“I baptize you with water,”–Mark 1:8

Dr. Tim Brookins, HBU

Dr. Tim Brookins is Associate Professor of Classics and Biblical Languages at Houston Baptist University, and has co-authored with Bruce W. Longenecker, 1 Corinthians: A Handbook on the Greek Text, among other things. He illustrates the adage that a little learning of Greek, while good as a beginning, is a dangerous thing on its own. Does the grammar of Mark 1:8 tell us that John did not baptize “in” water?

To hear the podcast (7 minutes) click here.

“Exegetically Speaking” is a weekly podcast of the friends and faculty of Wheaton College, IL and The Lanier Theological Library. Hosted by Dr. David Capes, it features language experts who discuss the importance of learning the biblical languages—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—and show how reading the Bible in the original languages “pays off.” Each podcast lasts between seven and eleven minutes and covers a different topic for those who want to read the Bible for all it is worth.

If you’re interested in going deeper, learn more about Wheaton’s undergraduate degree in Classical Languages (Greek, Hebrew, and Latin) and our MA in Biblical Exegesis

You can hear Exegetically Speaking on SpotifyStitcherApple Podcasts, and YouTube. If you have questions or comments, please contact us at exegetically.speaking@wheaton.edu. And keep listening. 

Who does Mark say that I AM?

One of my favorite features of our book, Rediscovering Jesus (InterVarsity, 2015), comes in the Gospels themselves.  In each chapter we ask the question: Who does Mark/Matthew/Luke/John say that I am?  In effect, we take a look at how each evangelist tells the story of Jesus.  Here is an excerpt from the chapter on the Markan Jesus.


And who is this Jesus? He is the Messiah (Christ) and Son of God—that is, God’s end-timeRediscovering Jesus agent whose task is to liberate the world from evil, oppression, sin, sickness, and death. The world that Jesus enters is hostile and contrary to the human race. The Messiah appears in order to claim all that God has made on behalf of heaven. In Mark’s account Jesus moves quickly along “the way” challenging and disrupting demonic powers, disease, religious authorities, storms and, ultimately, the power of Rome itself.

But Jesus does not appear from nowhere; prophets such as Malachi and Isaiah have written of him long ago. They foresaw his coming, and John the Baptizer arrived right on schedule to prepare his way. If John is God’s messenger (Mal 3:1) and the voice crying out in the wilderness (Is 40:3), then surely Jesus is the “Lord” whose paths must be made straight (Mk 1:2-3). But the word “Lord” here is no polite address to an English country gentleman or a simple affirmation of a person in authority; it is the way Greek-speaking Jews uttered the unspeakable name of the one, true God of Israel. Jesus the Christ is no ordinary man, for the very name of God—a name protected by the Ten Commandments—belongs rightly to him. As Mark’s story unfolds, it is apparent why this is so.

When Jesus heard that a prophet had again appeared in Israel, he left Nazareth to see for himself. As he entered the Jordan River to be baptized, onlookers would have thought that Jesus was becoming a disciple of John. But it was what Jesus heard and saw next that dramatically changed his life. He saw a vision: the heavens were ripped open, and the Spirit descended on him like a dove. Then he heard a voice from heaven: “You are my Son” (Ps 2:7) and “with you I am well pleased” (Is 42:1). Whether or not anyone else saw or heard what was going on in the heavens that day is unclear. Mark tells us only that Jesus saw and heard; perhaps Jesus’ special sonship was a secret that needed protecting for a while. But it was enough for Jesus to see and hear it, because it was about him and him alone. He knew what he must do next. He must leave behind Nazareth and the anonymity of the workshop for a public life in Galilee and beyond. He must trade a builder’s tools for the skills of a traveling rabbi.


To read more, check out our book here.

Figural Reading . . . the Old in the New

Last year I had the great honor of being on a panel discussion at the Lanier Theological Library with some leading scholars.  The topic was “Figural Reading . . . the Old in the New.” Richard Hays had written an important book on the topic entitled, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Baylor University Press, 2014). That was the topic of our discussion.  It is an outstanding conversation hosted by Mark Lanier.

Richard Hays (Dean, Duke Divinity School)
Lynn Cohick (Professor, Wheaton College)
Carey Newman (Director, Baylor University Press)
David Capes (Professor, Houston Baptist University)
Mark Lanier (Moderator)

Here is a link to the site:


The discussion takes place over 1 hr and 43 minutes.  If you’re interested in how NT writers read, interpreted and used their Bible–what we call the Old Testament but specifically the Greek version of the Old Testament–this will be a good video to watch.

I’m humbled and gratified to be a part of these conversations.




Did Jesus Keep Kosher?


Many interpreters regard the Gospels as primary evidence that Jesus had a major break with the Jewish religion. This makes sense in some ways because later the followers of Jesus broke with Judaism completely so that today they are two separate religions.  Ironically, it is the Gospels that present Jesus as thoroughly Jewish. Jewish Gospels

The episode I’d like to consider is found in Mark 7:

 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Mark shows Jesus in controversy with Judeans (better than “the Jews”) from the party of the Pharisees over the traditions of the elders, that is, the extent and authority of the oral tradition.  The Pharisees had a particular way of washing their hands prior to eating a meal.  They accused Jesus of eating with defiled hands and urging his followers to do the same.

For many the critical point is Mark’s parenthetical remark: “(Thus he declared all foods clean.)”

This statement has been taken by many interpreters as the moment when the followers of Jesus thought he had done away with the distinction between kosher and non-kosher food.  In other words, it was OK for Jesus and his Jewish followers to eat pig among other non-kosher foods (Leviticus 11). This reading, however, misses the point entirely. Jesus himself kept kosher. He did not abrogate Jewish law (cf. Matthew 5:17-20).  The controversy was over how to observe God’s law, not whether to observe it.

The Pharisees who challenged Jesus represented a Jewish reform focused on purity.  These particular Pharisees had traveled to Galilee from Jerusalem. Pharisees sought to convert other Jews to their way of thinking, even those who lived way up north.

Jesus’ unique form of Judaism was a conservative reaction against radical innovations in the law brought about by Pharisees and scribes in Judaism.  The GMark reflects these stresses and strains. Jesus was not fighting against Judaism but within it.

Interpreters say Jesus didn’t keep kosher and permitted all foods to be eaten in clear violation of Torah.  Therefore, Mark 7 represents the beginning of the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity.

Yet when the text says he declared all foods “clean”, this does not mean he permitted the eating of all foods.

There are a separate rules that define when a food is pure or impure, depending on how the food is handled and what it has come in contact with.  Food becomes impure as a result of being touched by a person who is in a state of impurity.

This system of purity and impurity is different from kosher laws.  No Jew is to eat pork.  That is not the issue.  Mark and Jesus know the difference even if interpreters do not.  A part of the problem is the translation into English of “clean” and “unclean.”

Kosher is what can and cannot be eaten.  Purity and impurity involve a separate category having to do with touching dead things, having skin diseases, some sort of bodily emission or menstrual impurity.  Contact with an impure person can render food impure.  Even kosher food that becomes impure must not be consumed by priests or any Jew who intends to enter the temple.  No one wanted to enter the temple in a ritually impure state. Could food make a person impure?

Pharisees instituted a practice of ritual hand purification by pouring water over the hands before eating bread so the hands would not make bread impure.

Jesus challenges the Pharisaic practice and launches into a general attack against his opponents for missing the essential meaning of the law: foods that go into the body don’t make the body impure; only things coming out of us have the power to contaminate. So he rejects the Pharisees’ rules about purity not the Torah’s teachings on what foods were kosher and which were not.

The body is made impure not by taking in impure foods but through various substances that come out of the body.  So Jesus challenges the Pharisees for the way they changed the rules of Torah (he relates this to how they changed the rules about caring for aging parents).  Torah says only what comes out of the body contaminates, not the foods that you take in.

The traditions of the elders and other aspects of oral Torah followed by the Pharisees are man-made rules, human precepts taught as doctrine.  The written Law on the other hand comes from God.

When Jesus is said by GMark to declare all foods clean, it does not mean he permitted all foods to be eaten by his followers.  Essentially, he rejects the laws of defiled foods created by the Pharisees.

In the end Jesus did not sanction his Jewish followers to have bacon and eggs or a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.  He permitted the eating of bread without washing of hands (remember this has nothing to do with hygiene but purity).  These are different matters entirely.

Nothing Jesus says should be taken as abrogating kosher law. Galileans as a rule had antipathy toward outsiders from Judea coming up and insisting they follower their innovations.

In my understanding of Mark 7 I have greatly benefited from reading Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (New York: The New Press, 2012).  For more detail on this passage than I’ve been able to go into, see Boyarin.



A. O. Collins Lecture featuring Dr. Richard Bauckham

The School of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University is pleased to announce that Professor Richard Bauckham will deliver the A. O. Collins lectures for fall 2013.  Professor Bauckham’s title for this lecture is: “Mark’s Topography: The Cognitive Map of a Capernaum Fisherman.”

The geographical information in Mark’s Gospel, especially about Galilee, has often been thought to be confused and certainly presents some problems. The lecture uses the idea of a ‘mental map.’ The way we construct our spatial environment in our minds is very different from the maps we see on paper or on screen. A close look at Mark’s geography shows that it makes very good sense if it reflects the mental map of a Galilean fisherman based in Capernaum.

The lecture will be held November 5, 2013 in Belin Chapel at 7.00 pm (Central) on the campus of Houston Baptist University.  The lecture is free and open to the public.

A Brief Biography:
Richard Bauckham was until recently Professor of New Testament Studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor in the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and is now Professor Emeritus at St Andrews.  He was born in London in 1946, and educated at Downhills and Merryhills primary schools and Enfield Grammar School. He then studied at Cambridge, where he read history at Clare College (gaining a B.A. Honours degree, first class, and a Ph.D.), and was a Fellow of St John’s College for three years.  After teaching theology for one year at the University of Leeds, he taught historical and contemporary theology for fifteen years at the University of Manchester, before moving to St Andrews in 1992.  He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  He retired in 2007 in order to concentrate on research and writing, and is Senior Scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, where he does some teaching for the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges. He is also a Visiting Professor at St Mellitus College, London. From 1996 to 2002 he was General Editor of the Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series. He is an Anglican (but not ordained), and was a member of the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England for some years. In 2009 he was awarded the Michael Ramsey prize for his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, and in 2010 the Franz-Delitzsch-Award for a volume of collected essays, The Jewish World around the New Testament. He has traveled widely giving lectures and conference papers. Though his permanent home is now in Cambridge, he returns to St Andrews frequently. When he can find the time, he writes poetry, and has also written two children’s story books about the MacBears of Bearloch (published on his website: http://richardbauckham.co.uk/).

His published works include:
Jesus and the God of Israel (Eerdmans, 2008)
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2008)
Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (T & T Clark, 2000)
2 Peter, Jude in Word Biblical Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1983)
The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John (Baker, 2007)
The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge, 1983)

The lecture will be held in Belin Chapel in the Morris Cultural Arts Center on the campus of Houston Baptist University.
The A. O. Collins lectures began in 1993 with the goal of bringing recognized scholars to address the university community in current trends in theology, religious studies and philosophy.  The series is named for Dr. A. O. Collins who chaired HBU’s Department of Christianity and Philosophy until his retirement in 1990. Over the last two decades, due to the generosity of former students and friends of the university, top scholars from around the world have lectured on our campus on a wide range of topics on religion and philosophy.

Some of our past lecturers have included:
Dr. James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary
Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
Dr. Charles Talbert, Baylor University
Dr. Ellen T. Charry, Princeton Theological Seminary
Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, Emory University
Dr. Alan Segal, Barnard College, Columbia University
Dr. Samuel Proctor, Duke University
Dr. John Howard Yoder, University of Notre Dame
Dr. James W. McClendon, Jr., Fuller Theological Seminary
Dr. Michael J. Gorman, St. Mary’s Seminary
Dr. Larry Hurtado, University of Edinburgh

Please join us for this lecture.  It is an important event for our campus and community.  Should you have questions, please contact the acting chair of the Department of Theology, Dr. Ben Blackwell, at 281-649-3000.