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March 2013 Blog Archives

Wednesday, March 20

10:30 PM I'm sitting here at the computer totally blown away by the goodness of God. This morning I heard the most wonderful retirement lecture by my college and friend Joseph Solc, Professor of Missions and Evangelism. His text was 1 Tim. 6:12: "Fight the good fight of faith."

A few takeaways:

  • "We are living in a time when we cannot just be comfortable Christians."

  • "Many of us have used all kinds of excuses not to move from preparation to engagement."

  • "We must apply biblical truths in daily living."

  • "No Christian should ever just sit on the sidelines and watch while the battle is going on."

  • "As a Christian you have to be a willing soldier of the Lord, not a spectator."

  • "The first obstacle is the cost of the fight. The fight can be extremely demanding, even painful."

  • "There is no cost or suffering big enough that should keep us from fighting the good fight of faith. No excuses will do. None whatsoever."

It's the oldest cliché in the book, but it's true: Only one life 'twill soon be passed, and only what's done for Christ will last." My colleague Joseph (now 71) has lived this kind of life. I think it's called obedience, and it is what our Lord delights in. I'm not sure I always like the taste of it. As Joseph said, it can be extremely demanding and even painful. But, as with everything God has planned for our lives, it is always best. Tomorrow is the start of my next adventure in this crazy thing we call Christian obedience. I will sign off from the internet until sometime in the future. If you're anything like me, you're full of anticipation when you leave on a mission trip. You never feel more vulnerable to feelings of homesickness and anxiety. What will happen to Becky and Nigusse while I'm gone? Will my teaching will be well-received? It's such a strange thing, this wanting desperately to obey God's leading in your life, yet at the same time feeling so – well – unworthy and inadequate. I will need your prayers, that's for sure. So I think it’s only reasonable that I publish my itinerary here. Consider it a call to intercession.

I leave with the realization that many of you will be praying for me and my family during this trip. For all of this, I count myself blessed among men. Also, I'd like to just mention that I'm feeling a little under the weather and think I may be coming down with Becky's cold. I'm not too concerned about it, but I feel I should it mention to you for prayer. I'll do my very best to serve Jesus well, and God willing I'll see you on the other side.




Friday, March 22

Alfie and Sasha will meet you at the airport.

15:00 Light meal downtown

17:00 Deliver things to Seminary and short orientation

18:00 Supper at Seminary

Saturday, March 23

Rest and prepare for week.

Sunday, March 24

Breakfast in room

Leave for church

Morning service in Fontanka

Lunch in Fontanka

Evening Service – Second Baptist – Ethiopia

Dinner at Seminary and Rest

Monday, March 25


Prayer (Conference-hall)

Why Hermeneutics? (Part 1)


Why Hermeneutics? (Part 2)

Toward a Hermeneutics of Obedience (Part 1: Introduction)


Toward a Hermeneutics of Obedience (Part 2: Following Jesus to Ethiopia)


Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Prayer (Conference-hall)

The Text of the New Testament: Issues in the Current Debate (Part 1)


The Text of the New Testament: Issues in the Current Debate (Part 2)

New Testament Lexicography: Promises and Pitfalls (Part 1)


New Testament Lexicography: Promises and Pitfalls (Part 2)

Dinner: Pizza with the students.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Prayer (Conference-hall)

Reading the Gospels Today (Part 1)


Reading the Gospels Today (Part 2)

Syntax and Hermeneutics: What’s Old? What’s New?


The Medium Is the Message: Rhetorical Criticism and the New Testament

Dinner with Mosse Family

English Bible Study at Mosse home

Return to Seminary

Thursday, March 27, 2013


Prayer (Conference-hall)

Structural Analysis of New Testament Texts (Part 1)


Structural Analysis of New Testament Texts (Part 2)

Discourse Analysis: Getting the Big Picture of Philippians


Sociological Criticism and the Life of Christ: Jesus and the Age Thirty Transition


Friday, March 29, 2013


Chapel (Conference-hall) Brother Dave will preach the message

Anonymity and Authorship: Hebrews as Test Case


The New Perspective on Paul: My Take

Shaping a New Testament Sermon: John 21:15-17


Epilogue: Why Hermeneutics Matters


Saturday, March 30, 2013


Packing and rest


Depart for Airport

Departure: Austrian FLT 7176 to Vienna

9:59 PM We had yet another fabulous LXX class today as we studied Esther 4, led by Josh. So grateful for the gifted students God has given us at SEBTS. These are the future teachers of America and the world.

9:48 PM Here's Becky with a reminder: 

At about the same time that Halango and Achame were being baptized in Alaba, Ethiopia, another baptism was taking place thousands of miles to the east. Here, in a river setting, a young girl went under water baptism, giving testimony that she was buried with Christ, and raised with Him into newness of living. With this simple ritual, she declare that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is her Savior and Lord. This young girl is "Adhivassi"; this is a general term for the original tribes of India. About 68 million people belong to this group of people. Their heritage is rich but today they are regarded with low esteem, somewhat on the periphery of Indian society.

Welcome this new sister with us, will you? And pray for her to grow strong in the love and service of our Lord Jesus. Others who were baptized with her….

Praise God for these new followers of King Jesus.

Tuesday, March 19

5:08 AM Some of you may have wondered why we call our home "Bradford Hall." The Hall is named in honor of three of Becky's ancestors: Governor William Bradford, Dr. William Bradford Brooks, and Mr. Bradford Noyes Lapsley.

William Bradford, author of the Mayflower Compact, was governor of the Plymouth Colony for 30 years and helped shape the political institutions of the first permanent settlement in New England. Bradford is remembered for establishing traditions of self-government (such as the town meeting) that would set the pattern for national political development in years to come.

William Bradford Brooks, my wife's paternal great-grandfather, grew up in East Texas and operated Brooks Saline, the largest supplier of salt to the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy. During the war he served in the First Texas Heavy Artillery guarding the Texas Coast. Later he became a medical doctor in Fort Worth. A pioneer in the field of medicine, he founded the Texas Medical Examiner, the first medical journal in Texas, and was also the first doctor to specialize in the treatment of chemical dependency.

Bradford Noyes Lapsley, my wife's father, served with the Sudan Interior Mission as a pioneer missionary to Southern Ethiopia in the 1950s. Today he continues to publish works for Ethiopian pastors in the Amharic language. (See Good Amharic Books.) He has left a lasting legacy in the lives of thousands of Ethiopians whom he has touched with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So now you know.

5:02 AM Hard to believe my next trip abroad begins in only two days. My mind is already in Ukraine. I thoroughly enjoy doing all this teaching and lecturing. I especially enjoy showing students how practical the New Testament is, and how clearly it focuses not on any man, not on any pastor, but on Jesus. The goal of a seminary education is not head knowledge -- a thousand times no. If Christianity is to make any headway in countries like Ukraine, it must be proved to be more than a theory, and we teachers must show by our walk the reality of lives transformed by the power and love of God. We must demonstrate to a culture that worships knowledge and academic achievement that book learning is dead and worthless unless we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, surrendering everything in our lives that would interfere with this.

So here's my challenge for you young students, especially any doctoral students out there. Why not use your education on the mission field? Opportunities abound both for long- and short-term teaching. Even secular universities are willing to open their doors to qualified students, not to mention the seminaries that are in desperate need of teachers. Instead of taking that vacation in the Bahamas or at Disney World, why not invest your education in teaching for a week or two in Armenia or Romania or Ethiopia or Asia? I talk a lot about having a Great Commission Marriage and a Great Commission Family. How about a Great Commission doctorate?

Monday, March 18

6:17 PM The papal installation tomorrow will be somewhat historic, I am told, in that the Gospel will be read from the Greek text and not the Latin.  Here is the program (with texts in English, Italian, and Greek). The synoptic scholar in me compels me to call your attention to the final line:

The English reads: Ad multos annos, Holy Father.

The Italian reads: Ad multos annos, Padre Santo.

And the Greek? I'll let you translate it, but it most certainly is not the same as the English and Italian in one very important feature.

4:51 PM From the Way Back Machine:

Whereas many of our churches will do practically anything to draw unbelievers to their services, the earliest Christians were so committed and so radical that few if any unbelievers dared join them. In New Testament times the early disciples came together not for evangelism or even for worship but for teaching, for fellowship, for the Breaking of Bread, and for times of prayer (Acts 2:42). The Lord's Supper was not an addendum celebrated quarterly or monthly but the main reason the church assembled on the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7). Jesus was front-and-center, not a pulpit.

"Church" did not mean a state-of-the-art building with all the latest gadgetry. It meant a company of committed believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who met regularly (at least weekly) in homes or perhaps small rented rooms where a committed family spirit could develop. To reach outsiders they took the Gospel to them – a riverside (Acts 16:13), a marketplace (Acts 17:17), a school hall (Acts 19:9). Because expenses were kept to a minimum, funds could be used to support the poor and, when necessary, their teachers (Acts 11:29; Phil. 4:16). Each believer was taught to exercise his or her own spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12) in a spirit of love (1 Cor. 13). When the Body gathered, its goal was that of strengthening itself and building itself up in love (1 Cor. 14:26).

Because every believer was a priest and minister there was no need for an officiating "clergy." Those who had been appointed by the Holy Spirit as pastors (Acts 20:28) became elders and teachers (Eph. 4:11), guides and leaders (1 Thess. 5:12-13). But their Senior Pastor was none other than Jesus Himself, in whose name they gathered. It was by devotion to Him and not to any human leader that they were held together. How unlike the guilds of the day!

The early church had little of the glitz and glamour of its modern counterpart. Few of its member were from the upper crust of society. It exercised discipline on its members. It preached Jesus as Lord, not as a benevolent butler. It called for total allegiance even when that went against the ruling authorities. Its power, passion, and purity was a flaming sword that guarded the way to the tree of life (cf. Gen. 3:24).

Read The Church No One Wanted to Join.

4:34 PM I quite agree: Down with Endnotes!

1:20 PM Good news! Just back from the doctor, who reports clear lungs and no pneumonia at all. Bec will start a new antibiotic and take prescription-strength cough medicine as needed. Praise God. And thank you for joining me in prayer on her behalf.

8:59 AM In Ukraine I plan on walking my students through the entire book of Philippians. I will ask them what the Russian translation of skubala in 3:8 is. Then I will read to them this excellent note in the NET Bible:

The word here translated "dung" was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers. This may well be Paul's meaning here, especially since the context is about what the flesh produces.

Perhaps the best rendering of skubala in English is "unspeakable filth." Paul is saying, in the strongest language possible, that we are to forsake all confidence in human merits and accomplishments. That includes me and my accomplishments. Perhaps Malcolm Muggeridge put it best. In a sermon delivered at Queen's Cross Church, Aberdeen, on May 26, 1968, he uttered these unforgettable words:

I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets -- that's fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Inland Revenue -- that's success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions -- that's pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time -- that's fulfillment.

Yet I say to you, and I beg you to believe me, multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing-less than nothing, a positive impediment-measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are. What, I ask myself, does life hold, what is there in the works of time, in the past, now and to come, which could possibly be put in the balance against the refreshment of drinking that water?

Thank God for that living water. I don't know about you, but I couldn't make it through a single day without it.

8:37 AM I've begun sketching out an article dealing with the impossibility of loving the Gospel without loving the church which the Gospel creates. It seems that Paul was intentional when in one place in Colossians he says he is a servant (diakonos) of the Gospel and then two verses later says he is a servant (diakonos) of the church. What an interesting world we live in -- when men and women can claim to be preachers of the truth and pass out tracks and out-bumper-sticker their neighbor's cars but then have nothing whatsoever to do with fellowshipping with other believers. I see this mentality all the time. But Paul was equally devoted to the word of the cross and to the people of the cross -- even half-baked, jejune, and immature Christians. What I have tried to do with my evangelistic friends is to remind them that they mustn't forget that Christ died for the church and that, like Noah's ark, the stench may be intolerable on the inside but the horrors on the outside are far worse.

One more thought from Colossians. Did you know that Paul goes out of his way to mention a group of people called the Scythians? Bet you don't know who they were. I have actually been to the borders of Scythia twice, though the place is now known by another name. Check out Col. 3:11 and see for yourself.

8:03 AM Just made a doctor's appointment for Becky for noon. I fear her chest cold might develop into pneumonia.

Sunday, March 17

5:30 PM Speaking of publishing, here's an interesting post about the price of books. Two brief thoughts:

1) Most of the publishers I've worked with have listened to my appeals and have tried to keep the price of my books in the moderate range. This is especially true of Baker (6 books thus far). This is easier to do, I suppose, when the book can be expected to sell fairly well as a seminary or college text.

2) Students can and should shop around for the best buy. If they can find one of my required texts on Amazon, for example, more power to them. Personally, I buy used books rather than new ones from Amazon. For the most part these have been in very good condition.

I do think publishers have a good feel for what the market will tolerate. On the rare occasion when I require a text that everyone knows is overpriced, I tell my students: "This book is worth its weight in gold, and will cost you about as much." But in no case do I think any publisher I have worked with is a Scrooge McDuck.

5:18 PM Sunday afternoon report:

1) Had a wonderful time at The Hill this morning. Brother Chris led us through Romans 14:1-12. He told us, "Unity is vital to the strength of the church and the success of its mission." And just what is that mission? "We have the greatest message in the world. Delivering that message is the greatest mission of the church." Well done, Chris, well done indeed.

2) My poor wife is still struggling with her cold and sore throat. I'm asking God to restore her completely before I leave for Ukraine on Thursday.

3) A family near and dear to our heart is about to lose a loved one to cancer. Our prayers are with you and your family, Molly.

4) During my trip I plan to read -- a lot. I love reading good books. Can't wait to sink my teeth into Reading Romans in Pompeii: Paul's Letter at Ground Level.

5) In addition, I'll be working on my book called Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. This is (I hope) a project I can put to bed during my upcoming sabbatical. Thank you, Jacob, for your help with this book!

That's all for now.

Dave Black, Jack of All Trades and Master of None, at your service.

8:34 AM Heard on the BBC: "We read because it makes life more enjoyable. Or at least more tolerable." I couldn't have said it better.

8:22 AM On Friday I mentioned I'm thinking about falling in for the 150th Chancellorsville. What exactly is this crazy hobby all about? Civil War reenactment is first and foremost living history. We try to make the encampments look as authentic as possible, and that includes our equipment. The show battles are real crowd pleasers, and I especially enjoy watching the cavalry demonstrations. On Sundays I sometimes get to teach the Word to a large crowd of reenactors and guests. During reenactments I find my greatest satisfaction in seeing people encouraged to follow the cross of Christ (rather than any human standard or flag) with their whole heart. The reenacting community is a huge mission field and one that is best penetrated by establishing loving and caring relationships. That's true of every mission field, isn't it?

If you've never considered reenacting as an outreach for the Gospel, I would encourage you to do so. There's even an organization called Reenactors Mission for Jesus Christ that distributes period New Testaments and is intentional about ministering in the name of Jesus. I think you would enjoy the encampments, the battle scenarios, the camaraderie, and meeting and greeting the public. Besides, where else can you wear wool uniforms in 90 degree weather?

Saturday, March 16

8:48 PM Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Averasboro, NC. Becky and I reenacted this event just after moving to North Carolina in 1998. I recall a huge storm descending upon the field during the battle scenario, causing the spectators to run for their cars. The battle went on, of course -- we called this a "reenactors' battle" since we were no longer following a script but actually trying to out-maneuver the "enemy." Averasboro was the largest battle fought on North Carolina soil, and the site would certainly repay a visit should you ever be traveling near Fayetteville.

Be sure to visit the now-restored Harper House in which John and Amy Harper raised their 8 children. In its cemetery are buried 360 soldiers.

7:26 PM Greetings friends! Nothing much new to report here. Becky's still fighting her cold and feels awful. Will probably have to miss church tomorrow. We did have our work day today at the farm, however. Care to relive it with me vicariously ? It started out with us removing a section of fencing that we no longer needed.

Odd, undoing what you once worked so hard to do. But we will never have a 35-head herd of cattle again, so some of the cross-fencing we put up years ago had to go. Here Johnny and Zach detach the woven wire.

My job was to cut the barbed wire and then roll everything up for transport on the trailer. Nigusse was a great help today. He is always eager to assist with our projects.

The next job was a big one.

How to get this closet upstairs in Maple Ridge?

It was too big to make it up the steps, so the only option was to use an upstairs window.

Sure felt good when that job was done!

Number 3 on the list? Remove a farm gate that had been pushed downstream 500 yards by last year's super storm. I'm glad to see it's re-usable.

Finally, Maple Ridge needed firewood.

And who better to split it than Danny and his trusty helper Nigusse?

We were able to get three trailer loads today.

That's a farm record, I do believe.

Yes, I actually do more than just take pictures!

By the way, the whole farm is ablaze with color. Look at this.

And this.

And this.

And the fruit trees are already blossoming.


So that was my day. My thanks to all who helped -- Nigusse, Johnny, Zach, and Danny.

It's not like these guys don't have anything else to do. Nigusse works and works and works at his school work. Johnny works 60 hours a week as a dorm RA, a chaplain in the U. S. Army Reserve, and a server in a restaurant -- when he's not taking classes at the seminary. As for Zach, the guy has five classes this semester -- and two exams next week. Danny is officially "retired" but I've never seen anyone who is busier. He enjoys nothing more than helping out his neighbors and friends. To all: May God bless you abundantly for your kindness to us. Of course, in the background throughout was Becky, who kept us well fed and watered. Thank you, honey.

So all in all -- a very good day. The rain has just started to fall, and we praise God that He held it off so that we could accomplish our work. That's just like Him -- a serendipitous God for sure.

6:45 AM 80 percent of Americans don't have passports. If you're one of the 20 percent that does, take a look at this interview with world traveler Rick Steves. His statement about squatting versus sitting is destined to become a classic.

A few personal thoughts:

1) Americans need to travel outside our own county if for no other reason than that it helps give us an objective perspective on America. It's like learning English. You never really learn your own language unless you study a foreign language. Ditto your culture.

2) Americans have a much-deserved reputation for being self-centered twits. Our ways are always better than the "primitive" ways of others. Steve's point that there's a difference between being a traveler and a tourist is well taken. Go abroad as as traveler/learner and guess what -- you'll learn and grow as a human being. Go abroad as a trinket seeker, and all you'll get are trinkets.

3) For me, the best reason to travel abroad is that it helps you to become a world Christian. Not a worldly Christian but a Christian who realizes that God loves the entire globe and every tribe and nation in it. One day you'll be sitting around the throne in heaven enjoying their company. I figure it might be nice to get to know some of them in the here and now.

Elsewhere I asked Are You a Missionary? Perhaps the question needs to be posed again.

Friday, March 15

6:03 PM This is a bit dated, but over at the Better Bibles Blog note is taken of Robert Thomas's negative views about linguistics. (Scroll down to the end of the entry to find the link to Thomas's essay.) Moises Silva and yours truly get knocked about pretty hard in that article. Being the non-linguist that I am, I probably deserve some of Thomas's criticisms. Usually, though, it's linguists who question my work. After all, what right does Dave Black to talk or write about our field of study? The answer is: none. I am not a linguist and have never claimed to be one. I wish, in fact, that a trained linguist had written what was probably the first book integrating New Testament Greek and the science of linguistics. Since, however, no one had done that job, the task fell upon me, a non-expert. Others much more qualified than I have now taken up the mantle, and we can be grateful for that. My own feeling is that all of us need help in understanding how languages work, and it is here that linguists can make a useful contribution. So I don't mind friends like Bob Thomas writing about me. In fact, this semester I had my Advanced Greek Grammar students read his essay. It's good for them to get both sides of the issue and then decide for themselves whether or not the science of how languages work can be usefully integrated with traditional biblical exegesis.

5:55 PM The latest addition to our Greek Portal is called "Nifty Greek Handouts." You will love it.

4:46 PM A reminder to all of my doctoral students: 

Hang in there -- I am praying for you!

2:50 PM It's been making the rounds, and for good reason.

This photo of St. Peter's Square in Rome says it all. Folks, if you're not wired -- if you're not using the internet and social media to the max for ministry -- then you are WAY behind the times.

2:42 PM Tomorrow we're having a work day at the farm and the reinforcements have begun to arrive. My thanks to our friend (and Ethiopia vet) Danny Chambers for the use of his tractor.

He'll bring his wood splitter tomorrow. Of course, our farm has its own splitter, but he's getting a bit old for the job.

2:26 PM Guess what? I'm actually thinking about participating in the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in May. You say "Ain't you a bit too old for that, Dave?" Probably, but my inward man still feels like I'm a 25 year-old. I can only imagine what the troops on both sides must have experienced during those fateful days of May. In my view, neither side in that conflict was completely in the right. That is how it always is with war. After World War II, the Western powers hung Keitel for carrying out the orders of a civilian government. Were the Russians punished for slaughtering 15,000 Polish officers in the Katan Forest? Were American and British leaders held accountable for the unleashing of aerial bombardment upon thousands of innocent civilians in Hamburg or Dresden, Hiroshima or Nagasaki? The waging of war is a highly precarious matter. General Omar Bradley, in a 1948 Armistice Day speech, put it this way:

We have too many men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the system of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.

Truer words were never spoken. If I do don my private's uniform and polish my musket again, it will not be to glorify this war or any war for that matter. It will be to commemorate the honor and bravery of Americans who fought for what they believed was worth fighting and dying for, and in the midst of it to speak a word of hope to compatriots who often use the excuse of playing bang-bang on the weekend to try and escape their problems.

2:15 PM I'd appreciate your prayers for Becky right now, who is running a fever with chills and some bone pain. I know lots of you pray for Becky regularly. Please don't stop now. She is feeling really ragged today and probably has gotten a head and/or chest cold. Going through the day without Becky is like Lee going into battle without Jackson.

10:57 AM If I ask myself what I desire more than anything else on earth, it is this: to feel that I am nothing, know nothing, can do nothing apart from my Savior – and to know, in addition, the joy that the angels must feel when they see a sinner come to repentance. How ashamed I am of my sense of contempt for prideful, smug, self-centered, comfort-prone Christians when I am the chief of sinners in this regard. Books, lectures, sermons – these are nothing when compared to the salvation of the lost. Any sacrifice is worth achieving it. I am just beginning to understand the value of suffering – its power to free and purge. I am learning how to go the way of the cross, as the Jim Elliotts before me have done. Only let the cross conquer! – let it issue in a kenosis, an emptying that assumes the form of a lowly servant, that repudiates a life of ease and self-aggrandizement, that proves that the Christian faith is genuine. Oh, Father, let me be a Christian!

10:25 AM This is a little dated, but check out Scot McKnight's favorite commentaries on Ephesians. I agree completely that Markus Barth's 2-volume Anchor Bible set is the commentary of first choice. Barth was certainly one of my favorite lecturers in Basel.

8:40 AM Quote of the day (Karl Barth):

Theology is not the private reserve of theologians. It is not a private affair for professors…Nor is it a private affair for pastors…Theology is a matter for the church. It does not get on well without professors and pastors. But its problem, the purity of the church's service, is put to the whole church. The term "laity" is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from Christian conversation.

8:32 AM This is about the next best thing to actually visiting the ruins of ancient Corinth yourself.

7:33 AM Letter to My Greek Students.

7:22 AM Here is some information about the religious demographics of Mecklenburg County where I live. (This site will also allow you to check the demographics of your own county.) I have come to see that there are at least 5 kinds of people in my neighborhood with whom I must constantly deal: the unreached, the agnostic, the religious, the inactive church member, and the committed Christian. The important thing about committed Christians is that they ignite our passion for faith and Christlike behavior. Their lives speak far more convincingly and plainly than any words. I know that this is only the natural expression of a heart given over to God. Together we stir one another up and goad each other to better and more faithful disciple-making. I am of the conviction that most of my neighbors here in the heart of the Bible Belt have no earthly idea just how real and satisfying committed Christianity can be. We need to brood over this picture with serious attention. I pray that God, in His mercy, would pour out His Spirit upon Mecklenburg County and that He might use Bradford Hall as a lighthouse of love and grace in the darkness of hurt and apathy.

7:15 AM Have you seen this lexicon of Greek personal names, with information about meanings, word formation, etc.? Here's a sampler of some fairly well-known New Testament names (some Greek, some Latin). Can you come up with their meanings (without looking them up in a dictionary)?

  • Timothy

  • Paul

  • Silvanus

  • Philemon

  • Onesimus

  • Euodia

  • Syntyche

  • Epaphroditus

  • Tertius

  • Felix

  • Philip

7:04 AM Catholic scholar Michael Barber has begun a series on priesthood over at the Sacred Page. Part 1 is called The Priesthood of All Believers and starts:

Let me begin this series of posts by underscoring something that might strike non-Catholics as a bit baffling: Catholics affirm the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.

Should be an interesting series.

Also at the Sacred Page, Barber has been blogging about the Pericope Adulterae -- the famous "woman taken in adultery" passage in John 8. It's a reminder that questions concerning the authenticity -- and canonicity -- of this passage have not gone away. Barber concludes:

In the end, I agree with scholars who complain that arguments against the story's authenticity are too often accepted uncritically. The story may very well be a later addition, but I don't think the evidence compels one to that conclusion (despite the strong rhetoric that may be employed to make the case).

Note: Next year in April we will hold on the campus of SEBTS our next major New Testament conference. The theme will be the Pericope Adulterae. The speaker lineup is stellar. Details shortly.

Thursday, March 14

9:28 PM Here's a must read called C. S. Lewis on Devotionals. Jeff, I had to laugh out loud when I read Lewis's reference to pipe smoking while cogitating. Markus Barth's seminars in Basel were held in a tiny room and I think I was the only non-smoker in the place. I suppose I'll pay for it some day, but the stimulating discussions that took place on those Tuesday evenings were something to experience, I tell you.

Of course, your main point has nothing to do with smoking, and I quite agree that the best "devotions" are those that are rooted in the text of Scripture. I, for one, have never found it possible to separate the "devotional" study of the Bible from the "academic." And why should we?

9:10 PM Moore Theological College announces an opening in New Testament.

8:50 PM Yet another word of thanks is in order, this time to T. C. Robinson of New Leaven. I do not deserve your kind words, friend, but I so appreciate your interest in all things missional. God bless you!

8:43 PM I am greatly indebted to Jeff Riddle of Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Charlottesville, VA, for his review of Why Four Gospels? My profuse thanks, Jeff!

(I might mention in passing that Dom Bernard Orchard, to whom my work is indebted, was a Roman Catholic scholar and not an Anglican. It was he who originally got me interested in the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis and who hosted me in Ealing Abbey in West London while I was retranslating the writings of the Greek and Latin church fathers.) 

8:12 PM I can't wait to begin my class in Ukraine. Some people claim that teaching is the world's greatest profession. I'm not sure I agree. But it probably comes close. If my bias is showing, it's partly because I get to teach the greatest students on earth bar none. You really have to keep on your toes with these young people because they are as sharp as nails. It will not surprise you when I say that I have a great deal of respect for students who are willing to question the status quo on just about any subject, and my pupils seem to be especially gifted at doing this, usually with admirable humility I might add. They love to peel the onion and ask questions about all the fundamentals. I love it.  Can you imagine another career where you get to have so much fun?

5:38 PM I post the following pictures with a kaleidoscope of emotions. Remember how every 6 months I would visit a Muslim village in Ethiopia and share the love of Jesus with its leader? Remember I told you that for 5 years I prayed for him to come to Christ?

It's over.

He is now in the Lord, walking with Jesus. He was baptized last Sunday.

Into this world of sin God came and stripped Himself of everything He had and clothed Himself with squalor so that a man in a forgotten but not God-forsaken village could experience the forgiveness of sin. I remember praying and praying for him. I asked God for a miracle, and one was given to me. God's unfathomable love is over and underneath it all.

God is so good to me. And I'm beginning to realize that He will never tire of showing me that He loves me.

All praise and glory to God.

12:40 PM Shorter University announces openings in Youth Ministry and Old Testament.

12:33 PM The calls have already begun for the new pope to "empower the laity for a greater role" in the church. This reminds me of the work of a Roman Catholic theologian named Hans Küng, whose book Why Priests? A Proposal for a New Church Ministry was published in 1972. In it Dr. Küng argues that the church has failed its members by allowing them to hand over their God-given priestly functions to certain select officiates. Throughout the book he consistently demonstrates that the idea of "ministry" has for far too long been identified with clergy-status. He even suggests that the term "priest" be dropped altogether as a term restricted only to ordained clergy.

In case you haven't noticed, these are the same issues that Protestant churches have been facing for many years. All believers share in the priesthood of Christ. All are fulltime ministers of the Gospel. All are set apart from the world to fulfill that calling. Yet how well are these precepts being taught in our Protestant churches? Here, seminaries can play a strategic role by emphasizing the people's role as illustrated for us in the book of Acts. All of us have a ministry for which God has equipped us. And all ministries are expressions of the same priesthood. One is not more important than another. The fact is that no pastor (or group of pastors) can fulfill the ministry that God has given each believer.

It will be interesting to see whether or not the new pope ultimately makes any changes in this area of Catholic ministerial practice. There is no concept that can reverse this error in our thinking more effectively that the priesthood of every believer.

12:12 PM Roger Olson reminds us of the tendency we all have to inflate our denominational membership statistics. All of this arises, of course, from a light concept of the holiness of God. How ridiculous to act as though the Gospel was a matter of a church roll!

12:05 PM I've already mowed the lawn and it's not even April. Can you believe it?

10:34 AM Here's a great verse for teachers (1 Thess. 5:14):

We urge you, brothers and sisters, to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, and be patient with everyone.

Students usually fall into one of these three categories: idle (also translated "unruly"), timid (also translated "fainthearted"), and weak. The idle are not to be coddled but "warned." The timid are not to be warned but "encouraged." And the weak are not to be encouraged but "helped."

Students, take note.

10:22 AM So grateful today for a loving seminary family. Next Monday the Women's Life club at SEBTS will meet to pray for faculty needs. They asked me for a brief update on Becky and for three prayer requests. Here's what I sent them:

Over 3 years ago Becky was diagnosed with Stage 4 clear cell uterine cancer, a very aggressive form of this disease. Since then the cancer has metastasized to her lungs. We have now exhausted all traditional treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation). Last October Becky was at death's door, having been hospitalized three times for a blood clot, stroke, and stomach perforation. But God spared her, and now that we have stopped the chemo she has her strength and appetite back (not to mention her hair!). Becky is currently trying a non-traditional treatment. Our next pet-scan is scheduled for May, at which time we will find out the status of her lung tumors.

We are so grateful for your prayers, dear friends. Here are three prayer points:

1) Praise God that He has allowed Becky to live much longer than any of her doctors anticipated. Apparently He is not finished with His choice servant yet. God has blessed Becky and me with 36 wonderful years of marriage and we have absolutely no complaints. Plus, the health care at UNC has been outstanding.

2) Praise God for Becky's attitude of utter trust and joy in the midst of her terrible suffering. Her essays have been a great blessing, not least to her husband. (If you should care to read them, you can go to our web page called "Our Cancer Journey.") Many of these essays have been translated into other languages (including Chinese). Pray that God might use Becky's example as an encouragement to other women who are suffering.

3) Please pray for stamina as we continue to seek to serve others and the nations with our whole lives. This year I am scheduled to be in Ukraine, Asia (two trips), India, Ethiopia, and Guyana, while Becky is planning on ministering in Asia (August) and India (we will visit there together in October, Lord willing). She is also responsible for taking care of Nigusse (our Ethiopian son who is living with us for three years), the logistics for the work we do in India and Ethiopia, and for helping me take care of a 123-acre farm with two houses! We are so grateful that the Lord has given us a purpose in living beyond our marriage (see our essay "A Great Commission Marriage").

Oh the beauty and wonder of the Body of Christ!

10:11 AM Becky continues her series on our work in India with her latest article: Building for the Future in India. Excited to see how the Lord will use her essay!

Personal note: I never thought I would see the day when Becky and I would would be led to expand our work from Ethiopia to the great nation of India. I think this involvement springs from a vision of family that is larger than biology or nationality. The early church practiced redistribution of wealth because they were all of one heart and mind. The problem is that we can worship Jesus without ever doing what He did. Needless to say, when we first got involved with the nations I had no idea how difficult this involvement would be. But I would not give it up for anything. I don't know how much you know about northeast India, but reading Becky's essay would be a good place to start. Then begin to ask God to show you what to do in this great task of global evangelization.



8:32 AM This email arrived today: 

Regarding your blog entry on "Parkinson's Law" ... I fear we have many organizations ... that are as bureaucratic as the federal government we rant against so often.

8:30 AM There's a lot of truth to this statement. A lot.

I am always fascinated by the choices the Septuagint translator makes.

8:14 AM I just found this excellent essay by Barry Hofstetter called Why Reading Other Greek is Important. I'm all for it. In fact, yesterday in our LXX class I had the students sight read the following passage from the Didache.

Yes, reading other Greek is most certainly advantageous. As Barry puts it:

Where do you get that full benefit, and where do you learn really to read and understand NT Greek? By reading lots of extra biblical Greek literature. You then become familiar with a wide range of idioms. You see familiar friends, so to speak, in new places and doing new things. You see that there is more than one way to say the same thing. Suddenly your Greek NT is no longer an artifact to be studied at a distance, it's no longer an archeological dig to determine the meaning of the text, but it is a document that makes sense as a nearly living language. The reader also has the added benefit of a better sense not only of the linguistic context, but of the general context of the ancient world.


7:58 AM If you are at all interested in the question about the authorship of Hebrews, this thesis (University of Thessaloniki) might be of interest. The (English) abstract reads as follows:


7:52 AM Quote of the day:

If you want to emulate Paul, live like Paul. Get a job. Get out in the field. Live among the church. That is how Paul did it and he is the greatest theologian the church has ever produced. Paul's writings were formed by his missionary experience and zeal, his thoughts were forged in the fires of persecution and hardship. We need to hear more from those who live like Paul because they have so much to teach the rest of us who will never be asked to present a paper at a theology conference.

Read Write Like Paul Wrote!

7:49 AM At Energion Publications, Henry Neufeld has updated his submissions process form. If you are thinking about submitting a proposal to the series that I co-edit with Allan Bevere, please click on that link for important information. Allan and I are always looking for cutting edge manuscripts on critical issues. For a current listing of  books in the Areopagus Critical Christian Issues Series, go here. Our next release (April) is called Tithing After the Cross: A Refutation of the Top Arguments for Tithing and a New Paradigm for Giving, by David Croteau.

Wednesday, March 13

8:39 PM Got a minute?

1) Tonight Nigusse shared his pictures of Israel with the gang at The Hill.

2) As I will shortly be leaving for regions beyond, I have been mulling over a question: Did Paul have a missionary strategy? Parkinson's Law states that social organizations tend to grow ever bigger and, as they do, consume an unnecessary and disproportionate part of the total resources upon themselves. People have asked Becky and me when we are going to "incorporate," or at least "name" our work in Ethiopia/India. We don't think either step is necessary to serve the Lord effectively. In all frankness, we prefer being just a simple mom-and-pop (literally!) ministry, so that people know that every penny sent to us goes to where the needs are, not to pay for our expenses or "overhead." If we ask, "What was the missionary strategy of the early church?" we will see that it did not establish mammoth, costly mission organizations to direct the work. Finances were not diverted to pay the salaries of the mission bureaucracy. Men and women simply obeyed the Holy Spirit and went through the doors the Lord opened. They preached the Gospel, gained converts, and gathered them into churches. Local churches and individuals were the agency of church planting, not paramission organizations.

So … did Paul have a missionary strategy? I think J. Herbert Kane (Christian Missions in Biblical Perspective, p. 73) gets it right:

Some say yes; others say no. Much depends on the definition of strategy. If by strategy is meant a deliberate, well-formulated, duly executed plan of action based on human observation and experience, then Paul had little or no strategy; but if we take the word to mean a flexible modus operandi developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and subject to His direction and control, then Paul did have a strategy.

Our problem today is that we live in an anthropocentric age. We imagine that nothing of consequence can be accomplished in the Lord's work without a good deal of ecclesiastical machinery -- committees, conferences, workshops, seminars: whereas the early Christians depended less on human wisdom and expertise, more on divine initiative and guidance. It is obvious that they didn't do too badly. What the modern missionary movement needs above everything else is to get back to the missionary methods of the early church."

Friends, how many people in our congregations will ever attend an institution of Christian higher education? How many will be appointed as "career missionaries"? If every Kingdom Hall can become an effective training station for the Jehovah's Witnesses, why can't the average local church?

3) Here's my friend Alfie who teaches at Odessa Theological Seminary. Like all good New Testament teachers, he is an expert in all things skubala. Here he is fertilizing one of our fields.

His form is almost as good as Nigusse's, wouldn't you say? See you next week, Alfie, Lord willing.

4) From my Ethiopia trip diary, June 2008:

Wednesday, June 10, Alaba. It's my break time. I'm sitting here in my room practicing my German. Since there is no one to speak it to, I'm talking to myself. Right now I am totally frustrated. No matter how hard I try I can't remember the German word for "little." Every time in my imagined conversation I try to use that word the Amharic "tinish" comes to mind. This is so strange that I have to record it in my diary. I have taught and preached hundreds of times in German, but I can't remember how to say "little"!

5) Have you seen the book A Thousand Shall Fall? It's the story of a 40 year-old German pacifist who was drafted and assigned to Pioneer Company 699, Hitler's elite frontline unit. Having lived in Europe and been in several of the places named in the book, including Frankfurt am Main and Odessa, and having a keen interest in WW II history, I found this book much more interesting than its title might indicate. If all Elizabethan tragedy is melodrama, then German non-fiction is sui generis. Franz Hasel refused to imbibe the pagan philosophies of his commanders and comrades-in-arms, and somehow survived to tell about it. Imagine -- a Sabbath-keeping, pork-refusing, conscientious-objecting Christian serving as a cog in Hitler's war machine as it crashed into Poland, Sedan, and Russia. The notion may be rather absurd, but the story is a good one and the ethics identical to Adventist theology -- and this is not even to mention the quite incredible comic statements emanating from the Vaterland: "We are the super race. We are invincible. Victory Salvation!" This vulgar beastliness, alas, did not disappear in the twentieth century. All countries eventually get the disease of decadence, even though individuals in them may see the light of day. As Socrates would say, "O dog!" (ne ton kuna).

Note: One of Franz Hasel's sons, Gerhard, eventually became an internationally-renowned Old Testament professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, IN. He published 14 books and hundreds of journal articles before being tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1994.

6) Students, there are some great Hebrew and Old Testament links here: This page is the work of my colleague and LXX co-conspirator Shawn Madden.

I think you will especially enjoy Discourse Types Hebrew English (.pdf).

7) I well remember my gelding named Cody. His greatest contribution to me was his gentle and kind nature. Cody was a purebred Arabian – a breed in a class by itself among horses. But he was much more than that. We loved and respected each other. Somehow we managed to learn several difficult dressage movements together. He was my barnyard favorite. When he became ill with cancer, we both knew it was the end. I called the vet, and we said our goodbyes. I couldn't bear his suffering any longer. All of these past memories paraded through my mind as I read Alvin Reid's latest post about the loss of his cat Patches. We who own pets have chosen to surround ourselves with lives that are more temporary than our own. Yet we would have it no other way.

"The very best place to bury a dog is in the heart of his master," said Ben Hur Lampman. Even when they are gone, our pets are never forgotten.

Tuesday, March 12

5:30 AM Baylor theologian Roger Olson said something really profound on his blog the other day:

Why, you ask, do I not have [this essay] published in a theological journal? Well, to be frank, this is a better way to assure readership. My blog reaches many more people than most theological journals.

Oh, the power of blogging. You tap out words on your computer screen and they end up reaching thousands more people than if you had published them in a print medium. I also marvel at the blog relationships I've established through the years. I've made a whole lot of new friends. There's a man in Australia I've never met. I've never shaken his hand. But our friendship is solid. (One reason I know this is because we pray for each other regularly.) I'm grateful for all the curmudgeons I've met through blogging. (Takes one to know one!) I savor knowing that the reach of DBO is wider than any print outlet could ever be. And, in turn, I always appreciate thought-provoking posts written by other bloggers. This is all the more important now that Facebook is on the wane. As for Twitter, I was tweeting long before Jack Dorsey arrived on the scene. You never know who you are influencing when you hit the publish button. My blog reaches every corner of the earth -- as does yours, if you too blog. I love getting emails from people who have read my posts. And the writing of my silly posts prepares me for the heavier essays I occasionally get to publish as well at DBO. Roger Olson is so right. If blogging is dead, I haven't gotten the word yet. It remains the foundation of social media. But ultimately, it allows you to develop yourself, as a person and as a Christian.

Why not give it a try?

Monday, March 11

5:43 PM When I was studying the early church fathers for my book Why Four Gospels? I asked a leading scholar in the field, "How do you know you have the right translation?" His reply was, "I've translated them myself!" He had translated the church fathers from the Greek and Latin. That is the best translation of all. I say this to remind my Greek students that no translation is as effective as the I-did-it-myself edition. Of course, some of these translations are very incomplete. Many are mere parodies of the text. But we will never improve our language skills until we do the work of translation for ourselves. Yes, I know it takes time, and lots of it. But it must be done. The average language student is flabby for lack of such exercise.

How's your Greek? Do you work at it? Have you had your exercise today?

8:22 AM Yo folks,

Hope you're enjoying the spring-like weather. Let me bring you up to date on a few items. The Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa is one of only two accredited theological colleges in Ethiopia. Its students come from all over Ethiopia. It boasts an excellent national faculty as well as a number of adjunct expats who teach there. (Jason Meyer of Bethlehem Baptist Church recently taught here.) I was privileged to teach 6 weeks of beginning Greek at ETC in 2005, at which time my lectures were professionally videotaped. (You can find the 24-DVD set here.) After seeking direction from the Lord, I have felt led to return to ETC this summer during my trip to Ethiopia instead of going down country. From July 1-12 I have been asked to teach two courses. In the afternoons I will offer Greek 3, and in the evenings I will lecture on "Current Issues in New Testament Studies." I'm excited to be returning to Addis for ministry. Truly, teaching the future teachers and leaders of the churches in Ethiopia is a very high honor. Inspired by Jacque Ellul, I will be focusing on our identity as Christians as foreigners and exiles on this earth, citizens of the kingdom of God who place their knowledge at the service, not of scholarship, but of the church. Just to be clear, this obviously doesn't mean that I ignore high academic standards. But what our commanding officer (Jesus!) tells us to be ready to do is to invest our lives fully in living under and expanding the reign of God on this earth by living radically counter-cultural lives. We aren't called to be revolutionaries in the way pagans are called to advance their own causes. We're to act like Jesus with sacrificial love toward others. And yes, even the study of Greek should contribute to this goal. After all, how can we follow Jesus in obedience unless we know what He commands us to do? That is why it's appropriate to speak of Christian education as "likeness education." We have pledged our sole allegiance to Christ the King and to imitating Him wherever we go. It's unfortunate, but perhaps understandable, that not all educational enterprises, even Christian ones, understand this principle.

I'll be sharing basically the same message when I leave for Ukraine next week. Sound like a broken record? I know. But "here I stand; I can do no other" (as a really smart guy once said).

Live in love, as Christ loved you (Eph. 5:1-2)!


P.S. By the way, here's my Greek 1-2 class back in the summer of 2005:

I appreciate these men so much. Because they "endured to the end" (we called the class The Great Tribulation) I treated them to a last supper.

Also, every man who finished the class received a free copy of the UBS Greek New Testament. Are they still using them today, seven years after the class? God knows.

Sunday, March 10

3:28 PM Let's see. We had a wonderful time at The Hill today. In Sunday School we discussed confession of sin and forgiveness. In the main service we continued our study of the book of Romans. I feel washed in the Word. Paul clearly designed this book to provoke discussion! Afterwards we stayed for the India Team 2013 orientation, led by our good friend Woody, who co-led the trip to Bagdogra last year.

The dates are still a bit up in the air, but it looks like the team will be heading out mid-November or so. This will be one month after (Lord willing) Becky and I return from Bagdogra. This will not be the first international trip Becky will take this year. On Monday we are applying for a visa for her to travel abroad in August. I just couldn't help but laugh with joy at this news. Let's pray that her visa is approved.

On a more personal note: Tomorrow Becky has asked me to begin preparing her garden beds for planting. Yes, the time has come for us to get our hands dirty in the garden again. And look here -- our first gardenia of the year.

Gardenias are, bar none, my favorite Southern flower. Their scent is absolutely divine.

I also want to send a shout out and hearty congratulations to the Mekane Yesus Church in Ethiopia for their recent stand on homosexuality. I will continue to pray that their denomination continues to stand for truth even as they display Christ's unconditional love for all people regardless of their sexual orientation.

Finally, I would be deeply grateful for your prayers as I prepare to leave next week for Ukraine. What an honor and privilege. And huge responsibility.

May your joy be as full as Becky and mine!


9:08 AM Not everyone agrees that all of the so-called Prison Epistles were written from Rome. For a minority perspective, see Bo Reicke's Caesarea, Rome, and the Captivity Epistles. Reicke was my Doktorvater in Basel.

8:12 AM When preachers use Greek from the pulpit, should someone be required to interpret (see 1 Cor. 14:26-32)? A preacher, for example, might etymologize. "The Greek word here [name the word] is composed of two roots [name them in Greek], the first meaning ____ and the second meaning ____; hence the word means ______." The problem is that these definitions often do not comport with actual New Testament usage. The preacher has committed the root fallacy, exposed so long ago by Don Carson and others (including moi). Here's the problem: Who in the congregation is able to check the accuracy of remarks like that? This is where Paul's teaching about tongues in 1 Corinthians might have an application. You will recall that Paul requires the one who speaks in a tongue to provide an interpretation at the same time. Or else someone else would have to be present who could show the value (or non-value) of its worth for the edification of the Body. In this way Paul sought to rob the tongues-speaker of the subterfuge and mystery inherent in "unknown tongues" without discouraging initiative of the right kind.

Maybe this is a good reason to always have a Q & A session after we preach/teach. I'm told that even the Golden-Mouthed orator Chrysostom allowed questions during his sermons.

Just a thought.

8:07 AM As a general rule, Paul's epistles were written when he was actively engaged in missionary work, moving from place to place in the midst of intense preaching and teaching. I wonder: Would he have written better -- or written more -- had he been, like many a New Testament scholar today, sedentary? Would he indeed have written anything at all had he not been, at heart, a missionary for Jesus? Would we have the great Love Chapter had he not missionized the Corinthians? Would we have the marvelous Pastoral Epistles had he not planted churches in Ephesus and Crete? Here's what I'm saying: For Paul, as for Jesus (Matt. 9:35-38), Christianity was a way of life, not merely a way of thinking or cogitating in the abstract. The experience of actually serving Christ was central in Paul's ministry and writing.

So I ask: Can one be a true student of the apostle Paul and not be a missionary?

Saturday, March 9

4:45 PM Hope yall had a great day today. We had a super time at Cresset. The following is a collection of pictures from today's Ethiopia Team 2013 orientation #1. Topics covered included our trip theme ("Living in His Strength"), spiritual preparation, the language of Ethiopia, immunizations, finances, mission trip understanding, and calendar. We closed with a season of prayer. Becky and I left the house at 8:30 and returned at 4:30 but it was worth every second. God is putting together a great team. Friends, there is a beautiful and powerful grassroots movement in the Body of Christ today all over the globe arising from a conviction that the church has to become radical and that believers need to become more authentic followers of Jesus. So, my message to you (in a nutshell) is: Hold fast to your faith, but don't keep it to yourself. My prayer is that God will use our team efforts to inspire others to fulfill the vital role that God has for them in this great kingdom movement that He is inspiring in our day.

God bless,


6:54 AM Here's a thought. The apostle Paul, one of my favorite authors, lacked all of the advantages I have. He did most of his writing on the move, and much of it on the run. He wrote in the midst of an extremely busy church-planting ministry. In other words, I don't believe we should think of Paul as writing as if he had all the time in the world, using the advantages of a modern home or office. He almost always wrote in the middle of incessant missionary activity. The exceptions were the so-called Prison Epistles. Here, I suppose, Paul had plenty of time to write. Yet even then he wrote to churches (and not for the academic guild) and always to deal pastorally with different situations that had arisen.

I think Paul is a good role model for any Christian writer who also has a passion for missions. (Shouldn't every Christian writer have a passion for missions?) Paul was an apostle, not a theologian -- a church planter and missionary, not an ivory-tower idealist. In the world it is quite alright to call oneself a "scholar" and not be involved in other people's lives. But our Lord said, "As the Father sent Me, I am now sending you," and "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone." I would suggest that only as we live sacrificial lives will God be content with our scholarship. God is continually rescuing people from trouble -- that is what "save" means. And what sinners need is not another weighty tome sitting on their library shelves but a hand to lift them up out of the mire of sin. It is just that liberation that Paul preached. He was never ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. For Paul, Christianity was a God-given opportunity to witness for Christ, whether alongside a quiet river in Philippi or among the intellectuals of Mars Hill.

That missions was at the heart of Paul's life may well explain why Luke in the Acts never once mentions the letters Paul wrote on his missionary journeys. Paul's epistles were composed in order to meet either a threatening danger or an incessant need, and for this reason they speak to our human condition today. But the letter-writing Paul was first and foremost the Gospel-preaching Paul, a man who poured out his life to help others experience the mercy and love of God.

6:23 AM I've got a question for you this fine morning. Why shouldn't we be able to enjoy a varied and multifaceted teaching ministry in our local churches? Think this is a crazy idea? Read Acts 15:35. Note it carefully. Paul was not the only teacher in the church at Antioch. The text clearly says, "Paul and Barnabas, together with many others, taught and preached the word of the Lord." Did you get that? Paul and Barnabas weren't the only teachers in Antioch. They didn't monopolize the teaching ministry. My guess is that in most American churches this pattern is not followed, even though there may well be several gifted teachers in their midst. In fact, if your church has qualified leaders, then each of them is required to be able to teach the word of God (see 1 Tim. 3:2). Sure, in many Baptist churches these leaders are often called deacons, but if they are engaged in spiritual leadership then they are really elders.

So think about it. If the apostle Paul, who was one of the greatest Bible teachers the world has ever seen, was prepared to listen to others, why shouldn't we?

Friday, March 8

6:10 PM Greek students! Check out the Akropolis World News. Modern news stories in classical Greek no less. Here's the latest headline. Can you read it?

Ἆρα τίς Πάπας γενήσεται;

Now all we need is for one of you to do the same thing with Koine Greek. Any takers? 

5:55 PM This and that ...

I spent most of the day down in Oxford town getting Becky's van repaired. In the waiting room a woman noticed my yellow writing pad and asked me what I did. Well, the conversation soon turned toward Ethiopia, and it turns out she has a great interest in that nation since one her slave ancestors claimed to be an "Ethiopian." Neither she nor I was aware that Ethiopians ended up in North America as slaves, so I asked Dr. Google and -- lo and behold -- found this fascinating Harvard study called The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades (.pdf). You can imagine my amazement when I read it. If the report is true, it appears that Ethiopia was Africa's fourth largest slave-exporting nation. Nearly a million and a half (1,447,455 to be exact) Ethiopians were exported as slaves between 1400 and 1900. Talk about a doctoral dissertation that begs to be written.

Speaking of Africa, have you ever seen this?

Finally, earlier today I reflected on the question, "What makes a good marriage?" Here are the basics, as I see them:

1) Communication. As long as you can talk to each other, you can solve your problems.

2) Commitment. Not only to each other, but to stay in the marriage.

3) Companionship. You are a team, not two individuals. I would say this is our greatest asset as a married couple. We are one and, what's more, partners in the Gospel.

What do you think? What are the main components of a good marriage?

7:22 AM Paul Himes, one of my doctoral students, is a blogger whose occasional posts are always well worth the time it takes to read them (they are rarely short). In his latest post called Christian identity, Markan soteriology, and a spiritual journey, he relates the conversion story of the famous German theologian Jürgen Moltmann. To quote Paul:

Captured at the end of the war and shipped off to the United Kingdom, Moltmann was touched by the kindness of the Scots: "They met us, their former enemies, with a hospitality that profoundly shamed us. We heard no reproaches, we were not blamed, we experienced a simple solidarity and a warm common humanity. For me this was quite overwhelming" (p. 101). After receiving a Bible from a British army chaplain, Moltmann struggled with the implications of Psalm 39 and Jesus' cry on the cross in Mark 15:34. He writes, "I began to understand the forsaken Christ, because I knew he understood me. He was the divine brother in need, . . . the fellow sufferer who carries you in your pain. . . . I read the story of the passion of Christ again and again and discovered my little life story in his great story" (p. 102). Shortly after, still technically a POW, at the first post-war SCM conference, he and his fellows were approached by a group of Dutch students: "They told us that Jesus Christ was the bridge on which they came to meet us and that without Christ they would not have been able to speak to Germans. . . . We too could step on this bridge which Christ had built from them to us, even if we did so only hesitantly at first, could confess the guilt of our people and ask for forgiveness." This defining moment then pointed Moltmann towards his lifelong passion: the study of theology (pp. 103-104). By the end of his term as a POW, Moltmann could say, "What at the beginning had looked like a grim fate became an undeserved blessing. It had begun in the darkness of war and then when I went to Norton Camp the sun had risen. We came with severely wounded souls, and when we went away 'my soul was healed'" p. 104).

Rarely have I read anything so profound as this. Here former enemies meet on the "bridge" called the Gospel and their lives are forever changed. Is there not a place where you can begin building a Gospel bridge today? This is what God is calling His people to do in these end times. I fear for the nation and people whose Christian churches and seminaries have forsaken the priority of the Great Commission. The church in Scotland is to be given a great deal of credit for their attitude toward the German POWS in their midst. Last December I told you the story of Mitsuo Fuchida (who led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) and his conversion when he encountered the love of Christ through one his former enemies in Tokyo. There are probably thousands of ways that you and I can show such compassion in our own neighborhoods and cities. Rather than protesting that mosque which is being built, why not befriend the imam and ask him over for dinner? Sometimes living for the Gospel involves sacrificing some of your hopes and dreams for your lives, your children, or your church. But Jesus insisted that there is no real life until the seed that is planted in the ground dies. We can never experience the cross-life as long as we are trying to squirm out of accepting suffering as a normal part of the Christian life.

Friend, do read Paul's essay in its entirety if you can. The conversion of a German soldier is a perfect example of the proper attitude we are to have toward our enemies.

5:52 AM Life is concrete. It is a choice. It is active. It is a willingness to live before others without pretense. I've always admired people who lived this way. There's a concrete aspect to their lives. Walking to the edge of the plank will do that for you.

What plank is God asking you to walk today?

5:45 AM Prior to every LXX class session I've been listening to the assigned passage as it is read aloud in Hebrew. Here's the link. Many people in the first century were what scholars call "auraliterate." That is, they could remember almost anything that was read aloud to them. Jesus seems to be referring to these "hearing-readers" when, in Matthew 5, He reminds them of what they had "heard" when the Torah was read aloud to them. We know that Jesus was "oculiterate" (that is, He could read with his eyes from a written text) because we are told that He read from the Isaiah Scroll in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4). In the first century, all reading was done aloud -- the Ethiopian Eunuch is reading the scroll of Isaiah when Philip "hears" him (Acts 8).

Students, please do not overlook the oral dimensions of the text before you.

Thursday, March 7

6:13 PM Becky just prepared the most delicious Ethiopian injera b'wat for dinner. Fantabulous!

As for the sambusa ... let's just say no one remembered to get it out of the oven in time, and none of us is especially fond of Carbon 14.

Thank you, Becky, for the superb supper!

5:12 PM Looking ahead ...

1) In exactly two weeks I leave for Ukraine. I will cover the following subjects in 20 lectures at Odessa Theological Seminary:

Why Hermeneutics? (Parts 1-2)

Toward a Hermeneutics of Obedience (Parts 1-2)

The Text of the New Testament: Issues in the Current Debate (Parts 1-2)

New Testament Lexicography: Promises and Pitfalls (Parts 1-2)

Reading the Gospels Today (Parts 1-2)

Syntax and Hermeneutics: What’s Old? What’s New?

The Medium Is the Message: Rhetorical Criticism and the New Testament

Structural Analysis of New Testament Texts (Parts 1-2)

Discourse Analysis: Getting the Big Picture of Philippians

Sociological Criticism and the Life of Christ: Jesus and the Age Thirty Transition

Anonymity and Authorship: Hebrews as Test Case

The New Perspective on Paul: My Take

Shaping a New Testament Sermon: John 21:15-17

Epilogue: Why Hermeneutics Matters

Prayers appreciated. Since I know not a word of Russian, please ask for special grace for my translators.

2) This Saturday begins the first of four all-day orientation meetings for our trip to Ethiopia this July. We'll convene at Cresset Baptist Church in Durham, NC. Several vets will give their testimonies. Becky often calls these orientations "mini-missions courses," and that's exactly what they are.

"By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail" (Ben Franklin).

4:35 PM Two more photos:

1) Here's "our" Nathan, 5 years later. You can read his amazing story here. Aren't you thankful for Skype?

2) Guess who got their baths today? Sheba and Dayda are now CLEEEEEAN.

11:12 AM Odds and ends:

1) In his book Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal, Joel Salatin observes that "...the average farmer is now 60 years old. Serfdom just doesn't attract the best and brightest." Well, the best and brightest I certainly am not, and I hardly consider the pleasantness of working the land to be serfdom, but I do qualify on one count: I am exactly 60. The small farm is one of the last places where a man can husband the earth that God created. It's the "dirty life," as one author put it, but it sometimes helps me to keep my sanity. I would not say that I am looking for God in owning a farm. And I really don't care for the agrarian "cause." It's just my lot in life, and one I enjoy immensely. Having been gone for a week I needed to get caught up on my chores today -- feeding the animals their oats, mucking out the skubala (love that Greek term!), feeding hay, etc. I know the joy of getting my hands dirty, of being licked by cows (does that qualify as a "cowlick"?), of watching the dogs romping, even of finding (and removing) a rusty piece of barbed wire from a field. Silly, difficult, enjoyable, adventuresome, responsible, comfortable, crazy. That's what the farm life is all about!

2) Recently I met with a good friend who is undergoing a difficult trial. Right now he needs the help of his friends, especially in terms of intercessory prayer for deliverance from what is clearly a Satanic attack. I am very concerned for him. I am inspired, though, by his faith. He -- and I --are coming to the realization that we are useless pots so that the power may be clearly seen to be God's and not ours. With him, I feel my own inadequacy and need. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they had "helped together by praying for us" (2 Cor. 1:11). The Lord delights in giving us great encouragement in answer to our prayers. You recognize the situation for what it is, then you call upon the Lord with all your heart. This is the life of faith, a life where you willingly accept your circumstances and carry out God's will despite a profound sense of inability. I assured my friend that I will continually bring his situation before the Lord. I am asking God that my prayers will become the instrumentality of deliverance from this grave trial and that God would get all the glory for it.

"God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you!"

3) We've just added to our Greek Portal the following link: Bulletin of the International Organization of Septuagint and Cognate Studies (BIOSCS). I've just started reading the essays. Fantastic!

4) Students, don't forget that our next Farm Work Day is Saturday, April 6. Mark your calendars now.

5) Finally, read this excellence piece by Craig Bennett: There are times. You won't be sorry.

8:30 AM Yesterday's LXX class was a blast. I love watching my students shine in the classroom. Thanks, Ben and C.K.!

6:54 AM Good morning, friends! There is so much to share. Got a couple of minutes?

I woke up this morning with the feeling that this year will be a really incredible one. I'm expecting the miracles to continue. Seeing Becky with such good energy is a thing I honestly thought would never come. Once again, nothing makes sense. But God is not asking me to understand everything in my life or to conquer the whole world or to fix everyone's problems. He's allowing me to be involved with specific people, in specific tasks, one day at a time, one mission trip at a time. It's already been a year of paradoxes. A few months ago Becky was lying at death's door. Now we're thinking of sending her abroad to India and Asia. It's all so much bigger than me. Even in the midst of cancer a light is shining. Hope and healing have returned to Rosewood Farm. We continue to make our audacious plans, trusting the Lord to direct our steps. My calendar tells me that this month I'm taking the first of seven international trips this year (one to India, one to Africa, one to Europe, one to South America, and two or three to Asia). This is the world we love. There is no America at Bradford Hall. We are Texans and Ethiopians and Hawaiians who consider the Gujis and the Alabas and the Hans and the Bengalis to be "our" people. The Body is precious to us beyond belief. I have small bouts of panic whenever I look at all the work God has called us to do. I've said it before – I'm a petulant, spoiled child. I want a floodlight shining its broad glare into my future, when God only promises me a light for my daily path. And He whispers to me again and again, I'm the one who made you. I'm the one who numbered your hairs. I've decided the number of your days and written each one down in my Day Planner even before you were born. You have no idea how big are my plans for you. That's it, isn't it? That's the only thing that matters. Wherever I go, whatever I do, whether I'm in the halls of academia or in the attic of an underground church, my footing is secure because I'm running toward the Savior.

Remember how I told you that I've been asked to teach hermeneutics in Odessa this month? I'm calling it the "hermeneutics of obedience." I am not called to disseminate information. I am called simply to be God's arms holding a grieving father whose eight-year daughter was just beheaded by the enemies of Christianity. I am called to care for a woman who gave birth and was left with a broken heart and a broken body, a woman who can't control her urine and who desperately needs fistula surgery. I'm called to give free Bibles to African villagers who want to read no other book. I'm called to probe the meaning of suffering with believers who meet in secret. I'm called to kiss the hands of Muslim leaders and to embarrass myself in Amharic and to take 16-hour plane rides and to dance to strange music in churches whose worship makes ours look ridiculous in comparison and to smile at children in crowded busses and to suffer from malaria – because there is no way in God's green earth that I'm going to sit in my comfortable office while the world dreadfully needs to see and feel and experience God's love. Maybe, just maybe, the apostle Paul got it right when he described ministry this way:

But you have followed my teaching, my conduct, and my purpose in life; you have observed my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, my persecutions, and my sufferings.

It turns out that teaching is not enough after all. It never was. Maybe, just maybe, it will dawn on the Western Church that we are God's hand reaching out into this fallen world, taking something ugly and broken and putting it back together again, pouring out His love without reservation, giving everything we have for the simple reason that we own nothing in the first place.

I'm not big on postural praying. But yesterday I got down on my knees and prayed. Strong prayers. Big prayers. Because I know He listens to me. Because I know He wants me to be desperately intentional with this brief life of mine. I have no idea what a normal life looks like any more. Truth be told, I don't ever want to be "normal" again. I never want to be rid of this vaguely unsettled feeling that I don't belong in this world any longer. I never want to be rid of the shock and pain I feel when Christians are killed for their faith. I never want to be on the "winning" side again. I am content to be part of what the world calls losers (God has a desperate love for losers). I am done with tip-toeing through life. So what if the waters are uncharted. You see, I've experienced God's mercy, and when mercy is received, it must be dispensed. That's the God I've come to experience. Not the God of the seminary textbook but the God who is not safe anymore yet who is always good. Howard Hendricks once said, "The only thing worse than failure is succeeding at something that doesn't matter." There are plenty of options for living the Christian life that won't land you in trouble or jail or difficulty. You don't get crucified for being a "Christian." You get crucified for living a cruciform life, for living a radically different sort of life.

To anyone who took the time to read this blog entry, I want to say: If you're living a broken, shattered, scarred life, cheer up. You're perfectly qualified to join the gentle revolution. There are easier ways to live than by trying to obey the Gospel. You may get beat up pretty bad by following Jesus to the tough places of this world. (And the toughest place may be your very own household.) But that's okay. The revolution I'm talking about sets both the oppressed and the oppressors free. Try it and you'll see.

Viva la revolución!


Tuesday, March 5

5:08 AM Back from Dallas. A brief report:

If there is anyone who represents your typical seminary student, Jack Bowen isn't it. Among the many reasons God moved Jack from SEBTS to Dallas Seminary was the fact that Dwight Pentecost and Harold Hoehner taught there. "I've just got to sit at their feet personally," he told me one day in my office. Jack is a lover of the Word and has a huge heart for missions. When he's not in a class at DTS -- or piloting a 747 from Chicago to Hong Kong -- you'll find him on a mission trip. (Here we are in Ukraine in 2007. Jack is the second from the right.)

I also met Clement (from Hong Kong) and Cesar (from Venezuela) -- among many other DTS students. Clement (to my right) was a businessman before coming to the seminary, and Cesar (to my left) is a surgeon who returns home one week every month for his operations.

For all of these men, "someday" is arriving soon. God bless each of you as you leave the brain mill called seminary. I am eager with anticipation at how God will use you in the future. Remember: (1) your dreams should be big, (2) discipleship is always costly, and (3) "impossible" is God's specialty.

As I look back on this trip, I realize that that day on campus was filled with significant kingdom-conversations skillfully engineered by the Spirit of God. I love DTS.

I love DTS missions prof Steve Strauss who served in Ethiopia for many years and is now battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

I loved watching Becky with her friends and family -- alive, energetic, vibrant. As we watched her, we all knew that God had vindicated our prayers.

God is neither a divine sugar daddy who pampers us nor a celestial scrooge. But we can always count on Him to give us what we need, when we need it. The trip was both fun and functional. Handshakes, pats on the back, posing for pictures, reunions with old friends, making new ones -- with gratitude I glimpsed the glory of another of the Master's marvels, His ability to make our paths straight. As I type these words, staring at a computer screen, my heart sings.

Oh, the funeral for Howard Hendricks was on Saturday at Stonebriar Church where Chuck Swindoll (Becky's former youth pastor at Grace Bible Church) is pastor.

Of the many quotes I heard during the service, this one stuck with me:

Always remember the difference between your career and your calling. Your career is what you're paid for. Your calling is what you're made for.


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