What I read in 2018 – Just the Highlights!

By “Highlights” I do not mean the kids’ magazine, that staple of my dentist’s office as a kid, but rather my favorite reads of the year. I read 104 books in 2018 as I pursued my goal of two books a week; this does not include daily Bible reading or magazines. One happy turn was that in 2018 I spent 7 months in the States, a short distance from the Ronks Public Library and also from the library in Lancaster Bible College. Karen and I also listened to a number of these titles as Audible books as we traveled around the Northeast.

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Unless I indicate otherwise, I would recommend all of these books.

THEOLOGY

Septuagint: Every year I form a group of Bible students on Facebook, where we push each other to read the Scriptures in the original languages. In 2019-2020 we are, Heaven willing, reading the entire Septuagint (known as the LXX) from cover to cover. This was the massive writing project of the rabbis, who between the 3rd-1st centuries BC rendered the Bible from a Semitic language, Hebrew, into Greek – they were apparently the first to undertake such a leap. We began the first week of 2019, and to prepare I read A Handbook to the Septuagint by Ottley; The Septuagint by Jennifer Dines.

Image result for septuagint text

Devotional: C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, is a series of sermons. One of them contains his famous statement, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. (more…)

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No-body knows when you will die or Jesus will come! And it’s a good thing

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 1 Thess 5:1-2

“And further, not to know when the end is, or when the day of the end will occur, is actually a good thing. If people knew the time of the end, they might begin to ignore the present time as they waited for the end days. They might well begin to argue that they should only focus on themselves. Therefore, God has also remained silent concerning the time of our death. If people knew the day of their death, they would immediately begin to neglect themselves for the greater part of their lifetime. The Word, then, has concealed both the end of all things and the time of our own death from us, for in the end of all is the end of each, and in the end of each the end of all is comprehended.

“This is so that, when things remain uncertain and always in prospect, we advance day by day as if summoned, reaching forward to the things before us and forgetting the things behind…The Lord, then, knowing what is good for us beyond ourselves, thus stabilized the disciples in a correct understanding. They, being taught, set right those of Thessalonica, who were likely to err on the very same point.”

Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians 3.49–50.

Why read the Septuagint from cover to cover?

Pre-Christian fragments of the LXX

Last month we announced a two-year safari, reading through the Septuagint version of the Scriptures, from cover to cover!

Our friend David Baer (PhD from Cambridge, specialist in the Septuagint of Isaiah) has decided to join the group. He wanted to say a few words!

Why read the Septuagint? The whole Septuagint??!! Over two years??!! Are you nuts?

It’s not hard to imagine how such a project would be abandoned alongside the highway of our lives, a good idea that could never earn a space for itself among the daily priorities of busy lives.

Nevertheless, I’m in. I’m in because the reading of the Septuagint promises several benefits.

First, the student who has decided to study New Testament Greek has in fact only prepared himself to read a thin slice of the Jewish and Christian literature that comes to us in Greek. Those of us who’ve learned to read the New Testament in Greek have done a very fine thing. But we can’t really claim that we read Greek. Not yet.

Septuagint reading, precisely because it places on the table before us texts that are not as well known to us as the New Testament, is the very best way actually to learn Greek.

In the second place, the Septuagint was the form of the Bible that was best known to the first generations of Christians. Although it’s true that the difference between the Masoretic Hebrew texts and those of the Septuagint are hardly massive, it should not be denied that those differences do exist. Reading the Septuagint puts us in the shoes of the earliest Christians, spiritual family members of ours who knew the Scripture principally in Greek dress.

Third, reading the Septuagint is an open door that welcomes us into first-hand contact with the challenges that keep textual critics busy. This kind of reading confronts us with difficult decisions about the complex relationship that exists between texts that share a common origin but have come to be different from each other through the reverent reading to which both Jews and Christians have subjected them.

Finally, reading the Septuagint is fun! It’s even more so when a cohort of friends—or perhaps readers who will over time become friends—take up together the intellectual challenge of reading ancient texts slowly, for this is the pace at which we will inevitably read.

So let’s read the Septuagint! Let’s bend our shoulders to the plough together with our spiritual ancestors, whose hands and eyes fell upon Greek texts that they fully considered to be the Word of God.

Our Goal: A two-year excursion through the Septuagint, including the Deuterocanonical books, from January 1, 2019 through the close of 2020.

For more information read the DESCRIPTION HERE

To Join, go to Facebook: our page is under the name Septuagint2years or Septuagint in 2019-2020, go to the page and click LIKE in order to join.

“Why read the Septuagint from cover to cover?,” by Gary S. Shogren and David Baer

Facebook Reading Club! – the Septuagint over Two Years

Our Goal: A two-year excursion through the Septuagint, including the Deuterocanonical books, from January 1, 2019 through the close of 2020. We will offer weekly reading plans that will average about a chapter and a half per day; for example, the week of January 1-6 we will read Genesis 1-12 LXX. The Psalms will be interspersed throughout the year, and we will have regular “Catch-Up” times. While en route, we will also take side excursions: reading Sinaiticus on its website, some Septuagint texts from the DSS, the Hexapla, the Theodotion version of Daniel, and the Fayyum fragments.

Why? Two excellent reasons. The best way to expand one’s knowledge of biblical Greek is to read the Septuagint. And the Septuagint was the Bible of the apostolic church.

Why Now? This group was sparked by the publication in November 2018 of Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition, by Lanier and Ross. (http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2018/08/new-readers-lxx-on-sale.html)

This edition of Rahlfs-Hanhart footnotes the lexemes which appear 100 times or less, beginning with ἀόρατος in Gen 1:2: the earth was “invisible, without form.” The list price is $109.95, but it is now discounted on Amazon for $87.96. it is highly recommended for participants in this group! (There is no Spanish equivalent edition).

How Much Greek Do I Need in order to Participate? The difficulty level of the LXX is not high, especially for people who have dominated the Greek of the New Testament. Nevertheless, the sheer quantity of text – over 1100 chapters! – means that we will be covering about a chapter and a half per every day. Even for the intermediate or advanced reader, that might require a half-hour daily. This is all to say that, reading the entire LXX and committing this much time for two entire years will be demanding. Let us count the cost!

To Join, go to Facebook: our page is under the name Septuagint2years or Septuagint in 2019-2020, go to the page and click LIKE in order to join.

Reading Plan – the Full Septuagint in 2 Years

“Facebook Reading Club! – the Septuagint over Two Years,” by Gary S. Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Lost your Life? No problem! Christ has it in safekeeping

To download the entire file click here: SHOGREN_ILE conference 2018, Lost Your Life No Problem Christ has it in Safekeeping

Mark 10:28 – Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”

Note: This series was given to students at the Spanish Language Institute in San José, Costa Rica. Most of them were learning Spanish in order to serve God cross-culturally; hence the many references to missionaries and (part IV) to the stress of second language acquisition.

Spiritual emphasis week

Outline:

I. Lose your self, life, identity
II. Lose your family, friends, belongingness
III. Lose your possessions and opportunities
IV. Lose your tongue
V. …only to find them again

 

TEXTS:

Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Mark 10:28-31 Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

I. Lose your self, your life, your identity

Introduction

I lost my glasses! I lost my phone! I lost my keys! I lost my wallet! I lost my car, I don’t know where I parked it! I lost my train of thought! Well, such is the human condition; we probably did not lose these things, we just misplaced them.

But what do we do about this extreme language in Mark 10:28 – Peter said to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!” Jesus, we have lost our very lives.

That will be our theme is week will be: Lost your Life? No problem, Christ has it in safekeeping (more…)

Beware “The Pure Word” New Testament!

There are way too many English Bible translations and way too many people claiming – as in this case – to have the one true guide to its interpretation.

These are the stars that I sail by when I evaluate a Bible version or guide.

Fortunately, one new publication, The Pure Word – New Testament (TPW), has made my job simple: the TPW, far from helping the Bible student, in fact takes the reader farther away from the plain sense of scripture. This is why my thoughts in this article will seem brusque and more black-and-white than usual.

Part One: What is “The Pure Word”?

What they claim to do and what they have actually done are two different things. They claim to have (at long last!) gone back to the original Greek to produce the perfect and pure paraphrase of the King James Version, one which they imply will take away the misunderstandings in the Christian church to evaporate! [see their video on their page] So Arminians and Calvinists, Baptists and Pentecostals will finally be able to see the light and shake hands all around!

Let the buyer beware of claims that a new key has finally, after 2000 years, unlocked the true hidden meaning of the Bible. That is why my stomach clenched when the first thing I saw was “The Pure Word is an unprecedented New Testament resource, over 20-years in the making, that reveals the original Koine-Greek depths-of-meaning from the time of Christ…[allowing the reader to] experience deeper scriptural meaning that has never before been achievable in English.” Oh, and their claim that all, 100%, of Bible translations are “riddled with inaccuracies that never referenced the original Greek scriptures” and “incredibly rarely did they ever go back and look at even of the few original Greek words. Never mind this project which took over 20 years and a major scholarly group looking at every single word in the Greek.”

This last statement is either incredible hubris or simply a complete lack of awareness of what English Bible translators have been doing in the original languages for the past 500 years! (more…)

My new book “Iceberg Ahead!” – an excerpt

I have been working on and off for the past few years on a new book. It is a real departure for me, working through how to face ministry disappointments, whether minor or major.

What happens when God’s servants face apathy, ingratitude, racism, psychological issues, physical ailments, lies, and other problems? Our solution is not to ignore our pain, but to “re-tell” our stories through the biblical lens, to ourselves, to others, to God.

We use the experiences of the apostle Paul on his missionary journey to Macedonia as the framework for understanding our own trials.

Enjoy! And I hope to see this in print before too long.

The disappointments in Christian ministry might feel like colliding with an iceberg!

TITLE:
Iceberg Ahead!
When God’s servants
crash into cold, hard reality

Excerpt from the INTRODUCTION

Collision, the North Atlantic, 1912

Two massive objects took intersecting paths. And they nearly missed each other – this word ‘nearly’ is key, since it was a glancing blow alone that turned fatal for 1500 people.

RMS Titanic was the dream of Bruce Ismay of the White Star Line, which planned to astonish the world with the biggest ocean liner ever built. It was ready with only hours to spare: the boarding passengers remarked on the smell of fresh paint. From concept to maiden voyage took four long years, and finally it sailed forth under the command of Captain Edward Smith.

Meanwhile, traveling from the north: The berg was ages older than this or any human ship, calved from a Greenland glacier that had taken thousands of years to form out of layered ice and snow. The massive piece of ice had broken off the previous summer, and it took a year to drift in the direction of Nova Scotia, ambling toward its date with history. On April 14, 11:40pm, it would have been moving at less than half a mile per hour. Later reports noted that it was the only large berg in the vicinity, that is, in theory it could easily have been missed.

And traveling from the east: the Titanic plowed ahead with geometrical accuracy, as if it had planned its deadly rendezvous with the help of satellite positioning. If only the great ship had been traveling one knot faster or slower; if it had steamed from port a few minutes earlier or later; if it had turned a fraction of a degree further south when the iceberg warnings came in. If only we could factor in one of these minute changes, the Titanic would have sailed on to New York and the berg would have floated by in the darkness, unseen and unremarked. The name Titanic would be as historically obscure as the names of its two sister ships, the Britannic (sunk in World War I) and the Olympic (after many years of service, sold for scrap). There are no movies about the Olympic; no Celine Dion songs about the Britannic!

A hundred vain ‘what-ifs’ – and we have had a century to wonder why this disaster came to this ship on that night.

Collision, Paul on his first Macedonian Tour

It was at roughly the midpoint of his ministry years when the apostle Paul launched a new operation, with what seemed like specific direction from God: Go to Macedonia, announce the good news of Jesus.

As it turned out, Paul ran into massive opposition there. To extend the Titanic image even further, Paul rammed into one iceberg, but did not sink; he then limped along and smashed into a second one; and again, and again, for a total of, by our count, eleven distinct collisions, any one of which could have finished him off. (more…)

Sanctification as singlemindedness

Just ran across this from Calvin. By “integrity” he doesn’t mean what we usually do (ethical consistency) but “singlemindedness”, the opposite of “doublemindedness”.

Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at your own pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice.

But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord…

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.6.5

Don’t critique Calvin before reading a bit of his writings! The reader can listen to the Institutes as audible files from librivox.org.

We might also add this from Wolfgang Schrage concerning how the wretched man of Romans 7 is a thing of the past for the Christian:

The human contradiction…the dichotomy and division within the self, is a thing of the past. The radical nature of this new being implies an undivided integrity of God’s claim upon us.

From The Ethics of the New Testament [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988], 187; see also my “Are you a wretched man or woman? Should you be?”

“Sanctification as singlemindedness,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

The ‘Ultracharismatics’ of Corinth and the Pentecostals of Latin America as the Religion of the Disaffected

Originally published as: “The ‘Ultracharismatics’ of Corinth and the Pentecostals of Latin America as the religion of the disaffected.” Tyndale Bulletin 56.2 (2005): 91-110. This is a detailed exegetical study, more technical than most of what I post on this blog.

To download the article as a pdf, click here Ultracharismatics in Corinth and in Latin America. La versión en español AQUI.

Summary

This paper arises from research on 1 Corinthians within a Latin American milieu. It shows the value of studying God’s word from non-First World perspectives, particularly with regard to the themes of societal status and the charismata in the first century church. The majority opinion is that 1 Corinthians was written to correct a ‘pneumatic enthusiasm’, with such diverse components as the denial of the resurrection, egalitarianism and triumphalism. It would follow that the teaching about the charismata in chapters 12–14 is directed against that same outlook. We will argue that the majority of the letter is addressed to Christians who dabbled in philosophy as a sign of their upward mobility. But then, using sociological insights from Roman Corinth and from the contemporary Latin American church, we will propose that chapters 12–14 speak to the marginalized of the church. They had turned to the showier charismata as a means of creating an identity for themselves in a church where the elitists received all the attention…as well as invitations to the table of other rich Christians. Thus while the bulk of the letter is a harsh rebuke to the arrogant elitists, chapters 12–14 are directed to the marginalized ultracharismatics, showing them that all of God’s gifts must be used in the loving service of the body.

1. Introduction: 1 Corinthians 12-14 in the scope of the letter

In 12:1 Paul responds to a written question regarding the gifts of the Spirit.[1] The main issue was that some were ignoring apostolic custom, which the apostle reaffirms in chapter 14. For want of a better label, we will refer to them as ‘ultracharismatics’. Given Paul’s response, we will argue further down that tongues were causing some – whether it was their intention or no – to withdraw inwardly from the group dynamic of the assembly. What is more readily obvious from the text is that their noise and unintelligibility tended to overwhelm those who wanted to unite the group with teaching, song, or prophetic revelation (14:26). John Hurd is not quite on the mark, therefore, that chapters 12-14 are ‘one long attack upon the notion that speaking in tongues was the single or the best manifestation of the Spirit at work in the Church’.[2] This may have been the specific issue in the letter from Corinth, but Paul’s larger criticism has to do with using any charism without due care to the church’s need for corporate edification (more…)

New Documentary: “Fragments of Truth”

UPDATE! This was a one night special showing, but I am told it will be out as a video. You can sign up here to get the announcement when it is due out.

I am extraordinarily excited about a new documentary on the manuscripts of the New Testament. This is a topic I teach on, and I can tell you that this is based squarely on the best historical research, by the world’s top experts (Craig Evans, Dan Wallace).

That is, it is not one of these “Ancient Aliens”-style productions we usually see in the media.

This is especially helpful to counteract these weird ideas, that old manuscripts are somehow a Roman, Gnostic, Alexandian Cultic plot to destroy God’s Word.

Tell your friends! Better than the next Marvel movie!

In the United States, you can reserve your tickets through Fandango.
P52_recto

p52 is one perhaps the oldest known scrap of the New Testament. And it is starring in the new Fragments movie.