Monthly Archives: July 2015

Logos Review: 2 Peter, Jude [PNTC]

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Having just posted my book review of Peter Davids’ 2 Peter and Jude volume in the PNTC series, I will now tell you why I enjoyed reading this volume on Logos.

Logos

This is my first Logos book review, and it’s also the first commentary that I’ve read through on Logos. What did I learn?

I learned that reading a commentary on Logos is pretty awesome. While I enjoy all the dorky stuff of having the physical book in my hands, underlining and highlighting, etc, I’ve found that reading a book (more so a commentary) on Logos saves time and space (especially with the international lifestyle I seem to be living now).

  • Need to move to a different country for work/school/marriage? Everything you need is on your computer.
  • Can’t remember where that awesome quote is? Now you can Search for it without having to flip through pages that all look the same.
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  • Not sure of what it means that “angels didn’t stay in their positions of authority”? I can open up the Passage Guide and look at what a host of Commentaries say on Jude 6 (e.g., some of the commentaries that come up for me are the PNTC, NAC, Socio-Rhetorical, and IVP Bible Background volumes. Granted, some will have more [WBC, NICNT, BECNT, Paideia, etc] and some will have less).
    1 Passage Guide
  • If a footnote is given I can hover over the number, and if I have the reference (ancient literature, book, commentary) I can click it and it brings it right up (see the “Lightfoot’s Apostolic Father’s in English” tab on the right).
    1 Extended Reading

Here’s a video below which shows you how to do some of what I’m talking about.


Also, you can look at this page and see how Logos can save you time on sermon preparation (rather than having to sift through all of those books, writing everything down from scratch). Below, you can see how I can have both the commentary and the Lexham Bible Dictionary open on my screen at once, saving desk space and saving time by not having to look up the reference in book itself.

Logos 3

Recommended?

If you’re looking for a commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, Davids volume is an excellent work that I highly recommend (along with Scheriner [NAC], and probably Green [BECNT], Bauckham [WBC], and Moo [NIVAC]). You would do well to get them all on Logos. As I mentioned before in my previous review, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this commentary. Usually when I review or use a commentary for teaching, I read though most of the commentary or just the main sections to understand how the commentator is writing and what their aim is. Yet with this commentary I actually took out my Bible and took notes for both books. Though this is shorter than other commentaries (really only 318 pages), Davids’ conclusions make sense and are easy to follow. Yes, he can be dense at times with the (though good) secondary literature and grammar discussions, it is a fine commentary.

Lagniappe

[Special thanks to those at Logos for allowing me to review this! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Review: 2 Peter, Jude [PNTC]

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Why should someone read or teach (or even write) a commentary on 2 Peter and Jude?

  1. They are there. Simple enough.
  2. The general epistles counterbalance Paul’s writings. They show that there “were other voices and other theologies…in the earliest phases of the Jesus movement” (1).
  3. Because they are so fascinating! (It’s always a good sign when commentators thinks the book[s] they study are fascinating). “In them we see communities of the Jesus movement coming to terms with Greco-Roman culture” (1). We see “communities using the Jewish traditions we know from the OT…. But they… cite the traditions as they were being retold in their first-century world…. We see communities coming to terms with teachers who were rejecting the ethical teachings of Jesus but who still claimed to be followers of Jesus” (2).

The author, Peter Davids is no stranger to the Catholic Epistles. He’s written commentaries on James (NIGTC), 1 Peter (NICNT), and A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude (my review here). You can read my review of this volume on Logos here.

Outline

After giving an introduction to both letters, Davids begins his exposition (which includes an introduction) not with 2 Peter, but with Jude. He shows (skilfully, as far as my opinion counts) that 2 Peter uses Jude. As he argues, Jude has his own arguments and perspectives. 2 Peter digests it and uses it for his own purposes. “Why would an apostle use the work of another church leader?” you say? Why would Matthew use Mark (or vice-versa)? 2 Peter adapts Jude into his own perspective and reasonings. He finds the gold mine and uses it well, each having their own perspectives.

As these letters are two of the more neglected books of the Bible, Davids goes into some of their exegetical issues. Besides authorship and date Davids looks at how 2 Peter differs from 1 Peter’s background, audience, and grammar/syntax. Here there is a stronger Greco-Roman influence, 2 Peter uses Scripture differently than 1 Peter, and uses a number of terms that are rare for the NT (and fairly uncommon in Hellenistic writing). However, this doesn’t necessarily mean Peter is not the author of both letters. Unlike Paul, we only have two of Peter’s letters. We don’t know how broad his education, style, and influence was.

Though Davids’ doesn’t give a definite stance on authorship of either book, he falls closer to authentic authorship rather than pseudonymous (though I think he should have been more definite given 2 Pet 1.17-19). So Jude was probably written by Jude (probably the brother of Jesus) and 2 Peter by the Apostle Peter. Jude was probably written before 70 AD and 2 Peter in the 50s, though a later date is possible. We can’t figure out the theology of Jude’s false teachers, but that’s not our concern. Rather Jude is more concerned about their practical theology and its negative affects on the church. For Peter, we at least know that the false teachers disregard the coming of the Lord, and they too have a faulty daily-life theology.

The Purpose of the letters are “to motivate. It is a….need to exhort…to ‘contend for the faith’” (44) and to be on their guard so as not to be carried away by the error of lawlessness (2 Pet 3.17). There is a serious struggle and it is the readers’ faith that is to be kept safe from the interlopers, whether they have ‘slipped in’ (Jude) or are ‘among the people’ (2 Peter 2).

The Milk

Overall, I found this commentary to be very helpful, causing me to wish I were back in York so I could teach on these books. While I would have preferred Davids to give his own translation (he uses the NIV and has quite a few disagreements with it in 2 Peter – a similar problem is found in Seifrid’s 2 Corinthians volume), this doesn’t take away too much from the reading. Davids deals with both authors’ use of secondary (apocryphal and Second Temple) literature, saying that “[Jude] did consider it [1 Enoch] authoritative, a true word from God. We cannot tell whether he ranked it alongside other prophetic books such as Isaiah and Jeremiah” (76), and “for the most part canonical consciousness came later than the time of Jude” (76).

While not as theological as Seifrid’s volume, Davids brings in some excellent application. “Jude is accusing them of distorting the teaching of God (i.e., Christian ethics) to gain the financial support of members of the community who are listening to them. Thus what this final charge underlines is that in Jude’s eyes one of the reasons for some of their teaching is financial gain, an affliction that is not uncommon in the church today” (84). At one point Davids asks that if Peter looked at the church today, would he think the false teachers had won? Davids probably arcs [www.biblearc.com], as he is very able in showing the flow of the argument. Along with a host of quotes from the early church fathers, apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, Targums, and Philo and other Greco-Roman/Hellenistic writers, Davids presents to us the authors’ literary and cultural background, helping the reader to see how the authors arrived at their conclusions.

I was disappointed that there was no argumentation against the preterist position. Although I really only know of one commentator who holds to this position (Leithart, see The Promise of His Appearing) and a host of internet websites and forums which hold to the preterist position, I assumed (perhaps too much) that Davids may try to counteract some of the arguments. Despite this, Davids’ arguments hold plenty of weight, though they may not convince the ardent preterist.

Recommended?

Yes. If you are a fan of the PNTC series, this volume won’t let you down. Despite being more technical at points (mainly the amount of ancient literature – not a negative though!) than other volumes (2 Corinthians), I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this commentary. Usually I read though most of the commentary, or main sections to understand how the commentator is writing and what he/she is arguing for. However, in this commentary I actually took out my Bible and took notes through all four (combined) chapters.

Lagniappe

[Special thanks to Christine at ThinkIVP for allowing me to review this! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility, Part 2

Here’s the second part (part one here) of my series on God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility taken from D. A. Carson’s Praying with Paul. There are seven passages that support both God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility, and I’ll cover four today and three next time.

1. Genesis 50:19-20

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.’”

After the death of their father, Jacob’s son come to Joseph and plead with him not to take revenge on them. Big Joe, recognizing God’s hand through the whole situation (not to mention his life) tells them that God has intended this situation for good the entire time.

To understand what Joseph is saying, Carson gives two responses which Joe does not say:

  • “Look, miserable sinners, you hatched and executed this wicked plot, and if it hadn’t been for God coming in at the last moment, it would have gone far worse for me than it did.”
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  • “God’s intention was to send me down to Egypt with first-class treatment, but you wretched reprobates threw a wrench into his plans and caused me a lot of suffering” (128).

Joseph had dreams of the brothers bowing down to him. Joseph’s brothers sold him off. In God’s sovereignty he raised up Joseph and saved millions of people during te famine years, but it does not excuse the brothers’ evil. And their evil plot does not shrink God’s sovereignty, making his power subject to their decisions. Both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are to be assumed true.

2. 2 Samuel 24

v1-4

Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.” But Joab said to the king, “May the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?’” But the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army went out from the presence of the king to number the people of Israel….”

v10-12

“But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” Snd when David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and say to David, ‘’Thus says the Lord, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’”

In his anger over Israel, God stirs up David to take a census of the people. After David numbers up Israel, an act previously forbidden, his hearts strikes him with guilt and he must chose one of three severe judgments that God will deliver. The result: seventy thousand people die.

In reading this, we must remember what the Bible says about God.

Deuteronomy 32.4, The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
1 John 1.5, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Revelation 15.3-4, And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’”

But there are other cases like 2 Samuel 24 “where God is presented as in some way behind the evil.” The evil does not simply slip past God’s eyes, leaving him to say, “Whoops!”

2 Thessalonians 2.11, Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,
1 Kings 22.21, Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’

1 Chronicles 21 tells us that it is Satan, not God, who incites David to sin. Is this a contradiction, or is it merely different perspectives? In Job, does God afflict Job, or does Satan? All of the above?

The Point

“God is presented as sovereign over David’s life, including this particular sin in his life, while David himself is not thereby excused” (129).

[Interestingly, Michael Heiser says the 1 Chronicles passage doesn’t say it is Satan (which means adversary). The Hebrew says that it is not the satan (adversary),” but a satan” (or “an adversary”). A cross-reference to this would be Num 22.22, where Satan does not oppose Balaam. No, the adversary here is the Angel of Yahweh. Could this be the same thing here in 1 Chronicles?]

3. Isaiah 10.5-19

In a judgment on Assyria, Yahweh says, “Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; ​​​​​​​the staff in their hands is my fury! ​​​​​​​​​​Against a godless nation I send him, ​​​​​​​and against the people of my wrath I command him, ​​​​​​​to take spoil and seize plunder, ​​​​​​​and to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (10.5-6).

God is sending the Assyrians against his own covenant-keeping (sometimes) community because he is angry at their sin. Still yet, God pronounces a “woe” on the Assyrians for their mission. How can they be punished if they’re following God’s command? Simply because they think Samaria and Jerusalem are some other pagan towns that they’re going to take over. “They think they are doing this all by themselves” (130).

God uses this military superpower as if it were a simple tool – a saw or an ax – to accomplish his purposes of judgment (10.15-16). But Assyria is not absolved of their “willful pride” or their “haughty look” (10.12). The stench of their sin fills the nostrils of Yahweh, and they too will be punished for their sin. They are held responsible.

4. John 6.37-40

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (6.37).

In reading verse 37, all of God’s chosen people area gift to the Son, and once the Son receives them he will keep them in and never drive them away.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (6.38-39).

God is seen as sovereign in the process of salvation. His people are given by him to the Son “who preserves them to the last day when (he promises) he will raise them up” (131). Does this make Christians robots? No, for the next verse describes believers by what they do.

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6.40).

Next Time

In Part 3 of our series I’ll cover the last three passages (Phil 2.12-13; Acts 18.9-10; Acts 4.23.30).

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Isaiah’s Call: The Idolater’s Curse and Effect in the NT

Isaiah 6.9-10 is quoted to in every one of the Gospels (Matt 13.14-15; Mk 4.12; Lk 8.10; Jn 12.40). In each of he Gospels salvation is announced and rejected, Why is this the case? How is it that Israel can so easily reject their Messiah?

Last time we look at Isaiah 6 and saw that Israel was idolatrous. They had been for a long time (e.g., Abraham was a pagan idolator). But more than that, much of Israel’s history after that had to do with God working idolatry out of them, and them clinging to it even harder. So God calls Isaiah to preach to them, with the result that their hearts will be hardened against God. Israel will become deaf, blind, dumb, hard-hearted, and eventually breathless as they continue to trust in their idols, even as it leads them to their doom.

In Isaiah 7-9, salvation and judgment are effected through parables. Ahaz has the choice to trust in God, but instead, he, like his wilderness forefathers, tested Yahweh. In the end, Judah would be judged by Babylon.

Jesus speaks a parable about binding the strong man in Mark 3. The Pharisees have rejected Jesus. Israel is doing what Ahaz did all those years ago. Once they respond in an attitude of rejection, Jesus speaks in parables. The hearts of Israel are hardened even more. Paul said Israel sought a righteousness all of their own (Rom 10.3) and not a righteousness brought by truly following God. Jesus commands the crowds to listen to his parable in Mark 4.3, and he ends his parables with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (4.9). Some will hear, and some will not. Those who take and use what is given, more will be added. But those who do nothing with it, even what they have will be taken away (4.24-25; Matt 25.29).

How you hear determines if you are on the inside or the outside (“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables…” Mk 4.11). Watts says this is not about predestination. And what I think he means is that Jesus isn’t teaching a seed-form of predestination here. He’s not thinking about that at all. What he means is that Israel is idolatrous, and some will respond rightly to Jesus, but many will only become more hard-hearted to him. This is God’s response to an Israel/Judah who have already rejected him. In fact, in the Parable of the Vineyard the Jewish leaders understand that Jesus says he is the Son and that he speaks against them (Matt 21.45; Mk 4.12; Lk 20.16). Instead of bowing at his feet in worship, they want even more to kill him.

This was a brief look at Isaiah 6.9-10 and how it is used in the Gospels, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts. Hopefully we can start to see the importance of the OT context and storyline when studying the NT. Next up will be three more posts:

  1. Did Paul misquote Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4?
  2. Warrior Armour in Ephesians 6
  3. My review of Watts’ ‘Isaiah’ class.

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Mercy on the Wavering in Jude 22-23

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I’m reading Peter Davids’ 2 Peter and Jude volume in the PNTC series on Logos. In dealing with the false teachers (FT) in the church, Jude tells his readers to show mercy to the followers. Mercy? Shouldn’t the followers be kicked out of the church? Shouldn’t the FT too?

How should his readers handle the false teachers and heir followers? “Are they to be hated, fought, feared, or simply shunned? Jude implicitly rejects all of these approaches (so common in contemporary attitudes toward teaching considered to be false and misleading) and argues for a much more positive response” (98). While Jude has already condemned the FT’s (v5-16, v12 showing that the FT’s are still in the church, feasting with the community at the Lord’s Supper), “their followers are to be rescued rather than ostracized” (100).

3 Groups

  1. “Those who doubt” (v22)
  2. Those close to “the fire” (v23)
  3. Those whose “garments“ are “stained by the flesh” (v23)

Here, the goal is rescue and the attitude is one of “mercy mixed with fear,” even if some seem to be “beyond hope” (103).

1. Be merciful to those who doubt (v22)

Jude 2 reads, “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.”

Jude 21 reads, “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

These (and all) Christians are wished mercy and are expected to receive mercy. Since we have seen the Lord’s mercy we are expected to show mercy too rather than pronounce judgment on all who annoy us. “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jas 2.12-13).

They are to show mercy to those who doubt. While sometimes doubting can mean “arguing/disputing” (Jude 9), and other times “discerning/discriminating” (Matt 16:3), when “used without the disputant with whom to argue or the object to judge or discern, the term means that the argument is going on inside the person, and he or she is in inner conflict or doubt, as in Acts 10:20; 11:13; Rom 14:23; Jas 1:6…. It is to [these] people in such inner turmoil that one is to show mercy” (100).

In Jude “some are doubting, not sure who is right. Rather than condemning them for their uncertainty about the truth or their entertaining the possibility that the teachers whom Jude opposes could be right, Jude calls for mercy, being gracious toward them and showing the same type of acceptance and love that God shows” (101).

2. Save others by snatching them out of the fire (v23)

While some weren’t sure who was right and may not have participated in lewd (or in righteous) practice, “some were already getting involved with the practices of the teachers Jude is opposing (101).

Some are so close to the fire they need to be snatched away.

Zechariah 3.1-5

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.  The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.

Davids says that this scene is “a judgment scene [with] the Lord refusing to condemn but rather choosing to remove the impurity of the priest” (101). Following John the Baptist (Matt 3.10), Jesus (Matt 5:22), and other NT writers (Heb 10:27), the ‘fire’ here is one of judgment. This second group is not yet in hell, but they’re already looking over the edge of the cliff that leads to this fiery grave. Or, rather, Christ will return and there will not be a second chance to repent (Heb 9.27-28). “In Jude’s picture the flames of judgment already lap around their feet; one must snatch them away before they are fully in flame and lost forever” (102).

Yet, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. This is the basic NT attitude towards sin in the church. Often times when it comes to judgment and sin, we (myself included) think of 1 Corinthians 5, where the incestuous/adulterous man is to be excommunicated (with the purpose of him being brought back to the believing community, v5). Matt 18:15–17 is more focused on restoring the brother/sister than kicking them out of the church. “It is only when all attempts to appeal to them have been rejected that the church reluctantly recognizes that they are on the outside, not the inside, of the community of Jesus. Luke 17:3–4; Gal 6:1–2; 2 Thess 3:14–15; 1 Tim 5:20; Titus 3:10 all show the church more ready to restore the erring than to exclude them, although boundaries must be drawn for those who insist on their error” (102).

The purpose of James’ letter is seen in Jas 5.19-20, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” That desire to bring salvation is probably the purpose of James as a whole. In our text we find the same attitude in Jude” (102).

3. Those whose “garments“ are “stained by the flesh” (v23)

“…to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (v23b)

This third group is most likely involved in the sins accepted by the teachers. The image of “clothing stained by corrupted flesh” may  refer back to Jude 8 (Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones). Yet even they are not beyond hope. “Jude says, ‘Show mercy’” (103).

To make this quick, “mercy” mixed “with fear” likely means showing the offenders mercy with a fear of being seduced by the same sins that has seduced them. Some of these sins are probably sexual (Jude 6-7, though in total they include a host of others).

“The “clothing” referred to by Jude is a specific article of clothing, the chitōn, the inner of the two articles of clothing in everyday use. Since it was worn constantly and next to the skin, it was quite likely to be stained by the body, as is a T-shirt today…. In Zechariah the high priest is delivered from judgment with the order to change his clothing. Here people are also to be rescued, and their ‘clothing,’ meaning their sins, are to be ‘hated’ and left behind. Such an image combines well with that of showing mercy ‘mixed with fear’” (105).

So out “mercy mixed with fear,” does it mean to distance ourselves from the sinner? Especially when we read “hating the clothing“? Hate the sin, hate the sinner? We think of some “limited-contact“ verses from the Bible:

  • Matt 18:17, “…treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
  • 1 Cor 5:11, “…you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
  • Titus 3:10, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”

Yet these verses all have to do with one who is excommunicated from the church. Meaning, after the church has confronted the person about their sin and the person has refused to stop, then they are excommunicated from the church. The offender is disrupting the community. He/she is living in complete disregard to the teachings (and commands) of Christ. What is the church to do but to let them go, praying and hoping that the person will repent and come back.

Here, Jude can’t be suggesting that his readers should have no contact with the FT followers. “If we are correct that Jude has little hope for the teachers, but can conceive of the rescue of their followers, then these followers would be even less likely to be excommunicated than the teachers (105-06). As it follows,

“one should attempt to persuade such people to reject the teaching of the false teachers and return to the orthodox standard of behavior. Yet at the same time one should have nothing to do with their sins and must in fact, as part of the rescue process, [work to] separate the people from their sins…. One cannot rescue people without personal contact, but one must also be cautious that what seduced them does not seduce you. It is quite possible to remain in positive contact and accept a person without at the same time condoning or accepting the person’s sin. This appears to be Jude’s position, a merciful one indeed” (106).


As always, this was longer than I originally expected, but if you’ve made it this far you’ve seen that Jude is interested in “turning wanderers” back to the truth and “saving souls from death” (Jas 5.19-20). Jude, James, Peter, Paul, and Jesus were all interested in saving sinners. They aren’t hard-liners in the sense that once somebody sins they are chucked out of the church. No! Here Jude allows the followers of the FT’s to remain in the church (for the time being). But he asks the church to show them mercy and what?

  • Let them live their life?
  • Be tolerant towards those who have different ideals, even if it opposes the teachings of Christ?
  • Turn a blind eye and wait for someone else to confront the sinner?

No, Jude tells his readers to be merciful, to snatch, and to save. Get them away from their sin, and do it with mercy, in truth and in love.
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A look at how Davids’ commentary appears on Logos software

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Review: A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude

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Zondervan has been putting out a series of “A Theology of…” books for the last few years. Now along with Bock’s volume on Luke-Acts and Kostenberger’s on John, we have the next volume by Peter Davids, A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude. Davids is no stranger to the Catholic Epistles having written commentaries on each of these books (James [NIGTC], 1 Peter [NICNT], 2 Peter and Jude [PNTC, which is very good, my review upcoming]). Having done his PhD thesis in 1974 on Judaistic themes in James, this book comes 40 years later, almost like an anniversary to that thesis (though if that really was the plan, I haven’t received the memo).

Outline

Pretty much, the way this book works is that Chapter 1 is the introductory chapter which covers common issues and themes between the letters. This chapter focuses on the unity of the four letters. Davids views issues like the authors’ Greco-Roman background, their theology, Christology, view on sin and its source, and their eschatology. Along with this we have to deal with the issues of implied authorship and pseudonymity, as each of these letters are under suspicion of having been written by someone other than the named authors (James, Peter, and Jude).

Chapters 2-5 cover recent scholarship of each book, some introductory issues (date, authorship, historical situation, false teachers, literary structure, outline, etc).

Next is a rhetorical commentary of the particular book which looks at how the letter is divided into different sections that complements the whole.

Next comes Important Theological Themes (ITT) which deals with a variety of (you guessed it) themes (e.g., the nature of God, Jesus, the community, eschatology, revelation, cosmology, salvation, divine messengers, ethics, etc).

Finally, the chapters end with the Canonical Contribution. What does each letter bring to the table? What aspects of theology do we gain from these four letters? What more do we learn about our God? Though many are related, this section too can vary from issues like the role of Jesus, to a theology of suffering and healing, to the role of scripture and how the letter relates to the OT and NT, to standing firm in the faith without falling.

The Chocolate Milk

Davids, recognizing the emphasis that has been placed on Paul’s letters, calls for a refocusing on these four small letters. He doesn’t want to downplay Paul’s letters by any means, but he wants to lift up the forgotten and have Christians realize the significance found in these letters. Commentaries on James boomed in the 1990s, but before that there were only a few to be found. Many in the last 50-60 years are seeing the importance of these letters in the life of the church.

In this importance and with the theological focus of the four letters, Davids shows in some places how these letters are connected. While the connections don’t abound, throughout the commentary on each book Davids will cite how an idea in James is found in Jude. And while the rhetorical commentary moves quickly, Davids shows you the main idea and what is really important to know.

When you’re teaching or preaching on a book, it’s hard to find a good place to go that gives you good, deep, holistic information in a short span of time. An annoying aspect of preaching is getting to the end of 1 Peter and realizing that your message on The Living Hope in 1 Peter 1 would have been ‘better’ if you had known how 1 Peter 5 fit into the context. While you won’t be able to study an entire book of the Bible and be finished with your sermon preparation in a week, having a volume that summarizes the message and theology of the Catholic Epistles certainly helps one get a firm grasp on the letters.

The Spoiled Milk

Despite the above section, I don’t think this volume is up to par with the Luke and John volumes. While the ITT section is helpful, I thought it was lacking.

Davids gives it two long paragraphs on the Theology of Healing in James and despite saying that “James gives us the most explicit teaching about healing in the New Testament,” Davids doesn’t give us much to read about James’ idea of healing and the theology surrounding it in (the same goes with his Theology of Suffering section). With all the commentaries under his belt, I thought there should be more depth in the ITT sections (though some are very good).

I’m curious as to Davids’ resoning in distancing himself from accepting James’ conception and approval of the divinity of Jesus. Davids doesn’t deny that James may have thought of Jesus as divine, but he doesn’t explicitly affirm it either (pg 74, fn. 128; pg 75; 2.4.3). Davids acknowledges James’ confession of Jesus as “our glorious Lord, the Anointed One (2.1; cf. 1.1), and agrees that “since James does not discuss the topic [of Jesus’ divinity], we have no reason for saying that he did not believe in it” (74, fn. 128).

Yet it seems that what hinders Davids from giving a definitive answer is the date of the writing (if James would have been alive when the idea of Christ as divine was being thrown around) and the precision of scholarship in general. Perhaps we don’t have an explicit statement from James speaking of Christ as Son of God, nor a text on the Holy Spirit, but should we conclude that James is a binitarian who doesn’t think Jesus is divine?

But perhaps I’m the one who’s being too hard. And this issue does not cause the book nor the author’s arguments to fall apart. David’s has spent much more time studying the Bible than I have, he knows more about the history and Christological discussions of the time, and perhaps he did not have enough space to better formulate his meaning. But if James thought of Jesus as “divine-less,” how did this letter end up in the NT canon anyway?

Recommended?

If you are a teacher or a pastor who is going to be going through these four letters, this volume is for you. Regardless of some of the spoiled comments above, those issues are only minor. If I taught on a class on these general epistles I would use this book. Heavily. And I would consider getting Davids’ commentaries too. In fact, I’ll be reviewing his 2 Peter & Jude commentary in the PNTC series in a while, and I look forward to reading it. Despite a few questionable comments Davids has, he’s been studying these letters now for 40 some-odd years. You shouldn’t pass that up.

Lagniappe

  • Series:Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (October 21, 2014)
  • Amazon: US  //  UK

[Special thanks to Emily, Sarah, and Zondervan for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Isaiah’s Call: The Idolater’s Curse and Effect

In Rikk Watts’ Isaiah class, he says that chapter 6 of Isaiah is the theological hinge to the book.

Outline

  • 1.1-2.5: Introduction to Isaiah. A lawsuit is inaugurated on the basis of the Deuteronomy covenant/law code.
  • 2.6-5.30: On the basis of Israel’s present condition, a sentence is given. Judgment and salvation leads to…
  • 6.1-13: Yahweh’s appearing as the great King and Judge in his Temple. Isaiah is called to effect the sentence of ultimate sanction (with salvation for a remnant).
  • 7.1-9.7: The sanction inaugurated:
    • Syro-Ephraimite War
    • Judgment is brought on faithless Ahaz and salvation is brought through Yahweh’s Davidic prince – a contrast between kingships.

So Isaiah 6 is the commissioning call of the one who will implement the sentence of judgment on Israel. The blinding, deafening, and burning are all related to judgment on idolatry. Since Judah worships idols she will become as blind as they are, “hence she too will be burned in the fires of judgment, just as they are” (pdf handout, 55).

Structure of Isaiah 6

1. Vision (6.1-7):

The inescapable conflict between Yahweh’s “glory” and Israel’s “heavy” iniquity issues in Israel’s judgment.

  • Setting (vv1-4)
  • Purification (vv5-7)

2. Commission (6.8-13):

Isaiah’s purging with fire is to become Israel’s experience.

  • Commission (vv8-10)
  • Outcome (vv11-13)

Setting (vv1-4)

Isaiah 6 has been a famous Call to Christian Service” for many. Yet, as Watts rightly points out, this is not everybody’s call. Isaiah was called to preach, but nobody would listen. This is not the kind of call people dream of having. “I love it when nobody listens to me,” said by nobody.

This vision takes place in the year that Uzziah died. He has been the best king since Solomon, and there is plenty of uncertainty as to who will rule over Judah now. But Isaiah receives a vision of the true King of Heaven, and his heavenly council (see 1 Kings 22.19-28 where, like here, judgment is soon to be announced).

In contrast to “the haughtiness and self-examination of men” (2.11-14, p56), here it is YHWH, not Israel, who is high and lifted up. The attitude of the seraphim is one of reverence in God’s presence, covering their faces and feet and crying “Holy, holy, holy.” In contrast, Israel couldn’t care less about their sin. What Isaiah alone knows will soon be known by all.

Purification (vv5-7)

Isaiah identifies himself with Israel. Watts says the ‘unclean lips’ may be crucial because it indicates false confession (Exod 20.7). Perhaps Isaiah hasn’t grasped both the enormity of what it means to serve holy Yahweh and the enormity of Israel’s sin. It may be a metaphor for covenant unfaithfulness, that of Israel’s unclean confession (Isa 8.13).

The heated coal/stone is put on Isaiah’s lips, thus purifying his lips and rendering righteous confession. Isaiah’s purification is by fire. Israel too will be purified by the fires of trial and judgment.

Commission (vv8-10)

And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed (6.9-10).

Other translations soften the Hebrew text.

LXX

And he said, Go, and say to this people, Ye shall hear indeed, hut ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive. For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Qumram

“Seeing you will understand and your eyes will be appalled at the idolatry surrounding idolatry.”

Though we see they do give at least one interpretive clue as to Israel’s problem: idolatry. G. K. Beale says that Israel’s blindness and deafness is connected to their following of idols, and this is seen is Psalms 115 and 135.

Ps 115.2-11

Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
10  O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
11  You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.

Psalms 135

This psalm speaks of how the Lord does as he pleases. He has chosen Israel as his own possession. He is above all gods. He does what he pleases to do. In that we see his strength. He brings clouds, lightning, and rain. He struck down the firstborn of Egypt. He sent signs and wonder against Egypt. He struck down nations and kings and gave the land as a heritage to his possession Israel.

Yahweh deserves praise for he is good. He will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.

He is unlike the idols of silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have eyes, ears, noses, and mouths, but they do not see, hear, breath, or speak. Those who make and trust them become like them.

De-creation

Israel has rejected God for so long that it is as if God says, “You want to follow after your idols? So be it. I’ll give you what you want then. I will make you to be like your idols… blind, deaf, dumb, and heard-hearted.” So Yahweh ‘creates’ Israel in the image of the gods they worship. “The people will become like the very idols they worship – blind and deaf” (57).

There is a back-and-forth debate in Isaiah about the wisdom of trusting Yahweh. Israel thinks they can see. They think they have wisdom, but it’s based on “idolatrous catagories.” They think they are clever and wise to partner with Assyria, but God gives them over to their own wisdom. God here, in his judgment, gives Israel up (Rom 1.24) to their own wants and desires, their own idolatries (the nation’s chief sin, 1.29-31; 2.6ff).

In Deuteronomy 4.15-28 the “primary sin against the covenant is… idolatry” (57). The result is “utter destruction and exile among the nations” (Deut 29.22ff; 31.16-18).

Outcome (vv11-13)

Isaiah asks how long this will happen. Yahweh responds that the cities will be laid wate, and if there is a tenth remaining they will be burned again. Again? When was the first?

Isaiah 1.29-31

For they shall be ashamed of the oaks
that you desired;
and you shall blush for the gardens
that you have chosen.

For you shall be like an oak
whose leaf withers,
and like a garden without water.

And the strong shall become tinder,
and his work a spark,
and both of them shall burn together,
with none to quench them.

They shall be burned by their idolatries and by Yahweh’s judgments, just like their idolatrous trees. There is a stump that remains, and this might be a remnant, a holy seed. That might be the tenth (or ‘stump’) that remains. As this is already too long, in my next post we’ll look a bit at how Is 6.9-10 is brought over the the NT. If there is a remnant spoken of here in Isaiah, the NT Israel is it, and they are still idolatrous.

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