's Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. The paper can be viewed on Google Drive here. I have also uploaded it to Academia.edu. The paper is way too snarky (and just a bit too sarcastic) for me to attempt to publish, but it still has some important data that's worth putting out there.

The basic premise of the video interview is "sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," in that KJV-onlyists delight in criticizing Westcott and Hort and the various critical texts and translations based on them for either altering doctrine or downplaying it. Yet in doing so, they ignore the many places where the critical actually contains "theological truth" (using KJV-only logic) that the TR lacks. Acts 4:25, for starters (just compare the KJV and the ESV; isn't the Holy Spirit kind of important?). The methodology is flawed, because as soon as one declares that good theology (including what is included or excluded) is an important, if not the most important factor in determining the correct reading, then the entire book of Jude should be accepted in the critical texts (specifically the NA28, SBL, and newer Tyndale), not the TR.

Now, to be clear, because I am Byzantine-priority, I do not accept the critical text readings as original in Jude, when they differ from the Byzantine. My point is that if we take KJV-only arguments regarding theology in the variants at face value, then we would be forced to favor the critical texts. Also, in the paper, I argue that Ehrman's methodology also runs into some issues regarding the consistency of scribal habits (though I am not the first to point this out). It's also deliciously ironic to compare Ehrman vs. the KJV-onlyists on John 1:18, since they both agree that deliberate theological change has occurred, and they both blame the Gnostics, and they both agree on the same reading!

In a nutshell, then, there are somme inconsistencies in both the "evil, heretical Alexandrian corrupters" and the "bullying Orthodox corrupters" viewpoints (to be a bit snarky), and the epistle of Jude, in my opinion, makes this point quite clearly.

My commentary on Jude for the Lexham Research Commentary series should be coming out on Logos sometime early next year. At one point in it I compare every single place where 8 different modern Greek New Testaments differ (minus simple spelling variations), though this is hardly anything comparable to what Tommy Wasserman has done in his monograph on Jude (which I draw from for my paper).

Aug 30, 2022

Ruth Anne Reese's new commentary on 1 Peter: initial impressions

As a petrine specialist and the author of the Lexham Research Commentary on 1 Peter, I am excited that this is turning out to be an awesome decade for 1 Peter commentaries. Craig Keener just published his magisterial background commentary; Karen Jobes' 2nd edition of her Baker Exegetical commentary (which, in my opinion, still remains the best overall) is due out soon; Travis Williams and David Horrell's epic ICC is in production; and W. Edward Glenny's ECC with Lexham is supposed to come out anytime now.

In the midst of all that, we are privileged with another commentary that Ruth Anne Reese (Asbury Theological Seminary) just published a few months ago. As a series, the "New Cambridge Bible Commentary" has as one of its strengths a robust focus on background issues, as  well as segments entitled "A Closer Look" and "Bridging  the Horizons" which allow the author to focus  a bit more on key topics of his or her choice. The series as a whole is not, by my observation, intended to be evangelical  per se, but it actually contains a significant number of broadly evangelical authors (e.g.,  Ben Witherington III and Craig Keener both author or co-author multiple commentaries). My readers can rest assured that Reese approaches the book from a strongly confessional perspective, and she affirms Peter's authorship of the epistle which bears his name (see page 19). 

The book demonstrates a solid grasp of secondary and primary literature, especially considering its relatively smaller size. Reese cites recent petrine scholarship, such as that of Travis Williams, frequently, and even manages to fit Keener's new commentary in there (though it came out just months before hers!). Key background works are often cited (e.g., Hengel, Crucifixion; Bain, Women's Socioeconomic Status), as well as ancient sources (e.g., Plutarch, Advice to the Bride and Groom). Another strength is that Reese also cites sources outside of New Testament studies to further enrich her observations.

The commentary generally proceeds verse-by-verse or with short clusters of verses. The commentary is fairly well accessible to those without training in Greek (and Reese transliterates key Greek words and phrases). This is both an advantage  and a disadvantage. It fits well with  the  series' desire to embrace "jargon-free" language, and this commentary is definitely more accessible than those by Davids, Jobes, Keener, etc. The downside is that sometimes a difficult phrase in the Greek text will not receive the attention it receives in more technical commentaries.

The "Closer Look" sections peer  into the social and historical  background of 1 Peter (e.g., pages 134-6 and what constituted "Good Works" in ancient culture). With the "Bridging the Horizons" section, Reese is able to link her observations on the text with theology for the church (e.g., the excellent discussion on spiritual identity and suffering on pages 81-82).

A strength of the  commentary, then, is its ability to meld solid exegesis with theological and practical application. Naturally I would disagree with Reese in a few places. I am very hesitant, for example to assert that "It is clear that the church is portrayed as Israel in 1 Peter" (p. 128), and I believe she too quickly downplays the role of evangelistic vocal proclamation in 1 Peter, though without denying it altogether (e.g., page 207 fn 367). In my opinion, a more balanced treatment of the latter point can be found in Torrey Seland's excellent article, "Resident Aliens in Mission," in Bulletin for Biblical Research vol.  19 (2009). Nonetheless, Reese's treatments of the various issues are solid, well-informed, and often theologically and practically relevant.

Reese, in my opinion is one of the more readable writers out there within Petrine scholarship, i.e., regarding the ability to make it easier to plow through their book (her Two Horizons Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude is also excellent reading and quite quotable). Witherington is another one of the better petrine writers, imo, when he's not getting bogged down in the technical details rhetorical analysis (though for the most accessible treatment of Peter in general, I highly recommend Larry Helyer's The Life and Witness of Peter).

For the curious, here is a very quick tour of Reese's positions on some key topics. As already noted, she does affirm Peter as the author, suggesting that he wrote sometime between AD 65-68 (p. 17).

1. Peter was writing from Rome (p. 7; "Babylon"  = Rome; this is the  standard position  for almost all  commentators these days, regardless of theological persuasion. Somewhere in heaven John Calvin may still be objecting vociferously, unless the Apostle Peter himself has set him straight).

2. Also with the majority of commentaries these days, Reese sees the audience as a mix of Jews and  Gentiles (certainly plausible, though I confess I am finding myself more and more drawn to the vocal minority view of Witherington's and others that the audience was primarily Jewish)

3. In 2:2, regarding what "milk" is referring to, Reese follows Jobes in seeing more christology than bibliology (p. 106).

4. Reese's perspective on Sarah calling Abraham "Lord" is complicated (177-180), and here I feel that perhaps a deeper discussion of alternative interpretive options would help. She does, however, provide a comparative analysis with Philo on Sarah, concluding that "Both idealized portraits are presented in a particular context," yet that "In 1 Peter, women who have courageously chosen  a dangerous path [Christianity], . . . are reminded  that Sarah  also faced danger when she obeyed her husband" (p. 179). Reese also wishes that this passage not be read as forcing  women  to endure abuse without recourse or help, and suggests that "Our  interpretation  of 1 Peter 3:6 need not be prescriptive for every marriage and every situation  that a Christian wife may encounter" (p. 179).

It is with  a sense of irony (because I am a complementarian) that I note that my Lexham Research Commentary was roasted over a bed of hot coals by a 1-star reviewer on the Logos website on precisely this issue (he basically accused me of caving in to feminism for daring to suggest that it is a bad thing to utilize this text to justify abuse against women,  and for citing feminist authors positively, notwithstanding my strong critique of J. Bird, which the reviewer ignored). Now,  in this case, while I would agree with Reese's concerns  against legitimizing abuse, I am much more hesitant  to downplay the  normative nature of 1 Peter 3:1-6. I think we can  "have our  cake  and eat  it too," so to speak, by seeing this text as broadly applicable in every marriage but yet allowing  a woman to seek for sanctuary and legal protection if she is abused. I have discussed this more in depth in  my LRC on 1 Peter. Nonetheless, Reese's discussion contains some helpful material.

5. Regarding "the spirits in prison" in 3:19, I think Reese holds to the view that the phrase refers to the  fallen  angels ("sons of God") in Genesis 6. At least she portrays that view more positively than the other views (p. 218, "The greater context of suffering argues for a message of triumph over enemies . . ."), though she is not dogmatic.  Notwithstanding the strong objections of Wayne Grudem, I personally feel that is the best way to understand the text (no offense to Dr. Grudem, whose Tyndale commentary is, in my opinion, the best commentary for an undergrad class or a church Bible study). 

6. For the OT background to 1 Peter 4:17a, Reese provides  an excellent discussion of the pros and cons of each suggested text before concluding that "It is best to see the background for the idea of judgment  beginning with the household of God as deriving from the generally well-known Old Testament idea that  God is the judge of all the nations and that God's judgment begins with God's own people" (p. 274).

Bottom line: this  is an excellent mid-sized commentary with good depth but also excellent practical and theological discussion. While it will not replace Jobes' BECNT as my commentary of choice for teaching a graduate class, and obviously it will not provide the massive amount of background material one finds in Keener's commentary (but then, who could?), Reese's commentary is still worth its weight in gold and possibly among the top five I would recommend for any evangelical pastor's library.

Note: I purchased this commentary with my own money and was under no obligation to provide a positive review. However, [bias alert!], since Reese cites me positively at one point, I am naturally more favorably inclined towards the commentary. Also, by that logic, Keener's new commentary (which cites me 5 times!) is the greatest commentary ever, and anything Keener writes is golden. 😊  I am being facetious, of course, but as a relatively minor-leaguer, it's nice to be noticed by both Keener and Reese, or at least by their graduate assistants.



Aug 9, 2022

Christians need the Apocalyptic! The Ethical Ramifications of a Literary Style.

The word "apocalyptic" can mean many things to many people in biblical studies. Yet John J. Collins, speaking on behalf of the "Apocalypse Group" (which, disappointedly, is merely a study group of the SBL rather than a coalition of superheroes), provided a fairly precise, academic definition in the journal Semeia back in 1979, and scholarly discussion has had to interact with that definition ever since (see the appendix at the end of this post).

When teaching my Hermeneutics class, focusing on "Apocalyptic Prophecy" as a genre, I like to emphasize three things. Apocalyptic prophecy is: (1.) Epic, in the sense of representing the great conflict between good and evil; (2.) Vividly symbolic, using images, sometimes grotesque images, to represent something; and (3.) Needs to be interpreted (see Daniel 8:15-19).

I like to illustrate the difference between "regular" prophecy (like Isaiah 7:14) and "apocalyptic" prophecy by using one of my students student (we'll call him "Bubba Joe") in the following manner:

Regular prophecy: "Bubba Joe will go to Walmart, see that a 12-pack of Pepsi is half-price off, be tempted to buy it, but then remember his last experience with a dentist, and successfully resist the temptation."

Apocalyptic Prophecy: "Behold, I saw a great white tooth rising out of a sea of chlorine, and there was on top of that tooth a man, frightened and fearful and turning every which way. And there was arrayed against him a great, murky, dark substance in the shape of a "P", and it did assail the tooth, and try to overcome the man, but then a great drill of steel did come and push it away, and the man was freed and did not dissolve into the darkness."

Notice that the second type of prophecy is "epic" (something as simple as a potential trip to the dentist is turned into a cosmic conflict), uses grand images, and needs to be interpreted (you would not understand the second prophecy if you hadn't already read the first prophecy). It is important to realize that apocalyptic prophecy is still prophecy, however. The visions in Daniel and Revelation exemplify this point. The antichrist is not literally a giant beast as in an old Japanese monster movie. Yet this does not mean that he  isn't any more real in the future. The antichrist is coming, and the Spirit intended us to understand his ferociousness  and/or hideousness in terms of a giant monster (Revelation 13).

Now, the book of Jude is often described as  "apocalyptic" to some degree, partially because it seems to quote 1 Enoch, but for other reasons as well. This does not mean the entire epistle should be categorized as apocalyptic prophecy. It does mean,  however, that the situation facing Jude's audience is set within the context of end-time expectation and the ultimate judgment of God (see Richard, 2001, 241, as well as Harrington, 2003, 179; Lyle, 1998, 70). In other words, how Jude's audience reacts to the present crisis vis-à-vis false teachers and their temptations has other-worldly and eternal ramifications.

Here is why this perspective is helpful for Christians. How we react to temptation, and the stand we take for Jesus Christ, does not merely impact the "here-and-now" but rather has epic, cosmic ramifications. When Joseph resisted the advances of Potiphar's wife, in the "here-and-now" he ended up in prison, but from the perspective of eternity he set in motion a chain of events that would culminate in the Exodus, a key point in Salvation History. When the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 6:14, warns against "being unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (a phrase which has often been treated as if it refers to merely marriage, but surely contains broader application than just marriage), he does not characterize this as an unwise mistake, that might cause unhappiness, but rather as part of the conflict between "light" and "darkness," or "Christ" vs. "Belial" (vv. 14-15).

In  other words, apocalyptic literature helps orient us towards the eternal kingdom of God by reminding us that the decisions we make, for good and bad, must not be judged strictly on the basis of the "here-and-now." The temptations we resist and the temptations we cave in to, the activities we participate in, and the attitudes we adopt--all of these must be  understood not primarily in terms of what they mean for me or others today, but rather how they fit into the (very real) cosmic struggle between light and darkness which will only be resolved at the final judgment by Jesus Christ.

Sources cited:

The paragraph on Jude was paraphrasing some material from my forthcoming Lexham Research Commentary on Jude (Lexham Press/Logos).

Collins, John J. "Introduction: Toward the Morphology of a Genre." Semeia 14 (1979): 1-19.

Harrington, Daniel J. "Jude." In 1 Peter, Jude and 2 Peter, by Donald P. Senior and Daniel J. Harrington. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2003.

Lyle, Kenneth R., Jr. Ethical Admonition in the Epistle of Jude. Studies in Biblical Literature 4. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.

Richard, Earl J. Reading 1 Peter, Jude, and 2 Peter: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2001.

Appendix: John J. Collins' definitions of "Apocalypse":
“‘Apocalypse’ is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” 

Jun 23, 2022

James K. Hoffmeier's recent article on the Exodus route

[Update, June 27th: As a point of clarification, Dr. Hoffmeier clearly believes in a miraculous crossing. In an early article for the very conservative but less technical journal Bible and Spade (vol. 1, no. 2, Spring  1988), he notes that it is somewhat of a mystery how "reed sea" in the OT Hebrew became "Red Sea" in the Septuagint, but that ". . . it does not really matter what  it  is translated. It obviously was plenty deep enough to require a tremendous miracle for Israel to pass through while drowning Pharaoh's army." (Emphasis added)]

Though I teach both Hebrew History and Biblical Hebrew at my school, I am most definitely not an expert in the field (my terminal degree was in New Testament, not Old Testament). Nonetheless, even I can sometimes recognize a significant work when it comes out, which is why I wish to recommend James K. Hoffmeier's recent  article, "The Hebrew Exodus from and Jeremiah's Eisodus into Egypt in the Light of Recent Archaeological and Geological Developments," Tyndale Bulletin 72, no. 2 (2021): 73-95.

Kudos to TynB for switching to a fully open-access model, and Hoffmeier's article can be accessed for free here here.

A few things make this article noteworthy. First, the article is based off of Hoffmeier's own archaeological work in Egypt. Second, it emphasizes the fact of just how much geography can change over the span of centuries, a point that is frequently neglected in teaching the Old Testament. Third, Hoffmeier makes it clear that if his data is correct, and the yom sooph identified in the article "was the sea traversed by the escaping Hebrews," then consequently "it was a large lake with deep waters, surrounded by wetlands consisting of reeds and  rushes" (page 91, emphasis added), in contrast to those scholars who accuse the Bible of "embellishing" a marsh into a lake (page 81). Also,  the article contains many detailed maps, which will help the non-specialists among us. It will be interesting to see to what degree Hoffmeier's detailed work influences future evangelical commentaries on Exodus.

Apr 28, 2022

Slandering the New King James Bible . . . with statistics!

Note: the screenshots are from Accordance version 11.2.4 (OakTree Software 2016), and I utilized Accordance for the data as well.

I have a fantastic group of students at the college where I teach, and we all have a very conservative and relatively traditional perspective on Scripture: strong on inerrancy, a preference for the more "traditional" Greek texts, Byzantine, Majority, and TR, plus a preference for a more "literal" style of translation (yes, yes, I know the term "literal" has been abused, but I would affirm that the term still has relevance in describing translation technique [pun intended, "let the reader understand"]).

Now, because of the broadly Independent Baptist circles my students and I belong to, "King James Onlyism" and related issues are occasionally discussed in class (though as a school we strongly discourage needlessly divisive theological dispute). A student recently brought to my attention something he had heard, namely that the New King James version omits "God" or a name of God some 100 times.

This accusation by some in the KJV-only crowd is a classic example of statistics manipulation mixed with flat-out untruth, as we shall demonstrate, with Accordance software version 11 (OakTree Software). I will stick simply with "God" here, but the same sort of investigation could be done with "Lord" or similar terms. I feel the data below will adequately demonstrate the problem with such claims.

For those short on time, I give my conclusion here in a nutshell. If one wishes to take the TR as manifested in Scrivner's edition as the best or perfect Greek text, the closest we can get to the words of the apostles, then, regarding when to translate and  when not to translate "God": The New King James has the superior reading in Acts 7:20 (the KJV inexplicably omits "God") and Third John 6 (the KJV has "a godly sort" when they should have had "of God"), plus Acts 19:20, where the NKJV "Lord" for Kurios is a more literal translation than the KJV's "God," plus all those places where the older King James has "God forbid" when the inspired apostolic writer most definitely did not write Theos ("God") or anything remotely similar. 

Acts 7:20 in Accordance Bible Software, NKJV in the middle:

On the other hand, the KJV has an advantage over the NKJV in First Peter 3:20 and First John 3:16. 

Before we begin running the data and investigating it, I will acknowledge that some have already adequately refuted this base canard, most notably Tim Branton's informed discussion here. Although the work below is mine own, I am grateful to Branton's work for pointing me in a couple directions (but I deliberately did not read Branton's post in its entirety [though I am sure it is well worth reading] to force myself to do my own work).

Step 1: Initial search

I have both the King James and the New King James downloaded on Accordance, as well as the Hebrew text and Stephanus' 1550 Textus Receptus. So I load up the KJV and the NKJV side-by-side, and perform the following search side-by-side (my apologies if the picture is too small):

command line--words: "God <OR> GOD <OR> god <OR> God's"

I have omitted "gods" for obvious reasons. Notice that instead of having the NKJV as a parallel text, I have created a new tab with NKJV, then detached the tab (right click will bring up that option) and resized it side-by-side with the KJV:


There we see that the KJV has 4,714 "flex hits" of any of these words in 4,062 verses, compared to the NKJV's 4,660 "flex hits" in 4,023 verses. "Aha!" one might declare! "Proof indeed that something liberal or communist or new age is going on!" Not so fast, my friend. Let's take a few minutes to see what exactly the differences are in those verses.

Step 2: Narrow the range.

Since 4,000+ references is a bit tough to work through, let's narrow it down to Genesis at first. By right clicking in the gray space next to "range," I can change the range to just Genesis and redo the search (note: you can establish custom ranges). The result is 238 KJV hits versus 235 NKJV hits, a difference of three, a more manageable number. By setting "Display: show text as: references only," I end up with the following:


Now, by scrolling through and comparing those two windows, I see that the three places that differ are Genesis 6:5, 44:7, and 44:17.

Step 3: Compare the differences

At this point, I bring up another Accordance window, and this time I enable parallel texts, specifically the KJV, the NKJV, and the Hebrew Masoretic text, reflected in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. This is what it looks like:


From there I can see that in the first line, the KJV has GOD (all-caps) and the NKJV has LORD (all-caps). They are both translating the divine name (second word from the right in the Hebrew). Repeating this process for Gen 44:7, we find the following:


A woodenly literal translation of the Hebrew, third line down from right to left, would be:     "[may] these things [be] far away [chalil with what looks like a directional heh] in regards to your servants." So the word "God" is not in the Hebrew. The KJV translators were not translating the word "God" but rather using a contemporary English expression. Most importantly, the NKJV is not omitting the name "God" or a name for God if in fact it was never there to begin with!! [This, of course, would not convince those who believe the King James should correct the Hebrew and Greek even of the Masoretic text and TR, but I consider such people so far gone into bibliological heresy that I have no interest in dialoging with them] The situation is exactly the same in Genesis 44:17, "God forbid" vs. "far be it from me."

In summary, we have examined an entire book of the Bible, comparing "God" [etc.] in the KJV vs. the NKJV and 3 verses where the KJV has "God" and the NKJV does not, but in fact one of those cases the NKJV justifiably has "LORD" (reflecting the divine name, which is usually what the KJV does, but not here), and in the other two places the KJV translator(s) has added "God" to form the English expression "God forbid," but that "God" (Elohim or anything else) was never there in the Hebrew.

Step 4: Check the New Testament

I have repeated the search for the entire New Testament now, to give us a bit more variety. There are 1,379 "flex hits" for that command line in the King James vs. 1,356 in the NKJV, so a difference of 23 instances in 17 verses, but this is actually net difference, because (shocking!) there are a couple places the NKJV has "God" where the King James does not (more on this later).

The first difference is fascinating. It is in Matthew 2:12, where the KJV has "being warned of God in a dream" vs. the NKJV's "being divinely warned in a dream." Here it is (with Stephanus' TR):


Now, you will see very clearly that "God," Theos, is lacking in the Greek. So, again, the NKJV is not omitting "God" or a name of God if the inspired apostolic writer did not actually write it to begin with (unless you believe an Anglican from the 1600s has the right to correct an Apostle supernaturally inspired by the Holy Spirit; if that's the case, nothing I say here will be relevant). The difference between the KJV and NKJV comes about from how they translate that interesting Greek word χρηματισθέντες (Aorist passive particle of χρηματίζω, chrēmatizō). The word has an interesting semantic range. By right-clicking on the Greek word I can perform a "lemma search" and see that it can refer to a warning given, often (if not always) supernaturally, in such passages as Matthew 2:22 and Luke 2:26, but that it can also refer to being given a label (not by God, but by humans) in such passages as Acts 11:26 and Rom 7:3. If somehow "God" were an inherently essential component of translating chrēmatizō, it is difficult to understand why the KJV did not translate Acts 11:26 as "called Christians by God first in Antioch" (which, of course, would not make sense).


Looking at almost all of the rest of the NT, I can categorize the differences thusly:

1. The KJV translator(s) wrote down "God forbid" for mē genoito ("may it not be"), where the word "God" is absent. Again, it is slander to accuse the NKJV of "omitting" God if in fact "God" (Theos) was not a word that the Spirit-inspired apostle wrote down in the first place. Luke 20:16, Romans 3:31, 6:2, 6:15, 7:7, 7:13, 11:11, First Corinthians 6:15, Galatians 2:17.

2. The Greek is opheilō, "I wish" or "I desire," and the KJV translated it "I would to God." First Corinthians 4:8, Second Corinthians 11:1.

3. In both Second John 10 and 11, the Greek has legō plus charein plus the dative pronoun ("says a greeting to him"), which the KJV renders "bid him God speed" and "biddeth him God speed" while the NKJV has "greet him" and "greets him."

4. The Greek is Kurios, so the NKJV translated it as "Lord" instead of "God." Acts 19:20. Thus the NKJV is more literal  here than the KJV. 

5. The Greek is chrēmatizō (as in the example above). Matthew 2:12, Romans 11:4, Hebrews 8:5, 11:7.

6. Cases where the King James adds "God" in italics for clarity, when it was not in the original Greek For example, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, the KJV has "as God hath prospered him," with "God" in italics, indicating it is added for clarity and not in the original Greek. The New King James has "as he may prosper." Similarly, Second Timothy 4:16, Hebrews 9:6, and First Peter 5:3

7. A unique case, 1 Peter 3:20. Here the KJV has "the longsuffering of God" while the NKJV has "Divine longsuffering" ("Divine" with a capital "D"). The Greek is hē tou Theou makrothumia, so, quite frankly, I prefer the King James translation here as more literal. However, is it accurate to say that the NKJV removes "God" or "a name of God" from the text? That depends on how we take "Divine." If the NKJV  translation had used "divine" with a lower-case "D" I would be very uncomfortable with that, since even an unbeliever can use the term in a casual sense (though, to be fair, the same could be said about "god"). By capitalizing "D" the NKJV translators make clear it clear they are referring to an attribute of the one true God, though I still prefer the KJV rendering. Having said that, if this alone were enough to torpedo the NKJV, then, as we will see below, the KJV omission of "to God" in Acts 7:20 would be, by the same logic, enough to demonstrate the inferiority of the KJV.

8. Another unique case: First John 3:16. Here the KJV has "the love of God," with "of God" in italics, indicating the translators were supplying it even though it was not in the text they were using. The NKJV has "love." The oddity, however, is that tou Theou ("of God") is in Stephanus' TR as well as the Trinitarian Bible Society's TR (Scrivner's). So did the KJV make a mistake by putting it in italics? And why did the NKJV not include it?

Fascinatingly, there are few couples places where the NKJV has "God" and the KJV does not. For example, Matthew 15:5 and its parallel Mark 7:11, as well as Acts 7:5 (since Theos is not in the Greek, the NKJV has italics here). Yet even more puzzling, in Acts 7:20 the NKJV states that Moses "was well-pleasing to God" and the KJV states that Moses "was exceeding fair" but omits "to God"! You can see it for yourself below:


Since Stephanus' TR has "to God" (to Theō, τῷ Θεῷ), it's a bit puzzling why the King James does not. Looking at the Trinitarian Bible Society TR (Scrivner's), I find that it also has tō Theō. So I am honestly puzzled why the King James omitted "to God."

Similarly, 3 John 6. The NKJV has "in a manner worthy of God" whereas the KJV has "after a godly sort." Since the Greek is ἀξίως τοῦ Θεοῦ (axiōs tou Theou), with Theos clearly as a noun, I favor the NKJV here just as I favored the  KJV in 1 Peter 3:20.



So using KJV-only logic (according to some), we could actually accuse the KJV of "omitting" God in a couple places. That would not be fair, of course, but that's precisely how the KJV-only logic of some works (exemplified by KJV-only accusations against the critical text for "omitting" God or Jesus, etc. but failing to adequately grapple with places where the critical text actually includes a member of the Trinity and the KJV does not: compare the KJV with the ESV in Acts 4:25 and Jude 25). 

Now, even using a sophisticated program like Accordance, the data is a bit incomplete, because although the verse difference between the KJV and NKJV is 17, the actual "flex hit" difference is 23, so there's six occurrences of "God" unaccounted for, I think. [Please somebody correct me if I'm misunderstanding the data!] But I'm worn out, and I think I've made my point. The NKJV actually has an edge over the KJV because in two places (Acts 7:20 and Third John 6) it has "God" where the KJV does not but should have while in multiple places the KJV carelessly and casually says "God forbid," an English expression that we should not be using casually, when Theos is not what the Apostle wrote; conversely there are only two places (not a hundred, and not dozens) where, if we stick to the TR, the NKJV should have had "God" and did not (1 Peter 3:20 and First John 3:16), and in the first one the NKJV translators at least had "Divine" with a capital "D" while in the second instance even the KJV translators put it in italics (so did the KJV translators make a mistake by putting  it in italics?). Bottom line: if we truly believe that the Spirit-inspired Apostles wrote in Greek and not English, the NKJV is slightly superior (at least in the NT) to the KJV as to when it does and does not have "God" in English.


Apr 8, 2022

Has Ugbaru/Gubaru [Gobryas] been dethroned as Daniel's "Darius"? Rodger C. Young's recent JETS article.

[Added a point of clarification on 4/13/2022]

I am in my 8th year of teaching at BCM now (how the time flies!), and every Fall I have taught "Hebrew History," a required Jr./Sr. course. I am not very well qualified for it, but it has grown on me! In my study and teaching of this topic, I have always been puzzled at the reference to "Darius" in Daniel, since the most significant "Darius" of that era, Darius the Great (Darius I) did not begin ruling until 522 BC. 

Now, if Daniel was deported at the first deportation, 605 BC, and let's say for the sake of argument he was ten years old at that time, he could in theory have lived long enough to have intersected with the reign of Darius I, but we see not hint in Scripture that Daniel lived to be what would have been a very remarkable 90+ years old. Also, Darius I seems to have gained the throne at a much younger age than the Darius of Daniel (see Dan 5:31 [6:1).

It is also possible that "Darius" was simply a different name for Cyrus the Great, and the syntax of Dan 6:28 could, in theory, allow for that, but in my opinion that would be unlikely.

Generally, what I have taught my Hebrew History students is that Darius was probably an honorary name given to Gubaru [a.k.a. Ugbaru or Gobryas], whose epic tale of betrayal and revenge is well-worth relating to the class, regardless! Still, that's pure conjecture, without any substantial evidence, and I have never been totally sold on that theory (though it fits nicely).

Enter Rodger C. Young. In his recent article "Xenophon's Cyaxares: Uncle of Cyrus, Friend of Daniel," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 64, no. 2 (June 2021): 265-285, Young builds off of the point that in Xenophane's more neutral (compared to Herodotus) account of Cyrus' career, his uncle Cyaxares II features prominently. Cyrus gave Cyaxares a palace in Babylon, and Cyaxares gave Cyrus his daughter as a wife. After an extensive review of primary/ancient sources, Young concludes that Cyaxares II would fit well with Daniel's Darius as a governor of Babylon, and "it is clear that [Cyaxares's] throne name was Darius" (Young, 277). To be clear, this is a different Cyaxares than the Cyaxares who defeated the Scythians and died in 585. Cyaxares II in Xenophon's account is the grandson of Cyaxares I. [For the argument as to the existence of this Cyaxares II, see Young's article]

Not relying on my own opinion as a NT specialist, I vetted this with two OT specialists that I admire, and both of them gave a positive review of the article. This means that this summer when I revise my Hebrew History lecture notes, I will incorporate Dr. Young's perspective into my notes (citing him appropriately!) and quiz/test questions. Kudos to Dr. Young, then, to what is probably one of the more significant JETS articles to come out in recent years.

Feb 12, 2022

John R. Rice: The Last Revivalist of the 20th Century (new book by my father, John R. Himes)

 I am pleased to announce that my father, 30+ year veteran missionary to Japan and now my fellow colleague at BCM, has just published John R. Rice: Last Revivalist of the 20th Century. My father, John Rice Himes, is the grandson of John R. Rice, a significant fundamentalist leader of the mid-20th century, who was also friends with such notable Southern Baptists as Adrian Rogers.

The book draws heavily from primary sources, including the John R. Rice letters at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (which my father credits in the "Acknowledgements" section). In fact, my father is a primary source himself, having grown up knowing John R. Rice and having worked with him at the Sword of the Lord. The book also utilizes key secondary sources, including the three dissertations at major schools written specifically on John R. Rice, as well as Dr. Nathan Finn's excellent dissertation on fundamentalism in the south (produced at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary).

Naturally the book will be very positively-oriented (that can hardly be helped), but it is not a hagiography and provides a very honest look at John R. Rice, his life, legacy, and theology. For those aware of fundamentalist history, the most controversial chapter will no doubt be the one that discusses Jack Hyles (ch. 15). Those studying broader evangelical history will be interested in ch. 13, "The Split with Billy Graham."

For now, the book may be purchased from the website of "On to Victory Press" here. We're hoping to be selling it soon through Amazon.com, as well. In addition, the book is currently being recorded so that we can sell it through audible.com.


Jan 5, 2022

Born Again from Incorruptible Seed: 1 Peter 1:23-25 and eternal security

In soteriology I am somewhere between an Arminian and a Calvinist, a "Calviminian," if you will (I resist the impulse to claim that I'm a "biblicist," since that's a bit snooty; anybody who prioritizes the text of Scripture over all other sources in forming their theology is a "biblicist," whether they be Arminian or Calvinist or in-between). I hold to eternal security but also resistible grace. I have benefitted greatly from the writings of Arminians, many of whom are well worth reading on a variety of topics (the great Charles Wesley, after all, believed a Christian could lose his or her salvation; see his sermon "The Great Privilege of Those that Are Born of God"). Nonetheless, I skew very strongly towards the "eternal security of all true believers" side of the debate, without quite embracing everything packed into the "perseverance of the saints" portion  of the "Tulip," at least not quite as articulated by some Calvinists.

Yet overall I consider myself an exegete more than a theologian, and I feel I can articulate better the meaning of a particular text over the meaning and implications of a particular doctrine. In other words, I'm a better "little picture" guy than a "big picture" guy.

Recently the online journal Sacrum Testamentum published my article "'Born Again from Incorruptible Seed': The Irrevocable Nature of Salvation in 1 Peter." The specific article is linked to here, and the whole issue can be read hereSacrum Testamentum is not as well-known or prestigious (not in the same ballpark as JETS, BBR, BibSac, etc.) I believe it is by invitation-only, it focuses strictly on the doctrine of eternal security, but it does have a peer-review process (my article was peer-reviewed).

Regardless, for anybody interested in 1 Peter's use of LXX Isaiah 40, this may be a helpful article. At one point the article contains a side-by-side comparison of the Greek of 1 Peter 1:24-25a, Isa 40:6-8 LXX [Greek], and Isa 40:6-8 MT [Hebrew], as well as providing an in-depth study of the context of Peter's quotation from Isaiah 40. My overall argument is that Peter's use of Isaiah 40 logically necessitates eternal security, because the idea that God's divinely implanted "seed" could fail to accomplish its task goes completely contrary to the contrast set up in Isaiah and 1 Peter between man's work and God's work. Here is a paragraph from near the end of my article:

"Secondly, one must ask: if one is currently a child of the divine nature, can such status be lost? In other words, can one’s 'born-again' status be revoked? Only if the divine seed could be corrupted or destroyed, and the Word of God’s creation of the new birth within somebody be voided. Yet to this possibility both Isaiah and Peter respond with a definitive 'No!' The divine seed cannot fail in what it has initiated (cf. Isa 55:11). To participate in the new birth means that the divine seed has already been implanted, and if the divine seed has been implanted, it cannot possibly waste away or fail to create eternal life (as if it were mere agricultural seed that could be cut down by the wind). This is the whole point of Peter’s argument. While man either chooses to accept or reject the Word of God and the resurrected Christ (1 Pet 2:48), both the giving and the sustaining of that new life is the work of God, not man.75 [citing Feldmeier's essay; see below] Thus 1 Pet 1:23 stresses that the Word of God which initiates rebirth remains forever, i.e., 'can never be made ineffective'!76" [quoting from Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter].

In conclusion, the reader might also be interested in two lesser-known (but helpful) sources I found when researching for this article, sources that deal specifically with the "born-again" language in 1 Peter: Katherine Anne Girsch, "Begotten Anew: Divine Regeneration and Identity Construction in 1 Peter," (PhD diss., University of Durham, 2015); and Reinhard Feldmeier, "Wiedergeburt [New Birth] im 1. Petrusbrief," in Wiedergeburt, ed. Reinhard Feldmeier, Biblisch-theologische Schwerpunkte (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecth, 2005). Also, Martin Williams has written an entire monograph on soteriology in 1 Peter, The Doctrine of Salvation in the First Letter of Peter, SNTSMS 149 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).


Nov 24, 2021

Mounce's Greek Grammar, 4th ed.: A mini-review

Full disclosure: I teach Greek Syntax and advanced seminary Greek, but not 1st year Greek Grammar. I have, however, taught beginning Greek in the past and also tutored students in Greek.

400,000 purchaser's can't all be wrong! I think that this would be a fair observation regarding William D. Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2019). It's been approximately 20 years since I first cracked open my copy of Mounce's 1st edition back in my Maranatha days; it served me well enough back then, and it has continued to serve other students well through three more iterations.

Now, here's the thing about 1st year Greek grammars: (1.) Theres a ton of them out there, and (2.) like sports teams, everybody has their favorite, which they can defend vociferously because     . . . well, just because. What I'm trying to say is, there's a level of subjectivity involved with this kind of analysis, and the ultimate bottom line is, "Did the grammar help you read your Greek New Testament?" All other issues are secondary.

From that perspective, Mounce's grammar is a raging success, but then so are most grammars with a halfway competent teacher and a group of students who are not forced into the class against their will. What sets apart Mounce, to a certain degree, is (1.) a heavy focus on memorization and paradigms, (2.) a straightforward "nouns-to-verbs" approach in progression, and (3.) an effective integration with online material such as "FlashWorks."

The first two points can be somewhat controversial. There is nothing "fancy" about Mounce's pedagogical perspective, and I'm actually quite ok with that (many may wish to look elsewhere for "total immersion" methods, etc.) The paradigm layout, in my opinion, is effective enough, though intelligent teachers may wish to adapt them somewhat (it's easy enough to make one's own charts on MS Word).

As to Mounce's decision to complete nouns, adjectives, and pronouns before even dipping the toe into present indicative, this stands in stark contrast with many other grammars these days, including that of my own Doktorvater David Alan Black, who introduces verbs on chapter 2, and Stanley Porter, who introduces 1st Aorist verbs in chapter 4 (and before present tense! Which, to be fair, from his linguistic perspective actually makes sense). I have mixed feelings about that, but naturally the inventive professor is free to adjust the schedule in which his or her class tackles those chapters, anyways.

The third point is an ongoing, cumulative improvement since the first edition, and the range of possibilities inherent within "FlashWorks" is incredible, for those willing to get their hands a bit dirty (I will confess, however, that a couple aspects of the Hebrew vocab version of FlashWorks drives me nuts; I haven't used the Greek side as much, and not at all as a teacher, so I can't comment too much on it).

Now, one point of critique (and this critique applies equally well to other grammars). The discussion of "aspect" (e.g., page 155)  is, I believe, potentially misleading. Mounce, like others, conflates "aspect" with "aktionsart" (at least in my opinion), which has the potential to cause confusion for students going on to deeper study. In addition, since we are using the "imperfect" label for a tense (ch. 21), it seems needlessly confusing to use "imperfective" as an aspectual label (ch. 27) when referring to the present tense, when, in fact, we're really talking about aktionsart anyways. There's got to be a better way. (And, again, the Greek verbal system is probably the most controversial aspect of the Koine language in the NT, so good people may differ).

Overall, though, Mounce's Grammar is a significant improvement over previous editions of what has already been a top-tier introduction to biblical Greek. The book looks better than the oddly-tall 3rd edition (which wasn't bad, really, just a bit cumbersome), the layout of the chapters is better (e.g., the "halftime review"), and it integrates well with the free "FlashWorks" software. Kudos to Mounce and Zondervan Academic for their excellent work!


Oct 15, 2021

Only a Sinner Saved by Grace: A Mini-Review of the New Autobiography of Ed Nelson

I am privileged to have recently finished the autobiography of evangelist and pastor Ed Nelson, Only A Sinner Saved by Grace, written with his granddaughter, Emilee Nelson (Castle Rock, CO: Mile Hi, 2020). The book can be purchased here, and is also available on "Audible.com"

This autobiography has three key things going for it: spiritual edification, enjoyable prose, and honesty about mistakes (this last point, in my humble-but-opinionated opinion, is an element minimized in all too many Christian biographies and autobiographies). I have a lot of praise for this book (it is definitely worth its weight in gold), though at the end I will also offer two minor critiques.

In addition, I would like to point out that this book serves as a valuable primary source on important figures and some key events of 20th century fundamentalism . Consequently non-fundamentalists researching these topics will find value in this book, even if they are not necessarily sympathetic to some of the theological commitments that marked Dr. Nelson's ministry.

Ed Nelson was born December 1923, and is alive today, approaching 100, as I type these words! He has been both a pastor and an evangelist, has ministered to the persecuted church in Russia (ch. 35), and has left quite the legacy within independent Baptist circles (our library, here at Baptist College of Ministry, is named after him). He is and has been a staunch fundamentalist, but one who is nonetheless critical of some elements of fundamentalism such as King James Onlyism (pages 365-7) and Jack Hyles (ch. 31). He was on "ground-zero," so to speak, of some conflicts within fundamentalism and broader conservative evangelicalism (the lines were not so rigidly drawn in the 50s and 60s). Chapter 20 details why he left the Conservative Baptist Association, which oversaw Denver Seminary (yes, that Denver Seminary). I will point out the obvious: this book has the potential to be very controversial, in some settings! Regardless, here are three key points that make this book very valuable:

Spiritual edification: The key word for much of this book is: Providence. From the gripping description of the farm accident that almost killed young Ed when he was 17 years old, to his profession of faith at the fourth night of Bob Jones' preaching (after swearing not to go back), to the circumstances (Bright's disease) that kept him in America as an evangelist rather than as a missionary to Japan--all this demonstrates God's sovereign guidance and direction in Dr. Nelson's life. Throughout the book you will also see Dr. Nelson's passion for souls, love for family, and faith in God's supernatural ability to intervene in the affairs of men, and you will be challenged accordingly.

Quality of writing: The book is well-written. This is a testament both to Ed Nelson's ability as a story-teller and Emilee Nelson's literary skill. The opening chapter (when a 14-year old Ed almost died) is a gripping way to start off the book, and the narrative flows easily. The book is definitely not technical, and yet it does not dive to an overly-simplistic or idiosyncratic level that one might occasionally expect outside of a major publisher. Furthermore, I experienced multiple "laugh-out-loud" moments (e.g., when a 94-year-old Dr. Nelson finally realizes why he shouldn't be driving anymore . . .).

Honesty: Compared to the rest of the staff here at my beloved BCM, I probably read less Christian biographies (though I've begun to gravitate to historical biographies: currently finishing Chernow's biography of Grant and Norman Schwarzkopf's autobiography with Peter Petre). When I do read a Christian biography, it's more likely to be that of a unique German theologian than somebody more from my own circles (e.g., James Edwards' Between the Swastika and the Sickle about Ernst Lohmeyer). One reason I do not read so many Christian biographies is that, rightly or wrongly, I feel that too many of them are "hagiographies." It seems that often the only negative thing one learns about the minister in question is some sort of lack of faith that they overcome, resulting in decades of glorious reaping of the spiritual harvest. Rarely, especially in autobiographies, is the person in question held accountable for real mistakes that had lasting impact. Case in point: C. T. Studd's separation from his wife for 13 years is rarely given more than a brief mention, when in my opinion such abandonment is the equivalent of divorce (for the record: I do not believe God would call a Christian minister to such deliberate abandonment of a spouse for the sake of ministry; God does not call us to sin for the sake of doing good, and such deliberate separation is utterly contrary to the whole purpose of marriage).

Now, I say all that to say this: Dr. Nelson's honesty is refreshing. He discusses two major  mistakes in his ministry: 1. Allowing his wife to reach the point where she suffered a mental and physical breakdown (which they were able to overcome, and learn from), and 2. Estrangement from his son (this latter issue is not dealt with as specifically, but Dr. Nelson takes much of the blame; still, it's hard not to sympathize with him somewhat on this one since his son has apparently refused all attempts at reconciliation to this day). This openness on the part of Dr. Nelson makes me appreciate his godly character more; his candor about mistakes does not detract from his character, it adds to it. I wish more Christian biographies and autobiographies were like this. Sometimes we can learn from the mistakes of others just as much as their successes. This, after all, is why divinely-inspired Scripture does not hold back from showing us the mistakes of its heroes.

Two minor critiques: Only Scripture is inerrant, so any book review I write will gently offer at least some critique. These are minor issues, however, that do not detract from the enjoyment nor spiritual edification offered by the book. [And, for the record, I am not one of these profs. that refuses to give a student a 100% on the basis that nobody is perfect!]

(1.) First, on  the one hand this book at times offers a lot of clarity on the fundamentalist ethos (e.g., the criticisms of Billy Graham were appropriate without being overdone, imo, especially when considering what was essentially his betrayal of the persecuted church in Russia in 1982, though this is not the basis on which we should judge the entirety of his ministry). Having said that, there are times that the book could have offered more information to help the reader understand what, exactly, was going on, or perhaps briefly offered the other side of the story. The academic in me cringes a little bit in dismissing Denver Seminary as simply "A CBA school that was compromising" (p. 196). This is probably true to a certain degree from our fundamentalist perspective, but it is hardly the whole story. Even today Denver Seminary includes some evangelical "all-stars" amongst its faculty who, while hardly fundamentalist, have nonetheless taken strong conservative positions against modernism and have proven very helpful for my own studies (I'm thinking here especially of Craig Blomberg and Richard Hess).

(2.) Second, a book like this needs an index! [I am very opinionated about indices!!] An index would help a valuable primary source like this become more accessible to the researcher.

Conclusion: So there you have it! This book is a must-buy for: (1.) anybody interested in the story of a very important evangelist and pastor within independent Baptist circles in the second half of the 20th century; (2.) anybody who wishes to be spiritually challenged by a gripping and honest autobiography; and (3.) anybody researching fundamentalist history in the second half of the 20th century.



Sep 25, 2021

Teaching rhetoric as part of NT Exegesis: Some helpful sources.

I have the privilege of teaching the graduate course "Introduction to New Testament Exegesis" every two years. This year, I've decided to shake up my normal way of teaching the class and add in a part on "New Testament Rhetoric," which I've begun dabbling in, for better of for worse!

Now, "rhetoric" itself is difficult to define, and scholars do not always agree amongst themselves. Carl Joachim Classen provides us a good starting point: "The deliberate, calculated use of language for the sake of communicating various kinds of information  ini the manner intended by the speaker (and the theory of such a use)" (Classen 2002, 45). In a nutshell, the study of rhetoric assumes that how an author says something is important in addition to what he or she says. 

In modern scholarly treatments on NT rhetoric, the focus is often on macro-rhetoric, or the overall structure of a letter and its persuasive power. This was popularized with Hans Dieter Betz's commentary on Galatians (1979), where he mapped the structure of the epistle according to formal Greco-Roman conventions. This, however, is highly controversial, as seen in a recent issue of Bulletin for Biblical Research which included a debate between Ben Witherington + Jason Myers vs. Stanley Porter on this topic (see below). Interestingly, out of all the New Testament epistles besides Galatians, 2 Peter is perhaps the most likely to be analyzed in terms of formal Greco-Roman rhetoric (ever since Duane F. Watson published his highly influential monograph in 1988).

I'm a bit more interested in "micro-rhetoric," which deals with the minutiae such as word-order, word-play, alliteration, etc., as well as how such items impact or illuminate the social relationship between the author and his or her audience. To a certain degree rhetorical studies and discourse analysis overlap here, though virtually nobody that I know of discusses how the two intersect (except, intriguingly, Alan Kam-Yau Chan's 2016 monograph on Melchizedek Passages in the Bible, though all too briefly). 

Anyways, here are some resources I've found especially helpful for studying the topic. All of them are reasonably priced (we're not talking inaccessible $100 monographs here). I should also mention that I will require my students to read my Doktorvater, David Alan Black's Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, which has sections on both rhetoric and discourse analysis.

Helpful resources:

Black, C. Clifton. The Rhetoric of the Gospel: Theological Artistry in the Gospels and Acts, 2nd ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2013. C. Black's essay in the 2010 book Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation (2nd ed.) is also helpful.

Bulletin for Biblical Research 26 no. 4 (2016), with an initial article by Stanley E. Porter, a response by Jason A. Myers and Ben Witherington, and a rejoinder by Porter. For more on Porter vs. Witherington, see The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 55 no. 2 (2012) for a critique by Porter of Witherington's work in social-rhetorical criticism, and then JETS 58 no. 1 (2015) for Witherington's defense of analyzing NT texts in light of Greco-Roman rhetoric.

Classen, Carl Joachim. Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament. Boston: Brill Academic, 2002.

Kennedy, George A., trans. and ed. Invention and Method: Two Rhetorical Treatises from the Hermogenic Corpus. Writings from the Greco-Roman World. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005. This is one of the key ancient sources on rhetoric, and we can thank Dr. Kennedy for providing a modern translation (I've tried to translate parts of this on my own from TLG; I didn't fare too well!). The reader should also be aware that Aristotle's The Art of Rhetoric is a much earlier Greek source on the topic.

Kennedy, George A. New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

Martin, Troy W., ed. Genealogies of New Testament Rhetorical Criticism. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014. Personally, I found this book very helpful in explaining the various views out there on rhetorical criticism in NT studies.

Muilenburg, James. "Form Criticism and beyond." Journal of Biblical Literature 88 no. 1 (1969): 1-18. Notwithstanding its somewhat misleading title, this article (originally a presidential address) is considered a landmark source that reignited interest in rhetorical criticism in biblical studies.

Watson, Duane Frederick. Invention, Arrangement, and Style: Rhetorical Criticism  of Jude and 2 Peter. SBLDS 104. Atlanta: Scholars, 1988.

Witherington, Ben, III. New Testament Rhetoric: An Introductory Guide to the Art of Persuasion in and of the New Testament. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009.

Wuellner, Wilhelm. "Where Is Rhetorical Criticism Taking Us?" Catholic Biblical Quarterly 49 no. 3 (1987): 448-63. Wuellner helped facilitate a movement to pay more attention to the social dimensions of rhetoric.

Warning! Closing theological digression alert! As a final point, for those of us that  believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, we must take the issue of rhetoric a step farther: how the Holy Spirit says something is relevant, in addition to what He said in Scripture. More than just the choice of words, such things as structure,  word-order, word-play, etc., are all part of the inspiration of the original documents. Which is why any claim for perfection of a particular translation actually diminishes the doctrine of inerrancy: The Holy Spirit himself inspired the alliteration in Hebrews 1:1, alliteration which is lacking in the King James (and almost all English translations). This means that no matter how solid a translation might be on Hebrews 1:1 (and the KJV translators did an excellent job here), if it did not alliterate in the target language, it is not perfectly preserving all that the Holy Spirit inspired. End of theological digression!


Jul 30, 2021

Another Article on Phileō and Agapaō in John 21:15-17 (Talbert in JGRChJ)

 Last year (2020) I had the privilege of publishing an article in the Bulletin for Biblical Research on phileō and agapaō in John 21:15-17 as a possible allusion to LXX Prov 8:17. To my surprise, I recently found out that around the same time another article had been published with a similar focus, specifically:

Andrew R. Talbert, "The Synonymous Rendering of Aristotelian φιλέω with ἀγαπάω in the Gospel of John," Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 16 (2020): 9-29.

His article is accessible for free here. I believe Talbert's article and my article actually complement each other. Like me, Talbert sees the two verbs as basically interchangeable in John and, to my surprise, Talbert (like me) also sees LXX Proverbs as very relevant to the discussion (it's gratifying that I'm not the only person on earth that believes that!).

I think both of us would have benefitted by having knowledge of the other's work before publication, but both of us were probably going through a blind peer-review process at the same time. Talbert's sophisticated discussion of the "Aristotelian" phileō, and how John revises it, is completely lacking in my paper.  Conversely, Talbert does not interact with the recent articles by Shepherd and Böhler on the topic of agapaō/phileō in John as I do.

So, dear reader, if you really want to study up on phileō-agapaō in  John, there are now four articles written  in the last 12 years that you should read! Talbert in JGRChJ (2020), myself in BBR (2020), Dieter Böhler in Biblica (2015), and Shepherd in JBL (2010). 

Jul 8, 2021

Craig Keener's New Commentary on 1 Peter: Initial Impressions

As of June this year, we are all indebted to Craig S. Keener for yet another commentary on a New Testament book. Entitled simply 1 Peter: A Commentary, it is published by Baker Academic and showcases many of Keener's strengths in writing and research. Keener is one of my favorite NT scholars, and though I am an independent Baptist I even benefitted from his book Spirit Hermeneutics while I was working through, for my own benefit (and that of my Hermeneutics class), the role of the Spirit in studying Scripture.

I think what sets this book apart is the incredible detail given to primary and ancient sources, a specialty of Keener's (as those of us who have used his 4-volume  commentary on Acts know). To put this in perspective: the bibliography of primary sources is 23 pages of two columns, and his index of ancient sources, not including Scripture, is a jaw-dropping 61 and a half pages, including everything from Theon of Smyrna to Virgil to Phaedrus to Cicero. 

Also, in the midst of the commentary Keener consistently inserts "A Closer Look" segments that deal with background issues such as "Marriage Expectations in Greco-Roman Antiquity" or "Providence, Fate, and Predestination in Antiquity." Other commentaries have done this on a limited basis, but for Keener this is a main feature of the commentary.

A couple notes on content: Keener competently defends Petrine authorship (pp. 8-25), suggests that in 3:19 the reference is to fallen angels and that ". . . ancient audiences might take for granted that Christ's proclamation to the spirits was not an invitation to repentance, but rather a proclamation  of their complete subjugation" (p. 275), seems to tentatively prefer the view that eperōtēma in 3:21 means "pledge" (p. 283), and states regarding the crux interpretum of 4:17 that "In the OT, God was sometimes more strict with his own people first, since they knew better (Jer. 25:29; Amos 3:2; cf. Isa. 10:12)" and that "Believers may experience even unjust suffering as divine discipline in one sense (cf. Heb. 12:3-11), as something to make them better. But one could be assured that if even the righteous suffer, judgment will come far more harshly on those who disobey the gospel . . . ."

I would also note that a hermeneutical strength of this commentary is Keener's focus on how Peter's original audience would have understood something, based on primary sources from that time period.

The only critiques I have at this point are that Keener's use of primary and/or ancient sources may seem a bit excessive at times (e.g., page 239, where basically half the page consists of footnotes referring to ancient sources), and the "Closer Look" sections, while helpful, have a tendency to crop up in places where they disrupt the commentary on a particular verse. In addition, they can be somewhat lengthy, going on for pages and pages before one returns to the actual commentary.

Nonetheless, this is a milestone for Petrine commentaries. For academics (professors, grad students, and anybody trying to publish anything on 1 Peter), this becomes one of the essential commentaries up there with Paul J. Achtemeier, Karen Jobes,  Leonhard Goppelt, and John H. Elliott, definitely in the "top 5" most important commentaries. For pastoral work, both Jobes' Baker Exegetical Commentary and Wayne Grudem's Tyndale Commentary are more accessible, and thus maintain their position as the two essential commentaries for pastors or Bible-study leaders, in my humble-but-opinionated opinion, though Keener's would still be a very helpful addition to any pastor's library if their budget allows.

Having said all that, full-disclosure, one reason I am excited and positively inclined towards Keener's commentary is because this is the first commentary on 1 Peter to cite some of my own work on 1 Peter. But I trust my readers will forgive that personal bias.

Jun 22, 2021

Christians, Professional Sports, and "Pride" Month: "Meat offered to idols" as an ethical analogy.

Normally on this blog I focus on academic matters (albeit from an unashamedly theologically conservative position), with the intent to provide an academic resource for students of Scripture. Once in a while, however, I feel the need to speak on practical matters.

This year, the month of June has seen an unprecedented level of activity from major professional sports organizations, both in the US and Europe, celebrating June as the so-called "pride" month for the LGBTQ community. This raises significant questions about to what degree a Christian can in good conscience participate in professional sports entertainment, questions that must at least be discussed.

I will state at the outset that this brief discussion assumes the following:
1. Christ dies for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and He was seen of many witnesses (1 Cor 15).
2. All Scripture (which includes Romans 1:18-32) is authoritative for the Christian.
3. God loves all humans, including homosexuals, and wishes to save them (John 3:16, etc.).
4. Yet homosexuality is a sin, and an offense to God (Rom 1:18-32, etc.).
5. In the beginning, God made them male and female, one man and one woman in a committed relationship (Gen 2:21-25; Matthew 18:3-9).
(For those that disagree with one or more of those 5 points listed above, this is not a discussion board and I will only be posting responses that make a legitimate contribution to my main point here about a Christian's involvement).

Now, it is not enough that a Christian merely abstains from participating in a sinful act. Scripture also emphasizes the need to avoid association with sinful acts, as well. While space forbids a thorough discussion of "holiness ethics" here, I would like to briefly focus on the Greek word eidōlothutos, "meat  offered to idols," which is expressly forbidden by both the Apostolic Council (Acts 15:29, which interestingly has reworded the earlier "pollutions of idols" in Acts 15:20 [tōn alisgēmatōn]), and Jesus Himself (Rev 2:14, 20). The point being, it was not just the act of worshipping idols or sacrificing to them that was prohibited, but even something as otherwise-innocent as eating meat if, in fact, it was so closely linked to idolatry itself that the act of eating meat was seen as participation in an idolatrous event.

Now, the million-dollar question is: how close is too close?, i.e., at what point does something become so closely entangled with a sinful lifestyle (whether that be idolatry or homosexuality) that a Christian would be expected to abstain? Sometimes it is a matter of degree. Paul clearly prohibits pagan banquets in 1 Cor 10:19-22 (using that word eidōlothutos in v. 19), but then a couple verses later (v. 27-28) allows for eating of meat at a neighborly meal, meat that, hypothetically, may have at one time been involved in idol-worship, so long as eating that meat would not harm one's testimony.

Though I am not doing justice to all the exegetical issues in these passsages, nonetheless the principle seems clear: the more closely associated the meat becomes with idolatry (including the sort of pagan guild festival that Jesus is castigating in His letter to Thyatira), the more inappropriate it becomes for the Christian. Paul's rhetoric in 1 Cor 10:20-21 and 2 Cor 6:14-18 is especially helpful here). [see Hemer 1989, 107-9 and 120 for discussion of the trade guilds in Thyatira; see Himes 2020 for a discussion of the link between Jesus' letter to Thyatira and the Apostolic council].

Now, back to sports. Taking Major League Baseball (of which I am a huge fan) as an example, almost every single team has committed itself in some way to the celebration of "Pride" month to "honor" a lifestyle choice that is unbiblical. The two exceptions, to the best of my knowledge, are my beloved Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros.

We understand that professional sports, like meat, is not inherently evil but actually good. We also recognize, however, that something that is "good" can be tainted. Furthermore, to the extent that my analogy with "meat offered to idols" is legitimate (and I believe it is), within this context a Christian's involvement with and enjoyment of professional sports can only be justified to the degree that it is not tainted by support of an ungodly lifestyle. Consequently, Christians should be at a minimum putting some thought into the issue of to what degree they can participate in/enjoy Major League Baseball. [That thought is not original with me, but the following is my own practical adaptation of it.]

Here is my own suggestion for proceeding (Christians should, of course, always follow their Spirit-guided conscience, but this is my personal "action step" going forward). In a nutshell: "Abstain from June." Let me explain:

On the one hand, at this point I do not believe the MLB has, as a whole been tainted enough to necessitate withdrawing completely from listening to games or purchasing merchandise (though if an emphasis on the LGBTQ community continues in other months, I will rethink that statement). Having said that, on the other hand I am now going forward under the assumption that the month of June, since it is being promoted as "Pride Month" by most of MLB, is problematic. As a Christian, then, going forward, I will abstain from MLB-related entertainment or purchases during the month of June. I currently have a month-by-month subscription with MLB-audio, and in future years  I will see if I can "unsubscribe" just for this month (too late for this year). At a minimum, I will not listen to any more games this month (starting today; right now, I would normally have a game live-streaming in my office from MLB.com).

On the other hand, once we hit July, if my beloved Texas Rangers have not capitulated to pressure to formally/officially have a "pride" day or team uniforms or anything like that, I intend to offer my support via hard cash by buying something from the official Rangers website (in full disclosure, it won't be much, I'm hardly rich, but it will be something).

I would also challenge all evangelical Christians to not attend, watch, or listen to any specific game that focuses on the LGBTQ community, and (obviously) not to purchase any merchandise that promotes that lifestyle. 

At a minimum this is a discussion that needs to happen amongst evangelical Christians, within the broader context of "Christ and culture." Specifically, more thought needs to be put into this question: "At what point can my enjoyment of something cause my loyalty to Christ to be questioned?" How we handle this question (and the answers will not always be clear-cut) will have implications for shopping, entertainment, and even business assocations. Come to think of it, in this regard a Christian in the 21st century does not differ that much from a Christian in the 1st century!

Sources mentioned:
Hemer, Colin  J. The Letters  to the Seven  Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989.

Himes, Paul A. "Did Jesus Quote the Apostles? The Possible Intertextuality and Significance  of Revelation 2:24." Southeastern Theological Review 11 no. 1 (Spring 2020): 31-52.

Jun 3, 2021

A Classic Example of Semantic Change (Thanks to Bugs Bunny)

 I have the privilege of teaching "Hermeneutics" twice each year, and when I do, I always spend a significant amount of time focusing on word studies, specifically how the intersection of semantic range (various meanings) and context determine a word's meaning at a particular point in the text.

I also discuss why we should not rely on etymology to determine meaning, precisely because languages evolve and words change meaning. A classic biblical example is James 3:1 in the King James, "be not many masters," which does not refer to being a slave-owner or having hired servants. Instead, the word is didaskaloi, so "be not many teachers." The problem here is not with the King James translators, because 400+ years ago the semantic range for "master" was broader and included "teacher." That is, after all, why we study for our "Master's Degree." But words change, and many of the words in older translations do not mean today what they meant back then (as well documented by my friend Mark Ward in his book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible).

Now, none other than Reader's Digest has given us an excellent example of possible semantic change in its most recent issue (May 2021). I quote it in full here (p. 122):

    "It wasn't always rude to call someone a nimrod. In the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament), Nimrod was the name of an exceptional hunter, and nimrod would later refer to any hunter. So how did his name become an insult? One popular theory: Bugs Bunny often sarcastically called the bumbling Elmer Fudd 'Nimrod' in 1940s cartoons, teaching generations of Looney Tunes fans that it meant idiot."

There you have it folks: why Bugs Bunny is relevant for lexical semantics.

For a basic introduction to lexical semantics, see "The Meaning of Words (Part 1): Words and Concepts" and "The Meaning of Words (Part 2): Context and Semantic Range."