radical new way to teach OT Intro!

On the biblical studies e-list there was a discussion about what text books would be good to use for an Old Testament Introduction class – the following quote was among the best of them all:

Personally, I recommend getting the students to just read the Bible: the best introduction they can have.  And it will put them ahead of many of their teachers.

Philip Davies
University of Sheffield

I know it sounds funny but sadly, this is true – probably having Bible College and Seminary or even Religious Studies students just read the Bible will be the best introduction they can get and will put them ahead of many of their teachers!  Perhaps this could be more true in State Universities/Coleges that have religious courses but I would wonder if this would be the case in very many of the Evangelical Schools?

It’s revolutionary though isn’t it?  Keep the Bible as the main text for biblical studies and ministry preparation.  I think it was Niels Peter Lemche on the Biblical Studies list, in the same discussion, who mentioned that often in oral exams he would note that the student had read a lot of books but had obviously not read the Bible!

I will say when took classes at Fuller Theological Seminary Northwest – my professor for Psalms (Hebrew (MT)  Text) asked us to read through the Psalms at least once during the class – and I know she did the same with whatever OT class she was teaching be it the Pentetuch, the Prophets. or the Writings if it was not a specific exegesis class.  So I know of at least one seminary that has at least one professor who asks her students to actually read the Bible.

Douglas Stuart on OT Exegesis

Douglas Stuart in his primer on Old Testament Exegesis writes:

To do OT exegesis properly, you have to be something of a generalist.  You will quickly become involved with the functions and meanings of words (lingustics); the analysis of literature and speech  (philology); theology; history; the transmission of the biblical writings (textual criticism); stylistics, grammar, and vocabulary analysis; and the vaguely defined yet inescabably important area of sociology.  Natural intuitive skills are helpful but no substitute for the hard work of careful firsthand research.  Exegesis as a process can be quite dull.  It’s results, fortunately, can often be exciting.  Exciting or not, the results should always at least be of genuine pratical value to the believer or somthing is wrong with the exegesis.  While this book is a primer, and hardly an exhaustive analysis of exegetical presuppositions or techniques, it ought to serve you well if your reason for learning exegesis is eventually to apply it’s benefits in Christian preaching or teaching.


So what is the goal of either OT or NT exegesis?  That’s right!  Application!   Without it your preaching or teaching will be empty, dull and pointless.  Without application points your sermon or teaching will not be a sermon or teaching – it would just be meaningless empty talk.   Stuart states later that he intentionally leaves out some parts of the exegetical process to the focus can remain on application, as it should be!

So what are some ways to draw out application points in OT Exegesis?

List the life issues: this means we try to draw out the most important (transferrable) life issues in the passage compared to the secondary or less important issues.  Are these life issues still a concern for us to day and if so, what are the implications?

Clarify the nature of the application: do the applications inform or direct the reader?  A passage the describes the love of God primairly informs whereas the passage that commands the love of God primarily directs.

Clarify the possible areas of application: does it promote faith or action? While these should remain together, they are distinct  and any given passage may focus on one more than the other. 

Identify the audience of the application:  There are two audiences of application: the personal and the corporate.  Is the passage dealing with individual issues or corporate ones? 

Establish the categories of application:  is the matter primarily personal or interpersonal?

Determine the time focus of the application: it is past, present, future?  Is the call immediate or is a more steady response needed?

Fix the limits of the application: it is often as valuable to explain how a passage does not apply as how it does apply.  In general, it is safest to limit potential applications as much as possible.  Limit applications to what the passage itself implies or leads to.

So that’s it folks!  Let me know what y’all think!

why you NEED to study the biblical languages and linguistics

Eminent Greek Scholar Daniel Wallace of his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics fame has written an article over at the Parchment and Pen blog discussing the merits (or the lack thereof) of a supposedly wildly popular video claiming to explain, from the Bible, why President Obama is “the” Anti-Christ.  Dr. Wallace takes the video apart piece by piece showing the utter falsities of its claims on a solid linguistic  basis.

The narrator of the video in discussion makes many ignorant claims such as that Aramaic is the oldest form of Hebrew, but then contradicts himself when he says the Aramaic Jesus spoke is close to the form of Hebrew spoken today.  Both of these are false claims. Aramaic may have similarities to Hebrew but it is not a form of Hebrew.  Knowing language changes over time, how can he say the Aramaic Jesus spoke  2000 years ago be similar to a language spoken 2000 years later?  Then he goes on to put together some pretty poor exegesis and makes lots of lingusitic leapfrogs and does exegetical gymnastics.  

He did raise a conteroversial issue, did Jesus speak only Aramaic or did he also speak Koine Greek?  This author insists Jesus only spoke Aramaic but I tend to side with Wallace that, of course Jesus spoke Aramaic but it only seems natural, his being a carpenter of sorts (probably specialized in farming tools but did some masonry too) that he would speak some Greek.  It was, afterall, the lingua franca of the day.  Why would he not? 

So, all that to say, his attempt to prove Obama is the AC, from the Bible, is poorly executed.  But more importantly, if folks were aware of even basic exegetical method and linguistic principles along with a basic understanding of the biblical languages, this video would not be as wildly popular as it seems to be – it would be ignored or laughed off the exegetical stage

So, PLEASE study the biblical languages so you won’t keep getting DUPED. 

I report, you decide.

Book Giveaway: Broadcast Depth Edition

Matt, who blogs at Broadcast Depth, is giving away what looks to be a good resource. He’s giving away James D. Newsome’s Exodus from the Interpretation Bible Studies series. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Write your own blog post promoting the giveaway and provide him with the link.
  2. Comment on the post and tell why you want this book.
  3. Tweet “Win a free copy of Exodus (Interpretation Bible Studies) by James Newsome http://tinyurl.com/l33qcs” and let him know your twitter user name.

That’s it! Head on over and enter NOW!


Why would I want this book? Well, I think Exodus is one of the more important books in the Bible and I would like to know it well.  Also,  I am reading a very interesting work showing the Book of Exodus as the pattern for understanding the Book of Revelation (which is very interesting) – so it would be good to have a pastoral commentary on the Exodus to go along with Durham’s work in the WBC series.   But the problem is I don’t tweet…..

HT: Jason

The collocation of Philippians 1:2

I am reposting this since I think it got overlooked:

Gordon Fee in his IVP commentary on the Philippians writes regarding Philippians 1:2:

philippiansIn a profound sense this greeting nicely represents Paul’s larger theological perspective.  The sum total of God’s activity towards his human creatures is found in the word grace; God has given himself to his people bountifully and mercifully in Christ.   Nothing is deserved, nothing can be achieved.  The sum total of those benefits as they are expereinced by the recipients of God’s grace is peace, God’s shalom, both now and to come.  The latter flows out of the former, and both together flow from God our Father and were made effective in our human history through the Lord Jesus Christ

The collocation of the Father and Son in such texts as these must not be overlooked.  In the theology of Paul, whose central concern is salvation in Christ, God the Father is understood to initiate such salvation and his glory is its ultimate reason for being.  Christ is the One through whom God’s salvation has been effected in history.  But texts such as this one, where Father and Son are simply joined by the conjunction and as equally the source of grace and peace, and many others as well, make it clear that in Paul’s mind the Son is truly god and works in cooperation with the Father and the Spirit for the redemption of the people of God (43-44). 


I remember noticing this possibility when I was learning NT Greek at my home church back in Washington.   I think in my case I was noticing the preposition απο in Galatians 1:3 that grace and peace come “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  I was warned not to make too much of it, but when I see this comment by a premier NT Scholar, who happens to also be a Pentecostal, I take encouragement to know I was thinking in the right way. 

I preached this very thing this Sunday I and I think it went well – I just talked about grace and peace in as simple of terms as I could and then showed how they come only from God and that our ability to show grace to others is only because we have ourselves received grace from God and understand that.   I also shared about how when we step out of the grace of God we tend to not be at peace because peace is the benefit of walking in the grace of God.  When we step out of that we start to worry, fret, have trouble, and all sorts of other things.  When we walk in the grace and the mercy of God, however, those kinds of things tend to be minimized since we are at peace, which comes when we walk in grace and so on. 

This kind of greeting is important to because in Philippians Paul exhorts the believers to be unified and to be humble and concerned for each others needs and to be joyful in the midst of suffering or persecution.  These kinds of things are not possible if we are not walking in the grace of God and have peace in our hearts as a result – when we are not in grace we grumble, complain, argue, become selfish, not care for others and so on.  So I think knowing the benefits of grace and peace are important to understand if we are to understand the book of Philippians or if we are to understand what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ and to live accordingly. 

Be Blessed!

New Book: The Bible Among the Myths

Courtesy of Jesse Hillman at Zondervan I got a copy of John N. Oswalt’s The Bible Among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?  (Zondervan, 2009).   It just came out this month!  It came yesterday but I’ve been too busy to really look it over but I am really looking forward to it.  It’s only 208 pages too so it’s not overwhleming reading!  It’ll help me on my need to have a better grasp on Hebrew Bible/Old Testament issues.   He does address the life of Jesus and Bultmann too so that should be interesting since Bultmann is really taking some hits lately around the biblioblogsphere!  And I know he has a solid pastoral approach to things so I know it will help me as well in that respect. 


From the Zondervan Website:

OswaltThe Bible Among the Myths is a sometimes controversial, always engaging corrective to a growing rejection in Western society of the revelation found within the Old Testament regarding a transcendent God who breaks into time and space and reveals himself in and through human activity.

Sixty years ago, most biblical scholars maintained that Israel’s religion was unique—that it stood in marked contrast to the faiths of its ancient Near Eastern neighbors.  Nowadays, it is widely argued that Israel’s religion mirrors that of other West Semitic societies.  What accounts for this radical change, and what are its implications for our understanding of the Old Testament?  Dr. John N. Oswalt says the root of this new attitude lies in Western society’s hostility to the idea of revelation, which presupposes a reality that transcends the world of the senses, asserting the existence of a realm humans cannot control. While not advocating a “the Bible says it, and I believe it, and that settles it” point of view, Oswalt asserts convincingly that while other ancient literatures all see reality in essentially the same terms, the Bible differs radically on all the main points.  The Bible Among the Myths supplies a necessary corrective to those who reject the Old Testament’s testimony about a transcendent God who breaks into time and space and reveals himself in and through human activity.

Looks pretty interesting!  Review forthcoming! 

ps. I know too I want to get his commentaries on Isaiah too.

on Eschatology and Preaching

Eugene Peterson, in his book Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992), talks about two polarities of the pastoral vocation: geographical and eschatological.   In regards to eschatology (dealing with last things) he writes:

Eschatology is the tool we use to loosen the soil and weed the field.  Eschatology is the pastor’s equivalent to the farmer’s plow and harrow, hoe and spade (but not the developer’s bulldozer and earth mover).  We keep this topsoil loose and moist, open to the rain and sun, planted, weeded, tended, cared for, and under the pull of a harvest, fulfillment, a teleioson.  

Pastoral work is eschatological.  Jonah entered Nineveh, embraced the locale, and immersed himself in the particulars.  But when he opened his mout to preach, he didn’t make appreciative comments on the landscape; he let loose with something arrestingly eschatological: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4).

This is not the kind of message we commonly associate with pastoral work.  We are more apt to see this message as the province of street preachers or hit-and-run evangelists, not someone who cares about a congregation and is committed to its welfare by entering at considerable depth into its life.  But that is caricature; true and authentic pastoral work is eschatological to the core.  “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” is a basic and essential pastoral proclamation (140-141). 

This is giving me some things to think about.  Pertson is right, “this is not the kind of message we commonly associate with pastoral work.”  In all honesty, I’m tired of eschatology, at least the false notions of it.   I don’t really want to preach or teach about it right now.  I grew up with the typical dispensational premillennial/pre-trib futurist view on last things where folks like Hal Lindsey, Tim Lahaye, John Hagee, Grant Jeffries, all had the stage front and center.  This burned me out on last things (I think).  I got tired of the road map approach to the end of the world and got tired of all the debates about the rapture, or the millennium and all the crazy different views.  There was gross misunderstanding and confusion that immediacy meant immediately and that wore me out. 

So, when Peterson tells me “true and authentic pastoral work is eschatological to the core” I want to shrugg or wince.  Don’t get me wrong, I know the end is near, at the door even.   I am just realizing this is an area I need renewal in so that the Lord will give me a new heart for a proper take on eschatology and be able to enter into that in a vocationally holy way.  This is what has been occupying my mind of late

What say you?

(related posts: Bryan, and TC)

Gordon Fee on exegesis

Mark put up a post I want to copy here from Grdon Fee that he titles “a word of advice to bibliobloggers”:

I want to say with great vigour that even though the first task of the exegete is the historical one (to determine the biblical author’s intended meaning), this first task is not the ultimate one.  The ultimate task, and now I repeat myself, is the Spiritual one, to hear the text in such a way that it leads its reader/hearer into the worship of God and into conformity to God and his ways.

(Gordon Fee, Listening to the Spirit in the Text, WB Eerdmanns Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2000, p.11)


Here is a question I have:

If exegesis does not lead us to the worship of, and a deeper more intimate knoweldge of, God, is it then an idol, something that sets itself against the knowledge of God? 

Now, I know this is not always the case but I wonder if it could be the case for some people in some instances?   Could some be more interested in knowledge of the Bible and it’s teachings than necessarily the One to whom the Bible points? 

I would assert that, yes, some are more interested in knoweldge of the Bible for it’s own sake and that for them the task of exegesis is not a spiritual one by any means but a strictly historical or literary one and so therefore it does not lead them to a deeper worship and or a more intimate knoweldge of the Holy One. 

So for these, yes, exegesis is a kind of idolatry.

Philippians 2:1-11

I am puting together a sermon on this section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians for this Sunday (sorry I am just not as ahead of the game as those who can have sermons ready a few weeks ahead of time).   Still doing some background reading but my sources at the moment are Gordon Fee’s 1999 IVP commentary on Philippians (it’s an autographed copy!) and of course the backgound articles in the IVP Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.   I’ll probably try to consult as much as I can of Moises Silva’s BECNT Philippians Commentary online as well since I do not yet have my own copy Peter T. Obrien’s NIGTC on Philippians and Frank Theilman’s work in the NIVAC set

My basic point will be that, in seeking to encourage unity in the church, Paul used this hymn to set forth the example of Jesus Christ as a humble, obedient, servant and that these three things are needed for us to maintain goldly and loving relationships with one another, and especially so within the local body of believers.  In the face of trials and persecutions and those things that would seek to destroy the unity of the body – the attitudes of humility, obedience, and service are needed to withstand attacks both within and without. 

that’s what I gots so far!

any other thoughts?

D.A. Carson on doing Doctoral study

Here is a somewhat dated article by Don Carson on deciding what doctoral work to pursue that I came across on Rod Decker’s blog.   He covers all the doctoral programs offered at TEDS but that can apply to any other situation.   He could have explained the DMin program a bit better but here is a quote that impacted me:

The most strenuous degree program is the Doctor of Philosophy (or Doctor of Theology, in some institutions).  I am deeply convinced we need more people with Ph.D.’s training for our pulpits.  I’ve sometimes urged students to go to Cambridge University in England for a Ph.D in New Testament because I know Cambridge has several churches with first-class expositors-great models for students who become infected with a vision.

This type of training ( the Ph.D.) exposes you to literature and forces you to think your way through it.  A work may attempt theological synthesis and evaluation or be a detailed work on a very narrow text.  Ideally, it will train you to think. And God knows we need people who think in pastoral ministry – though many of these graduates become teachers.

I have felt this way too – that more churches need pastors with PhD’s and not folks who just get their “significant ministry experience” in and then head off to a seminary or college/univeristy somewhere to teach.   Perhaps they can teach on the side or teach right there in their own congregations!  Wouldn’t that be something?   But then again in the current “me” generation that might be too much, you know, having to deal with all the “sheeple” on a daily and weekly basis instead of hiding out in a library somehwere with our noses in a book!  I know God calls many to be professors and to worship God through their research and writing and teaching, but where are the many PhD’s God has called to lead congregations? (especially in the fellowship I am apart of)

edit: see Doug’s post about someone who thinks Bible College is unscriptural

HT: Rod Decker

se here too for more thoughts on pastors and doctoral work.  e