Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Review of The UBS Greek New Testament

Many thanks are in order to Bobby Koduvalil at Hendrickson Publishers for this review copy!

Newman, Barclay M., ed.
The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition
Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2007. Pp. x + 704.
Cloth. $69.95 ISBN 1598562851.

Many harsh realities exist in biblical language acquisition. As one encounters the biblical languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek) it is tough not to feel as though one is sojourner in a strange land. Alphabets are at best vaguely familiar, while vocabulary and the different parts of speech can be even larger obstacles for the learner. Once the beginning student begins to read for the first time, syntax and context sensitive vocabulary can be tremendous stumbling blocks. As the student begins to feel more at home with their BHS or NA27/UBS4, the often sad conclusion is that he/she finishes their respective coursework in Hebrew/Greek, never to keep up with the good work that has begun. Many such tools exist to help the student rekindle their biblical language acquisition, some of which I have highlighted on this very blog.

Among the best out there is the recent contribution by Barclay M. Newman as he has provided those students who desire to develop reading facility of their Greek New Testament's. As Philip Towner states in the preface:

"The bottom line is this: to master the skill of reading the Greek New Testament there is simply no substitute for linear and sustained reading. This tool will aid the student and scholar in achieving this goal" (8).

Given the above quotation, one may wonder what makes the Reader's Edition so useful. Well, here are some of the volume's unique features:

  • All words occurring 30 times or less are given their lexical form and defined with a running dictionary at the bottom of the page.

  • All words occurring more than 30 times in the GNT are given an appendix in the back of the book.

  • Definitions are given according to context, preventing the reader from the struggle of deciding on which gloss may be best.

  • Where a word has a meaning different from its usual definition elsewhere in the NT, the broader meaning is provided.

  • Where scholars show significant disagreement over the meaning of a word, the alternate suggestions are included.

  • Each word is assigned a number which corresponds to the number in the running dictionary at the bottom of the page. Moreover, the numbering system begins anew with each turn of the page.

  • Occasionally, idiomatic word combinations are defined. (e.g. John 2.7̔̔ έ́́́́́́́́́́̓́́́̓̓́̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̓̓̓̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔ως ανω is defined as "to the brim" [253 n.33]).

  • Unusual verb forms are given their root form as well as their parsed form.

  • The dictionary identifies these specific parts of speech:

Verbs: Present indicative active first person singular, except where only passive and/or middle forms occur in the NT.

Nouns: Lexical form, genitive ending, article.

Adjectives: Lexical form, alternate nominative endings.

Adverbs, prepositions, and particles: Fixed form.

On a personal note, while I was teaching my 12 week class on Romans, I found my reading greatly enhanced using the UBS Reader's Edition. Many words I normally would have fumbled over, inhibiting and frustrating my reading, were given a major boost, knowing that I could get through a major discourse without spending an hour getting to the end of the unit, encouraged me greatly. This tool is not a "crutch" if used properly. I agree with Towner's assessment that "This tool will help the reader 'graduate' to independent reading of the UBS Greek New Testament/Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece sooner rather than later" (8).

I would be remiss if I did not mention one item of concern in closing. I was perusing through 1 Thessalonians 5.26 when I came across the phrase εν φιληματι ̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔αγιω ("with a holy kiss"). I was surprised to find that the noun φιλημα was unnumbered and undefined at the bottom of the page. Since φιλημα only occurs rather infrequently elsewhere (LXX: ʹ̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔̔Prov 27:6; Song 1:2; Luke 7:45; 22:48; Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14), I was left wondering where else errors may have occured in this work. What is more remarkable however, is that in a task as monumental as the one Newman undertakes, that these kinds of errors do not occur more frequently.

Newman is to be commended for a fine piece of work, one that every student with at least a year of Greek under his/her belt should keep readily available and read daily.

(Disclaimer: I apologize for my lack of Greek accents and breathing marks. I could not get them to work properly!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Baker Academic Book Excerpts

Ehud Netzer's The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder has a 26 page excerpt available for download on Baker Academic's website.

Also, Robert Yarbrough's BECNT commentary on the Johannine epistles has a 47 page excerpt available. Both volumes look excellent, so enjoy perusing!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Paul and Scripture session Paper #1

Bruce Fisk's blog for the SBL Paul and Scripture seminar (see my links on the side) has released it's first paper by Stephen Moyise entitled "Does Paul Respect the Context of His Scriptural Quotations, and Does It Matter?"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Some Deals are Just Too Good To Pass Up!

I was on my way home tonight when I decided to stop at my local Half-Price bookstore. I usually go about once a month or so, but have not done so in quite awhile.

I have been able to find some real gems in the past such as Richard Hays' landmark study Echoes of Scripture in the Letter's of Paul ($6.98) and WBC volumes (6) to be precise all beginning at the ridiculously low price of $6.98 up to $19.98.

So anyway, back to the story.... I stopped in tonight to find the late great Raymond E. Brown's classic study The Birth of the Messiah: New Updated Edition (hardcover)for $14.98! It is not used at all- I think it must be one of those overstock deals, but anyways, I'll take it!

I bought Brown's Death of the Messiah back in about 1998, when I first felt a calling into biblical scholarship--in fact, I believe it was one of the first five books I purchased in my pursuit. I had longed for awhile to pick this classic up and now at long last, I have it!

This brings a question to mind. What book deal stories do you have? What are some of the places in which you have found great book deals?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

NLT Study Bible: First Impressions

Many thanks are due to Laura Bartlett , marketing manager for Bibles and Bible reference at Tyndale Publishers for sending me a review copy of the NLT Study Bible.

Over the years I have collected a plethora of study bibles. I own the NIV Study Bible, the New American Study Bible, the HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version , and the The New Interpreter's Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version With the Apocrypha . I have used all of these in church, for personal study, and for some teaching preparation with varying degrees of success.

When I first heard about the NLT Study Bible some months back, I was curious to see what this study bible would bring to the table; now I know. I must admit I'm impressed. The first thing I did was peruse various book introductions before dipping into Colossians and then Philemon.

First off, the NLT Study Bible has a fine list of contributors. Among many notables: Tremper Longman III, Allen P. Ross, Victor P. Hamilton, etc. on the OT side, and Doug Moo, Ralph Martin, and Mark Strauss on the NT side. Secondly, each book is introduced and armed with several helpful features. For instance, when I opened to Colossians, I was greeted with a book introduction stating: "The letter to the Colossians is a beautiful blend of theology and practice. It combines some of the deepest and most sublime teaching about Christ with very basic instruction. As strongly as any other book in the NT, Colossians reminds us that Christ must always be preeminent in a Christians affection and worship" (2,020). The next feature discusses the setting of the letter with a map added for contextual help, followed by a helpful summary of the letter's contents. Next, matters of dating and occasion of writing are flanked by an outline of the letter's contents, followed by a helpful excurcus titled "False Teaching". Also a timeline and a comment from Peter T. O'Brien's WBC commentary Colossians, Philemon is located on the right margins of the page (2,021). Finally, a section titled "Meaning and Message" and suggestions for further reading round out the introductory contents before one dives into the letter's contents.

One further comment will suffice for this brief overview. What most impressed me with the NLT Study Bible is a feature that discusses Greek and Hebrew words, including their Strong's Concordance numbering system with a built-in lexicon included in the back. For instance, using Colossians as an example once more we see Colossians 1.13-14 which states:

13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son,14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

Located next to the word 'purchased' is a subscript 'c'. When one looks to the cross-references in the left hand margin under 1:14 you see the transliterated Greek word apolutrōsis followed by the Strong's # 0629. When one turns to the lexicon (2,221), the entry looks like this:

apolutrōsis (0629): redemption. This noun refers to buying the freedom of a slave or captive by paying a ransom. In the NT, it is used figuratively of the results of Christ's work, releasing people from the power of sin and death.

SEE Luke 21:28; Rom 3:24;8:23; 1 Cor 1:30; Eph 1:7,14;4:30; Col 1:14; Heb 9:15; 11:35

I find this feature most helpful for pastors and educated lay folk who may lack acumen in the languages. This is not to say that the lexicon is comprehensive, 100 words are listed for both the Hebrew and Greek lexicons, but many key words are honed in on and elucidated, making this a very valuable feature.

Postscript: I had the opportunity to share the NLT Study Bible with my Romans class and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I believe this is just what folks have been looking for in a study bible and more.

I will have futher comments when the ESV Study Bible makes its debut, and will compare and contrast their respective features.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Getting to Know Darian Lockett Part II

Here is part II of my interview with Darian Lockett, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Biola University.

1. What further work would you like to see explored in both James and Jude?

I can think of several areas I would like to continue exploring in both of these letters, but something that I am immediately interested in is how James and Jude, in my mind serving as the ‘introduction’ and ‘conclusion’ of the Catholic Epistles, function with in the CE corpus and, further, how that CE corpus functions within the larger NT canon. The thematic and theological coherence within the CE has been a neglected question within the atmosphere of historical-critical concerns, yet it seems the time is at hand when such a line of inquiry may find room at the table.

There has been some very interesting work by Rob Wall and David Nienhuis on this very question, but many of their conclusions I have a hard time accepting (namely, that James was a mid-second century forgery intentionally crafted to introduce the CE and balance a misunderstanding of Paul). Where the ‘canonical approach’ (I am thinking of Childs here) has been applied corpora, very little has been done in the CE. I hope to work on something in this area in the near future.

2. What are some of your current/future research/writing projects?

Beyond the long-term project noted above, I am hoping to write a university-level introduction to the CE and a colleague of mine and I are working on a book (tentatively entitled, Types of Biblical Theology) which surveys the various ways recent scholarship uses biblical theology—either relying more on history or theology as a starting point.

3. Shifting gears a bit, tell us about some of your ministerial experiences.

As I already mentioned, my wife and I served for a short time doing mission work in Mexico and Eastern Europe. Furthermore, throughout the years of academic preparation I am grateful that I was given several opportunities to serve local congregations by filling the pulpit on a regular basis. This was especially important for me while I was studying in St. Andrews.

While inhaling the rarified air of the ivory tower I had the privilege of serving two Scottish Baptist churches located in two small fishing villages in the East Neuk of Fife (you will have to look carefully at a map of Scotland to find this region!). Once a month for almost three years I preached morning and evening services and fellowshipped with some of the most gracious of God’s people. I must say, these times marked me so that now I find myself continually challenged to think about how what I do in the university not only affects the church, but is actually for the church. While composing rigorous arguments designed for the scholarly community in my dissertation, I was communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which needs no crafty argument but is supplied by the power of God, to common people of God in those fishing villages.

As we moved on to New Jersey and eventually to Southern California I am grateful that this experience was repeated again and again as I have been able to preach/teach in and for the church as the Father gives opportunity.

4. Having two feet firmly planted in both world’s (i.e. the academy and the church), explain your concern to bridge the chasm between the two institutions. More particularly, how can one inform and encourage the other?

Building on what I have said above, I cannot understand my calling as a university professor apart from my calling as a minister/teacher of Scripture for the church. The “chasm” between university and church begins with the unraveling of the very notion of a uni-versity. My understanding of a university is that all of the areas human learning can (and must) be linked together in a coherent picture of what reality really looks like. In this conception of human learning subjects like English and Engineering, Music and Mathematics, Business and Biology are all related to each other. And their relation is as the spokes of a wagon wheel are related to the center hub—English, Engineering, Music, Mathematics, Business, and Biology are all spokes of human knowledge related to their center-point of Christ Jesus, the creator of all. The uni- in the university is Christ—for “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom 11:36)…” "for by him all things were created … all things have been through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17). There is a rich tradition of mutual stimulation and nurture between the church and the university, a tradition which must be recovered.

5. Finally, what advice would you have for anyone considering doing a PhD in New Testament studies?

For either undergraduates or M.Div. students thinking about advanced study I would press them to see if working toward a Ph.D. is actually what they sense the Lord calling them to or not. I think too often students see the life of an academic (or what they think is the life of an academic) and romanticize the role. There were many dark nights in Scotland that only a sense of the Father’s call sustained me through the hard work and sacrifice such a season demanded of me. With a church in need of skilled leaders and teachers I would hope that some with a desire for rigorous study would catch the vision to serve the kingdom as scholar-pastors.
Darian, thanks for your thoughts and your time!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Getting to Know Darian Lockett Part I

Darian Lockett, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Biola University, was kind enough to answer some questions as part of my "Getting to Know" series.

On to the interview!

1. Tell us a bit about your background and family.

My wife and I grew up together as best friends in our local Baptist church outside of Kansas City. We shared our excitement about the Gospel in helping lead a Bible study in our high school and eventually married and served for a few years doing mission work in Mexico and Eastern Europe. We now have three children, Maddie, Evan, and Aidan who we enjoy watching grow up and growing deep in the Lord.

2. Describe your educational journey and what lead you into NT studies and ultimately your dissertation research in James.

My university studies were interrupted (almost ended!) when I decided that I had been, to that point, a Christian of modest knowledge and even less action and therefore decided to serve as a missionary for three years. During those overseas experiences I remember finding myself in a situation where our evangelistic team working in Romania had to quickly shift from street evangelism to discipleship ministry because of the number of people who had responded to the Gospel. I was charged with teaching several groups of new believers in a particular apartment block and found that I had very little to teach them. It was then that I sensed the call to return to university for the express purpose of going on to seminary, so if ever I was in the same position I would be better equipped.

While in seminary my wife and I initially pursued training for future service in missions, but quickly discovered that whether teaching on the mission field or in the US, I would need a terminal degree. So I talked with my seminary professors about how and where to begin pursuing a PhD in NT. Through a variety of very different sources I continued to receive the same recommendation to study with Richard Bauckham at the University of St. Andrews, in St. Andrews, Scotland. This seemed like the most unattainable program and destination but eventually that is exactly where we ended up.

I had already been interested in James because of an experience I had in Belarus during a mission trip. After preaching a very zealous (and youthful) sermon on Jesus’ love for sinners, an elderly woman stood to her feet at the back of the school room where we were meeting and through a translator asked me in Russian, “What about the suffering?” I remember finding myself at a total loss for words. Shortly after that encounter I began to read James and found some initial answers regarding the role of suffering in the Christian life. Though I have been studying James for several years now I still am deeply challenged by the idea that trials work endurance in the life of a believer and that James himself teaches how real wisdom is displayed: “Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom” (Jas 3:13b).

3. Speaking of your dissertation, the revised form entitled Purity and Worldview in the Epistle of James has recently been published by T&T Clark. Could you explain how James’ purity language encompasses more than just the moral sphere and what worldview the epistle expresses to its readers?

Considering the function of purity language in James began as a discrete investigation of an interesting way of describing wisdom (“wisdom from above is first pure” 3.17), but quickly developed into a unique avenue into exploring how the letter creates a worldview for its audience. Whereas commentators frequently restrict the categories for purity language in James to either ritual or metaphorical (and uniformly conclude the language is a metaphor for personal morality), I found such analysis overly restrictive and neglectful of how purity language was used in the first-century. Current research of purity language in ancient Israel calls into question the rigid either/or categorization of purity language. Such descriptions of purity are not only unjustifiably restrictive, but they also fail to account for the function or meaning of the language within the rhetorical goals of a composition.

My central argument is that purity language both articulates and constructs James’ worldview and thus serves as an important theme in the text. After developing a more representative list of the ways purity language was used in the first-century, I used those categories as a heuristic guide to understand the function of purity and pollution in James. This analysis demonstrated four specific things: 1) though purity language occurs relatively infrequently, it is used at crucial points of the letter (1:26-27; 3:6, 17; 4:8); 2) that the use of purity and pollution specifically functions within the overall strategy of contrasts in James which are designed to lead readers to a decision; 3) that the majority of the time purity language labeled “the world” (and by extension those associated with it) as set against the implicit purity of God; and therefore, 4) the readers of James must be separate from the impure world (that is, they must be “pure”) in order to be wholehearted in devotion to God (“perfect”).

Because the purity of the audience is directly related to their proximity to the world (the ambient culture), I considered specifically what kind of separation is envisioned by the use of purity language. While purity is indeed boundary language, the cultural stance of James is complex. The author shows signs of acculturation, yet this acculturation is employed to call the audience to specific points of separation from surrounding culture, namely separation from patron-client relationships with the “rich” and use of inappropriate and deceitful speech. Thus I do not think James is not calling for sectarian separation from the surrounding culture (as others have argued), but rather is a complex document demonstrating cultural accommodation while calling forth specific socio-cultural boundaries between the readers and the world all for the purpose of begin wholly before and for God.

4. Explain how an understanding of the ‘two ways’ motif helps illuminate James’ theological message rather than focusing on the structure of James’ epistle which seems to suffer from a hopeless lack of consensus in Jacobean scholarship.

The related issues of structure and coherence in James have been perennial questions for students of this letter. Though a number of studies have begun to appreciate the coherence of James, there has been little consensus regarding James’ structure. I suggest that a more profitable question may be: How does the Letter of James communicate its message? Or even better: What is James’ strategy for instructing his audience? Rather than leading to debates over which structuring technique James most closely approximates, this question helps clarify the purpose of the letter.

I think that merely identifying a plausible structure, while helpful, does not uncover the author’s communicative intention. Especially in the case of James, the quest for structure does not pay the returns one might think. Therefore one must consider how James’ communicative strategy unfolds through his argumentative logic—a logic, some scholars have argued is fashioned around key thematic contrasts. Working with the basic insights of L. T. Johnson and others on this point, I have argued in a recent article that the contrasts in James function to move readers to a decision between one of two extreme ‘ways’ or ‘paths’ of living and that these contrasts largely function along the lines of the traditional Jewish “Two Ways” motif.

In exhibiting the typical features of the “Two Ways” motif, James consistently contrasts different ways of living: “the way of life” and the “way of death”. The goal of this form of teaching is to inculcate virtues while at the same time weakening the hold of vices—to weaken the grip of the world’s alternate view of reality. As individuals entered into new covenant relationship with God through “faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” they needed continued reorientation of both perception of reality and behavior. One’s past perceptions and behaviors stood as a significant obstacle thus James used the pedagogical style of “Two Ways” to develop new dispositions—literally to retrain the follower with new virtues while extirpating ingrained vices. Clearly James’ communicative intent was to challenge his readers to make a choice in light of two clearly antithetical ways of living and their respective ends—James persuades his readers to be animated by the “word/law/wisdom” on the path of life.

5. You have also done some work on Jude. Can you talk about the apparent neglect in scholarship concerning this epistle, and second, how Jude’s polemic against the false teachers may in the end prove redemptive?

I think Jude has suffered from consistent neglect for two reasons: 1) an obvious reason is its length—at a mere 25 verses it is easy to pass over without notice; and 2) Jude has suffered from the unfortunate characterization as an undisciplined, violent polemic—of course which has led to negative assessment of the epistle’s theological value. Especially on the second point, too many studies have over emphasized the letter’s polemical section to the detriment of its positive theological voice. There are some notable exceptions that have avoided this pitfall however. Richard Bauckham argues that Jude’s polemic reveals a skillfully woven argument contained in vv. 5-19 which serves the overarching appeal of the letter. He suggests viewing the polemical section as a support for the central appeal of the letter—the appeal to ‘contend for the faith’ in vv. 3-4 as the theme of the letter which comes to a climax in vv. 20-23. J. Daryl Charles expresses a similar evaluation.

Now the second part of your question is more complicated and contested. I gave a paper at the SBL Consultation on “Methodological Reassessments of the Letters of James, Peter, and Jude” (November 2007) where I argued against the traditional view of how vv. 22-23 function in the letter. The traditional understanding of vv. 22-23 is that Jude’s audience is exhorted to extend mercy to members of the community who are wavering in their faith due to the influence of the false teachers. This position rests upon two assertions: first, that διακρινομνους be translated ‘doubt’ and second, that the three relative pronouns (ό̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̖̀̀̀̀̀ς) in vv. 22-23 refer to subcategories within Jude’s audience—namely, some ‘who doubt’ (v. 22), ‘others’ and ‘others’ (v. 23). Contrary to both of these points I argued that 1) διακρινομνους in v. 22 should be rendered ‘those who dispute’ (which is generally not controversial); and 2) that the μν... δ construct in a series here is anaphoric (distributing a sentence into clauses offering further description of the same group). Thus, rather than a final condemnation of the false teachers, I argued that the climax of the letter calls Jude’s readers to show mercy to this group (‘those who dispute’, v. 22), while not allowing themselves to be polluted by their sinfulness (defilement)—‘hating the clothing stained by the flesh.’ Though I argued with vigor I did not convince many in the room. But it was a good experience.
Part II of this interview is forthcoming.