Even during Finals week, we must rest.

To all my teacher and student friends who are still going with school… the below is adapted from an e-devotional I wrote that went out over email to Gordon students in December 2011.

fallow field

It may seem strange to talk about Sabbath-keeping during end-of-the-semester crunch time. Who has any time to spare for rest, let alone a whole day?

Last week I was reading from Exodus during Morning Prayer, with the people with whom my family lives in intentional community. Exodus 34:21 jumped out at me, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Regardless of our familiarity with agrarian lifestyles and metaphors, this text speaks to us of a God who invites his people into rest. Sabbath-keeping, as with all of God’s commandments, brings life to those who keep it.  Even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

You all are in the midst of final papers and exams—you likely can’t just up and take a day off, since that might mean missing an important exam. But you can seek pockets of rest, times to sit down in God’s presence and ask for him to guide you through all your comings and goings. If Israel must rest even during their plowing season and harvest, we ought to seriously consider following this timeless pattern, taking rest even during our busiest seasons.

So close your email. Go to bed (especially if you’re reading this at 3am). Go outside and walk around (even if it’s raining). Go eat a snack and talk to a friend. Some of you will need more encouragement to this than others, of course, but heed well God’s life-giving words. Even during Finals week, we must rest.

A Prayer for Difference amidst Unity, and Unity amidst Difference

Gordon's Beyond Colorblind logo
Gordon’s Beyond Colorblind logo

Does race matter? Is ethnicity important? How do cultural backgrounds affect our everyday lives?

This week at Gordon College we have a special emphasis week, BEYOND COLORBLIND:

BEYOND COLORBLIND is a focus week to help start new conversations about race and culture on campus.  We hope the lectures and discussions help us consider how our racial and cultural identities and experiences shape our views of ourselves, others, and God.

You can watch the first large group session of the week (chapel) here. Richard Twiss was the main speaker. It’s well worth your time.

Two weeks ago I shared a prayer for the first day of school. Today I’m sharing the congregational prayer we prayed in unison this morning in chapel. This came after the passing of the peace.

God, lover of all people,
Creator of all nations,
We praise you for all that you have made.

Thank you for the rich mosaic that is the body of Christ.
Thank you for difference amidst unity,
for unity amidst difference.

Give us a spirit of understanding and appreciation of each other.
Help us to see your image clearly in those around us.

Bless us now as we gather,
and may we declare your praises with our whole lives,
through our risen Lord Jesus.
Amen.

Find out more about the week here.

A prayer for the first day of school

2012 to 2013
 
This semester is the first day of classes at Gordon. This morning in chapel I led us in a responsive prayer, offering thanksgiving and petition to God at the start of a new semester. I offered the prayer in italics, then we all as one congregation read the bold responses.

For the start of a new semester and all the promise that it holds:

We give you thanks, our God.

For the joy we have in seeing friends for the first time in a month:

We give you thanks, our God.

For those with whom we live in dorms, apartments, and houses:

We give you thanks, our God.

For the chance to gather freely in worship:

We give you thanks, our God.

For all that we will learn: in the classroom, in this worship space, in Lane, in labs, in practice rooms, in the library, in relationships, on campus and off campus:

We give you thanks, our God.

For wisdom for all students, staff, and faculty, as we seek to offer God our very best in all that we do:

Lord, please be near us.

For family relationships that we’ve invested in over the last month but now step away from in some ways:

Lord, please be near us.

For perseverance and diligence in our studies:

Lord, please be near us.

For healthy sleep patterns, motivation to exercise, self-control in eating good, healthy foods:

Lord, please be near us.

For those areas of life in which we struggle, where we despair, and for those things of which we are ashamed:

Lord, please be near us.

Praising God through Academic Biblical Studies: Less Hypermodernist Objectivism, More Affect!

Why such an emphasis on wanting to get as close to the “original text” of the Bible as possible? Or, as some scholars call it, the “earliest attainable text”?

Earlier this week I wrote a bit about scholarly editions of the Jewish Scriptures, both the Greek and the Hebrew.

But I began asking myself today, why am I so interested in a rigorous scholarly pursuit of the text of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek?

One reason is that I love to learn. On the Strengthsfinder assessment I came out with “Learner” as my top strength both times I took the test. “Achiever” was not far behind. (See here for the descriptions of the 34 strengths themes in that assessment.) Here’s an excerpt from the description of the “Learner” strength that applies to me:

You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence.

All true, except that when it comes especially to my pursuit of biblical studies, the process, the content, and the result are “especially exciting” for me.

Why?

The late Arthur Holmes articulates beautifully:

Christ the Truth becomes the dominant motivation in intellectual inquiry. No dichotomy of sacred and secular tasks can be allowed, and no subject is exempt.

The student will therefore welcome truth and submit to it wherever it is found, out of obedience to Christ. Academic work becomes an opportunity to extend the Lordship of Christ over the mind; thought merges into worship.

“Thought merges into worship.” I love this. And I think this is why–more than just being a “Learner”–I so love to delve into the depths of Scripture, in the most “original” form that I possibly can.

I’m not overly fastidious about Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic–as if God really spoke through those languages and then anything else is just mediated and somehow a dilution of God’s actual words. (Isn’t all language already mediation anyway?) If the word of God is “living and active,” it can be living and active in its faithful translations into other languages.

But one reason I geek out so much about the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible is that in my study I feel myself getting closer to that amazing time when God gave his word to humanity to be transmitted to future generations: first orally, then in written form. And I love seeing how the translators of the Hebrew Bible wrestled with putting the Hebrew into Greek. I love seeing how the New Testament writers grappled with, contextualized, and recontextualized the Old Testament.

I don’t even mind that at the moment I’m a bit perplexed by how Paul could both praise the law as being from God yet also refer to it as a “the ministry that brought death.”

Why?

Because for me, as of late, my thoughts and my studies of Scripture–even at a scholarly level–have begun to “[merge] into worship.” How can I not praise the God behind these amazing words? Though we may never know what the autograph of any part of Scripture actually said, I believe we can get close.

And somehow the closer I get to the text of the Bible–in a scholarly setting–the closer I feel to God.

Not always, of course–sometimes I’m just confused. (Dash the heads of infants against rocks? And we pray these Psalms in liturgical settings???) But there’s been a real richness for me lately in delving into the Bible in its original languages, comparing variant readings across manuscripts and versions, trying to figure out why one Synoptic Gospel said it this way, why this one said it another way…. Even in seeking to answer those questions, I know that I am seeking more of God and God’s revelation.

This is not a taken-for-granted view of things in the field of biblical studies. Take this, for instance, from Michael V. Fox:

In my view, faith-based study has no place in academic scholarship, whether the object of study is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or Homer. Faith-based study is a different realm of intellectual activity that can dip into Bible scholarship for its own purposes, but cannot contribute to it.

I haven’t contacted Michael V. Fox to confirm this, but I’d wager that what I’m describing above constitutes some sort of “faith-based study,” or at least, study that is informed by and that enriches faith.

But a bit more context from Fox:

The claim of faith-based Bible study to a place at the academic table takes a toll on the entire field of Bible scholarship. The reader or student of Bible scholarship is likely to suspect (or hope) that the author or teacher is moving toward a predetermined conclusion. Those who choose a faith-based approach should realize that they cannot expect the attention of those who don’t share their postulates. The reverse is not true. Scholars who are personally religious constantly draw on work by scholars who do not share their postulates. One of the great achievements of modern Bible scholarship is that it communicates across religious borders so easily that we usually do not know the beliefs of its practitioners.

I’m okay with trying to set aside a “predetermined conclusion,” though skeptical of that possibility. (Does Fox believe in the modernist project?)

Fox goes on, “The best thing for Bible appreciation is secular, academic, religiously-neutral hermeneutic.”

Sigh.

Taking the Psalms as an example, one cannot appreciate the Psalms who does not pray the Psalms. And wouldn’t good scholarship (religiously motivated or not) call for us to engage the text on the author’s terms? How can one do good scholarship on David, for example, if one is not willing to engage the text in the way that David intended for it to be engaged? If he wrote a Psalm for corporate singing or reciting, is the individual in her or his library carrel who seeks to bracket out faith commitments going to get anywhere near to uncovering the meaning and import of that Psalm until she or he sings it with others?

Fox’s whole article is here.

Parker Palmer has a good rejoinder:

Objectivism—which is a complete myth with respect to how real people have ever known anything real—has great political persuasiveness because it gives us the illusion that we are in charge.

But gospel truth, transformational truth, says that we are not masters but are subject to powers larger than ourselves—and that we are blessed with the chance to be co-creators of something good if we are willing to work in harmony with those larger powers.

If we embrace a gospel way of knowing, we can create a different kind of education and perhaps a different world: a world where all of us are called to embody whatever truth we know; where we gather together with others to check, correct, confirm, and deepen whatever insights we may have; where we understand that, even as we seek truth, truth is seeking us; and where there can be those vital transformations, personal and social, that might take us a step closer to the beloved community.

So when it comes to biblical studies, I say: less hypermodernist objectivism, more affect! Let’s allow our thoughts–as Dr. Holmes suggested–to merge into worship; our studies into praise; our reading into praying.

My quest for the earliest attainable text of the Bible, I am realizing, is driven by scholarly interest and a general drive to learn, yes. But more than that, I want to know God more fully through this academic pursuit. My insatiable desire to master Greek noun declensions, Hebrew verb parsings, and intertextual allusions is in the end a desire to be mastered by the God who stands behind the words of Scripture.

But that kind of a posture doesn’t compromise scholarship, in my view. It makes it richer, deeper, and directed toward its most proper end.

New President for Princeton Seminary

Princeton Seminary has just announced a new President, Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes:

The Board of Trustees of Princeton Theological Seminary is pleased to announce the unanimous election of the Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes as its seventh president, and as professor of pastoral ministry.  Barnes, a 1981 Master of Divinity graduate of Princeton, has also served as a trustee of the Seminary. Dr. Barnes currently serves as the Robert Meneilly Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and pastor of the 1,100-member Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.

Here is the announcement in full.

BibleWorks 9 now runs natively on Macs

Big news from BibleWorks today. BibleWorks 9 now runs natively on a Mac. And there’s a free way Mac users who own BibleWorks 9 can do it. Read all about it here.

I’m looking forward to taking it for a spin.

See links to all six parts of my BibleWorks 9 review here.

UPDATE 10/4/12: Shoot! It’s no longer going to be available for free, and at the moment (10/4/12), it’s not available at all:

10/4/2012: Due to licensing restrictions, it turns out that we will have to offer the BibleWorks 9 Mac Public Preview through our webstore. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but if you check back here early next week, we should have it available again!

Hopefully this gets ironed out soon. I’d love to use BibleWorks on a Mac.

UPDATE 2, 10/4/12: See here.

My Accordance 10 review: all six parts (plus Beale/Carson module review)

Here, collected in one place, are all six parts of my review of the Bible software program Accordance 10, as well as my two-part review of the Accordance module for Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson.

Part 1In which I finally try out Accordance Bible Software for Mac (new version 10!)

Part 24 Cool Features in Accordance 10

Part 33 Powerful Ways to Search in Accordance 10

Part 4The Original Languages Collection in Accordance 10 meets Septuagint Sunday

Part 5Accordance 10: Bells and Whistles

Part 6: More Bells and Whistles in Accordance 10

Review of Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson:
part 1 / part 2.

UPDATE: Go here to see my comparative review of BibleWorks, Accordance, and Logos.

UPDATE 12/29/12: Here I review the User Notes feature.

Thanks again to Accordance for the review copies of the Original Languages Collection and the Beale/Carson module. Five stars for all of the above.

All six parts of my BibleWorks 9 review

Here, collected in one place, are all six parts of my review of the excellent Bible software program, BibleWorks 9:

Prologue: BibleWorks in the pew? (Not quite, but the next best thing) (link)

Part 1: BibleWorks out of the box (setup and layout) (link)

Part 2: The Verse tab (link)

Part 3: Would Mark’s Jesus have us drink snakes and handle poison? 1 of 2: textual criticism in BibleWorks (link)

Part 4: These 4 Perks are Divine in BibleWorks 9 (link)

Part 5: Would Mark’s Jesus have us drink snakes and handle poison? 2 of 2: the BibleWorks Manuscript Project and CNNTS apparatus (link)

My thanks again to the staff at BibleWorks for the review copy. I highly recommend this program to PC users for in-depth Bible study: personal, academic, and/or for ministry purposes. Find the full program contents here.

UPDATE: Go here to see my comparative review of BibleWorks, Accordance, and Logos.

Would Mark’s Jesus have us handle snakes and drink poison? (part 2 of 2) (BibleWorks 9 review, concluded)

The Gospel of Mark has a couple of possible (disputed) endings. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the options for how to understand Mark’s closing chapter.

It is the so-called longer ending of Mark that has Jesus appearing to some of his followers and talking about their picking up snakes and drinking poison.

Of course, even if the longer ending is authentic and original to Mark, there is still the matter of interpretation. As a way to complete my review of BibleWorks 9, I set out to use BibleWorks to try to examine some of the manuscript evidence. A BibleWorks module of Daniel Wallace’s Greek grammar (included in BW9) offered some insight into interpretation, which you can read briefly here (screenshot).

BibleWorks 9 features the BibleWorks Manuscript Project, where you can “compare and analyze original manuscript text and images.” As a part of the Analysis Window, the manuscripts are integrated with the Browse Window, so that as you move around in the latter, the former tracks with you. The perfect complement to the Manuscripts Project is the Center for New Testament Textual Studies’ (CNTTS) NT Critical Apparatus. BibleWorks describes it:

For the first time, the New Testament Critical Apparatus from the Center for New Testament Textual Studies is available for PCs. This exhaustive apparatus covers the entire New Testament. The BibleWorks version has been enhanced to show a matrix of Aland categories and time period for the mss for each reading. Users will especially appreciate having the apparatus track and update as the mouse moves over the text in the BibleWorks main window. In addition, the start of each verse entry summarizes the significant, insignificant, and singular variants. When examining a variant, the text of the verse is shown with the variant text highlighted. No unlock required!

You can’t get NA27 and its textual apparatus in BibleWorks but with what CNTTS offers (it’s thorough), it doesn’t matter! Greek textual critics benefit immensely from the additions in BibleWorks from version 8 to 9.

BibleWorks has some great mini-training videos. Here they explain the CNTTS Apparatus. And here they discuss the Manuscripts Tab. If you’re serious about either (a) considering purchasing BibleWorks 9 or (b) have it and want to figure out how to use those two features, those two videos will get you there.

Now, on to the manuscript evidence regarding Mark’s ending in BibleWorks 9. This gives an idea of what the program can do in an applied Bible study.

If I’m wondering what Codex Vaticanus (“B”) has in Mark 16:9, I can simply select that Codex in the drop-down menu in the Mss Tab. (BibleWorks refers to it as m-3, too.) The screenshot below (click for larger) shows that there’s no image for Vaticanus at 16:9. This is because Vaticanus ends Mark at 16:8.

Note, too, something I find exceedingly helpful in the bottom right of the shot above–a key to not only BibleWorks’ manuscript numbering system but to abbreviations for manuscripts, their dates, and their contents. This is the stuff budding text critics always have to look up, flipping from page to page and resource to resource. (Or just using that little insert in the NA27. But this is easier!)

In fact, by right-clicking when you do see an image (e.g., Vaticanus at Mark 16:8), you can “load image in viewer” to pull it out and look at it more closely. There you can zoom and drag your way through the various parts of the text. It looks like this:

The top right section of the Mss Tab (in the full screenshot image above) lines up the various readings available in the manuscripts that BibleWorks contains. I can quickly see that “A” (Alexandrinus) and “W” (Washingtonianus) do have text for a longer ending of mark. Pulling up the image for Alexandrinus, I see this for Mark 16:9 ff.:

Hovering over the verse references (superimposed over the manuscript) brings up the pop-up window that you see there, where I can compare the given manuscript, the English, and the BGT Greek text in BibleWorks. (!!) This is all pretty amazing.

The Mss Tab is easy to figure out. Using the CNNTS Apparatus was less than intuitive for me. But this BibleWorks video explained it quite well. I’ve had to work at it to figure out how to best use it, but having done that, it’s a great apparatus. Especially helpful is its classification of variation types (significant, insignificant, lacunae, etc.). The Apparatus is chock full of abbreviations to learn, but what critical apparatus isn’t? And this one hyperlinks the abbreviations to what they stand for, so it’s not too bad.

For the Greek manuscripts that include some parts of the Septuagint (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus), I would love to be able to see both testaments in future BibleWorks editions. That was a loss for me, especially given my appreciation of the Septuagint. So be aware that even though BibleWorks has images of manuscripts that contain parts of the LXX, it’s just the New Testament that appears in BibleWorks.

But the images are already some 8 GB, and this is a work in progress (with future updates promised), so the lack of the LXX/Old Greek is understandable. Viewing Hebrew manuscripts in the future would also be awesome! Until then, what BibleWorks includes and gives the user access to (as part of the purchase price) is pretty remarkable.

BibleWorks won’t actually answer the question I posed in the title of this post: Would Mark’s Jesus have us handle snakes and drink poison? Exegetes will always have to interpret and answer questions like this. (This one’s a bit of a softball, admittedly.) BibleWorks also can’t determine with certainty what the actual ending of Mark is.

But it can sure show you a lot of evidence, and give you just about everything you need to try to have an informed opinion on the matter. Being able to look at images of actual manuscripts still boggles my mind. And it’s not only being able to view those manuscripts (much of which you could do online anyway)–it’s the fact that they’re tied to BibleWorks’ analysis tools that’s truly astounding to me. BibleWorks has enhanced my Bible study immensely.

BibleWorks 9 is easily a five-star program in my book. I’ve enjoyed being able to review it.

See all that’s new in BibleWorks 9 here.

I received a free upgrade to BibleWorks 9 in exchange for an unbiased review. (Thank you, BibleWorks!) See the other parts of my BibleWorks review here. You can order the full program here or upgrade here. It’s on Amazon (affiliate link), too.

These 4 Perks are Divine in BibleWorks 9

Okay–not divine per se, but pretty indispensable for Bible study. Here are four perks in BibleWorks 9 that, the more I use the program, the more I appreciate.

1. Archer and Chirichigno’s Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament

Sure, this is perhaps an obscure thing to highlight. But it’s a major perk in my book! Archer and Chirichigno’s resource is already an invaluable one, particularly for studying the NT use of the OT. But the way it’s laid out in BibleWorks opens up possibilities unavailable to the owner of just the print version.

Because the focus is on OT Quotations, everything is listed in Old Testament canonical order. So if you’re wondering where Exodus 20 (the 10 Commandments) shows up in the New Testament, you can skip ahead to that section and find (click for larger):

Everything in Archer and Chirichigno’s book is there–their commentary at the bottom, their comparison of MT/LXX/NT. You can hide or display the English in BibleWorks (I have it shown above). Also, when you mouse over a blue hyperlinked verse, as I’ve done in the image above, you see a popup with that verse in three different versions. This seems to be an underrated part of BibleWorks, but if you’re serious about LXX or OT/NT study, having this is a great help.

2. Lots of how-to videos

Some six hours worth, according to the BibleWorks site. The videos I’ve watched have been clear, simple, and substantive.

3. Intermediate Hebrew and Greek grammars included

BibleWorks 9 comes with these three classics included:

They’re keyed to individual verses so that the appropriate information from each of these grammars will automatically show in the “Resources” window at any given verse. Using even Amazon prices, just these three grammars cost more than $150 in print. And having them lined up with the OT and NT texts as I use them in BibleWorks saves me time from flipping through indices and physical pages. (See this portion of my BibleWorks review to see Wallace in action.)

4. The Use Tab

In an earlier part of my review I wrote:

[T]he new “Use” tab … instantaneously shows you all the uses of a word with how many occurrences it has in that book and version…. You had to search on a word in previous versions to do this…. I find this particularly useful for vocabulary acquisition. As I come across a word I don’t know in the text, I can easily see–does this occur 121 times and I should know it? Or is it just in the text two or three times, so I was okay in not knowing right away what it means?

This feature was reason enough for me to pursue an upgrade from version 8 to version 9. (!) With the new fourth column (which I mention at more length at the same link above), the Use tab can be open together with an additional analysis window.

Although I still regularly use print copies of the Bible (Greek, Hebrew, and English), BibleWorks has been a useful companion in my personal Bible study and devotions for the last couple years. Especially when I want to do word studies or delve into the grammar of the text or compare multiple translations, BibleWorks has been a great program to use.

See all that’s new in BibleWorks 9 here.

I received a free upgrade to BibleWorks 9 in exchange for an unbiased review. See my prolegomenon to a review here, part 1 (setup and layout) here, part 2 (the Verse tab) here, and part 3 (text criticism 1 of 2) here, with the completion of the text criticism mini-series coming soon.  You can order the full program here or upgrade here. It’s on Amazon, too.