On Hope in Politics

I have been doing nothing but re-posting lately, so why stop now? Here are Dave Black’s thoughts on evangelicals’s dependence on politics. I completely agree by the way.

” Finally, I have to say a word about the current fervor to get evangelicals involved in politics during this election cycle. The notion that we can “fix America” through electing certain politicians to high office is predicated upon a lie that had fueled politics throughout the course of human history – that there can be societal change part from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I’m not personally saying you shouldn’t vote. Have at it! But please don’t confuse this with kingdom living. Kingdom activism is a far cry from what I’m seeing today in American politics. The same Santorum who ruthlessly excoriated his opponent (Romney) for being a heartless capitalist just a few weeks ago now gleefully endorses him for president. Of course, this is how politics works. But I’m not sure that evangelicals appreciate the vagaries, compromises, and (sometimes) downright dishonesty that characterize politics. My allegiance is not to any political party (it once was – ugh!) but to the kingdom of God. As I wrote when I launched this website many years ago, “I believe it is time to stop seeking God in the misguided and erroneous teachings of do-goodism, whether the source is liberalism or conservatism. Jesus Christ is the only answer to the malaise plaguing our families, our churches, and our society. You can idolize man-made institutions with the hope that they will solve the societal ills of our day if you like, but I prefer to stand by the Bible and the life-changing power of the cross.”

I still believe this today. I grant the obvious – that some sort of human government is necessary until King Jesus returns. But when I see people saying that unless Proposition so-and-so passes America will go down the tubes I want to scream, “There’s another way of going about this business of turning our nation upside down, the way of Jesus’ selfless love!” There is simply nothing ambiguous about this. Jesus told us to return evil with good, to forgive even after multiple offenses, and to reject the natural “fallen” way of living life. In a self-centered world filled with dishonesty and violence, Jesus’ scandalous way of life calls us back to the simple life-giving message of the Gospel. The hope of the world certainly doesn’t lie in a marriage amendment. It rather lies in a Savior whose followers are surrendered to Him and who are willing to sacrificeeverything for His sake. I am the first to admit that I do not follow Jesus this way or with this kind of high-level commitment. But that is my desire! So, as I said above, I encourage all of us to cultivate Calvary-love as we go about our lives in an election year. If your favorite candidate doesn’t get elected, don’t get too discouraged. Ditto with your favorite bill, position, or constitutional amendment.”



Wright covers Dylan

A British theologian covering Dylan, classic. Ol’ Tom should defiantly keep his day job, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it!

Stanley Porter on a lack of da

This is indeed an interesting question. Just yesterday I was discussing the lack of accessible books in discourse studies. The fruit of this study is very promising for the pastor who seriously wants to exegete a text, but thus far all the work done has been loaded with linguistic jargon and so complex few if any pastors would dare take a crack at it. Unless more work is done in the field more accessible works are unlikely to follow.

Delivered To What?

I began reading Galatians just now and was stopped by verse 5 of the first chapter. It reads, “ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ” (In order that he may deliver us from the present evil age). What in the world (or off of it for that matter) does this mean? Is this an eschatological promise of flying away by and by? Is this a promise of rest from persecution or shelter from an immoral world? Is this a promise of Christian radio, t-shirts, coffee shops, Kirk Cameron, and “Spirit Mints”?  Let me, with all humility, and certainly as I have not even begun to take the rest of the letter into context, say the answer to these questions is ‘no’. 

Even though I said I am not taking the entire letter in context, let me mention 5.24-25, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” This is what we have been delivered to, a life lived according the Spirit rather than the flesh. The present age is evil because we were once in it! But, now we have been given the Spirit allowing us to live out a crucified life. It would really seem odd if Paul were saying anything else. He rejoiced in his suffering and he encouraged others to partake in that same suffering (Phil 1.29). And certainly, neither he nor Jesus ever lived sheltered from the evil world.

My favorite passage that concisely teaches this truth is Ephesians 2, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Interestingly, though it is not visible in this English translation, verse two reflects the same language of Gal 1.4 (ἐν αἷς ποτε περιεπατήσατε κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου). If we translated Eph 2 in light of Gal 1 it would read, “In which you once walked according the age of this world.” I believe Paul in Gal 1 is speaking of the same thing that we find in Eph 2.

We once did the same things everyone else did. As Paul says,  we were like the rest of mankind. We were once a part of this present evil age. But we have been delivered from walking in the age of this world, and this because, as Galatians 1 says, Christ gave himself for our sins. On the far side of salvation we did nothing but evil, but on this side of salvation we do good works. And finally, we are able to do this, as Gal 5 tells us, because we walk by the power of the Spirit. Praise God that we have been delivered! Now we must go live according to the Spirit we have been given.

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The Devil Is In The Details: II

I posted awhile back about the ending of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. I argued that it to be read, “deliver us from the evil one”, on account of the article accompanying πονηρός (evil/evil one). When accompanied by the article, πονηρός is almost always referring to an evil one, that is an evil thing, person, or in this case the devil. I think this alone puts the burden of proof on those who translate this verse as, “deliver us from evil”. However, while reading, through It’s Still Greek To Me: An Easy to Understand Guide to Intermediate Greek by David Black, I relearned something significant to this particular issue. The end of Matthew 6.13 reads, “ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ” (But deliver us from the evil one). Notice the preposition  ἀπὸ ; ἀπὸ is used in the NT with persons, while ἐκ is used of non-personal enemies.

Well there you have it! I am not sure what further evidence needs to be brought forth.

Evil one: ISV, HCSB, NKJV, NIV


This has been a great lesson for me in reviewing what I’ve learned. I’ve taken many hours of Greek, but there is still a lot that I can learn or relearn from even a beginning grammar, much less an intermediate level book. How many of you have Wallace memorized?  By the way, I highly recommend It’s Still Greek to Me. I learned Greek on a combination of Croy, Mounce, and Wallace. I would recommend using this book prior to and in conjunction with Wallace’s giant syntax. While Wallace provides an invaluable resource, it is easy to get lost in the details of his work. This book fills in the gap, and really gives the student a firm grasp on the intermediate level of Greek with clear and concise teaching.

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Southeast ETS meeting Review

This was my first ETS meeting, and I must say that I enjoyed it very much. I will not say much about the meeting overall, because Jacob and Paul have already done a good job of that.

My first paper I attended was presented by Paul DuPont, a student at Gordon-Conwell in Charlotte.  His paper set out to distinguish the stoic’s use of αὐτάρκεια (contentment) (adj. form in Phil- αὐτάρκης). DuPont made the case that the stoics saw αὐτάρκεια as contentment “in all things”. It meant competence, self-sufficiency, and contentment. The source for this contentment was the self. It was truly self-sufficiency. Paul, on the other hand, used, while not jettisoning the general meaning, αὐτάρκεια as a new religious αὐτάρκεια with its source in Christ. Instead of the source of contentment being self, it was now in Christ. This is described in 2 Corinthians 9.8 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” as well as in Philippians 4.11 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” DuPont’s paper was a good word of encouragement to find my contentment in and through Christ.

The next paper I attended was presented by SEBTS doctoral graduate, Stephen Stout. His paper set out to argue Paul’s interest in the historical Jesus. This is in response to many scholars who argue that Paul had no interest in the historical Jesus. He made a good case for Paul’s use of historical allusion. Paul assumed his readers knew a lot about the life of Jesus so he often made these historical allusions. Stout also listed 71 citations of Paul’s teaching on the man Jesus Christ. I have never doubted Paul’s interest in the historical Jesus, but I certainly am more sure now of that interest. If you are interested in this paper he offered up his email to all interested sostout@juno.com. The paper was entitled “The Man Jesus Christ”

The following paper was by a current SEBTS student, Josh Chatraw. He was interested in how to read the gospels. He pointed out the value of the recent quest for the historical Jesus by N.T. Wright, but believes that the search has looked so closely for the historical Jesus it has failed to appreciate the lens through which we see him. Those lenses are the gospels. Chatraw argues we should not seek to harmonize the gospels into one but let each gospel speak for itself. Once we hear each of their voices, we can then begin to seek a unified message. Josh offers two guiding hermaneutical principles for reading the gospels: first, the canonical gospels are reliable documents from eye witnesses. Second, each gospel writer has shaped his gospel in order to communicate a certain theme, without compromising its historicity. I agree with Josh, I believe we have four gospels for a reason, and that each has its own unique message. I wrote briefly about this in my post “Four Gospels”. I believe the gospels are historical, but I do not believe they are history books. There is often the temptation when teaching a certain gospel to constantly be filling in missing details from the other gospels or recording the events to make them ‘properly’ chronological. When we do this we risk missing the message of the inspired text.

The final paper I will mention was once again an SEBTS student, Greg Stiekes. Greg argued for ἑνότης (unity) from Ephesians as unifying theme of the Bible. He cautioned against one central theme or one unifying center, as these fail to encapsulate the Bible in its entirety. Instead, Greg finds many unifying themes or centers that run throughout the entire Bible, and in particular ἑνότης was in focus here. Here is a quote from the paper (I am probably paraphrasing more than quoting), “If we are not united as a body, we fail to communicate that Christ is capable of reconciliation.” I enjoyed this lecture very much. If you would like  a peak at the paper he offered up his email to all interested, paul&ignatius@gmail.com. The paper was titled “The Oneness of God and His People: The Notion of ἑνότης as a Unifying Center for Biblical Theology and How it Shapes Our Understanding of the Church”.

In closing I would like to make a suggestion to ETS ( I am sure you are listening). Make the papers available a week in advance. This way we can be familiar with the paper. This will allow the presenter to summarize their argument, and then allow much more time for interaction.

*Addition: Jacob Cerone has offered up his paper as well “The Baptism of Jesus and the Fulfillment of All Righteousness: An Exploration of Jesus’ Relationship to Israel in Matthew 3.13-17”. You can request a copy from him at jacobncerone@gmail.com. I missed this paper, but am excited to give it a read.

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ETS Southeast Meeting

I am exciting about the regional ETS meeting beginning this afternoon. Sadly, I left San Francisco less than a year before the national meeting was held there this past year, so I was exciting to find out that at least a regional meeting was being held less than a mile from my home! Here is a list of some of the sessions I plan to attend. Some of these overlap so I obviously can’t do all of them.

“Stoic Contentment and Pauline Contentment”

“The Man Christ Jesus: The Humanity of Jesus in Paul’s Writing and Preaching”

“The  Baptism of Jesus and the Fulfillment of All Righteousness: An Exploration of Jesus’ Relationship to Israel in Matthew 3:13-17”  This paper is being presented by a fellow blogger and student over at ἐνθύμησις. He just wrote a blog his upcoming presentation.

“Evangelicals, N.T. Wright, and the Historical verse the Canonical Jesus: A Proposal for Approaching the Gospels”

“γάρ When δέ is Expected”

“The Oneness of God and His People: The Notion of ἑνότης as a Unifying Center for Biblical Theology and How It Shapes Our Understanding of the Church”

“The Byzantine ‘Priest’ Variant at Acts 5.24”

“Reading the Law in the Light of Christ: Paul’s Use of Leviticus 18.5 in Romans 10.5”

I hope post on some of the things I learn, that is, if I can write fast enough, because surely my mind will not recall of anything useful otherwise.

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Copy Cat?

Ever notice how similar the conclusions of the healing of the paralytic and the lame man by the pool are? The abc = exact wording common between the two. abc (italicized) = parallel meaning between the two.

John 5.8-9

λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ περιπάτει. 9 καὶ εὐθέως ἐγένετο ὑγιὴς ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἦρεν τὸν κράβαττον αὐτοῦ καὶ περιεπάτει.

(Jesus said(lit. says) to him, “Pick up your bed and walk.” 9 And Immediately the man became well and picked up his bed and walked.)

Mark 2.11-12

Σοὶ λέγω, ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου. 12 καὶ ἠγέρθη καὶ εὐθὺς ἄρας τὸν κράβαττον ἐξῆλθεν ἔμπροσθεν πάντων…

(I say to you, “Pick up your bed and go into your house.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the bed and went out before everyone.)

I’ll let you decide what all this means, I’m just writing down what I see.

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Biblical Censorship

I have written on here before about translations ‘under-translating’. In other words, translations will often generalize words or phrases making them less potent or specific. I suppose this is at times called for in order to avoid imposing one’s theology when a specific translation is not clear. Of course I argued, in at least two passages, that under-translating dilutes or even obscures the intended message.

Even more drastic, though less common, is translations censoring the original language. That is, they make the original language less offensive or graphic. A particular example of this, which I was previously unaware, was brought up in a class today. It comes from Ezekiel 16, a particularly painful chapter to read. God’s people are being blasted as a faithless bride.

The ESV translates verse 25 likes this, “At the head of every street you built your lofty place and made your beauty an abomination, offering yourself to any passerby and multiplying your whoring.” The phrase ‘offering yourself’ is a censorship, it’s a paraphrase. Think of movie edited for TV when an obscene word is obviously dubbed over by ‘shoot’ or ‘darn’, that’s what is going on here. The Hebrew text reads, “וַתְּפַשְּׂקִ֥י אֶת־רַגְלַ֖יִךְ לְכָל־עוֹבֵ֑ר” (you spread open your legs (lit. feet) to all who pass by). This is a very, very clear picture of a woman whoring herself out. I generally like the ESV, but I think they failed big time here.

I actually looked up the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Southern Baptist Convention’s translation) with the plans of lecturing this outspokenly ‘inerrantist’ publication on performing the same folly. To my surprise, the HCSB translates this passage just about as I would have. Turns out NASB also translates without paraphrase. The NKJV and NIV both paraphrase. The HCSB does not perform as well with σκύβαλον but that’s another post. As a caveat, I understand all translations do some paraphrasing, but this is done to make things intelligible not change the force of the language.

This text is obviously graphic and offensive. I would not enjoy reading that to a church or my children. In fact, I might understand if someone teaching from the text said, “I am going to censor this text for the young ones in the audience”. I do not however find it acceptable to censor what we dare to call the Lord’s Word. It amazes me that this kind of paraphrasing would be considered acceptable by the editors of the ESV.

How would you handle this translation? How would you teach or preach a text with offensive language?

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The God

I have begun to read through the, currently, 3 volume series of N.T. Wright (proposed 6 volumes). This begins with The New Testament and the People of God. I plan to do further studies in Paul’s works, and this cannot be done without dealing seriously with the large amount of work done by Wright. I have read several of his books before, but not the whole trilogy and not back to back…to back. So, that’s what I am doing now. I do not wish to bore anyone with my readings, but I figured this was a chance to keep me accountable to the reading, and supply an opportunity to flesh out these books and even possibly allow for discussion. I do not have a lot of time for these books right now, so it is unlikely I will be reading much more than 20 pages a day. Thus, postings about the books will be scarce.

In the preface to The New Testament and the People of God Wright discusses several linguistic usages that he wished to clarify. One of which is his use of God or god. Today we commonly refer to the god of the Bible as ‘God’ as if that were his name, however ‘God’ is simply the generic term for  a deity. In the NT it is θεός, but the NT does not refer to YHWH as θεός, it refers to him as ὁ θεός. ‘The god’. As Wright puts it, “This usage (‘God’), which sometimes amounts to regarding ‘God’ as the proper name of the Deity, rather than as essentially a common noun, implies that all users of the word are monotheists and, within that, that all monotheists believe in the same god.” Christians of course do not believe that everyone who uses god is monotheist, or that all who are, are believing in the god of the Bible. As Christians, we believe in the god. The only god, the one true god. His name is not god but YHWH.

Wright believes that it is misleading to use ‘God’, so he chooses to use YHWH. I agree with him here. ‘God’ often leads to confusion while talking with non believers. It may often lead to the assumption that our ‘God’ is just a god among gods, but I believe he is the god. He is YHWH.

On an unrelated note, this preface contains one of my favorite quotes of Wright’s. “I frequently tell my students that quite a high proportion of what I say is probably wrong, or at least flawed or skewed in some way which I do not at the moment realize. The only problem is that I do not know which bits are wrong; if I did I might do something about it.” I wish more of my fellow seminary students had this kind of awareness and humility!

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