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

more new books: USPS edition

joy once again filled my heart as I commenced upon my mailbox at the post office and the package I was wating for had arrived – the package from IVP that is!  what were it’s contents you ask?  two books! 

John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origens Debate (IVP Academic, 2009)!  

Genesis OneHere is the publisher blurb – (you can see some excerpts from the book at the IVP website):

In this astute mix of cultural critique and biblical studies, John H. Walton presents and defends twenty propositions supporting a literary and theological understanding of Genesis 1 within the context of the ancient Near Eastern world and unpacks its implications for our modern scientific understanding of origins.

Ideal for students, professors, pastors and lay readers with an interest in the intelligent design controversy and creation-evolution debates, Walton’s thoughtful analysis unpacks seldom appreciated aspects of the biblical text and sets Bible-believing scientists free to investigate the question of origins.

This will most likely be reviewed sooner rather than later! 

Ivan Satyavrata’s The Holy Spirit: Lord and Life Giver (IVP Academic, 2009)!   Dr. Satyavrata is presently the J. Philip Hogan professor of World Mission at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, which is a one year appointment (2009-2010) that involves teaching and overseeing the doctoral programs in missions.  Part of the appointment too is to write a monograph on some aspect of missions.  

Here is a publisher’s blurb (you can see excerpts from the book at the IVP Website):

The Holy SpiritThe past two centuries have seen a slow but definite turning away from enlightenment dismissal of the spiritual realm, and a new openness to spiritual realities, including the work of God the Holy Spirit, has emerged.

Theologian Ivan Satyavrata believes that while there is much to celebrate in this focus on the Spirit and his workings after several centuries of relative neglect, there is a pressing need to relate our present experience of the Spirit to the teaching of God’s Word.  In a context of growing cultural and religious plurality, how can we recognize where and how the Holy Spirit is present and at work today?  This is a task to which this book is devoted.

As a theologian and leader of the church in India, Ivan Satyavrata brings a unique perspective to our understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the world.  His voice makes a strong contribution to the Christian Doctrine in Global Perspective series, which is edited by David Smith with consulting editor John Stott and provides intercultural exposition of key tenets of Christian belief by leading international evangelical thinkers.

This too will probably be read and reviewed sooner rather than later! 

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.

Old Testament vs Hebrew Bible

This is pretty late (and I’ve been sick and haven’t had the energy to respond sooner) but folks have commenting about how they refer to the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible and so on.  

My question is don’t we get the whole notion of a Old Testament and New Testament from the book of Hebrews where it talks about the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and Christians replaced Covenant with Testament?  

Seems to me like the whole insistence on the use of Hebrew Bible has mixed motivations behind it and much of it is modern and political.  

What say you?

Psalm 20

TNIV  Psalm 20:1 For the director of music.

 A psalm of David.

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;

may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

 2 May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

 3 May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

 4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

 5 May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the LORD grant all your requests.

 6 Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed.

He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

 9 LORD, give victory to the king!  Answer us when we call!


Right now I am in a situation where that is all I can do – trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Every pastor or leader at one time or another, maybe even several times, will face a time of testing in his or her ministry.  How can he or she be sure to pass the test?  I think one part of it is to not “trust in chariots” or “in horses,” but…. “trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  

Trust.  It can be a hard thing to do sometimes but it is what the Lord calls us to do – and he will get us through the times of testing if we just trust in him.   And what is the promise if we trust?  He will answer “from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.”   He will give victory to his anointed ones!

So if and when you face testing in your life, trust not in chariots, or in horses, but…. “trust in the name of the LORD our God.”


John Bevere’s Breaking Intimidation

Due to some situations our church has been facing as of late, we were advised to read John Bevere’s book Breaking Intimidation: Say “No” without feeling guilty, be secure without the approval of man (Charisma House, 1995, 2006).   

Breaking IntimidationMany of my blog readers will probably think this sort of stuff is absolute silliness but ah well, let them.  Bevere’s book Breaking Intimidation is a really important book for many pastors and leaders to read.  While most often used in the context of ministry one can easily apply the concept to nearly any and every other situation from intimidation in the workplace, the home, the school or the community. This issue applies to all people as well because the spirit of intimidation is just that, a spirit and not a attitude or a disposition.  It is a spirit, therefore, even those with strong personalties and strong spiritual lives can be faced with or succumb to a spirit of intimidation, and a controlling spirit is not among only those with strong personalities, it can come from more quiet people too.  It is also not limited to men or women.  It does not take much – one can easily unwittingly submit to a spirit of intimidation without realizing it.  In my case, I was both unwittingly and somewhat aware of my giving into it.  The person I am dealing comes across as pretty intimidating and it takes a bit of effort for me to stand up to it.  Really, I need the Holy Spirit to help me deal with it.   What happens is when we do give into a spirit of intimidation is we loose (0r give up) our spiritual authority given to us in Christ (cf. Ephesians 1) and the gifts within us become dormant and we are not able to be free or hear from the Lord in our relationship with him (also that spirit then takes our authority and begins to use it agianst us).   To overcome intimidation we have recognize  what is going on and then repent for giving in, submit to the Lord and then pray against the intimidation, thenit will begin to break.  Reading this book will help you learn what the spirit of intimidation is (not unlike a jezebel spirit – it’s a controlloing spirit that does not want to be the leader but wants to control the leader and manipulate him or her so as to assert it own will and keep the leader from doing what God wants him or her to do), how to identify it, and how to break free of its grip on your heart and life.   Get it and begin your new life of spiritual freedom today!  Seriously. 

on “Torah” (תורה) or the “Law” of God

We often hear of the word torah(תורה) and associate it with Law (as it is quite often translated this way in the OT) and then immediately we associate Law with rules (do’s and don’ts – can and can’t) and typically we associate rules (do’s and don’ts – can and can’t) with the Ten Commandments (which really is the heart of torah (תורה)).   This is unfortunate because the range of meaning for torah (תורה) can take us in a different direction such as that it most often means “instruction” or “direction,” even “teaching.”  Patrick Miller in his book The Way of the Lord: Essays in Old Testament Theology (Eerdmans 2007) regarding torah (תורה) writes:

The Way of the LordIn addition to their being characterized as “commandment” and “word,” the Commandments do belong to the body of material commonly called torah.  That is the word most often translated as “law,” but it, too, does not strictly mean thatIt actually means “instruction,” which is what the Commandments are, instruction for life, the teaching of God about what is necessary to do in order for the community to live according to God’s way and in harmony with one another.  That understanding of the commandments has implications for the way in which we receive them.  To perceive the Commandments as instruction rather than law, or to comprehend the law as instruction that enhances and provides for life and harmony, is to view them quite positively.   Teaching is meant to guide us and enable us in some fashion to be better, and better off than we would be without it, not to undo us.  To the extent, therefore, that the Ten Commandments have become law or are to be understood under that rubric, it is law in this sense, as the instruction of God.

I don’t know about you all but, I like this.  It has been tremendously helpful for me and has encouraged me to see and read the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament as just that, “instruction” or “teaching,” and to ask as I read it, how is the Lord directing me to live or how am I to understand things in light of what I read in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament?

To be honest, in the six years since I started seminary (Sept 2003 – where my first three classes were Biblical Hebrew I&II and an exegesis of the Psalms) I have never heard a pastor speak of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in this manner – that the heart of the torah is not always and only “law” in a legalistic sense (since there are instances of “laws,” especially in the “Pentetuch,”) but it is also this idea of instruction and teaching, even direction (all different aspects of the same thing).   Even the Apostle Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 10 when he lets the Corinthians know “these things happend for our instruction.”  This is how the Hebrew people saw and understood the Scriptures, as instruction and God’s direction for their lives, we should too!

So, I hope this can be of some help to you as well, to know that when the Bible says we are to delight in the “law of God” really we are to delight in the instruction and direction of the Lord in our lives.

ps> go here to see what it would look like of God has sent the Ten Commandments via txt msg!