Wednesday, December 31, 2008
"...Christian theological interpretation is interpretation in, with, and for the church so that the church may in fact be the kind of church in the world that is appropriate to the Christian gospel."—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, pages 145-146, 148
I can get behind that description and goal very easily.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Yes, the via media, or middle way. Avoid both extremes, because human communication has many voices; we all bring our presuppositions with us, as well as our previous interactions with individuals and texts. These will exert a profound influence on our exegesis.
The whole concept of pre-Hebrew raises questions in the mind of a language junkie like myself, or, as a commenter recently called me on another blog, a snob. The big danger is that a little knowledge can be more dangerous than no knowledge. At least when you don't know anything about the language, you know you don't know. If you have the beginnings of knowledge, you might think you know more than you do. I still find that a danger for myself after 30 years of reading Greek and Hebrew; we need to be humble about how much we do and don't know, and about how much we even can know.
With that in mind, I must admit I approached the book with a bias against it, but I was delighted to see on pages x-xi of the introduction a list of what to expect, and far more importantly, what not to expect:
Here are two things you should not expect. (1) After you finish this course, you should never tell anyone that you know Hebrew. You will not know Hebrew, unless you take a full-fledged Hebrew course. (By the way, my ulterior motive in writing HRU is to inspire students to study full Hebrew.) (2) You will not be able to dispute scholars on the basis of your knowledge of Hebrew, but you can ask questions and better follow the arguments of various scholars with different views, helping you make informed choices. As Mounce says in GRU[Greek for the Rest of Us] (p. x), it's not a little bit of knowledge that is a dangerous thing, “it is a little bit of arrogance that is dangerous.” Knowing everything is this book will not make you an expert.—Hebrew for the Rest of Us, page x
I must admit that this disarmed many of my fears and allowed me to look at the book from a more nearly neutral starting point. That this same caveat is repeated at page 158 in different words was also reassuring. In fact, page 162 has a wonderful warning: ...you must not forget that this is not a full Hebrew course. Even a student who completes a two-year course in biblical Hebrew is not knowledgeable enough to engage in exegesis completely independent from the work of professionals. However, you are in a position to make more detailed observations of the text and better understand commentators and translations.” This phrase should be emblazoned on the forearms, chests, foreheads, etc., of everyone who ever says, “What the Hebrew/Greek really says is...,” as if 2000+ years of translation history missed it, and you suddenly discovered it with Strong's dictionary and the Internet!
But, I digress. the layout of the book is very student-friendly. The tables and charts are helpful and assist greatly in the understanding of concepts. He goes into enough detail to give the pre-Hebrew student a basis to understand the basic problems and challenges of the Hebrew verbal system. This is reinforced in the exercises, which frequently have you compare several translations, with an eye to understanding why they differ.
After laying out all the basics of Hebrew grammar with a good deal of syntax along the way, the book turns to putting it all together in exegesis. The list of word study pitfalls to avoid on pages 229-230 is excellent. If you get nothing else from the book, this is worth the price of admission. He includes a chapter on resources, and how to choose them. The book concludes with a chapter on Hebrew prose, and another on Hebrew poetry.
Still, I am left wondering at the end of it, why not learn Hebrew? If all I knew were the things in the book, I would be left wishing I had more knowledge. You are left totally dependent on analytical tools for parsing, concordances for roots, or, if you prefer, the electronic texts that are tagged. I would find that endlessly frustrating. In the end, it seems that you would save more time over the long-haul investing your time in actually learning the language. It would be like trying to read Tolstoy in Russian with only a grammar and dictionary; you could do it, but the time required...
What about the self-learner? I would say, forget it. This book is designed to have a teacher who knows Hebrew supplement the materials (although he does have a website which I did not check). If you really want to learn enough Hebrew to get through the materials, you are better off learning first year Hebrew from one of the traditional (modern!) grammars, such as Futato, Seow, Ross, Pratico, Kelley, etc., which either contain an answer key, or have an annotated answer key available.
Now for the shocker: Not everybody should learn Hebrew (or Greek—double shocker!). Contrary to what you might gather from language snobs/elitists, such as myself, the translations available are quite good! Sure, there are nuances, and the depth of meaning is greater in the original, but will that make you a “better Christian?” Chances are pretty good that it won't! In fact, if you are prone to pride, unless God calls you to learn the language (and even then), you will be on a very dangerous slope with a thin lifeline!
When you get to the “pearly gates,” God won't ask you to parse a verb or decline a noun. He won't ask about the concords or word order. He isn't concerned about your head knowledge except as it causes you to fall in worship at his feet. And you don't need Greek or Hebrew to do that. In fact, throughout most of history, most people couldn't even read, yet they managed to know God quite well...
So, Jesse, are you sorry you gave me the book to review? :)
Friday, December 26, 2008
Would that it were true! Too often we get wed to our initial thesis and only let go of it with kicking and screaming. Perhaps a little (or, more likely, a lot) of humility would go a long ways here...
Thursday, December 25, 2008
One popular middle ground between an English translation and a Hebrew Bible or Greek Testament is the “interlinear Bible,” in which a very wooden translation of each word is placed above or below the line of Hebrew or Greek text. For readers who have some familiarity with the original language and use this tool as a way to refresh their memories, it may have a useful function if employed cautiously. However, a little bit of knowledge of Hebrew or Greek can be dangerous, and combining such knowledge with the peculiar English renderings found in an interlinear Bible can be disastrous. People who do not read the original languages with some degree of competence should stay clear of interlinear Bibles and rely on good translations and solid research for their exegesis.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, pages 38-39
Amen! In fact, I would go even further and outlaw the use of an interlinear...
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
This insight is at the heart of why we need to listen to everyone—and why everyone can teach, although maybe not formally. God speaks to everyone, and everyone hears that voice in a unique way. As we share together what God is saying to each of us, we all grow.
Am I advocating relativism here? Absolutely not! The voice of God will not contradict scripture, but it will cause us to see things in a fresh way. This is one of the strengths of small group meetings, be they house churches, or informal bible studies.
...as Rudolf Bultmann, the great German biblical scholar of the first half of the twentieth century, said, there is no exegesis without presuppositions[“Is Exegesis without Presuppositions Possible?” in Existence and Faith: Shorter Writings of Rudolf Bultmann (trans. Schubert Ogden; New York: Meridian, 1960), 342–51]. We all come to the text with interests in it, maybe even an agenda. Biblical texts compel us to ask not only “What?” but “So what?” Historical and literary critics we may be, or wish to become, but we are also human beings seeking an encounter with truths and realities to
which sacred texts point.
Refusing to consider responsible reflection on and with the text as an aspect of exegesis is shortsighted and unnecessary. Most exegetes have their eyes on “two horizons”—the horizon, or world, of the biblical text itself, and the horizon, or world, of their own personal and corporate experience.—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 27
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The willow tree in the back yard:
The backyard looking toward the creek:
One of the bushes by the house, the others all look about the same:
The view from the front yard, right outside my study window:
The elm tree in our front yard. It lost 4 big limbs on one side:
One of our lilac bushes didn't fare so well:
Monday, December 22, 2008
Let's start with the introduction
...arguably the most important development in the field of biblical studies since the turn of the twenty-first century has been the turn (or, rather, return) to the theological interpretation of Scripture. This development expresses a deep desire on the part of many biblical scholars and theologians to explore and articulate ways of biblical interpretation that attend to the biblical text primarily as theological text, as vehicle of divine revelation and address. To many outside the theological guild but inside the church (and perhaps even outside it), such a focus is altogether self-evident and natural. To many inside the guild, however, years of exposure to nontheological interpretation have made reading the Bible as Scripture seem almost abnormal, and those of us who wish to change this bias are aware of the challenges before us as we attempt to move forward in the appropriately theological task of biblical interpretation...
...despite the location of the extended discussion of theological interpretation near the end of the book, readers should not conclude that theological interpretation is an afterthought,
or that it takes place only after all the “real work” of critical or scientific (historical and literary) exegesis is finished. Rather, theological interpretation involves an attitude, a modus operandi, and a goal (telos) that permeate the entire process. In sum, theological interpretation means reading the scriptural text as closely and carefully as possible, employing the best methodologies available, because theological interpreters believe that during and after that process they can hear God speak in and through the text.—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 1, 2
I like the way he put that, theological interpretation is the telos of exegesis, with the ultimate goal of transformed hearts and lives. This can only come as we listen to the voice of God speaking to us as we wrestle with the text.
He adds an important caveat: “Exegesis, then, is investigation, conversation, and art. As conversation and art, exegesis requires an openness to others and to the text that method alone cannot provide.”—The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, page 12.
This is vital! Openness, especially to those who disagree with us! It is boring reading only those who agree, there is no stimulus, no fresh thought, no new blood. We need someone who disagrees, or at least sees things differently, to shake us from our complacency and set way of reading the text. The Holy Spirit can, and does, do that, but frequently it is through using others.
For most of the summer we had 2 adult cats and 3 kittens that were hanging around our place. Toward the end of September, someone dropped off a young tiger-striped male. He seemed friendly enough, so we let him stay. So then there were six.
But, after about a week, he got mean and started driving the other cats away. We had to take him to the animal shelter. So then there were five again.
A few weeks later, one of the kittens disappeared. From what we gathered, he was adopted by someone on the other side of the creek. So then there were four.
As it started getting colder, one of the kittens got sick. We had called her “Puff” because she was just a little puff of fur. Once she got sick, she started losing weight fast, and one Saturday, about 2 weeks ago, she died. So, then there were three.
Right now, there are three cats, two living in the barn, and one in a shelter by the back porch. They are all healthy and it looks like that will be our cat population through the winter, although yesterday I saw a black and white striped male go into the barn, so maybe there will be four...
Friday, December 19, 2008
Here are few pictures from just outside the office:
Looking to the south
The front of the office, you can see part of the Eisenbrauns sign:
This is a small flower right by the front door.
That seems to be a recurrent theme in this book. Divinization/theosis/deification is intended to be something that is lived out as part of life. It is not something just for the secluded monk in a monastery somewhere, but it is something God does in the life of every believer. A good thought to take with us throughout life!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Too bad that aspect of Luther's theology has not gotten more attention. Until I read this book, I had not heard this, but then, I don't read a lot of Luther.
Each morning we know Mike's around
When we hear that bean grinding sound
His java he brews
His fresh fruit he chews
and soon our IT woes are drowned
Michael is our IT guy, and he makes freshly ground coffee each morning. He drinks that along with eating a huge plate of fresh fruit, hence the limerick.
There once was a worker named Dave
Who cut corners in order to save
Then along came Big Jim
Who gave kudos to him
And the whole office crowd did “the wave”
Dave is our business manager, and he has recently been coming up with some money saving ideas.
There once was a Merna and Jim
packed with books in a trailer so slim
a logos' appeal
drawn from cylinder seal
and so Rex the Ibex begins
Merna and Jim started Eisenbrauns in their trailer while Jim was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. The Eisenbrauns logo, the ibex, was chosen from a book of cylinder seal impressions. He didn't have a name until about 3 years ago, when Robin decided to name him Rex. It stuck, so now we have Rex the Ibex.
There once was a bookman named Jim
Eisenbrauns was the brainchild of him
He publishes in Greek,
Hebrew, German, and geek
While growing a beard needing trim
The funniest part of this one is that the person who composed it has a beard longer than Jim's :)
Can you come up with a limerick about Eisenbrauns?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Truly righteous, not just imputed, but imparted! It is all by God's grace, but it is truly imparted, not just some legal fiction! This is true salvation! This is what makes life in Christ victorious! Christ in us, the hope of glory, as the scripture says.
So what are we producing, if not disciples? Judging from many things I have seen and read over the past couple years, it seems like we a producing angry people. Angry because they feel like they've been deceived. Some of them have been promised a changed life, but instead were taught Christian doctrines and precepts. We've produced Apathetic people. Apathetic to the gospel, to the Church, and even to Jesus. We've produced people with false-security. These people went to all the classes, they attended all the services, and followed all the rules, little do they know that these actions won’t save them. There are probably other types of people that we have produced but I think Jesus had a phrase that best sums up these false-disciples, "White Washed Tombs". On the outside, they look brilliant, pure, and white… but on the inside, they are filled with death.
Who are our disciples? Our disciples are the people who truly follow us… and hopefully watch us truly follow Jesus. Jesus did not force people to follow him, he did not even try to prevent people from leaving him, his disciples were those who recognized him as savior and could do nothing but follow. Basically, Jesus shared his life with everyone, those who shared it back were his disciples.
This goes along with a post that Jon at The Theos Project put up over the weekend.
My struggle is that I see all of Christianity as a fad, commercialized, consumer- and market-driven. To say "I am a Christian" is not to say that one identifies with Christ, but that one identifies with some form of a hyper-commercialized movement.
This explains, in part, the fact that the church has such a difficult time retaining those who are passionate about changing the world, have a heart for joining believers in open/authentic community, and have intelligent minds that desire to challenge status quo thinking. These are three key types of people that seem to be lacking in most church institutions. Most institutions tend to prefer organizing around static beliefs/practices rather than letting dynamic people loose to affect genuine change.
Not much I can add to either of them...but then I ran across this post over at Out of Ur:
Economists are asking what would happen if we built our economy on production, savings, and manufacturing rather than spending and debt. Pastors should be asking what would happen if we built our mission on people’s core time rather than leisure time. What if we could tap into the 80+ hours people spend every week on the job, with their families, and engaging in life’s ordinary responsibilities? Of course, this would require a fundamental shift in the way we think about mission and institution. Here are a few implications:
1.It would mean helping people see the missional dignity of ordinary work; communicating that their jobs matter to Christ and his kingdom, not just what happens within the walls of the church.
2.It would mean elevating the role of family and household relationships as vehicles for spiritual growth and missional engagement. Yes, raising children and caring for aging parents honors God and advances his kingdom just as, if not more, than institutional church programs.
3.It would mean not extracting people from their lives and communities to engage in church programming or committees unless absolutely necessary, but equipping them to live in communion with Christ within the context he has placed them.
4.It would shift the focus of Sunday worship away from mission and outreach to a time of celebration and encouragement for Christians who are engaged in mission the other six days of the week.
5.It would mean deploying church leaders outside the institution to engage members in their native contexts; mentoring and coaching on their turf rather than ours.
6.It would mean a radical adjustment in what the church celebrates-not institutional expansion or programmatic growth, but stories of ordinary people incarnating Christ at home, at work, at school…everywhere life happens.
Wow! You mean having the church function as a church? Too radical! Maybe this recession/depression is from God? Nah! Can't be, after all, God exists only to satisfy my selfish wants and desires, right? Right? What is that noise I hear? Oh, just the sound of 2000 years of saints who gave their life to God and let HIM set the agenda and live through them. Maybe american christianity isn't as Christian as we think?
Monday, December 15, 2008
And that focus has caused us to miss the heart of salvation, in my opinion. We are so focused on eliminating culpa (blame) that we miss the heart of God, which is conforming us into His likeness. I think this alone is reason enough to hold to multiple views of the atonement. To say that the only acceptable view of the atonement is penal substitution is the cut off the possibility of deification/theosis.
I have been making a low-fat mayonnaise now for about 6 months. I like it, but I wanted the texture to be a bit less granular (it uses cornstarch), so I decided to try tapioca flour as the thickener. After all, tapioca pudding isn't granular, but smooth. The package said to use twice as much tapioca flour as corn starch, but I thought that might be a bit much. Good thing I didn't double it! As it was, it turned out like glue. It was just one big gooey mess. You certainly couldn't spread it on anything!
I waited for it to cool, and then took a rubber scraper to it. It all came out in one big gooey ball into the garbage. So much for tapioca flour as a thickener! Back to the cornstarch...
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I like that word picture. Very appropriate for today. And the same Holy Spirit presence that empowered people back then is still available to us today.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Augustine “believed his teaching on deification was based on Scripture” [Bonner in “Augustine's Conception of Deification,” JTS n.s. 37 (1986) 369-386] and he rejected the Plotinian idea that deification could be achieved by the independent efforts of a philosopher, unaided by grace; deification was possible only “from a participation in God made possible by divine initiative.” [Bonner, ibid.]
The “christocentricity” of Augustine's thought was integrated into his understanding of deification; Augustine says clearly that “adoption by grace” is impossible without the mediation of the God-man. Augustine, like the Greek Fathers, us the language of “participation” in God, and he was in agreement with the theologies of both Irenaeus and Athanasius (Bonner cites Serm. 192.1: “To make gods those who were men, He was made man who is God”).&mdashTheosis, page 124
Anyway, I have been listening to it off and on for the last 2 weeks. I have to say, it is catchy. The singer, Kenneth Berding, has a good voice for it. The songs are done in Erasmian Greek, but without the omicron being pronounced as "ah" which happens too often in Koine. Huh? you say. OK, how do you pronounce λόγος? Is it LOGOS with long oh sound, or is it LAGAS with an ah sound? Most Koine in the U.S. is with the short ah sound, which is wrong even in Erasmian pronunciation.
The booklet that comes with the CD is definitely important to look at before you listen, or at least while listening, the first time. Without it, you won't understand about 75% of the songs. The songs are generally just the endings without any lemmas. That's fine, as long as you read the booklet and understand what is going on, otherwise you will wonder what 313 or 212 mean in the participle song (it's the declension, by the way).
I put the CD on I-tunes™ here at Eisenbrauns and at least one other person listens to it—and will probably buy a copy. Even the people who don't know/care about Greek think it is interesting. After all, who ever thought of Greek set to nursery rhyme tunes?
What's my favorite? That's a tough one. I like the preposition song, but the ειμί song is nice, too. Of course, the alphabet song is fun, too. I guess whatever is playing at the moment is good. What I thought would be nothing but a novelty has turned into something I will periodically play for the fun of it. I might even find myself singing it...
Here's all the bibliographic information (we are out of stock right now, but I have more on order):
Sing and Learn New Testament Greek
Includes 1 Audio CD and a 36-Page Guide
by Kenneth Berding
Zondervan Publishing Company, 2008
Compact Disc (audio)
List Price: $14.99
Your Price: $12.74
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
All grace, all the time! Never by human effort! Self-help christianity never was an option for the Patristic theologians; it was always by the empowering presence of God.
How far we have strayed. Look at the top sellers on the Christian Booksellers Association list. Whatever isn't entertaining fiction, is almost without exception self-help spirituality. You don't need the blood of Jesus or the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish that stuff. Of course, it is all a facade that is shown to be such by the first passing storm.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
This last sentence is very important. As Protestants/Roman Catholics, we tend to view sanctification as the goal of salvation, but that sells God far short of what the Patristic and Apostolic Fathers had in mind. The book will flesh this out as we go on.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Here's the copy from BookNews:
During the month of December, Eisenbrauns is offering a selection of Greek and Hebrew references from the United Bible Societies, both texts and reference works, at great savings. Pick up the incomparable Tübinger Bibelatlas for an unprecedented 50% off, your choice of UBS or N-A texts for 50% off, Lust's LXX lexicon for 40% off, and a number of other amazing deals.
Here's a selection:
"Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Small format"
Edited by K. Elliger and W. Rudolph
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1987. Cloth. Hebrew.
List Price: $69.95 Your Price: $41.97
Edited by Alfred Rahlfs
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1979. Cloth. Greek.
List Price: $71.99 Your Price: $36.00
"Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint"
Edited by J. Lust, Erik Eynikel, and K. Hauspie
American Bible Society, 2004. hard cover. English and Greek.
List Price: $119.99 Your Price: $71.99
"Biblia Sacra Utriusque Testamenti: Editio Hebraica et Graeca"
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1994. Cloth. Greek and Hebrew.
List Price: $139.99 Your Price: $70.00
"Tubinger Bibelatlas / Tubingen Bible Atlas"
Edited by Siegfried Mittmann and Gotz Schmitt
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 2001. Cloth. German and English.
List Price: $150.00 Your Price: $75.00
"UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition"
Edited by Barbara Aland and Barclay M., Jr. Newman
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart, 2008. Cloth. English and Greek.
List Price: $69.95 Your Price: $34.98
Check out all the great prices here.
“All of this [θέωσις] depends upon, and revolves around, Christianity's central and unique idea: the incarnation—in Christ, God lived a human life. The incarnation is the definitive and unique doctrine of Christianity. Further, without the incarnation, there would be no theosis. Christians are meant not only to learn from the life of the divine Son, but to reproduce the pattern of spiritual progress that he revealed, even to the point of taking on the character of God!”—Theosis, page 4