# Thursday, May 15, 2014

Previous posts: Part I; Part II

Part I, the most substantive post of this series, is on Jefford’s introduction. Part II is on the Greek text, the apparatus, and the translation. This post is on the commentary proper, which takes up the last 60 pages of the book.

Here are the commentary sections and titles:

  • Title
  • 1.1–2: Introduction
  • 2.1–10: On Greeks
  • 3.1–4.6: On Jews
  • 5.1–6.10: On Christians
  • 7.1–9.6: About God’s Power
  • 10.1–8: First Conclusion: About God’s Plan
  • 11.1–12.9: Second Conclusion: The Witness of the Word

As with most commentaries, it doesn’t read very well from start to finish. You’ve got to have knowledge of the text of the section being discussed in order to track with the discussion on the page. But that is par for the course for commentaries.

The Greek text, where necessary, is referenced in the commentary. Typically the English is given, with the Greek in parentheses after. The discussion is routinely of lexical issues, related early Christian literature, structure/grammar/syntax, as well as historical and theological issues.

There’s not much more to say apart from: If you’re doing any halfway-serious work with the Epistle to Diognetus, then you need to look at this volume.

Post Author: rico
Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:04:41 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, May 14, 2014

There are scads of commentaries on and opinions about the book of Revelation. While I’m not an expert, I’m not sure how many books there are like this recent tome from Joel Watts. The best word I can use to describe it is “refreshing.”

Author: Joel L. Watts (blog, Twitter)
Title: Praying in God’s Theater: Meditations on the Book of Revelation (amazon.com) [Available in print or Kindle editions]

Praying in God’s Theater (amazon.com) isn’t a commentary. You won’t get into millennialism, supralapsarianism, or other eschatological quandaries and dogfights. You won’t have to answer the question, “Pre-, Post-, or A-?” to get past the first chapter. You won’t get into timelines, you won’t count days/weeks/years. You won’t worry about whether it is John the Apostle, John the Elder, or some other John who wrote it. You won’t get tangled in establishing the date, or with overwrought diatribes on the weirdness of the Greek found in the book, or whether a simple Galilean fisherman could’ve written it.

No, you won’t get any of that stuff. Instead, Praying in God’s Theater (amazon.com) is a practically oriented look at how the book of Revelation can be used in the prayer life of a Christian. You get to follow along with Watts as he treats the text liturgically and prays through the text of Revelation. In the process, the reader’s focus changes from the self-centered look — wanting to know more about the return of Jesus for personal planning and expectation — to a Jesus-focused look. Here’s a snip from the introduction:

Revelation is not about what will happen (futurist) or even what happened (historicist), but what is always happening above us. It is quite simply, a book envisioning Christ enthroned through suffering, something the Eucharist represents. (Watts 3)

Watts’ prayers are intended to be corporate and responsive in nature. But he does a better job of explaining than I would:

Like call and response prayers, you will find portions in bold. The bold sections of Scripture are based on (usually) Revelation, while the words in regular print are the literary sources for John’s writing. John used a tremendous amount of Scriptural allusions drawn from the New Testament and other works while drafting his work. I will make use of many of them to provide an answer to him. I have tried to arrange it so John’s words are met with similar words or thoughts from other writers of the faith. … Surrounding the prayers are mediations and devotions from saints throughout the ages. You will find familiar names like John Wesley and maybe a few unfamiliar ones like St. Bonaventure and a sixth century theologian by the name of Oecumenius. This is an ecumenical book, so you will hear Catholic and Orthodox voices as well as Protestant ones. (Watts 7–8)

The end product is a set of rich prayers focused on the text of Revelation with surrounding material setting the scene based on the testimony of the church through the ages. You’ve seen and read nothing like it on the book of Revelation. If you read it seriously, you’ll be better for it.

[Disclaimer: Joel Watts is my friend. He supplied me with a copy of Praying in God’s Theater (amazon.com), but I have examined it and would like to think I’d write the above about the book whether I knew him or not.]

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 6:35:43 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, March 16, 2014

As I mentioned previously, providence supplied me with a copy of this book from Oxford University Press, so I have been reading it. I’m through the introductory material, the edition (with extensive editional apparatus) and translation, and the notes. It seemed like a good time to write a post about the material I’ve read thus far. This post will be about the introduction. A subsequent post will be about the text, apparatus, translation, and textual notes. I have the commentary proper left to read, and will have a final post on that at some point in the future.

Here is some information about the book:

  • Title: The Epistle to Diognetus (with the Fragment of Quadratus): Introduction, Text, and Commentary
  • Author/Editor: Clayton N. Jefford
  • Series: Oxford Apostolic Fathers
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Pages: ix, 281
  • Indices: Ancient Sources, pp. 265–278; Modern Authors Cited, pp. 279–281
  • Bibliography: pp. 257–264

The introduction is in eight parts and spans 120+ pages. The eight parts are as follows:

  1. General Background
  2. Authorship, Date, and Provenance
  3. Structural Elements
  4. Integrity and Purpose
  5. Theology and Themes
  6. Relationship to Scripture
  7. Analysis of Historical Trajectory
  8. Conclusions

1. General Background

Jefford sets the context for his discussion well. There has only ever been one manuscript that contained this material, and it was subsequently lost in a fire. Thus we are constrained to three early transcriptions of the text and subsequent editions based on that material. Further — and anyone who has spent time with the text of Epistle to Diognetus will agree — the Greek isn’t easy. Apparently the manuscript itself was even harder to read and decipher, and was more lacunose than notes in modern editions lead one to believe. Jefford tracks the publication history of transcriptions and editions of the text. This is valuable information that has not, to my knowledge, been so deeply delved to this date.

2. Authorship, Date, and Provenance

Perhaps more so with Diognetus, it is difficult to speak of authorship, date, and provenance. There is no manuscript anymore, there is little known about where it came from, and only qualified guessing can be done on any of these topics. There have been several possible authors suggested, all of them supposition. Intelligently argued, many of them, but all constrained to the incredibly small pool of names we actually know and settings we actually understand. Jefford does a good job navigating this tension and reviewing the options and the cases for and against them. I was happy to see some extended interaction with Hill’s thesis of authorship, which points to Polycarp, and which I’m sympathetic to. I think Hill provides some good insight on the setting from which the work may have come, though I’m hesitant to tie a specific name to the writing. Jefford, always cautious (at least in my reading of other books he’s written), seems to share this hesitancy to point to specific, named people as the author of this work.

3. Structural Elements

Jefford breaks the text of Diognetus into seven sections:

  • Prologue (1.1–2)
  • On Greeks (2.1–10)
  • On Jews (3.1–4.6)
  • On Christians (5.1–6.10)
  • About God’s Power (7.1–9.6)
  • About God’s Plan (10.1–8)
  • The Witness of the Word (11.1–12.9)

It is in this chapter that Jefford begins to lay the groundwork for his view of the development of Diognetus. It begins by isolating areas that seem too good to be normal prose, so must reflect existing tradition. These are poetic and confessional materials that add to the text but may not be strictly necessary. He will come back to these later in §8, where he establishes his view of the composition and development of the text.

4. Integrity and Purpose

The majority of scholars of early Christianity see Diognetus as two parts: §§1–10, and §§11–12. It is well known that the manuscript had a large lacuna with a marginal note from a scribe about this break. The lacuna has led several to argue that the latter sections were not written by the same author as the previous sections, that they were appended either through happenstance or through later editorial work. Hill has recently and somewhat persuasively argued that these two sections, despite the lacuna, are of the same author and they should be considered as a whole. Jefford upholds the consensus that the two parts are not directly related, using the standard sorts of arguments (genre, subject matter, and vocabulary, largely) that Hill has largely anticipated in his work asserting their unity. Regarding integrity, though, Jefford hints at the end again about his development theory, noting that while the latter portion is an edition, he does allow for extensive editorial action to conform the first section with the last section more seamlessly.

5. Theology and Themes

This was the least interesting section to me, personally. So, on to the next.

6. Relationship to Scripture

Jefford dutifully searches for and finds an amazing number of places where Diognetus may have some relationship to canonical material. I’m familiar with the text of Diognetus, and much of these possible ties (particularly to specific OT passages/authors) were news to me. Sometimes, depending on one’s criteria, you can find what you’re looking for. I applaud Jefford for the work he’s done here, but it is a bit over the top. Kudos to him for his interaction with Mike Bird’s material on the use of Paul in Diognetus in Paul and the Second Century. Also, the well-known reflection of Johannine language, particularly in §§11–12, is handled well by Jefford.

7. Analysis of Historical Trajectory

Because we only ever had one manuscript of Diognetus, and because we have no citations of it in the known historical record, this section is largely an examination of where other apologists said things that are similar to what Diognetus says. Further, it is a review of where others have posited conceptual or parallel relationships between Diognetus and other authors/historical works. As such, it is all very tenuous and built on little foundation — not out of any fault of Jefford, but simply because there is no foundation to put it on.

8. Conclusions

This is the part where Jefford moves from review of scholarship and development into positing his own ideas on Diognetus. Jefford posits an original ‘core’ to the material that was probably original and delivered in oral form, and then posits layers of editorial development to the text over time.

Jefford, though his examination of structure, development, integrity, and relation to Scripture in the introduction, identifies material that he sees as largely secondary and not necessary for the core of the work. He isolates and removes this material, leaving just the core, which he considers “the rough form of what may once have been oral performance” (117). That rough form includes:

  • 1.1a
  • 3.1–5.2, 4, 16–17
  • 6.1–2, 5–10
  • 7.1–2b, 2d–4a; 8.1–2a, 2c–9.4, 5b–6c
  • 10.1–2a, 4–8

Jefford has well defended his reasons for this, but I think suggestions like this prompt more questions than they solve. There are the obvious questions about any revision/edit and who might have made it (if, in fact, these things happened). If oral, did the original author expand the edition for written publication? When did these editorial expansions happen, and why? What source did they come from? The most poetic/prosaic of the material would be great for oral presentation, so why cut it? If we don’t know anything about the author, how can we conclude with any certainty what he would or wouldn’t have said? If this much revision and development took place over time, where is the manuscript evidence or citation evidence for it?

As a disclaimer, I’m much more of an analyze-what-we-have kind of guy. The rest is guesswork, particularly with no manuscripts at all to deal with. So I’m predisposed to not like proposals like this. Again I’ll say that I understand how Jeffords gets here and appreciate the discussion his notions of its development of the text from the oral stage into the written stage. And he does well to say that this proposal is not a certainty, and that he is largely more convinced of the generalities of it than any specifics he may elucidate in the discussion. But that sort of language is my problem. It seems more like a thought exercise than anything that could be certainly posited and used to help understand more definitely the text itself — an interesting aside, but not overly or directly helpful for understanding the text we actually have.

Next: At some future point I’ll have a post where I look at Jefford’s edition of the text of Diognetus, the apparatus he provides, his translation, and his textual notes.

Post Author: rico
Sunday, March 16, 2014 1:44:15 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, February 23, 2013

In early March 2013, a project I’ve been working on for awhile will see the light of day. It is a two-volume effort, providing Greek and English texts of Apocryphal Gospels as well as other Fragments and Agrapha.

I’m especially excited for this one because most of my work thus far has been translation-based without any real writing to speak of. The Introductions and Translations volume, however, is my first effort beyond article/essay length to be published. I enjoyed the research and the writing, and hope to have further opportunities to do more writing in the future.

I was happy to be able to make some pre-release copies available for selected folks to review. Several of those who reviewed the book have written blog posts with their immediate impressions of the books. The reviews have been very positive, and I’m happy to share all that have been posted to date with you. Below are some snippets from each review, with a link to full review on each reviewer’s web site.

Thanks to William Varner, Jim West, Joel Watts, James McGrath, and Michael Bird for your thoughts!

A final note before the blurbs: Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha are a pre-pub right now. That means if you subscribe now, you get the books cheaper. It’s $39.95 right now, will be $49.95 after the pre-pub ships. We plan on closing the pre-pub and shipping resources to subscribers in early March 2013 (March 7 is the scheduled day). So if this stuff interests you, or if you want to learn more about these early works, then subscribe now and save $10. Thanks!

This work is a very valuable contribution that goes beyond previous lists of sayings and publications of only the English gospels. Rick’s brief but insightful comments about each of the sayings, variants, and gospels round out his work in a way that makes it accessible to both lay readers and scholars.
— William Varner, professor of Bible and Greek, The Master’s College (full review)

Rick Brannan has taken the concept so brilliantly executed by Jeremias and improved it. High praise indeed I realize but completely justifiable—for in the soon to be released Logos edition titled Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha, Brannan offers the Greek texts of the ‘sayings of Jesus’ which are found outside the Gospels (in the letters of Paul and other New Testament texts along with extracanonical early Christian literature) along with introductions and translations. He also provides the more important ‘gospels’ which didn’t make the canonical cut, again in both the original Greek editions and in translation.
—Jim West, adjunct professor of biblical studies, Quartz Hill School of Theology (full review)

In his latest contribution to the study of early Christian literature, Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha, Rick Brannan places pseudepigraphal gospels, agrapha, and fragments in their due place, allowing the scholar quick access to a world that could reshape some of our understanding of early Christian theological and literary development.
—Joel L. Watts, author, Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (full review)

The Apocryphal Gospels are significant for what they tell us about the Gospel tradition and Christian origins. These two books on Apocryphal Gospels by Rick Brannan are a great pair of resources for anyone who wants immediate access to reliable texts, translations, and introductions on their PC or tablet of non-canonical Jesus literature.
— Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology and New Testament at Crossway College in Brisbane, Australia (full review)

Rick Brannan’s edition of the Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments, and Agrapha for Logos offers an important new resource that anyone interested in the early history of Christianity will want to have. … I expect this exciting resource will play an important role not only in providing more convenient access for scholars and students already in the habit of studying these texts, but in introducing a wider audience to them as well. Many thanks to Rick Brannan and Logos for their role in not merely providing a useful tool for the already-interested, but also helping to highlight these important texts and make them accessible to others who might not otherwise encounter them or realize their importance for our understanding of the ancient church!
— James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language & Literature, Butler University (full review)

I’m very encouraged that each of these reviewers picked up on my desire to not just provide editions of these valuable texts, but to do it in a way that could introduce them to folks unfamiliar with early Christian texts outside of the New Testament. If you’d like to learn more about these texts, then consider the editions from Logos. Thanks!

Post Author: rico
Saturday, February 23, 2013 2:25:35 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Tuesday, June 26, 2012

You may or may not have heard of a project that Logos (disclaimer: Logos Bible Software is my employer) has been working on for awhile. It is called the Faithlife Study Bible (FSB). But it is so much more than a study Bible.

Faithlife Study Bible Logo

[Note: I have details on how you can get a free copy of the Faithlife Study Bible using a coupon code available only to readers of this blog. It is at the bottom. Skip down there if that’s what you’re really interested in.]

Logos Bible Software is a library. It grows with you, at your pace, for your needs. Historically, however, folks who use Logos tend to be pastors, people studying to be pastors, people who teach studies in church groups, and people pursuing academic biblical studies.

We wanted to create something for the majority of folks who are not pastors or studying to be pastors, who attend groups as participants instead of teachers. We wanted it to work well on tablets and other mobile devices, so it is easy to take with you wherever you go. And we wanted a community to be able to work together. This is who the Faithlife Study Bible is for, and what the Faithlife Study Bible is. It is the study Bible that starts where you are and grows with you.

Cool stuff about Faithlife Study Bible:iPad 1

  • If word count is your measure, it is big.  1.4 million words big.
  • The study Bible is new and fresh. It is not recycled content. And it will not be static. It is designed from the start as a digital resource, and new media and content will be updated and expanded as time marches on.
  • Over 400 photos, videos, and infographics. Logos actually sent a team to Israel to take photos and shoot video footage for this. It is all brand new stuff.
  • It includes the Lexham Bible Dictionary. That’s gotta be good, because I wrote a few articles for it. It has 2700 articles and 1.5 million words, and over 200 different contributors.
  • Three layers of study notes. The basic notes form the core, but there are also indicators you can click on that lead to deeper content, more discussion, and links into other discussion in other books available for Logos Bible Software.
  • It is designed for groups to use. So set up your Bible study group, and you can all share your notes via Faithlife and also in Logos Bible Software.

Really cool stuff about the Faithlife Study Bible:iPad 3

One of the really cool things is that the Faithlife Study Bible works with seven different translations. What does that mean? Well, print study Bibles are usually version-specific. In their notes, they reproduce phrases from the translation they are printed with. So they are limited to one translation (NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, whatever). With the Faithlife Study Bible, if you switch your preferred translation, the notes switch with you. Using the NIV? Great. Switch to ESV? the study Bible notes switch with you. The phrasing that quotes the Bible actually changes translation so your notes reflect your preferences.

One of the other really cool things is that it comes with the Lexham English Bible (LEB) for free. (Admission: I’m biased because I put a lot of sweat into this one.) The LEB is a new translation. It tends toward “literal” on the translation spectrum, but it is still readable. Logos released the NT in 2009 and the OT in 2012.

Need to know more? There are a host of videos available on the Faithlife Study Bible web site explaining all of the features.

Even more cool tech stuff about the Faithlife Study Bible:

Once you have the Faithlife Study Bible:Ipad 2

  • It has dedicated iOS and Android apps (iPhone, iPad, iPod, Kindle, and other Android devices)
  • It works in Logos Bible Software (Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire)
  • It works on Biblia.com (online)

I haven’t even begun to tell you about the growing community at Faithlife.com. Faithlife.com is the community where notes and questions are shared, groups are formed, prayers are prayed and life is lived. For lack of a better term, it is a social network. But it isn’t Facebook. It is group oriented, not self-oriented. It is built to be private with you in control of how much of anything is shared to any particular group you are in community with, so you’re not sharing everything with that creepy guy you knew in high school who friended you. Faithlife.com is designed to be a place where your church and the groups in your church can interact and grow and share what you’re learning — when you’re not together in person doing that already. I’ll probably blog more about Faithlife.com in a later post.

Getting the Faithlife Study Bible for FREE

The folks at Logos gave me a special coupon code for readers to use to license a copy of the Faithlife Study Bible. The license is good through March 2014. Here’s how to get it:

  1. Go to http://faithlifebible.com/free
  2. Enter your coupon code: RickBrannan
  3. Download the app
  4. Log in with your Logos.com/Faithlife.com account
  5. Enjoy the Bible!

Note that the “Logos.com/Faithlife.com account” are the same thing. Your Logos account. If you don’t have one, you can easily make one; and you will be prompted to do so. If you do have a Logos account, use it. And FSB will show up in your Logos Bible Software the next time you start it.

Do check it out, and do let me know what you think. And tell your friends. It is a great resource for folks who have a tablet or smart phone and are looking for a Bible app. Thanks!

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 7:39:38 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There was some talk in the blogosphere last year about P.Oxy 5072. (here, here, here, and here) It has been published in the most recent volume of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (vol. 76, p. 1-10, ed. J. Chapa) and, even better, images are online (recto, verso), and they’re clear and relatively readable.

After all the hubbub, however, nobody (that I have seen) has really mentioned it again, let alone really interacted with the text of the papyrus. I ran across it again when looking for fragments of ‘apocryphal’ gospels in Greek to include with the fragments in my Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha project. I am still unsure if P.Oxy 5072 will be included in that work (should I? please let me know!), but am leaning towards doing so.

I could not, however, locate vol. 76 of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri in a library anywhere near me. A friend (you know who you are) came to the rescue and sent along pictures of the article. For that I’m grateful. It gave me an opportunity to work through the text visible on the papyrus images available online in consultation with the official transcription and reconstruction.

I begin by readily admitting I am not familiar with more recent volumes of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri; I have only been able to examine portions of the first 15 volumes in any detail while working on other fragments (e.g. P.Oxy 840; P.Oxy 1224) as those volumes are in the public domain and relatively easily available via archive.org. But those early volumes seem, to me, much more helpful than this portion on P.Oxy 5072. Grenfell and Hunt give a transcription, they discuss possibilities, they determine which they think is most likely, and they give a translation. Their work is very helpful, most of the time.

Chapa’s discussion, however, nearly made me pull my hair out. The issues and possibilities are thoroughly discussed, but positive statements are almost never made about which possibilities could be thought most likely and why. To be sure, Chapa does make some decisions in that reconstructions are included in the transcriptions. Even still, I was frustrated that Chapa’s discussions and suggestions concluded with text like “again, this is speculative” and “which makes it difficult” and “but the expected traces are not visible” and the like. I appreciate the discussion of options (it is helpful and thorough) and understand there is a place for “scholarly caution,” but I also want decisions and positive prescriptions. Of course guessing about reconstructions is not certain. That’s the point, and that’s why experts need to weigh in.

Also, I was a bit surprised that there is no translation of P.Oxy 5072 given; though perhaps lack of translation is standard with the newer P.Oxy volumes. Since no translation was available, I thought I’d offer a preliminary transcription and two(!) translations below. While informed by Chapa’s work, I do not simply copy it. If you consult the below against the transcription in P.Oxy 76, you’ll find a few spots where I’m more uncertain than Chapa is (rightly so, I have not examined the actual papyrus, only the images online) and perhaps even differ. You will note that I did not put any accents/breathing marks on the text (they are in Chapa’s reconstruction in P.Oxy 76). I also do not include Chapa’s reconstructions in this transcription, though I do translate Chapa’s reconstructions and mention them in the notes (so one can see what I’m translating). The suggestions I offer as reconstructions are things that seem relatively secure to me; I even differ with Chapa in a few spots.

I would not be surprised if there are typos in the transcription and issues with the translation. This is not final, by any means. I’m still working through it and need to do more work examining the possible parallels. If you cite it, please note its provisional nature, and please link to this page.

Also, rather than note actual/probable numbers of missing characters using specific under-dots, I simply note that a group of characters is missing with a “[…]”. Images are readily available (recto, verso) so check them for the actual layout. “.” indicates a visible but indiscernable character. Letters with under-dots indicate uncertainty. Recto line 3 υ(ι)ε indicates an expanded abbreviation and possible nomen sacrum, as does verso 9 βα(σι)λεια. If you hover the asterisk at the end of most lines, you should see a note pop up. All notes are offered at the end, numbered by line, though some may be slightly edited/expanded.


  1. [...] ε̣ναντιον̣ [...]ου.[...]
  2. [...] αλλα κατε̣ρρησσ̣εν οσα.[...]*
  3. [...]ν̣ ανεκραξ̣ε λεγων υ(ι)ε [...]*
  4. [...].ες προ κα̣ιρου ημας π.[...]*
  5. [...] επετιμη̣σεν αυτωι̣ λε̣[γων...]*
  6. [... εξ]ε̣λθε απο του ανθρωπου̣ [...]*
  7. [...].ελθων εκαθισεν .[...]
  8. [...].των̣ πε.[...]*
  9. [...]ς περιες.[...]*
  10. [...]ον ενδυσ̣[...]*
  11. [...]ει̣ τις αυτω[...]
  1. [...]before [...]
  2. [...] but he tore apart as much as [...]*
  3. [...] he cried out, saying, Son [...]*
  4. [...have] you come before the time us .[...]*
  5. [...]he rebuked him, say[ing...]*
  6. [... go] out from the man[...]*
  7. [...].going he sat down .[...]
  8. [...of] them [...]*
  9. [...Jesu]s [...]*
  10. [...][...]*
  11. [...] someone to him [...]

… before … but he tore apart as much as … he cried out, saying, "Son … have you come before the time us …?" … he rebuked him, saying, "… go out from the man …" … going he sat down … of them … Jesus … someone to him …


  1. [...].[...]
  2. [...]μετ̣[...]..ο̣υ ομο.[...]*
  3. [... δι]δασκαλον εγω δε σε απ[...]
  4. [...]ου μαθητην και εση αισ̣[...]*
  5. [...].α̣τα ναι λεγω υμιν .[...]*
  6. [...].ου υπερ εμε ουκ εστ[ιν...]*
  7. [... μαθ]η̣της ει ουν γραμματικ̣[οι...]*
  8. [...]Ιεροσολυμα και ει σοφ[...]
  9. [...]τα..[...] . δε βα(σι)λεια [...]
  10. [...]..εν υμ.[...]*
  11. [...].των απεκ̣[...]*
  12. [... μ]αθ̣ητας̣ α̣.[...]*
  13. [...].[...]
  1. [...].[...]
  2. [...].[...]...[...]*
  3. [...a] teacher, myself but you I will [deny...]
  4. [...of] my disciple and you will be shame[fully...]*
  5. [...las]t things. Yes, I say to you, fr[iend...]*
  6. [..of] him more than me, not he [is...]*
  7. [...dis]ciple. If then scrib[es...]*
  8. [...]Jerusalem and if [...]
  9. [...]..[...] and Kingdom [...]
  10. [...be]fore yo[u...]*
  11. [...inte]lligent he kept hid[den...]*
  12. [...d]isciples [...]*
  13. [...].[...]

… a teacher, but I myself will deny you … of my disciple and you will be shamefully … last things. Yes, I say to you, friend … of him more than me, he is not … disciple. If then scribes … Jerusalem and if … and Kingdom … before you … intelligent he kept hidden … disciples …

Notes By Line


  1. [no notes]
  2. There is a possibility that instead of οσα. at the end of the line, it could be ο σα., thus opening the door for possible readings like ο σατ[ανας] or others. Chapa discusses and dismisses this, noting that "traces of ink" exclude these as possibilities (Chapa 10).
  3. Parallel passages that mention casting out of demons (Mk 5:7; Lk 8:28; Mt 8:29) all use υιε του θεου in address of Jesus; it is very possible this is used here too.
  4. Chapa reconstructs the beginning of the line as ηλ]θες, in line with parallels (particularly Mt 8:29).
  5. Chapa reconstructs the end of the line as λε[γων.
  6. Chapa also suggests εξ]ελθε at the beginning of the line.
  7. [no notes]
  8. Chapa reconstructs the beginning of the line as α]υτων.
  9. Chapa reconstructs the beginning of the line as Ι(ησου)]ς.
  10. Chapa does not read the last character in the line (σ) as it could be either an omega or a sigma, but from the images it appears to be consistent in shape and placement with other probable sigmas (cf. especially verso line 4).
  11. [no notes]


  1. [no notes]
  2. Chapa notes the following parallels for reconstructions of lines 2–5: Lk 12:8–9; Mt 10:32–33; Lk 9:26; Mk 8:38.
  3. [no notes]
  4. Chapa reconstructs the beginning of the line as μ]ου; the end of the line as αισ[χυνομενος.
  5. Chapa notes the following parallels for reconstructions of lines 5–7: Mt 10:37–38; Lk 14:26–27, 33. He reconstructs the start of the line as εσ]χατα and the end of the line as ο φ[ιλων.
  6. Chapa reconstructs the beginning of the line as αυ]του. He also suggests εστ[ιν at the end of the line.
  7. The word μαθητης seems frequent, hence the suggestion at the start of line 7 and line 12. This agrees with Chapa. The end of the line, however, Chapa neglects to reconstruct because γραμματικ[οι/γραμματικ[ος is not known in the New Testament as it has been received. However, the word is in use (Is 33.18; Dan 1.4, 17), and I think it could have been used here in a sense similar to γραμματευς.
  8. [no notes]
  9. [no notes]
  10. Chapa reconstructs the beginning of the line as εμπρο]σθεν; the end of the line as υμω[ν.
  11. Chapa reconstructs the beginning of the line as συν]ετων; the end of the line as απεκ[ρυψε.
  12. Chapa also suggests μ]αθητας at the start of the line.
  13. [no notes]
Post Author: rico
Tuesday, May 15, 2012 7:34:59 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, May 09, 2012

I’ve been working through fragmentary texts and agrapha for my Greek Apocryphal Gospels project. As such, I’ve been referencing Ehrman and Pleše’s The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations (amazon.com) (henceforth EP) heavily, as well as Andrew Bernhard’s Other Early Christian Gospels (amazon.com). Both are invaluable.

I’ve found a few things that can probably be classed as “errata” in EP. None are really a big deal, but I thought I’d record them here. I would like to give EP a hearty “Thanks!” for the wide margins, it makes adding notes (and line numbers used by different editions for easy reference) much easier. These notes are largely for my own purposes, to keep them all in one place; but I figure they might be helpful for others as well.

I should say again: I’m very happy with EP’s edition. It is wonderful in that it gives the original language and a modern translation of everything included, and as a result, I’d say, is required for anyone interested in the history of the early Christianity and its development. Whether you like him or not, Ehrman is an excellent writer and his skill shows through on the translations in this volume.

P.Berol. 11710 EP pp 238-239

EP and Bernhard have the text in the same order but disagree on terminology. That is, EP have:

  • Fragment a recto
  • Fragment a verso
  • Fragment b recto
  • Fragment b verso

Whereas Bernhard has:

  • Fragment a verso
  • Fragment a recto
  • Fragment b verso
  • Fragment b recto

“Recto” and “verso” are terms that have to do with the orientation of fibers of the papyrus; Bernhard actually uses arrows instead of the term as terminology is in flux and lacks specificity. Some use “recto” and “verso” as synonyms for “front” and “back”, respectively, regardless of the fibers of the papyrus (recto = horizontal fibers, verso = vertical fibers). I’d chalk EP’s difference up to that, however, there are other places where EP have papyri ordered verso-recto. Also, EP are using Bernhard’s transcription, so the difference is even more confusing.

Again, there is no functional difference in the transcription or EP’s translation; the lines fall in the same order. It is just the description of recto/verso.

P.Egerton 2 EP pp. 252

EP have have the recto/verso (and content) of fragment 3 swapped. These are fragments with little recognizable content. Anyway, Bell & Skeat (and Bernhard) go frag 3 verso, then frag 3 recto. EP go recto, then verso. This is a little confusing because EP note (p. 246) that they’ve followed Bell & Skeat’s sequence of the fragments.

P. Merton 51 EP pp. 257

Note 1 on the bottom of the page has “Mark 9:7”, it should be “Mark 7:9” (cf. Rees, p. 3).

Gospel of Thomas Greek Fragments, P.Oxy. 655 p. 344

In EP, Saying 36 purports to be in col 1 lines 1-17, but actually floats onto the 18th line. On the next transcription page (p. 346), it notes the next fragment starting on line 17, and that is the line based on the numbers given on that page.

In Bernhard, the lines given are 0-17. EP 1/Bernhard 0 is completely reconstructed. My guess is that EP should be numbered like Bernhard.

Gospel of Mary, Greek Fragments pp. 589

EP note they are using the edition of Pasquier, “We have taken the text from the edition of A. Pasquier” but doesn’t note if that is for the Coptic only, or for Coptic + Greek. My guess is that the Greek comes from Lührmann, but that is simply because most other fragmentary Greek comes from Lührmann. Also, I think the either the image of P.Ryl.463 “page 2” on the Rylands library site have recto/verso misstated (or are using to mean front/back instead of fiber direction, or the ‘V’ on the image here doesn’t mean what I think it means).

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 9:39:32 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, November 27, 2010

Did you know that Sunday, Nov 28 is the first Sunday of Advent?

Did you want to do something special with your family to help celebrate this season?

Then maybe you want to try the Family Advent Devotional that I put together last year. It is a devotional for the Advent season geared toward the readings of the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C. Even though it is now Year A, the devotional will still work as it is ordered by week, with readings for each day of the week, and special readings for Christmas Eve day and Christmas day.

This Advent Devotional is a series of daily Scripture readings (based on the lectionary), with a short series of questions and answers. The Brannans are doing it again this year, as are several other families in our church (Grace Church Bellingham) thanks to the church’s generous publishing of the devotional via Lulu.com.

The PDF of the Advent Devotional is available; please feel free to print it and use it as you see fit. I’d love to hear of any feedback (good or bad) you may have.

Post Author: rico
Saturday, November 27, 2010 8:56:14 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Sunday, August 01, 2010

What am I reading? Well, when I have time to sit and read these days it is usually something to do with canon issues:

My primary interest is in early Christian conception of “canon”; and this is of course problematic. Most interesting to me have been Holmes and also Schneemelcher, who deal with the Septuagint. It really throws a wrench into thoughts of canonicity in early Christendom. I love that the introduction to a volume on NT Apocrypha has such a great essay on the topic of canonicity. Can’t agree with everything, but this essay in particular is really great stuff. And Holmes is top-notch too. Both are highly recommended.

OK, my real primary interest is because the topic of canon in early Christianity will be a decent chunk of the class I’m teaching in spring 2011 on “How We Got the New Testament”. I want to make sure I’ve got my bases covered. Wegner is the text I’ll be using, so the NT portions of his section on canonicity will be primary, though I hope to supplement with at least portions from Holmes and Schneemelcher.

Post Author: rico
Sunday, August 01, 2010 8:16:32 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thanks to Hendrickson Academic for sending along:

Moyer V. Hubbard, Christianity in the Greco Roman World: A Narrative Introduction (amazon.com). Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody, MA. 320p. 2010.

Here’s the publisher blurb:

A creative introduction to the world of the New Testament

Background becomes foreground in Moyer Hubbard’s creative introduction to the social and historical setting for the letters of the Apostle Paul to churches in Asia Minor and Europe.

Hubbard begins each major section with a brief narrative featuring a fictional character in one of the great cities of that era. Then he elaborates on various aspects of the cultural setting related to each particular vignette, discussing the implications of those venues for understanding Paul’s letters and applying their message to our lives today. Addressing a wide array of cultural and traditional issues, Hubbard discusses:

  • Religion and superstition
  • Education, philosophy, and oratory
  • Urban society
  • Households and family life in the Greco-Roman world

This work is based on the premise that the better one understands the historical and social context in which the New Testament (and Paul’s letters) was written, the better one will understand the writings of the New Testament themselves. Passages become clearer, metaphors deciphered, and images sharpened. Teachers, students, and laypeople alike will appreciate Hubbard’s unique, illuminating, and well-researched approach to the world of the early church.

Go to the book’s page at Hendrickson.com for the TOC, Introduction and a sample chapter. I hope to read this sometime over the next few weeks; when I do I’ll report back.

Post Author: rico
Saturday, March 13, 2010 1:48:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Wednesday, November 25, 2009

While at SBL in New Orleans this year, my friend Bobby Koduvalil at Hendrickson handed me a new book by Michael Bird (who blogs at Euangelion) called Crossing Over Sea and Land: Jewish Missionary Activity in the Second Temple Period (amazon.com). Bobby said he thought it would be right up my alley.

Bobby was right. I’ve not read the whole book yet, but when I wasn’t snoozing on the plane(s) on the way home, I was engrossed in Bird’s work. There were times where it seemed like I’d only read three pages, but when I looked at the page number, I’d really read about eight pages. This happened more than once, and it’s the sign of a well-written book.

The book is just over 200 pages, with index, but don’t let that fool you. It’s worth reading if you’re at all interested in the subject, or in tangential subjects such as (as I am). Bird works over the available sources (primary and secondary) with economy and precision. No long, drawn-out, yawn-inducing diatribes.

Hope to blog about it at least once more when I make it through the main text of the book. But even now, I’d say it’s worth your time to read.

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 3:31:23 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Thursday, November 19, 2009

Advent is swiftly coming upon us. Earlier this fall, I spent some time to write a short daily devotional for use during the advent season.

It is organized by the readings of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Each week’s readings are broken into daily portions, and each day has a short series of questions along with short answers.

My purpose for doing this was to have something for my family to start to read through as a family devotional during the advent season. The questions and answers are hopefully appropriate for such a setting. In reality, the questions (and moreso the answers) are just guidelines — training wheels, if you’d like to think of them that way — the hope is just to stimulate some sort of advent-centered discussion around the day/week readings.

My church (Grace Church Bellingham) is actually publishing copies of this via Lulu.com for families who would like to use it during the advent season. So if you attend you’ll be able to get a copy soon (hopefully before advent starts!)

Otherwise, for everyone else — or if you just wanted a preview — I wanted to post it on the blog. I’d love to have any feedback, good or bad. Just remember it isn’t written as a theological tome, but rather to provoke reflection during the season of advent, where we anticipate the return of our Savior!

Here it is: Advent Devotional

Post Author: rico
Thursday, November 19, 2009 1:24:51 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, September 26, 2009

Read this (Lk 3.15-18) and ask yourself the question, “what is the good news?”:

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. (Lk 3.15-18, ESV)

The good news* is that Jesus comes after John. But the rest of it? Burning the chaff with unquenchable fire? Being baptized by fire? And this is the “good news”?

Further, look what preaching the “good news” got John (Lk 3.19-20):

But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by [John] for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. (Lk 3.19-20, ESV)

I wonder if John thought the “good news” was good—I mean, look where it got him. In prison and then not too much later … his head was on a platter. I’m sure he did think the “good news” was good. But do we? And are we thinking of the “good news” or something else?

* Yes, I know that the ESV's “preaching the good news” is a translation of the verb εὐαγγελίζω, which could also be translated “preaching the gospel”. The translation “good news” makes my point easier to make, but the modern conception of “gospel” has problems too. Either way, John’s description of Jesus gathering his own “wheat” and exterminating the “chaff”, followed by the consequences John experienced because of his preaching, well … I don’t know how much that squares with our conception of the impact of the gospel in our lives today.

Post Author: rico
Saturday, September 26, 2009 1:42:32 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, June 30, 2009

With thanks to the What’s New in Papyrology blog (here and here) for the notices.

First, from the “Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History” series, come Roger Bagnall’s (editor) The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology (amazon.com). Here’s the blurb from Amazon.com:

Thousands of texts, written over a period of three thousand years on papyri and potsherds, in Egyptian, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, and other languages, have transformed our knowledge of many aspects of life in the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology provides an introduction to the world of these ancient documents and literary texts, ranging from the raw materials of writing to the languages used, from the history of papyrology to its future, and from practical help in reading papyri to frank opinions about the nature of the work of papyrologists. This volume, the first major reference work on papyrology written in English, takes account of the important changes experienced by the discipline within especially the last thirty years.

Including new work by twenty-seven international experts and more than one hundred illustrations, The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology will serve as an invaluable guide to the subject.

Unfortunately, even at Amazon.com it’s $120 at the cheapest (as of this posting), so unless there is a swingin’ deal at SBL I won’t be getting this title (unless some kind soul would like to provide a review copy … but I don’t have my hopes high for that)

Next up is a title to be published in August by Princeton University Press, Early Christian Books in Egypt (amazon.com). This title is much more approachable at $29.95, but still … if anyone wants to zap a review copy my way … well, it’s always worth a shot. Here’s the blurb from Amazon.com:

For the past hundred years, much has been written about the early editions of Christian texts discovered in the region that was once Roman Egypt. Scholars have cited these papyrus manuscripts—containing the Bible and other Christian works—as evidence of Christianity's presence in that historic area during the first three centuries AD. In Early Christian Books in Egypt (amazon.com), distinguished papyrologist Roger Bagnall shows that a great deal of this discussion and scholarship has been misdirected, biased, and at odds with the realities of the ancient world. Providing a detailed picture of the social, economic, and intellectual climate in which these manuscripts were written and circulated, he reveals that the number of Christian books from this period is likely fewer than previously believed.

Bagnall explains why papyrus manuscripts have routinely been dated too early, how the role of Christians in the history of the codex has been misrepresented, and how the place of books in ancient society has been misunderstood. The author offers a realistic reappraisal of the number of Christians in Egypt during early Christianity, and provides a thorough picture of the economics of book production during the period in order to determine the number of Christian papyri likely to have existed. Supporting a more conservative approach to dating surviving papyri, Bagnall examines the dramatic consequences of these findings for the historical understanding of the Christian church in Egypt.

Sounds like fun. Hopefully I’ll remember to look for a copy at SBL.

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 8:38:22 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, February 13, 2009

This weekend, during whatever free time I may have, I plan to concentrate my reading efforts on Peter Lampe's From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries (amazon.com). This was one of the books I recently purchased (thanks again, Mom & Dad!)

Here are reviews and a blurb from Amazon. I forget where I picked up a reference to this book, but I'm always interested in stuff like this. Any other volumes to recommend? (outside of Trebilco's Early Christians in Ephesus (amazon.com) volume, which I have and is on my need-to-reread list)

"Lampe shows that there are both archaeological and literary grounds for saying that the early Roman Christian community was at first indistinguishable from the Jewish one, from which it emerged as perhaps a less affluent underclass of God-fearer. Lampe's book will impress all who read it as a well-informed attempt to synthesize a vast amount of data in a serious, informed, and scholarly way." —Alan F. Segal, Journal of Biblical Literature

"This impressive work puts our study of early Roman Christianity on a new and more certain empirical basis and must now serve as the point of departure for all subsequent research. . . . Lampe has expanded our database and has provided the most extensive social profile of Roman Christianity currently available." —John H. Elliott, Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"This study is so masterful in its grasp of a vast array of evidence, so solid and innovative in its methodology, and so audacious in conception that it is bound to become a classic. It is the most important historical and sociological study ever written on roman Christianity." —Robert Jewett, Interpretation

Product Description
In this pathbreaking study of the rise and shape of the earliest churches in Rome, Lampe integrates history, archaeology, theology, and social analysis. He also takes a close look at the inscriptional evidence to complement the reading of the great literary texts: from Paul's Letter to the Romans to the writings of Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Montanus, and Valentinus. Thoroughly reworked and updated by the author for this English-language edition, this study is a groundbreaking work, broad in scope and closely detailed. In six parts, comprised of 51 chapters and four appendices. Lampe greatly advances our knowledge of the shape of leadership and the Christians' relation to the Judeans living in Rome.

Post Author: rico
Friday, February 13, 2009 3:57:24 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Sunday, August 03, 2008

It's for episodes like the one related from chapter 9 through chapter 11 of the Martyrdom of Polycarp. The below is Holmes' translation of the Apostolic Fathers (amazon.com) (which you really need to buy and read, either the Greek-English diglot (amazon.com) or the English-only edition (amazon.com)). The setting? Polycarp, an old man and bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought to the stadium for persecution — to be persuaded to confess the greatness of Caesar. He's being interviewed in a stadium full of masses of people by the proconsul.

9. But as Polycarp entered the stadium, there came a voice from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp, and act like a man.” And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice. And then, as he was brought forward, there was a great tumult when they heard that Polycarp had been arrested. (2) Therefore, when he was brought before him, the proconsul asked if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, the proconsul tried to persuade him to recant, saying, “Have respect for your age,” and other such things as they are accustomed to say: “Swear by the Genius of Caesar; repent; say, ‘Away with the atheists!’ ” So Polycarp solemnly looked at the whole crowd of lawless heathen who were in the stadium, motioned toward them with his hand, and then (groaning as he looked up to heaven) said, “Away with the atheists!” (3) But when the magistrate persisted and said, “Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile Christ,” Polycarp replied, “For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
10. But as he continued to insist, saying, “Swear by the Genius of Caesar,” he answered: “If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the Genius of Caesar, as you request, and pretend not to know who I am, listen carefully: I am a Christian. Now if you want to learn the doctrine of Christianity, name a day and give me a hearing.” (2) The proconsul said: “Persuade the people.” But Polycarp said: “You I might have considered worthy of a reply, for we have been taught to pay proper respect to rulers and authorities appointed by God, as long as it does us no harm; but as for these, I do not think they are worthy, that I should have to defend myself before them.”
11. So the proconsul said: “I have wild beasts; I will throw you to them, unless you change your mind.” But he said: “Call for them! For the repentance from better to worse is a change impossible for us; but it is a noble thing to change from that which is evil to righteousness.” (2) Then he said to him again: “I will have you consumed by fire, since you despise the wild beasts, unless you change your mind.” But Polycarp said: “You threaten with a fire that burns only briefly and after just a little while is extinguished, for you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Come, do what you wish.”
Holmes, M. W. (1999). The Apostolic Fathers : Greek texts and English translations (amazon.com) (Updated ed.) (233). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
Post Author: rico
Sunday, August 03, 2008 10:30:22 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Many thanks to Hendrickson for sending David Scholer's Social Distinctives of Christians in the First Century: Pivotal Essays by E.A. Judge (amazon.com) along for review; apologies it took me so long to get to it. Why did it take so long? There are a number of reasons, but there are probably two primary reasons. The first is that I've had available time to read as of late (and this for a number of factors, the primary being doing research/background for my paper on αλλα); the second is that the book didn't suck me in.

Let me be a little more clear. I've really wanted to be sucked into this book; the title sounds like something I should really be interested in. But, apart from the first essay, it didn't. I'm grateful to have the book, and am sure the essays will prove helpful in the long run, but for now it isn't drawing me in.

Here is the blurb from Hendrickson:

This is a collection of pivotal essays by E. A. Judge, who initiated many important discussions in the establishment of social scientific criticism of the Bible.

What is it that made the work of Judge in 1960 and in subsequent years so important? Judge was the first in scholarship after the mid-twentieth century to clarify early Christian ideals about society by defining what the social institutions of the broader cultural context were and how they influenced the social institutions of the early Christian communities. Judge points out that earlier scholars had entered into this field of inquiry, but that, in general, they failed due to the lack of careful definitions of the Greco-Roman social institutions at the time based on a thorough use of the primary sources.

Thus, Judge was the “new founder” ( a turning point in scholarship) of what came to be called social-scientific criticism of the New Testament. Social-scientific criticism is the term in scholarship that refers to the use of social realities (e.g. institutions, class, factors of community organization) in the critical study of literary sources available (this is an advance over “merely” literary and traditional historical questions).

And here is the TOC:

Introduction by David M. Scholer

1. The Social Pattern of the Christian Groups in the First Century
2. Paul’s Boasting in Relation to Contemporary Professional Practice
3. St. Paul and Classical Society
4. St. Paul as a Radical Critic of Society
5. The Social Identity of the First Christians: A Question of Method in Religious History
6. Rank and Status in the World of the Caesars and St. Paul
7. Cultural Conformity and Innovation in Groups in the First Century Paul: Some Clues from Contemporary Documents
8. The Teacher as Moral Exemplar in Paul and the Inscriptions of Ephesus

• A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Society Publications of Edwin A. Judge
• First Index of Modern Authors
• Index of Subjects
• Index of Ancient Sources

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 8:45:12 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, February 16, 2008

This morning, minding my own business, I was surfin' the internet. On abcnews.com, I saw an interesting story: Story of Jesus Through Iranian Eyes. Here's the lede:

A new movie in Iran depicts the life of Jesus from an Islamic perspective. "The Messiah," which some consider as Iran's answer to Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," won an award at Rome's Religion Today Film Festival, for generating interfaith dialogue.

The article is an interview with the filmmaker. In the interview, the filmmaker mentions the Gospel of Barnabas several times as source material, as containing information that is confirmed in the Koran. Here's a quote from the filmmaker about the ending of the movie:

I thought, the Christians, when they see it, it'll be important for them. [In the Koran] God says, emphatically, he was not crucified. Somebody was crucified in his stead. In the Gospel of Barnabas, there are explications of this. The majority of [Muslims] say the one who betrayed Jesus [was crucified]. (abcnews.com)

I knew of the Gospel of Barnabas but have not read it, so I headed to Schneemelcher's NT Apocrypha. I've read the first volume, but Barnabas didn't ring a bell. And I couldn't find it in the table of contents. After searching the index in vol 2, I found this on vol 1 p. 85:

The Gospel of Barnabas, handed down in Italian and Spanish. It was already known in the 18th century (Tolland), but has received more detailed attention only in recent times. This gospel is a work of the 16th century, and evidently belongs in the area of the history of the Moriscoes. It is very doubtful that older material (of Jewish Christian origin) is included in it.
These two texts [the other text is the Arabic Gospel of John] are examples of the production of works which are indeed escribed as gospels and which are also interesting sources for the period of their origin, but do not belong in a collection of early Church apocrypha. (Schneemelcher, trans. R.Mcl.Wilson, vol 1 p. 85)

This is very interesting, because the filmmaker relied on the Gospel of Barnabas heavily. What the filmmaker says almost has an Ehrmanian vibe to it (but I won't go there ... ):

If you listen to what Jesus said, Jesus talked about the Prophet Mohammad, many, many times. And it was eliminated in the Gospels and the Bibles that [made it through] history. In 325, the Council of Nice was out to destroy all the other Gospels. One of those Gospels was the Gospel of Barnabas, which I used in great detail. (abcnews.com)

This charge (that Nicea eliminated a Gospel of Barnabas from the canon) is dealt with nicely in an article, from Vox Evangelica, by F.P. Cotterell, on the contents of the Gospel of Barnabas (with thanks to Rob Bradshaw for putting this stuff online so it's available at times like these).

What I do next will most likely turn Jim West's insides green. I'm linking to the Wikipedia article on the Gospel of Barnabas because it's actually good. If you want to be familiar with the issues, you should at least skim it -- particularly if you're a pastor and want to be prepared for when this question comes up. (Hey, it's getting close to easter, all of the whacko stories will be in the news shortly). If you're only going to read one of those links, read Cotterell's article. It's worth it, particularly if you think folks will ask you questions about this sort of thing over the next week.

Bottom line: It appears as if the filmmaker got it backwards. Read the F.P. Cotterell article for the details.

Post Author: rico
Saturday, February 16, 2008 10:39:40 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Sunday, January 27, 2008

BibleTech08 was two days chock-full-o' Bible-geeky goodness.

The highlight for me was time spent between sessions and at meals talking with folks. Prime among those was time spent with James Tauber. I've emailed with James back and forth for at least five years now; it was great to spend time with him in person, reflecting on sessions, talking about the doctroal work he's doing, and all sorts of other stuff. Here's the not-so-great picture I took with my cell phone to prove it:

Others have summarized sessions (Check the tag bibletech08 on Technorati for a listing) so I won't do that here. I will say that some of the stuff James Tauber talked about work with Ulrik Sandborg-Petersen at MorphGNT.org regarding lemma alignments was thought-provoking; Andi Wu's presentation on treebanks caused me to covet my neighbor's syntax data; Sean Boisen's Zoomable Bible presentation made me think about interface in ways I hadn't before; Kurt Fuqua's stuff made my head hurt (though not necessarily in a bad way), Zack Hubert's zhubert.com retrospective was awesome; and Bob MacDonald's talk on structures in Psalms was much appreciated both for the visualizations and also for the esteem in which he presented it -- unlike so many presentations at places like SBL, you could tell that for Bob, this was not simply an academic exercise, the text has profoundly influenced him.

My profuse thanks to everyone who came to Seattle for two days of Bible-geeky goodness. Hopefully we'll do it again next year!

Post Author: rico
Sunday, January 27, 2008 11:02:57 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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I had an insanely great time at BibleTech:2008 and will blog about that in a bit; though I wanted to get links up to my paper.My paper on cross-references went well, I thought, though my presentation itself was somewhat scattered. Here are the goods:

I'll be posting these on my personal web site on Monday; I also believe the BibleTech website will hold copies of the paper, handout and powerpoint. And maybe even audio!

Note that my colleague Sean Boisen (who blogs at Blogos) has blogged on a number of the papers presented. Here's his primary post; hopefully he'll add some tags to link them together over the next few days.

Post Author: rico
Sunday, January 27, 2008 8:54:34 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to you if you're in the US; Happy Christmas if you're in the UK.

Either way, it's Christmas time! And it is a pretty happy time here in the Brannan household. It is Ella's first Christmas, and while she doesn't quite get the whole unwrap-the-presents thing; she sure does know how to play with wrapping paper. Celebrating Christmas will never be the same.

Thanks to all who read ricoblog, whether you've just stumbled here or if you faithfully read and aggregate posts. I'm still overwhelmed when I think that y'all are out there, and flattered that you read what I write. Thank you, all.

Blessings to you and yours as we celebrate the birth of our Savior; the one who gives us hope; and the one who will return to take us home.

Post Author: rico
Monday, December 24, 2007 9:11:12 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Thursday, November 08, 2007

This morning, Current Epigraphy posted a bleg asking for help with a particular Christian inscription spotted in Imma (which is near Antioch).

Check it out, and if you have the eyes to see, perhaps you can help them out!

Here's a photograph of the inscription, and here's a preliminary text of the inscription. But be sure to check out the comments as well.

Post Author: rico
Thursday, November 08, 2007 1:08:44 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Apparently there's an SBL session on this question (S19-49, Monday afternoon). I'm a bit suspect because the session is sponsored by "HarperOne" (?) and its participants are all published by HarperCollins.

(side note: when will marketroids stop CamelCasing things? That's soooo 1990's)

Anyway, here's the panel:

  • John Dominic Crossan, DePaul University, Panelist
  • Jonathan Reed, University of La Verne, Panelist
  • Amy-Jill Levine, The Divinity School, Vanderbilt University, Panelist
  • Marvin Meyer, Chapman University, Panelist
  • Pamela Eisenbaum, Iliff School of Theology, Panelist

I'll admit — I'm not too interested in what any of them would say. But I am curious about the question, and curious what folks in the biblioblogosphere might think. The question is a difficult one; I have several questions that arise from just the question alone (let alone thinking about answering it). Like:

  • How does one define "non-Biblical" text? Any text that isn't in the Protestant Bible? Is the question specifically dealing with, say NT Apocrypha? Or could I say that perhaps Chrysostom's sermons on John would give tremendous insight? Or could I say (apologies, Jim West) N.T. Wright's Jesus and the Son of God? (No, I don't think that -- I'm just trying to figure out how to define "non-Biblical" in the context of this question).
  • Does the text have to be about Jesus, or contain excerpts of Jesus' life? If I think NT apocryphal texts and gnostic texts (e.g. Thomas) paint a decidely improper picture of Jesus, then of course I can't suggest them. They would contribute to misunderstanding Jesus, not understanding him. But what else could I suggest?
  • Does the text have to exist in full? Let's say based on what I know of Papias that I'd want to answer the question with his work. But the work doesn't exist anymore, at least that we know of. Further, what about things like Gospel of the Egyptians, Gospel of the Hebrews, or Gospel of the Nazoreans? Egerton Papyrus? Fragments of unknown Gospels found at Oxyrhynchus? We only have limited citations or scraps of these; not full extant editions. Would they count?
  • Does the text have to exist at all? What about theoretical texts? For instance, if I was one to think that Q actually existed (nb: I don't, though I'm not opposed to such a thing) then obviously I'd have to say that one. It is non-Biblical, I guess, though if the theory is true then large swaths of it, at minimum, made it in. So does that count?

I could go on. But that wouldn't help answer the question.

I'm thinking about it (and have a short list of candidates). I'll update this post with my answer at the end of the week. But what do you think? Leave comments; if you blog an answer on your own blog let me know and I'll link to your post from this one.

Update (2007-11-09): There have been some comments; two of them focus on the Testimonium Flavianum, the other wondering about Rabbinic criticisms of Jesus as shedding light into the claims made by Jesus and his followers. These are good thoughts.

I'm still griping about the question, however. There seem to be three places in the question that provide lots of wiggle-room: "non-Biblical Text", "Understanding" and "Jesus". I discussed "non-Biblical text" above a bit. The word "understanding" also is problematic. What does it mean? What does it imply? Is it about understanding more of Jesus' biography? Understanding more of how people understood him (that leaves the door open for all sorts of crazy stuff)?

The other term to define is "Jesus". Which Jesus is this? Is it only about Jesus' experience as a human, or is material that provides understanding of Jesus Christ (i.e., the aspect of Messiah)?

This all makes the question hard, particularly since I'm guessing the intent is to discuss early non-Biblical stuff; probably gnostic/Nag Hammadi, that provides alternate and likely fabricated accounts of Jesus' earthly sojourn. But I have problems answering the question that way because I don't think it tells us anything about understanding Jesus, but all sorts of stuff about how gnostics/etc. understood Jesus.

So, on the whole, I'll try take all of that into account when I provide some thoughts about the question later today. But I'll probably understand "Jesus" to refer to non-Biblical discussion about the person Jesus, and therefore also include texts that discuss the aspect of Messiah as well. Whether that is intended or not, I don't know — but it's my blog, so I get to do what I want. :)

Update II (2007-11-09): Ok, here's my list, with some brief explanation. I consulted a few references along the way to help me with my memory of these things, notably New Testament Apocrypha Vol 1 (amazon.com) and Moreschini & Norelli's Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature (amazon.com) (also vol. 1). This list is sort of in a preferred order, though if pressed I'd probably change it around.

  • Tatian's Diatessaron. That's right; some may say this is Biblical, but I'd say it isn't. Content from the four gospels is stitched into a running narrative. How can this not be helpful in understanding Jesus?
  • Eusebius' Letter to Carpianus. Huh? You know, this is the one published in the front of your NA27 explaining the Eusebian Canons, in which Eusebius delimits lists based on Ammonius' sections. This is a cross-referencing system between the gospels; it also highlights material unique to each gospel. Again, very helpful if you want to work through instances that the gospels record concerning Jesus' life. Please examine Kevin P. Edgcome's very helpful page about the Canons; also see his translation of the Letter to Carpianus.
  • Testimonium Flavianum. I agree with some of the commenters to this post, this is valuable even if it is a later insertion.
  • Odes of Solomon. Again, this might surprise some. But these are early hymns, likely first or second century, likely Christian, and likely used in Christian worship. If early Christian hymns were good enough for Paul to use in some of his writings (e.g. 1Ti 3.16, Php 2.5-11), then I'd think hymns like some of those found in the Odes would be helpful in understanding the early church's conception of Christ (which is part of "understanding Jesus", to my mind). Charlesworth's edition actually inserts headings where the voice shifts from the Odist to that of Christ.
  • Symbol of Chalcedon. Yes, this is later (circa 450 AD/CE) but it is definitive. If you want to know what the church thinks about who Jesus was (and is), then this is an important text.
  • Second Clement. Ok, not really. But I had to mention it because of the agrapha it contains. I guess I'd make a catch-all category here called something like "early agrapha" and include the sayings from 2Clem and other stuff like gospels of the (Hebrews|Nazoreans|Egyptians|Ebionites) as well as some of the POxy fragments, Egerton 2, and stuff like that.

Stuff I wouldn't include because I contend that overall they would contribute to misunderstanding Jesus: Gnostic gospels and apocalypses, particularly stuff found at Nag Hammadi and also the recently found Gospel of Judas. I'd say these are very important for understanding gnosticism and for understanding the gnostic conception of Jesus; but I just don't see how that helps us understand Jesus.


Post Author: rico
Tuesday, November 06, 2007 1:40:31 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Friday, November 02, 2007

I left the office early yesterday to attend the memorial service for my great aunt Jo, who passed away over the weekend after an extended illness. I came back to the office this morning to find a copy of Paul Treblico's The Early Christians In Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius (amazon.com) sitting on my desk, waiting for me; a review copy from the kind folks at Eerdmans.

I've been salivating upon mention of this book for years, since I read of the original printing by Mohr-Siebeck in 2004. In typical fashion, Mohr-Siebeck priced the 800 page book at something like $280 so I resolved myself to reading a library copy sometime down the road — if I ever found a library that stocked it. I did drool over a copy at the 2005 SBL, though.

Cheers, congratulations, and much appreciation then for the folks at Eerdmans. They are publishing the US edition of Treblico's work in paperback with a list price of $85.00. Amazon sells it as well — see current price in upper right corner of this post; it's probably discounted from list. And if you'll be at ETS and/or AAR/SBL in San Diego, I'd guess you'd be able to get a below-list price from Eerdmans as well. And if you do purchase it at SBL, make sure to tell the folks at Eerdmans that you really appreciate them republishing books like this!

My reading is piling up, but I've been waiting a long time for Treblico (longer than I've waited for Drobner!) so I'll be working it in to the top of the list. And as I read, I'll blog about it. So stay tuned. Until then, here is some material from the publisher's web site. First, the blurb:

The capital city of the province of Asia in the first century CE, Ephesus played a key role in the development of early Christianity. In this book Paul Trebilco examines the early Christians from Paul to Ignatius, seen in the context of our knowledge of the city as a whole.

Drawing on Paul's letters and the Acts of the Apostles, Trebilco looks at the foundations of the church, both before and during the Pauline mission. He shows that in the period from around 80 to 100 CE there were a number of different communities in Ephesus that regarded themselves as Christians — the Pauline and Johannine groups, Nicolaitans, and others — testifying to the diversity of that time and place. Including further discussions on the Ephesus addresses of the apostle John and Ignatius, this scholarly study of the early Ephesian Christians and their community is without peer.

And here's the table of contents from the Eerdmans catalog page. A brief and much abbreviated TOC is below:

Chapter 1: The Context

Part One: Beginnings in Ephesus
Chapter 2: Paul in Ephesus: The Evidence of His Letters
Chapter 3: Acts and the early Christians in Ephesus: Beginnings and Success
Chapter 4: Acts and the early Christians in Ephesus: Endings and Departure

Part Two: The Pastoral Epistles, Revelation and the Johannine Letters
Chapter 5: What do the Pastoral Epistles tell us about the early Christians in Ephesus?
Chapter 6: What do the Johannine Letters tell us about the early Christians in Ephesus?
Chapter 7: Revelation 2.1-7: The Proclamation to the Church in Ephesus and the Nicolaitans

Part Three: The Relationships Between the Readers of the Pastorals, the Johannine Letters and Revelation
Chapter 8: The Wider Culture and the Readers of the Pastorals, the Johannine Letters and Revelation: Acculturation, Assimilation and Accomodation
Chapter 9: Material Possessions and the readers of the Pastorals, the Johannine Letters and Revelation
Chapter 10: Leadership and Authority and the readers of the Pastoral Epistles, the Johannine Letters and Revelation
Chapter 11: The Role of Women Among the Readers of the Pastoral Epistles, the Johannine Letters and Revelation
Chapter 12: What Shall We Call Each Other? The Issue of Self-Designation in the Pastoral Epistles, the Johannine Letters and Revelation
Chapter 13: The Relationships between Traditions and Communities in Ephesus

Part Four: Ignatius' Letter to Ephesus
Chapter 14: Who Are the Addressees of Ignatius' Letter to Ephesus
Chapter 15: Ignatius and additional facets of the life of the Christians in Ephesus

Chapter 16: Conclusions


Post Author: rico
Friday, November 02, 2007 7:54:55 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Thursday, October 04, 2007

This morning Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed) mentions two books I've mentioned before: Skarsaune & Hvalvik's Jewish Believers in Jesus and Bowman & Komoszewski's Putting Jesus in His Place.

What I didn't know is that Jewish Believers in Jesus (amazon.com) has a web site at something called the Caspari Center. You can find more information there. Also, you can find more information on Putting Jesus in His Place (amazon.com) at http://www.deityofchrist.com.

I'd recommend them both, particularly Jewish Believers in Jesus (amazon.com).

Post Author: rico
Thursday, October 04, 2007 8:29:21 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I've blogged about Jewish Believers in Jesus (amazon.com) a few times now. The more I read the book, the more I think it needs to be more widely read. Why, you ask? Not because it is perfect, or because I agree with everything in it. But it is a book that makes you think. It is not a re-hashing and presentation of current scholarship on the issue; instead it springboards from that, making assertions and connections between the data points that makes me think. And that's good — that's what reading and studying should be like.

Danny Zacharias of Deinde recently blogged about Jewish Believers as well. Danny's reaction? Pretty straightforward:

Earlier this year I made an authoritative declaration that every NT scholar ought to read Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (amazon.com). This is now my second binding authoritative declaration: Every NT scholar needs to have this book on his or her shelf.

Nijay Gupta (at his eponymous blog) also mentions Jewish Believers. (Apologies for being late with this one, I just heard of Nijay's blog from Mike Bird.) Nijay had the inside scoop; he apparently used to work for Hendrickson:

I just obtained a copy yesterday and it looks fantastic. I remember it was coming down the pipeline when I was working at Hendrickson and they did an excellent job. 

I agree. So heed both Danny and Nijay and get your copy now (amazon.com).

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, September 18, 2007 1:41:36 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, August 17, 2007

Or so is the title of the interesting post by Mike Bird over on Euangelion.

Reading his post, I thought of a book I've recently been reading, The Early Centuries: Jewish Believers in Jesus (amazon.com) by Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik. I've only read the introductory essay, but it's really prompted me to think about the spectrum between Jews and Christians in the early Christian Era.

The most intriguing insight, for me, was that there weren't just two flavors, "Christian" and "Jew". There definitely were "Christians" and "Jews", but there were also Jews moving toward Christianity (what the book calls "Jewish Believers") and Christians being influenced by and moving toward Judaism (what are typically called "judaizers"). Sort of like this quick diagram I made up:

Of course, there are other influences—don't even get me started on gnosticism—but the idea of thinking about the movement between these two poles and thinking about where, on this particular spectrum, different examples from different early writings could be plotted, causes me to think now when I read or notice Jewish-sounding influence in Christian writings.

Skarsaune & Hvalvik's book (amazon.com) should be interesting the more I get into it.

Post Author: rico
Friday, August 17, 2007 4:41:52 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, August 06, 2007

Just received from Hendrickson Publishers:

Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik, Editors: The Early Centuries: Jewish Believers in Jesus (amazon.com).

Here's the blurb from Amazon:

Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (amazon.com) examines the formative first five centuries of Christian history as experienced by individuals who were ethnically Jewish, but who professed faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Offering the work of an impressive international team of scholars, this unique study examines the first five centuries of texts thought to have been authored or edited by Jewish Christians, including the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the New Testament Apocrypha, and some patristic works. Also considered are statements within patristic literature about Jewish believers and uses of oral traditions from Jewish Christians. Furthermore, the evidence in Jewish, mainly rabbinic, literature is examined, and room is made for a judicious sifting of the archaeological evidence. The final two chapters are devoted to an enlightening synthesis of the material with subsequent conclusions regarding Jewish believers in antiquity.

As I get into the book, I'll surely blog more about it.

Update (2007-08-06): Oh, yes — I was also told that there will be a session at the SBL meeting in San Diego on this very book (amazon.com). So if the topic (Jewish Believers in Jesus in the early centuries of Christianity) interests you, then you might want to check out the book and consider attending the session in November.

Update II (2007-08-16): Mentioned a bit more about the book in response to a post by Michael Bird. Check it out.

Update III (2007-08-22): Blogged the TOC of the book, which is extensive and gives a much better picture of the book's coverage.

Update IV (2007-09-16): Danny Zacharias of Deinde blogs about Jewish Believers as well. Danny's reaction? Pretty straightforward: "Earlier this year I made an authoritative declaration that every NT scholar ought to read Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (amazon.com). This is now my second binding authoritative declaration: Every NT scholar needs to have this book on his or her shelf." I agree. So heed Danny and get your copy now (amazon.com).

Post Author: rico
Monday, August 06, 2007 12:17:53 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, June 22, 2007

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain,
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name


He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead


The best version of the song is that done by Jacob's Trouble on their "... let the truth run wild" album, which you may have to hunt around to find (unless it's been re-released recently).

Post Author: rico
Friday, June 22, 2007 5:14:53 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, May 26, 2007

The good folks at Hendrickson Academic have recently sent me a copy of Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why it Matters what Christians Believe (amazon.com). No, they haven't found me in any heresy — so they say — they sent me the book because they thought I'd be interested in it and just might blog about it. Thankfully, the book is interesting and I will blog about it to some degree. But first, I need to point out the cover art because it is so cool. It's Augustine battling a demonic-looking heretic with a Bible and what appears to be a light saber!

Now that is cool. How can you not want to read a book with cover art like that?!

One thing I really like about this book is that it began as a series of sermons. These aren't intricate theological definitions of heresy; they are intended to be heard and understood by the person in the pew who may not have a strong background in dogma and heresy. You know, someone who would think "Arianism" has more to do with Hitler than heresy in the fourth century. Ben Quash writes in the book's prologue:

Appreciative inquisitiveness was the premise for devoting a term-full of sermons in Peterhouse Chapel, Cambridge (where the editors of this volume serve as Anglican priests) to great heresies, and the majority of essays in this volume were first delivered as sermons in that series — intended not to be excessively encumbered with scholarly apparatus, but to be informed and accessible accounts of how these ancient debates still have much to say to Christians today as they try to make sense of their faith in thought, word and deed. The huge interest in the sermons took us by surprise, and the idea was hatched of making them available to a wider audience by publishing them in a book. (Quash and Ward, 8)

Here's the back-cover blurb, which is different than the publisher blurb you'll find at Hendrickson's site or on Amazon. I think the back-cover blurb is better than those other blurbs.

What don't Christians believe?
Is Jesus really divine?
Is Jesus really human?
Can God suffer?
Can people be saved by their own efforts?

The early Church puzzled over these questions, ruling in some believes and ruling out others. Heresies and How to Avoid Them (amazon.com) explains the principal ancient heresies and shows why contemporary Christians still need to know about them. These famous detours in Christian believing seemed plausible and attractive to many people in the past, and most can still be found in modern-day guises. By learning what it is that Christians don't believe — and why — believers today can gain a deeper, truer understanding of their faith.

Topics Include
Adoptionism—did Jesus become the Son of God at his baptism?
Docetism—was Jesus really human or did he just appear to be so?
Nestorianism—was Christ one Person or a hybrid with a divine dimension and a human dimension?
Arianism—was Christ divine and eternal or was there a time when he did not exist?
Marcionism—is the God of the New Testament the same as the God of the Old?
Theopaschitism—is it possible for God to suffer in His divine nature?
Pelagianism—can people save themselves by their own efforts?
‘The Free Spirit’—are there two kinds of Church membership, one for the elite and one for the rest?
Donatism—do Christian ministers need to be faultless for their ministrations to be effective?

From what I can tell (I've read the intro and the first two essays) the essays strive to define and place the heresy in proper historical context, discussing the milieu in which the heresy came about. Each essay begins with a paragraph-long definition of the heresy in plain language, followed by major scriptures that provide foundation for the orthodox position. The essays provide the setting and discuss the heresy, and then also discuss the theological implications of the heresy. Good stuff. As I read the first two essays, I thought that Heresies and How to Avoid Them (amazon.com) might even make good fodder for book-study groups in local churches. There are sections in the back with a few recommendations for further reading and a brief glossary. There's an index as well.

I say: check it out. I may blog further on the book as I read it, I may not. We'll see what happens.

Post Author: rico
Saturday, May 26, 2007 12:49:57 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, April 30, 2007

Ignatius, To the Magnesians, 11

Ταῦτα δέ, ἀγαπητοί μου, οὐκ ἐπεὶ ἔγνων τινὰς ἐξ ὑμῶν οὕτως ἔχοντας, ἀλλʼ ὡς μικρότερος ὑμῶν θέλω προφυλάσσεσθαι ὑμᾶς μὴ ἐμπεσεῖν εἰς τὰ ἄγκιστρα τῆς κενοδοξίας, ἀλλὰ πεπληροφορῆσθαι ἐν τῇ γεννήσει καὶ τῷ πάθει καὶ τῇ ἀναστάσει τῇ γενομένῃ ἐν καιρῷ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Ποντίου Πιλάτου· πραχθέντα ἀληθῶς καὶ βεβαίως ὑπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν, ἧς ἐκτραπῆναι μηδενὶ ὑμῶν γένοιτο.
Holmes, M. W. (1999). The Apostolic Fathers : Greek texts and English translations (Updated ed.) (Ign. Magn. 11). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

I am not writing these things, my beloved, because I have learned that some of you are behaving like this. But as one who is less important than you I want to protect you from being snagged by the fish hooks of worthless ideas. You should be fully convinced of the birth and suffering and resurrection that occurred in the time of the governor Pontius Pilate. These things were truly and certainly done by Jesus Christ, our hope. From this hope may none of you turn away.
Erhman, B. (2002) The Apostolic Fathers (Ign. Magn. 11). Series: Loeb Classical Library, vol. 23. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Post Author: rico
Monday, April 30, 2007 7:51:09 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, April 16, 2007

[NB: Sometimes I think about writing short epistolary-style letters but then never do it. Well, I did it this time. I've thought very little about the content of this letter. I won't edit it apart from fixing typos. It was tough to write. -- RWB]

Rick, who is far removed from current events;

To those in Virginia who are far closer;

Greetings, and peace.

I feel compelled to write this letter, but I have no idea what to say. Anything remotely comforting sounds too trite to be worth saying at all. I could speak of the greatness of God (and He is great) but this is not what your soul longs to hear in your confusion and grief. I could speak of the compassion of God (for He is compassionate) but you likely feel as if He is the least compassionate one at this present time of loss.

Words fall short. Grief and longing for the lost cannot be soothed with well-polished words; it is your soul that cries out for comfort, understanding and recompense.

But there is no recompense, there is only loss.

I find comfort in knowing that it is not ours to avenge, and that healing comes not from avenging but from forgiving. If you seek recompense, you will never be healed. You will only grow bitter, hard and gnarled.

We are all properly deserving of vengeance. Somewhere, somehow, we have wronged others and there may be those that desire to mete their vengeance out upon us. Most of all, we have wronged our God. He is holiness embodied; we (each and every one of us) have bent His image, the image we were created in, beyond all recognition. It is scarcely possible to see His image in anyone.

But there was one who walked the earth long ago -- nearly 2000 years ago -- who exuded holiness from his very being. The image could be seen clearly in him because He was God, and he was man. He lived perfectly and died unjustly.

If any death was ever worthy of vengeance, it was his. Yet it was the path he chose so that through his death he would take upon himself our sin and corruption -- the bent-ness of our very being -- to rid us of that burden. And he died, burying that bent-ness in death that we might be reclaimed to live freely, passionately and uprightly in his name.

God still metes out His vengeance, though the vengeance we so rightly deserve has been heaped upon that one, 2000 years ago, who stood in our stead.

I know this likely does not offer you comfort in your grief. But know that your bent-ness, the corruption of your very being, was borne by that same one, 2000 years ago.

Perhaps those whom you're missing today knew this and lived their reclaimed lives in the name of the one who bore the bent-ness and corruption. Perhaps the one you are missing is truly free today, with him in Glory. Still missed by loved ones, yes. But with him in Glory.

Then again, perhaps the one whom you're missing today did not know or profess this truth. Mourn your loved one, but consider him who bore our corruption and bent-ness before the one worthy of meting out vengeance. Consider his death and his resurrection and victory over that death. And consider if you will live a reclaimed life, upright in his name.

These may not be comforting thoughts, but these are not comforting times.

May the God of comfort give you peace in your mourning.

Grace be with you all.

Post Author: rico
Monday, April 16, 2007 11:03:56 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Yes, I'm still Jesus-tombed-out, but I have to pass this along.

I just received the following email from my friend and colleague Michael S. Heiser in regards to the so-called "Jesus Family Tomb". This is a direct response to the assertion that the statistical grouping of the names found on ossuaries in the Talpiot tomb is very significant and indeed likely wholly unique.

One standard response to Jacobovici/Pellegrino/et. al. has been that the names are common, and the grouping likely isn't therefore unique. What would happen to Jacobovici & Pellegrino's allegation if another tomb with that grouping of names was found?

Read on:

Dear Professors and other Bloggers

I’d like to report something of potentially great interest with respect to assessing the Jesus tomb theory offered by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino (and, by extension, James Tabor).

Many scholars have demonstrated the glaring weaknesses of this theory with respect to the inscriptions, the names themselves, the shaky logic, etc.  And despite the clear, coherent response to the statistical framework and analysis offered by my friend Randy Ingermanson, the public continues to be bludgeoned with the “improbability” of it all. Well, it appears that having the names of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Matthew, and Martha (“Mara”) on ossuaries at one location isn’t as improbable as Jacobovici, Pellegrino, and Tabor would have the world believe.

I want to draw your attention—and the attention of scholars and interested parties who read your blog — to a SECOND site that has all those names. In 1953-1955, Bellarmino Bagatti excavated the site of Dominus Flevit (“The Lord wept”) on the Mount of Olives. The excavation uncovered a necropolis and over 40 inscribed ossuaries — including the names of Mary, Martha, Matthew, Joseph, Jesus. These ossuaries are not, as far as I can tell, in Rahmani’s catalogue. I’m guessing the reason is that they are not the property of the Israel Antiquities Authority (see Rahmani’s Preface). The necropolis was apparently used ca. 136 BC to 300 AD. Here is a link that discusses the site. A few scanned pages of Bagatti’s excavation report (written in Italian) can be found here as well.

I’ll be tracking down this report (and perhaps buying an Italian dictionary). I found this information last night (actually 2:00am) while working on my portion of a lengthy response to the Jesus tomb theory (to be co-authored with Randy Ingermanson). I didn’t want to wait until that was done to alert scholars to this so we can collectively look at this data. It appears that the statistical odds touted in such assured terms have taken a sound beating — fifty years ago.

One more really intriguing thing about the Dominus Flevit site is that it is referenced by Jacobovici with respect to his argument about the cross symbol’s antiquity, and Bagatti’s book is in his bibliography. And yet he and Charlie Pellegrino somehow overlooked the fact that ossuaries were found at that site with all the names accounted for. One can only guess whether the omission was due to careless scholarship or an effort to deceive the public.

Mike Heiser, PhD
Academic Editor, Logos Bible Software

Mike's web page is MichaelSHeiser.com; he has some further links on the Talpiot tomb hullabaloo as well.

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, March 13, 2007 8:57:47 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Tuesday, March 06, 2007

If you've been following the Jesus Tomb saga, then you may want to read an alternate take on the statistics (and interpretation thereof) by Randy Ingermanson, who has his Ph.D. in Physics from UC Berkeley. Here's a snip from the intro of the rather long article:

In this article, I'll focus on the statistical analysis described in the book The Jesus Family Tomb. There, the authors explain why they believe that the odds are 600 to 1 that the tomb they found contained the bone-boxes of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother Mary, his "wife" Mary Magdalene, his "son" Judah, his brother Joseph, and one other person named Matthew who might be either a disciple or a family member. The book describes a "Jesus Equation" that defines this probability.

I believe that the statistical calculations need to be done differently. I am not here to cast aspersions on Mr. Jacobovici or Mr. Pellegrino or the statistician they asked to do their calculations, Dr. Andrey Feuerverger. Name-calling solves nothing. What I want to do is to redo the calculation in a way that I believe answers the fundamental question more accurately.

And what is the fundamental question? That's very important. In science, getting the right answer is a whole lot easier when you start with the right question. Years ago, when I wrote my book on the alleged Bible code, I found time after time in which the Bible coders had asked the wrong question and then answered it correctly. They concluded that they had found powerful evidence that God encoded secret messages in the Bible. But I believe they were wrong, because they asked the wrong question.

Me? I'm Jesus-Tombed-out.

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, March 06, 2007 9:06:04 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, March 05, 2007

I just read with interest Chris Wiemer's post on the Jesus Tomb stuff. One thing he mentioned concerned the Acts of Philip:

[The filmmakers] spent more time dealing with Mariamene, which they assumed could be contracted into Mariamne. They then apparently made the connection to Mary Magdalene, since in the Acts of Philip, Philip has a sister named Mariamne, and apparently (since I don’t think the Acts have yet been translated into English, at least according to Harvard Magazine and Harvard University Gazette) this Mariamne is Mary Magdalene. However, the connection itself isn’t solid-proof. Instead the discoverer of the manuscript, François Bovon, doesn’t claim, as far as I can tell from sources, that this is definitely Mary Magdalene, but that only it is possible for her to be identified with Mary Magdalene. Not having the text in my hand, I cannot say one way or another.

Now I'm curious. Everyone says that the name is found in the Acts of Philip, but nobody discusses the character of that text, its contents, or anything about it—as if the simple existence of the name in the text is all that matters and the nature, character and contents of the text means nothing.

I'd figured there was a text and transcription readily available. But after reading Chris' post, I guess it isn't. [Update: The translation is found in M.R. James' NT Apocrypha (amazon.com) and is available online. h/t Danny Zacharias, but see below for more] So I checked my copy of Schneemelcher's NT Apocrypha, vol. 2 (amazon.com) (here's vol. 1 (amazon.com) if you're interested). There are a few pages on contents (vol 2. pp. 468-473, sect. 12.1 Acta Philippi), but no translation. And the description is of a text in shambles. Some interesting excerpts below:

... we may conclude with a high degree of probability that the version of the Acta Philippi which has come down to us originated in encratite circles in Asia Minor somewhere about the middle of the 4th century. Since this version is however an artificial conglomeration of very diverse and sometimes contradictory material, the question of the authorship and origin of individual parts remains open. (p. 469)

So, in other words, folks think the text was composed/assembled in the middle of the 4th century ... 300+ years after Jesus' death and resurrection. No connection with Mary Magdalene is discussed. However, the next paragraph continues:

The report included at the beginning of the eighth act, about the division of the world among the apostles and the sending of Philip together with Bartholomew and Mariamne to the 'city of the serpent' forms a clear brak after the preceding first seven acts, and signals the beginning of the 'Acta Philippi in Heirapolis' with the appended martyrdom (cc. 94-148: Aa II/2, 36-90). This part is without doubt the most important—in terms of volume also—and oldest section of the Acta Philippi, and is conspicuous both for its stylistic unity and also for its depth of thought—in contrast to the episodes of the first seven acts, which are often intermixed without continuity, full of adventures and poor in ideas. (p. 469).

If Philip is in Heirapolis, then we're dealing with Philip the apostle, right? The one Papias mentions (see here, sect. IV)? So what is the connection of Mary Magdalene with Philip the apostle? None that I am aware of. Here's more on Mariamne in in Acts of Philip:

The fact that not all of the elements of this old tradition found their way into the 'Acta philippi in Heriapolis'—e.g. there is not a word about Philip's daughters, and instead the apostle is given his 'sister' Mariamne as a companion—and that (against this tradition) a martyrdom embellished with rich symbolism and profound trains of through was already added signals the relationship of our present Acts to the five older Acts of the Manichean corpus, although we cannot always demonstrate a direct dependence upon them. (p. 470).

There's more, this on parallels with other apocryphal literature:

Moreover, from act 8 of our present Πράξεις 'Mariamne', who is assigned to the apostle as sister and companion, plays a role similar to that to Thecla at the side of Paul..

The dialogue between Mariamne and Nicanora, in which the two women are described as 'twin sisters, daughters of the same mother' (c. 115, Aa II/2, 45.15-46.13) could, in A. Orbe's opinion contain an esoteric interpreatation fo the Heilgeschichte according tot he Valentinian myth with clear analogies to the Acts of Thomas. (p. 470)

So, some see parallels of Philip & Mariamne to Paul & Thecla. And there's also this bit about Mariamne's twin sister.(?) I'm unaware of Mary Madgalene having a twin sister, or of her being sister to the apostle Philip. There's nothing in Schneemelcher at all about Mary Magdalene even being potentially associated with the Mariamne of the Acts of Philip.

Another book I have to hand that discusses the Acts of Philip is Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature (amazon.com) by Moreschini and Norelli. Their treatment is much less detailed than that inside of the Schneemelcher volumes. However, they do say this:

The section comprising 8-15 and the martyrdom brings Philip the apostle on the scene again. He, along with his sister Maryanne and Bartholemew, is a missionary in the city of Ofiorime, which the manuscripts identify with Hierapolis in Phrygia. (vol 2, p 222)

Here, the name translated "Maryanne" has to be that of Mariamne. Again, no comparison of any sort with Mary Magdalene. Magdalene isn't mentioned at all. Heck, "Mary" isn't even mentioned.

So, how do the filmmakers make the connection? If their methodology is sound, then perhaps we can conclude today that this "Maryanne" foreshadows the "Maryanne" of Gilligan's Island? The logic is the same—find a matching name and go with it. You heard it here first, folks.

I can only imagine what the Discovery Channel will drag out next Easter ...

Update (2007-03-07): Chris Weimer (Thoughts on Antiquity) writes in a comment regarding versions of the Acts of Philip:

The Acts of Philip you found online were an older, fragmentary version. François Bovon found a complete manuscript just a couple of years ago, and that version has not been translated yet. You were looking at a translation from 1924, well before the discovery.

I knew M.R. James was from 1924, and I figured based on references to Bovon in both Schneemelcher and Moreschini & Norelli that there was a new MS find. I was about to write an update, and then Chris commented clearing everyting up. Thanks, Chris, for putting the dots together for us!

Update (2007-03-13): Stephen Pfann weighs in with a full re-examination of the so-called Mary Magdalene ossuary. His conclusion: No dice. Check out his paper Mary Magdalene is Now Missing: A Corrected Reading of Rahmani Ossuary 701.

Post Author: rico
Monday, March 05, 2007 8:04:33 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, February 26, 2007

If you've not yet caught the sure-to-envelop-us-come-easter sensationalistic rah-rah about something folks are now calling "the Jesus tomb", you do need to check out Ben Witherington's post on the matter.

It is notable to check Witherington because he provides statistics on the relevant names that he received from Richard Bauckham. Bauckham is, from all I have read, one of the go-to guys in the realm of Palestinian names in the first century. That, tied with other stats Bauckham provides on the frequency of names found on ossuaries provides some good data by which to refute the sensationalistic claims made by the filmmakers of "The Jesus Tomb". So do check it out.

My take? I think the data on names, combined with the known sensationalism-mongering of the filmmakers (thoroughly documented and debunked by Chris Heard, check it out) combined with the fact that the tomb's original finders and excavators reached entirely opposite conclusions (the tomb was found in 1980, findings released in 1996) speaks volumes against what the filmmakers are proposing.

All of this sounds like you've stepped in on the middle of a conversation? Then you probably have. So check out Witherington's post for the background and some further information on how to handle the assertion when you hear it come easter.

Post Author: rico
Monday, February 26, 2007 6:48:44 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Thursday, December 21, 2006
Post Author: rico
Thursday, December 21, 2006 4:20:36 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dearest Friends —

Christmas is upon us.

Advertising circulars are circulating. Christmas trees are available for purchase in grocery store parking lots. Happy music can be heard just about everywhere; some of it even proclaims the truth that lies behind the ages.

For some (including myself) this year has overflowed with blessings. For others, tough times have been the norm. For many, the year has been lived within the happy middle; nothing too exciting and nothing too scary.

Yet we come to this time of the year when many celebrate Christmas with cards, gifts, smiles and parties. Extended families that rarely see each other gather for merry times together. Yet how many who claim our faith actually stop to consider the wonder and blessing of the hopeful event we proclaim?

Hope pervades the event of the birth of the Christ. Have you considered this?

The Apostle Paul points us to this in his letter to the Ephesians (2.1-10). The two words at the start of verse 4—“But God”—are some of the sweetest words I know.

“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 as 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.” (ESV)

Prior to Christ, we were dead. Upon the advent of Christ, we have hope. Prior to Christ, salvation was inaccessible. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. But with Christ, we have hope of life eternal.

This is the gospel. And this is the truth proclaimed by the incarnation of the Son of God, that day some 2000 years ago. And I praise God for supplying this hope, for providing the faith by which I have hope, and the love by which I love Him.

During this Christmas “season”, I must ask myself: Does the hope get lost in the hustle and bustle of card-sending, gift-buying and party-going? And outside of this season, does the hope get lost amidst the blog-writing, book-reading, paper-writing and busy-ness of each day?

So many times, particularly when interacting in the circles of Biblical Studies, we forget about the forest because we concentrate on the trees (and branches, and bark). I know this happens to me. I read the first chapters of Luke and think about the synoptic problem and Q, not the wonder and glory of my Lord and Saviour.

May the hope of Christ our salvation strike us all anew this year as we remember the accounts of Christ's birth and realize that he arrived to give us hope, to save us from sin.

If you have not yet heard of this hope, if you have not understood the necessity of it, may the Holy Spirit proclaim it to you this Christmas.

Blessings to you and those you love as we celebrate Christ's birth.

— Rick

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, December 19, 2006 2:58:19 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Friday, December 15, 2006

Edward Cook (Ralph the Sacred River) posts a rant about atheists, liberals and "orthodox folks". He catches sentiment that I feel from time to time too. The upshot seems to be about defending orthodoxy and Christian faith, and how some quarters seem to do a lot of defending, and others do a lot of permitting.

I'm reminded of a recent review (h/t: Bob and Eli) of Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion, posted by the London Review of Books. The author of the review is Terry Eagleton. And if you wanted to read someone's literary smack-down of Dawkins' tripe, then you should read the review. Here's the opening sentence — and it gets better from there:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.

As you read, you'll realize Eagleton likely lies on the 'liberal' side of Cook's dichotomy.

Post Author: rico
Friday, December 15, 2006 10:41:13 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Below are the lyrics to a song called My Savior, My God by Aaron Shust that have been running through my head with some frequency over the past month. The below are the verses, they are taken from an older hymn. Shust's chorus (which I've not reproduced here) is his own. Me? I like the verses, so that's what I reproduce. Read, think and meditate on them.

I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned
I only know at his right hand
Stands one who is my savior

I take him at his word and deed
Christ died to save me, this I read
And in my heart I find a need
For him to be my savior

That he would leave his place on high
And come for sinful man to die
You count it strange, so once did I
Before I knew my savior

Yes, living, dying; let me bring
My strength, my solace from this spring
That he who lives to be my king
Once died to be my savior

That he would leave his place on high
And come for sinful man to die
You count it strange, so once did I
Before I knew my savior

I believe you can listen to the song on Rhapsody, whether you're a subscriber or not Rhapsody provides 25 free plays per month per IP, I think.

(Thanks, Bob, for mentioning the song a few months ago)

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, November 01, 2006 12:34:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nothing new this year. Here are my Reformation Day posts from the past two years:

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 9:05:55 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, October 30, 2006

Looks like Volume 3 of the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism has been posted. There are 10 PDF articles, some of which look very interesting to me.

Remember, these articles won't be online forever. The Sheffield Phoenix Press will publish them as a print volume, and when they do that, the PDF goes offline. So download now, while you can.

(Thanks to Matt O'Donnell for the note)

Also: The JGRChJ now has an RSS feed. Pop it in your aggregators so you never miss an update.

Update (2006-10-30): Note that the tenth article, Robert Stephen Reid's Ad Herennium Argument Strategies in 1 Corinthians, has an invalid link. I'll update this post when I'm aware that this has been fixed.

Update (2006-10-31): The link to Reid's article has been fixed.

Post Author: rico
Monday, October 30, 2006 9:50:13 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Thursday, October 19, 2006

So much of so-called "Christian" music today is piffle. A pastor-friend of mine calls them "Jesus is my girlfriend" songs.

But some of it isn't. I'm listening to a guy called Andrew Peterson. He has a song called "No More Faith". Here are the lyrics to the bridge of the song, into the last chorus:

So I will drive these roads in thunder and in rain
And I will sing your song at the top of my lungs
And I will praise you, Lord, in glory and in pain
And I will follow you till this race is won
And I will drive these roads till this motor won't run
And I will sing your song from sea to shining sea
And I will praise you Lord, till your kingdom comes
And I will follow where you lead

Till there's no more faith
No more hope
I'll see your face and Lord, I'll know
When there's no more faith
And no more hope
I'll sing your praise and let them go
'cause only love
Only love remains

The song is called "No More Faith" based on 1Co 13. It's looking forward to the time when only love remains; when our hope has been fulfilled and our faith is no longer necessary because we are with God. μαράνα θά!

Side note: I've got a three-part series on "the love chapter":


Post Author: rico
Thursday, October 19, 2006 1:37:44 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, October 04, 2006

About two weeks ago I blogged about being offered a complimentary copy of Bart Ehrman's new book, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot. The book arrived today. I'm planning on reading through the Gospel of Judas a few times (see my post on Erhman's essay in the National Geographic book The Gospel of Judas for some background) and then digging in to Erhman's treatment.

We'll see what I think concerning Ehrman's shark-jumping status once I get into the book. I will by all means blog my reactions as I read it.

Either way, thanks to OUP for sending along the copy of the book!

Update: I'm blogging as I'm reading through the book. Entries will be linked to here.

Update I (2006-10-04): Just a test to see how UTF8 Coptic in the proper Unicode range is handled in browsers. Nevermind me ... these are the first few lines of Kasser & Wurst's transcription of the Gospel of Judas, typos are mine:

ⲡⲗⲟⲅⲟ[ⲥ] ⲉⲧϨⲏ̣ⲡʼ ⲛ̅ⲧⲁⲡⲟⲫⲁ
ⲥ̣ⲓⲭ ⲛ̅[ⲧⲁ ⲓ̈]ⲏ̣̅ⲥ̅ Ϣⲁϫⲉ ⲙⲛ̅ ⲓ̈ⲩⲇⲁⲥ

It appears to work on my side, though it assumes you have the font New Athena Unicode installed. Note that the diaresis in the font clashes with the iauda, hence the one-dot-to-the-left look.

Update II (2006-10-05): Coptic works, for me anyway, in IE6 and FireFox It doesn't work in SharpReader (no surpise, it strips style attributes) or BlogLines. I guess I should say that it works in those two, but that the default font has no characters in the Coptic unicode range. The bytes are there, but no characters exist in the font(s) for Coptic. C'est la vie.

Update III (2006-10-05): Phil Harland, with a post titled Judas Iscariot may be evil after all, links to Jim Davila's PaleoJudaica, which has an abstract describing Louis Painchoud's contrarian critique of the National Geographic translation/commentary/etc of the Gospel of Judas. Do check it out, particularly if you think the recently found Gospel of Judas is good fodder for "rehabilitating Judas".

Update III (2006-10-10): Note a post I wrote, Ehrman on Ehrman on Gospel of Judas, (h/t to Stephen C. Carlson (Hypotyposeis)) which points to interviews and such with Ehrman on Oxford University Press' blog.

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, October 04, 2006 11:05:14 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, September 19, 2006

PJ Williams at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog notes an email he received offering a complementary copy of Ehrman's upcoming book The Lost Gospel of Judas: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed from Oxford University Press (OUP).

I received the same email too. And I've only ever interacted with Ehrman's stuff on this blog, so they must've searched around a bit to find folks.

I blogged about Ehrman primarily in a post called Bart Ehrman has "Jumped the Shark", lamenting his slide toward sensationalism at that time evidenced in his essay in the Gospel of Judas book from National Geographic.

I can't pass up a free book on a topic I'm interested in (development of early Christianity, along with Greek and Coptic) so I've responded to the offer with a request for the book. I'll let y'all know what I think if/when I receive the book.

Also note that PJ Williams mentions a forthcoming book on Gospel of Judas by ETC's own Simon Gathercole noting it will have " plenty of philological learning as well as sound judgement on the subject". Now that's a book I hope Oxford promos and wants to offer me a complementary copy of!

Side note: The post on Ehrman jumping the shark has a humorous comment from one purporting to be Dr. Ehrman. If that really was Dr. E, I note that you'll be in Seattle on Oct. 9. If you're able to slide up to Bellingham (just under two hours freeway drive north on I-5) I'll fire up the BBQ. Have your people call my people.

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 4:11:49 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Thursday, July 06, 2006

You should probably check out Steven Harris' (Theology and Biblical Studies) recent post, On finishing my studies. Some quotes:

"Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of studying theology is the questions that we begin to ask. Questions are the means by which we open up doors to exciting and challenging new adventures, but they are often also the means by which that which is familiar and comfortable can quickly unravel and fall apart."


"Theology was not, I quickly discovered, a matter of simply assembling proof-texts, baking them with my own presuppositions, and then voila! - producing doctrines by the dozen. Early on I learned that the most important lesson that I think anyone can ever learn in studying theology is to understand the mystery of God. For every question you answer as a theologian, you raise twenty more. We can never apprehend God or exhaust the depths of his being, we can only truly know him in wonder and in reverent awe."

It's a good post. Read it. Of course, I don't agree with everything he writes, but it will cause you to think — and that's good. So go check it out.

Post Author: rico
Thursday, July 06, 2006 9:46:42 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, June 03, 2006

We recently looked at 1Th 4.1-12 in the home group study I take part in. I wanted to work a little further through the flow of the text, so this seems as good a place as any to do it.

Section 1: 1Th 4.1-2

Λοιπὸν οὖν, ἀδελφοί, ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν
Finally, then, brothers, we ask you and urge you
   ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ,
   in the Lord Jesus,
   ἵνα καθὼς παρελάβετε
   that just as you have received
      παρ’ ἡμῶν τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀρέσκειν θεῷ,
      from us how you should necessarily walk and please God,
         καθὼς καὶ περιπατεῖτε,
         just as you are walking,
         ἵνα περισσεύητε μᾶλλον.
         that your progress may continue even more.

οἴδατε γὰρ τίνας παραγγελίας ἐδώκαμεν ὑμῖν
For you know this message we have given to you
   διὰ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ.
   through the Lord Jesus.

In chapter 3, Paul (and Silas, and Timothy; though primarily Paul) had written concerning their relationship with the Thessalonians. How fellowship with them was missed, and how Paul was apprehensive about their condition and faith. After being reassured by Timothy's report, Paul digs in and switches to didactic mode. This is the preface. Note how Paul's request -- that the Thessalonians continue to progress and apply what they have been taught -- is bounded on both sides by reminders that this message is from "the Lord Jesus". It is asked in the Lord Jesus (v. 1) and given through the Lord Jesus (v. 2). The message is serious: Don't stop. Keep going, and keep walking and progressing, that you may continually please God to a greater degree with your obedience to His will.

The focus on the message and on the source of the message is important. Paul wants them to know that what he has to say is not from him, but from the Lord. It is a serious message, one that requires attention and one that demands obedience.

Section 2: 1Th 4.3-8

Τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ,
For this is the will of God,
   ὁ ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν,
   your sanctification,
   ἀπέχεσθαι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας,
   that you keep yourselves from sexual immorality,
   εἰδέναι ἕκαστον ὑμῶν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σκεῦος κτᾶσθαι
   that each of you know (how to) gain control of your own body
      ἐν ἁγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ,
      in holiness and honor,
      μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας
      not in lustful passion
         καθάπερ καὶ τὰ ἔθνη τὰ μὴ εἰδότα τὸν θεόν
         just as the Gentiles who do not know God;
   τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν καὶ πλεονεκτεῖν
   no one should exceedingly transgress or take advantage
      ἐν τῷ πράγματι τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ,
      of his brother in this matter,
      διότι ἔκδικος κύριος περὶ πάντων τούτων,
      because the Lord is the one who punishes concerning all things,
         καθὼς καὶ προείπαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ διεμαρτυράμεθα.
         just as we warned you and testified against.

οὐ γὰρ ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς
For God has not called us
   ἐπὶ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ ἀλλ’ ἐν ἁγιασμῷ.
   for impurity but into holiness.

τοιγαροῦν ὁ ἀθετῶν οὐκ ἄνθρωπον ἀθετεῖ ἀλλὰ τὸν θεὸν
For this very reason, the one who rejects this rejects not man but God,
   τὸν [καὶ] διδόντα τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον εἰς ὑμᾶς.
   the one who gives his spirit, the holy one, to you.

After underscoring the importance of the message in 1Th 4.1-2, Paul digs right in. The holiness, or sanctification, of the Thessalonians is what God wills. Paul describes that in three parts:

  • "that you keep yourselves from sexual immorality"
  • "that you know how to keep control of your own body"
  • "no one should exceedingly transgress or take advantage of his brother"

Is this all that sanctification consists of? No. But these are three areas that Paul instructs the Thessalonians to address and ensure they are obedient in. It is interesting that the second and third items in the list are expanded upon.

Keeping control of one's own body is to be done in holiness (prepositional phrase with prepositional object of "holiness" or "sanctification", the same word used earlier in v. 3) and honor. This is contrasted with the lack of control that Gentiles (others outside Christian community) show. They follow their "lustful passions" instead of curbing them in obedience. The Thessalonians are to curb their lustful passions, they are to control their bodies with their eyes focused on honor and holiness.

The third item has to do with defrauding or cheating others, taking advantage of others with the idea of benefitting ones self instead of acting in the interest of others. It is the self-focused nature of the action that is the underlying problem. The Thessalonians are to act with the interests of the other in view, particularly if the other is a fellow believer.

The consequences of disobedience are then laid out: The Lord punishes. Paul simply reiterates that this is what the Thessalonians were told by Paul, Silas and Timothy during their stay.

This is all followed up by another reminder of the will of God: sanctification. God calls to holiness, not to impurity or immorality. This bounds the section, it began by stating God's will was sanctification, it ends with a reminder that impurity (reflected in the three areas mentioned) is not what God calls His own to; he calls to holiness. Sanctification.

After this, a reminder that the one who rejects this teaching does not reject man (Paul, Silas and Timothy; the ones bringing the message) but reject God. In so doing, the Holy Spirit is rejected. Note the similarity with Lu 10.16, where Jesus says, "The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." (ESV). 

Section 3: 1Th 4.9-12

Περὶ δὲ τῆς φιλαδελφίας οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε γράφειν ὑμῖν,
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need [for anyone] to write to you.
   αὐτοὶ γὰρ ὑμεῖς θεοδίδακτοί ἐστε εἰς τὸ ἀγαπᾶν ἀλλήλους,
   for you yourselves have been taught by God in the love of others,
   καὶ γὰρ ποιεῖτε αὐτὸ
   for this is what you do
      εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς
      to all the brothers,
      [τοὺς] ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ.
   the ones in the whole of Macedonia.

Παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, περισσεύειν μᾶλλον
But we implore you, brothers, to progress still more
   καὶ φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν
   and have as your ambition quietness,
   καὶ πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια
   and mind your own,
   καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι ταῖς [ἰδίαις] χερσὶν ὑμῶν,
   and work with your own hands,
      καθὼς ὑμῖν παρηγγείλαμεν,
      just as we proclaimed to you,
   ἵνα περιπατῆτε εὐσχημόνως
   so that you may walk properly
      πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω
      among those who are outside
      καὶ μηδενὸς χρείαν ἔχητε.
      and you may have need of nothing.

Paul next transitions straight into the Thessalonians' love of the community. They practice this, and they do it well. But Paul isn't satisfied with this and he encourages them to strive even more in this area. Paul offers three areas of refinement:

  • have quietness as their ambition (cf. 1Ti 2.1-2)
  • mind their own personal matters
  • work with their hands

The Thessalonians aren't to be boorish or overbearing, they are to be serious and respectful. They aren't to be nosey. And they are to be productive. These are all things Paul had told them earlier, he is reiterating them here. The result of this action, says Paul, is twofold:

  • Those outside the fellowship will see these things, they will see the proper walk (cf. 1Ti 3.7)
  • Need of and reliance on things of the world will decrease

Paul urges them to take the next step, to "up their game" a notch. He says, "You're doing great. But you can do better, so shoot for a higher goal." They are to love others with more than a brotherly love, they are to love with the love of Christ. This love isn't the naive love of embracing tolerance, nor is it the tough love of judgement and rebuke. It is a love that focuses on Christ our Savior, loving him and obeying the will of God as we progress toward sanctification. It is a love that strives for holiness in our relationship with Him, and in our relationship with others, loving Him and loving others with the eternal and not necessarily the temporal in primary view. We can meet temporal needs, and this is good. But we need to primarily attend to the need of salvation in non-believers and the need of sanctification in our lives and the lives of other believers. Adding this eternal focus to the way they love others is how the Thessalonians can do even better, "excel still more" as the NASB translates.

Of course, that's what we need to do too.

Post Author: rico
Saturday, June 03, 2006 11:47:36 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, May 29, 2006

Scot McKnight begins a three-part series on the problems of Ehrman & Pagels and their approach toward orthodoxy. McKnight calls it "The Gospel of Niggle". Here's the intro on his post:

I gave this paper sometime ago, but it pertains to The DaVinci Code movie. What I do is deal witih the proposals of heresy and orthodoxy behind the book, and the two major proponents of these theories today: Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman. It is a bit hard-hitting at times, but I think it is warranted. I’ll do this over three days. I thought I had posted this before, but didn’t find it.

Check it out:


Post Author: rico
Monday, May 29, 2006 9:22:21 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, May 14, 2006

I think one of my favorite writings in the corpus known as the Apostolic Fathers is the one generally known as "Second Clement".

On Friday, I went to grab lunch from a teriyaki place just up the street from Logos. I ordered my beef yakisoba to go. While waiting for the order, I read through the first chapter of Second Clement. I was reading the Loeb edition from Lake, as it was handy on my shelf at the office. And I read it in the Greek, using the English on the facing page to help out in the places I got stuck.

Second Clement is awesome. You really should read it. If you read Hebrews in the NT and respond with a general "whoa!", then you need to read Second Clement. It is an awesome example of an early Christian homily.

There are two clauses in particular that hit me in this reading. The first was in 2Cl 1.6: "Our entire life was nothing if not death". The best way our lives, prior to Christ's involvement in them -- the best way they could be summed up would be to say that they were death.

The second was the last verse, 2Cl 1.8: "For he called us when we did not exist and he willed us out of non-being to be." Wow! And the clause previous to it: "We had not an ounce of hope of becoming saved if not through him." The one who created us, who called us out of non-being into being, he is the only one that can save us.

This morning, with 2Cl 1.6 still in mind, I worked through the first chapter in the Greek again, this time to work on a translation. It still needs work, but I thought I'd post it below. If you've never read Second Clement, give it a chance. If you have read it ... well, you already know it's pretty cool. Go read it again.

1 Brethren, it is necessary for us to think in this way concerning Jesus Christ: [to think] as concerning God, [to think] as concerning the judge of the living and the dead. It is not proper for us to think little concerning our salvation. 2 For when we think little concerning him, we also hope to receive little. The ones listening as though these were little things, they sin, and we sin — not knowing from where and on behalf of whom and into which place we have been called; nor how great the suffering Jesus Christ endured for us. 3 Therefore what can we give to him as return? What fruit [can we give him] worthy of that which he has given to us? And how much holiness do we owe him? 4 For he gave us the light; he greeted us as a Father does his sons; he saved us when we were being destroyed. 5 Therefore what praise shall we give to him? What wages can we give him as return? 6 We were maimed in our understanding, worshiping stone and wood and gold and silver and copper, the works of men. Our entire life was nothing if not death. And so we were blanketed in darkness and had eyes full of foggy mist. But we received sight, by his will we have cast off the cloud that enveloped us. 7 For he had mercy on us and saved us in his compassion, having seen in us the great error and destruction. We had not an ounce of hope of becoming saved, if not through him. 8 For he called us when we did not exist and he willed us out of non-being to be.


Post Author: rico
Sunday, May 14, 2006 11:16:10 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, April 15, 2006

Michael Bird, blogging at Euangelion, has two excellent Easter-related posts that you should really go read.

Thanks, Michael.

Update (2006-04-15): Here's a quote from Carson's essay:

Forgiveness, restoration, salvation, reconciliation -- all are possible, not because sins have somehow been cancelled as if they never were, but because another bore them unjustly. But by this adverb "unjustly" I mean that the person who bore them was just and did not deserve the punishment, not that some moral "system" that God was administering was thereby distorted. Rather, the God against whom the offenses were done pronounced sentence and sent his Son to bear the sentence (Ro 5.8); he made him who had no sin to be sin for us (2Co 5.21). And the purpose of this substitution was that "in him we might become the righteousness of God." (Carson, 134)


Post Author: rico
Saturday, April 15, 2006 9:36:40 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, April 14, 2006

All The Way My Savior Leads Me
Lyrics: Fanny J. Crosby, 1875.

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.
All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

When we don't understand, we know the Lord is in control. We know He is working in our lives to achieve His purposes. We have no reason to doubt Him. We have every reason to glorify Him whatever our circumstance on this earth.

He is the one who was crucified. He was dead and in the tomb. Whatever happens to people when they die happened to Him. He conquered it. On the third day He rose again.

Praise His Name, He is my Savior.

[More information on the song, though I'm personally a fan of Rich Mullins' arrangement of this song.]

Post Author: rico
Friday, April 14, 2006 11:30:01 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Upon perusing upcoming releases noted in Publishers Weekly, I noticed a title that Thomas Nelson is set to release (Amazon says Aug. 8, 2006) by Darrell Bock: The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities.

There isn't much information on Thomas Nelson's web site. They simply say:

In an easy-to-understand writing style, best-selling author and New Testament expert Darrell Bock helps you examine the claims about missing "secret" gospels and other early forms of Christianity. Bock presents samples of extra-biblical materials and compares them to biblical texts, enabling you to make your own judgments.

Sounds like it could be a response to Bart Ehrman's Lost Scriptures and Lost Christianities volumes from Oxford.

Does anyone know anything else about this upcoming volume from Bock?

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 5:28:21 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Sunday, February 05, 2006

Words from brother Lawrence:*

Whatever we do, even if we are reading the Word or praying, we should stop for a few minutes -- as often as possible -- to praise God from the depths of our hearts, to enjoy Him there in secret. Since you believe that God is always with you, no matter what you may be doing, why shouldn't you stop for awhile to adore Him, to praise Him, to petition Him, to offer Him your heart, and to thank Him?

What could  please God more than for us to leave the cares of the world temporarily in order to worship Him in our spirits? These momentary retreats serve to free us from our selfishness, which can only exist in the world. In short, we cannot show God our loyalty to Him more than by renouncing our worldly selves as much as a thousand times a day to enjoy even a single moment with Him.

This doesn't mean you must leave the duties of the world forever; that would be impossible. Let prudence be your guide. But I do believe that it is a common mistake of spirit-filled persons not to leave the cares of the world from time to time to praise God in their spirits and to rest in the peace of His divine presence for a few moments.

* Brother Lawrence lived over 300 years ago, serving as a cook in a monastery. His meditations and correspondence are collectively known as The Practice of the Presence of God, and are available in several different editions and even on the web.

Post Author: rico
Sunday, February 05, 2006 1:39:05 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, February 04, 2006

So head on over to Tyler Williams' Codex Blogspot and check it out.

Biblical Studies Carnival III will be hosted right here on ricoblog; an announcement and post submission information is forthcoming. Until then, head to the carnival and check out the links. You might even find a few links to ye olde ricoblog ...

Post Author: rico
Saturday, February 04, 2006 5:04:42 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I've been looking into 2Pe 1.5-7 as part of a home-group study I'm taking part in. If you've read ricoblog for awhile, you know I love these repetitive structures because they drill concepts into my brain. And I think translations that dump this stuff into straight prose miss something. First, here's the English (from ESV):

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement 
    your faith with virtue,
    and virtue with knowledge,
    and knowledge with self-control,
    and self-control with steadfastness,
    and steadfastness with godliness,
    and godliness with brotherly affection,
    and brotherly affection with love. (2Pe 1.5-7, ESV)

Here's the Greek:

Καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο δὲ σπουδὴν πᾶσαν παρεισενέγκαντες ἐπιχορηγήσατε
    ἐν τῇ πίστει ὑμῶν τὴν ἀρετήν,
    ἐν δὲ τῇ ἀρετῇ τὴν γνῶσιν,
    ἐν δὲ τῇ γνώσει τὴν ἐγκράτειαν,
    ἐν δὲ τῇ ἐγκρατείᾳ τὴν ὑπομονήν,
    ἐν δὲ τῇ ὑπομονῇ τὴν εὐσέβειαν,
    ἐν δὲ τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ τὴν φιλαδελφίαν,
    ἐν δὲ τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ τὴν ἀγάπην. (2Pe 1.5-7, NA27)

Even when you read this in the English, you get the idea of some sort of process with the next item building on the previous. But is that what is really going on here? Is Peter (or "the author", depending on your view of authorship here) really positing that there is some sort of cascading relationship/progress between all these qualities such that:

 -> virtue
     -> knowledge
         -> self-control
             -> perseverance
                 -> godliness
                     -> brotherly affection
                         -> love

That is, is a strict progression/structure in mind? I can't supplement my faith directly with knowledge, but virtue has to intervene? Well ... I really don't think so. I don't think there are six qualities that I need to progress through to get from faith to love. That doesn't seem to jive with 1Co 13 which talks about faith, hope and love (where's hope in the above progression?) Some of these qualities are "fruits of the spirit" as seen in Ga 5.23, and there is no progression stated there, it's just a flat list.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Ga 5.22-24, ESV)

And some things in that list aren't directly reflected in 2Pe 1.5-7. Now, this is just me thinking out loud here; I haven't done any deep study and I haven't read any commentaries. But I think 2Pe 1.5-7 is saying that each of these qualities are things we need to pursue, and that we are not to pursue any to the exclusion of another. They are all to be on the increase.

Look again at how v. 5 starts: "For this very reason". This points back to vv 3-4. The basic conclusion of those verses is that as Christians, we are "partakers of the divine nature" and that we have therefore "escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire". It is because we are partakers of the divine nature and have escaped corruption (in Pauline terms, we are no longer slaves to sin, we are now slaves to righteousness) that we instead pursue these other things. And that's what vv 8-11 reiterate:

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1.8-11, ESV)

Note the bold text, it marks areas that refer to the above list of qualities (faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love). We're not to have a selection of these qualities, or even one of them (the seemingly ultimate love based on the structure of the list); we're to have them all. And they're all to be increasing.

Is that then what it means that these things are "supplemented" (ἐπιχορηγέω)? This is an important verb because it is the verb that (if you're diagramming this baby) all of the prepositional phrases hang from. The same word occurs later in 2Pe 1.11, with "will be ... provided" its translation in the ESV. In v. 5, ἐπιχορηγέω is a second person plural aorist imperative, hence "supplement". This is addressed to the hearers of the letter; they are to supplement or add to their existing qualities. To their faith, they are to add virtue. To their virtue, they are to add knowledge. And so on. Everything is on the increase. It isn't a recipe -- it is turning up the volume across the board.

Last question, then: What's up with vv 10-11?

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1.10-11, ESV)

Is this saying that "turning up the volume across the board" (as I put it above) results in not falling (πταίω, BDAG p. 894 be ruined, be lost)? I have my thoughts (in a word, "no"), but it is getting late so I'll hold off explaining them (indefinitely; I may never come back to finish this thread). But if you have thoughts, please feel free to leave some comments.

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, February 01, 2006 12:13:14 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Friday, January 20, 2006

It's true, Logos Bible Software (my employer) has placed three new titles into its "pre-publication" system. These are things that we'll work on given enough interest to cover costs. These titles are:

If you're unfamiliar with the Logos Prepublication System, there is more info on the Logos web site.

Post Author: rico
Friday, January 20, 2006 8:40:04 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Loren has posted a summation of his "dangerous ideas" meme applied to Biblical Studies. Check it out.

Some more links:

Though I still am convinced that the two things I listed are true and could be seen as relatively "dangerous", I understand they're not top-of-the-crop sorts of ideas and would've been surprised to see them on Loren's final list. But still, the idea that many NT authorship and style studies that rely only on similar word usage are overreaching is important to me and one I hope to be looking into in the future.

And the second idea I posted (here restated) that it is wrong to only pursue naturalistic or text-critical explanations for hard-to-reconcile events recorded in the Bible (particularly in the Gospels and Acts) is, I think, still something that requires dialogue and discussion.

If I read the Hebrew Bible and don't see YHWH acting powerfully to preserve his people, the ones he covenanted with, then I'm missing the whole story. I'm not saying everything has a supernatural explanation — I am saying, however, that we can't rule out, for example, that God really could have parted the Red Sea, or the Jordan, for the Israelites to cross.

And if I read the New Testament, and don't see that Jesus is God (read the first three or four chapters of Mark, and then dig into some of Hebrews — Jesus was making implicit and explicit claims to be God incarnate) then I'm really missing what is going on.

To examine the text of the Bible with the assumption that recorded supernatural events, prophecies and miracles need some sort of naturalistic explanation and perhaps even scientific-method-style reproducible proof of hypothesis in order to be satisfied — well, if that's the case, why bother? Then it's all an academic exercise.

I'll probably catch flack for this radical idea (that's sarcasm), but if one does not approach exegesis and interpretation of the Bible with the understanding that God is God, and He can and does act within history, outside of history, and through history in all sorts of ways; then we've missed the boat.

That's the gist of my point, really: Our default position can't be to say "well, no, [some event] seems impossible as recorded, there must be some other explanation". Maybe God really did stop the sun from moving in the sky while Moses' hands were raised, allowing the Israelites victory. Maybe Jesus really did feed 5000 people with a few loaves and some fish, and maybe he really did have 12 baskets of goodies left over for later. I'm saying we can't automatically rule these sorts of things out as the first step of evaluating a passage. Can we pursue the alternatives? Sure. We'd be foolish not to do so. But we'd be equally foolish to think that science and the wisdom of our own brains and intellect can figure it all out.* As I read some critical commentaries and other surveys and studies produced by academics and scholars, the underlying message seems to be: "Well, no, the text can't really be saying [some event] happened because that's unreasonable; something else must've been going on". Skepticism is healthy. But when the practice of the skeptics is the norm, it ceases to be skepticism and it is time for the pendulum to swing back the other way.

My "dangerous idea" in this area, then, is that we should catch the pendulum and start the swing in the other direction.

Update (2006-01-18): Loren Rosson offers a comment and some encouragement, which I greatly appreciate. And I greatly appreciate this whole "dangerous idea" meme; it does provoke some thought.

Don't mind me, I'll just keep beating the supernatural straw man into submission with scads of red herring. (heh ... sarcasm). I'll admit that there is plenty of work that accepts supernatural acts of God as possible and even as occurring within history. I guess I've been reading some stuff lately that, between the lines, seems to scoff at such things as preposterous. (no titles, no authors, I'll just leave this thread here and move on).

* cf. Ge 11.1-9.

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 9:19:05 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Thursday, January 12, 2006

The good folks at the CCEL have provided an edition of the works of Dionysius the Areopagite in English. I know little about Dionysius, and even less about the available editions. The edition at CCEL is the 1897 edition of John Parker. As usual, several formats are available.

Searching for images of Dionysius led me to the new-to-me Orthodox Wiki. You can read the Orthodox take on Dionysius, complete with an image of him (the check pattern on his garment is interesting to me) in teaching position (note right hand). 

Post Author: rico
Thursday, January 12, 2006 8:31:18 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Sunday, January 08, 2006

Loren Rosson asks:

"The history of biblical studies is replete with scholars who were considered dangerous in their time; Reimarus, Strauss, and Schweitzer, etc. What is your dangerous idea? Any idea you think is dangerous, not because you think it's false, but because many others want it to be false and you think it's true?"

Here are a few suggestions from the brain of Rico. #1 has been percolating for awhile; #2 is a far more recent thought for me:

1. The New Testament isn't big enough and the corpus isn't secure enough* to support style theories for authorship determination when the theory is based on counting criteria like hapax legomenon, common words or conjunction use. This basically means that all stylometric studies, while useful and while providing some insight, can confirm or deny nothing regarding authorship of a particular NT document. Therefore, several of the classic studies used as basis for authorship determination (e.g. P.N. Harrison's Problem of the Pastoral Epistles), while perhaps offering some insight, are inconclusive and do not prove a thing. As my Psych prof used to say, "correlation does not prove causation". [N.B.: I'm indebted to Matthew Brook O'Donnell for the idea that corpus sizes are too small; the application I've made here is my own thought — likely unoriginal.]

2. God is supernatural. To approach Biblical Studies from a viewpoint that does not allow the supernatural to be possible is an invalid approach. I'm not quite sure how to word this thought/idea or how to really describe it. My basic thought is that when I read something dealing with Biblical Studies (particularly commentaries) and it rules out something the Biblical text directly testifies to on the basis that the testified action could not be physically possible ... well, that's a specious argument. The modernist approach of removing the supernatural to a separate sphere and empirically testing a hypothesis to determine physical possibility as the metric of truth is not the only approach. I can't rule out Jesus' raising of Lazarus because, well, raising someone dead for days isn't possible in my thinking. I can't rule out the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana because I've never seen water turn into wine. I can't explain away the massive feedings of people because, well, 5000 people just can't be fed from a few loaves of bread and a couple of fishes (let alone have 12 baskets left over). We are dealing with God; therefore supernatural action must be possible and even expected in some instances. It cannot be ruled out or explained away. He can raise one dead for days; He can make wine from water; and He can feed and satisfy the hunger of massive crowds with relative morsels of food. He is God. I realize many will say this is inappropriate and even inaccurate; that a more "scientific" approach must be taken in these instances. I say that's as biased as any approach and we're fooling ourselves if we think otherwise. [N.B.: The basic idea here is not my own, but one I've picked up through other reading and conversation with friends and colleagues.]

* by "secure enough" I mean that most scholars/academics wouldn't consider enough material by any author "genuine" to be of any value for such counting/stylometry sorts of arguments to matter.

Post Author: rico
Sunday, January 08, 2006 11:33:26 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ νύμφη λέγουσιν· ἔρχου.
καὶ ὁ ἀκούων εἰπάτω· ἔρχου.
καὶ ὁ διψῶν ἐρχέσθω,
    ὁ θέλων λαβέτω ὕδωρ ζωῆς δωρεάν.

And the Spirit and the Bride say: "Come!"
and let the one who hears say: "Come!"
and let the one who is thirsty come; 
    let the one who wishes take the water of life that has no price. (Re 22.17)

Λέγει ὁ μαρτυρῶν ταῦτα· ναί, ἔρχομαι ταχύ.
Ἀμήν, ἔρχου κύριε Ἰησοῦ.

The one testifying to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly".
So be it. Come, Lord Jesus! (Re 22.20)

Do you earnestly desire for Him to come? I'm not talking about eschatology here; I could care less about pre-/a-/post-mil type stuff at this point. When you read the Apocalypse, do you, along with John, desire Jesus to come? He says he is surely coming, and quickly at that. Can you testify with John, "Amen. So be it. Come, Lord Jesus!"?

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, January 03, 2006 11:07:43 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Thursday, December 15, 2005

I was just reading some in Matthew J. O'Connell's translation of Moreschini and Norelli's Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature: A Literary History. And sometimes things just hit me. Like this, talking about the second dialog between Jesus and James in the First Apocalypse of James, a gnostic dialogue from the Nag Hammadi Library:

After the passion (30.12-31.1), Jesus appears again to James, comments on his passion, attributing it to the heavenly archons, and explains in detail how James can answer the heavenly "customs officers" who will attempt to restrain his spirit after death. (Moreschini and Norelli, 143)

Sometimes, despite my best attempts to prevent it, mortality peeks around the corner just to remind me that ashes do pass to ashes, and dust does indeed turn into dust again. I'm a sojourner, and someday my time here will end.

Mortality "peeked around the corner" when I read the above paragraph.

Some day, and only the Lord knows when, this life of mine will end. It may be tonight, it may be 70 years from now (I'd be 104 -- Hopefully Christ returns or takes me home before then). But I don't think about it much for a few reasons.

First, I'm scared. I have no clue, beyond vague generalities, about what happens the moment after I breathe my last breath.

Second, I'm busy. I have too much to do. This is a mixed blessing; I'm sure that a huge portion of what I busy myself with really has little consequence in the scope of eternity. But I also know that God will prepare me for the tasks he has in store for me; so I need to try my best to heed his direction in all that I do. But many times, busy-ness distracts from this.

Third, I have hope. I know there is more to living than this sad, sinful existence we have here now. This makes the uncertainty bearable. Life in the fullest awaits. Further up, Further in!

I know I don't need to worry about "customs officers" hassling me in some other-worldly place I arrive in after death. My salvation is secure in the Lord Jesus Christ. So when mortality "peeks around the corner", that's OK. Actually, it is a good thing. I need to be reminded that I am destined for other things (cf. EpDiog 5.5), to help keep my eyes focused on that which is ahead of me (cf. Php 3.12-16).

Post Author: rico
Thursday, December 15, 2005 11:45:48 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, December 05, 2005

Sometimes you forget how good a book can be. I last read à Kempis' Imitation of Christ probably 10 years ago. Last night, for some reason, I picked it up off the shelf and flicked right to the below entry and was blown away. Note that versions of this book are available in cheap paperback. You can also find a version online at the CCEL, which is where the below text (book 3, chapter 48) comes from.

O MOST happy mansion of the city above! O most bright day of eternity, which night does not darken, but which the highest truth ever enlightens! O day, ever joyful and ever secure, which never changes its state to the opposite! Oh, that this day shine forth, that all these temporal things come to an end! It envelops the saints all resplendent with heavenly brightness, but it appears far off as through a glass to us wanderers on the earth. The citizens of heaven know how joyful that day is, but the exiled sons of Eve mourn that this one is bitter and tedious.

The days of this life are short and evil, full of grief and distress. Here man is defiled by many sins, ensnared in many passions, enslaved by many fears, and burdened with many cares. He is distracted by many curiosities and entangled in many vanities, surrounded by many errors and worn by many labors, oppressed by temptations, weakened by pleasures, and tortured by want.

Oh, when will these evils end? When shall I be freed from the miserable slavery of vice? When, Lord, shall I think of You alone? When shall I fully rejoice in You? When shall I be without hindrance, in true liberty, free from every grievance of mind and body? When will there be solid peace, undisturbed and secure, inward peace and outward peace, peace secured on every side? O good Jesus, when shall I stand to gaze upon You? When shall I contemplate the glory of Your kingdom? When will You be all in all to me? Oh, when shall I be with You in that kingdom of Yours, which You have prepared for Your beloved from all eternity?

I am left poor and exiled in a hostile land, where every day sees wars and very great misfortunes. Console my banishment, assuage my sorrow. My whole desire is for You. Whatever solace this world offers is a burden to me. I desire to enjoy You intimately, but I cannot attain to it. I wish to cling fast to heavenly things, but temporal affairs and unmortified passions bear me down. I wish in mind to be above all things, but I am forced by the flesh to be unwillingly subject to them. Thus, I fight with myself, unhappy that I am, and am become a burden to myself, while my spirit seeks to rise upward and my flesh to sink downward. Oh, what inward suffering I undergo when I consider heavenly things; when I pray, a multitude of carnal thoughts rush upon me!

O my God, do not remove Yourself far from me, and depart not in anger from Your servant. Dart forth Your lightning and disperse them; send forth Your arrows and let the phantoms of the enemy be put to flight. Draw my senses toward You and make me forget all worldly things. Grant me the grace to cast away quickly all vicious imaginings and to scorn them. Aid me, O heavenly Truth, that no vanity may move me. Come, heavenly Sweetness, and let all impurity fly from before Your face.

Pardon me also, and deal mercifully with me, as often as I think of anything besides You in prayer. For I confess truly that I am accustomed to be very much distracted. Very often I am not where bodily I stand or sit; rather, I am where my thoughts carry me. Where my thoughts are, there am I; and frequently my thoughts are where my love is. That which naturally delights, or is by habit pleasing, comes to me quickly. Hence You Who are Truth itself, have plainly said: “For where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” If I love heaven, I think willingly of heavenly things. If I love the world, I rejoice at the happiness of the world and grieve at its troubles. If I love the flesh, I often imagine things that are carnal. If I love the spirit, I delight in thinking of spiritual matters. For whatever I love, I am willing to speak and hear about.

Blessed is the man who for Your sake, O Lord, dismisses all creatures, does violence to nature, crucifies the desires of the flesh in fervor of spirit, so that with serene conscience he can offer You a pure prayer and, having excluded all earthly things inwardly and outwardly, becomes worthy to enter into the heavenly choirs.


Post Author: rico
Monday, December 05, 2005 8:16:41 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Friday, October 07, 2005

So, I wasn't going to blog about my birthday. Yes, it is on Saturday (tomorrow).

But I was reading the Fragments of Papias over my lunch hour today. They are excerpts about a dude (Papias, whom some say was disciple of John) who wrote five books on exposition of the sayings of Jesus. Today, we only know he wrote them, we don't have any remnants of the books outside of some few citations (primarily from Eusebius). Some say Papias may have been the scribe/amanuensis for John when John's gospel was composed. Anyway, here's something from one of those excerpts, this one from Irenaeus:

But that the age of thirty years is the prime of a young man's ability, and that this extends even to the fortieth year, everyone will admit; but after the fortieth and fiftieth years, it begins to verge toward advanced age. This was our Lord's age when he taught, inasmuch as the Gospel and all the elders who lived with John, the Lord's disciple, in Asia testify that John delivered this tradition to them. For he remained with them until the time of Trajan. And some of them saw not only John, but other apostles as well, and heard this same account from them and testify concerning the previously mentioned account. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.22.5; quoted by Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, p. 593)

I'll be celebrating my 34th birthday this Saturday. Until reading the above quote from Irenaeus, I'd never stopped to think that Jesus' disciples may have been roughly the same age as I am now when they walked with Jesus.

Can you imagine that these disciples, adult converts to Christ, are the ones who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, started preaching the message in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and even unto the ends of the earth? And that message has persisted down to us today?

Whoa. God is awesome. When I think, "What new things can God do in me, with me, and through me?"; when things start to seem old — he makes them new again. He's got plans for all of us; he's nowhere near done with us. Where is he leading you these days?

Post Author: rico
Friday, October 07, 2005 5:26:43 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tonight I'm doing some revision of some stuff I've written on 1Ti 3.14-16:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory. (1Ti 3.14-16, ESV)

In my reading of First Timothy, this section is the central focus. The letter has to do with false teaching infiltrating the church; false teaching that is both seemingly innocuous and deadly serious. The letter warns the church to get back on track; and to do that they need to know the truth. The false teaching -- all aspects of it -- must be expunged; the church must reclaim the truth and preach it anew, with vigor and haste.

This piece of Scripture clues the recipients in to what that truth is. While this is seen as the "mystery of godliness", it really isn't a mystery. It is pretty clear. The hymnic/creedal section describes Christ, and it describes what he has done.

Anyway, as I'm going through this, I start to ponder: What is the difference between belief and intellectual assent? That is, there are things that I can, logically, admit to being possible. But in my mind, that is somewhat removed from belief. If something is believed, it implies (to me, anyway) that one's actions will change to fit one's beliefs. Mere intellectual assent doesn't.*

Believing something does not necessarily imply that the substance of the belief can be logically proven. I can fervently believe something without being able to prove it. This is what faith is all about, and why it is so vital and necessary in the life of a Christian.

So I ask myself: These essentials listed in 1Ti 3.16 -- do I believe them, or do I only assent to them intellectually? That is, is this information that changes my life and causes me to act differently from those who are not Christian? Or do I simply say, "yeah, that sounds about right" and then go on in life with no resultant change?

This truth about Jesus Christ must be believed. It cannot exist only in the intellectual realm of one's mind. Belief is reflected in action. Jesus was God incarnate on this earth; He was crucified. He rose from the dead, and he sits at the right hand of God Almighty. Easy letters to type; but do I believe it? Is my life different as a result? Is this truth foundational to my way of living?

I like to think so, and I like to think that I do my best. But I know I fall short. I need to do better at believing what I believe I believe. (got it?). Praise be to God for the gift of His Son, my Savior and Mediator; for the gift of the Holy Spirit, my Comforter and Helper; and for his never-failing mercy and grace. I would be lost -- in every sense of the word -- without them.

* For example, I'll assent that you could determine an eight-case noun system in Greek. But when I'm reading Greek and declining nouns ... I'll use five-case every time. I'd say that while I'd "intellectually assent" to an eight-case system; I "believe" in the five-case.

Post Author: rico
Tuesday, October 04, 2005 11:18:58 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, September 17, 2005

Through a post on B-Greek, I've become aware of SIL's Journal of Translation. Articles for 2005 (two issues, four articles per issue) are online as PDF files. The Editor's Forward to Issue 1 Notes:

Welcome to the long-awaited launching of SIL’s Journal of Translation. In one sense, this is a replacement for Notes on Translation, as it provides an outlet for academic writing and research in this field. But JOT is truly different. It is a peer-reviewed, academic e-journal which incorporates recent investigations and discoveries not only in translation but also in related areas of study. We initially plan to e-publish the Journal three times a year, April, August, and December.

The site is set up with excellent indexes so that all articles are indexed by title, author and subject. And the content looks pretty good too.

Now, if they just had an RSS feed or email announcements when new issues come out ...

Post Author: rico
Saturday, September 17, 2005 12:11:05 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Pardon me a moment whilst I mop up the drool puddle from my desk ...

Ok, I'm ready now.

Flipping through the SBL Annual Meeting program book, I noticed an advert for Hendrickson Publishers.

Specifically, I noted a book by Craig A. Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature. So, I hopped to Amazon.com and see that it is to be released in November. This thing sounds awesome; here's an excerpt from the blurb from Hendrickson's site:

Evans’s dexterous survey—a thoroughly revised and significantly expanded edition of his Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation—amasses the requisite details of date, language, text, translation, and general bibliography. Evans also evaluates the materials’ relevance for interpreting the NT. The vast range of literature examined includes the Old Testament apocrypha, the Old Testament pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, assorted ancient translations of the Old Testament and the Targum paraphrases, Philo and Josephus, Rabbinic texts, the New Testament pseudepigrapha, the early church fathers, various gnostic writings, and more. Six appendixes, including a list of quotations, allusions, and parallels to the NT, and a comparison of Jesus’ parables with those of the rabbis will further save the interpreter precious time.

Nota Bene: It's cheaper at Amazon by around twelve bucks. But I'm hoping it'll be even cheaper at the SBL Annual Meeting ...

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, September 07, 2005 12:07:08 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A few days ago, I wrote a post called Context is Everything.

I was thinking further along those lines, that part of "everything" is perspective.

I have no idea why, but earlier today I was recalling what was perhaps one of the most embarrassing moments in my life (to date). It happened right before I was graduated from high school. It was before the commencement ceremony, and our principal was giving his by now standard speech to the assembled graduates before the big ceremony began.

He asked us if anyone knew what it meant "to commence". Eager and somewhat proud, I fell into his trap. Hey, I was smart and I knew it. But I honestly didn't know the formal definition of the word. I deduced it from context.

"Mr. Parker, it means 'to end', right?"

I was so embarrased when I found out it meant the exact opposite. But from my own perspective, the commencement ceremony was all about ending. I'd given twelve good years of service to the Oak Harbor School District, my time was up. I was getting out. It was over. Time to move on.

And I dare say anyone attempting to derive the meaning of the word "commencement" or "commence" based on studies of these assemblies across the country — otherwise uniformed about the meaning of the word — might end up making the same mistake I did. They could have all of the data in the world. Fragments of programs saved from time capsules at high schools across the country. Oral histories from five generations removed telling the story of how school ended with "commencement" day.

But none of this changes the fact that "to commence" means to begin or to start.

I wonder how many times I make the same mistake in exegesis, deducing an obvious-but-wrong meaning of a word, or similarly erroneous intent of a phrase. It makes me realize that I need to be a bit more diligent about understanding the background and setting of the specific books of the Bible. That I need to know more about theories of authorship and circumstances of writing. And, most importantly, I need to be better about tracking who is saying what to whom in epistles, narrative and dialogue. And the relationships between those people. This sort of knowledge helps keep perspective in mind, and this will assist in proper exegesis of the Bible.

And that's the goal, isn't it?

Update (2005-09-01): Cheers to Mike Sangrey at Exegetitor for picking up this thread and working it out in more detail. Regarding what Mike says about what I called theories of authorship above, in my defense I confess to myopia. I'm stuck in the Pastoral Epistles where one's theory of authorship, I'd argue, has at least some effect on how the text is understood.

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, August 31, 2005 4:48:08 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, August 19, 2005

[Note: I've blogged about First Corinthians 13.1-3 and 13.4-7. This post is the third (and final) in that series.]

I've spent the last week or so meditating on this particular portion of Scripture, 1Co 13.8-13. I'm still in awe when I read it or look at it.

I think there are a few different parts within the larger section of 1Co 13.8-13. I'll discuss each of these sections. Recall the end of the previous section, though: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Most translations place a paragraph break here. And the following text is:

Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει·
εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι, καταργηθήσονται·
εἴτε γλῶσσαι, παύσονται·
εἴτε γνῶσις, καταργηθήσεται.

Paul sets up a contrast here between love, which never ends/fails, and things that "pass away" or are destroyed:

Love never ends
as for prophecies, they will pass away
as for tongues, they will cease
as for knowledge, it will pass away

Love endures, while the other things Paul has been discussing do not. Then Paul continues:

ἐκ μέρους γὰρ γινώσκομεν
καὶ ἐκ μέρους προφητεύομεν·
ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ τὸ τέλειον,
     τὸ ἐκ μέρους καταργηθήσεται.

I love the alliteration in the ESV's translation here:

For we know in part
and we prophesy in part;
but when the perfect comes,
     the partial will pass away.

A few things to notice. First, the reiteration of "know in part" (knowledge will pass away) and "prophesy in part" (prophecies will pass away) and the repetition of this "partial" stuff passing away. Also interesting to me is the "perfect" (completion, fulfilment) replacing the "partial". The natural contrast would be "whole" to "partial", I'd think. But that's not the case here.

Now, I haven't read any commentaries on this passage, I'm just considering the words, phrases and larger connections and working through the text, making conclusions that seem appropriate to me based on the current context. I need to make sure you know this before I get to the next section. I don't think I'm "off the reservation" but I don't know how others approach this passage. So I don't know how novel this next bit will be.

I think the next two "sections" (as I call them) are attempts at examples of how the stuff of the now — the partial — will be superceded by the perfect. I also think that the perfect refers to when Christ returns and sets all things right in the world. Until that blessed and glorious day arrives, love (as described in 1Co 13.4-7) is to be the primary motive for our actions as Christians. Now, before you decide that I'm wacky (or that I'm onto something) consider the next section:

ὅτε ἤμην νήπιος,
     ἐλάλουν ὡς νήπιος,
     ἐφρόνουν ὡς νήπιος,
     ἐλογιζόμην ὡς νήπιος·
ὅτε γέγονα ἀνήρ,
     κατήργηκα τὰ τοῦ νηπίου.

And, in the ESV:

When I was a child
     I spoke like a child,
     I thought like a child,
     I reasoned like a child;
When I became a man
     I gave up childish ways.

Consider that in light of the partial/perfect theme from before. The child (partial) has his own ways. Ways of speaking, thinking and reasoning. When the child becomes an adult, those former ways of speaking, thinking and reasoning are outmoded. The adult is the completion/fulfilment of the child, thus the adult — while the childish ways served him well as a child — has moved on to the ways of the adult.

I think a similar contrast occurs in the first part of the next section; and a restatement of the partial/perfect theme occurs in the second part of the section. Paul is really doing his best to drive this point home.

βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾽ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι,
     τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους,
     τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι
          καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

And again, the ESV:

For now we see in a mirror dimly,
     but then face to face.
Now I know in part;
     but then I shall know fully
          even as I have been fully known.

What we see in a mirror, when we look into it, is only a two-dimensional reflection of what is three-dimensional reality. That's the difference between what we can see now, and what we will see then. We have foreshadowing, to be sure, but it is at best a smudged mirror compared to the clarity with which we will witness whatever it is that is in store for us on that great and blessed day.

Then Paul sums it up, restating vv. 9-10. What he knows now is only partial, what he will know then (when the partial has been made perfect, or completed) will be full — in much the same way that the perfect God now knows us fully.

Finally, Paul ends the section with:

Νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη, 
     τὰ τρία ταῦτα·
μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη.

Again, in the ESV:

So now faith, hope and love abide,
     these three;
but the greatest of these is love.

How is love greater than faith and hope? I think faith and hope are necessary to us today because our knowledge and understanding are only partial. If our knowledge was made complete, if our understanding was such that we knew the very mind of God; faith and hope wouldn't be necessary. We need faith and hope now until we see the fulfilment/completion/perfection of those last days, of Christ's return. We need them strongly, and thanks be to God for giving them to us through the Holy Spirit.

We have, however, been shown the fulfilment of love. Christ died for us. He underwent the ultimate penalty of death and seperation from the Father so that we might be forgiven and saved. He did this of his own will, of his own accord, because he loved (and loves) us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Ro 5.6-8)

This is love. This is the greatest thing. And it is the more excellent way—by far. (cf. 1Co 12.27-31)

Update (2005-08-22): Stephen C. Carlson (Hypotyposeis) writes in the comments responding to my 3D vs 2D mirror analogy:

That's definitely true, but not, I think, Paul's reason for the analogy. Think of mirror technology in antiquity, especially how most mirrors were made of highly polished disks of bronze amd how dim your reflection looks in those...

I read something similar in the NIGTC volume on First Corinthians (read the commentary after I wrote the post). Apparently Corinth was also somewhat reknowned for their bronze mirrors (Thiselton, NIGTC 1Cor p. 1068). And that does account for the use of 'dimly', and more probably reflects (pun intended) what Paul was thinking when he wrote the lines. I was thinking more on how to make sense of the mirror image looking at the same words from the 20th century. And the underlying contrast is still the same — the mirror in some manner reflects what is real, but it is most certainly not real. Some aspects of the real (or complete, or 'perfect') are revealed, but other aspects are concealed and even obscured. When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. We'll have no need of mirrors or reflections or reconstructions based on partially known things.

Post Author: rico
Friday, August 19, 2005 9:19:43 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, August 15, 2005

[I blogged on 1Co 13.1-3 awhile back, this post can be seen as a continuation of that one. I'm sure I'll have at least one more post on the chapter. And this post is going to be tough for me because I really want to blog on 1Co 13.8-13, but I need to do this section on 1Co 13.4-7 first.]

I've been meditating on 1Co 13 for awhile now. No, not "meditating" as you think some mountain-top-sitting guru from some eastern religion would meditate. What I mean is that it has been at the forefront of my thoughts for awhile. I've been working on memorizing the chapter and I think I have it down. As I review the chapter to memorize, I stop and think about the chapter or the portion I'm reviewing. I run over the text aloud while I'm driving to or from work, or to or from Amy's house.

Anyway, recall that the thrust of 1Co 13.1-3 is that without love as motive for actions, the actions are worthless. They are nothing. We can exercise the gifts we have been given, but if we aren't acting out of love, the effort is wasted. We can stand as martyrs, we can give everything to charity or the poor, but the action is empty and vain if it isn't grounded in love.

That's a provocative thought, but it really does make one ask: "So, then, what is love?"

And that's the question Paul now attempts to answer. The problem is that the answer isn't quantitative. All Paul can do to define love is to describe how one who acts with love as a motive actually acts. So this is what he does. Again, the ESV formats this as plain paragraph text, it doesn't format it as poetry. And that's a shame, because when it is presented as poetry, one stops to read and looks for connections. And those connections are what we need to properly understand the text. If we read this chapter (and this section) as prose, we're missing something we need to understand.

Here is 1Co 13.4-7 in a rather wooden/literal translation because I want to point towards the Greek, which I'll discuss later. The parens indicate implicit words/context that I'm simply making explicit.

Love is patient,
love is kind,
love does not envy,
(love does) not boast,
(love is) not proud,
(love is) not disgraceful,
(love does) not desire its own (way),
(love is) not provoked,
(love does) not reckon the wrong,
(love does) not rejoice at unrighteousness
but (love) rejoices with the truth:

(love) bears all things,
(love) believes all things,
(love) hopes all things,
(love) endures all things.

Now isn't that much more clear? Paul shows us the sorts of things one does (or doesn't do) when one acts in love. This list makes me feel rather guilty. I can, without too much effort, think of times where I've been impatient with others, or unkind. Or when I've acted with envy as a motive. Or where I've combined boasting and pride into a single conversation to make myself feel better and make the person I was conversing with feel small.

Paul says that when I do such things, I'm not acting in love. When I'm acting like that, based on what Paul is teaching here (cf. v. 2 earlier) I'm nothing. And, of course, he's right.

The one on the list that really gets me, though, is that "love does not desire its own way". The ESV translates that as "it does not insist on its own way". If someone else's needs are to be more important to me than my own, how can I elevate my desires above their needs? I can't if I am acting in love. I've screwed that up countless times.

Imagine if you were in the Corinthian fellowship when this letter was received, and when it was being read to the community for the very first time. This poetic list goes on and on. Even if you weren't paying full attention (as a friend of mine used to put it, you were in church but in your mind you were "scoring touchdowns", daydreaming) you would most likely hear this bit about love and what it is not. And you'd hear something in that list (at least one thing, I'd gather) that would jolt you out of complacency and make you think.

This is what you'd hear. And I'd like to recommend that if you know a little Greek and can pronounce the words to some degree, that you work through it and read it aloud, paying attention to the syllables per line, even the bracketed text that NA/UBS list as disputed (thanks to my new friend Ulrik for this suggestion):

Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ,
χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη,
οὐ ζηλοῖ, [ἡ ἀγάπη]
οὐ περπερεύεται,
οὐ φυσιοῦται,
οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ,
οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς,
οὐ παροξύνεται,
οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,
οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ,
συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ·

πάντα στέγει,
πάντα πιστεύει,
πάντα ἐλπίζει,
πάντα ὑπομένει.

I don't even need to make any of that text bold for you to see the repeated elements. In addition to the syllables, though, did you notice the ending sound of almost all of those lines (again, including the bracketed text)? It's beautiful, isn't it?

In addition to working through what love is not, Paul makes four statements at the end of this section regarding what love does. These are complete and leave no exceptions. Sure, you might say that the point is rhetorical and Paul can't actually mean "all" here. But if he didn't why would he repeat it? (Hint: if you say "emphasis", that's a cop-out. Why would Paul want to 'emphasize' it if he didn't really mean it?).

I've run too long, and it's getting late. I'm going to leave it here. Hey, it's my blog, I can do that!

I'll start in again on 1Co 13.8-13, though that section may go long. It's such a cool piece of writing. Hopefully I can get to it in the next week.

Post Author: Rico
Monday, August 15, 2005 10:06:50 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Thursday, August 04, 2005

This song is on an Pakaderm Records (remember the Elefante brothers?) sampler from 1991 called "Portrait of a spirit". Good luck finding it. The song is based on Rev 15.3-4:

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!

Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Here are the words to the song, as composed by Scott Sellen ((c) 1992 Always an Adventure Music ASCAP):

[Verses 1, 2, 4]
Oh God, Your works are marvelous
Your ways are just and true
Oh King of saints, who'll not fear you?
And glorify, come glorify
Jesus, glorify in you.

[Verses 3, 5]
You are the only Holy One
Nations come and worship You ...
You are the only Holy One
Nations come and worship You

The line "Oh King of saints, who'll not fear you?" has been playing in my head for the past few days. It's a good lyric.

Now, I understand you can't get the full sense without listening to the music. The tune is simple. Instrumentation is sparse with just an acoustic guitar, accordion and harmonica (played by Darrell Mansfield). The primary instrument is Furay's voice. And every time I hear it, I think, "whoa ... "

Post Author: Rico
Thursday, August 04, 2005 11:53:38 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, July 31, 2005

As everyone should do time to time, I've been thinking about 1Co 13. I'm in the process of reading through the Pauline epistles in larger chunks (a couple of chapters at a time, though I repeat sections frequently) and this past week I was in the middle of First Corinthians. On Thursday, I found myself in chapter 13, and I just had to camp out there for awhile.

The first thing I learned is that one really needs to read chapters 12 and 13 together. The end of chapter 12 leads right into chapter 13. And when you hit chapter 13, here's what you find in the first three verses in the ESV:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels
but have not love
I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal

And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and knowledge
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains
but have not love
I am nothing

If I give away all I have
and if I deliver my body up to be burned
but have not love
I gain nothing

Now that's poetry. Let's check it out in the Greek (UBS4), and work with that:

Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων,
ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον.

καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν
καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι,
ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
οὐθέν εἰμι.

κἂν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου
καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου ἵνα καυχήσωμαι,
ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι.

You can start to see the structure a bit better now. Each verse (or 'stanza', that they match the NT versification is a happy coincidence) has three elements: The "If ... ", the "but ... " and the result. I'm sure that English Lit majors and poetry buffs have the terminology for such things down, but I really don't. I can spot it when it is obvious (like here, at least to me), but my terminology is surely incorrect. That's why I use the simple labels of "If ... ", "but ... " and result -- because even I can understand them.

The first verse only has one "If", regarding the use of the gift of tongues. In the other verses, the pattern is more evident: Two "ifs", one "but" and the result. The effect of all three verses is to consider one's actions and motives to arrive at a result. The pattern is basically:

If I do stuff
but have not love
I am [negative result]

In Greek, the pattern could be:

Ἐὰν / καὶ ἐὰν / κἂν [do stuff]
ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
[negative result]

[For a few text-critical questions on this structure, see below]

What is the overall theme of 1Co 13.1-3? If my actions aren't fueled by love, then I am doing nothing. My actions have no effect and are useless.

And "love" here isn't some soft, touchy-feely warmness or goodwill that we feel toward others. It isn't the quality that situation ethicists proclaim to have as a motive when they're really justifying sin. It isn't love like that old Coca-Cola commercial, you know, where the "whole world" is singing in perfect harmony, running around on a grassy hill on a perfectly sunny day, with everyone all smiles and happy.

This love is the love of Christ and it is defined in 1Co 13.4-7. We are to practice the love that Jesus practiced when he offered himself up for us -- Sovereign God for sinful man. Paul is saying that we are to do the same here. He's just finished talking about the Lord's Supper (1Co 11.17-34), how we have fellowship with the body of Christ. He's just finished talking about spiritual gifts and how the church is like a body, a single unit, that works together with each part exercising different gifts in obedience and to the glory of God. 

Paul's point? I think it has something to do with keeping our focus on God. When we exercise the gifts we have been given (and we all have gifts so we need to exercise them regularly and frequently, cf. Ro 12 and 1Co 12) we must do so with our focus off of ourselves. For me, that means when I teach, or when I write, I can't be thinking or focusing on the benefits I receive from the preparation or the teaching. I need to focus on acting with the love of Christ to glorify God. God will use it for his purposes, not mine. And I need to be about his purposes, not mine.

Now, a few observations that didn't fit up above. These are questions I don't really have answers to, if you have thoughts please feel free to email me,  or comment on your own blog (with a trackback or notify me so I can add a link) or simply comment on this thread. Note that NA27 has no variants listed in either instance mentioned below. Where Tischendorf has variants, I've listed them below.

1. Why does the text have κἂν (crasis for καὶ ἐὰν) in the first line of the third verse? I understand that these are equivalent in meaning, but what would be the reason for having the crasis only once and the expanded form elsewhere? Wouldn't καὶ ἐὰν make more sense? Tischendorf (if I'm reading it correctly) notes that uncials A B and C each support the crasis, but Sinaiticus along with D E F G K and L (and some citations from the Fathers) support καὶ ἐὰν. Tischendorf actually goes with Sinaiticus, so he is at variance with UBS/NA. I'll grant that agreement between A and B is meaningful, but the variant doesn't make sense to me. It may be insightful to see where the word occurs on the line in each of the MSS -- could the MSS that support the crasis have had a scribe who used the crasis because the line was running short? Any thoughts?

2. Why does the text have οὐθέν εἰμι at the end of v. 2, but οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι at the end of v. 3? Again, I understand that these are equivalent, but is there a good reason for the different orthography? Does it have to do with the verbs the word occurs with? The two letters in question (theta and delta) sound very much alike and I'd think they could be easily confused, either in a scribe's head as he was copying the exemplar, or mis-heard if a text was copied based on an oral reading. Any ideas? FWIW, Tischendorf cites D* F G and Ksem as supporting οὐδὲν in v. 2. Sinaticus, along with A B C Dc and L support the NA27 reading; I can see why on uncial evidence one would agree with the NA/UBS reading. But does it make sense that a (seemingly needless) orthography difference would take place in text like this?

Update (2005-08-01): Cheers to Stephen C. Carlson (Hypotyposeis) for yet another very insightful answer via blog comment. Stephen, I can't thank you enough for putting up with my questions and giving a concise and informative response. I hadn't thought to examine the consistency of MSS as reported by Tischendorf for the other instances of καὶ ἐὰν. Someday, when I get my junior text-critic merit badge, you'll be one among others that I'll have to thank.

Update II (2005-08-02): I completely forgot, but I have a copy of Reuben Swanson's New Testament Greek Manuscripts for First Corinthians on my desk. Talk about the perfect resource to fully examine the problem. It addresses the have κἂν / καὶ ἐὰν issue and the οὐθέν οὐδὲν issue. Short answer: Manuscripts are all over the place here. Some consolidate, some split. I don't have time to post more now, but perhaps I'll get to that tomorrow. 

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, July 31, 2005 9:35:24 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Thursday, June 30, 2005

As mentioned previously, I'm reading through the Pauline epistles and am currently in Romans. This isn't exhaustive reading/study, I'm just doing a surface reading working through a chunk of verses in the Greek each morning.

Today was Ro 6.15-23. And it was v. 19 that jumped out at me, again due to structure/repetition of phrases in the verse. Here is the Greek. The indentation is to line up repetitions; it is not necessarily indicative of any syntactic phenomenon in the sentence.

ὥσπερ γὰρ
   παρεστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα
      τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἀνομίᾳ εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν,

οὕτως νῦν
   παραστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα
      τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ εἰς ἁγιασμόν.

The bold phrase is almost exactly alike in both instances; the only difference is the mood of the verb. In the first instance, it is an aorist active indicative; in the second it is an aorist active imperative. The pattern in the phrases following the bold phrases is also the same: [dative noun(s)] + εἰς + [accusative prepositional object]. Here's the English of the ESV with respective portions bolded:

For just as
   you once presented your members as slaves
      to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness,

so now
   present your members as slaves
      to righteousness leading to sanctification.

We can see the difference between the aorist indicative ("you (once) presented") and the aorist imperative ("present"). We can also see that εἰς + accusative was (in the ESV) translated as "leading to".

In the past, says Paul, we "presented our members as slaves" to "impurity and lawlessness", which led to "more lawlessness". This is weird language to us today; it means essentially that prior to knowledge of our salvation in Christ, we pursued sin, and as we did this we were drawn into deeper into sin. It's a nasty circle, spiraling downward. Our fallen nature (what I'd call "sin") is evidenced by these impure and lawless acts (what I'd call "sins").

Paul says "Stop it!"

Now that we know that God has saved us through Jesus Christ, we have to stop "presenting our members as slaves to sin" and do the opposite. Instead of pursuing sin, we must instead pursue righteousness. Paul earlier (cf Ro 6.5-14) writes that our "old self" was "crucified along with [Christ Jesus]" so that we'd "no longer be enslaved to sin". That was then, this is now. Paul says, basically, "You used to do that, now do this." He's telling us to change our action. He's telling us to stop sinning and instead start obeying, start doing what God commands. We're no longer bound to sin, so there's no reason to serve it. We need to change our action to reflect our allegiance to a new master.

The choice is clear; the pattern/structure of the text used by Paul here makes it even clearer. He's comparing two alternatives: One leads to impurity and compouding lawlessness; the other leads to righteousness and eventual sanctification. He recommends and commands the alternative he has chosen when confronted with the same choice -- righteousness leading to sanctification. This is pursued by becoming subject to righteousness, or (in English) stopping our sinful actions and starting to act in obedience to the will of God.

Is this easy? No. Will it happen overnight? No. But that doesn't mean that we don't try. That doesn't mean that we don't fight the battle and try to do our best to follow Him, despite the sinful fallen nature that we must daily contend with. Paul will discuss this later (cf. Ro 7.14-25). Paul knows this is a tall order because he knows that he can't live perfectly under the law. He needed Jesus too.

Update (2005-07-01): Responding to comments from Geoff Hudson, I should say that I don't see any reason to propose a redacted text here. I also don't see any evidence that Romans was originally a "Jewish document" that was later re-worked (redacted) for some reason, and that we have the re-worked (redacted) form and not the original. Geoff is, of course, free to consider and look into a redaction thesis such as this. I just don't think it is tenable and it requires today's reader to make a whole lot of unsubstantiated assumptions regarding the text; then it requires one to read those assumptions back into the text in order to make it work. From my perspective, that sort of approach is improper.

Post Author: Rico
Thursday, June 30, 2005 10:37:48 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, June 27, 2005

For the past week or so, my morning devotional time has consisted of reading through the Pauline Epistles. I decided that since I'm studying the Pastoral Epistles, I need to get familiar with the Greek of the other Paulines. So I'm fumbling my way through them. Today was time for Rom 5.1-11. This, of course, includes Rom 5.6-8. The indenting below is mine; it is not (directly) based on any syntactic or grammatic theory.

The similarity between the end of v. 6 and the end of v. 8 grabbed me this morning. I've made those parts bold.

ἔτι γὰρ Χριστὸς ὄντων ἡμῶν ἀσθενῶν
   ἔτι κατὰ καιρὸν
      ὑπὲρ ἀσεβῶν ἀπέθανεν.

μόλις γὰρ ὑπὲρ δικαίου τις ἀποθανεῖται·
   ὑπὲρ γὰρ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ τάχα τις καὶ τολμᾷ ἀποθανεῖν·

συνίστησιν δὲ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἀγάπην εἰς ἡμᾶς ὁ θεός,
   ὅτι ἔτι ἁμαρτωλῶν ὄντων ἡμῶν
      Χριστὸς ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀπέθανεν.

The statement is basically the same, substituting "us" for "(the) ungodly". Here it is in the ESV:

For while we were still weak, 
   at the right time 
      Christ died for the ungodly.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person— 
   though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—

but God shows his love for us 
   in that while we were still sinners, 
      Christ died for us.

Imagine you're reading this text for the first time. Perhaps you are. Isn't it incredible?

The first bit states that "Christ died for the ungodly", alluding to the fact that we are the ones who are ungodly but not explicitly saying it. A short interlude about how dying on behalf of someone good is thinkable, implying that dying for the ungodly (something Christ has done) is unthinkable.

Then Paul brings it home: Christ did the unthinkable. Christ died for us.

While we were weak, Christ died for us.
While we were ungodly, Christ died for us.
While we were not good, Christ died for us.
While we were sinners, Christ died for us.

We're the ungodly ones he died for. We're the ungodly ones God shows his love to in this incredible way.

To end this post, let's not forget Rom 5.9-11, again in the ESV:

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


Post Author: Rico
Monday, June 27, 2005 8:17:08 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, June 01, 2005

When I came home from work today, I noticed a red flyer stuck in gate of the fence in front of my house.

Big bold letters: Are You Curious About Yourself?

Hoo-boy, I could take a "FREE" personality test. The "Oxford Capacity Analysis", to be exact.

And whom do I have to thank for this? Why, none other than the "Hubbard Dianetics Foundation Bellingham".

That's right, apparently the scientologists have taken a cue from the mormons and jw's and started a door-to-door campaign. Check out this fine print on the 200-question personality test:

(c) 2002 CSI. All Rights Reserved. Oxford Capacity Analysis, OCA and Dianetics are trademarks and service marks owned by Religious Technology Center and are used with its permission. Services relating to Scientology religious philosophy are delivered throughout the world exclusively by licensees of the Church of Scientology International with the permission of Religious Technology Center, holder of the SCIENTOLOGY and DIANETICS trademarks.

No thanks, L. Ron. My hope, by the grace of God, is in Jesus Christ my Savior and Mediator. Without His sacrifice, which absolves my sin and allows me to approach God through Jesus Christ, I have no hope. Scientology can't conquer sin. Only Jesus can conquer sin.

To God alone be the glory.

Post Author: Rico
Wednesday, June 01, 2005 10:06:46 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, May 10, 2005

[Previous posts in series: The Complutensian Polyglot, Erasmus' New Testament(s), Stephanus' 1546 GNT, and Beza's 1598 Greek NT.]

This is the edition that many Bible Software packages title 1550 Stephanus Textus Receptus or something like that. The electronic editions you'll find have their genesis with Dr. Maurice Robinson's work. You can download the raw text (no accents, moveable nu normalized, no casing) edition of Dr. Robinson's work at byztxt.com (nb: byztxt.com no longer exists and now links to indecent and rude material).

Here's the title page of the edition:


The typographical device (representing the typesetter, as I understand it) is pretty much the same as the 1546 edition, though this reproduction is much clearer than the 1546. And the mention of the Gospels and Acts is interesting. But that's because this is a two-volume set with the first volume (cover page above) for the Gospels and Acts, the second volume for everything else (Paulines — which include Hebrews in this list; Catholic epistles, and the Apocalypse).

How about that initial page of First Timothy? You can see a page number in the upper left. This appears to be set, not added after the fact. But what else is going on besides an even larger initial drop-cap (seven lines!!)?

Well, there are cross-references in the outer margin (the left margin in the above image) and textual notes in the inner margin. That's pretty cool. The Greek uncial letters represent stichoi, I think — but that's a complete guess on my part. But that means that I don't know what the numeric indicators are on the inner margin.

On the references and textual notes, we can see more when we examine 1Ti 2.3-6. The image is clickable, you may need to examine the larger image to read the Greek and also to see how the referencing works.

So the the superscript circle that looks like a degree symbol indicates a cross-reference (here a reference to Second Peter). The superscript roman numeral I indicates a textual note of some sort. It looks like Stephanus rightly prefers the reading of μαρτύριον to what he notes on the side (apparently μυστήριον, using the stigma ligature, which is not mentioned in NA27/UBS4). So even some rudimentary variants are presented, though their source is not immediately evident.

One difference between Stephanus and the Complutensian Polyglot and Erasmus is the Stephanus has no Latin translation at all in his text. He just represents the Greek text, as does Beza after him. 

All in all, cool stuff. I don't know if I'll do any more of this sort of thing. It all depends on if I can find other interesting editions of the Greek NT. Let me know if you know a source, or if you'd like me to do more of this type of posting.


Post Author: rico
Tuesday, May 10, 2005 6:33:48 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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I've played around with posts showing aspects of the Complutensian Polyglot, Erasmus' New Testament(s), and Beza's 1598 Greek NT. I've got some spare time tonight, so I thought it would be cool to finally look at some of Robertus Stephanus' NT editions.

This is all the more cool to me because my employer (Logos Bible Software) has a page from an original 1550 Stephanus edition hanging in the lobby. Its the first page of the gospel of Mark, and it is very cool. I sure wish I knew more about the miniscule script ligatures. If I did, I might actually be able to read it. As it is, the page is hanging right next to the coffee machine so everytime I'm making an Americano I take a peek at the Stephanus page to see how much of it I can decipher.

Anyway, the good folks at bibles.org.uk have two editions of Stephanus to choose from: An edition from 1546 and the 1550 edition. We'll start with 1546; the 1550 will be in a subsequent post.

First off, let's just say that whomever had this edition used it. There are notes everywhere — in the margins, underlines, etc. While some may not like that or think it detracts from the value, I kind of like it. It means that this edition was used and used extensively. Here's the title page:

Pretty simple. Standard typographical device of the day. There's a library stamp there too that came along from somewhere. Below is the initial page of the first epistle to Timothy. There are a few things to note. The '1.' in the upper left corner actually indicates the chapter. I'm unsure if this was in the typography or the later addition of the user, but it is consistent throughout the portions of the edition I've examined. The '188' is the page number of the section. So, the Pauline epistles are a section (volume?) and this is page 188 of that section. The numbers running down the margin are actually verse numbers and they're rather reflective of the ordering of the text we have in our modern versification structures today. My guess is that both the chapter and the verse numbers are later and weren't in the original typeset edition.

The typographical device at the top seems typical. The five-line drop-cap is a bit ostentatious for my tastes, but I guess it worked for Stephanus. You can also see the underlining and marginal notation added by an owner of the text at some point in its lifetime.

Finally, let's peek at 1Ti 2.3-6 and see how it looks in comparison to the other editions we've examined.

This is at the bottom of the page, the last word of v. 6 is on the next page. But we can see that the owner underlined it and added a cross-reference to what looks to be Galatians (chapter 3?). Some of the underlining gloppiness makes the text hard to read, but at least we can get an idea of what it was like 450 years ago.

Next up: 1550 Stephanus.

Post Author: Rico
Tuesday, May 10, 2005 5:49:06 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, May 01, 2005

Check this out (hat tip: NRO's The Corner) from The Telegraph (UK).

Five men, ranging from an atheist in the pornography trade to a former Protestant paramilitary, have found their lives unexpectedly transformed in the latest incarnation of reality television - the monastery.

I'm not one for the "reality" TV schmaltz (or TV, for that matter) but I might be able to watch this. Too bad the story in the Telegraph spills the beans on the outcome. I won't divulge it all, but check this out:

Although participants were not required to vote each other out, they faced the challenge of living together in a community and following a disciplined regime of work and prayer. By the end, the atheist, Tony Burke, 29, became a believer and gave up his job producing trailers for a sex chat line after having what he described as a "religious experience".


At the end of one of these sessions, Mr Burke, his voicing breaking with emotion, confessed his feelings in a video-diary entry. "I didn't want this to happen," he said.

"But something touched me, something spoke to me very deeply. It was a religious experience.

"When I woke up this morning, I didn't believe in this but, as I speak to you now, I do. Whatever it is, I believe in it."

The participants, none of whom was a Roman Catholic, shared meals with the monks, worked in the grounds and joined in the daily office, from early morning Matins to Compline. They were also obliged to follow the monks' rules of silence, obedience and humility.

I can only hope that Mr Burke is plugged into a local church fellowship, and that he's able (and motivated) to put words and a framework around "it". He's got a tough row to hoe, I'd imagine. But if he is sincere and truly believes that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior, he is forgiven. And he's a brother. Say a prayer for Mr Burke this morning. 

Update (2005-05-04): I received an email message from Mr Burke. He'd like to send his thanks to those who have been praying for him.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, May 01, 2005 9:25:08 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation, Questions 141-142 (translated by Lyle D. Bierma [more info])

Q. Since there is nothing more difficult to believe than the forgiveness of sins, give me some reasons or grounds on which to base (or establish) our belief that believers are certainly forgiven of their sins.

A. The reason and ground for our certainty of forgiveness of sins through Christ is the promise and oath of God, confirmed in actual fact in the death of Christ, as explained in the preceding articles about Christ. There is no condition that we have to keep the commandments; it is a free gift appropriated through faith or trust in the merit of Christ, without any merit of works. Faith must look directly at this voluntary promise and oath of God in Jesus Christ made for the sake of His merit (for in Him all the promises of God have their "Yes" and "Amen" [2Co 1.20], as Heb 6.17-20 says.

Q. Are we to believe, however, that our sins are forgiven us in such a way that there is no more sin in us?

A. No. But even though there is sin in us now and until our death, I believe that it is not imputed to us but fully pardoned. That is why St. Paul and the prophets declared as saved not those who have no sin but those whose sin, while real, is covered (Rom 4.7; Ps 32.1).

[Questions & Answers Copyright 1995 Lyle D. Bierma]

It is indisputable that Jesus claimed the ability to forgive sin. Both Matthew and Luke record this (Mt 9.1-8 || Lu 5.17-25). Here's the account from Matthew. I've made a few parts bold to emphasize them.

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Mt 9.1-8, ESV)

Yet this made the religious authorities of the day (scribes & Pharisees) nervous, because they immediately understood what it was that Jesus was claiming in this action. Jesus wasn't forgiving sin as one man forgives another man who has wronged him. The paralytic had not wronged Jesus. Jesus here is forgiving sin, the underlying "wrong-being" within man. Only God can address this wrong-being. Jesus knew this. So did the scribes, which is why they reacted the way they did. In doing this, Jesus was asserting his claim to be God. Yet Jesus went further and made the claim explicit: " ... that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins".

Logically, the statements work like this:

Only God can forgive sin
Jesus forgives sin
Therefore Jesus must be God

At least, that's the math that the scribes did. And the logic is correct. Without forgiveness of sin, salvation is not possible. If the condition of sin within men is not addressed, man cannot approach God. Forgiveness of sin is essential. If Jesus really does forgive sin, then he really must be God. The apostles understood this in their early preaching. Peter understood it at Pentecost:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Ac 2.37-41, ESV)

The forgiveness of sin is central to the apostolic preaching because it is what allows us to approach God through our mediator Jesus Christ. No longer do priests need to propitiate God with yearly animal sacrifices to temporarily cover the sin of the people; that practice is dead. The curtain is ripped and removed, the Holy of Holies is accessible to all (cf. Heb 10.1-18). The sacrifice of Jesus Christ provides complete, permanent forgiveness of sin. Through Him, because of this forgiveness, we are able to approach God. Again, here's an account of Peter from Acts:

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (Ac 5.27-32, ESV)

Peter was compelled to preach this forgiveness despite the circumstances because he knew it to be true. He had experienced it. He witnessed it first-hand. He had (most likely) seen the paralytic forgiven and healed.

Though we are forgiven if we claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, this does not mean that we are immediately made perfect and will cease from sinning as if by magic. Will our lives be changed? Yes, they will. We should seek to serve Christ our Savior and come ever more familiar with Him and his love for us. But this does not mean we will stop sinning; it means that our sin is pardoned and "covered". Consider Psalm 32:

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
(Ps 32.1-7, ESV)

Paul knew this as well. Paul knew that he had been forgiven and that he served a risen Lord. Yet in his day-to-day life, he found that he still struggled with sin. Though "covered", he still had to wage war against it in his body, in his daily life. He wasn't perfect, but he did his best to fight the sin he encountered in his walk. Here's what he writes in Romans:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Ro 7.21-25, ESV)

Olevianus sums it up this way in Question 143:

Is this, then, a summary of the article on the forgiveness of sins: You believe that the church, the body of Christ, and all her members possess in this life a forgiveness that is not uncertain or temporary but certain, lasting and eternal; that it is a forgiveness not just sof some sins but of all the sins whith which they have to struggle daily; that there is in the church, therefore, no more condemnation, just as if there were no more sin and death; and that believers have peace with God and thus true salvation?


Post Author: Rico
Sunday, May 01, 2005 8:46:34 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, April 24, 2005

Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation, Question 132 (translated by Lyle D. Bierma [more info])

Q. What do you believe when you confess, "I believe a holy catholic church"?

A. I believe that the Son of God, out of the entire human race, which is mired in sin and eternal death, gathers unto Himself from Adam to the end of the world a people chosen for eternal life by grace and not by merit, whom He through the preaching of the Word and power of the Holy Spirit here in this life regenerates from eternal death through faith in Him. As He Himself testifies in Jn 5.25: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." See also Eph 2.

He also makes an eternal covenant with and betrothes Himself to this people as if they were a bride (Hos 2, Isa 54), that they might be His body in true faith through the testimony of the Holy gospel and covenant sign of Holy Baptism. He promises his church that he will remember her sins no more (Jer 31.34) because he has given Himself for her, will sanctify her daily, until He finally presents her to Himself holy, pure, and spotless in body and soul, and she lives and reigns with Him forever. All of this He does out of grace, because He loved her and gave Himself for her (Eph 5.25).

I believe that I am and always will be a member of this church or people of God (Jn 10.28-29), since I believe in Christ, have been baptized into His name, and trust the promise, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mk 16.16). I believe and am baptized; therefore I shall be saved. That is the only way, for Christ promised it.

[Question & answer Copyright 1995 Lyle D. Bierma]

First, many protestant-types get all afluster when they read this article of the creed due simply to the word "catholic". Even though they intellectually understand that this article does not refer specifically to the Roman Catholic Church, it's a stumbling block. More important is to notice Olevianus' phrasing "I believe a holy catholic church" instead of what some folks must actually think/read (and what is most definitely not meant), "I believe in the Holy Catholic church". See the difference? The creed has the indefinite article "a", not the definite article "the". Olevianus discusses this in question 133, which I won't reproduce here.

Some folks like to replace "catholic" with words like "universal" or even "Christian". But the word in the received Greek and Latin forms of the creed is obvious:

Latin: sanctam ecclesiam catholicam
Greek: ἀγίαν καθολικὴν ἐκκλησίαν

This word was used to describe the church "at large" long before it was used to describe a particular (albeit large) body with a particular doctrinal stance. So I like to keep it in the creed when I recite it, even though it may confuse some. But I'm more of a traditionalist and a bit of a stickler when it comes to using the proper word in the proper situation despite the perception of the word's meaning by the masses.

Second (though primarily) this is an awesome description of the church. Olevianus says that the church (that is, Christians in the world) are provided for by God, who has gathered His church together throughout all time. He provides for the primary need of His chosen through the provision of salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and Mediator. He provides not only the faith for belief; but also the daily needs, encouragement and comfort for his chosen through the provision of the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, Jesus Christ is bound to the church in a manner similar to the way a husband is bound to his wife. He ministers to us, and we follow His leadership. All in all, it reminds me of Titus 2.11-15:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

Even though Olevianus hasn't quoted this passage, this is basically what he is saying. Through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has acted to provide salvation for His people. This salvation and the grace upon which it is founded is transforming. It brings His people closer to Him in prayer, worship and obedience. It also brings people closer to Him through renouncement and repentance of vices and vanities. This transformed (and transforming) people eagerly await the triumphant return of Jesus Christ, our redeemer. This expectant group -- those who by the grace of God and who through the work of the Holy Spirit have claimed Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior and Redeemer -- lives according to His will. Through the continual work of the Holy Spirit this group is in the process of being sanctified, being brought closer to Him and being cultivated to live lives of worship in praise and thankfulness to the One who has provided salvation.

This is the "holy catholic church". When we recite the creed, we are not simply professing belief that a body of some sort exists, we are professing that a specific body exists for a specific purpose, and that God acts to gather and assemble this group, as He has promised, and that His wishes and desires for this group will come to pass.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, April 24, 2005 9:41:43 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, April 10, 2005

Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation, Question 44 (translated by Lyle D. Bierma [more info])

Q. Why do you believe in Jesus, the Son of God?

A. First, seeing as the Son is of one substance and like glory with the Father, I rightly place my trust in Him. As the Scriptures testify, "I and the Father are one" [Jn 10.30], and "You believe in God, believe also in me" [Jn 14.1]. See also Ro 9 and 1Ti 1.

Second, I believe this because it is the Father's command that we believe in the Son. We are firmly to trust Him that through Him and for His sake this salvation comes to us and we are received into grace, heard, and saved. For the command of the Father from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom my soul is well pleased" [Mt 3.17], carries with it the promise that through His Son His heart is pleased with us. We hear the Son explain the command and promise of the Father as follows: "This is the will of the Father, who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him has everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6.40). The Father is so serious about this command that He attaches eternal punishment to it for those who do not obey it: "He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (Jn 3.36). Likewise Jn 8.24: "If you will not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." See also 1Jn 2.

Thus I confess that I believe in the Son of God, that from the heart I submit to this command and gracious promise of the Father, and that I desire, miserable and unworthy though I be, to be accepted for the sake of this eternal Son. I also confess that I do not wish to add to my manifold sins this greatest sin of all -- the rejection of the Son of God. Rather, I heartily desire to withstand all unbelief and to submit to the command of the Father to listen to the Son and trust Him. In this Son He will be pleased with me, as St. Paul says, "In Him you are complete" (Col 2.10).

[Question & answer Copyright 1995 Lyle D. Bierma]

Have you ever stopped to put your own confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior into words? Your own words, not someone else's? If you haven't, it is a good exercise. That's essentially what Olevianus is doing with this question, albeit in a general, formalized setting. You can start with just writing the account of when you first believed, as narrative or a story. Remember what happened, and record the event. If you want to expand from there with a more confession-like statement that formally puts forth what you believe, feel free to do so (Here's an example from fellow supakoo dude Eli). It doesn't have to be super-formal.

What's my story? Well ... parts of it are in this article. But for me, the basics why I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior are:

Eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.
Salvation from sin* is found in Jesus Christ alone.
He redeems me.
He restores me into right relationship with the Father.
Through Jesus Christ, I am adopted into the family of the Father.
Without Jesus Christ, the Father will reject me and I will be subject to the Father's wrath.

* The totality of our depraved, sinful nature and its manifestation in specific sins.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, April 10, 2005 9:37:59 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, April 03, 2005

Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation, Question 116 (translated by Lyle D. Bierma)

Q. What is the third benefit? [of the ascension of Christ]

A. Christ took the flesh and blood that He had assumed from us up into heaven as a guarantee of our ascension. He also sent down to us a further guarantee, which He received not from us but from the Father, namely the Holy Spirit. This He did in order that the Spirit might live in our bodies and souls, be an indissoluble bond between our head in heaven and us, His members on earth, and assure us, like the money in a downpayment, of our eternal inheritance in heaven. John 14.16: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever." John 16.7: "I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you." See also Acts 2; 2Cor 1, 2Cor 6; Eph 1; Rom 5, Rom 8.

The Holy Spirit assures believers of this so strongly that the holy apostle says in Ephesians 2.6 that "God has made us to sit together in the heavenly places with Christ," as those who not only await heaven with a mere hope but already possess it in Christ our head. That is why by the power of the same Holy Spirit we should detach our hearts from these earthly things and "seek the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God's right hand" (Col 3.1; see also Php 3.20-21).

[Question & answer Copyright 1995 Lyle D. Bierma]

In this Q&A, Olevianus rightly points out one of the often-overlooked benefits of the ascension of Christ: the giving of the Holy Spirit. If Jesus hadn't ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit would not have been sent to be our guide and comforter. The assurance provided that "those who not only await heaven with a mere hope but already possess it in Christ our head" along with the exhortation to apply Col 3.1-4 in seeking the things above (living as our Savior would have us live instead of how the world lives) is both comforting and challenging. Because the Holy Spirit has been sent (and we know it has been, based on Acts 1-2) those who claim Christ must realize that the Holy Spirit is here in order to assist us, guide us and comfort us as we strive to (in our humanity) walk the Christian walk.

So we've gotta walk. One step at a time, but we have to move our feet. As we focus on serving our Lord, His Spirit will guide us in that walk. Thanks be to God for His glorious provision of the Holy Spirit to help us in this manner.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, April 03, 2005 9:29:18 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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If you've read ricoblog for more than a few weeks, you know that I have strong interests in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus) and also in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers (those who wrote in the immediate post-apostolic age, from say 80 AD through 200 AD).

The truth is that I have a general interest in church history, and the later Paulines (some would say deutero-Paulines) and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers seem like a good place to focus that interest. Within this general interest of church history, I have a soft spot for creeds, catechisms and confessions.

One Reformation-era catechism that I always find challenging and reassuring is Caspar Olevianus' A Firm Foundation. Olevianus (along with Zacharias Ursinius) is responsible for the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the foundational statements of doctrine for many of the Reformed church denominations in existence today.

While many folks know of the Heidelberg, not too many seem to know of Olevianus' Firm Foundation. And that's a shame because this work of Olevianus' is essentially a commentary on the Apostles Creed (and thus a commentary on the portion of the Heidelberg that deals with the Apostles' Creed).

If you have any interest in creeds or statements of faith, particularly those of a protestant sort, I'd highly recommend Olevianus. I've had this book for years and have found it helpful when dealing with how to put a clear explanation, with Biblical support, on tough-to-explain theological or doctrinal concepts.

I hope (emphasis on "hope") to post a few examples over the next few weeks of the sort of stuff that Olevanius' work includes (hence this introductory informational post). The first post (posted directly after this one) will have to do with the benefit of the ascension of Christ.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, April 03, 2005 8:53:16 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, March 27, 2005

Jesus Christ has risen the dead! He is risen indeed!

The first thing I did after getting out of bed this morning was listen to Don Francisco's He's Alive [Rhapsody Link]. If you have Rhapsody or have access to a recording of this song, do yourself a favor and in the quiet of the morning or the evening, stop everything and listen to the song.

Then, after some reading (Caspar Olevianus on the meaning and benefits of the resurrection) I wrote a quick poem. My poetry isn't the best, but I wanted to share this here anyway:

What we call "sins" are only evidence of our depravity.
Our nature, corrupt to the core, can only produce sin.

Deeds done with good intent are tainted.
Thoughts pondered in secret are void of light.

We are wholly fallen.
We need mercy.
We need grace.
We need Jesus.

Perfect God, perfect man,
Human, yet divine
Steps into time to redeem us.

Sin must be punished, else God would not be just.
Jesus, in perfection, takes our sin upon His own head.

Not simply our wrong-doings, but the source:
Our total wrong-being.*
Our nature, bent** from perfection to sin.

And He redeems us.

 Praise God for His mercy and salvation. He is risen. Enjoy your day as you celebrate Christ's triumph over sin and death.

* "wrong doing" vs. "wrong being" comes from Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, the reading for October 7: "Sin is a fundamental relationship; it is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God."

** the idea of a "bent" nature comes from C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet, the section where Dr. Ransom is attempting to explain the problem of sin to a society that has no knowledge of sin.


Post Author: Rico
Sunday, March 27, 2005 8:22:53 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, January 17, 2005

[Notes on EpDiog §6. Due to the length of this post, my random thoughts on §7 are broken into at least two posts. The next post will be at some future point, and in it I hope to cover EpDiog 7.3-9]

In §7, the author of EpDiog moves from telling Diognetus about Christians to telling Diognetus about Jesus. This is really a fascinating little chapter — we see how Jesus was seen (in the context of a letter to convince someone else of the rightness of Christianity, anyway) by the early church. There's a lot in here.

EpDiog 7.1 starts out confirming a few things discussed earlier regarding Christians:

  • Christianity isn't something conjured up by man (cf. EpDiog 5.3).
  • Christianity isn't bound to the topic of “human mysteries” (again, EpDiog 5.3)

EpDiog 7.2 is a marathon verse, taking nearly 3/4 of the page in Ehrman's edition.* It is discussed below in pieces:

But the truly all-powerful God himself, creator of all and invisible, set up and established in their hearts the truth and the holy word from heaven, which cannot be comprehended by humans.

God is all-powerful, he is the creator of the seen and unseen. This all-powerful God has worked (somehow) in the hearts (the innermost part) of Christians, placing the “truth and holy word from heaven” which cannot be comprehended (ἀπερινόητον) by humans into the hearts of humans. Was this dude an Augustinian?

To do so, he did not, as one might suppose, send them one of his servants or an angel or a ruler or any of those who administer earthly activities or who are entrusted with heavenly affairs, but he sent the craftsman and maker of all things himself, ...

Wow. Just above God specifically is “creator of all and invisble” (παντοκτίστης καὶ ἀόρατος θεός) and now the one whom God sends is “the craftsman and maker of all things” (ἀλλ ̓ αὐτὸν τὸν τεχνίτην καὶ δημιουργὸν τῶν ὅλων).

Here's the fun part: τεχνίτην and δημιουργὸν are used together in Heb 11.10 and they're speaking of God: “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer (τεχνίτης) and builder (δημιουργὸς) is God.” (cf. also Wis. 13.1). Indeed, the author of the epistle himself uses δημιουργὸς of God in EpDiog 8.6. LSJ and BDAG have abundant evidence of δημιουργὸς being used in a number of contexts, so there's not too much to read into the usage of this particular word (which, according to LSJ, has meaning ranging from craftsman to creator to a title used by magistrates). But δημιουργὸς combined with ὅλων, implying the one who made or created everything leads me to think that there is some relation between these two bits of text. I should probably do some searching on Perseus to search for where these words occur in close proximity, to see if they form some sort of stock phrase.

... by whom he created the heavens,
by whom he enclosed the sea within its own boundaries,
whose mysteries all the elements of creation guard faithfully,
from whom the sun was appointed to guard the courses that it runs during the day,
whom the moon obeys when he commands it to shine at night,
whom the stars obey by following the course of the moon,
by whom all things are set in order and arranged and put into subjection, ...

Upon reading this, I immediately have mental cross-references firing off to Col 1.15-17, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, ... ”. This one who was sent by God is the one by whom God did these things, these works of creation. And these things are under subjection to him.

... the heavens and the things in the heavens,
the earth and the things in the earth,
the sea and the things in the sea,
fire, air, the abyss,
creatures in the heights,
creatures in the depths,
and creatures in between—this is the one he sent to them.

Wow. And that's just verse two! Next up, EpDiog 7.3-9. In it, we see more about the one God sent — how he was sent, in what form he came, and what his task was.

* Ehrman, Bart. The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library vol. 25). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.


Post Author: Rico
Monday, January 17, 2005 10:57:01 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, January 15, 2005

In his book The Reformation: A History, Diarmaid MacCulloch writes:

Calvin's preaching represented an intensive examination of the details of God's Word that few other expositors would equal, sucking the last drops of meaning from every last syllable and turn of phrase: 189 sermons on Acts between 1549 and 1554, 174 on Ezekiel form 1552 to 1554, and 200 on Deuteronomy in 1555 to 1556. This could be liberating to an audience precisely because it was so demanding. Calvin and the preachers who followed him asked a lot of their audience and were thus taking them seriously as adults in the faith. Reformed congregations were expected to absorb and understand complex and abstract material and therefore were encouraged to see the value of education. (MacCulloch 239)

This sort of demanding teaching is missing in the church today. Are the sermons you suffer through listen to demanding and challenging, or are they merely platitudinous and thus lacking practicality or applicability?* Is the text itself examined and wrestled with, or is the text referred to simply as a starting point for some sort of tangential “deep thought” that somehow makes everyone listening feel better?

Christians are capable of critical thinking; the intelligence of a fair portion of those assembled for the teaching is insulted when preachers/teachers simply shoot for a lowest common denominator. Do pastors today make demands of their congregants similar to those described above? Are sermons just to be listened to, or are they to be understood?

Calvin had his problems (yes, you heard me say that — now get up off the floor!) but in his favor, he strove to work though the text, understand it and apply it and teach others what was in the Scripture. His commentaries are still valuable to consult today because of this drive.

Too often (and I'm guilty of this) important arguments (either supporting or contradicting) are dulled or glossed over because of concern over the ability of the students/congregants/whomever to understand. Instead of being cause to skip over something, this should be cause to slow down and examine the issue in greater detail, working through the seemingly tough problem so that those on the receiving end can — with some work and effort, don't get me wrong — come to an understanding of what's going on.

The problem has many sides. Passivity on the part of the student/congregant is a real problem. I have no silver-bullet solution for it. But what motive does one have to break free from passivity if one is not challenged?

Ok, I've ranted enough. You may now return to your normally-scheduled blog reading.

* Clarification: I'm not speaking of the teaching in the church I currently attend, though I have in the past “suffered through” some truly horrible sermons. I've dutifully forgotten their content though I do have memories of their occurrence.

Post Author: Rico
Saturday, January 15, 2005 11:36:55 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Tuesday, December 21, 2004

[notes on EpDiog §4]

This chapter (EpDiog 5) is one of the longer sections of the letter. But it is important because it records how Christians were perceived (or how they wanted themselves to be perceived, depending on your view) at a very early point in Christian history.

The author transitions from talking about the inadequacies and problems with the Jewish religion to describing how Christians live in the world. Christians aren't a particular ethnic group; they're present and noticeable across ethnic boundaries. But even in light of this, Christians are unique, writes the author, for a number of reasons. EpDiog 5.1-4 set the stage (Ehrman's translation):

1. For Christians are no different from other people in terms of their country, language, or customs.

2. Nowhere do they inhabit cities of their own, use a strange dialect, or live life out of the ordinary.

3. They have not discovered this teaching of theirs through reflection or through the thought of meddlesome people, nor do they set forth any human doctrine, as do some.

4. They inhabit both Greek and barbarian cities, according to the lot assigned to each. And they show forth the character of their own citizenship in a marvelous and admittedly paradoxical way by following local customs in what they wear and what they eat and in the rest of their lives.

The balance (EpDiog 5.5-17) is dedicated to showing that while Christians may appear to be similar to their neighbors, Christians really aren't similar to their neighbors. A bit paradoxical (as 5.4 mentions above) but that's really the best way to sum it up. The author writes things like “They (Christians) marry like everyone else and have children, but they do not expose them once they are born.” (EpDiog 5.6).

Verses 7-10 are similar; noting that Christians share their meals and not their wives; that while Christians are in the flesh, they do not live after the flesh (allusion to 1Jn 2.16?); that while Christians live on the earth, their citizenship is in heaven; that while they are subject to laws on earth, they surpass the same laws in practice as they live according to a higher standard.

The concluding verse to this chapter (EpDiog 5.17) always leaves me in a state of awe.

17. They (Christians) are attacked by Jews as foreigners and persecuted by Greeks. And those who hate them cannot adequately explain the cause of their enmity.

Even though Christians are similar to their neighbors and arguably peaceable folk, for some reason the lifestyle of Christians stirs up the ire of others. This (of course) reminds me of Titus 2.6-8:

6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Next up: EpDiog 6. Not sure when, though.

Post Author: Rico
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 10:51:12 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, December 18, 2004

It's been awhile since I've written about the Epistle to Diognetus (notes to §3). For the unaware, I consider the Epistle to Diognetus as "blog fodder". This means when the typical fount of ricobloggian blather is running dry, I turn to Diognetus to keep the exercise of writing up. This means that tonight I'm writing on EpDiog 4.

As mentioned in the notes on §3, EpDiog 3 and EpDiog 4 are written to Diognetus (a Greek pagan) to convince him that Christianity is superior to Judaism.

Actually, to me, it sounds more like EpDiog 4 is written against Judaizers and perhaps not necessarily Jews. The same sorts of things the author chastizes the Jews over are strikingly similar to the sorts of things Paul mentions in some of his epistles regarding Judaizers:


Epistle to Diognetus


anxiety over food

EpDiog 4.1

Ro 14.20; 1Co 8.1-13; Col 2.16-17; 1Ti 4.3


EpDiog 4.1; EpDiog 4.3

Col 2.16-17


EpDiog 4.1; EpDiog 4.4

Ro 2.25-29; 1Co 7.18-19; Gal 2; Titus 1.10

new moon

EpDiog 4.1; EpDiog 4.5

Col 2.16-17

The conclusion of the author to Diognetus is much the same as Paul's conclusion.

Author of Ep. to Diognetus


For how is it not completely unwarranted to accept some of the things created by God for human use as made well, but to reject others as useless and superfluous? (EpDiog 4.2)

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. (Titus 1.15)

Is the author confusing Judaizers with Jews? It's possible, but it is also very possible that the Judaizers were emphasizing the same things that Jews emphasized in worship in their synagogues. There is some similarity in the topics that the author emphasizes to Diognetus with what Paul highlighted in instruction to various churches dealing with similar issues.

The author's rhetoric against the Jews in the last verse (EpDiog 4.6) is a bit over the top. Considering his point made, the author bashes his target with one last flourish. Then he ends with this sentence (this is from Ehrman's translation): "But do not expect to be able to learn from any human the mystery of the Christian's own way of worship".

Huh? I lost the author here. I see four views of this sentence.

  • View 1: He's lost it. If this is literally true, why is the author even taking time to write the letter?
  • View 2: One word: Gnosticism. Think about it: Diognetus can't learn true Christian worship from "any human"?
  • View 3: Another word: Rhetoric. Hey, guess what EpDiog 5 is about? And EpDiog 6? That, and it sounds pretty deep, and we all know that the Holy Spirit plays a role in this sort of thing.
  • View 4: He's Calvinist, emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit over the role of man in bringing people to Christ.

What do I think? Well, I think door #3 has some merit. I also know, however, that I only spent about five minutes thinking through this, so I could be wrong on all four counts.

Stay posted for when I hit EpDiog 5, which starts to get into my favorite stretch of chapters of this short epistle.

Post Author: Rico
Saturday, December 18, 2004 12:12:49 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, December 13, 2004

No, it's not a proposed title for an SBL paper.

As mentioned earlier, I'm reading The Reformation: A History by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I'm still quite early in the book; the stage for the reformation is still being set. MacCulloch is in western Europe, around 1500. He has just started to talk about the printing press, so just after the stage of incunabula and at the beginnings of wider-spread availability of printed books. He's reviewed the introduction of the Bible in local languages. Then he writes:

The effect of printing was more profound than simply making more books available more quickly. It affected western Europe's assumptions about knowledge and originality of thought. Before the invention of printing, a major part of a scholar's life was spent copying existing texts by hand, simply in order to have access to them. Now that printed copies of texts were increasingly available, there was less copying to do, and so there was more time to devote to thinking for oneself. That had implications for scholarly respect for what previous generations had said. Copying had been such a significant activity that in previous centuries of Christian culture, it had been given a privileged place against original thought. (MacCulloch, 71).

I'd never before considered that the printing press had this sort of effect — changing the scholar's product from copying/preservation of previously written material to assimilating the old with the new and actually promoting original thought. (Side thought: Maybe Calvin was so infused with Augustine because he'd spent years copying his stuff before the wider availability of such works?)

In the next page or so, MacCulloch goes on to discuss how all of a sudden, reading became important because, well, folks had time to read and folks had material to read. Scholars had less need to copy material and started actually reading and thinking about things. Folks who only knew how to read but didn't know how to write (an apparently significant portion of the expanding book-buying population according to MacCulloch) had something to hold their attention.

The resulting change in knowledge acquisition is mindboggling, at least to me. Knowledge acquisition, previous to Gutenberg, it seems, invovled hoarding copies of manuscripts for one's own purposes. Now, all of a sudden, these important manuscripts were much easier to acquire. So people now start to really pay attention to what is written. They, in essence, learn how to read. They learn how to comprehend. Scholars no longer need to be obsessed with preservation of valuable resources, they can actually study them.

Can you imagine some of the converastions between the older scholars and the younger ones? Can you hear the older scholars imploring their students regarding the value of hand-copying Augustine or Aquinas, because that's the only way you can really achieve intimate familiarity with their work? And can you imagine the younger student's responses? How they think they can simply read the work and — without the pain and carpal-tunnel-inducing act of copying it — refer to it later, because they have a printed copy?

Talk about revolution. So here comes the obvious question: If MacCulloch is right about this shift, is it possible that we're at a similar point today?

I've said in other circles that I think we're still in an incunabula-like period when it comes to electronic resources. Publishers are still figuring out how to handle printed material in an electronic form, be it on CDRom or on the web or wherever. Publishers are getting better (we've come a long way in the past 15 years) but we've still got some issues to resolve. The same is true with scholars in their use of these resources. This act of actually reading and becoming familiar with a text, the author, and the argument is an important thing. The understanding and synthesis gained from a solid, thorough reading of a timely or important book is needed to move the general state of knowledge further along. It used to be easy. You had a book, you read it. You sucked it down, you wrote notes, you created bibliographies on topics, you read more, you went to a few conferences and debated with others about it, and you generally examined anything available in the library on the topic you could get your hands on. Then, maybe, you wrote something. Chances are it would be of value.

But here come these young upstarts, with their electronic editions of books, or their web sites, their search engines, or their (horrors!) blogs, pushing the envelope. “No need to really read something”, some might say. “You can always search to find what you're looking for; that stuff you think you remember from somewhere.” Corpora are instantly searched, and results are reviewed; hopefully in some semblence of context.

Extremes of such attitudes (both of the younger and older parties) would be wrong, of course. The only thing that is clear to me is that the one who straddles both eras — the one who is able to understand how to acquire knowledge (not simply a mass of information, but knowledge) using both sorts of systems is the one with the most to gain in times like these.

I'm guessing that in the early 1500's, at the time of the introduction of the printing press, the middle-aged scholar who'd spent most of his scholarly life poring over manuscripts, copying them diligently, and slowly building his knowledge was in the best place of all. He had already gone through the pain of learning his stuff and chances are he knew it quite well. If he'd been diligent, he had a solid base from which to build. The newer guys still had to build their base of knowledge (though they might do it more quickly); the older scholars could have very well been stuck in their older copyists' ways, unable to cope with having to assimilate some new book without needing to physically write it themselves. The middle-aged scholar, however, could take advantage of the press and start to write his own stuff, with an immediate and relatively widespread audience. He had the basis, he had the knowledge, he just needed to grasp the opportunity in order to make his mark.

I think something similar holds today. The answer isn't books. The answer isn't the web. The answer isn't databases. The answer isn't CDRom. The answer is to be a scholarly omnivore: dive into it all and use it all in the pursuit of knowledge. The one-dimensional approach is doomed to failure because that one dimension, by itself, will not survive. The one who will prosper is the one with several tools in his toolbox that he is skilled in using. The one who spends time in printed books, devouring them and working hard to retain what has been read. The one who understands basic search syntax and can find stuff either with Google or with other CDRom-based digital libraries, but knows the value and weight to give such results because he's actually somewhat familiar with the material. The one who spends time reading journals and email lists, understanding the information being passed on by very knowledgable folks. In short, the one who plows ahead, assimilating and applying what he's reading and what he knows to solve the difficult problems in front of him in the field he's chosen.

This person is in the best spot during such periods of change, no matter what sort of changes happen, because he can cope and still be productive. He won't be stuck, flustered and distraught because he'll be able to grok the next thing that comes along and stick the tool in his toolbox for later use.

Of course, all of this is futile if our eyes aren't on the One who compels us. It may be satisfying at some level, but if the ultimate basis for action isn't the glorification of our Lord and Savior, then re-evaluation is needed. At times like these, I'm reminded of an excerpt from T.S. Eliot's Choruses from the Rock:

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.


Post Author: Rico
Monday, December 13, 2004 11:53:44 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, December 06, 2004

First, after long last, I've updated my blogrolls. See the column on the right. I'm pretty conservative with my aggregator these days; these really are (pretty much) the blogs that I read on a regular basis.

Second, I needed an excuse to post to this: Luthers lavatory thrills experts. No, it's not a joke. It is an article from BBC Online, posted near the end of October of this year. I came across it a few days ago. Here's the lead paragraph:

Archaeologists in Germany say they may have found a lavatory where Martin Luther launched the Reformation of the Christian church in the 16th Century.

There's an etching of the good doctor with the caption “Martin Luther was candid about his constipation.” True, but still — it makes me laugh when I read it. The story goes on for awhile. Another gem:

The scholar suffered from constipation and spent many hours in contemplation on the toilet seat.

You can tell that whoever wrote this article had fun with it. Maybe too much fun.

Post Author: Rico
Monday, December 06, 2004 10:10:37 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Wednesday, December 01, 2004

As mentioned previously, one of the books I'm slogging through is Diarmaid MacCulloch's The Reformation: A History.

I came across the following in the first chapter of the book. MacCulloch is running through the 11th-15th centuries noting the development of the church, specifically mentioning things that may have an effect on later development (read: the Reformation). He writes:

The Lollards [Wyclif's followers] can hardly be blamed for not enjoying Luther's access to printing, for that revolution in information technology was yet to arrive in Europe in their days of open activity, but they did fail (unlike Luther and the Protestants) to gain a significant foothold among the Church's leading popular communicators, the friars — and it seems they also missed the secret weapon of the sixteenth-century Reformation, popular music and hymn writing. (p. 35, italics mine)

I'd never quite looked at it that way before, particularly the bit about hymns and popular music, but it certainly makes sense. During the reformation times (Luther posted his 95 Theses on Oct. 31, 1517) virtually all forms of media were absorbed in the topic. Popular speakers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and others) preached directly to people about Reformation principles. Their writings and the writings of their followers were swiftly printed and found a ready audience. And the word was spread musically as well. I'll surely remember this the next time I sing Luther's A Mighty Fortress is Our God. The message of the reformers was being communicated by almost every available means.

One could make similar generalizations about the Great Awakening. Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys preached constantly to immense audiences. Their written works were devoured. And we all know of Charles Wesley's prolific hymn writing.

We're going to have to do the same thing to make it happen again. If there is to be anything of similar scope happen in the future, it will have to be across the most popular media of the day. For us, this means TV (network and cable, not just whatever is on PAX); that means radio (air and satellite); that means iPods and other “personal music devices”; that means web sites, blogs, and newsgroups. And not just talk (or preaching), but musically too.

It's a tall order. Especially in the area of music. So much of what I hear when I happen to brave Christian radio is ... er ... unchallenging. We don't need more praise songs that make the singer feel good about what he's singing (some of these songs are fine, but admit it — many are terrible); we need songs that clearly reflect the teaching of Scripture and challenge one to a deeper walk with God and deeper study of His Word (which is the primary method, along with prayer and fellowship, that we have of getting to know Him). We need songs that praise God, not songs that make us feel good first and offer some sort of non-specific praise second. We don't need to sing “Lord we praise you” or “Lord we lift your name” ad infinitum; we need to sing why we're praising Him and “lifting” His name (whatever “lifting” means in that context). We need Scripture-steeped poets writing lyrics that will become the hymns and praise songs of tomorrow.

I could go on, but I've started to ramble and need to think about this stuff a bit more. But this task begins with each of us, individually and personally. We need to focus on the Word of God and steep ourselves in His wisdom. We need to study His Word, personally and corporately (“corporately” meaning both small-group Bible study and the typical larger-group preaching/teaching). We need to be able to give compelling accounts of why we are Christians when folks ask us (1Pe 3.13-17). We need to use our gifts (Ro 12; 1Co 12) to glorify Him. And we need to do much better at prayer. Ok, at least I need to be much better in my own life in these areas; y'all can evaluate your own lives in these areas and come to your own conclusions.

Yeah, I'm still rambling. I'll stop now, but the original thought — about how the Reformation had the advantage of the printing press and the “secret weapon” of hymns and popular music is still a provocative thought. Mull it over some over the next few days; let me know if you come to any further insight or conclusion.

Post Author: Rico
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 10:32:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, November 13, 2004

Working through 1Ti 2.10 tonight, dealing with the word θεοσέβεια (theosebeia, an NT hapax) I came across a citation to 2Cl 20.4. The whole chapter, however, provokes thought. The below edition is Ehrman's:

(1) But neither should this thought disturb you, that we see the unjust becoming rich while the slaves of God suffer in dire straights. (2) We need to have faith, brothers and sisters! We are competing in the contest of the living God, training in the present life that we may be crowned in the one to come. (3) No one who is upright receives the fruit of his labor quickly; he instead waits for it. (4) For if God were to reward the upright immediately, we would straightaway be engaged in commerce rather than devotion to God. For we would appear to be upright not for the sake of piety but for a profit. And for this reason, a divine judgment harms the spirit that is not upright and burdens it with chains.

(5) To the only invisible God, the Father of truth, who sent us the savior and founder of incorruptibility, through whom he also revealed to us the truth and the heavenly life — to him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2Cl 20, Ehrman)

Where to begin?! The whole thing is encouraging and challenging to me. This is, of course, not Scripture. But it is the reflection of a Christian upon the living of the Christian life from the very early Christian era (circa 140 AD) and as such is valuable to consider.

The bit about immediate rewards for those devoted to God implying commerce and not devotion is an interesting thought. And it is true. Pursuit of godliness should never be the means to an end (e.g. fire insurance); the only viable and proper end of the pursuit of godliness must be the honoring and worship of God Himself. We glorify God by serving Him and seeking to live according to His will.

There are also similarities with the Pastoral Epistles. Check out verse 2 in light of 2Ti 2.5. And verse 5 in light of 1Ti 1.17. Also, “slaves of God” is a thoroughly Pauline image.

Post Author: Rico
Saturday, November 13, 2004 11:01:06 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Friday, November 12, 2004

I read a post on the blog called Blogos about setting up a quicksearch in Firefox to do lookups in the ESV by keyword/verse from the address bar (e.g., type “esv 1Ti 1.4” in the address bar). So I thought I'd share how to look up Apostolic Fathers stuff via my Apostolic Fathers lookup tool as well (form interface available too). The below instructions are for Firefox. You can do the same thing in IE via the “Quicksearch” feature; I just don't remember how to set that up.

  • Bookmarks > Manage Bookmarks
  • Click the “New Bookmark...” button (they really need a space after the ellipses in the buttons)
  • Name: Apostolic Fathers Lookup
  • Location: http://www.supakoo.com/rick/af.asp?af=%s&lang=both+
  • Keyword: af
  • Description: af [ref] to look up passage in Apostolic Fathers in parallel English and Greek
  • Example: af mpoly 12.1-2

I use stuff like this all the time. “g” for google (e.g. “g ricoblog”); “mw” to look up words in Merriam Webster's dictionary (m-w.com). You get the picture.

If you understand Web Linking and the LDLS, you can also set up stuff to open Bibles in the LDLS from the address bar.



Post Author: Rico
Friday, November 12, 2004 8:37:25 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, November 06, 2004

Yet another installment in my ongoing look at the Epistle to Diognetus (Notes on §2). If you'd like to read the text first, you can do so here: EpDiog 3.

In EpDiog 2, the author extolled the virtues of Christianity as compared to paganism. In EpDiog 3, the author does a similar comparison of Christianity with Judaism. I should note at the outset that chapters 3 and 4 get a bit anti-semitic (chapter 4 more so than chapter 3). This is unfortunate.

Chapter 3 starts with a comparison of what is similar between the two groups. Here's verse 2:

Now by abstaining from the kind of divine worship just mentioned, the Jews rightly claim to worship the one God who is over all and to consider him Master. But when they worship him like those already mentioned, they go astray. (EpDiog 3.2)

So, the author mentions agreement with monotheism, yet he mentions that the Jewish form of worship (the offering of sacrifices, much like the pagans offer sacrifices to their gods) is errant. The author indicates that since God is in need of nothing, it is futile to sacrifice to Him:

For the one who made heaven and earth and all that is in them, and who supplies all of us with what we need, is himself in need ofnone of the things that he himself provides to those who suppose that they are giving them. But those who suppose they are performing sacrifices of blood and fat and whole burnt offerings, and thereby to be bestowing honor on him by these displays of reverence, seem no different to me from those who show the same hononr to the gods who are deaf — one group giving to gods who cannot receive the honor, the other thinking that it can provide something to the one who needs nothing. (EpDiog 3.4-5)

This, to me, betrays some ignorance on the part of the author who is writing to Diognetus. The Jews don't offer sacrifices to God because they think God needs something. The Jews offered God sacrifice because they needed something: forgiveness. They were working within the scheme set up by God Himself during the days in the desert, at the giving of the law.

Christians need not worry about continual offering of sacrifices because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was once for all, the just for the unjust. Christians have forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ and no longer have need to offer sacrifices. This is the new covenant issued by Jesus; the old covenant no longer applies. This transaction is what the book of Hebrews attempts to explain to the Jews in an effort to bring them into faith.


Post Author: Rico
Saturday, November 06, 2004 4:57:14 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Sunday, October 31, 2004

Now, I'm a protestant, and I'm all for celebrating Oct. 31 as Reformation Day. But all Hallow's Eve is, in the Catholic tradition (apparently) a vigil before All Saint's Day (Nov. 1). And traditionally, the works of the martyrs are specially remembered during this vigil.

At least, that's what I've gathered from some brief googlin' on the subject.

I see this as a perfect excuse to read The Martyrdom of Polycarp straight through. So that's what I'm going to do. And you can do it too! Here are links to all 23 chapters!

MPoly 1
MPoly 2
MPoly 3
MPoly 4
MPoly 5
MPoly 6
MPoly 7
MPoly 8
MPoly 9
MPoly 10
MPoly 11
MPoly 12
MPoly 13
MPoly 14
MPoly 15
MPoly 16
MPoly 17
MPoly 18
MPoly 19
MPoly 20
MPoly 21
MPoly 22
MPoly 23 

(apologies to readers who only view via RSS / syndication)

And, lest those who know me think I've gone soft ... after I'm done with Martyrdom of Polycarp I'll be reading the 95 Theses just for the heck of it.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, October 31, 2004 10:01:38 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I haven't listened to much Charlie Peacock (well ... releases past 1994, anyway). I happened to look him up on Rhapsody to listen to whatever they had available, just to see what the guy was up to.

They've got this retrospective thingie, where Charlie has re-recorded a number of songs with folks he knows. It's called “Full Circle: A Celebration of Friends”. One song I've never heard of is “Monkeys at the Zoo” (link requires RealRhapsody to work; try Amazon for a sample). The lyrics thoughtful and challenging, and I recognized Mike Roe's voice singing on the tune, which was a bonus.

This one song has been on heavy rotation on my playlist. You've gotta like songs that have lyrics like “and I have been a-whorin' after things”. The whole song is just good and thought provoking. Probably doesn't mean much if you don't have the music, but I wanted to post the lyrics anyway.

BTW, these are Copyright 2004, 1995 Andi Beat Goes On Music, Inc. (ASCAP)

[Verse 1]
Will it be different now?
Or just the same?
Will I have learned anything?

Was it just a way
To spend a day or two?
Set aside for thinkin'
Thoughts about you

If that's all it was I had a good time,
But that won't be enough for me
Not this year, not anytime soon

[Bridge 1]
I have got to clean house
Gotta make my bed
Gotta clear my head
It's gettin' kinda stuffy in here
Smells sorta funky too
Like monkeys at the zoo;
and I have been a-whorin' after things
'Cause I wanna feel safe inside
That's a big fat lie
No amount of green, gold or silver
Will ever take the place of the peace of God

[Chorus (2x)]
come flush the lies out
come on, come on, flush the lies out

[Verse 2]
will I be different now?
Or the same?
Have I changed at all?

And if you were to dive deep inside my soul
Would you find Jesus there?
Or a gaping hole?
Should I be content with my beautiful life?

But that won't be enough for me, no,
Not this year, not any time soon

[Bridge 2]
I have got to clean house
gotta make my bed
gotta clear my head
It's gettin' kinda stuffy in here
smells sorta funky too
like monkeys at the zoo;
and I have been a-whorin' after things
cause I wanna get everything right
that's a big fat lie
no amount of green, gold or silver
the perfect body
another hot toddy
work for the Lord
fame and power
power and sex
a seat at the table at the Belle Meade country club
Here's the rub
Nothin' will ever take the place of the peace of God

[Chorus 2x]
come flush the lies out
come on, come on, flush the lies out

Will I be different now or the same?
Will I have learned anything?

So ... there you go.

Post Author: Rico
Wednesday, October 27, 2004 5:16:44 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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A friend of mine just emailed me this link to Christianity Today's weblog. The article is about the Episcopal Church USA, you know, the one that ordained a “practicing homosexual” as a bishop awhile back.

This article on CT's weblog is not about that controversy, and that's why I think that the Episcopal Church USA has “jumped the shark”. I use a humorous metaphor, but the problem is actually quite serious. I can't see how the leadership of the EC-USA can contend that they are a Christian fellowship based on the issue with the bishop and this new issue. Here's the full title and subtitle of the article I'm referring to:

Weblog: Episcopal Church Officially Promotes Idol Worship.
“Women's Eucharist” calls for worship of pagan deities specifically condemned in Scripture.

The article is not a hit & run job. It is from a highly reputable source (CT). It is clearly written, with ample reference to both Scripture and the EC-USA church documents in question (and links to the ESV and the online versions of the document(s) in question). Consider the third paragraph of the article:

“This is not a joke nor an overstatement. In all truth and seriousness, leaders of the Episcopal Church USA are promoting pagan rites to pagan deities. And not just any new pagan deities: The Episcopal Church USA, though its Office of Women's Ministries, is actually promoting the worship of idols specifically condemned in Scripture.”

Friends, this saddens me. I'm not a part of the Episcopal Church USA and I know very little about their liturgy and historical worship. But if this is the sort of stuff that their leadership is both doing and recommending, it's a sad day.

Update (2004-11-06): Here is the response to the CT article from the Episcopal Church USA's Office of Women's Ministries.

My thoughts: while the liturgy under question may not have been “official” in the sense of having received the imprimatur of the church's governing body, I still think it is a sad indictment on the state of things within the church in general (and specifically the Episcopal Church USA). Consider this paragraph from the response:

These liturgies are intended to spark dialogue, study, conversation and ponderings around women and our liturgical tradition. There is quite a difference in presenting resources for people’s interest and enlightenment and promoting resources as official claims of the Episcopal Church.

Well, it certainly sparked dialogue, I'll give them that. But I question the sort of “enlightenment” a partaker in such a liturgy is to receive. I also question the setting in which a church — a church that is supposed to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ — can justify the presentation of such material, even if it is for “people's interest and enlightenment”. This “liturgy” is unquestionably heresy and should be condemned, and the church should distance itself as far from it as possible. Go ahead, read the CT article and try to come to a different conclusion.


Post Author: Rico
Wednesday, October 27, 2004 10:05:45 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, October 10, 2004

So, I'm reading this book (The Face of New Testament Studies by McKnight & Osborne). The essay on interpretation of parables (“Modern Approaches to the Parables” by Klyne Snodgrass) starts off with a brief historical survey of the allegorization of parables. It mentions that allegorization was done in Qumran, and then gives a reference: “see 1QpHab XII.2-10”. (p. 178).

I think, “Hey, I've got access to an English translation of the non-Bible scrolls in The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition. I wonder if I can find that reference?”

See, when you run across a reference like 1QpHab, even though it is referring to Habakkuk, the lower-case 'p' indicates that it is referring to the pesher on Habakkuk, this one found in Qumran cave 1. A pesher is like a commentary, at least from what I remember. This one is referring column 12, lines 2-10. So I knew I should have this in the DSSSE.

And I found it! Way cool. Here's the text:

2 The interpretation of the word concerns the Wicked Priest, to pay him the
3 reward for what he did to the poor. Because Lebanon is
4 the Council of the Community and the animals are the simple folk of Judah, those who observe
5 the Law. God will sentence him to destruction,
6 exactly as he intended to destroy the poor. And as for what he says: Hab 2:17 « Owing to the blood
7 of the city and the violence (done to) the country ». Its interpretation: the city is Jerusalem
8 in which the /Wicked/ Priest performed repulsive acts and defiled
9 the Sanctuary of God. The violence (done to) the country are the cities of Judah which
10 he plundered of the possessions of the poor.

García Martínez, F., & Tigchelaar, E. J. C. (1997-1998). The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Translations). Vol. 2 published: Leiden ; Boston.; "This book offers a fresh English translation of all the relevant non-biblical texts found at Qumran, arranged by serial number from Cave 1 to Cave 11"--Pref. (Vol. 1, Page 21). Leiden; New York: Brill.

This is apparently an interpretation of Hab 2.17-18. And it is a good example of allegorical interpretation of the Scripture.

Fun stuff, no?

Update: Cheers to Vince for his comment clarifying pesher.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, October 10, 2004 9:47:21 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, September 29, 2004

ProfessorBainbridge.com has a link to a 40-page PDF report on “Human Rights Advocacy in the Mainline Protestant Churches (2000-2003)”. The report was released by “The Institute on Religion and Democracy”, an outfit I know nothing about (their URL: http://www.ird-renew.org). I have not read the whole 40 pages, but the “Executive Summary” on pp. 1-2 of the PDF has some interesting things to say.

This isn't your average “human rights” screed. The paper criticizes four mainline Protestant denominations for seemingly misplaced criticism of human rights efforts. The group finds that the US and Israel are the targets of over 2/3 (69%) of the human rights criticisms of these denominations, and that “Of the fifteen worst human rights offenders in the world, only five were criticized by the churches during the four year period studied.”

Interesting stuff. The most interesting thing (to me) in the executive summary, however, is something I can't summarize, but will rather quote at length:

In the 1970s and 1980s, the churches made the mistake of supporting oppressive Soviet-sponsored liberation movements around the world. They largely ignored human rights abuses in the Soviet Union and its satellite states, instead focusing on U.S. policy as the primary source of abuse. It appears that mainline denominations may be making the same mistake today with the Arab and Muslim worlds, ignoring many of the most serious abuses while apparently laying heavy blame upon the United States and Israel not only for their own lesser abuses, but also for the abuses of others.

It is evident from the tone and language used by mainline church leaders in their statements and legislation that, as a group, they believe that the United States is often a malignant influence in the world. This pervasive anti-Americanism is demonstrated time and again in their public policy advocacy, and one need not investigate far to find it.

Given the dramatic unwillingness of the mainline churches to criticize states around Israel for their human rights abuses—not only the connections to worldwide terrorism, but also the oppression and brutality toward their own people—it is not unreasonable to ask whether anti-Jewish animus may play some role in the churches’ skewed human rights advocacy.

Wow.  This report is interesting to me because the report doesn't pooh-pooh the concept of human rights. The report is instead critical of misguided efforts in the area of human rights (from what I can tell by the executive summary).

I'm not sure when I'll make it through the whole 40 pages; it might just end up being little more than a skim. If you know anything about The Institute on Religion and Democracy, their views, or reasons why not to trust what they put out, please drop a comment here.

Update: In the comments section, ricoblog reader Patrick points us to a listing of IRD officers, directors, and advisors. The name I recognized immediately was that of Dr. Thomas C. Oden, who authored the commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in the “Interpretation” series from Westminster/John Knox. Dr. Oden is also the General Editor of IVP's highly-acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

Post Author: Rico
Wednesday, September 29, 2004 7:44:03 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, September 24, 2004

Hi. My name is Rick. I'm a bibliophile.

Now, with that out of the way ...

About a year ago, a colleague was kind enough to show me a real cool book he owns. It was called Pauline Parallels, published in 1974 or so. It was probably 10” tall by 18” (yes, that's 18”!) wide, spiral bound. The authors, Fred O. Francis and J. Paul Sampley, have arranged the Pauline epistles in a parallel arrangement — much like editions of the synoptic Gospels arrange the Gospels in parallel. The publisher (of the second and third editions) is Fortress Press. I was intrigued. Immediately hooked. I knew that someday I'd have a copy of this wonderful book.

I did some research then and found out that the book has since been updated and republished. The second edition was printed in 1984 (hardcover) as part of Fortress Press' Foundations & Facets: New Testament series. What is called a third edition (though I think it is just a paperback edition; page number counts and dimensions are exactly the same) was released in 1996. At least, I think 1996 was the date.

I finally got around to purchasing a copy; it arrived earlier this week. You can buy the third edition paperback from Fortress, but note that I found the hardcover in excellent shape from a used bookseller via AbeBooks for $21, S&H included. The second and third editions are smaller than the first edition — they have the same basic dimensions as a volume of the Hermeneia commentary series.

This book is just cool. It splits the Paulines (alas, sans Pastoral Epistles ... sigh ... ) into 310 pericopes (or sections). Then it has the text of the NRSV for each pericope in parallel arrangement. For instance, here is pericope 183 (chosen by flipping to the middle of the book):

§183: 2Co 11.21b-29. Formal Element: Hardships List

Primary Parallels: Ro 8.31-39 (§34); 1Co 4.8-13 (§85)

Secondary Parallels: Ro 2.17-24 (§10); Ro 3.27-31 (§15); Ro 9.1-5 (§35); Ro 11.1-6 (§44); Php 3.2-11 (§247); Php 4.10-20 (§253); Col 1.24-2.3 (§260); 1Th 2.1-8 (§277); 1Th 3.1-5 (§281).

The bottom portion of each page lists cross references (Paulines, NT, OT) that are less directly related and also lists related passages from Acts or the Pastoral Epistles. The index is handy and lists both main entries and the bottom-of-the-page entries. There are even some short text-critical notes on occasion.

If you're looking to do any study in the Paulines, or just want to have a good reference on the Paulines handy, this could be it. The book makes it easy to see what Paul said on a given topic across his letters. It also allows one to see how Paul tailored his message differently to different churches in different situations.

All in all, very cool — a handy book to have around.

Also cool: If you do the math, you'll note that you could use Pauline Parallels as your devotional reading for the year. 310 sections means you can skip one day a week and get through the whole thing in a year with a few days to spare.

Post Author: Rico
Friday, September 24, 2004 10:51:58 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, September 19, 2004

Last week, I wrote an entry about the NA27/NET Diglot that I've recently purchased. Actually ... it's a birthday present (thanks Mom & Dad!), but anyway, I've been using it.

I hadn't paid much attention to the cross-references in my UBS3, and I hadn't had the opportunity to examine the NA27 cross-references until now. My Greek isn't good enough to sight-read, so it didn't do much good to look up the reference only to fumble through it and have to look it up in English to see if I was right. I'm getting better — my vocab has improved, but I still fumble tenses/moods as well as pronouns. The process is slow, but I'll keep pluggin' along.

Anyway, with the diglot, the cross references in NA27 are actually useful. And they're good. I'm getting better at picking up the German abbreviations (though for some reason I still think '1K' is the abbrev. for 1 Chronicles, though it is really for 1 Corinthians). I'm also picking up the symbols (bang, pipe, and mid-dot).

Here's an example: I was working through 1Ti 1.12, which says “I thank him who has given me strength ... ”. The first cross-reference is to Php 4.13, which is stellar. But this is also common; I'd guess many translations would have these references in reciprocal relationship (nice alliteration, huh?).

But the second half of 1Ti 1.12, “ ... appointing me to his service”, is where it really begins to shine. The reference? To Ac 9.15: “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

That's a stellar cross-reference if I've ever seen one. I checked my old NKJV New Geneva Study Bible (published by Thomas Nelson). Surprisingly, neither cross-reference was listed. Not even the Php 4.13 reference. It just had some references in First Corinthians listed. I also checked my old NASB (Lockman Foundation), it had both references.

I hadn't even considered using the NA27 cross-reference apparatus before; and now (at least for the time being) I'm using it frequently when working through a verse. Very handy; a benefit I hadn't even considered.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, September 19, 2004 11:03:25 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I had a posting on this earlier. More info online from the good folks at Bible.org.

I received my copy yesterday. And it is quite nice. I hadn't paid much attention to dimensions of the print on the web site and anticipated it would be the same size of the NA27/RSV diglot; which is the same size as the UBS4 (only thicker). The NA27/NET is larger. It is using, essentially, a large-print page for the NA27 and then regular size type for the NET and its critical notes.

Overall, it looks very nice and looks like it'll be a helpful book. I may soon be retiring my trusty UBS3 to the sidelines and begin taking the diglot to church and studies.

If you're looking for something to help you get back into the Greek (that is, you've taken some Greek in the past but haven't kept up) this could be a good way to be diligent about getting into the Greek, especially if you're in a context away from a computer. Like church on Sunday mornings, at least for most people.

Update: If you've just hopped in from the Bible Software Review (thanks, Rubén!), here's some info on ricoblog.

Post Author: Rico
Tuesday, September 14, 2004 7:51:24 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Monday, September 13, 2004

Sorry, Eli, couldn't resist.

Caught an article on BBC Online: First Welsh Bible Goes Online. Now, I'm unsure how to parse the headline — is it just that this is the first Welsh Bible to ever be online, or that this is the first Welsh Bible ever published that's been photographed then put online? Or maybe both?

These are high-quality digital photographs of the 1588 Welsh Bible. Very cool indeed. Here's a short blurb:

The year 1588 saw the publication of the first Welsh translation of the complete Bible, including the Apocrypha. It was the work of William Morgan, 1545-1604, a native of Penmachno, Conwy and a graduate of St. John's College, Cambridge. This folio volume was printed in black letter by the deputies of Christopher Barker, the Queen's Printer. It was intended for church rather than home use.

And here's the link to the Bible itself (the above link is to the BBC story, not the Bible).

Post Author: Rico
Monday, September 13, 2004 9:38:22 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, August 28, 2004

I'm a fan of the Martyrdom of Polycarp. For those who don't know, this is an account of the capture, persecution, and killing of Polycarp. Polycarp (as a child) was, according to early sources, a disciple of the Apostle John.

He was arrested and then killed for sport in a stadium because he wouldn't “repent” for being a Christian. The account, particularly the conversations between Polycarp and the proconsul in the stadium, are the best part. Here are some excerpts, any emphasis provided is mine.

2 When then he [Polycarp] was brought before him, the proconsul enquired whether he were the man. And on his confessing that he was, he tried to persuade him to a denial saying, 'Have respect to thine age,' and other things in accordance therewith, as it is their wont to say; 'Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the atheists.' Then Polycarp with solemn countenance looked upon the whole multitude of lawless heathen that were in the stadium, and waved his hand to them; and groaning and looking up to heaven he said, 'Away with the atheists.' (MPoly 9.2).

I so enjoy the irony here. The proconsul instructs Polycarp to “repent” by saying, “Away with the atheists!” (for reference: Christians were seen as atheists because they denounced all gods but the one God). Polycarp, then, waves his hand around the stadium, indicating he's turning the indictment back upon them, and says, “Away with the atheists”. Can't you just see it? This old man, sure of his faith, doing this?

3 But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, 'Swear the oath, and I will release thee; revile the Christ,' Polycarp said, 'Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?' (MPoly 9.3)

Polycarp's understanding and response is encouraging to me. Now, I'm sure you're wondering, what does this have to do with 1Ti 1.1? Well, consider that Scripture:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

I've been wondering about the term “savior” in contexts like this in the Pastoral Epistles. The concept of worship of those in power as gods or semi-divine beings did happen, and most likely was happening in Ephesus while Timothy was there. Early citations in LSJ dating back to the third century BC confirm that the Greek word σωτήρ was used in reference to rulers, provincial or otherwise.

Hang with me, I'm going somewhere here.

Could Paul be referring to “God our Savior” with this in mind? The proconsul who persecuted Polycarp could legitimately be seen as a savior of sorts. He was the one with the power to save the life of the one in the arena being persecuted. The proconsul, with a single decision, could stop the persecution and set the prisoner free. He was, in a real sense, a savior.

But in 1Ti 1.1, is Paul pointing back to the real Savior, God, the one with power to save from eternal damnation, to encourage his readers to be properly grounded in God? To recognize the one whom Polycarp later (say, 150 AD) would not deny and, indeed, even testified to while in the arena? Is Polycarp modeling the basic truth of “God our Savior” in 1Ti 1.1 & Titus 1.3? Here's some more from Polycarp:

1 But on his persisting again and saying, 'Swear by the genius of Caesar,' he answered, 'If thou supposest vainly that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as thou sayest, and feignest that thou art ignorant who I am, hear thou plainly, I am a Christian. But if thou wouldest learn the doctrine of Christianity, assign a day and give me a hearing.' (MPoly 10.1)

Polycarp refuses to deny. He refuses to be “saved” by the proconsul, but Polycarp is willing to teach the proconsul the ways of the Christian. Hey, I suppose the chance was worth it. But the proconsul continues to be hardnosed:

2 The proconsul said; 'Prevail upon the people.' But Polycarp said; 'As for thyself, I should have held thee worthy of discourse; for we have been taught to render, as is meet, to princes and authorities appointed by God such honor as does us no harm; but as for these, I do not hold them worthy, that I should defend myself before them.' (MPoly 10.2)

Heh. Polycarp doesn't want to waste his time with the masses who only want to see him bleed. He realizes his time is up. Next is MPoly 11.1-2:

1 Whereupon the proconsul said; 'I have wild beasts here and I will throw thee to them, except thou repent' But he said, 'Call for them: for the repentance from better to worse is a change not permitted to us; but it is a noble thing to change from untowardness to righteousness'

2 Then he said to him again, 'I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, if thou despisest the wild beasts, unless thou repent.' But Polycarp said; 'Thou threatenest that fire which burneth for a season and after a little while is quenched: for thou art ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why delayest thou? Come, do what thou wilt.' (MPoly 11.1-2)

Wow. Polycarp is sure of his status before God. He essentially tells the proconsul, “Bring it on!”

This is just a small part of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, but it reads quickly. The account of his death is sensational but fascinating. There are 22 chapters, all are about the size of the chapters above. Find it in a modern translation if you can.

But I'm curious as to what y'all think about the use of “Savior” in 1Ti 1.1, and whether Paul may, either directly or obliquely, be addressing a situation like this. That is, by reminding his readers that God is our Savior, could Paul also be reminding them that provincial governors, proconsuls, and the like — while they may claim to have some power to save temporally — have no power to save one from “the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment”?

Post Author: Rico
Saturday, August 28, 2004 10:02:35 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, August 27, 2004

I don't have a TV, so in the mornings I usually listen to the radio a bit to catch up on the news. I usually listen to NPR. Sure, they're a bit biased, but at least you know where they're coming from and can account for it.

Anyway, I caught a snippet of Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry closing out some backyard meeting with voters in, I think, Wisconsin. His closing words to his audience were (I'm paraphrasing the first part from memory; the italic part is a word-for-word quote) “Let's go work hard out there. Thank you, and God bless.”

After getting over the initial shock of NPR actually airing the words “God bless”, I got to thinking about this.

I know that most major candidates bandy about the words “God bless” like this, and it's always bothered me. But it bothers me in other settings too. It bothers me when it happens as an almost liturgical response when people greet you in church. Essentially, it bothers me when the context of usage is unthinking, formulaic, and trite.

Did John Kerry really, sincerely mean to ask God to bless those at that meeting who go out and work hard for him? Or was it just a little formula, a verbal tick of some sort, appended on out of habit and lack of thought because it seemed appropriate? In most contexts, among most people, I think it's the latter. And that's why it bothers me.

My further question: Remember that piece of scripture known as the “Ten Commandments” (Ex 20.1-17)? Is this sort of thing a violation of Ex 20.7? You know, taking the name of the Lord God in vain? Why utter “God bless” if one doesn't truly and sincerely mean for God to bless those to whom he is speaking? And if one doesn't mean it, isn't that taking the name of the Lord in vain, or using the name of God emptily?

Please note that I'm not saying that any and all uses of “God bless” are wrong. There are times when it is sincerely meant and appropriate. But I fear the phrase is used tritely far more often than it is used properly, and I think that as Christians, we should be aware of this and be diligent in ensuring that we say these sorts of things when we mean them, not when they're expected to be said or heard.

Side note: What is the correct response when someone says “God bless you!” to you in a personal conversation? I never know how to respond to this. I'm sure the proper answer isn't “He'd better!” I usually mutter something like, “well, thank you” but this doesn't seem right either. A knee-jerk “well, may God bless you too!” doesn't seem right for the very reasons mentioned above. So, what do you say? How should one respond in this situation?

Post Author: Rico
Friday, August 27, 2004 7:54:15 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Thursday, August 26, 2004

I'm looking at different translations of a particular word (ESV “enslavers” in 1Ti 1.10).

In comparing translations, I made a mental list to look up: NASB, NET, NKJV, NRSV, RSV, KJV.

I just realized that I forgot about even looking at the NIV. I almost never use the NIV anymore; it has now apparently got to the point where I don't think about it.

For the record, I prefer to use the ESV as my primary English translation, though I usually bring both an ESV (pocket sized) and my trusty UBS3 Greek NT with me to church or to studies, and I prefer to follow along in the Greek when the reading is in the NT.

Why do I prefer the ESV? Well, it isn't condescending. It has a certain style to it. And, as I've worked through the Pastoral Epistles, I've done a good bit of comparing Greek to English at a fairly detailed level. And I like the way the ESV handles things moreso than the NASB. I was on an NKJV kick for awhile, but that was primarily because they told me via footnotes when they went with a majority reading, or when they went with the UBS/NA reading. English translations need to be better about marking where they follow variants; the NKJV is one of the few that does it consistently and well.

But I like the ESV. So I'll be using it as my primary English text.

Post Author: Rico
Thursday, August 26, 2004 8:53:13 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Friday, August 20, 2004

Sometimes, when you read things, they hit you. Here's 1Ti 4:16 (ESV, Greek is UBS4/NA27):

16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

16 ἔπεχε σεαυτῷ καὶ τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, ἐπίμενε αὐτοῖς· τοῦτο γὰρ ποιῶν καὶ σεαυτὸν σώσεις καὶ τοὺς ἀκούοντάς σου.

I thought of this during lunch today while reading 2 Clement 10.5 (Ehrman's edition, Greek from Lake's edition):

5 It would be tolerable if they alone were doing these things; but now they persist in teaching such evil notions to innocent people, not knowing that they will bear a double penalty — both they and those who listen to them.

5 καὶ εἰ μὲν αὐτοὶ μόνοι ταῦτα ἔπρασσον, ἀνεκτὸν ἦν· νῦν δὲ ἐπιμένουσιν κακοδιδασκαλοῦντες τὰς ἀναιτίους ψυχάς, οὐκ εἰδότες, ὅτι δισσὴν ἕξουσιν τὴν κρίσιν, αὐτοί τε καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντες αὐτῶν.

The interesting item, of course, is the “double reward” of 1Ti 4:16, saving one's self and one's hearers; compared with the posited “double penalty” of 2Cl 10.5, dooming one's self and one's hearers.

Those of us who teach have a responsibility to teach correct doctrine (one of the major focuses of the Pastoral Epistles). It is easy, for me anyhow, to get wrapped up in the material and forget about the primary responsibility. I need to do better at that.


Post Author: Rico
Friday, August 20, 2004 8:18:39 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I blogged on Luke 9.23 the other day. Reading 2 Clement at lunch today, I came across 2 Clement 6, which is essentially a short meditation on Luke 9.25 (but this is part of the homilist's larger task, of course). Again, the edition is that of Ehrman*:

  1. But the Lord says, “No household servant can serve as the slave of two masters.” (Lu 16.13; Mt 6.24) If we wish to serve as slaves of both God and wealth, it is of no gain to us.
  2. “For what is the advantage of acquiring the whole world while forfeiting your life?” (Mt 16.26; Mk 8.36; Lu 9.25)
  3. But this age and the age to come are two enemies.
  4. This one preaches adultery, depravity, avarice, and deceit, but that one renounces these things.
  5. We cannot, therefore, be friends of both. We must renounce this world to obtain that one.
  6. We think it better to despise the things that are here, since they are brief, short-lived, and perishable, and to love those other things, which are good and imperishable.
  7. For by doing the will of Christ we will find a place of rest; on the other hand, nothing will deliver us from eternal punishment if we disobey his commandments.
  8. And the Scripture also says in Ezekiel, “Even if Noah, Job, and Daniel should arise, they will not deliver their children from captivity.” (Ezk 14.14ff)
  9. But if even such upright men as these cannot deliver their children through acts of righteousness, with what confidence can we enter inot the kingdom of God if we do not keep our baptism pure and undefiled? Or who will serve as our advocate, if we are not found doing what is holy and upright?

The above references Luke 9.25, which is right after the section I blogged on earlier. So, after imploring the crowd to take up their crosses daily and follow Jesus, Jesus notes that if you do follow him, you can't follow anyone else. The author of 2 Clement (er, uh ... “A Homily to the Corinthians”) expands on that thought (vv. 5-7 above). Another practical reminder of how we, as Christians, should be living our lives in submission to our only Master, Jesus Christ.

* Ehrman, Bart. The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I. Loeb Classical Library vol. 24. Harvard University Press: Cambridge. 2003. (2Cl 6.1-9).

Post Author: Rico
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 1:12:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, August 15, 2004

The pastor at the church I go to preached on Luke 9.18-24 today. And he mentioned something I'd never quite realized before when talking about Luke 9.23.

The Romans were in the practice of crucifying people in Jerusalem and in other areas of Israel long before the crucifixion of Jesus. Just about anyone listening to Jesus that day as he was discoursing on “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” would immediately understand the reference. They were familiar with the image of criminals and ne'er-do-wells hoofin' it to the crucifixion spot with the cross-beam lashed on their backs.

This discourse of Jesus' was not necessarily a prophecy of his mode of death, but rather an incredibly shocking lesson for his disciples. He was telling them that if they wanted to follow him, they needed to daily pick up that cross-beam and hoof it to the hill. If they truly desired to follow him, they must die daily to their own wants and desires and instead follow Christ Jesus.

While I had implicitly understood the basics of this passage, I had never before realized how familiar and dreadful the image of “take up his cross daily” could be. Think if Jesus said, “ ... latch on your electric chair daily and follow me”. That's about the cultural equivalent, I'd guess. Yikes.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, August 15, 2004 9:58:11 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Saturday, August 14, 2004

One thing that bothers me a bit is the way in which public prayer in churches seems to have devolved into a forum to make announcements and spread concerns amongst the congregation.

Prayer in this context should be about magnifying and glorifying our Great God. Read the public/community prayers in the Old Testament — you'll get a nice review of the ways in which God worked in and through His people, the Israelites. God is glorified for His faithfulness to His people over history. Read the prayers in the New Testament, and you'll get a great perspective on how Jesus prayed, and on how He taught his disciples to pray.

Read the Apostolic Fathers, and you'll get another dose. Especially in 1 Clement 59-61. Here are just a few snippets (from Holmes' edition) from that prayer:

  • (59.3a) Grant us, Lord, to hope on your name, which is the primal source of all creation, and open the eyes of our hearts, that we may know you, who alone is “Highest among the high, and remains Holy among the holy.”
  • (60.1) For you through your works have revealed the everlasting structure of the world. You, Lord, created the earth. You are faithful throughout all generations, righteous in your judgments, marvelous in strength and majesty, wise in creating and prudent in establishing what exists, good in all that is observed and faithful to those who trust in you, merciful and compassionate: forgive us our sins and our injustices, our transgressions and our shortcomings.
  • (61.1) You, Master, have given them [earthly rulers] the power of sovereignty through your majestic and inexpressible might, so that we, acknowledging the glory and honor which you have given them, may be subject to them, resisting your will in nothing. Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, harmony, and stability, that they may blamelessly administer the government which you have given them.
  • (61.3) You, who alone are able to do these and even greater good things for us, we praise through the highpriest and guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be the glory and the majesty to you both now and for all generations and forever and ever. Amen.

When was the last time you were sitting in church during the congregational prayer and heard anything even comparable to the stuff going on up there? To be fair, 1 Clement does have some petitioning going on (cf. 59.4, 60.2), but the example of 1 Clement seems on the whole to be much more like the prayers one finds in the Bible (e.g., Neh 9:6-38; Mt 6:9-15; Jn 17) than what one hears (well ... at least what I hear) in the church today.

I understand that one of the purposes of the congregational prayer in the order of service is to present the needs and requests of the body to God. This is fine, and it is needed. But, at least to me, it seems as if we've forgotten that the primary purpose should be to, as a body, magnify and glorify God, to praise Him for His greatness, to recount the ways He has worked both through history and in the life of the congregation, and glorify Him and praise Him for that.

Instead, congregational prayers seem to be endless series of requests of God with additional details supplied for those in the congregation listening along: “Please, Lord, be with Mary-Sue as she enters the hospital on Thursday to have her boil lanced, which she noticed last week while peeling apples she'd picked from her tree.” Ok, that example is a bit absurd, but you get what I'm going for here. The congregational prayer is not the forum to make announcements to the congregation. The congregational prayer is the forum by which to approach God in humbleness, and to praise Him corporately for the blessings He provides to us as a body.

Sometimes I think the popular conception of the relationship one has with God through prayer is that of a cosmic slot machine. In this sceneario, God is the slot machine and prayer is the way we insert the coin in the slot and pull the handle. Sometimes (not very often) we hit the jackpot, but most of the time we hit bust; but that's ok, we've got more coins (requests) to stick in the slot. We only really pay attention to the slot machine when it pays out. Otherwise, it's just a tool that we don't think about too much.

The cosmic slot machine perspective is, obviously, wrong. But I think it is present, to some degree or another, in much of the practice of prayer amongst Christians today. Instead of inserting a coin in the slot and only hoping for a payout, simply praise and magnify God in prayer. Celebrate His greatness and the way in which He has worked. As an exercise, try praying to God for the specific purpose of glorifying Him and thanking Him for the gracious way He has worked in your life. If you're a pastor or one who leads public/corporate prayer, try this in that context as well. Announce your announcements, then pray to God alone as a corporate body.


Post Author: Rico
Saturday, August 14, 2004 1:51:58 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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