All posts by admin

Meditating on the Opening Verses of Hebrews

Sunday, June 17, 2018

8:55 AM Good morning, guys, and Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there. This morning I thought I’d continue blogging about the book of Hebrews, which is my favorite New Testament writing outside of the Gospels. This morning I’m meditating on the opening verses of the book. I used to spend a lot of time in the prologue of Hebrews when I was writing my journal article on the subject. What moved me greatly was to see the absolute beauty of the passage. At the time, I profited eminently from the work of Johannes Louw on discourse analysis, and so I called my essay “Hebrews 1:1-4: A Study in Discourse Analysis,” which appeared in the Westminster Theological Journal and can be accessed, free of charge, here. My study of this text was invaluable. It set a trajectory for me in my subsequent studies in Greek discourse analysis. In this opening paragraph of Hebrews, the exalted Christ is found, front and center. And the Greek of this text? It’s perhaps the most exalted Greek in the entire New Testament, which is what you’d expect when the theme of the book is “Christianity Is Christ.” I often tell my students to look for issues of style in a New Testament book every bit as much as matters of theology. The way something is said can enhance its effectiveness. Today I simply want to note the opening two adverbs of the letter. Here the author uses a figure of speech called alliteration in introducing how God spoke in the Old Testament — “in many parts and in many ways” (Greek: polumeros kai polutropos). Note the initial “p” sound. This was designed to make the audience attentive and receptive to the speaker’s message. God, he says, spoke in many parts and in many ways through His spokesmen the prophets. Here the words polumeros and polutropos have to do with the varied and manifold nature of Old Testament revelation. It helps, then, when studying the Old Testament, that we at least try and understand how all of these parts fit together. Likewise — and here’s the main point I’m trying to make this morning (cf. Heb. 8:1!), I believe we can apply these same two adverbs to the letter to the Hebrews. Has not our author (1) used a great variety of parts in order to communicate a single message, and (2) used any number of rhetorical devices (alliteration, assonance, anaphora, asyndeton, metonymy, hyperbole, etc.) in order to increase the impact and appeal of his message, the “hitting” and the “drawing” of his letter on his audience? What this means, at least to me, is that if we are to understand the book of Hebrews aright, we have to begin by understanding at least two things:

Its discourse structure (that is, how all the parts fit the whole), and

Its literary devices (that is, how the message is enhanced by the style of the writing).

What an achievement if we could even begin to understand these two components of meaning! For this reason, I’d like to call your attention to two essays of mine that might help us do just that. They are both accessible online, free of charge:

“The Problem of the Literary Structure of Hebrews” available here, and

“Literary Artistry in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” found here.

At one time, as you can see, Hebrews occupied a good deal of my study time. I do hope you will not find these essays to be “scholarship for the sake of scholarship.” I well recall in the 1980s having to come to grips with a serious academic issue. Would I write for the academy, or would I try to ensure that what I wrote (both my essays and books) would be of some use to the church at large? I have suffered from that schizophrenia ever since. But ultimately I decided that my writings would, hopefully, be useful to more than scholars. Hence my essays and books have tended to be, not less scholarly necessarily (at least I hope not!), but more geared for a broader reading audience. I’ve never had occasion to regret that decision.

Please read these essays if you can. I’m a little embarrassed to call attention to my own essays. Writing is, in fact, at best a supplement to what I do in the classroom. But since most of you can’t attend class with me, I suppose the next best thing is to put my thoughts into words. God has called me to write, and I have tried to obey that calling, but others will have to decide how effective I’ve been.

Below: Heb. 1:1-7 in p46.

(From Dave Black Online, used by permission. Dave Black is the author of The Jesus Paradigm and many other books.)

Key Hebrews Passages

Sunday, May 27, 2018

8:45 AM Hey guys, and welcome back to my little blog. I was up early this morning working on the syllabus for this fall’s exegesis of Hebrews class. It’s crazy to think that anyone can cover the entire 13-chapter epistle in one week, so I’ve forced myself (ugh) to select portions of the letter to focus on. What do you think of my choices?

1:1–4

2:1–4

3:1–6

4:1–11

5:11–6:12

7:1–28

8:1–13

9:11–15

10:19–25

11:1–7

12:1–3

13:1–6

I know that some of you who read my blog are runners and, like me, read the Bible for echoes of the sport. Some passages, such as 12:1-3, are obviously running-related, but others are less obviously so. Here I’m thinking of 2:1-4 or 3:1-6, for example. There are two principles at work in these passages. I’d call 2:1-4 “The Danger of Doing Nothing.” In other words, when you do nothing, something always happens. That’s a principle of life you can bank on. Just don’t mow the grass or change the oil in your car. As for the readers of Hebrews, they were in danger of slowly, imperceptibly drifting away from their moorings in Christ, much like a sailing vessel can drift away from a dock. During our lives as runners, we face a moment of truth every time we wake up in the morning. Running for life is a choice we have to make over and over again. Piece by piece, day after day, we are adding to the mosaic of ourselves as runners. Together, inspiration and perspiration carry us through. Every run we do can become a spontaneous celebration.

As for 3:1-6, my takeaway is another often-forgotten principle of life: You don’t have to make someone else look bad in order to make someone look good. You’ll recall that in this passage the author is comparing Moses and Christ. His goal is to show how vastly superior Christ is to Moses. Had I been given that assignment, I probably would have said, “That’s easy. No problem. All I have to do is show how Moses sinned and how Moses failed and then compare him to the sinless Christ.” But the author of Hebrews was much wiser than that. Rather than denigrate Moses in any way or attempt to “unhitch” himself from the Old Testament, he shows how Moses “was faithful in all of his household.” Moses, he says, was a super great leader, perhaps the greatest leader Israel ever knew. Then he goes on to say, almost in a stage whisper, “Pssst, and guess what? Jesus is even greater than Moses, and if He can be greater than Moses He must really be Something.” You see, the author isn’t contrasting Moses’ faithfulness with Christ’s faithfulness. Both were equally faithful. But there’s a catch: Moses was faithful as a son in the house. But Christ is faithful as the Son over the house. Thus the point of comparison has nothing to do with faithfulness but has everything to do with status. One of the reasons I love the running community so much is because it’s so affirming of every runner who makes an attempt to get out there and run — even those of us out of shape slobs who started out running at a caterpillar-like pace. The possible suddenly seems possible, and no one offers you more encouragement than people who have been running all their lives. “Trust me,” they tell you. “If I can do it, so can you. All you have to do is keep training, keep improving, and keep ignoring the naysayers.” You are living a life, my running friend, that only a short time ago would have been a complete fantasy.

Of course, in our Hebrews class, we’ll be covering these passages not in English but in Greek, and believe you me, the Greek of Hebrews can be a bit on the challenging side. But if I get the syllabus up in the next 3 weeks, that should give my students plenty of time to work ahead if they so desire. The course is by default (more than design) merely an entrée into this wonderful epistle. And in addition to exegeting specific texts, we’ll also be covering such macro-issues as authorship. Here’s what they’ll be reading on this subject.

  • Allen, David L. Lukan Authorship of Hebrews. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010.
  • Black, David Alan. The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. Energion, 2013.
  • Guthrie, George. “The Case for Apollos as the Author of Hebrews,” Faith and Mission 18.2. (2001): 41-56.

Of course, when they read my little book, I don’t expect them to agree with me, though I hope they’ll get a glimpse of the remarkable joy of discovery I experienced as I began to study the church fathers for themselves.

 

Hard-Wired to Serve Others

Monday, May 21, 2018

6:42 AM If you’re a follower of Jesus, God has hard-wired you to serve others in His name. Here’s a picture of a team from Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg. In accordance with Scripture, they were passing out cups of *gummy bears* in Jesus’ name during yesterday’s race.

They had a corner on the market too, since there were plenty of other volunteers blessing us with cups of cold water. Believe me, at mile 8, these bearers of energy were just what the doctor ordered. But I have to ask myself: In all of my running, this is the first time I’ve seen an evangelical church out on a race course. It can only be done when we begin to realize that the gathering exists for the going. I have a special empathy for people trying to find their place in the body of Christ. But let’s not forget to consider simple, towel-and-basin ministries such as this one. Simply put, serving others in Jesus’ name is what you do with who you are in Christ. Every believer has been called to serve in the kingdom of God. Markus Barth reminds us that the entire church “is the clergy appointed by God for a ministry to and for the world” (Ephesians, p. 479). This is the highest calling possible. Paul says that the body grows into the Head through every joint or connection point. How different it would be to runners if they saw church after church doing such simple acts of service. They would welcome the God-given concern being expressed. This is why, significantly, the goal of leadership in the church is to get every member of the body relating to the Head for himself or herself. The leading servants will do this primarily in the context of exercising their own spiritual gifts. The church needs these specially gifted leaders, but the call of God also comes to every believer who has ears to hear — even if this means that they stand in the oppressive heat and humidity passing out jelly beans in the name of their King.

Church, I believe we can do better. Can I tell you the dream for my life and teaching? I hope you get to the end of your life and breathe a huge sigh of relief and thanksgiving. You discovered that God is good at being God. You discovered that He was willing to use you in normal, everyday circumstances to be a blessing to others in His name. We don’t have to be superstars. We’re probably better at just being normal folk anyway.

Oorah!

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. Dave is author of The Jesus Paradigm and many other books.)

Worship any Time, any Place

Tuesday, April 10

6:50 AM The light barely breaks through the trees. The sky dances. The sound of chirping begins.

You are bathed in the glory of Creation, in the presence of the Creator. Suddenly you begin to sing praises, not for the enjoyment of others but for your own pleasure and for the glory of God. That’s the Christian life. Spontaneous worship is just that. It’s worship that breaks out any time, any place, like when I washed the dishes this morning or wrote a check to someone or published the blog post you read earlier today. He surrounds us with evidence of His glory and love 24 hours a day, and so we never ever reserve “worship” for an hour on Sunday morning. Open your eyes and He is there, right there, in a sunrise or at the kitchen sink or in your office. A church building can no more confine Him than the entire universe. “God cannot be expressed but only experienced,” wrote Frederick Buechner. “In the last analysis, you can’t pontificate but only point.”

Point away!

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

Divine Gifts or Natural Abilities

(Thursday, April 5, 2018) 9:50 AM “In your opinion, what’s the best book on spiritual gifts?” A student asked me this question after my NT class yesterday. That’s easy. Kenneth Hemphill’s Spiritual Gifts: Empowering the New Testament Church. That said, I cautioned my student to be aware of two things: (1) the lists of NT gifts are not exhaustive, and (2) none of the gifts is defined per se. Then I asked him this question: “What, in your thinking, is the difference between a ‘natural ability’ and a ‘spiritual gift’?” I had a reason for asking him that question. You see, in the end I think there’s very little difference between a so-called natural ability and a spiritual gift. When you become a follower of Jesus, two things happen. First, you acknowledge that every one of your so-called “natural abilities” is really a gift from the gracious hand of God. And secondly, you now employ those gifts in His service and for His glory alone. One of the gravest dangers of doing a spiritual gifts inventory on people is that it can all too often produce carbon copies of a stereotypical archetype. Instead, let’s ask people, “What do you love to do? What is your passion in life? What is it that you do that causes you to feel God’s pleasure?” Psychologists call this “self-discernment,” but for Christians, self-discernment is always connected to our relationship with God. The more we become like Jesus, the more we become authentically ourselves. What incredibly important theology. The path to self-fulfillment is simply discovering who our Creator designed us to be. (Side note. Here’s a quick test to determine if you’re doing the rightthing with your life and not merely a good thing. Do the satisfactions of your work outweigh the stresses? If your vocation is born out of a relationship with Jesus, then it will be a pleasure both for you and for others. After all, Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” So what are we complaining about?)

Our chapel speaker on Tuesday drove this point home. “Don’t waste your life! Don’t bury your God-given talents!” It’s simply too costly. So let’s give people the freedom to be what God wants them to be. The best we can do is give them Jesus, not a book about spiritual gifts. I have no confidence in Dave Black but I have every confidence in my Savior. He is utterly dependable, and if we look to Him, He will guide us in the right path for our lives. Trust me, no one wants to follow a fraud. Be who you are, the real you, the person God created you to be. The church is for real people with real families who lead real lives. And always remember the theology: Our true self emerges only from our uniqueness in Christ.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm and many other books.)

Linguistics and Greek Pedagogy

(From Dave Black Online, Friday, February 23, 2018. Used by permission.)

9:46 AM I hope you saw our announcement about our linguistics conference, slated for April, 2019. I’ve always found it interesting to watch how different minds tackle the same problem. Someday, praise God, we’ll no longer have the need to study languages – any language. The one thing all of us teachers of Greek have in common is a love for the language and an irrepressible joy when we see our students “get it.” But none of us would claim that we have the last word when it comes to grammar or even pedagogy. In the midst of all this, I’m still mulling over the matter of verbal aspect. What in the world shall we call the three (or two) aspects? This morning I want to share a few comments in the hopes of nudging the conversation forward.

First, as I reread Joshua Covert’s summary of recent approaches to the problem – and the wide variety of terms used to describe the aspects – I’m more convinced than ever that this is a real problem for Greek scholars and students alike, and it’s frankly beautiful to watch the discussion proceed. For our students’ sake (at the very least), we need to work towards some kind of agreement or standardization, don’t you think?

Secondly, I think the elephant in the room has yet to be discussed. It seems to me that a major part of the problem, if not the biggest challenge we face, is the fact that Greek teachers and linguists are often talking past each other. Each of us approaches the problem from a different set of perspectives. For the Greek teacher, for example, pedagogy is paramount. Moreover, most of us have little or no formal training in the science of linguistics. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t interested in what linguists are saying. We are. It’s just that we don’t always feel that we necessarily have to follow their explanations or terminology. Perhaps a classic example of this is what we encountered in our Greek 4 class on Tuesday night. Both of our commentaries (by Fee and Weima) expressed puzzlement over the fact that Paul used the adverb pantote (“always”) with an aorist infinitive. How in the world can something that’s “punctiliar” (both commentators used that word) be continual? This will not do. Ever since Frank Stagg published his essay “The Abused Aorist” in JBL(followed up later by Charles Smith’s “Errant Aorist Interpreters” in GTJ), teachers have been cautioning their Greek students not to view the aorist as referring to a “punctiliar” action. Yet still today one hears statements, in both sermon and commentary, such as “The aorist here shows that Paul had in mind a once-for-all-action.” Much of this confusion stems (I believe) from A. T. Robertson’s use of “punctiliar” to describe the aorist tense. Of course, Robertson never meant us to understand a “once-for-all action,” yet the term “punctiliar” was easily misunderstood to mean that very thing. After all, something that is “punctiliar” has one single “Punkt” or “point,” doesn’t it? My point here (no pun meant) is simply this: While Greek scholars are obliged to learn as much as they can from linguists (and I, a non-linguist, have even published two books on the subject), they are not obligated to follow linguistic science blindly.

Thirdly, I’m not sure we New Testament teachers are as far apart as the evidence may seem to point. I prefer “aoristic” instead of “punctiliar” because of the way the latter term has been abused by preachers and commentators. “Aoristic” works because its very meaning is “undefined.” In other words, by choosing aoristic aspect, an author is intentionally refraining from trying to describe how an action occurred. The action is a-oristos – “unlimited” or “undefined” in terms of its kind of action. This is precisely the point that was made by both Stagg and Smith in their journal articles.

Finally, let me say why I still prefer my terms. Think about how easy we make it for our students when we say that the imperfect tense has “imperfective” aspect, and that the perfect tense has “perfective” aspect, and that the aorist tense has “aoristic aspect.” Now don’t get me wrong. I’m willing to change my nomenclature if I can be convinced to do so. Indeed, Robert Picirilli, in a JETS essay, makes a suggestion I am almost happy with. Addressing the “issue of terminology,” he writes:

I think we must recognize that it is too late in the game, as A. T. Robertson said long ago, to change the names of the tenses or the word “tense” itself. It is hard enough to teach Greek students that “tense” does not meantime and “present” does not mean present; but we have learned to handle that. If aspect theory is to win wide recognition and usage, as I think it should, I believe we must develop a terminology that does not overlap with those names and is both appropriate in meaning and relatively easy for students to learn and use. I tentatively suggest, then, that “progressive” works better than “imperfective” and that “wholistic” works better than “perfective.” I have no suggestion as a replacement for “stative.” From this point on, then, I may speak of aspect or perspective, and of progressive perspective or imperfective aspect (for the present and imperfect tenses), of wholistic perspective or perfective aspect (for the aorist tense), and stative perspective or aspect (for the perfect and pluperfect tenses).

“Wholistic” may well work better than “aoristic,” and I’m open to using that language, though I still feel it’s too confusing, from a pedagogical standpoint, to use “stative” for “perfective.” Anyways, I hope you’re enjoying this discussion as much as I am. I’ve held conferences at SEBTS to discuss the synoptic problemtextual criticism, the authorship of Hebrews, the ending of Mark, and the story of the adulteress, and I’m hoping that our gathering in 2019 will shed more light than heat on the topic of verbal aspect. As with so many other matters, “Let the discussion continue!”

Billy Graham

From Wednesday, February 21, 2018 (Note: I cannot link to a specific post on Dave’s blog. In fact, that’s why I extract them here, so there’s a permanent link.)

Finally, Billy Graham is now in heaven. What a great soul. Everything for him was wrapped up in the Gospel. Sin, he said, is our problem, and when that problem is solved, everything else comes with it. It takes no talent to locate God’s men and women. Their hearts are perfect toward Him. This doesn’t mean they’re sinless. But their hearts are set on pleasing God. There’s nothing between their soul and the Savior. Here are two quotes by Billy Graham I just absolutely love.

I don’t think I could have ever married anybody that would have been more helpful to my work and ministry than she has been.

I want to hear one person say something nice about me, when I face him. I want him to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Billy Graham bore the loss of his precious Ruthie with grace and nobleness. He aged well. His was not a Pollyanna life. But he met every trial with Christ. Everyone knew here was no ordinary man. Wherever he went, he left a trail of blessing. His “business” was to glorify God, and glorify Him he did. That’s what we’re here for as Christians. In body and in spirit, in sickness or health, by what we do and what we don’t do, by life or by death, our business is to glorify God, whatever it takes. When Graham spoke in Honolulu in 1965, I sang in the choir. I was 13 years old. “I love the music that you have out here,” he said. “The spirit of aloha seems to be in your music. It seems to be in your expression, in your smile. I’ve never been to a state or a place where everyone seems to have a certain amount of happiness.” Happy or not, Hawaiians were going to hear the Gospel preached to them. Graham called for his audience to submit in uncompromising, unquestioning obedience every day of their lives.

Like the apostle Paul, Billy Graham had something to forget — “things behind.” He had things to reach toward — “things before.” There was something to press toward — “the mark.” And there was something to work for — “the prize” — and he worked for it (Phil. 3:13). He was kept going by Jesus. He labored in the strength of Another. This strength is not just for preachers. He will keep us going as well. “My sinful self my only shame; my glory all the cross.” I’m sure Billy Graham sung that many times. He gloried in Christ’s cross. He had died with Him there. And today he saw Christ face to face. Even in his death, Billy Graham is drawing people to the Savior. He knew that along with privilege goes responsibility. Where much is given, much is required. The Christian looks unto Jesus for salvation and for every need. All other “looking up” is vain. When our loved ones die, God is still on His throne. Indeed, the passing of Billy Graham is but a prelude to an endless story that will unfold throughout eternity. Thanks be to God.

Giver of peace, we work daily at the job of practicing what Paul said to the Philippians: “I’ve learned in whatever state I’m in to be content” (Phil. 4:11). When Your saints die, that attitude helps us to accept what cannot be changed. O God the Spirit, fill our minds at this moment with the memory of a life well lived, of a man whose witness and service for You we recall with gratitude and humility. Lord, even if we’re old clay, we can still be reworked. What we pray is that we may remain faithful as long as we last. Loving Savior, for the genuine encouragement You offer us by the faithful servants of the past, we thank You. Now help us to run our race with perseverance, so that one day we too may join the community of saints. Amen.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission.)

On Vituperation and Careful Exegesis

7:34 AM Vituperation. Noun meaning abusive language, a sustained and bitter condemnation. Synonyms include invective, disparagement, vilification, scolding, condemnation, opprobrium, obloquy, castigation, attack, censure, vitriol, venom. From Latin vituperatio, from the past participle of vituperare, “disparage.” Examples include:

Four years later, in a contest marked by grotesque vituperation, Jefferson beat Adams.

Accordingly, Puerto Ricans experienced many of the same denigrating conditions familiar to African-Americans: housing segregation, inferior schools, job discrimination, media vituperation and everyday violence.

A more negative and ungodly human trait can scarcely be imagined. I once worked for a man in California who used abusive language constantly. It was a well-paying job so I overlooked his fault until one day he turned his opprobrium on me. The next day he had my resignation on his desk. (I’m ashamed it took me so long.) We humans tend to vilify others when we disagree with them. We revel in other people’s humiliation. Some of us vilify others by talking behind their backs. Others are happy to use abusive language in public. Nazi propaganda even published children’s books that vilified Jews. Last year Facebook and Twitter spent much of their time cataloguing Russia-backed ad spending on their sites to vilify certain presidential candidates in the 2016 election. Someone has said, “To bake a vilification cake, just add ignorance and stir.” All wrong recoils upon the vilifier. He or she finds ugliness attractive. Edgar Allan Poe once wrote, “To vilify a great man is the readiest way in which a little man can himself attain greatness.” If I were to call someone “very insecure,” “lightweight,” “totally unhinged,” “dishonest,” “totally biased,” “a total loser,” or “sick” in public, odds are that I’d only be describing myself.

People seem to vilify others more in politics than other fields of endeavor. John Ehrlichman, a key player in the Watergate scandal, once famously said:

The Nixon Campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Ehrlichman was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy and sent to prison.

The reason I’m bringing this up? In our passage for the week, 1 Thess. 2:13-16, Paul is said by some scholars to be using vituperation/invective. One commentator, for example, refers to Paul’s “attack on the Jewish people.” He says that Paul and other New Testament writers used “vituperation directed at the Jewish people as a tool in the struggle,” never dreaming “of the consequences of their statements on subsequent generations.” Well, I’m not buying it. As Willi Marxsen has shown, an anti-Semitic interpretation of 1 Thess. 2:13-16 can be held only when these verses are disconnected from their context (Einleitung in das Neue Testament, pp. 48ff.). I’ve already blogged about the punctuation at the end of verse 14. The difference is between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. So if you punctuate the text as is commonly done (“… the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus…”), I think you’re missing Paul’s point big time. A more accurate rendering, in my view, would be:

You suffered the same persecutions from the people of your own country as they did from those Jews who killed the Lord Jesus (ISV).

It’s clear that Paul’s words are directed at only those Jews who were hostile towards the Gospel and, indeed, his words aren’t aimed at Jewish opponents alone, insofar as the readers’ own countrymen (who were Gentiles) were attempting to thwart Paul’s evangelistic efforts. In class Tuesday night we’ll talk about this subject. We have to. A large part of exegesis comes down to observing carefully the details of a passage. It requires us to disabuse ourselves of our attachment to modern marks of punctuation (which for the most part are merely the contributions of editors). It all boils down to a close reading of the text, a willingness to consider the context, and an ability to read commentaries discerningly and even suspiciously.

Is vituperation a characteristic of the world’s most loving and selfless apostle? I think not. Such a character flaw is only descriptive of small people. Very small people.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. Dave Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm, Running My Race, Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, and many other books.)

Paul, Tenses, and Exegesis in Hebrews 6:4-6 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

8:58 AM This week in Greek 4 we’re going through 1 Thess. 2:13-16. What a fascinating passage!

What I find incredibly interesting about this paragraph is the way Paul switches from aorist tense participles to present tense participles.

I’ve seen this pattern elsewhere, except in reverse order. Here the switch is extremely important exegetically.

One of the continuing hotbeds of discussion in Pauline studies is whether or not this passage can be used to suggest that Paul was in some way anti-Semitic. I’ve striven hard to consider the evidence with evenhanded fairness, but I really don’t think there’s any way this text shows that Paul had an animus against his Jewish brethren. This debate is one of the most volatile in the church today and will merit in-depth discussion on Tuesday. I love the emphasis in 1 Thessalonians on apologetics and evangelism. I like the way students are being exposed to Paul’s philosophy of ministry. I especially love exploring with them the implications of the text for teaching and praxis. Any course in exegesis that fails to do this is doomed to irrelevance.

Random Reflections

9:42 AM Hello fellow thoughtful bloggerites. Some random reflections before leaving for the great state of Maryland. I’ve been completely and totally swamped this week. My three days on campus felt like performing brain surgery for a straight 72 hours. And then it’s back to the airport today. I can hardly keep up with my schedule. But I’m good, thank the Lord. Someone asked me in class on Tuesday how I felt the day after my marathon. I told him the next day I hiked Snow Canyon and went horseback riding, then the following day I hiked Bryce, and then the following day I climbed to 11,000 feet at Cedar Breaks. I’m so grateful for the undeserved health and strength God seems to continue to give me in the face of the pressures and opportunities of life. Next weekend it’s the wedding in DC and then the following week we’re commemorating the 4th anniversary of Becky’s glorious homegoing, followed by the Richmond Marathon on Nov. 11. And I haven’t even mentioned the “real” news I’ve been reading all morning long, like who said what when? (“I didn’t say that,” “Yes, you did!”. “No, I didn’t, and I can prove it!”). Oh my. What’s even funnier is watching evangelicals stumbling over themselves trying to invite the ambiguity of politics into the kingdom realm. The sad truth is that while evangelicals are fighting over what Caesar should or not do, the church continues to spend at least 95 percent of its resources on ourselves. That’s not giving. That’s pooling. The problem isn’t merely that we don’t get it. The problem is that we don’t know that we don’t get it. It’s just possible that evangelicals will come to see that we’re the ones who are actually on trial in our culture. If we ever did that, we’d begin to confess our sins and guilt and really repent, step down from our places at the table, and begin washing feet. I tell you, I’m so proud of my students. They’re beginning to reassess everything in order to advance a Jesus-looking kingdom. Are we imitating Jesus and obeying God? Those are the two questions I’ll be posing tomorrow when I speak to this group of pastors. Those are the standards by which we should judge ourselves, and believe me, they are anything but “normal” nowadays. This is why I have resisted, and will continue to resist, the temptation to speak out directly on this blog about politics or argue about what our nation should or should not be doing. It’s not my calling to resolve political problems. Sincere followers of Jesus completely disagree on many of the core issues. And why shouldn’t they? There is no real “Christian” position on matters so complex and ambiguous. My focus is on … staying focused. A lot more could be said (and will be said in my book Godworld), but I hope my main point is clear: followers of Jesus have one concern — to be about everything Jesus was about. We need to join Him in rejecting sexism and misogyny, we can’t prefer one race over another (and thereby use that to justify treating non-whites as inferior), we have to be about the Gospel Commission as never before, etc. We have a job to do and that is to keep the kingdom holy. I’m increasingly convinced that we serve Jesus best when we truly to commit to Jesus’ command to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. In light of this, I see no reason to get involved in the culture wars (though I did at one time). Life is so very, very short. It’s so full of wonderful things, and it’s so full of opportunities for the kingdom. I want to grasp this moment in time and leverage it to the fullest if I possible can. I noticed in our passage from Philippians this week (Phil. 2:19-30) how often Paul submits his travels “to the Lord.” He writes “I hope in the Lord” to do this or that. Paul was submissive to the Lord for his travel plans. Whether it had to do with Timothy or Epaphroditus or his own travel itinerary, Paul’s theology taught him that God rules sovereignly, while his practice led him to accept — with any question whatsoever — what the Lord ordained for his life. This morning I asked the Lord to show me clearly where He is sending me next in the world. Thus far he’s confirmed two international hot spots and a third is in the works. Ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not, at my age I’m still eager and willing to travel 12,000 miles if need be. I, for one, am very much looking forward to these trips. Right now I’m packing for Annapolis and am asking myself which of my writings I need to take for the conference book table. I can’t take all of them.

Will the pastors be interested in my Greek books? (I hope so.) Will they want a copy of Becky’s book for their wives? (They better!) Will any of them be interested in my non-Greek books like The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, or It’s All Greek to Me? Maybe I should take a copy of each? But then how would I be following the Lord’s instructions to “travel light”? (Wink.) Anyhoo, I’ll take what I can fit into one suitcase next to my clothes. By the way, if you’d like to see the power point we’ve put together for tomorrow, you can go here. You might especially enjoy the outlines of Philippians we’ve collected at the end. I used to call the theme of Philippians “Ecclesial unity in the cause of the Gospel.” I’ve since repented of such horrible verbiage. I much prefer something like “Working together as a team to love and serve others in the name of Jesus.” If a man like Bishop Wilson could pray for his tormentors in a prison camp in WW2 and then return afterwards to baptize some of them, how much more should I be able to love the enemies of the cross?

Well, I think that’s all for now. Let’s keep on walking in love, as Christ loved us, and keep on thinking and growing.

Dave