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Book Review – What Christians Ought to Believe (Michael Bird)

Michael F. Bird. What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2016. 240 pp. $24.99.

WCOBDr. Michael Bird‘s latest offering, his most accessible book yet, is both enlightening for the average person in the pew and edifying for the student and scholar. Bird spends the first two chapters of What Christians Ought to Believe providing an introduction to creeds and an apologetic for why we need them. To a Christian world where the dominant creedal affirmation is “no creed but the Bible,” he argues that “by ignoring the creeds those who consider themselves to be orthodox are effectively sawing off the theological branches upon which they are sitting” (13). Bird shows how creeds are biblical, summarize the New Testament tradition, and marked out the boundaries of the faith. He provides an overview of the canonization process that demonstrates that the creed and canon were mutually creating and mutually reinforcing. Finally, he argues that creeds can both invigorate our faith and provide a sure anchor for biblical faith.

The rest of the book (twelve chapters) is devoted to a systematic exposition of the theology of the Apostles’ Creed. Beginning with “I believe,” Bird explores the meaning of (Christian) faith itself and reveals it to be “our trusting response to what God has done for us and promised us in the gospel, which in turn pervades every aspect of our lives” (46). In illuminating the fatherhood and omnipotence of the Creator-God he addresses the controversial issues of the patriarchal language and the creation accounts and shows how the ultimate issue in both cases is the identity of God and our relationship to him. Bird introduces the doctrines of incarnation and hypostatic union as well as some of the Christological heresies; he helpfully spends a chapter on the life and ministry of Jesus (which is not mentioned in the Creed), showing how “Jesus’s messianic career is not simply the hors d’oeuvres to the atonement” (87) and probing the depths of what it meant to call Jesus “Lord.” He engages with critical views of the virgin birth but also highlights five dimensions of the its true significance (it was not so that Jesus would be without sin!).

In regards to the atonement, Bird interestingly points out that while the early church formulated statements about the nature of Christ, it never attempted to reach a consensus on the precise mechanics or effect of the atonement. He provides a good overview of the main theories of atonement and rightly notes that while each is saying something true, some have a greater capacity than others to be the integrating theory. In a move that will surely ruffle some conservative feathers, Bird notes that he favors Christus victor as that integrating theory. Unlike many modern versions of the Apostles’ Creed, Bird uses “He descended to the dead” rather than “He descended to hell.” He helpfully explains the Descensus ad Inferos (explicating what the Bible says about Hades/Sheol and what Christ did there on Holy Saturday) and points out the main facets of the significance of the resurrection. The next chapter on the ascension is particularly helpful, as the ascension is probably the most neglected facet of Jesus’s career; it’s not just “Jesus’s return trip to heaven” (162). In expounding upon the person and work of the Holy Spirit, Bird warns us of the twin dangers of neglecting the Holy Spirit and overemphasizing his manifestations. He passionately argues for the importance of ecclesiology, of the church being part of the content of theology rather than just its packaging (193), and finally, reminds us that heaven is not the end of the world.

What Christians Ought to Believe is one of the best examples of scholarship serving the Church. In this book, one of the finest biblical scholars of our day has written an accessible, popular-level  introduction to the basics of the Christian faith. Biblical, theological, and historical concepts are simplified but not simplistic, and at every turn informed by responsible and robust scholarship. This is a great book for intellectually oriented new believers, Christians just starting to get serious about doctrine, as well as mature believers and beginning formal theology students. I can also see this being a great book to study together with someone you are discipling or in small groups. Most of all, this book needs to be devoured by any and all who are either anti-creed or have never studied the Apostles’ Creed.

Many thanks to Mike for having a copy sent to me! I’ll buy you a cup of coffee at SBL😉

Purchase: Amazon | Westminster

 

Book Review – Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church

Doug Serven, ed. Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church. Oklahoma City, OK: White Blackbird Books, 2016. 326 pp. $16.99.

heal usI tried countless different ways to introduce this review, but they were all either risky (i.e. potentially controversial and/or off-putting) or trite (because of vagueness and generality). I tend to not say much online on issues of racial injustice and racial reconciliation because I’ve seen online conversations crash and burn as two sides misunderstand and offend/hurt each other, and I didn’t want a touchy introduction to turn people away from reading this review. Heal Us, Emmanuel is an important book for the Church, especially its more conservative wing. No matter where you stand on race issues, my hope is that you will read the entirely of this review and consider reading the book. Written by 30 PCA pastors and leaders of various ethnic backgrounds and ministry contexts, this diverse collection of essays chronicle personal journeys into awareness of racial inequality/injustice and stories of racial reconciliation, provide historical insight into some of the issues and biblical/theological rationale for pursuing ethnic diversity, unity, and reconciliation, and issue a passionate plea for the church to labor to break down dividing walls of ethnic hostility.

The essays in Heal Us, Emmanuel are divided into six sections. One of the hardest and most important things to do in the race conversation is to listen, so it’s fitting that the first section is entitled “An Invitation to Listen.” Here, five minority voices (four African Americans and one Asian American) share their painful experiences of racism and racial injustice, as well as stories of astounding gospel-empowered forgiveness and reconciliation. The opening essay by Rev. Lance Lewis kicks off the book well, as he expounds upon the weaknesses of the typical political mindset with which we approach issues of race and ethnicity and calls us to embrace a biblically grounded redemptive mindset. The second section is entitled “Awakening to Privilege” and contains five essays written by Caucasian Americans. The first essay by Rev. Dr. Timothy R. LeCroy is detailed, multifaceted, and gripping from beginning to end. He chronicles his journey from oblivious to racist to seeing the reality of systemic racism. He tells of the mighty move of the Holy Spirit at the 2015 PCA General Assembly when a resolution was proposed for the denomination to repent of its sins during the Civil Rights Era, and the confession, repentance, and prayer for healing that ensued for about an hour. LeCroy notes his subsequent realization that he needed to be active with regard to these issues not only at the denominational level but also in his local context, and detailed his following steps he took of confession from his pulpit and in the local paper and making contact with a local African American pastor. Finally, he tells of what he saw and heard of the University of Missouri protests locally versus the distortion by national conservative media.

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Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation) by Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner. Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation). Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015. 560 pp. $39.99.

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.inddIn the mist of a tremendous flourishing of evangelical publishing on biblical theology, for years I had longed to see a biblical theology study Bible and a commentary series from the perspective on Biblical theology. To my joy, in the last year we have seen both. The latter presented itself in the form of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (D. A. Carson ed.), and the former saw its inaugural volume on Hebrews by Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series from B&H Academic).

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation Series
Though there are different schools of biblical theology that define and pursue the discipline differently, the general editors of this new series (T. Desmond Alexander, Andreas J. Köstenberger, and Thomas R. Schreiner) define biblical theology as, in essence,

the theology of the Bible, that is, the theology expressed by the various biblical books on their own terms and in their own historical contexts. Biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. What is more, biblical theology is the theology of the entire Bible, and exercise in whole-Bible theology (ix, emphases original).

While the volumes will discuss typical introductory matters and provide verse-by-verse exegetical commentary, their two primary distinctive contributions are conveyed in the series title. First is biblical theology – each volume will explore the contribution of the given book or groups of books of the Bible to the theology of Scripture as a whole and provide “thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole…in the context of the larger salvation-historical metanarrative of Scripture” (xi). Second is Christian proclamation, seeking to relate biblical theology to our own lives and the life of the church, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry of teaching and preaching the Word.

Commentary on Hebrews (Thomas Schreiner)
The biblical-theological emphasis of Schreiner’s volume on Hebrews shows up mainly in the introduction and conclusion. After briefly addressing typical introductory matters such as date, authorship, destination, etc. in an accessible way that does not get bogged down in technical details, Schreiner spends more than half of the introduction on biblical-theological matters. First, he situates Hebrews in its canonical context, tracing redemptive history from Genesis through the Gospels and pointing out along the way the significant types of Christ and salvation and how Hebrews speaks of their fulfillment. For example, after mentioning Leviticus 10 Schreiner notes how Hebrews focuses on the inadequacy of the sacrificial system and emphasizes the inauguration of a new and better covenant because the old was a failure. He ties the sin of the wilderness generation in Numbers to the warning Hebrews makes of the example of Israel. He notes how Hebrews picks up on the theme of rest in Joshua as a type and anticipation of a greater rest to come. From the Gospels, Schreiner notes themes such as Jesus being the new David promised by the prophets.

Second, Schreiner discusses four structures that undergird the biblical theology of Hebrews. The first is promise/fulfillment, where Schreiner points to how Hebrews proclaims certain OT predictions to have now been fulfilled. Jesus is the Davidic king promised in the OT who would establish God’s kingdom; He is a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4) in his humanity, participation in summering, and resurrection; He has sat down at the right hand of God (Ps 110:1). The second structure is the tension of inaugurated eschatology, seen in Jesus’s reign, salvation, sanctification, perfection, the warning passages, the call to faith, and rest. Third, concerning typology, Schreiner helpfully emphasizes that the correspondences were intended by God and not merely used by Him as illustrations, and that typology is characterized by escalation. In Christ we have a better prophet, a better priest, a better king, a better covenant, a better land, and better promises. The final structure noted by Schreiner is spatial orientation (i.e. the relationship between heaven and earth); while some scholars treat this topic within typology, Schreiner separates it because of Hebrews’s distinctive emphasis on the subject. Whereas key themes that give structure to the letter are investigated as structures of thought, the conclusion provides additional biblical-theological insight by dealing with some of the central themes (e.g. God, Jesus, the New Covenant, etc.) in their own right.

I look forward to digging into Schreiner’s commentary on Hebrews and eagerly anticipate each forthcoming volume in this series. These commentaries will provide rich biblical-theological and practical insight that can’t be found in other commentaries, from some of the best evangelical scholars of our day. Find out more about the series, including the list of volumes and contributors, here.

Thanks to B&H Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon | Westminster

 

Bible Review: UBS5/NIV11 Diglot

ubs 5Last fall when I was just starting my formal biblical/theological education Zondervan sent me a copy of their new The Greek-English New Testament: UBS Fifth Revised Edition and New International Version, and it quickly became the Bible I carried around with me every day (as an aside, TEDS seems to be an NA campus, so my red UBS did draw a fair bit of attention amidst seas of blue at the library and in the classrooms!).

The first reason why I was excited about this diglot stems simply from the fact that I didn’t own a UBS, and the only NIV I possessed was in the form of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible, an excellent resource but too massive of a tome (I believe slightly bigger and heavier than even the ESV study Bible) to lug around every day. So I was rather excited to have the UBS5 and NIV 2011 together in one sleek, pretty package (see pictures below for a size comparison and infographic of UBS5 features) since I made heavy use of both the Greek and English NT virtually daily for classes. In addition to translation and exegetical work, I try to read a slightly larger portion of the GNT every day; I like to read the portion in English after reading the Greek since I’m still a newbie, so having them in parallel is very convenient. Some discourage new language students from using diglots because of how easy it is to “cheat” and short circuit the process, but it’s easy to not do that (just cover the English side and don’t look at it), and there are far easier/worse ways to cheat nowadays with Bible software).

diglot size comparisonubs5-infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the differing critical apparatus, one unique feature of the UBS that I was not aware of until it was mentioned by my exegesis professor is the appendices of OT quotes and allusions. There’s an index of quotes in OT order, an index of quotes in NT order, and an index of allusions and verbal parallels. One downside of the effort to making the English parallel the Greek is that often the English page will have just a few sentences and/or cut off mid-sentence (see picture below for an example).While this sometimes looks and feels slightly awkward, I think this is an inevitable feature of a diglot and a small price to pay for the conveniences of the format. Overall, I love the new Zondervan Greek-English New Testament: UBS Fifth Revised Edition and New International Version. It’s my go-to New Testament for class, research, and devotional reading.

diglot

Thanks to Zondervan and Academic PS for the review copy!

Big News: EP Sanders to Present at IBR Research Group (Gupta)

So excited about this!

Crux Sola

Well, it’s been hard to keep this quiet, but I didn’t want to announce it until the plans were made final: E.P. Sanders has agreed to present at a new Institute for Biblical Research study group on Pauline Theology (the Friday when SBL begins, Nov 18, 4PM-6PM, 2016).

The new Pauline Theology research group is co-chaired by myself (Nijay Gupta) and John Goodrich. John and I were students together at Durham, we often room together at SBL, and very excited to move forward with this group together.

The program for our IBR Pauline Theology group for 2016 is as follows:

Sanders BookSanders.pngThis year our group will launch the Pauline Theology research group with a special book review panel discussion. Fortress Press recently published Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought by E.P. Sanders. Dr. Sanders will participate in the book review panel, and other panelists include Dr. Craig Keener (Asbury Seminary),

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Reflections on the long journey of becoming a biblical scholar

Some excellent and convicting reflections from Dr. Siu Fung Wu with a charge for academics to be involved in the lived realities of people. His published doctoral dissertation is entitled Suffering in Romans.

Imagine with Scripture

Truth be told, I am an academic by nature (although I am not very smart). I am not a practical person. In high school, I liked Pure Maths, but didn’t enjoy Applied Maths. At University I liked browsing the academic journals in the library. When I finished my BSc (Hons) and MSc degrees, my professors suggested that I should do a PhD. But I didn’t take up their offers because I thought I wasn’t smart enough.

Edward Boyle Library

Then I migrated to Australia and worked in IT. When I turned thirty, I enrolled at a Bible college. I thought God wanted me to serve him, and theological training was a steppingstone to full-time ministry. I started working in my church as a pastor while I was still at college. But meanwhile I discovered (once again!) that I loved academic studies.

Pastoral ministry taught me a lot. I had many opportunities to hear…

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Biblical Studies Carnival – December 2015

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Welcome to the December 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival! I hope everyone’s had a great holiday season. If you’re reading this on January 1, then your new year is off to a great start! As is typical of December, the biblioblogdom was pretty quite last month. However, surprisingly, there was a mountain of book reviews and interactions. Looks like we all decided to catch up on reading!

Before we get to some of the best and nerdiest of the past month in the biblioblogosphere, here’s what’s coming up in the next few months: January (Due Feb 1) will be hosted by Tim Bulkeley, and February (Due March 1) will be hosted by Jacob Prahlow (@prahlowjcacob). The rest of the year is wide open, so if you’re interested in a carnival, especially for March or April, please get in touch with Phil Long (@Plong42). Hosting a biblical studies carnival is a fun way to highlight some of the best of biblioblogging as well as connect with the vibrant community.

Alright, let’s get the party started! But…we must start off on a sad note.

In Memoriam – I. Howard Marshall

On December 12, 2015 we lost one of the NT greats of our time. Many bibliobloggers wrote tributes to I. Howard Marshall, including Mike Bird, Stanley Porter, Steve Walton, Nijay Gupta, Darrell Bock, Ray Van Neste, and Mark Goodacre. Beeson Divinity School posted words from several of their faculty (Timothy George, Osvaldo Padilla, Frank Thielman, Paul House, and Gerald Bray). I have never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Marshall, but from what everyone says it’s obvious that he wasn’t just a prodigious scholar but also a devoted churchman and all around great person. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

As I was finalizing this post I got word that Robert Mulholland passed away on December 20 and Heikki Räisänen passed away on December 30. I haven’t caught wind of any details or tribute post yet, but maybe some will appear next month. May these two scholars also rest in peace and rise in glory!

 

ANE/Hebrew Bible

At the Biblical Studies Blog, Rob Bradshaw posted a PDF of Rick Wadholm’s master’s thesis, “The Theological Meaning and Significance of Yom in Genesis 1″. Rob’s website is truly a remarkable resource; here are his reflections on where the site has been and where it’s going.

Michael Heiser linked to a PDF of what he says is the best article he has seen on the topic of the genealogies of Genesis 5, mathematical approaches, and theological messaging – Biblical Math as Heilgeschichte?

Christian Brady at Targuman posted a paper originally presented at the 2010 Mid-Atlantic SBL meeting entitled “Boaz: Centrally Marginalized.” Interestingly, Brady argues against both against traditional commentators that the book of Ruth presents Boaz as a marginal figure, and against those who seek to  further marginalize Boaz. What Brady argues for is a kind of p’shat, a simple reading of the text.

Over at The Bible and Interpretation, Brian R. Doak has an article entitled “The Embarrassing and Alluring Biblical Giant” that looks at five ways of thinking about giants in the Hebrew Bible.

Bob MacDonald at Dust is quite the prolific blogger and posted more on HB passages than everyone else on the blogosphere combined; if it piques your interest, check out his thoughts on Genesis 10, Exodus 25, Exodus 37Joshua 1, Judges 17, Ruth 1-4, 2 Chronicles 27Nehemiah 2, Job 38, Isaiah 17Daniel 12, Hosea  3Amos 1, Micah 4 and the “ban”, and Zechariah 13. These appear to be reflections as he is putting parts of the HB to music.

Bible Studies Online posted the videos for the papers delivered at the 2015 Seminar in Thomas Römer’s series The Hebrew Bible and Its Contexts at The Collège de France entitled “Representing gods and men in the ancient Near East and in the Bible (Représenter dieux et hommes dans le Proche-Orient ancien et dans la Bible)”

Ancient Jew Review has a fantastic piece by Timothy Lim entitled “Understanding the Emergence of the Jewish Canon” in which he discusses his theory of the “majority canon.”

AWOL announced the digitization of Hebrew manuscripts at the Library of Congress.

 

Archaeology

George Athas wrote an extensive post on the discovery of an ancient ‘bulla’ bearing the name of Hezekiah, found in situ. He also commented on the recent article in Forbes about the only piece of skeletal evidence for crucifixion. To thank you for making the arch section possible, I’ll make sure someone buys you a venti Starbucks at the next SBL😛 #warongeorge2016

 

NT/Early Christianity

Biblical Studies Online posted a lot of great video resources this month:

At The Bible and Interpretation, Paul Anderson and Jaime Clarke-Soles posted a PDF essay introducing volume 3 of John, Jesus, and History coming out soon from SBL Press.

James McGrath gave pithy point-by-point responses to 5 bad reasons to be a mythicist.

At the Jesus Blog, James Crossley announced that he and Anthony Le Donne have taken over as editors for JSHJ. Congratulations!

Bill Heroman shared some thoughts on Jesus research in conversation with Syndicate Symposium entitled Jesus and the Chaos of History.

Larry Hurtado mentioned a new essay of his on P.Oxyrhynchus 1228 and linked to a pre-pub version.

Nijay Gupta at Crux Sola linked to a video in which John Barclay talks about Paul and empire.

Phil Long wrote two posts on Paul and Apocalyptic (post 1, post 2). And while we’re on the topic of apocalyptic, Scott McKnight had a few words to say on Wright vs. apocalyptic.

Christ Illing wrote a short post on reading Paul in response to frustrating results of a Twitter poll.

 

Languages

Bob MacDonald at Dust wrote about doubling in Hebrew and asks whether it’s just idiomatic usage.

Exgetical Tools posted an advanced Greek grammar video with William Varner talking about Acts 1:1.

Larry Hurtado shared a few snippets from Walter Ameling’s forthcoming essay “Epigraphy and the Greek Language in Hellenistic Palestine.

Thomas Hudgins posted some thoughts and questions on Greek pedagogy.

Jacob Cerone shared some thoughts about the New English Translation of the Septuagint in dialogue with Muraoka’s essay in the Festschrift in honor of John A. Lee. He also posted some insights on using Duolingo to learn German.

 

Miscellaneous

Jacob Cerone noticed a play on words in LXX Num 22:27-29.

At The Bible and Interpretation is an article addressing the Samaritans in recent research.

Will Hart Brown shared some thoughts on the Testament of Levi.

Marg Mowczko wrote on didaktikos in 1 and 2 Timothy and Theonoe and Myrte from the apocryphal Corinthian correspondence.

Shawn Wilhite posted his study schedule for academic languages and early Christian literature that’s inspiring and could be very helpful for students trying to create a study plan.

James Bradford Pate commented on transubstantiation and Sabbath in  “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan.”

 

Bibliophilic Bibioblogging: Blurbs, Reviews, & Interviews

Will Hart Brown reviewed Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible (Saul M. Olyan ed.) and Priestly Rule: Polemic and Biblical Interpretation in Ezekiel 44 (Nathan MacDonald)

Eerdword posted a Q&A with Mark Boda on his new commentary on Zechariah in the NICOT series.

William Ross posted an interview on the LXX with his Doktorvater James Aitken.

Phil Long reviewed “What Does the Scripture Say?”: Studies in the Function of Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity” edited by Craig Evans and Danny Zacharias (Part 1.1, Part 1.2, Part 2.1, Part 2.2. Volume 3 reviews appear to be forthcoming). Phil also posted on his top reviews of the year.

James Bradford Pate wrote a summary of Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth—-And How They Confirm the Gospel Accounts by Robert Hutchinson.

Matthew Ferguson has been critically interacting with Craig Keener’s two-volume Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (part 1, 2, 3)

I reviewed Matthew Novenson’s Christ Among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism. I also highlighted a few notable new books published by my professors at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Rafael Rodriguez raved about Francis Watson’s Gospel Writing at The Jesus Blog. 

Larry Hurtado shared a few thoughts on Christian Oxyrhynchus:  Texts, Documents, and Sources

Nijay Gupta mentioned Bruce Winter’s Divine Honours for the Caesars and Christoph Heilig’s Hidden Criticism?

Ben Witherington posted an eight-part interview with Chad Thornhill on the latter’s new book The Chosen People: Election, Paul, and Second Temple Judaism (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

James Bradford Pate did a write-up of a new book entitled The Reality of God and Historical Method: Apocalyptic Theology in Conversation with N.T. Wright, the inaugural volume of a new series entitled “New Explorations in Theology. Scott McKnight wrote a post about the same book, focusing on how Adams gets Wright wrong (yes, I still think that’s fun to say!)

Exegetical Tools reviewed Barclay’s Paul and the Gift.

Joel Willitts and Joshua Jipp have been dialoguing about the latter’s newest book, Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology at the Euangelion blog (Willitts 1, Jipp 1, Willitts 2, Jipp 2, Willitts 3, Jipp 3). Unless they’ve changed their minds, I believe they’re planning to interact through the whole book so keep your eyes open for more! I’m assuming they’re just taking a winter hiatus or maybe Jipp got distracted by a sports game.

Jonathan Homrighausen mentioned Has Anti-Semitism Roots in Christianity? by Jules Isaac.

Also at the Euangelion blog is a guest post by Con Campbell responding to Michael Aubrey and Nicholas Ellis’s Themelios review of his new Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament.

Rubén de Rus reviewed Integrating Exegesis and Exposition: Biblical Communication for Transformative Learning.

 

Best Books Lists:

Nijay Gupta

Lindsay Kennedy (Lindsay also posted a list of every book he read last year with links to his reviews where applicable)

Andreas Köstenberger

Brian LePort

 

 

Book Review – Christ Among the Messiahs (Matthew Novenson)

Matthew W. Novenson. Christ Among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012 (paperback 2015). 256 pp. $35.00.

MessiahsChrist Among the Messiahs is a revision of Novenson’s dissertation at Princeton Theological Seminary under Beverly Gaventa. Originally published in hardcover three years ago as a typical monograph costing a kidney, it was reprinted a few months ago as an affordable paperback and there was great rejoicing in the biblical studies land. Against the majority view among scholars that “Messiah” did not mean anything determinative in ancient Judaism and the somewhat bewildering corollary that when Paul used χριστός he did not mean it in any of the its (nonexistent) conventional senses, Novenson argues that χριστός in Paul means “messiah” and that “Christ language in Paul is actually an invaluable example of messiah language in ancient Judaism” (3).

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Reading the Greek New Testament in 2016

I’ve been pondering for the past few days about how I might incorporate the Greek New Testament into my Bible reading next year. Part of me thought that next year’s probably too soon, given that I’ve only had one semester of Greek (albeit, it was an exegesis course since I taught myself beginning Greek and tested out of it). The reason why I wanted to systematically read through the GNT next year and not wait until my Greek is better is because the overwhelming constant piece of advice I’ve gotten from my Greek Geek friends (as early as when I was soliciting final studying advice a few weeks before I took the Greek placement exam to try to test into exegesis) is to read the GNT. The rationale seems to be that even if you don’t understand it and even if it’s beyond your current abilities, keep reading the GNT because it over time it will give you an innate sense for how Koine Greek works, in a way that complements your atomistic translation/exegetical work.

So, how am I going to go about it, as a Koine Greek baby? Well, while there are many appealing elements to Wallace’s suggestion, at this point translating three chapters of the GNT a day (albeit with only one new chapter a day) seems a bit unrealistic – I feel like it would take me hours. But for those of you who’ve been at this for a few years, I highly recommend taking a look at Wallace’s plan (although, interestingly to me,  he suggests the plan primarily for those coming out of first year Greek and says that it may also be helpful for more advanced students). I’ve clipped it for the future (maybe I’ll do it in 2017!) because translating each chapter three days in a row seems like a fantastic way to really get to know the Greek text.

So, while I’m not going to use Wallace’s plan this year, I am going to use his ordering (roughly from easiest to hardest). Then I had to decide whether to try to read the GNT in one year or two, and I ended up deciding to read it in one because the whole point is to read larger chunks of text. That means 22 verses a day. So the way I’m going to read the Bible in 2016 is to read 3 OT  chapters (in English) and roughly 22 GNT verses per day (I say roughly because I don’t like stopping in the middle of main ideas, so I will probably follow the paragraph breaks). For the Greek part I anticipate reading each text a few times, the first time straight through, the second time roughly translating in my mind, and if time permits, one more time looking up words as necessary and analyzing what’s going on syntactically. But the main point is to just read the text. I also plan to finish my time by reading the text in English.

Of course, the main difficulty with doing a mishmash plan like this is keeping track of progress, especially if you miss a day. At this point I don’t think it would be worth the time to create an actual one-year Bible reading record, but I might do it if I feel like this is a plan I would follow many years over. If I do end up making one I will share it here for others who might want to try it. For now I will probably just find a one-year Bible reading plan that only has you reading from one place in the OT and one place in the NT daily; I’ll have to hop around to keep track for the NT because I want to go in order of increasing difficulty, but it shouldn’t be too annoying.

For those who are reading through the GNT next year or have done it in the past, I would love to know how you’re doing it or what you’ve done in the past that’s worked well. Since I’m a newbie I’m eager to learn from those more seasoned!

 

23 Biblical Studies Twitter Accounts NOT To Follow

It’s not every day that biblical scholars are hilarious…this needs wide dissemination!

Reading Acts

grumpy-cat-meme-twitterI got this idea from John Scalzi, a SF writer who has been writing a blog since before there was such a thing. I read his collection of essays/blogs on a plane this summer (The Mallet of Loving Correction) in which he had a list of “25 Geeks NOT to Follow on Twitter” (@BathingInMayo, for example).

Scalzi’s idea was really a modern version “The Mad Library of Extremely Thin Books” from Mad Magazine. These were books which would be more or less blank inside, something like “Defusing Racial Tension by Donald Trump” or “Essentials of Calvinism by Joel Osteen.”

These are all fake twitter accounts (I hope) in the same tradition as Mad or Scalzi. I worked on this list over the last few months, but finished most of it up at AAR/SBL and thought it would make a reasonable “end of the year” list for Jim West…

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