Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Some Quick Reflections On The Origins Of The Gospels

Leroy A. Huizenga had some interesting things to say about the search for Gospel priority (i.e., which Gospel was written first) in his book The New Isaac: Tradition and Intertextuality in the Gospel of Matthew. Consider what he writes:
"Instead of Markan priority, I believe the question of synoptic priority fundamentally intractable given the myriad assumptions involved and, in any case, largely irrelevant for a proper narrative reading of the Gospel of Matthew (and for the Gospels of Mark and Luke and perhaps John as well)" (xvii). 
"The ‘flow of the gospel as a totality’ is in practice not take seriously, and 'the criteria which the text itself supplies' are permitted little regulative function. The parts thus seem much greater than the whole. At root, the commentary’s approach is redaction-critical and, as a result, the synchronic, narrative dynamics of the Gospel are largely lost" (6).
But consider this final quote. He adds:
"It is my considered opinion that the question of Markan vs. Matthean priority is intractable and thus still open, however. Every criterion employed to decide the question involves problematic assumptions that can in almost every instance be falsified by the data of the Gospels themselves. Consider the criterion of Christology. Is it accurate to say that Christology rises in a rough trajectory from lower to higher over time, or is this idea really rooted in the philosophy of evolutionism and the Enlightenment assumption that the real Jesus was a moral teacher divinized by Paul, and, later, by the bishops and councils of the early Church?" (132)
Here are my takeaways. First, don't neglect reading the text of the Gospels. The "fruit of the tree" in Gospel studies is devoting all one's energies on the origin of the Gospels. "He used this. They used that. Etc." Read the Gospels. And pay attention to things like tense, voice, mood, person, number, phrase order, clause order, etc.

Second, don't fully buy into redaction criticism. By the way, Huizenga's frustration with redaction criticism is one that I share. I actually believe that Jesus said "An apprentice is not above his teacher . . . " during his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount/Plain; I don't think Luke, seeing it used at a different point in time during Jesus' ministry, thought it would look nice in his adaptation of Jesus' sermon. It might sound crazy, but people actually taught the same thing more than once in the first century!

Third, when you read arguments based on internal evidence dealing with Gospel origins, think about what the opposite position's explanation might be of that passage/text. There is probably another explanation.

By the way, he calls the different readings in Matt 26:64 (σὺ εἶπας) and Mark 14:62 (ἐγώ εἰμι) "a passage which greatly complicates the theory of Marcan priority" (6; he discusses this on 133). Feel free to check it out if you're curious about what he says.


Huizenga, Leroy A. The New Isaac: Tradition and Intertextuality in the Gospel of Matthew. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill, 2009.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I Love To . . .

I love to eat lunch with my wife! Lesly made spaghetti with meatballs today. It was delicious. Those of you who've been over for a meal know what a wonderful cook Lesly is. I really love everything she cooks. (I'm pitiful when she goes out of town!)

Couch Shopping

Lesly and I went shopping for a couch this weekend. We didn't make a purchase, but Lesly thinks she's found the perfect one. I agree! We'll see what happens in the days ahead. We probably won't get one until December 1, though.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dave Black's Greek DVD's On Sale (25 Percent Off)

I just saw that Dave Black is offering his Greek DVDs at a discounted price! Click here to check them out.

God's Presence During Difficult Days

I sent this email recently to one of our friends whose father is getting ready to go home to be with the Lord. Jesus Christ died on the cross for him and paid the price for his sins. And this brother is an obedient follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's for that reason, and only really for that reason, that there is light shining around the corner of a very dark alley.
"We really do care about you, friend. Know that you are loved. Our hearts are heavy because your heart is heavy. It’s one of the inexplicable realities of being in this thing the Body. Does my heart hurt for anyone that is, or is related to someone who is, diagnosed with cancer? Yeah. It does. And a thousand times more so today after having seen the tears that cancer brought Lesly and her family. But the tug and weight that Lesly and I feel on our heart when we read your updates is stronger because of this bond that we have in Christ. Why? Because we are one body in Christ. _____, we are praying for you. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone praying for you right now more than Lesly is. This is all fresh on her heart. Each email is fresh reminder of (1) the worst day of her life, when her father drew his last breath, and (2) the only hope in her life, that our last breaths on this earth are not the end; though our earthly tent be torn down, we do have a building given to us by God the Father, one that’s not made with human hands and one that’s eternal in the heavens. Let the greatest greatness of heaven be most prevalent in your mind and heart during this time (and I know it already is). Let your heart be filled with God’s peace and comfort. And may you find him, just as Lesly did, to be more present in your life in the days ahead than ever before. He loves you."
Is there someone in your life that is walking through a dark valley? Ask God to use you in his or her life. I remember how much Lesly benefited from a short note like the one we sent today. The truth, we found the presence of God to be directly connected to the presence of other believers in our lives. He uses us, folks. Yes, there was more to his divine presence in our lives than just other believers coming around us and loving on us. That part is impossible to explain. He draws near. And his presence is priceless. But the way God ministered to us through our brothers and sisters was immense. We knew we were loved. We knew it because God's Word said it. We knew it because Jesus proved it. And we knew it because the members of Christ body showed it.

What's Your Preferred Nomenclature For Aspects In Greek?

I was asked that question earlier today. My answer is:
  1. Aoristic
  2. Imperfective
  3. Perfective, and
  4. Stative
Besides stative I added the following in parentheses: "I think it's worth breaking this one off on its own". I think imperfective aspect dealing with actions is distinct from imperfective aspect dealing with "be" verbs. The use of ἔλεγεν in Luke 23:34 is different than the use of ἦν in John 1:1-2. When teaching verbal aspect, I think it's helpful to go ahead and make the distinction between the two.

Anyone else want to chime in? What's your preferred nomenclature? I'm not frozen in stone with mine, but you'll have to convince me.

On My Plate Right Now

Well, I'm getting ready to eat dinner, so maybe that's why my mind told me to title this post "On My Plate Right Now." But this post isn't at all about what's on the cuisine for this evening. Some people have asked me what I have in the works right now so far as teaching and writing. Here you go.

Of course, the number one thing is teaching my current courses. I'm teaching two sections of BIB515 Introduction to Greek Language Study right now. I'm also teaching one section of BIB539 The New Testament Use of the Old Testament. All three have been exceptional courses thus far. I actually just finished teaching the in-residency portions for all three courses this past week. They couldn't have gone any better!

In addition to that, I'm always working on my next courses. That just sort of comes with the territory being a new prof. Everything is kinda new, you know what I mean? Since we've launched our Logos Bible software, I now get to revamp my BIB516 Greek Language and Exegesis course. I'm thrilled about that. While not for Capital Seminary and Graduate School, I've also been tweaking my syllabus for Greek Exegesis of Philippians, which I will teach in Peru in Jan/Feb of 2015. I can't wait for that opportunity. I don't know the names of the students yet, but I've been praying for them everyday. Yep, everyday. You say, "It's not even close to class time." I know, but I'm praying for them! And when I get their names, I'll start praying for them by name everyday.

What about writing? Hmmm. Well, I'm editing the pre-proofs for our Spanish translation of Learn to Read New Testament Greek. That's a big task, but one that's so worth it. You should see how the layout looks! Henry Neufeld at Energion Publications has really made the manuscript come together nicely.

Beyond that, I'm mainly honing in on a couple of publication overseas. I can't go into too many details about one of them here on the blog. But I made significant progress on that one today. The second one, dealing with the Complutensian Greek New Testament, I'm coauthoring with Antonio Piñero in Madrid.

The next big thing for this month is finishing up my preliminary collation for my Complutense research. I need to work through one more major pericope. Once I have that done, I should be good to go for making some progress in Rome with their Greek manuscripts.

Prayers are always appreciated.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

MamaB's Autobiography Available In Spanish

Our sister, Fiorella Polo, recently translated MamaB's autobiography into Spanish. The title is La Historia de Mi Vida: Un Testimonio de la Gracia y Fidelidad de Dios. Dave Black's closest co-laborer in the work of the gospel meant so much to Lesly and me. Her autobiography will grip you from page one. She walks you through her life and shows you what it looks like to walk with "the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day" (Gen. 48:15). Becky's autobiography says exactly what Jacob said in verse 15.

It's available in English here. But I want to encourage you to purchase a copy in Spanish. You can preorder it here. Maybe you read this website and English is your second language. If you know Spanish, prefer to read in Spanish, etc., please get a copy of this book. It will bless you so much. But maybe you don't know Spanish. Do you know someone who does? Have you been looking for a way to share the gospel with them? Have you got someone who speaks Spanish in your office, the McDonalds you go to, the Mi Casita Mexican restaurant down the road from your house, and you've been looking for a way to minister to them? Lesly and I cried when we read it. We, of course, knew MamaB, and we were close. But you know what? Work through the pages of this book and you'll see the Becky we knew. You'll see the godly woman who modeled for us what it looked like to follow obediently after the one who gave his life for us on the cross. You'll see the one who was resolved from an early age to live for the sake of the gospel. Purpose? Becky had it. Love? Becky gave it. Wisdom? Yep, and lots of it.

Speaking of that wisdom, let me share just a snippet of it with you. Rewind to a few years ago, one of the toughest years ever. It was the year that Lesly and I felt the presence of the Lord in our lives in an indescribable way, really like never before. Lesly's father was diagnosed with cancer. Lesly and I were there when they told him, "It's not going to be long." It felt like an orange sprung up in our throat. We choked. It was hard to swallow. Lesly was down there for the rest of the months leading up to her dad's death. As the day got closer, we all knew he was going to leave us and go home to be with the Lord. I'll never forget this one time talking to Lesly's mother. Her heart was being crushed. Pain that I simply can't imagine. So I did what I thought was best. I guess I did what you'd expect to see in some heart-wrenching Hollywood movie. I told her that I would be there for the family. I told her I wouldn't let anything happen to them. I told her that if she needed anything that I would be there. That was the gist of the conversation. . . . Well, I'll never forget talking to MamaB later. I shared with her how Lesly's mom was doing and, in passing, just shared with her my "comfort" for Judith. What happened next was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. "Thomas," Becky said, "you can't do that. You can say things like that. You can't do all those things. You can't be there for everything. You promised Lesly's mom that you would do the things that God promises to do. Those are his promises, not yours. Those are things he can do, not you. Her attention needs to be on the One who will be there for everything, for every need, for every tear, for every late night when she can't sleep, for every anniversary, . . . ."

I was sharing about this story this afternoon in my Greek class. We were looking at 1 Pet. 5:10. Are you familiar with the verse? One of our English translations reads this way, "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." Among the many things we talked about, I pointed out to everyone how the intensive pronoun ("himself") is really what MamaB was teaching me a couple of years ago. Why's Peter put that in there? Because he wants everyone to know that God–and no one else–will do the verbs found in the end of the verse. He himself–not Thomas, not us, not you–will comfort those who are in their moment of deepest despair. It doesn't mean we don't comfort too. We do. But we can't make the promises God makes.

Our lives were FOREVER changed by MamaB's example and investment. She poured herself out in service to others, especially to Lesly and me.

What do I think about her autobiography? Honestly, I think you'll say the same thing after reading it. Your life will be forever changed, too. There are bios on Jonathan Edwards, Winston Churchill, Robert E. Lee, etc. I'd exchange them all for My Life Story by Becky Lynn Black. Why? Because it tells the story of a God who uses everyday people to do extraordinary things. And extraordinary they were.

A Greek Class Goes To D.C.

What a day, what a day! This one goes down in history, for sure. I had a blast. I'm excited. I've been on a mountaintop all day. Well, maybe it's not a mountaintop, just a hill–Capitol Hill, that is. Today was exceptional. Our Greek class at Capital Seminary and Graduate School took a field trip down to the Library of Congress. We were able to see (and touch) a 13th century, handwritten New Testament on vellum parchment, the Bay Psalm Book, the Complutensian Greek New Testament, the Geneva Bible, Eliot's Indian Bible, a 1611 King James Bible, and pages from the Gutenberg (we got to see the whole Gutenberg downstairs in the Great Hall). How many Greek classes get to do something like that? Wow!

Mr. Eric Frasier was so kind to our class. The service at the Library of Congress is always exceptional. I can't stress this enough. The library staff is the warmest I've seen in D.C., hands down. Eric, seriously, thank you so much for everything you did for us today. It was a blessing for us to see all of the books we saw today. I'll never forget it, and our class will never forget it!

After we visited the Library of Congress, our class went down the street and had lunch together at a restaurant. The fellowship was great. Sitting back and listening to all the conversations, I thought to myself, "These students are making a difference in the world. These students are living for the Great Commission." I was blessed by the fellowship. Spending time with brothers and sisters who want to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ–that's great fellowship.

After lunch, our class walked up a few blocks to Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Can you see a recurring theme in this post? We were blessed, then blessed some more, then blessed again! The leadership at Capitol Hill Baptist let us use one of their classrooms for the afternoon so that our class wouldn't lose anytime commuting back to our Greenbelt site. Chris Herndon went above and beyond. He fully equipped a room for us with power outlets, extension cords, white boards, etc. Excellent! We didn't get a chance to see any of the elders. They were just heading out on their trip to North Carolina for the IX Marks conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Wish I could be there.)

F. F. Bruce wrote this:
"Mid-century [1450] witnessed the invention of printing—an invention which seems so simple to us who are acquainted with it that it may seem surprising that no one had thought of it before, or at any rate had thought of it as a means for multiplying the output of books. Few inventions, apart from the invention of writing itself, have had such far-reaching implications for human life and culture. Henceforth, where formerly each individual copy of any work had to be laboriously transcribed by hand, hundreds or even thousands of identical copies could be produced at one printing" (24).
It had actually been thought of before Gutenberg. Apparently, the Chinese had beaten everyone on this endeavor. Moving beyond that, though, Bruce says it best. The printing press changed everything. Everything. Today we were in a room with some of the world's most influential books. History came alive for us. Greek came alive for us. These books were just about priceless in their own day because of the access a copy of them would grant people to knowledge, ideas, and, more importantly, to the Word of God. Today we have a plethora of resources literally available to us at our fingertips. Some great, some good, some not so good. But much has been given to us. We live in a time where we have access to so much more than any generation before us. What will we do with such access? Squander it, or leverage it for the sake of the gospel? Here's to the latter.

Today's going to seem a little overboard with pictures. Forgive me ahead of time. Enjoy!

Want to see more pictures? Click below! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

BIB515 (Greenbelt) Meeting Tomorrow and Thursday

It's near 11:00 p.m. You know what I'm thinking about? –My Greek class that meets tomorrow. I can't wait. It feels like Dec. 24th when you're six years old. Tonight I was able to finish setting up my room. All of the name tags are in their spots. Their course materials are sitting in front of their chairs. And a few Greek words are written on the board: εὖ, δοῦλε ἀγαθὲ καὶ πιστέ. God cares a whole lot more about this than he does with whether or not you get an A in the class. In fact, you can get an A in the course and not honor and please the Lord Jesus Christ. It really can happen.

Alright, it's time to wind down. Class, I can't wait to see you tomorrow!!!!

A Great Essay On A. T. Robertson

For all you lovers of all things Greek, you'll want to read "A.T. Robertson and His 'Monumental Achievement'" if you get a moment. Lots of great stuff in there. Be sure you read some of Robertson's quotes at the end.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Class Is Visiting The Library Of Congress

On Thursday, Sept. 25, our Greek class will meet in Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. We have the wonderful opportunity to visit the Rare Books and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress. We will get to see the Complutensian Polyglot Bible (1514-1517), which contains the first printed Greek New Testament, and Erasmus’ Greek New Testament (1516). In addition to this, we will get to see things like a vellum manuscript, the Gutenberg Bible (1450s), the Geneva Bible (1560), the 1611 King James Bible (1611), and the Eliot Indian Bible (1663). Needless to say, this is going to be an opportunity our students will never forget!

That's one of the amazing things about being up here in D.C. You never know what kind of class you can create. All of these wonderful resources all around you. All of this history right at your fingertips. I'm grateful to the Lord that we get to teach in the capital, study in the capital, and, more importantly, represent our Lord Jesus Christ in the capital.

The Library of Congress staff is exceptional. They are concierges through and through. Special thanks to all of them, and especially Eric, for making Thursday possible. I can't wait!

Three Lectures On New Testament Greek

The Bible Society of South Africa is hosting three lectures on New Testament Greek in the coming weeks. Here are the descriptions for each:
  1. Tuesday, 30 September: The languages of New Testament times and the reason why the New Testament was written in Koine Greek. The history of the texts of the New Testament, examining the age and authenticity of the oldest existing texts. 
  2. Tuesday, 7 October: The focus will be on the translations of the New Testament, the types of translations, the value of different versions and the advantage of being able to work with the original Greek. 
  3. Tuesday 14 October: Looking at ways of using the Greek text for analysis and understanding will be shown with examples. Some of the dangers of mis-using the Greek will also be discussed.
The speaker is Lenora Jackson. Her bio on the event page reads as follows:
"Leonora Jackson is currently involved with the extended programme in the College of Humanities at Howard College, but was previously lecturing in the Classics Department of the former UDW where she taught New Testament Greek for 20 years."
All three look interesting. I'll be touching on each one of these issues on Wednesday and Thursday when I meet with our BIB515 students.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What A Wonderful Class!

When one of our deans at Capital asked me to teach BIB539 Current Issues in New Testament Studies, I asked, "What would you like me to cover?" He replied, "Got any ideas that you think would be beneficial to students? A course they'll be interested in taking?" I thought about it a little while, and my answer was, "The New Testament Use of the Old Testament." Just think about how much the Old Testament is used in the New Testament. The truth is you can't really study the New Testament without dealing in some way, shape, or form with this important issue in New Testament studies. Well, I am so glad that we offered this class. And the students really appreciate it too. Our in-residency days on Friday and Saturday went very well. The students came ready to rock-n-roll in class. Yesterday the students got to teach most of the day. Their presentations and instruction couldn't have been any better! 

Do I really get to teach the Bible? in seminary? me? am I dreaming? really? 

Lord, thank you so much for saving me and turning my life upside down. Thank you for giving me this wonderful privilege to serve at Capital Seminary and Graduate School! Thank you, thank you, thank you!