My Morning Reading

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Keeping up with the languages you “know” and trying to begin work on a new one is taxing. All I need now is to get a Hebrew New Testament …

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Beard Status: 3/5 Done

Well, I finished writing and revising the first three chapters of the thesis. That makes two remaining chapters. I thought I would give you all a look at the status of the No Shave Thesember.










It seems as if the longer I work on this thesis, the more I’m beginning to resemble my mentor and advisor, minus the hair on top. Regarding the length of the beard, by the time I finish the thesis, I suspect the student will have surpassed the teacher!

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If You’re in Paris…

I was recently made aware of this series of taking place in Paris spanning November of 2014 until April 2015. The lectures will bring together all the major contributors to the series La Bible D’Alexandrie.

Philippe Hugo’s lecture, “La culpabilité de David et la mise à mort de Joab selon 3 Règnes 2. Contribution à l’histoire du texte et à la caractérisation de David en 2 Sam-1 Rois” sounds particularly interesting.

Oh to live in Paris and speak French . . .

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The Modern Minister and the Biblical Languages

robinsonEarlier today I read a great post over at biblioskolex entitled Review: The Minister and His Greek New Testament. The post, as it suggests, is a review of A. T. Robertson’s The Minister and His Greek New Testament, a collection of essays on the Greek New Testament.

In the post, the author provides a number of great quotations that are sure to make every student, minister, and scholar evaluate the amount of time he spends in the biblical texts, especially in the original texts. Here’s a sampling:

The preacher cannot excuse himself for his neglect of Greek with the plea that the English is plain enough to teach one the way of life… We shall have many more [English translations]. They will all have special merit, and they will all fail to bring out all that is in the Greek. One needs to read these translations, the more the better. Each will supplement the others. But, when he has read them all, there will remain a large and rich untranslatable element that the preacher ought to know. (p. 18-19)

He is no theologian who is not first a grammarian. (22)

If the blind guide leads the blind, they will both fall in to the ditch. One simply has to know his parts of speech if he is to keep out of the ditch, and avoid dragging his followers after him. Schisms have arisen around misinterpretations of single words. Grammar is a means of grace. (21)

I encourage you to click over to the post for more.

The post itself reminded me of a constant internal debate I have with myself regarding the modern minister’s relationship to the biblical languages. Naturally, as my focus is in the biblical languages, I am inclined to believe that everyone should and, dare I say, must study what I am interested in. In all seriousness, since the minister is charged with understanding, interpreting, and delivering the word of God to his people, it seems only fitting that he should have a grasp of what the word says in the original languages.

And yet, there is another part of me that recognizes that I’m not inclined towards the proper study of ethics or philosophy, both of which have bearing on religion generally and biblical studies particularly. Each of us has our strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, areas of interest and disinterest. Very few are gifted jack of all trades in the study and application of the Bible. God has provided each member of the church—including the minister—with gifts according to the needs of the larger body, and that may or may not include knowledge of the biblical languages.

Yet again, should we not expect the ministers—and elders for that matter—to have the ability to offer answers to individuals in the congregation who ask: What does it say in the Greek or Hebrew? Why is this translated in various ways? Why do some translations have only one sentence for these six verses when others have six?If those charged with the task of leading the church cannot provide answers to these questions and speak with confidence from their own studies, who will?

And the cycle continues.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the matter:

Should all ministers be required to know the biblical languages? If so, why?

Are there any exceptions? What are they?

[Disclaimer: My attempt here is not to call into question the validity of or the Spirit's use of ministers who do not know the biblical languages. I know of many who have had God-glorifying ministries and who have seen great fruit in those ministries without a knowledge of the biblical languages, and I thank God for them. I am simply asking us to wrestle with what our expectations ought to be regarding the minister's relationship to the biblical languages.]

Posted in Biblical Studies, Greek, Hebrew, NT Greek, Teaching | 4 Comments

Semantic Anachronism: An Example from Acts 7:58

Most of you are likely familiar with Carson’s work Exegetical Fallacies. If you are not, then please become acquainted with it. Within Exegetical Fallacies, Carson talks about the fallacy of “semantic anachronism.” Carson writes:

This fallacy occurs when a late use of a word is read into earlier literature. At the simplest level, it occurs within the same language, as when the Greek early church fathers use a word in a manner not demonstrably envisaged by the New Testament writers (33).

Carson offers a number of examples: the later ecclesiological meaning of ἐπίσκοπος as bishop, the claim that δύναμις is the explosive power of God, etc.

At any rate, I was reading through Acs 7:58 and found another example to add to the list. The text reads:

καὶ ἐκβαλόντες ἔξω τῆς πόλεως ἐλιθοβόλουν. καὶ οἱ μάρτυρες ἀπέθεντο τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν παρὰ τοὺς πόδας νεανίου καλουμένου Σαύλου.

And casting [Stephen] outside of the city, they began stoning [him]. And the μάρτυρες laid their garments by the feet of a young man who was called Saul.

The word in question is μάρτυρες from μάρτυς. In English, we are familiar with the word, as the word martyr is a simple transliteration of the Greek term. As we know, the term developed in later Greek literature—and into English usage—to denote one that dies on account of his or her witness, or religious beliefs.

The term, however, was used in earlier eras simply as one who gave a witness, or one who witnessed an event: i.e., a witness.

If we read the later definition of μάρτυς (martyr) into this passage, we find that the men stoning Stephen are martyrs. Quite an odd turn of events, I would think.

[Disclaimer: Carson goes on to discuss the development of the word μάρτυς throughout time in his discussion of "Semantic Obsolescence" noting 5 different stages through which the word went. He notes also that the development through these stages was not smooth and that the same author might use the word with multiple nuances, and that it is incumbent on the interpreter/translator to render according to the context.

The example I give above is simply an illustration of what it would look like to project a definition on this word that is often associated with the word's later development. That does not at all mean that Luke uses the word μάρτυς in only one specific way or that the NT authors in general only used it in one way.]

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No more reading the NT in English, please.


I couldn’t agree more with the post below. I’m in the middle of reading through the GNT (up to Acts now), and I’ve found it refreshing, thrilling, and challenging. If you have studied the original languages, set aside your English translations and work through the original text.

Originally posted on Abbey House Sojourner:

Last week I had a meeting with my doctoral supervisor. This was our first meeting since I finished the MA portion of my program, even though I’ve been working with him for a year now. Last year involved coursework, the next three are pure research.

So in the course of the conversation, almost abruptly, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Have you read the New Testament in Greek, yet?”

I gulped. And then said, “All but Luke and Acts, and I’m halfway through Luke.”

He replied, “Well, since you are a New Testament scholar, you know…”

The way his sentence trailed off was like a punch in the gut. His advice was gentle in its delivery, firm in its content. Thus in the past week, I’ve plunged headlong into Luke and have finished the first third of Acts today. Since the term officially begins on Monday, my goal…

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QOTD: Jacques Ellul

downloadWhat Jonah finds is also what he sought when he looked for a place where God would not be. And one might show the irony of this kind of answer, which we can sometimes get too. Jonah really wanted to go where he would be separated from God and would no longer hear his word. He is now there, in hell, but it is not where he wanted to go. Yet it is the only place corresponding to his wish. Not totally so, for this hell, like the fish, serves God’s word. God is still the master there. But this does not alter the fact that for Jonah the separation is total. His prayer, however, will bring about his liberation.

—Jacques Ellul, The Judgment of Jonah, 45

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