Day of reflection

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I realize that in light of the world events the past few weeks, this is an insignificant memory. 16 years ago yesterday my battle with depression reached an all time low, my breakdown. In some ways it seems like last week. In other ways, 50 years ago. But it is still real.

So, today I am reflecting on what happened, but more reflecting on God’s goodness in the worst times of my life. God is faithful.

The sense of loss and isolation and inability is so real even thinking about it now. That began a change in how I see the church and people in the church. I felt on the fringe, unloved, uncared for, very lonely. And my observation over the past 16 years is that many people feel that way in the church, there, but not really. Wanting to be there with fellow Christians, but scared to death to be with others.

My challenge to all in the Church is to be servants to those on the fringe, no matter how that is defined, no matter how many people that includes. The people are real, their needs are real. And the biggest need is for the Savior who breaks beyond the dividing lines and ministers to people on the fringe. He came to save all, even those on the fringe. Been there, done that, want others to be there, too.

Depression Get over it

 

Shared Memories

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We recently returned from a long (5,762 miles to be exact) trip over 25 days. Much excitement at TAALC National Convention, even more with family afterward. And many shared memories.

Shared memories are bonds that tie together family, friends, even communities. It’s really nice when you can remember, relive, laugh, or even cry with someone who was there.

Shared Memories Lost

Our mothers are 87 years old, live about a mile apart. They have known each other for 47 years, since my wife and I started dating. So there are many shared memories. But there are also aspects of their lives not shared. My wife has those memories with her mother, and I have others with my mother.

But it dawned me (I know, I am slow!) that when my father died in 1991, many of my mother’s shared memories became only her memories. Yes, there were friends around to reflect on that, and family (the three of us brothers and grandchildren) to tell the stories to. But the loneliness of the death of a spouse emphasized the shared memories, especially the changes. The same happens with a divorce or severe disability. It’s not that the relationship is denied but the shared memories become a thing of the past.

What struck me this year was that most of my mother’s friends have died and most of the family members of her generation are gone. Thus, the shared memories for my mother are hers, and hers alone. The loneliness increases.

Yet, as her son I can bring back shared memories of the past 65 years that she may have forgotten. Likewise she can refresh my hazy memory of special or unique events, and even more everyday events that hold a special place in our memories.

Shared Memories and Worship

This caused me to think about church and shared memories. I love being part of a liturgical church and serving as pastor because the basic form has been consistent since the New Testament era. The musical forms have changed, but the structure is the same.

Such a heritage allows shared memories that are not time bound. Thus, as one generation passes and another comes on the scene—not unusual to have 4 or 5 generations present in worship on any given Sunday—the faith expressed still reflects the shared memory.

Why is that? Because the shared memory starts with Jesus Christ, not with us. As Jesus comes to us (as he promised)

  • in Baptism (Matthew 28:18-20): The invocation in worship (“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) brings to mind our own Baptism into Christ (Romans 6, 1 Peter 3:21, Titus 3). The shared memory of the worship community is Christ-focused from the beginning words. Note that the invocation does not begin with these words “We make our beginning in the name of the Father…” To do so changes Baptism to our action, to making worship dependent on us, and we call God into our presence. Our shared memory becomes what we make it, not what Jesus has made it and continues to make it.
  • in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-27 and Gospel accounts): Again, note that we do this “in remembrance of him” not in a vague way, but in a tangible way: Jesus gives his body and blood in the feast, for the forgiveness of sins. The share memory is not determined by the worship community, but by Jesus himself.
  • in the Word (John 5:24; Matthew 28:18-20): Jesus establishes the community (through the Holy Spirit working) and Jesus is the center of all discussion (1 Corinthians 2:2). This does not mean we don’t talk about all that God has revealed in his Word, but it does mean that Jesus cannot be “one of many” topics, rather the center about which all revelation makes sense. The shared memory of the original disciples becomes the shared testimony on Pentecost, and continues today with everyone who proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Shared Memories in the Word

One of the greatest challenges in maintaining the shared memories as Christians is the great variety of English translations. It is relatively easy to keep the shared memories using KJV/NKJV/NAS/RSV/ESV. But what happens with the advent of GW/NLT/NET, etc. when the shared vocabulary is no longer there. Part of that relates to a shared cultural background in which the Biblical language and imagery had influenced society.

We don’t live in that kind of world today, no matter how much people (pastors, theologians, etc.) want to protest against it. We face a situation in which it is not just a breaking of shared memories but even of breaking shared language.

Shared Memories and Continuity of Faith Expression

I have beat the drum of “continuity of faith expression” for years. That is, in worship and translations, can we have 7 year old, 18 year old, 45 year old, and 80 year old understand with a common faith expression?

Obviously I favor translations that speak to today’s people. So I find myself torn, using accessible and faithful translations, while maintaining continuity of faith expression. This is not something I made up, but is a very real problem. For congregations that are long established and average age of worshipers is 55, then this is less of a problem. But what of the next generation?

In and beyond all this is the need to maintain the shared memories of Jesus Christ within the community. How is that done in your ministry? In your church? In your denomination? What challenges do you face with regard to shared memories?

Rethinking HCSB

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Over the past 3-4 months I have been reflecting on translation issues especially related to HCSB. This hasn’t been systematic study, but percolating ideas as I encounter the texts.

Yahweh or LORD?

I had posted previously (three years ago) about the HCSB sporadic use of Yahweh as a translation of the Hebrew יְהוָה֙. At the time I suggested that HCSB translators adopt Yahweh consistently throughout the Old Testament.

But in practice I am beginning to rethink this. It seems that the connection with the Septuagint (LXX) where κύριος is used for both יְהוָה֙  (YHWH) and אֲדֹנָי֮  (Adonai) would be strengthened. Further, the quotations in the NT follow the LXX, so there would still be a problem.

It seems that the better solution is to retain LORD as the consistent translation of God’s name. I think some kind of footnote could be used to indicate the difference between LORD and Lord. Obviously that does not help an oral reading, but the greater good would seem to be served by using LORD.

Contractions

I know that several translations (NLT, GW, HCSB) use contractions because “it is accepted English.” Originally I wasn’t opposed to the use of contractions. But as I reconsider this point, I realized that contractions work well when reading (by yourself). But with oral reading, contractions seem a little awkward. I also realized if the text has a contraction, when I read orally, I will use the non-contracted form without even thinking about it. So I will read, “I cannot” not “I can’t.”

Therefore, I would recommend HCSB consider replacing all contractions. I don’t think (notice you are reading this from a screen, not reading out loud to someone!) there is any benefit of using contractions, especially for an oral text.

Marketing in the Church

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I watched this video today, which I will title, Marketing for Food.

As I thought about that (I worked at marketing for a Fortune 100 company for 7+ years), I began to think about marketing in the church. Have we covered up the ugly aspects? Have we twisted what the Church is by changing the message?

Easy Targets for Marketing

It is easy for us to point fingers at the false marketing of the Christian life. For instance, this one DNA of a Winner by Joel Osteen, or this one “I want to deserve fire” by Benny Hinn. And the list continues. Yes, each one has a major problem behind the marketing demonstrated in the videos.

Sadly this kind of marketing always leads back to the person, and always disappoints, despite the marketing. Many have spoken to these issues, exposing them. If you have further questions, read your Bible, not just those proof texts promoted by the marketers above.

Harder targets for Marketing

But let’s move to the darker side of marketing in the Church. That darker side meaning you and me, as we live out the Christian life. Do we market the Church as we want people to see us on Sunday morning while in worship? Do we want to control the environment so that none of the ugliness of sin is seen, much less dealt with? Not sins “out there” but the sin in my heart, my hard heartedness, my loneliness, my withdrawal from someone who needs help, because I, too, need help?

The hard part is no one is paying for this marketing. I am doing it myself. No one is using a test panel to see which is the most effective tool to manipulate. No one is asking about the right color palette to use. No one is worried about their marketing jobs.

Marketing the Crucified Life

No, in the Church, we market by our lives, by what God is doing in and through us, by means of His Word and His Sacraments. Consider these marketing strategies:

Come to Jesus—where he may be found

Come to Jesus—where he may be found

 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NAS)

[Paul said:] “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20 NAS)

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me — to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NAS)

When we get to life in the Spirit, as Paul presents it, notice that it isn’t outward deeds that receive attention, rather the forming of “Christ in you” (Galatians 4:19). Paul notes the deeds/works of the flesh are evident.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, bstrife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,  envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NAS)

But the marketing of the life in Christ is portrayed by Paul this way:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23 NAS)

So which is easier to market? Our flesh likes the first option. We are attracted to the flashy, catchy phrasing, the easy Christian life, that we only model on Sunday morning. But the life in the Spirit is marketed when we walk with someone through a divorce, through cancer, through rebellious teenagers, through fractured friendships. We will be misunderstood, misrepresented, misquoted, and even just plain missed.

There won’t be headlines to boast of this life, but it will be “Christ in us” through the Spirit that God will use for His purposes. No marketing campaign, no catchy YouTube videos of 10 minutes to success. But humility in the mud of sin and life, prayer in the pit of despair, and ultimately the Word that speaks to our condition, Baptism that reminds us of whose we are, and the Lord’s Supper that bring life and forgiveness to one who cannot see life or hope in anything.

HCSB Thinline

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I am in my final preparation for this Sunday’s Pentecost sermon I was reviewing Acts 2 in HCSB. I found some printing problems in the Thinline Bible.

In the HCSB translation, quotes from the Old Testament use bold font and are indented. But notice in this passage in Acts 2:36

HCSB-Acts2

 

Also, I noticed the problem of the Old Testament references repeated with two separate footnotes. Here is another example in Acts 2.

I remember Dr. Carter mentioning something about this. Couldn’t remember if this was specific to the Thinline Reference Bible, though.

IMG_0241

Interview: Book Review and More

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Back on April 28, I reviewed the book Gospel Assurance and Warnings by Paul Washer. Shortly afterward Jordan Cooper (aka justandsinner) invited me to join him on a podcast to discuss the book review and further topics. The interview took place this morning. It was an honor to be interviewed and to discuss not only the book, but Law and Gospel, and true assurance of salvation. Interview.

We also had a chance to discuss the practical implications of getting this correct. Here are some additional links that will help:

Law and Gospel: Passive and Active Righteousness

Liturgy—Confession and Absolution

Liturgy—Brokenness, Forgiveness, Praise

The real world meets Law and Gospel

Matt. 18:15-20 Pt 1

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I will give the text in Greek, then in English (NAS)

15 Ἐὰν δὲ ἁμαρτήσῃ [εἰς σὲ] ὁ ἀδελφός σου, ὕπαγε ἔλεγξον αὐτὸν μεταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ μόνου. ἐάν σου ἀκούσῃ, ἐκέρδησας τὸν ἀδελφόν σου· 16 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ, παράλαβε μετὰ σοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο, ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα· 17 ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὲ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ, ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης. 18 Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν· ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ.

19 Πάλιν [ἀμὴν] λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν δύο συμφωνήσωσιν ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς περὶ παντὸς πράγματος οὗ ἐὰν αἰτήσωνται, γενήσεται αὐτοῖς παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς. 20 οὗ γάρ εἰσιν δύο ἢ τρεῖς συνηγμένοι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα, ἐκεῖ εἰμι ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν.

15 “If your brother sins [fn: against you], go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”images-1

Textual and Issues:

There are really only two textual variants that call for attention. In 18:15, we have face the question whether the words “against you” (singular) is original. The manuscript evidence is divided, but early mss tend not to have the phrase. The listing of translations shows the variety; when a footnote is included about the manuscript differences, it is noted in parentheses.

omit clause   B 0281 ƒ1 579 sa bopt ; Orlem

NAS (fn), NIV (fn), GW (fn), NJB, REB, NET (fn)

“against you” D K L N W Γ Δ Θ 078 ƒ13 33. 565. 700. 892. 1241. 1424 M latt sy mae bopt

NKJV, HCSB (fn), ESV (no fn), NRSV (fn), NLT (no fn), NAB [bracketed]

NET has an extended footnote that is worth noting.

The earliest and best witnesses lack “against you” after “if your brother sins.” …However, if the MSS were normally copied by sight rather than by sound, especially in the early centuries of Christianity, such an unintentional change is not as likely for these MSS. And since scribes normally added material rather than deleted it for intentional changes, on balance, the shorter reading appears to be original. NA27 includes the words in brackets, indicating doubts as to their authenticity.

I think it is easier to explain the addition of the phrase as a later manuscript change, which would match Peter’s question in 18:21 “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” Thus, the original would seem to lack the two words. In a later post, I will consider the implications of this difference.

The other texual issue involves how to translate the verbs in 18:18. There are varieties of ways to translate this verse:

HCSB I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.

ESV Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

(fn: shall have been bound . . .  shall have been loosed)

NIV “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

(fn: “will have been” in both cases)

NKJV  “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

As a future perfect passive participle I translate it this way:

ἔσται δεδεμένα (will have been bound) ἔσται future indicative; δεδεμένα middle perfect passive, neuter, nominative, plural

ἔσται λελυμένα (will have been loosed) ἔσται future indicative; λελυμένα middle perfect passive, neuter, nominative, plural

The idea behind this understanding of the verbs is when the disciple binds or looses (forgives) it will have already been bound or loosed by God in heaven prior to the declaration. So, the disciple is not in charge but declaring what God has already done.

On the other hand, if we accept the ESV or NIV (text) reading, then it would change the dynamics dramatically. The disciple now becomes the determiner of binding and loosing. That is, the disciple would seem to have the power to go and do any binding or loosing with the expectation that God has to come along forgive because the disciple has done the first act. More will be mentioned about this implications of this understanding as we explore all of 18:15-20.

Limits of this section

Sometimes Matthew 18:19-20 is used as a proof text for Christ’s presence with the gathering of any two or three Christians. The principle is itself okay, as it is supported elsewhere in Scripture. But in light of the two verses intimate connection with the preceding four verses, we have to interpret them as part of the entire section 15-20, not as a thought independent of its context.

For this study we will examine and interpret the totality of 15-20 rather than as two independent pericopes. This approach also then provides a natural segue into the following section, vv. 21-35.

HCSB and WELS Translation Liaison Committee

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The WELS Translation Liaison Committee just posted their latest comments regarding the HCSB translation. (http://www.wels.net/about-wels/synod-reports/translation-liaison-committee/translation-liaison-committee) Overall, the work is solid and the committee is to be commended for its diligent work. For the most part I agree with everything they have noted. In a couple cases I will offer additional thoughts. I will not comment on the Plan of Salvation page because previously I have advocated that it not be included. If I don’t address a specific passage it means that I support the WELS Committee suggestions.

Six Translation Suggestions for Some Key “Sacramental Verses”

I am very much supportive of the points made in these texts. I came across this when I was preparing the Maundy Thursday worship service. I had intended to use the HCSB but stopped short because of the use of “established” in the words of institution. τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ⸂ἐμῷ αἵματι (1 Cor. 11:25 “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” NAS).

In Matthew 3:11 HCSB has [John said:] “I baptize you with water for repentance” which is a fine translation. However, the footnote skews the text considerably with “Baptism was the means by which repentance was expressed publicly.” The problem is that there is nothing in the text to support anything that the footnote suggests. It is a case of imported theology from one specific group. I noticed this same kind of imposition of this kind of theology in the translation the Voice Bible, but even stronger: “I ritually cleanse you through baptism*…” with the footnote: “Literally, immerse in a rite of initiation and purification.”

Although not technically a Sacramental verse (although it is in the context), Acts 8:37 needs clarification. I agree with the suggestion to put the entire verse in a footnote. Even the footnote that is used is not clear; HCSB makes it appears as if the textual evidence is equally split on the inclusion of the text. The reality is that the manuscript evidence leans far toward the side of not including the verse (see NET footnote below).

NET footnote: A few later MSS (E 36 323 453 945 1739 1891 pc) add, with minor variations, 8:37 “He said to him, ‘If you believe with your whole heart, you may.’ He replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Verse 37 is lacking in {P45, 74 ℵ A B C 33 614 vg syp, h co}. It is clearly not a part of the original text of Acts. The variant is significant in showing how some in the early church viewed a confession of faith. The present translation follows NA27 in omitting the verse number, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations.

Tetragrammaton

This extended discussion relates to my own frustration with HCSB. Either go fully with Yahweh or LORD, but don’t switch back and forth. The WELS Committee makes a strong case for using LORD, based on the LXX, NT, and early church usage of those texts containing the tetragrammaton. In light of that I would opt for their solution.

Slave or Servant

I think the Committee makes some good observations and this translation of δουλος needs attention. At the same time, I don’t think a wholesale change should be made. One of my book reviews last fall was by Joseph Hellerman. Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why it Matters Today. Kregel Ministry, 2013 provides additional information on this topic. One of the key insights is that the class-conscious people of Philippi would understand the nuance of titles. There were two levels of society: Elite and non-Elite. The lowest level in the non-Elite status was not household servants, but slaves.  The expectation in that culture is that Paul would be Elite, in fact, the highest level of Elite, and so the expected title would be “apostle” in the greeting. But Paul uses δουλος, the only time he uses it unadorned. That seems intentional to separate even from household servants.

My suggestion then is to follow the WELS recommendation except that the nuance of each use must be carefully considered. It’s not an absolute: either servant or slave, but context would determine the specific translation choice.

Christ/Messiah in the New Testament

I wholeheartedly support this position of the WELS Committee. See my posts here and here.

The Use of “Should” and “Must” in the Translation of the New Testament

Although I have not addressed this issue on my blog, I am right in synch with the Committee regarding the changes. At times the use of “should” and “must” almost has the sense of a ruler-entrenched teacher waiting to snap my knuckles. Not exactly what the Biblical text has in mind.

Capitalization of Pronouns for God

I have used primarily NAS and NKJV for the past 37 years. Capitalization of divine pronouns seemed like a natural. Of course as I began translating I realized that it was English editor/publisher decision and nothing more. In the last 20 years I have used many other translations that do not capitalize divine pronouns.

The WELS Committee makes an excellent case for not using capitalization for divine pronouns. Another problematic text is Genesis 32:24-32, in which the Hebrew doesn’t indicate even by specific names, but pronouns are used throughout. Compare how HCSB and NAS deal with this.

NAS 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

HCSB 24  Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that He could not defeat him, He struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip.  26 Then He said to Jacob, “Let Me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. “Jacob,” he replied. 28  “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” He said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked Him, “Please tell me Your name.”

Even capitalization doesn’t help identify the players. “Jacob” isn’t in the Hebrew in v. 25 for instance.

“Man” and “Men” in Contexts where Women are Included

I was glad to see this issue addressed. Generally HCSB does better than ESV, and HCSB does okay in some places, but as the WELS Committee noted, they are inconsistent. In addition to the WELS suggestions on changes I would add Psalm 1 and Psalm 32:2 (especially 32:1 has it correct).

Psalm 4:1 How long, exalted men, will my honor be insulted?[change to: How long, people, will my honor be insulted?]

It seems odd that בְּנֵ֥י אִ֡ישׁ  (“sons of man”) would be translated as “exalted men.”

Many other examples can be cited. It appears that the WELS Translation Committee has done a fine job of highlighting changes that could make HCSB an even better translation. Well done!

Book Review: Judges and Ruth

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Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library). Kregel Academic, 2013.9780825425561

If you are looking for a detailed, exegetical, linguistic, and homiletical commentary on Judges and Ruth, then this is a commentary at the top of the list.

In the Introduction (pp. 1-105) Chisholm covers Chronology, Narrative Structures, Proclamation, Preaching, and other introductory matters. Interestingly he provides three possible chronologies of Judges, two for the early 15th century and another for 13th century. He examines the arguments for and against each view. I thought it a little odd that he does not come down definitely on one of the three. Nevertheless, his presentation of the data is very good, helping the reader follow the arguments, and to come to his/her own conclusions.

He asks two questions that are of more recent interest. Does Judges have a political agenda? (pp. 62-67) and What role do the female characters play? (pp. 69-81) In both cases he deals with the answers based on the text itself. His careful study offers insights in both cases, especially the role of female characters. This whole section well serves the careful reader/student.

Chisholm accepts the canonical form of Judges and consequent literary structure, which is another positive of this commentary. “I believe that the book, when examined in its canonical form, is a unified work…[which] is not as susceptible to the kind of speculative fancy that litters the history of biblical higher criticism” (p. 15) This approach also informs and guide his literary analysis, and the proclamation.

His approach to literary and narrative structure is detailed, yet very concise, and so it takes time to sort through the data (pp. 81-8). But the survey is well worth the time for the reader. Helpfully, he uses these insights in each section of his translation throughout the book. This provides a convenient way to check translation and structure at the same time. Given many other commentaries that separate and then seldom refer to it, Chisholm’s work is consistent and helpful. Well done.

Another significant value of this commentary is the emphasis on linking the exegetical, linguistic, literary study with the move to proclamation, not limited to a nod in that direction, but thorough presentation for each section of Judges (and Ruth). Each major section of text includes the following subsections: Translation & Narrative Structure, Outline, Literary Structure, Exposition, Message & Application (including homiletical trajectories). The breadth and depth of each is helpful for understanding the text, and moving into a preaching/teaching situation.

The commentary on Ruth is equally informative and usable. His discussion of the role of Naomi as a major character along with Ruth and Boaz provides a different perspective for each subsection. The note about the role of public vs. private discourse is enlightening. “Public events tend to focus on Naomi’s dilemma and its resolution, while private conversations highlight the commitment of the characters to the well-being of others” (p. 558). Interestingly, the author notes that both Boaz and Ruth seem to function as a type of Christ—worth further investigation and thought.

This book will prove to be a valuable resource for anyone preaching or teaching on the Old testament. It helps to know your Hebrew when you use it, although you can still benefit from it without Hebrew. There might be areas of disagreement on Chisholm’s points, but he provides the necessary detail to explore further and come to your own conclusions. One area I expected a little more development (than just Boaz and Ruth) was the Christological significance of both Judges and Ruth.

Overall, this is one of the best books that Kregel Academic has produced. Well laid out, logical, and thorough. This is an excellent commentary, worth reading and referring to often if you teach or preach on either book.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Context of Matthew 18:15-35

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Limits of study

Obviously it is difficult to jump into the middle of a text without understanding the context. Our text comes at the end of the fourth discourse, which describes the ekklesia (church), i.e. the New Messianic people of God (13:54–19:1). There are two parts in this discourse.

The previous section (13:54–17:27) focused on the deeds as Jesus separates Himself and His disciples from the first century Jewish understanding of what it means to be God’s people. In other words, the former way of living (under the old covenant) is passing away, and Jesus begins to contrast what the new covenant [testament] means for living. This separation begins with the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth (13:54-58). The death of John (14:1-12) highlights that the prophetic preparation for the Messiah has been completed.

Then follows a series of miracles that demonstrate particular aspects of the Messiah’s work and what they means for His disciples. The feeding of the 5,000 highlights not only Jesus’ power and authority, but even more the heart of God— “He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them“ (14:14). Rather than the “shepherds” of Israel who saw the crowds as ones to be manipulated, used, and exploited, Jesus saw the people as they were, people in need.

In addition to the feeding miracle Jesus walks on the water, which only His disciples see, then heals the sick in Gennesaret. These miracles demonstrate his authority over all creation, extending compassion as needed. Yet, even then the disciples face the reality of their lack of faith. Contrast that with the two “outsiders” who are commended for their faith (Matthew 8:10-11; 15:28).

The conflict between Jesus and the rulers of the Jews increases as we move into chapter 15. The old way was to examine the externals as the measure of law-keeping, and obedience to God. The tradition of the elders is exposed when Jesus points to Word, namely Isaiah, to condemn them (Matthew 15:8-9). It isn’t what goes into a person that defiles, but what comes out, comes out of the heart (15:10-20).

Jesus ventures into another Gentile area, Tyre and Sidon. Note that while Jesus came to Israel, it is also true that Jesus was preparing for Matthew 28:16-20 by His own extension of the message beyond Israel. In this case the Canaanite woman reveals true faith. Two more miracles follow this story. Again, note the divine characteristic in 15:32, “And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ‘I feel compassion for the people.’ ”Mt14

Yet remarkably in Matthew 16:1-4 the Pharisees and Sadducees ask for a sign. They see, but do not see. The contrast for the new people of God is that seeing comes from faith. After explaining the real problem of these leaders, Jesus now asks the disciples who He is—the context and object of faith. Peter gets the identification correct: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The source is not Peter’s deduction, but the revealing work of God. Sadly, in 16:21-23, Peter also exposes how little he knows what his confession really meant. Peter wants a Savior of his own making. He gets much more in Jesus.

Jesus explains more about what this confession Peter made when He said: “I also say to you that you are Peter (Πέτρος masculine referring to Peter), and upon this rock (πέτρᾳ feminine referring to his confession, not to Peter) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” This confession also leads to the issue of forgiveness of sins, a theme that is central in our main text, 18:15-35.

But the confession also includes Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus, thus, contradicts one of the major expectations of the Jewish people: the Messiah would lead them to victory over the Romans. Such a confession includes the disciples to deny themselves and follow Jesus, cross language that will be fully evident in chapters 26-28.

Chapter 17 adds to the disciples’ confusion. Jesus, the one who will be killed, is not transfigured in front of three disciples. Then He follows that with another prophecy of His death and resurrection. It’s like the disciples have been given a puzzle with many pieces, yet the pieces seem to come from many different puzzles.

Chapter 18:1-14

This text provides the immediate background and transition to our text of interest. The question in 18:1 reveals how the disciples are still thinking in the old paradigm. “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus clearly refutes such thinking when he uses a child (“a child, normally below the age of puberty” BDAG). In other words, the wisdom and superiority of an adult perception of greatness are not in the mix. It is an issue of faith, something the disciples have missed repeatedly.

In 18:5-9 Jesus goes even further. It is not a matter of (self-imagined) greatness, but rather how do the new people of God treat the “least” in the kingdom. Leading one of the least into sin has great consequences.

[Jesus said:] “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! (Matthew 18:6-7 NAS)

The least includes the lost among them, those who go astray (18:10-14). Notice, too, that the finding of the lost is critical, but also the the resulting rejoicing. God desires that not one be lost.

With this background we see that Jesus will usher in a new kingdom, the church (ἐκκλησία). It will be far different than what the people had experienced under the old covenant. Relationships will reflect God’s perfect love and compassion. Anything that interferes with the relationship of the church is to be dealt with following the pattern of greatness in the new kingdom.

This then leads us into the text of 18:15-35.

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