November 30, 2012
For anyone who has had the opportunity to study the New Testament in its original Greek, they will be able to attest to the rich fruit it will yield in shedding much light on the meaning of the text. Grammars are plenty and helpful. Some books focus solely on specific aspects of the NT Greek and can yield even further fruit. Murray Harris has done such a thing. Zondervan has recently published his book Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis.
This is not an exhaustive study of every place a preposition is used but rather “it is a study of numerous places in the Greek New Testament where prepositions contribute significantly to the theological meaning of the text.” (p.13) Harris deals with all 17 “proper” and 42 “improper” prepositions in the Greek NT while only discussing those he feels are the most theologically significant.
The first three chapters deal with introductory matters and explain the exegetical guidelines the book follows. A short history of the development of prepositions is given along with the base meaning of each one (Greek students will readily recognize the prepositions diagram on p. 29 from first semester Greek). Realizing that while a word has meaning by itself they (1) do not exist on their own in the text (grammatically they exist as a prepositional phrase) and (2) context is to guide the final choice for the meaning of the preposition. With this in mind Harris lays out four exegetical considerations:
- The primary meaning of the preposition itself (i.e., local/spatial sense) and then its range of meanings when used with the particular case involved.
- The basic significance of the case that is used with the preposition.
- The indications afforded by the context as to the meaning of the preposition.
- The distinctive features of prepositional usage in the NT that may account for seeming irregularities. (p. 31)
The majority of the book is taken up with the 17 “proper” prepositions. Each chapter follows the same basic outline. The base meaning is discussed along with the more flexible meanings or translations when applicable. Most of each chapter examines various significant uses of the prepositions. For those readers who are interested in the current discussion of union with Christ there are several chapters that will be of interest. As the front of the book indicates, Harris utilizes the literary and historical context of passages where it is relevant in order to determine the correct meaning of the prepositional use. One example of this is in chapter 21 and the use of “uper” in 1 Cor. 15:29. The final two chapters of the book deal with the 42 “improper” prepositions with some discussion of theologically significant uses.
As a grammatical book that narrows its focus on prepositions this book is a goldmine of exegetical insight and guidance regardless of whether one takes the positions Harris does. Prepositions and Theology will aid all exegetes who dig into the NT Greek who have a desire to better understand an often tricky aspect of Greek grammar. This is a book that will most benefit second or third year Greek students but will come in handy even for those in their first year. One can only hope that Harris or others might follow the same objective of this book and apply it to other aspects of Greek grammar.
NOTE: I received this book for free from Zondervan in exchange for an unbiased review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.
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November 16, 2012
I remember sitting in my church history class and my professor asking us if we had ever read Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. In a class of about 15 students no one raised their hands. He went on to tell us that most Christians have never read it and yet everyone seems to think they know for sure what Calvin believed. It was at that moment I decided I would be one of those rare Christians and read the complete 1,500 page two volume work edited by John T. McNeil and translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Though it took me the better part of two years to complete I was better for having read it. Having read it I will attest to the fact that many Christians misunderstand Calvin because they have not done the hard but rewarding work of reading this great work and no one can claim to understand Calvin until they have.
Tim Keller writes at the TGC blog about his journey this year in reading through the Institutes. After drawing on some things he has observed while reading the Institutes (all of which I can attest to being true having read it myself) he closes with this thought:
Last (and here our modern evangelical terminology fails us) Calvin’s writings are astonishingly “doxological.” We might be tempted to say “inspirational” or “devotional” or “spiritual,” but to use such Hallmark greeting card phrases doesn’t do them justice. Calvin’s writings don’t read at all like a theological treatise, but like a man’s meditating on the Scripture before God. The language is filled with reverence and awe, and often tenderness. That means that, despite the close reasoning of so many parts of the material, Calvin was all about the heart.
Indeed, he taught that our biggest problem is there. “For the Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart . . . the heart’s distrust is greater than the mind’s blindness. It is harder for the heart to be furnished with assurance [of God’s love] than for the mind to be endowed with thought.” (III.2.36)
To furnish our hearts with more of that assurance is the ultimate purpose of the Institutes, and I can say, personally, that it is fulfilling its purpose in me this year.
In the famous words of Saint Augustine – tolle lege – take up and read! Get your copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion from Amazon or WTS.
November 14, 2012
The call to preach the Word of God is the highest calling of the pastor. For centuries preachers have recognized that it is not enough just to open ones Bible and speak your mind on a passage and call it preaching. When opening up the pages of Scripture we recognize that there is a way of interpreting, developing a sermon and delivering it that is most faithful to the text. Some might call this package expository preaching. Most books on preaching only focus on one or two of these parts. What is needed is a comprehensive book that presents the material in a way as to show how they all work together.
With the goal in mind to bring together hermeneutics, homiletics and delivery under the same roof Daniel Akin, Bill Curtis and Stephen Rummage have written Engaging Exposition. This book seeks to lay out a methodological strategy for hermeneutics and homiletics to work in harmony. Hermeneutics is done in the service of homiletics and homiletics is dependent upon good hermeneutics while both are packaged in good delivery.
The entire book is centered on developing the main idea of the text (MIT) hermeneutically and homiletically while following up with some tips on good delivery. Bill Curtis writes the section on hermeneutics, Danny Akin on homiletics and Stephen Rummage on delivery. The intended relationship between hermeneutics and homiletics that the authors wish to convey is succinctly summed up in these words by Curtis
The study of a text is incomplete if it fails to assess its significance for today’s listeners. However, attempting to discover the significance of a text, without first gaining a thorough understanding of the author’s intended meaning, will be equally incomplete. (p. 13)
The first section of the book deals with hermeneutics. Throughout this section, Curtis covers the basics of hermeneutics that one would find in any standard hermeneutics text book such as genre, historical/geographical/theological context, genre specific outlines, characters, languages and the MIT. Since this section only covers about 120 pages the discussion is basic and most pastors will find much of the material repetitive to their hermeneutics classes and further reading. The difference in this discussion of hermeneutics is the intentional desire to help the preacher do their hermeneutics with their homiletics in mind. Throughout Curtis’ discussion of the basics of hermeneutics he weaves in the idea that this first step to preaching is not an end in itself. It is servicing the homiletical step.
The second section of the book deals with homiletics. Again, since this section only covers about 125 pages, the discussion is brief and basic. Topics such as illustrations, introductions, applications and conclusions are all discussed. It is here that the reader will begin to see how the book is written with the harmonious relationship between hermeneutics and homiletics in mind. Here, we move from the MIT hermeneutically to homiletically. Page 128 is perhaps the best page in the book and almost worth the price of the book alone. Akin lays out the grand plan of the books aim with the help of a triangular diagram. The outline of the book follows a seven step process:
- Study the Scriptures – “Flesh”
- Structure the Scriptures – “Skeleton”
- The Main Idea of the Text (Hermeneutical focus)
- The Bridge – Moving from the Then of the text to the Now of the audience.
- The Main Idea of the Text (Homiletical focus)
- Structure of the Message – “Skeleton”
- Teach the Scriptures – “Flesh”
In my opinion, this is the best outline of the relationship between hermeneutics and homiletics I have ever encountered.
Rounding out the book is section three in dealing with the delivery of the message. While it may be one of the last things a preacher thinks about investing time in honing their skills at, message delivery is important because “no matter how careful you were in your exegesis and interpretation and no matter how skillfully you put together your message, your sermon will be evaluated on the basis of how you deliver it.” (p. 249) Delivery is the packaging that hermeneutics and homiletics come in when it comes to preaching. Throughout this final section, Rummage addresses the basics of message delivery by touching on subjects like how delivery works between the preacher and the listener, proper speech technique, speaking with your body and voice and the age old discussion of how and whether to use notes when preaching.
My only critique of the book is not so much in its content but in its range of use. While the authors don’t state they desire it to be used in hermeneutics classes I don’t recommend it. Further, while young pastors can greatly benefit from this (especially if they have only had one or two homiletics classes) most of the book will be unnecessary repetition for many seasoned pastors who will have (at least should have) experienced the relationship between the three areas discussed in this book and taken steps to improve them.
What Engaging Exposition has done is shown the reader that hermeneutics is not an end in itself, homiletics will fail if not built on a good hermeneutical foundation and good delivery skill matters if you want the MIT to be understood and effective for the intended audience. This book will be of great benefit for homiletics teachers and students in both college and graduate classes.
NOTE: I received this book for free in exchange for a review. The words, thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
November 7, 2012
When it comes to the study of hermeneutics the New Testament use of the Old Testament is one of the most controversial areas. Central to the swath of differing interpretations is the idea of continuity and discontinuity between the testaments and the definition, nature and use of typology and allusions.
There is perhaps no one else on the contemporary scene who is known for their studies on the NT use of the OT than G.K. Beale. In 2007 Beale and D.A. Carson released a co-edited book Commentary on the New Testament us of the Old Testament. This book has no doubt set an example on how to understand this important topic. Along these lines, Baker published Beale’s new book A New Testament Biblical Theology. In this book readers saw a stellar defense of what is essentially an amillennial interpretation of the NT. Agree with it or not, Beale provides a compelling model and case for how the NT uses and interprets the OT and how that should inform our understanding of the OT’s intent. Among other things, the primary basis for Beale’s understanding of the NT’s use of the OT is that there is a high degree of continuity between the testaments and that typology and allusions run rampant throughout the NT text. While Beale does tip his hat to some of the hermeneutical pillars of his understanding of the NT use of the OT in the introduction to this book, for those who have read or are reading this work and would like a more detailed description of the criteria by which he makes the hermeneutical decisions he does the wait is over.
Baker has now published Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. While some would have rather seen a more exhaustive treatment of the subject, Beale is clear that “the purpose of this handbook is to provide a short guide to the use of the OT citations and allusions in the NT.” (p. xvii) As a handbook, as opposed to a more detailed study, Beale is more general in his assessments of thoughts and a lot of the content is taken up with surveying the various views within the field of NT use of the OT. It is the guidelines laid out in this book that served as the basis by which all the contributors to the Commentary on the NT use of the OT followed.
Fundamental Issues in Interpreting the NT use of the OT
For Beale, there are two main and foundational issues that need to be brought to the fore in order to effectively understand how the NT uses the OT. First there is the issue of continuity between the testaments. Central to this issue is deciding “whether the NT interprets the Old in line with the original OT meaning.” (p. 1) Even a cursory reading of just the OT quotations in the NT brings the attentive reader to ask how did Paul or the others authors get such and such conclusion from that OT passage? This is a question everyone’s method must answer. After surveying various answers to this question Beale concludes “that NT authors display varying degrees of awareness of literary contexts, as well as perhaps historical contexts, although the former is predominant.” (p. 12)
The second foundational issue is that of typology. Defining typology is of great importance because it can determine what and how much of the NT is typological. Beale defines typology as the following:
The study of analogical correspondences among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in their meaning.” (p. 14)
This definition is long but helpful as it rightly includes several elements: analogical correspondence, historicity, a pointing-forwardness/foreshadowing, escalation and retrospection (p. 14). Lest some think that typology cannot be listed under the umbrella of exegesis since it seems to fall out of the parameters of authorial intent Beale says the following:
Typology can be called contextual exegesis within the framework of the canon since it primarily involves the interpretation and elucidation of the meaning of earlier parts of Scripture by later parts…..the expansion of the database being interpreted does not mean that we are no longer interpreting but only that we are doing so with a larger block of material. (p. 25)
For some this may be stretching it in order to make ones conclusions about the text fit just so they can be called “exegetical”. Anyone who has red his NT biblical theology will feel that there a places where Beale has crossed the line with his broad use of typology and Beale is reasonable to recognize that not everyone will go the extra mile with him in a number of passages. However, this should not cause the reader to toss his definition out the door.
Along these same lines, which the discussion of quotations is important, what is perhaps more germane to the discussion of typology is the definition of an allusion. It is here again that various interpreters and theologians widely disagree. While a simple definition of an allusion maybe that of “a brief expression consciously intended by an author to be dependent on an OT passage,” this needs more explanation (p. 31). Beale expands this a bit when he says, “The telltale key to discerning an allusion is that of recognizing an incomparable or unique parallel in wording , syntax, concept, or cluster of motifs in the same order or structure.” (p. 31) For Beale, there is not necessarily a minimum word count or other similar type criteria for identifying something as an allusion. In fact, he goes so far as to say that “it remains possible that fewer than three words or even an idea may be an allusion.” (p. 31) This will no doubt strike some readers as odd and wonder then how can anything not be termed an allusion so long as a connection can be made. To be fair, Beale is not setting up a definition so he or others can get away with exegetical abuse just to see an allusion anywhere they want. While readers will find a number of his allusional finds to be stretching it, Beale does the hard work of exegesis and is persuasive nonetheless.
The Nine Step Process to Interpreting the NT use of the OT
With foundational matters and definitions take care of, Beale spends the second shortest chapter in the book outlining his nine step process for interpreting the NT use of the OT. In regards to these steps Beale notes, “The procedures discussed here suggest different angels from which we can look at a passage. When all these approaches are put together, they will provide a cumulatively better understanding of the way the NT interprets the OT.” (p. 42) The steps are as follows:
- Identify the OT reference. Is it a quotation or allusion? If an allusion it must fit the criteria mentioned earlier.
- Analyze the broad NT context where the OT reference occurs.
- Analyze the OT context both broadly and immediately, especially interpreting the paragraph in which the quotation or allusion occurs.
- Survey the use of the OT text in early and late Judaism that might be of relevance to the NT appropriation of the OT text.
- Compare the texts: NT, LXX, MT, and targums, early Jewish citations (DSS, the Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo)
- Analyze the author’s textual use of the OT.
- Analyze the author’s interpretive use of the OT.
- Analyze the author’s theological use of the OT.
- Analyze the author’s rhetorical use of the OT.
The whole of chapter three fleshes out these nine steps more fully. While there may be debate as to what counts as an allusion I cannot see how any camp would have much grounds for rejecting any of these steps. These would be steps used by all sides of the debates. Following this, chapter four is spent discussing the twelve primary ways in which the NT uses the OT. Once a passage, verse, phrase, word or concept is identified as an allusion then it helps to be able to categorize what use the allusion fits into. Various examples are given for each category. For the fourth and fifth steps Beale deals with these at length in chapter six. There is a multitude of works listed and the sheer sight of them is daunting making one wonder if they can ever complete the task without owning or having access to them. In chapter seven Beale uses Isaiah 22:22 and Revelation 3:7 as a case study in showing these steps work.
Tucked in the smallest chapter in the book and briefly touched on in chapter three (p. 53), chapter five addresses what he believes to be the five hermeneutical and theological presuppositions of the NT writers:
- There is an apparent assumption of corporate solidarity or representation.
- In light of corporate solidarity or representation, Christ as the Messiah is viewed as representing the true Israel of the OT and the true Israel – the church – in the NT.
- History is unified as a wise and sovereign plan so that the earlier parts are designed to correspond and point to the later parts.
- The age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ.
- As a consequence of the preceding presuppositions, it follows that the later parts of biblical history function as the broader context for interpreting earlier parts because they all have the same, ultimate divine author which inspires the various human authors. One deduction from this premise if that Christ is the goal toward which the OT pointed and is the end-time center of redemptive history, which is the key to interpreting the earlier portions of the OT and its promises.
Even if everyone could agree on Beale’s nine steps mentioned above and the definition of typology and an allusion, it is here where readers of one theological persuasion or another will find great disagreement. No doubt, Beale’s theological bent plays a clear role in seeing these as theological and hermeneutical presuppositions. Some readers will use this list to toss his whole method but I think that would be unwise. There is still much to be gleaned from Beale’s approach to the subject.
As a guide book the Handbook on the NT use of the OT will serve as a helpful tool for this field of study and I expect it to be used in school classrooms of varying theological persuasions. Despite the theological differences some readers will have with Beale there is much take away from Beale’s methodology and proposed steps of interpreting the NT use of the OT. Despite differences, Beale must be respected for his desire to rightly understand and interpret Scripture’s intended meaning. He has a high view of the text and the task of exegesis. This is a book that should be broadly read and will provide exegetes of all levels with many things to think about.
NOTE: I received this book for free from Baker Academic in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.
if you found this book to be helpful can you take a minute to give it a positive vote on Amazon?
November 5, 2012
No one sets out to be a Pharisee, well, almost no one. There was a time before and during the life of Christ where a certain group of religious leaders were actually called Pharisees – and they were proud of it. They thought they were doing God and all His people a spiritual service by making all kinds of extra biblical rules. They were making laws for God’s laws and they believed God loved them all the more because of it. They were zealous about their faith.
Fast forward to today. Being a Pharisee is not cool. One kind of wanders if it ever really was, but to the self-identified Pharisees it was for sure. Though we would never proudly identify ourselves as Pharisees, we can all be one at some time or another over one thing or another. This is what Larry Osborne calls being an accidental Pharisee. In his new book Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Dangerous of Overzealous Faith, Osborne goes right for the gut in all of us. In a Carl Trueman sort of way, he goes after everyone for becoming Pharisees. Simply put, in a zealous attempt to live Scripture more scripturally, we then judge everyone else’s faith according to ours and become the thing no one wants to be – a Pharisee. But we did it accidentally. Osborne identifies an accidental Pharisee as
People like you and me who, despite the best of intentions and a desire to honor God, unwittingly end up pursuing an overzealous model of faith that sabotages the work of the Lord we think we’re serving. (p. 17)
Sound familiar? Maybe it describes someone you know and maybe it describes you. Truth be told, we can all become Pharisees, accidentally of course. You know who they are. The person who comes home from camp high on Jesus. The person who just led someone to Christ. The college freshman Bible studies major who comes back to his home church for summer break with all their new found knowledge seeking to solve the churches problems. Even the bookworm Christian who just read the latest book everyone is talking about and they are dead set on changing their entire Christian life in order to do what this or that book has taught them. We’ve seen them and we’ve probably been them at one time or another. Lest we think we are immune to this trap Osborne reminds us that
As long as my only image of a Pharisee is that of a spiritual loser and a perennial enemy of Jesus, I’ll never recognize the clear and present danger in my own life. I’ll never realize that its often a very short and subtle journey from being zealous for God to being unintentionally opposed to God. (p. 27)
Through seven steps, Osborne walks us through the many ways in which a person can become the Pharisee no one wants to be. As with many sins it begins with pride. In this regard, we compare our zealous Christian life to the Christian life of others and judge them as less of Christians because they are not where we are at when we are there. Once we have justified our comparison towards other Christians of lower spiritual status we begin to exclude them from our lives and God’s grace. This exclusion leads to legalism. Of course we don’t intend to become legalists because they have such a bad reputation. But then again, we do so accidentally. Then, as our new found zealous Christian life travels on we begin to look to the past and worship it. We all do this with high school and college memories but its very dangerous with our spiritual lives. Akin to legalism is our desire for uniformity among Christians within our Christian lives and every aspect of our doctrinal beliefs. Finally, for those whose gifts might lead them to be studying Scripture more than most Christians, be it a teacher, pastor or missionary, we can tend to project our gifts onto others and expect the same from them. We can have the gift of evangelism and expect everyone else to be like us. We can have the gift of teaching and expect everyone else to study Scripture as much as we do and know as much of it as we do.
As I stated earlier, Osborne sounds a bit like Carl Trueman in this book as he goes after some of the current trends in contemporary evangelicalism when it comes to living zealously for God. Here are some examples from the book to give you an idea:
If you spend more time than most thinking deeply about theology, read books written by dead guys, and do your Bible study in the original Greek and Hebrew, you’ll be sorely tempted to look down on those who think the last book in the Bible is called Revelations, and on those who think the last book in the Old Testament was written by an Italian prophet named Ma-la-chi. (p. 48)
The same goes if you identify yourself as Spirit-led, missional, incarnational, gospel-centered, or some other current Christian buzzword. You’ll find it hard not to look down on those who don’t even know there’s a buzzword to conform to. (p. 48)
We’ve coined words like radical, crazy, missional, gospel-centered, revolutionary, organic, and a host of other buzzwords to let everyone know that our tribe is far more biblical, committed, and pleasing to the Lord than the deluded masses who fail to match up. (p. 90)
I’m concerned that the new boundary markers and litmus tests of today are not leading us back to New Testament Christianity; they’re leading us back to New Testament Phariseeism. They’re simply the newest iteration of old-school legalism. (p. 91)
We become accidental Pharisees when we lay down boundary markers that are narrower than the ones laid down by Jesus and then treat people who line up on the wrong side of our markers as if they were spiritual imposters or enemies of the Lord. Our goal may be to protect the flock. Bur boundary markers that are narrower than the ones Jesus laid down don’t protect the flock; they divide the flock. (p. 142-43)
Now reading some of this may jar you back in your seat and make you think Osborne is just not spiritual. After all, how are some many of the things he goes after not Scriptural or spiritual to be pursuing? Some of you may need to read some sections a few times over several days to really let what is being said sink in. To be honest, I was myself initially a bit put off by some of the things said but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. Osborne is not saying being missional or gospel-centered is unbiblical, but we must be careful to look down on those who have not incorporated what is biblical into their thinking, Christian or church life. All these things have Biblical truth to them but none of them has it all on their own.
Accidental Pharisees will put you in your place, take your excuses away, make you dump your pride and have you on your knees repenting it before God. This is a book anyone can benefit from. For those who seem themselves looking into a mirror to those who are not there yet. Get the book and then get a copy for your overzealous Christian friend. I had a few quibbles with how Osborne interpreted some texts and he could have incorporated more of the NT than mostly the Gospels and the teaching of Jesus. Overall, the point of the book is sound.
NOTE: I received this book for free from Zondervan through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. The words and thoughts expressed are my own.