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 24, 2011

Some foreign language and lesser-known English articles on 1 Peter that are well-worth reading

As I prepare to celebrate this Christmas with my parents for the first time in 7 years, I wanted to get in one quick blog post (it's been quite a while since the last one, due to grading, writing, research, etc.).

 It's easy enough for students to search the more well-known journals such as JETS, Tyndale Bulletin, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, etc., and any serious researcher on 1 Peter should be familiar with articles by major Petrine scholars such as John H. Elliott, and Karen Jobes.  Yet in the interest of being a resource for students and researchers, let me present four lesser-known articles on 1 Peter that should not be overlooked.

Let me begin by pointing out one article in French and one in German. First of all, at the broader level,  Max-Alain Chevallier has written one of the few articles that deals specifically with the structure of 1 Peter. Chevallier, “1 Pierre 1/1 à 2/10: Structure Littéraire et Conséquences Exégétiques,” Revue D'Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses 51 (1971), focuses specifically on that one section of 1 Peter from 1:1 to 2:10 and has some observations that should be taken into account. Secondly, I need to point out Wolff's interesting discussion entitled “Christ und Welt im 1. Petrusbrief,” Theologische Literaturzeitung 100 (1975). Wolff has much to say on what makes up the concept of "stranger" in the Greco-Roman era. On page 333, for example, he argues that three things could characterize the identity of a stranger: to be born of another tribe, to possess a different language or set of customs, and to worship a different god. While I certainly don't agree with all of what Wolff has to say in his article (and I'm somewhat more sympathetic to Elliott's views on the social context of 1 Peter than Wolff later would be) , this is an important contribution to the discussion of the social and spiritual setting of 1 Peter and should be looked up by the serious researcher.

Now on to two potentially overlooked English articles. Jocelyn A. Williams, “A Case Study in Intertextuality: The Place of Isaiah in the ‘Stone’ Sayings of 1 Peter 2,” RTR 66 (April 2007), has one of the bettter discussions, in my opinion, of Petrine use of the OT. Furthermore, although it's not that relevant to Williams' overall thesis, I appreciate and agree with the author's suggestion (p. 45) that 1 Peter changes the LXX in 1 Peter 2:6 (specifically from the LXX emballo to the word tithhmi), although we differ slightly on the reason Peter did so (I presented on this very topic in a regional ETS a few years ago).

Secondly, although the name Miroslav Volf should be familiar to theology students, his article entitlted “Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter,” Ex Audito 10 (1994) may sadly be overlooked by Petrine students. Volf has much to say on the interaction of the Petrine Christian community with the world around it, and much of what he says is theologically powerful, in my opinion (warning: this article is deep and consequently somewhat difficult to wade through; multiple readings are advised). I especially appreciate the following  statement on p. 20: "Whatever the reason, the Petrine community was no aggressive sect in the sense of Ernst Troeltsch. It did not wish to impose itself or the kingdom of God on the world, but to live in faithfulness to God and to the values of God’s kingdom, inviting others to do the same. It had no desire to do for others what they did not want done for them. They had not covert totalitarian agenda. Rather, the community was to live an alternative way of life in the present social setting, transforming it, as it could, from within. In any case, the community did not seek to exert social or political pressure, but to give public witness to a new way of life."

With that in mind, may the Lord grant any readers a Merry Christmas and a great 2012!

Nov 10, 2011

Some resources for studying "Jesus and the Gospels"

This weekend I have the privilege of teaching the hybrid class "NT Intro 1: Jesus and the Gospels" at an extension site (11 hours of lecturing over two days, yikes!!) In my own research for this weekend's lectures, here are some helpful sources that I've drawn on and hope to introduce to the class.

To begin with, I actually assigned the class to read two interesting articles. The first is N. T. Wright's “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem” (originally published in   Sewanee Theological Review 41.2 [1998] but now available online). Whatever you may think about Wright on justification, he remains one of the best writers on the resurrection and Jesus' role as Messiah. This discussion is very accessible and a pleasure to read and has, in my opinion, some apologetic value for any discussion of Jesus' resurrection. In addition, I had the class read Michael Bird's somewhat more technical article "The Peril of Modernizing Jesus and the Crisis of not Contemporizing the Christ” in Evangelical Quarterly 78 (2006): 291-312. I'm hoping that, among other things, this article will lead to a discusson of what Jesus should represent to us today.

In addition, for my lectures I'm drawing from Bird's Are You the One Who is to Come? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009). While this doesn't add much unique material to the overall discussion, it is a good overview of Jesus' role as Messiah from a solid conservative view.

Since we'll be discussing the historical Jesus and the Jesus seminar somewhat, I'm introducing them to the works of Bart Erhman and John Dominic Crossan, as well as Dan Brown's fictional The DaVinci Code because your average co-worker in the factory actually reads Dan Brown and related material and may be quite eager to dialogue with you on the "vast conspiracy" behind Jesus' "marriage" to Mary Magdalene  (I speak from experience)! In addition, I'm drawing from Craig Evens' excellent conservative rebuttal entitled Fabricating Jesus ( Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2006) as well as my fellow SEBTS ph.d. student Josh Chatraw's recent article in JETS 54 (September 2011): 449-465 entitled " Disunity and Diversity: The Biblical Theology of Bart Ehrman.”

Since we're dealing with the genre of the gospels somewhat, I'm also hoping to discusss the recent fascinating article by Craig Keener, “Otho: A Targeted Comparison of Suetonius’s Biography and Tacitus’s History, with Implications for the Gospels’ Historical Reliability” BBR 21 (2011): 331-355. Keener does an in-depth analysis of Suetonius, Tacitus, and Plutarch on the emperor Otho and demonstrates how such works used sources, including eyewitness interviews, and thus differed markedly from mere historical fiction.

We will also be briefly discussing both Gospel orgins and textual criticism. For the former I'm hoping to introduce them to some of Mark Goodacre's arguments in The Case Against Q (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity International, 2002) For the latter, there's a ton of material to draw on, but one of the things I want to emphasize is how little impact textual criticism actually has on theology (contra Ehrman and co.). I will be drawing on the relatively little-known yet surprisingly original work of  Mark Minnick in his essay “How Much Difference do the Differences Make?” (pages 229-277 in God’s Word In our Hands; The Bible Preserved for Us. James B. Williams and Randolph Shaylor, eds. Greenville, SC.: Ambassador Emerald, 2002) Dr. Minnick actually goes through all the textual varients in Jude and discusses the theological significance of each. I'm hoping to do the same thing with my class by looking at the first 3 chapters of John.

Finally, if we have time, we make take a look at Larry Hurtado's recent provacative post called "'Historical Jesus' Debate: An Unexamined Premise?" online at  http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/historical-jesus-debate-an-unexamined-premise/ (accessed November 10th, 2011)

This will be 11 hours of lecutring over two days, the first time I get an entire class all to myself for face-to-face lecture (I did teach half a semester last year, though). Looking forward to it, and planning on drinking a lot of Red Bull to keep me going!

Sep 27, 2011

Recent journal articles and some thoughts on publishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 30, 2011

Three secular history books worth reading for Biblical studies

Scripture is, by its very nature, history. Naturally, then, an understanding of the historical and cultural environment of Scripture can assist the exegete and preacher in making sense of the text (indeed, if I may be so bold, a lack of historical and background knowledge of the Bible is the single weakest part of many preacher’s sermon preparation). As such, I hope to draw the reader’s attention to 3 worthy history books by secular authors relate, in way or the other, to biblical studies. I have chosen one for the NT, one for the OT, and one for ecclesiastical studies.

1. New Testament studies: Mark Antony’s Heroes: How the Third Gallica Legion Saved an Apostle and Created an Emperor, by Stephen Dando-Collins (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2007)

Of all the books on the list, Dando-Collins’ work makes the most unique contribution. Collins, an Australian researcher, actually specializes in studying legions of the Roman empire. Mark Antony’s Heroes focuses on the 3rd Gallica Legion, a unit which has quite the glamorous history, having fought for both Mark Antonys, mentioned by Plutarch and Tacitus, and responsible for putting down the Jewish revolt in AD 69-70 (pp. xiii, 1). One of the book’s main arguments, however, is even more significant for NT studies. Dando-Collins’ argues that it was this very legion that would have rescued the Apostle Paul from Jewish mobs. In fact, Dando-Collins devotes multiple chapters (chs. 9-14) to basically retelling the stories in Acts (including Paul’s shipwreck), only from the perspective of the 3rd Gallica. The result is a fascinating supplementary account to that in Acts.

I cannot tell if Dando-Collins is essentially correct in his perspective on the role of the 3rd Gallica Legion in the New Testament, and I certainly won’t agree with everything he says about early Christianity. Yet Dando-Collins has done extensive research in this area and has a fairly good grasp of the history and culture of 1st century Israel under the Roman empire. Furthermore, he actually treats Scripture as a primary historical source (along with Josephus, etc.) rather than as a strictly religious text! This stands in stark contrast with secular archaeologists who treat Scripture with a “hermeneutic of doubt” (the reader should note Hershel Shanks’ cogent comments in “First Person: When is it Okay for an Archaeologist to Speculate,” BAR Magazine, http://www.bib-arch.org/bar/article.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=37&Issue=5&ArticleID=8 [online; cited 8/31/2011])

Dando-Collins weaves excellent storytelling in with extensive research and knowledge of his specialty. The result is a fascinating account both of a particular Roman military unit and of its (often violent) interaction with 1st century Judea (as well as other parts of the Roman empire). This is a book that future evangelical commentaries on Acts should at least take note of.

2. Old Testament Studies: Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West, by Tom Holland (New York: Doubleday, 2005)

Tom Holland, who has a ph.d. from Oxford, has written an extensive and fascinating account of the Persian empire and its invasion of Greece under Xerxes. The scope of the book is actually much broader than that, dealing with Persian-Greek relations, the cultures of both societies, etc., all leading to the great showdowns at Marathon and Salamis. In the process, he also deals with Persian rule over its subjects, and here is where Holland’s work contains much of value for OT studies (see esp. p. 147 for a regrettably brief discussion of Cyrus’ interaction with the Jews). Unfortunately in a couple places Holland resorts to some vulgar language in his historical narrative (e.g. when he describes what “Corinthiazein” means), but overall the book provides a well-written and fascinating discussion of both ancient Persia and Greece.

3. Ecclesiastical Studies: How Rome Fell, by Adrian Goldsworthy (New Haven: Yale, 2009)

Adrian Goldsworthy (also with a ph.d. from Oxford), challenges the popular consensus that barbarian hoards were primarily responsible for Rome’s downfall. Rather, How Rome Fell focuses on the internal conflict and civil wars that plagued the Roman Empire. For Goldsworthy, Rome’s problem wasn’t that its outside enemies suddenly got stronger, but rather that Rome itself become progressively weaker due to internal struggle. Thus,
“Perhaps we should imagine the Late Roman Empire as a retired athlete, whose body has declined from neglect and an unhealthy lifestyle. At times the muscles will still function well and with the memory of former skill and training. Yet, as the neglect continues, the body becomes less and less capable of resisting disease or recovering from injury. Over the years the person would grow weaker and weaker, and in the end could easily succumb to disease. Long decline was the fate of the Roman Empire. In the end, it may well have been ‘murdered’ by barbarian invaders, but these struck at a body made vulnerable by prolonged decay” (pp. 414-415)

Goldsworthy’s book (somewhat larger than the other two I spoke of) provides a very extensive, well-documented account of the later Roman Empire. As such, much of the book deals with the existence of Christianity in the empire, including the influence of Augustine and the ‘conversion’ of Constantine (who, by the way, does not come across as particularly “Christian” in the sense of “love your enemies”!) The result is a treasure trove of knowledge not only for ecclesiastical history but also for social and historical studies from the 2nd century onward.

4. Bonus (just for fun): Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi, by Neal Bascomb (Boston: HMH 2009).

Hunting Eichmann may not have much to do with Biblical studies per se (except that, perhaps, from a dispensational perspective even the history of modern Israel is still relevant). Nevertheless I mention this book primarily because it is one of the most well-written, fascinating accounts of history I have ever read. Bascomb blends his own primary source research (with access to key documents, interviews, etc.) with incredible skill as a story-teller. Despite being history, this book is, quite frankly, more enjoyable than the latest fictional spy-thriller. Bascomb narrates how a young Israeli intelligence agency pursued and ultimately captured Nazi murderer Adolf Eichmann (right out from under the Argentinean government’s nose).

A couple interesting tidbits. After Eichman was sentenced to death, Canadian missionary William Hull met with him 13 times, trying to get him to repent and trust Christ, yet “this was a tall task given that Eichmann had spent the past seventeen years convincing himself exactly why he did not need to seek forgiveness for what he had done” (317). Sadly Eichmann states that “he did not fear God’s judgment. ‘There is no Hell,’ he declares. What was more, he refused to confess: ‘I have not sinned. I am clear with God. I did not do it. I did nothing wrong. I have no regrets.’ Hull pressed him on this, but Eichmann was rigid in his self-made faith” (318). Tragic and unbelievable, then, that one of the greatest mass-murderers of the 20th century would cling to his own supposed self-righteousness.

Eichmann’s wife, Vera, is an interesting study. Bascomb states, “In 1935, Eichmann and Vera were married in a church, despite the derision of his SS comrades, who looked down on religious rituals. An innocent, uncomplicated Catholic girl, Vera shared her husband’s taste in classical music but did not much care for politics and declined to join the Nazi Party . . . [Eichmann’s] infrequent visits and numerous infidelities had created a distance between them. Despite their strained marriage, Vera remained devoted to her husband” (25). Years later, when Eichmann’s wife and sons joined him in South America, Bascomb recounts how “once Eichmann and Vera [his wife] were alone, she brought out the pile of newspaper clippings she had collected over the past seven years about the terrible crimes he had committed. She wanted an explanation. Eichmann grew frighteningly angry, his face turning into a hard mask. ‘Veronika,’ he said bitingly, ‘I have not done a single Jew to death, nor given a single order to kill a Jew.’ She never asked him about the past again” (79-80). In addition to raising up interesting questions about a [possibly] Christian wife’s relationship with an unbelieving husband, I think this anecdote underscores the sad yet tragic tendency of humans to deny or justify our sins. Yet ultimately all will be revealed before the Almighty God who judge the living and the dead, and it indeed a fearful thing to fall into His hands.

Finally, I leave the reader with this humorous anecdote from Bascomb’s excellent book. In describing the planning and training in preparation for the operation to capture Eichmann, Bascomb focuses on agent Peter Malkin:
“To distract himself from painful memories and his fear of failure, Malkin
focused his every waking moment on the mission ahead, examining the smallest details of the operation and his role in it. He spent hours crafting different disguises for himself and the team and many more practicing the exact moves needed to grab Eichmann. He did much of this at the gym, but he also practiced on his Shin Bet colleagues at work, grabbing them without warning from behind and cutting of their ability to scream. Nobody asked what had come over him—partly because they were used to his antics—but instead just gave him a wider berth in the hallways” (p. 170).
Yeah, try that on your co-worker in the office!

Feel free to discuss in the comments section any other history books that might be relevant for Biblical Studies.

Aug 7, 2011

Transforming for Translators (guest essay by missionary John R. Himes)

For a translator of the New Testament, the ideal target language would be one that has identical grammar to koine Greek. Old Church Slavonic (O. C. S.) came close to that ideal. According to Horace G. Lunt, “The surface structures of O. C. S. and Greek coincide in nearly all major features. The form-classes are generally the same: verbs (conjugated for several tenses, with person-number desinences), substantives (nouns and adjectives, including participles, declined for case and number), pronouns (personal, demonstrative, interrogative, relative; declined for gender, case and number), numerals (declined), prepositions, adverbs, a variety of conjunctions, and particles…. So close were the two languages that a reasonable translation could often be achieved by a word-for-word rendering” (“Limitations of Old Church Slavonic in Representing Greek,” in The Early Versions of the New Testament, by Bruce Metzger, p. 432).

We can imagine the 9th century translators of the OCS New Testament sailing through passages that give fits to a 21st century translator into Chinese. Few translators have the good fortune to translate into a language as similar to the original language as OCS is to koine Greek. Target languages range from grammatically similar to Greek (but not identical) Indo-European languages such as Latin, to languages with no similarity at all to the Biblical original languages such as Chinese, Japanese and other Asian languages, or tribal languages in Indonesia, New Guinea or South America.

How does a translator get his syntax from his original to his target language in dissimilar languages? A good answer is in something called transformations, which has been systematized into a branch of linguistics called transformational (or generative) grammar (TG). Diane Bornstein, in her excellent textbook, defines a transformation this way: “A grammatical process that operates on a given string with a given constituent structure and converts it into a new string with a new derived constituent structure” (An Introduction to Transformational Grammar, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984, p. 247).

Remember that homework assignment in bonehead English that required you to take a simple declarative sentence and make various kinds of sentences out of it? For example, from “I have a book” (a “kernel” sentence in TG) you might make a question: “Do I have a book?” Or a negative statement: “I don’t have a book.” Or a future statement: “I will have a book.” And so forth. Those are transformations. A translator does this in two languages, either consciously or unconsciously. If he does it consciously he has either studied transformational grammar, naturally developed the concept in his own thinking, or is talented enough in languages that he makes the transformation unconsciously. (To further define and delineate this branch of linguistics is beyond the scope of this short paper. For an early but good basic discussion, see Chapter 12 in the classic textbook by H. A. Gleason, An Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1955, 1961.)

TG is generally said to have been conceived by linguist Noam Chomsky. Strangely, Chomsky apparently did not believe his invention was appropriate for translation work. According to Edwin Gentzler, “Noam Chomsky’s theory of syntax and generative grammar was not, nor was it intended to be, a theory of translation. In fact, Chomsky cautioned against its appropriation in such a fashion” (Contemporary Translation Theories. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2001, p. 46).

Oddly enough, Gentzler says on the very next page, “Transformational grammarians work in various languages and continually point out structural similarities across languages” (p. 47). So it would be strange indeed if TG was not useful for translation work. It seems to this writer to be a given that the more a translator knows about linguistics and its various theories of grammar the better at translating they will be. After all, the translator must deal with grammar in not one, but two languages! Along that line, two Bible translation scholars with very different views of what translation should be have used TG in their theories.

Eugene Nida was the first to develop a means of using TG for translation. In his pioneering treatment of the subject, he writes, “The most effective means by which we may deal with these problems of diverse meaningful relationships between structurally similar types of expressions is to employ a generative type of grammar which makes full use of transformations” (Toward a Science of Translating. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1964, p. 60). He then goes on to discuss how that can be done.

Nida was commendably a pioneer in this area. But some writers have criticized Nida’s usage of transformational grammar on the basis of his lack of a principle to properly handle the deep structure of a sentence in two languages. Deep structure, in transformational grammar thinking, is “The underlying form of a sentence, which structures its meaning” (Bornstein, p. 239). According to Susan Bassnet, “Even in his simplified theory, Nida does not tell us how the deep structure transfer occurs” (Translation Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 1980, 1991, 2002, p. 57).

In the view of James Price, Nida’s lack of this principle leads to paraphrasing. “It is quite clear that paraphrase is unavoidable with dynamic equivalence theory. Glassman wrote, ‘It is, in fact, impossible to analyze, transfer and restructure without paraphrasing, at the level of the underlying kernel structures; and that, in turn, shows up at the final level of the surface structure.’ (Quoting Eugene Glassman, The Translation Debate, p.66—JRH.) This is primarily true because of the subjectivity involved in the transfer step. The failure to employ transfer rules, but rather to depend on the translator’s subjective judgment, makes it almost certain that the information transferred to the receptor language will lack complete equivalence with the information of the source message. Thus the theory fails to accomplish equivalence; it is instead scientific paraphrase” (James Price, Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1987, p. 17).

Price himself utilizes transformational grammar somewhat differently in his theory of optimal equivalence, which he identifies as the method used in both the NKJV and the HCSV. In his magnum opus, A Theory For Biblical Translation: An Optimal Equivalence Model (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2008), Price develops a complete transformational grammar of the Hebrew language with the intent that it be used for Bible translation. The difference between his method and Nida’s is that Price, opting for a more  literal method, advocates a strict correspondence between the syntactical structures of the source language and the target language. Price wrote, “In transformational grammar the rules of transfer that govern the relationship of the kernels should be derived from the back transformations, with strict observance to the sequence in which they operate. This assures maximum transfer of equivalent information, and minimum subjectivity” (Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation, 24-25. Note: Dr. Price has told this writer that “complete equivalence,” the term used in this book, was not his choice, but was chosen by the publisher. His preferred term for his literal method is optimal equivalence.)

I have a caveat here. The translator should know that both Nida’s method and Price’s TG for Hebrew are very complex, and developing a complete transformational grammar in either the source or target language is a huge task. Using TG in either method means the translator’s task is made more difficult. (Nida teaches the process in Chapter Four of Toward a Science of Translating. See also Chapter Three, “Grammatical Analysis” in The Theory and Practice of Translation, by Nida with Charles Taber. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1982.) The average translator who has not researched TG, or prefers not to do a complete TG of the source or target languages, will develop his own mental TG of the target language, and do transfers and transformations intuitively, an easier task.

Transformational grammar is cutting edge stuff for the Bible translator! Those who are naturally very gifted in language may be able to do transformations in the two languages mentally as they translate, with good results. The rest of us are wise to study TG and then develop a consistent approach, which will then help cross the language barrier with a syntax equivalent to that of the original Greek and Hebrew.

Jul 23, 2011

Review of "The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family," by Andrew Himes

[in the interest of full disclosure, the reader should note that the author of the book I’m reviewing happens to be my uncle, Nevertheless I trust that this has turned out to be a fair and objective review]

John R. Rice (d.1980) was a highly influential fundamentalist evangelist, author, and publisher, as well as a friend and occasional partner of both Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell. He founded the Sword of the Lord publishing company while starting The Sword of the Lord newspaper which at its height had a circulation of over 100,000. His books and tracts have seen millions of copies sold and distributed worldwide. He was also my great-grandfather.

In The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family (Seattle, Wash.: Chiara, 2011), my own uncle Andrew Himes provides a highly accessible treatment of modern fundamentalism, focusing especially on his own grandfather John R. Rice and his impact on American Christianity. In the process, Himes also provides the reader with an intimate look at his own life and spiritual journey (which, among other things, includes a stint as a communist activist, quite the contrast with his fundamentalist upbringing!) as well as some more general glimpses of Christian and fundamentalist history in the US, especially in the southern states.

Overall, Himes provides a fascinating account of John R. Rice and fundamentalism. His book is not, technically, a biography, but rather history mixed with biography mixed with personal reflection.  As such he provides a highly readable discussion of fundamentalist life in the United States. In general, Himes gives the reader a fair, objective treatment of the history of the movement in the 20th century, despite the highly personal nature of the work. While his focus is, of course, on John R. Rice, the book covers everything from early Texas history to Jerry Falwell to the Scopes Monkey trial. In addition, Himes calls out for Christians to set aside racial bias and focus on orthopraxy in order to truly embrace the example of Christ

The book is well-written, well-researched, and thoroughly enjoyable. Some caveats remain—I would question some of the ordering of the material while suggesting that the book could have narrowed its scope significantly. In a few places, I believe Himes is careless and even inaccurate with his statements (especially when dealing with broader Christian history and theology), and Himes levels some harsh criticisms against dispensationalism and premillennialism that are neither (in my opinion) fair nor relevant to the book as a whole. Yet these concerns should not deter the reader from the usefulness of the book both as a description of fundamentalism in the 20th century and as look into the legacy of John R. Rice and The Sword of the Lord.

The next section will offer an overview of the book, the second section will provide a critique, and the final section will give my own reflections on the legacy of John R. Rice. Those who have already read the book may wish to skip to the second section.

1. Book Summary
The author, Andrew Himes, was raised in a fundamentalist family, the son and grandson of Baptist preachers. In contrast to my own father (Andrew’s brother), who followed in the family tradition of ministry, from his teenage years Andrew left his family’s faith, became a communist, attended University of Wisconsin-Madison against his family’s wishes (even becoming the student body president), and generally became the “black sheep” of the family. In his later years he reconciled with his family while nevertheless possessing distinct views on religion, politics, etc. when compared to his brother and sisters.

His book, The Sword of the Lord, operates on 4 levels. On one level, Andrew Himes begins most of his chapters with a personal narrative detailing his own memories of John R. Rice, Rice’s ministry, or his own upbringing in a fundamentalist home. Much of the book, then, deals with personal anecdotes that shed some light on John R. Rice’s life and impact. On another level, Himes deals extensively with the general history of the Rice family, including discussions on the history of Texas, the Rice family’s participation in the civil war, etc. On a third level, Himes provides the reader with a general history of Christianity in the 20th century, including the conflicts between Fundamentalism, New Evangelicalism, Modernism, etc. Finally, Himes focuses on John R. Rice himself, his ministry, legacy, and interaction with other prominent Christians including Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham.

Himes’ book is divided into five sections. The first section serves as an introduction to the book as a whole. The first chapter details his own highly personal account of the funeral of John R. Rice (including how he was “strategically” placed next to Jerry Falwell at the post-funeral meal, perhaps as an attempt to “influence” him!) The second chapter deals with the very definition of fundamentalism, the use of the term, and the fact that the word itself has “gone out of favor” in some circles (p. 13). Here Himes argues that although fundamentalism has played a key role in modern American theology and society, the term (and the Christians it represents) is generally viewed negatively by society as a whole. Himes closes the chapter by arguing that although on the one hand  “fundamentalism was a rational, and emotional, response to a dangerous world where you needed to know who was a sheep and who was a goat,” nevertheless one is forced to ask “what happens to fundamentalism when its original enemies have succumbed to the passage of time . . . .what does fundamentalism evolve into when the children of fundamentalists turn out to be more interested in following Jesus and practicing Christian love than arguing over arcane points of doctrine?” (15-16).

In the process of introducing the book and asking these questions, Himes introduces the reader to two topics that factor heavily into his own perspective on fundamentalism: politics and race. Regarding the former, Jerry Falwell and the “Moral Majority” are, of course, a major part of fundamentalism’s legacy, but Himes also discusses how politics in fundamentalism goes back much further. Regarding the latter issue, Himes himself marched in the civil rights movements of the 60s and thus is very sensitive to how fundamentalists have interacted with racial issues.

The second major section (chs. 3-8) of Himes’ book deals with “Revolution, Slavery, and War.” Himes traces the origins of both the Rice clan and Fundamentalism from the Scottish and Irish immigrants to America in the 18th century, immigrants who were at odds with the dominant Church of England of their homeland. In chapter 3, Himes discusses the impact of both the Great Awakening and the Revolutionary War on America in general, and the Rice family in particular. In chapters 4-5, Himes discusses the issue of slavery in America and its prevalence within the Rice family. Chapter 6 then details the theological ideologies that clashed in the civil war while tracking the Rice family’s involvement in that same war. Chapter 7 discusses the results of the civil war and the strong pro-southern ideology (including the influence of the Ku Klux Klan) that was to impact the Rice family. At this point, Himes also begins to concentrate on his great-great grandfather, Will Rice (the father of John R.), and his change from sinner to evangelist. Will Rice was converted in 1889 and soon attended both Baylor University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, feeling that he was called to preach. Chapter 8 is an excursus of sorts, dealing with the ideological struggle of social justice within American Christianity

Section 3 (chapters 9-18) deals with the life and ministry of John R. Rice, as well as the various conflicts between modernism, evangelicalism, and fundamentalism in the 20th century. Chapter 9 deals with the boyhood of John R. Rice, including his conversion and baptism. Chapter 10 takes a break from Rice’s life and focuses on the rise of Billy Sunday, his influence on evangelists in the 20th century, the struggle among evangelicals regarding the relationship between social reform and the Gospel, and the rise of dispensational and premillennial theology. Chapter 11 deals more with the conflict between modernism and evangelicalism, as well as the publication of The Fundamentals. Chapter 12 focuses once again on the issue of race in the south, discussing in-depth the trial of Leo Frank, the impact it had in Georgia, and the resurgence of the KKK  (during this trial, Will Rice’s 2nd cousin, governor Joe Mackey Brown, was the governor of Georgia).

Chapter 14 continues to focus on the development of fundamentalism as well as evangelical perspectives on nationalism and America’s involvement in WWI. Chapters 13 and 15 focus on John Rice as he goes from Decatur Bible College to completing a degree at Baylor University to enrollment in the grad program at Southwestern Baptist Seminary and his subsequent call to evangelism as opposed to pastoring.

Chapter 16, entitled “Unfortunate Associations,” details the influence of the KKK on Texas politic and the Rice family itself. Himes discusses how Will Rice (John R.’s father) became a KKK member in 1920 at 61 years of age and was supported by them for a seat in the Texas state senate. Chapter 17 focuses on the Scopes Monkey Trial and its influence on the development of fundamentalism.

In chapter 18, one of the key chapters of the book, Himes once again focuses on the life of John R. Rice, detailing the beginnings of his successful evangelist career. Himes discusses Rice’s relationship to J. Frank Norris (early on a friendly one) and how both came to leave the Southern Baptist Convention. Himes also further investigates the role of race in the life of both Rice and Norris. Himes declares, “Will Rice’s son John would always be troubled by his father’s membership in the Klan,” and eventually, in 1943, John Rice would actually oppose the KKK in print (p. 195). Nevertheless John Rice would, to a certain degree, continue to be influenced by his family’s southern heritage as well as fundamentalism’s general aversion to social issues. Thus, “John R. Rice as an individual was thoughtful, warm-hearted, and caring . . . however, John R. Rice and his fundamentalist brethren would henceforth be missing from broad movements for social justice, against racial discrimination,” etc. (p. 198).

The fourth section of the book, chs. 19-26, focuses on John R. Rice and fundamentalism in the mid-to-late 20th century. Chapter 19 examines the beginning of Rice’s rise to prominence. In 1932 Rice preached a series of revival meetings that ultimately led to 7,000 conversions and the establishment of a church. Here, “John R. Rice displayed a dramatic, emotional, and personable pulpit style. He was an old-fashioned, pulpit-pounding, sin-condemning, story-telling, hymn-singing evangelist. In an era before television dramas and sitcom, he was the best entertainment available in Dallas” (204). 1934 saw the founding of the iconic Sword of the Lord. Himes also discusses Rice’s early alliance with Bob Jones and other prominent fundamentalists, as well as the beginnings of his split with J. Frank Norris.

Chapter 20 discusses Rice’s broader impact on evangelicalism. In 1940, Rice moved to Wheaton where his daughters began to attend Wheaton College. Rice at this point began to further develop The Sword of the Lord while continuing to see great success as an evangelist (in his Chicago revival meeting in 1946, Rice, Bob Jones, and Paul Hood “spoke to almost 10,000 people at every service, every day for five weeks—an almost unheard of length for a revival in the 1940s or any other decade” [p. 225]). While at Wheaton, Rice began something of a mentoring relationship with a young Billy Graham (Graham’s “first published sermons would appear in the pages of The Sword of the Lord after Billy graduated from Wheaton” [p. 219]) and also (somewhat ironically) became one of the earliest members of the National Association of Evangelicals (in fact, the NAE’s International Commission,” headed by Harold Ockenga, would come to include John Rice, Bob Jones, and Billy Graham [226]). The chapter also further details the relationship between Billy Graham and John Rice, including the rise of the issue of separatism that would eventually come to divide them.

Chapter 21 provides a fascinating contrast between how John R. Rice and Billy Graham handled the issue of race. Rice, on the one hand, was heavily influenced by his Texas and southern upbringing, yet eventually came to attack the Klan and on a personal level was outraged by any discrimination against African-Americans, at one point angrily stalking out of an ice-cream shop that refused to serve a black friend of his. Nevertheless, “all John R. Rice’s thinking about race . . . was conditioned by the priority he placed on the struggle to save lost souls from the terrors of Hell. No political or racial issue could be so important”; indeed, “no question of racial justice could be allowed to subvert or contradict the struggle to win souls for Jesus” (235). The result was that Rice basically supported the status quo. Issues of segregation and racial equality, in Rice’s opinion, threatened to take the focus away from where it should be. In contrast to Rice, Billy Graham began to take a bold stand against segregation, at one point taking down the ropes separating the races at his revival meeting (1953), while later (1957) writing in an article in Ebony magazine that revival must “wipe away racial discrimination” (236-237).

In the twenty-second chapter, Himes examines the split between fundamentalism and new-evangelicalism and the related divergence between Rice and Graham. Tensions began to mount with Carl F. H. Henry’s publication of The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism; by 1955, both Bob Jones and John R. Rice had completely withdrawn from the NAE. For a while, Rice continued to enjoy a favorable relationship with Billy Graham and supported his ministry, even in the midst of attacks on Graham by other fundamentalists. As late as May 1954, The Sword of the Lord provided a positive assessment of Billy Graham’s revival meetings in London. Yet “hidden in The Sword’s coverage was Rice’s deepest fear—that Billy Graham might trade away his fundamentalist purity for larger crowds, greater acclaim, and a more transitory impact” (243). The final blow to their partnership came in 1957, at Billy Graham’s massive New York crusade. Rice, through the Sword, declared that he could not support Graham’s crusade “because it would be held under the auspices of the Protestant Council of New York,” an organization filled with “modernists and liberals” (p. 246). The separation seems to have been mostly cordial, but it was nevertheless significant. The parting of ways of fundamentalists from the NAE created two distinct groups of conservative Christianity: “In one camp were the neo-evangelical schools and institutes such as Wheaton College and Fuller Theological Seminary, and publications such as the new Christianity Today. In the other camp were the diminished ranks of the fundamentalists, most prominently led by The Sword of the Lord and Bob Jones University” (248).

Chapter 23 picks up where ch. 21 left off and further explores the issue of race within fundamentalism and evangelicalism. Himes once again contrasts Rice and other fundamentalism with Billy Graham and new evangelicals. On the one hand, Rice could be compassionate and loving towards those of a different race and recognized that all races are “blood brothers”; by 1958 Rice had clearly “set aside the racial legacy of his family and their tradition” (259). Yet, nevertheless, for Rice “It proved to be impossible to acknowledge the consequences of slavery” (256), and his “earthly racial and political ideas drove him away from the struggle for justice in the South, [but] the heavenly core of his faith was just enough to also drive him away from the Klan and his father Will Rice’s racial politics” (260). He generally supported segregation and opposed the work of Martin Luther King Jr. By contrast, Billy Graham forged a positive relationship with Martin Luther King and supported the civil rights movement. Rice’s own son-in-law, Walter Handford, when confronted with the issue of race, began to allow black children to attend via the bus ministry alongside white children and allowed an inter-racial couple to join the church. Since Handford’s church (Southside Baptist Church) was in Greenville, SC, the result was that Bob Jones University declared the church off-limits to any student, faculty, or staff. Thus Rice and other fundamentalists opposed the more open-minded perspective of their evangelical brethren. While Rice clearly was not a racist and gladly preached the gospel to all races, nevertheless he was overly-influenced by his own culture and upbringing regarding the relationship of blacks and whites.

Chapter 24 discusses how Rice moved to Tennessee, continued to wield great influence among American fundamentalism, and began to urge more and more fundamentalists to get involved in conservative politics, promoting a form of American exceptionalism. Chapter 25 narrates how John R. Rice eventual split with Bob Jones over the issue of separation while at the same time further developing a relationship with Jerry Falwell, culminating in 1979 with Rice’s enthusiastic support for Liberty University and Falwell’s fledgling Moral Majority (in stark contrast to Bob Jones who, in 1980, called Jerry Falwell “the most dangerous man in America as far as Biblical Christianity is concerned” [p. 285, citing historian Mark Dalhouse]). The emotionally charged chapter 26 details the final days of John R. Rice’s life, including his last sermon, “Jesus has other sheep,” preached in 1985 at the age of 84, mere months before he passed away. This final message, which reached out to Christians of all stripes, represented “his last public effort to leave a legacy of compassion to guide the movement he had helped to create” (290).

The book’s last section, “Revisiting the Fundamentals,” consists of two chapters that are more personal and even exhortational in nature. In chapter 25, Himes examines what is truly fundamental to Christianity and, after citing Jesus’ response to the scribe’s question on the “greatest commandment,” declares, “Jesus’s words, read carefully and in context, make it clear that the test of whether I am following these two commandments is not whether I am experiencing the proper emotions, not whether I feel good about my neighbor, or like my neighbor, or even know my neighbor. The true test is whether I allow the spirit of God to transform me and to transform how I act toward my neighbor” (298). Ultimately, then, “a fundamentalist Christian worthy of the name will be a fundamentalism that pours out the love of God for all humanity . . . a faith that seeks to transform the world in the image of a God of love who cares for the poor and the outcast . . .” Here Himes is somewhat critical of fundamentalists, arguing that many have used their beliefs to justify poor treatment of others. Himes singles out Bob Jones University, with its history of racial segregation, as an example. Nevertheless Himes points out that fundamentalism, including BJU, is changing and “younger generations of fundamentalists and evangelicals are considering how their Christian practice might be a truer and more radical reflection of their Christian faith” (300-302). Ultimately Andrew Himes’ main hope in this chapter is that the “definition of Christianity” might be “driven more by praxis than by doctrine” (302).

Chapter 28 then functions mostly a as a postscript, detailing how John R. Rice’s descendants view themselves in relation to fundamentalism and their commitment to praxis, living out their faith.

2. Book Critique
In the end, Himes’ Sword of the Lord accomplishes what it sets out to do by providing a highly accessible and fascinating discussion of fundamentalism and the legacy of John R. Rice while raising key questions regarding the nature of Christianity and one’s relationship to his or her neighbor. While I will have some negative criticism of the book (see below) overall this is an excellent source for students of 20th century fundamentalism and evangelicalism and should be considered supplemental reading for any class dealing with fundamentalism.

To begin with, Himes is as excellent writer. Whether he is discussing his own spiritual journey, the history of  Scottish and Irish immigrants in Texas, or the interaction of John R. Rice and Jerry Falwell, Himes provides an enjoyable writing style that engages the reader on many different levels.

Furthermore, for the most part, Himes’ work is well-researched. He draws on primary source material such as personal letters, sermons, and eye-witness accounts while also relying on the best secondary sources including George Marsden’s uneclipsed work on fundamentalism and dissertations by Howard Edgar Moore (George Washington University) and David Keith Bates (Kansas State University)

Himes’ discussion of John R. Rice and fundamentalism provides a valuable treasure trove for the student. While not quite a biography and not quite a history, it is nevertheless both an invaluable biographical resource on John R. Rice’s legacy and an important look into the history of fundamentalism in the 20th century. Himes provides a perspective on both Rice and fundamentalism that cannot be found elsewhere. Christians should not allow any theological differences to get in the way of the value that this book possesses.

Furthermore, there are two areas where Himes’ discussions can prove helpful to fundamentalists (of which I would still include myself as a member, so long as you let me define the term properly!) First of all, Himes’ sensitivity to the race issue should cause us to stop, think, and reflect on past failures. Fundamentalists were, in my mind, wrong to oppose de-segregation, interracial marriage, and the civil rights movement in general. Sadly and ironically, for a movement that placed such emphasis on non-conformity to the world’s culture, we let ourselves be molded by our own worldly backgrounds when it came to race. This is most apparent in the discussion of ch. 23 of how Walter Handford was vehemently opposed by fundamentalists for allowing black kids in with white kids and permitting an inter-racial couple to join in membership. Had fundamentalists been more progressive and, indeed, more biblical about the race issue (seriously, hasn’t anybody ever read the book of Ruth or Numbers 12:1 or Acts 17:26?), fundamentalism would today have an even greater impact on others with the Gospel. This is not to say that fundamentalism as a whole was racist, for I would argue that generally they were not. Yet the fact remains that, in my opinion, fundamentalism fought on the wrong side of the battle. Fortunately the modern fundamentalist is generally more biblical on the race issue; while some prejudices may remain in some areas (just like any culture, religious or otherwise), the average fundamentalist church is “de-segregated” and will often have at least some people of a different race. Indeed, one extremely fundamentalist evangelist I heard even bragged that he had walked out of a church in the deep south after learning that it deliberately stationed deacons at the front door to keep out those of a different race. Nevertheless, Himes shows that this has not always been the case for fundamentalists (though it should be pointed out that fundamentalism has traditionally had a very heavy emphasis on missions, and many fundamentalists such as my father have gladly given up associations with their own race to serve those in a different country).

Secondly, Himes offers us a very valuable reminder that orthodoxy without orthopraxy is not true Christianity (cf. James 1:26-27; 2:8-9, 26). In this area I do not believe we have failed as much as with the race issue. Despite the “fire and brimstone” preaching so common in the fundamentalist pulpit, many fundamentalists have still cared for the neighbors and reached out to those in need. John R. Rice, for example, once paid the way for a young preacher from Africa to go through Moody Bible Institute. Nevertheless the fact remains that in all my years in the States, listening to countless fundamentalist sermons, issues of personal purity and right doctrine were preached quite frequently while orthopraxy and kindness to one’s neighbor was preached a disproportionate amount of times, despite being such a prominent theme in both the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, Fundamentalists, in reaction to Walter Rauschenbusch, have often shied away from any discussion on how to treat the poor. Those who dared to discuss such issues in a positive manner were often severely criticized. When I was going to seminary and attending a fundamentalist church in Pennsylvania, for example, the pastor preached a series of Bible-based sermons on the poor, noting that in the past when he had done so other fundamentalist churches had been quick to characterize him as preaching “the social gospel.”

Thus, despite what I imagine to be many key theological differences between us, I believe that much of what Andrew Himes’ writes in chapter 27 should be seriously pondered. If we as fundamentalists cannot be viewed as compassionate “do-gooders” by the world, then we are, to a certain degree, failing in our mission (cf. 1 Peter 3:8-18)

I do, however, have a few areas of concern for Himes’ book. To begin with, my only major critique of the book as a whole concerns the arrangement and inclusion of material. Himes’ book works on multiple levels: personal memoirs, history of the Rice family in the south, history of John R. Rice, history of fundamentalism in the 20th century, etc. All of this is good and relevant to his work, and no matter what he is writing on Himes proves an engaging author. The problem, however, is that (1) some material seems to be out of place, and (2) he spends too much time on broad subjects that detract from his overall focus on John R. Rice and fundamentalism.

Regarding the former, Chapters 13 and 15, for example, focus mostly on the early years of John R. Rice, while chapter 14 contains a discussion of fundamentalism in the early 20th century (e.g. J. Frank Norris, the Fundamentals, and early evangelical thoughts on World War 1). Ultimately, chapter 14 disrupts the narrative of 13 and 15. The reader is bounced around from John R. Rice to other topics and then back to Rice again. On the one hand this isn’t a problem when Himes has a consistent and recognizable pattern. Beginning each chapter with his own personal memoirs on his upbringing or spiritual struggles is a brilliant move that engages the reader and opens them to Himes’ own perspective. Yet much of the book seems to switch topics at whim; just as the reader is getting involved in the life of Rice, Himes will switch to his perspective on broader fundamentalism or evangelicalism. Similarly, chapter 8, with its discussion of deism, the Social Gospel, and Christianity’s engagement with culture may possess a lot of material that is important, but it is unclear how exactly chapter 8 fits within the broader outline of the book and whether or not it truly helps the reader transition from chapter 7 to chapter 9. This is not enough to cause the book to truly suffer, yet I believe the material could have been structured better (perhaps by more clearly differentiating between the material on Rice, fundamentalism, Christianity in general, southern history, etc.).

Regarding the second issue, most of the material Himes includes in the book is indeed relevant to some degree to Rice’s legacy. Yet I question whether or not he should have spent so much time on some of it; indeed, sometimes the book tries too hard to be a “History of Christianity in the 20th century,” which I don’t think was the author’s initial intent. Was it really necessary, for example, to devote an entire chapter to the Scopes Monkey Trial? Granted Himes’ account is preferable to Hollywood’s Inherit the Wind, but hasn't the even been covered in enough books? The entire chapter, in my opinion, could have been condensed to one paragraph that quickly pointed out its relevance for fundamentalism as a whole, and even that would probably have served only to remind most readers of something they already knew. Other parts of the book which were not directly related to Rice and his legacy could also, in my opinion, been trimmed significantly, and the result would have been a shorter yet more streamlined narrative.

Those are the only critiques I have of the book as a whole, and neither of them diminishes too much from the book’s overall value. The following points focus on particular parts of the book.

While Himes’ book is well-researched, there are a couple areas that puzzle me. In endnote 12, he cites a Wikipedia article on Samuel Doak, and this stands out like a sore thumb in the midst of his excellent citations of primary and secondary sources. While I do not doubt the general accuracy of a Wikipedia citation, nevertheless Wikipedia is generally not considered a good academic source, and surely there must have been some other source Himes could have used!

More importantly, at times Himes’ fails to give us a citation when we would expect one (e.g. second paragraph of 147 [simply mentioning the name of the journal is not enough]; statement by Mordecai Ham on page 192; last paragraph of p. 245; etc.). This prevents the reader from carrying out his or her own primary research.

At just one point I believe Himes is somewhat unfair in his discussion of Rice.
On pages 196-197, Himes discusses how Rice preached in Sherman, Texas, a year after the cold-blooded murder of George Hughes by a white mob. Himes is very critical of Rice for not preaching against the racial hatred and lynch-mob violence the town had experienced, yet there is not, so to speak, enough evidence to convict Rice on this point. Himes states, “Doubtless, some of those who took part in the Sherman Riot attended his revival services—and the subjects Rice probably did not mention were as significant as her sermon topics. He likely did not preach on the murder of George Hughes . . . neither is it likely that he condemned it” (pp. 196-197; emphasis added). Himes may be accurate in his analysis, but frankly he does not have enough information to go on. He declares, “the only report of his sermons recorded that he preached, with wrath and righteousness, against the sin of ‘mixed bathing’” (197). Yet the only source Himes cites for this entire incident (Rice’s preaching at Sherman) is a secondary source, the dissertation by Howard Edgar Moore. In other words, Himes is critiquing Rice strictly via an argument from silence. No transcript of the sermon apparently exists, the only eyewitness report apparently (so far as we can determine from the evidence Himes gives us) comments on just one topic (one topic out of the plethora that Rice would have preached on), and yet Himes feels that this is enough evidence to rebuke Rice on the basis of “his failure to criticize the Sherman Riot” (197). The bottom line is that there is no way of knowing whether or not Rice condemned the violence done a year earlier, simply because not enough information exists. Himes’ analysis may or may not be accurate, but there is no way to tell.

While Himes’ work covers much of Rice’s work and fundamentalism, there are a few surprising omissions. For example, while much is said of the Sword of the Lord newspaper, very little is said about the publishing company of the same name, and scant information is given regarding the multitude of influential books and tracts Rice wrote (except, of course, for the infamous Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers). Virtually nothing is said of Rice’s work and influence overseas (at one point he preached in Japan, and his tracts have been published in many different languages). As for fundamentalist history, virtually no discussion is given of the Niagara Bible Conferences, a topic which many would argue is inexorably linked to fundamentalist history.

Finally, there are a few areas where Himes is careless in his statements. I am unhappy with his treatment of textual criticism, canonical studies, etc. in chapter 11. For example, he never attempts to define “canon”; thus statements such as “there was no complete canon dating back to the time of the Apostles”  (123) begs the question as to what exactly we are talking about when we say “canon” (and, believe me, this very issue has been the discussion of countless articles, essays, and monographs).

Within the same context Himes argues that “before the end of the 18th century, few Christian theologians had claimed that the Bible as a whole was without internal contradictions, or textual or factual errors” (122), a statement which Himes makes no attempt to defend and which, in my opinion, is highly inaccurate (regardless of what one thinks of the doctrine of inerrancy). Both the concepts of historical accuracy and scientific accuracy were very much alive in theological discourse before the 1700s.

Finally, Himes is overly harsh on dispensationalists and premillennialists in chapter 10. He is critical of John Darby, arguing that Darby took “heavily metaphorical passages from the Book of Revelation, ignoring the historical context in which they were written, and stitch[ed] them together to create a distorted theological portrait . . . Revelation was part of a powerful tradition of apocalyptic literature responding to the imperial domination and oppression of Christians by the Roman Empire. Darby, however, claimed that Revelation was to be read as a factual prediction of future events” (113). To begin with, there is no law that says apocalypticism and predictions of the future cannot go hand-in-hand. Even a cursory reading of Jewish apocalyptic literature would demonstrate that the genre cannot be pigeon-holed so easily (and this writer has read extra-canonical Jewish apocalyptic literature). Furthermore, Revelation itself clearly states that at least some of the material in the book is future-oriented, as seen in Rev. 1:19—“Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this” (ESV).

As for premillennialism, Himes suggests that “premillennialism and its ‘wicked’ [Himes is borrowing the terminology of John Stuart Mill] notion of God . . . furnished the essence of fundamentalist theology in the 20th century” and that this “informed the feverish imaginings of fundamentalist Pat Robertson when he proposed that the deaths of 250,000 earthquake victims in Haiti in the winter of 2010 were God’s punishment . . .” (114-115) Yet Pat Robertson in no way represents the mainstream of premillennialism, and it is unfair to hold him next to Tim LaHaye as the paradigm of premillennialism (I’ve never yet been a member of a fundamentalist church that took Pat Robertson seriously). Perhaps Himes did not intend to do so, but one is nevertheless left with the impression that Robertson is the norm for a premillenialist. One should not critique or describe a position by focusing on its extreme elements. Furthermore, the notion of a God who literally punishes in eternal fire can hardly be tied solely to premillennial theology, as Himes implies on p. 114 (whether he meant to or not).

Furthermore, Himes’ harsh critique has very little to do with the overall point of the book and potentially alienates the very readers he is trying to reach (I am assuming he wishes fundamentalists to read the book). Since a large percentage of fundamentalists (though not, by any means, all of them), including this writer, are both dispensational and premillennial, Himes’ critique is counter-productive and quite inadequate. Had he truly wished to counter dispensationalism, for example, he would have had to actually read Darby (he never actually cites Darby, despite his harsh critique), as well as modern dispensational theologians such as Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, Elliot Johnson, etc., many of whom would not consider themselves fundamentalist. By then, the book would have gone a completely different direction and ultimately hindered both his excellent treatment of Rice’s legacy as well as his stirring message of orthopraxy, and many fundamentalists would miss out on a book well-worth reading. (The reader should remember the important axiom that if you are going to critique a viewpoint, you should be able to describe it in such a way that the one holding that viewpoint would agree that you’ve described it accurately [I state this with thanks to Robert E. Picirilli, who better articulates the axiom in his book Grace, Faith, Free Will])

It is significant, however, that the above criticisms are directed at areas where Himes focuses less on Rice and fundamentalism and more on Christian theology and history in general. This, perhaps, further accents my point that much of this material could have been cut, consequently improving the book.

Such critical statements, however, should in no way detract from the brilliance of Himes’ writing nor from the fact that this book represents a solid contribution to scholarship on fundamentalist history. Himes’ theological differences with mainstream fundamentalists should not hinder the informed fundamentalist from profiting from his book. Himes’ The Sword of the Lord remains an immensely valuable and highly enjoyable discussion of both John R. Rice and 20th century fundamentalism, combined with a poignant call to orthopraxy.

3. The legacy of John R. Rice: A great-grandson’s perspective.
 Sadly, John R. Rice died shortly after I was born so I did not have the privilege of knowing him personally as my father and uncle did. There exists a picture where Dr. Rice is holding me shortly after I was born, but naturally I have no memory of him. He was held in high regard in my family, and when I went off to college my father made sure I had a good library of Rice books to keep me company.

It has become somewhat fashionable in academic fundamentalist circles [not an oxymoron!] to criticize Rice; some of the criticisms, I believe, are fair (even I wrote a paper in seminary critiquing his view of interracial marriage) while some are unfair or blatantly false (for example, Rice never claimed to be a scholar as some have asserted). On the one hand, from the pulpit Rice could be harsh on even conservative theological views that he disagreed with. Yet on the other hand, as Himes indicates in his book, compared to contemporaries such as J. Frank Norris, he was friendly and cordial on a personal level with those from a different theological spectrum. Indeed, one of the points of contention between Bob Jones and John R. Rice was that Rice still enjoyed the fellowship of his southern Baptist friends!

I’m not sure what Rice would think of my own academic career at this point; he may be heartened that I am attending a Southern Baptist school (after the so-called “conservative resurgence and/or takeover,” call it what you will), but perhaps scratching his head that I would be dabbling in “social-scientific criticism” for my dissertation on 1 Peter (though I imagine the Apostle Peter standing next time him, assuring him that his great-grandson is not quite as radical as it would appear).

For me, the legacy of John R. Rice that I admire and aspire to has less to do with his theology or published works or influence on fundamentalism and more to do with his ministry. The John R. Rice I admire was a soul-winner and a powerful preacher, first and foremost. Granted, his theology of soul-winning to a certain degree may have hindered him from preaching against racial injustice, etc., and I do not think this has to be an “either-or” issue. One can simultaneously preach the Gospel while recognizing the past failures of one’s race and/or culture and reaching out to help the downtrodden. Yet well all is said and done, John R. Rice loved Jesus, and he loved people of all races well enough to tell them about Jesus, and this, in my mind, is the most significant part of his life

I generally do not advertise who my great-grandfather is (and few today would care!), but a few months ago at my independent Baptist church, an older gentleman who knew Rice bought me a Bible. When giving me the Bible, he told me that John R. Rice was the only man he had ever asked to sign his own Bible because John R. Rice could never preach a sermon about hell without tears in his eyes. In this way Rice, more than many, exemplified Jude 21-23, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”