I’m fortunate to be a Scrivener iOS beta tester. The iOS version of the app is coming soon, and it’s looking great. I just used it, in fact, as my primary writing app during a writing week I went away for. Not a crash in sight.
I have also at long last completed the paperwork to become a Scrivener affiliate, which means that if you or a friend purchase the app through the below links, this blog gets a 20% commission (at no extra charge to you).
I can also say, since the developer publicly has, that Scrivener for iOS runs on iPads and iPhones, supports multi-tasking, and features Dropbox sync between iOS and OS X.
While you wait for the iOS app, here are the links for purchasing Scrivener
- Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Education License) ($38.25, educational discount)
- Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Regular License) ($45)
- Scrivener for Windows (Education License) ($35, educational discount)
- Scrivener for Windows (Regular License) ($40)
You can also try Scrivener free for 30 days if you want to see what you think.
I have just become aware of Annie Dillard’s funny and smart little book, The Writing Life. She perfectly captures the ebb and flow–the exhilaration and desperation–that awaits any writer who is serious about putting life to paper.
I’ve only read one chapter so far, but look how it begins:
When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.
If it is this way for Annie Dillard, I have hope as a writer, too.
Dillard knows the paradoxes of writing, and will help the writer to not feel insane, if only by acknowledging the (hopefully temporary) insanity of all who try to write a book:
Writing every book, the writer must solve two problems: Can it be done? and, Can I do it? Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as his first excitement dwindles. The problem is structural; it is insoluble; it is why no one can ever write this book. Complex stories, essays, and poems have this problem, too–the prohibitive structural defect the writer wishes he had never noticed. He writes it in spite of that. He finds ways to minimize the difficulty; he strengthens other virtues; he cantilevers the whole narrative out into thin air, and it holds. And if it can be done, then he can do it, and only he. For there is nothing in the material for this book that suggests to anyone but him alone its possibilities for meaning and feeling.
Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?
If this piques your interest, Brain Pickings did a lengthier post about this miraculously true book here.
Baylor University Press is currently offering 50% off all their backlist titles for grad students. (Though unlike previous sales, a .edu address is not required, so others can use the code, too). Two BUP titles I’ve reviewed at Words on the Word, that are both eligible for the sale, are Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text and Malachi: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text (reviewed here and here). You might also consider Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus or †Rod Decker’s Greek Handbooks on Mark.
The sale is good from today through Sunday, June 12. If you use the discount code “BJUN” you can order at a 50% discount!
Baylor Press’s page for the sale is here.
Engagement with the Psalms—reading them, owning them, singing them, praying them, and taking cues from them—is vital for robust worship and spiritual formation in the church. If they truly are “a Bible in miniature,” as Luther has said, they offer the opportunity for the church to grow in its spiritual and emotional maturity.
The writers of the Psalms give language to the whole range of emotions: from gratitude to fear, from joy to lamentation, from petition to thanksgiving, from intimate, private prayers to national, corporate prayers. In this way they are eminently descriptive of the human experience.
The Psalms also prescriptively guide the reader into various postures of prayer, so that the one praying does not only ever approach God with petitions, or only ever with complaint, and so on. The cognitive and affective come together in the Psalms in sometimes unexpected ways. Psalms of lament, for example, often begin with a loud “Why?” (stressing the affective) yet end with a determined profession of faith like, “But I will trust in you still….” In this way they stress the use of cognitive powers in prayer—external life evidence notwithstanding!
The Psalms express (descriptively) and call forth (prescriptively) a whole spectrum of human experience in relationship to God. They teach us to bring our whole selves to God in worship.
Preaching the Psalms
But how to preach them? One will need to take into account intercultural realities. Understanding the role of a shepherd in ancient society will certainly help with Psalm 23. And soul-searching is required.
A good set of commentaries helps, too. I preached some Psalms a couple summers ago, and found these two options quite helpful.
Just completed, too, is Allen P. Ross’s three-volume, multi-thousand page commentary on the Psalms, published by Kregel Academic.
Ross’s Commentary, in Three Volumes
Volume 1 has more than 150 pages of introductory material, covering:
- “Value of the Psalms” (Ross says, “It is impossible to express adequately the value of the Book of Psalms to the household of faith”)
- “Text and Ancient Versions of the Psalms”
- “History of the Interpretation of the Psalms”
- “Interpreting Biblical Poetry”
- “Literary Forms and Functions in the Psalms” (the best starting place, I thought)
- “Psalms in Worship”
- “Theology of the Psalms”
- “Exposition of the Psalms”
I haven’t seen the just-released third volume, but Kregel was kind to send me the first two volumes for review. In what follows I interact with those books. Volume 1 covers Psalms 1-41; Volume 2 treats Psalms 42-89.
The Commentary Layout (Psalm 42 as Case Study)
Even in the Table of Contents you can get a sense of where Ross will go with a given Psalm, as each Psalm listed includes summary titles. Psalm 1 is “The Life That Is Blessed.” Psalm 23: “The Faithful Provisions of the LORD.” Psalm 46: “The Powerful Presence of God.” Psalm 51: “The Necessity of Full Forgiveness.”
Introduction to the Psalm
Then there follows Ross’s introduction to the Psalm. He provides his own translation from Hebrew with extensive notes, analyzing the text and textual variants. Psalm 42:2, for example, he translates:
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
His footnote offers a point of interest: “This first ‘God’ is not in the Greek version; it simply reads ‘for the living God.’” He often has the Septuagint in view, which I especially appreciate. On Psalm 42:9, for example (“I say to God, my rock…”), he notes:
The Greek interprets the image with ἀντιλήμπτωρ μου εἶ, “you are my supporter/helper.”
Not that every footnote “will preach,” but they don’t need to—Ross offers a wealth of insight that will help preacher, student, and professor better understand the text as it has come down to us.
Still with each Psalm’s introductory material, the “Composition and Context” session sets the Psalm in its biblical-literary context and explores background information (where available). Regarding Psalm 42, Ross says:
And Psalm 42 is unique in supplying details of the location. The psalmist is apparently separated from the formal place of worship in Jerusalem by some distance, finding himself in the mountainous regions of the sources of the Jordan. There is no explanation of why he was there; and there is no information about who the psalmist was.
Then there is a summary “Exegetical Analysis,” followed by an outline of the Psalm. Anyone looking to get their bearings quickly with a Psalm will find this one of the most helpful sections. Here is Ross again, with his summary of Psalm 42:
Yearning in his soul for restoration to communion with the living God in Zion and lamenting the fact that his adversaries have prevented him, the psalmist encourages himself as he petitions the LORD to vindicate him and lead him back to the temple where he will find spiritual fulfillment and joy.
Commentary in Expository Form
After each Psalm’s generous introduction, Ross presents the commentary proper (“Commentary in Expository Form”). It’s as detailed as one would expect and hope. Here he is, for example, on Psalm 42:3-4 (“They must endure the taunts of unbelievers”):
In the meantime, the psalmist must endure the taunts of his enemies—enemies of his faith. In this he is an archetype of believers down through the ages who are taunted for their faith. This has caused him tremendous grief, so much so that he says his tears have been his food night and day (see Pss. 80:5 and 102:9; Job 3:24). The line has several figures: “tear” (collective for “tears”) represents his sorrow (a metonymy of effect); “food” compares his sorrow with his daily portion (a metaphor); and “day and night” means all the time (a merism). The cause of his sorrow is their challenging question: “when they say to me continually, ‘Where is your God’?” (see Pss. 74:10 and 115:2). The unbelieving world does not understand the faith and is unsympathetic to believers. “Where is your God?” is a rhetorical question, meaning your God does not exist and will not deliver you—it is foolish to believe. For someone who is as devout as the psalmist, this is a painful taunt.
This blend of careful attention to the text and reverent devotion to the God who breathed it is typical of the Ross’s rich comments.
Message and Application
Though Ross already offers theological interpretation in the commentary proper, the Message and Application section is one any reader will appreciate. He often reads (in a good way) through a New Testament and Christological lens, as with Psalms 42-43:
But in the New Testament the greatest longing of those who are spiritual is to be in the heavenly sanctuary with the Lord, for that will be the great and lasting vindication of the faith. Paul said he would rather be at home with the Lord—but whether there or here, he would try to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8–9). And Paul certainly knew what it meant to be persecuted for his faith. But the marvelous part of the desire to be in the heavenly sanctuary is that the Lord Jesus Christ desires that we be there with him, to see his glory (John 14:3; 17:24). Throughout the history of the faith believers have desired to go to the sanctuary to see the LORD (see Ps. 63); in Christ Jesus that desire will be fulfilled gloriously.
Those looking for a dispassionate commentary or for one that does not find Jesus in the Hebrew Bible will be better served looking elsewhere. To my mind, this dynamic is one of the great strengths of these volumes.
Toward the end of a Psalm, then, Ross boils it down to an italicized expositional message. This is one of the (many) highlights of the commentary, as it pulls everything together from Ross’s careful exegesis into the world of the listener. Here is how he puts Psalm 23:
The righteous desire to be in the presence of the Lord where they will feed on his Word, find spiritual restoration, be guided into righteousness, be reminded of his protective presence, receive provisions from his bounty, and be joyfully welcomed by him.
Where to Get It
Here is where to find these fine books:
Thanks to Kregel for the review copies of both books, given to me for the purposes of reviewing them, but with no expectation as to the content of this post.
Just like my old Bible quizzing days! Step one in preaching an Ephesians passage.
In the past when I’ve preached on Ephesians 2:1-10, I’ve gone straight for the gold of Ephesians 2:8-10:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The first seven verses have just felt like an opening band that–while good–wasn’t necessarily what I had come to see.
I see the passage differently now, having spent a good deal of time trying to understand Paul’s flow.
Here’s the passage from the 1984 NIV, followed by the passage in Greek:
Eph 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Eph 2:1 Καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν, 2 ἐν αἷς ποτε περιεπατήσατε κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας· 3 ἐν οἷς καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἀνεστράφημέν ποτε ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν ποιοῦντες τὰ θελήματα τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ τῶν διανοιῶν, καὶ ἤμεθα τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποί· 4 ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, 5 καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ, _ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι _ 6 καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 7 ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφ᾿ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. 8 Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· 9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. 10 αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα, κτισθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς, ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν.
Assuming 2:1 is the beginning of a new sentence (Καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν), there is not a clear indicative verb in a non-subordinate clause really anywhere in sight, at least not until an indicative verb of ἤμεθα (“we were”) in 2:3 (και ἤμεθα τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποί). (Though I confess I’m not sure why this is preceded by καὶ if it’s not a participle.)
So 2:3’s ἤμεθα is the first indicative verb in the whole passage not in a subordinate clause. 2:1 (“You, being dead…”=participle) leads to 2:3b’s “we were children of wrath” (and notice Paul’s subtle shift in 2:3a from “you” as sinner to “we” as sinners). This wrath is the outcome one would anticipate.
Then there is a construction with a participle in 2:4a, similar to how the chapter began: ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει–“God, being rich in mercy”=participle. This is a grammatical (and theological) balance to “you, being dead.”
Paul is about to expand on this nice contrast, but first he interrupts with this recapitulation in Ephesians 2:5a: καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν (and you, being dead in transgressions). It is nearly identical wording to how the passage started, forming an inclusio with 2:1. (Just in case we missed it the first time, that we were dead in sin!)
Now there is the continuation of θεὸς ὢν–completed with a main verb to grammatically match but theologically and narratively replace the “we were children of wrath.” It is the high point of the passage, the phrase that holds the whole passage together. It has the three main verbs the listener/reader will have been waiting for since the participle of 2:1.
συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ
God made us alive in Christ!
Then the rest of the passage is the unfolding (2:6 gives two more main verbs: he raised us and seated us with Christ) and purpose (2:7) and reiteration with implications (2:8-9) of συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ.
I take 2:10 and its ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, then, to be the “application” section of this passage.
Interestingly enough, read this way, the ever-popular 2:8-9 are not the main point of the passage, at least not on their own. They need to be understood in light of God’s specific actions of making us alive in Christ (συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ), raising us (συνήγειρεν) and seating us in the heavenly realms in Christ (συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ).
The technical commentaries confirm this way of reading the passage, namely, that the structural and grammatical center is 2:5-6, describing the three-fold action of God in making us alive, raising us, and seating us.
It’s a nuance, to be sure, and it doesn’t take away from the power of 2:8-10. But it does mean my preaching focus tomorrow will be on the three-fold action of God, and how we understand that as his saving grace, to be received by faith.
For Greek reading I’ve been so knee-deep in Ephesians that I haven’t been much in the Septuagint of late. That will change with the release of Karen Jobes’s Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, just published by Kregel Academic. I have known about this for a long time, so am happy to see it released into the wild! I think a lot of folks will benefit from it, especially those ready to freshen things up or go a step deeper in Greek learning.