Why study the LXX?

Question: How you would answer a friend who is asking you why you are bothering to study the Septuagint? Of what value is the study of the Septuagint for a faithful Christian who is seeking to know God better? 

The Septuagint is the Bible Jesus and the Apostles read. In Christianity, we believe in the authority of the Bible as the written word of God, that words matter, and that the word of God matters. While the Bible is God’s word in human words, it is divinely inspired. The Septuagint (also LXX for 70 because tradition holds that the original portion, the Torah (or the Pentateuch) was written by 70 men -but in time it refers to the whole Old Testament) is the translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic portion of the Bible (the Old Testament) into koine Greek, the same language the New Testament is written in.  Koine Greek was the common language of the time, similar to how English is today. 

Engaging in textual criticism and the study of the Septuagint is a reflection of this concern for the authority of the word, that words matter, and that God’s word matters. Some time before Christ, a man named Aristeas wrote a “letter” detailing the account of how and why the Septuagint came to be. While in part it was to have a copy of “the Law of the Jews” in the Library at Alexandria, written in a language people could read, in time, it came to be understood as divinely inspired and on par with the Hebrew Scriptures as the word of God. It became the word of God for Greek speaking Jews and later, the early church. In time both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint were held to be the divinely inspired word of God and gives support to what have as “the Bible” today.  As an example, the Old Testament in Eastern Orthodox Bible today is based on the Septuagint. Additionally, the Septuagint gives us access to versions of the Jewish Scriptures that would have been familiar to most Christians outside Judea and that were clearly known to and used by several of the NT authors, famously the author of Hebrews (several of whose exegetical points are sustained by the LXX but not the MT, our “go to” text for the Hebrew Bible).

Study of the LXX and its history, in effect, compels us to worship. It helps us know the miracle we hold in our hands today that we call the Bible. Studying the LXX reveals the missional heart of God to adapt to cultures and situations; to keep his word, and be sure his word is in a language that can reach the whole world.  This is why we should bother studying the Septuagint and how such study helps us know and love God. 

Review of 40 Questions about Typology and Allegory

It is with thanks to the Kregel blogger review program that I am able to offer a review of Mitchell Chase’s book 40 Questions about Typology and Allegory (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 2020). Chase is the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist church, in Valley Station, KY. He also serves as n adjunct professor for Boyce College and Southern Seminary. He has a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kregel has several works in the 40 Questions About series and this is the latest contribution.

Chase’s purpose in writing this book is to “orient Bible readers to the subjects of typology and allegory, that we might be more faithful readers of Scripture” (12). Chase puts forth that in view of the “big story” of the Bible, it is important to understand how that story is told, as much as that it is told (25). In highlighting typology and allegory, the book 40 Questions About Typology and Allegory, then, is an “invitation to a kind of reading, a kind of seeing” (12), a way of reading the Bible that helps the reader “see” the various connections and patterns of Scripture that reveal the message of the Bible to the reader.

The way to come about this “seeing” is by spending extended time reading and re-reading Scripture over and over, and in the process paying attention to the way the biblical story is told such as with the use of narrative recapitulation (29) or the use of metaphors or personification (30), even metonymy or symbolism (31). Typology, then, refers to “an impression, image, example, or a pattern” (35). Allegory occurs where a passage “says one thing in order to say something else” (193). Chase acknowledges that the notion of allegory in the Bible is controversial. Most often the only real place where there is allegory in the Bible is Galatians 4 where Paul, in talking about Hagar and Sarah, is speaking “figuratively” (Gal 4:21-31). However, Chase notes allegory “invites the reader beneath the surface to discern a deeper significance in the words used in the passage” (193-194). One example he cites is Isaiah 5 where there is language about destroying a vineyard but really it is an allegory for God’s coming judgment (193). In this, he fully acknowledges the dangers of allegory (196) but also beleives it should not be avoided altogether.

It is clearly stated that although though they are related, typology and allegory are not synonymous (197). Chase states:

“Both are examples of seeing significance in a text that is beyond the text itself. Unlike a type, an allegory does not have to be historical. For instance, allegories might appear in visions or parables that are not meant to be taken literally. Unlike and allegory, a legitimate type depends upon correspondences and patterns in redemptive history that link too, and escalate toward, the antitype…. Typological exegesis discerns organic connections and development across redemptive history and through progressive revelation … Allegorical interpretation views the text under consideration as having a deeper meaning, understanding the text too ‘say other” than what the words read” (197).

Chase spends several chapters exploring types and allegories and how to identify them throughout Scripture as well as showing how it was done in Church history through the Enlightenment into the modern era closing out with discussing how it should be practiced in the church today and why should it matter (that it helps reveal the interconnectedness of Scripture and seeks to magnify Christ in all of Scripture.


Some examples of types would be the Ark of Noah, which is a type of Christ. The Ark is the type, Christ is the antitype. Just as the Ark protected Noah and his family from the Flood, so those “in Christ” will be protected from the day of judgment (129). Another is the tabernacle in the wilderness which again, is a type of Christ. The Tabernacle is the type, Christ is the antitype. The Tabernacle is the symbol of God’s presence among and with Israel, Jesus is the true and greater tabernacle. He is fulness of God’s presence with and among us (142).

An example of allegory in Chase’s view would be that of Cain and Abel. Abel represents God’s people and Cain “was the template for future opponents of God’s people” (256). Chase states further, “The religious leadership in Jesus’ day was Cain, for they dishonored God despite their outward conformance to sacrificial laws” (Mt 15:8-9). Jesus is Abel who faces opposition and is put to death in the process. The Jews were Cain because “though he came to his own, his own received him not” (Jn 1:11), etc (256). 

While I am leery of allegories and think any effort to explore types should be done with care and caution, I think Chase has provided a useful and valuable resource for the church and for the average Christian to read the Bible in ways probably not previously done. All too often types and allegories are done in excess and are abused so that most shy away from or avoid them altogether. However, it was practiced by Paul and the Apostles, and was practiced all through Church history (sometimes well, often in embarrassing ways). Exploring types and allegories is a perfectly valid way of doing biblical theology. If done with precision and care, and with a love for truth, I think it can lead to helping Christians know Christ and the Scriptures in new depths and will only deepen their love for God and his written word.

Review of Aída Spencer’s James commentary

It is with thanks to the Kregel blogger program that I obtained a copy of Aída Besançon Spencer’s commentary on James in the Kregel Exegetical Library set. This slim volume is a treasure trove of solid biblical scholarship on the Letter of James. Spencer is Senior professor of New Testament at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and a Presbyterian minister. Her specialty is literary and historical analysis and this is what guides her work on the commentary. She seeks to note James’ stylistic features and images while also taking seriously the historical background of James.

This means she holds to James the brother of Jesus as the author. She supports her view in that there are a number of references to the teachings of Jesus in the letter and this could only come from someone who was close to Jesus and traveled with him, she also makes significant comparison with Acts 15 from which to draw her conclusion. Her ultimate goal, then, in this commentary, because it is not always apparent to the reader, is to show the the thematic unity of the Letter of James. She does this by utilizing her skillset in literary analysis and by highlighting the relationship between verses and the meaning of words within their context.

One of the great aspects of this series is the exegetical aspect. The KEL set is new and so it brings with it newer approaches to study of the text and discerning its meaning. This means each chapter contains a translation of the the chapter with a grammatical analysis. For example:

James 1:2a Consider for yourselves all joy, my brothers and sisters,* (initial sentence; main clause)

James 1:2b whenever you might fall upon various trials, (subordinate adverbial clause; temporal; answers when)

James 1:3c knowing (subordinate adverbial clause; causal; answers why)

*ἀδελφός in the plural here is generic (LSJ, 20; BDAG; 18).

This followed by an outline and then a discussion on the literary structure. Structure is important because it leads to discerning the meaning of the passage. Then there is the exposition of the text throughout which are are words in bold indicating word that are discussed in depth. For Spencer, words are the building blocks of meaning as they are stacked into clauses, sentences and paragraphs. She discusses words that are key to the meaning of the text. For example, in James 1:1, she bold “diaspora” and then discusses in-depth the historical context in order to discover which “diaspora” James is referring to (she argues it is probably the earliest one that affected the Messianic Jews in Jerusalem (8:1)).

Once she has done the expositional portion, explaining quite deeply the text of James verse by verse and at times word by word, she follows it up with a discussion of the theological and homiletical topics and themes in the chapter. This commentary by Kregel is for pastors and in-depth Bible teachers. It is well suited for teaching and preaching as sermon points are suggested for consideration.

This is a strong commentary on the Letter of James and is chock full of the very wisdom and understanding James encourages his readers to have and exercise. Spencer is adept at the biblical languages and both historical and literary analysis and presents such in an accessible manner that leaves the reader both informed about the text and spiritual encouraged by the message within.

If some suggestions were offered, I might say it could be helpful to offer a suggested sermon or teaching outline for the chapter or pericope discussed and perhaps for the non Greek reading pastor, the Greek could be transliterated.

Review of The Democratization of American Christianity

The essence of Nathan O. Hatch’s book The Democratization of American Christianity (Yale University Press, 1989) lies the notion that in early American history, religion in the United States became “of the people, for the people, and by the people.” In the age of Jacksonian Democracy where anti-establishment sentiments were already embedded in the fabric of the nation, Hatch shows how “the transitional period between 1780 and 1830 left as indelible an imprint upon the structures of American Christianity as it did upon those of American political life” (6).  Tracing the dynamics and patterns of “five different traditions or mass movements,” (4) this work demonstrates the relentless energy of a people who sought to take back religion from the elites of society.  In the post Great Awakening era it was the era of the common man.  Int a nutshell, Americans were tired of who they considered to elite ministers talking over their heads and leaving them feeling empty and talked down to in regards to the faith. 

Such men as Lorenzo Dow and Elias Smith effectively thumbed the elite and began to preach in the vernacular to the local people in the local churches. They encouraged the people to think and act for themselves in their pursuit of God (37, 69, 75, etc). These were men who had little to no formal “larnin” or “edication” (20) and instead sought to function in their own sense of personal calling and public speaking ability. And the people loved them for it. In many instances, elite pastors would preach and the audience would not know or understand a word spoken. They left feeling as they did before they came.  In contrast, one Methodist itinerant, Billy Hibbard related that some had said one of his sermons was the best they ever heard “because they could remember so much of it” (136). This was the goal, it was accomplished.

In the end, the issue was that of populist religion in America. Pop culture. Pop religion. Religion that reached the masses and was run by common people. It was a battle for authority. Hatch does well to demonstrate a great reversal that took place between the elite and the common person. No longer was authority based on education, or training, or stature. Authority lie instead in the sense of person calling and the democratic art of persuasion.  How many people can you move to the altar by your preaching? That is where the power is.  The epilogue does well to show populism continues to remain embedded in American culture, religiously and politically.  Although the book focuses on just a short period in American history it does well to explain why American religion is the way it is, and probably always will be.

Review Global Evangelicalism

In Global Evangelicalism by Lewis and Pierard present an edited volume that essentially deconstructs what they refer to at the “secularization thesis” (11). This thesis held that “religion was a historical phenomenon associated with premodern societies and that its demise was inevitable in the modern world” (11). The incidence of rapid growth and global/geographical spread of evangelicalism proves otherwise. Even so, the notion of Evangelicalism remains enigmatic and difficult to define. Has the global spread contributed to this? Even Noll asks the question “who are evangelicals and where are they to be found? (17). He acknowledges it was mainly a western phenomenon but that now it is a global one. He then briefly surveys the different global expressions of evangelical Christianity ranging from Fundamentalist to Pentecostal and Charismatic expressions to various expressions in Africa noting evangelicalism’s ability to adapt to different cultures (23).

Piety is foundational to evangelicalism. Piety is what gives evangelicalism the global thrust because tangential to it is a quest for personal renewal out of which comes a passion for missions. Shenk explores mission as one of the theological reasons for the global spread of evangelicalism (44ff). This heart for missions also flowed out of the recovery of the whole gospel (55). This led to the formation in 1974 of the Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization which in turn developed into a truly international body of believers. The world at this point was far from secularized in the modern world. What is important to keep in mind also is that there is the global spread of evangelicalism and there is globalization. They aren’t the same thing. One is religious and the other more political and economic. He notes globalization is more than what some have made it out to be. The question is what is the relationship between globalization and evangelicalism. Lewis demonstrates that both Islam and Christianity have a globalizing dynamic to them (68). He explores the dynamic further.

Part two of the book largely explores the complex impact Christianity has had on the continents of the Southern Hemisphere, especially Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is where the growth and impact of evangelicalism has had the most growth in recent decades. These nations were most receptive to the messages of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement – they resonate much with their own worldviews. Evangelicalism is particularly diverse in Africa and Kalu notes they hardly recognize they share the same heritage (164). Latin America is dominated by the Catholic church but the message of Pentecostalism and Liberation theology has made significant inroads regardless, such that Padilla explores the question of whether Latin America is turning Protestant (175ff). A major aspect of the change lies in convertive piety – people are asked to make personal decisions to which many have responded. Sunquist notes that while Christianity has grown in Asia, indigenous leadership resisted Western ideas and western control of churches (210) such that despite the hard work of evangelicalism much of Asian remains unreached (less than 5% (228). Even so, the church in Asia continues to grow.  Global Evangelicalism does well to show God is on the move in seeing his salvation to the ends of the earth.

Review of Bremer’s The Puritan Experiment.

Bremer’s book The Puritan Experiment was one born out of a desire to present recent scholarship on a somewhat enigmatic movement that desired to bring reform to the Church of England from within. Impacting “tens of thousands of Englishmen and Americans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” (1), Puritanism served to meet the spiritual needs of those who desired to live out more fully the effects of the Protestant Reformation. At the heart of the movement lie the desire to break free from Monarchial influence and control over how they lived out their faith. Puritanism was a critical voice in response to “the intractability of the establishment and to alterations in the official stance of the church (15). Heavily rooted in Calvinism and as the progenitors of “Federal Theology,” what drew so many to the movement at the time was its emphasis on the desire to address inadequacies in the church and the fact that there were needs the Puritans spoke to more than the Bishops (24). It provided a Psychological certitude that helped many to adapt to changing times and circumstances (27). 

As the struggle for reform in the church continued the desire for separation developed because hope of reforming the church was abandoned (29). The Separatists among the Puritans were then emboldened and voiced the continued compromise with the Church of England was against the will of God and formed their own congregations in defiance of Monarchial authority and the laws of England (29). In time, the Separatists and Puritans felt they could not long stay in England for fear of judgment (38) and in stages, they began to go abroad to seek places to live their lives as they saw fit.  A group of Puritans left the New World upon the Mayflower in 1620 and formed a living community in the New World.  While puritanism was generally a transatlantic movement, not all Puritans left England exasperated by the Church of England or in fear of judgment. The reasons for leaving for the New World were varied. Some saw themselves fleeing to the wilderness (43) whole others saw the chance to form a community that would be “a City on a Hill,” while others simply wanted to pursue religious freedom. 

Once in the New World, the Puritan experiment began. Riddled with separatists ideals from the beginning, they struggle to maintain unity. While in Plymouth, some groups broke off and in time Massachusetts became the center of the “City on a Hill” experiment (55ff). Because the desire for purity in life and worship was the bedrock of Puritan theology, the leadership came down hard on any who rebelled or went against the ideals of Puritan ideology. For example, in Salem, those found to differ from the orthodox majority were prompted to live somewhere else. If that was resisted they faced trial. Thomas Morton was sent back to England (56). The ultimate plan was to create a model society and it was expected that all would support that goal.  In time, the Puritans spread throughout the Northeast and by the time of Johnathan Edwards though Puritan ideals were embedded in society the movement had become influenced by the enlightenment and evangelicalism (225ff). Even so their ideals have long remained and remained deeply embedded in American society. On the whole, Bremer’s work is a valuable and thoroughgoing project that offers extensive and deep insight into the Puritans.  

Review of Sweeny’s The American Evangelical Story.

In his interesting book, The American Evangelical Story, Sweeny chronicles the formation and development of Evangelicalism in the United States. Evangelicalism in the US has been in flux, and defining the movement presents challenges. At the heart of it, however, is the reality that Evangelicalism is a movement of people (24) born out of the Protestant Reformation (24) who are committed to orthodoxy (24) and are “gospel people” (17).

Beginning with events in the eighteenth century Sweeny relates how the revivals of the time lead to the growth of evangelicalism in America beginning mostly in the New England area. In the days leading to the Great Awakening, Sweeney notes “the Protestant world had been divided in both its worship and its witness by various ethnic and cultural boundaries” (27). He offers that early Protestantism came with an “eighteenth-century twist” (28). In a time when Protestantism was collapsing under its own divisions, the Great Awakening brought about unity and cooperation among Evangelicals. “In a work of amazing grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit, untold numbers of Protestant leaders began to join hands across these boundaries and to collaborate in the work of gospel ministry” (29). Through the work of Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, and the influence of the Moravians, this collaborative effort led essentially to a “transatlantic Great Awakening” (36).  

As with all things, the more things change the more they stay the same. Changes that came with the Great Awakening involved the development of new denominations and “revival era realignments” (55). Along with the realignments came the “disestablishment and the rise of Evangelical movements” (61). What this means is some churches split and others were newly formed and or re-formed in an effort to pursue the evangelical mission. In alignment with the free market nature of the US, churches also had a free market environment where various pastors and or evangelical leaders with entrepreneurial skills who helped move things forward as the old ways of Christendom and doing church were collapsing (61-62). 

With this entrepreneurial spirit and the onset of the Second Great Awakening (late 1700’s), Evangelicalism launched into world evangelization (Ch 4). As the church pursued missions that gave impetus to cross the color line and find ways preach the gospel to all nations even within the Nation. Evangelicals sought to overcome racism within themselves and the movement. Through this effort came the rise of the Black church (116ff), and the advent of the Pentecostal movement as a subset of American Evangelicalism. The Pentecostal and Charismatic movement helped renew calls to holiness and a deeper life in Christ (133ff). In the end, Fundamentalism has come to be seen as the bookends of the movement providing the substructure in the fight for Evangelicalism’s survival (157, 165ff).  

In closing, The American Evangelical Story continues on! Despite many “centrifugal forces” (181) putting pressure on the movement, particularly globalization, Evangelicalism maintains a “strong centripetal faith” (183) that keeps it and will keep it together as it moves forward into the future.” 

the church in the wilderness

church-rural-church

This image reflects well the current state of the Church in a global pandemic. The current wilderness the church is in (between the time before the pandemic lead to global “stay at home” orders that prevent Christians from physically meeting right now and what lies ahead) feels foreboding and worrisome to many. While many churches moved into the google world, many more remained in the Gutenberg world. The pandemic has thrust the church into a place of liminality. The old way of doing church is gone. Simultaneously loathing and embracing technology, the entire church has been thrust into the brave new world of GOOGLE™ whether it wanted to or not. Between the old and the new, it does not know what lies ahead. Within a place of liminality, although in the google world, many try to do church in the old ways by digital means (meeting on Zoom or having “Drive-in” church). Church leaders are forced to navigate this liminal space of ‘Ethics and Religion in the Age of Social Media.’ Technology is not a god but a tool and a means to function in a google world. Pushing back against the “DIY Spirituality” of Silicon Valley, the church seeks to embrace technology as a means to pursue Christian community and resist individuality. While many struggle to process information judiciously, the church knows it must inform wisely. The Church is in the world not of it. It speaks to it and lives within it, prophetically critiquing the unquestioned “Core Tenets of Silicon Valley’s Moral Catechism.” The church knows technology cannot cure society’s ills. Only God can do that. In this wilderness time, will the church despair or will it embrace the liminal space of the present wilderness and look forward to the future God has for her?

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Photo credit: From this article: https://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/23203-why-rural-churches-matter-more-than-some-think

 Sweet, Leonard. Viral: How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2012), 3. 

 Healey, Kevin, and Robert Woods Jr. Ethics and Religion in the Age of Social Media: Digital Proverbs for Responsible Citizens (New York, NY: Routledge, 2020). 

QOTD: John J. Collins.

Really good article here from John J. Collins: “That the Strong Might Not Oppress the Weak: The Old Testament Vision.”

Throughout the ancient world, justice was understood to entail the protection of the poor and vulnerable from those who would exploit them. Neither biblical law nor the prophets demanded equal distribution of resources, or sought to abolish all distinction between rich and poor. It is assumed that “there will never cease to be people in need on the earth” (Deut 15:11). The problem for the prophets was that the poor were deprived of the necessities of life and degraded to a subhuman condition. The rich “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and push the afflicted out of the way” (Amos 2:7). There is always a question as to what the threshold is, what should be deemed sufficient for the poor. But the examples cited by Amos and the other prophets seem clear enough. If people have to sell themselves into slavery to cover their debts, or get food to eat, that is surely unacceptable. ” -John J. Collins.

Good stuff!

a response to routledge and boda

Discuss an aspect of Old Testament theology as presented in Routledge or Boda and its significance for your developing dissertation idea. In your post,  include a brief overview of the topic as it is presented in Routledge or Boda, and then discuss points of significance for your own thinking on the topic.


An aspect of OT theology that is of significance for my developing dissertation idea was expressed primarily and most directly in Boda. My developing idea centers around the wilderness motif and how the wilderness was not just punishment for rebellion but also a means of forming Israel into a God’s people. In one way or another, each of Boda’s three creeds speak to the idea that the wilderness experience as formational and means of shaping Israel’s identity as a people.  In the narrative creed, where “God acts,” God led Israel out of Egypt and to Mt Sinai and then through their wilderness journey to the Promised Land.  He provided water (Ex 15), mana, and quail (Ex 16). He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, etc.  The character creed, that speaks to God’s redemptive character, shows God was simultaneously gentle with Israel and yet judged them. [EDIT] Routledge talks about the role of suffering in the book of Job (255ff) and notes the concept of disciplinary suffering that, while it may not apply to Job, it could apply to Israel in their wilderness experience.  In conjunction with the Character creed, we can see that though God is a God of mercy and grace, he is also a God who may use suffering as punishment, also uses it to discipline and instruct (256). in a wilderness experience (a way of suffering), one can wonder, where is God?  Why is this happening? Routlege’s discussion of the hiddenness of God, trusting in his inscrutability and ultimate purposes can potentially give depth in understanding the wilderness motif. The relational creed will need more work but the fact of the Sinai covenant is a relational act, that God wanted to be in  relationship with Israel. The points of significance lie in the idea that “wilderness” is an aspect of formation and discipleship as his people continue to follow Christ and be led by his Spirit.