Reading the through Greek New Testament

For those interested and or brave or disciplined enough to give it a shot – Dan Wallace has a blog post offering a graded approach to reading through the Greek New Testament.

You can check it out here: Reading through the Greek New Testament

He recommends a good resource to help the process along too: A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament


Quote of the Day: Ajith Fernando

I am reading an electronic copy of Ajith Fernando’s recently published preaching commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God (Crossway, 2012) (review forth coming).  In the preface he writes something I have never seen before in a commentary and I just loved it and now expect this work to be GOOD!  He writes:

My basic approach to the passages was to first do an inductive study of them using only the Biblical text with a very wide margin and my lead pencil and color pencils. Only after this did I check the commentaries for clarification, correction, and enrichment. I am so grateful to Drs. Robert Traina and Daniel Fuller who introduced me to the thrill of discovering riches from the Word through inductive study.

Awesome!  I know some people who read this may be thinking, “man what is with Brian and his pushing inductive study all the time?  didn’t he already go to seminary?!”   Well, they don’t teach inductive Bible study at seminary, well, not most.  You may learn it at Asbury where the Late Robert Traina was professor, but I haven’t heard of it being explicitly taught anywhere else, and I think it is a shame.

But anyways, I thought it was pretty cool to see Fernando talk about how he approached each passage in Deuteronomy over the 8 years it took him to write the commentary!

For those interested he also noted Christopher Wright’s Deuteronomy (Hendrickson, 1996) as the most helpful for preaching.

I wonder, have you heard much preaching out of the book of Deuteronomy besides the famous Shema passage?

Also, just to be clear, this is not an academic commentary, but rather really, a series of “expository sermons” on all the passages of the book, in this case, Deuteronomy.


Eugene Peterson on writing

Over at the Gospel Coalition page Owen Strachan interviews Eugene Peterson about the reading and writing life of the Pastor.  It is simply “must” reading for any and every pastor, even bloggers.  I admit I need to be sure I am working on my writing as I blog and just just post stuff from other people all the time (though I do think blogging has helped my writing quite a bit).  Here is an excerpt:

Good writers are people who pay attention to language, are interested in telling the truth, and are in some ways finding themselves inoculated against the fads of what will sell, what will please. Good literature almost always goes against the grain of the culture: interpreting it, subtly criticizing it, maybe not polemically. Pastors are right in the center of deceit and corruption and bad use of language. We have a commitment to use words accurately and honestly.

Good writing does not come easy; it takes a lot of discipline, a lot of self-criticism. A lot of people in my position want to know how to write, and after talking to them for a while I realize, “You don’t want to write, you want to get published; you’re not willing to go through the disciplines, the rejections.” Rejections are often compliments, because we’re not writing for popular taste or the stuff that just titillates people, what makes them feel good or bad or whatever. Propaganda is the worst kind of writing; there’s almost something pornographic about it. It just dehumanizes what’s going on, and we’re just filled with it right now politically, so I think of the importance of poets and novelists, because I think of poets as the high priests of the language. No poet writes in order to get published, not in America, so anybody who takes the path of poetry is going a lonely way and a not lucrative way.

It’s hard to be a good novelist in America because of all the Stephen Kings. There are good novelists and great novelists, but I think for pastors their training isn’t how to use their imagination like novelists in the sense that they see the narrative connection of everything, how everything fits into the story. So if our imagination isn’t trained to see these connections, relationships, and the way words work to bring out truth rather than just facts, we are just giving lectures from the pulpit, moralisms in a counseling place. It’s a great responsibility, I think, to learn to use words rightly. Pastors don’t realize how much we owe to our congregations, to the public, to learn how to use words rightly and skillfully and truthfully.

Boy, isn’t that the truth??!! I would take it just a little further and suggest we pay attention to how we use our words when preaching or teaching.  It is an art as much as it is a science and it takes discipline to preach or teach well.  There is a deep need for preachers and teachers to carefully craft their words in speaking as in writing.  As the old adage goes it isn’t so much what you say as it is how you say it!  This is why, I think, it is important to write out your sermons and teaching scripts word for word as much as possible, as often as possible.  It will help you in your speaking and in your writing, and it will help those who read or listen too!

Read on for more!!   Blessings!

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).


reading as spiritual discipline

John Wesley is quoted as having once said:

It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people.

While it isn’t typically listed as one of the classical spiritual disciplines, reading is one of them – it is through reading that we can learn to slow ourselves down long enough to hear what others are saying both to us and to others and that through that exercise, we can both engage in the conversation (the present one and the one of the ages), and receive from others allowing them to speak into our lives in one fashion or another.

One author who blogs, Karen Spears Zacharias, has a post about this issue today – she met a Christian bookstore manager AND pastor who seemingly proudly declared to her, an author, “I manage the bookstore, but I don’t read.”   This is outrageous!  lol!  Who does this man think he is?  He is both a bookstore manage and a pastor and he does not read??!!  How?  Why?  Could we but wonder as to not only his own spiritual health but that of the congregation he supposedly leads?  Zacharias shares:

This gnawing in my gut is more than indigestion — it’s the disturbing recognition that far too many pastors have abandoned the spiritual discipline of reading. And I’m not just talking about Bible reading, although I’ve heard my share of sermons this year that I suspect were pre-packaged and downloaded online.

I’m talking about reading a book besides the Bible.

And I might add, and that not superficial material.  Mix it up and read deep too.  From the pastoral perspective I think it was Doug Stuart in his book, Old Testament Exegesis, where he argued that “the good exegete reads widely and broadly.”  Pastors and church leaders, let alone bookstore managers, need to be well read people.  Why?  Because readers are leaders and if our leaders are not reading, it will hurt their leadership.  Plain and simple.

So let us take heed from this example and once again lead our congregations by example and be readers, readers who read widely and broadly, leaders who are well read people.

Go here to see what Rick Warren says about Pastors and Reading.

New books arrive!

I shared a while ago that I got an Amazon gift card for my birthday.  It took some time for me to decide what I wanted but also we sent on vacation around that time so my purchase was delayed, but now they have come.   Like others, I try to maximize my purchases and pick the free shipping and all that.  So, despite the decisions decisions decisions, I selected:

Charles Kraft.  Christianity with Power: Your Worldview and Your Experience of the Supernatural. (Wipf & Stock, 1989). 

kraft -1In a world where New Agers rely on crystals and channeling to tap into spiritual power, the Christian is reminded that Jesus used supernatural power to heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead.  Two thousand years later, the world still desperately needs a Savior who works in power.  However, many modern Christians are embarrassed and reluctant to preach a gospel accompanied by supernatural power.  Our Western worldview conditions us to fit God into a neat, predictable mold.

But Kraft is convinced that the power of the gospel will not be confined to our categories.  Step by step, he offers a biblical understanding of signs and wonders and shows how Christians can become God’s instruments to heal the sick, to work miracles, and to oppose the counterfeit powers of this age.

F. F. BosworthChrist the Healer.  Chosen Books, 2008.  Originially published in 1924.

Christ the HealerF. F. Bosworth’s earnest prayer was that many thousands would learn to apply the promises of God’s Word to their lives through his book, Christ the HealerBosworth offers an astonishing discussion of healing, based on the premise that Jesus redeemed us from our diseases when he atoned for our sins.  This classic on healing, first released in 1924, has sold more than 500,000 copies and continues to enrich and inspire new readers every day.

This revised and expanded edition includes a brand-new foreword and epilogue on the remarkable life and healing of the author himself, written by his son.

Ajith Fernando.  Acts,  NIV Application Commentary.  Zondervan, 1998. 

Acts[The NIVAC commentaries are pretty self explanatory – I know too they come across more as commentaries for lay people but I really like them and have no problem using them – I think these make good complements to more technical commentaries, e.g., ICC, WBC, NICNT, BECNT, etc]

Ajith Fernando, ThM, DD, is national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka [and is a native of  Sri Lanka] and a Bible expositor with a worldwide ministry.  He studied at Asbury Theological Seminary and Fuller Seminary, and presently leads the English language minatory in Colombo.  He is active in Colombo Theological Seminary as chairman of the academic affairs committee.

I expect them all to be great reads and I soon hope to complement Fernando with a more technical commentary such as Witherington’s or Johnson. 

Eugene Peterson on literacy

I am reading through Eugene Peterson’s book Under the Unpredicable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992).  Thanks Mark!  It’s actually a good time for me to be reading this book given my limited leadership and pastoral experience  – I have just enough experience in the ministry that I can identify with some of the things Peterson talks about but his is not the only book I am learning from.  I am sensing my heart that I need to be listening to people like Peterson, for if I listen I will learn from them and benefit from it greatly in the years to come.  

Anyways he has a great quote on literacy in America that I want to share:

Something similar took place in the field of education [meaning our question for education hasn’t turned out like we thought it would in similar vein to our failed experience in freedom of religion – we don’t really have freedom of religion but rather a culturally enslaved religion] Our educational priorities and practices have produced a population with a high degree of literacy so that virtually everyone has access to learning.  The reading skills that used to be the privilege of a few people are now available to all.  But with what result?  TV Guide is our highest circulation magazine, with Reader’s Digest a strong second.  Our nation of readers uses its wonderful literacy to read billboards, commercials, watered down pep talks, and humerous anecdotes {probably meaning mainly the comics section of the newsper].  I don’t think I would voluntarily live in a place where education was available only to the wealthy and privileged, but simply providing everyone with the ability to read seems to have lowered rather than raised the intellectual level of the nation (37). 

And you all thought NT Wright’s book on Justification was grumpy?  😉  I think there is truth to this – we teach people to read because we believe the ability to read empowers people to live.  I had a professor in my education program in college argue that to not teach a person to read was esentially immoral.    He believed teaching kids to read was a moral issue.   But his view is not an uncommon one.   But Peterson raises a good point here: to what end has the increase in literacy accomplished?   Is it so that can read the comics better or the want ads?  People Magazine?  GQ?  Fictional novels like Left Behind?

Is all the reading we do realy making us smarter?  Is the empowering of people by teaching them to read really occuring?

If we make the connection to the church – what good has our making biblical literature available to people?  How about all the Bible software people have on their comupters but don’t use?  All the books we have on our shelves that maybe we have read or haven’t read?   What about all the Bibles we barely read?  Are we just getting information or is the information bringing transformation? 

Peterson wrote this book in 92 but I don’t think things have changed much.  What say you all on this matter?

Book Review: Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek

linguistics22Thanks to Dave Black for this complementary (and autographed) copy of Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Surevey of Basic Concepts and Applications (Baker Books, 1995).   

Dave Black is professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina and is also a farmer!  Here is his blog if you want to learn more. 

You can find some more of Dave Black books here

You can go to my initial postabout the book when I recieved to to see a portion from the introduction on what we can gain from learning about linguistics as it relates to learning NT Greek. 

Reading this book has reinforced in my mind the importance of having even a basic sense of lingusitic principles as they relate to language learning and acqusition.  Language is more than just words and concpets and ideas – it is communication– without it, no one would understand anyone else and perhaps there would not be much understanding of anything really.  Knowing or understanding aspects of lingustics will help in this area.  And to the language student, it will help in understanding the natue of the biblical languages and how they work, which in turn will help one understand the Bible in more profound ways than before.

The purpose of the book was to “concentrate on a linguistic approach to New Testament Greek, weaving together literary, grammatical, and linguistic concerns” (ix).  Black avers “More than ever before, lingusitics is becoming an indispensible element in the theory and practice of New Testament interpretation” (ix).  So this book is his contribution to the discussion of the interrelations between linguistics and New Testament Greek grammar” (xiv). 

The breakdown of the book is as follows: there is an introductiondiscussing the value of linguistics and NT Greek (1-22) where the reader learns that lingusitics isn’t just for that person who is looking to translate Bibles in some remote far away jungle but its also for every person interested in better understanding language and also NT Greek.  

Next we learn about phonology (23-52) (that branch of linguistics dealing with speech sounds) where you learn about plosives, fricatives, glides, and continuants, which are names for the kinds of sounds made.  From there one learns of phonemes, allophones and the suprasegmental features of sounds.   All this can, in some facet, help one catch on to the various literary features of the Greek New Testamentsuch as the use of alliterations, rhythms for poetic and rhetorical analysis of the NT such as the Christ hymn of Philppians 2:6-11 (p.51).  

After phonology comes morphology, the study of words (or units of meaning) (53-94).  Morphology has to do with the derivation of words or how they are formed to create meaning.  Here we learn parts of a word: prefixes; roots; affixes and suffixes.  We learn of derivational and inflectional affixes along with allomorphs.  In addition, there are additive morphemes, prefixed morphemes, and even zero morphemes!   When one can engage in the morphological analysis of nouns and verbs we better understand how words are formed and what their patters are, which in turn can aid in vocabulary acquisition.  This way we are not limited to just rote memorization as most of us are.  You’ll know how a word is formed and whythus easing memorization of the word and others like it (same word class).   In addition, we now know the real usefulness of Bruce Metzger’s Lexical aides for Students of New Testament Greek (1974).

Moving on, the next chapter is on syntax which focuses on how words are combined to form phrases, clauses and sentences. Here we learn the differences between structural and lexical meanings to get to the total linguistic meaning of an utterance (97).  We also learn of structure and content words and how they help build sentences.  If we say “ship sails today” it make no sense, but if we add a structure word such as “the” we can get “The ship sails today” or “Ship the sails today” to help make sense of the words (98).   In this chapter we also learn about immediate consituent analysis, and transformational grammar along with the nature of the Greek sentence and its patterns.  All this will help us know how to analyze a sentence so we know what it is saying to get at its meaning.  

One of the more intriguing chapters for me was the next chapter on semantics (120-141).  Semantics deals with determining the meaning of individual words.  Words have meaning but they need context to help supply that meaning.  If we use the word “turkey” lots of meanings come to mind, a kind of meat, a country, a kind of bird, a score in bowling, an obnoxious child, etc.  Lots of possibilities.  But soon as I say “I had turkey for lunch,” we know which meaning of “turkey” is referred to, though then we may want to know if it was deli meat turkey or the meat right from the bird, but still, words need context to have meaning

So, in this chapter we learn about etemology, whether a word is found in it’s nature or through convention and usage (121).  The thing we have to be careful about here is etemologizing, or as Gordon Fee advises, “don’t get derivation happy.”   This is when we insist that the meaning of a word is based on its derivation.  The all too famous word people do this with is “εκκλησια.” 

Often folks take εκ (a preposition meaning “out of”) and the root καλ (to call) and combine them to think εκκλησια means the church is a group of “the called out ones.”  Then we go off theologizing about how special the church is as a called out people, a separate people, separate from the world (after all we are not to be of it, right?) and go on and on, when this is classic etemologizing.  The reality is, in the NT εκκλησια simply refers to an assembly of people defined by membership, as opposed to οχλος (the crowd).  So, meaning is most often based on useage and not derivation per se (sometimes, but very rarely – form and meaning are not always directly connected). 

So, one has to be careful not to confuse historial information with contemporary usage – historial information can help provide comparison and background information but not the meaning of a word – so becareful on that one (122).  So enough about that – want more?  Get the book! 

The rest of the chapter gets into words and concepts, sematic meanings, rhetorical language.  You learn about synonyms, hyponymns, opposites, and so on.  It’s all good stuff and by the way, the book is meant to be read and not consulted – you need to read it from beginning to end to understand how it all works together

There is a chapter on the history of Greek and here you get a rundown on how it all developed.  See my recent post about linguistics and translation where I reflect on part of this chapter in relation to Greek itself – it may not be quite what Dr. Black was intending but it’s a connection I made. 

The final chapter is on discourse analysis (170-197) and here you get a great quick overview of the book of Philippians through the use of discourse analysis.  What is discourse analysis?  Much of what goes on up to this point is analyzing the smaller parts of language: sounds, words, phrases, sentences.  Now, we analyze the larger parts, the whole unit in which the smaller parts fit.   Whereas syntax analyzes prhases and sentences, discourse analysis anlyzes whole paragraphs and books.  What are we looking for?  Cohesion and Coherence.  We want to know how the sentences link together into larger syntactical units (171) and also make sense of that unit or text. 

That about sums it up!  This is a great book and quite useful!  Please consider getting and reading it!  Thank you Dr. Black for allowing me a copy to reivew – it was a great pleasure!  Be Blessed!

New books in the mail: doorstep edition

Today as I took out the garbage, I nearly tripped over a box!  It had the label InterVarsity Press on it!   I opened it up to find three books I had requested to review:

community-of-the-kingThe first one is one written by Howard Snyder ( out of Asbury Seminary) called The Community of the King Revised Ed (2004).   In this work Snyder explores the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the church by asking questions such as “what is the kingdom of God?” “what role does it play in history?” and “what does it mean for the church to be an agent of the kingdom?”   Snyder seeks to explore implications of the kingdom for the church in daily life.  The church, he avers, “is part of God’s dramatic plan to reconcile all things to himself.”  It is through the church, his people, that God wants to accomplish his ultimate purposes in the the world.   It seemed interesting enough so I decided to check it out.  I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed.


paul-the-missionaryThe next one is on missions called Paul the Missionary: realities, Strategies, and Methods (2008 ) by Eckhard J. Schnabel.  Schnabel, himself a former missionary to the Philippines, previously wrote a 2 volume magnum opus on Early Christian Mission that is recognized as one of the most authoratative and complete works on the missionary efforts of the first century church.  Now, in this book he condenses that research and focuses in on Paul and his missionary work. 

An excerpt from the IVP site:

Schnabel first focuses the spotlight on Paul’s missionary work–the realities he faced, and the strategies and methods he employed. Applying his grasp of the wide range of ancient sources and of contemporary scholarship, he clarifies our understanding, expands our knowledge and corrects our misconceptions of Paul the missionary.

In a final chapter Schnabel shines the recovered light of Paul’s missionary methods and practices on Christian mission today. Much like Roland Allen’s classic Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? of nearly a century ago, Schnabel offers both praise and criticism. For those who take the time to immerse themselves in the world of Paul’s missionary endeavor, this final chapter will be both rewarding and searching.

Christian mission, I believe, is an issue close to the heart of God.  In essense, it is why Jesus Christ came into the world – he came on a mission, sent by the Father to seek and save that which was lost.  Now, just as the Father sent him, he has sent us – we are on a mission: to see God’s salvation reach the ends of the earth.  I look forward to reading this massive work (518 pages)! 

incarnation1Finally, along with Nick and Robert, I got T.F. Torreance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (2008).   Incarnation is the first in a two part systematic theology on the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The next one due out will be on the Atonement. 

From the inside book cover:

[Torrance’s] new book on Christology addresses both heart and head through a deeply biblical, unified, Christ centered and trinitarian theology.  Torrance presents a full account of the meaning and significance of the life and person of Jesus Christ, demonstrating that his work of revelation and reconciliation can only be understood in the light of who he is – real God and real man united in one person.  Torrance contends that the whole life of Jesus Christ – from his birth, through is ministry, cross, resurrection and ascension to his second coming – is of saving significance

All I can say is wow.  I look forward to getting into this and learning more of the Lord we love and serve!  Ps. would anyone happen to know which icon is used for the cover of this book?  If you could let me know I’d appreciate it.

Welp, I’ve got a lot of reading to do!  Be blessed!

Book to acquire: Greenlee’s Text of the New Testament

greenlee-2When I read things like this – it makes me want to read the book under criticism, and this too while I am at it.   Well, at least in this case.  (I took this idea from Nick). 

Go here for the critical comments of said book.

HT: Dave Black/ETC Blog.