I grew up hearing and reading the Bible during the transition from the King James Version to NASB and NIV. In my church setting, the transition was mostly welcomed, except by a few godly old-timers who were certain that our prayers were more acceptable to God if they included a generous portion of thees, thous, and Elizabethan-era verb endings. The KJV had the interesting effect of making some very ordinary words into technical religious terms, since the words dropped out of ordinary use in the centuries since the KJV was translated. One of those words is grace. Interestingly, the NASB, the NIV, and even (often) the NLT continue to use this word to translate the Greek word χάρις (charis), even though the meaning of grace in English has changed over the centuries.
Jesus' interactions with people in the Gospel of John...and today This is the second part of a series that looks at events in the Gospel of John in which we find Jesus interacting with various people who need help—physical help and spiritual help. As we look closely at these individuals, we will often see that they are dealing with shame, though this theme is usually hidden in the historical background of the first century. Thus, over the course of this series, we will explore how Jesus interacts with them not only to take away their shame, but also to raise them up and give them honor!
As we approach the Passion Week, it might help to think about Jesus’ crucifixion in a threefold way: 1. Cross-Bearing: The physical pain of Jesus’ death 2. Sin-Bearing: The spiritual anguish of Jesus’ death 3. Shame-Bearing: The public humiliation of Jesus’ death
The great reformer Martin Luther once declared that the biblical teaching of justification by faith alone “is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” Historically, Protestants have understood justification to mean that God declares us “not guilty” for our sins because Christ bore them in our place, and also that God declares us as being positively righteous in his sight because of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, i.e., credited to our accounts. However, a recent teaching called the “New Perspective on Paul” has called into question the traditional Protestant understanding of justification.
Around this time every year the excitement begins to build. Well, at least this is true for archaeologists and for those who are interested in archaeology. The reason for elation is that summer plans for excavation in Israel are announced every spring. This summer, there are around twenty-two excavations in Israel that are open for volunteer participation. Yes, that’s right. YOU can be a part of unearthing the next great discovery in Israel!
It is rare for someone using critical methods to argue for a position more conservative than that taken by most conservatives. Such is the case with David Trobisch’s argument for the dating of the “closing"1 of the New Testament canon (The First Edition of the New Testament [Oxford University Press, 2000]).. Trobisch argues that the New Testament (NT) canon, containing the same 27 books as are found in our NT (though in a slightly different order than they are presently arranged), was published some time in the middle of the second century. Trobisch argues against the current consensus that the NT canon was a result of a long and complicated process that continued for a few centuries. Rather, in his own words, “The history of the New Testament is the history of an edition, a book that has been published and edited by a specific group of editors, at a specific place, and at a specific time (p. 6).”
As the father of eight children, I have spent a lot of time with Dr. Seuss. It's scary that I can quote pages of Cat in the Hat from memory. But my time in Dr. Seuss occasionally pays off when I study the Bible. You see, Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist in the 1930s and 40s, and political cartoons are ideal analogies for understanding symbolism in Revelation (an idea that I got from Dr. David Scholer, one of my doctoral advisors at Fuller). What is interesting, and what makes this relevant to the study of Revelation, is that Dr. Seuss' cartoons were immediately obvious to readers when they were printed, but are difficult to understand today unless we study history.
▶Jesus' interactions with people in the Gospel of John...and today I would like to begin a series that looks at stories in the Gospel of John in which we find Jesus interacting with various people who need help—physical help and spiritual help. As we look closely at these individuals, we will often see that they are dealing with shame, though this theme is usually hidden in the historical background of the first century. Thus, over the course of this series, I will explore how Jesus interacts with them not only to take away their shame, but also to raise them up and give them honor!
Beginnings of ancient books were important. Ancient writers were well aware of the importance of narrative beginnings. As Morna Hooker explains (“Beginnings and Endings,” in The Written Gospel, ed. Markus Bockmuehl and Donald A. Hagner [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005], 184), “In the introduction … an author would give some indication of the purpose or contents of the book. Some genres of literature – history, biography, scientific, medical, or technical works – begin with a formal preface, indicating the author’s purpose or method.” This narrative function of beginnings, therefore, provided information regarding purpose, method, and contents – key information needed to understand the rest of the narrative.
When I teach or preach from the Gospels, I always bring in relevant aspects of the historical and cultural background. Including such details not only helps us in our interpretation of the scene, but also helps us retell the story well – an essential part of preaching from narrative passages. Several passages in the Gospels involve soldiers. Movies about Jesus, and most sermons about Jesus, portray all of these soldiers as Romans. We sometimes get the idea that there were centurions on every street corner. But is this the case? I have pulled together some of the information that we have about soldiers in Judea and Galilee in the first century, and included a few comments about each scene in the Gospels involving soldiers.
Have you ever put together a relational biography? A relational biography describes the special people that God has used in your life over the years to get you where you are today. Try it. You’ll be amazed to discover just how much you owe to the influence of others over the years. As it turns out, I owe them just about everything! What follows is a list of but a few of my creditors, past and present.
As a resident of Hawaii most of my life, one of the conversations that I have often had with visitors was about what to see when they came to Hawaii. I would tell them to get out of Waikiki, to be sure to visit Hanauma Bay early in the morning, and to try our local plate lunch, among other things. Hawaii is a great place to visit anyway, but hopefully my tips made the trip more enjoyable. I do something similar when I talk to people about the Gospel of John. John is a beautiful book that will bless and delight; but I have some tips that I hope will add to the reader’s enjoyment. Here they are – six questions that make up my traveler’s guide to the Gospel of John.
Because the biblical documents were written in ancient times, in different cultures, and to different peoples, an historical approach to the interpretation of the Bible is deemed necessary. This has become so properly basic that it is nearly an axiom that the contemporary interpretation of the Bible is historical interpretation. Without denying that the Bible is the Word of God, the actual task of interpreting the Bible has become primarily an examination of the words of men. Such an historical emphasis makes theology seem less important, or at best a quite distant secondary concern.
Third semester Greek is a challenging place to be for our seminary students. Many of these folks are doing well just to hang on to what they learned back in Greek 1-2. Learning intermediate grammar finds our students negotiating a sharp turn deep in the tunnel of language acquisition. The proverbial light at the end of this tunnel—where knowledge of Greek pays significant exegetical dividends—gets almost snuffed out for a season by Wallace’s thirty-some categories of the genitive case.
Students often ask me about a saying from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “… if your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23). It’s an interesting saying to study, because it requires us to look carefully at the context, at the Old Testament background, and at some unusual Greek and Hebrew idioms. More importantly, once the passage is understood clearly, it illuminates a key kingdom principle.
Don’t gimme no theology. Just gimme the Bible! Ever heard someone say that? Well, at times theology comes in handy. That might sound like a no-brainer coming from a pastor/seminary professor, but as a historian I much prefer interpreting a biblical passage in its historical and literary context (my task as a New Testament scholar) to systematizing various portions of Scripture around a single theological truth (the task of a theologian).