Saturday, December 20, 2014

Interesting Conference In Denmark

I see there is an upcoming conference in Denmark called "Gospel Interpretation and the Q-Hypothesis." Here's part of the description:
"We have now started organizing the conference and a number of the world’s leading scholars on the topic — Stefan Alkier, Eve-Marie Becker, Mark Goodacre, Christoph Heil, Werner Kahl, John Kloppenborg, Shelly Matthews, Clare Rothschild, Hildegard Scherer, Christopher Tuckett, and Francis Watson — have agreed to participate. We feel confident that the conference will be able to significantly further the debate between Q-believers and Q-sceptics, and we wish to invite anyone with an interest in the issue of the synoptic problem to submit a paper proposal for the conference. In order to allow enough time for discussion we will select up to six papers."
Hey, if you can cover your airfare, they are covering the expenses for food and accommodations.

I'm what they would call a "Q-skeptic," by the way.

A Christmas Present For A Special Little Girl

Lesly and I put together a little Christmas surprise for a little girl whose family is going through some tough times. Lesly and I had an absolutely wonderful time going up and down the aisles looking for some little treats. Of course, Lesly had to help me out. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn't on the top five list of things that girls are interested in, apparently. (Can you tell I didn't grow up with sisters?) Later tonight I'll write a short little Christmas message sharing the gospel and the fact that God loves this little girl SO much. She has no idea it's coming! What a surprise it'll be! We're dropping it off tomorrow. Merry Christmas, little girl.

Up 1,000,00 In My Alexa Rating

Hey, it's not much in the grand scheme of things, but I noticed today that this website has gone from 5,594,071 in September 2013 to 4,403,645 today.

My Brother's Flight To The Philippines

My brother is on his way to the Philippines. Check out how close he is to arriving. I wish I was on this trip with him. But there's gonna be a next time, I'm sure. I have no doubt he's going to have an unforgettable stay in one of the world's most beautiful places!

One Thing I Wish Logos Would Have Done (Or Do In The Future)

There are some Greek editions in Logos Bible software that don't have the diacritical marks. And I understand why they don't. But this limits the functionality of these editions of the Greek New Testament. One example is it renders useless the text comparison tool in Logos. I really wish they would have an option for searching with the diacritical marks or viewing it as it is published (without them). Just saying. Maybe this will be my Christmas wish this year. I'll write the North Pole as soon as I get a chance.

Doing My Own Textual Analysis

You know, this week my students have been working through their textual analyses of John 3:13. Some of them are working on their textual analyses for their Greek exegesis project, which is due the last two weeks of the course. Well, I had to prepare one too. The issue I had to work through this week is whether or not John 1:41 tells us that Andrew was the first person to go and get his brother and bring him to Jesus, or whether the first thing that Andrew did once being invited to see where Jesus was staying was go and get his brother and bring him to Jesus. It all hinges on a single letter.

What difference does it make, you might be wondering. Well, one reading helps us to know who the unnamed disciple is in the pericope (see John 1:35). It also tells us something about discipleship. The other one really stresses just how important Andrew knew it was to get his brother and bring him to Jesus. I think the evidence supports this reading (πρῶτον). I don't know the details. I'll probably ask the Lord to loan me the DVD when I get to heaven so I can watch it all unfold. Did Andrew tell Jesus to hold up one sec while he went looking for his brother Peter? That's what it looks like to me.

This is totally different than what I see in Matthew 8 where some would-be disciples are invited to follow Jesus but have some other pressing things going on in their lives that they are not willing to let go of. One of them has to "first" go and bury his father (Matt. 8:21). Andrew's got a totally different "first." His "first" is he's just gotta get his brother and bring him to Jesus.

Do you feel that way about following Jesus? Do you feel like it just wouldn't be the same unless the ones you know best and the ones you love most on this earth could meet him too? And there you have it. Just like that the Word of God convicted me this week. It didn't prick me and draw a little bit of blood. Oh no, it cut deep. And immediately the Lord started his triage work on my heart, once I confessed my sinfulness.

Thinking About Textual Analysis And The Weight We Give The Criteria

One of my students started out a response to another student's forum post in the following way:
"Hi M, Liked your analysis, even though we came to a different conclusion! One of the major themes that I see developing as we all take a look at this project is how much weight a particular scholar gives to a particular area of textual analysis. Black, for example, seems to place a great weight on distribution, more so than he does on dating (Black 1985, 55). Metzger, on the other hand, seems to imply that the early dating should be given more weight (Metzer 1994, 179). So, the question for students such as ourselves is what area of textual analysis do we think the most weight should be given to? I would lean in favor of dating being the most important. I also would place more weight on what the early church fathers believed to be the true words of the original writers."
That's what I call the start of a great forum discussion. Why beat around the bush? Why not filter out all of the noise and get right to the heart of the matter? What is the criteria that we are going to give the most weight to? Here's the thing, folks: The danger comes when we actually answer that question and land on a single criterion. Sure, it's easier to land the plane. Sure, it makes all future textual analyses easy-breezy. But that's the danger. Don't answer that question! –unless, of course, your answer is to say that there is no single criterion by which we can rightly assess any textual issue. Be prepared in textual analysis to answer all of the questions, and counter questions. Ask the tough questions about your own likely conclusions. You might ask: Does a reading in a manuscript that is dated 100 years earlier really amount to weightier evidence when another one is represented by early witnesses spanning text-types? Are the earlier manuscripts corrected to align with a geographically-broad reading? Never should a textual decision be reached on the basis of a single criterion.

In the case of Matt. 5:22 and εἰκῇ, for example, it wasn't just the wide geographical distribution in favor of the longer reading that led Dave Black and very few others to conclude that the original included the word. It was also the early dating of the evidence that included the word, albeit that evidence wasn't considered the earliest. Early is important. Omissions could have taken place at any point, theoretically, right? One scholar held that the inclusion of the word was clearly added by a scribe because he just couldn't imagine Jesus being so harsh. But that suggestion seems to be the venom of  his own conclusion. How then did it spread one to so many, from a single text-type to the others, and so early in the history of the transmission of the text. It was also thinking through the internal evidence (which is always second to the external). That's right. The internal evidence drew us to places in Mark 3 and Ephesians 4, for example. If Jesus wholly condemns anger in Matthew 5 and subjects anyone guilty of it to judgment, what then do you do with other passages in the New Testament that seem to do something different? Hmmmm. All of these were taken into consideration. So, students, be careful. Don't take the easy way. Think through the evidence–all of it. That's the only way when it comes to wrestling with textual issues.

So, it's more than one single criterion. It's all of them. Is there one that I give greater weight to? I suppose we are all guilty of leaning one way more than the other. I have my own, and I have to work hard to think objectively through the evidence. I think one thing that I've noticed when flipping through the commentaries (something I do after I've walked through the evidence on my own) is that people give a whole lot of weight to a single text-type. And, there's something worse. Some seem to be comfortable with just saying "so-and-so says this." Such arguments, in my opinion, are baseless. They have no persuasive power when I see them, unless the one who they are quoting is saying something really intriguing or something I hadn't considered. But, "so-and-so says the scribe took this word out because he thought Jesus' saying was too harsh" is hardly enough for me. I think the emphasis in cases like that isn't on the portion I've underlined above; the emphasis is on the "so-and-so says." And so I say watch out for that.

Alright, I've gotta jump off of the blogosphere for a few moments. Have I told you all that I appreciate you stopping by? I really do. Thanks, and I always hope that it blesses you. I hope it challenges you and helps your walk with the Lord grow to the glory of God!

Oh yeah, one more thought before I go. This is a reason for us all to start biting off smaller portions from the New Testament when we teach. Choosing to walk through 20 verses in a given 30 min. to 1 hr. time slot just ain't wise. Choose smaller portions and spend your time doing the exegesis that needs to be done given the text.

Textual Analysis Got 'Em Excited

I have had some really wonderful interaction with the students in my BIB516 course. It never ceases to amaze me just how much God uses this time in my own life as much as the students'. Well, I got an email from a student this week talking about how much he enjoyed thinking through textual analysis. Of all the steps in the exegetical process for a student to get excited, textual analysis is the one everyone would least expect. That's how you know this is a God thing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Birthday Card From Rome

I just got a birthday card from Rome. Here's what it reads:"Il personale della Biblioteca Vaticana con il Bibliotecario, il Prefetto e il Vice Prefetto augura a tutti un Natale di benedizione e di grazia." Grazie! Buon Natale a voi!

I'm Loving Our New LBC Website Design

Hangin' Out In Lancaster

Today I'm on our beautiful campus in Lancaster, PA. Yep, I'm up here in the State of Independence, right smack dab in Amish country. It's beautiful up here. I drove up so that I could spend a little time with the students in my BIB516 course. It's been fruitful so far. I stopped in to see my friend Jerry, the most gifted Greek scholar/librarian the world has ever met. After that, I grabbed my coffee from Bennie's, then headed upstairs to the fifth floor (the penthouse). And now I'm enjoying the view and getting some work done, until I meet with the students. Anyone want some pics? By the way, if you're curious to read about what is going on with the construction at LBC, it's only a click away.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mailing Copies Of MamaB's Book

Today I mailed three more copies of MamaB's book around the globe. Two went to Spain, and one went all the way to Washington state. Do I think this book is a good evangelistic tool? Yeah. I definitely do. Of course, it doesn't replace the responsibility I have to share in words what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. We are his ambassadors, not books. But books that point people to that cross and show them what a cross-focused life looks like are valuable in the work we have before us as God's ambassadors. That's why this book went overseas. Was it cheap to send two books to Madrid? Not particularly. I could have mailed ten books to Washington state for the price that it cost to send two to Madrid. In fact, shipping cost more than the book. It didn't matter, though. One of the books went to a brother in the Lord. He recently lost his sister, and he wrote me this week to tell me that just the book description on the publisher's website resonated in his heart, given what he and his family are feeling at the present moment. Guess what? I also believe that this book will encourage and minister to the hearts of those who are hurting. I just know it will.

I'm praying that these books, along with the message of love that is written on the inside pages, will be like seed falling on good soil. I'm praying that the Lord does exactly what we hope any expression of Christ's love will accomplish in the lives of those that don't know him, namely salvation and eternal life. And for those who hurt, I'm praying that this book will do something–something special that cares for wounds like spiritual Neosporin.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Even More C. S. Lewis On Christmas

Can any of you relate to something like this during the Christmas season? This one is from Dec. 19th, 1952. You have to love Lewis.
"Dear Laurence, Here's something for usual expenses. I am completely 'circumvented' by a guest, asked for one week but staying for three, who talks from morning till night. I hope you'll all have a nicer Christmas than I. I can't write (write? I can hardly think or breathe. I can't believe it's all real)."

More C. S. Lewis On Christmas

Here's a paragraph from one of C. S. Lewis' letters to a man named Edward Allen, written December 10th, 1962:
"Dear Allen, Thanks for your letter and card. I couldn't agree with you more about the whole commercial racket of 'Xmas', which has almost snowed under our Christian feast of the Nativity. Perhaps it 'helps trade'. But I can't think that the waste of material, time, and skill in producing annually millions of articles suitable for 'gifts' (because no sane person ever bought such stuff for his own use!) is not very good long-term economics. The complaint is older than I thought. I discovered only the other day that Christmas presents had begun in the time of St. Augustine, and he called them 'diabolical' because they originated not in Christmas but in the Pagan Saturnalia. Diabolical is a bit strong: perhaps 'a darn nuisance' would be more accurate." 

C. S. Lewis On Christmas

Tonight I read chapter six in Kathryn Lindskoog's book entitled Surprised by C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and Dante: An Array of Original Discoveries (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2001). Why chapter six? Well, chapter six is entitled "C. S. Lewis and Christmas." And it's Christmas time. I figured I would see what sort of "original discoveries" Lindskoog had inside her book, especially what sort of treasures Lewis might offer regarding Christmas. Let me give you two paragraphs in Lindskoog's words followed by one quote by Lewis. Merry Christmas!
"On December 17, 1955, Lewis wrote to an old friend that he was pleased by the card the man had sent him, a Japanese-style nativity scene. But, he continued, Christmas cards in general and the whole vast commercial drive called 'Xmas' was one of his pet abominations. He wished they would die away and leave the Christmas observance alone. He had nothing against secular festivities. But he despised the artificial jollity, the artificial childlikeness, and the attempts to keep up some shallow connection with the birth of Christ." (26)
"In 1957 C. S. Lewis published 'What Christmas Means to Me.' He claimed that three things go by the name of Christmas. First is the religious festival. Second is an occasion for merry making and hospitality. Third is the commercial racket, a modern invention to boost sales. He listed his reasons for condemning the commercial racket. First, it causes more pain than pleasure. Second, it is a trap made up of obligations. Third, many of the purchases are gaudy rubbish. Fourth, we get exhausted by having to support the commercial racket while carrying on all our regular duties as well. 'Can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter . . . ?' Lewis demanded plaintively." (26)
"The Son of God became man to enable men to become the sons of God." –C.S. Lewis (25)

Thoughts From A Student Concerning Textual Analysis

Another student and I have been interacting about textual analysis. As you know, my students are working through a textual analysis of John 3:13. In addition to that, they each have a discourse unit from the New Testament that they are working through as an exegesis project, which will be submitted at the end of the course. I sent along this email to a student earlier:
"So, I have a few questions for you. Having done what you’ve done so far, how do you feel? Are you getting comfortable with it? Three weeks ago if someone asked you to think through a textual issue, would you have known what to do? Do you think as you teach going forward that this is something you could put into practice (knowing that you get faster as time progresses and that some issues are just irrelevant)?"
He responded:
"Wow…thanks for asking! I am getting more comfortable with it yes. I have read all the material but one article you sent us. It was very fascinating. I had no idea what all those notes on the bottom of the Greek text were for. An no I have not had any experience before with variants and textual issues. I am a little slower compared to other students so I appreciate all the help and videos. Honestly yes! This is very helpful moving forward with teaching when I come across this issues. I will need more Greek, of course, but it is nice to see that I can come to a conclusion with very little Greek!"
Now, I'm not talking about 9th grade algebra students turning into rocket scientists overnight.  But I'm glad that my students are getting this exposure to textual analysis. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to help them think through the questions that they need to be asking, and show them how to sort through the data that they have. Can they come to a conclusion after they work through the evidence? I believe that they can. Will it change over the years? It could, certainly. But the principles are not going to change. They might evaluate the evidence differently. They might decide one day that my principle of wider-geographical distribution, which I believe is a aspect of the evidence that deserves our fullest attention, might not be all that important to them. But they are working through these things, and we are laying a foundation through which every textual issue that arises in their future studies in the New Testament will be worked.

By the way, this is just one step in the exegetical process that we are concentrating on in this course. Next week we'll start lexical analysis! Two weeks after that we'll hit the road running in syntactical and diagrammatical analysis. And then we'll bring it all home thinking about biblical/theological analysis and carrying what we've learned into meaningful Bible exposition.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More Pics From The Christmas Party

Students Are Working Through Textual Analysis

One of the more difficult steps in exegesis, simply because it is totally new to students, is none other than textual analysis. As difficult as it is, I continue to be amazed at how the students progress in this step. And let me share something with you: This is their second semester Greek course! I didn't learn anything–anything!–about textual analysis until after numerous Greek courses. Then I walked into David Alan Black's Greek course and suddenly we talked about it. Dave didn't think it was "too deep" for the average Joe to think through. He taught me, and they don't get more average than that! Textual analysis is tedious, careful work. It can make your head hurt if you're not careful. It can be confusing. But I've seen students really excel in this area. And they didn't need 70,000 credit hours of Greek to begin to start thinking about all of this.

Right now my students are working through a textual issue in John 3:13. They've already read Dave Black's treatise on textual criticism (a whopping 80 pages!) by the way. I've given them the textual apparatus at the bottom of the NA28. I've given them three charts to help them on their way as they analyze the external evidence. And once they've gone through all of the evidence that they can, they get to read Dave's article on John 3:13, available here. So, one of the students is at that point. He got there today. Here's the first email that he sent me today:
"Ok. So, I'm doing the distribution chart and have found a wide distribution for both readings. Black's analysis, however, emphatically states that the manuscripts that do not contain the disputed clause are only found in Alexandrian text type."
I was in the Christmas party, so I replied:
"Let's talk on the phone later, but this is perfect for the forum. Get the class involved."
He wrote me about an hour later:
"I'm good. . . . I distributed the church fathers...and then read that you can't really do that because they tended to move around. All my non-church father manuscripts are in Alexandrian text form."
I am thrilled to see this sort of growth. I'm confident that he is going to be able to think through textual issues as he serves in his local church for the rest of his life! And that's going to be a huge blessing to the congregation where he serves. He'll be the type of pastor that can actually answer the question from someone in a Bible study, asking, "My Bible has a note that says some manuscripts don't have this . . . ." And that's one of the reasons why textual analysis matters in this class.

Christmas Party

Monday, December 15, 2014

Silva On Textual Analysis

In his commentary on Philippians, Moisés Silva writes:
"The most accessible source for this purpose is NA27, which lists many more variants than UBS4. Even this larger number, of course, represents only a portion of the available evidence; the editor, Kurt Aland, has had to do a great deal of preliminary sifting of the material to produce this handy text, and those students who depend on it are in effect trusting the editor's judgment for a very large number of decisions. In my opinion, Aland's principles and procedure are generally valid and well executed. The resulting work is a magnificent edition that can serve us well as a starting point" (Philippians, BECNT, 23). 
I'm certainly thankful for my edition Greek New Testament. There's one thing that I want to highlight and reiterate. It is just a starting point. As you study your passage in different commentaries or cue up your passage in the INTF database, you'll notice manuscript evidence that's not found in the lower half of your NA or UBS edition. On those textual issues that really impact the meaning of a passage or significantly add to or reduce what you would teach in your exposition of the New Testament (e.g., the ending of Mark, the pericope of the woman caught in adultery), you want to move beyond just the evidence you encounter in the apparatus of your GNT. You want to collect that evidence and save it for future consultation. Build your charts, write down your observations.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Read Brisco's "Rethinking The 'Stand And Greet' Time"

Here's a little snippet from the post by Brisco:
"This past week I posted a short excerpt from a Thom Rainer article where he discussed the disdain that many people have for the “Stand and Greet” time that is a part of many Sunday morning worship services. He argues that churches are actually driving “guests” away from Sunday services because of the practice. 
You may debate the conclusions of his research, but what I find fascinating is the apparent need that churches in the United States have for the practice to begin with. Why do we feel it necessary to create a set time for people to turn to strangers sitting around them and say good morning? Why is it important in many churches to give specific instructions for asking totally random questions of each other? But the issue is not only why does the church feel it is essential to create this artificial moment to force people to greet one another, but why do so many people in the church find this time to be awkward, and often disingenuous?"
Now I'm off to our gathering!