Murray J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament)

Murray J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament; Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010).

My regular teaching responsibilities often include second year Greek, which guides students through a host of things necessary for the exegetical task: Greek grammar and syntax, textual criticism, word studies, exegetical outlines, and so on. Part of the difficulty is the complexity of the task: There are so many moving parts to the exegetical machine that it is difficult to stay focused on the end goal. Students often need tools which help them along, both as a teaching aid for method but also as an exegetical aid for content. This text is a great tool for those dual purposes.

Designed to be a handbook of sorts for the exegetical process, Harris has written what amounts to an exegetical commentary on Colossians and Philemon. The entire Greek text of each book is examined in detail for all of the issues that affect exegesis, like grammar, textual criticism, and lexical questions. There are numerous references throughout to standard reference tools plus well-received commentaries on each book. Harris even includes brief homiletical outlines for each major section.

What I really like about this book is that it is pitch perfect in what it gives. Harris offers just the right amount of information each time. He does not overwhelm the reader with details, but he does not leave one wanting more either. He wisely chose from the start a good complement of tools and commentaries which form the backbone of his extra-biblical references. The level of his discussion and use of additional references is right where I would hope a student who finishes the NT104 class at DTS would land. In short, for both method and content, Harris offers the reader a great example of the exegetical process.

I cannot find information of forthcoming volumes in this series, but I hope there are many and they match what Harris has done in this volume.

Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus

Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2010).

I have been interested in historical Jesus studies for quite some time. In a nutshell, historical Jesus studies examine the life of Jesus using the discipline of history. It is safe to argue that when this line of study began aver 200 years ago, the goal was largely negative; scholars would use history to undermine the Church's belief in who Jesus was and what he did. However, now one can find many believing scholars who use this discipline for positive effect. This makes good sense even from a theological stance: If we believe that God entered history in the person of Jesus, then there would be historical evidence and a historical effect.

This book is a very specific, detailed investigation of the resurrection of Jesus from the standpoint of history. Obviously mountains of text have been written on this topic, so one might wonder what contribution another book could make. Licona succeeds in advancing the discussion by a careful, thorough-going delineation of proper historical method. Here's a quote on p. 612 from his summary chapter which explains this:

The objective of this investigation was to learn and apply the approach of historians outside of the community of biblical scholars to the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. It differs from previous approaches in providing unprecedented interaction with philosophers of history related to hermeneutical and methodological considerations and applies these to an investigation pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus.

His conclusion on the resurrection is positive but nuanced, which is appropriate given the realm in which he is working. This is definitely a scholar's read, but the value is in the more precise philosophy of history that we can develop from it.

It must also be noted that this book has sparked something of a controversy because of statements that Licona makes about the historicity of Matthew 27:52-53 on pp. 548-553. He essentially argues that the language about the appearance of resurrected saints is poetic "special effects" in keeping with other eschatological Jewish texts and thought. The debate has centered on whether Licona with these assertions has discarded inerrancy. You can read Norm Geisler's first open letter to Licona on the matter here, Al Mohler's take on the issue here, and Michael Bird's take on the issue here. There have been several tit-for-tat responses after these as well. All I wish to say on this matter is that I don't agree with Licona's conclusions, but this is a very healthy discussion to have.

Who is "we"? Galatians 2:16

It might seem silly to ask, but who is "we"? In Greek as in English, "we" can refer to a number of different things. It does refer to the speaker as a member of a larger group, but often the relation to the hearers is ambiguous. Does the author mean "we" as in "you and us," such that the hearers are included in the group? Or does the author mean "we" as in "us as distinct from you," such that the hearers are not included in the group? In grammatical terms this is the difference between the inclusive we and the exclusive we. It might seem minor, but it can really impact exegesis and interpretation. Take, for example, Paul's statement in Galatians 2:16:

yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Reading this verse by itself, a natural conclusion is that "we" means Paul and his hearers. Paul describes how he and the Galatians have all expressed faith in Christ so they could be justified. This would then be a general statement about faith in Christ leading to justification. But now take a look at the preceding verse:

We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners

This verse makes clear that when Paul says "we" in v. 16, he is not including his hearers in the group. "We" in this context means "we Jews as opposed to the Gentiles." Thus v. 16 is not a general statement about people in general but a specific statement about Paul and Peter as Jews who have turned from the law to Christ for justification. It changes the topic from faith and justification in general to faith and justification as a Jewish distinctive. So even though it's a minor question, it has a big answer.

Who influences exegetical training most?

I am presently at 35,000 feet typing this blog post on my laptop, which is connected to the wi-fi on my flight back from Seattle. When I am done I will connect to the WordPress server and schedule it to be published Wednesday morning around 11:00 am. I am doing this to prove a point to myself about the pervasiveness and power of technology. We readily see the power of technology to change the way we communicate, but as a professor I am now beginning to see the power of technology to change deeply the way in which we educate, but also to alter (perhaps unexpectedly) the educational outcome. The power of technology is clear when we look at how Bible software aids the exegetical task. Software enables us to gather information more quickly and efficiently, which we can then marshal for our exegetical decisions. But a more crucial question is, has Bible software changed the exegetical task itself? The exegetical training I received focused on a particular method that only used technology in a very limited sense; the Bible software program as such had not really matured to a point where it could be readily, consistently, and easily used. The situation now is very different, with multiple vendors offering various packages that can do some incredible things we could not imagine even a few years ago. It is becoming apparent to me that the availability of certain functions in the software will change the very method we teach.

More to the point of my thoughts: Has the center of influence in exegetical training shifted from those who teach the best method to those who make the best tool? In an exegetical world where the tool is central, will we value the one who uses the tool in the best way, or the one with the best method? I don't have an answer, and only time will tell. I see a central task in my career as a professor of exegesis is to wed technology to the exegetical task to achieve the same outcome. This will require dialogue with both the creators and users of Bible software over a long period of time.

The best way to learn Greek vocabulary

Yes, this post only matters to a very small percentage of the population, but to that percentage this is a big, big deal. Learning vocabulary words is a necessary evil in language acquisition. Until you know those basic building blocks, you can't really make much progress in a language. Most every language class on earth requires learning vocabulary, so it makes some sense to think about the best way to do it. Here's a method I learned when I was in first-year Greek so long ago. One of the NT tutors at DTS at the time taught it to me, and it really impressed me as useful and effective.

The basic idea is deceptively simple: Make your own vocabulary cards on index cards, but instead of putting one word per card, put five words per card. Make two columns, with vocab word on the left and English definition on the right. The words can be any order or grouping you would like, but of course a logical grouping will be more effective in the long run. Then review, review, review.

Here's why this works so well. First, you are actively involved in organizing the information in the way you want to learn it. That gets you mentally involved from the beginning, which aids learning. Second, the words are grouped together in sets of five, so you see them as a group, not as isolated vocab words. This is the real genius in my opinion. It is always easier to learn things in groups; our minds are better in recalling information that is hooked together instead of in isolated, discrete units. By putting the words in groups of five you give your mind a better hook to grab onto. Many times I was able to recall a word meaning because I remembered the arrangement in the group of the word and its definition, not because I remembered the definition right away.

In short what this method does is hook information together to aid recall. This beats simple repetition of isolated words every time.

Quick review of LearnLift's vocab learning app

My regular teaching responsibilities almost always include first-year Greek, and the Achilles heel of most all first-year students is learning vocabulary. A student recently sent me a link to a new app for learning vocabulary in the Mounce Basics of Biblical Greek text, which is the one we use here at DTS. The app is produced by LearnLift, available in iTunes, and guides the students through the 300+ words that they need to learn in the first two semesters of biblical Greek. From what I can tell LearnLift makes the software engine, and others have organized the vocabulary data. They have another app for David Alan Black's basic grammar Learn to Read New Testament Greek, as well as other apps for learning various academic subjects. I'd like to offer a few off-the-cuff thoughts on the value of this particular program. (I have not obtained a copy, so I'm simply going off what I see in iTunes.) The price impresses me as a little too high for what this app does. $10.99 is a lot to spend on a vocab app. Perhaps I'm a little old school, but a method which worked well for me was making my own vocab cards. (Post coming on that tomorrow.) The app does appear to have good polish and organization. You can filter the words you are studying by chapter, and it appears that you can mark words as learned so they stop coming up in the rotation. The screenshots show the program using Bible verses to help recall: When you are learning the word, the Bible verse shows the Greek word at the appropriate point in the English sentence. That's a nice contextual touch that could help some students a fair bit.

If any of you have used the app and can offer some comments on it, please do so. And there may be some extra credit if any of my students can give me a personal demonstration of the program . . .

The Interpreter of Tongues

I will never venture to argue that I am an expert on issues related to spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, or charismatic theology. However, I do appreciate dialogue, when I was young I did attend a charismatic church for a time, and of course I appreciate diving into a Bible passage to see what we can understand. So let me make some comments about the interpretation of tongues. Recently as I was reading in 1 Corinthians 14, something really struck me as I read vv. 27-28. Here Paul is discussing the proper way in which speaking in tongues should be used in a public worship setting:

If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret. But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God.

The phrase that really struck me was at the beginning of v. 28: "But if there is no interpreter . . ." I guess I had never really noticed it before. What this phrase implies in the context of the statement is that there is a particular person who was known to the speaker to be an interpreter; the speaker had to know whether that person was present, and if not, then the speaker was instructed to remain silent. In my own experience within the charismatic church of my youth, there was a great deal of emphasis placed upon the interpretation of utterances in different languages, but they were ad hoc. What I mean by this is that normally during worship someone would speak out in another language, and then someone would be moved to interpret it, but no one knew ahead of time who the speaker or interpreter would be. The Spirit would move someone to speak, and then the Spirit would move someone to interpret. Based upon my reading of 1 Corinthians 14:28, I would argue now that this practice is contrary to Paul's instructions. The interpreter would be an individual known ahead of time to fill that task. Otherwise, the instructions in v. 28 make no sense.

If anyone is familiar with exegetical literature within the context of charismatic theology that addresses this issue, I'd appreciate learning about it.

Good vs. Great

One of the major differences in my mind between good exegesis and great exegesis is the “why.” Good exegesis will enumerate different views on a passage and the evidence for and against a view, but great exegesis will bring the argument up a notch by explaining exactly why one view is to be preferred. It does not even have to be an extensive explanation, but it must be present and offer a cogent argument explaining why the choice is made in a particular direction. It’s really there that exegetes can discuss how evidence is weighed and get into the nitty-gritty of what evidence is more valuable in a particular problem. As an example of this, take Thomas Schreiner’s recent commentary on Galatians in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series. (I’m reading through this in advance of my own commentary work on Galatians, so perhaps I better tread carefully! Even so, here goes.) On pp. 163-166, he has a short “In Depth” section on the meaning of the phrase “faith of Jesus Christ” in the context of Galatians 2:16. He quickly discusses the two major views, “faithfulness of Christ” vs. “faith in Christ,” with seven evidences for each. He states clearly that he prefers the latter view. This is good and helpful information, but as a reader I’m pretty interested in why he chose this view. The seven evidences given for each view do not match each other exactly, and some of them are simply tit-for-tat, which exegetical evidence often is. As the discussion of the passage continues he does offer various reasons why he prefers the objective view, but I would loved to have seen something here addressing that fact, since this “In Depth” section addressed the problem directly.

Consider, in contrast, the subtle difference in the next verse. When discussing the meaning of v. 17, Schreiner again clearly states the two views: (1) Paul is discussing a charged leveled against him by his opponents that he was a sinner because he abandoned the law, vs. (2) Paul recognizes that he truly is a sinner because he has found justification in Christ. Schreiner also states that he prefers the second. But here he states the why: the verb εὑρέθημεν, usually translated as “we have been found,” “has a legal and forensic meaning, denoting one’s standing before God as Judge and Lord of all” (p. 168). This simple explanation of why he prefers the second view is what I need to evaluate his argument and engage with him intelligently on his interpretation.

It’s important to note that there’s not much difference between these two scenarios. Both present views and evidence. The latter, however, shows that evidence has been weighed and evaluated. That is very helpful for exegetes to show so the discussion can continue in the minds of their readers.

Did Jesus stoop?

I teach an intermediate Greek class at DTS which I love because it affords me opportunities every time we meet to discuss grammar but also to think exegetically. Today we wrestled with John 4:7:

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.”

We centered our discussion around the word "Give" which Jesus spoke to the woman. Today's topic was mood, and this is an imperative. Imperatives in Greek function a lot like they do in English. You can issue a command or make a request using that verb form. The question I posed to the students here is, which do you think Jesus was doing and - more importantly - why? In other words, is Jesus issuing a command to the woman or a request, and how would you defend your answer?

What's interesting in this particular instance is that both are possible and can be defended but for different reasons. We might naturally think of a command here because Jesus was a man speaking to a woman. In many cultures in the ancient world, Judea included, men had a higher social status than women and any imperative on the part of a man to a woman would most naturally be understood as a command. But a request is also possible here because of what occurs after this in the narrative. Jesus seeks to draw the woman to faith in a gentle manner. A request in v. 7 fits that following context quite nicely. A decision between the two has to weigh the broader cultural context of gender roles against the following context of their interaction in the narrative. There's nothing in the grammar as such, no key word or particle, which answers the question. It's a matter of which context takes precedence.

In my judgment, we can phrase the question this way with a theological twist: Did Jesus stoop to speak to the Samaritan woman? In his wording and tone did he communicate that he was in authority over her, or did he request something from her with gentleness and level the playing field, so to speak? Based upon the following narrative, which shows Jesus interacting with the woman gently on so many levels, I opt for a request here. Jesus requested something from the woman, he stooped down to meet her where she was, and in so doing began to draw her to faith in himself.

Larry Hurtado on PhD skills

Dr. Larry Hurtado has posted on his blog recently (first here and the follow up here) on tools of the trade for PhD candidates in New Testament studies. His central argument is that capable PhD candidates in our discipline need to be able to read Koine Greek, interact with text-critical variants comfortably in the apparatus of the Nestle-Aland critical text, and read French and German in order to be qualified as PhD's, but the larger point is that these skills enable a NT scholar to be active and make a good contribution to the discipline. We require the very same skills in our PhD program at Dallas Theological Seminary for the very same reasons. Schools ought not to qualify a candidate with a degree unless they have the requisite skill set, and these skills are simply part and parcel of NT work.

A year (and then some) in the French Bible

Today I finished a task I started well over a year ago. During my sabbatical in France, I wanted to get as much exposure to the French language as I could, so I committed to read through a French translation of the Bible starting July 1, 2010. I chose the 1979 Nouvelle Edition de Genève because I have that version in my Bible software. I used the Logos software to create a reading plan that started with Genesis 1 and went straight through in canonical order. This morning I finished the last chapter of Revelation, and there was much rejoicing! If you have never read through the Bible in a year, I want to recommend it to you for three main reasons. First, reading the entire Bible gives you important context for interpretation of any one part. One should not interpret Paul, for example, without thinking carefully through the Old Testament books he himself thought about as he wrote. Reading the entire Bible is a great starting point for proper exegesis.

Second, reading through the entire Bible requires great discipline. As you can tell, I did not finish reading through the Bible in a year, but I did finish. It takes discipline to stick with the task each day. It is a great spiritual and mental exercise that God used to help me grow.

Third, by reading the entire Bible, you give God a great opportunity to speak to you. If we believe that God speaks to us through his word, then we ought to be reading and considering the message of as much of that word as we can.

C. K. Barrett, 1917-2011

I learned a few days ago from my colleagues that C. K. Barrett passed away on August 26, 2011 at the age of 94. Barrett was a British Methodist scholar who over the course of his career devoted a great deal of his scholarly energy to commentaries on the New Testament text. His commentaries on Acts and John are highly regarded and well known, but he also produced helpful works on Romans, 2 Corinthians, and a variety of other topics. Although I do not agree with him on many of his conclusions, his arguments were always sharp and his method well executed. Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of his life and service!

David Lose: Lopsided bibliology

In his recent post on literal Bible reading and inerrancy, David Lose closes with the following assertion: "Reading the Bible literally undermines a chief confession of the Bible about God."

Rather than imagine that the Bible was also written by ordinary, fallible people, inerrantists have made the Bible an other-wordly, supernatural document that runs contrary to the biblical affirmation that God chooses ordinary vessels -- "jars of clay," the Apostle Paul calls them -- to bear an extraordinary message. In fact, literalists unwittingly ascribe to the Bible the status of being "fully human and fully divine" that is normally reserved only for Jesus.

Countering this argument requires two prongs, the first being logical. The essential argument of Lose's points runs thusly: People are fallible. The Bible was written by people. Therefore the Bible is fallible. Obviously we could expand any of these points to be more exact in the argumentation, but the essential point remains: Because people are fallible, the Bible they wrote is also fallible. Logically this fails on two fronts. First, the premise that the Bible was written by people is true, but a consistent assertion by the Church throughout the ages is that the Bible was also written by God. Christians affirm the dual authorship of scripture, God and man, so to assert that the Bible is fallible because it was written by man ignores the other half of the equation. Second, the assumption is that everything people produce then is fallible, but we would acknowledge that it is possible as a person to speak truthfully and correctly. "My name is Michael" is a true, accurate statement that is not fallible. Thus it is theoretically possible that I could produce a rather long document that is true and accurate in all details. Add to this the divine assistance God gave to the biblical authors, and inerrancy becomes a very logical deduction.

The second prong is theological. Lose claims that the description of "fully human and fully divine" is applicable only to Jesus. But like before this ignores the dual authorship of scripture. The church has maintained for hundreds of years that the Bible was written by human beings, but also by God. This in a nutshell is the doctrine of inspiration. The Bible has human characteristics in that shows the personality and situation of each individual author, but it has divine characteristics in that it shows the divine personality with its truth and power. The biblical authors were not the only ones involved; the divine Author was also there, controlling the process and creating his own desired income. On these grounds inerrancy stands as a valid doctrine.

David Lose: Augustine's not on your side, I'm afraid

In his recent post on literal Bible reading and inerrancy, Lose formulates his third critique as follows: "Most Christians across history have not read the Bible literally." His argument here is two-fold, namely that inerrancy is a relatively new doctrine in the history of the Church and most Christians across time have not been concerned with the factual accuracy of the biblical text. On these two counts therefore the doctrine of inerrancy is suspect. In defense of these assertions he cites Augustine's allegorical interpretation, which often looked past the surface details of the text to find a deeper spiritual meaning. It is a fair statement that current formulations and discussions about inerrancy are relatively recent, within the last few hundred years. But the deduction that the church before this time was not concerned about the truth of the Bible and whether it contained error is patently false. Lose claims that many theologians were  "adamantly opposed" to notions like inerrancy, and here is where he refers to Augustine's allegorical interpretation. But perhaps we also ought to let Augustine himself speak about the issue of error within the Bible, which would be part and parcel of the question of inerrancy. Here's a citation from Letter 82, paragraph 3, taken from John E. Rotelle, ed., The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century:

I learned to show this reverence and respect only to those books of the scriptures that are now called canonical so that I most firmly believe that none of their authors erred in writing anything. And if I come upon something in those writings that seems contrary to the truth, I have no doubt that either the manuscript is defective or the translator did not follow what was said or that I did not understand it.

Here we see Augustine proclaim his belief that none of the authors of the Bible erred in their writing and this freedom from error extends to everything they wrote. That sounds a lot like inerrancy to me. Now it is fair to say that much of Augustine's allegorical exegesis worked around the details of the text, but even so his foundational belief is that the Bible is without error. This is a major emphasis of contemporary formulations of inerrancy, so there is historical continuity with the past on this issue, despite Lose's claims. To claim otherwise is incorrect.

Wallace/Ehrman book notice

Through the Review of Biblical Literature email which many academics receive regularly, I recently learned about an interesting book, especially so in light of the forthcoming debate between Dan Wallace and Bart Ehrman at SMU on October 1. Robert B. Stewart, associate professor of philosophy and theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, has edited a book entitled The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue. Growing out of the 2008 Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture held at NOBTS in April of that year, the book includes the text of the original debate between Wallace and Ehrman, as well as several responses by various scholars to the issues raised therein. Both Tony Costa and  Michael R. Licona have published reviews. I have not looked at the book directly, but the preview available on Amazon and the two reviews I scanned all make the book look promising. Highly recommended, especially if you plan to go to the debate on the SMU campus this fall.

David Lose: History and inerrancy

In David Lose's recent post arguing against literal Bible reading and inerrancy, his second argument is about the history contained within the Bible. Under the heading "Reading the Bible literally distorts its witness," he makes the claim that to read the Bible as history ignores its theological character and assertions. The apostle John never meant to write history, Lose claims, and to wrestle with the different timing and order of events, like the cleansing of the Temple, on the level of a historical problem to solve distorts what John was trying to do. History in the Bible, specifically in the Gospels, is not an easy nut to crack. I agree with Lose that an over-emphasis on history can cause the reader to miss what the authors were trying to communicate. They were theologians, and they were in fact writing to convince and persuade their readers about theological truths. However, Lose swings the pendulum much to far in the other direction. His argument implies that the biblical authors were in no way interested in history and switched things up willy-nilly as they desired so they could tell a good story. That is just as problematic as his "only-history" reading. All the biblical authors, especially the Gospel authors, were very concerned with history. Christianity is a historical faith in that it believes certain truths about people who lived and events which occurred within space and time. They were concerned to communicate not only theological truth, but theological truth about Jesus and things he did during his life on earth. They were just as concerned about history as they were about theology.

This means that under the rubric of inerrancy Bible readers have to balance the two as they read. The biblical authors wrote theologically and historically. Our responsibility as readers is to understand how they did what they did. They did not conceive of history in linear and cause-effect fashion as much as we do, so they may indeed write in ways that appear non-historical from our standards. But they were very interested in history, and a literal reading of the Bible takes this into account. In the same vein, they also wrote theologically. We must work to understand their message on their terms. A literal reading of the Bible seeks to understand the theology of the author so that can then be applied personally. Long and short, the biblical authors wrote history and theology, not one or the other. A literal reader understands and looks for both.

Denny Burk on literal reading

Parallel to my posts on inerrancy and literal reading, Denny Burk has interacted with John Wilson's recent op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal on the debate over the historical Adam. What interested me in Denny's piece is that we both pick up on the inappropriate definitions of literal that are common in the discussion. A literal reading of the Bible does take into account issues of genre, authorial intent, language, etc. as it understands the text. To make a blanket claim, as Wilson does in the title of his piece, that "No One Reads the Bible Literally" is to not really understand the current state of the discussion about what literal means in theory and practice.

David Lose: It's in there!

In David Lose's recent post about inerrancy and literal reading of the Bible, he makes the following as the first of four arguments: "Nowhere does the Bible claim to be inerrant." This is a frustrating argument because it is true on one level but absolutely false on another. Yes, the Bible claims nowhere that it is inerrant. There is no Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word for that concept anywhere to be found. There is no direct statement about the books of Scripture to that effect, that they are without error in the original autographs. So the statement is true in that sense. Lose's implication then is that if there is no direct biblical witness to this idea, then inerrantists are already down one point. Let's play this out for a little bit, though. Nowhere does the word "trinity" occur in the Bible, yet this is a doctrine of orthodox Christianity about the nature of God which has been held for millennia. Nowhere does the phrase "substitutionary atonement" occur, but this is widely regarded as an accurate phrase to describe the work of Christ's death on the cross. Nowhere is the book of James referred to as "scripture," but its place in the canon is rarely doubted, Luther's protestations notwithstanding. My point is that to claim that inerrancy is not true because the Bible does not speak of it does not immediately make it incorrect.

As I mentioned before, inerrancy is a corollary of inspiration, that is, it is a logical deduction from the affirmations made in the prior doctrine of inspiration. Inspiration claims that the Bible finds its entire source and origin, its complete and ultimate expression in God, as 2 Timothy 3:16 claims. Inerrancy then is less a statement about the Bible and more a statement about the nature of God who inspired the Bible. If God speaks truthfully, as the Bible does in fact claim (see Titus 1:2 for one example), then the content of what God spoke is also truthful and correct. So even if inerrancy is a recent doctrine, even if it is not expressed directly as such within the biblical text, it has validity as a doctrine developed from our understanding of the nature of God and the scripture he inspired. We can thus affirm it as a deduction from what scripture does in fact teach directly.

Logos and Perseus Update

I recently posted about the Logos publication of the Perseus collection of Greek and Latin classical authors. There I asked a question:

One confusing point for the more geeky among us: Logos also lists as a Perseus collection the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri, a collection of Greek and Latin texts written on papyri, ostraca, and wooden tablets. However, this is no longer hosted by the Perseus Project but rather by the Papyrological Navigator. I'm not sure how it can be considered a Perseus Project any longer, or whether it was properly a Perseus Project at all. If anyone can help me clarify this, I'd appreciate it.

I did some digging on my own and found this history of the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri. It indicates that the Perseus Project started hosting the DDBDP in 1996/7 when the DDBDP moved away from the PHI CD. (Ah, those were the good old days, on the first floor of Turpin using the old Mac in the database room with the Hypercard program.) But starting in 2004/5 the project began to be developed in a different, more open-source direction. Thus Perseus stopped hosting the DDBDP about five years ago, but the project has continued to add texts and translations, hundreds and hundreds of them in fact, and all the while improving existing texts. So the data Logos is publishing is a good collection, but it is five years out of date. Of course having an older version of the DDBDP in Logos will be better than none at all, as I imagine that many of the texts have not been radically changed during the last five years. But if exegesis is about being accurate, then it would be better to use the interface at the Papyrological Navigator than the Logos edition.

This is a constant issue in exegesis and academic research. What is the best tool to use? Do I use the one that is easily accessible but not as good? Or do I go the extra mile to use the best tool for the job? Our dedication to the task should always motivate us to use the best tool for the job. The accuracy gained for the extra effort, time, and/or money is worth it.

David Lose: Clearing up some confusion

In his recent post, David Lose essentially makes the following argument: "I don't read the Bible literally because it is not inerrant." He fleshes this out a little in his opening paragraph:

I was a little shocked to discover that three in ten Americans read the Bible literally. That is, about a third of the American populace takes everything the Bible says at face value, reading as they would a history or science textbook.

There are two problems here as I see it: First, his definition of literal needs nuancing. Second, he makes a necessary connection between his definition of literal and inerrant.

The definition of literal has been a hot topic with Bible readers for quite some time. Evangelicals have been discussing for decades what it means to read the Bible literally. If you took most people who read the Bible literally and examined exactly how they do it, you'd find it's not quite as flat as Lose claims. Most people can intuitively account for different genres like poetry or linguistic tools like figures of speech. When I teach on this subject I certainly drive home the point that the Bible contains different types of writing; some is history, some is story, some is theological teaching. Lose doesn't appear to account for any of these things in his definition of literal.

His necessary connection between a literal reading and inerrancy is also troubling, primarily because of his poor working definition of literal. Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible in the original documents contains no error in any of its affirmations. This doctrine is a corollary of inspiration, which teaches that the Bible originates in God and finds its expression through God's influence over the human authors. The basic point is that if God is the source of the Bible, then God will always speak truthfully and correctly. My point is that it is possible to affirm this doctrine and read the Bible literally in a way that accommodates the nature of language, figures of speech, etc. There is no direct connection between holding to inerrancy and a rigid literalism, like Lose suggests.