Monday, June 30, 2008

Books: To Keep or not to Keep?

(Disclaimer: Not my bookshelf (ves)!)

My wife and I live in a two room penthouse apartment. Since we moved in we have been trying to figure out what to do with my books and how to make my study a place, well of study. Fortunately and unfortunately, my book collection is ever expanding to the point where 41/2 bookshelves are simply not enough, and the floor has been cluttered with even more books.

I guess I bring this up b/c tonight I rid myself of about 15 -20 books or so to clear space for those books that were beginning to resemble leaning towers on top of bookshelves. (Note to self: when you begin to stack vertically, there is a problem, Houston!) The process of ridding myself of these books was both anguishing and liberating at the same time. Questions such as, "How long has it been since I last looked at this book?"; and "How many intros to Jesus and the Gospels must I own?" (By the way, I am still considering the last question!).

So, I said all of this to ask for help. I still have a ways to go and would like to streamline my ever-growing collection even more.

What is your rule of thumb in what you keep and discard? How many commentaries of each biblical book do you keep on hand? I still have a long way to go in having a commentary for every biblical book. What are your ideas on lexicons, specifically how many and is the electronic route justification for alleviating the strain on the bookshelves in space and weight? What about your areas of specialization? I confess I probably own more books about Paul than anything else, with Jesus and Gospel books a fairly close second. Should one own many books in one area of specialization at the expense of others? Or should one concentrate on purchasing books in an area not as familiar in their research? What about expense? Is there a price to steep to pay? I have been good about not ever paying full retail for a book, but that is not saying much. It is much easier to do in a day where the internet offers a plethora of opportunities for discounts, along with SBL annual meetings and their good deals.

The other concern I have is this: Would I even be doing this if I had the space? Probably not, or as Paul would say μη γενοιτο. So, this is my cry for help, what should I do?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Doug Moo on the 'center' of Paul's Theology

In Doug Moo's stimulating Romans commentary (NICNT), he provides a discussion on what constitutes the center of Paul's theology and the debate about the centrality of "justification by faith." (Moo; pp. 89-90).

Moo writes:

A decision on this question depends greatly on what is meant by 'center.' If by this one means the organizing focus of Paul's thinking, then Christology should probably be put at the center. If one means, however, the basic theological framework within which Paul expresses his theology, then salvation history should be made central. But there is something to be said for the centrality of justification in another sense. Though it is true, as opponents of the traditional view tirelessly point out, that 'justification by faith' occurs mainly in passages where Paul is countering Jewish tendencies and that doctrine has, for that reason, a distinctly polemical thrust, it is also true that the doctrine guards Paul's theology at an absolute vital point.

Justification by faith is the anthropological reflex of Paul's basic conviction that what God has done in Christ for sinful human beings is entirely a matter of grace (see especially 3:24; 4:1-8, 16). If, then, justification by faith is not the center of Romans or of Paul's thought in the logical sense, in another sense it expresses a central, driving force in Paul's thought. In this respect, the Reformers were not far wrong in giving to justification by faith the attention they did.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Reflections on Father's Day: A Conversation with Bill and Bob Mounce

Here is part II of my interview with the Mounces.

1) Bob, how important was it for you to have your son follow you into ministry, speaking specifically of the academic route?

My desire for Bill had little or nothing to do with him “following me into the ministry.” It pleases me that God has directed him into this area of his great redemptive plan because his energies will benefit countless young students of the Word. Obviously, sharing the same profession brings great camaraderie and personal pleasure but had God led him into any other field I would want only that he performed it to the very best of his ability.

2) Bill, what was it about your dad that you wanted to emulate growing up?

Dad was always there. Dad isn’t the gushy kind of person to always play games and talk about feelings (slight stereotyping going on here), but he was always there, always supportive. I always knew dad loved me, and he was safety to me. Ever since I was two years old I went with Dad wherever he was preaching, even in Scotland. I just enjoyed being with him.

3)You both have seen your publishing and translation work intersect at various junctures. What is it like to team up on projects and do you find yourselves learning from the other?

Bill: Our work on the ESV actually was our first time to really work together. It was always fun because Dad was always gracious. If we differed on a passage, Dad always made it clear that it was my choice and it was okay to disagree. But I wanted our names together on a book, so the interlinear project fell right into my wishes. Dad has always been strong on the dynamic side of the translation debate, but he had to control himself a bit if his translation was going to work for an interlinear. I can’t remember how many times Dad said, “Now Bill, I have really come to the conclusion that you must translate meaning, not words.” “Yes Dad,” I would always respond.I should probably add that one of the other motivating factors in doing the project is that mom and dad are giving away all their royalties from the interlinears to the Jesus film project. In fact, now that they are in their late 80’s, Dad kept pushing me to finish my part of the work so that they would still be around to give the money away. I assured them that their half would always be given away.

Bob: Teaming up with Bill on several projects these past half dozen years has brought more personal satisfaction than anything I have ever done professionally. How could it be anything else? He took the NT Chairmanship of the ESV only on the basis that “his Dad could work on it with him.” I recall leaving a meeting with the publishers at some convention and Bill asking me if I understood what the decision made there meant -- the translation process would begin with us doing the first draft of the entire NT with it going for review to scholars who had each recently written a critical commentary on the specific book and then on to the translation committee as a whole. No, I didn’t realize what that would actually entail but four years later at the completion of the project I sure knew! A father couldn’t help but enjoy that sort of professional interchange with his son.

4) Tell me about the idea that came about for your blog

Bill: It was mostly frustration in teaching Greek. Learning the language can be so hard, and for most of the first year there is very little encouragement. But then I realized that blog-type entries that talk about translation issues could really be an encouragement, helping the students see why they are working so hard. I hope that over a longer period of time I can build up enough examples, some exegetical some devotional, that other teachers can use them as well to encourage their students.

5) Bill, could you share your thoughts about your father on Father's Day?

At times it feels a little unfair to have the family I have. I have had so many advantages because both my mom and dad believed in me, made opportunities available, and trusted me. They always demanded more of me, but always with kindness and gentleness. I remember once when I was struggling to finish the commentary on the Pastorals, I called Dad to moan about my overcommitment. Dad said in very typical fashion, “Bill, it will take just as long to do it today as it will tomorrow. So finish it now.” This is my Dad, and I love him.

I want to wish all fathers a happy Father's Day, especially my own, thanks, Dad!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bob and Bill Mounce: An Interview on Their Innovative Interlinear

(Special thanks to Jesse Hillman of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.)

Dr. Bob Mounce (picture on the left) president emeritus of Whitworth College, is the author of a number of well-known biblical commentaries, including the volume on Revelation in the NICNT. Dr. David Hubbard, former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, refers to him as "one of our generation's most able expositors." He was involved in the translation of the NIV, NLT, NIrV, and especially the ESV.

Dr. Bill Mounce (picture on the right) lives as a writer in Spokane, Washington. He is the president of Biblical Training, a non-profit organization offering the finest in evangelical teaching to the world for free. See for more information. Formerly he was the preaching pastor at a church in Spokane, and prior to that a professor of New Testament and director of the Greek program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of the bestselling New Testament Greek resources, Basics of Biblical Greek, and served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version translation of the Bible. (Biographical Info excerpted from here).

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask the Mounce's about a new interlinear they have co-authored, The Zondervan Greek and English Interlinear New Testament (NASB/NIV).

Without further ado here's the interview:

1) Talk about your initial hesitation in producing another interlinear.

Bill: Interlinears can be tedious work. There are so many little things that can go wrong, and what may seem to be a little thing at the time can become something huge if it leads someone to misunderstand God’s Word. I also did not want to perpetrate the myths that there is a word-for-word correspondence between languages and if a neophyte simply knows the Greek word then that is all there is to word studies. I wrote somewhere that it is not a little bit of knowledge that is dangerous but a little bit of arrogance, and an interlinear can enable arrogance.

2) Could you talk about some of the features that make this particular interlinear unique?

Bill: I had hoped we could have called these interlinears “exhaustive,” using the language from concordances, because that is what they are. I wanted as much information in one place as possible to help people study. So there are all the standard features: two running English texts, an English word for every Greek word. But that is about the end of the similarity.

1. The Greek text shows were the major English translations differ from the UBS. You can reconstruct the UBS from my Greek text, but also the Greek texts behind the TNIV and NET Bibles.

2. Dad wrote a great translation that isn’t wooden; it is readable and shows young Greek students how translation should be done. It is a great teaching tool. For an interlinear, it is quite dynamic. For example, it does not use the same English word for the same Greek word but translates according to context. Some conjunctions are translated as punctuation, all as it should be. Typographically, when you are reading Dad’s translation, if you just ignore the superscript italicized words the English makes great sense.

3. Below each English word is its Goodrick/Kohlenberger number. This functions like Strongs number but is a better system. This allows a non-Greek expert to see the Greek behind the English and then do a word study in my Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (if you don’t mind me plugging my own book).

4. Below each number is the parsing for the Greek word.

5. There is an abridged Greek dictionary in the back.

(Bill Mounce has provided an excerpt from Philippians that can be viewed here. For more information on interlinears click on Bill's website.)

3) Bob, how difficult was it to balance the dual concepts of making a translation make good sense while illustrating precisely how translation work should be done?

That was the major challenge of the entire project for me. Obviously, an interlinear calls for a relatively formal approach. But thanks to Bill’s innovative plan which allows both Greek and English to proceed in a straight forward manner, I was able to make substantial progress toward a more literary English text. I have been involved in about a half dozen bible translation projects with style running all the way from the relatively formal ESV to the more dynamic NLT (and my own first person translation of the Fourth Gospel, “The Story of Jesus: as told by his friend John,” Biblical Training Press, 2004). Since all theological truth must ultimately be based on the Hebrew and Greek texts, I find myself the most enthusiastic about the approach that conveys the meaning of the original in the most accurate and effective way. Revelation involves communication. and communication is served best by a literary process that clearly and accurately says in the new language what was intended in the old. Wherever I carried out the process effectively I believe I demonstrated how translation should be done.

4) Bill, talk about the 4 different Greek texts used to complete this Greek text. What were some of the challenges in coming up with this composite text?

I was fortunate that Zondervan was able to give me a hand-corrected Greek text done by Gordon Fee that stands behind the TNIV. No records were kept for the NIV, and their dynamic theory of translation sometimes makes it hard to reconstruct the text. The NET Bible is wonderful because it shows you with bold daggers where they differ from the UBS. Dan Wallace is a good friend and told me that the Greek behind the NET actually differs at 400 other places, but they are so minor (a de here and a ho there) that they do not affect translation. What was interesting, however, is that the NASB and ETS followed the UBS slavishly. (Dad and I are part of the translation team on the ESV, and the only place we differed from the UBS is in Jude 5 where Metzger says the committee decided on “kyrios” and not “Iesous” for theological reasons, so we went with “Jesus.” I just checked the interlinear, and Dad translated Iesous with “Lord”; I am not sure why.)

5) Finally, how do you envision this interlinear being used and by whom?

Bill: It can service a wide range of people, much wider than a traditional interlinear. For those who know no Greek, they can get to the Greek word and do a Greek word study. They can also compare the three translations to get an idea of what the text not only says but also what it means.For those who know a little greek, it can help them work through a passage.Especially for those with a good working knowledge of Greek, say 2 years, it can help them read large amounts of Greek and see how a seasoned translator handles the text.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Craig Keener's New Website

Craig Keener, professor of New Testament at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University, and a prolific scholar has a new website.

I have always appreciated Craig outside of his scholarly work as he was a great help to me during a really rough period in my life. Craig has an amazing story, one that can be read about on his website.

Make sure you take time to visit. BTW- His site mentions that he has completed his Acts multi-volume commentary (Hendrickson Publishers) and is now in the process of editing.

Great Article in the JGRChJ!

Mark Goodacre has pointed to the most recent Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism and its contents, including a great article co-authored by Stanley Porter and Andrew W. Pitts entitled, "Paul’s Bible, His Education and His Access to the Scriptures of Israel".

I just read the article and a few points stand out for me. First, Porter and Pitts discuss Paul's possible education as a youth, first in Tarsus and then later in Jerusalem. Regarding the former, Paul would have learned the basics of progymnasmata, and in the latter he would have had training in the oral Torah. Secondly, regarding curriculum specifics, Paul would have been exposed in his education to the Greek philosophers, poets, tragedians, etc. It was known in the ancient world to have anthologies of certain Greco-Roman authors such as Homer to quote from.

Another great item of this article is a much needed reemphasis on the idea of the ancient world being a 'book culture.' Porter and Pitts are right to insist that an oral and literary culture existed side-by-side. The general arguments against the book culture of the ancient world have stressed the high cost of materials (i.e. papyrus), the predominance of illiteracy amongst the masses, and the lack of printing capabilities are severely overstated as Porter and Pitts demonstrate.

As an aside, I also found a fascinating discussion in this article regarding how Paul may have read the Old Testament , i.e. 'aloud' or in 'silence'. It is been popular, based on the influential work of Paul Achtemeier (‘Omne Verbum Sonat: The New Testament and the Oral Environment of late Western Antiquity’, JBL 109 (1990), pp. 3-27 (15-19); in present article, 33n83) to assume that with Paul, as in all ancient reading, was vocalized. This influence among Pauline scholars has sought to detect oral dimensions within Paul's letters. In support of this, the example of the silent reading of Bishop Ambrose of the fourth century is marshaled for further support of this hypothesis. Criticisms of ancient vocalized reading, esp. by Frank Gillard (‘More Silent Reading in Antiquity: Non Omne Verbum Sonabat’, JBL 112 (1993), pp. 689-94 ; in present article, 33n84) cites many examples where silent reading was a well-practiced form.

Porter and Pitts conclusion on Paul's education and use of the Old Testament Scriptures is worth quoting:

...we believe that it is reasonable at least to explore the pos-sibility [sic] that Paul’s education combined elements of both the Greco-Roman grammar school and Torah training. His exposure to a range of texts, including both continuous texts and various types of anthologies and collections, helps perhaps to account for some of the features of his use of both Scripture and other ancient authors. Actual studies of such usage are of necessity preliminary, and may well always remain so, because the type of evidence that we have, while suggestive, is indirect and circumstantial. Nevertheless, we believe that it is worth exploring that Paul’s involvement in the Greco-Roman and Torah-based educa-tional systems can help account for both the material that he cites, and the way in which he cites it. (40)