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January 2011 Blog Archives

Monday, January 31

5:15 PM One of the things I so appreciated about this report from Arthur Sido is his reference to the practice of the "holy kiss"; and, indeed, I quite agree that the practice will seem strange to many of us who live in North America. But in Ethiopia it is practiced among all believers: men kissing men, men kissing women, women kissing women, and women kissing men (there is usually no distinction made between the genders).

Of course, the "kiss" is often no more than a light brushing of cheeks or sometimes even a mere "shoulder to shoulder" hug.

But there is physical contact -- and this in a culture that also practices the more distant handshake.

In addition (and, brother Arthur, I hope you're sitting down!), men hold hands with other men in public. I do it all the time -- and love it! Here I am with Nigussie, an Alaba church leader, as we walk through the village of Dayda.

Seems to me the church in the U.S. could learn a thing or two from our Ethiopian brothers and sisters about the "holy kiss."

2:20 PM I was a bit surprised to see that Jim Wallis was moderating sessions this year in Davos. I'm not sure what the World Economic Forum has to do with discipleship. World peace initiatives, mammoth aid drives, gigantic government programs often set out to do one thing while God is out to do something else. Jesus did not come to convert civilization but to take out a people for Himself, and His business should be the business of all Christians. As He put it, "I must work the works of the one who sent me" (John 9:4). I know I'm beginning to sound like an Anabaptist. But the church cannot succeed by secular standards and kingdom values. Jesus calls us to a new community of discipleship, a countercultural community that walks to the beat of a different drum.

2:12 PM Just accepted an invitation to give a guest lecture in a colleague's class. Josh Waggener teaches church music at the seminary and has asked me to talk about the poetry of the New Testament when he introduces early church and patristic worship practices on Feb. 22. Love the cross-fertilization of the disciplines!

2:05 PM Today Becky allowed me to take her out for lunch. Isn't she sweet?

11:26 AM B & H Academic have announced the release of the second edition of Craig Blomberg's Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey. Writes Howard Marshall:

Nothing of significance that has appeared in the last dozen years seems to have been missed by Craig Blomberg and his assistants in this careful updating of his well-received survey text on the Gospels and Jesus in order to fit it for a fresh generation of students. This is a rich resource from which even the seasoned scholar can pick up valuable material.

The Amazon listing may be found here.

10:02 AM In Mark's Gospel, Jesus is the servant of all servants, reaching, preaching, teaching, caring, healing -- tirelessly! I think Paul was the same way. Just read the so-called Peristasenkataloge (forgive me for using a term popularized by Rudolph Bultmann but it is a good one!) in 2 Corinthians 6 and 11. "We have often been overworked." "I have worked much harder (than the pseudo-apostles.)" "Often I have gone without sleep." Where in the world did we get the idea that we are to work only 8 hours a day and only 40 hours a week? Not from the Bible. Paul says we are to "buy up the time" -- as if time were a precious commodity to be used to the full.

Thomas Edison was a famous inventor. By the time he was 80 had had taken out 1,000 patents. He worked 18 hours a day and slept only when he was tired. This remarkable man once said, "Time is not a commodity that can be stored for future use. It must be invested hour by hour or else it is gone forever."

Student, are you making the most of your time in school? One day you and I will have to turn in an account of our academic stewardship (Luke 16:1-2). Note that carefully! We are required to be stewards of God's gifts to us, and not just stewards, but trustworthy ones (1 Cor. 4:1). When I was in seminary I determined before the Lord that, with His divine enablement, I would get an A in every class I took. Did I always succeed? No. But we will never reach higher than what we aim for.

To be a student is a great privilege. It is also a great responsibility. Let us, then, be good stewards of our time and shake off all sloth!

8:43 AM Alan Knox reveals the secrets of his approach to biblical interpretation. His series on Colossians begins here.

8:41 AM Paul Himes has some helpful insights on singleness in his essay How to be a "singles-minded church" (without necessarily having a "singles ministry")

8:14 AM Read the latest news from Egypt -- in classical Greek!

8:08 AM The University of Saint Mary announces an opening in Theology/Pastoral Ministry. And no, that is not an oxymoron.

8:02 AM My friend Rod Decker wrote (Answering Dave Black on Mark 1:12):

Dave Black (on his “non-blog blog:) ) asked today....

If I may ... mine is not a "non-blog" at all. It is an "un-blog."

The Dave Black Blog: The Un and Only!

7:52 AM In the book The Last Templar, the antagonist named Vance describes the Gospel of Mark as follows (p. 323): 

"None of the Gnostic Gospels had a passion narrative," Vance pointed out, "but the four gospels Irenaeus chose did. They spoke about Jesus' death on the Cross and about His resurrection. They linked the story being promoted to the fundamental ritual of the Eucharist, the Last Supper. And they didn't even start off that way," he scoffed. "In its earliest version, the first of them to be include, the Gospel of Mark, doesn't talk about a virgin birth at all, nor does it have the Resurrection in it. It just ends with Jesus' empty tomb, where a mysterious young man, a transcendental being of some kind, like an angel, tells a group of women who come to the tomb that Jesus is waiting for them in Galilee. And this terrifies these women. They run off and they don't tell anyone about it -- which makes you wonder how Mark or whoever wrote that gospel would have ever heard about it in the first place. But that's how Mark originally ended his gospel. It's only in Matthew - fifty years later - and then in Luke, ten years after that, that elaborate post-Resurrection appearances were added to Mark's original ending, which is itself then rewritten."

Who says textual criticism and source criticism aren't interesting subjects! Especially if you are a young Christian, settle it in your mind once and for all what you believe about the historical origins of the Gospels and whether the final verses of Mark are original.

This is one reason I am asking my exegesis of Mark students to read Perspectives on the Ending of Mark this semester.

7:30 AM Interesting statement here:

Torrance was a student of Karl Barth, who discovered the church fathers.

Yes, one indeed has to discover the fathers -- and their significance for biblical interpretation. Perhaps one could also say:

Black was a student of Bo Reicke, who discovered the church fathers.

7:07 AM What is the significance of the Greek aorist?

“MADE US ALIVE” IN THE GREEK TEXT IS AN AORIST TENSE VERB…The aorist tense in Greek grammar signifies (among other things) completed action. God has completely made us alive; we are completely alive in Christ…

Read Alive with Christ and then decide whether this is exegesis or eisegesis. I think you can guess where I stand.

Sunday, January 30

8:20 PM For those of you in Australia who were kind enough to request a review copy of Why Four Gospels? please be patient with us. I am told that delivery to Australia is about 10 days, so do not think we have forgotten you if you should not receive your book immediately! 

8:08 PM We had a good day today. The kind when you enjoy the fellowship of believers you've not seen for a while. The kind of day that makes you glad you know churches like Bethany.

I spoke, Becky spoke, and (I think) the Spirit moved in our midst. I talked about what God is doing in such places as Egypt, Iraq, and Iran. I feel like we are on the verge of something huge right now in terms of missions and the kingdom. The world is such an odd kaleidoscope of conflicting movements and agendas. Many of its problems are due to colonization and nationalism. The fact is, the world is being readied for Antichrist, for the Big Lie, for the final delusion. Nations are choosing the false and God lets them reap the consequences of their choice. We might as well face it. World news is nothing but a set of grim facts. Things don't make sense, the nations make fun of the Christian faith, and demons dance in their glee. This age is a wreck but God sent His Son to be the Second Adam of a new race of people, and as many as received Him became sons and daughters of God and heirs of the coming kingdom. While the world is torn in strife and politicians debate issues, we cannot forget that our salvation is accomplished and our Lord's work has been completed on the cross. I do not rejoice over the distress of nations, but when all these things come to pass I am bidden to look up because all of this means that the age is fast drawing to its close and the Lord will soon return. Meanwhile, behind all the bad news reads the Good News: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The way has been opened into the Presence of God but it is the way of the blood. God has no favorites but He does have intimates. My prayer is that when the nation of Egypt -- or Iran or Iraq -- blows wide open for the Gospel, we in North America will be willing to offer hope to them, and even be willing to die in the process if necessary. Such was also the thrust of Becky's talk as she talked about the faithfulness of the persecuted flock in Ethiopia.

Becky and I spent the afternoon in prayer and fasting. Acutely aware of pressing needs both here and abroad, we brought to bear upon them through prayer the mercy and power of God. Prayer is not an appendix to Christianity; it is the very essence of the Christian faith. Prayer does make a difference. Elijah attempted great things for God and expected great things from God. In prayer he teamed up with the Almighty and the two of them were worth more to Israel than mighty horsemen and chariots. Our Lord Jesus spent most of His time out and about among the crowds, but He withdrew to pray for further ministry. Sometimes we need to quit talking and turn to God. There is no use trying to serve the King unless we are willing to yield our unsurrendered selves, consenting to our crucifixion with Christ, putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and walking in the Spirit.

Tomorrow I will continue my studies in the Gospel of Mark. This Tuesday my students will begin teaching the class. I trust that what at first may seem as a duty to them will end up being a joy. Above all, I hope we will learn the lesson of Mark: that discipleship is always costly, that it requires the cross, obedience, and self-denial, that only Jesus can straighten out our warped thinking when we measure our lives by quantitative, not qualitative, standards. We learn it slowly but learn it we must: "Apart from me ... Nothing."

Saturday, January 29

8:44 PM Need a good capper for the day? Then read Allan Bevere's comments on the Egyptian protests. Ausgezeichnet, Allan!

8:36 PM Rod Decker, who will be publishing his own commentary on Mark in the (near?) future, has published his response to my query about prepositional prefix morphemes in the Gospel of Mark (see 10:10 am below). Among his many perceptive comments is the following:

I’m not sure I like the way the question is phrased. It implies that only a certain answer is compatible with inspiration. If I believe in the verbal inspiration of Scripture (and I do), of course the prefixes are inspired. But that’s not the question. The question is, do prepositional prefixes always change the meaning of any verb to which they are prefixed? Must κατα- always add a perfective/intensive nuance? The examples you cite imply that it does. There is no question that sometimes they do, but always? Perhaps what we should be asking is, “How do we determine if/when a prepositional prefix adds some nuance, and if so, what is it?”

This is much clearer than my original question. Thank you, Rod, for the correction. Naturally, for one who believes in verbal plenary inspiration, every word, everywhere is God-breathed. The same goes for a word's constituent morphemes. The real question is: What do these morphemes mean, in context?

The compound verb I struggle with the most is perhaps kataphileo in Mark 14:45. Judas kisses Jesus. That's clear enough. But what does the prefix kata suggest, if anything? The ISV has, "kissed him tenderly." Would "affectionately" work better? I simply do not know. I do know that in Ethiopia there are various levels of affection/intensity when kissing a brother or sister in Christ, depending on the closeness of the relationship.

Any thoughts on kataphileo, Rod?

7:56 PM It hit me tonight, as Becky and I enjoyed dinner at the local Pizza Hut, just how media crazy our society is. The restaurant had not one, not two, not three, but four television sets blaring away, each set on a different channel. On the way home Becky remarked to me, "I hate to think of how much time I wasted watching TV growing up." I, unfortunately, grew up watching TV every evening, and when I hit puberty things only got worse. Truth be told, I've spent a lot of wasted time in front of the television set, though from time to time one finds something truly worth watching -- as, for example tonight.

On one TV set they were showing the news from Egypt. It's hard to watch the death and destruction going on there. I'm firmly convinced that Egypt has absolutely the most beautiful scenery in the world, or at least in the countries of Africa I've visited so far. The week Becky and I spent there in 1985 was unforgettable. I hadn't reckoned on seeing the Gaza Pyramids and the Sakhara Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings and the Cairo Museum and King Tut's Tomb. When B and I decided to take public transportation from Jerusalem to Cairo people thought we were insane. And maybe we were. But crossing the Sinai and the Suez Canal was an unforgettable experience for us, as was our train journey to Luxor in an overnight sleeper car -- a creepy old relic from the British era, I'm sure. From first to last our self-guided tour of Egypt was a fascinating experience, in which we drank deeply of this historic nation. Before returning to the States I decided to buy my camel saddle and bring it home with me. Today it sits in my Wake Forest office, a reminder of a wonderful trip to one of the world's most historic places, knowing that today it is going through the throes of a revolution and there is nothing I can do about it save pray.

Meanwhile, I try and remain focused on the work at hand. Thank you, all of you, for the way you've supported the needs in Ethiopia in recent days. You've shown your love and care for people you'll never meet. For some reason the Lord Jesus has allowed you to tangle your lives up in the fabric of a place many thousands of miles away. Because of your generosity Becky and I have been able to send the church in Alaba money to repair their damaged vehicle and to provide medical care for those wounded in the recent attacks on Christians. Thank you for standing in the gap with us. For being the conduit of God's mercy and love. For joining us in the adventure of a lifetime.

Reality is so much better than living vicariously through a television set, isn't it?

2:54 PM Did Peter follow John the Baptist?

2:37 PM Rick Saenz asks How much teaching is enough? He raises some good questions indeed. Rick comments:

My proposal is simple: before starting a sermon, the preacher should quickly state the point he is about to make, then excuse anyone who has heard enough on that point. What would those of us who are excused do instead? Well, I suppose we could discuss some other point of doctrine that interested us more.

This is one of the best blog posts I've read in a long time. As I said earlier today, much of the "information" we get about the Bible could be received in one fourth the time if we simply sat down and read it -- and this might well include a synopsis of our sermons.

2:26 PM A reminder to all SEBTS doctoral students: The deadline for submitting a paper proposal for this year's ETS southeastern regional meeting in Georgia (March 25-26) is Feb. 1. Go here for details.

1:38 PM Denver Seminary's Alemayehu (Alex) Mekonnen writes an excellent piece on the importance of fasting and prayer in the early church. He notes:

I encourage you to go through the Scriptures and discover how God responded to an earnest and fervent prayer. The church in Antioch has grasped this truth and was practicing it. Their spiritual disciplines and theological convictions made huge contribution to the inward growth of the believers and to the outreach ministry of the church.

What do you think? Do you sometimes fast when you pray? Should you?

Incidentally, this essay is just one part in a series that Alex has written on the church in Antioch. The entire series is well worth your time. You will notice a missions heartbeat in everything Alex writes, as he is an Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies at Denver and has also taught in Nairobi.

1:17 PM Wow! It looks like Houston Baptist University is hiring!

12:30 PM If the Bible is truly God's "GPS for the soul," does it matter which version we use? Just askin'....

11:34 AM Looking forward to teaching the Word and sharing about the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia at Bethany Baptist Church near Moriah, NC tomorrow. Service time is 10:30.

10:28 AM Andrew (whose delightful blog keeps me coming back for more) asks What Value Have the Fathers? For what it's worth, here's what I wrote in the preface to the second edition of Why Four Gospels?:

To suggest that evangelical Christians should pay attention to the fathers will strike many as absurd. Is not the very hallmark of Protestant Christianity the commitment to a text-centered hermeneutic?

But then I add this:

Though I am very happy to be classified as a text-based exegete of the New Testament, it will be clear that I think we have abandoned a rich source of knowledge. For me, this means that although I delight in studying and reading the New Testament in its original language, I think it is an advantage -- rather than a detriment -- to learn Scripture through the works of Tertullian, Luther, Calvin, and Yoder. Indeed, I believe that the fragmented and atomistic approach to the New Testament documents today is often merely an excuse for intellectual laziness.

If you think that's bad, check out this statement from the same preface!

The late Bernard Orchard once quipped to me that, if I took the fathers' writings seriously, I -- an evangelical Christian -- would be accused of being a Roman Catholic in Protestant clothing! I sometimes put the matter this way to my students: If reading  the church fathers critically makes me a catholic (please note the small "c"), then so be it.

10:10 AM Are the prepositional prefix morphemes found in certain verbs in the Gospel of Mark inspired? My guess is that they are. In other words, the author could have used the simplex form of the verb but didn't. Shouldn't we, therefore, try to reflect that usage in translation? Here are a few examples involving the prefix kata:

  • 1:36: katadioko. ISV: "searched diligently for"; NIV: "went to look for"

  • 10:16: kateulogeo. ISV: "tenderly blessed"; NIV: "blessed"

  • 14:45: kataphileo. ISV: "kissed him tenderly"; NIV: "kissed"

Is the ISV guilty here of "over-translation"? What do you think? How would you translate these compound verbs?

9:51 AM Andy Bowden wants to know: What did the apostle Paul do when he wasn't preaching? His surprising answer is found here

9:48 AM My colleague Bruce Ashford thinks Phil Hopkins' new book God's Desire for the Nations is worth reading. So do I!

9:40 AM Andrew Rozalowsky has raised a vitally important question. During my 35 some odd years of teaching, as I have often mentioned, several factors have combined to shape my approach to graduate theological education. Let me mention one or two of them.

1) The purpose of a seminary, in my opinion, is not to disseminate information. Most of what we learn in lectures can be gotten in one fourth the time by reading books. Now here is a very curious thing. I found that most of my college and seminary professors used the "you sit still and I instill" approach to teaching. We students would sometimes describe the process in less flattering terms: "One end gets numb and the other end gets dumb." The access of knowledge over the past 20 years via the Internet has made strict lecturing redundant in many cases. The classroom, I think, could better be utilized for discussion of what the students have already read prior to coming to class.

2) My second point is possibly a bit more controversial. In my view, the purpose of a formal biblical education is primarily to equip students with the tools they need for their own research. I realize, again, that I have been influenced by my own experience as a student. As I sat through my English Bible classes in seminary I was shocked by what I considered to be a travesty of the text. I think in particular of a course on 1-2 Corinthians in which we barely made it through the first epistle before the semester ended! The experience of taking the biblical languages and courses in pedagogy made the greatest impression on my young mind. I felt that a student's basic commitment was to the truth, and that one should be able to follow the evidence wherever it led in an atmosphere of free inquiry. I still feel this way. For me, the opportunity I had of devoting my time in seminary to honing my exegetical and hermeneutical skills was enjoyable beyond words -- and all of this within the parameters of confessional evangelical institutions. (I know some people who think that one cannot be a true scholar if one espouses evangelical convictions about the Bible, but I do not agree with them.)

Of course, I have known some excellent expositors of the English Bible who taught from a reservoir of Bible knowledge rather than from the canteen of Saturday night. But I dare say, the reason I had confidence in their preaching was that I sensed that underneath the 10 percent was the other ninety percent of the iceberg -- a solid foundation in the languages of Scripture.

The evangelical's acceptance of the Bible as the written Word of God forces me to study it in its original languages, and I can think of no better foundation in seminary than a linguistic education for the cultivation of sound biblical hermeneutics.

8:25 AM Once again, Eric Carpenter reminds us that New Testament church gatherings were highly participatory. He is right of course. But we must be careful not to make anything, not even our desire to share together when we assemble, into a god. The real challenge is to demonstrate the reality of our fellowship by such things as sympathy, forgiveness, practical help, prayer, and -- yes -- a commitment to seeing that everything is done decently and in order during our gatherings (and sometimes, Eric, this may mean acquiescing to just sitting there quietly during a worship service out of deference and respect for the church leadership). What a vast area of thought that opens up! It is not just during the gathering that we are the Body of Christ. We are saints together all week long. The need may be to visit a shut-in or help look after a neighbor's child or express sympathy in an hour of grief or simply intercede on our knees when a brother or sister has a moral fall. All of this, I imagine, can happen regardless of how much "outlet" there is for sharing during the Sunday gathering.

Above all, we must remember that the gathering exists for the going, as I have so often said. House churches have often been criticized for being too inward looking. If you disagree with this assessment, prove your critics wrong!

8:02 AM Who do you know who shares your passion for the kingdom? Whose iron is sharpening yours? From whom are you gaining courage and maturity?


  • Help share the workload with us. We are "yoked together" in ministry.

  • Stir us up to greater faithfulness.

  • Delight in our successes and weep with us when we face disappointments.

  • Are not afraid to challenge our faulty thinking. "Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy." It's good to hear the truth even when it hurts.

  • Are intercessors. They have accepted the responsibility for holding us up before God.

Who are your special friends, the teammates in your life whose spiritual passion has been a blessing to you? Why not pause and thank God for them right now?

7:55 AM Playing church or doing the kingdom?

This “Jesus paradigm” – this downward path I have been describing – offers us a completely alternative vision of the church. The old Christendom model exalts the church as church. In Christendom our ultimate identity lies in being “good church goers.” It involves “accepting Jesus as our Savior.” It means “sound” preaching and believing the “right” doctrines. Our primary concern becomes “doing church right.” So if we hold to the right doctrines and preach expositionally and worship in the right way and refrain from evil practices, we are “good Christians.” Jesus, on the other hand, came to inaugurate the kingdom of God. In the Jesus paradigm, our ultimate identity lies in being kingdom builders. His kingdom now becomes our focus. Jesus bids us to enter the kingdom and follow Him. In this kingdom, denominations and church loyalty ultimately mean nothing. His was never a kingdom of earthly power, status, and influence to begin with.

From The Jesus Paradigm.

7:48 AM Jacob Cerone asks What Is the Church? Why not join the discussion?

7:42 AM Nick Norelli, book reviewer par excellence, has just done it again. Read his review of Canaan to Corinth. Nick just made my life more complicated, however. I now have to include this monograph in the final chapter of my revised Paul, Apostle of Weakness (in which I deal with the topos of weak/strong in Corinth).

P.S. For a complete list of Nick's outstanding reviews, go here.

7:34 AM Missions quote of the day (Matt Capps):

Many of our churches have always been committed to missions – globally and locally. Our challenge to be missional takes those strategies and places them in the hands of every church member and asks them to be a missionary where they are day to day. See, being missional is primarily a way of thinking about the church and how it relates to the world.

(Note: Please ignore the comment of my colleague Bruce Ashford about Matt's beautiful head.)

Friday, January 28

8:32 PM My sincere apologies to Brian Fulthorp for causing him such mental distress. On the other hand, a little cognitive dissonance ain't necessarily a bad thing!

Incidentally, if you are a blogger and would like a gratis copy of Why Four Gospels? for review, just let me know and I'll get the book in the mail. That's true even if you live Down Under :-)

8:02 PM Well, did you read the essay by Warfield on the emotions of Jesus I linked to below? If not, you missed a huge blessing. Did you notice how Jesus handled disappointment? Did you see what He did when He was moved with compassion -- or anger? He kept on serving others. It's just that simple. He took a towel and water and basin and washed the feet of people. He thought of others more than He thought of self.

I needed that reminder today. The music had gone out of my life. My singing was suffering. I have great reason to thank Jesus for His example. Just think: Deity stooping to drudgery! Whenever I am sad, when the pain seems unbearable, my God is able to make all grace to abound, but nothing under the sun can be as dry and flat and graceless as grace without service, grace that does not glorify God nor help anyone else.

This is what we are here for. In body and in spirit, whether we are glad or sad, in sickness or health, our business is to glorify God just as Jesus glorified His Father -- by doing His will and serving others.

11:16 AM I have a confession to make. For years I failed to understand the power of Satan to derail the work of God in Ethiopia. Yes, I knew that an eternal battle was raging between Christ and the devil. But I severely underestimate the severity and depth of the conflict.

Not any more.

In recent days we have seen how the devil operates. He is unspeakably cruel. He is cunning beyond all imagination. And he has unseen hosts of evil at his disposal. The Bible declares him to be:

  • the god of this world

  • the prince of the power of the air

  • the ruler of this world

  • a strong man, fully armed

  • a murderer from the beginning

  • a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour

Today, Satan is attacking along the front lines of the church in Ethiopia. The problem is much more then a clash of religions. The problem is diabolical. Its outward and visible manifestations vary. There might be open persecution. Or there might be internal dissension and carnality. Either way, these conflicts and issues are matters of the heart, the will, the conscience. In other words, our battle, again, is spiritual. It does not take place in a geographical location but in the most treacherous depths of our hearts.

This great truth brings with it an important lesson for me. Even though we can never succeed in destroying the devil, we can aim for his withdrawal. "Submit yourselves to God," wrote James. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." God promises that the devil can be turned back, if only temporarily. What's more, although we should expect attacks as being usual, we can also also accept them as being usable-- if we allow them to help us grow our spiritual muscle. Happy the Christian who sees every attack, every trial, every setback as a means to that great end!

Church in Ethiopia, as you face the trials, temptations, and pressures of  living in this evil world, may you have it as your settled aim in life to always seek God's approval in all you do. The battle with the devil is life-long. He will attack us as long as we live. May we, then, lead a "life that is worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him" (Col. 1:10), regardless of the temporary outcome. 

7:25 AM Quote of the day:

This is revolution by Twitter and revolution by Facebook, and technology long ago took away the dismal rules of censorship.

Read Egypt's day of reckoning.

7:15 AM Received this email yesterday:


If you're interested in this subject, you should read an essay by B. B. Warfield entitled "The Emotional Life of Our Lord."  Unfortunately, it's not included in the 2-volume "Selected Shorter Writings" but it might be online somewhere.

Sure enough, the entire essay is online. Mark students, you might want to take a look at it. Here's a sampler:

It is Mark, for instance, who tells us explicitly (iii. 5) that the insensibility of the Jews to human suffering exhibited in a tendency to put ritual integrity above humanity, filled Jesus with indignant anger. A man whose hand had withered, met with in the synagogue one Sabbath, afforded a sort of test-case. The Jews treated it as such and “watched Jesus whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day, that they might accuse him.” Jesus accepted the challenge. Commanding the man to “rise in the midst” of the assemblage, he put to them the searching question, generalizing the whole case: “Is it lawful to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” “But,” says the narrative, “they kept silent.” Then Jesus’ anger rose: “he looked around at them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their heart.” What is meant is, not that his anger was modified by grief, his reprobation of the hardness of their hearts was mingled with a sort of sympathy for men sunk in such a miserable condition. What is meant is simply that the spectacle of their hardness of heart produced in him the deepest dissatisfaction, which passed into angry resentment.

7:05 AM Read Will Rice's tribute to his Lab Bohdi. As a dog lover, I know exactly how you feel, Will. Enjoy the memories.

6:55 AM Claire Patty reviews a wonderful missionary biography: Evidence Not Seen. She writes:

Darlene's faith in this book completely overwhelms me. She constantly sought Jesus throughout her whole journey and never once failed to trust in Him as her Deliverer and Friend. Though she was almost starved, was working well beyond her own strength, and was emotionally and physically exhausted, she always knew her Savior was there for her.

I need to get this one. B and I have just finished reading Hudson Taylor's bio. What a blessing good biographies are.

Thursday, January 27

10:31 PM To the author of I Hate Greek Exegesis: I feel your pain. In fact, I've often inflicted it, I'm sure! Please let us profs know what we can do to improve our classes and make studying Greek more interesting. We're not perfect!

8:18 PM I love this kind of "bar raising":

On another note, speaking of young adults, we had an 18-year-old lead our Wednesday evening service last night at church. His name is Justin Gourley. He taught from Hebrews chapter 2, verses 1-4. Daunting passage! Yet, he handled it wonderfully! He had prepared, studied, prayed and poured much time into “studying to show himself approved” and was an excellent teacher. Thanks so much Justin!

Why would I turn the pulpit over to an 18-year-old? Because I’m raising the bar.

Read Raising the Bar by Kevin Brown.

7:50 PM Thank you Lord for -- laundry?

7:42 PM Today I immersed myself in Mark chapter 2. Translated every verse, parsed all 121 verb forms that occur, and read through R. T. France's commentary. Also outlined the chapter (with my own paragraph titles). Why did I do this? Because this is the assignment for my students next week, and I do not expect them to do anything I have not done first. I've also asked them to read Rethinking the Synoptic Problem and Why Four Gospels? for next week -- which I also re-read in their entirety today.

Wow, that latter book is pretty convincing!

1:18 PM Becky and I are in the planning stages of our trip out west to take one last nostalgic look at places that are deep in our hearts and memories. Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Canyon de Chelly, Hobson Park, Tamarisk Grove, Cuyamaca. We especially miss the deserts of Arizona and California. Right now I'm trying to put together our itinerary and arrange our camper rental. I think I just found the perfect vehicle. Can't you just see us tooling around the country in this beauty?

(Shhh, don't tell Becky -- it's a surprise.)

1:05 PM Rondeaus, eat your heart out. Papa B is cooking Chinese food for supper tonight. By popular demand, mind you.

12:44 PM Quote of the day (Stirling Bartholomew):

Staats was a NT scholar but he had the Waltke style of teaching. No english bible, thank-you, even though the class was listed in the catalog as english bible.

Amen to that. Any time I teach so-called English Bible classes I keep finding my Greek New Testament in my hands rather than any modern English translation. Actually, in my opinion, no seminary should offer English Bible classes, period.

11:56 AM Here are two verses I pondered this morning (Eccl. 10:6-7):

Stupid people are given positions of authority while rich men are ignored. I have seen slaves on horseback while noblemen go on foot like slaves.

What a strange paradox: Servants on horses, and princes walking around like servants. The equestrians have become servants and the pedestrians rulers.

I thank God for those in my life who were willing to walk now and ride later. History is full of them -- men and women content to live in obscurity. Many of them were my former teachers. Posterity may fail to recognize them, but I will never forget the impact they made on my life simply because they got down on my level. On the other hand, I've seen incompetent, inefficient men elevated to high positions. They have their reward, I suppose. But I'd much rather see a prince on foot than a flunky on horseback.

P.S. For once I would like to see a chapel speaker whose congregation numbers under 50 yet who is as faithful to the Lord Jesus as any mega-church pastor.

11:44 AM Just accepted my first Ed.D. student at SEBTS. I love education and educators!

11:39 AM The news we've been waiting for:

Becky's Cyber Knife procedure at UNC has been scheduled, starting next Friday at 12:00 for a "dry run" (simulation), followed up by the real thing probably early the following week. God has been so good to us. May not one single complaint or murmur ever come from our lips!

7:58 AM At least two of you have chimed in about my question about the verb ekballo in Mark 1:12.

Rod Decker writes:

The present tense of [ekballo] in Mark 1:12 is used in its discourse function of marking the beginning of a new paragraph; the time reference is past. Despite Mark’s usual use of this compound verb in reference to exorcising demons (10 of 16 occurrences), [ekballo] need not have any connotation of force (the word has a fairly wide semantic range; BDAG, s.v. [ekballo], 299.2); contra Marcus: “the violent action of the Spirit” (Mark, AB, 234, see also 167).

And Thomas Hudgins concludes:  

I think the answer lies in what the authors are trying to communicate. I think Matthew has a purpose. I think Mark has a purpose. And, I think Luke has a purpose. And, John as well. When you compare how each of the synoptic authors presents Jesus' means of arrival into the wilderness for his temptations, the authorial intentions are seen very clearly. Matt. 4:1 reads: [ho Iesous anechthe eis ten eremon]. The use of the verb [anagomai] demonstrates that Jesus was "led up" to the wilderness. This verb is very fitting for Matthew's gospel which is presenting Jesus as the Messiah, the rightful heir to the Davidic throne. That theme is clearly seen even in the introductory geneology [sic]. Thrice David is mentioned (Mt. 1:1, 6). Like a king, Jesus is led up to the wilderness. Mark's gospel presents Jesus, not as a king, but as the servant of God (see Mk. 10:45). You know, I actually lend myself to the translation of [ekballo] in Mk. 1:12 as "cast out." There is quite a few uses throughout Mark where this is the understanding. The prefixed preposition with the verb has the meaning elsewhere in the gospel. I think Mark is trying to communicate that Jesus is cast out into the wildnerness [sic] like a slave.

Thomas also discusses how the verb is translated in the major Spanish versions of the Bible. I was also curious to see how French and German translations handle this matter:  

Louis Segond: "l'Esprit poussa Jésus dans le désert"

Luther Bibel: "alsbald trieb ihn der Geist in die Wüste"

Any other thoughts? For what it's worth, I tend to side with Thomas on this one, though I might prefer a term like "compel" (NLT) over "push/drive."

7:38 AM Don't forget: The irrepressible Michael Green (author of Evangelism Through the Local Church and many other books) is a keynote speaker at this year's 20/20 conference on campus. The dates are Feb. 4-5. For information go here.

7:11 AM On Tuesday next we'll be looking at the first-class textual variant in Mark 1:41. Was Jesus "moved with compassion" or was he "moved with anger"? In 1999, M. A. Proctor wrote a doctoral dissertation at Baylor defending the latter reading: "The 'Western' Text of Mark 1:41: A Case for the Angry Jesus." To me, the external evidence is sufficient to show the originality of the reading "moved with compassion," and I will argue such in class. However, I want to use this variant as a launching pad into a broader discussion of the emotions of Jesus -- emotions that seem to be highlighted in Mark's (Peter's) Gospel. We'll also take into account Matthew's statement that has Jesus condemning, not all anger, but only "causeless" anger  (Matt. 5:22). Here again there is a major textual variant, and once again I have sided with the minority in defending the authenticity of the little adverb "without a cause." If you would a like .pdf copy of my Novum Testamentum article in which I discuss Matt. 5:22, I'd be happy to send it you via email attachment. Simply write to me at

6:59 AM Evangelical scholarship, to a very great degree, offers few challenges to the shopworn views of the academy. Instead, it tends to affirm, almost without exception, everything we've been taught for decades. This is true of the synoptic problem. The place of a seminary is obvious. I want my students to face serious challenges to their presumptions, even if this threatens the shibboleths of their upbringing.

Wednesday, January 26

9:32 PM Tuesday in our Mark class we had a lengthy discussion about Mark's style and diction. Along this line, take a look at this well-written essay on Markan style. The peroratio is marvelous:

The stylistic features here strongly suggest a Gospel that is to be read in a rush, with an emphasis on the oral performer’s gestures and tone of voice to bring out special emphases. Alongside the present or continuous past tense and repetition of immediately”, they suggest a Gospel to be read at a single performance, at a fast pace, but not without dramatic pauses. And all in Everyman’s everyday speech.

Next Tuesday we'll continue the discussion of Mark's somewhat peculiar style by examining what the Fathers had to say about this Gospel.

9:25 PM I have no problem whatever with self-educated pastors and church leaders, not at all. But if you are going to claim you have a doctorate, please be so kind as to tell us where you received your degree, even if it is a diploma mill in India.

9:12 PM Just prayed for the saints in Alaba, and their persecutors. I remain more deeply committed to the work there than ever before. When they suffer, it is my suffering also. But there is hope:

The Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge (Psalm 46:7).

9:06 PM Wonderful sentiment from a wonderful New Testament scholar of yesteryear (J. Gresham Machen):

From the beginning, Christianity was certainly a way of life; the salvation that it offered was a salvation from sin, and salvation from sin appeared not merely in a blessed hope but also in an immediate moral change. The early Christians, to the astonishment of their neighbors, lived a strange new kind of life—a life of honesty, of purity and of unselfishness. And from the Christian community all other types of life were excluded in the strictest way. From the beginning Christianity was certainly a life.


8:44 PM Bec's up! She had something to eat (I made her some Jell-O and macaroni and cheese), sent out an email to our private Ethiopia update list about the persecution in Alaba, and is now sipping some hot tea while watching an episode of Wagon Train. The quiet around here, however, is deafening. Seems a bit of laryngitis has set in.

When you say your prayers tonight, please ask God to help Becky's sore throat to improve, will you?

Gracias, amigos! 

6:24 PM Was Jesus "pushed" into the wildness by the Spirit to be tested by Satan? One writer seems to think so:

Before Jesus can begin his ministry, the Holy Spirit leads him (in Mark's Gospel he is pushed) out into the wilderness.

The Greek verb here is ekballo. The text says that the Spirit "ekballoed" Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 1:12). The same verb is used to describe the way Jesus would "cast out" (ekballo) demons. It seems to be a strong term, but did the Spirit have to force ("push") Jesus to submit to temptation? The Message has, "At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild."

What do you think? How would you translate ekballo in Mark 1:12?

4:22 PM Substitute teaching is a thankless job that requires gobs of patience. But nothing prepares you for the classroom quite like it. So my hat's off to Alex Stewart for subbing for me today in my Greek class while I was at UNC. Hope you enjoyed the students as much as I do!

4:02 PM Students in my exegesis of Mark class will definitely want to check out this new book.

3:50 PM Love this quote about teaching (Donald D. Quinn):

If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job. 

3:37 PM Becky and I are so pleased with our thoracic surgeon at UNC. He tells us that everything went well today. He implanted 6 gold fiducials without any trouble, so now we await word from the radiology department for our next "hot date" at UNC for Cyber Knife. Right now Becky is resting comfortably -- a little sore but doing fine. As always, she brightened up every room she went into today and even had a chance to pray with one of the hospital staff. Ministry is ministry, regardless of the location.

Thanks a whole bunch for your intercession on our behalf!

4:42 AM Off to UNC on a wing and a prayer. Becky's cancer in her lungs is now in 4 of the 5 lobes. Her brochoscopy today is greatly needed. 

4:40 AM What my trips to Ethiopia have taught me:

  • Practical Christian fellowship calls for help when it is needed and not merely when it is asked for.

  • Believers are, and always will be, saints together, regardless of race, nationality, political affiliation, or denomination. Yes, I said denomination.

  • If I want to serve God I must never dash ahead of Him in impetuous enthusiasm nor lag behind Him in double-minded unbelief.

  • Only when I apply the truth to my own life diligently can I prove my Christian discipleship to others, Ethiopians included.

  • I must live sacrificially for others. Only then can I can rightly reflect the one who "though He was rich yet for our sakes became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich."

  • Missionary work is non-stop, 24/7. To call Sunday the "Lord's Day" doesn't mean that the other days belong to me.

  • Spiritual warfare is never easy, and we are likely to get hurt. But the final victory is ours.

P.S. Missions is nothing other than the this-worldly part of church life. The church does not have missions. It is missions. 

4:35 AM Have you noticed just how many verbs in Mark's Gospel contain prepositional prefix morphemes -- many of them used with an intensifying force? Simply amazing.

Tuesday, January 25

8:22 PM The rain has just started to fall. Yep. I said rain and not snow. Maybe our "mild" winter is finally coming to an end.

8:16 PM Northwest Nazarene University announces an opening in Old Testament.

8:16 PM You gotta love our registrar Sheldon Alexander. He moved my smallish Greek exegesis class from a large, impersonal classroom to a comfortable conference room -- in my own building to boot! -- at the drop of a hat. That man will do anything for his faculty. What a gem.

8:11 PM Shout out and a big thank you to my assistant Andy Bowden for being willing to calculate my final grades from J-term for me today. How he manages to get anything done when he has such a happy baby is beyond me.

8:05 PM Eric Carpenter wants to abolish hierarchical leadership in the church. Here are his reasons. What do you think?

For me, the New Testament is clear about such matters. In New Testament Christianity, leadership was provided through qualified plural elders who never constituted a separate class from the so-called laity and who were chosen from "among the people." Moreover, their job was not to do the work of ministry but to equip God's people for works of service. Eric's goal is clear: to mobilize the whole people of God to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12) -- and a growing chorus of New Testament scholarship has begun to affirm his position.

7:54 PM Keith Watkins reviews Robert Cornwall's new book Ultimate Allegiance

7:22 PM Great news! We have insurance approval for Becky's procedures at UNC. What an answer to prayer and a reminder that God can be trusted to take care of us. This whole ordeal has forced me to stop trusting in my own power, ability, eloquence, enthusiasm, courage, and sufficiency and to trust instead in the all-sufficient grace of God.

So the next step begins tomorrow morning at 6:30 sharp at UNC. The surgeon will implant Becky's fiducials in preparation for the Cyber Knife procedure (to take place probably late next week). It's all in God's hands. He knows the outcome; I don't. But this I do know: Through 19 months of turbulence, we have continued to be sustained by God's presence and to continually experience His power, purpose, provision, and protection. Our circumstances may change, but God never does. I once was incurably proud of my ability to cope. Not any more!

Praise be to God.

Monday, January 24

7:22 PM As many of you know, Becky and I have had the privilege of going to Ethiopia twice yearly since 2004 to serve God's church in that great nation. (B was raised there.) We have adopted an intentionally cooperative philosophy of missions -- that is, we work side-by-side with the existing church in Ethiopia and merely come alongside and do whatever we can to help it. We do not plant "our" churches. This is not merely a matter of personal taste with us. It is a spiritual issue. By choosing to work with the existing Body of Christ in Ethiopia, our goal is to bring believers there and believers in America together as equals.

When Jesus said, "This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you," we see that true love involves the sacrifice of self on behalf of others. It means being willing to deny our own ambitions, anything in fact that centers on self, for the blessing and good of others. We are called upon to forfeit things that we might consider perfectly legitimate in order that others may find their way to Jesus.

In this regard, Becky's latest essay at our home page will bring you up to date on what the Lord Jesus is doing in Ethiopia. It's called 2011 Ethiopia Focus Points. Among other things, it highlights the glorious work of Bible distribution.

As you read it, remember that as Christians we are never called upon to match Jesus' love. But we are called upon to mirror it, and to do so as a constant pattern of life. Perhaps Becky's essay will be a starting point for your involvement in the work of the Lord Jesus in Ethiopia. Others of you have already been faithfully supporting the church there. Either way, whether Ethiopia or some other nation, let us all learn to reflect the love of Christ by sacrificing self for the blessing of others!

6:12 PM William Barclay tells the following story. Someone was once talking to a great scholar about a younger man. He said, "So-and-so tells me he was one of your students." The teacher answered devastatingly, "He may have attended my classes, but he was not one of my students."

What do I want my students to learn from me this semester? Among other things, that:

  • Knowledge without obedience is downright sinful.

  • Saving faith is always working faith.

  • Greek is essential but not the Open Sesame of interpretation.

  • Don't argue theology with me if you are blind to the lost people all around you who are dying and going to hell.

  • God is best glorified not when we talk about "Christian hedonism" but when the Body of Christ rallies around a hurting person and serves him or her with the love of Jesus. (Words are cheap.)

  • Life is a mission trip. Take it! (I stole this one from my colleague Alvin Reid.)

As an educator, I love watching the Master Teacher at work. Jesus called His disciples not only to learn the truth from Him but to be with Him. In other words, truth can't be learned in a classroom. Jesus called Peter not merely because He wanted to teach truth to Peter but because He wanted to model truth for Peter. In other words:

Christian Education = Likeness Education.

If you don't believe me, just read Luke 6:40.

5:47 PM Alright DBO readers, it's high time you increased your vocabulary. Here's your new word for the day:


Derived from the Greek, it means something like "The moment when you suddenly get a joke."

Want to try it out?

Heard of the lady who dressed up her dog as a mailman at Halloween?

He bit himself.

5:38 PM B's test is over and all went well. Lord willing on Wednesday she'll have the fiducials implanted. UNC will call us tomorrow with the appointment time. While I was waiting for Becky I had the delight of completing what I think is possibly the most enjoyable crossword puzzle I have ever done, and I've done thousands of them through the years. This from the Los Angeles Times. The four longest questions were these:

  • Comfortable situation to live in, with "the"

  • Low paying but rewarding project

  • Minnesota-based dairy cooperative

  • "Like that's going to work!"

The answers?

  • Lap of luxury

  • Labor of love

  • Land o' lakes

  • Lots of luck

But here was the clincher. Question 41 across read "Cyberchuckle, and a hint to this puzzle's four longest answers."

The answer, of course, was:



9:57 AM My poor wife. Has been without food or beverage since last night. And now she gets to drink that oh-so "delicious" contrast in preparation for her scan. Not to worry: I'll be there to cheer her on -- and to wine and dine her afterwards!

(Okay, we'll skip the wine part.)

Thanks for all your prayers!

8:40 AM For the believer, dying is gain, and to depart and be with Christ is far better. For the unbeliever, the most practical thing to do is to prepare for the one engagement he or she is certain to keep. 

8:06 AM Speaking of Mark...

Matthew and John seem to be holding their own, while Luke is on the rise. Poor Mark, though. The man is sinking!

Read Something about the Name Mary?

7:57 AM Missions has become universal. Indeed, almost every nation on earth is a "receiving" nation, even the U.S. Here's proof (if you needed it): Archbishop urges clergy to re-evangelise USA.

Have you honestly prayed about where the Lord Jesus would have you serve, beginning in your own community? Every one of us has a role to play.

7:44 AM A brief reminder to my Exegesis of Mark students. A large part of our study will concentrate on the apostle Peter, whose words are recorded in Mark's Gospel. Peter's life can be divided into three parts:

  • His training (the Gospels)

  • His testimony (Acts)

  • His teaching (1-2 Peter and Mark)

Every pericope will be analyzed from this perspective. For example, we will ask, Why did Peter omit any mention of his brother Andrew leading him to Christ? That event is recorded only by John. Perhaps meeting Christ was not as important to Peter as following Christ was. Moreover, for the double and triple tradition passages be sure to bring along your harmony of the Gospels in English or, better, your Greek synopsis.

A final suggestion: Read books about Peter's life if you can. The two best are:

I love the apostle Peter. His weaknesses are our weaknesses. And his potential is ours as well.

7:25 AM Quote of the day (Becky Black):

So often now, the teachers in our churches are simply reading a quarterly teacher's manual. Dull, boring, lifeless, monotonous reading. A true teacher is sharing with the student what he himself has learned to be true. The teacher has studied the information, has obeyed the truth in his own life, and is excited about pointing others to the truth. His enthusiasm is contagious. He is constantly motivating his students to go deeper. And his integrity underlies his words to his students.

Read The Ministry of Instruction.

7:22 AM Last night it was a cold minus 29 degrees in Speculator, NY. Brrrr. Stay warm, Rondeaus!

7:12 AM The Bible is not a cafeteria line in which we move along with our tray, taking whatever satisfaction we crave.

7:01 AM Heard the one about the man who wrote a love letter every day to his sweetheart for 6 months and she ended up marrying the mailman? She had gotten to know the latter better than her suitor.

Students, our goal this semester is not to know about Jesus. It is to know Him!

6:57 AM Before I spoke last night I requested testimonies. They do us a great service in the Body!

As people shared their stories of God's faithfulness and care, all of us were reminded that Christians were meant to constitute a community characterized not by its formulas, rituals, ceremonies, or sermons but by quality of life. Amen!

Sunday, January 23

4:55 PM What a great day it's been. Tonight I feel led to teach from Luke 3:23, which says that Jesus was about 30 years of age when He was "starting out" in life. I'll talk about Eric Erickson's "Age Thirty Transition," apply it to Jesus' life, and then drive it home for us today. Along the way we'll look at Jesus' occupation ("builder," not "carpenter"), His baptism at the hands of John (and the aorist tense verb eudokesa -- "You are My Son," says the Father, "whom I love, and Son, what you just did made me very happy!"), and the need to rebuild our priority system, just as Jesus did at the age of 30. I asked B to stay home tonight; she has a hugely busy week ahead of her and needs to conserve her strength. It kicks off tomorrow with her scan at UNC.

By the way, of the last 10 sermons you heard, how many of them can you remember and what were they about?

2:10 PM During our talk this morning Becky quoted from Roger Steer's outstanding biography of Hudson Taylor.

Listen to the words of the great missionary to China:

China is not to be won for Christ by ease-loving men and women.... The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, souls, first and foremost in everything and at every time -- even life itself must be secondary.... Of such men, and such women, do not fear to send us too many. They are more precious than rubies.

Where are the rubies in the church today?

As I said in my post SBC-Orlando report (The Future of Southern Baptist Missions), we must stop out-sourcing missions to professionals. They will never get the job without us "lay people."

I say this to you in love but if you are not passionate about the Gospel -- if being a Great Commission Christian is not what your life is all about -- than you are dead.

Becky and I have one all-consuming desire: to invest our resources and strength in the Gospel without resting or letting up, until Jesus returns or calls us home. We have no desire to go back to the "good old days" of doing missions in Ethiopia, when the missionaries did all the work. We long to come alongside our brothers and sisters there and to cooperate with them in Christ's matchless kingdom in any way they may wish. The key is to get up off our pews (and our duffs) and accomplish the work that God has called all of us to do, if we are truly His obedient followers.

Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes financial sacrifice. And no, you do NOT need to be supported by others to become involved. B and I are completely self-supporting in the work we do in Ethiopia so that every cent that comes to us for Ethiopia goes to where the real needs are. Yes, you will have to say goodbye to distractions in your life. You will have to say goodbye to your "right" to take vacations. You will have to leave comfort behind. Did Jesus ever take a vacation?

Hudson Taylor's biography quotes the following poem from the great missionary. It says it better than I ever could:

Who spoke of rest? There is rest above. No rest on earth for me. On, on to do my Father's business. He, who sent me here, appointed me my time on earth to bide, and set me all my work to do for Him, He will supply me with sufficient grace -- grace to be doing, to be suffering, not to be resting.

There is rest above.

Rise up, Oh men (and women) of God! Be done with lesser things! Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings!

9:05 AM Off to talk about the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia. Nothing I'd rather do!

8:24 AM Is the style of a New Testament document inspired? If so, do different styles in the Greek New Testament require different styles of translation into English? For example, as I translate through Mark I find certain passages to be anything but lackluster in terms of rhetorical style. Any account of poetic effectiveness or literariness must, I should think, influence the way we translate the Gospel in terms of impact and appeal on the audience. After all, style is information.

In the ISV New Testament an attempt was made to produce in sonorous and poetic English at least certain portions of the New Testament (the Christ hymns or the 5 "faithful sayings," for example) -- that is, passages whose literary quality is unquestioned. (Liars ever/men of Crete/savage brutes/that live to eat.) In doing so, I discovered that producing a literary translation is not simple. It will be interesting to see whether there is a ready and willing receptor constituency that will appreciative such an approach when the ISV is published later this year.

But back to my question: Admitting that there is always some loss in translating from language to another, should Bible translators pay greater attention to the rhetorical techniques in Hebrew and Greek? After all, in poetic language, all of the possibilities of language are exploited to communicate meaning.

Saturday, January 22

9:55 PM Becky and I just spent a delightful evening with Thomas and Lesly Hugdins. Thomas is a former student of mine and is on his way to El Salvador to become the director of a seminary there. After a fantastic supper prepared by Miss Becky, we did a little theological deep-sea diving in the library, focusing on what it means to be "obedient" to the Holy Spirit of God, rather than simply trying to play the game of being a Christian. Surely this is the real heart of what it means to be a Christ-follower. We are accepted in the Beloved, we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son, and we have His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, every single moment of every day. Nothing is taught more firmly or frequently in Scripture than the fact that Jesus + Nothing = Everything -- a great blog title, if you ask me.

The message, surely, is loud and clear. The simple and inescapable truth of the New Testament is that there is only one key to living the Christian life and that is abiding in Christ. This is obvious, but it is rarely practiced because we are trying so hard to be "good Christians." Every believer should rejoice in the fact that the only way in which we are able to live a God-pleasing life is that, in His great mercy, the Lord gives us sensitivity to hear and understand His Spirit. Every Christian should seek to develop that kind of sensitivity and pray for an increased ability to recognize the voice of the Lord in his or her life.

Thomas and Lesly, nuestros queridos, as you leave for El Salvador, our love and prayers go with you. We are overwhelmed by your love for us but especially for the Lord Jesus. Until He returns, may He find you faithful -- and obedient.

5:12 PM The latest addition to our home page is called Felix Mantz: Man of Conscience.

And a reminder:

Persecution is ordained by God for those would follow Jesus in obedience. The New Testament consistently describes the benefits that persecution can have in our lives. Persecution tests our faith. Through it we grow stronger. Our duty is to seek His will, not to ask for relief from persecution.

4:43 PM The first chapter of Mark's Gospel has, within its 45 verses, 160 verb forms. I should know. I just made a list of them for my Greek exegesis class that starts on Tuesday. The plan is to cover all 45 verses in three hours. If you think that will be a challenge, what ever are we going to do when we get to chapter 14 (which has 72 verses)?

1:42 PM The dogs insisted on taking me for a long walk today.

We strode along the farm paths and down into the valley, where some of the Angus greeted us.

I had a nice conversation with the cows. They mooed while I talked. We have a saying here on the farm: "It is impossible to worry when you're watching cattle."

It's true.

10:02 AM Fellow Areopagus author Bob Cornwall reviews Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Oxford Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch. No, "Three Thousand" is not a typo.

9:28 AM The benefits of a paraphrase.

9:15 AM If you're a current or even a prospective book author, you must read Kevin Brown's Why I'm writing my book...

Incidentally, the book he's writing will be published by Energion Publications. If you are an author and would like to submit a proposal to us, please read What Manuscripts Are We Looking for at Energion? We would love to hear from you.

9:06 AM Quote of the day (Allan Bevere):

For Jesus, one of the biggest failings of his people was the decision not to reject violence but rather to utilize it as a tool in an attempt to bring in God's Kingdom. Time and time again, Jesus continued to insist that God's people could not be a light to the nations if they insisted on beating the nations over the head.

Isn't that delicious? It's an excerpt from Allan's soon-to-be-released book The Politics of Witness.

9:02 AM We're excited about these upcoming speaking engagements this week:

1) Tomorrow Becky and I are giving an Ethiopia report at Ca-Vel Baptist in Roxboro. Service begins at 11:00. Lots of stories and pix, as well as an update on the persecution in Alaba.

2) In the evening service at Ca-Vel I've been asked to "preach," which in my book means "teach." As usual, I'll just open my (Greek) New Testament and let her rip.

3) On Friday I'll be speaking at Cary Christian School in Cary, NC from 11:00-12:00 noon. I've been asked to address the history of the transmission of the text of the New Testament, "errors" in the Bible, and the value of learning Greek. I am honored that they use my beginning grammar to teach Greek at CCS.

Of course, spring semester classes begin for me on Tuesday. Excited for a fresh start and new beginning.

8:50 AM No controversy has been more overworked these days than the one over modern Bible translations. It is thought a crowning virtue to be opinionated about what is the "best" translation. But no translation of the Bible is perfect. (This includes the ISV of course.) There is much artificial whipped-up enthusiasm among Christians today who have found the "perfect" translation that "finally gets it right." The same enthusiasm can be worked up by a cheerleader for "slave" over "servant." Tie that to a book promotion and you have a possible recipe for disaster.

One of the distressing developments in our superficial church culture is a cheap familiarity with New Testament Greek. It is fashionable to give the impression that we (and we alone) know what the Greek really says. I have sometimes referred to this as "evangelical Greek" or, in my less sanctified moments, "philological voodoo." There is no place in evangelical biblical scholarship for the frivolous approach by which we claim for ourselves an inerrant understanding of Scripture. None of us who has labored in the task of Bible translation is ever worthy to claim perfection for our product. That includes me, and it includes you.

I will say it to my shame: I have been guilt of such nonsense myself. Perhaps I still am. But I want to do better.

7:31 AM To read Part 2 of Paul Himes' excellent series on verbal aspect theory, go here.

7:28 AM Billy Graham on aging. Wise advice indeed.

7:22 AM My, my. Now we have the Ehrman Project. Friends, it's not about Bart. Nor is the heart of the matter biblical criticism in my humble opinion.

I was once asked to debate Bart on our campus by a group of student apologists. I told them I would agree to the debate on two conditions:

1) Bart would be paid exactly what I would be paid for participating. (In other words, we would both waive our speakers' fees. Of course, I do not have a fee. His is considerable. Since I was willing to waive my "fee," would Bart be willing to do the same with his? After all, student groups are as poor as church mice.)

2) The debate would not focus on biblical criticism. (If you want that kind of stuff, go to You Tube.) Instead, I proposed that Bart and I have a friendly conversation about our spiritual pilgrimages. How could the two of us -- who come from very similar backgrounds (he studied at Moody, I at Biola; he took a prestigious doctorate at Princeton, I at Basel; he has written primers on New Testament textual criticism, New Testament introduction, as have I) -- have ended up so far apart in terms of our relationship with Jesus? In other words, how is it possible for two students of the New Testament to confront the very same set of facts (e.g., there are variants in the New Testament text) and for one of them to lose his faith as a result and for the other to be strengthened in his?

Needless to say the event never came off.

7:08 AM Dakota Wesleyan University announces an opening in Religion and Philosophy.

7:02 AM Quote of the day (from one of my former seminary professors):

Don't take yourself too seriously. Nobody else does.

6:55 AM Andy Bowden practices his spoken German in Raleigh. Why not join the conversation?

6:49 AM Former SEBTS student Josh Honeycutt has a weird confession to make.

6:41 AM Drew Maust says The Prayers of God's People Will Mess You Up.

6:35 AM On Tuesday I will begin my twenty-fourth semester of teaching at SEBTS. My thanks, first of all, to all the students who've made the journey so enjoyable. But I have to add how much I appreciate the administration and entire staff here as well. Just one example: Our registrar was able to have tables installed in my classroom. This makes writing so much easier than using small desks. After all, that's our goal: to make the learning experience here as beneficial and productive for students as possible. I remember requesting to offer evening Greek courses; the request was approved. I recall requesting to offer Greek during J-term; the request was approved. I remember requesting that all three semesters of Greek be offered during summer school; we now offer each of these classes every summer. I have never worked with a faculty and staff that was more committed to serving our student body than this one.

6:28 AM The upcoming Ethiopia mission trip will involve a great of preparation. Mission trips are like that. I'll never forget my first trip with Becky. The year was 1978, and we had been married only 2 years. Off to (West) Germany we went, but not before preparation. Our orientation took place among the hallowed halls of Wheaton College in Illinois, which Great Europe Mission used for training purposes. Not a single one of us short-termers begrudged our time in Wheaton. The goal of our orientation was 3-fold, as I recall: to reduce the stress upon our arrival in Germany, to help us avoid making needless cultural gaffes, and to bind us together as a team. My own team of missionaries (I played trumpet on a brass octet that did evangelism) needed to be reminded that shoddiness was unacceptable. Hence we practiced and practiced until we could play our music almost flawlessly. Some of us who could speak German also practiced our testimonies with each other. I memorized mine. It began, "Hat die Musik Ihnen gut gefallen?" That line was, hopefully, the entrée into a discussion about Jesus and the Gospel. The team's tuba player and I eventually developed a very close friendship. Our team also discussed the do's and don'ts of German society.

All this to say: do not overlook preparation when it comes to missions. And the most important preparation of all is spiritual.

6:12 AM Once again, a noted buffoon displays his haughtiness by mocking the Chinese. His infantile ramblings are despicable.

Oops, I forgot – he is above reproach since his talent "is on loan from God."

Friday, January 21

9:44 PM Joy Davidson, wife of C. S. Lewis, wrote a book on the Ten Commandments called Smoke on the Mountain. In the chapter God Comes First she writes these powerful words:

Hold to this [the first commandment to put God first in your life], and the beast in the heart has no power. The present loses its confusions, the future its terrors, and death itself is but the opening of a door.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

That is the law of life and happiness and courage. Courage himself, God the Lion, stands beside us to help us live by it. Whatever we desire, whatever we love, whatever we find worth suffering for, will be Dead Sea fruit in our mouths unless we remember that God comes first.

In the midst of this maddening world I must indeed remember that "God comes first." It is easy – so easy! – to make a god out of a person, including one's own wife. It is no exaggeration to say that this placing of our spouse on a pedestal is nothing but idolatry. Lewis, perhaps, did this with Joy at times, and perhaps I am guilty of doing the same thing with Becky Lynn.

It was therefore a good reminder to read Joy's words:

Hold to this [the first commandment to put God first in your life], and the beast in the heart has no power.

Becky's illness has been nothing but a blessing to us. It has had, to put it mildly, a powerful impact on our marriage. It has forced us to reconsider our life's priorities, to communicate on deeper levels than I ever thought possible, and to look beneath the surface of life and discover the roots of our own reason for being. "It is not good for the man to be alone," said the Creator. "I will make him a helper suitable for me." These words describe, not a superficial relationship, but one characterized by deep love and fulfillment.

Before we were married, Becky and I dated sporadically for almost three years. It seemed that she was always available. I loved being with her. She was always encouraging. She was easy to talk to. She has always had a deep relationship with her God and has never looked to me for her ultimate happiness. Today it is the same – only better.

To the young person who may be reading this blog, I say: your mate will not always be that 25-year old you married. She will change, and so will you. But a funny thing happens on the path to seasoned citizenship – you realize that you have the potential to change into someone even better. Along the way you will meet wives and husbands so content in their relationship with God and with each other that they are able to live happily in circumstances as they are. I imagine Jack and Joy Lewis found that to be true in their marriage. And, by the grace of the same God they knew and loved, I too am finding that to be a pleasant reality.

9:13 PM We've got about 2,600 rocks lying around the seminary. Peter calls them "living stones." His analogy is significant. "When you become a Christian," he says, "you become a living stone. Don't just lie around as solitary stones but become part of the building." Of course, the Building of Christ is far from perfect, but a thousand stones lying around on a building site are of no value at all. Find your place in the kingdom, and get working!

Here's one of the "stones" at SEBTS I get to work with. Yesterday he passed his Ph.D. orals with flying colors and now he begins the dissertation phrase of his studies. A hearty congratulations, then, to Mike Rudolph. I hope the seminary's stone masons weren't too hard on you!

From left to right: Black, Rudolph, Kellum, Beck.

8:44 PM Today marks the end of my 3-week J-term class at the seminary. According to my grade book, I think we did okay. But Greek is more than grades. My students worked hard, and with a joyful attitude. That made it all worthwhile.

It's moments like this when I look around in amazement at what I'm part of. To know that many thousands of people invested in this place so that followers of Jesus could be trained in the biblical languages. (Training, by the way, that has an even greater ultimate goal: obedience to Christ's commands.) Just to make things interesting, for some reason the spring semester began yesterday, which meant that some of our professors ended up teaching 2 classes at the same time. (Our profs aren't omnipresent but they can be ubiquitous when the need arises.) As for this prof, I'm definitely tired, but there's something so wonderful that takes place in the classroom that it defies my best efforts to describe it. Three weeks ago my students couldn't tell the difference between an alpha and an omega. Now their heads are brimming with ideas. I thank God profusely for this transformation, and ask Him to help them put all of this knowledge to good use in the kingdom.

Meanwhile, on the home front I came down today with another one of my patented HAs (Headache Assaults) that put me flat on my back this entire afternoon. About 3 hours ago I asked Becky, who had been gently daubing my forehead with hot compresses, to say a special prayer for me, and an hour later my HA was gone. James 5:16, I thought to myself: Therefore, admit your faults to each other and pray for one another that you may be healed. Prayers offered by those who have God's righteousness are effective.

Amen to that.

As for Becky, the logistics for her next procedure at UNC are well underway. On Monday her next PT scan is scheduled, and on Wednesday the thoracic surgeon will implant fiducials into her chest in preparation for the Cyber-Knife procedure (which still pends insurance approval). These fiducials, but the way, are made out of pure gold and, combined with the implants Becky received for her radiation, make my wife a walking gold mine. Students in my Wednesday class will want to know that one of my Ph.D. students, Alex Stewart, will be subbing for me that day. Yes, I know he's not your attending physician, but he's an awful good resident.

I wasn't kidding when I said I had the mother of all headaches today. Becky and I find it comforting that God still answers prayer. And to be totally honest, it's hard to be too melancholy when you're lounging around the house while your wife serves you a delicious supper.

Tuesday, January 18

9:30 PM Someone tweeted this recently:

"The Alamo: first a mission, then a battlefield, now a monument. A metaphor for many churches."

9:23 PM We have no "right" to good health, any more than we have a "right" to our own bodies.

9:19 PM Paul Himes, one of my outstanding Ph.D. students, reviews Toshikazu S. Foley's Biblical Translation in Chinese and Greek: Verbal Aspect in Theory and Practice.

P.S. Brill lists this work for the unbelievable price of $216.00.

9:12 PM Thomas Hugdins (translator par excellence) thinks it's a good idea to learn English. I quite agree. I've been working on it for years now. I do speak pretty good American, however.

Note: You won't believe this but it's absolutely true: While growing up in Kailua, Hawaii, I actually said to my high school English teacher one day, "Why should I study English? I'm not planning on going to England."

One more piece of inane triviality: When I arrived in California from Hawaii to begin my studies at Biola, many had difficulty understanding my (pidgin) "English."

8:58 PM Last night we welcomed about 80 students during the new student reception held in the wonderful Ledford Center on campus. It was my special joy to greet the newly arrived international students who have come from afar to study at SEBTS, including these Koreans.

It's inordinately difficulty to study in a foreign culture and language (my Basel experience confirms this), but it can also be one of the most joyful experiences of life to do so (as my Basel experience also confirms).

Welcome, all of you. Remember: I am here to serve you in any way I possibly can. May your years here at SEBTS be the very best of your life!

8:45 PM I am asking everyone who reads this blog to consider becoming a prayer warrior for Alaba, Ethiopia, where the battle against Christianity rages.

Church leaders are being hunted down, believers are being stoned and beaten, and the civil authorities are turning a blind eye. Now, I am not asking you to worry about the church in Alaba. Did the early church do that? Did the apostles wait for the persecution to subside before they went out and preached? Let us not speak of "closed doors" – which are merely temporary barriers that Satan erects. The very gates of hell cannot stand against the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My point is that there is a cost to following Jesus in many parts of the globe today. This world needs more men and women who will count the cost and then obey. Discipleship involves sacrifice. Always has and always will. The only way to bear fruit is to die. So let's stand with our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia. This very day they need our intercession. Not for the persecution to stop but for the church to remain faithful despite the opposition.

The biggest hindrance to missionary work is not persecution. The biggest hindrance to mission work is self. Self that refuses to go or to give or to pray or to sacrifice – or to die.

8:40 PM Andrew Rozalowsky, an up-and-coming linguist, opens a can of worms in his latest blog post, Words Missing – Where Did They Go? The question is: Can a translation of the New Testament be considered reliable if it fails to translate words such as kai? Andrew answers yes, and rightly so.

A word in Greek does not have a meaning; it has meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. Thus, kai ("and, also, even") may be the equivalent of the capital letter with which an English sentence occurs, as Andrew notes.

Students of Greek, please remember that conjunctions are not "insignificant" words. Authors used them to indicate unity and transition of thought in documents that lacked capitalization, punctuation, indentation, paragraphization, and all of the other extra-linguistic features modern printers rely on today to indicate the progression of an argument. On the other hand, to insist upon a slavish rendering of conjunctions without regard to their discourse functions is ridiculous.

8:35 PM New openings:

8:31 PM Andy Bowden writes:

I have also been surprised to discover that there has been no significant Gospel synopsis based on the Byzantine text. This seems like a volume begging to be published.

Maurice Robinson, are you listening?

8:28 PM Ryan Dunn asks:

Wouldn't it be beautiful if church were something like Cheers? Wouldn't it be beautiful if church were an environment in which people felt drawn, welcomed, integral, and wanting to share life within? I think it would be. When church is done right, that's just what it is. But, if we critically look at most churches, it's evident many aren't built for community.

Read Cheers-like Church. Then do yourself a favor and check out The Church Reborn.

8:25 PM Jody Neufeld continues her excellent series on the Beatitudes here.

8:24 PM We're home! As you know, we had a very important meeting with the thoracic surgeon at UNC this afternoon. The bottom line is this: Becky's lung tumors are inoperable. This means that surgery is no longer an option (if it ever was), just as more radiation and chemo have been ruled out as therapies since they have proven to be ineffective. There remains the possibility of treating her with a procedure called Cyber-Knife (Robotic Radiosurgery), which UNC just "happens" to specialize in. It involves shooting the larger tumors with extremely high levels of radiation. Pending approval by the Cyber-Knife committee, we are looking at this procedure taking place in about two weeks. Before that can happen, "fiducials" must be placed into Becky's lungs by a thoracic surgeon to help the oncologists know exactly where to concentrate the radiation. We have tentatively scheduled this procedure for next week Thursday. Of course, all of this awaits the blessing of our insurance company.

How to respond? Just like Paul in Philippians! Just as Paul could write that his imprisonment had turned out for the progress of the Gospel, so Becky and I know that our cancer journey has worked out for the best and the future holds no shadows. Our one fear is that we might betray Christ by our lives and testimony. Our single desire is to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Phil. 1:27) – to live in a way that commends the Gospel to our friends and neighbors. We desire to be more concerned about the needs of others than our own – to be unselfish, unconceited, to take the path of obedience, to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the companionship of His sufferings. We know we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. We are confident that our God shall supply all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. On top of it all, we know that our love for Ethiopia has never diminished. No distance can weaken it and no amount of suffering can quench it.

So thanks muchly for your prayers. And for your love. After our appointment with the surgeon I took Becky out for dinner at the Outback Steak House in Durham. As we ate we thought of our many cyber friends. I told Becky, "Every time we eat at the Outback I think of Aussie John, who has been such a faithful prayer partner with us through this entire journey." Becky replied, "Won't heaven be wonderful, Dave? We'll get to meet in person all of the wonderful people we only know now by name."

All I could say was, "Amen, honey, amen."

Monday, January 17

6:30 AM Thanks to Bitsy Griffin, I was able to read a very interesting post called Ten Reasons Why You Should Never, Ever Yell At Students. Of course, we seminary profs never, ever yell at our students. We vent our frustration by scolding them or through non-verbal language. But the author is right: to be an effective teacher we must work on "building influential relationships with students." Easier said than done but a goal worth pursuing.

6:14 AM Once again, Henry Neufeld provides us with a thought-provoking piece. This one is called What is Cutting Edge? Incidentally, last year I was privileged to speak in the ICON service Henry is describing at First UMC Pensacola and can agree entirely with his assessment:

Now I like many of the elements of worship in ICON. I think many of those elements, and the way they are blended, has helped make the service successful. But if you had asked me before this service why I think First UMC is growing, I would tell you it is because the pastors are preaching the gospel and making every effort to put it in practice. If you attend First UMC, you’re going to hear a gospel message.

Sunday, January 16

6:52 PM Dave Faulkner says Don't ignore the persecution of Christians in Iran. I for one won't, Dave.

6:36 PM Zwingli began his reforms in 1522 by attracting to himself a group of younger scholars including Conrad Grebel and Felix Mantz (who was soon to die at the hands of a Protestant church). They studied the Greek New Testament together, and it was largely upon this foundation of biblical truth that Grebel and Mantz began to reject church practices they believed were foreign to the Scriptures.

Zwingli believed in lay education, and so do I. That's why I'm so excited about an opportunity that appears to be in the making. I'm discussing with a pastor in North Carolina the possibility of starting a course in New Testament Greek based on my 24-set DVD series. I would come and teach the first 4 lessons (Friday through Sunday), then they would continue every Monday night henceforth. The class would be open to anybody -- other area pastors, Sunday School teachers, home school families, etc. What a great concept!

So here's my challenge to you: Why not consider doing this yourself in your own local church? I'd be more than happy to get you started. I'll even waive my speaker's fee of $3,500 to come. (I'm joking. I never charge to speak anywhere.)

One of my goals in life is to equip followers of Jesus Christ to be all that Jesus is calling them to be. He does this through His Word. And one of the most important Bible study tools, as Zwingli and his followers well knew, is the Greek New Testament.

Want to give it a try? If so, let me know. Meanwhile, here's a sample of the old geezer himself if you haven't seen it already:


5:48 PM You'd be proud of me. At church this morning I ran into a man I had not seen for a very long time. He greeted me as "Dr. Black." I responded, "You can just call me Dave if you like." "Oh no," said he. "I know how much work it is to earn a doctorate, and it would do you an injustice if I called you Dave."

My response?

I held my peace and, like a good boy, proceeded to talk about other things.

Like I said, you'd be proud of me.

5:45 PM Becky and I spent the afternoon visiting shut-ins from our church family. What a joy. I will never stop being grateful to God that He allows all of us to be His hands and heart to one another. I think the Holy Spirit is leading us to do this more often, perhaps one Sunday a month. We cannot be excused from the responsibility just because we live so far away.

5:28 PM I just wrote a lengthy post about church discipline. Our local church had to exercise it this morning. But the matter is far too sensitive to talk about on this blog, so I erased everything I just wrote. I will simply say this. There can never be peace and joy until first there is righteousness. This is just the way God has hardwired the Christian life.

I close this brief entry with a saying of the old Anabaptists:

For we know that both before and after baptism, we are poor and miserable.


4:57 PM Now this is what a good online book review should look like.

4:45 PM Life has been fairly busy for Becky and me these days. We've decided to make the very most of the days we have together. I feel so silly admitting it, but a huge part of this "making the most of time" for us is the ministry of hospitality. We've begun scheduling small dinner parties for folks we've wanted to get to know for a long time. No more excuses. It's time to just do it. Already our calendar is filling up. Families. Couples. Old friends. Students and their families. Neighbors. Missionaries. Last night, for example, Becky threw a small dinner party for Richard and Joy Suggs. What a delightful couple!

Richard was in the Greek class I taught for a year at Bethel Hill Baptist Church. He was one of the few stalwarts who "endured to the end." What's more, I owe him a great debt of gratitude for all the time and energy he spent in putting together these fantastic Greek vocabulary flash cards. What a labor of love!

Now, we can't spend all of our time entertaining guests here at Bradford Hall. Nor is it wise to get so busy with work and ministry that we forget the importance of relationships. I imagine the solution is a healthy balance between the two extremes. Examine your leisure time. Consider it as part of your stewardship responsibility before the Lord. Look upon your home as something God has given you to enrich the lives of others. Plan to have guests -- and then enjoy them. I promise a little hospitality won't interfere in the least with your sanctification!

9:10 AM One of my heroes of the faith is a man named Balthazar Hubmaier of Friedberg, Germany.

After Zwingli pointed to the authority of the church as sufficient authority for infant baptism, Hubmaier replied:

You must ask the Scriptures, not the church.

Hubmaier went on to say:

So what we can never truthfully be called is Anabaptists [=re-baptizers]. Infant baptism has no grounds; therefore it is not of God.

I have a photo of myself being "baptized" as an infant in an Episcopalian Church in Hawaii. Standing with me are my so-called God Parents.

In reality, my first baptism took place when I placed my faith and trust in Christ at the age of 8. Hubmaier eventually wrote a tract on Christian baptism. The full English title is "The Reason and Cause Why Every Man Who Was Christened in Infancy Is Under Obligation to be Baptized According to the Ordinances of Christ, Even Though He Be One Hundred Years Old." It was not enough to convince Zwingli. This is yet another reminder to me of how the Anabaptist interpretation of Scripture differed greatly from that of the Reformers, including Zwingli, who ended up using force to compel conformity to the state church. How tragic, and how unnecessary.

I devote an entire chapter in my book The Jesus Paradigm to the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. Their interpretation of the church's fall into error differed from that of the Reformers in more ways than just infant baptism. Especially because they refused to accept the Reformers' embrace of Constantinianism, they fell victim to the sword. But without believers' baptism, they argued, the true church of Jesus Christ cannot exist.

8:32 AM In the movie John Q, a young boy collapses at a Little League game and is rushed to the local hospital, where the doctors quickly determine that only a heart transplant will save him. When the parents' insurance company refuses to cover the costs of the operation, the father becomes so outraged that he takes some of the hospital staff hostage in order to get the insurance provider to pay for the procedure.

How far would you go -- what price would you pay -- to stave off the death of a loved one?

Becky and I absolutely believe that Jesus still heals today. But He intervenes sovereignly and not because we can obligate Him to do so. He will not be taken hostage. I realize that many of you are praying for Becky's healing, as I am, and that she would be healed in such a way that allows no other explanation than God working a miracle. At the same time, neither one of us is desperate. We are, in fact, convinced that God has called us to the greatest miracle work of all -- the ministry of sharing the Good News of salvation to the sin-sick of the world. So as we meet with the thoracic surgeon on Tuesday we do ask for your prayers. Pray especially that people will see in our lives the love of One who delights in saving the lost -- even self-made professionals. May the entire staff at UNC realize that they too can be healed spiritually -- and forever! -- by putting their faith in the Lord Jesus.

Saturday, January 15

5:15 PM Henry Neufeld responds to Will Rice's essay on small groups with a post called Organizing Small Groups. His peroration is worth quoting here in full:

I think there are small groups that develop naturally in a church that are detrimental to mission. I would suggest, however, that the solution is not to force all groups under a regimen of control, but rather the preaching of the gospel and teaching discipleship, along with appropriate, Christ-like, church discipline. I don’t mean that Rice’s good suggestions amount to forcing groups under a regimen. I’m referring to what I’ve observed in certain churches. I think one can tell the difference by observing the fruit–if groups of Christians are gathering and doing mission, it’s working.

4:50 PM I have begun scheduling my doctoral students to teach for me this semester under my supervision. My goal is to give them opportunities to experience ministry in the classroom. Learning to teach is largely a matter of trial and error. I want to give them room to lead, speak, instruct, field questions, etc. That it is the Lord Jesus -- the Master Teacher -- who creates teachers is a great relief to me -- and fresh incentive for me to join Him in the task of equipping.

4:32 PM As I walked the fence line on the farm today, trying to close any holes that the dogs might be getting through, this question came to my mind. Time and again in the Scriptures we are called to worship God in life (Matt. 10:42; Rom. 12:1; Col. 3:17; Heb. 11:11-16; James 1:27; 1 Pet. 3:7). Why, then, do we associate worship with "worship services" on Sunday morning? True Christian spirituality is total and worldly. It involves every part of our life -- including fixing fences.

Just a thought....

10:15 AM The Areopagus series will shortly announce that a new book on word study fallacies in Hebrew and Greek is in the works. I think it will make a very nice complement to Don Carson's classic book on exegetical fallacies.

Stay tuned for details....

10:10 AM Jody Neufeld asks, Whose child are you? 

10:03 AM Will Rice, Discipleship Pastor at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio, wants to put the expression "small group" out to pasture. 

9:52 AM Just read T. C. Robinson's Francis Chan on Celebrity Status and was greatly blessed and challenged.

9:48 AM More good stuff from NT Greek Class:

9:40 AM I've noticed a trend in the blogosphere. Bloggers have begun posting "reviews" of books they have received gratis from the publishers. Many of these "reviews" look more like short "book notes" than full-fledged reviews. Some are no longer than a brief paragraph or two, and many do not interact with the contents of the book to any degree.

My question is this: Is this being fair to the publishers? They have given you a book, for free, that would possibly have cost you up to 30 or 40 dollars had you purchased it yourself.

Surely these generous publishers deserve better than a book note.

8:53 AM This week I heard Katie Couric mispronounce Mauna Kea (she said "Mow-Na-Key-A" instead of "Mau-Na-Kay-A") and an NPR reporter slaughter the word debris (she pronounced the final "s"). Just for fun, then, I glanced at this post about the 100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English. Curiously, it fails to list the meteorologist's tendency to pronounce temperature as temperture. Of course, if everyone says temperture, then it must be correct, as people determine correctness and incorrectness in language, not grammar books. But still -- pronouncing the final "s" in debris? It just idn't right.

8:35 AM Do yourself a favor this morning and read Eric Carpenter's latest blog post called Thinking Outside the Reformed Box. This is blogging at its best. And be sure to read Steve Scott's excellent comment. As I overheard one student put it on campus: "We believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible." Hmmm....

8:10 AM Yesterday in our Greek class Alan Knox and I strongly urged our students to teach Greek in their local churches once they have finished their own studies in seminary. There is no better way to learn a subject than by teaching it to others. If you need some inspiration in this direction, here's a website for you: NT Greek Class from the First Baptist Church of Maryville, Il.

In other words: Yes, it can be done.

7:58 AM Should pastors negotiate their salaries? Jump into the discussion here.

7:50 AM Quote of the day (Thomas Hugdins):

[T]heological education that does not keep aflame the student's passion for reaching the lost with the gospel is officially a failure.

Read Biblical Languages: In Seminary?

7:38 AM Arthur Sido is struggling with the age-old question: Should the church be involved in society, and if so, how? He writes, "I don't see a division between caring for the needy and evangelism, between doing good works and proclaiming the Gospel. In fact it seems to me that the gospel proclamation and works of mercy (i.e. solving social problems) are not enemies but friends."

I agree. The danger of institutionalized Christianity is just that -- it is an institution in society that views its own self-preservation as of ultimate importance. But the true locus of the church is in society, not as one institution among others but as the leaven of society. The church's one and only "program" is in the secular world, which means the church can never withdraw from society.

In practical terms, this has meant for Becky and me a greater involvement in world missions as well as in anonymous acts of charity. We are beginning to move out of our comfort zone and into an other-directed lifestyle. Thankfully, we are not finding the path a lonely one -- witness Arthur's own commitment to a missional lifestyle (he is currently serving Jesus in Haiti).

7:21 AM More reasons not to use PowerPoint.

7:03 AM You'll never guess what they have in Burji now. A bank. That's right. The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia has opened up a branch office in faraway Soyama town, the leading city of Burjiland. This means that the urban Burjis now have electricity, internet access, television, cell towers, and a bank. Amazing. When Becky and I started working there in 2005 the Burjis had none of these things. Soyama was simply too far away from civilization.

Truly, the world is flat.

Friday, January 14

7:18 PM Quote of the day (from Henry Neufeld, a true cyber-guru): 

It’s time to get over the blog prejudice. People want rapidly updated content, and combining a good CMS with a regularly updated blog will help you meet that desire.

Good advice indeed. Read The Vanishing Difference Between Blog and Website.

7:10 PM Aussie John writes that Australia is hurting. He should know; he lives there. John and Val, our thoughts and prayers are with you and all of your countrymen during this terrible tragedy.

6:46 PM Nick Norelli has written an excellent blog post called On Blogging Less Often. He writes:

I don’t want to say that I’m bored with blogging wholesale but I can’t say that I’m excited about it either.  It’s just kind of blah at the moment. 

Nick's is one of the few blogs I read regularly, partly because he is so honest with himself -- which I consider to be a great strength in a blogger. His point, if I understand him aright, is that there is nothing wrong with taking a blogging hiatus. In fact, that is probably a very good thing for us to do from time to time. The tendency to feel that we have to blog can grow out of self-idolatry, that is, the need to establish our self-worth by our blog-busyness. The fact that we become anxious about all this only adds to our sense of self-importance. Perhaps blogging also provides a sop to our consciences over our procrastination to perform other, more important tasks. Thus the very busyness that we protest perpetuates the need to maintain the status quo. Especially bloggers who seek honors or recognition as the "top blogger" show a tendency, I think, to succumb to the temptation to blog for the sake of blogging, even when they have nothing to say. Blogging then becomes primarily a matter of its quantitative dimension. This, I find, to be distasteful in the extreme.

Jesus pointed us to a life where our yokes would be easy and our burdens light. Let us blog, then, as He guides us, posting what He leads us to post through His Holy Spirit, for if we allow cares and anxieties to control us we will lose the kingdom and create an idol.

6:14 PM Lee University announces an opening in Old Testament.

6:10 PM Care to fly around the Sea of Galilee? Then check out this phenomenal aerial video: 


It shows the youth hostel in Capernaum where Becky and I stayed during our study tour of Israel in 1987, when we were able to survey the land in detail from Dan to Beersheba -- and many sites in between.

6:03 PM Please continue to pray for the persecuted church in Alaba. Martin Niemöller, himself a victim of persecution in Nazi Germany, put it like this:

It has taken me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. He is not even the enemy of His enemies.

There is always need of forgiveness.

5:55 PM Ran across this statement today while surfing the web:

This recent trip I took to Dallas is another enlightening experience. Not only was I able to attend Chuck Swindoll's church. But was also able to chat to some good old Christian brothers of mine in the company.

"Chuck Swindoll's church." That struck me. How often do we speak about attending "Pastor So-and-So's church"? I've been guilty of this myself. Why do we speak in this manner? Perhaps the fact that ministry has become a profession has contributed to the problem. The structure of congregational life in many churches tends to encourage whatever prima donna characteristics a pastor may possess. His preaching is often considered a performance that is to be complimented (along with a hand shake as we go out the door). Where I live (in the rural South), we often speak of these ministers as "preachers." And, if they are really good at what they do, we may even refer to them as "pulpiteers." Thus the church becomes Dr. Smith’s church or the church where Dr. Smith pastors. (And, believe me, "Doctor" is the title you want rather than a simple "Reverend.")

I have a good pastor friend who is fighting this trend in his local church. He is working hard at equipping the deacons in his church to do visitation and to assume other pastoral roles. He has, in fact, stopped referring to himself as the "senior pastor." I admire him greatly for that. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to step down from the pedestal on which the congregation has placed you. But surely it is for the good of the Body that we do so.

5:47 PM Many thanks indeed to Alan Knox for teaching my class today and doing a splendid job of it.

Alan has multiple strengths as a teacher, not the least of which is his ability to interact with students. Most teachers are more at ease in speaking than in listening. They are better at disseminating information than they are at conducting a discussion. (I think this is also true of many pastors, but that's a topic for another day.) Alan is an expert at interacting dynamically with others. That is a great strength that all teachers would do well to emulate.

5:33 PM Paul Himes has been teaching beginning Greek and finding it a bit of a challenge (as we all did when we first started out). Read The most difficult part of teaching first year Greek. Certainly every teacher could agree with this statement of Paul's:

There's nothing like actually teaching a subject for the first time to make you realize how woefully unprepared you are!

5:26 PM Here's a list of the top 100 best selling Christian books of 2010. Alas, none of my books made the list – thus keeping my stellar record of Pulitzer-Prize losing books intact.

Thursday, January 13

11:34 PM I sit here at my computer wondering what in the world I could say about tonight's Ethiopia team meeting. The question is, Where do I begin? Perhaps the most valuable thing I can say is, Thank God for the Holy Spirit. As we sat around the dining room table and talked and prayed, each of us sensed an amazing Presence.

Of course, it was the Lord of the Harvest, to whom we willingly submitted our agenda. Don't miss the fact that missions is simply the work of the Holy Spirit through weak but yielded vessels. That's enablement. If we are to do missions God's way, we must continually abandon ourselves to His adequacy, submit ourselves to His program, and trust Him for His provision. My friends, when we do this, everything falls into place just like that! What a blessing to sit back and watch the Spirit produce unity, amity, and unanimity. And what a joy to be with people who refuse to live mediocre washed up lives without a sense of purpose or mission. Christ has given us the most exciting task imaginable -- to be the bearers of His love and redemption throughout the world, including "Utopia." The acid test of our commitment to Christ will always be the depth of our involvement in what matters to Him the most -- world evangelization.

Later I'll share with you some of the details about the trip that is being planned. But first it's simply time for me to fall on my knees and thank God for the privilege of partnering with brothers and sisters who are committed to using their tremendous spiritual and material resources for the sake of the kingdom. None is a paid professional missionary. None is a trained missiologist. These brothers and sisters are quiet men and women -- and children! -- who are working behind the scenes to make it happen. Missions has a grip on them. Their love for Ethiopia is insatiable. And they are family.

Could anything possibly be sweeter?

Below: Members of our Ethiopia team, all veterans. The Lord has already confirmed in their hearts that many of them should return to Ethiopia this year. Each is committed to setting his or her goals on their knees rather than at the drawing board. We are learning to lay aside our reliance on every human resource and wait upon God for all things. I love and admire these people so much I am, really, almost speechless.

3:41 PM Tomorrow morning our J-term Greek class will welcome a guest teacher, Alan Knox, who will introduce us to the all-important Greek perfect tense system. I'm looking forward to seeing my doctoral student in action!

3:18 PM Carson-Newman College announces an opening in religion.

3:15 PM Brian Fulthorp says you should be blogging. Of course, he's right.

3:04 PM As I have said, tonight we are having a hugely important meeting here at the Hall to pray about and discuss the next trip to Ethiopia. Where do we go from here? The Lord will show us through His Spirit. Everyone in attendance tonight has made a commitment to Christ, to His church, and to God's purposes in this world. Whatever strategy and timetable we adopt, we recognize that the task of evangelism involves bringing people to the point of discipleship. We are not interested in just another short term mission trip. We are committed to deepening ties between the church in America and the church in Ethiopia. If our goal is to merely "decision" the nations, then our methodology won't really matter that much. If, however, our goal is to help them become obedient disciples of Christ, then our methods become critically important. Thankfully, a healthy network has already been established with the Ethiopian church. As I have often said, Becky and I work from local churches in the U.S. to local churches in Ethiopia, by-passing bloated bureaucracies. Administrative overhead is non-existent. We are all fulltime missionaries. We all realize that to reach the lost is a difficult, time-consuming, costly investment. That's why it's so important to have the right team members.

I'm eager to see everybody tonight. There's nothing quite like sharing life together in the work of the Gospel. The social bonding that takes place is simply phenomenal.

2:50 PM I see the annual SNTS meeting is taking place this year at Bard College in lovely Annandale-on-Hudson in New York.

I'm usually in Ethiopia (or some other country) when the meetings are held but this year may be a good opportunity to attend again. My Doktorvater (Bo Reicke) was once president of the Society, as was his erstwhile colleague Oscar Cullmann (who at the time of his presidency held three academic chairs concurrently – in Basel, Paris, and New York). If Becky and I do attend it will give us an excuse to visit the Rondeaus in the nearby Adirondacks. What fun that would be.

2:40 PM Jonathan Grubbs has an honest question about house churches.

2:34 PM Quote of the day (C. S. Lewis):

Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

Wednesday, January 12

5:56 PM I've already mentioned the name Kevin Brown several times in this blog. Kevin is an elder at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro, NC, and a partner in our Ethiopia work. Let me mention one more thing about Kevin. We have just signed him to write a book for our Areopagus series with Energion Publications. It's a book about raising children to assume adult responsibilities. Kevin is a wise pastor and has established a "rite of passage" at Mount Pleasant that has greatly increased involvement of the youth in ministry for the kingdom.  Look for the book to be out in time for the annual meeting of the North Carolina Christian Home Educators Association in Winston-Salem this May. In the meantime, you can keep up with Kevin's ministry at his personal blog.

P.S. Kevin and his family will be spending a couple of days with us here at the Hall starting tomorrow afternoon. Can't wait!

5:42 PM From Alaba, Ethiopia, our son Nigussie writes:

Still they are following me to attack. Keep on prayer.

If you are anything like me, when you read of this constant persecution of the church in Ethiopia you might feel like giving up. Even as I type this, I am faced with a growing sense of discouragement. More than once I have asked myself, Why should I even blog about this? Is it possible for anyone here in faraway America to do anything about it?

And then I remember: God does not allow His church to do something He knows is impossible for it to do. With God it is possible to live for Christ and to do the good works that He asks us to do. Just as Christ was once bodily in this world, so are we now. What Jesus began in His flesh He now continues in His Body, the church. So, despite whatever opposition Satan throws at us, our job is to demonstrate Christ's authority as His ambassadors in this world.

And so, in the face of incessant, deadly persecution, I encourage all of us to meditate on the resources and the power the Lord Jesus has promised us:

Remember: I am with you each and every day -- right up to the end of the world!

To Nigussie and our brothers and sisters in Alaba, I say:

You are not alone.

You are not powerless.

You have miracle strength to fight this battle.

And we will not fail to pray for you constantly!

5:33 PM Brief update on Becky: Our appointment with the thoracic surgeon was postponed to next Tuesday due to the icy road conditions in North Carolina. But Bec did have an excellent phone conversation with her gynecological oncologist who assured us that we are still headed in the right direction, medically speaking, and that no significant course corrections are needed, at least for now. So a word of thanks to everyone who emailed us to say they were praying for our Tuesday meeting (that never eventuated). Please change the date to next Tuesday. And thanks ever so much.

4:08 PM Speaking of Mike Rudolph, he has produced a Greek verb chart that is fabulous. If anyone would like a copy, just let me know via email and I'll see that you get one.

3:42 PM A thousand thanks to my doctoral student Mike Rudolph for subbing for me yesterday in Greek class while I suffered from the mother of all sinus headaches. Also, a huge shout out to my colleague Alvin Reid, with whom I enjoyed a wonderful conversation over lunch on Monday.

We talked mostly about how we can become better teachers both in and out of the classroom. The apostle Paul's readiness to have his ministry judged by the quality of his converts strikes fear into my heart!

3:35 PM I enjoy nothing more than serving local churches. That's why I was pleasantly surprised to see this announcement over at Matt Capp's blog. I do think my colleague Heath Thomas is much handsomer than I, though you will notice than only yours truly is wearing a halo in his photograph.

3:31 PM Greek students! Some nifty Greek grammar videos here. Enjoy!

3:26 PM Newsflash! The entire ISV is now available on E-Sword!

3:20 PM Azusa Pacific University announces an opening in New Testament.

3:14 PM I was deeply moved by this photograph of astronaut Mike Kelly holding his wife's hand in a Tucson hospital. He is right where he ought to be.

"For better or for worse, in sickness and in health."

3:05 PM Greg Boyd discusses Constantine's pagan influence on Christianity.


Although I strongly disagree with Boyd's openness theology, he is an insightful critic of modern Christendom. His counter-cultural views about war and the sword have alienated him from many evangelicals. Indeed, the common charge made against him – and others such as Hauerwas, Yoder, and other critics of Christendom – is that he is "sectarian." The assumption is that being a sectarian is something evil. The (largely) pacifistic Anabaptists of the sixteenth century were also accused of sectarianism because they rejected coercion. I have argued in The Jesus Paradigm that the church cannot have it both ways: that we cannot maintain our faithfulness to the upside-down kingdom of God while simultaneously operating as a public interest group.

Few of us in the church seem willing to admit it today, but in terms of kingdom loyalty Christianity is almost an unabashed failure. The Gospels are extremely important here: They point us to the Christ of the cross, not the Empire. I find much cause for encouragement that there is among the younger generation a group that is beginning to rethink its view of worldly politics. And this year, when Americans north and south are commemorating the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War, is a good time to do so. If, for example, I am asked why I no longer write about this conflict, the answer will be a growing consciousness on my part that the only kingdom that matters is the blood-scarred kingdom of my Savior. I have never found it a disadvantage to be descended from a line of German Pacifists, some of whom (the Millers) lived along a little creek in Maryland called Antietam, where a great battle was fought in 1862. I cannot imagine a more counter-cultural lifestyle than theirs. "Sectarians" they were called, of course, but if that is the price to be paid for following the downward path of Jesus, then so be it.

3:00 PM Allan Bevere is an "equal opportunity annoyer." To see what he means, read his post The Politics of Hypocrisy.

Sunday, January 9

6:08 PM The Greek term for "faith" means trust, utter reliance upon, clinging to, dependence. This week in the life of Dave and Becky Black there will be plenty of chances to prove our faith. For starters, on Tuesday afternoon we meet with Becky's new thoracic surgeon at UNC to discuss our options to remove the four tumors in her lungs. Then on Thursday here at the Hall we will have our first planning meeting for our next trip to Ethiopia. I already feel way over my head in both matters. Jesus made it perfectly clear that "Without me you can do nothing." Amen to that!

I have already committed the outcome of Tuesday's cancer meeting to the Lord. In sickness or in health, by life or by death, whether He gives us a year or ten years to do so, our business is to glorify God in body and in spirit. As for the work in Ethiopia, I am reminded that whenever we give our lives to God, "we lose what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose." Yes, the work there is difficult. But Christians do not dodge difficulties. We do not wash our hands of the world's troubles by piously saying, "There are already so many needs right here in America, why should we go to the nations?" Our Lord did not give the American church so much abundance so that we would spend it on ourselves selfishly.

Becky and I are but stewards of our days and we had better number them so that we may apply our hearts to wisdom, for the time is indeed short.

5:44 PM It happened again.

I was blown away by the beauty of the Body of Christ.

I've been in churches long enough to know how rare a thing genuine body life is. But Bethel Hill has it. Let me mention but two examples. First, Miss Cindi shared with us how the pregnancy crisis center in our community is saving lives and reaching the down and out with the love of Jesus.

Her explanation of the abortion rate in America was heart-wrenching, but I'm coming to the realization that only Christ has the solution to the scourge of abortion. Then Becky told the story of the email we received this morning from our son Nigussie in Ethiopia.

I wish I could sit here and write to you that things are getting better, that the persecution of Christians has subsided, but the opposite is true. Our son told us of the most recent attacks by the Muslims in Alaba -- one believer beaten, another stabbed three times in the back. As I type this, my heart breaks for the flock in Ethiopia. The only thing that keeps me from screaming out loud is to push myself to my knees. It's such a surreal thing -- this persecution of Christians in a nation that supposedly has freedom of religion (which is an absolutely ridiculous notion). In between it all, threading itself through all the pain, there was the realization that our dog Sheba had been missing for three days -- stolen, killed by hunting dogs or coyotes, or just plain lost -- who knew? This morning, as I sat in church, I was acutely aware of my need for a Savior, to be surrounded by His love and to surrender everything to Him.

Addendum: After we got home from church we had a message on our answer machine that our dog had been found by a neighbor who had the honesty to report it to us. My heart sings for joy that the lost has been found even as it breaks because of the death and suffering I see all around me. Consider, for example, what a privilege we have of hearing the Word of God in America. We take it for granted. But this privilege costs plenty in other nations. I can almost hear the believers in Alaba saying to me, like Paul of old, "We bear branded in our bodies the marks of the ownership of Jesus Christ. What marks do you have?" Superficial religion, that's all.

8:25 AM I love to see my students' jaws drop when I tell them I do not requirement attendance in my classes. But it's true. I've always found it congenial to make attendance voluntary. I was, of course, given the freedom to do this in the places I've taught. It is not surprising that this policy has been questioned from time to time by colleagues and others, but I have never regretted my decision. When I saw the lecture halls in Basel fill up with eager students whose sole motivation was learning (attendance was not required), it occurred to me that perhaps the American system is too dependent on extrinsic motivation to get the job done.

I've always imagined that interesting lecturers would attract a fruitful followership; and, indeed, I think that it exactly the case in Acts 19:9, where the Western text of Acts adds that Paul taught daily for two years from eleven in the morning to four in the afternoon in the school house of a certain man named "Tyrant." These, of course, were the siesta hours in Ephesus. Comments F. F. Bruce:

He must have infected his hearers with his own energy and zeal, so that they were willing to sacrifice their siesta for the sake of listening to Paul.

Paul's school was "open"; and it must have been an interesting place indeed! The inference to be drawn is that Paul was an engaging public speaker. For myself, I have made it a policy to try and make my subject matter as intrinsically relevant and interesting as possible. In addition, in recent years I have found it advantageous to allow the students themselves to lead the classroom discussion while I serve as umpire and advisor during the discussion time. If I disagree with something the student has said, I can enter into conversation with him or her over the points at issue, and potentially both of us -- and the entire class in fact -- may be further enlightened.

I suspect that teaching our students how to teach and to present a topic in class is sound pedagogy and one that ought to be employed more frequently than it is.

7:53 AM Another good reminder this morning from Eric Carpenter that we gather for mutual edification, not for worship (worship is 24/7). But why mutual edification? I put it this way to my students: The gathering exists for the going. The commission of our Lord which comes upon every believer must be given highest priority (Matt. 28:19-20). This means that, as important as mutual edification is, we must put top value upon God's agenda for the church. There's nothing wrong in coming together to be mutually strengthened ... unless it keeps us from reaching our town and our world for Christ.

We err when we place too much emphasize on the gathering. "Don't greet anyone on the way" was how Jesus put it to His disciples. The Lord had a clearly defined mission for His followers. He had told them what to do and where to go. Now He's telling them not to get involved in anything that might detract from that mission. And -- please listen to me carefully -- even good things can do that. It's called the principle of priority.

The mission of the church is to point others to Christ. The calling of every Christian is to build redemptive relationships. So, having been edified during the meeting, do we feel  ready to flow into a web of relationships and network them for Christ? If not, there is something wrong with the gathering!

Evangelism is the missing link in so much discussion about ecclesiology today. God's redemptive plan is at the top of His priority list, and each of us is privileged to have a part. How do we get to that place? First, make a definite commitment to be a Great Commission Christian. Second, have faith that God will use the witness of your serving lifestyle to win the lost. Finally, don't give up! Bathe the lost in prayer. Ask God for boldness and open doors. Develop a gift-driven life. Target receptive individuals.

Friends, think about it. Our involvement with church activities does not always lend itself to becoming redemptive people. In fact, it is even possible that our "mutual edification service" is actually an escape mechanism to avoid real involvement in the world as salt and light. Here's the principle: God sows saints (edification) in order to cultivate, sow, and reap (evangelism). You are the message. No one will receive Christ through you who does not first receive you. Our attitude, our whole demeanor, will be different if deep in our hearts we expect God to use us in His great harvest!

The gathering exists for the going. Got the point?

There are millions of lost sheep out there. We're sent to find them. This involves risk. It involves leaving our little happy holy mutually-edifying huddles and getting our hands dirty in the world.

Saturday, January 8

8:28 PM Just watched one third of Gettysburg with Becky. The rest is for tomorrow night. Time now to get caught up on our reading. Becky's been enjoying a biography of Ann Judson (Adoniram's wife) called My Heart in His Hands. As for me, well -- there's nothing like a good WW II escape book, this time Escape from Colditz by Pat Reid.

Pat hasn't quite made it to the "Bad Boys" camp at Colditz yet. He first has to make his escape from the prison camp in Laufen -- dressed as a woman! Stay tuned for more...

6:30 PM As I think of all of the discussions I've had with students about church leadership, I recall the opportunity to point them to the wonderful contribution that Alexander Strauch has made to the topic in his book Biblical Eldership. But one must read his work carefully and be constantly checking it with the Scriptures (this is, of course, true of every book we read). This is why I am always interested to read what others have to say in their reviews. Over at the Nine Marks website, Paul Alexander has written a helpful review that largely supports Strauch's findings. However, I am bound to note that the review contains a significant demurral:

I share Strauch’s impulse to guard against a misperceived self-sufficiency in senior pastors, and to be wary of absolute power corrupting absolutely. But I question whether the senior pastor title or role is necessarily illegitimate on the grounds of Christ’s exclusive headship, or whether the title of senior pastor is mutually exclusive with a plurality of elders. After all, the letters to each of the seven churches in Revelation were all addressed to the singular angels of those respective churches, which most commentators regard as the singular pastors of those churches. Both Timothy and Titus seemed to exercise a role akin to what we would call a senior pastor without threatening either Christ’s exclusive headship or the plurality of local church leadership.

For myself, I tend to agree with brother Strauch rather than the reviewer. One of the most important lessons in New Testament Introduction courses is a discussion of the so-called Pastoral Epistles, which, of course, were neither written to nor about pastors. It is clear, for example, that the church which Timothy was sent to serve (Ephesus) already had elders -- Paul had met with them earlier in Miletus. As for Titus, he was charged with appointing elders in every city on Crete. As I have often said to my students, it is high time we put the term "Pastoral Epistles" out to pasture once and for all. As for the "angels" of the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3, considering the consistent use of the term angelos in the book of Revelation, it seems likely that the term is being used to refer to angelic beings in these 2 chapters.

It would seem, then, that the title of senior pastor is in fact inconsistent with the concept of the plurality of elders, assuming that the eldership is, as Strauch argues, non-hierarchical. In fact, I suggest that this is exactly what one would expect when one looks at the twelve apostles of our Lord, none of whom can be said to have held the position of "Senior Apostle." Of course, one of them, Peter, was a spokesman of sorts for the others on many an occasion, but did this make the rest "Associate Apostles"?

5:32 PM Calling all pastors/elders/overseers who think that Heb. 13:17 is important. You may want to take a look at Rick Saenz's word study of peitho. Are believers to "obey" their leaders? You be the judge.

5:01 PM Well, the wedding in Wake Forest was wonderful. Cari was one of my beginning Greek students several years ago, indeed one of the most incredibly joyful and pleasant persons to be around on campus. I did not know Blayne personally but his dad (Waylan Owens) taught on our faculty for several years before moving to Southwestern Seminary. I'm fairly sure you would have appreciated the way Waylan officiated over his son and new daughter-in-law's wedding. And who else should show up than Chris Thompson, the very first Th.M. student I had when I moved to Southeastern from Talbot 13 years ago! Chris also served at SWBTS before assuming his current responsibilities at Firth Baptist Charlotte.

Cari and Blayne now have a brand new life together. Becky and I pray God's richest blessings on the young couple as they begin their married journey. I've got to believe that it is a marriage made in heaven.

10:53 AM Andy Bowden's latest blog post reminds my so much of my own spiritual journey that the similarities are eerie. Read Marks of maturity. The Christian life is inevitably enriched when we come to terms with our own hubris, is it not? 

10:46 AM Oh my, F. F. Bruce must have been reading my mind when I posted below that I was going to be teaching the teachers at Calvary Baptist Church. On p. 144 of his autobiography I read these profound words:

The gap [between scholars and ordinary Christians] would not be so wide, I am sure, if more scholars were to involve themselves in the day-to-day life of a local church and communicate the fruits of their scholarship to their fellow church members in a form which the latter could assimilate.

He adds:

I have known some distinguished scholars who did this, to their own enrichment as well as the enrichment of the others.

Bravo, professor Bruce!

10:42 AM Just a reminder to those interested in reading the ancient languages: I am available to tutor you in Ecclesiastical Latin, as this post reminds us.

10:36 AM I see that Joel Willitts considers the ESV Study Bible the "Cadillac" of study Bibles. And, of course, Mark Goodacre considers Duke the "Rolls Royce" of graduate programs in religion.

Let's Cadillac better than Rolls Royce?

P.S. I like the ESV Study Bible, to which I contributed an essay, but I tend to recommend the Nelson Study Bible to students.

10:26 AM Today Becky and I have the honor of attending the wedding of one of my former students at Binkley Chapel on campus. Though we enjoyed a light dusting of snow last night, the sun is now shining in all its glory and the roads are fine for traveling. This is a real answer to my prayers.

See you at 1:00, Cari and Blayne!

10:18 AM Excited to be writing today a reference for my former grader who is applying to the University of Nottingham to begin doctoral studies in New Testament.

10:12 AM Been reading 1 Thess. 5:12-13 this morning. The New Testament seems to teach a gracious equality of leadership. If that is the case, how is it possible for one man to be known as the "pastor of vision"? There is no super-pastor who can do all the vision-setting, is there? After all, is there not a direct and living connection between the Head and every member of the Body?

10:04 AM I've been asked to do a 3-hour teachers' workshop on Saturday, February 26, at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC. What fun that will be! My assignment is to walk the teachers through the book of Philippians, which they will be teaching in their classes beginning in March. Exegeting a New Testament epistle is like working on a giant jigsaw puzzle of an ancient walled city in Europe. Just when you think you've figured out how to put together the walls, the ramparts, the towers, and the homes you encounter a blue, cloudless sky. The cry, "I got it", is the final act of triumph. I'll never forget the day I completed my essay on the discourse structure of Philippians (later published in Novum Testamentum). It was one of those "ah-ha!" moments the likes of which I shall never forget. I suspect that those who believe that "joy" is the theme of this New Testament book will be sorely disappointed with my essay. But as I read the epistle, I was forced to conclude that joy is at best the byproduct of something much more important.

I have said that this invitation is from a local church that is preparing its teachers to teach well and accurately. I cannot think of a better way to integrate seminary and church. Nor can I think of a single faculty member at SEBTS who would not be willing to place his or her expertise in the service of the church in such fashion.

9:47 AM Here's another gem from Fred Bruce's autobiography. In answer to the question, "How do you maintain your regular output of writings?" Bruce writes:

I have often contrived to kill two birds with one stone: to deliver material in the form of a course of lectures and then publish them in book form" (p. 299).

He adds -- and this is very significant:

For the rest, it is a matter of making disciplined use of time.

I may be wrong, but I suspect that more of us teachers would be able to write a greater number of books and essays if we followed Bruce's advice. I have noted previously how, upon graduating from Basel, I set definitive publishing goals for myself: one journal article every year, and one book every 5 years. I remember thinking to myself at the time (it was 1983), You will never reach these goals. But met -- and in some cases surpassed -- they are, and I think the reason is that I find the switch from the classroom to the writing desk both enjoyable and easy. As it is, the least we can do is to encourage doctoral students to begin publishing their better papers as journal articles. I have no hesitation whatever in encouraging my own students to do this, and they have met with some success.

Friday, January 7

8:42 PM Read 10 Principles for Biblical Relationships by Becky Lynn Black.

8:12 PM Almost forgot. Joyeux Noël to all of our precious brothers and sisters in Ethiopia!

7:52 PM Had a wonderful chat with a prospective student this afternoon. He was visiting the campus for a couple of days and getting the grand tour. Teaching in a seminary that lives and dies for missions is the most rewarding and thrilling work in the world. I have many colleagues who teach in universities that might have a greater reputation for scholarship, but I am thankful that the lines have fallen to me in a seminary and not in a university. Besides, I am of the opinion that the faculty on our campus can hold their own academically when it comes to scholarship.

7:17 PM Today in Greek class we went on yet another rabbit trail, this time along the path of ecclesiology. Church structures must be participational rather than representative, I told my students. My excuse to bring up this topic? A very good one indeed. The vocabulary to today's lesson included the adjective hekastos, which, as everyone knows, is one of the my all-time favorite New Testament Greek words -- so much so that I even invented a new word in the English language in its honor (see my book The Jesus Paradigm for a reference to the doctrine I call Hekastology). My point was simply this: If we order our churches in a New Testament way, rather than in a purely traditional way, growth toward maturity will be more participational, and church gatherings will be far less characterized by spectatorism. The professional model of ministry says, "If something needs to get done, let's hire a professional to do it" and "let only those who do it best do it all the time." As a result, only the "best" teachers teach, and only the most "proficient" musicians sing or play an instrument. A participational structure, on the other hand, creates opportunities for as many people as possible, within reason of course.

I didn't say this in class, but I for one sure am glad I grew up in a church in Hawaii that let little old moi play a trumpet solo or sing a song I had composed (accompanying myself on the guitar) or "preach a sermon" even when I was far from proficient in any of these areas. I think I am a better Christian for it -- though I wouldn't bet on it. 

7:03 PM Never shop at Wal-Mart on a Friday night. Never.

3:53 PM The house sure seems quiet since I got home today. (Right about now, Caleb would have been practicing his ukulele.) It's back to me and my girls ( = Becky plus our two female Shelties). We miss the Rondeaus but I am thankful to report that they arrived safely in Upstate New York yesterday, where they were promptly greeted with -- what else? -- a snow storm. For me, it's time to start enjoying all those pleasant memories that were formed during the past 6 months. Including some fancy uke strumming.

3:45 PM In the midst of all the discussion nowadays about how to "do" church, Kevin Brown offers some sage advice.

3:34 PM Last night I checked out a delightful little book from our seminary library. F. F. Bruce's autobiography is called In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past. Mind if I share with you a few takeaways? For starters:

What we learn when the mind is plastic tends to stick, and I began Greek under his tuition at the age of thirteen (p. 38).

Bruce is referring to Elgin Academy, where he began his studies in the classical languages. Oh, how I wish I could have started my Greek or my Latin or even my German studies when I was only 13! That's why I am so excited when I hear of families -- entire families -- studying New Testament Greek from my beginning grammar. When I was 13 years old I was surfing my life away. And then I ended up attending a high school that required no foreign languages to graduate. Little wonder that when I began my studies at Biola I thought, This is probably too little too late.

Moms and dads, I hope you'll consider teaching your kids the classical languages. And, if you must chose between them, Greek is the way to go as it opens a huge door of discovery in reading the New Testament in its original tongue.

Just my unbiased opinion!

3:10 PM I have been very impressed with what I will call the utter professionalism of the medical staff at UNC Hospital. I sense a gravitas that comes only after years of service in the health care profession. At the same time, the oncologists are affable and congenial -- certainly no ivory tower stoics. As I said, they are true professionals. They are committed to excellence in what they do, and it shows.

I desire to become such a professional in my own line of work. Depth and winsomeness rolled into one. Knowledge and passion. I figure if professionals who minister to the body can have this air about them, how much more should those of us who minister to the eternal soul. When asked what kind of a "Doctor" I am, I often quip, "I practice internal medicine." There are probably a dozen other ways I could have invested my time and talents, but I will be forever glad that God called me to a career in teaching. If I only thought about the task God gave me, and forget about the enabling power He's promised, I'd either give up or fall apart. We don't really test God's resources until we attempt the impossible. As a Doctor of Internal Medicine, I'm overextended by divine design. That's what so exciting about teaching. It's inviting 5,000 hungry men to sit down for a meal prepared from the meager contents of one's lunch box. It's the response of trustful obedience to an impossible situation. To keep things in focus, I find it helpful to report to the Headmaster every morning. I willingly submit my work to Him, expressing to Him my desire to be a channel of blessing to my students, and thanking Him ahead of time for what He is going to do.

If you're a "professional" teacher, I imagine you could do the same thing.  

2:32 PM Great news! Wieland Willker has updated his textual commentary on the New Testament again. It now contains about 2,500 pages. What a magnificent gift to the world of scholarship. I just checked his data on Matt 5:22 and am completely impressed, even if he does dismiss my arguments out of hand and without comment:

David A. Black "The text of Mt 5:22a" NovT 30 (1988), 1-8 [he argues for the inclusion of [eike], but the arguments are not convincing.]

2:25 PM The richest man in Africa lives where? Did you say Ethiopia?

2:20 PM Our friends at Denver Seminary will be holding a conference called The Holocaust and the Bible February 10-11, 2011. One paper strikes me as particularly interesting:

Dr. Erwin Lutzer – "The Church and the Holocaust" - What was the role of the church in Hitler’s Germany? The church has often come under scathing criticism for either siding with the Holocaust, or being silent when confronted with the reality of Hitler’s purges. This message/seminar is intended to give a balanced picture of the churches' involvement, both negative and positive with a view to addressing the larger question of what the role of the church should be in a an evil society, where following Christ exacts a heavy price. In the end we must ask whether we would have fared better under similar circumstances.

2:12 PM I just finished editing the next addition to our Areopagus series, The Politics of Witness, by my co-editor Allan Bevere.

Allan's goal is clear: the abolition of Constantinianism. He writes:

In other words, the church's first task is not to work to coerce the state to take care of the poor. The church's first task is to live lives of simplicity and generosity and take care of the poor ourselves. In so doing we will be witnessing to the nation that it would be a better state if it took care of the poor as well. The church's first task is not to coerce the state into outlawing abortions. The church's first task is to reject abortion as a Christian option and live in such a way that we welcome all children into the world. In so doing we will be witnessing to the nation (as Tertullian stated to the Roman Empire) that it would be a better state if it didn't kill its children.

Well put indeed. Allan observes that "both the right and the left seek political power in order to fundamentally transform America according to their understanding of biblical values while ending up being nothing more than faith-based extensions of the Republican and Democratic Parties." I couldn't have said it better.

I am pleased to commend both book and author. Not that Allan Bevere needs commendation from me; his one and only desire is to be found worthy by the One who judges rightly. And his book will commend itself. It fleshes out theory in a very practical way. I will be very excited to see this book in print.

2:02 PM Truett Seminary announces an opening in Christian Theology/Church History.

Wednesday, January 5

7:04 PM It was gift time after supper.

This included a 2011 calendar.

Almost time for our story!

5:18 PM Came home early from school to assist Matthew packing his U-Haul truck. Nate also was a huge help. Believe it or not, we managed to get everything loaded. They are leaving at 6:00 in the morning. Tonight -- by request of the Rondeaus -- B is cooking Romanian stuffed peppers for supper. Then Papa B is telling the boys their final Henny, Jenny, and Penny story for a long time to come. Becky and I have loved having a family of 5 living with us for the past 6 months. We are not eager to see them go, but we are excited to see how the Lord will lead them in the future. Matt will be interning at a church in New York and (Lord willing) beginning his doctoral studies in the field of Christian ethics. I expect great things from that young man for the good of the kingdom in future years.

Pray for me -- I'm already having withdrawal symptoms!

Tuesday, January 4

9:05 PM Because of the chance of snow on Friday, the Rondeaus have moved their departure up to Thursday of this week. This meant, among other things, that it was time for their puppy to have a bath before making the long journey north to New York. Matt snuck in and snapped these pix.

I had lots of eager help washing Alpha.

Also gave the boys a lesson in do-it-yourself doggy bathing.

Alpha is now sleeping peacefully upstairs in the boys' room, probably dreaming about the girlfriend I'm told is waiting for him in Speculator.

8:15 PM Rumor has it that God helps those who help themselves.

It's only a rumor, folks.

I am so helpless that I couldn't make it through a single day without the Lord Jesus. That's Okay. It's perfectly natural for the Christian to want to depend upon God for EVERYTHING. Strength in time of weakness. And guidance when we feel lost and overwhelmed. The bottom line is this: Without Jesus, I am going to hell. Without him, I am cut off from all that satisfies, from all that fulfills and is meaningful. The Bible calls us clay pots with treasure inside. How true.

At no time do I feel so dependent upon God as when we meet with Becky's oncologists at UNC. Today's meeting was no exception.

The tumors have increased in size. Further chemo is no longer an option.  

How did we get to this place? I asked myself. Surgery. Then 16 months of treatments. Chemo. Radiation treatments (35 of them). More chemo. Then another chemo drug. Still, the tumors in her lungs grew. Metastatic endometrial cancer, they call it. And not just plain old uterine cancer, but clear cell -- the most aggressive kind. That's what we're up against.

But there's also good news. The oncologists have agreed to pursue a technique called Cyber Knife with Becky. At least they are willing to ask themselves whether this procedure is suitable for her condition. We should have a good indication by Friday of this week whether or not this is an option for us. (So far, the signs look promising.) If so, the doctors will try to destroy 2 of her 4 lung tumors (the largest ones) with highly concentrated doses of radiation. Certainly worth a try. Then keep an eye on the situation, do another CT-scan in a few months, and re-assess.

So that's where things stand as of Tuesday, January 4, 2011.

How are we doing? At perfect peace with God and ourselves. It takes diligence, courage, and faith -- in about equal amounts. Remember, the Lord never calls us to do something unless He enables us to do it. Let's put it straight. Faith is always a return to reality about God and His character. More than anything else, faith involves the yielding of rights. As we yield our rights, God provides the power.

A million thanks for your continued prayers on our behalf. Prayer is a wonderful thing. It revamps our expectations. It opens us to God's agenda. It puts everything in proper perspective.

So thank you for praying.

7:30 PM Quote of the day (Thomas Hugdins):

Caring for orphans and widows and the helpless and hopeless are things that the church should be involved in. With that said, mercy ministries ought to be ministry extensions of churches who are avidly evangelizing and making disciples. That is the primary goal.

Well said, Thomas. Our top-notch health center in southern Ethiopia exists for one reason: to share the love of the Lord Jesus and His Gospel with everyone who comes to us with their physical ailments. If folks reject you, they're going to reject you because you're a messenger of Christ, not a health-care provider. At the same time, evangelism is simply loving people until they ask you why. Don't minimize gifts of mercy in your zeal for evangelism!

Incidentally, I hope you will join me in giving God a huge THANK YOU for granting Thomas and his wife Lesly the "all clear" to move to El Salvador. What an answer to prayer.

7:10 PM One of the pastors/elders at my church (Bethel Hill) is pursuing a Ph.D. at SEBTS. About half of my own doctoral students are pastoring or will be when they graduate. I therefore agree completely with Brian Fulthorp when he writes:

To me this just proves all the more the need for more pastors to pursue PhD work in the midst of their vocations (not all, just more) – but also the need for more pastors to be intentionally involved in such groups as ETS (SBL might be too academic of a setting and many aren’t even Christian let alone interested in speaking to or with the church – so ETS might be the better venue for this kind of conversation) – or for Pentecostal pastors to be part of SPS and so on – as I understand it, many in academia want to engage the church but the church in many ways hasn’t been interested in engaging academia – but being intentionally involved in ETS and such societies sure would help.

Read The Pastor-Scholar?

The likes of John Piper (D.Theol., Munich) and James Montgomery Boice (D.Theol., Basel) are cases in point.

5:51 PM Matt Metzger likes the poetry of the ISV New Testament.

(I do too.)

5:18 PM Loved being on campus yesterday and today. Got reconnected with a lot of my colleagues, including Maurice Robinson. Earlier I had emailed him for a status report on his health. Here's what he wrote (published here with his permission):

Still recuperating, but getting less pain every week; right now, however, I have a cold and cough (which hurts every time due to the healing sternum); also my breathing capacity is still only about 75% of pre-surgery levels, and my voice remains weak.

Pray primarily that pain will all go away, the cold/cough will be cured, and that my voice will gain strength by the time classes start.

Will do, Maurice! 

5:12 PM Over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog there's mention of a new dissertation on conjectural emendations in New Testament textual criticism. Here's the post: Conjectural Emendation in New Testament Textual Criticism with the Epistle of James as a Case Study. I read it with great interest since I previously published an essay entitled "Conjectural Emendations in the Gospel of Matthew" in Novum Testamentum, in which I argued against the numerous emendations being proposed for that Gospel (some of them downright silly). As an amateur textual critic (yes, I consider myself a rank amateur even though I did publish the definitive 80-page work on the subject!), it will be fascinating to see why the author thinks the command "Not many of you should become teachers" in James 3:1 should be considered "curious" and therefore emended. The injunction seems clearly to be part of James' "warning against self-exaltation" (so Peter Davids in his James commentary). Perhaps a follow-up blog post is called for?

5:05 PM My, this is a good day in the blogosphere. Alan Knox quotes one of my favorite scholars, Oscar Cullmann. Cullmann is here thinking way outside the box of conventional thinking about the church. It's really a great lesson for all of us.

Incidentally, I had the great, great honor of knowing Professor Cullmann. Although he was retired by the time I arrived in Basel in 1980, I was privileged to meet privately with him several times in his home in the Birmannsgasse. He was known in Basel for his outstanding theological exegesis of Scripture. Indeed, I still think his Christology of the New Testament is the best book ever written on the subject.

4:53 PM Speaking of publishing, Alex Stewart, one of my great doctoral students, just had an article published in the Tyndale Bulletin.

Feather in the cap I'd say. Heartiest congratulations, Alex. Well deserved honor!

4:44 PM Nijay Gupta asks how one should chart his or her writing career. Comment #1 has the answer.

I would add (although to be honest with you I'm not sure I should be the one giving this advice; I'm not as good at writing as I wish I were):

  • Set goals for yourself.

  • Edit your work constantly.

  • Establish an "identity."

  • Try and contribute to each of the various genres of scholarly publication. These include peer-reviewed journal articles; book reviews; edited volumes; monographs; textbooks; surveys; and electronic writing.

In the end, writing probably has more to do with self-discipline than inspiration.

4:37 PM Read the Eerdmans new blog.

4:32 PM Pray that the largely Christian south Sudan will peacefully separate from the Islamic north in a referendum to be held this Sunday, January 9. This referendum was stipulated in an agreement ending the Sudanese civil war half a decade ago. Partition is hardly a simple matter, and the issue of boundaries could lead to further trouble, as it has elsewhere.

4:27 PM Looking forward to two new books from the able pen of my colleague Andreas Köstenberger this year.  

4:22 PM Listen to the Greek New Testament here.

4:14 PM One of my J-term Greek students, along with her husband, has a wonderful outreach to the children of Wake Forest. You can read about it here. What awesome students God gives us here at SEBTS!

Sunday, January 2

4:59 PM Tonight were watching old episodes of The Rockford Files. Partly to reminisce about the 27 years we lived in Southern California. We've been to that place! Remember those hair styles? Look at those ties! If you never lived in the '70s and '80s you simply can't enjoy this series!

4:48 PM Dan Gilgoff publishes 11 faith-based predictions for 2011. Nothing surprising here, but a lot to pray about. #3 is certainly true:

As anti-Christian violence accelerates in places like Iraq, Egypt and India, a government crackdown on Christian churches gathers steam in China, and European bureaucrats continue to drive Christianity from the public square, “Christianophobia” will become a buzzword.

Don't look for it to become any easier to be an obedient follower of the Lord Jesus in 2011, at least outside of North America. If you're interested in my thoughts on the matter, you might take a look at The Persecuted Church: An Obstreperous Flower. Then pick a body of persecuted believers in some nation and commit to pray for them in 2011.

4:22 PM Henry Neufeld responds to my last post:

Dave Black discusses RSS feeds, of which he has none:

12:18 PM Yes, yes, yes, let’s hear it for RSS feeds!

You may have bookmarked this blog, and/or other blogs and webpages. But you have no idea when new content is posted. So every now and then you click your bookmarks to see what is new. Sometimes nothing is new, and you’ve wasted a click.

Impeccably good logic. Unless, of course, when you click on a bookmark and the site you visit is always publishing something new!

But you can get an RSS feed of Dave Black’s blog. Really you can! Here’s how you do it:

Got to

Enter the URL for Dave’s blog, (

The site will give you back an RSS feed that will follow updates to that page

Put that feed URL into your RSS reader

For example, my reader currently shows the selection I quoted above as the latest update.

Wow! So there you have it. Super neat. Thanks Henry!!

12:18 PM Yes, yes, yes, let's hear it for RSS feeds!

You may have bookmarked this blog, and/or other blogs and webpages. But you have no idea when new content is posted. So every now and then you click your bookmarks to see what is new. Sometimes nothing is new, and you've wasted a click.

Impeccably good logic. Unless, of course, when you click on a bookmark and the site you visit is always publishing something new!

12:03 PM In the latest issue of Catalyst (an online magazine for Methodist seminarians) you'll find an extremely useful guide to Building an Old Testament Library: Genesis-Ruth by Bryan Beyer of Columbia International University. Only one major lacuna that I can see, and that is Fred Bush's commentary on Ruth in the Word Biblical Commentary.

11:24 AM I am very humbled to be associated with Energion Publications and its owner and publisher Henry Neufeld. After Baker Academic (6 books), I believe I have published more titles with Energion than with any other publisher.

[Update: Scratch that: I see I have 5 titles with B & H Academic. Ugh, my brain is acting up again!]

Energion Publications Books by this Author

Why Four Gospels (1-893729-87-7)
The new edition of Dr. Black's book traces the history, origin, and development of the four NT Gospels.

Christian Archy (1-893729-77-X)
Exploring the New Testament meaning of being part of the kingdom of God

The Jesus Paradigm (1-893729-56-7)
The church needs something more than renewal, revival, or even reformation. It needs to restore the Jesus Paradigm!

This year will mark the first time Energion will be present at the annual scholarly meetings and, Lord willing, I plan to help man the display booth. In the meantime, look for several significant additions to Henry's publications list this year, including Allan Bevere's The Politics of Witness. Allan holds a Ph.D. from Durham University in England and teaches at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio. And, if you're at all interested in the theology of John Piper, Phil Hopkins' God's Desire for the Nations has just been released and promises to become an influential  work in the field.

This year Allan and I will be looking for qualified submissions in the field of biblical studies and would love to entertain a proposal from you. Feel free to email me at with your ideas.

May God richly bless those of you who will be writing and publishing in 2011 for the honor of the Lord Jesus and the edification of His church!

10:51 AM Take the Greek Alphabet Quiz!

10:46 AM Beginning Greek students, you may want to take advantage of the following supplementary resources for my textbook Learn to Read New Testament Greek.

10:25 AM I'm staying home today because I feel a head cold coming on and I can't get sick because of B's blood counts. Speaking of Becky, we hope to hear from her gynecological oncologist tomorrow with the results of her CT-scan. There are, we believe, three possible outcomes:

  • The tumors in her lungs are gone (in which case she will probably have a couple more Adriamycin treatments just to be sure)

  • The tumor count remains steady at two (in which case there is the possibility of surgically removing them)

  • The tumors are still there and have also shown up in other places (in which case we will probably stop all treatments and let things go their natural course)

As I thought about these possible outcomes this morning my mind went to Daniel 3 and the story of the three men who walked in fire. They told the king, "We will never honor your gods! Besides, our God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace." And then they added:

"But even if He doesn't...."

What an attitude! With it we can face anything that comes into our lives in 2011. Yes, our God is able to heal Becky. But even if He doesn't, He is still with us. We will still trust Him and seek to honor and obey Him. Love so amazing, so divine, demands our souls, and lives, our all. Christ's death and resurrection challenge our right to live our lives the way we want to live them.


It would be wonderful to be able to report to you this week that Becky's cancer is gone. But even if we can't, even if He doesn't take it away, He still invites us to come to Him and find rest. No matter what, God's grace is still available but we must lay hold of it and delve deeply into our heavenly treasures.

8:38 AM Kevin Brown (who blogs here) and his daughter Katy went with us to Alaba a couple of years ago. I tell you, here are some folk whose walk squares with their talk! Katy was only 15 at the time but pulled her load as ably as anyone on our team.

Well, I'm happy to announce that Katy has started her very own blog. It's got a great name too: Hearts on Things Above. Katy describes herself as follows:

I am Kathryn Mary Brown... a no one, made into a Child of God because of the love of Christ. I live at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in NC. So, I have a southern accent with a southern love for fine things. I love deep thoughts... in literature, music, history, especially in the Word of God. I love people and communicating with them through, writing, talking, acting. That's enough about me. :)

Glad to see you blogging Miss Katy. May our Father be pleased to bless your efforts for His glory.

P.S. Unlike a reprobate blogger I know who has neither an RSS feed nor a comments section, Katy has both. I might suggest that you send her a word of welcome as soon as you can.

8:13 AM Tomorrow morning, at 9:00 am sharp, our Greek class begins. Let's begin it with God. That's how the Bible begins ("In the beginning God...). We can't get off to a good start without Him. How foolish to think that we can accomplish anything without Him. Many mistakes would never have been made had we prayed as much in advance as we complained after the mistakes were made. In studying Greek you must start off with a commitment to succeed or you will never finish the course. Even if you only fall behind in one lesson, you will find it almost impossible to catch up. Remember: Our pace is one chapter per day! We read that our Lord "set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). Paul says, "This one thing I do" (Phil. 3:13). Make up your mind to place God first in your studies. Then bring all other things -- your study habits, your time management, your need to balance family, study, and work -- into their proper place in relation to that.

Set your face like a flint and you will not be ashamed.

8:04 AM Over at the Bethel Hill blog, Becky has posted part 2 of her series called The Chosen One

Saturday, January 1

7:49 PM If Brian Fulthorp's first two blog posts of 2011 are any indication, we can expect some excellent blogging from his keyboard this year. Be sure to read his latest essay called What's your single passion?

7:40 PM My friend Allan Bevere won't like this (see his recent essay Note to Publishers: Cease and Desist on the New English Bible Translations and Study Bibles) but just this morning I was praying about the idea of producing my own Charles. B. Williams-style translation of the New Testament into English.

Whether any publisher would be interested in it is beside the point. My efforts would be directed toward bringing out the nuances of the Greek text that I've discerned in the past 34 years of teaching Greek. Of course, I suppose many of the renderings would be similar to those in the ISV New Testament, as I was the editor of that work and produced the base translations for all 27 New Testament books.

Am I crazy for thinking about doing this? Probably. But that's never stopped me before.

So, what do you think? (Allan, I'm not asking you!)

7:20 PM Thomas Hudgins offers this New Years exhortation:

If you have never been on a "mission" trip, go with your local church this year. If your local church does not have any "trips," find one that does. I promise you that nothing will radically change your heart more than getting your hands dirty in the work of the gospel. That's one side of the coin... here is the other side. When you wake up to go to work, every day this year here in the US or wherever you are in the world reading this, wake up and go on a "mission" trip.

I agree! As my friend Alvin Reid puts it:

Life is a mission trip. Take it!

7:10 PM Tonight for the last time Papa B cooked Chinese stir fry for the Rondeaus. They must have enjoyed it. They said it was the best supper they had had all year long!

7:07 PM Last Saturday it was snowing and the weather was frigid. Today it's raining and the temps are hovering around 60. What a difference a week makes.

6:47 PM If you are at all interested in the study of 1 Peter, I've got a new blog for you. It's called (quite appropriately) the Paroikos Bible Blog. It is written by yet another of my Ph.D. students who has decided to take up blogging after the oh-so gentle nudging of his professor.

I encourage all of my other (reprobate and recalcitrant) students to join us on this journey.

12:30 PM Before I forget: A huge THANK YOU to Liz for the outstanding breakfast she prepared for the entire household (dogs included -- they licked the plates):

We enjoyed poached eggs, link sausages, hash browns, fresh biscuits, and apple juice. Gonna miss you Lizzy Pie!

12:15 PM The rubber hits the road in John Piper's post-absence report. By the way, I love such honesty and transparency in a leader. Without devoting a lengthy post to this issue, let me just say I'm praying for John and his marriage.




And while the man I see in the mirror every day is far from perfect in this area, he can attest to the wonderful power of God's grace to overcome selfishness and sullenness. I have no idea what the future holds for John Piper. All I know is that he is watched over  and cared for by One whose compassion never runs empty. One whose mercies are new every morning. One who is faithful no matter how much self threatens to consume us.

Bravo, John!

12:06 PM One thing I love about Eric Carpenter is that he is no "half-way man" (this term was used by the Anabaptists to describe their former leader Zwingli) -- afraid to face the consequences of his own beliefs and teachings. Obedience to Jesus always involves risk-taking. Following the Spirit's lead in our lives demands sacrifice of creature comforts. When the Spirit impels us toward something we may not want to do or dread to undertake, we must follow the Lord whatever happens to us. America has made financial "security" its main business. But very few are interested in righteousness. It is not time for drunken Noahs but for disciples who have an understanding of Scripture to know what they ought to do and who are enabled by the Spirit to do it.

I love men of courage!

Read Eric's post And So It Begins.

9:48 AM I've been corresponding with someone who is currently teaching the book of Hebrews in Mozambique. In passing he writes:

There are openings at Sofala Bible Institute (Instituto Bíblico de Sofala. Send them our way!

If you're thinking of an academic career, teaching overseas is a wonderful option you should consider. You can take a peek at the school's website here (in both Portuguese and English).

Also in passing, I mentioned to him that my roommate in college was a Brazilian who taught me just enough Portuguese to be dangerous. Here we are in a previous incarnation:

Rubens was quite a jokester. He was also brilliant. Blind from birth, he played classical piano and clarinet and spoke 5 languages fluently. During our 4 years as roommates he really put me to shame.

What happy memories!

9:25 AM Andy Bowden stirs up another hornet's nest with his essay Frontiers of Fat. He dares to challenge the thinking of all the "experts" who pontificate behind their mahogany desks. Good stuff, Andy.

(Oh wait -- I sit behind a mahogany desk!)

9:21 AM I wish this book were ready for my spring class on the Greek text of Mark!

9:12 AM The sixteenth century Anabaptists have much to teach us about following Christ. Discipleship – following after Jesus' example – became the key Anabaptist criterion for describing the life of faith. They believed in

  • serving instead of ruling

  • suffering instead of inflicting suffering

  • breaking down walls instead of isolationism

  • biblical authority instead of ecclesiastical tradition

  • brotherhood instead of hierarchy

  • the towel instead of the sword

  • the headship of Christ instead of that of any pastor

  • the way of peace instead of “just war”

  • the church as a living organism instead of as a human institution

  • the reign of God instead of a political kingdom

  • the catholicity of the true church instead of sectarianism

  • the power of suffering instead of the cult of power

  • the Bible as a book of the church instead of as a book of scholars

  • loyalty to their heavenly citizenship instead of to the principalities and powers

  • Spirit-orientation instead of forced structures of church life

  • being a “light to the nations” instead of a Christian enclave

  • knowing Christ instead of merely knowing about Him

  • faith that works (in both senses) instead of dead orthodoxy

  • effectual grace as a living reality instead of as a theological dogma

  • every-member ministry instead of clergyism

  • baptism into Christ instead of baptism into a denomination

  • a unity that is lived instead of a unity that is merely extolled

  • welcoming the despised and marginalized instead of ignoring them

  • a hermeneutic of obedience instead of a hermeneutic of knowledge

  • individual conscience instead of theological conformity

  • volunteerism instead of professionalism

  • allegiance to Christ instead of allegiance to the state

Above all, the Anabaptists believed in obeying Christ's call to abandon self and follow His example of humility, service, and suffering. The way of Jesus, they taught, is the way of suffering servanthood. It is the ultimate in downward mobility.

Something to think about in the new year.

(From The Jesus Paradigm.)

8:58 AM We've been getting lots of requests for our essay "Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews." I will send them out on Monday when I return to campus. I'll also throw in my essay "Who Wrote Hebrews? The Internal and External Evidence Reexamined" just for fun (and to destroy whatever vestige of academic credibility I may still have in your eyes).

8:51 AM A few pix from last night's festivities:

From our house to yours:

Happy Newness Year (Rom. 6:4)!

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