Reader’s Greek New Testament – a Photo Review

Through the kindness of friends and family, over the last year I was able to one, replace my copy of Zondervan’s A Reader’s Greek New Testament: 2nd Edition and, two, for Christmas get the UBS Greek New Testament Reader’s Edition With Textual Notes.  In this post I’d like to share them with you via a few photos.  Basically, I am just posting one photo comparing them from the outside, and one each from the inside so you can see the text and the apparatus where the lost of words occuring 30 times or less are listed.  Words occuring more than 30 times are in a lexicon in the back.

I found the differences in the vocab lists in the apparatus interesting. While the UBS edition simply list the most common gloss so as to not slow down the reading; the Zondervan edition gives several meanings for most words.  Also interesting, the UBS edition has the vocabulary words in list format, whereas the Zondervan edition lists them in a more prose format.  The paper for the UBS edition is thicker and sturdier, while the Zondervan edition is thinner not unlike the paper in a typical Bible.  This probably explains the thickness differences.   The UBS edition has two ribbons, the Zondervan edition only one ribbon.

In my personal opinion, the UBS edition is easier on the eyes to look at.  It is the standard UBS text with the definitions listed in lieu of the textual apparatus.  The Zondervan edition is based on that text which underlies the NIV Translation and the text is based on a different script than the UBS.  The definitions are italicized.  It can seem a bit “busier” if you will.

Well, I hope this helps some.  Blessings!

Here are a few photos:

This one compares the sizes:












This is the UBS edition:

photo 1











This is the Zondervan edition:

photo 2

Some good book reviews

This weeks Review of Biblical Literature has a couple of pretty good and important reviews:

Kenton L. Sparks, Sacred Word, Broken Word: Biblical Authority and the Dark Side of Scripture (Eerdman’s) is reviewed by Hector Avalos
and Joel Stephen Williams.

Roger Stronstad’s Charismatic Theology of St. Luke, The: Trajectories from the Old Testament to Luke-Acts is reviewed by Richard I. Pervo.

It’s always good to read up on reviews as it helps us to keep  in mind what is out there and what has been said about various works and their contents.

Guest Post: on Pentecostal Eschatology

The following is a guest post book review of Larry McQueen’s Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology by my friend Monte Lee Rice, who lives in Singapore. This was originally posted on the goodreads site and is re-posted here with permission.  Be blessed!

pentecostal eschatologyMcQueen, Larry R. Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology: Discerning the Way Forward (Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series). JPTSup 39. Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing, 2012.

McQueen’s published dissertation surveys and critiques the development of eschatological perspectives and diverse doctrines in the early North American Pentecostal movement. He begins by surveying recent Pentecostal approaches to eschatology over the past two to three decades, which have illustrated revisions away from classical Darbyian-rooted dispensational categories, in attempts to articulate eschatology in manners best congruent to core elements of Pentecostal ecclesiology, soteriology and spirituality. As McQueen shows, this includes efforts by persons such as Peter Kuzmic, J. Rodman Williams, Steven J. Land, Peter Althouse, Amos Yong, and most notable is the comprehensive proposal envisioned by Matthew K. Thompson in his own published 2010 dissertation, Kingdom Come: Revisioning Pentecostal Eschatology, JPTSup 37 (Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing, 2010). McQueen’s work falls within this direction, which I will more specifically summarize further along in this discussion.

Next, McQueen devotes substantial effort towards reviewing early Pentecostal periodical literature representative of the two major streams of early Pentecostalism, namely the Wesleyan and Finished Work Pentecostal streams. Following are some of McQueen’s own conclusions reached through this critical survey. Concerning the Wesleyan stream as exemplified in early Church of God (Cleveland) periodical literature, McQueen argues that a diversity of eschatological perspectives existed, and not all strongly followed the Darbyian system. Others better rooted eschatological assumptions within ideas of Spirit baptism “in the via salutis and its meaning for the missional task of the Church.” McQueen thus argues that it was “Spirit baptism” which gave foremost “eschatological significance to the core testimony of the early Pentecostals,” narrated in what they called the “full gospel” of Jesus as Saviour Sanctifier, Spirit Baptizer, Healer, and Coming King (p. 141).

McQueen argues that the early Finished Work stream of Pentecostalism (along with Oneness Pentecostalism) more readily adapted and comprehensively expressed Darbyian dispensational doctrinal categories. This was due to greater compatibility with the finished work tendency to closely tie all soteriological benefits to the atonement, which are then presumed as wholly available through faith, rather than entered into in through the salvific journey that comprises Christian life (as assumed in more Wesleyan terms). Consequently, McQueen argues that this stream is more prone to an “over-realized eschatology” (p. 294). In his book review on McQueen’s work Peter Althouse (Pneuma 35 [2013]: 253-255) however, observes in McQueen’s contrast between the Wesleyan and Finished work streams, some over extended and far too rigid generalizations. Althouse argues that McQueen fails to adequately appreciate “cross-fertilization” between the two streams, which can be observed in several notable early Finished Work Pentecostal pioneers who articulated more process oriented soteriologies as well as softer dispensational categories. Hence, Althouse finds McQueen strict contrast between the two streams as “counterproductive to an ecumenical reading of early Pentecostalism.”

Notwithstanding these supposed limitations to McQueen’s analysis, I find his concluding proposals for ongoing development of Pentecostal eschatology highly constructive. I will just briefly mention some of his key points. First, McQueen argues that Pentecostals should bring eschatology “into dialogue with their holistic spirituality, allowing the experience of the Spirit, in both its individual and corporate dimensions, to inform their hermeneutical practice and subsequent conclusions about eschatology” (p. 201). What results is a perspective towards eschatology, which McQueen finds within much of early Pentecostal literature, that is more shaped by the “dynamic spirituality” of Pentecostalism, rather than by the “predefined script of the future” that Darbyian dispensationalism espouses and imposes on the apocalyptic and prophetic texts of Scripture (p. 201).

McQueen provides some helpful guidelines on just how such a Pentecostal spirituality-informed hermeneutic would shape our reading of John’s Apocalypse as well as other apocalyptic texts, moreover— in manners that critically discern and engage spiritual conflict in context of contemporary culture and settings. He writes,

I suggest that Pentecostalism must reappropriate the book of Revelation, not as a text to be dissected and pieced together to form a map for the future, but as a symbolic world into which we enter in order to be challenged and transformed by the same Spirit in which John received the revelation. This method of reading the text in the present tense preserves the pathos of immediacy so valued in Pentecostal spirituality and reflects the way we interpret other portions of Scripture.” Hence, “We find ourselves in the visions of the innumerable multitude, the two witnesses, the thousand-year reign of Christ and the New Jerusalem. But we also find ourselves in the apathy of the Laodicean church . . . In essence, one way to discern the relevance of eschatology is to discern what the Spirit is saying to the churches (Rev. 2:7) through the visions of the book of Revelation.  (pp. 286-287).

To further demonstrate this more robust eschatological understanding of Christian life, McQueen’s climaxes his book with a reading of John’s Apocalypse through the Pentecostal fivefold gospel motifs, while also integrating theological contributions via recent scholarship in Pentecostal eschatology (such as reviewed in his second chapter). Hence, McQueen stresses that

“recent theological contributions to Pentecostal eschatology that take seriously Pentecostal presuppositions point to the need need to articulate the fivefold narrative within a larger trinitarian and creational framework. Such a move expands the eschatological scope beyond individual salvation to include a vision of cosmic redemption and helps to unify the experiences of salvation within this larger vision for the kingdom of God. (p. 215).

Here, McQueen’s conclusions parallel themes strongly argued by Matthew Thompson (Kingdom Come: Revisioning Pentecostal Eschatology). Concerning the more common popular Pentecostal approach to the Apocalypse interpreted according to Darbyian dispensational categories, McQueen writes,

A major lesson learned form the past is that Pentecostals should not adopt uncritically any eschatological vision developed apart from a distinct Pentecostal soteriology and spirituality. Otherwise, the eschatology may impose various foreign elements that must be held in tension with Pentecostal perceptions or be allowed to compromise those perceptions. Such as has been the case with the long-standing ‘uneasy relationship’ between Pentecostalism and dispensationalism. (p. 215).

In the concluding chapter, McQueen states, “this study demonstrates that Pentecostal eschatology is not so much concerned with mapping a script of the future as it is in discerning the Spirit of the future in our present life and witness.” McQueen thus argues that this thesis can be substantiated in early Pentecostal literature and also by John’s testimony in the Apocalypse.” He strives to demonstrate this by utilizing the fivefold gospel as a hermeneutic for arriving at a distinctive Pentecostal reading the Apocalypse (p. 296).

Finally, another core motif McQueen challenges Pentecostals to integrate into their development an eschatology deeply reflecting Pentecostal spirituality, is the kingdom of God. He thus proposes,

Current studies in Pentecostal theology that take account of the fivefold gospel . . . point to the kingdom of God as an appropriate eschatological symbol. A constructive contribution to Pentecostal eschatology could be offered with the themes of the kingdom of God articulated in the Synoptic Gospel narratives serving as the principal entry points into the eschatological dimensions of the fivefold gospel.

Hence, as McQueen himself concludes, his study exemplifies a current response to Steven Land’s earlier call for “the revisioning of Pentecostal eschatology within an integrative view of God’s eschatological presence” (p. 297), in manners that moreover retrieve early Pentecostal motifs and core elements that characterize Pentecostal spirituality.

Book Review: People of the Book

It is with thanks to the kind folks at Wipf & Stock that I had a chance to read and review Michael Halcomb and his friend Timothy McNinich co-authored work People of the Book: Inviting Communities Into Biblical Interpretation (Wipf & Stock, 2012).

Halcomb.PeopleOfTheBook.79276Michael is a PhD student at Asbury, I believe under Ben Witherington and blogs here.  Timothy is a pastor in the Vineyard denomination.

One of the many goals in Christian discipleship is to help people know God and to make him known.  One of the primary ways we come to know God and make him known (along with prayer and participation in a community of faith) is in teaching folks how to read and study the Bible, the primary source of the Christians faith life and practice.  A major barrier to all that is time.  We live in a time crunched world.  It can take a lot of time to  learn to read and study the Bible in a profitable way that contributes to a person’s spiritual growth and development.  Given the limits of time and resources (and the widespread demise of Sunday schools in churches) how is the church to go about educating folks in these matters?

Halcomb and McNinch provide a way!  Their book People of the Book, provides the Pastor or church leader, even Bible study leader a way to help facilitate study of the Bible in short time segments (roughly 45 min to 1 hr).  Their book provides principles necessary for good Bible study in a group setting.  The strongest emphasis is the need to do Bible study in a group setting and rarely if ever in a solitary setting.  Why?  Because group Bible study or communal Bible study helps safe guard against wild misguided interpretations and applications or what they call appropriations of the Scriptures.  When done together in a community setting, it is far more beneficial and fruitful for all involved, and it make the process easier.

The ultimate goal of “Inviting Communities into Biblical Interpretation” which is the subtitle of the book, is to promote interpretive integrity by studying in a community context and downplaying interpreting the Bible through a lens of individuality, something we in the West are prone to do.  Remember, the Bible was written to whole communities of people and congregations, not to individuals.  Though I&II Timothy and Titus were initially written to individual persons, they were then communicated to congregations.  There are very few if any uses of the singular “you” in Paul’s letters for example.  So it is important that as much as possible Bible study be done in a community context.

Halcomb and McNinch discuss six movements in the process of studying a passage or book of the Bible.  The process they present is much like the Inductive method but has some slight nuances and the biggest one is that it be done in a communal context meaning in a group together where perhaps pairs of people work on different movements at the same time then have the things learned be shared together so all can see and learn from one another.

The first movement is observation (20).  Observation involves looking at the text (any set of verses being studied) and seeing what can be observed about a text at the surface level by asking lots of questions of the text (the primary path to understanding).  The main way to do this is by way of recurrance ( finding repeated words, phrases, concepts, in the text).  This helps really get at the details and specifics so you can know what the text says.  You might do this by asking the who, what, when, where, how kinds of questions.

Once that is done and recorded, the next step is interpretive synthesis (27).  This involves a “communal interpretive conversation” where “some hypotheses about what the author of the text was trying to communicate to his original audience utilizing our own best insights and the studied interpretations of biblical scholars.  The goal is to come up with a shared synthesis of meaning (27).”   Like working a puzzle you work the edges then work the pieces until it forms a picture, observation might be working the frame of the puzzle, interpretive synthesis could be putting the pieces together, together.  🙂  One area of difference Halcomb and McNinch have from what is typically taught is that in the search for meaning doesn’t involve looking for supposed “timeless truths” or in asking the question “what does this mean to me?” kinds of things.  Instead, in pursuing interpretive synthesis the goal is simply to determine the meaning of the text as it stands, the best we can figure in its original context and setting.  The whole “what it means to me?” issue comes in a later movement.  It’s the same basic approach to when one is determining meaning in various kinds of literature.  The main difference however lies in what we do with that meaning, how we let it influence us that differentiates between studying the Bible and studying other literature (29).

The next movement is to look at the ancient implications.  What would it have looked like in the time of writing?  It seeks to respect the intentions of the writers and seeks to know what they wanted folks to hear through their writings.  It overlaps with interpretive synthesis and helps in transitioning to the fourth movement – appropriations.

Appropriations is working to bridge the gap between the past and the present.  For Halcomb and McNinch appropriation is different than the typical “application” element of Inductive Bible Study.  Appropriating involves determining “which realities of God’s nature and character do our biblical authors bear witness?” (39).  So, after having made some observations to ask questions of the text and making an interpretive synthesis, appropriation ask, “so what do we learn about God from all this?”  What does this passage. text, book, teach us about God’s character, ways, or reality?

After appropriations there is modern implications.  Modern implications involves bringing the implications from the past forward into our own contexts.  But that can only be done after you “bridge the gap” between past and future with appropriations.  This is finally when you can ask the question “what does it mean for us today?”

Once we consider the modern implications the final movement in communal biblical interpretation is devotion.  This is the ultimate goal of all Bible study – personal and corporate transformation that leads to greater levels of devotion.  It is also what separates it from mere academic exercise and makes it an act of worship, and hence why they do not call it “application.”  Devotion is meant to capture “the whole-life whole-community response to the God of the Bible” (45).

This is a great book and if you want to know more about these things and what they say about it all you will need to get it!  Following the lay out of the movement for communal biblical interpretation the authors follow up with four different case studies where the reader can see how it all works in varying contexts from a home Bible study to a church service, to a cross-cultural setting (I remember Mike sharing about going on this trip).  There is a final chapter on tips for facilitators and how to go about leading such groups and getting something like this going.

If it has made you tired just looking at all this, thinking man that’s a lot of work and there are only so many hours in a day.  Well, it isn’t that much work as it takes everyone to get it done, there is little actual prep time since the work is being done as a group and different folks do different parts of the study, all the facilitator has to do is keep things moving along!

I think Mike and Tim have done a great job with this book and that those brave pastors and or church leaders who are willing to relinquish control over the direction of the study and allow a communal interpretive approach ought to go for it!

Book Review: Walking in the Spirit.

It is with thanks to Angie from Crossway Publishers that I offer a review of Kenneth Berding’s short book Walking in the Spirit (Crossway, 2011).

My wife didn’t like me too much for saying this but if there were ever a book that could be truly described as “how to be a Pentecostal or Charismatic, without actually being one…”. Ken Berding’s latest book Walking in the Spirit would be it!  Really, I don’t mean to be presumptuous or condescending on purpose but the things Berding talks about in this book is what you hear about in your average Pentecostal church on a fairly regular basis.  For the average Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian (not the fringe folk you see all too often on Scott Bailey’s blog) this is what living the Christian life is all about, Walking in the Spirit. Hearing the voice of the Spirit in one’s heart and life; walking and or living in the power of the Spirit; praying in the Spirit (not necessarily in tongues); hoping in the Spirit (for the eschatological fulfillment of all things); living life led by the Spirit of God and so on.  This is the essence of what it is to live the Spirit led life.  Well, that is how I see it anyways.

Dr. Berding (PhD, Westminster; Prof at Talbot) then, has written a tightly focused work centering on one of the more significant passages in the Bible on the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, Romans 8. It is not a scholarly work and does not interact too much with major scholarly commentaries on Romans.

Instead, he seeks to talk specifically about a life led by the Spirit and draws his points from the text of Romans 8:1-24.  In a lot of ways it reads a bit like a 7 part sermon series on the Holy Spirit since he fills the texts with plenty of personal stories and anecdotes and points of application along with questions for consideration at the end of each chapter (hint, hint, wink wink, for those wanting to do something like that in their congregation).

It is a short book with only 112 pages (7 chapters) of main text with two appendices one of which he seemed to write to calm some scholars down who might read the book (it addresses some basic academic issues with regarding the passage, i.e., some OT in the NT stuff with regard to the use of the “law”).  It could easily be read in one sitting but I think the better approach would be to read one chapter at a time and let the concept and points sink into one’s heart and life.  Personally, I found it quite stirring and am still feeling the effects of having read it).

Each of the chapters talk about a different element of the work of the Spirit and follows the flow of the text so the first chapter hits on the first instance of the work of the Spirit in the passage.   So, for example, one chapter focuses on what it means to set one’s mind on the things of the Spirit.  Another focuses on what it means to put to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit.  Yet another, what it means to be led by the Spirit, and what it means to know God as our Father by the Spirit (no, Abba doesn’t mean “daddy”), to hope in the Spirit and also what it means to pray in the Spirit.

FWIW, I actually agree with him that “praying in the Spirit” is not about tongues per se, but, that it is to pray in conjunction with, or alongside the leading of, the Spirit.  For example, all too often a person gets sick or is injured in some fashion, prayer requests go out for quick healing and such for said person.  Well, to the consternation of many, it should be asked, is this the leading of the Spirit as to how we should pray for this person?  Maybe we should simply pray that they be strong through the process and so on.  How is the Holy Spirit leading us to pray regarding various situations?  That is what it is to be led by the Spirit.

So, if you want to be invigorated in your “spirit-ual” life and walk this book is certainly a good place to start.  I really do recommend it to any and all, and even maybe especially to scholars who tend to get all too heady about stuff (not that there is anything wrong with that per se).


Is there a “best” Study Bible?

Well, probably not necessarily, as, like with translations, each has its own purpose and usefulness, but probably, the better ones are those that encourage actual engagement with the text of Scripture – and, in my opinion, the “best” “study” Bible available that encourages in-depth engagement with the biblical text, is one put out by Precept Ministries: The New Inductive Study Bible (Harvest House Publishers) (the main “new” part is that it was reformatted and updated when the NASU came out).

In fact, this one probably does so well at encouraging actual and in-depth engagement with the biblical text that probably just looking through and thinking about what it encourages people to do, could make you tired…. lol!

So what does the New Inductive Study Bible ask the user to do?

Well, the dead giveaway is at the bottom of the photo to the left: discovering the truth for yourself.  Well, at least, discover the truths of Scripture for yourself utilizing the Inductive method of Bible study!

First, it asks him or her to spend time observing the text asking “what does the text say?”  This stage is also known as the “overview.”  One way to observe the text is to use the “5 w’s and an H.”  Other ways involve marking out specific “key” repeated or theologically weighted words and or phrases and such in a definitive way so as to make things stand out; then make lists recording the observations and so on and so forth.  Even outlining or structuring is a kind of way to observe the text – which forces you to do the most important part of observation: read and reread, and reread the text, over and over and over again.   the more you read the text, the more you’ll see and the more you see, the more you’ll begin to understand.  In the observation stage, you are dipping in and out of the text so that at times you see the forest and at other times you get in closer to take a look at the trees and their roots looking to get the context of the passage or book being studied.  (see here for some examples)

Next, it asks the user to begin interpreting the text asking “what does the text mean?”  Now, usually, good interpretation flows out of observation – so once we begin to get an understanding of what the text says or is saying, we can begin to understand it’s meaning.  Interpretation involves doing context studies, background studies, word studies, reflecting on the text itself  comparing passages or versus “letting Scripture interpret Scripture” and so on.  Al this is to be done on your own – no commentaries and such until after you have done as much work on the text yourself.

Finally, it asks the user to begin applying the text asking “what does it mean to/for me or to/for us?”  Now that we have begun to get a handle on the meaning of the text, we can begin to apply it’s truths to our own lives or our own faith communities.  The moment we engage a truth we should begin applying which can happen any number of ways: when your eyes are opened to some concept it brings some level of personal transformation be it an understanding about God, the church, one another or even our own self.  Once that truth is understood, we can begin waking in it – be it God’s love and acceptance for us, learning to love, accept, and forgive one another; the need to evangelize and share the hope we have in the Lord, etc.

Of course there are various study tips and mini-articles and so on, and I am sure we could all find something to quibble with or quarrel over, but the whole point of this particular “study Bible” is to get people into the text and to do their own work – instead of relying on edited notes and such at the bottom of the page helping you understand the passage, the Inductive Study Bible utilizes the Inductive method so you could, in following the method, write your own notes and think for yourself about the truths of Scripture!  🙂

So, all that so explain why I believe the New Inductive Study Bible is one of the best out there for really and actually “studying” the Bible.  and this is why I’ll be getting a new one soon since I had to throw away my other one.

I realize this probably isn’t the best Bible to give to a brand new believer (though I have heard of new believers doing well learning the Inductive Method) – that might be too much too fast (probably would not give any “study” bible to a new believer but instead a regular Bible to read and gain basic familiarity with the Bible and its contents) – but the ISB is better for the person read to get in personal study of the Bible (and especially done in a group with others such as done one’s one work (like homework) then meet up with others to talk about what you learned to help keep each other on track).

As to other kinds of Study Bibles such as the ESVSB, NLTSB, NIVSB, etc, what I would prefer to see is the Inductive Study Bible as the primary one worked with and used – then other others used as references (after one has finished with the overview of the passage or book under study first).  The same would go for commentaries, they are fine and good to use, just wait to look at them after you do your own work.

Lastly, I realize I am probably emphasizing a method more then a kind of “study” Bible per se as one can utilize the inductive method with any Bible or by just printing out the passage or book under study on regular paper to put in a notebook, but I do feel the NISB is the best in utilizing a method of study over just giving commentary notes at the bottom and articles spread throughout and leaving folks to figure out what to do with them.


Book Review: Why Four Gospels?

It’s with thanks to the generosity of both Dave Black and Publisher Henry Neufeld of Energion Publications for a gratis review copy of Dr. Black’s revised edition of Why Four Gospels? The Historical Origins of the Gospels (Energion, 2010).

Robert H. Stein, in his book Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation, 2nd Edition (Baker Academic, 2001), wrote the following:

….the plausibility of the Griesbach hypothesis is greatly weakened by the difficulty of not being able to provide a credible explanation of the activity of Mark that is consistent and coherent (148).

Well, I guess he hasn’t read Dave Black’s Why Four Gospels? yet, has he? 🙂

If there were ever a sensible and indeed plausible presentation of the Griesbach Hypothesis, also known as “Matthean priority,” or more currently, the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis, this work put forth by David Alan Black would be it.  One of them at least since it is the first and only one that I have read.   Well, it is a variation of the Griesbach Hypothesis anyways.  Additionally, the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis term is based off a statement by Irenaeus in his Against Heresies (3.2.8) and the Vatican II’s Dei Verbum (vi).

This book was born out of Dave Black’s conversations over the years with students who asked him to compose a brief, clear, and easily understandable summary of his beliefs regarding the historical origins of the Gospels (v).

Apparently students experienced angst over proponents of higher criticism continually undermining the historical reliability of the Gospels.  He put together a handout for private use but in time his views became known and eventually lead to this short monograph.  By short, I mean there is only 78 pages of reading with an extensive and updated bibliography (covering 19 and 1/4 pages)!!

Much to Dr Black’s credit, he says more regarding the historical origins of the Gospels and their composition in 78 pages, than does someone like Stein, whose book has 279 pages of reading.  Really.  Much is said in this little book.

I noted that Black’s view is a variation of the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis.  His view is a combo of his own views and those of his colleague and friend Bernard Orchard of the Gospel Research Institute in London (vi).  But really, it seems, at the heart of things is Dr. Black’s appreciation and respect for the early Church Fathers and the importance of their testimony with regard to determining the composition of the Gospels.  He writes in the preface:

The protestant church culture in America, of which I am a part, often overlooks the immense contribution that the science of patristics makes to the way we understand the Scriptures.  Now I certainly do not wish to replace a text-centered hermeneutic with an approach that is enslaved to the dogmata of councils and creeds.  My claim in this book is not that the fathers of the church solve the synoptic problem.  It is that any approach that rejects their testimony is, by definition, illegitimate (ix).

Black is quick to assert that he is not suggesting we should have an uncritical acceptance of early Christian interpretation of Scripture.  It’s just we need to be more open to hearing what the early church fathers have to say and take their input seriously.

The concern is that there are those who claim to take account of what the fathers have to say, yet at the same time, undermine them or altogether ignore their input (mainly Markan Priorists).

The main question is if we say the Fathers have a voice and their input has value then why do Evangelicals so often disregard their witness to the Gospels?  Black is averring that all too often Evangelicals ignore the voice of the Fathers and instead take to later more modern approaches to determining the formation of the Four Gospels, when this shouldn’t be the case.

Indeed, up until nearly 200 years ago, with the onset of the Enlightenment period, the understanding that the Gospels were written and “published” in the order in which we have them, was not often disputed.  With the Enlightenment, however, theories began to abound as to their construction and formulation such that we now have discussions about a mystery document called Q, or if there was an Ur-gospel.  We debate about how could Mark leave out so much stuff if he was not first, and so on.  Dr. Black’s book offers a viable alternative to all these discussions, and his alternative is heavily reliant upon the principle witness of the Church Fathers.

When it comes to understanding or exploring the historical origins of the Gospels and their composition and arrangement, which fathers are to be consulted? The principle Patristic witnesses to the Gospels are: Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, The Muratorian Fragment, The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke, The Old Latin Prologue to Mark, Eusebius, Papias, Jerome, and Augustine.  These are the most significant witnesses to how the gospels were composed and arranged because they represent the widest possible distribution (or representation?).  Black avers that this widespread witness lends significant support to the Fourfold-Gospel hypothesis but almost no support to Markan Priority (32).

Chapter 1 then, discusses the stages of the development of the four Gospels.  Based on the witness of the Fathers there is a four phase approach to their construction: the Jerusalem phase (AD 30-42; Acts 1-12); The Gentile Mission phase (AD 42-62; Acts 13-28); The Roman phase (AD 62-67); and the The Johannine Supplement.  In sum, Matthew is the foundational and primary Gospel but each was written to a specific historical situation.

Matthew was for the Jews in showing Jesus as Messiah and a document supporting the existence of the Christian church; Luke is a revision of Matthew with a view to a Gentile audience not concerned with Jewish matters – at the encouragement of Paul; Mark is verbatim of Peter’s lectures to a Roman audience “Caesar’s Knights” and was done to validate Luke’s account since Luke was not a direct eyewitness of Christ (per Paul’s request).  John comes behind all this and without concern for chronology acts as a supplementary Gospel based on the others.

Chapter 2 discusses in more detail the origins of the Gospels by citing the principle patristic witnesses noting that in conclusion:

….the patristic and historical evidence shows that all three Synoptic Gospels appeared in the lifetime of the apostles Peter and Paul, the twin founders of the western church, and also devotes much space to explaining how Mark came to exist.  This, of course, suits perfectly the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis but utterly fails to support the priority of Mark at any point, since the latter hypothesis generally requires all three Gospels to have been published after the death of Peter around 66/67.  How do Markan priorists deal with this evidence?

Black goes on to provide to provide and evaluation of Markan priority offering in-depth and sustained critique noting most significantly the general Markan priorists’ unwillingness to take the principle Patristic witness seriously.   Perhaps the the fundamental problem for Markan priority is that is assumes too much, which is in part, due to the lack of taking the witness of the principle fathers seriously at their word.  Their concerns were not our concerns – they did not have the same general concern about the literary interdependence of the Gospels and knew that Mark wasn’t intended to be like Matthew and Luke (nor to replace them)  or the fact that Peter neither encouraged or discouraged the publication of his Roman lectures as it is now known as “The Gospel of Mark.”   All this lends support for the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis as put forth by Dave black.  This view also virtually eliminates the need for Q or such “proto-gospels” and such.

Finally, chapter 3 discusses the making of the Gospels, how they were composed, discussing the composition of Matthew, Luke’s use and revision of Matthew; Mark’s synthesis, and John’s supplementary approach.  This brings me to need to point out what is most crucial in synoptic studies, which is the question “why Mark’s Gospel?” In a nutshell, Mark’s Gospel simply a verbatim copy from shorthand, the lectures Peter gave to a Roman audience recounting the life of Jesus – he did it to give approval to Luke’s Gospel since Luke was not a direct eyewitness to the life of Jesus – then folks asked Mark to publish the lectures – it was not done to make a new Gospel or even to supplement or be like the other Gospels – but since it was published it now serves as the link between the two Gospels.  That’s pretty much the reason for Mark.

There is a prologue and nearly 20 page bibliography.

Strengths: The biggest strength in this work is how much ground Dr. black covers in so little space – I guess you could say he cuts through a lot of the blather and gets right to the issue and does it effectively.

Weaknesses: I have trouble pointing out any serious weaknesses. Perhaps a Scripture index would be of some benefit?  Agree or disagree it is a well done book.  Anyone who reads it will be better for having done so.

Conclusion: I heartily recommend this book to any person lay or scholar who is interested in Gospel and or Synoptic studies – if you are for Markan priority I think it is even more important you read this book – why?  Because too often Markan priority people make comments like the quote I gave above from Stein and to save yourself from embarrassment read this book – it’ll at the very least make you a more informed Markan priorists.

I was taught on the Gospels from a Mark Priorist professor – I didn’t really know any better so I had been one myself until now… well, at least I have a more informed understanding of Matthean priority and know the position put forth by Dave Black is a very strong position worth considering.  I still have some questions but I’ll have to end this already way too long review for now.


(UPDATE 3/31/11): Here is a statement from Dr Black himself on why he wrote Why Four Gospels?

I wrote my book Why Four Gospels? not so much to argue for Matthean priority as to affirm the complete historicity and apostolicity of the Gospels. Early in my Christian experience I discovered that the Gospels were — and needed to be — central in my understanding not only of the Good News about Jesus Christ but of life itself. Only the cross of Jesus can supply meaning to life, and that is because the cross and the resurrection are an interwoven reality. Of one thing I am quite certain: Christianity is a historical faith. It is rooted and grounded in historical fact. No “leap of faith” is required to believe in Jesus. As I once heard Francis Schaeffer put it in Switzerland, you don’t have to put your brain in park or neutral to become a Christian. His cross is the center of all history. It is the crossroads of the universe. No one can avoid confrontation with it.

It is my prayer that skeptics may come to the Gospels with an open mind and heart, for there the living Christ is ready to meet Doubting Thomases in their pessimism and the travelers to Emmaus in their intellectualism.

New Book USPS edition

Thanks to Steve Runge for his generosity in allowing me a review copy of his new book Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2010)!  He also wrote a kind note on the inside.  🙂

I took a number of Greek and Hebrew exegesis courses in Seminary (as if that makes me an expert…) so – to be honest – I dig this kind of stuff!  I am looking forward to reading through it and learning more of this important approach to learning and studying NT Greek beyond the introductory or even intermediate level.  Thanks Steve!

Here is more info (cut and pasted from Amazon since I just got it yesterday and haven’t had time to really look it over) (additionally Steve has graciously allowed folks to see a 60 page sample of his fine work):

In Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, Steve Runge introduces a function-based approach to language, exploring New Testament Greek grammatical conventions based upon the discourse functions they accomplish. Runge’s approach has less to do with the specifics of language and more to do with how humans are wired to process it.The approach is cross-linguistic. Runge looks at how all languages operate before he focuses on Greek. He examines linguistics in general to simplify the analytical process and explain how and why we communicate as we do, leading to a more accurate description of the Greek text. The approach is also function-based–meaning that Runge gives primary attention to describing the tasks accomplished by each discourse feature. 

This volume does not reinvent previous grammars or supplant previous work on the New Testament. Instead, Runge reviews, clarifies, and provides a unified description of each of the discourse features. That makes it useful for beginning Greek students, pastors, and teachers, as well as for advanced New Testament scholars looking for a volume which synthesizes the varied sub-disciplines of New Testament discourse analysis.

With examples taken straight from the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament, this volume helps readers discover a great deal about what the text of the New Testament communicates, filling a large gap in New Testament scholarship.

Each of the 18 chapters contains:

* An introduction and overview for each discourse function
* A conventional explanation of that function in easy-to-understand language
* A complete discourse explanation
* Numerous examples of how that particular discourse function is used in the Greek New Testament
* A section of application
* Dozens of examples, taken straight from the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament
* Careful research, with citation to both Greek grammars and linguistic literature
* Suggested reading list for continued learning and additional research

About the Author:

Steven E. Runge is the General Editor of the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament. He has a Master of Theological Studies degree in Biblical Languages from Trinity Western Seminary in Langley, B.C., Canada; a BA in Speech Communication from Western Washington University; and a Doctor of Literature degree in Biblical Languages from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwest Baptist Theological College, Trinity Western University, and Associated Canadian Theological Schools (ACTS) while completing his education.

Review forthcoming!  (You can see Este singing Dr. Runge’s song here).

what was lost

has been found!! I thought I lost a book and couldn’t find it for the life of me – couldn’t even think where I left or how it became lost. I asked if I could have a copy for review when the author spoke at a renewal meeting in October so I was trying to figure out what I was going to do.  Turns out I went to a cool place we like to take our kids called “Go Bananas” where there are toys and play houses and such for the kids to play while the parents shop or just to give the kids an outlet.

Well, we go in and the gal the owns it (we’ve been there several times before), saw me with Hays’ book The Conversion of the Imagination (of course I’d read a little while the kids played – one eye on the book and one eye on the kids, right?  🙂 ), and asked if I lost a book?

Turns out I accidently left the book there last time we visited! Thank God – I need to read it anyways and a few other books on leadership – there have been some things bothering me about what I see being put forth for models of church leadership – but I need to do some reading to be sure I understand a few things before going off on a rant that could be misinformed or ill thought out (I’ll give one hint: I am not keen on the CEO model of leadership for pastoral ministry…).

So…. anyways, whew, what was lost has indeed been found! 🙂