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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Popular Christian Dance Moves: Be the Life of the Congregation!

You know, back in the day, we wondered if Christians should be dancing at all. There was even a school of thought that said we teens should take a note from home for those weeks when they pushed back the big curtains that divided boys’ side from the girls’, so they could teach us square dancing.

I was stricter on myself than my church ever was, but even I decided that square dancing fell into the category of Good Clean Fun.

But lately it seems like plenty of us Christians are dancing weird steps.

This occurred to me last year, when I saw a “Bible prophecy expert” doing a popular dance which I have taken the liberty to label…

The False Prophet Backpedal

So, this man told me that he had it all figured out: Christ would return on September 13, 2015. When that event “cameth not to pass,” he discovered that it was his arithmetic, not his prophecy, that was at fault: the true date for the rapture is now Oct 2, 2016 [Note to self – remember to email {name omitted} on Oct 3 and see if he’s still with us]. But a little sleuthing on my part, and it turned up that the same guy had already predicted that the End would come in September, 2011 – it was a slam-dunk certainty that time, too. When I pointed this out to him, he did the False Prophet Backpedal: Step 1, “I never said that”; 2, “I may have said that, but it’s not what I meant”; 3, “you are wicked for pointing out that I said that.” My guess is that he will later this year take Step 4: “it was a typo, I meant to say 2017.” (See my article, “How to Calculate when Jesus will Come, Without Even being a Prophet”)

Don’t try this at home, kids, but for purposes of illustration, here are the steps of the FP Backpedal. Cue music:

The False Prophet Backpedal

The False Prophet Backpedal

And suddenly, it seems like everywhere I look, we are trying out new dance steps. For example: (more…)

Elisabeth Elliot – to what extent was she defined by her sex?

Elisabeth Elliot was a spokesperson for a definite view of gender. Her book Let Me Be a Woman (1976) was a traditionalist – some would say “complementarian” – blueprint for women in the home: assertive women are missing out on God’s plan and divine joy, and they should not seek to be equal to men, beyond the fact that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. “Why subject women to purely masculine criteria? Women can and ought to be judged by the criteria of femininity, for it is in their femininity that they participate in the human race.” I’m summarizing of course, and leaving a lot out, but that is much of her point.

On the other hand: Elisabeth Elliot also demonstrated by her actions, words, writings, that a woman in Christ can be every much the mighty warrior that a man in Christ can be; that the Holy Spirit has been poured out on both “sons and daughters”, leading us to rethink what is men’s and women’s work; that a woman can take a degree in Greek and work cross-linguistically (in Spanish, Quechua – she co-authored a Bible translation – and Waorani), and cross-culturally both without a husband (she was married to Jim Elliott after they had both gone to Ecuador as single missionaries), with a husband, as a widow and single mother; that a woman can in our collective memory outshine three husbands – even the martyred first one – in her faithful and determined labor.

On the back cover of her book for men, The Mark of a Man, it reads: “The world cries for men who are strong: strong in conviction, strong to lead, to stand, to suffer…glad to shoulder the burden of manliness.”

No argument here, that we need strong, godly men. But Elisabeth Elliot showed that you could swap out “men” for “women” in that blurb, and in the New Covenant it makes perfect sense for the sisters as well. Not feminism; not pc; just the gospel.

Many Christian women have been blessed by her teachings about the woman’s role, but I hope we can also – principally – remember her as a model to all women and men to take God’s call seriously. This is how I will remember her and try to honor her memory.

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Elisabeth Elliot – 1926-2015

Those Veiled Women of Corinth

[Note: I spent a number of years writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians for a Latin American audience (you can get it free in English HERE). 20 pages contain the full exegesis of the passage; in this blog I will mainly spell out my conclusions].

Part of Bible study is not just understanding what the author was teaching, but what problem the Scripture was intended to solve, and also to apply his teaching in a context today. In this case, we live in a culture that is far removed from first-century Corinth:

 …every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. (1 Cor 11:4-6)

My interpretation of this section is:

Paul taught all his churches that in a worship service both men and women are free to pray aloud and to speak prophetically to the congregation. Men should pray and prophesy with their heads bared; women, who arrive already wearing a veil – like a scarf or small shawl on their head, as dictated the local culture – should continue to wear it throughout the meeting. This rule was given for several reasons: it reflected the created order as described in Genesis; because it was “natural”; because to do otherwise would bring cultural shame. But later on, some Corinthian women wanted to shed the veil. Paul perceives that, while the veil in itself is not a fundamental issue of the faith, the motivations for rejecting the veil were questionable: to declare independence from men/husbands; to reject the relevance of cultural mores for a Christian; to act as if gender differences did not exist. For these reasons he reaffirms that women and men must maintain the status quo that he has established for Christian meetings.

Those women who wish to pray without a veil need to realize that they are obligated to glorify God in part by honoring “the men,” that is their brothers in Christ. Neither man nor woman in Christ is an individual unit; each must come to Christ through serving the other. Thus Paul also reminds the men: if you are tempted to lord it over women, remember that you came from a woman (11:8) and that you too have to answer to a head, that is Christ, and to make very sure that you are reflecting glory to another, not to yourself.

A "respectable" Roman woman with veil

A “respectable” Roman woman with veil

Clothing in some societies conveys strong signals about social position, self-consciousness, and gender. For example, not many generations ago, when a girl reached a certain age and started wearing her hear bound “up,” she was signaling that she was available for marriage. For boys, the purchase of their first pair of long pants was an anxiously-awaited step toward manhood. In Roman society, a respectable married woman or widow went out in public with her hair worn up and covered with a veil or shawl (more…)

The Eclectic Text of the New Testament – a conspiracy against the Word?

God’s beloved Word – you’d better believe I study it daily. Yes, as a Bible teacher, since my ministry is teaching the New Testament in Spanish and English, and also from the Greek. But more fundamentally I read the Bible simply as a Christian, because it is through the reading, meditation, and obedience of God’s Word that we grow as believers. [1]

Therefore it concerns me when I read about a supposed conspiracy, made up of people who secretly despise God’s Word and are paving the way for antichrist, out to destroy the Bible and leave us in spiritual darkness. These charges are leveled against the Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament, the exact same “critical” edition I and my students read and interpret. [2]

That’s why I am impelled to read up on the so-called Alexandrian Conspiracy to ruin the Bible. If it is a real and present danger, I want to know. If it is a false alarm, then I must communicate that to you, the readers.

“Don’t destroy God’s Word! Or change it!”

My conclusion:

If the critical edition of the New Testament be treason against God’s Holy Word, then it’s the most poorly executed conspiracy in the history of Bible study.

Let’s see why. One extreme theory has it (more…)

Published in: on October 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm  Comments (23)  
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The Proverbs 31 Woman: Have we made her something she was never meant to be?

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” (Prov. 31:10 KJV) J1746

Is it ever safe – or sane? – for a man to meddle in a passage beloved by Christian women? Am I grabbing hold of a live wire? For I hear a lot of sisters referring to Proverbs 31:10-31 as the pattern they want to follow. Google “Proverbs 31 woman” and there will be a landslide of hits, book ads, even “Proverbs 31 Ministries.” People seem completely intimidated by “Miss/Mrs./Ms. Perfect” in Proverbs 31, for example: “She was someone who had it all together. She actually enjoyed cooking and cleaning. She raised flawless children who never had outbursts. She never had issues with her friends. She stayed balanced with her finances. And she never had hormonal responses with her husband.” [1] Others reported that it took them a long time to get up the nerve even to open and read Proverbs 31! (more…)

Why I left party politics and never looked back

One of my infrequent thoughts on politics, written in 2013 and revised in September 2018 in the run-up to the midterm elections.

2003 blog

It was March 20, 2003. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves. Then I walked out on my political party, the Republicans. I did so principally in protest against President Bush’s attack on Iraq that week, which was the culmination of months of insistence that we must rout out their weapons of mass destruction and chase out Al Qaida. With many others, I saw no serious evidence of either claim. I believe there was no conscious deception, but a severe case of cognitive bias on the part of the administration: it saw what it wanted to see. And here in 2018, there is still no trace of a single WMD ever, and overwhelming evidence that Al Qaida was not in Iraq, that is, until after we invaded and opened the door to them. All this cost the US 2.4 trillion dollars, which the government had to borrow.

I also had to conclude that two Americans whom before that point I admired, Colin Powell and Condi Rice, had been co-opted to make the case for war in Iraq, when there was no case to be made.

In the run-up to Iraq, many evangelical leaders urged caution. Others signed the Land Letter (October 2002), which tried to put together a theological justification for a military strike: claiming that a pre-emptive strike was in fact “defensive” in nature; that it was a truly “last resort”, due to their WMDs and harboring Al-Qaida; and because the US would try to not harm non-combatants. It will repay Christians of later generations to read the Land Letter and at the same time examine the actual results of the Iraq war to demonstrate how wildly – and if it were not for the massive death toll, hilariously – off-target such sentiments can be. (more…)

Studies in 1 Corinthians by Gary Shogren

Free commentary!

Free commentary!

These posts are adaptations of my commentary on 1 Corinthians, based on my own study of the critical Greek text, the early church fathers and the best of contemporary scholarship. It is available from Logos, and downloadable free from this blog: FREE Commentary on 1 Corinthians! by Gary Shogren

ENJOY!

Why you’ve never heard of the Second Corinthian Church [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Terminal Uniqueness: a spiritual disease [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Pastor, tell your flock the truth about itself

The theology of the chocolate sampler [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

“Dear Paul: We are sorry, but you are unqualified to be our apostle…” [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Where is MY special someone?? [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

The Lord’s Supper: one invitation you don’t want to miss [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

The Sheep and the Goats on Sunday Morning [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Zombies and the Bible [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Published in: on April 19, 2013 at 10:50 am  Comments (10)  
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1 Corinthians and Thessalonians: My New Commentaries now available!

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The English version of my Thessalonian commentary is available from Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/Thessalonians-Zondervan-Exegetical-Commentary-Testament/dp/0310243963/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343856671&sr=8-1&keywords=shogren

It is also available as a book on Logos.

And the English version of my 1 Corinthians is available on Logos software – http://www.logos.com/product/24079/first-corinthians-an-exegetical-pastoral-commentary

Spanish versions to come in the future!

Blessings! Gary

Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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I’m a Dad – what does God want me to do?

What exactly is a father supposed to do? Ask a dozen people and you’ll get two dozen answers. USA Today just ran an editorial yesterday, which stated that “The most important thing is to make sure of their education – from kindergarten through college.” I thought, “Very well, yes, that’s crucial. It’s a positive, measurable goal.”

As a Christian, I believe that God wants me to walk a certain path that the rest of the world doesn’t follow, and that includes how I should live as a father (or a husband, or teacher, or citizen, etc.). Now, we raised four children, who are now adults, and we thought that we were done. However, to my surprise, we are now raising a four-year-old boy who came to us from an abusive background. So I’m not just interested in this theme in theory, I need to know what to do this afternoon when our foster child comes home!

Here are two methods of figuring out what God wants you to do as a father:

Method #1 is what we’ll name the Key Passage Method. There are roughly 1600 references to the word “father” in the Bible, (more…)