New Book: Listening to the Spirit in the Text

listening-to-the-spiritAt the AZ District Council this last week, I was browsing the bookstore at the church building where we met and saw that it was the typical church book store – a few Bibles (believe it or not, both TNIV’s and ESV’s were sold here so that was a plus in showing balance) and then mostly books geared to the average reader (popular level).  As usual they had the “Left Behind” shelf, I suppose, to sell stuff more than anything, but really they need to be more careful about what they sell – we want to educate people in the church not denigrate them.  Of course too, there was next to nothing on the scholarly side except….  Gordon Fee’s Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Eerdman’s, 2000)!  Perhaps they had Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth and maybe the How to Choose a Translation book, but I can’t remember for sure.   So, what did I do?  Of course, I bought Listening to the Spirit When you find a book like this, and it’s the only copy they have, if you snooze, you lose

To me it seems like this would be a great text use in an exegetical methods class at the graduate level because it is the model of nearly supreme exegetical method and application by none other than one of the leading NT scholars in the world today, Gordon D. Fee.  Also, solid exegetical method requires that we listen to the Holy Spirit and what he is saying in and through the Biblical text.  I look forward to sitting and drinking in the wealth of exposition found in these pages.   One will have to be careful – he’s a Pentecostal!  What?   A Pentecostal who is among the leading New Testament Scholars in the world today??!! How can that be?  Well, there’s another one people hardly realize, (probably), Craig Keener, of whom I imagine many a pastor has his IVP Bible Background Commentary on their shelves.  There are others out there too you know, they just don’t necessarily go about waving their “I’m a Pentecostal” flag in everyone’s face as some Pentecostals tend to do. 

So what kind of book is it?  It is a complation of essays that are both written to be read in a book or a common journal (Regent College’s journal Crux) and written to be read for a lecture – he notes he intentionally resisted editing his manuscripts for the book – he wanted to keep the feel of the lectures and not smooth them out for the book.  These essays reflect on things, that at the time, Fee had been reflecting on in his own thinking – primarily, they reflect Fee’s “interests in Pauline studies and especially in the role of the Spirit in Paul’s own spiritual life and in that of his churches” (vii).  His first chapter gets a the very heart of things for him: “that the Spiritituality of the biblical text should be part of our historical investigation – and obedeince – as New Testament exegetes” (vii).

I. Howard Marshall on Romans 4:25

In his book Aspects of the Atonement: Cross and Resurrection in the Reconciling of God and Humanity (Pasternoster, 2007), Marshall has a chapter on the role of the resurrection of Christ in salvation.  He sees this as an often neglected consideration.  Most frequently we focus on the work of Christ on the cross and specifically his death as being primary in the work of salvation, e.g, Jesus “died for our sins,” etc.  But little do we realize that too, Christ was raised for our justification as well – there is just so much good stuff he talks about in this chapter but his main verse of focus is Romans 4:25 which reads:

ος παρεδοθη δια τα παραπτωματα ημων και ηγερθη δια την διακιωσιν ημων.

“This verse makes two statements in parallel.  Whatever else they convey, these statements emphasize that both Christ’s death and his resurrection were for our benefit” (80).   On the issue of παρεδοθη there is some question as to who did the handing over since it is used in different ways such as when Judas handed him over to the Jewish leadership (e.g., Mk 14.21).  But there are also the instances of God handing Jesus over (Rom 8:32) and Jesus handing himself over (Gal 1:4), etc.  Marshall asserts that here it was God who handed Jesus over to be killed.

δια “because of” though most often seen as retrospective and causal, though some take it to be prospective and interpret it to mean “with a view to doing something about our sins” (81).  Marshall prefers the latter.

On the issue of ηγερθη “he was raised because of our justification,”  Marshall makes the connection of this verse with Romans 10:9 stating that it anticipates and coheres with these verses, where justification and salvation are for all those who believe God raised Jesus from the dead (82).  He asserts:

Believing that God did something and belief in the God who did it are two complementary aspects of the single action of faith.  In this action of faith, we believe believe that something is true about what God is and does and put our confident trust in him to act accordingly…. confidence is placed on God and his capacity to raise the dead (82).

So what’s the point? The point is that the death of Jesus was not enough to effect our salvation – Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was needed to completely secure justification and salvation.   More than the death of Jesus on the cross, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead played a vital role in the salvation of mankind and the reconciliation of man to God.  Marshall states:

If we take the prepositional phrase “because of” in the first clause in v. 25 in a retrospective sense, and then interpret the second clause in parallel with it, this would give a statement in which God raised Christ”because our justification had taken place.”  In that case, the resurrection was not part of the action that led to justification, but rather something that followed it and simply confirms it.  Alternatively, if we take the first clause prospectively to mean that Christ was delivered over to death in order to atone for our trespasses, then we can also take the second clause prospectively: Christ was raised from the dead in order to bring about our justification (83).

So, here in some sense the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is what makes justification possible – that salvation depends on more than just the death of Jesus on the cross!  How so?  The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a demonstration to human beings that God has accepted the work of Christ on the cross.  While vindication is an essential part of the process in which God accepts what Jesus did on behalf of humanity (85),  resurrection is God’s release of Christ from the punishment of sin that he is bearing; he remits any continuation of the punishment (86).

Because God raised Jesus from the dead, there is now the possibility of forgiveness of sins.  For Marshall this interpretation goes beyond the interpretation that see the resurrection as God’s recognition that Christ has paid the penalty for sin; it makes explicit God’s granting of the decisive remission of the guilt Christ bore and makes him the representative Man in who we can be justified (86).

Does this make sense?  What say you?

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!

Thoughts for the day: Romans 12:9-21 (TNIV)

Rom 12:9-21 TNIV – It’s one of my favorite passages in Romans. 

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not think you are superior.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


The Parable of the Talents – It’s not about money!

Perhaps this is old news and many of you already caught on but I hadn’t…. until last night. 

I had an epiphany about what Matthew 25:14-30 is “really” talking about (fine, I’ll take something from everyone’s beloved Bishop).   This passage is otherwise known as “The Parable of the Talents” by most accounts.   The TNIV did something really weird with this passage.  They called it “The Parable of the Bags of Gold.”  Totally unrecognizable. 

Anyhow, one aspect of Christian discipleship is teaching folks about money management issues.  It’s a subject the Gospel writers account Jesus as having talked quite a bit about, with Matthew 6:24 (cf. Luke 16:13) serving as a major focal point.   Typically in a Bible study series on money issues, the parable of the talents comes into play.  It’s typically taught that the talents refer our money and that we need to be manging our money appropriately for the Lord or like the unjust manager in Luke 16 – we’ll be called to account and lose our money or responsibilites over the money, after all it is not our money it’s God’s money, we just manage it. 

So, what was my epiphany?  Well, we went over the passage last night in Bible study and while everyone was looking it up, I already had the passage at hand and saw verse 14 and how it says, “”Again, it will be like a man going on a journey...”  I said to myself, “wait a minute, to what does “it” refer?  So I looked back to fine “it”s referant.  I looked back up to the beginning of the chapter and noticed 25:1  “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. ”   I noticed particularly the first part of the verse, “At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like….”  and it dawned on me, I was about to become a false teacher if I tried to teach that this parable is about how to handle money! 

The parable of the talents is not about money management!  It is about kingdom management!   Jesus is not talking about money issues in this parable (per se).  He is talking about Kingdom responsibilites.  Now, money may be one aspect of that but it is not the only aspect.  There are many aspects involved in being part of the Kingdom of God.  Each person has been given a talent (ταλαντα) or a unit or coinage or a bag of gold (TNIV).   In this passage I do not think the talents are money per se, but a metaphor for whatever giftings or abilities God has given each person, perhaps even a person’s place in the Kingdom. 

The question(s) becomes, what are we doing with the abilities God has given us in our place in the Kingdom?   Are we fulfilling our roles and responsibilities appropriately, even effectively, to the benefit of God’s Kingdom?  How are we doing in serving the King? 

So when we read this parable – we need to ask ourselves, what are we doing to advance the Kingdom of God in this world?  Are we working our jobs well?  Are we managing our money responsibly?  Are we taking care of our families, one another?  and so on. 

When we do well, we enjoy the benefits.  We get to enjoy our master’s happiness (v. 21, 23).   It helps our relationship with the Lord when we have a clean conscience about what we’ve been doing.  If not, we need to think about the consequences of our irresponsibility as members of the Kingdom, and how that will affect our relationship with the Lord as well.  It doesn’t look pretty does it?  

So that was my epiphany – Matthew 25:14-30 – aka: the Parable of the Talents – is not about money – it’s about the Kingdom of God and our responsibilites therein.

Any thoughts?

Gordon Fee on “the center” of Pauline theology

Though Gordon Fee wrote his massive work on Paul’s theology of the Holy Spirit way back in 1994 titled God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Hendrickson, 1994), he discusses why he thinks “the center” of Paul’s theology remains elusive.  If I understand correctly, this center is still under debate and still as elusive today as it always has been.  He writes on page 12:

It is my conviction that the reason the center is so “elusive” is that Paul’s theology covers too much ground for one to simplify it into a single phrase.  It would seem far better for us to isolate the essential elements of his theology that lie at the very heart of matters for Paul and around which all other concerns cluster.  In such a view, at least four items must be included:

  • The church as an eschatological community, which compirses the new covenant people of God;
  • The eschatological framework of God’s people’s existence and thinking;
  • Their being constituted by God’s eschatological salvation effected through the death and resurrection of Christ;
  • Their focus on Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and Son of God.

To put it another way:

  • The foundation: A gracious and merciful God, who is full of love toward all.
  • The framework: Eschatological exzistence as already but not yet.
  • The focus: Jesus, the Son of God, who as God’s suffering servant Messiah effected eschatological salvation for humanity through his death and resurrection, and is now the exalted Lord and coming King.
  • The fruit: The church as an eschatological community, who, consistituted byt Christ’s death and the gift of the Spirit, and this restored into God’s likeness, form God’s new coveant people.


Note: unless I missed it, I didn’t see “justification by faith” anywhere on the list….  not that it isn’t important but is it possible we over play that card?

T. F. Torrance on the task of Christology

Beginning in chapter one of his book Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (pages 1-2) it reads:

christ31Our task in christology is to yield the obedience of our mind to what is given, which is God’s self revelation in its objective reality, Jesus Christ.  A primary and basic fact which we discover here is this: that the object of our knowledge gives itself to us to be apprehended.  It does that within our mundane exisitence, within our worldly history and all its contingency, but it does that also beyond the limits of previous expereince and ordinary thought, beyond the range of what is regarded by human standards as empirically possible.  Thus, when we encounter God in Jesus Christ, the truth comes to us in its own authority and self sufficiency.  It comes into our experience and into the midst of our knowlege as a novum, a new reality which we cannot incorporate into the series of other objects, or simply assimilate to what we already know….

And yet Jesus Christ gives himself to be known as the object of our experience and knowledge, within our history and within our human existence – but when we know him there, we know him in terms of himself.  We know him out of pure grace as one who gives himself to us and freely discloses himself to us.  We cannot earn knowledge of Christ, we cannot achieve it, or build up to it.  We have no capacity or power in ourselves giving us the ability to have mastery over this fact.  In the very act of our knowing Christ he is the master, we are the mastered.  He manifests himself and gives himself to us by his own power and agency, by his Holy Spirit, and in the very act of knowing him we ascribe all the possiblity of our knowing him to Christ alone, and none of it to ourselves.

But let us note: it is only when we actually know Christ, know him as our personal saviour and Lord, that we know that we have not chosen him but that he has chosen us; that it is not in virtue of our own capacity to give ourselves the power to know him; that it is not in virtue of our own power or our own capacity that he gives us to know him, but in virtue of his power to reveal himself to us and to enable us to know him; that is, faith itself is the gift of God.  Or let me put that in another way; when we know God in Christ, we do not congratulate ourselves on our own powers of intuition or discovery, and pat ourselves on the back because we have been able to see that there is more in Jesus than meets the eye, that God is there himself.  No, we do the exact opposite: we acknowledge that in knowing God in Christ, we do so not by our own power, but by the power of God.

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.

Book to Acquire: Dave Black’s Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Application.

linguisticsSome how, some way, I want to get a copy of Dave Black’s book Lingusitics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications (Baker Academic, 1995). 

I think this is an important topic and I appreciate that he integrates even basic aspects of linguistics into his Greek Grammar as well.  More than knowing how to read NT Greek, we need to know how a language works and having some understanding of linguistics principles is part of that process. 


In his introduction he asks, “what is it good for?”

When we study linguistics we are learning how to put the Greek language in its rightful place as a part – perhaps the most technical part – in the text of the New Testament.  Through exposure and practice, we can acquire a broader, more confident command of New Testament Greek.  We can learn why the future of εχω has the rough breathing – an apparent “exception”; why the reduplication of τιθημι “breaks the rules” (it should be θιθημι); how the so-called irregular verbs such as Βαινω are based on consistent linguistic principles; why εργον and work are only superficially different in form.

But more importantly, the study of linguistics can contribute greatly to our understanding of the meaning of the New Testament.   It can help us become more aware of why we understand a text the way we do when we read it, and it can help us talk about the text more precisely, by providing us with a methodology through which we can show how interpretation is in part derived from grammatical considerations.  Linguistics may also solve problems of interpretation by showing us why one meaning is possible but not another.  Above all, however, linguistics can give us a point of view, a way of looking at the text that will help give us consistent analysis, and prompt us to ask questions about the language of the text that we might have otherwise overlooked (pg 3). 

Looks pretty interesting if you ask me!  I am not a lingustics major (though sometimes I think I should have been) so I am not going to go out and read more technical works on this issue – so I think a book like what Dr. Black has put together is and would pretty usseful for pastors and teachers in the church.

Titus 2:13 – The Blessed Hope

Titus 2:13 while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (TNIV)

Here is in the Greek: προσδεχομενοι την μακαριαν ελπιδα και επιφανειαν της δοξης του μεγαλου θεου και σωτηρος ημων Ιησου Χριστου,  (sorry, still getting the accents down).


Question: to what does επιφανειαν της δοξης refer?   The rapture of the Church or the Second coming in general?  Why?