How to Read Romans [Studies in Romans]

Certeza Unida and Kairos will publish my Romans commentary as part of their Comentario Bíblico Contemporáneo (Contemporary Bible Commentary). More than 160 scholars participated in the project.

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What follows is adapted from the section “How to Read Romans,” in which I show its particular application for Latin America.

The epistle to the Romans meets the Christian on two levels: (1) as a treasure house of beloved gospel texts; (2) as an ancient missionary letter, written for a specific moment in Paul’s work among the nations.

Both levels are valid, since the disciple today first comes to know Romans because of its neat formulations of, for example, the deadliness of sin (3:23), the free gift of eternal life (6:23), the transformation of the new person in Christ (12:1-2). Then beyond that, we must enter into the mind of Paul and appreciate his plan for the final years of the AD 50s – a missionary journey that would take the gospel farther west from Jerusalem than it had ever gone, across several of what we know as time zones. We then see that Romans, when first delivered, was a clear call to action for the believers in the capital to receive Paul for a time, and later to sponsor his trip to evangelize Spain.

In Latin America too we are arming ourselves to take the gospel to the nations, in particular, unreached ones. We too will benefit from knowing, not just what Paul said about salvation, but why he said it to these Christians in Rome, and by extension how it is God’s summons to us to show forth the gospel.

Romans is the largest extant letter by Paul. It is also the most systematic in its structure, touching on many facets of the doctrine of salvation (soteriology) but saying little about other themes, for example, the Last Days. Paul begins with the lostness of the world, then God’s solution in the death of Christ, the power of the new life in the Spirit, and later, details about how to live the Christian life. He also introduces a long section in chapters 9-11 to answer the questions Why don’t Jews believe in their own Messiah? Will Israel come to God eventually?

The best way to enjoy this letter is to read it; one can read Romans aloud at an unhurried pace in about one hour.

“How to Read Romans [Studies in Romans],” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Published in: on February 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What I read in 2016, the short list

I have always been a big reader, but never anything close to my list for 2016. That’s when I began to use the wonderful online group, Goodreads.com, to log the books that I have read, am reading, and want to read. I am up over 1900 books that I have logged as “read” in my lifetime, so far, but I know there are hundreds I cannot remember; I imagine the number should be more like 2500.

“Do you want that reading list Super-Sized?”

Over Christmas break 2015 I decided to join their Reading Challenge for 2016, and set a (as it turns out, too ambitious!) personal goal of 150 books/plays this year, including the complete works of Shakespeare, the Koran, and others, let alone material for class prep. Typically I am reading eight books at a clip; some short documents, some long tomes, some Audible recorded books from Amazon.

Overall, I read a lot more non-fiction this year than I usually do, although I also read some marvelous fiction.

Here are some of the highlights, in no particular order:

Russian themed. Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (1862) was excellent. I am about a third of the way through the fictionalized biography of Trotsky by Leonardo Padura, The Man who Loved Dogs. Dostoyevsky, The Idiot (1868-69) is a Christ-allegory. All are available on Kindle.

George Orwell beyond 1984 and Animal Farm. I have read 1984 a dozen times since Junior High, and decided I should branch out. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a novel (more…)

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…)

“No, but wait…MY pastor doesn’t tell us how to vote!”

“My pastor doesn’t tell us how to vote! What he does is give out a score card that describes what the issues are [remember that phrase!] and then shows what each candidate stands for. But then he tells us to make up our own minds!”

Anyway, that’s the word on the street.

The election is coming up in November [2012]; let’s look at two preachers in Anytown, USA, and put this method to the test:

Pastor Smith is guiding his congregation with a list of political issues that he has compiled. He puts in the left column: high taxes, the Second Amendment, American military superiority, gay marriage, the minimum wage, capital punishment, Common Core curriculum, and other issues. In the 2nd and 3d column he has put a sentence or two on where the candidates stand on each issue.

So, says Pastor Smith: “Who stands for God’s truth, Candidate Anderson or Candidate Benchley? I’m not telling you how to vote, I’m just giving you the facts!”

Across town, Pastor Jones designs questions about the environment, the Innocence Project, high military spending, worker rights, the Fourth Amendment, concluding: “I wouldn’t tell you how to vote, but who is closer to the Bible: Candidate Anderson or Candidate Benchley?”

I have an agenda, you have, he she or it has, we have, they have

I [Gary] have an agenda, you have, he, she, or it has, we have, they have an agenda

Both can claim “I’m not using the pulpit to tell anyone how to vote!” Both might be faithful to the letter of political neutrality, but both would be violating its spirit. And two congregations will go away believing that they know who is God’s candidate for the office – only they will be backing different candidates!

Even when Pastors Jones and Smith don’t give you a political ANSWER SHEET, he or she is arranging a VOTER GUIDE or SCORECARD so that they lead to a specific end and communicate a particular agenda. Whoever lays the tracks has already determined which way the train will go!

In fact, Pastors Jones and Smith might both put, oh, let’s say school lunch programs, voter registration laws, Iraq, the minimum wage on their charts (more…)

New Year’s Resolutions or New Covenant Miracles? [Studies in the New Covenant]

"Okay, this time for sure!"

“Okay, this time for sure!”

For many years, I made no New Year’s resolutions. My reasoning:

  • Why make a big deal just because the planet has revolved around the sun to an arbitrary point in space?
  • Why try to be a better persons on this one day when I should be doing it all the time?
  • Are resolutions relevant to me, since I don’t need to quit smoking, drinking or gambling?

I’ve come to think differently, having taken another look at the Bible and paid closer attention to human behavior. For the past 5 years or so, I have made a single New Year’s Resolution on December 31.

The Word reveals to us that there are two methods for making resolutions (more…)

1 Corinthians commentary, available from Logos!

Announcement! The English version of my 1 Corinthians commentary is now available from Logos.com; it is fully integrated with the Logos system. Only $19.95. Or you can download a pdf version for free from this blog! (https://openoureyeslord.com/2012/05/21/free-commentary-on-1-corinthians-2/)

What does agape mean?
What are the spiritual gifts?
Should women wear veils to church? Or remain absolutely silent?
What about divorce?
Do we exist as spirits forever?
Paul was a missionary – how did he know where to go?

These issues and many more!

https://www.logos.com/product/24079/first-corinthians-an-exegetical-pastoral-commentary

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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Are you a Wretched Man or Woman? Should you be? [Romans 7]

Since I just published an article on chronic sin (CLICK HERE), I thought I’d follow it up with another about the Wretched Man passage of Romans 7:14-25. It took me about eight years of back-and-forth to write. My conclusion may surprise you.

Shogren Romans 7

Originally published in Evangelical Quarterly 72/2 (April, 2000): 119-134.

“O, wretched man that I am!”

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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Zombies and the Bible [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Since one night in 1985, I know what the world looks like through a zombie’s eyes.

In Scotland, I would go out evangelizing on Thursdays and then take the hour-long hike home in the dark. But then one night I figured that I could cut out to the main highway, grab a bus, and save 20 minutes. The only hitch was that the short-cut went through Grove Cemetery. No problem, I would enter the gate, do a 100-yard dash through a dark graveyard, go over the wall, and there was the bus stop.

Grove Cemetery by day, the north gate was the starting line of Gary’s night-time sprints

I did it only twice. Not because I got spooked going through a cemetery in the dark, mind you, but because as I clambered over the 6-foot wall and jumped out onto the shoulder of the highway, well, it caused problems with the flow of traffic. Eyes popped open, jaws dropped, women shrieked, as they saw me apparently escaping from the graveyard and stumbling up the embankment toward them.

So, I know how a zombie feels.

I’ve seen, twice, George Romero’s black-and-white “Night of the Living Dead,” the original 1968 version. Oh, and Charlton Heston in “The Omega Man.” Beyond that I sat through about 20 minutes of that movie where Bill Murray gets accidentally shot.

Nevertheless, I’m confident that I can develop “What the Bible Says about Zombies,” (more…)

Can stay-at-home Dads be “real men”?

I guess I came in late for this controversy: from 2008 there’s a YouTube clip of a famous preacher and his wife, responding to the question: “What are your thoughts on stay-at-home dads if the woman really wants to work?”[1]

“Too many guys take too little responsibility” was part of the answer, one with which I fully resonate. We have a culture where men play at being boys well into their adult years. At a time when their fathers and grandfathers had buckled down to marriage and a job or were off fighting Nazis, some guys focus on playing the field or playing paintball until they’re, well, practically my age. The women are complaining, as they ought to be. These guys need to hear a Word about their behavior.

But let’s put them to one side, since the gist of their response was something else: If men are not the primary bread-winners in the family, they are not doing “what the Word says.” Parenting must be done principally by the mother, not just “anyone,” not even the father. The idea of a father staying at home to focus on raising children is a perverted idea, taken from our modern culture, not the Bible. These men are “conformed to this world.” Such behavior would even by “a case for church discipline.”

Okay, let’s see what the Word really says. (more…)