April 2008


I must preface this review with a confession. I am a huge N.T. Wright fan. As someone who was raised fairly fundamentalist, Wright’s books have propounded fresh, biblical and evangelical readings of Scripture and theology in ways my upbringing could never do. In short, Wright’s work is the first that has allowed me to see that my evangelical faith is intellectually defensible. For that, I will always be in his debt, and always read his books. So with that in mind let’s talk about this book.

N.T. Wright has done the church a tremendous service by this book. A renowned biblical scholar and pastor, he connects his biblical teaching to the work of the church in a way that is rare, not only in modern scholarship but in any Christian writing in general. Wright’s basic thesis for this book is that a biblically grounded view of the resurrection and our future hope will lead to a relevant, missional and world changing church. This message is well worth listening to.

Wright structures his book into 3 sections: 1) Setting the Scene, 2) God’s Future Plan, and 3) Hope in Practice: Resurrection and the Mission of the Church. 

In ‘Setting the Scene’ Wright takes care to address the confused views of death and heaven. He surveys different views and then proposes what he calls the early Christian hope. The early Christians, when they did speak of heaven, spoke of it as “a temporary stage” (41) or as Wright has said elsewhere, ‘heaven is important but its not the end of the world.’ The true Christian hope is what Wright terms ‘life after life after death.’ This is the resurrection. “Death is the last weapon of the tyrant, and the point of the resurrection, despite much misunderstanding is that death has been defeated” (50). This is the true Christian hope. With this we understand the resurrection, not as proof that there is an afterlife and we get to go to it, but we understand it “principally, [as] the defining event of the new creation, the world that is being born with Jesus” (73, italics original). Thus, in a very real way, (more…)

I mean no blasphemy by the title of this post, but I was reminded of this illustration a while ago and I think it is helpful to think about. I make no claims for this being my own original thought. I stole it from a professor from Western.

Growing up I was fully aware that Jesus was God, that was easy to accept. But Jesus, to me, was never human. The idea of the bracelets that ask the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ were pointless to me because Jesus was God and I could never do what he would do. As Ben Witherington puts it, when he grew up it was easy to understand that Jesus was sinless because he had a God-button that would get him out of any scrape.

What we have done in much evangelical thinking is turned Jesus into Superman. Think about Superman, he is an alien from the planet krypton. He is not, though he seems to be, really Clark Kent, a mild mannered reporter. Clark Kent does not exist. He is not real. He is only an act. This is how I was raised, intentionally or not, to think about Jesus. But Jesus, is God. And he is also human. Thus the better example, Jesus is like the Hulk.

Think about the Hulk. The Hulk really is Dr. Robert Bruce Banner. He really is Banner, but by a freak accident he acquired another reality, he also is a green mass of muscle and anger we call ‘The Hulk.’ He is both these things, albeit never really simultaneously. This makes Jesus much more like Banner, who is a real human being, but sometimes his Hulk busts out. Likewise with Jesus. He really is human, he hungers, hungers, he hurts, he is tempted, he has, dare I say, all the bodily and human functions that we do. However, at times, like the Transfiguration, his divinity busts out. 

Like any good analogy, this one is not perfect. But it does do a good job of communicating what we mean when we say that Jesus is fully human in any meaningful way. I think this may be a helpful illustration (especially for youth) in explaining something of the reality of Jesus as fully God and fully human. If you don’t like the analogy, don’t use it, but if you do, thank Dr. Breshears at Western.

I got the opportunity to study the distribution and usage of verbs in Biblical Aramaic this semester. My study began as an attempt at a discourse analysis of Biblical Aramaic. This task was a bit over my head but it became an analysis of verbal usage in Dan. 2:4-3:30. The analysis was limited to 75 verses because, I only had one semester and it was only part of my workload. But it was an interesting project that forced my reading level of Aramaic to increase a lot and forced me to deal with syntax in a way I never had before. 

My basic conclusion supports the thesis of Michael B. Shepherd in “The Distribution of Verbal Forms in Biblical Aramaic,” JSS 52, 2 (Autumn 2007): 227-244. I commend his article to anyone interested in Biblical Aramaic or in discourse linguistics. His thesis is that “the qetal [or perfect] is the primary verbal form for narrative, and the yiqtul [or imperfect] is the primary verbal form for discourse” (242). My study, essentially substantiated his argument with the added observation that this thesis does not fully take into account the qatil [or participle], which is used differently in narrative and discourse. Below is the conclusion to my paper, I may post the whole paper after I get comments back from my professor.

 

After surveying the findings of our analysis we can confirm that Shepherd’s thesis is substantially correct. The qetal pattern is clearly the predominant narrative tense and the yiqtul is the predominant discourse tense in BA. However, it is not as easy as that. The qatil needs to be understood as a main verbal pattern. Thus we posit that BA has three main verbal tenses: the qetal, the yiqtul, and the qatil. 

The qetal is the predominant narrative tense but it is helped out by the qatil to introduce direct speech and function as both a primary narrative verb and as other parts of speech (adjective, etc.). The yiqtul is the predominant discourse tense but it is helped out by the qetal to portray past tense in both communication levels 2 and 3. The yiqtul is also helped out by the qatil in direct speech to portray present tense.

The qatil is the most versatile verbal pattern in BA. It functions as a major narrative tense reflecting past action and it functions as a major discourse tense reflecting present action. It is not helpful to classify the qatil as present, as is often done, because it functions predominantly as past tense in narrative and present tense in discourse. The qatil pattern is perhaps the pattern that would be the most revealed by further studies of this kind. It seems to be the pattern that is most affected by its place in the larger sections, i.e., narrative or discourse. What we can conclude in this study is that more work must be done here. The patterns observed by Shepherd seem to hold true in general but more work must be done, especially in the area of the qatil pattern if we are to better understand the verb forms of BA.

Ten_CommandmentsAs I have previously noted, our church is preaching through Deuteronomy. The basic assumption of our church has been that the law is wisdom for us. Thus it can be both “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) and something that we are no longer ‘under’ in the strictest sense (Rom. 6:4).

Two weeks ago we went through the Ten Commandments. Our pastor took a particularly helpful approach to understanding the Ten Commandments. He started by looking at Jesus’ interpretation of two of the Ten Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount. These are 1) the prohibition of murder in Matt 5:21-26 and 2) the prohibition of adultery in Matt 5:27-30. Based on his study of Jesus’ hermeneutic in these two texts he proposed the following observations:

  1. Jesus reads the Law as an internal/heart thing
  2. Jesus reads the Law as between God and man, and man and man
  3. Jesus reads the Law as active, not passive

 I think this is a helpful hermeneutic for working with the Law. Our Bible Study decided to go through the Ten Commandments, applying this hermeneutic, and see what kind of results it yielded. Below is our version of the Ten Commandments, worded like Jesus’ interactions with the Law from the Ten Commandments:

  1. You have heard it said, ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Deut. 5:7), but I say to you,  anyone who views anything as equal to or in place of the One God is guilty of having another God. Therefore, you shall view God as the one and only and allow nothing to be on par with him.
  2. You have heard it said, ‘You shall not make an idol’ (Deut. 5:8), but I say to you, do not confuse the creator with the created. View God as the Creator that he is and do not seek to compare him to other deities or religions.
  3. You have heard it said, ‘Do not take the Lord’s name in vain’ (Deut. 5:11), but I say to you, revere the Lord and speak highly of him in front of others. You should be scandalized when someone speaks ill of your Father in Heaven. (more…)

Another semester down! It has been a while since I’ve been able to write anything of note here (not that I ever really write anything of note) because I have been busy finishing finals and final projects. But now I am done. My Aramaic final went really well and my Hebrew Narrative final went as well as can be expected. I look forward to blogging about some of my projects in the future. But for now I’m gonna go take a nap!

We got to play host to my sister, brother-in-law this last weekend and that means one thing: THE BIG MAN WAS IN TOWN! That’s right, the Solo-Man, our awesome nephew Solomon. If I haven’t said this before, he’s awesome.

The fun thing about being an uncle is you can have an entire weeknd with a ten-month old kid, play with him, hold him and make him laugh without having to change a single diaper! It’s great I highly recommend it. I think one of my favorite moments from their visit was to watch my little nephew continuously look at my little sister (his mom) and try to eat grass. Every time my sis said ‘No Solomon’ and he picked up another fistful of grass and tried to put it in his mouth I couldn’t help but root for him. Oh well, I guess I’m just a big brother at heart. Anyway here are some pics from the weekend. It was great to see them. We love those guys.

I can’t get seem to post any pictures right now, but when I do I’ll post some.

My brother-in-law, who works at Starbucks, recently informed me that the term ‘Americano’ originated as an insult to Americans who could not handle the strong black coffee of the Europeans and so needed hot water added to it. A quick check of the wikipedia article on Americano proved this to at least be a common theory. If this is true it is a real insult, not only to black coffee drinkers like me (I mean by that that I drink black coffee, not that I’m black and I drink coffee), but also to American’s in general. Whatever happened to the good ol’ American tradition of drinking coffee so black that the spoon could stand up in the mug. Maybe I’ve read too many Louis L’Amour books but I thought that Americans were supposed to like their coffee black, and durned strong! 

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