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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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Review – ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (Guest Review)

Today’s review is a guest post by my friend and fellow TEDS student Taylor Sexton

For centuries, there have been commentaries, cross references, study notes, and doctrinal articles written in the margins of published Bibles. It seems today that this has become the norm. Every major Bible translation has its own study Bible. Beyond that, the modern world has seen the advent of many more interesting specialty Bibles: journaling Bibles, note-taking Bibles, waterproof fishermen’s Bibles and much more. All of these things are great resources, as they put seemingly limitless amounts of knowledge and insight into the hands of lay people everywhere. This, I believe, is one of the most important things happening right now in terms of Biblical education. If it had not been for my first study Bible, I might never have come to know the the gospel of God’s grace.

While objective knowledge and expertise are fantastic pursuits, we too often forget that our faith is a personal, experiential faith—experience that relies totally on knowledge which is found in the Scriptures. The ESV Men’s Devotional Bible, I believe, captures that very crucial balance that we need in our Christian lives as men, especially men who, like myself, tend to pursue knowledge at the expense of experience and devotion. Edited by Sam Storms, the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible seeks not only to “inform the mind,” but “to equip and encourage men who long to experience spiritual and moral transformation in the depths of their heart.”1 In this review, I will highlight the things I like about this Bible, and touch on some things that I think are lacking.

First, the physical form. I am a sucker for high-quality Bibles: genuine leather, sewn binding, strong and opaque paper, good print. Of course, this is not meant to be a high quality Bible, but it does have nice form. It is hardcover, lays open flat because of its sewn binding, has clear print, and fits well in one hand. It is easy to sit in my bed and read out of this book, and it seems well-constructed enough to continue this practice for a while.

In regards to the actual features of this Bible, it must first be understood that this is not a study Bible. There are no notes at the bottom of every page or in the side margins. Instead, every few pages or so, there is a one-page article written by one of the contributors that offers short devotional reflection on a topic either explicitly or implicitly addressed in the immediately-preceding text. For example, in the narrative of Hannah and her barrenness in 1 Samuel 1, there is an article on the next page entitled “Waiting on the Lord.” That way, the devotionals really seem to flow seamlessly with the text you happen to be reading at the time. This is an improvement over many devotional Bibles I have seen, where the articles seem general, random, or irrelevant to the passage. As someone who is crazy about grounding everything in the text, this Bible is a breath of fresh air. Not only does this offer relevant and helpful devotionals, but it models good exposition.

Looking at the devotional articles themselves, I find them, as I noted before, to be both practically sound and doctrinally grounded. For example, on one page you have “Waiting on the Lord,” and on another page you see “Election and Predestination.” This devotional Bible is not interested in nurturing feelings, good attitudes, positive outlooks, or the like, but is clearly devoted (pun intended!) to cultivating a proper view of God and the change of life that flows from that knowledge. One thing I like in particular about this Bible that, to me, makes it stand out among targeted-audience Bibles, is that many of the articles can be easily applied to women, as well. Many Bibles (e.g., “teen” Bibles, “sportsmen” Bibles, “football players’” Bibles) can seem so focused on their target audience that the devotions and applications contained in them can feel contrived. I do not find this to be so with this Bible. In fact, I found myself at one point thinking, “Is this a Men’s Devotional Bible?” I do not mean this in a negative way, but in a very, very positive way. This means that, as I said before, the applications are drawn from the text, and not from preconceived topics. There are, of course, articles written specifically to men’s issues such as pornography, fatherhood, singleness, and leadership. The contributions to this Bible simply work.

The contributors to this Bible will look especially appealing to many readers of the ESV: Philip Ryken, Alistair Begg, Sam Storms (general editor), Graeme Goldsworthy, Bryan Chapell, Thabiti Anyabwile, and many, many others, most of them being pastors. There is no shortage of life experience, godliness, and pastoral care in this volume.

This Bible has several great features beyond these. Each book has an introductory page that includes a basic overview of the book, key themes, and a special section about how each particular book can benefit us as men. The only thing I wish the Bible would have had were cross references, but this is purely a preference, and not a problem with the Bible itself. It has to be understood that each individual Bible is designed and published for a certain purpose, and it is not this Bible’s purpose to offer extensive cross references. In sum, I have benefitted from this Bible, and would recommend it readily to anyone seeking devotional material to use. It is a great translation and it crafted by great, God-honoring men. In a day where shallow material is being churned out faster than Happy Meals, this volume is refreshing and well-received.

1 Taken from the “Introduction to the ESV Men’s Devotional Study Bible”

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Check out more of Taylor’s writing at his blog!

NIV 50th Anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the (commissioning of the) NIV, the most widely read modern English translation of the Bible in the world. Celebrations began at ETS last year with a dinner hosted by Zondervan and will culminate this fall with the release of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. I am pretty excited about this study Bible. I haven’t read the NIV in years and wasn’t expecting to want to read it exclusively ever again, but when this study Bible lands on my doorstep I plan to read it cover-to-cover right away.

A bit of background is warranted, I think, for those reading this who might be where I was just a few years ago. My history with the Bible is that from spiritual inception ten years ago to about a year in, all I read was the NIV. It was the Bible I was given when I became a Christian, and it was the only Bible that the people I knew used, taught/preached from, talked about, etc. But then I discovered the NASB. I loved the idea of a faithful, word-for-word translation; and so, I abandoned the NIV and exclusively read the NASB. Fast forward another year, and I had become a rabid cage-stage young, restless, Reformed Calvinist. So of course, I became ESV-only. With the advent of the 2011 NIV, my already low opinion of the NIV (due to a lack of understanding about Bible translation) sunk to its nadir due to the new NIV’s gender neutering. I say all this in case someone reading this holds the misguided notions I once did. It’s a great time to give the NIV another chance with the forthcoming NIV Zondervan Study Bible. This study Bible is edited by D.A. Carson and it was the full-time project of Andy Naselli for four years. If my words mean nothing, surely theirs have a lot of clout!

Check out the video below to hear some of the members (e.g. Doug Moo, Karen Jobes, Bill Mounce, etc.) of the translation committee talk about the ongoing work they do to ensure a faithful and beautiful translation. The video after that is of Dr. Doug Moo’s talk at the NIV celebration dinner at ETS last year entitled “We Still Don’t Get It: Evangelicals and Bible Translation Fifty Years After James Barr” (PDF here for those who prefer reading). The last video is of Dr. D.A. Carson talking about some of the features of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. And finally, though the year is just over half over, the special 50th anniversary free NIV Bible App is still worth checking out for limited time access to some NIV study Bibles and other resources. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on the NIV in general as well as the new study Bible.

A New Blogging Venture

I’m excited to announce that I have just joined the team at Exegetical Tools. Check out the announcement over there, browse the site, and subscribe or add it to your feedreader! If you enjoy my site then I’m sure you’ll enjoy Exegetical Tools. You’ll see some things similar to my content, but it’s more polished and professional (since I often do more casual posts). The contributors all hold degrees in biblical studies and are working on postgraduate degrees, so I’m feeling a bit of “imposter syndrome” (it’s good practice for ETS/SBL, right?). In addition to regularly highlighting academic books in biblical studies and providing quality book reviews, Exegetical Tools is working on resources for learning and retaining the biblical languages. I do hope to see the site become a sort of an evangelical hub for biblical studies, and I’m excited to be a part of it. So subscribe to the site and share it with all your nerdy friends 😀

A Unique Online Learning Opportunity

Have you had a desire for formal theological education, but do not have the means to pause your life for a few years and move to a different city/state? While many seminaries are starting to develop online courses and degree programs, recently Ridley Online caught my eye. For those not familiar with Ridley College, it is a leading evangelical institution in Australia with certificate as well as undergraduate and graduate programs. It is the home of many internationally renowned scholars past (e.g. Leon Morris) and present (e.g. Michael Bird, Brian Rosner). I imagine it to be similar to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the way it combines academic rigor  with ministry focus; world-class scholarship in service of the worldwide Church and mission to the lost seems to be at the heart of its ethos.

So, why did Ridley Online catch my eye recently when I’m already “taken” (I’ll be starting an M.Div at TEDS this fall)? It’s because I saw a Facebook post from Ridley with a picture of Craig Blomberg. Soon after I saw one with Lynn Cohick. These are renowned NT scholars who do not teach at Ridley (the former is at Denver Seminary and the latter at Wheaton). With every other online program I’ve seen, all the courses are taught by the faculty of that institution. That’s expected. That’s normal. For me, if I was going to do online, I’d pick the school with the best professors. On that basis alone, Ridley would be high in the running. But with Ridley Online, in addition to Ridley’s own world-class faculty you would get to take classes from internationally renowned professors from other institutions, such as Jesus and the Gospels with Craig Blomberg.

So, even though Ridley Online is not an option for me, I wanted to check it out. There are currently two sample lessons available to try: one from Interpreting Old Testament Poetry with Dr. Andrew Abernethy and another from Paul and Corinthian Christianity with Dr. Brian Rosner. I did both, and one common feature of the video lectures is engaging, clear content with helpful written elements on the video and no distracting elements. From the website, below are the general elements across all online courses:

  • video input from the main teacher, addressing key points or demonstrating skills
  • guided reading expectations and resources
  • individual reflection and learning activities
  • interactive elements, such as discussion forums that allow you to connect with other students and with teachers.

The first lecture from the Paul and Corinthian Christianity sample is a sweeping overview of the cross and 1 Corinthians. In the screenshot from this lecture (below) you can see how the lecture videos are not just the professor speaking, but superimpose Powerpoint elements to aid learning. The text below identifies the five characteristics of Paul’s apocalyptic thinking as identified in Douglas Harink’s Paul Among the Postliberals.


Following this video is a lecture transcript and a learning exercise (with reading, word-study, and a written summary assigned. The OT Poetry sample lesson has a quiz instead of these exercises, showing a diversity of learning activities and evaluations). There is also a link to a discussion board. The next two videos are exegetical demonstrations on 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, the first being English exegesis and the second being Greek. This allows the student to choose what suits them based on language skills. The introductory material at the beginnings of these two videos are identical. After the introductory material you see a manuscript on screen as Dr. Rosner walks/talks/marks through the text. Below are screenshots from the ends of the exegesis videos.

Eng Ex

Grk Ex

At the end of this sample lesson are suggestions for further reading.

I was very impressed with the sample lesson. Mike Bird said a while back that Ridley Online would be “gucci to the max”, and it has lived up to that description. In addition to quality video lectures, learning activities and evaluations, online discussions with fellow students well as professors, Ridley as a whole (and by extension Ridley Online) recently developed a partnership with Logos Bible Software (check out the Ridley Logos Library). The extremely well-done online content, the opportunity to study with the some of the best scholars in the world (both from Ridley and beyond), the prestige of the Ridley name, as well as its ministry focus make Ridley Online an ideal avenue through with to pursue online theological education at your own pace, in your own context. Try the sample lesson here, and find out more about Ridley Online here.

Giveaway Winner – Moo Festschrift

Before I announce the lucky winner, I’d like to comment briefly on my own appreciation for Dr. Doug Moo. Perhaps the most frequently mentioned item of appreciation in the comments for the giveaway had to do with his NICNT volume on Romans, and this is what I would have commented on as well if asked the question. This commentary was the first commentary I ever bought, so in a sense you could say that this was where it all started – my Bible nerdery.

For those who commented on Moo’s work and/or Pauline studies, I greatly enjoyed reading your answers. In my opinion there were many who were greatly worthy of the prize, but the random (under the sovereignty of God, of course 😉 ) number generator has spoken. CONGRATULATIONS, NATE PICKOWICS!! Send me your mailing address, and be sure to tweet a #biblioselfie and/or make a meme when you receive it.

Moo GiveawayP.S. In case anyone cares, the replies were not counted in the selection pool.

P.P.S. I can’t believe Jason Gardner did not win, as he was the only one to Tweet the giveaway just about every day.

P.P.P.S If you’re the type to actually search out the winning comment, you’ll notice that it was written by me. That’s because Nate said on Twitter that he couldn’t log in and therefore couldn’t comment, and he asked me to comment for him. When he won I cracked up because…well…in a way, I won. In light of my book-winning record, I just found this hilarious.


Giveaway – Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo

A few months ago I reviewed the Festschrift that was presented to Douglas Moo at last year’s ETS annual meeting (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3). This past weekend a friend gave me a goodie bag which contained a copy of this book, so I’m going to give it to one of you 🙂 Douglas Moo needs no introduction, and it’s obvious that this book is a treat for all Pauline studies nerds, especially those who appreciate the contributions of Moo. Since I don’t have a self-hosted site I can’t use one of those fancy giveaway widgets, so you’ll have to do a bit more work for entries. Here are the various ways you can enter (comment separately for each to gain more entries):

  1. Comment on one way Moo’s scholarship has impacted you
  2. Comment on one issue in Pauline studies that fascinates you
  3. Follow me on Twitter and comment saying you did
  4. Tweet the giveaway and comment saying you did
  5. Share the giveaway via any and any other social media platform and comment saying you did
  6. Subscribe to my blog and comment saying you did.

You can tweet the giveaway once a day for additional entries, just comment saying you did. The giveaway is open to residents of the contiguous US only (unless you’re going to the SBL annual meeting this year, in which case I can give it to you there if you win) and closes at 11:59PM EST on Thursday, May 21. I will use a random number generator to select the winning comment, and the winner will be announced on Friday, May 22. You can check out my reviews to whet your appetite if you missed them the first time around (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3). Below is the video of the presentation of the Festschrift.

Enter to Win Our Commentary Club Giveaway

Become an Eerdliphant 🙂


Scripture, says Gregory the Great, “is like a river with pools and shallows, where in one place the lamb may wade, in another the elephant may swim.”

Thus Eerdmans commentaries (often themselves a little like elephants in their girth) can be thought of as elephant swimming manuals, mapping out the deep pools in Scripture and demonstrating the best ways to navigate them.

So for all you elephants out there (is Eerdliphants too much of a stretch?), we’re delighted to announce the Eerdmans Commentary Club, a new online community that will keep you informed about commentary news, upcoming releases, new author announcements, sales, and members-only discounts.

Want to join the club? It’s easy: just visit the site and click the big “Join the Club” button. As an added bonus, if you join before noon EST on Friday, March 13, you’ll automatically be entered in our March Commentary Giveaway. Three winners, chosen at random, will win their choice…

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The Passing of Charles Cranfield (1915-2015) – A Fond Remembrance (Gupta)

See also this post by Ben Blackwell from 2008: Coffee with Charles Cranfield (HT John Byron)

Crux Sola

CranfieldThe sad news was circulated today that Prof. Charles Cranfield (Emeritus, Durham) has passed away (1915-2015). It was about seven years ago that I sat in his home and had tea with him, while we talked about Romans, theology, getting old, and politics. I had a look back on my notes from my conversation with him and what strikes me is how warm and pastoral he was. He has left a great legacy in his written works. He wrote on many subjects, including excellent commentaries on Romans and Mark, but in more recent years I have become fond of his little book The Apostles’ Creed: A Faith to Live By. Something to check out if you haven’t read it yet.

I am re-posting here my notes from my time with Prof. Cranfield in 2008 as part of my fond remembrance.

1. Professor Cranfield, do you have any (new) thoughts…

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