Friday, December 13, 2013

Michael Bird in Presbyterion

I just noticed in the newly released Presbyterion (Covenant Theological Seminary's journal), Michael Bird had an article published.  The title of the article is Not By Paul Alone: The Importance of the Gospel for Reformed Theology and Discipleship.  Sounds interesting!  I wonder if anyone could tell me if this article stems from his David Jone's Lectures from earlier in 2013.

Also, my friend, Blake Hartung appears to have a book review also present in this edition.  Well done, Blake!

A Brief Thought on NT Wright's Psalms Book from Jack Collins

So, I know, I know.  The NT Wright book to be talking about Wright now (that was intentional!) is not his Psalms volume just published earlier this year (see his new Paul book here). But Wright is also publishing a book on the Psalms.

I posted the link to Wright's book earlier today on my FB account, and got this great nugget from my Psalms prof, Jack Collins (OT Professor at Covenant Seminary):

The book is pretty decent, but it's short. It's more about motivating us to use the Psalter as a song-book more than we do, and I appreciated that. It covers less than, say, Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms, though it does stick better to the main idea. Wright does articulate a vision for the right kind of interpretation, one that respects the Biblical storyline. Made me realize that the only commentary I know of that carries that vision out is in the ESV Study Bible.
Look for a full-length review in Presbyterion early 2014, and if you don't get that journal, I believe it will be accessible via ATLA.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Room for Atheism? Methodology, Entitlement and Our Future

Today I have been reading Eta Linneman's small book Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology of Ideology.

For those who don't know who Eta Linnemann is: She is a German biblical scholar of the highest rank.  She was a student of Bultmann, Fuchs, Ebeling, etc. And was a member of some of the most elite academic professional societies.  She was also a very liberal historical-critical theologian, who roundly disregarded the foundational evangelical presuppositions.  However, at a point in her personal life she says she started realizing the reality of God's reign, but...
What I realized led me into profound disillusionment.  I reacted by drifting toward addictions which would dull my misery.  I became enslaved to watching television and fell into an increasing state of alcohol dependence.  My bitter personal experience finally convinced me of the truth of the Bible's assertion: 'Whoever finds his life will lose it' (Matt. 10:39)... Finally God himself spoke to my heart by means of a Christian brother's words.  By God's grace and love I entrusted my life to Jesus (18).

Linnemann writes this book to basically uncover the presuppositions of the historical-critical investigation/school.  She does not pull any punches!

The reason I was reading Linnemann's book is because of something shocking I recently read in Barton's commentary on Joel and Obadiah with regard to his methodology.  Barton says,

If we insist on reading [Joel] as a unity, then the presence of this future-oriented material will be bound to influence how we read 1:2-2:27 [and additionally: how 1:2-2:27 informs its reader of 3:1-5ff.] too, for taken as a whole Joel is a book about the end time, of which the locust invasion and its resolution are harbingers.  A historical-critical reading, however, is entitled to distinguish between two parts of the book and to identify quite different contexts.
Though I have often felt when reading critical scholarship an entitlement, it was the first time I had read a scholar say it so explicitly! This "entitled" method Barton undertakes in his commentary hamstrings his comment more often than it actually gives it insight.  It actually privileges his developed method over what the book of Joel says, and over how a whole tradition has read Joel.

Linnemann reveals this type of historical-critical entitlement later in her book,
The basic premise of historical-critical theology -- that the Bible is to be viewed as a creation of the human mind and cannot be handled any differently than other products of human activity -- is presented to the reader as established fact (or "insight" by Kummel).  (114)

For students of theology, as a stage most relevant for me -- though I guess we are all students as we continue to research, Linnemann says something important to ponder,

In order to receive an academic degree as an expert in things relating to God, I must, therefore, make the decision to make room in my thinking for atheism.  I will be kindly permitted to retain pious feelings, but my thinking must follow the pattern of the atheistic guiding principle: ut si Deus non daretur (as if there was no God). (116)

She adds -- "This is a perversion!" (116)  Remember who is saying this.  It is not your token Fundamentalist-American-Evangelical-Right-wing Preacher!

So as I read such things as Barton proposes, I cannot help but wonder: methodology or ideology?

Finally, Linnemann says,

Whoever maintains that the Bible can only be made understandable with the methods of critical historiography is putting thoroughly atheistically conceived science in charge of the treasure of divine revelation.

That is, we take "I think, therefore I am," (Descartes) over "I believe, therefore I understand" (Augustine).

What I see as the value in the above comment from Linnemann and comment on Barton's perceived entitlement is the relevance it has for today's students of theology.  Many of my doctoral peers are each day faced with powers greater than themselves, supernatural powers, warring over the hearts and minds of the next generation.  Little by little, ground is granted as room for atheism.  That is, God's hand in Scripture and the world is slowly, not pushed out -- that is impossible! -- but ignored.  As Linnemann says, this reality has real effects of addiction and further denigration of our personal lives, and our societies.  It is not just a war of a pen, but much much more!  My peers are failing to see this as their challenge each day.  They are actually more wiling to take up the challenge of filling the void Linnemann left when she disowned her academic post.

However, I ask my peers: If Linnemann refused this "method" (ideology) as "refuse," who are you (especially you who claim Christ as Lord) to take up this mantel she disregarded, even to the extent of disowning works that defined her legacy? It is not more intellectual or enlightened to do so.  I am praying I will heed Linnemann's warning!  I need others to stand with me in fellowship.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Que hora es?: Joel 3:1

One of the critical questions concerning Joel 3:1-5 is: What does “after these things” mean?  In other words, what time in the story of God’s dealing with his people should the interpreter of Joel understand Joel 3:1-5 to be referring to?  Upon first blush most would agree with the chronological judgment of Wolff who sees the events of Joel 3:1-5 as prophetic promises that are in “expectation of the much greater future response."  Joel 3:1-5 is a future time that is yet to be fulfilled.  Thus, “after” is a chronological movement from the “assurance oracles” in Joel 2:12-28 that answer Israel’s plea and repentance, though neither are actually identified in Joel.  And this points to, as Wolff concludes, “[‘After’] presupposes that the preceding assurance oracles of plea-response pertaining to the earlier time have already been fulfilled…"   While, Wolff’s assessment of this text appears to be at the least on the right track, it has not gone without its detractors.  Furthering the difficulty is that the Hebrew conjunction for “Afterward" is a rare one (cf. 2 Chr. 20:35; Jer. 16:16; 34:11). Finally, such a proposal can also create many more questions such as: Are there two or more days of the LORD; one in Joel 1-2 and Joel 3-4, which is seems Wolff struggles to reconcile.  And thus, what does Joel 1-2 have to do with 3-4?
            The crux of the matter is how one understands "and afterward.”
            VanGemeren, positing against a tendency to see discontinuity between Joel 1-2 and 3-4, suggests a conjunctive use.  VanGemeren believes discontinuity between Joel 1-2 and 3-4 is instigated by a tradition of interpreters from Calvin to more recent scholars like Leslie Allen who create a “material” (1-2) and “spiritual” (3-4) promise dichotomy in Joel.  He notes that it is common in prophetic literature for “and afterward” to function as a “temporal conjunctive, ‘when,’ or even ‘and’." He supports his case with two prophetical texts: Isaiah 1:26 (“I will restore your judges as in the days of old… Afterward you will be called The City of Righteousness, The Faithful City.”), and Jeremiah 21:7 where the LORD judges King Zedekiah, introduced by “after that.” According to VanGemeren, however in Jeremiah 21:7, “after that” is part of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem (“…After that…I will hand over Zedekiah…").   
VanGemeren concludes saying “sequence is secondary,” and “‘afterward’… functions as a temporal phrase introducing the new work of God after an era of judgment."  Therefore, VanGemeren sees 2:18-27, what he calls “the era of blessing,” overlapping with “the era of the Spirit” (2:28-32, ET).  When these eras are specifically are associated with the day of the LORD, but he does not settle on a specific time; simply stating that it could be “after the exile or any period of judgment."

VanGemeren's proposal is one I am currently testing out.  It's tendency for greater theological reflection upon the time and events of the day of the LORD seems to have its benefits.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Review of Carson's Commentary Guide

Over at For Christ and His Kingdom, Carmen Imes gives a good review of D.A. Carson's newly released NT Commentary Survey.  What a great tool for students, pastors, and scholars!  I just received my review copy from Baker about three weeks ago.  I will have my review up soon.  But I will mostly be concerned to highlight differences between this survey and his previous (6th edition) one.

Carmen basically compares Carson's and Longman's respective surveys.  She helpfully (and, 'affirmingly') hits some similar points I had previously made in my comparison between Longmann's survey and Carson's (here is my review of Longman's new edition where I compare more in depth.  The below link is a quicky!).  One being the layout and accessability.  Carmen says,

Carson weaves his analysis into paragraphs that stretch into page after page. For example, commentaries on Matthew fill nine pages, and Mark six. Readers will need to read the whole section carefully in order to decide which commentaries are worth their time. Unlike Longman’s 5th edition, this book is no “fast food” restaurant. The menu takes quite a while to read. This weakness is partially mitigated by the chart at the end that highlights “best buys,” but that chart includes only one or two commentaries for each NT book.
As I contended, they both have their upsides and downsides.

I think this was a good question that many will be asking.  While Carson is clear in many cases, as in Luke, among other places, clarity could be brought here that may still be lost in his "best buys" section:
While Carson’s narrative is helpful, I often find myself wondering, “What’s the bottom line? Which commentary should I consult?”
 I hope I can help add to the discussion with what the payout would be of buying the new edition instead of just getting an older one for a few bucks.

Biblia Graeca: Rahlf's LXX + NA28 Under One Roof

Earlier I posted on my ETS experience.  Nothing deep, just some highlights from 30 thousand feet.

In my post I noted my purchase of the new Biblia Graeca, or as it would be better called: "Rahlf's LXX + NA28 Under One Roof" and I gave a couple thoughts about it.  For those on the fence concerning the purchase of this book, I thought I would give a separate post on it (however, repeating my other thoughts, in part).

The Biblia Graeca is described by its publisher (UBS), thus:

This edition combines the Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) with the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. A one of a kind, useful tool for pastors, scholars and students.
I stole this pic from zwingliusredivivus  See his post on the book HERE
This sums it up well.  Much like the Biblia Sacra that combines BHS (MT) with an earlier NA version (27, I think), Biblia Graeca combines the Updated Rahlf's LXX with the newly (last year) released NA28.

The book is over 31 hundred pages, which makes it about the thickness of three of your NA28s.  IT'S BIG!  The paper quality and binding is the same as a BHS, Rahlf's LXX or NA27/28 - that is, any UBS produced book.  It's sturdy.

The book does little more than combine the two volumes.  The font of each is as one would see them in their respective volumes.  UBS went to no length to harmonize their font.  Bummer.  There is a title page on the inside that indicates what the Biblia Graeca contains, but that is it when it comes to the harmonization of the texts.  There is no intro/explanation behind the motivation to combine the volumes.  And there is three (THAT'S RIGHT, 3!) reference inserts.  Wow! Talk about cumbersome.  These, like the fonts, might have been served well to be unified.  There is 1 German and 1 English insert for NA28, and a Latin insert for the LXX.   There are two ribbons, which is a nice touch.

It seems that UBS may have either, (1) been rushing to release this volume, or (2) not thinking outside the box (i.e., not concerned about such issues).  Or, both.  Did I have too high of expectations?  Not sure.

But in the end.  I bought it.  And I was excited to do so! 
You may be asking why I did after a review like this one.  The easy and most accurate answer is that I use both volumes with enough frequency that having them together is more convenient.  It is a fine volume, but if it was ripped in half, the two resulting halves would look much like they did before in their own respective volumes (see illustration to the left).  Also, I got a good price at ETS.  It retails 179.95, and 100ish on Amazon.  I got it for a bit less than that.

So, buy it if you will use it!

In a dream world I would have something like both Tischendorf's Vetus Testamentum + Novum Testamentum Octava. You may say I'm a dreamer...