The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Sep 12, 2023

In praise of the more "literal" translation style

I get it, I get it--the term "literal" has been overused, misunderstood, and often abused. No translation is perfectly "literal," not even the King James (as demonstrated by how the translators translated mē genoito in Paul's letters). I am not a novice here on Bible translation. I grew up speaking Japanese as a second language, I have formally studied eight languages to some degree, and I have a peer-reviewed article published in The Bible Translator. Plus I have been a consultant on a Bible translation project into Japanese. So before your roll your eyes and say, "Here we go again, another NIV-bashing hyper-fundamentalist wanna-be expert who thinks a daghesh lene is a type of Middle Eastern pastry . . ." well, please hear me out.

When we say "literal" in regards to translation in general (not just Bible translation), there is a spectrum of correspondence in structural form and lexical choice that we are referring to. For example, take the Japanese proverb Saru mo ki kara ochiru. A coherently literal (or "formally equivalent") translation would be something like, "Even a monkey falls from a tree." A more incoherent literal translation would be something like, "A monkey, even that, from a tree will fall," which mimics the Japanese sentence structure but loses so much in terms of smoothness that it stops being useful. And even that last example is not as literal as one could get, since in Japanese the preposition (kara, "from") actually follows the noun (ki, "tree").

Conversely, way on the other side of the spectrum, a functionally equivalent translation (previously known as a "dynamic equivalent" translation) could in theory be content with "Even an expert fails at something." This gets across the meaning of the Japanese proverb quite nicely, though obviously it looses the vivid imagery.

Now for a biblical example. When the Gospel of John has apekrithē Iēsous kai eipen autō (John 3:3), a formally equivalent (i.e., "more literal") translation would have "Jesus answered and said unto him" (KJV) or "Jesus answered and said to him" (LSB). A functional equivalent translation will have "Jesus replied" (NIV). Even a generally more literal translation like the ESV has "Jesus answered him." Obviously nothing gets lost theologically; i.e., we are not the poorer in regards to doctrine itself. But we do loose something, as I shall argue.

To be clear, functionally equivalent translations such as the NIV are not evil. I reject wholeheartedly KJV-only attempts to deny that other translations are the Word of God, and the KJV translators are on my side; read "From the Translators to the Reader," the section entitled "An answer to the imputations of our adversaries" (you can read it for yourself with the above link). In fact, I will dogmatically assert, on the basis of the words of the brilliant KJV translators themselves, that hyper-KJV-onlyism is incompatible with the views of the KJV translators, since they declare, "Now to the latter we answer, that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest [i.e., "inferior in rank or status"] of the Bible in English set forth by men of our profession (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God: as the King's speech which he uttereth in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King's speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, every where" (emphasis added).

Now, having said all that, a translation that strives for formal equivalency, at a reasonable level, is a superior translation, in my opinion. Besides arguments for avoiding ambiguity and letting the reader determine the probable meaning of a difficult phrase for themselves (which applies to parts of a translation but not all of it), I would like to bring out two points.

First, a formally equivalent translation is somewhat more likely to be working with the assumption that every single word in the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic was supernaturally inspired by the Holy Spirit. Now, to be fair, a lot of those who prefer the NIV or other functional equivalent translations agree with this point and can still defend a functionally equivalent translation as expressing the intent of the Holy Spirit. However, those on the functionally equivalent side are also less likely to agree with this point, as evidenced by the recent dialogue in Themelios between Bill Mounce and Dane Ortlund. Mounce, who clearly believes in the supernatural inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, nonetheless states that "The authors write, and God ensures that what they write is not only true but that it is what he wanted to communicate. But that does not require me to believe that God controlled every word choice that was made. If that were the case, then we must all abandon any sense of mystery and accept the dictation theory of inspiration for all biblical texts. . . . To say that God chose every word, in essence imitating the author's style, removes all mystery; . . ." ("Do Formal Equivalent Translations Reflect a Higher View of Plenary, Verbal Inspiration?" Themelios 44, no. 3 [2019] pages 480–1) This is not the place to respond to Mounce, whom I respect (and Ortlaud has already provided a solid response: "On Words, Meaning, Inspiration, and Translation: A Brief Response to Bill Mounce," Themelios 45, no. 1 [2020]; I require all my Greek students to read Olrtlund's article). I will say that I think Mounce creates something of an "either-or" fallacy with the idea that either one eliminates "every word" from our view of inspiration or one becomes a dictationist, since surely God in His providence can guide the author, according to his own style, to nonetheless produce exactly the specific word that God wanted (and surely this would maintain the very "mystery" that Mounce suggests we must not lose!). But that's another discussion for another time.

Also, we acknowledge Mounce's point that no translation can or does translate every single word that exists in the Greek, etc. (not even the King James). Again, we are talking about degrees of formal equivalency, not absolutes. When it comes to Bible translation, it is generally not "light vs. darkness," as if the "literal" is always pure good, while the "less literal" is pure evil. Sometimes a less literal translation can actually have some solid theological preaching points that is lacking in a more literal translation. I am thinking here of the NLT in Malachi 2:16. I'm not a fan of the NLT overall, but I admire them for their bold stand in this verse against divorce!

Second, in light of the first point, "choice implies meaning," a well-known axiom repeated by specialists in discourse analysis. If an author has a choice between two words that usually mean the same thing, and he choices one over the other, there may be a reason for that choice that goes beyond just the meanings of the two words in isolation. There may be something being attempted by the author that is not about the ideas behind the statement so much as the effect the statement is meant to create, an effect that goes beyond what can be determined merely by looking at the meanings of the words. Discourse analysts call this "pragmatic effect," and Steven E. Runge gives the following example: "Imagine that my wife asked me how our kids behaved while she was out. If I began my answer with 'Your children . . .,' it would have a specific pragmatic effect, based on the context. . . . . Calling them my kids or the kids is the expected norm. When I depart from this norm, a specific pragmatic effect of 'distancing' is achieved, even though what I said was completely truthful" (Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2010), 7–8).

Applied to Scripture, I would suggest that the specific choice of words can have an affect beyond simply the meanings of the words in isolation. In other words, the sum is not equal to the total of all the parts. The potential exists, then, that a less formally equivalent translation can inadvertently miss the triggering of a pragmatic effect, even if it faithfully conveys the meaning behind the words themselves.

Ortland, in his dialogue with Mounce, gives an excellent example of how this could be the case. In Acts 11:22, more literal translations render ēkousthē de ho logos eis ta ōta tēs ekklēsias tēs ousēs en Ierousalēm as something like "Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem" (KJV) or "The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem" (ESV) whereas a more functionally equivalent translation would translate this as something like "News of this reached the church in Jerusalem" (NIV, which is actually a bit more literal then the NLT, "When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened . . ."). Now, the NIV (and the NLT, for that matter) gets the point across, so nothing is lost from the story. Accurate information is still transmitted. Yet as Ortlund points out, there is a potential for an intra-textual and inter-textual pragmatic effect here that may be missed. What if Luke intended us to remember the other places that the specific word "ear" is used in Acts (7:51, 57; 28:26-27, citing Isaiah 6:9–10), since "The other four are not merely bland references to physical ears but spiritually and theologically loaded uses" (Ortland, page 102). In other words, is it possible the Holy Spirit intended a pragmatic effect (the reader connecting the dots to those other passages in Acts, plus Isaiah), an effect that could only be achieved by translating a specific word consistently in a certain way? (The point, as Ortland states, is not whether or not this is the correct understanding of why Luke used ōta, "ear," in 11:22; the point is that it's a possibility that must be considered; also, as the KJV translators themselves noted, words should not be translated consistently the same way all throughout the Bible; that's not the point. The point is that sometimes they should because their may be an intended intra- or inter-textual link).

Now, back to the more difficult example of John 3:3. Granted, "Jesus answered and said" is redundant and a bit awkward in English. Yet John, when writing this Gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had a choice. He could have just said "Jesus answered" and left it at that (as in John 3:5). Yet since "choice implies meaning," there is some reason John uses this pattern frequently. We may not know what it is, and it almost certainly does not have the potential to convey the level of significance that Luke's use of "ears" in Acts does. John may have written that way for purely aesthetic reasons (he liked the sound of the pattern, perhaps?). Nonetheless, it is still part of the inspired authorial style, it possesses some degree of significance (if, indeed, every single word is inspired), and so should be retained if it can be done without seriously compromising the coherence of the sentence when translated into the target language.

A counter-argument would be that readability and/or smoothness in the target language should trump the form and structure of the originals, and to a certain degree that is true. Not even the King James perfectly imitates the word order of the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. So what I (and others) argue for regarding a more literal style is not some sort of bizarre hyper-wooden translation that makes no coherent sense in English. What we are arguing, however, is that reflecting authorial style and deliberate lexical choice, when legitimate choices existed, justifies at least a little bit of awkwardness in the English (or other languages). That's a discussion that could span hundreds of pages, however.

In conclusion, words often convey more than what is reflected in their semantic range. Specific words in specific contexts can produce effects, trigger allusions, and even create emotions that go beyond the meaning of the word itself. This means that specific words, not just the ideas they and their synonyms reflect, matter. As an aside, this does not rule out the possibility that sometimes a literal translation could potentially eliminate an intended pragmatic effect, via the messiness that involves transferring words and phrases from one language to another; nonetheless, I believe the basic point stands.

Jul 29, 2023

The New ICC on 1 Peter by Williams and Horrell: Positive Initial Impressions

First Peter is no longer the "Exegetical Stepchild" that John H. Elliott once labeled it. The last decade has produced a plethora of monographs and commentaries dealing with this epistle, including but not limited to the Ruth Anne Reese's New Cambridge Bible Commentary, Craig Keener's stand-alone commentary for Baker Academic, Dennis Edwards' Story of God Bible Commentary, my own Lexham Research Commentary, and Catherine Gunsalus González's Belief theological commentary. In addition, Baker just put out Karen Jobes' 2nd edition of her Baker Exegetical Commentary, which remains (in my humble-but-opinionated-opinion) the commentary of choice for any minister's library.

This past year also saw the publication of the new, massive, 2-volume International Critical Commentary Travis B. Williams and David G. Horrell (T&T Clark). This replaces the previous ICC on 1 Peter by Charles Biggs, a volume which also contained 2 Peter and Jude (in my opinion, Biggs' commentaries on 2 Peter and Jude were better than his commentary on 1 Peter).

I intend here to give a few positive initial impressions of Williams and Horrell's epic tome ("epic" in the sense of "It's got 800+ pages per volume!!"). First, a couple caveats:

1. Notwithstanding the immense value to be had from this ICC (despite its hefty price tag), Jobes' commentary still remains the best for pastoral work, and should be the first one to be purchased by any seminarian or minister seeking to preach on or develop a Bible study on the topic (for second place, I would suggest Wayne Grudem [Tyndale], Reese, or perhaps Keener for the wealth of his background material). For my reflections here, I am dealing with the value of this ICC for academic study.

2. I am a bit biased towards this commentary, because I have enjoyed a cordial correspondence with Dr. Williams regarding 1 and 2 Peter and NT scholarship in general, and also because their commentary cites my work a number of times (not always in agreement, but always fairly). It is worth noting that Williams studied under Horrell at the University of Exeter, and in fact it seems to me that Horrell has been mentoring a relatively high number of Petrine scholars in the past couple decades compared to other professors at top-tier universities. In other words, a lot of interesting work on 1 Peter has been coming out of Exeter. 

With that in mind, here are a number of positive observations regarding this commentary:

1. First, this ICC can probably claim to be the most well-researched commentary ever written on 1 Peter (though Keener's commentary has an immense number of primary/ancient sources). Williams and Horrell have put together a bibliography with over 2,500 sources (the bibliography runs from pages 657–816, and I am "guesstimating" about 16 sources per page).

2. Second, you can rest assured that the authors represent some of the best in the field of Petrine scholarship. I confess that one of my pet peeves is when a scholar who has written virtually no peer-reviewed material on a particular book of the Bible ends up writing a commentary on it in a major series. Such authors are usually (though not always) at a disadvantage in regards to understanding the secondary literature, and thus their commentary is usually (though not always) subpar, in my humble-but-opinionated opinion (and yes, I have a specific example in mind, albeit on a different book than 1 Peter). No worries here, as both Williams and Horrell are already easily in the top-10 of Petrine scholarship, at least where English is a primary language. Williams, the junior member of the team, by himself has published two full monographs on 1 Peter, each in a different prestigious European series, not to mention eight peer-reviewed articles specifically on 1 Peter, four of which are in tier-1 journals (and Williams' article in ZNTW significantly influenced my own thinking on 1 Peter).

3. Third, even a cursory glance indicates that Williams and Horrell interact with the Greek text in a very detailed manner. (This is not a a commentary for casual perusal!) For the record, the commentary flows verse-by-verse and clause-by-clause, making it much easier to find a discussion on a particular point of the text.

4. Fourth, the authors do an excellent job of discussing competing viewpoints. And yes, for those of you who were wondering, there is an entire excursus of 7 pages (2:215–221) devoted to the "history of interpretation" of the phrase "preached to the spirits in prison," with 18 pages (2:221–238) that actual exegete the text and discuss the various viewpoints. Interestingly, the commentary takes the minority view that the phrase refers to "disembodied human souls" rather than fallen angels.

So there you have it, the next big thing in Petrine scholarship. These positive comments should not be taken as an endorsement of all the views held to by the authors, of course (and my own position is that Peter himself wrote the book, while allowing for the possibility of an amanuensis), but this is a commentary that libraries and serious Petrine academics need to purchase.

Jun 8, 2023

Another article on "saved through childbearing"!!? (R. Gregory Jenks in the latest JETS)

Note: all comments on all posts are moderated first

This will be my last blog entry before my marriage and honeymoon (so, for anybody attempting to post a comment, I won't be able to moderate it for a while), but I noted with interest the latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 66, no. 1 (March 2023). R. Gergory Jenks' article "Eve as Savior of Humanity? From the Genesis Narrative to Paul's Comments on Childbearing in 1 Timothy 2:15" adds to a constantly growing list of articles dealing with this crux interpretum

Jenks' basic premise is that the 3rd person pronoun derived from sōthēsetai should not be translated "she" as most translations have it, but rather "he," in reference to Adam (and thus all of humanity), and the "they" refers to both Adam and Eve. Thus, Jenks writes, "Humanity is saved from extinction through the woman's role of mother with the condition that the couple, that is, men and women in the church, maintain the godly attributes listed."

The benefits of Jenks' article is that it avoids the knotty, and greatly understated, problem of having the Apostle Paul promote a works-salvation based on a lifestyle that is not even meant for every woman (1 Cor 7:8, 25–40), even if it is more of a "eschatological-judgment-salvation," or whatever. More on this below (see especially Knight's apropos quote). Also, Jenks does well to dig deep in the OT background here (as does Andrew Spurgeon's article back in 2013).

The million dollar question, of course, is whether or not the fact that "Adam is the subject of the previous passive verbs in verses 13–14" (p. 156) would mean that he would also be the subject of sōthēsetai. I remain skeptical, and I wish Jenks had spent more time developing his argument here. Nonetheless, the possibility is worth considering. 

[One more caveat: I'm surprised to read that, in Jenks' words (page 138), "The idea of postmortem existence or judgment is foreign to the Genesis narrative and to the Hebrew Scriptures as a whole. Apart from the rare and obscure mentions of Sheol; the story of Samuel, . . .; and images of collective salvation of the nation of Israel as a whole, the Hebrew Scriptures do not speak of a postmortem existence, and certainly no postmortem judgment." I beg to differ; Daniel 12:2–3 clearly speaks of postmortem existence and judgment, as well as resurrection, and there are some passages in the Jewish Scriptures that seem to point towards a resurrection, e.g., Hannah's prayer, 1 Sam 2:6 (specifically how "causes to come up" is in contrast to "causes to go down to Sheol/the grave").

So where does this now leave us among the various positions held to within evangelical circles? I'm glad you asked! Here's a summary (and feel free to recommend other perspectives that I might have missed; I'm only concerned with perspectives that take seriously 1 Timothy as inspired Scripture, however):

Position #1: A woman is saved spiritually by adhering to her God-given role. This view can be found in many conservative commentaries, e.g., William D. Mounce's World Biblical Commentary (p. 146, emphasizing the role of "perseverance"). I am least favorable towards this perspective, as I believe the theological issues raised are insurmountable. In the words of George W. Knight III, in his NIGTC, "It would be contrary to Paul's teaching elsewhere and to the emphasis of this letter and the other PE (1:15, 16; 2:3–6) to understand sōthēsetai as referring to spiritual salvation if dia tēs teknogonias is taken as referring to childbearing in general. This would make salvation for women conditional on a work, and specifically a work not all are able to perform."

Position #2: Physical deliverance through the difficulty of childbearing. This view is well-articulated by Moyar Hubbard, "Kept Safe through Childbearing: Maternal Mortality, Justification by Faith, and the Social Setting of 1 Timothy 2:15," JETS 55, no. 4 (2012): 743–62. This position is strengthened by the excellent and fascinating background work done by Sandra L. Glahn on Artemis in the 1st century in Ephesus (BibSac 172, no. 687–688; also a forthcoming monograph), though I do not remember if Glahn herself takes this position.

Position #3: Teknogonias ("childbearing") is actually referring to the Childbearing, i.e., the Incarnation. Knight, in his NIGTC, holds to this position, as well as the recent article by Jared M. August, "What Must She Do to Be Saved? A Theological Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:15," Themelios 45, no. 1 (2020). A very attractive position, IMO, though weakened a bit by the notorious scarcity of teknogonia in Greek literature before Paul wrote 1 Timothy.

Position #4: The "she" is Eve, the "they" is Adam and Eve, and they are reconciled together through the promise of Gen 3:16, which prevents the extinction of the human race. This position is defended by Andrew B. Spurgeon, "1 Timothy 2:13–15: Paul's Retelling of Genesis 2:4–4:1," JETS 56, no. 3 (2013).  I like this position because of Spurgeon's exegesis of Genesis 3, but I am skeptical that sōzō can be stretched to mean "restore." Nonetheless, Spurgeon's article is a very interesting read.

Position #5: The woman will be rescued from Satan's snares, by embracing her role of as mother and steward of the household. This position is articulated by Andreas J. Köstenberger, in "Ascertaining Women's God-Ordained Roles: An Interpretation of  Timothy 2:15," BBR 7 (1997). I am open to this possibility (and I greatly respect and admire Köstenberger, a former prof. of mine at Southeastern), but I think it's too much to smuggle in an implied "from satan."

And to that, of course, we can now add Jenks' article. "Of the making of articles about 1 Tim 2:15, there is no end" (with apologies to Qoheleth). 

Apr 28, 2023

Write outside of your comfort zone (lessons from a NT specialist publishing an article in Themelios on David's census)

A funny thing happened when I, as a newly minted  New Testament PhD with a top Greek scholar as my mentor, interviewed to teach at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, WI.

"Can you teach Hebrew?" they asked.

"Of course I can teach Hebrew! No problem. Duh!" was my response [ok, I didn't quite put it that way, but you get the point that I tried to project confidence]. Inwardly, however, I was experiencing a slight panic, since to my shame I had neglected my Hebrew Bible during my years pursuing a doctorate at Southeastern.

As it turns out, in addition to teaching two semesters of Biblical Hebrew, grammar and syntax, on a two-year rotation, they also asked me to teach Hebrew History every Fall, another class totally outside of my specialty. (It would be another year before I would get the opportunity to teach a New Testament class! This is proof that the Lord has a sense of humor, or at least irony).

Yet I can confidently say that all three of those classes grew on me, and in turned helped me grow academically and spiritually. My first time teaching Hebrew was extremely rough (nothing like having your students correct your lectures from the textbook . . .), but I eventually began reading my Hebrew Bible more consistently as well as studying the secondary literature on the Jewish Scriptures with more gusto.

In addition, this gave me an opportunity to pursue an issue that had bothered me since I wrote a paper on it during my college years: the oddity of David's census.

The result, after years of publishing material on the New Testament, is my first ever published article on the Hebrew Bible: "Failure to Atone: Rethinking David's Census in Light of Exodus 30," Themelios 48, no. 1 (April 2023): 47–62 (I had presented an earlier draft of this paper at the ETS regional meeting at Moody Bible Institute a few years back). The entire issue of Themelios can be downloaded here (it is an interesting issue, and I would heartily recommend Jonathan Cheek's article on Genesis 3:15 and Kevin DeYoung's well-written, critical review of S. Wolfe's The Case for Christian Nationalism). Scroll down for the abstract of my article.

So, dear reader (especially those of you who are academic nerds like me), here are some practical lessons from all that:

1. Don't neglect your Hebrew Bible, even if you specialize in Greek! All Scripture, not just the New Testament, was supernaturally inspired by God in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, and if you have the ability, then you should read all of it in the original languages.

2. In addition, for those of us who aspire to be professors, you should not neglect your Hebrew Bible because you never know what you're going to be asked to teach, especially when working for a smaller college and/or seminary. Whether adjunct or full-time, you should be willing to be flexible. (And it goes without saying that you should anticipate occasionally preaching from the OT, as well)

3. Be willing to study areas of biblical studies and theology that you are not as comfortable or proficient with. God can use the lacunae in your curriculum vitae to grow you!

4. If you find a topic that you are passionate and/or curious about, don't be afraid to pursue it, even if it lies outside of your specialty. With humility, of course, because you are treading on ground where others, not you, are specialists. But still, many of the same principles that apply to writing a NT article apply to writing an OT article. You just have to overcome a disadvantage in regards to your familiarity with the secondary literature (and, of course, you have to ensure that you have adequately brushed up on your Hebrew syntax!).

Thank you to Themelios, the anonymous reviewer(s), and editor Brian Tabb for allowing me to publish in their journal.

By the way, for any Hebrew scholars reading this, can anybody tell me why MS Word keeps wanting to rearrange my Hebrew words to create gibberish? I've used both Tyndale and SBL unicode fonts, and I think I've downloaded all the drivers, but this is still occasionally a problem!

Abstract of my article: "Various interpretations have been offered on how David sinned in taking the census of 2 Samuel 24, but too few have seriously grappled with the implications of Exodus 30:11–16 or the structure of 2 Samuel 21–24. Taking Exodus 30:11–16 as the starting point, this article argues that David was supposed to take the census, and that, as with the situation with the Gibeonites in 2 Samuel 21, David’s role was meant to be that of one who atones for the nation’s sins, turning away God’s wrath. The final section answers potential objections such as the role of Joab."

Mar 31, 2023

Is China in the Bible? R. Eichler's forthcoming article on מארץ סינים in Isaiah 49:12.

 Once in a while you run across an article that is just too interesting to pass up, regardless of whether or not its thesis will prove true in the long run. Such is the case with Raanan Eichler, "China Is in the Bible," Vetus Testamentum, forthcoming in 2023. The pre-print version of the article can be accessed from Brill here, for free.

And no, this is not some tribulation-eschatology article in the theological sense (though Isaiah 49 certainly deals with eschatology). The author's argument is strictly lexical and geographical. Here is the abstract:

"Isaiah 49:12 mentions 'the land of Sinim.' Gesenius and most nineteenth-century scholars identified this place with China, but virtually all scholars today identify it instead with Aswan (Syene) in southern Egypt. It is argued here, based on the literary context, the wording 'the land of [plural gentilic],' and the phonetics of Sinim, that the term means China."

It is worth repeating Eichler's point here that arguments for the phrase מארץ סינים meaning "from the land of China" existed over 100 years ago (so this article is not advancing a brand-new thesis). The article contains a helpful survey of scholarship on the issue. Also, Eichler devotes a significant portion of the paper to discussing ancient references to China and nearby places, suggesting that "It seems likely that knowledge of China would have spread westward north of the Tibetan Plateau along what would later become the Silk Road, and perhaps by other routes." Naturally, Eichler spends a lot of time raising objections to the predominant interpretation of "Aswan."

All-in-all an interesting read! I am not a Hebrew specialist, sadly, so I cannot even begin to offer a critical analysis. Yet I am requiring my Hebrew Syntax students to read it (yes, as proof that the Lord has a sense of humor, or at least irony, as a NT specialist I teach two semesters of Hebrew every other year 😀).

It is worth pointing out that Vetus Testamentum is in the top-10 of journals that publish material on the Jewish Scriptures. So kudos to Dr. Eichler on proving that quality scholarship does not have to be boring! 

Mar 4, 2023

Textual Criticism and an Aramaic pun in 2 Peter 2:15 (my article in the latest issue of TC)

 I am grateful that the latest issue of TC: Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism has just published my article "Lectio Difficilior Potior and An Aramaic Pun: Beor vs. Bosor in 2 Peter 2:15 as a Test Case for How a Classic Rule Might Be Refined." The article can be accessed here.

The abstract is as follows:

Lectio difficilior potior (“prefer the more difficult reading”), while still in use in recent scholarship, has been criticized for being overly subjective and of relatively little value as a canon of internal criteria. These criticisms have not been adequately addressed. Yet 2 Pet 2:15 provides a fertile testing ground for the refinement of this rule absent text-critical bias. Since every single current edition of the Greek New Testament,and almost all commentators, agree with Βοσόρ due to overwhelming external support, the rule is not needed to prove the superior reading of Βοσόρ. Rather, the near-universal agreement on the reading gives us an opportunity to develop a methodology for determining whether or not Βοσόρ is the lectio difficilior compared to Βεώρ, a methodology that would hopefully be free from bias. This methodology, which draws from Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort’s distinction between “real and apparent excellence,” could then assist in rehabilitating lectio difficilior potior as a helpful, if secondary, principle in textual matters.

Jan 13, 2023

Douglas Kennard's new Petrine Theology

True Petrine theologies are few and far between, whereas one cannot throw a rock without hitting a dozen Pauline theologies (or Pauline theologians, for that matter!) As somebody who has contributed a little bit to this neglected field, I am excited to have received a copy of Douglas W. Kennard's Petrine Theology (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2022).

Kennard is a professor at the Houston Graduate School of Theology, and in his previous writings he has specialized in biblical theology and hermeneutics. Along with Petrine Theology he has published a companion book entitled Petrine Studies (also with Wipf & Stock).

Kennard's Petrine Theology is about as holistic a "Petrine theology" as one could ask for, and that's a good thing. He utilizes 1 and 2 Peter, along with the Petrine material in Acts and the Gospels, to cover a variety of topics. These include broader theological categories ("God," "Christology") as well as more specific Petrine emphases ("Suffering," "False Teachers"). All of this is developed from the important premise that "The early church considered Peter to be the foundation for apostolic Christian tradition" (p. 1), and thus the modern church should not neglect the Apostle Peter's own specific perspectives.

The book is well-researched and well-thought out, with an excellent level of interaction with both primary and secondary sources. [Allow me, though, to express my irritation at having my own name misspelled as "Hines" in the bibliography; actually, he cites two works of mine, one of them as "Himes" and the other as "Hines." Another top-notch Petrine scholar, Benjamin Sargent, also misspells me as "Hines"; oh well. I'm sure I've done the same to some other author somewhere in my published works--my apologies if that is you, dear reader! And I'm happy that Kennard at least mentions my work. End of rant! ☺]

At times the book reads more like a systematic theology, e.g., chapter 2 on "God," which has a tendency to state a description about God and then bolster it with Petrine material, rather than tracing a Petrine theological theme per se). Even so, it is immensely valuable since it points us to the Apostle Peter's specific perspective while demonstrating how it is congruent with the rest of Scripture. Also, Kennard aptly embraces the important role that Old Testament theology plays in Peter's theology.

Books on the Apostle Peter's theology are rare, and books that take seriously the Petrine material in Acts and the Gospels as part of that theology are extremely rare. I am pleased to announce that Kennard joins the distinguished ranks of Larry Helyer (The Life and Witness of Peter), Pheme Perkins (Peter: Apostle for the Whole Church) and Gene Green (Vox Petri: A Theology of Peter) as an important advocate for the Apostle Peter's theology.