Book Review: Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (Köstenberger/Merkle/Plummer)

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (Deeper Greek) Review

Not long ago a series of commercials ran where a salesman of some kind was trying to sell an expensive product to a customer. The customer was at a loss because directly to the side of the expensive item was the same item a few dollars less. The point of the commercial was not to pay more when you could get the same thing for less.

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (KMP, an acronym of the authors’ surnames) is a catch-all kind of intermediate Greek grammar. The authors (Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merckle, and Robert Plummer) have written this grammar with the student (and their wallets) in mind. KMP has grammar and syntax, a chapter on textual criticism, and vocabulary and practice exercises with almost every chapter. There is a built-in reader with portions of Scripture for the student to work through and read “detailed notes to guide the student in interpreting each text” (5). Another feature to this grammar are the chapters (written by Plummer) on sentence diagramming, discourse analysis, word studies, and encouragement to continue with Greek. Since all of these features are found in this one book, why buy five books when you can save money and buy only one?

There are also helps to aid instructors with teaching and grading. At the Deeper Greek website teachers can find weekly quizzes, the midterm, the final, powerpoint presentations, and more.

Unfortunately, I am no expert at Greek. I haven’t even attended an elementary Greek class (I studied it this past summer to test into Greek Syntax). On the other hand, because I am the kind of person this book was written for, hopefully I can provide a helpful perspective. I am not a Greek scholar who has been working with these texts and syntactical ideas for years, nor am I a student at the end of his academic career. I am a beginning student being stretched and pushed into the deep end.1

Summary

First, besides being a catch-all intermediate grammar, KMP prepares you for Daniel Wallace’s deep end grammar (860 pgs versus KMP’s 550 pgs). In KMP you get 16 uses of the genitive; Wallace gives 33. I would much rather wade through KMP first, develop my sea legs, and then swim over to Wallace. That isn’t to say KMP is easy to read. In fact, I disagree from other reviewers who say that it is easy to read, or especially that it is extremely readable.2 Even the authors themselves acknowledge that their book, a grammar, is dry (“writing a Greek grammar is a dry affair,” 127, fn. 24).

Plummer’s chapters (1, 12-15) were the easiest to read, and I am not saying that simply because he was my teacher. Plummer teaches clearly, and it is also seen in his writing. Now, of his five chapters, only one deals specifically with Greek Grammar (12, prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs, and articles), which is easier to write about than verbal tense. However, in his endorsement, Tom Schreiner said that if it could be said that “a Greek grammar is a delight to read,” it “applies to this book.” I believe I would agree with that statement if more chapters could have been written by Plummer. As it stands now, the other chapters are dense and dry.

Speaking of Verb Tense and Aspect, there is a chapter (7) dedicated to it in this book. Ben Merckle writes about (1) verbal aspect, the author’s perspective on a given action, (2) the time of the action, and (3) the type of the action. This is an important chapter because the Greeks looks at the timing of verbs in a different way (e.g., aorist tense, imperfect tense, etc.) than we do (present tense, past tense, etc.). Knowing how this works is critical to proper interpretation. We can’t look at verbal words (infinitives, participles, etc.) as 21st century readers.

Though, in the end, I didn’t learn much more about Tense & Aspect than I did in the beginning section og David Alan Black’s Learn to Read NT Greek. An example of how aspect is analyzed on the discourse level in John 2.1–11 is given on page 235. Main verbs which carry the story forward are cast in the past perfective aspect (aorist tense-form). All throughout this paragraph I kept asking “Why?” Why is this important? Why is this happening, and what different does this make? Why is the presence of Jesus’ mother and of the six stone water jars “indicated by past tense forms of the verb εἰμι,” and why and how does it provide “important supporting material” while not “advancing the mainline of the narrative” (235)?

How do we know?

There are other times when a grammatical fact was given without explaining how we know that it is this way. How do we know when an adjective is elative instead of superlative (173)? Or that a positive or comparative is meant as a superlative (175)? Or how we know that an adverbial participle is one of cause (331) or condition (332)? Or how some participles can have an imperatival force (339).3 Of course, as you will probably be learning this in a classroom, you should ask your teacher about any matter which confuses you. But when it comes to reading the book on your own, students may be left frustrated and wondering how they can ever know they should translate a participle in a certain way.

There are two additions that I think would be helpful in a second edition. First, in Black’s Learn to Read NT Greek (mentioned above), his vocabulary lists would often have a Greek word such as χρόνος, provide the gloss (“time”), and then connect the gloss to a word the modern reader is already familiar with (chronology).4 When (and if) possible, this is better than whatever random pneumonic the student can think up to pass his vocabulary quiz.

Second, the vocabulary lists place the words in alphabetical order, but they give no distinction to verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, or conjunctions. More distinction between the parts of speech will help impress the vocabulary into the student’s mind.

Recommended?

Unlike Hebrew, Greek hasn’t quite clicked with me yet, and that may be why I found this book difficult whereas others will not. KMP is a better grammar than others, and it’s authors can be trusted, even if it takes time to understand all that they are saying. Greek, with it’s abundance of grammatical nuance, takes time to learn. Students who have the luxury of learning second-year Greek within an actual year will profit from this book. Students who have it in one semester, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, had better buckle up. Many of the examples given for the different syntactical categories have new words that the second-year Greek student will be unfamiliar with. As a result, these examples will be more difficult to learn if you don’t translate the sentences yourself (the sentences are already translated, but because there isn’t a 1-to-1 correspondence between Greek and English it is difficult to know how some words function). I would suggest buying the book far in advance and working through it immediately. You will learn much through that practice.

One note: While it may seem arduous, reading through KMP while marking the given examples in your Greek Bible is a helpful way to process the grammar of the text. If you only read this book cover to cover just to get through it, you will retain very little—if anything. The study of Greek is a lifelong process, and this book is a reference tool. Seeing the examples “in action” will help you to better understand and retain the information.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merckle, and Robert Plummer
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (June 1, 2016)
  • A Quick Chart for Intermediate Greek Grammar and Syntax

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.


1I am more of a Hebrew guy. The two Hebrew classes I had have been my favorite classes overall so far in seminary. I can spend hours in Isaiah (because that’s how long it takes) and enjoy it. Greek, on the other hand, hasn’t clicked yet.

2My wife had Greek Syntax in the spring and I had it this semester, and there were students in both of our classes who didn’t think this was an easy read either.

3On this last point, it is pointed out that some believe the participial form communicates a more gentle appeal than the imperative mood. Travis Williams is noted as having challenged that notion. Yet, aside from his push back, no other reason is given as to why we would translate the participle as an infinitive (cf. 1 Peter 3.1 ,7).

4Or τόπος = “place” (topography).

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: “Theology as Discipleship” (Johnson) & “Biblical Theology” (Goldingay)

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

When I say the word “ice cream,” what comes to your mind? Creamy smooth mint chocolate chip? Graeter’s Black Rasberry chcolate Chip? The feeling when it slides down your throat and cools your insides on a hot summer day? What do you think of when I say “theology”? Desks? Boring classrooms? An old professor talking about Paul’s missionary itinerary at 7 in the mourning?

Keith Johnson wants to put an end to that. God could have created a flat, cream-colored world where we ate creme-colored squares (tofu?) with our cream-colored, blockhead human next to us. Instead he gave us colors, mountains, valleys, blue skies, green grass, yellow perennials, and orange oak trees in the fall. He gave us Hawaii and Alaska; Iceland and Botswana; Germany and Colorado. He created men and women, blondes and redheads, tall and short. If theology is knowing God, and our God is this creative, why does theology often seem like licking dust?

Johnson makes his case from all of Scripture. After spending a chapter recovering theology, Johnson spends the first chapter showing how we serve the God who created the earth, came to earth in the flesh, died for his people, and was raised from the dead in a glorious new body as the first in the new creation. We have a place in God’s eternal plan, and we as Christians are united to this Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Chapter three goes into more detail about how to live in union with Christ by the power of his Spirit.

Chapter four explores God’s relationship to us through the text of the Bible and how we can interpret Scripture within the community of Jesus Christ. Chapter five describes what this kind of interpretation looks like. If it doesn’t lead us to love God and our neighbor more and to humble ourselves more, then we’re doing something wrong. This leads to chapter six which gives us a practical outworking of participating in the mind of Christ: our actions should be defined by obedience and humility.

Chapter seven gives nine aspects which should characterize theologians as they practice theology within the life and community of Jesus Christ.

Recommended?

TAD comes highly recommended, though with a caveat. Johnson hopes his books will be beneficial not only to the academy but also to pastors and laypeople (12). On the one hand, Johnson’s work is so steeped in theology that he draws together many aspects of God word and shows how we can participate in union with Christ while we live in this wilderness. However, for others, this language may not be simple enough for them. That’s the trouble with writing a book both for seminarians and laypeople, the crossover doesn’t always cross over. But, with attention and care, the person in the pew can find much to be pleased about in this book. I hope many will take the time to read this book and can be refreshed and encouraged over the God who we are joined with in Christ through the Spirit.

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord (Jer 9.23-24).

Lagniappe

  • Author: Keith L. Johnson
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (December 9, 2015)
  • Book Excerpt: What difference does theology make to our lives?

Buy it from Amazon

(Special thanks to IVP Academic for sending me this book!)

bt-goldingay

This is the first book by Goldingay that I’ve ever read. Before this, I’ve heard that he’s an evangelical who sits on the border of the nonevangelical world. Given that, I just never bothered to read him. While I can’t speak for his other works, I was pleasantly surprised with his new Biblical Theology. More often than not I could nod in agreement.

Goldingay reminds me a bit of Leithart in that, even in this academic work, Goldingay really shows in his work. When I read a Leithart book, Leithart’s name wouldn’t even need to be on the cover and I can tell it was written by Leithart. Leithart exudes from his own writing. It looks like Goldingay is the same, and I like it.

This work is a biblical theology, but not in how I expected it to be. When I looked at the Table of Contents, this sure looked like a work of systematic theology to me, but Goldingay assures the reader it is not. “When a theology student in his first term [semester] heard that I was writing a biblical theology, he inferred that it was therefore a systematic theology. It isn’t. Systematic theology works out the implications of the Scriptures in a way that makes sense in it’s author’s own context, using the categories of thought that belong to that context” (15).

Outline

In Goldingay’s Biblical Theology, everything revolves around God.

  1. God’s Person   [his character]
  2. God’s Insight   [his Scriptures]
  3. God’s Creation   [his world and all that is in it]
  4. God’s Reign   [his kingdom]
  5. God’s Anointed   [his Son]
  6. God’s Children   [his people]
  7. God’s Expectations [his people’s way of living]
  8. God’s Triumph   [his story’s fulfillment]

Each chapter has 3-6 sections, each having their own numerous subsections. Each of these sections and subsections don’t give a full-blown look at what all of the Scriptures say, but different from the book-by-book biblical theologies that have been coming out, Goldingay draws together central elements of the story (in a systematic way?) and fleshes out the story (in a biblical theological way). It’s quite interesting, quite different, and I think many could learn from what he’s doing here.

Recommended?

 For those who’ve read enough biblical theologies, this might be handy to pick up I don’t think you’ll learn much “new,” but the way Goldingay writes might be enough to draw you in. This is recommended, but it won’t fall at the top of my list for biblical theologies. I would still assign any of the theologies by Tom Schreiner, Jim Hamilton, Geerhardus Vos, and Graeme Goldsworthy and here (see also Alexander, Gentry/Wellum, their bigger volumeBeale, Kaiser) first, because I know more of what they say in general. There was a lot I agreed with, but there were parts of Goldingay’s BT that I didn’t agree with, though generally nothing more than a few sentences were said. The first example isn’t as serious as the other two. For example, he seems to hold to the New Perspective on Paul (pp. 114-118), says that Daniel didn’t author Daniel (pp. 229-230), and says that in God’s house with many rooms we may meet people “who have not believed in Jesus. . . . Perhaps you will, perhaps you won’t; the Scriptures don’t address that question (p. 547).

Still, I was intrigued, and I was glad to learn a bit about Goldingay himself along the way. I hope more authors will take a similar tac(k/t) and show more of themselves in their own writings. Let the reader understand the man behind the curtain.

  • Author: John Goldingay
  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 20, 2016)

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Why is the Ethiopian Eunuch so important?

Horse

I’ve been reading Alan J. Thompson’s latest volume in the NSBT series titled The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus (my review of it here). In chapter 3, Israel and the Gentiles: the kingdom and God’s promises of restoration, he points out that Acts 1.6-8 says a lot about how the book of Acts will play out. Throughout his book Thompson shows how the kingdom of God is seen throughout Acts, how Acts continues the themes from Luke’s Gospel, and how Acts tells us that God keeps his covenant promises.

In Acts 1.6 the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus answers them in verses 7-8, and many people find his answer to be an odd one. Though I can’t get into it now, Thompson believes and gives evidence for the position that the disciples did understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God (Acts 1.3). The disciples ask about the kingdom of God and Israel in 1.6, and he answers them in 1.7-8.

In 1.8 Jesus gives three phrases which reflect the OT:

  • ‘when the Holy Spirit comes upon you’ (Isa 32.15)
    • This refers to the “end of the desolation of Judah and the coming of the new age with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit” (107)
  • ‘you will be my witnesses’ (Isa 43.12)
    • God’s people will be transformed, now that he is the only God and Savior, and will be his witnesses to an unbelieving world around them.
  • ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Isa 49.6)
    • A Servant representing Israel will restore Israel, and this restoration will include Gentiles (Isa 49.6 is also used in Acts 13.47, where Paul and Barnabas explain their reasoning for reaching out to Gentiles).

God will rebuild the Davidic Kingdom “through the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to the throne of David (2:30-33), the pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit of the last days (2:16-17), the ingathering of the exiles of Israel (2:5, 9-11) and the repentance and turning to the Lord of Israel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, which unite under one Davidic King (2:38-47; 4:4; 8:4-25)” (116).

Outcasts

In Acts 8.26-40, Philip comes across an “Ethiopian,” a “eunuch,” a “court official,” although after 8.27 the man is only referred to as a eunuch. Why a eunuch of all titles? Thompson shows that Luke says four things about this eunuch:

  • v34, ’the eunuch’ asks Philip about a passage of Scripture (Isa 53.7-8)
  • v36, ‘the eunuch’ asks about baptism
  • v38, ‘the eunuch’ is baptized by Philip
  • v39, ‘the eunuch’ did not see the vanished Philip again “but went on his way rejoicing” (116).

Fly Away

Luke emphasizes the fulfillment of Isaiah throughout Acts (Acts 1.8; 8.34 quoting Isa 53.7-8; Acts 13.47; and in many more places). While the eunuch is reading Isaiah 53, it is in Isaiah 56 where we see God’s promises for the eunuch. “Isaiah 56 looks forward to the time of God’s salvation when the exclusion of those with defects from the assembly of God’s people in [Deut] 32:1-7 will be overturned“ (117).


Isa 56.3 says, “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’”

In 56.5 the Lord tells the eunuchs, “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”


The Lord will give joy to those who love and worship him (56.7-8). 56.8 ties the gathering together of Israel with the gathering together of foreigners, including eunuchs. Here in Acts 8, the “despised and rejected” eunuch is reading about the “humiliation and ministry of this despised and rejected Servant” (117).

“All the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Cor 1.20). All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. Israel looked forward to the physical resurrection, and it happened in Christ Through Christ’s resurrection Israel was and is being gathered together with Gentiles included, as the one people of God. Christ “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two” (Eph 2.14-15). Christ, seated at the right hand of God, rules and reigns now, and we are to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Baptize

IV. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

BambergApocalypseFolio047vJubilationOverFallOfBabylon

Grapes of Wrath

YHWH plants grapes. He dug up the ground himself. He cleared the stones. He planted his vineyard with choice vines. He built a watchtower in the midst of it. He made a wine vat for the fruits of his labor. Isa 5.2 says, “He looked for it to yield grapes.” So Yahweh waits, “and gets stinkers” (Watts, Lecture 3). In fact his vineyard “yielded wild grapes” (5.2). Watts says, “This woman is a gold-digger. She’s been taking extraordinary gifts, yet her response is appalling” (Lecture 3).

Yahweh owns this vineyard. Is he to blame? No, he’s done everything correctly. He’s no ordinary farmer. In 5.6, he controls the rain. And since this vineyard has failed to produce good fruit (Matt 12.33), he won’t let it rain. He “looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!“ (5.7).

Six Woes (5.8-23)

There are Six Woes on Judah which I will very briefly describe.

First Woe: Judgment on Greed (vv8-10)

The people join houses and fields to kick others off the land. The year of Jubilee came around every 50 years to make sure the people had a stake in the land. If these idolatrous people have there way, everyone will be alone. They will lose their land, and it will remain unfruitful.

Second Woe: Judgment on Decadence (vv11-17)

For these people, their life is filled with pleasure. They have no understanding of God. They have no spiritual perception. They do not regard his deeds or his works (5.12). They will go into exile. They will hunger and thirst. They will be the first course on Sheol’s menu. In being like the nations, they get a similar judgment (this is why the judgment on Jerusalem in Is 22 falls in the midst of the judgments on other nations. If Jerusalem becomes like these nations, they will receive the same judgments).

Third Woe: Judgment on Cynicism (vv18-19)

“They mock God’s work, but they drag their cartload of sin” (Lecture 3).

Fourth Woe: Judgment on Moral Anarchy (v20)

They call evil good and good evil. They think siding with Assyria is a good thing!

Fifth Woe: Judgment on Self-Reliant Wisdom (v21)

Yahweh isn’t against learning nor a good education, but he had better be at the center. They have no fear of the Lord, so they have no wisdom

Sixth Woe: Judah’s Might and Strength (vv22-23)

These supposed heroes are “only great warriors at the bar” (Lecture 3). They don’t care for people. “It’s a great mark of a man who can get plastered at the bar” (Lecture 3).

“Therefore” (5.24-30)

As fire devours dry grass (v24), these people have rejected God’s Word and God is able to destroy mountains and people (v25). And He will do it by nations far away.

The Vineyard in the NT

In Mark 12 Jesus is telling the Parable of the Vineyard (or of the Wicked Tenants) to the Jewish leaders. After his condemnation of the tenants who killed the prophets, those tenants are so greedy that they kill the Son too so that they can receive the inheritance. They kill him and threw him out of the vineyard. Unburied. A shameful death. In v9 Jesus says, “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

Matthew 21 is even more telling. Here in v41 it is the Jewish leaders themselves who answer Jesus. “They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.’” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.”

The tenants will not receive their inheritance for they have rejected Jesus. They perceived that he was speaking about them. They wanted to kill him. Did they know Jesus was the Son in this parable? It’s highly likely. My points is that the tenants were not producing fruit, so the kingdom of God would be taken away and given to a people who would produce fruit. In Matthew 24 Jesus foretells of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3.10). These leaders have rejected God’s word and God will destroy them by a nation not too far away (Rome in 70 AD).

Who are these people who will produce good fruit?

In John 15 Jesus describes himself as the “True Vine” (just as he is the true firstborn). “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (15.2, 4b, 5b-6). The disciples are commanded to love one another. They are told that Jesus chose them (like Yahweh chose Israel to be a pleasing vineyard) so that they “should go and bear fruit” (15.16).

Those who bear fruit are the disciples of Jesus, you, me, and everyone who professes Jesus as their Saviour and King. We can trust him to care for us and to produce fruit in our lives. “Any God who will die on a cross for me while I am yet his enemy will not play fast and loose with my life now that I am his friend” (Rikk Watts, Isaiah).


Thanks for sticking around. Tomorrow is my final post on Watts Isaiah class. It will be the review of his class.

III. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

BambergApocalypseFolio034vLambOnMtSion (1)

Following the Golden Nugget series on Watt’s Isaiah class, here is part three with a few more nuggets of information.

Parables of Hardness

If you’ve seen my posts on Virginity in Isaiah, Isaiah is told to preach so that people don’t see, hear, do (Isa 6.9-10). Afterward he gives King Ahaz a parable, and KA rejects God’s word (7.12-13). Then, upon rejecting God, God’s judgment will come upon Ahaz and Judah (see my previous posts for more info).

We have a pattern: Parables -> Don’t Listen? -> Judgment

In Mark 4.3, upon telling his first parable here, Jesus commands the people to “Listen!” Jesus then speaks about “hearing” 8 times, and Mark gives an extra ninth at the end of the chapter. Those who don’t listen will be judged. After this Jesus cleanses the “ritually unclean”: a demon possessed tomb raider, a hemorrhaging woman, and raises a dead girl. In Mark 7 Jesus is confronted by some too-much-hand-sanitizer Pharisees who have a bone to pick with his disciples’ washing habits.

Jesus responds by saying, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” (7.6, quoting Is 29.13).

Paul, in 2 Cor 3.14 speaks about the minds of the Israelites being hardened against God.  The only other use of pōroō (‘hardened’) by Paul is in Rom 11.7-8, “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened (“pōroō”), as it is written, [and quoting Is 29.10-12 and Deut 29.2-4] “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” Israel denied God in the days of Moses, in the days of the prophets, and in the days of Jesus. God poured out a spirit of stupor on them so that they would be hardened.

The sealed book in Isa 29 is the Law of Moses, and it is veiled (Ex 34; 2 Cor 3). The people don’t understand the real meaning of the Law, or of God’s Commands, or of his Promises, because they don’t have Faith (2 Cor 3.14-15). When the Law is read in the synagogue, the true meaning remains hidden.

All throughout Mark Jesus has been teaching “not Sabbath keeping, but people keeping” (Watts). In Isa 1.11, the people are “kissing butt.” They’re brown-nosers (as a kid I always wondered where this phrase came from. It really shouldn’t take too long to figure out). They’ve intensified their religious activity. They’re praying more and giving more sacrifices. But the Lord is tired of it. Perhaps they should be caring for people more.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem in Mark 11. His authority is challenged in the end of Mark 11 and throughout Mark 12. When we arrive at the story of the widow, “If anything condemns the Temple, it’s that” (Watts). Here we have a magnificently wealthy center of worship, fantastic offerings, and yet the people don’t notice the widow. They aren’t loving their neighbour. They don’t “see” (in the sense of understanding and acting in love) that she is poor and in need of their help. They’d rather defer to the rich. And yet she gives more than the rest of them, for she trusts God. Unlike the rest, she isn’t showing off (Matt 6.1-4).

Isa 1.3 reads, “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Dumb beasts can’t read or write, but they know food. Israel does not know who provides life, nor does the rest of unbelieving humanity (1 Cor 1.19, quoting Isa 29.14; 1 Cor 2.9, quoting Isa 64.4).

A Double Portion

Isaiah 40:2 says, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

That sounds pretty harsh. Yet to gain some insight into this we need to look at other biblical passages. Amos 3.2 speaks of Israel’s special status, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Israel is called God’s “firstborn son” in Exodus 4.22.

Of the firstborn Deuteronomy 21.17 says, “But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.” As Israel is Yahweh’s firstborn son, they are receiving the double portion of all of their sins.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Isaiah 61:7 says about those who mourn in Zion (61.3), “Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.”

Jesus quotes Isa 61.1-2a in Luke 4.18-19. Jesus is the true firstborn Son who does what the other firstborn’s (Adam, Israel).could not do. He brings the good news to the poor by dying for the,. He proclaims liberty to the captives. He gives to those who mourn in Zion a double portion of everlasting joy. He is the one who lived perfectly. It is in him that believers will receive a double portion of everlasting joy (Isa 35.10; 51.11).


Come back tomorrow for one more nugget on Isaiah 5, the song of the vineyard, and the vineyard in the New Testament.

II. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

BambergApocalypseFolio047vJubilationOverFallOfBabylon

Following the Golden Nugget series on Watt’s Isaiah class, here are a few more “nuggets” of information.

John 9 and the Works of God

How are the works of God displayed in this blind man? Why didn’t Jesus say “So that my works might be displayed in this man”?

In Isa 42 the Servant of the Lord has been called in righteousness (v6). He will be given as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations (9.2; 2 Cor 4.6). He will open the eyes of the blind (Isa 42.6). In Isa 42.16 Yahweh says, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.“

So who heals the blind? Yahweh? Or the Servant? God the Father does it through God the Son, Jesus Christ, showing his deity as the servant who would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. More so, Isa 42.9 says, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare.” This paralleled with the new heavens and new earth (Isa 65.17), believers as new creations (2 Cor 5.17), and the consummation of the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21.4b-5).

Jesus is doing something new here in John 9. Not only is he healing the blind, this man sees the light! When every one fumbles their words before the Pharisees, this man stands boldly against them. This doesn’t know much about Christ, but he knows what Christ has done for him. He was blind, but now he can see. We might wonder why Jesus doesn’t come to this man’s rescue during the confrontation with the Pharisees, but once this man is cast out, Jesus appears to him. Perhaps those who deny Jesus’ works before man (i.g., the Pharisees) won’t be able to “see” or be with Jesus. John 9.39, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’

Swallow Your Pride

In Isa 3.16-4.1, the very things the people relied on, God takes it away. The people are so prideful in their luxuries that God lays bare their secret parts (3.16-17). “In that day” the Lord takes away their jewelries and earthly joys (vv18-23). Instead of perfume, a belt, well-set hair, a rich robe, and beauty, he gives them rottenness, a rope, baldness, a skirt of sackcloth, and branding (v24). The men shall die in battle, and the city will mourn and lament. Seven women will grab hold of a man and beg to have his name instead of theirs. Their names are full of reproach, and they need someone to take it away.

And while their guides mislead them and swallow them up, leading them to death (the blind leading the blind [Matt 15.14]), one day the Lord will “swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’”

When does this finally happen? When are the enemies finally erased? Revelation 21.4,8, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Just as Egypt was “swallowed up” by the Red Sea in the great exodus event, so will death be “swallowed up” by the Lord at the end of our exodus event when we are finally in the fulfilled new heavens and new earth.


Come back tomorrow for a parable of hardness and a double portion of sin.

I guess that really doesn’t sound very inviting, does it?

I. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

sm_20-crowned-elders

Since the book of Isaiah is so large, I simply can’t write down half of what I’ve learned in Watt’s Isaiah class. Simply, there would be too much to say. Instead, over the course of the next few days, I’ve decided to write out a few “nuggets” of information, some larger, some smaller. I hope this benefits you as it does me.


The One Who Shows Compassion

In Isaiah, it is the Lord Yahweh who shows compassion to people. This is seen in texts like Isa 9.17; 14.1; 27.11; 49.13, 15; 54.7, 8, 10; 55.7; 63.7, 15. In the Gospels, aside from two texts (Lk 10.33; 15.20), Jesus is the one who shows compassion on others (Matt 9.36; 14.14; 15.32; Mk 6.34; 8.2; 9.22; Lk 7.13).

In Luke 10.33 Jesus tells the parable of the ‘good’ Samaritan who has compassion on the injured man. The point here is that the man “desiring to justify himself” (10.29) is to be like Jesus and show compassion on all, even his enemies, for all are his neighbour. And in Luke 15.20 the father (representing God the Father) shows compassion on his prodigal son. After all of his partying (15.13), the son receives another (and better) party from his merciful father (15.22-23).


The One Who Forgives

In Isaiah 33 the “destroyer” and “traitor” has “not been destroyed.” But God’s people wait for the Lord. He is their arm and strength “every morning (vv1-2). When the Lord lifts himself up there is a “tumultuous noise” where people flee and nations scatter (vv2-3). The Lord’s spoil is leapt upon (v4).

In vv 10-12 the Lord announces that he will “now arise” and lift himself up. The best his enemies can do is give birth to fleeting chaff and stubble. Their own breath is a fire that will consume them. In vv14-16 the godless sinners in Zion tremble and ask, ““Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?” The answer? “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure” (vv15-16).

Jerusalem will be “an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken” (v20). Yet “your (i.e., the enemies, rebels) cords hang loose” (v23). The Lord in his majesty will be for his people. He is our judge, our lawgiver, our king, and he will save (v21-22).

An abundance of prey and spoil will be divided, and “even the lame will take the prey” (even the lame will “leap” upon the spoil [v4]). And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick.” The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity (v23-24).

So the lame will walk and sins will be forgiven. Zion will be made pure. This is the main theme of Isaiah. In Isaiah we see “God’s plan of how He’s going to get a Jerusalem full of bloodshed and murder, and transform them into a true city of the great King that reflects his character that becomes a light to the nations and carries out and effects Israel’s initial call as a blessing to the people” (Watts, Lecture 1).

What happens at the end of Isaiah? Yahweh promises to create a new “Jerusalem,” one that is “to be a joy” (65.18).

The New Testament

When we look at Mark 2, what does Jesus do?

Mark 2.5-7, “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” Jesus then heals the lame man and at the same time forgives his sins. The scribes think Jesus is blaspheming for two reasons:

  1. In their minds, Jesus isn’t God.
  2. Forgiveness isn’t proclaimed in houses, but in the Temple (on that point, see Jn 2.18-22; Heb 7.22-8.3; 9.7, 25-28).

Here, Jesus does what Yahweh promised to do: he heals and forgives. The lame man and his friends had faith. The scribes did not. The ex-lame man and his friends will be in the future New Creation. The scribes, if left to their own devices, being blind of Jesus’ deity, will not.


God’s Concern in Isaiah

God’s concern in Isaiah isn’t about getting us out of here.
It’s about constructing communities that actually look like God’s people.

It isn’t about abandoning creation.
It’s about transforming it through alternative communities where peace and justice happens under a different kind of King.

It isn’t about how you get to heaven.
It’s about how heaven gets here (Rev 21-22).

If people put something in God’s place, He will give them what they want. God gives people over to their idolatries, and it will be a judgment to them. Just read Romans 1.18-32. People become like what they worship.


Come back tomorrow for John 9 and the works of God, along with Swallowing Up.

What really is this “partnership in the Gospel”?

Basics For Believers, Philippians

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”
 – Philippians 1:3-6

What does fellowship (or partnership, as some translations have it) in the Gospel look like? What’s the difference between a friendship and a partnership? Is it like a Limited Liability Partnership (you’re regretting that I went to school for business) where each person is liable over their own misconduct and responsibilities? “You do your own thing, I’ll do mine?

If that’s a partnership, then what is fellowship? If I hang out with the unsaved, it’s friendship. If I spend time with other Christians, then it’s fellowship? Bring over some cake and it’s fellowship. Forget the cake and it’s only hanging out?

In D. A. Carson’s Basics For Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, he shows that in the first century, the word “partnership” had a business connotation to it:

If John and Harry buy a boat and start a fishing business, they have entered into a fellowship, a partnership. Intriguingly, even in the New Testament the word is often tied to financial matters. Thus, when the Macedonian Christians send money to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem, they are entering into fellowship with them (Rom. 15: 26). The heart of true fellowship is self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision” (Kindle Locations 104-108).

What is of most importance? The central vision we have to Christ which calls forth and demands our commitment. 

“So when Paul gives thanks, with joy, because of the Philippians’ ‘partnership in the gospel” or “fellowship in the gospel,” he is thanking God that these brothers and sisters in Christ— from the moment of their conversion (“ from the first day until now,” Paul writes)— rolled up their sleeves and got involved in the advance of the gospel. They continued their witness in Philippi, they persevered in their prayers for Paul, they sent money to support him in his ministry— all testifying to their shared vision of the importance and priority of the gospel. That is more than enough reason for thanking God” (Kindle Locations 110-115).

And this leads into what Paul says in v6, “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul could see the difference in their lives. He saw real fruit from their faith. He saw an actual, genuine faith that didn’t sit back with fire insurance in-hand, but got up and did something. Because God is preserving them, they will persevere.

Paul isn’t sitting back, basking in the nostalgia of the television programs they attached together, the sports games they played, or the barbecue’s their families shared together (though those are all fine things in and of themselves). His focus was on how God was moving in their lives, changing them to be more more like His Son: servants.

So what do our conversations look like? How do we speak to one another? In what manner do we speak about others when they aren’t around us? Are we really living out what we say we believe? Do we care about each other’s growth in our relationship with Christ? Does every conversation have to be about church? No, but we should want to advance the gospel, not just to the unsaved, but in our own lives and in the lives of others as well.

Do we merely hang out because we get along? “I’ll put up with you for an hour just to make Jesus happy.” Are we really partnered together in the Gospel, or is our church just another social gathering?