Andy Naselli and Brian Collins advocate for reading the bible theologically. Part of this approach is acknowledging the whole of scripture and reading sections as they relate to the whole. Here, however, the author of the featured work (free E-book download) mainly counters allegorical approaches and multiple-sense ideas. This recommended method will deliver the reader from overly atomistic and irrelevant conclusions. Perhaps it will also redirect our focus on God instead of reading the bible as a book of solutions for ourselves and humanity. The bible offers solutions for humans during this life but it is not humanly-centered.
Appendix “A” in Vern Poythress’ book “Interpreting Eden,” counters Bruce Waltke’s contention that the first verse of God’s word is a summary of the creation account which follows. The “initiation view” has much more to commend itself since, grammatically, it is the most natural way to take the text. I believe its important to remember who the recipients were of this revelatory communication. All the early readers of this text were shepherds and farmers, not students of dead languages creatively working out possible solutions to align with certain constructs. Therefore, the most straight-forward approach grammatically should yield the correct results.
Here is an interview with Logos featuring Poythress’ book “Interpreting Eden:”
By “Modern Science” I mean the Post-Enlightenment idea that man is the standard for explaining himself and his environment. It is as if reality is perceived only through the things that resister from his own sensors. If God cannot be seen or touched then He must not be there according to fallen man. We moderns are easily dazzled by discovery of knowledge and the making of gizmos but often fail to realize that the laws of science which enabled that knowledge and gizmo presuppose an absolute Lawgiver. Those gizmos will not work without His laws either. Here is a post about something that Cornelius Van Til wrote which touches upon and expands this point. Van Til was probably the most incisive theologian of the Twentieth Century.
“It was useful to seek to apply the method of reasoning discussed in the previous chapters to the various schools of philosophy about us. However, since we have constantly sought to bring out that all forms of antitheistic thinking can be reduced to one, and since the issue is fundamentally that of the acceptance or […]
This material I cut from my previous post as it involved another theme to the point I was making. However, studying the prophets is both explicitly and implicitly urged in order to better understand God’s person and program.
Biblical exhortations are important because they are from God. They are also important since in the whole of scripture exhortations are what called the people back to God. Often, what the text of the prophets do not include is the response of groups and especially individuals turning to God after the proclamation. Undoubtedly, many did respond to the prophet’s preaching or when reading his text. Undoubtedly, Daniel and his three friends were influenced by Jeremiah’s preaching since his ministry occurred prior and during Daniel’s exile of 605 B.C.E. (see Jer. 25.3). Daniel would later refer to Jeremiah’s prophecy of the “70 years” (either taken from Jeremiah’s letter or book) as a certainty and pray accordingly (see Dan. 9.2-3). One God-ordained reason for dissemination of preaching in Hebrew society is the biblical observance of attending the central sanctuary for the three yearly festivals by (at least) all males over the age of twelve.
Whenever The New Testament quotes an O.T. passage, the readers and hearers are alerted to the context in which the new information refers. This new message is rooted and grounded in instruction or revelation given previously to others. Seeking to make sense or understand how God’s word applies to modern hearers involves both knowing the O.T. and the New Covenant and how both contents inform each other.
The promise in 2 Pet. 1.19 is stated mildly but is extremely important: We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (NIV). Reading the prophets is important because they illumine this dark world. The ‘dawning of day’ is internal to a believer as is the ‘rising of the morning star.’ The “day” seems to be the believer’s hope, their confident eternal assurance in God’s program. The “Morning Star” undoubtedly is Christ and our growing faith in Him becoming the heart’s focus. Similar calls in the N.T. include: “fixing your eyes upon Jesus” (Heb.12.2) and “cling to the Lord” (Acts 11.23). The more we see God’s working in the O.T. Prophets and their history, the more confident we will be in our deliverance from evil now and in the future.
Initially, I planned to distill the concept of the unity of the book of Isaiah in Peter Gentry’s “How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets.” He, however, presents this material in several places so that the full explication is not laid out very conveniently or discretely in his book. I do not fault him in the least since the object of his work was teaching others to understand a body of literature: the Biblical Prophets. Of course the issue of credibility and reliability of the writings such as the book of Isaiah is part of what Gentry seeks to establish which he finds in the internal evidences of the works themselves.
What I propose to highlight in this post are his statements and rationale for holding Isaiah as a unity and invite the reader to further explore his work. I want to also post a book review where I may add other evidences from Gentry as to why Isaiah is best viewed as, and, demands a unity.
Firstly, Gentry notes that most scholars today do not hold to the unity of Isaiah and gives the reason: Enlightenment thinking which is rationalistic. He laments that this approach offers no big picture of the prophet’s overall message. He identifies the lexical analysis of words and phrases as faulty since the analysts have never asked what were the original intentions of the biblical authors in constructing their work.
Gentry sees the reason for the divided structure of Isaiah by the prophet (or God) was to first established the prophet’s ministry upon the immediate needs of the community (calling them back to the covenant) along with immediate prophecy and fulfillment before future visionary prophecy is written. This is the normal way of building one’s reputation and is more persuasive than a person stating claims without prior attestation from God. Also, Dt. 18.21-22 gives guidelines for whether to trust a prophet: And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him (NIV). Isaiah’s dramatic predictions of Sennacherib’s failure to capture Jerusalem and destruction of his army gives the reader the confidence that the future visions will be fulfilled.
He next identifies a feature of Hebrew Biblical composition as being repetitive and recursive. Recursive writing or speech takes up a topic from a certain perspective, making the point, and concluding. Next, the same topic is presented from a different vantage and in a progressive manner often including one or more items. Gentry notes that this type of speech and writing sounds monotonous to western ears and even boring. This is of course misapprehension of the message and the historic scene. This method of repetition Gentry maintains is multidimensional like the different channels in a stereo system. The inherent message is the same but comes from slightly different perspectives.
Isaiah, Gentry says, has a central theme divided into seven separate sections which deal with the same topic from different angles and thus similar to viewing a kaleidoscope since the same elements are presented in different arrangements. He notes that the structure of each prophetic book holds the interpretive key to its message. In Chart 3.1 he lists his theme and outline for Isaiah:
The Central theme of Isaiah: From Zion in the Old Creation to Zion in the New
- The Judgment and Transformation of Zion Part 1 (1.2-2.4)
- The Judgment and Transformation of Zion Part 2 (2.5-4.6)
- The Judgment of the Vineyard and the Coming King (5.1-12.6)
- The City of Man vs. The City of God (13.1-27.13)
- Trusting the Nations vs. Trusting in the word of YHWH (28.1-37.38)
- Comfort and Redemption for Zion and the World (38.1-55.13)
- The Servants of YHWH and the New Creation (56.1-66.24)
The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. (Is. 48.3) ESV
Since the judgment scene in the Garden of Eden recorded in Gen. 3.15 as the sentence upon the serpent, we humans have known of the promise of the Lord who will come from the seed of a woman. Subsequent revelation tells us that God decreed redemption through Christ and human election before the creation week of Gen. 1 (see Heb. 4.4-the context clearly speaks of redemptive work). Additionally, we read in Rom. 5.14 that Adam was created as a type which anticipates another. Therefore, the creation of Adam and the Fall all look forward to mercy in Christ.
Since God already decreed the outcome and disclosed it to us, can we find the reason as to why God is involved in this sort of activity? An obvious answer could be His love, and I would agree that God’s outworking displays His attributes and brings Him glory. There seems to be more however and in typical fashion Jesus reveals to His friends in the scriptures what He is doing.
From the text we know that God is Spirit while the creation is apart from Him conceptually. However, Jn. 1.14 tells us that “He became flesh”, and therefore God has taken an additional property previously not counted as belonging inherently to Him. Also, the promise toward the Christian of having a “spiritual body” like Jesus’ speaks to the redemption of the physical universe. Notice how Paul gives the big picture explanation to the Romans in 8.19-21:
Courtesy Allard Pierson Museum
Courtesy Allard Pierson Museum
Courtesy Allard Pierson Museum
Without chronology history becomes a muddled mess. The bible seems to urge us to deeper study since it references so many markers of time in its narratives and prophecies. In several places of the text apparent disagreements occur with other witnesses to the same event. However, I counsel to suspend judgment about any perceived contradiction until further or more analysis is completed. Even then, if the discrepancy persists, waiting on the Lord for an answer has proven fruitful for this author.
Here is a learned article dating Christ’s crucifixion:
Here is a helpful post which shows the accuracy of the Biblical Account. I learned these facts while still in bible college but want to repost them here for the benefit of non-technical readers. I am a Bible believer who holds it as God’s word to humanity. This is why I resist most modern attempts from linear Greco-Roman thinking to date the writings other than what the bible witnesses. Look also for a forthcoming post on the unity of the book of Isaiah.
The official start of the new year was different in Judah (Tishri) than in Israel (Nisan). Judah initially used accession year reckoning whereas Israel used non-accession year reckoning. For a while Judah switched to non-accession year reckoning before switching back to accession year reckoning. Israel eventually changed to accession year reckoning. For Judah, there was the matter of coregencies.By recognizing that Uzziah’s reign was reckoned according to Judah’s Tishri-based year while the northern kingdom observed a Niasan-based year for its kings, what otherwise seem to be occasional discordancies in the synchronisms all fall into place. This six-month difference in when the year began then provided to be a useful aid in determining the half-year in which some of these kings terminated their reign, and in the the cases of Jeroboam II through Shallum, the actual month of the kings’ death could be determined…The basic data that allows this kind of precision in dating could never have been provided by a late-date editor; the data must have come from contemporary accounts, probably from the official court records of these two kingdoms. A. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology (Concordia 2011), 128, 139-40; cf. 38-39.
In the beginning God Created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was topsy turvy. Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called ” night.” And there as evening, and there was morning – the first day. (Gen. 1.1-5 NIV)
You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. (1Th. 5.5)
Gerald Bray, in his massive book “God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology” sees the angelic fall sometime after the creation of matter in Gen. 1.1. Bray remarks that since God is revealed as perfect and orderly, the resultant state of creation in Gen. 1.2 speaks of chaos. Therefore, the angelic fall had to occur during this time to produce the chaotic state.
The Hebrew tohu wa-bohu has no meaning in itself and the ancient Hebrew sages regarded it as a rhyming meaning like the English: topsy turvy. This concept aligns well with the idea of a recreation culminating in Adam, a type and who would need redemption (after a fall). Paul tells us that Adam was created as a type (tupos). If Adam was only a type, a Genuine Article is presupposed.
Here are several English translations of Rom. 5.14:
1. Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. (NET)
2.Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come. (ASV)
3. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. (NIV)
4. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. (NRSV)
Heb. 4.4 indicates that God’s works were finished on the seventh day of this recreation. Christ’s sacrifice was determined before the foundation of the world as were the redemption of those in Adam chosen by Christ as scripture clearly reveals. God chooses Abraham through whose seed (Christ) would provide redemption. Part of Abraham’s inheritance was land (which promised eventual eternal life in the new heavens and earth). The nation of Israel comprised both those who knew the Lord and those who did not so it could never have been a perfect solution. The land with its miraculous provisions of sustenance foreshadowed the coming new Eden. The Kingdom Age after Christ’s return will show even greater blessings than the previous time of the Davidic Kingdom but seems still to foreshadow the eventual new earth. All of these recreations and interventions where God chooses new servants and teaches them His ways seems for the purpose of filling positions forfeited by the fallen angels of Gen. 1.2. They caused a chaos and creation is still in a topsy turvy condition until God eventually brings many into glory.
Three gospels record the incident where Jesus describes the state of the resurrected: Mt. 22.30, Mk. 12.25, and the fullest account in Luke 20.35-36: But those who are considered worthy in taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry or be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection (NIV). While readers of scripture do not have all the answers to life’s mysteries this schema based on revealed truth may indicate the big picture of God’s purposes. It also reveals the depth of God’s love in Christ along with His infinite patience to those whom He has chosen.
The Golden Gate of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we ourselves have forgiven our trespassers. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Mt. 6.9-13 literal translation).
Perhaps a quibble about the label “The Lord’s Prayer.” The text doesn’t give this prayer a title or label. Many have noted that, if any prayer were to be labeled “The Lord’s Prayer,” it would be Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, recorded in John 17. Here, in Matthew, it is the prayer the Lord taught the disciples.
Not all Christians take this “Lord’s Prayer” as merely petition. It seems to start out as praise and affirmation: Hallowed be your name is the confident expectation of the time when God will rule on earth as in heaven with His name praised by the redeemed. Though there may be a yearning aspect, and hard distinctions may not be necessary, it is probably best to view this clause as praise instead of a plea. I understand the Greek construction (aorist imperative) to be a confident expectation. My view recognizes that, elsewhere in the bible, God’s Kingdom manifested on earth is a surety. In God’s due time, He will bring about His earthly rule. The prayer starts out in praise, aligning the disciple to God’s program of eventual triumph over iniquity and the reconciling of creation to Himself.
The words and pattern here is nearly identical to the Kaddish (Qaddish), which is a hymn of praise to God that magnifies and sanctifies God’s name in affirmation. Ezek. 38.23 is thought to be the model for the Kaddish: Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself, and I will make Myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am the LORD. “Saying Kaddish” in Judaism is in context of mourning at the passing of a loved one. Despite the loss, it is a confident praise of God. The Jewish Virtual Library identifies it as a “sanctification” and therefore “praise”:
The Kaddish is a prayer that praises God and expresses a yearning for the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. The emotional reactions inspired by the Kaddish come from the circumstances in which it is said: it is recited at funerals and by mourners, and sons are required to say Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a parent. The word Kaddish means sanctification, and the prayer is a sanctification of God’s name.
This “disciple’s prayer” also teaches 3 things in the asking part (petition): daily bread as a qualification of sustenance. This encourages a constant dependence, a personal continual learning of how God is able to meet needs. This shows His capacity and greatness in the most minute matters.
Forgive us qualified by the disciple forgiving others as themselves were freely forgiven. Many translations render this as “debts.” This is a very pedantic translation of the Greek term and requires explanation: it is the debt of guilt incurred from failure to perform correctly or failure of wrong action as prescribed previously in the bible. We are able to love others because He first loved us. In verses 14-15 Jesus explains the rationale of forgiving others: For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. This is not the “eye for an eye” stark justice of the Mosaic Code but reflects the obligation of the gift given in The New Covenant. It is the evidence of the new birth’s transformation. If a person is vindictive and revengeful it would indicate they were not forgiven.
Lead us during the evil days of this temporal journey. Another related admonition to disciples: Therefore be very careful how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Eph. 5.15-16 NET). The New Testament reflects the Prophet Amos’ observation and admonition: Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil (5.13 NIV). While Amos seems to emphasize keeping quiet so as not to cast pearls before swine, Ephesians instructs making good use of the opportunity (redeeming the time). This may mean studying to know God and being ready to present the gospel. Later, Paul says part of the Christian armor against evil entities involves fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace (Eph. 6.15 NET). The wise or redeemed person will be sensitive in how to respond to others. The disciple sometimes will be able to storm Hell’s gates to rescue some from captivity. The final clause then, in the “disciple’s prayer,” seems to teach watchfulness and close fellowship with the Lord. It speaks of a very personal dependence and deliverance.
Many sections of the bible (pericopes) lend themselves to memorization. For myself, hortatory, practical extracts are chosen. This does not mean these sections are without catechesis. Often, greater biblical insight and clarity of thought can be achieved by memorizing and meditating on a section of text (see Ps. 1 on the blessed person).
I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar or seek to be one. I will never again achieve the proficiency in the Koine Greek which I once enjoyed. Neither can I cogently describe the differences between Biblical Aramaic and Hebrew as at one time. I am too old for greater aspirations. These translations are for practical usage. I have also employed ‘helps’ to aid in my translation.
Many biblical passages are somewhat clunky in their rendering from the original language. I want to attempt a better translation that is primarily true to the text without a woodenness in style. Instead of cluttering my version with notes, I’ll give a brief foreword to my choices and explain variants and structure where relevant.
Most bible translators strive to accurately render the host language to a somewhat readable style in the targeted language. I’ve followed the basic logic of the English versions of the past 400 years. Many minor concerns also govern choices determining the outcome of a version. My choices were to achieve a flowing style for reading and memorization without being pedantically literal. However, I’ve tried to maintain the writer’s thought accurately more than sticking to current patterns of expression. This sometimes results in long and complex sentences; but, that is how people thought and wrote in the Greco-Roman Era. I believe it more important to follow the text than pander to modern modes of speech. Most of my blog posts are simplified speech for clarity but translating a text requires a different set of concerns such as interpretation and textual criticism.
In this pericope, textual variants needed to be considered in 1.1, 1.2, and 1.6. Since I am very familiar with this passage, and have previously considered the variants, I am confident in my rendering. My greatest question is the variant in 1.2 (“by faith” added), but it is theologically consistent and true to Paul’s style in his careful and extensive explanation to his sophisticated audience in Rome. I have also dropped “of God” in verse 9 since it is not in the text (though understood).
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access, by faith, into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope, and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will one die for a righteous person, though perhaps, for a good person, will one dare to die. However, God demonstrates his own love to us, while yet sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, how much more, having been now justified by his blood, will we be saved from wrath through him. If being enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his son, how much more having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Larry Hurtado’s posts are succinct, incisive, clear, and filled with carefully studied positions. There is no “filler” in his writings. So, here is his latest post along with plenty of evidence to bolster his position.
One reader of my posts seems to have difficulty in grasping what scholars refer to as “pre-existence”. It’s a technical term, scholarly jargon/shorthand, to designate a motif or concept evident in a number of early Jewish and early Christian texts. In particular, a number of early Christian texts ascribe a “pre-existence” to Jesus. But there […]
Acts 2.33: Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
The “Filioque Clause,” an addition to the Nicean Creed, states that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father. The Eastern Church was correct to reject this clause as the Acts passage clearly explains what occurred during the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost. The Father has given this ministry of the Spirit in Christians to the Son to send Him (the Spirit) to us. What I mean to say is the specific New Covenant ministry of the Spirit is controlled by the Son since He sends the Spirit as does the Father. However, the Filioque Clause would have us believe that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as the same way as from the Father. Peter explains post-Pentecost what happened is the Father has given the Spirit to the Son to give Christians this new life filled with both Christ and the Spirit.
This verse is interpreted by Paul in 1Cor. 9.8-10 and yet few Christians understand it (or, possibly, I understand it wrong). I am fairly sure I grasp what Paul meant. Here is Paul’s take on this command only given once in Dt. 25.4:
Six times in the Gospel of John (and found in no other account), the terminology of “the beloved disciple” is presented: 13.23, 25, 19.26, 20.2, 21.7, 21.20. The Apostle John, writing toward the end of his life, identified himself as author of this gospel which we know by account comparison: This is the disciple who testifies about these things and has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true (John 21.24 NET). The end note of knowing the veracity of John’s testimony is probably a reflection by his team of followers and amanuenses about his exemplary life and testimony of The Spirit.
Proverbs 13:24: The one who spares his rod hates his child, but the one who loves him is prompt in disciplining him.
Here is a proverb which explains a concern over a child’s ultimate welfare. The parent who loves a child in the best possible way gives him or her the attention required for guidance. Even though this proverb contrasts the love of discipline exhibited by a parent with the hate of sparing the rod, hate is probably not the direct opposite of love. Ignoring the child, rather, would probably be the antithesis of love.
This illustration of love from Proverbs helps to explain the act of discipleship. To mentor someone involves attentive effort instead of self concern and/or given attention to others. Hypothetically, any would-be mentor must isolate those of his pupils who are the most interested in his teaching and who would be adept at propagating it. This explains why Jesus loved one disciple especially: John, the son of Zebedee. This was James’ younger brother who along with him and Peter formed an inner circle of special disclosure. Even though John was prominent from the beginning of the church (Acts chapters 3-4), his enduring contribution is seen through the Revelation account, Gospel, and epistles. John’s unique understanding and writings reflect the purposes of Jesus in mentoring the young disciple.
This concept of an ‘inner circle’ is seen in the lists of disciples from the Synoptic Gospels and Acts: Mt. 10.2-4, Mk. 3.16-19, Lk. 6.14-16, Acts 1.13. This ‘inner circle’ are always listed first. They were the ones that Jesus called first to follow after John the Baptist was imprisoned (Mk. 1.16-20). Andrew, however, fades into the background from this inner circle for an undisclosed reason. The ‘inner circle’ is seen by who Jesus allows to accompany during extraordinary events: The raising of Jairus daughter from the dead (Mk. 5.37), The Transfiguration of Christ (Mk. 9.2), and the Garden of Gethsemane prayer (Mk. 14.32-35). Also, to these three disciples Jesus gave new names: “Peter” to Simon bar Jonah, and Sons of Boanerges (thunder) to James and John.
John was younger than James most probably since he is listed after his brother. He may not have been out of his teens when called by Jesus since a Hebrew boy became a man at age 12. Being called to discipleship at a younger age had the advantage of not having to relearn faulty approaches to life which were common among the other disciples. Jesus could take John and disciple him before he could form erroneous spiritual ideas such as the then current thinking of the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees.
It was the ‘inner three’ who received the bulk of the rebukes of Jesus. Often, the ‘inner three’ they put themselves forward in their misguided zeal: James and John wanting to call fire upon their adversaries (Luke 9.51-56), Peter hindering Jesus’ purpose (Mt. 16.21-23), John and James wanting to sit with Jesus in His kingdom (Mk. 10.35-45). As is the case in Proverbs, John recognized authorial instruction from a godly figure as loving.
John was very aged at the time of his recorded writings, and inevitably, the question arose: How would he refer to himself in his recounting the events in his gospel? After all, one of the purposes of his gospel was to correct a few (but important) misconceptions which were starting to form from the accounts in the Synoptic Gospels alone (John wrote an additional account and not a replacement). Any eyewitness publishing his historical account seeks to represent himself to his audience as a participant to achieve any credibility for his assertions. On the other hand, truly and ultimately (and also in the other scriptures) the author is God and John probably is sensitive to this fact (see John 14.26). After a lifetime of reflection upon the person of Jesus and all the events John experienced including the start of the Church Community, John could have happily concluded he was beloved by God, and so chose that moniker when composing The Gospel of John.
If you’re a parent and a Christian, you’ve probably read your share of parenting books. Of the making of self-help parenting books, there is seemingly no end. If, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, you’ve been wearied by such study, Christina Fox’s new book, Idols of a Mother’s Heart, will be a balm for your soul.…
Please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against gaiety and fireworks, in having a good time and letting loose (all with holding on to God). I believe in enjoying alcohol without going overboard. But to focus on celebrating a purely calendar event and infusing it with mystical notions is crazy.
New Years Day makes nothing new. The same problems are still here for most humans. People make resolutions but overwhelmingly fail to keep them. They were destined to fail since decisions of the human will are ultimately impotent to change us for the better. Of course folks should be disciplined and not lazy, that’s not what I’m talking about.
Ultimately, God’s Kingdom will come into fuller expression when The King returns and makes all things new.
Here is Goodacre on the Synoptic Problem and a response. I agree with the response and conclusion but do not think much of the “fatigue” theory of editing.
(A review, by Robert K. MacEwen, of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, 18 November 2018)
It was standing room only in room 302 of the Denver Convention Center when Dr. Mark Goodacre, Frances Hill Fox Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, took his place behind the lectern. Looking around, Goodacre expressed surprise at the size of the crowd. “You do realize this is a session on the Synoptic problem, don’t you?” he asked.
Certainly, Ron Huggins and I, seated in the front row, were not there by accident. We were eager to hear what Goodacre would say in response to our view of the relationships between the Gospels. The Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis (MPH) has often been ignored by scholars, ever since it was first proposed by G. C. Storr in 1786. Therefore, it is gratifying to proponents of the MPH that Goodacre is engaging with their theory. A year ago, Goodacre debated online with Alan Garrow in a “$1,000 Challenge.” More recently, he gave a response to a paper by Garrow at the British New Testament Conference. And now, Goodacre was taking on the MPH in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.
Goodacre is today the most prominent advocate of the Farrer Hypothesis (FH)—the view that Luke used Matthew as well as Mark as sources in composing his Gospel. In defending his preferred solution to the Synoptic problem, Goodacre has primarily engaged with scholarship’s dominant theory, the Two Source Hypothesis (2SH), which argues that Matthew and Luke independently used Mark and the hypothetical “Q” document as sources. The MPH, which is the view that Matthew came third and used Mark and Luke as his sources, is the logical third alternative to the other two hypotheses.
Goodacre’s Arguments against Matthew’s Use of Luke
Goodacre began and ended his paper by praising the MPH for its points of agreement with his own theory. He noted that the MPH correctly builds on the priority of Mark, insists on “a literary solution” to the Synoptic problem, and views Q with skepticism (1-3, 22). Naturally, the bulk of Goodacre’s paper was devoted to arguing that Luke’s use of Matthew explains the phenomena of the Gospels better than Matthew’s use of Luke.
Following his introduction, in a section titled, “First Impressions,” Goodacre set out features of Luke that he feels support dating it later than Matthew. These include Luke’s reference to earlier writings about Jesus (Luke 1:1), his use of the first person (Luke 1:1-4 and the “we” passages in Acts)—characteristic of later Gospels, and the historical references he has in common with Josephus.
The next section of Goodacre’s paper was titled, “Matthew’s Redactional Fingerprints”. Here, Goodacre presents two verses in the triple tradition containing minor agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark (Matt 14:13; 22:27; and parr.), arguing that these are examples in which Luke adopted Matthew’s characteristic wording. Next, he displayed the double tradition pericope John the Baptist’s Preaching (Matt 3:7-10//Luke 3:7-9) and argued that its key elements are distinctive of Matthew’s literary and theological features.
Goodacre’s next section presented his argument from “editorial fatigue” (already well-known to his readers), involving passages in which “an author inadvertently betrays his use of a source by making characteristic changes at the beginning of a passage only to revert to the source’s wording later in the same passage”. Goodacre presented the Parable of the Entrusted Money (Matt 25:14-30//Luke 19:11-27) as “[o]ne of the best examples” of Luke fatiguing in his use of Matthew. He also asserts that there are “multiple examples of fatigue” in both Matthew’s and Luke’s use of Mark, “several cases” of fatigue in Luke’s use of Matthew in the double tradition, but no examples of Matthew apparently fatiguing in using Luke.
The following section is on Luke’s “Knowledge of Matthew’s Literary Structures”. Here Goodacre gave the example of Luke 7:1, where Luke concludes the Sermon on the Plain with a construction similar to those used by Matthew at the end of all five of his major discourses of Jesus. Goodacre’s point being that Luke has, in this single instance, adopted a motif that is characteristic of Matthew.
After this, Goodacre discussed “Matthew’s Failure to Include Congenial Lukan Details”. Here the argument is that, since Matthew includes more information about contemporary political leaders than does Mark, it is surprising that he omits Luke’s list of seven rulers in Luke 3:1-2 (cf. Matt 3:1) if Luke were also his source.
Goodacre’s final section was titled, “What is the Appeal of Matthean Posteriority?” Here he states that MPH proponents make use of two “popular arguments for Q” that are actually invalid “old chestnuts, the argument from order, and the argument from Lucan primitivity”. Regarding Luke’s alleged primitiveness in the double tradition, Goodacre makes three substantive points in response. Regarding the argument from order, he suggests that scholars have been hoodwinked by B. H. Streeter’s “rhetoric” and, in a footnote, refers readers to his earlier discussion of this topic.
A Matthean Posteriority Response to Goodacre’s Arguments
Having outlined the contents of Goodacre’s paper, I now offer a Matthean posteriority response. Regarding a second-century date for Luke, the arguments for this are hardly conclusive. Luke’s historical references in common with Josephus do not establish that Luke depended on Josephus; such information could have been known from many sources, including hearsay, in the first century. In favor of a first-century date for Luke, it is possible that some very early Christian writings depended on Luke (cf. Luke 10:17 with 1 Tim 5:18and Luke 24:36-43 with Ign. Smyrn. 3). As for Luke’s similarities to later, non-canonical Gospels, we should not forget that Luke has even greater similarities to Mark and Matthew.
Goodacre’s argument that Luke incorporates Matthean redaction is also not conclusive for his theory; there are also many examples in which Matthew appears to be aware of Lukan redaction. The fact that Matthew uses an expression such as “offspring of vipers” more often than Luke does not necessitate that Luke received it from Matthew. Otherwise, Matthew’s multiple use of Markan items such as the accusation “prince of demons” (Matt 9:34; 10:25; 12:24; Mark 3:22), the proclamation “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15), or the title “son of David” (ten times in Matthew, three times in Mark) would prove that Matthew could not have been dependent on Mark. On the contrary, on a Markan priority view, such Matthean repetitions show that Matthew had the tendency to multiply expressions from his sources that he found congenial.
Helping to confirm this Matthean tendency is an interesting feature of several of the expressions that Goodacre regards as Matthew’s characteristic expressions picked up once by Luke. In each case, it is Matthew’s first use of the expression that is parallel to Luke’s use of it: (1) “offspring of vipers”—Matt 3:7//Luke 3:7; Matt 12:34; 23:33; (2) “weeping and gnashing of teeth”—Matt 8:12//Luke 13:28; Matt 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; (3) “you of little faith”—Matt 6:30//Luke 12:28; Matt 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; (4) “And it happened when Jesus finished . . .”—Matt 7:28//Luke 7:1; Matt 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1. This phenomenon suggests that, in each case, Matthew first encountered the usage in Luke, found it congenial, and chose to use where Luke does and again in other appropriate settings.
As for the alleged Matthean character of John the Baptist’s Preaching (Matt 3:7-10//Luke 3:7-9), this could be explained by Matthew’s desire (worked out later in his Gospel) to show Jesus and John as being in agreement. Certainly, this is what Matthew does in his redaction of Mark, when he puts the initial message of Jesus on the lips of John as well (Matt 3:1-2; Matt 4:17//Mark 1:15).
Goodacre’s discussion of Matt 3:7-10 and Luke 3:7-9 would have been more balanced had he mentioned the different target audiences of John’s preaching in the two Gospels. In Luke 3:7 John warns the crowds in general, while in Matt 3:7John polemicizes against the Pharisees and Sadducees. Here Luke’s usage appears to be more primitive, while Matthew’s appears redactional (Matthew is the only evangelist who groups the Pharisees and Sadducees together. See Matt 16:1, 6, 11-12; 22:34.).
“Editorial fatigue” is an important argument for the FH, at least if Goodacre is entirely correct in his analysis of the phenomena. More work needs to be done on this issue by a variety of scholars. Questions to be answered include: (1) Is it true that there are no plausible examples of Matthew fatiguing when editing Luke? (2) Could it sometimes be editorial alertness rather than editorial fatigue? That is, could it be Gospel A removing inconcinnities in editing Gospel B rather than Gospel B creating inconcinnities in editing Gospel A?
As for Matthew’s failure to include Luke’s list of seven rulers (cf. Matt 3:1; Luke 3:1-2), Goodacre’s argument here may be suggestive, but it is not strong. It is typical for Matthew to shorten his narratives by deleting material from Mark, including material with inherent interest (e.g., cf. Matt 9:1-8 with Mark 2:1-12; Matt 9:18-26 with Mark 5:21-43). Matthew never mentions political leaders unless they are part of his story. He could have easily omitted Luke’s seven-name list because it had no theological or narrative significance for him.
Roasting the “Chestnuts”
Goodacre views “alternating primitivity” in the double tradition as a poor argument for Q (one of “two old chestnuts”) that MPH proponents have attempted to co-opt for their theory. I agree that Matthew and Luke’s apparent alternating primitiveness is not sufficient to establish the mutual independence of these two Gospels. Goodacre’s strongest argument here is that Luke could have sometimes replaced the wording he found in Matthew with an expression known to him from oral tradition. Of course, this argument is reversible—one could just as well say, on the MPH, that Matthew could have been influenced by oral tradition while using Luke as a source.
Goodacre is on much shakier ground when it comes to his other “old chestnut,” the argument from order. In accusing MPH proponents of substituting “a repackaging of Streeter for an attempt to engage seriously with his critics” (20), he seems to be engaging in the kind of hand-waving he attributes to others. In fact, the matter of order and arrangement of the double tradition material is a serious problem for the FH, because its proponents must explain why Luke used Matthew in ways that make it look as if it was Matthew who used Luke.
Assuming Markan priority, we can see how both Matthew and Luke used their source Mark. For the most part, Luke does not change Mark’s pericope order, does not recontextualize Mark’s sayings, and does not expand Mark’s discourses. Matthew, however, frequently does all of those things in using Mark. The last four of Matthew’s five major discourses were all created around a smaller core of Markan material, expanded by additional sayings material relevant to each discourse’s theme. Since Matthew’s first major discourse, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), is a longer version of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49), it is logical to assume that Matthew expanded this Lukan discourse just the way he did the four Markan ones.
On the other hand, if Luke used Matthew as a source, he would have picked apart Matthew’s sermon and distributed small bits of it into multiple new contexts throughout his Gospel (in Luke’s chapters 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16). Such a procedure would have been exceedingly complex for an ancient writer. Even a writer equipped with a modern word-processor would find such an operation extremely taxing. It raises the questions, “Why would Luke have done this?” and “How could Luke have done this?” Admittedly, there is also complexity in Matthew’s composition of his discourses using multiple sources. Yet it is much easier to envision Matthew gathering material from multiple contexts in order to compose a discourse with a single large theme in mind than it is to imagine Luke breaking up a discourse with multiple small contexts in mind. To say this is not to deny that Luke was a “great literary artist”; it is simply to affirm that he was a normal ancient writer.
The Crucial Issue: Verbatim Agreement
My main disappointment with Goodacre’s paper is that he did not discuss the issue of verbatim agreement among the Gospels, except to affirm that the Synoptic problem is a literary problem. Here, briefly, is why MPH proponents believe that the patterns of verbatim agreement support their theory:
As anyone who has spent time coloring a Synopsis knows, there is extensive word-for-word agreement (1) between Matthew and Mark wherever they have common material and (2) between Matthew and Luke in the double tradition. There is much less verbatim agreement between Mark and Luke. So, Matthew is the common factor wherever we find the strongest verbatim agreement among the Gospels.
Research into the practices of ancient writers has shown that it was unusual for them to copy extensively from their sources at length; they preferred to show their skill and creativity by changing their sources’ wording. In light of this, it is somewhat unexpected if one of the evangelists regularly copied his sources verbatim at length. And it is surprising and problematic if more than one of the evangelists did so. Yet this is what both the 2SH and the FH require. On the 2SH, Matthew was a close copier of both Mark and Q while Luke was a close copier of Q—but not of Mark. On the FH, Matthew was a close copier of Mark while Luke was a close copier of Matthew—but not of Mark. Note Luke’s inconsistency on both hypotheses.
In terms of verbatim agreement, the MPH is the simplest and most straightforward hypothesis. On the MPH, only one of the evangelists, Matthew, is required to have behaved unusually in terms of ancient conventions for using sources. Also on the MPH, neither Luke nor Matthew need be seen as behaving inconsistently in their use of sources. Luke consistently paraphrases from his one source that we know, Mark; we are free to assume that he did the same with his sources that we do not know. Matthew is consistent in closely copying from his two sources Mark and Luke.
Goodacre, a noted expert on the Synoptic problem, is exceptionally qualified to identify the problems of the MPH. It is worth pausing to notice, therefore, a genuinely remarkable feature of this discussion: Goodacre’s best arguments against the MPH are either weak, readily reversible or inconclusive. And not only that, they fail to address the point that the phenomena of (1) order and arrangement of material and (2) verbatim agreement in the Gospels uphold the MPH and work against the FH. “Why not Matthew’s use of Luke?” is still a great question.
Despite my criticisms, Goodacre deserves appreciation for his paper. He has advanced the discussion of the Synoptic problem by his willingness to engage with the MPH, the often neglected third alternative to the relationship between Matthew and Luke. May the debate continue!
Robert K. MacEwen is a missionary with Cru and an adjunct faculty member at East Asia School of Theology, Singapore. He received his PhD in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.
What happened when Mark Goodacre addressed the Synoptic Gospels section at SBL Denver? Rob MacEwen (pictured) reports for the Logos Academic Blog.
Julius Wellhausen was a sensitive Protestant professor who developed The documentary hypothesis by use of source criticism. This is an Enlightenment effort, the scientific examination based upon human reasoning and standards. Joshua Berman is a Jew who seems to believe the Torah is from God as written. I hold with Joshua Berman the belief in the Old Testament pretty much as written.
Here is an exchange between Dr. Berman and a questioner:
Dear Dr. Berman,
Traditionally, Jews have read the Torah as a unified whole — essentially, as one book. Source criticism, which your book challenges, maintains that the Torah cannot be read as a unified whole, but only as documents woven together. What role, if any, did the traditional way of understanding the unity of the Torah have in your motivation for this project?
Thanks once again for participating in this exchange.
I studied in a yeshiva for eight years before I began academic Bible study, and the impact of the rabbinic tradition on my scholarly work has been enormous. Obviously, in the academic world you can’t say the text makes sense because Rashi said so, or because God gave the text and so it must make sense. But my extensive yeshiva background has allowed me to come to my academic work with a sense of intellectual humility: things that look obvious to us might be so only because of where we are standing. Let me give an example.
Think of the word religion. That word does not exist in either biblical or rabbinic Hebrew. In fact, no pre-modern culture has a word that parallels our word, religion. But how could that be? Judaism and Christianity have been around for thousands of years; what did people call these, if they didn’t have the word religion?
The answer is that the word religion reflects a very modern concept; it came about because of a secular worldview, one which wanted to limit the role that faith played in public affairs. Religion is what you do in the private sphere; it’s what you believe, the rituals you practice, the prayers you pray. It’s a small corner of your life, and, above all, it’s the realm of the private individual — it cannot be allowed to spill out into the public space. By contrast, classical Judaism, Christianity, Islam and all other ancient “religions” rejected that notion. They were complete systems for understanding all of life, the private and public spheres together. These were systems that encompassed everything, and so it would have been absurd to speak of any of them as belonging to a special category of one small part of life — religions. The greatest joy in my scholarship is when I discover something that is so clear and obvious to us — like the concept of religions — and then discover that those that lived before us often thought about things very differently.
And this brings me to my book. Modern Bible scholars see lots of contradictions in the text of the Torah. And the classic academic way of understanding these contradictions is that they are the result of multiple authors. Now, when I look at traditional views of the text of the Torah, I see that, in fact, the rabbis themselves were troubled by many of these tensions in the text and resolved them with recourse to Midrashsh. But what has always puzzled me is the degree to which traditional rabbinic approaches to the text didn’t seem bothered by many of these contradictions in the first place. And it seemed to me that this was a “religions” moment: just as the absence of the term religions in these texts demonstrates to us that people used to think about things very differently from how we do today, so, too, the fact that the rabbis weren’t bothered by many of the “contradictions” in the text of the Torah might also be because we don’t have a monopoly on understanding what is a unified text and what is a contradictory text.
In fact, scholars have been learning the hard way that their innate sense of contradiction might be failing them. A foundational staple of early Pentateuchal criticism maintained that the disparity of divine names found in the Torah was itself proof positive of composite authorship and a key to determining and delimiting its sources. This axiom had to be walked back in light of evidence showing that the ancients were quite comfortable referring to the same deity by multiple names, even within a single passage. In like fashion, in many texts, God addresses Israel but alternates between addressing Israel as “you” in the singular and “you” in the plural. This was thought to designate various sources or strata in the biblical text. However, the phenomenon is also found in ancient Aramaic treaties, where a king commands his subordinate to hand over fugitives, addressing him, seemingly in random fashion, sometimes in the singular, and sometimes in the plural.
As another example, consider historical inscriptions left to us by Ramesses the Great, who ruled Egypt in the 13th century BCE. To commemorate his greatest achievement, a victory over his arch-enemies the Hittite Empire at the battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE, Ramesses inscribed three mutually exclusive and contradictory reports, one right next to the other, each serving a distinct rhetorical purpose, on monumental sites all across Egypt. Not only that, but the longest of these compositions is full of what we would deem internal contradictions as well. These practices are wholly foreign to modern writers, and far from intuitive. If Ramesses could do this, perhaps the Torah could as well. There are two accounts of creation in Genesis 1-2. And, just like the Ramesses inscriptions, they are contradictory, use different vocabulary, and different names for God. Perhaps these, too, are complementary ways in which the Torah introduces the complexity of the human condition.
These examples serve as a warning flag for scholars looking to parse the text on the basis of their own notions of literary unity. The ancient text is a minefield of literary phenomena that are culturally dependent. Of course, the fact that Ramesses composed multiple conflicting accounts of his conquest does not prove that the Hebrew Bible must be read this way as well. But it should, at the very least, place a check on the confidence that a modern scholar can have when approaching the biblical text and encountering literary phenomena that seem inconsistent.
Pete Williams notes the reality of formal contradictions in literature (and, if we think about it, formal contradiction features in everyday speech), yet some are put off studying the bible when they encounter such devices. Its almost if some folks want a tidier communication from God. However, God’s word is perfectly designed to communicate the things His people should know.
Here is another great installment from Farrell’s Travel Blog:
Dibon is mentioned in the account of the defeat of King Sihon (Numbers 21:30), and was later built by the sons of Gad (Numbers 32:34). It is located in the “plain of Medeba [Madaba]” (Joshua 13:9), and is associated with Heshbon (Joshua 13:17). Upon the return from Babylon some of the sons of Judah lived […]
IMHO — this is not to be missed! See the following. The Lanier Theological Library has posted a 72-minute video of an illustrated lecture by Yosef Garfinkel entitled “Searching for the Historical King David: Khirbet Qeiyafa and Khirbet al–Ra’i. Qeiyafa, in the Judean lowlands (=Shephelah), was excavated by him from 2007 through 2013 and is […]
Over the last couple of weeks, many evangelical scholars (including myself) attended the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature (not to mention, the Institute for Biblical Research). Many good papers were delivered (and heard), old friendships were rekindled, and everyone was asked the same question over and over:…
Here is a comment by Tom Oden:
I suggest another point
Lesson 3.5: In research, a bad solution is sometimes “better” than a good solution.
A bad solution to a problem always needs more study, more qualifications, more money for research. A good solution solves the problem and the researchers have to find something else to do. So beware of the latest 1000-page tome. Maybe the subject is that complicated. Or maybe everyone is lost in the weeds.
Here is an interesting essay by Kyle Harper, the senior vice president and provost of the University of Oklahoma:
Here is a ‘bone box’ (ossuary) displayed at The Allard Pierson Museum (Amsterdam). The burial practices during the time of Jesus seemed generally to place the deceased body on a ledge in a cave for a year until only the bones remained. These bones were then deposited in a box like the one pictured as the final resting place of the physical remains of the individual.