Category Archives: Biblical Studies Resources

Divine Election in the Hebrew Bible

Here’s a new book that may be of interest.

To citizens of the modern world the idea that someone or something might be especially elected by God seems problematic. If someone is elected, someone else is not elected. Does the God of all people have preferences? The idea that one particular nation should be elected by God is particularly difficult to accept.

Nevertheless, as this study intends to show, divine election is a central theme in the Hebrew Bible, and present in all its main parts. There are central acts of elections and less central acts of election. Abraham is elected as the founder of the people of Israel. Moses is elected as the ancestor of the religious and political people of Israel. David is elected as first of the Davidic kings. The election of these persons represents something more important than the persons themselves.

There are also other significant acts of election in the Hebrew Bible, especially the election of the land of Israel and of the city of Jerusalem. As well, there is the election of individuals such as the prophets. And even the Assyrians, the Babylonians and King Cyrus of Persia are presented as elected by God for special tasks.

A new full-length study of the important concept of divine election in the Hebrew Bible is long overdue, and Hagelia’s readable and balanced monograph can be expected to bring the topic back into contemporary conversation.

A review copy arrived some time ago and my review will be posted tomorrow.

Call For Submissions

Yours truly will host the January Biblical Studies Carnival (posting 1 February).  I request, therefore, that you send along your submissions.  Either from your own blogs or from ones you’ve visited.

In the past, Carnivals have been ‘uneven’ or even perhaps ‘nearly non existent’.  But 2020 is a new year and will kick off with The Carnival to Beat All Carnivals.  Titled simply 2020: The Carnival, it will serve as the template for all the Carnivals to come this year:  Fully stocked, cleverly curated, and vividly presented.

Carnival attendees will not have to suffer entries that consist merely of a link and a two word descriptor.  Gone are the days of hum-druminess, dear friends.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad!  And send in your submissions!

Once Again- The Best Free Bible Software: STEP

Students might find this suite of bible study tools very helpful.  It’s from Tyndale house in Cambridge and is called ‘STEP’ – scripture tools for every person.  You can download the contents from http://dev.stepbible.org/downloads.jsp .

Pauline Dogmatics: The Triumph of God’s Love

The eschatological heart of Paul’s gospel in his world and its implications for today

Drawing upon thirty years of intense study and reflection on Paul, Douglas Campbell offers a distinctive overview of the apostle’s thinking that builds on Albert Schweitzer’s classic emphasis on the importance for Paul of the resurrection. But Campbell—learning here from Karl Barth—traces through the implications of Christ for Paul’s thinking about every other theological topic, from revelation and the resurrection through the nature of the church and mission. As he does so, the conversation broadens to include Stanley Hauerwas in relation to Christian formation, and thinkers like Willie Jennings to engage post-colonial concerns.

But the result of this extensive conversation is a work that, in addition to providing a description of Paul’s theology, also equips readers with what amounts to a Pauline manual for church planting. Good Pauline theology is good practical theology, ecclesiology, and missiology, which is to say, Paul’s theology belongs to the church and, properly understood, causes the church to flourish. In these conversations Campbell pushes through interdisciplinary boundaries to explicate different aspects of Pauline community with notions like network theory and restorative justice.

The book concludes by moving to applications of Paul in the modern period to painful questions concerning gender, sexual activity, and Jewish inclusion, offering Pauline navigations that are orthodox, inclusive, and highly constructive.

Beginning with the God revealed in Jesus, and in a sense with ourselves, Campbell progresses through Pauline ethics and eschatology, concluding that the challenge for the church is not only to learn about Paul but to follow Jesus as he did.

Table of Contents
Part 1: Resurrection

1. Jesus
2. Vigilance
3. A God of Love
4. A God of Story
5. Resurrection & Death
6. Resurrection & Sin
7. Defending Resurrection
8. Election

Part 2: Formation

9. A Learning Community
10. Leaders
11. Love is All You Need
12. Loving as Giving
13. Loving as Faithfulness
14. Loving as Peacemaking
15. Loving as Enjoying

Part 3: Mission

16. An Apostolic Foundation
17. Defining the Other
18. The Triumph of Love
19. Mission as Friendship

Part 4: Navigation

20. Missional Diversity
21. Evaluating Paganism
22. Transforming Paganism
23. Request Ethics
24. Rethinking Creation
25. Navigating Sex and Marriage
26. Navigating Gender
27. Beyond Colonialism
28. Beyond Supersessionism
29. The Pastor’s Wisdom

A review copy arrived some time back, for which I thank the publisher.  Eerdman’s also published Campbell’s previous big volume, ‘The Deliverance of God’, which I did not at all like.  I happen, in fact, to agree with Bruce Clark’s take as published in the Tyndale Bulletin.  Of that earlier work, Clark wrote

Campbell launches a sustained attack against traditional theological conceptions of justification and aims to free Romans 1-4 (on which these conceptions seemingly rest) from a widespread rationalistic, contractual, individualistic (mis)reading, which gains its plausibility only by the modernistic theological superstructure forced upon it. Campbell then presents an in-depth re-reading of Romans 1-4 (as well as parts of chs. 9-11, Gal. 2-3, Phil. 3), in which Paul engages in a highly complex, ‘subtle’ polemic, creatively employing ‘speech-in-character’ as a means of subverting a Jewish Christian ‘Teacher’ whose visit to Rome threatens to undermine the Roman Christians’ assurance of salvation. Campbell argues that justification is participatory and liberative: Christ’s death and resurrection constitute the ‘righteousness/deliverance of God’, by which he justifies, or delivers, an enslaved humanity from the power of sin. This article concentrates primarily on Campbell’s own exegesis, concluding that, while important aspects of Campbell’s critique of both “justification theory” and traditional readings of Romans 1-4 must be carefully considered, his own exegesis is not only ingenious, asking too much of Paul and the letter’s auditors, but altogether untenable at key points.

Untenable is the right word.  It was, then, with no slight ‘fear and trembling’ that I made my way into Campbell’s nearly as big book this time.  Would it’s argument, too, be essentially untenable?  Would it suffer from the same sorts of eisegetical mis-steps?  And would its massive size (over 700 pages) be off-putting?

The answer to those questions cannot be either yes or no.  Instead, the answers to those questions and others is that the volume at hand is ‘complicated’.  On one hand, Campbell is a very good writer; and on the other, he tends to verbosity.  What could be said more briefly, without losing profundity, is instead said at sometimes numbing length.

In the movie ‘Amadeus’ there’s a scene where the Emperor encourages Mozart to cut the score of his opera down a bit, the Emperor exasperatingly remarking, ‘There are too many notes’.  Mozart reacts with a bit of dislike, ‘There are just as many notes as required, Majesty’.  And I suspect that Prof. Campbell would have the same reaction if he were to hear that his book has too many words.  But there are only so many words the mind can process before it grows overwhelmed.

Fortunately, the present work is on better footing than the previous ‘Deliverance’.  Though there are still places where Campbell’s exegesis is more like eisegesis.  In, for example, the chapter titled ‘Navigating Sex and Marriage’, Campbell seems to be trying much too hard to make ancient texts modern.  Campbell notes, e.g., on page 598, that Paul thinks in a ‘binary’ way.  How else would Paul have thought?  How else would anyone in all of the history of Christianity have thought about such issues except in binary terms before the last decade?

Furthermore, in the ‘Theses’ section of the chapter Campbell does his best to move readers beyond a traditional sexual ethic in order to encourage them to embrace a wider perspective on love and marriage.  This, of course, has nothing to do with Paul and everything to do with setting Paul aside and moving beyond him to a modern sexual ethic.  Paul is no longer the object of the study, but rather is merely the launching pad for a progressive Christian theological perspective.  Note Campbell’s wording in the final thesis:

‘The churches need to be concretely supportive and restorative here (as they should also be for any others burdened by these structures and their function)’ (p. 620).

In sum, traditional ethics are a burden placed on teens and when said teens wish to explore other avenues of sexual expression, churches should help to unburden them.

What we have, then, in short, is a treatment of Pauline theology that is really a description of Campbell’s own theology.  In much the same way that Karl Barth’s treatment of ‘Romans’ was more Barth than Paul, Campbell’s ‘Pauline Dogmatics’ is more Campbell than Pauline.

Which brings me to the next observation concerning Campbell’s book:  he is too dependent on Barth and not dependent enough on exposition of texts.  There is scarcely a segment of the book that doesn’t call on Barth’s testimony in an effort to make the case but there is very little exposition throughout.  This, though, in its own way fits nicely into Campbell’s appreciation of Barth, since Barth, too, had little interest in the text of Scripture aside from using it as a spring-board for his own intentions.

Another oddity in terms of the book’s contents is what is NOT included.  The title of the book is ‘Pauline Dogmatics’, which leads one to suspect that the chief theological concerns of Paul will appear at some point.  Yet, strikingly absent, is a chapter or even a section on ‘Justification’.  Indeed, the word does not even appear in the subject index.  Once.

Even casual readers of Paul are familiar with his interest in justification.  One merely needs to read Romans 1-6 and that becomes abundantly clear.  Yet a volume titled ‘Pauline Dogmatics’ has deemed it less important a topic than ‘Colonialism’, which Paul would have known nothing about (in terms of the modern notion of colonialism), which nonetheless has a chapter all its own.

Mind you, I enjoyed reading this great big volume.  I liked the fact that Campbell gives readers short subsections to break up the massive thing.  I like the fact that Campbell offers ‘theses’ at the end of each chapter which nicely summarize the argument of each.  I like the ‘key scriptural references’ section at the end of each chapter too, although these are a tad cherry picked and don’t necessarily include texts showing different perspectives (Paul, after all, was the kind of guy who contradicted himself).

Each chapter also has a short ‘key reading, further reading, and bibliography.  And, unsurprisingly, Barth appears – constantly.

Before you go away thinking I disapprove of this book, I don’t.  I like it.  I just wish it had a different title.  I would call it ‘Campbell’s Dogmatics’.  And leave Paul out of it.  Since, as far as I can tell, Paul isn’t in it anyway.

You Need a Commentary That Helps Make Sense of the Bible

the-person-the-pew-commentary-seriesThe ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk .  Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one.

If you or someone you know wants to get a copy of the entire 42 volume collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for the exceptionally reasonable cost of $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

Should you only wish one volume, email me and we can arrange it.  And please remember, these files may not be shared or distributed.

***

The best commentaries.  – Kevin Wilkinson, Singapore

Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament

The Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament is a tool for theologians and others interested in interpreting the Greek New Testament. It is a reference grammar that systematically covers all areas relevant to well-founded text interpretation including textgrammar. Combining accuracy with accessibility was one of the main objectives in producing the book. The information it provides is based on the best of traditional and more recent research in the study of Ancient Greek and linguistic communication. Differences between classical and non-classical usage are regularly indicated. The mode of presentation is largely shaped by the needs of prospective users, who are typically unacquainted with the details of linguistic research. Aiming at both a professional quality of content and user-friendly presentation, a tool was produced that aims to be of service to novices and more experienced exegetes alike.

Peter Lang has just published this English version of von Siebenthal’s excellent grammar which has been previously published in German.

I’m reviewing it for a Journal.  So watch for it in a fair bit of time.

Entries for the SOTS Book List

One of the great things about attending the SOTS meeting is that there are always books to pick up for reviewing for the SOTS book list.  This year I picked up these two:

Laura Robinson and Her Great Analysis of Contemporary ‘End Times’ People

From her twitter

Thread: Has anyone else noticed that the Sure Signs of the Endtimes Foretold in Scripture just change depending on what’s in the news that day? When I was a kid, the Euro and the rise of China as the only superpower were clearly foretold.  Now no one’s talking about the Euro and China isn’t the world’s only superpower, and Scripture has plainly foretold the American embassy in Jerusalem and Trump declaring Jews a nationality.

Five years ago, was anyone reading Revelation and saying that the next president would surely declare Judaism to be a nationality in response to the BDS movement and moving the American embassy? Nope.  It turns out none of this stuff is foretold in the Bible, but the Bible can be made to say this retroactively once you have decided on the event you’re going to fixate on.

*Stage whisper* THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED WITH ISAIAH NINE *gets yanked offstage with a cane around the throat*

Brilliant.  And totally accurate.

Get the Commentary Tom Bolin, of St. Norbert’s College, Enthusiastically Recommends!

Jim West’s commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah, aimed at “the person in the pew,” faces a rather difficult task. By that I don’t mean the perennial challenge of trying to make biblical texts relevant to modern believers, although that is certainly part of the challenge. West’s commentary is trying to make one of the less well-known and, frankly, less exciting of the biblical books applicable to readers, and it does a fine job at it.

Moving briskly through the text, West pauses to expound essential perplexities and occasionally to provide an informative excursus, e.g., on grieving in the Old Testament, or the origins of the Samaritans. Rather than bogging down the text, these excurses come at appropriate intervals, anticipate a reader’s questions, and offer a wealth of helpful information useful beyond the reading of Ezra-Nehemiah. As far as his exposition of the text, West does a fine job of “cultural equivalence” translation of principles at work in Ezra-Nehemiah.

These are hard books of the Bible: hard to work through, a story of hard times for the returning exiles, and ultimately, books with very hard lessons for those would follow the God of Israel. With the verve and occasional sting that regular readers of his blog will recognize, West concisely points out to that person in the pew just exactly how challenging the Bible remains to modern believers, and that even something as seemingly unrelated to the 21st century as 2500 year-old genealogies and group wall-building activities have something to say to those who will listen.

Thomas M. Bolin ن, Ph.D.
Professor of Religious Studies
St. Norbert College
Hebrew Bible Book Editor Marginalia Review of Books

Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity: Essays In Honour of Thomas L. Thompson

A Festschrift for a more than deserving friend (and my copy has arrived!):

This volume collects essays from an international body of leading scholars in Old Testament studies, focused upon the key concepts of the question of historicity of biblical stories, the archaeology of Israel/Palestine during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and the nature of biblical narratives and related literature.

As a celebration of the extensive body of Thomas L. Thompson’s work, these essays enable a threefold perspective on biblical narratives. Beginning with ‘method’, the contributors discuss archaeology, cultural memory, epistemology, and sociology of knowledge, before moving to ‘history, historiography and archaeology’ and close analysis of the Qumran Writings, Josephus and biblical rewritings. Finally the argument turn to the narratives themselves, exploring topics including the possibility of invented myth, the genre of Judges and the depiction of Moses in the Qu’ran. Presenting an interdisciplinary analysis of the historical issues concerning ancient Israel/Palestine, this volume creates an updated body of reference to fifty years’ worth of scholarship.

And the contents are fantastic:

PART 1: METHOD

1. The City of David as a Palimpsest, Margreet Steiner
2. Living in the Past? Keeping Up-To-Date in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Raz Kletter
3. What People Want to Believe: Or Fighting Against Cultural Memory, Niels Peter Lemche
4. The Need for a Comprehensive Sociology of Knowledge of Biblical and Archaeological Studies of the Southern Levant, Emanuel Pfoh

PART 2: HISTORY, HISTORIOGRAPHY AND ARCHAEOLOGY

5. The Abraham and Esau-Jacob Stories in the Context of the Maccabean Period, Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spanò
6. Tell Balata (Shechem): An Archaeological and Historical Reassessment, Hamdan Taha and Gerrit van der Kooij
7. ‘Solomon’ (Shalmaneser III) and the Emergence of Judah as an Independent Kingdom, Russell Gmirkin
8. On the Pre-Exilic Gap between Israel and Judah, Étienne Nodet
9. Perceptions of Israel’s Past in Qumran Writings: Between Myth and Historiography, Jesper Høgenhaven
10. Is Josephus’s John the Baptist Passage a Chronologically Dislocated Story of the Death of Hyrcanus II?, Greg Doudna
11. Thompson’s Jesus: Staring Down the Wishing Well, Jim West
12. The Qur’an as Biblical Rewriting, Mogens Müller

PART 3: BIBLICAL NARRATIVES

13. The Food of Life and the Food of Death in Texts from the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East, Ingrid Hjelm
14. A Gate in Gaza: An Essay on the Reception of Tall Tales, Jack M. Sasson
15. Deborah’s Topical Song: Remarks on the Gattung of Judges 5, Bob Becking
16. How Jerusalem’s Temple Was Aligned to Moses’ Tabernacle: About the Historical Power of an Invented Myth, Rainer Albertz
17. Can the Book of Nehemiah Be Used as an Historical Source, and If So, of What? Lisbeth S. Fried
18. Chronicles’ Reshaping of Memories of Ancestors Populating Genesis, Ehud Ben Zvi
19. The Book of Proverbs and Hesiod’s Works and Days, Philippe Wajdenbaum
20. The Villain ‘Samaritan’: The Samiri as the Other Moses in Qur’anic Exegesis, Joshua Sabih

That list of contributors is a veritable who’s who of scholars of exceptional reputation and it’s wonderful to see all those who are closest to Thomas taking part.

The Lexham English Septuagint (LES), Print Edition

The Lexham English Septuagint (LES) is a new translation of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament writings used during New Testament times and in the early church. The LES provides a literal, readable, and transparent English edition of the Septuagint for modern readers. Retaining the familiar forms of personal names and places, the LES gives readers the ability to read it alongside their favored English Bible. Translated directly from Swete’s edition of the Septuagint, the LES maintains the meaning of the original text, making the Septuagint accessible to readers today.

The publisher has provided (kindly) a copy of the print edition (with no expectations concerning the outcome of a review).

In my estimation, the best way to think about a translation of the Bible is to compare it with the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text.  In this case, since our translators wish to render the LXX into English, we will take a look at several Greek texts and provide this new edition’s renditions.  In that way people who are familiar with Greek will be able to determine for themselves how accurate the translation is; and those unfamiliar with Greek will be provided with a reason for how the translation is evaluated.

First, then, Jeremiah 1:1-2 (in the Göttingen LXX)

Τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὃ ἐγένετο ἐπὶ Ιερεμίαν τὸν τοῦ Χελκίου ἐκ τῶν ἱερέων, ὃς κατῴκει ἐν Αναθωθ ἐν γῇ Βενιαμίν·  δς ἐγενήθη λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ιωσία υἱοῦ Αμως βασιλέως Ιουδα ἔτους τρισκαιδεκάτου ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ.

This is rendered by the Lexham LXX thusly-

The word of God that came to Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests, who dwelled in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin,  the word of God that came to him in the days of Josiah, son of Amos, the king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his kingdom.

The word ‘son‘ is understood by the Greek text but is not used.  The English translation uses the understood word even though it is absent from the Greek text.  This means that the translation is not ‘woodenly literal’ but offers sense for sense.  This is a good sign as it suggests a very useful and accurate translation.  But let’s look at another verse.

Psalm 23:1- (22:1 in the LXX)-

Κύριος ποιμαίνει με, καὶ οὐδέν με ὑστερήσει.

And the Lexham rendition-

The Lord shepherds me, and nothing will be lacking for me.

‘Nothing lacking for me’ could also be translated ‘and not one thing is missing’.  This, to me, is both more vivid and more faithful to the Greek text.  It also sounds more like English.  ‘Nothing will be lacking for me’ sounds stilted and unnatural.  So while accurate, it is less than it could be.

The LXX’s Isaiah 7:14 reads this way:

διὰ τοῦτο δώσει κύριος αὐτὸς ὑμῖν σημεῖον· ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Εμμανουηλ·

The Lexham rendering goes this way:

Because of this, the Lord himself will give you a sign: Look, the virgin ⌊will become pregnant⌋ and will bear a son, and you will call his name Immanuel.

Readers of the Hebrew Bible will know that the underlying Hebrew word used here is ‘almah’ which means ‘young lady’.  It does not use the word ‘bethulah’ which means ‘virgin’.  The LXX, however, uses the word normally describing a ‘virgin’ (under Christian influence?) and not just a young lady.  Curiously, in the electronic edition, the Lexham LXX has ‘maiden’ in place of ‘virgin.’  Apparently this newer work decided to retain the LXX’s understanding rather than adopting the Hebrew viewpoint (as reflected in the electronic edition).

These samplings give potential readers of this new print edition some idea of the method and contents of the English translation of the Septuagint.  Lexham has done a good job in translating the underlying Greek text both fairly and accurately, even if at times other translation choices would have been better.

But that’s the thing about translation: it is both science and art.  And even between the earlier electronic edition and the current print edition there are subtle adjustments because, and this is important, our understanding is always growing and our translations should be adjusted accordingly.

Anyone who believes that there’s such a thing as a timeless translation of the Bible understands neither the nature of translation (as art and science) nor the Biblical text itself.  None less than Luther himself realized the peril of translation when he wrote the following after the publication of his 1522 ‘September Testament’-

Secondly, you might say that I have conscientiously translated the New Testament into German to the best of my ability, and that I have not compelled anyone to read it. Rather I have left that open, only doing the work as a service to those who could not do it better. No one is forbidden to do it better! If someone does not wish to read it, he can let it lie, for I do not ask anyone to read it or praise anyone who does so. It is my Testament and my translation, and it shall remain mine. If I have made some mistakes in it (although I am not aware of any, and would most certainly be unwilling to deliberately mistranslate a single letter) I will not allow the papists to be my judges. For their ears are still too long and their hee-haws too weak for them to criticize my translating. I know quite well how much skill, hard work, sense and brains are needed for a good translation. They know it even less than the miller’s donkey, for they have never tried it.

It is said, “He who builds along the road has many masters.” That is how it is with me also. Those who have never been able to speak properly (to say nothing of translating) have all at once become my masters and I must be their pupil. If I were to have asked them how to turn into German the first two words of Matthew, Liber Generationis, not one of them would have been able to say Quack! And now they judge my whole work! Fine fellows! It was also like this for St. Jerome when he translated the Bible. Everybody was his master. He alone was totally incompetent, and people who were not worthy to clean his boots judged the good man’s work. It takes a great deal of patience to do good things in public. The world believes itself to be the expert in everything, while putting the bit under the horse’s tail. Criticizing everything and accomplishing nothing, that is the world’s nature. It can do nothing else.

Translating is hard work.  And no matter how well you do it, you will have critics.  Sadly, most of the time those critics are the very people least equipped to do the work themselves.

So, Lexham, I applaud you for your excellent work.  I quibble with bits and pieces of it, but all in all, it is well done and deserves to sit on the shelves of all who would wish to understand the Septuagint but who, for whatever reason, cannot manage to read it for themselves in Greek.

What Happens When Gifted Theologians Read ‘The Commentary’?

This:

That’s right.  After having read a couple of the volumes in the series, both John Calvin and John Owen were brought to the point of smiling.  And that had never happened before.

If you want to smile, get yourself a copy of The Commentary.

The ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk .  Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one.

If you or someone you know wants to get a copy of the entire 42 volume collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for the exceptionally reasonable price of  $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.  But please note- sets are priced for individual use.  They may not be redistributed or shared with others.  Kindly ask those interested in the set to obtain it for themselves.

Philippians: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching

Kerux Commentaries enable pastors and teachers to understand and effectively present the message of a biblical text. Kerux opens up each text of the Bible by explaining the message of the text to the original audience, unpacking the timeless truth of the passage, and finally providing communication insights for conveying that truth to a contemporary audience.

Each volume is written by a biblical scholar and a working pastor or homiletics scholar in partnership. Inclusion of a preaching author means that the commentary is centered on the biblical insights that are useful to a pastor as well as effective communication strategies and illustrations for each passage. Readers will discern the benefits of this throughout, as a resource designed and written with the real needs of regular proclamation always in sight.

A review copy has arrived from the good folk at Kregel (without any expectations of the outcome).  I’ll let you know what I think of it in the New Year (sometime).

Mark, In Greek, With Greek Captions

Via Peter Gurry on the twitter.

Paulus als Erzähler? Eine narratologische Perspektive auf die Paulusbriefe

Pre-order your copy and request that your institutional library do the same.  It’s a fantastic book.  Learned, well researched, and eminently readable.  The best book on Paul that I’ve read since Chris Tilling’s.

Paulus ist vor allem als theologischer Denker bekannt. Nun behaupten gewichtige Stimmen aus dem englischsprachigen Raum, die Exegese seiner Briefe habe sich bisher viel zu sehr auf abstrakte Konzepte und Argumentationsfiguren konzentriert. Vielmehr sei die Erkenntnis von fundamentaler Bedeutung, dass die Texte durch und durch von Geschichten geprägt seien. Gemeint sind nicht explizite Erzählungen, sondern narrative Strukturen, die im Subtext oder in der Weltanschauung des Autors verortet werden. Heiligs Studie unterzieht diesen „narrative approach“ einer kritischen Prüfung: Kann im Fall von Briefen sinnvoll von Narrativen gesprochen werden? Ist die Priorisierung impliziter Erzählungen sinnvoll? Mit welchem methodischen Werkzeug könnte man die bisher angeblich übersehenen Erzählungen identifizieren? Heilig beantwortet diese und weitere grundsätzliche Fragen unter Bezugnahme auf die erzähltheoretische und textlinguistische Forschung und zeigt in der Analyse konkreter Texte auf, wie Paulus tatsächlich als „Erzähler“ auftritt. Dabei demonstriert er, wie eine initiale Konzentration auf explizite Erzählungen tatsächlich auf einen Weg zu einer neuen, narratologisch fundierten Betrachtungsweise der Schriften des Apostels führen kann.

#ICYMI – Philip R. Davies’ Last Book

From Equinox Publishing – “The Bible for the Curious: A Brief Encounter” by Philip R. Davies

Unlike most textbooks, this book has no footnotes, avoids technical discussion as much as possible, and makes no assumptions about religious belief. Its aim is to introduce the contents in a way that engages readers critically, and to persuade them that in a modern secular society this collection of ancient writings can still contribute to the way we think about history, philosophy and politics.

Hardback copies are now in stock, and paperback will be in stock very soon. Learn more about this title on our website: https://www.isdistribution.com/BookDetail.aspx?aId=105235

It was a real joy to help Philip read through the manuscript, offer suggestions, and generally be of service to the wonderful man on what so tragically turned out to be his last project.  It’s a book you should read.  And it’s a book others would appreciate as a Christmas gift.

NB- Philip would LOVE that cover.

Hendrickson’s ‘Book By Book’ Guides

Hendrickson has recently published A Book by Book Guide to Septuagint Vocabulary and A Book by Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary.

These two works are described by the publisher thusly:

A Book-by-Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary is intended to help students, pastors, and professors who wish to read a particular book of the Bible in its original language to master the vocabulary that occurs most frequently in the book in question. In contrast to typical Hebrew and Greek vocabulary guides, which present vocabulary words based on their frequency in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament as a whole, this book presents vocabulary words based on their frequency in individual New Testament books, thus allowing readers to understand and engage with the text of a particular book easily and quickly.

The book also includes an appendix listing difficult principal parts for selected verbs that occur in the vocabulary lists and providing other advanced notes for additional words in the lists.

And

This book-by-book vocabulary guide provides an unparalleled resource for anyone interested in more effective reading and study of the Old Testament in Greek, commonly called the Septuagint. Aside from two full-scale specialist lexicons for the Septuagint, no other printed resource exists that provides concise and strategic guidance to the language of this important ancient corpus. With word lists organized by frequency of appearance in a given book or section of the Septuagint, this guide allows users to focus their study efforts and thus more efficiently improve their breadth of knowledge of Koine vocabulary. Furthermore, the vocabulary incorporated into the lists in this guide integrates lower-frequency New Testament vocabulary in a manner that enables the user to easily include or exclude such words from their study. Other key features of this vocabulary guide include carefully crafted lists that allow users to refresh higher-frequency New Testament vocabulary, to strategically study higher-frequency vocabulary that appears across the Septuagint corpus, and to familiarize themselves with the most common proper nouns in the Septuagint. Moreover, each chapter in this guide has been statistically tailored to provide the word lists necessary to familiarize the user with 90 percent of the full range of vocabulary in each book or section of the Septuagint.

The publisher has sent review copies of both, with no expectations of or requirements for the outcome of my review.

The volumes are what we used to describe as ‘word frequency lists’ but unlike the word frequency lists of olden times, when I was a lowly grad student, which were organized by frequency regardless of the books of the Bible in which they occurred, these lists follow the canonical order of the LXX and New Testament respectively.

In the LXX volume we begin with words that occur 88,461- 4,907 times in the entire LXX.  Then we whittle the lists down until we finish up with list 20, which lists words occurring 12 or fewer times.  Then our authors (Lanier and Ross) give us a collection of lists containing what they describe as ‘high frequency Septuagint vocabulary.  Next, lists of common Septuagint proper nouns.  And then, and only then, do we come to the lists of words which are found in the various books collected in the LXX.

This kind of resource is ideal for those wishing to expand their vocabulary (of Greek words that are found in the LXX).  The drawback, of course, is that one or two word ‘definitions’ are only helpful in a general way.  Further, there’s lots of repetition.  That is, if σακκος occurs in sufficient numbers in Ruth it is also listed in the vocabulary lists of other books as well.  Repetition isn’t a bad thing.  Indeed, it’s quite helpful to see a word presented in several lists over the course of the volume.  But it does add to the overall length of the work.  And that space, in my view, could have been occupied, for instance, by the words that occur in Job but one or two times.  Those are the words that generally cause problems for readers, rather than the words that occur 88,000 times.  Indeed, if a reader of the LXX isn’t familiar with words in Greek that are found tens of thousands of times, it’s highly unlikely that they are very familiar with the Greek language at all and probably aren’t trying to read the LXX in Greek anyway.

The New Testament guide is laid out in the same fashion, beginning with high frequency vocabulary – 19,865 times to 40 times.  Then our author leads us through each book of the New Testament in canonical order.  This time, however, we are introduced to words that occur 17 times and going all the way down to 3 times (for Matthew).  Other books begin at other frequencies and end at others as well.  Acts, for example, begins with words at 23 occurrences and finishes up with words found 3 times. 2 Timothy, on the other hand, begins at 4 occurrences and finishes up with words making only 1 appearance.  The New Testament volume also ends with a glossary.

Words are provided one or two word glosses here as well.  Which, again, though helpful, is also partially misleading (since words – as we all are aware- can have quite a range of meanings according to the context and the use to which they are put in that context).   To be sure, this is not a criticism, it is merely an observation and users of these two very helpful works need to remember (or perhaps be taught) that one word or two word definitions must always be investigated with a particular context in mind.

Greek, in short, is resistant to oversimplification.  As is, by the way, Hebrew.  And readers of the biblical text are beholden to keep that very simple yet very important fact in mind.

The great advantage of these two works is that they build basic vocabulary.  Basic.  Vocabulary.  And that is critical for readers of the biblical languages and students of the biblical text.  Their authors are to be thanked for them.

Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation

I was unaware of the existence of this book (and of the series of 4 other volumes with which it serves as part) until it arrived for review.  So I thank Lexham for sending it along, doubtless knowing of my great interest in such things.

My review will post tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation delivers fresh insight by drawing attention to the geographical setting for the spread of Christianity in the first century AD. Geography is a central concern in Acts, but the full significance of its geographical context is easily overlooked without a familiarity with the places, the types of transportation, the relative distances, and the travel conditions around the Mediterranean in the first century AD. Luke’s account mentions places from all over the known world, and Paul’s missionary travels covered an estimated 15,000 miles by land and sea.

Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8 literally map the future travels of the Apostles and provide the structure for the rest of the book: The Apostles will take the gospel from Jerusalem (1:1–8:3) to Samaria and Judea (8:4–40, 9:32–11:18), and finally throughout the Roman world and beyond (13:21–28:31). Geography also provides a new depth of insight into John’s letters to the seven churches in Rev 1–3. Their locations along key Roman mail routes suggest the letters may make up a single composite message to be received in stages as the letters are passed along from one church to the other. The references in Acts and Rev 1–3 cover the full geographical context for the first century Church since some of the cities Paul visits in Acts are later the locations of churches that receive his letters such as Ephesus (Acts 19; Eph 1:11 Tim 1:3). The Lexham Geographic Commentary gives you insight into the importance of all of these locations—both culturally and spatially—and provides a deeper understanding of the spread of early Christianity.

The title of the volume is a bit misleading, as this is not, in fact, a geographic commentary on Acts through Revelation.  It is a commentary on fragments and select passages from Acts through Revelation.  The first ten chapters cover only select passages in Acts (by a variety of scholars) and it isn’t until the eleventh chapter that snippets from Acts, 2 Cor, Hebrews, I Peter, and Revelation are included.

Snippets from Acts predominate.  Indeed, it isn’t until chapter 42 that Acts is left behind and we move to Philippians.  Then Colossians appears, 1 Thess, Philemon, 1 Peter, and then Revelation (through the letters to the Seven Churches only).

Poor James and Jude are evidently geographically empty.

Mind you, there are lots of maps, charts, graphs and other useful illustrative material along with a subject index, a Scripture index, image source listing, and brief bios of all the contributors.

If they had titled the volume ‘Lexham Geographic Handbook on Acts Through Revelation’ it would be a virtually perfect volume.  But as they didn’t, and instead called it a commentary (which it is not), I have to quibble.

A commentary is a particular genre which prospective readers understand to be a volume or volumes which takes the text as it unfolds and explains it.  Commentaries don’t hop and skip and jump from hither to yon frenetically.  They are organized canonically.  And this book is not.

Further, there are places where the content itself is a bit troubling (or questionable) from a biblical studies point of view.  In chapter 35 Eckhard Schnabel opines that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Paul was released from Roman imprisonment and made his way to Spain to carry out missionary work there.

Schnabel argues his case not on the scriptural evidence, since there is none, but on late secondary sources (which, as we all know, are seriously questionable as accurate historical sources).

After citing his secondary materials Schnabel writes

Many scholars accept these two passages as historical evidence that Paul was released from his (first) imprisonment in Rome, which allowed him to go to Spain.

Many more, however, do not.  Further on

It is a plausible assumption that Paul preached in Tarraco, but there were other cities that would have been plausible sites for missionary work…

Like Madrid or London I suppose.  Or Paris…  The point being that plausible assumptions are not the stuff of scholarship.  They are the stuff of fantasy.  The truth is, we simply have no reason to suggest that Paul made it to Spain.  The evidence is lacking.  He may have, but the best we can do is say ‘we don’t know that he did and we have no useful facts to say otherwise’.  As I remind students fairly often, ‘absence of evidence is evidence of nothing.’

It’s not all bad, however.  There are some genuinely excellent chapters.  Chapter 43, by Alan Cadwallader on Colossae is fantastically written and thoroughly unobjectionable.  And chapter 53 by Cyndi Parker on Laodicea is also exceptionally done.  The bibliographies are very good and, again, the maps are just fantastic.  Indeed, the maps alone are reason to obtain the volume.  Readers need merely be careful with the content because it is extremely conservative at points and thus not very useful (for academic purposes).

At the end of the day I would suggest you obtain a copy of this volume.  It’s worth having, even if it doesn’t live up to its title and its contents are dicey from time to time.

The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts – Two-Volumes

The manuscripts that form the Greek New Testament are scattered throughout the world and are usually only accessible to scholars and professionals. These were the manuscripts read by the earliest Christians, which comprised their “New Testament.” In his volumes, Philip Wesley Comfort bridges the gap between these extant copies and today’s critical text by providing accurate transcriptions of the earliest New Testament manuscripts, with photographs on the facing pages so readers can see the works for themselves. Comfort also provides an introduction to each manuscript that summarizes the content, date, current location, provenance, and other essential information, including the latest findings. This allows students and scholars to make well-informed decisions about the translation and interpretation of the New Testament.

Volume 1 includes manuscripts from Papyrus 1-72. Volume 2 includes manuscripts from Papyrus 75-139 as well as from the uncials. In addition, it features a special section on determining the date of a manuscript. This two-volume set replaces the previously published single volume Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, as it contains many new manuscripts, updated research, and higher quality images of all manuscripts previously covered.

A review copy of the set has arrived courtesy the good folk at Kregel (without any expectations for that review’s outcome).

These two volumes make the most important manuscripts immediately available to interested scholars.  Textual criticism is the foundation upon which all biblical studies must be constructed and these books aid that task immensely.  First, because the manuscripts are collected under one roof and second because the text is so sharply presented.

The first volume contains an important and extensive introductory section in which the authors introduce readers to their methodology, their procedure for dating manuscripts, their handwriting analysis, textual character, and finally, a bibliography for further study.  Then manuscript by manuscript they discuss

  • Contents
  • Date
  • Provenance
  • Housing location
  • Bibliography
  • Physical features
  • Textual character

Then follows an exact transcription of each particular ancient manuscript.

Not all of the aforementioned aspects occur with each text, but all those known do.  And in the case of groups of manuscripts (texts which belong together), the group is discussed more fully and extensively.

There are sporadically placed photos (black and white and of medium quality) throughout the two volumes with volume two containing a longer collection of photos at the end of the volume.

When manuscripts have blank spaces, those are indicated and when there are abbreviations in the manuscripts themselves, they too are indicated in the transcription.

These two books are indispensable for New Testament scholars, whether they be text critics or not.  Because the earliest texts are indisputably essential for any reconstruction of the biblical text and thus for the biblical message.

Scholars interested in more high resolution, color photos, can easily find them thanks to the internet and the availability online of early New Testament manuscripts.  But finding all of those manuscripts, and examining them, is extremely time consuming.  Here Comfort and Barrett have done all of the leg work for you.  If you wish to look more closely, you can.  But beginning here will be the sensible thing to do.

These two volumes are commended to your attention and, in my view, should be on your shelves.

If You Want a Beautiful Facsimile Edition of the First Bible Printed…

Get this two volume edition from the German Bible Society for 100 Euro

It’s beautiful.  Here are my remarks about it.

Don’t get this one, which costs 6 times as much and is a mere 1 volume (which means it’s reduced in size and thus not a true facsimile)-