Feed aggregator

3 Questions with James K.A. Smith

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 13:33

James K.A. Smith
Professor of philosophy at Calvin College

What would you call the primary shortcoming in Christian academic engagement?

In a lot of what passes for the Christian “academy,” I think we are still too ensconced in echo chambers and not really exposing ourselves to the real academic challenges and cross-pressures of the day. In his “Advice to Christian Philosophers,” Alvin Plantinga advocated “Holy Ghost boldness” as Christian scholars set their agendas — and he meant for us to carry that out in the mainstream academy, not in the comfortable confines of ETS. On the other hand, too many Christian scholars in the mainstream academy simply play the games of their disciplines — the status quo of their respective guilds. But the imaginative resources of the Christian faith should make a difference for how we think about different aspects of God’s world. Finally, too many evangelicals still limit their notion of “Christian academic engagement” to theology. This is a serious shortcoming. We need Christian scholars going into sociology and economics, health policy and literature.

How can believers best cultivate a worshipful imagination?

Well, by worshiping! By committing themselves to the mundane life of a local congregation, giving themselves over to the rhythms and practices of the body of Christ. That’s not novel or rocket science. That said, I also think we need a longer conversation about what congregational worship needs to look like in order to impact the imagination. That’s why I wrote You Are What You Love.

As a philosophy professor at a Christian institution, how would you convince a Christian uninterested in philosophy that it is worth their time?

That’s a great question. Probably I’d make the case existentially: Philosophy asks the questions you need to ask yourself to live a contemplative, intentional life. As Socrates famously put it: the unexamined life is not worth living. Philosophy is self-examination. But for pastors and ministers and aspiring theologians, I would emphasize the extensive debts that theology owes to philosophy, from the very earliest eras of the church. It is very difficult to understand the theological tradition from at least Augustine onwards if you don’t have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of philosophy and the history of philosophy. Finally, I think philosophy has often proven to be the most potent lens for cultural analysis, for “reading the signs of the times.” That was true for Francis Schaeffer. I think Charles Taylor’s work has demonstrated that. And consider how often Tim Keller is quoting philosophers.

The post 3 Questions with James K.A. Smith appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Feature review: Invitation to Biblical Hebrew

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 13:33

Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: An Intermediate Grammar by Russell T. Fuller (Kregel Publications 2017, $64.99)

Regardless of the method you choose, learning Biblical Hebrew is hard. A massive amount of memorization, diligence, and patience are required to learn it well, and the student is exposed to a extremely foreign language system. While Greek has letters that look quite a bit like our English ones, Hebrew letters are completely different, often look similar to each other, and must be read “backwards.” The two required semesters of Hebrew at Southern Seminary can feel grueling, and most students will probably not have that much facility with the language. Exegesis classes and further individual reading and translation are usually required before the student can start to read the Old Testament in Hebrew.

Building on his 2006 introductory textbook, Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar, Russell T. Fuller, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, provides his intermediate follow up: Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: An Intermediate Grammar. The grammar provides the syntax students need to get into the Hebrew text for themselves.

The preferred pedagogy for most Hebrew professors at SBTS, the “Fuller method” builds the student’s knowledge of Hebrew upon the twin columns of phonology and morphology, ingraining the basic concepts of the language with repeated drills and exercises. Students will spend two semesters in the textbook — the entirety of Elementary Hebrew and Hebrew Syntax and Exegesis — and translate only sentences listed at the end of each chapter. The first two semesters of the “Fuller method” are for learning the nitty-gritty details of Hebrew, and learning them cold.

Driven and accomplished students from those two courses will often move on to Fuller’s Hebrew Composition, which takes the morphology and phonology the student has learned and begins teaching the syntax that is needed to start reading the Hebrew Old Testament. Fuller’s new intermediate grammar takes much of the material from his Composition course and puts it into textbook form.

“There’s always memorization in studying a language. But if you want to cut the memorization down, then you have to really understand the phonology. So, I start with the basic rules of the language. And then from there we apply them by parsing or creating a form. Then, the final step is the syntax,” said Fuller in an interview with Towers. “It’s the way classical languages have been taught for centuries. So if you go back to look at how they teach classical Greek and classical Latin, this is how they did it: They would learn the sounds first, and the rules of the sounds, then they’d construct the forms (or the morphology), and then they’d put that layer of syntax on it through composition exercises.”

The grammar focuses on syntax, with a 200-page section devoted to teaching and examples, followed by 100 pages of compositions. In composition, students are required to construct Hebrew forms, then speak them out loud — an active way of learning. The book closes with a section on the Masoretic accents, or markings in the Hebrew text useful for interpretation.

“Composition is the traditional method for learning syntax for classical languages,” Fuller writes in the introduction. “Modern languages are learned by speaking them. Biblical Hebrew and other dead languages are learned by composing and by reciting them. Composition with recitation engages more senses than the eyes, virtually reviving the dormant language and energizing the eyes, mouth, and ears for the mind to grasp the syntax.”

The post Feature review: Invitation to Biblical Hebrew appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Five Biblical Principles for Supervising and Supporting Ministry Staff

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 12:00

My friend and colleague, Mick Boersma, and I have been working together on a book, Supervising and Supporting Ministry Staff: A Guide to Thriving Together (forthcoming, Rowman & Littlefield). The book is based on research with associate staff members, and exemplary ministry supervisors, about what supervisors can do to help their ministry staff thriving in their ministry roles. It employs a “bifocal lens” model, looking simultaneously at issues of supervision (seeing that the ministry is done well) and support (encouraging the wellbeing of those doing the ministry). Along with the research results, which we share throughout the book, we also put together five biblical foundations for ministry together that I want to share in this blog. I encourage you to read these and reflect on the degree to which they guide your ministry with other staff members, and what other biblical foundations are important to you as you approach your ministry on a staff team ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

An Often-Missed Example of Media Bias

Talbot School of Theology - Sat, 04/29/2017 - 12:00

It’s no secret that the mainstream media consistently skewers left. On social, cultural, and political issues, the mainstream media regularly biases stories against the conservative viewpoint (all while feigning balance).

But there is an example of media bias that many people often overlook—the very selection of stories itself is biased. In other words, while the media often spins stories towards the liberal perspective, there is a deeper kind of bias that operates on the level of which stories are even covered in the first place ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why Are Hedonists Worthy of Moral Condemnation?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 04/28/2017 - 12:00

This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.

I am a hedonist who lives to be happy and to enjoy his life. I have no desire whatsoever to live for anyone or to serve anybody. That would include God himself. My own personal moral standard would say that there is nothing wrong about this and there shouldn't be any punishment. Even my own kind family and other kind people in my life agree ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

He’s memorized 42 books of the Bible and you can, too

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 04/28/2017 - 09:42

There may be other Christians more committed to the discipline of Scripture memory than Pastor Andy Davis, but I’ve not met them.

But I do know Andy, and can tell you that he’s the real deal. Not only is he the most diligent memorizer of Scripture I’ve ever known, he’s also a genuinely godly man, a devoted husband (to Christine) and father (of five), a careful expositor of Scripture, and a faithful pastor. Since his graduation with a PhD. in church history from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1998, he has been pastor of First Baptist Church of Durham, N.C. Before that, Andy served as an SBC International Mission Board church planter in Japan.

In 2014, Baptist Press wrote a story about Andy, who at that time had memorized an astounding 35 books of the Bible. Since then he has added another seven.

A few days ago I interviewed Andy by phone in one of my seminary classes. I thought that the readers might profit from some of the highlights of that conversation.

Don’t be intimidated

First of all, before you think Andy is blessed with a superpower memory and uses it to internalize Scripture to a degree you could not, realize that he does not permanently retain all he has memorized. He doesn’t have complete recollection of all 42 books ready on his lips. Exactly 100 days after he has memorized a book of the Bible word-perfectly, his retention of it begins to erode.

That’s because following his complete mental mastery of a book, he recites it each day for 100 days, then moves on to another book. Once he stops reviewing a book, his ability to recall every chapter and verse of it starts to fade.

Of course, he doesn’t forget everything. The months he invested saturating his mind with the book results in a lasting familiarity with the flow and message of the text. Sections of it remain indelibly impressed for immediate retrieval.

So while he retains less and less over time of the exact wording of the books he no longer reviews, his overall grasp of those books (and their grip on him) isn’t diminished. The lifetime benefits of books memorized years ago is unquestioned. Still, it’s encouraging to those of us who are tempted to think that Andy’s ability to memorize is superior to our own to know that, like everyone else, he also doesn’t remember what he doesn’t review.

Why this approach?

Despite that concession, many believers would still be tempted to believe they couldn’t memorize entire books of the Bible. They imagine the little letter of Third John would be as impossible to memorize as the Gospel of John.

Andy says that’s not true. So what’s his secret? It’s simple: repetition over time.

In other words, you keep repeating a book, one verse at a time, over and over until you have it.

Here’s how

Let’s say you plan to memorize the book of Ephesians. On day one you read Ephesians 1:1 aloud ten times. Then you cover it and recite it ten times, adding the chapter number and verse number, saying “1:1.” That’s it for day one.

On day two you begin the principle of “yesterday’s verse first.” So you review verse one, saying it aloud ten times—looking at the verse as needed—and always saying the verse number. Then you go to verse two, reading it aloud ten times, then saying it from memory ten times, each time starting with “1:2.” You’re done for day two.

On day three you review yesterday’s verse first, reciting Ephesians 1:2 ten times, looking at your Bible as necessary. Then you begin the daily practice of reviewing all your verses, so you say Ephesians 1:1-2 aloud ten times, including the verse number for each verse. Now you learn your new verse, using the same method as before: saying verse three aloud ten times and quoting it ten times. That’s all for day three.

By day four you’ve learned the process and have momentum. As before, you review yesterday’s verse first, then all previous verses, and then learn your new verse.

Repetition over time

There’s no magic here. Just repetition over time. Once you’ve learned the entire book, you stop learning new verses and repeat the entire book daily for one hundred days. Then you start a new book.

Andy says he never spends more than fifteen minutes a day working on Scripture memory. Even during his 100-day review of an entire book, he can recite most of them in fifteen minutes or less. For books that take more than fifteen minutes to say aloud, he sometimes recites only part of the book.

Want more?

Dr. Davis wrote a helpful booklet on An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture. In it he explains how he began memorizing Scripture, and provides more detailed instructions on the daily process of memorizing entire books.

A Kindle edition is available for 99 cents on Amazon, or you can download a PDF of it (in English, Japanese, or Spanish) for free here on the First Baptist Church website.

More teaching by Dr. Davis on Scripture memory, including a summary of the Bible’s teaching on memorizing Scripture, the benefits of doing so, why he believes it’s best to memorize entire books instead of isolated verses, and answers to the most common excuses for not memorizing Scripture is available here on the church’s website.

I’d also recommend his book, An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness.

Besides the Bible, it would be difficult to find any other single resource with more biblically sound, theologically rich, pastorally helpful, and practical insight about Christian growth than this book.

I’d recommend it to anyone on the “infinite journey” toward Christlikeness.

What about it?

James 1:25 says this about coming to God’s Word: “the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” The one who memorizes Scripture is the one most determined not to be one “who forgets.” Which will you be?

The post He’s memorized 42 books of the Bible and you can, too appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why So Many Metaphors for the Holy Spirit?

Talbot School of Theology - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:00

Why does the Bible use so many metaphors and analogies to describe the Spirit’s activities and our relationship to them? Why not employ concrete language to teach us what we need to know about the Holy Spirit and our relationship to him? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

A Practical Response to Raising Adults In an Infantilizing Culture

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 15:00

It’s no secret that young people in our culture are growing up later than ever. The life transitions into adulthood, such as being financially independent and getting married, now often happen in the early 30s, if at all. In many ways, 30 is the new 20. As a result, childish thinking and behaviors often carry into (what should be) adulthood.

There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for the perpetuation of adolescence, and certainly different ways to address it. But there is one that seems to be overlooked: We lack meaningful rituals to mark the transition into adulthood ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Hank Hanegraaff Goes Greek Orthodox

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:00

The recent welcome of Evangelical radio apologist, “The Bible Answer Man” —Hank Hanegraaff, into the Greek Orthodox Church has understandably raised more than eyebrows.  Questions about the differences between Protestants and Orthodox have been coming my way in the aftermath, so I want to offer to Good Book Blog readers an essay I wrote for Talbot’s Sundoulos magazine back in 2008.  In it you’ll find some general characteristics of the Orthodox denomination as well as key points of difference with Protestants—some of which converts such as Hank Hanegraaff would typically need to renounce as they formally enter Orthodoxy ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Water Baptism And Salvation: An Abbreviated Word Study (Part Two)

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 14:09
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). In part one, it was argued that while many take the preposition for (εἰς) in the verse above as telic, indicating... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

Warfare in the Ancient Near East and the Old Testament 1: An Overview

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 12:00

I have recently finished the manuscript of a book tentatively entitled Fighting for God and King: A Topical Survey of Warfare in the Ancient Near East, which will be published by SBL Press at some point in the future. The book is designed to be a sourcebook on all topics related to warfare in the ancient Near East to enable those studying Scripture to know more of the cultural background of the Old Testament. Over the next few months as the book goes through copy editing and page proofs, I am planning on highlighting a few texts and pictures from the book to illustrate some aspects of Old Testament texts (this post will have one text and one picture along with an overview of the book). I hope you enjoy the journey! ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

“Archaeology and Biblical Studies: Though Different Disciplines, They Are Friends”

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 10:00

Archaeologists study antiquity, or ancient things.[1]  Archaeology is considered a science, though “not an exact or exclusive discipline,” in that by necessity it interacts and merges with many other disciplines, like geography, history, ceramics, numismatics, language, etc.[2]  This kind of study is able to retrieve “significant aspects of the past, which can greatly enhance our understanding of history and culture.”[3]

Archaeology is beneficial to biblical studies in several ways. To name a few, the discipline can help to verify biblical history,[4] provide background information, and even inform biblical interpretation. Archaeology can illumine, or put simply, “bring the Bible to life,” so to speak. Though archaeology and biblical studies are different disciplines, they are friends. To illustrate this point, I will provide below just a few of my favorite examples of archaeology’s intersection with the New Testament.

A Second-Century Inscription Found at Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:6, 8)

                                     

The first example shows how archaeology can help to verify biblical history. The Greek inscription above, now inside the British Museum in London, England, was discovered at Thessalonica and dates to the second century A.D. The inscription lists six “politarchs” among other officials. In the first century, Luke correctly used the same word in Acts 17:6, 8 to refer to city officials in Thessalonica, though for years many scholars claimed that he was wrong in referring to politarchs. However, this Greek inscription found at Thessalonica helped to correct the misconception that Luke was mistaken.

A Jerusalem Temple Warning Inscription (cf. Ephesians 2:14; Acts 21:27-30)

                    

The next example shows how archaeology can provide background information and help to inform biblical interpretation. The temple warning inscription above is located inside the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. This stone marker was located in the outer court of the Jerusalem temple platform and warned Gentiles not to enter the inner court area of the temple on penalty of death. The inscription dates from the first century and would have been present in Jesus’ day. Compare Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:14—“For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility” (NET; italics mine).[5]

Paul talked about peace between Jews and Gentiles at the same time he talked about reconciliation to God (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10). A literal barrier existed between Jews and Gentiles. In the Jerusalem temple was a series of concentric courts. The outer court was called the Court of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were allowed to go no further than that. Within it was the Court of Israel, and around that court a barrier included warnings that forbade Gentiles to cross the boundary and enter the temple proper. The rigid centuries-old distinction between Jews and Gentiles was symbolized by this barrier. When Paul talked about the wall in Ephesians 2:14, he might well have had in mind this real physical picture of separation. At one point in his ministry, Paul got into trouble in Jerusalem for supposedly bringing a Gentile across the barrier into the forbidden area (cf. Acts 21:27–30). However, though a solid physical barrier, it only symbolized the real barrier, which was the Jewish law with its many rules and regulations (Ephesians 2:15)—things that people had to keep if they wanted to belong to God’s people. Now, Paul wrote, Christ has broken that barrier down (Ephesians 2:14)! So, no longer is there an exclusive part of the temple. No longer does a law discriminate between Jews and Gentiles. God has made both groups into one new people. Through Christ, His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace (Ephesians 2:15).

The Roman Triumph (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 and Colossians 2:15)

   

[Photos 1 and 2]

[Photo 3]

Roman triumphs were spectacular parades decreed by the city of Rome to celebrate great conquests; to honor the emperors, generals or consuls who achieved those victories; and to give thanks to the deity who bestowed them.[6] The triumph’s central focus in the procession was the person being honored as victor and savior (sōtēr as “one who brings good fortune”).[7] He rode in a chariot, typically pulled by four horses (called a quadrigo; see Photos 1 and 2[8]). The triumphator was “dressed in a purple gown, wore a tunic stitched with gold motifs and had a crown upon his head.”[9] The victor’s face “would be painted red and he carried an eagle-crowned scepter in his hand,” which elements were “taken from Jupiter’s depiction” in Rome’s most important temple, the Jupiter Capitolinus, where the parade ended with sacrifices and thanksgiving offered on behalf of Rome.[10] The honoree in the triumph would be surrounded by soldiers and displays of the spoils of war (see Photo 3[11]), with subjugated captives being mockingly paraded as slaves, many of whom would be put to death. Paul used the imagery of the Roman triumph metaphorically in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 and Colossians 2:15 to portray God as “the sole, divine ruler and sovereign victor over his enemies.”[12] Consider the words of Colossians 2:15, “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (NASB).

The Great Theater at Ephesus, the Goddess Artemis and Her Temple (cf. Acts 19:23-41)

   

   

[Photos 1 and 2]

The two pictures above are of the Great Theater at Ephesus; the one on the right was taken from the very top. The theater seated about 25,000 people and has fantastic acoustics. The ruin is located opposite the harbor street near the city’s south entrance. The theater is mentioned in Acts 19:23-41, which gives the account of a riot against Paul.

Ephesian craftsmen and silversmiths who made silver shrine replicas of Artemis and her temple opposed Paul and the Gospel. During this time in Ephesus, Demetrius became infuriated over dwindling shrine trade, undoubtedly affecting his livelihood, and incited a crowd to drag away Paul’s Macedonian traveling companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, before an assembly of Ephesians in the city’s theater (Acts 19:24-29). Paul wanted to appear before the assembly in the theater as well, no doubt in an effort to help, “but the disciples would not let him” do so (Acts 19:30). When it looked like Gaius and Aristarchus would be killed, the city clerk urged the assembly not to do anything rash because the men had neither robbed temples nor blasphemed Artemis (Acts 19:37). He advised the crowd that if Demetrius and the craftsmen had complaints or charges, then they should follow due process on those matters through the available judicial means (Acts 19:38-39). To do otherwise, he warned, ran the risk of being charged with rioting and inviting Roman reprisal since they had no reason to justify their disorderly gathering (Acts 19:40). After speaking, “he dismissed the assembly” (Acts 19:41).

During the height of the uproar over Paul and his associates, the Jews pushed forward Alexander, one of their own, to give a defense before the assembly in the theater (Acts 19:33). Their motive was apparently to distance themselves from the tumult caused by the Christians. However, when Alexander sought to make his defense, the mob would have none of it. The crowd knew that Jews opposed Artemis, and when they recognized Alexander as a Jew, they all shouted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” in the Great Theater (Photos 1 and 2 above) for about two hours (Acts 19:34).

Roman coins are helpful in providing background information about this first-century cultural context. For example, “Claudius issued a series of silver cistophorii in A.D. 50-51 to celebrate his marriage to Agrippina the Younger. These coins reflect on their reverse evocative portrayals of the temple of Diana [Artemis] in Ephesus, including the cultic statue of the goddess.”[13] As seen at the beginning of this section, disputes over replicas of Artemis’ statute and her temple, reflected on the coin’s reverse (Photo 3 below[14]), are what led to Paul’s conflict with Demetrius and the silversmiths.

                                                        

[Photo 3]

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is a great place to learn not only the New Testament and biblical archaeology but any of the disciplines to help you become a more effective steward of the Gospel with which God has entrusted us. The seminary is intentionally evangelistic, committed to text-driven preaching, and emphasizes Baptist distinctives. Join us and allow us the joy and privilege of helping prepare you for a lifetime of ministry.

[1]J.R. McRay, “Archaeology and the New Testament.” Pages 93–100 in Dictionary of New Testament Background (eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 93.
[2]Ibid.
[3]Ibid.
[4]By this, I do not mean definitively prove or disprove our theological assertions.
[5]Unless indicated otherwise, translations are my own.
[6]S.J. Hafemann, “Roman Triumph.” Pages 1004–1008 in Dictionary of New Testament Background (eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 1004.
[7]Ibid., 1005.
[8]Coins and relief panels provide tremendous insights into ancient history and culture. The photo of the gold coin called an aureus (Photo 1, left) with Titus Caesar’s image on the front and shown on the reverse in triumphal quadriga was borrowed from http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/ric/titus/RIC_0370[vesp].jpg; accessed April 18, 2017. The photo of the relief panel (Photo 2, right) is from the Arch of Titus, dedicated in A.D. 81 to celebrate the emperor’s victory in the Jewish War of A.D. 66–74, which featured the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. The image was borrowed from http://www.ancient.eu/uploads/images/1286.jpg?v=1485680457; accessed April 18, 2017.
[9]Hafemann, “Roman Triumph,” 1005.
[10]Ibid.
[11]In this relief panel scan from the Arch of Titus (Photo 3), Roman soldiers parade the Jerusalem Temple’s spoils of war in the Roman triumph. The image is part of the Yeshiva University Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project and was found at http://cdn.biblicalarchaeology.org/wp-content/uploads/imperial-city-3.jpg?x10423; accessed April 18, 2017.
[12]Hafemann, “Roman Triumph,” 1005.
[13]L.J. Kreitzer, “Coinage: Greco-Roman.” Pages 220–22 in Dictionary of New Testament Background (eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 221. The insert is mine; Diana is the Roman name for Artemis.
[14]The silver cistophorus has Claudius’ image with the coin reverse showing the temple of Diana (Artemis), which includes her cultic statue (Photo 3); coin photo borrowed from https://www.acsearch.info/media/images/archive/93/2617/2710672.s.jpg; accessed April 19, 2017.

Categories: Seminary Blog

“Archaeology and Biblical Studies: Though Different Disciplines, They Are Friends”

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 10:00

Archaeologists study antiquity, or ancient things.[1]  Archaeology is considered a science, though “not an exact or exclusive discipline,” in that by necessity it interacts and merges with many other disciplines, like geography, history, ceramics, numismatics, language, etc.[2]  This kind of study is able to retrieve “significant aspects of the past, which can greatly enhance our understanding of history and culture.”[3]

Archaeology is beneficial to biblical studies in several ways. To name a few, the discipline can help to verify biblical history,[4] provide background information, and even inform biblical interpretation. Archaeology can illumine, or put simply, “bring the Bible to life,” so to speak. Though archaeology and biblical studies are different disciplines, they are friends. To illustrate this point, I will provide below just a few of my favorite examples of archaeology’s intersection with the New Testament.

A Second-Century Inscription Found at Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:6, 8)

                                     

The first example shows how archaeology can help to verify biblical history. The Greek inscription above, now inside the British Museum in London, England, was discovered at Thessalonica and dates to the second century A.D. The inscription lists six “politarchs” among other officials. In the first century, Luke correctly used the same word in Acts 17:6, 8 to refer to city officials in Thessalonica, though for years many scholars claimed that he was wrong in referring to politarchs. However, this Greek inscription found at Thessalonica helped to correct the misconception that Luke was mistaken.

A Jerusalem Temple Warning Inscription (cf. Ephesians 2:14; Acts 21:27-30)

                    

The next example shows how archaeology can provide background information and help to inform biblical interpretation. The temple warning inscription above is located inside the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. This stone marker was located in the outer court of the Jerusalem temple platform and warned Gentiles not to enter the inner court area of the temple on penalty of death. The inscription dates from the first century and would have been present in Jesus’ day. Compare Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:14—“For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility” (NET; italics mine).[5]

Paul talked about peace between Jews and Gentiles at the same time he talked about reconciliation to God (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10). A literal barrier existed between Jews and Gentiles. In the Jerusalem temple was a series of concentric courts. The outer court was called the Court of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were allowed to go no further than that. Within it was the Court of Israel, and around that court a barrier included warnings that forbade Gentiles to cross the boundary and enter the temple proper. The rigid centuries-old distinction between Jews and Gentiles was symbolized by this barrier. When Paul talked about the wall in Ephesians 2:14, he might well have had in mind this real physical picture of separation. At one point in his ministry, Paul got into trouble in Jerusalem for supposedly bringing a Gentile across the barrier into the forbidden area (cf. Acts 21:27–30). However, though a solid physical barrier, it only symbolized the real barrier, which was the Jewish law with its many rules and regulations (Ephesians 2:15)—things that people had to keep if they wanted to belong to God’s people. Now, Paul wrote, Christ has broken that barrier down (Ephesians 2:14)! So, no longer is there an exclusive part of the temple. No longer does a law discriminate between Jews and Gentiles. God has made both groups into one new people. Through Christ, His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace (Ephesians 2:15).

The Roman Triumph (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 and Colossians 2:15)

   

[Photos 1 and 2]

[Photo 3]

Roman triumphs were spectacular parades decreed by the city of Rome to celebrate great conquests; to honor the emperors, generals or consuls who achieved those victories; and to give thanks to the deity who bestowed them.[6] The triumph’s central focus in the procession was the person being honored as victor and savior (sōtēr as “one who brings good fortune”).[7] He rode in a chariot, typically pulled by four horses (called a quadrigo; see Photos 1 and 2[8]). The triumphator was “dressed in a purple gown, wore a tunic stitched with gold motifs and had a crown upon his head.”[9] The victor’s face “would be painted red and he carried an eagle-crowned scepter in his hand,” which elements were “taken from Jupiter’s depiction” in Rome’s most important temple, the Jupiter Capitolinus, where the parade ended with sacrifices and thanksgiving offered on behalf of Rome.[10] The honoree in the triumph would be surrounded by soldiers and displays of the spoils of war (see Photo 3[11]), with subjugated captives being mockingly paraded as slaves, many of whom would be put to death. Paul used the imagery of the Roman triumph metaphorically in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 and Colossians 2:15 to portray God as “the sole, divine ruler and sovereign victor over his enemies.”[12] Consider the words of Colossians 2:15, “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (NASB).

The Great Theater at Ephesus, the Goddess Artemis and Her Temple (cf. Acts 19:23-41)

   

   

[Photos 1 and 2]

The two pictures above are of the Great Theater at Ephesus; the one on the right was taken from the very top. The theater seated about 25,000 people and has fantastic acoustics. The ruin is located opposite the harbor street near the city’s south entrance. The theater is mentioned in Acts 19:23-41, which gives the account of a riot against Paul.

Ephesian craftsmen and silversmiths who made silver shrine replicas of Artemis and her temple opposed Paul and the Gospel. During this time in Ephesus, Demetrius became infuriated over dwindling shrine trade, undoubtedly affecting his livelihood, and incited a crowd to drag away Paul’s Macedonian traveling companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, before an assembly of Ephesians in the city’s theater (Acts 19:24-29). Paul wanted to appear before the assembly in the theater as well, no doubt in an effort to help, “but the disciples would not let him” do so (Acts 19:30). When it looked like Gaius and Aristarchus would be killed, the city clerk urged the assembly not to do anything rash because the men had neither robbed temples nor blasphemed Artemis (Acts 19:37). He advised the crowd that if Demetrius and the craftsmen had complaints or charges, then they should follow due process on those matters through the available judicial means (Acts 19:38-39). To do otherwise, he warned, ran the risk of being charged with rioting and inviting Roman reprisal since they had no reason to justify their disorderly gathering (Acts 19:40). After speaking, “he dismissed the assembly” (Acts 19:41).

During the height of the uproar over Paul and his associates, the Jews pushed forward Alexander, one of their own, to give a defense before the assembly in the theater (Acts 19:33). Their motive was apparently to distance themselves from the tumult caused by the Christians. However, when Alexander sought to make his defense, the mob would have none of it. The crowd knew that Jews opposed Artemis, and when they recognized Alexander as a Jew, they all shouted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” in the Great Theater (Photos 1 and 2 above) for about two hours (Acts 19:34).

Roman coins are helpful in providing background information about this first-century cultural context. For example, “Claudius issued a series of silver cistophorii in A.D. 50-51 to celebrate his marriage to Agrippina the Younger. These coins reflect on their reverse evocative portrayals of the temple of Diana [Artemis] in Ephesus, including the cultic statue of the goddess.”[13] As seen at the beginning of this section, disputes over replicas of Artemis’ statute and her temple, reflected on the coin’s reverse (Photo 3 below[14]), are what led to Paul’s conflict with Demetrius and the silversmiths.

                                                        

[Photo 3]

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is a great place to learn not only the New Testament and biblical archaeology but any of the disciplines to help you become a more effective steward of the Gospel with which God has entrusted us. The seminary is intentionally evangelistic, committed to text-driven preaching, and emphasizes Baptist distinctives. Join us and allow us the joy and privilege of helping prepare you for a lifetime of ministry.

[1]J.R. McRay, “Archaeology and the New Testament.” Pages 93–100 in Dictionary of New Testament Background (eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 93.
[2]Ibid.
[3]Ibid.
[4]By this, I do not mean definitively prove or disprove our theological assertions.
[5]Unless indicated otherwise, translations are my own.
[6]S.J. Hafemann, “Roman Triumph.” Pages 1004–1008 in Dictionary of New Testament Background (eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 1004.
[7]Ibid., 1005.
[8]Coins and relief panels provide tremendous insights into ancient history and culture. The photo of the gold coin called an aureus (Photo 1, left) with Titus Caesar’s image on the front and shown on the reverse in triumphal quadriga was borrowed from http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/ric/titus/RIC_0370[vesp].jpg; accessed April 18, 2017. The photo of the relief panel (Photo 2, right) is from the Arch of Titus, dedicated in A.D. 81 to celebrate the emperor’s victory in the Jewish War of A.D. 66–74, which featured the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. The image was borrowed from http://www.ancient.eu/uploads/images/1286.jpg?v=1485680457; accessed April 18, 2017.
[9]Hafemann, “Roman Triumph,” 1005.
[10]Ibid.
[11]In this relief panel scan from the Arch of Titus (Photo 3), Roman soldiers parade the Jerusalem Temple’s spoils of war in the Roman triumph. The image is part of the Yeshiva University Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project and was found at http://cdn.biblicalarchaeology.org/wp-content/uploads/imperial-city-3.jpg?x10423; accessed April 18, 2017.
[12]Hafemann, “Roman Triumph,” 1005.
[13]L.J. Kreitzer, “Coinage: Greco-Roman.” Pages 220–22 in Dictionary of New Testament Background (eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter; Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 221. The insert is mine; Diana is the Roman name for Artemis.
[14]The silver cistophorus has Claudius’ image with the coin reverse showing the temple of Diana (Artemis), which includes her cultic statue (Photo 3); coin photo borrowed from https://www.acsearch.info/media/images/archive/93/2617/2710672.s.jpg; accessed April 19, 2017.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A Call to Action

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 10:00

The post A Call to Action appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

You will deal with gnats in pastoral ministry

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 08:54

I hate gnats.

I particularly hate the gnats called the no-see-ums or sandflies. They are present certain months of the year on the beach. Though almost invisible to the naked eye, they can pack a powerful sting.

All who serve in vocational ministry have gnats. They come with the call. They are the critics. They are those who always have a better way to do things. They are the ones who expect you to visit them regularly. They are the ones who always speak up in a business meeting, always negatively.

They won’t ever go away. So you can either leave ministry because of them, or you can deal with them. Here are seven ways you can deal with gnats.

  1. Realize gnats are gnats

    They are troublesome, at times demoralizing, but never fatal. Well, they are not fatal unless you treat them like the larger problem they are not.

  2. Look beyond the gnat moments

    If you are a pastor or church staff leader, you will have gnats. You will have those who seem to constantly bug you (pun intended). But the issue almost always goes away. You will look back on those gnat moments and wonder why you acted like it was a major crisis.

  3. Focus on those things that really matter

    If you focus on the gnats, they can take you down. If you focus on those things God has called you to do, you will forget about the gnats.

  4. Pray for the gnat source

    Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). We can do the same with our gnat sources.

  5. Realize gnats are a cost of leading ministry

    Some pastors and church staff move from church to church trying to get away from gnats. But they simply move from one nest of gnats to another. God called you to ministry. He didn’t promise it would be easy; and He didn’t promise He would remove the gnats of our ministry.

  6. Find joy where joy is evident

    I once coached a pastor who was gnat-obsessed. He couldn’t find joy in his ministry because he was too busy focusing on the small bites of the gnats. I coached another pastor who seemed to have the same level of gnat attacks. But he focused on the great things God was doing in his church. Do you want to guess which pastor is doing well in ministry today?

  7. Seek a wise confidant

    Perhaps you can find a wise mentor in ministry who has several gnat bites himself. If they have persevered in ministry and still have joy in their local churches, they can offer great perspectives for you who are experiencing gnats today.

In my younger years, I tried to make gnats go away. Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I realize gnats are a part of ministry.

We must not only accept a gnat-infested ministry, we must learn to accept the gnats, pray for the gnats, and love the gnats.

Then, and only then, can we know the true joy of serving in the local church.

 

Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Rainer received both a master of divinity and Ph.D. from Southern Seminary and was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism from 1994 to 2005. He is the author of many books and served as a a pastor for several years. This article was originally published on Rainer’s blog.

The post You will deal with gnats in pastoral ministry appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why Crucifixion as a Metaphor of Sanctification?

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 12:00

Romans 6:5-6 has puzzled me by the statement that the believer has in effect already been crucified with Christ.

“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” (nasb)

My problem may have been that I viewed the crucifixion of my “old self” as having been accomplished entirely in the past, at my conversion. We are to “consider [ourselves] to be dead to sin” (6:11) so that we respond by denying the impulses and attractions to sin that (unfortunately) continue throughout this life. In practice, I have liked the idea of knowing that I am no longer a slave to sin, that I am not obligated to give in to temptations, and that I have a new capability from the Holy Spirit to live as God calls me to do. Is there importance of crucifixion for understanding my present condition? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Is Jesus Anti-Science?

Talbot School of Theology - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 23:45

The Bible insists that everything exists for Jesus. He is the Telos, the Goal, the Final Point where all lines converge. ‘But isn’t that such a strange and invisible conclusion? Doesn’t such a view make Christianity fundamentally anti-science?’

Categories: Seminary Blog

Could God Have Pardoned Sin without Punishment?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 12:00

Dear Dr. Craig,

I have asked about the atonement in a previous submission. Please forgive this final, multipart question, which can stand alone.

Here is the question. Even if it is legitimate for God to use vicarious liability and punishment in saving us--legitimate because these are established elements of Western law--why would God prefer vicarious liability to pardoning, which is also a recognized part of Western law? What advantage, from a legal philosophical view, does vicarious liability/punishment have over pardoning? Could God have chosen the legal option of pardon if He wished, rather than substitutionary atonement? What purpose is there in Jesus suffering, if absolution can be gained otherwise? Or is there some other moral, aesthetic, personal consideration that makes penal substitution preferable? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Pages

Subscribe to Bible.org Blogs aggregator