Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Journey into the Wilderness with Rikk Watts

I normally don't self-disclose on this blog very much. I know it is my blog and I can do what I want with it, but sharing the details of my personal life is not something on my agenda. This blog hopefully serves a purpose, as I try to keep the readers of it informed, whether through reviews, interviews, or sharing the latest information on the world of New Testament scholarship. This post however, will break that trend. I ask for the reader's indulgence, as I feel this is something that needs to be shared.

For the past seven years, I have been a full-time janitor for a local school system that I actually attended as a youngster. It has been the main provider of support for both my wife and my daughter during that time. I have struggled since receiving my MA in NT studies from Ashland Theological Seminary in 2006, where I had the great privilege of working under my mentors, David deSilva and John Byron. This struggle is in knowing that I have been called to do PhD studies, but having many financial and familial obstacles, has placed the pursuit of that degree on the back burner for some seven years. I am not going to lie, I have had many sleepless nights, conflicted thoughts and emotional duress over the years concerning the whole ordeal. I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea, my wife has been extremely supportive over the years, and wants me to go for it, but also knows the reality of our situation.

Recently, I have been granted some wonderful opportunities, and the reality of doing a PhD may be imminent. I won't go into any details now, because there are still more than a few details to be worked out. Rather, I want to turn my attention to someone who has accompanied me on my journey, and that man is Rikk Watts. Rikk is Professor of New Testament at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and until recently was unwittingly my mentor through what I like to call my 'wilderness experience,' i.e. my vocation as a janitor for the past seven years. I say unwittingly, because Rikk and I did not have a chance to meet in person until the recent SBL Annual Meeting in Baltimore. Fortunately, I got to tell him much of the following face to face over pizza and a beer.

Rikk's audio classes through Regent College have sustained me in my desire to never give up my dreams of serving as a scholar to my church and pursuing the allusive PhD. I get a chance to listen to my iPod at work a few hours a night, and during these times, Rikk's audio courses have left an indelible mark on me. Rarely, will one find the probing intellect and the pastoral warmth that he exhibits time and again, whether while during a lecture on Mark's Gospel he is discussing Jesus' mighty deeds, or in a class on John's Gospel, he ends up discussing the problem of evil in the world. Rikk has had me nearly in tears on more than occasion, as his transparency is even evident through the medium of audio. I would encourage all reader's of this blog to head over to Regent Audio, and purchase some of Rikk's classes. Right now, some of them are running at a discount if you sign up for Regent's audio class newsletter, and several of Rikk's lectures are being offered as a free download.

Everyone needs encouragement, and Rikk has encouraged me. He has kept my ship afloat one could say, and for that I can never repay him. I hope this brief glimpse into my feelings of admiration and now friendship for/with him become as crystal clear as the impact he has made on me, and no doubt, many others.

Below, I leave you with a couple of videos of Rikk, the first is a class he will be teaching in the late spring of 2014, "God's Faithful Character: The Key to the New Testament's Use of the Old"

The second is Rikk discussing Mark's Gospel. Rikk is currently writing the commentary for the Gospel of Mark for the NICNT.

Confusing Symbolism in the book of Revelation? Richard E. Oster, Jr. and the Quote of the Day

Today's gem quote comes from the pen of Richard E. Oster Jr. and his fascinating book, Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible, on the supposed lack of intelligibility on the symbolic meaning of Revelation:

Much of the later confusion about the ostensibly difficult and opaque symbolism of Revelation has come about because a large population of post-apostolic Christianity has been characterized by an abysmal ignorance of the text, theology, and idiom of the Old Testament. Therefore, modern readers often find it difficult to understand the basic idioms that Revelation uses and that animate its words and theology. After all, the book is entitled 'revelation,' and later readers who do not experience the text of John as revelatory probably owe that to their own unfamiliarity with Scripture, rather than to John's supposed choice of esoteric and mysterious words and images (18; italics mine).

Convicting and convincing words, indeed.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Churches of Revelation: David deSilva's Guided Tour Videos

I have recently discovered that my friend and mentor, David deSilva has produced three outstanding videos on three of the cities mentioned in Revelation 1:11, Ephesus, Pergamum, and Laodicea.

You can view them here:

1) Ephesus:

2) Pergamum:

3) Laodicea

David is a one of the leading scholars of Revelation in the world, so these are a real treat. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Photo Added: Raymond Brown and the Dead Sea Scrolls

On my recent trip to St. Mary's Seminary for the John, Jesus, and History Conference, I had the great pleasure of visiting The Raymond E. Brown Johannine Collection, housed as an extension of the seminary's library, and consisting of some 1,700 volumes that belonged to Father Brown. The room was beautiful, climate-controlled, and had many wonderful photos of Ray, many of which appear on the website.

However, there was one photo in particular that I had not seen yet, and it is the most striking I have seen to date. It is a picture of Brown working on the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1958, at the age of 30. At the time, Father Brown along with Father Joseph Fitzmyer, served as fellows at the American School of Oriental Research in 1958-59, working on the Dead Sea Scrolls and collaborating in the preparation of a concordance of the unpublished texts. I have added this wonderful photo to the website with gracious permission granted by the Associated Sulpicians of the U.S. Archives and the Associated Archives of St. Mary's Seminary and University.

This is now my favorite photo of Father Brown, enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Epic Conversation Between Two New Testament Giants: Raymond E. Brown and Ernst Käsemann

After several attempts at tracking down the copyright ownership of a newspaper photo of a discussion between Raymond E. Brown and Ernst Käsemann at the World Council of Churches Meeting in 1963, without any success, I have decided to post the photo on the Raymond Brown website, here.

If I do find the permissions, I will then take the photo down, until I receive said permissions.

But until then, this historic, long-forgotten photo is priceless! Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that conversation!

Recent Durham Dissertation on Paul and Philo

Orrey McFarland, a recent graduate of Durham University, has completed his doctoral dissertation under the supervision of John Barclay, and it looks to be a fascinating study.

The title of the dissertation is  The God who Gives: Philo and Paul in Conversation. To read his work, go here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gordon Wenham on the Psalms

Lately, I have been scouring the web for some solid resources on the Psalms, which I plan on studying in the coming year for personal edification, and well, frankly, to understand them better than I do, now.

I was delighted that eminent OT scholar, Gordon Wenham, has written a book (Crossway Publishing) that looks like the ideal starting place for yours truly.  Here the details:

Though frequently used in times of crisis or pain, the book of Psalms is often misread or misunderstood, seeming like a disorganized jumble of prayer, praise, and lament. To help readers get more out of the Psalms, renowned Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham highlights its foundational place for all Christian worship and spiritual formation. This compilation of eight lectures delivered between 1997 and 2010 teaches the practices of singing, reading, and praying the Psalms, paying special attention to the Psalter’s canonical structure, messianic focus, and ethical goal. In drawing on his extensive academic and scholarly experience, Wenham has crafted a guide for discovering afresh the manifold wonders of this beautiful and surprisingly complex portion of the Bible.


“It is hard to imagine a better introduction to the book of Psalms, whether for pastors, seminary students, or general readers. Gordon Wenham, one of the most respected Old Testament scholars of our time, makes a compelling case for the relevance of the psalms for both public and private worship. The Psalter Reclaimed is engagingly written, well informed, practical, and genuinely inspiring.” —Gordon P. Hugenberger, Senior Minister, Park Street Church, Boston

“We are grateful to Professor Wenham for gathering in one volume many of his special studies on the Psalms, for many the favorite book of the First Testament. The essays included here not only introduce readers to the history of scholarship on the Psalter, but also provide us with hermeneutical guidelines for interpreting the book. And best of all, they make accessible to us its inspiring and transforming message.” —Daniel I. Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College; author, The Gospel according to Moses: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Book of Deuteronomy

“This collection of essays is vintage Gordon Wenham. Taking seriously both the church’s tradition of using the psalms and the possibilities provided by the latest exegesis, he shows us what it means to make use of the Psalter and how this can be done. The result is a rich theological and exegetical brew that nourishes both heart and head.” —David Firth, Lecturer in Old Testament, St John’s College, Nottingham, United Kingdom; author, Hear, O Lord: A Spirituality of the Psalms

“This book’s many virtues make it instructive and refreshing: I appreciate its stress on the psalms’ place in public worship, and the speech-act notion of self-involvement in singing. Wenham also offers helpful arguments for respecting the titles of the psalms. And the creative approach to ‘canonical reading’ allows us to view each psalm both as a composition for public singing and as a part of the canonical book (which may guide our interpretation). I heartily commend this work!” —C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary; author, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?

“As someone who comes from an Asian (Filipino) context, I find it heartwarming to read The Psalter Reclaimed. This book helps those of us in the majority world, where the church continues to grow, by showing us a way of reading the psalms that brings us closer to God.” —Federico Villanueva, Associate Professor and Director of Biblical Studies, Alliance Graduate School, Manila, Philippines; author, It’s OK to Be Not OK: The Message of the Lament Psalms

“The Psalter Reclaimed is an absolute delight! This study takes us on a whirlwind journey through the book of Psalms, hitting all the high points along the way. Themes like the dynamic of singing our theology; reading the Psalms as a book, as prayers, and in the light of Christ; and dealing with the ‘nasty’ psalms are all considered with real exegetical insight and winsomeness. If your desire is to ‘reclaim the Psalter,’ then this is definitely the book for you.” — Jamie Grant, Lecturer in Biblical Studies, Highland Theological College, Dingwall, Scotland; author, The King as Exemplar: The Function of Deuteronomy's Kingship Law in the Shaping of the Book of Psalms

Table of Contents 1. What are we doing singing the Psalms? 2. Praying the Psalms 3. Reading the Psalms Canonically 4. Reading the Psalms Messianically 5. The Ethics of the Psalms 6. The Imprecatory Psalms 7. Psalm 103: The Song of Steadfast Love 8. The Psalms and the Nations

Specifications Format: Paperback Page Count: 208; $15.99

Moreover, Tony Reinke has a nice interview with Wenham about this volume  you can listen to here.

HT: Justin Taylor

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rodney Decker's Reading Koine Greek

I have been eagerly awaiting Rodney Decker's Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook when I first heard about it some year's ago.

Well, the wait is coming to an end! In August (2014) Baker Academic will be releasing what is sure to be a gem of a grammar.

Here are the particulars:

This in-depth yet student-friendly introduction to Koine Greek provides a full grounding in Greek grammar while starting to build skill in the use of exegetical tools. The approach, informed by twenty-five years of classroom teaching, emphasizes reading Greek for comprehension as opposed to merely translating it. The workbook is integrated into the textbook, enabling students to encounter real examples as they learn each new concept. The book covers not only New Testament Greek but also the wider range of Bible-related Greek (LXX and other Koine texts). It introduces students to reference tools for biblical Greek, includes tips on learning, and is supplemented by robust web-based resources through Baker Academic's Textbook eSources, offering course help for professors and study aids for students.

The book retails at $49.99, but is a massive 560 pages!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday, Charlie!

I just realized that C.F.D. ("Charlie") Moule's 105th birthday was this past December 3rd.  Those of you who visit the blog may recall some audio files that I discovered of his, in which I posted, here.

Other resources of note, is a helpful bibliography here, a great post by Daniel Wallace about his friendship and letter writing correspondence with Moule, here, and a sermon written by former student, Dr. Rowan Williams, and also former Archbishop of Cantebury, here.

A man's legacy is often defined by those for whom he mentored. With former students such as James D.G. Dunn, Graham Stanton, and Andrew Lincoln, Moule's legacy is a great one indeed, and continues to shape the contours of serious NT scholarship today.

At the risk of getting the details wrong, I was fortunate to have lunch with the aforementioned Lincoln at the SBL annual meeting in Baltimore. I asked him about Charlie and one of the stories he told me was that Charlie could be routinely found reading his well worn Greek New Testament in a park behind Cambridge University at about 6:00 in the morning. Lincoln told me that was Charlie doing his devotions.

Charlie was known as a man of profound faith and genuine humility. It was friend and fellow NT giant, Joachim Jeremias, who said of Moule, "In him could be seen no trace of original sin."

Happy Belated Birthday, Charlie!

The Love of God Made Visible: Francis J. Moloney and Dorothy Lee teach eConference on the Gospel of John

Some time ago, I discovered that the Australian Catholic Bishops conference featured an e-conference on the Gospel of Mark taught by eminent NT scholar, Francis Moloney.

I have now discovered that Frank is at it again, as he joined another excellent Johannine scholar in Dorothy Lee in teaching an e-conference on the Gospel of John.

Frank Moloney and I in my study.
One will need to download the video player for the site in order to watch the videos. It is remarkable how much material is covered in such a short amount of time, speaking to the mastery over this material that both of these scholars have over the contents of the Fourth Gospel.