A Word in Edgewise

Living under the Orders (Part One)

In this episode of Exegetically Speaking, Gene Green, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, discusses how he became a student of Greek through his local, Pentecostal church.  Then he guides us in thinking biblically about submission: to governing authorities (1 Pet 2.13); to masters (1 Pet 2.18); within the family (1 Pet 3.1); to elders (1 Pet 5.5).Gene Green

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Human Flourishing

Dr. Jonathan Pennington, associate professor of New Testament and director of the doctoral program at Southern Seminary, has written an important, new book on the Sermon on the Mount.  The title is The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary (Baker Academic, 2017).  You can find a link to Amazon here. The book is not exactly new; I’ve known about it for about a year now.  But it is new to me and perhaps to many of you.  Human Flourishing Pennington

Pennington is regarded broadly as an expert on the Gospel of Matthew.  Now, on the way to writing the prestigious Pillar Commentary on the whole Gospel, he paused and wrote an extensive theological commentary on the Sermon.  The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is probably the best known sermon of Jesus.  Oscar Brooks called it “the inaugural address” of Jesus because it laid out the platform for the kingdom of God.

At the heart of Pennington’s book, as the title shows, is an interpretation of the beatitudes and the Sermon as what we would call today “human flourishing.”  Essentially, what wisdom is needed and what virtues must be cultivated in order for humans–or in this case, Jesus-followers–to flourish.  He begins by re-translating the beatitudes (Matt 5.3ff) in a manner like: “Flourishing are the poor the spirit, . . . “; “Flourishing are those who mourn, . . . ”  You get the idea.  He moves the Greek word makarios out of the category of “happy” or “fortunate” or “blessed.”  While the term “human flourishing” may be anachronistic, it is heuristically valuable and gets at the heart of what is the good life and good society.

One of the most important features of the book is Pennington’s commitment to join together the Jewish wisdom tradition with Greco-Roman virtue ethics.  Rather than seeing these as discrete aspects of Galilean/Jewish culture, Pennington invites us to see these as mutually instructive.   He makes a good case for it.  But wisdom here is not just “this worldly,” it also has an eschatological dimension as well.  It is thoroughly Christ-centered and kingdom-focused.

Pastors and scholars have been writing on the Sermon for years.  My first encounter with a book devoted largely to it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship.  I am not sure the trend will end, but I do think that Pennington’s book is likely to become one of the most significant books on the sermon for years to come.



What is exegesis?

Veteran interpreter, Dr. John Walton of Wheaton College, describes the process of exegesis — from choosing a text, analyzing the genre and background, and grappling with the “linguistic core” — in this step-by-step explanation of how exegesis is done.john walton

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Emeril Lagasse, idou and the Gospel of Matthew

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark Lanier, founder of the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, TX.  While he is one of the best lawyers in America, he is also one of the best Bible teachers you will ever hear.  His first degree at Lipscomb University was Biblical Languages.  He joined me for Exegetically Speaking, a podcast of the friends and faculty of Wheaton College.

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What are the chances Jesus of Nazareth was born on December 25th?

Christians around the world celebrate December 25th as “Christmas.”  We identify it with the time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  Songs are sung, carols are played, and stories are told about Mary and her baby boy.  But what are the chances that Jesus was born on December 25th?

Well, to put a number to it.  The chance that Jesus of Nazareth was born on December 25th is 1/365 or to be slightly more accurate 1/365.24.  Obviously the calendar we use today didn’t exist then, and our calendar corresponds to the solar year not the lunar.  Jesus had to be born on a day that corresponds to our calendar one way or another, but we can’t be certain of the day of his birth because there is no identifiable date recorded in the texts.

That may sound strange to us who celebrate birthdays every year and who have birth certificates.  Often our birthdays identify us.  Recently, I went to the doctor and before they wanted my name, they asked my birthday.  When the receptionist keyed in my birthday, my name came up.  So, for us living in the 21st century, our birthdays identify us.  You’ve probably had a similar experience.

The fact is most human beings born thousands of years ago didn’t know their birthdays.  They didn’t have a reliable and stable calendar as we do today.  This was especially true of people of  “lower class” or the “worker class.”   I’m using the terms here sociologically not pejoratively.  Joseph and Mary were ordinary people.  Joseph was by trade a tekton.  Some have translated the word “carpenter” but it may be better to translate it “stone mason” since most construction in those days in the land of Israel was of stone.  But they weren’t well off.  And there is no record of the day of Jesus’ birth.

I won’t go into the reasons why December 25th was chosen as the “day” we celebrate Christmas.  Many people have written on that on the Internet. My point is more simple.  As Christians we do not celebrate the “day” Jesus was born, we celebrate the fact he was born at all.  December 25th just happens to be the day we celebrate it.  In Jesus we see  the coming of God into the world in a unique and powerful way.   Theologians call it the Incarnation, literally the enfleshing of God or embodiment of God.  For us Jesus is the embodiment of the God of Israel who has come into our world to save and to give us an example of how to live.

Let me illustrate this using a more recent example.  I know a man, let’s call him Claude.  Today, at the time of my writing, he is 92 years old.  He was born in a little town in Mississippi in 1926.  The exact date of his birth “day” is unknown.  The country doctor who delivered him wrote down one date in the county register where Claude was born.  But he recorded it several days later after he had delivered other babies.  Then there is the record of Claude’s birthday in the family Bible, which 92 years ago was the family record of birthdays, weddings, baptisms, and death days of beloved family members.  Then there is the day he was told by family members  that he was born.  Now the dates do not correspond, they are off by a significant amount.  Which one is true and accurate?  We don’t know, and in important ways it doesn’t matter.

Claude celebrates his birthday now on a day late in September. Essentially, because of American law, he had to choose one of those days and call it his birthday not knowing exactly the “day” he was born.  He gets cards, presents and phone calls on that day congratulating him on making it another year. He has a social security card and a driver’s license that display his chosen day.   So, that day was chosen to recognize the fact of his birth, not the day of his birth.  Essentially we celebrate the person not the day.  The same is true in ways for Jesus.

December 25th–Christmas, Navidad, Weinacht, whatever name by which you know it–is not a celebration of the day Jesus was born, it’s a celebrate of the fact he was born, that in him God became flesh and dwelt among us.  It is a unique day in the Christian calendar to recognize a singular great event in history, the Incarnation.  In Jesus of Nazareth we recognize that God has come into the world and that is worth stopping and thinking about.

Resurrection and New Creation

Recently (Nov 16, 2018) N. T. Wright gave a lecture at the Lanier Theological Lecture in Houston, TX, on “Resurrection and the New Creation.”  It was vintage Wright.

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Podcast: Daughters And Sons

Dr. Amy Peeler joined me recently on the “Exegetically Speaking” podcast at Wheaton College.  She did a good job explaining the value of inclusive language in places like the NIV, but also argued for a more masculine reading of a passage in Hebrew 2.  It’s worth hearing.

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