Daily Archives: 15 Apr 2019

Calling the Bears Out

For when you need to go full Elisha on kids.

Every Preacher, Every Sunday

I know that I say these things in vain, yet I will not cease to say them.” —John Chrysostom

Quote of the Day

“Wake up there! While I’m speaking to you about the scriptures, you’re averting your eyes and looking at the lamps and the person lighting the lamps! What indifference!” – John Chrysostom (during a sermon…)

Via Ben Myers

Hell Awaits This Monster


Old Testament Ethics: A Guided Tour

Ethics is not merely about tricky situations or hot topics. Instead, ethics asks questions about what sort of people we are, how we think, what sort of things we do and don’t do, and how we ought to live our everyday lives.

How might we learn ethics from the Old Testament? Instead of searching for support for our positions or pointing out problems with certain passages, trusted guide John Goldingay urges us to let the Old Testament itself set the agenda. In this volume, readers will encounter what the Old Testament teaches about relationships, work, Sabbath, character, and more.

Featuring Goldingay’s own translation and discussion questions for group use, Old Testament Ethics: A Guided Tour is a resource for ethics like no other. Topically organized with short, stand-alone chapters, this book is one to keep close at hand.

Goldingay’s book is brilliant.  He treats the subject at hand from the point of view of

  1. Qualities
  2. Aspects of Life
  3. Relationships
  4. Texts
  5. People

In part one, godlikeness, compassion, honor, anger, trust, truthfulness, forthrightness, and contentment are treated.  Part two examines mind and heart, wealth, violence, shalom, justice, reparation, Sabbath, animals, and work are discussed.

Part three is perhaps the most ‘controversial’ section since it is here that the topic of marriage (and who should and should not be married) is broached.  Goldingay also turns his attention to friends, neighbors, women, good husbands and wives, people you can’t have sex with, people who can’t undertake a regular marriage, parents and children, nations, migrants, cities, and leaders.

Part four is a bit different than the preceding three sections.  Instead of dealing with topics, it deals with texts: Gen 1, Gen 2, Lev 25, Deut 15, Deut 20, Ruth, Ps 72 and The Song of Songs and those texts’ relationship to ethical issues like families and authority and sex.

The final section, part five focuses on people: Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, Joseph, Shiphrah, Puah, Yokebed and Miryam, David, Nehemiah, and finally the trio of Vashti, Esther and Mordecai, and how their stories contribute to our ethical education.

A conclusion wraps up the volume proper but Goldingay then follows it with a postscript on the Canaanites and genocide.  A subject index and a scripture index are also included.

There are plenty of things that this book does well.  It’s language is homey and accessible.  It offers, at the end of each chapter, a series of discussion questions.  And it is packed full of Scriptural references.  Goldingay is a scholar whose reputation for lucidity and clarity is on full display here.  His treatment of thorny issues is unblinking and when he discusses issues that matter he is unafraid of direct speech.

When, for instance, he discusses in chapter 8 the ethic of contentment, he begins by forcefully asserting that

The genius of Ecclesiastes is to look at all the concerns on which human beings focus and to point out that none of the ultimately gets us anywhere.

Goldingay also shares personal stories from his own life.  So, for example, when he discusses friends in chapter 18 he opens up his life to his readers by describing the important role his friends played when he decided to leave England for California.

His discussion of women includes a discussion of women in ministry.  His discussion of marriage includes a discussion of same sex marriage.  His examination of marriage is egalitarian in focus.  And his discussion of nations, in chapter 26, includes this sentence:

It’s quite reasonable for a nation to establish borders, as it’s quite reasonable for a family to have a home.  But a home is then the place into which the family welcomes other people and offers them hospitality, and a nation’s territory is not by nature a basis for exclusion but a basis for inclusion.  Which leads into a consideration of the place of aliens in a country.

Goldingay then cites Gen 23:2-4 and Ex 2:21-22.

This is a spectacularly learned volume and spectacularly readable nonetheless.  But one thing more needs to be said: in the preface, Goldingay offers readers who may be a bit more conservative alternative treatments of OT ethics and he does the same with those who may be a bit more liberal in their inclinations.  In other words, Goldingay tells you who you may wish to read, besides himself, on the topic which the book addresses.  And that isn’t very common.

Goldingay wants his readers to learn what the OT says about ethical issues and he wants his readers to do so even if that means pointing them somewhere else.

That’s scholarship.  This volume is utterly praiseworthy.  Read it.  And if you don’t like it, you can read his recommendations!

A Review of the Septuagint Reader’s Edition in THink

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the latest issue of THink from Tyndale House has a review of William Ross‘s edition of the LXX. – buckle up, Will….  With thanks to Peter Williams for the heads up.    https://tyndalehouse.com/storage/files/ink/2/2ink-spring-2019.pdf#page=17

Peter Williams on ‘Black and/but beautiful’ (S of S 1:5) in the Song of Songs

Peter posted this on twitter and I here post it with his permission (not that I usually ask for permission since if stuff is online it’s fair game, but anyway I did)

So Peter is reacting to this tweet from the Center of Violence:

Song of Songs 1:5 is rendered in the King James ‘I am black, BUT comely’. The conjunction is also concessive (but/yet) in many modern translations (NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, GNT). However ‘and’ is an equally valid translation. The ideology of the translator is quietly influential.

Peter notes:

As you can imagine, it seems rather important to know whether the Bible ever expresses a preference for lighter skins. At the heart of discussion is the most common word in Hebrew, represented by the letter w (waw ו) which can be prefixed to both clauses & words in a variety of functions & meanings. Most clauses in the Bible are joined by it and translators render it ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘now’, etc.  So both ‘and’ and ‘but’ are grammatically possible, but which is better? To some extent the decision could be thought to arise from the fact that English has no elegant way of expressing ‘and or but’.  However, my main argument below is that this verse comes from a context quite different from modern discussions about race and skin colour. It’s in a Middle-Eastern song cycle, with its own complex and allusive messages.

A female character is speaking and in the KJV she says she’s ‘black, but comely’. The logic of this rendering is that in verse 6 she seems not to want people to look at her because she’s sun-darkened through having spent time outside tending her brothers’ vineyards.  The vineyards may be a poetic symbol or a literal feature in the poem. It’s not completely clear whether her sun-darkened skin is a symbol or a literal self-description. But she likens her appearance to Solomon’s curtains (1:5), which in this context should be good.  Tents of Kedar (1:5) are relevant because Kedar is from the Semitic root qdr meaning ‘dark’ (the Kidron Valley may be named from darkness). Because it’s parallel with Solomon, dark here has to be good.

So in the 2nd half of 1:5 dark seems good, whereas in 1:6 dark seems potentially embarrassing for the woman, resulting from hard work out in the sun. The darker colour is from tanning, not birth. Her ambivalence to this darker colour gives some justification to both renderings.  The majority of modern translations go with ‘but’, & it might be tempting to see this as influence by modern (possibly subconscious) racism of western translators. However, mere use of the word ‘but’ is insufficient evidence for the charge since the rendering is very old.

It is found already in the main tradition of the Latin Vulgate: nigra sum sed formonsa ‘black I am but beautiful’ ‘sed’ = ‘but’.

However, an early significant witness to the Vulgate the 8th century Codex Amiatinus, produced by presumably pale-skinned people in England’s Wearmouth-Jarrow uses et ‘and’, not sed, even as it understands the speaker to be ‘the synagogue’: nigra sum et formonsa.

So debate about the best rendering goes back well before the 8th century. It this predates the demonstrated use of ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’, etc. as umbrella terms for classes of people.

This is What Passes for ‘Worship’ At Ed Young’s Cult in Dallas…

That’s right, Mr Young is shooting baskets in the ‘auditorium’ while ‘preaching’ about James….

I’d almost feel bad for the few actual Christians who attend this cult but for the fact that they should get out of Sodom.

If this is what the Church is becoming, it deserves to perish.  But it isn’t what the Church is becoming, it is what heretics are turning their congregations into.  I.e., celebrity pastor oriented cults where anything but biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy reign.

It’s The 500th Anniversary (Year) Of Beza’s Birth

Via the Meeter Center-

Happy Birthday [Actually, Birth Year [JW]], Beza!


Theodore Beza, who succeeded John Calvin as lead pastor in Geneva, was born on June 24, 1519 – so this year is his 500th birthday. John Calvin’s 500th was marked in 2009 with a great deal of fanfare: books, conferences, special events in Geneva and elsewhere. It is fair to say that Beza’s 500th will likely attract a lot less attention – such is the fate of the successors to that first generation of Reformers. Philip Melanchthon gets a whole lot less attention than Martin Luther, Heinrich Bullinger is even less well-known among general audiences than Huldrych Zwingli, and Beza is largely overshadowed by Calvin.

And yet, all three of these successor Reformers (and most particularly Beza in this instance) had a great deal to offer the Reformation movement. For one thing, they offered longevity. Calvin was dead already by 1564, just as the Reformed churches were beginning to spring up and become significant in France, the Netherlands, Scotland, etc. Beza lived all the way until 1605. Although his last decade was overshadowed by increasing deafness and ill-health, he remained a focal point for the Reformed from across Europe, and his influence as a rallying point was so significant that in an attempt to undermine the Reformed advances, Catholics persistently circulated false rumors that Beza had converted back to the Catholic faith of his youth. Beza taught New Testament exegesis from the inception of the Genevan Academy in 1559 to the last years of the sixteenth century, and proved to be one of the Academy’s star teaching attractions. Through his network of correspondence, he built connections and shared information between Reformed churches and individuals from England to Hungary and from France to Poland.

Some of Beza’s works are available in English translations. His extensive correspondence is available in a magnificent annotated edition published over decades by Droz, the Genevan publishing house, though all the letters are in their original Latin or French. Most of the biographies of Beza are in French, although Shawn Wright of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has recently published a biography of Beza in English: _Theodore Beza: The Man and the Myth_ (Christian Focus Publications, 2015). French literary scholars have studied Beza and his writings extensively, particularly because of his humanist training and his skills as a writer and poet. Among English-speaking audiences, interest in Beza has focused on his thought, but mostly on his impact as one of the key forces in the Genevan and French Reformations. Excellent studies to consider include Scott Manetsch, _Theodore Beza and the Quest for Peace in France, 1572-1598_ (Leiden: Brill, 2000) and Kirk Summers, _Morality After Calvin: Theodore Beza’s Christian Censor and Reformed Ethics_ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

There will be various events held in 2019 to commemorate Beza’s 500th birthday, including a number of panel sessions at the upcoming Sixteenth Century Studies Conference at Saint Louis in October. These sessions should result in a publication of collected essays offering the most recent research on a man whose impact and influence deserve further attention.

Emil Brunner’s Theology of Preaching

brunner83Thanks to Carl Sweatman for the heads up about this

Perhaps at no other time in the history of the Christian church have the function and purposes of Christian proclamation in general, and preaching in particular, been so scrutinized as in the last twenty years. In the judgment of many, the crisis of the Christian church today-its apathy and enervation in the face of modern problems, its unreality and shopworn moralism-at its heart, is the crisis of preaching.’ Careful scholarship has shown that the Christian church arose as the response to kerygmatic preaching,= a fact which Paul attests out of experience when he notes that faith comes from preaching (Rom IO : 17). If preaching was the principle vehicle which accounts for the authentic, dynamic fellowship of faith in the first century, then it seems most probable that the recovery of authority and relevance by Christianity would depend on solving the crisis of preaching.

Give it a look. Keep it. Treasure it. Learn from it.

A Well Deserved Laudatio for the Genius Christoph Heilig

Laudatio für Christoph Heilig from University of Zurich, GRC on Vimeo.

Bullinger on the Pastoral Task

We therefore, the interpreters of God’s holy word, and faithful ministers of the church of Christ, must have a diligent regard to keep the scriptures sound and perfect, and to teach the people of Christ the word of God sincerely; made plain, I mean, and not corrupted or darkened by foolish and wrong expositions of our own invention.   — Heinrich Bullinger

How Sad

To see a man who wrote a fantastic study of Bultmann abandon the Christian faith (and yes, that’s what’s happened) because of personal circumstances and become unrecognizable.   So tragic.  I mourn the loss of theological promise and lament the embrace of heresy.

This is what the exaltation of personal experience over revelation looks like.  When one’s opinion eclipses Scripture and one’s viewpoint becomes the all-determining factor of ‘truth’ (or the perception of one’s own viewpoint as ‘the truth’).

The abandonment of the notion of judgment, the denial of any conscious afterlife, and the absurd connection of the rejection of universalism as the embrace of colonialism…  This is anything but Christian faith.

How sad.

Someone has died.

BNTS Booking is now Open

Via the Secretary of the BNTS, Steve Walton-

Booking for the 2019 British New Testament Conference at Liverpool Hope University is now open. The Conference will begin on Thursday 5 September (registration from 3 pm; drinks reception 5.30 pm) and end with lunch on Saturday 7 September (lunch is at 12.45 pm).

You can register for the Conference via Liverpool Hope’s online store here. (You will be asked to create an account, but it is very quick and straightforward.) Booking is open until 5 August, but Early Bird rates are available only until 31 May (£190 en-suite; £175 shared facilities; £115 non-residential). On 1 June all the rates will rise by £20.

This year, besides the usual accommodation in student halls, we offer double rooms (hotel standard) for couples (£390 for two people, including also conference registration, all the meals, refreshments and receptions). It is possible for individuals to book one of these executive double rooms for single use (£260).

Please note that Liverpool Hope University has two campuses, Hope Park and Creative Campus; the conference will take place at the main campus, Hope Park. Travel details by various means to Hope Park are here.

This time we are excited to offer several pre-conference tours on Thursday, as well as visits to our library special collections, led by my colleague, Dr Gergely Juhasz, during free time on Friday. The pre-conference offer includes the following curator-led tours:

  • Walker Art Galley 13th to 17th century paintings, with a focus on paintings with biblical themes, but also including other highlights; led by curator Xanthe Brook (Continental European Fine Art). Thursday 5 September, 11.30 am–12.30 pm. £7 per person.

All the tours are offered on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Availability is limited, and once capacity is reached, you will not be able to book onto a tour. If this happens, please email me here.

There are several other excellent museums in Liverpool (see here), so I encourage you to come earlier (or stay longer), and explore them on your own. If you plan to do so, and wish to book additional accommodation, or if you have any other questions, please let me know.

When you register, you will be asked if you are willing for the organisers to share your name, institution, email address, seminar choice, and research interests with other delegates. This request is to enable us to produce a printed list of delegates which will enable you to find others working in the same area as you and to contact them easily. We need your permission to share this information because of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced last year.

Looking forward to welcoming you in Liverpool in September,

Dominika Kurek-Chomycz

Signs of the Times

How Not to Represent the Trinity

Emil Brunner’s First Sermon

Preaching at the Fraumunster

Emil Brunner, freshly ordained, preached his inaugural sermon on the 14th of April in 1912.   Unlike so many theologians Brunner actually had Pastoral experience, and never abandoned the Pulpit for the lectern- serving in both his entire life, which is precisely what makes him so profoundly important and insightful.  The topic- almost as though he already knew his major path- was “Jesus: The Divine Man”.

His much later series of sermons on the Apostle’s Creed is moving and profound.

If you can track down his sermons, do so.  You’ll be glad you did.