Review: Biblearc Phrasing Module

Biblearc

As stated previously, I’ve been familiar with Biblearc for the past few years now ever since my friend Lindsay taught it in a How to Study the Bible class at CCBCY. It took me a while to get into it and harness its incredible usefulness, but it certainly comforted me in my affliction when I taught 2 Corinthians for the second time. Arcing (and bracketing) 2 Corinthians more or less (but mostly ‘more’) saved my class that semester.

When I heard that the guys behind Biblearc had added a new feature to their website titled Phrasing I knew I had to give it a shot. 

BibleArc’s Phrasing Module from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.

Was I excited? Sure. It was a new way to study the Bible, to see the flow of thought from one line of thought to the next, to see both the big picture and the little details. The problem was that I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t want to disappoint you and lead you to think that if you tried the Phrasing module that you couldn’t figure it out either. I’m just more dense than others. Regardless, I wanted to learn how to use the new module because of how much I had benefited from the Arcing and Bracketing modules.

Thankfully there was a course (because I must not have been alone in my confusion) that was to be led by Andy Hubert, the creator of Biblearc, and Josué Pineda who does much work on Biblearc’s Arcing courses in Spanish.

The Layout

The way this course worked was that there were 7 weekly, interactive, one hour (usually 1.5 hours) lectures, in addition to the introductory lecture. The course centered around the letter of Titus, and this was the letter that we would be working on for the next 8 weeks. As you progress through the course, helpful handouts were given to you to download to help you keep track of the relationships that exist between sentence clauses.

Each weekly video began with either Andy or Josué giving a short devotion by explaining a biblical text through phrasing. Next, newcomers would introduce themselves, and afterwards we would jump into the lesson. We learned about what a Phrase is, different types of phrases, how they are linked together, how we can find them, how we can see the connections they have with each other, and finally, after putting in all the hard work, how we can see what Paul was trying to say and learn from it.

5 Passes

This course was created to help you understand how to complete all of the 5 “passes” in the Phrasing module. Each pass helps you understand the text a little better. It may take a bit to remember some English grammar rules, but it comes back easily.

In the 5 passes you will learn how to

  1. Divide the passage (Psalm 1.1-6) into phrases (i.e., divide the paragraph into sentences).
    Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 12.57.43 PM
  2. Indent the phrases to show subordination
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  3. Draw yellow arrows from the supporting phrases to the main phrase.
    Green arrows point relative pronouns back to the nouns in which they refer.
    Blue arrows point genitive phrases to the noun they modify.
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  4. Indicate the relationships of every phrase (at least the ones with yellow arrows) to the main phrase**.
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  5. When finished, write out an explanation of the text: your thoughts, wisdom, application, etc.

Enrollment Options

There were three different ways you could enroll.

Basic Enrollment – You participate in the weekly lectures, do the homework, and you would receive feedback.

Discussion Enrollment – This includes everything in the Basic set, and you would could participate in an extra meeting with either Andy or Josue and a few other classmates where you would work together to phrase a biblical text (e.g., 1 Peter 2).

One-on-one enrollment – Here, instead of a group discussion you would meet one-on-one with either Andy or Josue who would work with you to phrase a biblical text.

Thankfully I was able to join the Discussion Enrollment. Initially I didn’t know what to expect, but the guys I met up with were wonderful because they were very kind and helpful. I also saw that I really didn’t know what I was doing so I needed the extra help from guys who had Biblearced a lot longer than I have. While it’s a bit awkward to be wrong and have to admit that I didn’t really know what I was doing most of the time, I learned so much in the group discussions. I highly recommend choosing to join in on all of the group discussions. Hopefully you can always make the time to do it. 

The discussion groups meet over Google Hangouts once a week, and in the beginning of the course you choose between three different times (whichever is most convenient for you). What was unfortunate about reviewing this from Norway was that I couldn’t always make the live lectures and discussion groups. Sometimes the lectures were delayed and wouldn’t be streamed until 5pm (midnight in Norway – a time when I’m well asleep). The Thursday @ 7am group worked well because I would arrive home from my Norwegian course right before 2pm (a 7 hour difference). These discussion ran between 1 hour to 1.5 hours. I also had exams near the end of the semester so they often interfered with my group meeting time.

The assignments didn’t take very long to complete. I put in the effort because I wanted to learn how to Phrase, and I certainly didn’t get everything correct which, honestly, I’m glad I didn’t. I learned much more from it that way. I’m also glad that we studied Titus because Titus is a tough book. There are odd phrases and formulations which made this quite the challenge to phrase well.

Another benefit with Phrasing is that, while it’s meant to be used to separate sentences to find the main idea, you could use this with larger passages in the Pentateuch, the Gospels, or Acts. Rather than analyzing every verse, you could analyze every section and discover the main idea that way. Really, the world, or, rather, the Phrasing module, is your oyster.

Conclusion

This course was terrific. I have a much better grasp on the Phrasing module, and I plan on using it as I study the Bible and prepare to teach. Biblearc has changed a lot since I first saw it, and it continues to become better and more user-friendly as time goes on. There’s a new system now where you can view other arcs/brackets/phrases that other users have recently published. They show the text’s flow of thought, give a main point summary of the text, and sometimes a longer explanation or series of questions to ask.

Biblearc is focused on helping you understand and know God’s word, to be able to teach it without getting stuck in a muck of details, and to simply share its message with others. Phrasing helps you discover the riches of God’s word, and while it doesn’t replace the kinds of information commentary can give you, it certainly is cheaper than one. You can join Biblearc for free, and you can even work on projects for free. But if you want to save your arcing/bracketing/phrasing projects you pay $4 a month. And that’s a price I like. 

[Thanks to the guys behind Biblearc for letting me review this course. I’m very grateful].

**I wouldn’t really recommend following my outline as it has been a few months since I last “Phrased” a Bible passage. It’s just an illustration . . . if nothing else.

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Review: Making All Things New

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One of the the end goals of the Christian faith is that we are waiting for Christ to destroy “every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor 15.24). The last enemy to be destroyed is death (15.25), and then everything will be made new (Rev. 21-22). But what if I told you this is happening now? What if I told you the new creation has already broken in, but it is not yet here.

In 2 Corinthians 5.17, Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Or, more literally, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, a new creation.” Christ’s resurrection has brought in the end of the age.

We are the ones on whom the end of the ages has come. We live in between the cross and the throne. But some of the OT promises that would come at the end have happened now. Christians are saved, but they are not yet saved completely. We are freed from sins reign, yet we still battle sin. We have the Holy Spirit has a guarantee of the end, but we are not yet at the end. We are justified in Christ, yet we must still pass through the judgment at the end of this age, knowing that we will be justified completely in Christ.

Just as the President of the United States gives his inaugural address when he is sworn into office, so the last days have given their own inaugural address. They are here. This is called Inaugurated Eschatology (IE). God’s kingdom has broken into this world through Jesus Christ, And through this book Ben Gladd and Matt Harmon teach their reader(s) that IE is a “reality that should shape pastoral leadership and be reflected in the life and ministry of the church” (back cover).

Gladd and Harmon’s goal “is to explain how understanding and applying the already-not yet perspective significantly enriches several key aspects of the life and ministry of the church” (xii).

This isn’t the sort of keep-it-in-the-backshelf academic idea that the church would be better off not knowing about. Quite the opposite. It was part of the mindset of the New Testament biblical authors, and it influenced their service to the church, their prayers, their evangelism, and the way they fed, guarded, and guided the flock, God’s people.

Summary

There are three sections with three section each. Making All Things New is based of of Greg Beale’s massive work, A New Testament Biblical Theology (a fantastic read. To make time, read a page every time you brush your teeth), and works out more of the practical aspects of his book while condensing many of Beale’s main ideas.

Section 1: Theological Foundation: Grasping the Already-Not Yet

This section condenses much of Beale’s tome.

Chapter One looks at the theological foundation for IE.

Chapter Two looks at the end-time Church and how a faithful remnant is seen in both testaments.

Chapter Three examines how we now live in the overlap of the ages, how this impacts the Christian life, and how we are to live.

Section 2: Pastoral Leadership: Leading God’s End-Time Flock in the Already-Not Yet

Pastors play a unique role in leading God’s people, and this section is specifically geared toward them.

Chapter Four shows how pastors are to feed the flock through some as common as preaching – yet it must be preaching that is grounded in the biblical text, and one that understands IE and how it affects us now.

Chapter Five, pastors are to guard the flock because false teachers, antichrists, are already here (2 Thess 2.1-12; 1 Jn 2.18-23). 

Chapter Six, pastors are to guide the flock. Like John, they lead by example in God’s kingdom, even when that involves suffering (Rev 1.9). By being that example, they show the Church how to overcome the world.

Section 3: End-Time Ministry: Service in the Latter-Day Temple of God

How does the Church, God’s end-time Temple, interact with both God and the world? Glad and Harmon examine worship, prayer, and missions.

Chapter Seven looks at worship in the beginning (Genesis 1-2) and the end (Revelation 4-5).

Chapter Eight, here Harmon examines the Lord’s Prayer, and how God’s kingdom has come to earth in Christ. Since God is ruling, we should fervently pray that life on earth would be as it is in heaven, with God ruling and all lovingly serving and obeying him because of Christ’s death and resurrection through the Holy Spirit. He also look at some of Paul’s teachings on prayer.

Chapter Nine gives a tight summary of the Bible’s storyline. It covers the command for Adam and Eve to spread the garden out to cover the earth that God’s glory would cover the earth, their failure to do so, and how that storyline progresses through Scripture up to Jesus, and then to his bride. Because of Christ, all those who are in Christ (both Jew and Gentile) are fulfilling what Adam and Israel were supposed to do, but failed to do.

The Conclusion summaries each chapter of the book.

Each chapter also ends with a good portion of practical teaching. There is an Implications section, which takes what the reader has been taught and funnels it into a mindset. How can one approach God on the basis of who he is and what he has done for us? How does one faithfully proclaim God’s word while persevering through suffering?

Practical Suggestions lists three actions the reader can do to cultivate the mindset that we live in the overlap of the ages. When we are going to preach or teach, we should bathe ourselves in prayer, because we know God has, does, and will work. You should “reflect how God’s end-time reign through Christ and his people is expressed through” a particular ministry in your church – even the nursery. And most chapters end with a Recommended Reading section.

Recommended?

Yes. This isn’t a book for only those who believe in covenant theology. While Gladd teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), Harmon teaches at Grace Theological Seminary (GTS), a dispensational school. This is a theology that will deepen your reading of the Bible no matter which side of the Dispensational/Covenant line you lie on. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can still understand and gain much from this book.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Benjamin Gladd and Matthew Harmon
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (March 15, 2016)

Buy it on Amazon or from Baker Academic!

(Special thanks to Baker Academic for sending me this review copy!)

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Arcing the Bible Verse by Verse

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(I stole this from Lindsay Kennedy)

In light of my discussion of the twisty details of the Bible, I want to take some time and look at a website that has helped me see both the small details and the overall picture of the Bible in my studies: Biblearc. I began using it when I taught 2 Corinthians in Ireland, and it was a major help. In fact, I don’t know what I would have done without it.

I first learned about BibleArc in a Biblical Hermeneutics class at CCBCY. My friend Lindsay Kennedy taught two classes on using BibleArc for studying the Bible. Lindsay told us that, as with anything, over time BibleArcing would become easier as we grew more familiar with it, but, initially, it would be difficult to use. And he was right. I tried to use it when I first taught 2C at CCBCY, but I didn’t have the time so I ditched it.

Bad move.

It wasn’t until I was teaching my first 2C class in Ireland that I realized my need to learn BibleArc. After teaching on Corinth’s history and culture, I finished the class with 2 Corinthians 1.1-7. Somewhere in the midst of verse 5, sharing in Christ’s suffering, I was lost. Twice. It was clear that I needed to learn how to use BibleArc before my next class.

What is BibleArc?

Basically, because I can’t find how it all began, I’m stealing* (again) my next few sentences from Lindsay Kennedy, who’s written about BibleArc before (and here too). Bible arcing was developed by Daniel Fuller, is recommended by Pastor John Piper (34 page pamphlet here) and Scholar/Pastor Thomas Schreiner and is used by many others. According to the website“Arcing helps you to discern, display and discuss the flow of thought in the biblical text.”

Though commentaries are important, one can easily get lost in all the detail. When I taught 2C and when I prepare for a sermon, I use BibleArc before I use any other resources. With it I can grasp the main idea(s) of what the Scripture says, and I don’t spend much time on “lesser” matters.

One major plus about BibleArc is that a subscription only costs $4 a month. So for the price of a coffee you have an excellent resource to help you figure out the main idea of a passage. Not only do you see the main idea, but you can see how each sentence and their ideas (called “proposition”) relate to one another and how they make sense.

In my upcoming review I hope that what you will see will be enough to convince you to go to the website, try it all out, and begin to use BibleArc to study and discover the Bible’s riches. BibleArc has been a yuge help to me, and I fully endorse it.

*Don’t despair. I based my first 2 Corinthians syllabus off of Lindsay’s Philippians/Colossians syllabus… right down to the same spelling mistake.

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Images of God in Revelation

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A few days ago I reviewed Matthew Emerson’s Between the Cross and the Throne. In chapter four, The Portrait of God and His People, Emerson gives us the Skeleton Key to understand some of the cryptic images John uses about God. He reveals three of the images which John uses “to describe Yahweh’s rule over his enemies, his people, and his creation” (35).

God is Sovereign

“And before the throne [of God] there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal,” Revelation 4.6.

What do we make of this “sea of glass”? Why is there a sea before God’s throne, and why is it of glass? Emerson says, “In the Old Testament, the sea represents chaos and evil” (35).

Psalm 74.12-15 says,

12  Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13  You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14  You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15  You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.

God is the sovereign one who rules over the seas. He is able to dry “up ever-flowing streams” (v15b). The disciples were shocked when Jesus stilled the wind and the waves in Mark 4, saying, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” If only Yahweh can control the waters, who then is this who does the same?

leviathan

In the rest of Revelation, the sea “is the place from which evil arises” (35).

“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads,” Revelation 13.1.

The sea being “the place from which evil arises” explains why Revelation 21.2 says there will be no sea. In the new creation there will be no chaos nor evil. Thus, “the image of God sitting on or over the sea shows his authority over chaos and evil” (35-36).

God is the Sovereign King of His People

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Revelation 4.4 and 11.16 together speak of 24 white-robed elders who sit on 24 thrones before God. While the issue of who the 24 elders represent is ever the debate, Emerson sees 12 elders as representative of Israel and the other 12 of the Church. In his lectures on Revelation, Peter Liethart sees the 24 elders as representing the 24 divisions of the priesthood in Chronicles with Jesus Christ as the 25 priest, the High Priest. The 24 elders would represent the Church, as we are a “kingdom of priests” (Ex 19.6; 1 Pet 2.5) in Christ (though, to be honest, I don’t remember exactly what Leithart said, but I think it was roughly that idea).

These 24 elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. God is the sovereign King of his people.

God is Lord Over All Creation

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The twenty-four elders receive a lot of attention, but we mustn’t forget the equally head-scratching four creatures around Yahweh’s throne. Emerson says, “[T]he creatures likely represent the fullness of creation (represented both by the number four, which is the number of creation . . . and by the diversity of the creatures)” (36).

“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree,” Revelation 7.1.

“And [Satan] will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth,” Revelation 20.8.

So, in Revelation 4.11 when the living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before Yahweh and sing, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created,” it is “[b]oth creation and the people of God [who] fall down before [Yahweh]” and sing praises to him (36).

Here in the throne room scene of Revelation 4, John emphasizes Yahweh’s dominion over everything “because John is exhorting the Church to remain faithful to the end, even in spite of persecution” (36).

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Review: Supernatural

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Released at the same time as his larger, more academic work The Unseen Realm (my review here), Heiser made sure that he didn’t forget about the church. Both volumes are for the church, but Supernatural is specifically intended for “the person in the pew” (10). The question for “the person in the pew” is: Do you really believe what the Bible says? Do you really believe that God meets with a group of spirit beings to decide what happens on earth (1 Kgs 22.19-23)? Do you really believe that God sent a bunch of angels to an underground prison (Jude 1.6)? Have you ever heard about these things? Have you ever realized these scenarios take place within our Bible? Heiser sets out to blow off our modern day lenses so we can see that there is more to the supernatural world than what we think. And it matters. A lot.

Summary

Supernatural is separated into 16 chapters (as opposed to The Unseen Realm‘s 42 chapters) and follows the flow of The Unseen Realm (which is broadly divided into 8 sections). After his introduction, Heiser explains how the modern day Christian line of thought of “Trinity/angels/demons” is too simplistic. God has a divine council, a family, sons of God, and at a certain time a certain amount of this council rebelled. God had created his own family on earth, but then that family, Adam and Eve, also rebelled. God gave them a promise of redemption.

In Deuteronomy 32, we find out that when God separated those at the Tower of Babel, he placed them under the other gods of the council (but he called out Abraham to be Yahweh’s nation). Psalm 82 reveals that some (or all?) of these gods rebelled and that they rule unjustly over the nations. Yahweh places his name on his angel, the physical representation of Yahweh, the beginning seeds of what we know as the Trinity. Through holy war Joshua and Israel gain holy ground promised by Yahweh, but yet again Israel failed, eventually being subjugated to Assyria and Babylon. Yahweh himself would have to come to earth, in the flesh, to accomplish his plan.

Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the cloud rider of Daniel 7, dies, rises again, and ascends to heaven. He pours out his Spirit onto his people, and a great reversal happens. Many of those listed in Genesis 10’s Table of Nations are mentioned as being in Jerusalem at Pentecost. When the Jews spoke different languages, many heard God’s word and were saved! So after repentance comes baptism, the declaration that one follows the resurrected Lord – and not the other gods (cf. Deut 4.19).

Those who put their trust in God and are loyal to him, are now sons of God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Hebrews 2.10-13 shows that as Jesus came to earth to become human, and his family will become like him: divine (though not to be worshiped. But we will “be like him,” 1 Jn 3.2; Phil 3.21). Christians in the new heavens and earth will “rule over angels” (1 Cor 6.3).

“The final form of the kingdom is yet to come. When it does, the powers of darkness will be defeated. The demonic gods will lose their dominion over the nations permanently—replaced by God’s glorified human family and council” (157).

Revelation 3.20-21 says,

Behold, I stand at the door and knock! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, indeed I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also have conquered and have sat down with my Father on his throne.

We will live in the eternal Eden, and we will not face the second death. We will have eternal life as sons (and daughters) of God in the presence of the Trinity.

The Chocolate Milk

One main difference with Supernatural comes at the end of each chapter. Here Heiser has placed a Why This Matters section. While much of this book is found in The Unseen Realm, I found the condensing of Heiser’s main points to be very helpful (a few pennies dropped while reading this book), especially in the Why This Matters section. Why does learning about sacred space matter? Because while we no longer have tabernacles or temples, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. “Our bodies are sacred space” (84). Jesus completes the pattern that Adam and Israel failed to complete. As Christ’s body, the church follows that pattern. Because we follow the one who conquered death, “Satan has no claim on the children of God because they will rise from death” (106).

Why Does This Matter?

Why should you read Heiser’s book(s)? Why do we need to know about the other gods of Psalm 82, Deuteronomy 4 and 32, and so on and so forth?

“Salvation is about believing loyalty—trusting what Jesus did to defeat Satan’s claim and turning from all other gods and the belief systems of which they are a part. That is the message of God’s kingdom we are commissioned to tell to the nations (Matt. 28:19–20). And as we obey, the dominions of the enemy gods, the principalities and powers, shrink—soul by soul, moment by moment. The gates of hell, the realm of the dead, do not withstand the resurrection, and will not withstand the advance of the gospel.”

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Ronn Johnson wrote this study guide with the intention for groups to work alongside Supernatural, which offers its readers the chance to work through Supernatural‘s material “with this guide . . . considering where one idea affects another.” The study guide consists of a preface, eight chapters, and a conclusion. Each chapter gives you a section of Supernatural to read along with some Scripture references. There are five sections to each chapter: The Big Picture, The Main Idea, Digging Deeper, Knowledge in Action, and Discussion Questions.

Rather than just going to heaven, we will receive our inheritance and rule with Christ in our resurrected bodies, bodies which are fashioned after him, the true and perfect image of God, who took on flesh, perfectly obeyed the Father, lived and died for us to rescue us from sin and death, was vindicated in his resurrection, and ascended to rule and reign on the throne while interceding for his people, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Lagniappe

Buy Supernatural from Amazon or Logos!

Buy the Study Guide from Amazon or Lexham Press!

Special thanks to Lexham Press for sending me this book!

Previous Posts on The Unseen Realm

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Review of The Unseen Realm

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Review: Between the Cross and the Throne

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How often do Christians read Revelation? Do you think when you read it? Are you intrigued? Do you feel fear? Anxiety? Confusion? Does it lead you to praise and worship our Lord and Savior, the Lion-Lamb King? Revelation is a very difficult book, especially so for the modern day. The further along into time we go, the farther we get from the culture John write Revelation in. Should Revelation be taken literally? Are there symbols, how many, and what do they mean?

Summary

Emerson summarizes the book of Revelation and it’s application to the church in eight chapters.

Chapter one is the Introduction. Revelation isn’t a decoder ring you get out of your Sunday morning cereal box. “Rather, it is a book that was and is vital for the Church; it assures us, even as we face tribulation, of the triune God’s victorious reign and the imminence of Christ’s return” (1). Emerson says, “Most, if not all, of the book [Revelation] uses figurative images and language” (1). John draws these images from the Old Testament so that we can understand the conflict going on between Satan and God and his people.

Emerson provides his outline and the theological center of Revelation. Despite all of the persecution, it is God who rules on the throne, not Satan. Jesus suffered, died, and is the victorious King who will one day come to crush his (and our) enemies. “We can stand firm because he has already stood firm, and we can fight the Dragon’s servants because Christ has already bound their master” (5-6).

In chapter two Emerson guides the reader in seeing Revelation as a work of literature, a work that is a letter made up of prophecy and containing apocalyptic elements (figurative imagery, a focus on the end of history). Emerson takes a closer look at some of the literary devices, such as John’s use of numbers.

In chapter three, “The Drama of Redemption,” Emerson adds a fourth genre category, narrative. John sees his book “as the completion of the entire biblical narrative, connecting Christ’s work in his first and second coming with the story of creation and the fall (Gen 1–3). The new heavens and new earth (Rev 21–22) “is the consummation [completion] of Christ’s work of redemption to restore and renew creation from the effects of the fall.” John uses repeating patterns throughout Revelation to highlight different aspects of God’s judgment and mercy on the world and his faithfulness to his own people.

In chapters four and five, the reader is given two portraits. First, one of God and his people. Second, one of God’s enemies. Emerson believes that the church is seen all throughout Revelation. The reader is given a look at some of the images of God (“the seven spirits of God” and “the Lamb and Lion”). In writing to the seven churches, “‘[t]o the one who conquers,’ also reminds the church that they are being called to persevere” (40).  Emerson takes a quick guide to some of the phrases that describe the church in Revelation. When looking at the enemies of God, Emerson looks at “the unholy trinity” (made up of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet) and the harlot of Babylon.

Chapter six looks at the specific time periods (i.e., 1,260 days, 42 months, and “time, times, and half a time”), with Emerson saying that “the book’s time frame is especially structured around the events of Jesus’ first and second coming” (59). The war of the Lamb occurs during this period, where we see the dragon’s destructive dominion, the Lamb’s judgment, and the testimony of the church conquering over the dragon.

Chapter seven show us how to think about Revelation today in our modern world. The word has it’s agenda on how to shape people into its mold, “and it also has the practices to accomplish that purpose” (73). But believers today need to resist the world’s pressure and allow our worship of the crucified and risen Lamb to shape our minds and bodies to react in faithful trust to Christ.

Chapter eight draws the book to a close, reminding us “remain faithful to God in Christ by the power of his Holy Spirit until he returns in glorious victory over all his enemies” (77).

Each chapter ends with some suggested Bible reading and questions for the reader to reflect on which would also be good to use in a group setting.

Recommended?

This is highly recommended. It’s an easy introduction to Revelation. If you’re one who is put off by long, dense books, especially ones written on Revelation, then you really ought to pick up this book. It’s smooth reading, and was honestly hard for me to put down.

For the more academic, this book will be very light. But even still, if you’ve never studied up on Revelation and you’re neck-deep in biblical studies for other subjects, Emerson’s book would be a good side read to help become acquainted with the Apostle’s fantastic book. It’s hard to read this book without wanting more. Hopefully Emerson will provide us with more in the future.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Matthew Emerson
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (April 27, 2016)

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Special thanks to Lexham Press for sending me this book!

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Review: The Almost Nearly Perfect People

AlmostNearly

As a kid, there was a large wall-sized-map in my church that I would often roll out and look at on Sunday nights after church. My friends and I always wondered why Greenland and Iceland were named the way they were, and, given that we lived in the subtropical state of Louisiana, we wondered how cold it must be in those northern countries and anyone could survive life (because just 28ºF felt pretty frigid to me). Beyond that I was oblivious to Norway.

Yes, I knew vikings once ruled land and sea. I knew everyone was blonde and beautiful. And I actually knew Norwegians spoke… can you guess it?… Norwegian. But really, what did I need to know about a country that laid 4,700 miles away?

A lot, apparently.

If I knew then what I know now, I should have petitioned my elementary school to start teaching Norwegian. Having lived in Norway for the last year, I decided it would be smart to read a few books on the Scandinavian culture. While scrolling through Amazon I ran across The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth. Booth, a travel writer and journalist, grew up in Britain and is now living in Denmark (and has been for the last 14 years).

Titania and Bottom, from A Midsummer Night's Dream (oil on canvas)

Titania and Bottom, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (oil on canvas)       Photo: John Anster Fitzgerald

Booth begins his book with a puzzle. Booth has opened his morning paper to see that Denmark ranks #1 in the Satisfaction with Life Index, compiled by the Dept. of Psychology at the University of Leicester. Yet… in Booth’s eyes, Danes are not joining together to host a sing-a-long over Ren & Stimpy’s Happy Happy Joy Joy. Booth remarks that Denmark is a “dark, wet, dull, flat little country” (1). The supermarket checkout girl barely acknowledges his existence (which is one thing Denmark has in common with Louisiana). Booth receives the evil eye from his fellow Danes when he crosses the street on  a red light (even though there was no traffic). He arrives home to find a not-so-pleasant tax bill. And we can’t forget that after “infringing the no-left-turn rule,” a motorist threatened to kill him.

Wonderful.

From Bernie Sanders to Oprah Winfrey, Scandinavia has been marked as heaven on earth. But are these countries really as perfect as they seem? Booth travels to each of the Nordic countries and interviews prominent political and cultural figures to ask them about some of the darker problems with their respective countries. Throw on top of these interviews some shenanigans such as Finnish saunas, disrupting every Swedish person’s personal bubble, and Icelandic elves, and you have a pretty interesting book.

Summary

Denmark

Denmark is a country so safe that mom’s can leave their babies sleeping outside of cafes, a country so equal that an 80-or-so-year-old woman can have a jolly evening chatting with a notorious rapper, a country with the highest taxes in the world (between 42-56% income tax – not to mention car, gas, road, property, church, and a value added tax, and more). Despite having tax up to 72%, most Danes couldn’t think of a better place to live. Why?

Iceland

Is Iceland more Scandinavia than Scandinavia itself? Is it “too Nordic” (118)? With the freshest fish on the planet, why would Icelanders choose to eat (even try – even make) Hákarl (rotten… ahem… treated shark)? Elves. 26% believe in flower elves, and 30% believe in house elves; only 45% believe in God (139). How is it that a place that can look like both the Shire and Mordor, a place that looks so much like the moon that Apollo 11 moon landings were rehearsed there, can manage to attract companies like Google? What do they have that other nations don’t?

Norway

Skiing. Shrimp. Bunads. Friluftsliv (“open air life”). Norwegians have the closest relationship with the surrounding nature (CGI-like fjords as Booth calls them), taking just about every opportunity to go on a walk, to hike, to ski, to simply be wherever the sun is – no matter the heat. Like Jed Clampett, “Up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude” – and overnight Norway possessed liquid gold. Oil, that is. Despite Norway’s strict use of their oil money (using a mere 4% on themselves annually), what kind of an effect is all of this oil having on the Norwegian mindset? Are they really the laziest Scandinavians?

Finland

Who are the Finns? Why is their language so extremely different? It ain’t Indo-European, but has similarities to Hungarian (this question isn’t actually answered, but it’s interesting to think about!). Finns are the most courteous of all nordic people and “are fascinated by what others think of them” (216). They are possibly the least corrupt and most dependable in all of the world. How does living between Russia and Sweden affect their lifestyle? How does a Christian heavy metal, horror-monster-costume-wearing band named Lordi win the Eurovision 2006 competition? Seriously, you need to watch this (“Hard Rock Hallelujah“). How do they have the best schools (and all over the country, at that – not just in one area)?

Moomin_characters

Moomin Trolls

Sweden

Why does IKEA name its doormats after Danish towns? Are the Swedes more conflict shy then they are rule abiding? Are they really as good at integrating immigrants as we hear on TV? Is it hypocritical for this neutral(-ish) peace-keeping country to also be the world’s eighth largest arms exporter? Is there too much government involved in their personal lives? How is it they can study anything they want to? And why do the other Scandinavians hate Sweden?

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Pettson (man) og Findus (cat)

Recommended?

This was a really informative book. Booth has a humorous way of describing the mundane, whether it be the inside of a Finnish sauna, ….., or the historical details of Denmark:

Though Denmark did manage to hold on to Norway for a few hundred years more, henceforth the Swedes would play a far more proactive role in the region’s history, mostly by holding Denmark’s head in the toilet bowl while Britain and Germany queued up to pull the handle (20).

I’m not sure if this book was really more negative than it was positive, or if it’s simply easier to remember the negatives (because it is easier). Booth does aim to examine both the success and weakness of heaven-on-earth Scandinavia, his purpose being to “rebalance the utopian view” which is held by, well, everyone I know.

He also does reflect on the many positive aspects of these societies: gender and economic equality, high levels of trust, social cohesion, life-work balance, etc. The negative views that come up come from his interviews with “leading anthropologists, ethnologists, economists, politicians, academics and journalists” (and from his own experience of the social ills of being weird – a.k.a. not Scandinavian).

No country is nor will be perfect. But, it can be close! But “[a]s Paul McCartney once said when a journalist suggested that The White Album might have been better as just one disc instead of two: ‘Yeah, well, you know, it is still The White Album’” (367). Scandinavia might not be perfect, but it is still Scandinavia.

“One of the things you miss if you travel if you are Norwegian is to just sit on the tram and doze and know it’s safe. That feeling” (202).

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon or from Picador!

(Thanks to Picador/Macmillan for sending me this book!)

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