Daily Archives: 21 Jul 2016

Another Quote of the Day for Today

“The faith which has not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a dead faith.” ~ J.C. Ryle

Quote of the Day

“I’m not arguing with you, I’m explaining why I’m right” – Lane Adcock (7 years old- to his brother) #LoveThatChurchKid #HesBeenPayingAttention

The Historical Writings: Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature

PrintFortress Press have sent along an electronic (Kindle) edition of their new book, The Historical Writings: Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature, for review.

History has an inescapable centrality in the Hebrew Bible, and biblical narratives are for many readers the best recognized and most memorable parts of the Bible. The history of ancient Israel and the nature of Hebrew historiography remain hotly contested topics today. This new introduction explores key questions and methods shaping contemporary scholarly debate. Students will explore the Deuteronomistic History and other historical writings and evaluate the different roles history-writing plays throughout the Hebrew Bible.

An introduction presents issues in the historical and literary interpretation of these writings. Subsequent chapters on the books Joshua through Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles each discuss literary concerns, historical issues, and theological themes relevant to each book, then offer succinct and informative commentary on the book. Pedagogical features include maps, timelines, photographs, primary sources from the ancient Near East, reading lists, and a glossary.

After giving readers a brief primer on historical method and the textual history of the work of the Deuteronomist, L&L launch into a series of discussions on the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.  Each chapter offers an introduction, a look at literary concerns, historical issues, major themes, and commentary.

There are maps and charts aplenty and something that’s in fashion these days called ‘sidebars’.  Think of these as topic-ettes too large to be treated in a footnote and too important to be ignored but tangential to the main thrust of the work.  And useful they are.  A visit to the book’s webpage allows interested persons to see all of the contents in detail- so I commend it to you:

Table of Contents
Figures, Sidebars, and Tables
Chapter 1: Introduction
Excerpt from Chapter 2: Joshua

Before launching into my view of the volume allow me to point out one problem I have with it- and it has nothing to do with the contents of the volume or the work of its authors. Instead, it has to do with the cover art.

The cover of the book, as seen above, shows the Tel Dan stele in what can only be described as a rather bizarre configuration.  Compare that configuration to the far more accurate work below:


“House of David” inscription Tel Dan 9th century BCE Basalt H. 35 cm W. 32 cm Th. 26 cm IAA 1993-3162, 1996-125

It may seem a small detail of course, but a lack of careful editorial oversight in terms of a volume’s production can lead to subconcious questions concerning the content itself. We often say ‘you can’t tell a book by its cover’ and in many respects that’s true. But what you can tell from the cover of an academic volume is whether or not someone has been paying attention. And in academia paying attention isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

Alright, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, it’s time to turn to important matters.  First, concerning their view of history, our authors write


Having said that, they continue their explanation, with which I agree nearly completely in spite of the fact that I would have replaced the word ‘historiography’ with ‘theology’.  Or at least expanded it to the venerable phrase of von Rad- ‘theological historiography’ because that in fact is what the Old Testament ‘historical’ books are.

Moving forward, had I the opportunity to make inquiries into our authors’ underlying motivations, I would ask L&L why they had a portrait of Martin Noth but not Gerhard von Rad… and why they cite Noth and Provan (and even Brent Strawn and John Walton get nods!) and many others but refer not once to von Rad.  I suspect I know the answer to that question and it lies in our dear author’s clear inclination to follow the Noth-ian line of historical reconstruction (and that’s perfectly fine.  If I want something more von Rad-ian then I should write it and not criticize someone else on the basis of my personal preferences.  But reviews are all about personal preferences, aren’t they).

These questions aside, the work at hand is a very fine achievement and could easily find a place in any college or university introduction to the historical literature of the Hebrew Bible.  Note, for instance, their treatment of the composition history of Chronicles:


Judicious, sensible, concise, clear, communicative.  Those are the characteristics of the work at hand.

Normally when people read book reviews what they are looking for is a summary of the volume’s contents (and those were mentioned above) and the reviewer’s opinion of the book (which you also have above).  Along with perhaps a bit of interaction (though normally such interaction tends to devolve into a ‘if I were writing this book this is how I would do it and this is the way they should have done it too’ one-upsmanship-ism).  Reviews should review, not rewrite.

Were I in your position, having never read this book, and wondering if I should, my answer would be – unreservedly – yes, you should.  You should read this book.  You should tell your colleagues to read it.  You should encourage your friends to read it.  You should assign it to your undergrads.  You should have your institutional library order a couple of copies.  You should insist that one be on reserve for your courses at the front desk.

If you do read it, you will appreciate the work put into it and L&L for taking the time to produce it.  The cover art may mystify you or even miff you, but once you crack the volume open you will forget soon enough the glaring horribleness of the front of the book.

Tolle, lege.

His Name is Legion…

Get out the tissues—this story is sure to make you tear up. A local man has become an overnight sensation after it was revealed that he has managed to dodge the offering plate at his church every single Sunday for the past forty years.

The retired grandfather, Johnathan Downey, says he uses advanced techniques like getting up to use the restroom just before the offertory, pretending not to see the usher who is standing right next to him, and closing his eyes to feign solemn prayer until the plate passes him by. His efforts have some calling him a hero, but Downey is quick to deflect attention from himself and his noble work.

“I’m just like anyone else,” a humble Downey told reporters in the foyer of his church after he managed to sneak out just before the offering. “I simply choose to put in the hard work and effort required to avoid my Christian duty to support my local church. It’s not rocket science—but it does take a lot of willpower to resist the Word’s call to give generously for as long as I have.”

The brave saint has made a lasting contribution to the Kingdom, but he’s not done yet—while Downey has already inspired his children and grandchildren to follow in his footsteps, he now plans on committing the rest of his life to helping others shirk their Christian financial responsibilities, just as he has done so faithfully for four straight decades.

What an inspiration!

Coincidentally, Pastor Promiscuous, Today’s Devotional from the Christian History Institute…

Is on the very topic you wish to eradicate:

The word of God has declared his mind in no doubtful terms. “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5 ESV); also, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV). The sexually immoral (who are classed with murderers) … shall have “their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).


Most Americans Think that Changing one’s Gender is Perfectly Acceptable

Most Americans see nothing morally wrong with gender change, LifeWay Research finds.  Six in 10 Americans don’t think it’s wrong for people to identify with a gender different from their birth sex, according to the Nashville-based research organization.  And more than half don’t think it’s wrong to switch genders by taking hormones or having surgery.  The findings indicate most Americans don’t see moral significance in being born male or female, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“A majority of Americans reject the view of a creator giving them a gender that shouldn’t be changed,” he said.  “We freely change many things about ourselves—we have cosmetic surgery, we use teeth whitener, we dye our hair, we get tattoos. Many Americans view gender as one more thing on that list.”

Amazing.  Christian nation?  Nope.

The Saxon Churches of the 17th Century: Or, How Pastor Promiscuous is Neither New Nor Innovative

Here’s a description of the condition of the churches of Saxony in the 18th century –

“… the churches were turned into beer saloons and into theatres. Yea, we read that during the public worship men got drunk, and that misdemeanors were committed such as cannot be named.” The gluttony, drunkenness and buffoonery of the nobility in that century almost beggar description: “Among them fornication was no sin, much less a disgrace. The same was true of citizens and peasants at the yearly markets, and church festivals; yea, Sundays were spent in dancing and carousing, while fighting, murder and manslaughter were of ordinary occurrence. Many preachers even led disorderly lives and were given to drunkenness. The common people lived in gross ignorance and blindness, and nobody thought about catechetical examinations and instructions.” Indeed, Gerber describes all classes as living almost brutish lives, and quotes John Arndt as having written to a friend: “Ah, my dear Doctor, if we do not declaim against the wickedness which is now so great that it mounts to heaven and cries aloud, either a bloody and consuming deluge, or the fire of Sodom or the famine of Samaria and Jerusalem will come upon it.”

In James W. Richard, The Confessional History of the Lutheran Church (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1909), 535–536.

There’s nothing new under the sun.  Not even promiscuous pastors who are willing to divorce behavior from Scripture and Christianity from ethics.

Understanding the World Begins With Understanding the Bible

And understanding the Bible means employing a guide who can lead you through the terrain and help you spot the landmarks.  And that’s exactly what good commentaries do.  Like this one:


You can acquire the PDF’s of the entire commentary series (including every book of the Bible) from yours truly for a paltry $199 by clicking my PayPal Link.  It’s that simple.  It’s a good commentary. But don’t take my word for it:

[I] wanted to thank you for your commentary set I recently acquired. My daughter Chloe (age 11) and I are using the one on Mark as we read through and discuss the gospel every second evening. It helps shed light on the text without being academically burdensome for us to work through. .. [Y]our comments are pitched wonderfully for anyone wanting to begin serious engagement with the text. It also complements the more ‘scholarly’ works.

Blessings, David Booth

Understand the Bible, make sense of the world.

I’m Just Going to Leave This Here…


#ICYMI – Where Did Luther’s Flash of Insight Come?

luther 92Students sometimes ask about Luther’s being knocked off his horse by lightning during a storm and his vow to St Ann which the talebearers insist is what drove him to the monastic life.  All that nonsense, fortunately, is nothing more than silly myth.  Here’s Luther’s own description of the ‘lightning’ that moved him to his understanding of Justification:

“The words ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness of God’ struck my conscience like lightning. When I heard them I was exceedingly terrified. If God is righteous [I thought], he must punish. But when by God’s grace I pondered, in the tower and heated room of this building [i.e., the latrine] over the words, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’ [Rom. 1:17] and ‘the righteousness of God’ [Rom. 3:21], I soon came to the conclusion that if we, as righteous men, ought to live from faith and if the righteousness of God contribute to the salvation of all who believe, then salvation won’t be our merit but God’s mercy. My spirit was thereby cheered. For it’s by the righteousness of God that we’re justified and saved through Christ. These words [which had before terrified me] now became more pleasing to me. The Holy Spirit unveiled the Scriptures for me in this tower.”

Luther was ‘converted’ in a tower toilet, not on horseback during a storm.  And the only ‘lightning’ around was the flash of an idea.