A Scholar’s Devotion with Jason DeRouchie

Going through seminary, students are taught to study the Bible and uphold its doctrines about God while also being encouraged not to neglect their devotional times with God. Yet during my own devotional time I, and probably many others, often ask, “Is this approach the best way to grow spiritually, or is there a better way? What could I do differently? Should I incorporate my studies with my devotions?”  

Each week, I ask a different scholar two questions about how he or she spends time with the Lord and continues to love him with all their mind, strength, and heart. While no one method or style is “the only way,” we can draw on one another’s experiences. 

This week, I have asked Dr. Jason DeRouchie if he would share his thoughts with us.

1. How do you spend your devotional time with the Lord? 

My morning quiet time with the Lord is fuel for my day. I have grown to see that only when I am filled with the Spirit through the Word can I be sure that when I am shaken, the Spirit will pour forth.

Following the Kingdom Bible Reading Plan and using my ESV with the Hebrew and Greek texts near by, I usually start my Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday by reading three-four chapters from the Bible (one from the Law, Prophets, Writings, and New Testament, respectively). I seek to be prayerful, and my quest is to see and savor more of God in Christ. When I have fresh insights or raise questions that need answers, I add them into an Evernote journal or place them directly into my seminary Old Testament Background and Message notes. This journey through Scripture is more reading for distance than for depth. At times (usually once per month), I will pause on these days to dig deeply into a passage that I will be preaching/teaching to my Sunday School class over the next several weeks. When I do this, I will use my Hebrew text to track the author’s flow-of-thought (phrasing and arcing using www.biblearc.com) and then establish a message-driven, exegetical outline that is faithful to the whole. After a day or two of digging deeper for gold in this way, I will usually go back to raking the surface, saving my more developed weekend preparation for early Sunday morning. Wednesdays I usually teach early, and I use that my morning time to ready my heart and head for whatever I am sharing that day.

Along with regular Bible reading, I use Todoist to guide a lot of my prayers. I pray daily for family members, friends, leaders, institutions, and global missionaries, and my calendar allows me to intentionally rotate through them all at least once per month. Often I do this praying in my journey to and from the gym or during my 30 minute commute to work at Bethlehem.

Finally, I sustain a semi-frequent pattern of Bible memory, usually switching between shorter portions (single paragraphs or chapters) and more extended portions (four chapters). I then review while driving. I have found that anything greater than four chapters is difficult for me to memorize and practice faithfully, so this has been my memorization cap. To memorize I follow this pattern: (1) Recite yesterday’s added material 10x; recite today’s new material 10x; (3) review all material including the new material 1x; (4) progress ahead until all is memorized and I have generally recited the complete amount every day for a 100 days. This pattern seems to help me retain memorized passages fairly well, and then I review them periodically.

2. How do you practically seek to deepen your love for Christ? 

I know that I will find the Lord most when I seek him (Prov 8:17; Jer 29:13; Matt 7:7) and that I will be filled with the Spirit of Christ most when I am matching prayer and hearing the Word with faith, most especially in the context of community (Gal 3:2, 5; Eph 5:15–21; Col 3:16–17). I also know that my heart will be wherever my treasure is (Matt 6:21). As such, I seek to deepen my love for Christ (1) through prayerful asking for more of his presence and for greater dependence, love, wisdom, and protection; (2) through repetitive time in the Word with expressed desire to see and savor more of Christ, and (3) through regular corporate worship where I am both participant and leader and where I consciously express my hope to see and savor Jesus. My wife and I have also sought to lead our family to increasingly treasure the divine Son as the center of the universe––the one by whom, through whom, and for whom are all things (Col 1:16), whether coffee or cancer, ice cream or ice storms, rising or falling, laughing or crying. This pattern of repetitive pointing and noticing and verbalizing both the supremacy and value of Christ (Deut 6:4–7) helps nurture deeper love for him in this man, husband, father, pastor, professor, and scholar.


Dr. Jason DeRouchie is Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary and is an elder at Bethlehem Baptist ChurchHe has written How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About, A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, and he blogs here

Thank you, Dr. DeRouchie!

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Book Review: The Fear of the Lord is Wisdom (Tremper Longman)

Fear of the Lord is Wisdom Tremper Longman

What is wisdom? Is it knowledge to be well-applied? Is it ethical? Theological? Proverbs mentions the Lord, but is it more like a “Confuscious says” kind of idea which anyone can use, even pagans? In his book, Tremper Longman (the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College) believes that the heart of wisdom is “the fear of the Lord.” Throughout his book, Longman, who has written numerous books and commentaries on wisdom literature, engages in “canonical interpretation” (181). No biblical book is an island, but each is to be interpreted among the rest in the canon. Thus Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job must agree. Even if there are major differences, there is no discord among them. Even more, “the Lord” in Proverbs is the covenantal God of Israel—Yahweh. To fear him is to know him and follow him within a covenantal relationship.

Section one looks at Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job (abbreviated as PEJ from now on), which, though wisdom literature, have their differences. Yet we must read them together to know God’s teaching about wisdom.

Proverbs—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” with fear meaning to acknowledge God in all of his greatness and majesty. Our very “existence depends on him” (12). This fear does not make us run, but “makes us pay attention and listen” (13) and it leads to obedience. Wisdom is both ethical and theological. Because of who God is, we stand and listen and obey. Woman Wisdom represents God, and Woman Folly represents the false gods (for the gods live on the highest hills, cf. Prov 9.3, 14). So, in the second part of Proverbs (10-31), even when God is not mentioned the proverbs remain theological. For example, to be wise is to obey and honor one’s parents (10.1) for it means you are properly worshiping and honoring God (Exod 20.12).

There are two speakers (and two messages) in Ecclesiastes. The first is Qohelet (taken to be “a literary construct… to get the reader to think about the meaning of life”), the second is a father speaking to his son, with his perspective being the correct one (36). For Qohelet, God has set eternity in our hearts, yet we do not understand “when the right time occurs” (33). We do not know what God is doing from beginning to end. Yet Proverbs teaches that the wise man does know the proper time to apply certain proverbs. Rather, the father (at the end of the book) gives his son an “above the sun” look at life. Human wisdom comes up empty in the end, but fearing God leads to life.

Job—most of this chapter is a summary of key points throughout Job. Job’s three friends repeat a retributive theological argument ad nauseum. The argument never changes nor develops, the volume just gets turned up. Longman says that Job is not about theodicy, or how to persevere through suffering, it is a debate over wisdom, “and Job’s suffering is the occasion for the debate” (47). In fact, Job agrees to the friends’ retribution theology. Job’s take: he is blameless, but since he is suffering, God must be unjust. He admits that wisdom is hidden from all, even the sea and death don’t know where it is. Wisdom is found in God alone (28.28), and after Job meets God, the reader sees that submission is one’s proper response to God within a relationship with him.

Part two looks at wisdom sayings (ch 4) in Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Song of Songs, in the prophetic literature. Deuteronomy and the Psalms bring together (God’s) law and (God’s) wisdom, and the prophets show that having the law doesn’t equal having wisdom. Rather, fearing and knowing God and following his law bring wisdom. The Song of Songs, though not “wisdom” literature per se, connects with Proverbs in an ethical and practical way—love and be faithful to your own spouse.

Longman tries to cover a lot of ground in thirteen pages in chapter four, which, while leaving me wanting more, it also left me feeling quite empty. When talking about the prophets he spends a lot of time quoting examples but only gives brief statements about true wisdom and how they emphasized knowing God rightly. Those brief statements were often swallowed up by the many biblical quotations; it seemed to be a rehearsal of much of the text (though not completely).

In chapter six Longman views both Joseph’s wise actions in light of PEJ and Daniel’s wisdom in light of Proverbs. They were figures of wisdom. Part two ends with chapter 7, a look at Adam and Solomon who both had wisdom but who instead both chose folly. The king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 thought himself to be wise but was compared to prideful Adam. For both Adam and the king of Tyre, submission to God in all matters is wisdom lived out.

Part three observes the source of wisdom (ch 7). Is it revelation? Ultimately, wisdom comes from God. Proverbs testifies to the ten commandments, and even though Proverbs utilizes some Egyptian proverbs, ultimately the Egyptians were fools because they did not fear Yahweh. “All truth is God’s truth,” and to follow God and his instructions is wise.

In chapter eight, God in his wisdom created an ordered cosmos, and the more we discover the more wisdom we gain in living this life as his dependent creatures. Yet this ordered world is also a fallen one, and even the wisest of persons can, and might end up, in desperation due to the pervasiveness of evil. “The world is warped; we are warped,” and the ordered world, and especially its disordered citizens, does not always follow its order like we expect it to (142). Yet there is hope amid the frustration. Jesus, who experienced the world’s frustration, has brought redemption through his death and resurrection, and a new creation is coming our way where all vanity/frustration will be cleared away.

The rest of part three sets wisdom literature within its cultural ANE context (ch 9), and examines the relationship between wisdom, law, and covenant (ch 10). God’s law expresses how his covenant people should live.

In part four, Longman mines Proverbs for a retributive theology (ch 11). Job clearly teaches against it, but so many verses in Proverbs state that if one does/not do x, he will/not gain y (185). Doesn’t this sound like prosperity teaching? Yet Job was blameless but received suffering, and Qohelet sees injustice in the midst of righteousness. Proverbs are not promises, and Job and Ecclesiastes are “offering a corrective to a misreading of Proverbs” (186).

In chapter twelve, Longman then searches to see if there was a group/class of sages or a school of wisdom in Israel, and asks how a woman is to read the book of Proverbs which seems directed mostly to males (ch 13, see my post).

Part five looks at wisdom in the apocryphal books and Dead Sea Scrolls (ch 14) and in the NT writings (ch 15). Jesus is compared to Woman Wisdom, specifically that found in Proverbs 8. In Proverbs 8 (and all of 1–9 where she is mentioned) Woman Wisdom is a poetic personification, but one that is not a prophecy to be fulfilled (by Jesus or anyone else). Jesus embodies God’s wisdom, but he does not fulfill all of the details of Proverbs 8.

The book ends with two appendices—(A1) wisdom in the twenty-first century; (A2) is wisdom literature a genre? Appendix 1 brings some good application and perspective to living in today’s world. Longman believes that the Christian counselor is the best example of an OT sage. He or she must know Scripture well and be able to apply it, must have a good relationship with God, and ought to be able to, with practice, insightfully figure people out as they counsel them and then apply God’s real-world wisdom to their lives—practical, ethical, and theological wisdom.

Recommended?

As he notes in his book, the idea of wisdom has been given short shrift for a long time. It’s something that been likened to something stodgy old people have who have learned from their mistakes but they don’t want to admit they had fun doing it. Or some see it as having mass quantities of knowledge, like living in the ivory tower and waxing eloquently with every word. Instead, as Longman believes, it is EQ: emotional (and social) intelligence. It is knowing how to live in this world among its people, knowing how to serve them well, and how to survive this life without being ruined (at least by our own foolishness). Pastors, teachers, and students would be well served by Longman’s treatments.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker 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.

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

Book Review: The Lost World of the Flood (Longman and Walton)

The Lost World of the Flood Longman Walton

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (Matthew 4.8)

…And distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house. (2 Sam 6.19)

And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. (Gen 7.19)

Was the Flood a local flood or a global flood? Does the Bible every use hyperbole? If so, can we still consider it inerrant? Does the physical earth show proof of a global flood? If it doesn’t, does the Bible remain trustworthy? Can it be possible that a local flood is hyperbolically represented as covering the whole earth to represent God cleansing the whole earth and starting over? That is what Tremper Longman and John Walton argue for in The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate.

The authors argue that rather than using Mesopotamian flood sources, the Israelites sat within a “cultural river” of beliefs on the flood. The authors believe a flood really did happen, as can be seen in the writings of many cultures (e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh). However, they don’t believe in a worldwide flood, and we can’t know which flood lays behind the Noah story.

Yet doesn’t Genesis 7–8 state that the whole world was covered by water (7.21; 8.9). Enter part one (method): “perspectives in interpretation.” The Bible is an “ancient document,” which means very old. This is obvious, but it is easy to forget that people thousands of years ago thought differently than us moderns. When it comes to storytelling and history, since nobody wants to hear every detail, certain aspects must be carried along while others are left behind. Genesis uses rhetorical devices to interpret history for us. God shaped and fashioned an ordered creation; man corrupted it and brought disorder.

But the way this is told is put into a story, one that, according to the authors, uses hyperbole. This will be the most contentious part of this section, since the thought of the Bible using exaggeration seems out of the bounds of a literal interpretation. However, Longman and Walton seek to place the Bible in its historical context, and exaggeration was common among other ancient writings (just as it is today: “But, Mom, everyone is going to the concert. I will be the only one stuck at home all night long!”).

Though which details are actually exaggerated will be debated, exaggeration emphasizes the authors point. The teenager above may have different reasons for wanting to go to the concert (fitting in, having something to talk about at school, favorite band, not wanting to be bored at home while playing cards with Aunt Tina), but Mom knows exaggeration is being used. Readers 1,000 years from now might not know this is exaggeration unless they have read other writings from our time. For the authors, the exaggeration lies primarily in the (over)size of the ark and the extent of the (global) flood. 

In part two (background) the authors looks at the flood stories in other ANE texts to understand the similarities and differences between them and the Genesis text. Part three (text) provides five chapters/propositions on what the flood story (Gen 7-9) and the surrounding texts (6; 10-11) tell us about God and man and that no matter how many times man undermines his ordered presence, God will set his ordered presence among his people (cf. Rev 21-22). Examples are seen through the events of the sons of God intermingling with women, the flood, and the tower of Babel.

Starry Night Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” represents a real starry night, but it would be madness for us to try to figure out which part of the night sky Van Gogh was looking at for inspiration. In part four (world), the authors write that while the flood story is based on a real event, it was local flood that is not supported by the world’s geology (a chapter written by geologist Stephen Moshier). The fact that there are other flood stories does not prove that there was a worldwide flood, but rather that many lived within the cultural river of knowing there was a great flood. (See Michael Heiser’s post on how to argue biblically for a local flood).

What if there really was only a local flood? The authors argue in the final chapter that science can purify religion and religion can purify science. What they mean is that the Bible was not written to teach us about science but about God and how we can come to know him through Jesus Christ. Galileo taught us that the earth revolves around the sun, and science should not conflict with the Bible. As with Galileo, the authors argue we should go back to the Bible to see if we understood it correctly. On the other side, science is not “the sole arbiter of truth” (175). Not all scientists think it is, but both Dawkins and Hawking spoke incorrectly about religion, embarrassingly so.

I appreciated the authors’ short discussion on the clarity of Scripture. The Bible is clear as to the way of salvation, but that does not mean that all Christian can understand all parts of Scripture just by simply reading the Bible. Even our translations disagree on how to translate certain verses of the Bible. This should not put us into a tizzy. We must mine the Scriptures for wisdom and knowledge to know the God who created and saved us.

The Spoiled Milk

In the preface the authors say that they aren’t trying to offer the “single ‘correct’ interpretation” of the flood. There is much more that could be said than what they say in their book. They aim to relay to the reader what the Bible is speaking. Their goal is not to “convert” nor even to “persuade” their readers to their view. Rather, they want to bring this information to the reader to show them another perspective, or perhaps more information about a perspective they already hold.

However, three times in their book the authors are reveal their hands and play the card of condescension. They say that those who try to rationalize the size of the ark make “rather stretched (to be kind) explanations” and “only the most gullible can possibly believe all of the exceptional conditions that are needed to understand the description of the flood story as anything but hyperbolic” (39, emphasis mine). They later argue “that the New Testament authors (and Jesus himself) were sophisticated enough to understand that [the Genesis story refers to a hyperbolically worldwide flood] (even if some modern readers are not)” (99). If the authors are only presenting their side, then why the dig? (See also page 26 where the authors mention intelligent people who believe in the literal seven days even when there were no celestial bodies, but how they may be “too intelligent (or clever)).”

This does only happen a few times, but the authors may “hope that at least [they] have shown how [their] particular interpretation is the result of faithful interpretation,” those small digs will only serve to distance those “readers who cannot accept our [Longman and Walton’s] findings” (viii).

Recommended?

Is this book dangerous or unorthodox? No. The authors make a good attempt to reconcile the Bible with science, but I don’t think they will convince many unless those readers are already heading in that direction. If this is the first book you read in the “Lost World” series, 180 pages won’t be long enough to convince you of the authors’ view of biblical inspiration and authority. One ought to read Walton’s The Lost World of Scripture for a more complete work. If you’re interested to read a book on the local flood by two well informed scholars, or if you’ve been following the “Lost World” series, then you should start here. If you hold to a global flood and aren’t bothered by a few digs, this book is a good discussion tool and will still help you to see the theological point of the flood and of Genesis 1-11.

Lagniappe

Buy it on 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.

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

Book Review: BHS Reader’s Edition

BHS Reader's Edition Review

You spend time learning massive amounts of paradigms ad nauseum, learned the definitions of words that look the same (at least you did for the quiz), and you’ve even learned some syntax to boot. But now you’ve completed the course, and in order to keep going on, you have to read the thing. Where does one start reading Hebrew? 

Some students are motivated enough to pick up their BHS and their lexicon, but not everyone is so motivated. After passing Crucible I and II, you take your summer vacation “break,” but you almost never look back. How do you begin reading Hebrew again? The poetry and the prophets can require hours of searching through a lexicon for the appropriate words for only a mere few verses. I have a good feel for the weak roots because of my professor, Peter Gentry, but hollow roots are still a pain.

The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition (hereafter, BHSR) was created with the student who has had at least one year of Hebrew in mind. The lexical and grammatical apparatus was put together by Donald Vance, George Athas, and Yael Avrahami. The BHSR gives glosses to works occurring fewer than 70 times. Words occurring 70 or more times are placed in the glossary in the back of the Bible. The glosses are based primarily on the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon or the Old Testament (HALOT), along with Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB), and David Cline’s Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (DCH). The glosses are given according to the context.

Parsing

All words—nouns, verbs, infinitives, participles, adverbs, etc.—occurring fewer than 70 times are parsed, and all verbs with pronominal suffixes are parsed. The most common weak roots are not parsed; however, a list is provided in the introduction.

Before I had this Bible, I had read some complaints about the parsing system, and it is different (unless you are familiar with LaSor’s Handbook of Biblical Hebrew). For example, יְבָרֶכְךָ֖ occurs near the end of Deuteronomy 14.24. It is a Piel Imperfect 3ms with a 2ms suffix. Writing that out for all occurrences fewer than 70 times throughout the entire OT is much too long, even with a very abbreviated form. Instead, in a modification of LaSor’s approach, D20s2 is written.

D = Doubled middle radical (Piel)

20 = Imperfect 3ms

s2 = Pronominal suffix 2ms

It does take some time to get used to, and it requires plenty of flipping back and forth to the introduction, but it really pays off and it keeps and already large Bible from becoming a juggernaut.

The BHSR sections off the lines of poetry extremely well. Unlike narrative portions of Scripture (see the Exodus 19 picture further down the page), the biblical text is spaced out to help you see the poetic meter. Both the poetic and the prophetic portions of the OT don’t follow the Hebrew grammar rules first and second year students usually learn. To represent these texts similarly to the narrative portions would be confusing, as one verse would have multiple subjects, verbs, direct objects, and so on. Representing it as seen below helps one to see the author’s poetic symmetry. 

BHS Reader's Edition Review

The Spoiled Milk

The introduction explains the parsing system and provides the shorthand meanings (as my example above). However, the full shorthand paradigm is one two separate pages. The headings are on one page with half of the parsings, while the other half is on the next page without the headings. I constantly flip back and forth to see which numbers correspond to their proper headings. You can find the single page parsing system here at William Ross’ website.

The other small downside, which others have noted too, is has to do with the footnotes each uncommon word (<70x) receives. Each verse begins with footnote a, then b, then c, and so on. Often, as I’m reading and I see a word I don’t know, I’ll look down to footnote a only to see that there are 7 other “footnote a’s,” and I don’t know which verse I’m on (there are 16 footnote a‘s in the Exodus 19 picture below). Which footnote a should I be looking at? I have to go back up to find the verse I’m on and then go back down to find the appropriate gloss. It isn’t a big deal, but when I’m quickly looking back and forth between the text and the glosses, it’s easy for me to forget to pay attention to the verse numbers. Rather than having the footnote alphabet refresh with every new verse, instead I think a better system would be to have each footnote alphabet refresh with every new chapter or have a numbering system like the Reader’s Greek NT.

BHS Reader's Edition Review

Recommended?

This comes highly recommended. Small annoyances aside, the BHSR meets my needs and helps me grow in my vocabulary and in my ease of reading the Hebrew Bible, which I hope to continue for years to come.

Lagniappe

  • Hardcover: 1800 pages
  • Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.; Bilingual edition (January 1, 2015)
  • Language: Hebrew, English

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from Hendrickson Publishers. 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.

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)

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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.

Book Review: The Unseen Realm (Michael Heiser)

God [elohim] has taken his place in the divine council;

         In the midst of the gods [elohim] he holds judgment (Ps 82.1, ESV)

What do we make of God, who is “elohim,” holding judgment in the midst of other “elohim”? Psalm 82 states that the gods were being condemned as corrupt in their administration of the nations of the earth” (p. 12, cf. Deut. 32.8).

Dr. Michael Heiser aims to provide an “unfiltered look at what the Bible really says about the unseen realm.” Many Christians are fine believing in the spiritual realm where God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels, and demons reside. But often if you go beyond that, they become skeptical. For the last 15 years Heiser has researched the ancient Near Eastern cultures and their writings to grasp the mindset of the ancient Israelite. How differently did they think about the spiritual world than we do today?

Paul said we wrestle against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. How did he know this? Who are these beings? It takes putting on the mindset of an ancient Israelite to know this. After reading The Unseen Realm you will see the Bible through new eyes.

Frequently Asked Questions by Christians:

  • What/who are angels and demons and where did they come from?
  • Is there a hierarchy?
  • Did animals talk before the Fall? Why wasn’t Eve afraid of the snake?
  • Why did God send the Flood?
  • Why did God command Israel to wipe out the Canaanites? How can I accept this?
  • Who are the sons of God in Genesis 6?
  • What does this have to do with me as a Christian today?
  • Does it make a difference?

Summary

The Unseen Realm is divided into eight sections made up by 42 chapters. It’s not easy to summarize these eight sections in a few sentences, but I’ll give it a shot. 

Part 1: First Things
This is the book’s introduction where Heiser describes the beginning of his journey and how the weird verses that we don’t give much thought to actually are important.

Part 2: The Households of God
God has a “divine family,” the Divine Council, who serve him and carry out his commands. God also has an earthly family who is to spread God’s name across the globe, fulfilling his commands. Though God, Yahweh, is superior, both families will still rebel.

Part 3: Divine Transgressions
The nachash (the serpent, a divine being) rebels against YHWH and convinces the first man and woman to sin. There are more divine transgressions in Genesis 6, with the offspring residing in the land of Canaan, land given to Abraham and his seed. The tower of Babel “citizens” are dispersed and placed under the rule of lesser gods who try to rival YHWH’s power. There will be war.

Part 4: Yahweh and His Portion
YHWH chooses Abraham out of the dispersion and will create a people out of Abram who will follow Him. He would be a father of many nations, implying that the dispersed nations would be brought back to YHWH. Here we see aspects of the Trinity; lines that are blurred. All believers, Jews and Gentiles, will replace the divine council, and we are already-but-not-yet his council on earth.

Part 5: Conquest and Failure
There are “giant problems” after the Flood. “Yahweh had chosen to accomplish his ends through imagers loyal to him against imagers who weren’t” (215). YHWH’s presence is unwelcome to the rebellious earth-dwellers, and Heiser argues that Joshua’s holy war was against the descendants of the Nephilim, not “normal” humans.

Part 6: Thus Says the Lord
The nations remained under the rule of the foreign gods. Israel, God’s people, was constantly at war with these other nations. The Temple, where Israel met with their God, was like the Garden of Eden. But Israel rebelled, and God commissioned the Prophets, usually in his divine council throne room (Isa 6.1-2). Daniel 7 shows us a man who rides the clouds, and the eternal kingdom given to him will be also be given to the holy ones of the most high (Dan 7.14, 18, 22).

Part 7: The Kingdom Already
“The New Testament” marks the rebirth of a struggle thousands of years in the making” (344). Jesus has the Name of the Lord on him and leads Israel and the Gentiles out of exile in the new Exodus. Pentecost reverses the tower of Babel scene. Believers, being ‘sons of God,’ will have governing rule (Dan 7.14, 18, 22), and they will displace the rebellious beings and judge them (1 Cor 6.3). 1 Peter tells us that baptism is spiritual warfare, “a pledge of loyalty to the risen Savior” (338).

Part 8: The Kingdom Not Yet
Heiser compares the throne room imagery between Revelation and the prophets. He views the foe from the north, Gog and Magog, as having some sort of relation with Bashan, a common spiritual enemy to Israel in the OT. In the end, YHWH will return with his holy ones, angels and glorified humans.

Most sections ends with a quick Section Summary.

Recommended?

Highly recommended. While I think (but I’m not sure) Heiser might be viewing too many texts through his Deuteronomy 32 worldview, he also brings to light texts that many have either overlooked or avoided because of their weirdness.

Though Heiser has stated on his podcast that he is a grammar nerd, his book is surprisingly easy to read. The concepts are heavy because they will likely be something you’ve never heard before, but he is able to simplify the concepts into bite-sized chapters that range between 5-10 pages. Heiser succeeds in making the scholarly world accessible to the layman. Many of the deep, textual matters are left to the footnotes. Though you may not agree with everything Heiser says, he puts together the OT thought world, concepts, and lifestyle into our understanding formed (probably) primarily by the NT. He presents an overarching view of the Bible that appears to work, and it’s one that I will work into my understanding. 

Heiser’s view helps me want to read the Bible more since I have a better understanding of what is happening “behind the scenes.” I have a better understanding of the Israelite mindset, and any book that helps me to read the Bible more (like this one here) is worth the buy.

Lagniappe

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (September 1, 2015)

Previous Posts

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. 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.

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

Is the Whole Trinity Seen in the OT?

I’ve been trying to show how the lines of separation between Yahweh and the Angel of Yahweh were blurred in the OT. In my last post we saw how the OT writers portray Yahweh as riding the clouds. He is the ultimate authority. But in the OT there is another who rides the clouds. In one scene we find out that the Son of Man, who we would eventually meet as Jesus in the NT, also rode the clouds. But, these two characters don’t make up a Trinity, only a Binity. In the OT, do the biblical authors blur the lines between Yahweh, the Angel of Yahweh, and the Holy Spirit?

Isa 63.7-10

In Isa 63:7-11, in “an account of the wilderness wanderings, Yahweh is mentioned (v.7) along with the Angel of his presence (v.9). Yahweh was the savior of Israel (v.8), but so was the Angel (v.9)…” (294, n.7).

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior.

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

10  But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.

Ps. 78.40-41

“Psa 78:40-41 is a parallel passage to Isa 63:7-11…” (294, n.7).

40  How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!

41  They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.

Ezekiel 8.1-6

“In Ezek 8 the prophet sees a divine being in the form of a man (v.2). The being is embodied, since he extends his hand to lift him up (v.3). Later (vv. 5-6), the entity speaks to Ezekiel and refers to the temple as ‘my sanctuary.’” (294, n.7).

In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there. Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem… And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the valley.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, lift up your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted up my eyes toward the north, and behold, north of the altar gate, in the entrance, was this image of jealousy. And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see still greater abominations.”

“Is the entity the Spirit, who is identified as Yahweh by virtue of his reference to ‘my sanctuary,’ or is he the embodied Yahweh, who seems to have been the Spirit as well?” (294, n.7).

The End

This ends my discussions from Heiser’s book (at least for now… before I review The Unseen Realm). I’ve looked at the Nephilim, the tower of Babel, God allotting the nations to be ruled by other gods, and finally the Trinity as viewed in a few texts from the OT. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these posts and have learned a lot from them too. Heiser’s book has been one of the most (if not the most) informative book I’ve read this year. Highly recommended. My review will be up next.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

Buy it on Amazon!

UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

Buy it on Amazon!