Omar Comin’…. (for real, this time)

A long time ago I promised you:

Coming soon to this blog… some interaction with The Wire. Stay tuned.

I showed you the cover of this book:

 

The Wire

 

I’ve read a chunk of it, and more than half of this book, too:

 

Source: http://hub.jhu.edu/
Source: http://hub.jhu.edu/

 

(Find it at Amazon here.)

From the product page of publisher Johns Hopkins University Press:

Did Omar Little die of lead poisoning? Would a decriminalization strategy like the one in Hamsterdam end the War on Drugs? What will it take to save neglected kids like Wallace and Dukie? Tapping into ‘The Wire’ uses the acclaimed television series as a road map for exploring connections between inner-city poverty and drug-related violence. Past Baltimore City health commissioner Peter Beilenson teams up with former Baltimore Sun reporter Patrick A. McGuire to deliver a compelling, highly readable examination of urban policy and public health issues affecting cities across the nation. Each chapter recounts scenes from episodes of the HBO series, placing the characters’ challenges into the broader context of public policy.

So far the main thrust of the book is to (mostly convincingly) suggest that decriminalizing (or “medicalizing”) drug use can go a long way to advance public health. More specifically, there is a call to keep non-violent drug offenders out of jail and get them into treatment options. I’ll have more to say on the matter when I review the book–which really will happen this summer.

So, yes, patient readers, more on The Wire is coming to Words on the Word.

Book Review: Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man

Mark 13 is one of the most difficult chapters of the Bible to interpret and understand. From the “abomination of desolation” to the claim of Jesus that “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place,” the chapter is full of statements that could refer either to the near (historical) or far (apocalyptic) future.

Robert H. Stein’s goal in writing Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13 is to finish the sentence, “I, Mark (the author), have written Mark 13:1-37, because…”. Stein, author of the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament volume on Mark, is one of the best commentators one could hope to read on such a challenging and important chapter.

Here is Stein’s outline of Mark 13, in his words (p. 49):

 

  • 13:1-4: Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) (chapter 3 of this book)
  • 13:5-23: The coming destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) and the sign preceding it (ch. 4)
  • 13:24-27: The coming of the Son of Man (ch. 5)
  • 13:28-31: The parable of the fig tree and the coming destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) (ch. 6)
  • 13:32-37: The parable of the watchman and the exhortation to be alert for the coming of the Son of Man (ch. 7)

 

The majority of the book (chapters 3-7) is taken up with Stein’s exposition of each verse in Mark 13. Chapter 1 defines the goal of the book: “to understand what the author of the Gospel we call Mark meant and sought to convey by the present text of Mark 13” (39). Stein focuses especially on what Mark meant to “teach his readers by the Jesus traditions that he chose to include in this chapter, his arrangement of these traditions and his editorial work in the recording of this material” (45). Chapter 2 is “Key Issues Involved in Interpreting Mark 13.”

Chapter 8 is a really nice add-on, which consists of Stein’s “interpretive translation” of Mark 13. What a great idea! You can read the chapter in one sitting and see right away how Stein interprets it. This could be a really good starting point for the reader, as could the excellent and detailed “Outline” starting on p. 9 (basically an annotated table of contents).

Stein offers at the outset a nice tour of the so-called quests for the historical Jesus, and how that relates to reading Mark. But Stein doesn’t seem to think the authorship (Mark) or genre (historical narrative) of Mark matters much to the purpose of this short commentary. I find his views here less than compelling, but that didn’t keep me from being convinced by the rest of the book.

Two key points the book makes will give a sense of Stein’s approach:

  1. Stein differentiates between three settings we need to keep in mind: “the first involving the teaching of the historical Jesus to his disciples, the second involving the situation of the early church between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels, and the third involving the situation in which and for which the Evangelist Mark wrote his Gospel” (47).
  2. Because of the above point, Stein can tease out different settings and time-frames that different portions of Mark 13 refer to. He says, for example, “Mark does not see the coming of the Son of Man [AKJ: the apocalyptic imagery in 13:24-27] as part of Jesus’ answer (13:5-23) to the disciples’ twofold question (13:4) concerning the destruction of the temple” (72).

Throughout the book Stein keeps in view the distinction between the soon-to-come, 1st century future (destruction of the temple) and the distant, unknown day of the coming of the Son of Man. Stein acknowledges that it is “easy to intermix these two horizons [two settings in time] of the text, and the result is confusion and lack of clarity in understanding either setting in time” (100). Much of the chapter, Stein argues (but not all), anticipates the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70.

You don’t need to know Greek to make good use of this text, but Stein does keep (transliterated) Greek in front of him so he can analyze the text at the word and phrase level. He is really good, too, at using a broader biblical context to help explain specific parts of Mark 13.

I read the book cover-to-cover in a few sittings—it was that intriguing! As detailed and in-depth as Stein’s reasoning is, it reads really nicely: his tone is conversational, which makes it easy to try to sort through some tough hermeneutical issues. Stein’s is certainly not the only possible interpretation of Mark 13, but it’s a persuasive one.

 

Thanks to the fine folks at IVP Academic for the review copy. Find the book here at IVP’s site, or here on Amazon.

Book Notice: The T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint

 

I8 months ago I learned about the T & T Clark Companion to the Septuagint. It has now been released as an ebook in pdf form, available here, with the hard copy to be published very soon. You can pre-order through Bloomsbury here or through Amazon here.

The Companion is unique in Septuagint studies in that it offers a “handy summary of features for each of the Septuagint books” of the Bible. Here’s part of the publisher’s description of the book:

This Companion provides a cutting-edge survey of scholarly opinion on the Septuagint text of each biblical book. It covers the characteristics of each Septuagint book, its translation features, origins, text-critical problems and history. As such it provides a comprehensive companion to the Septuagint, featuring contributions from experts in the field.

And here’s a snippet from Genesis, via the Google Book preview:

 

LXX Companion Genesis

I’m looking forward to checking it out–it looks like it will be a welcome contribution for those of us who want to learn more about the Septuagint.

Two New IVP “Black Dictionaries” from Accordance

Last week Accordance released two new IVP “black dictionaries.” Both cover the Old Testament. There is Wisdom, Poetry & Writings and Prophets.

Here’s a screen grab from the Accordance page–they’re on sale through midnight EST tonight, and still reasonably priced after that.

 

Prophets (click image below for product page):

IVP Prophets

 

Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (click image below for product page):

IVP_Wisdom, Poetry, Writings

 

These IVP dictionaries are really good. I usually use whatever volume I own when preparing sermons.

And Accordance 11 (just released this fall) is a nice way to use these dictionaries. You can try especially sophisticated searches with them in Accordance, like this one.

If you’ve used either of these dictionaries, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. So far, I’ve really appreciated everything else from this series.

What I’m Reading to Keep My Greek and Hebrew Fresh

To keep my Greek and Hebrew active, right now I’m alternating between two books (and enjoying them both):

 

Prepositions and Theology

 

Murray J. Harris’s Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament (Zondervan, 2012).

Without accepting a so-called “theology of prepositions,” Harris’s guide is readable and illuminating. I found his exegetical guide to Colossians and Philemon quite helpful. Here is a sample of Prepositions and Theology.

 

Jonah Handbook on Hebrew Text

 

W. Dennis Tucker Jr.’s Jonah: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text (Baylor University Press, 2006).

I like this series already. I’m halfway through Jonah and finding Tucker’s handbook a welcome companion.

I’ll post a review of each when I finish.

Bonhoeffer’s Life Together for $2.99, Chance to Win 17 Bonhoeffer Works

DBWE Life Together

 

For $2.99, Fortress Press is selling Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, the purchase of which also gives you chance to win all 17 volumes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (English Edition). This includes the new, forthcoming Volume 17: Index and Supplementary Materials.

Life Together is a powerful and heart-transforming book. I just finished reading it at the end of the summer, and reflected:

Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is substantial evidence that this servant of God saw himself as belonging to the church. The short, powerful book is both a gift and a challenge to any Christian who will take the time to study it.

My full review of the book is here.

Go here to check out Life Together for $2.99, as well as to have a chance to win the whole DBWE hardcover set.

Review of IVP’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (final part 3)

IVP OT Dictionary Pentateuch

I’ve been spending some time the last few weeks with InterVarsity Press’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch in Logos Bible Software. You can read part 1 of my review here and part 2 here; those help provide context for this third and final part to the review.

In this post I summarize and briefly interact with three more articles: “Warfare,” “Book of Genesis,” and “Haran.” Then I offer my concluding thoughts.

Warfare

A.C. Emery’s article explores “the conduct of warfare found in the Pentateuch, as well as instructions provided for the waging of warfare in Israel” (877). He notes, “Conflict is a common event recorded within the OT” (877), even if the student of ancient warfare tactics may not find much in the Pentateuch. To wit: “With rare exception the battle is described more for the divine intervention than for its technical conduct, which is the particular interest of this article” (878-9). God himself is described “as a warrior” (877) in the Pentateuch.

Emery looks at common Hebrew words that the Pentateuch uses to describe warfare and battles, with qārab (“draw near”) being the most common. He explores Pentateuchal “battle accounts” (879), from Abraham in Genesis 14 to Amalek in Exodus 17 and the “Canaanite king of Arad” and Og, king of Bashan, in Numbers 21-25 (879-80). There are “various instructions with regard to activities related to warfare” (880), including “the need to be… emotionally and religiously prepared for the dangers of combat” and the mechanics of negotiations and siege warfare (880). Emery’s final section examines the ethical difficulty that warfare poses.

Surprisingly, Emery does not in his ethics section mention the difficult Deuteronomy 7:2 with its “show them no mercy” command. He also has an article in the dictionary (“ḤĒREM”) that covers that passage, but his treatment of warfare ethics in “Warfare” was briefer than I would have liked. But, as with the rest of the dictionary, the few-page article still offers a decent jumping-off point for further research, even if it’s not a one-stop shop.

Book of Genesis

The entry on the book of Genesis examines the book with special reference to structure, plot, and theology (350). L.A. Turner’s key assumption is: “Genesis is a narrative book, and its theology is conveyed through features such as its structure, plot and characterization, rather than through set pieces of divine promulgation, as in legal or prophetic texts” (356).

Regarding structure, though there are varying theories, most agree that “Genesis is composed of two distinct blocks of unequal size” (350). The first runs roughly through Genesis 11 or the first few verses of Genesis 12 and is about humanity generally. Genesis 12 onward picks up the story of Abraham. The “main sections” in Genesis, according to Turner, are “the Abraham story (Gen 11:27–25:18), the Jacob story (Gen 25:19–37:1) and the story of Jacob’s family (Gen 37:2–50:26)” (350). The Hebrew word tôlĕdôt (genealogy) is a structural marker throughout Genesis.

The plot of Genesis has “progressive complexity” (352), moving from early human history to complex characters and families by the end of the book. “Divine promises and blessings” constitute “the book’s central core” (353) for Turner, and set the stage for the rest of the Bible (358). Regarding theology, he notes the tension “between divine sovereignty (as exemplified in the genealogies) and human free will (as demonstrated in the narratives)” (357).

I wanted to be sure to review a longer article in the dictionary. I was unexpectedly riveted as Turner walked through Genesis (10 pages in print). I found his contention that the book’s structure has theological import to be particularly compelling.

Haran

“Haran” in English could refer either to a place or to a person, though the spelling is different between each word in Hebrew (379). Both the place and the person are in Genesis 11:27-32, so M.W. Chavalas treats them together (379).

Haran the place is where Abraham lived after leaving Ur and before departing for Canaan (379). He also sought a wife for Isaac there, and Jacob found Rachel and Leah there, too. Similar to Ur, Haran centered on lunar worship. Haran is located in what today is southeastern Turkey. There is “only a small amount of archaeological evidence…for the city, and even less for patriarchal times” (379). It seems to have been inhabited already well before Abraham’s time, perhaps by some 20,000 people (379). Chavalas notes its likely founding “as a merchant outpost by the Sumerian city of Ur in the late third millennium B.C.” (379).

Haran the person has “very little biblical or extrabiblical information” recorded about him. He was Terah’s son, Lot’s father, and Abram’s brother. It was Haran’s death at Ur that led Lot to go to Haran with Abram. Haran also had two daughters, Iscah and Milcah.

The more I research Abraham and the Pentateuch, the more I realize how important Lot was to him. His desire to bear a family perhaps through Lot seems to be what led to his rescue of Lot in Genesis 14.  Several dictionary articles point this out nicely. Chavalas covers Haran fairly thoroughly in a short amount of space (just two or three print pages).

**********

I hope Logos will update the dictionary so that the sidebar Table of Contents can expand to include all the article sub-points. Another thing that would make the product better is an easier way to find out about contributors from within an article. Having their names hyperlinked with their biographical information would be nice. As it is, one has to move between the article and the separate “Contributors” section to find out more about each author. [EDIT: Author names have hyperlinks in the Accordance production of this module.]

The Logos edition of the IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch is overall a good module. Being able to have it open to both Hebrew and English biblical texts saves considerable time compared to using the print edition. The Dictionary is a solid first place to go on issues, themes, and people in the Pentateuch.

The Dictionary is on Amazon here (in print) and at Logos here. My thanks to Logos for the review copy.  Read part 1 of my review here and part 2 here.