Bible word studies!!

It is a common idea that doing Bible word studies is the method for digging deep into the Bible.

A common enough idea, but a myth. One propagated by some popular “expository” preachers, in fact, who take a somewhat useful tool and use it on all the wrong jobs.

To illustrate: if you were to do a Word Search Game on the Bible, the vast majority of words would be things like “is, are, the, a, an, some, of, this, that, to,” etc.

Here’s how the frequency list begins in the KJV, for example, and the same principle applies in the Hebrew and Greek –

Bible meaning:
it’s not just the words used the counts,
it’s the way they’re arranged.

Added note: a method that seeks to interpret the Bible by such breaking down of the text into its tiniest components is said to be “atomistic.”

Bible word studies!!” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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** GARY commentary alert!

To my surprise, I just found out that Zondervan republished my Thessalonians commentary some months back!

You can now buy three full commentaries in one eBook! Mine has a lot of Greek in it, but also much application and thoughts on how to preach the letters. The collection includes Holmes NIV Application Commentary (which I have used, and is fine), and also the Story of God Commentary (which I have not used).

OR you can buy my commentary alone at a discount, from Amazon.

CLICK HERE to order!

Published in: on January 3, 2018 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What I Read in 2017, the Short List

It is not quite correct to say that “I read”; better that “I am a reader,” sub-category, “reader-avid.” A few months ago I crossed the line, and have logged over 2000 books, at least the ones that I can remember reading. And once again this year, I accepted the Goodreads.com Reaching Challenge 2017, in which I read 125 books. That’s 26,000+ pages, an average of about 75 pages a day. It’s fun!

Some special projects from this year were: reading ancient Greek plays; reading Reformation literature, to honor its 500th anniversary; and readings about the biblical books of Ruth and Esther, for a new course that I started from scratch for Seminario ESEPA. This all apart from Bible reading.

FICTION

Literary Fiction: my blue ribbon for 2017 goes to Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; it is the tale of an Edinburgh school teacher from the 1930s, and also a parable of how an independent thinker might fall into weirdness and eccentricity. I would have given the blue ribbon to Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847), a must-read, which was also a pretty good movie with Reese Witherspoon as the conniving Becky Sharp. Excellent description of human behavior, although at nearly a thousand pages, “the covers of this book are too far apart” (a quip attributed to Ambrose Bierce, see below). Other great titles were John Cheever, Falconer; Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind (first book of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books trilogy); four books by contemporary novelist Ian McEwan, in descending order of preference: The Child in Time, Enduring Love, Solar, and Sweet Tooth; Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop; Graham Greene, The Honorary Counsel. Grace Metalius, Peyton Place, which I read because it is based partly on life in small-town Canterbury, New Hampshire, a few miles from where I once lived; Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables; Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; Susan Howatch, The Wonder Worker; John O’Hara, Appointment in Samarra; Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust.

Spy and Detective Novels: This is a genre (more…)

Published in: on January 1, 2018 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My Top 86 Literary Picks!


I just updated my Goodreads log of the books I have read, and marked some titles, whether fiction, drama, non-fiction, theology, with my own personal Gold Star. Not books I consider “important,” but ones I simply like. Here are the fictional works (novels, stories, plays, science fiction, poetry).

Now that I list them, it strikes me that my taste is pretty conventional, that is, except for my complete lack of interest in the fantasy genre: sorry, no sorcerers or elves in the list! Nor Amish romance, for that matter.

One of my all-time faves!

I made no attempt to be representative of sub-genres, nor to filter out what might strike some as objectionable material. And while I would have liked a round number, like 50 or 100, 86 Favorites is what came out. I list them in alphabetical order, and put in bold print the 20 I especially love. Plays are marked with a “- p”. Enjoy!

Here is the list in pdf form: Shogren_Top 86 Literary Works

  1. 1984, George Orwell
  2. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  3. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
  4. The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  6. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
  7. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
  8. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  9. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  10. Atonement, Ian McEwan
  11. Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis
  12. Billy Budd, Herman Melville
  13. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  14. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder
  15. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  16. The Children Act, Ian McEwan
  17. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  18. The Complete Stories, Dorothy Parker
  19. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  20. The Crucible, Arthur Miller – p
  21. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
  22. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  23. Don Quixote, Cervantes
  24. Dubliners, James Joyce
  25. Dune, Frank Herbert
  26. The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
  27. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  28. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  29. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
  30. Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco
  31. Foundation, Isaac Asimov
  32. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley
  33. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  34. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  35. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  36. The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis
  37. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  38. Hamlet, William Shakespeare – p
  39. Henry V, William Shakespeare – p
  40. The Human Stain, Philip Roth
  41. I, Claudius, Robert Graves
  42. The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O’Neill – p

    Lee Marvin delivers an amazing performance in “The Iceman Cometh”

  43. The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury
  44. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  45. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
  46. The Last Year of the War, Shirley Nelson
  47. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
  48. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
  49. Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
  50. The Light of Other Days, A. C. Clarke
  51. The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  52. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann
  53. The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
  54. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
  55. No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre – p
  56. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
  57. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  58. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  59. Othello, William Shakespeare – p
  60. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
  61. Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories, John Updike
  62. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
  63. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
  64. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
  65. Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus – p
  66. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
  67. Ragtime, E. L. Doctorow
  68. Rendezvous with Rama, A. C. Clarke
  69. Ringworld, Larry Niven
  70. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare – p
  71. The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
  72. Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse
  73. Silence, Shūsaku Endō
  74. Slaughter-House Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  75. The Space Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet; Perelandra; That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis
  76. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  77. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  78. Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
  79. The Sun also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  80. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  81. Ulysses, James Joyce
  82. Vanity Fair, W. P. Thackeray
  83. Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett – p
  84. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  85. We, Yevgeny Zamyatin
  86. World’s Fair, E. L. Doctorow

Published in: on December 29, 2017 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Solitude of the Dusky Cave

When I first saw the title of the epic novel Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel García Márquez, and got that it meant “one hundred years of solitude,” my heart leapt in anticipation. But 500 pages later, I finally grasped that the protagonists of the story didn’t get their promised seclusion; the title seems to have meant something else!

And let’s turn our thoughts to spiritual solitude.

For some believers, there exists a sweet solitude of the lone rider (“God and I”); but for others there is the hostile drawing into themselves (“I Alone, Without God”), an implosion.

We are all familiar with how Adam and Eve put on masks to hide themselves:

the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Gen 3:7-8 NRSV)

Now in fact, this was a symptom of an earlier refusal to live in God’s presence; they had turned a cold shoulder to God even before they covered up and ran away. The very act of eating the fruit was already a signal of their independence – not the emotional self-actualization of the adult, but the sulky leave-taking of the runaway child. (more…)

John Wesley’s “Rules for Band-Societies”

Gary’s Introduction: this concept of Band-Societies was a small group dynamic, in which believers would volunteer to be accountable to one another. It has inspired similar meetings for almost three centuries. By the way, this was not simply a “lowest-common-denominator” group to share your feelings and that was that! These same men also gathered for two hours, four evenings a week, for rigorous study of the Greek New Testament and prayer.

Wesley’s Rules for Band-Societies, Drawn up December 25, 1738.

The design of our meeting is, to obey that command of God, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”

To this end, we intend.

  1. To meet once a week, at the least.
  2. To come punctually at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
  3. To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
  4. To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt, since our last meeting.
  5. To end every meeting with prayer, suited to the state of each person present.
  6. To desire some person among us to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.

Some of the questions proposed to every one before he is admitted among us may he to this effect.

  1. Have you the forgiveness of your sins.
  2. Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. Have you the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit, that you are a child of God.
  4. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart.
  5. Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you.
  6. Do you desire to be told of your faults.
  7. Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home.
  8. Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in his heart concerning you.
  9. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you.
  10. Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom.
  11. Is it your desire and design to be on this, and all other occasions, entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve.

Any of the preceding questions may be asked as often as occasion others; the four following at every meeting.

  1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting.
  2. What temptations have you met with.
  3. How were you delivered.
  4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not.

‘John Wesley’s “Rules for Band-Societies,”‘ by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

 

Putting Christ back into Christmas

Putting Christ back into Christmas is not as simple as getting our neighbors to agree to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

No, it is a daily spiritual discipline: speaking the truth about the incarnate Savior; abstaining from the addictions of materialism, anxiety, family squabbles and a critical spirit, in fact, all the variations of being unloving; and above all, anticipating his Advents, first in Bethlehem and second on the Mount of Olives, as our King.

Who rewrites the Bible? Probably we all do!

Openoureyeslord welcomes Guest writer, Sam Kautzmann, here with his wife Katie

“We can’t interpret the Bible according to our own personal taste! Or twist it to conform with today’s culture! Or invent our own meaning!” Most of us evangelicals would say Amen. And we all could list Those People Out There who rewrite the Bible to fit their own ideas of truth.

And then we go on to commit the very same mistake. Bible rewriting is a universal disease, not a quarantined outbreak.

Let’s use a well-known verse as our test subject:

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:15–17

So, we need to be child-like. What does Jesus mean? Should we be Trusting? Happy? Intelligent?

Below are quotes from Google’s top four results of the search, “Bible how to receive like a child”:

(1) the key characteristic of children is humility; (2) they want to learn everything they can about God; (3) they are completely vulnerable and dependent; (4) children are straightforward! And of course people will add, they are trusting! Oh, and they have a sense of wonder! Look a cute story! Have you seen my baby pictures?

If you ask an adult class, you’re liable to have similar results: they may be ‘spiritualized’ humble! Hopeful! Trusting! Innocent! Needy! ‘Not my kids!’ may be shouted (more…)

No Time for Bible Reading?

I just read through the prophet Habakkuk. It took 9 minutes to read aloud from beginning to end.

I happen to know that you can read both 1 and 2 Thessalonians aloud in less than a half hour.

Just did some work in Mark: it can be read aloud, beginning to end, in roughly 1 hour and a half.

All of these at a regular, unrushed, pace.

MEANWHILE, a recent study shows that “astonishingly, the average person will spend nearly two hours…on social media EVERY DAY.” (click HERE)

So.

In this corner: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

In this corner: Habakkuk, the Gospel of Mark, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians.

You’re the referee – which one will win?

“No Time for Bible Reading?” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD in New Testament, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

What? Me, a priest?!

Note: this is the abridged verion of a talk I gave at Seminario ESEPA, on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. To download the entire article with footnotes, go HERE or download the pdf here: Shogren_The Priesthood of All Believers in the Reformation En español: Shogren_El sacerdocio de todos los creyentes

We are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, when believers came to reject certain tenets of the Roman church and attempted to restore biblical doctrine. And everyone remembers that doctrinal superstar, the final authority of the Scriptures; also, the famous justification by faith alone. But according to many experts in the field, the third principle, there would have been no Reformation. This is the doctrine of the universal priesthood of all believers; that because we are united with Christ, and anointed by the Spirit, then each and every Christian is a priest (more…)

Published in: on October 27, 2017 at 1:39 pm  Comments (1)  
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