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.

Jan 28, 2014

Academic journals accessible online: Part 1

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer an actual book in my hands rather than one of them “new-fangled” I-pads or what-not. Nevertheless, when it comes to research in Biblical studies, the majority of folks probably aren’t going to live close enough to a decent library to access some of the better evangelical (and secular) journals that deal with Biblical research. Fortunately, many top-notch journals have started making their articles available on-line. Since the point of this blog is to function as a resource for those interested in Biblical studies, I am going to list and discuss some of the more important journals and link to their websites.

This topic will be posted in three separate sections. Today’s post will deal with the evangelical and accessible (but important) journals that contain articles which even less-formally educated Christians might be interested in. The second post will deal more with more specialized journals (as well as secular journals) that focus on a particular section of Biblical studies but are essential for serious academic work.  Finally, the third post will deal with obscure and foreign language journals that doctoral students should be familiar with.

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
To access articles, click here.
This journal allows anybody to look at articles up until the most recently published. So, at the time of this writing, anybody has access to all articles through 2010.
The strength of JETS is that it covers a broad range of topics associated with evangelical life and theology, from justification in the New Testament to a recent article on Biblical literacy in Ireland to a call for more academics to go teach in foreign countries (written by a friend of mine).

Tyndale Bulletin
To access articles, click here.
This is the cream of the crop of evangelical scholarship. Like JETS, anybody can access all but the most recent journals. Unfortunately, the free archives stop at 2007. You can download an article in either Word or PDF format.

To access articles, click here.
This journal is strictly an on-line journal (though initially it was paper-and-ink), and is actually now run by The Gospel Coalition. All articles are available for free in PDF format. The strength of this journal is that, in addition to more academic articles, it also includes discussions of a more practical nature (e.g., the April 2013 issue has an article by Eric Ortlund entitled “The Pastoral Implications of Wise and Foolish Speech in the Book of Proverbs”). As such, this journal caters to all Christians more than any other journal on this list.

Science and Christian Belief
To access articles, click here.
British journal run by “Christians in Science” and “The Victoria Institute.” Anybody can access its articles except for the past 5 years. Though not an evangelical journal per se (and much of the writers are theistic evolutionists), this journal contains many beneficial articles including the recently published very moving personal testimony by Jürgen Moltmann, and an excellent article by R. J. Berry dealing with “Adam” as representing a real person (and its importance for Paul’s theology in Romans). Also, this is a great place to read some top scientists and philosophers (e.g., Polkinghorne, who is both!) discuss issues in their field.

Bulletin for Biblical Research
To access articles, click here.
Another solid, broadly evangelical journal. Anybody can access all but the last 4 years of articles.

Detroit Seminary Journal
To access articles, click here.
Most journals associated with a specific school don’t seem to want to share them online (see below), but fortunately Detroit Baptist Seminary is an exception. By the way, this is the only self-identifying fundamentalist journal that consistently puts out scholarly articles on par with, or at least within the ballpark of, the other journals on this page. It is also the best source to go to if you want to learn more about the history of, and issues within, fundamentalism.

I also wanted to list here Bibliotheca Sacra, Westminster Theological Journal, and Trinity Journal, but those three are all associated with a particular school and do not offer free access to their articles (though at least Westminster offers a few “sample” articles you can download).

Some final thoughts: Unlike popular level articles, most books, and personal blogs (including this one), academic journal articles represent hours of critical research and a thesis that attempts to make a contribution to scholarship. What you read in, say, Tyndale Bulletin may not be the most original thought in the world (“nothing new under the sun” and all that), but it will be a usually be a higher-quality thought than you will be get elsewhere. Furthermore, these articles are (usually) peer-reviewed. That means that (in theory, at least) one does not get published on the basis of their name alone; they must actually have something interesting to say. Conversely, a totally unknown person can get published, if they have something to say that makes a genuine contribution to scholarship. These journals have anonymous referees (almost always established scholars) that weed out shoddy work. There is some subjectivity involved (I can attest to that: one journal rejected a paper that another journal accepted a couple months later), but overall this is where significant theological discussions begin.

Despite the rigorous scholarship behind these journals, they can still benefit ministry. I have more than once incorporated findings of a journal article into my own Sunday School lessons or sermons (being careful not to pass off somebody else’s idea or quote as mine), while occasionally a journal article will actually challenge or encourage me spiritually. In other words, academic research and spiritual edification are not mutually exclusive!!

One more note: “academic” does not necessarily mean “jargon-filled.” This will actually depend upon the author. And you don’t have to read an article through all the way to benefit from it, either. Skimming can give you just enough food-for-thought and get the theological portion of your brain humming.. If, however, you intend to critically interact with an article, make sure you read it thoroughly, more than once. I can’t stress that enough. Plagiarism and misrepresentation are the two great sins of academic thought!

Jan 11, 2014

Proper etiquette for posting comments on blogs

I suppose I can be grateful that I even have to discuss this topic. For a couple of years, the only comments I got were generally along the lines of “fun post/keep up the good work” (all of which I greatly appreciated, by the way). In 2013, however, I started getting spam, as well as some odder comment, including one attempt to direct the reader to a website that will write your doctoral dissertation for you!  (this latter comment was what finally made me decide to moderate all comments before allowing them to be posted) Indeed, there is very good reason why some very prominent bloggers and prolific writers (*cough* my doctoral advisor *cough* J) prefer not to post readers’ comments on their blogs, except for occasionally quoting a notable e-mail. For those allowing comments on their blog, however, some guidelines should be posted. (and let me direct the reader to excellent discussions by Roger Olson, Larry Hurtado, and Ben Witherington).  I would like to call my own views on the matter the “RePoB” principle (for “Relevant, Polite, and Brief”; okay, that’s pathetic, but it’s the best I could think of.  I'm hoping it sounds like "repub," as in, "republish." I’m open to suggestions for improvement, so put it in a comment.)

First of all, be relevant. This, of course, means no spam, but frankly the kind of people who post spam are not the kind of people who would actually read a blog in the first place, so I’m not too concerned about that. Furthermore, Google’s “Blogger” program actually does a decent job at catching spam comments even without the blog creator’s moderation. What this does speak to, however, is what happened to my blog a few months ago. I had written a comparison of four first-year Greek textbooks (the blog post itself is over a year old), and somebody posted a comment about how we should all forget about Greek because the original Greek manuscripts don’t exist, and how everybody should just cleave to the King James Bible. This comment had nothing to do with the purpose of my post (to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of 1st year Greek text books), and thus was promptly deleted. If somebody wishes to ride their hobby-horse of disrespecting one of the languages the Holy Spirit chose to write the Bible in, they’re welcome to do so on their own blog! So, the question one should ask is, “Does my comment actually concern itself with the spirit of the blog post?” How much time (if any) one should spend studying Greek may be a legitimate question, but it’s not very relevant to a comparison of four Greek textbooks (since the presupposition of that post is “yes, Greek is important!”) This would be akin to trumpeting the superiority of basketball on a blog dedicated to baseball fans (the technical term for this kind of internet behavior is “trolling”).

Secondly, be polite. This is actually the only one of my three points that I have not had an issue with on my blog. Everybody who has commented on my blog (including those who disagree with me) has exhibited a reasonable level of politeness. However, I have seen online discussions elsewhere (especially Facebook) where people quickly cross the line from “debate partner” to “jerk.”

To be clear, it’s okay (and even healthy) to disagree with others. In fact, theological dialogue is beneficial to the church as a whole, in my opinion. Yet proper theological dialogue sticks with the issue, not the character of the person one is talking to. There’s a whale of a difference between saying “I disagree with you, and here’s why” and “you’re an idiot” (or even the more indirect “that’s idiotic”). Good theological dialogue at the higher level (in contrast to the college dorm room) should not include your assessment of the other person’s character, intellect, or lifestyle (unless we are dealing with sin, in which case this ceases to be a dialogue and becomes a confrontation, which may be necessary). In other words, your “sparring partner” in this debate on “election/Bible versions/justification/whether or not dogs go to heaven/” may have just said something totally naïve, completely misinformed, or even downright stupid. If so, then the facts and the proper use of logic, as well as the occasional citation of Martin Luther in the original German, should all swing the argument in your favor. You do not need to point out their absurdity or wishy-washiness. If their statement truly is as dumb is you think, a response that focuses on the facts and utilizes critical thinking will surely swing the intelligent reader to your side. If not, then perhaps their statement was not as dumb as you might think.

At the root of the matter is the issue of humility. To attack somebody’s character in what is supposed to be theological dialogue [not the same thing as confronting somebody over heresy] elevates yourself above them as adequate to pass judgment upon their character and their intellect. Yet all of us say stupid things now and then, and most of us (including myself) are not quite as good at evaluating the intellectual merits of somebody’s argument as we think we are. [as an aside, and a shameless plug for Ph.D. work—in my college days, I could scoffingly dismiss an argument with the best of them! During my M.Div., I would at least listen to you before scoffingly dismissingly your argument. Doctoral work, I believe, taught me to absorb and evaluate somebody’s argument much more fairly than before. Hopefully I’m now much less likely to dismiss somebody’s argument as “absurd” without a fair evaluation and a balanced response]

This is a totally different issue from confronting heresy. If a member, deacon, or elder in your church denies the Trinity, or the literal resurrection, or any other essential doctrine (emphasis on “essential”), then you and others in the church have an obligation to confront this person and rebuke him or her. This is not the time for fair, cordial, academic dialogue! (for a relevant discussion on “essential” doctrine, see the fascinating article by Craig Blomberg, “The New Testament Definition of Heresy (Or When Do Jesus and the Apostles Really Get Mad?)” in JETS vol. 45:1, viewable online here.

An Exercise in Dialogue: “Jerk” response vs. “Academic” response
1.    “Only a moron would believe that!”  vs.  “I’m not sure you’re understanding that passage correctly. Here’s why I disagree: . . .”
2.    “If you actually had ministerial experience, you’d see how out-of-touch you are” vs. “Yet my own experience in ministry leads me to a different conclusion. For example, one time . . .”
3.    “That’s an incredibly naïve viewpoint” vs. “But does that really reflect reality? Consider, for example, . . .”
4.    “You understand Barth like a politician understands ethics!” vs. “But let’s look at what Barth really said. In page 56 of Church Dogmatics . . .”
5.    “The Nazis believed the same thing!” vs. sticking with the points under discussion. Godwin’s Rule states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Thanks to “WiseGeek” for the quote. We evangelicals generally prefer to replace “Nazi” with something else equally repugnant to our theology, like “Calvinist” or “Arminian” or “Dispensationalist” or “Reformed” or whatever]

Finally, be brief. If you disagree with me, I am definitely interested in reading why, especially if you can point me to an academic work that argues the same as you do. I am not, however, interested in reading a 5,000-word essay on how exactly I’m wrong. Frankly, there are a ton of books and articles out there on various topics in Biblical studies that I would much rather read. In other words, give me 300 words on why you disagree, clearly stated, and you have my attention. Anything longer than that and you’ve lost me (and the comment will probably not get posted).

This applies to comments that don’t necessarily disagree with me as well. For example, on a post comparing and contrasting four Greek textbooks, you may provide a 300 word discussion of a book that you think would be beneficial to the first-year student. Anything longer, though, and I would suggest you submit it as a review to a journal or, better yet, post it on your own blog.

So there’s my “RePoB” method of engaging in dialogue on a blog! [patent pending]. I think a lot of these principles could be applied to regular conversation as well (how many of us, for example want to be part of a discussion where only one person does the talking, looks down on everybody else, and scampers off on countless rabbit trails?) Of course, may the Lord grant that I consistently “practice what I preach” (not an easy task, let me assure you)!