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.

Oct 24, 2015

What I'm requiring my "Intro to NT Exegesis" students to read

I'm grateful for the privilege of teaching the grad class "Intro to New Testament Exegesis" this year at Baptist College of Ministry and Baptist Theological Seminary (10 students in the class). At the seminary level, I'll be alternating between Biblical Hebrew and NT Greek Exegesis classes every other year. This semester is a bit of an experiment, but here's what I'm having them read:

First off, the following three textbooks: 
1. Richard J. Erickson's A Beginner's Guide to New Testament Exegesis, which I felt was overall the most accessible, user-friendly, and well-rounded (narrowly beating out Gordon Fee's classic work), despite the fact he gives credence to "Q" (sort of).
2. Secondly, to give them a basic intro to textual criticism, they need my own Doktorvater's book New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide.
3. Finally (and this is the more experimental choice), I'm requiring them to read the brand new Discourse Grammar of the New Testament by Steven R. Runge. I like what I see in this book so far, and discourse analysis is extremely important, but this might be a bit too much for them to chew for now. We'll see. I might replace it next time around with the fantastic Advances in the Study of Greek by Constantine R. Campbell (though this book also is a bit heavy).

I'm focusing on a number of topics in this class, including background, lexical semantics, textual criticism, and the debate over the verb tenses.
1. For the verb tenses, I'm making them read Andrew Naselli's "A Brief Introduction to Verbal Aspect in the New Testament Greek" (Detroit Seminary Journal vol. 12), since it's a decent overview of the topic (though I suspect I'm less swayed by Porter's views than Naselli). In addition, I'm making them read both Frank Stagg's classic "The Abused Aorist" (JBL vol. 91) and Charles Smith's "Errant Aorist Interpreters" just to get the point across that they should not be basing a theological point on the Aorist tense! (the other tenses, maybe, but not the Aorist!)
2. For background studies, I have them read Stanley Porter's "Why the Laodiceans Received Lukewarm Water" (Tyndale Bulletin vol. 38). I stress repeatedly, in multiple classes, that a knowledge of the background of Laodicea (the problem with the water supply) helps avoid misunderstanding Jesus' point in Revelation 3. Of course, common sense helps a bit too: imagine you're living in Asia Minor, as a farmer, before the advent of the air conditioner. Why in the world would you think of "cold water" as a bad thing. Jesus' point is that, unlike refreshing cold water or therapeutic hot water, the Laodiceans, like their lukewarm water supply, are worthless and vomit-inducing. A failure to stop and think has caused many a pastor to preach this as if "cold" = "opposed to God" and "hot" = "on fire for God," with the odd theological result that somehow God prefers unbelievers dead-set against him to "lukewarm" believers. (I was delighted, however, to recently hear an excellent sermon by an evangelist that "gets it," referring specifically to the background of the city in his sermon; I believe this was the first sermon on this passage in 10+ years that I've heard that "got it right." Naturally the Holy Spirit can use even a relatively poor/lightweight sermon, provided it's not heretical, but I do believe He's grieved when we don't do our homework in our sermon prep!)
3. For lexical semantics, I have them read an excellent (and in-depth) article by Eckhard Schnabel on "The Meaning of Baptizein in Greek, Jewish, and Patristic Literature" in Filologia Neotestamentaria vol. 24. Schnabel, by giving us an extensive survey of the word in Greek literature, once for all puts to rest the idea that that baptizw is somehow a "technical" term that needs to be transliterated instead of translated.
4. Finally, I bring in some of my own textual biases and introduce them to the textual work of Maurice Robinson, specifically his "The Case for Byzantine Priority" in TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism vol. 6 and his "Rule 9, Isolated Variants, and the 'Test-Tube' Nature of the NA27/UBS4 Text" in Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology, eds. Stanley E. Porter and Mark J. Boda (Eerdmans, 2009).

There are, of course, quite a few more sources I would recommend for exegetical study, not least of which would be some helpful background resources such as the classic work by Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity and Burge, Cohick, and Green's The New Testament in Antiquity. In choosing a textbook for this class, I was actually very disappointed in how few good options there were. I felt I was limited pretty much to Erickson, Fee, Guthrie/Duvall (Biblical Greek Exegesis: A Graded Approach . . .), and Blomberg/Markley (A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis), and none of them felt "right," though I ended up going with Erickson. Hopefully there are some enterprising and budding scholars out there that would rise to the challenge! Specifically, I'm looking for something that focuses on block diagramming and the interplay of various clauses. Guthrie/Duvall deal with that, but in their own way, with what I consider a more "advanced" discourse-centered style of block-diagramming. That's all good and well, but I'm looking for a more "basic" system of block-diagramming.

Ultimately, for this class, the building blocks for New Testament Exegesis are (as I see it) a solid competency in Greek, a humble yet informed perspective on textual criticism, and understanding of words and their meanings (meaning is determined by the interplay of context and semantic range, not etymology), carefulness with the tenses, ability and desire to research the background of a text, a basic understanding of the flow of the discourse, and, most importantly, a love for the Word of God!

Anyways, a great class, with great students, and a great topic: the New Testament in Greek! More the Lord bless the teacher and the students!

Oct 1, 2015

Divinely Inspired Puns? You Bet!

These past two weeks I have had the privilege of teaching "General Epistles" (minus Hebrews, which deserves its own class) for the first time in the history of Baptist College of Ministry (textbook is the excellent Letters to the Churches by Karen Jobes). In the process of researching for this class, I found out something: the Apostle Peter likes to "pun."

Well, ok, technically it's a wordplay, since I don't think Peter was looking to get a laugh, but close enough. Wordplays are, of course, nothing new in the Biblical text (especially in the Hebrew), but 1 and 2 Peter have at least 1 wordplay each (or, if the reader will indulge me, puns); there is also a fantastic "inter-textual pun" between 2 Peter and Jude (if 2 Peter comes first, then Jude makes the pun; if Jude comes first, then Peter claims credit to 3 puns).

First off, in the first few verses of 1 Peter 2, the apostle has been describing how we are to put off sin and pursue the "rational, pure milk," Jesus Christ (I follow Karen Jobes in arguing that the "milk" refers to Jesus Christ, not the Bible per se; for a thorough discussion of this context, see her article in Westminster Theological Journal vol. 63 (2002) entitled "Got Milk? Septuagint Psalm 33 and the Interpretation of 1 Peter 2:1-3." Peter, continuing the metaphor of a newborn infant craving its mother's milk, then quotes Psalm 34:8 (LXX 33:8)--the concept of "tasting" that the Lord is good. In Greek, Peter writes, Chrestus ho Kurios. The pun, of course, is that there is only one letter difference between "good" and "Christ." Consequently, by quoting the LXX Chrestus ho Kurios ("Good is the Lord"), Peter is also saying Christus ho Kurios--Christ is the Lord!

For a discussion of the next two puns, one of the best sources is Richard Bauckham's Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude.

Secondly, in 2 Peter 2:15, Peter speaks of "Balaam son of Bosor." Now everybody knows that Balaam is actually the son of Beor, not "Bosor." This is why a small handful of manuscripts actually have a textual variant here, "Beor" for "Bosor." Yet the answer is that Peter makes a pun off of the Aramaic (and Hebrew) word b's'r. Balaam is, in fact, "the son of the flesh" (basar is the Hebrew and Aramaic word for "flesh"). This idea of Balaam being the "son of the flesh" fits well with Peter's overall tirade against these false teachers who do indeed follow the way of the flesh.

Finally, a much more subtle pun that involves reading Jude and 2 Peter side-by-side. As conservative scholarship acknowledges, there is a lot of inter-textuality between these two books. One of them is borrowing material from the other (this is not a problem for inerrancy: it's not like the Holy Spirit can plagiarize from Himself, after all). In fact, as an exercise I had my students compare 2 Peter 2:1-3:3 with Jude and notice all the places that overlap. Now, most scholars believe that Jude came first, though I beg to differ (among other things, it makes more sense for Jude to combine the "water-less wells, tempest-carried clouds" of 2 Peter 2:17 into Jude 12's "water-less clouds" rather than the reverse, that Peter would split up Jude's metaphor). However, that's another issue altogether.

So the pun is this: in parallel verses (2 Peter 2:13 compared to Jude 12) covering the exact same topic, with remarkably similar language, Peter says "Reveling in their own deceptions while feasting together with you"; Jude says "These are spots [or: dangerous reefs] in your love feasts." Remember, either Jude or 2 Peter is borrowing concepts and terminology from the other (under the perfect inspiration of the Holy Spirit). Interestingly, Peter prefers the verb "feasting together"; the word for "deception," however, is apatais. Significantly, rather than using the verb for "feasting together," Jude uses the plural of agaph as a technical term for a (weekly?) feast of charity. Thus Jude uses agapais to mimic Peter's apatais! Result? Sophisticated inter-textual pun!!

One more thought. In regards to the pun in 2 Peter 2:15, I am dismayed at how so many modern translations, in an attempt to "harmonize" Peter with the Old Testament, prefer to go with a mere handful of manuscripts (and not even the Alexandrian "heavy hitters") with the reading "Beor." This includes the ESV (which I normally really like!), the NLT (with a note that says "Some manuscripts read Bosor"--how about, like, "Almost every single manuscript in existence reads Bosor??!?!??!"), the NASB, etc. On the plus side, the NET, Holman Christian Standard, and KJV all read "Bosor," as they should. On the other hand, to my unfathomable disappointment, the New King James inexplicably has "Beor" (extremely disappointing to me, especially since I've been telling folks that it was basically just an updating of the King James; I still really like the New King James, mind you, but this is disappointing). In summary, this may be one of the few places that the NET and the KJV are going to agree against most other modern translations (including the NKJV)! [For the record: The superiority of a reading is not determined by what any translation has, but rather by whatever is determined to be the superior Greek manuscripts; and that, of course, is a different debate for a different time!]