Category Archives: Bible

READ (SOME) COMMENTARIES LIKE REGULAR BOOKS

https://www.amazon.com/Message-Jeremiah-Bible-Speaks-Today/dp/0830824391

Commentaries on books of the Bible are not created equally.  You have to be shrewd in what you consult.  The better ones come in all different types from the devotional to the technical. 

My favorite ones are those who combine great care with the text of Scripture, are well-written, and offer many connections to our own time and day.  Right now, I am reading one of these kinds of commentaries: Christopher Wright’s terrific work on Jeremiah.  It is part of The Bible Speaks Today series (InterVarsity Press).  Here is something I pondered today:

“The reign of King Josiah was a time of great religious fervent and national resurgence.  It was all very impressive.  But what was God’s point of view?  According to Jeremiah God sees a people who are a disappointment to God, who are being disloyal to their covenant relationship with God, who are already feeling the shock of disasters that foreshadow worse to come, and who are living in brazen denial and delusion.  It is a frightening mirror to hold up to the people of God in any generation, with stark relevance to our own.”  (Emphasis added)

 

SUFFERING BIBLE: CRITICAL REVIEW

Here is my Patheos review of a new Bible:

I am currently writing a book (and speaking in various places) about what it means to trust God when suffering intersects our lives. It is the culmination of thirty years of wrestling with the issue…and not just theoretically.

My dear friend, John, who himself has experienced much suffering recommended this new Beyond Suffering Bible. (https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Suffering-Bible-NLT-Struggles/dp/1414395582) The good folks at Tyndale graciously sent me a copy.

I received a paperback version. I’m not sure whether the thin pages apply to other versions, but this one has extremely delicate paper. As an inveterate note-taker, I would prefer thicker paper. I know the arguments against thicker paper, but that is definitely my preference.

The idea behind this Bible is terrific. Joni Eareckson Tada is a great model to lead this project. Her reflections, which pepper the text throughout, are realistic, joy-filled, and honor God. Other contributors add their own reflections.

My main disappointment is with the scant commentary. Some significant verses related to suffering are passed over (e.g. Job 2:13; II Cor. 7:6), verses that are commonly taken out of context receive no commentary (Jer. 29:11; Lam. 3:22,23), and other verses commonly taken out of context receive too little commentary (Rom. 8:28; I Cor. 10:13). For this last example, the commentator does not commit the common error of saying I Cor. 10:13 is a proof text for “God never giving you more than you can handle.” I am glad for that, but it is unfortunate that the commentary here did not make clear that the context is addressing idols. The promise is that God will never allow us to be unduly tempted to believe loyalty to idols is our salvation rather than the true God.

Since many Christians struggle with the reality that God has indeed given them more than they can handle, this is a crucial area that should have been addressed.

I like the heart behind this Bible, but further editions should include many other relevant verses on suffering, and offer more teaching on popular verses we thought we knew already.

 

 

 

STOP READING BITS OF THE BIBLE!

From Richard Hays:

“The Bible is just not a collection of little verses or tidbits of wisdom. When we’re reading the Gospel of Luke, for example, we’re reading a text that has a narrative shape to it. To see what’s going on in the text, you have to read the thing whole and see how the parts relate to the whole.

And the same thing applies not only to individual gospels but also, analogously, to the Bible as a whole. It has a deep and subtle narrative unity—not because unity has been superimposed by ecclesial fiat or by some clever editorial design, but because the diverse biblical witnesses bear common witness to God’s grace-filled action in the story of Israel. The emergence of the biblical writings themselves, in their complexity and diversity, is itself part of God’s mysterious “authorial” action. That’s why I believe that the Old Testament and the New have an underlying narrative unity that can be discerned only in retrospect, when we read the whole thing together.”

The rest is here:http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2016/novdec/deep-and-subtle-unity-of-bible.html?paging=off

SERIOUSLY DANGEROUS RELIGION

https://www.amazon.com/Seriously-Dangerous-Religion-Testament-Matters/dp/1481300237

There are many things to like about Provan’s book.

The writing is lucid and engaging. Provan is an author who wants his readers to understand his arguments. You don’t scratch your head wondering what he really means. This seems rather basic, but if you read a lot you learn it is not something you can always assume.

Provan is certainly tethered to Scripture, but I appreciated his integrative approach. Provan uses a wonderful array of sources from history, philosophy, and popular culture.

One of my favorite things about the book are the contrasts Provan teases out between Christianity and other world religions. These insights are worded in a way that I have not seen in any other book. They provide compelling testimony to the uniqueness of Christianity.

I don’t agree with the author on some matters, such as the extent of the Fall’s effects. However, even when I did disagree with Provan, it got me thinking in new ways that were beneficial.

Last, I read this book because I thought it would show how the more difficult claims of/about God, especially in the Old Testament, were compatible with His grace. There is some of this for sure, but I would have liked to see more interaction with the thornier issues in the Old Testament.

All in all, an extremely worthwhile read.

DON’T MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE…

I am a big believer in memorizing Scripture.  It is one discipline I’ve kept at for forty years now.  I am deeply grateful for wonderful models who valued the importance early on of hiding Scripture in my heart.

So is my subject line a joke?  Yes and no.

Many people tell me they just don’t have a good memory so memorizing Scripture is tortuous.  To quote Bob Newhart, I tell them to “Stop it!”

Rather, meditate on Scripture.  Keep chewing on it.  Divide up the phrases.  Mull over individual words.  By doing so, you will begin to have passages memorized.

So don’t start out by trying to memorize.  Meditate frequently.

But do review what you have memorized.  Review is crucial.  I know many people who have memorized even long passages only to lose it later on because they made no time for regular review.

HOW ARE WE DOING?

“Popular agnostic Bart Ehrman, religious studies professor at UNC Chapel Hill, starts one of his courses with a class exercise.1 He begins, “How many of you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God?” According to professor Ehrman, the majority of students at UNC raise their hands. Then he asks, “How many of you have read [and he will select a popular novel]… The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins?” Usually, every hand goes up across the room, with only a few exceptions. Ehrman follows with a third question, “How many of you have read the entire Bible?” And virtually no one raises his or her hand. Then comes Ehrman’s punch. He inquires, “Now I can understand why you would read Collins’ book. It’s entertaining. But, if you really believed God wrote a book, then wouldn’t you want to read it?” Ehrman thus exposes the inconsistency with what these students say and with what they do.”

(Tony Merida, “Preach the Word, Build the Church,” May 16, 2016)

THE BIBLE IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD

Richard Bauckham is professor emeritus of New Testament studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.  He is also senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge and a fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  He is the author of many distinguished works.  The following interview revolves around Professor Bauckham’s book, The Bible in the Contemporary World  (http://www.amazon.com/The-Bible-Contemporary-World-Hermeneutical/dp/0802872239).

David George Moore conducted the interview.  Dave blogs at www.twocities.org.

Moore: In the introduction you write that “biblical surprises should also be part of the Bible’s relevance to the contemporary world.”  Would you unpack that a bit for us?

Bauckham: I meant that we should never feel too satisfied that we know what the Bible’s messages are and how they relate to the contemporary world. If we go on studying Scripture at the same time as we attend to what is happening in our world there will always be fresh insights.

Moore: Some continue to argue that Gnosticism is compatible with Christianity.  It seems fairly obvious that this is not the case, so why do so many keep seeking to persuade us otherwise?

Bauckham: We live in a culture that values diversity and so I think the idea that early Christianity was more diverse than we thought is appealing. Moreover, the institutional church is not popular and so the idea of an early version of Christianity that was suppressed by the institutional church for political reasons also appeals. But Gnosticism is a slippery term. I think, for the sake of clarity, we should limit it to the view that the material world was created by an inferior and incompetent deity, identified with the God of the Old Testament, while the Father of Jesus Christ is an altogether different, supreme God. Jesus came from the Father with a message for the elect: that they do not belong in this world, in which they are trapped by their bodies and the hostile god of this world, and can escape to the kingdom of the Father. Gnosticism is anti-Jewish, anti-body, anti-matter.

Moore: It seems quite evident that British biblical scholars are generally more apt than their American counterparts to discuss the abuses of capitalism and the importance of stewarding the environment.  If I am correct in my observation, what do you attribute this to?

Bauckham: There is a strong tradition in USA of association of conservative Christianity with right-wing politics and economics. This doesn’t exist in UK. You also need to remember that the political spectrum in USA is considerably to the right of the spectrum in the UK.

Moore: The modern idea of progress is a stubborn and persistent idea.  It is resilient in the face of modern horrors like the great wars, genocide, and so much more.  How can we better help others see the unbiblical assumptions behind the modern notion of progress?

Bauckham: I always have to explain that, when I criticize the idea of progress, I am not denying that many things have improved (e.g. medicine). But other things have got worse (e.g. climate change). We cannot empirically weigh up all the gains and losses and say that on balance and in total the world is constantly getting better. The idea of progress is an ideology that distorts by making us notice what seem to be improvements and to miss what are often serious downsides of those very improvements. “Progress” very often has victims, but the beneficiaries of this “progress” can the more easily ignore them because the ideology of progress consigns them to a past that is being left behind.

In its origins the idea of progress is a secular version of Christian eschatology. Perhaps that’s why so many Christians are still firm believers in it. But the Christian hope is for a future that comes from God and is not just for those lucky enough to live in the vanguard of progress but even for the dead.

Moore: It is common to hear people announce the death of the Enlightenment Project.  Is the Enlightenment over, and if it isn’t, why do so many say it is?

Bauckham: Of course, the Enlightenment was a complex phenomenon, like all such historical movements. Some of its legacy is more or less permanent, other aspects less so. I think many of us were very impressed by the claim that postmodernism was about to succeed the Enlightenment, but it hasn’t really worked out that way. It looks like the West now has a culture that mixes elements of both.

Moore: Do Christians in the West generally have the correct understanding of freedom?

Bauckham: My impression is that Christians generally don’t think about what true freedom is. They unthinkingly go along with the views that are current in our culture. But, seeing that freedom is probably the most powerful concept in contemporary western culture, it is surely vital that Christians think critically about it.

Moore: Give us a few things that you would like your readers to take away from reading The Bible in the Contemporary World.

Bauckham: I hope many readers will come away with the sense that the Bible speaks more broadly to the big issues of our time than they have realized before. And I hope many readers will find that the Bible invites them to be more concerned with the big issues of our time than they have been before.

 

 

 

 

DEEP WORK

Soon I will be interviewing Cal Newport on his terrific book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/dp/1455586692

Cal teaches computer science at Georgetown and has written a book underscoring the type of work which is increasingly rare and thus valuable.  One example can be found in blacksmith, Ric Furrer.  The care and integrity of Ric’s work is amazing.  I wonder what it would look like if Christians read their Bibles and studied with such care.