ἰῶτα in Matt 5:18: Which “Law”?

It’s interesting that Matthew quotes Jesus as saying that not a ἰῶτα will pass away/fall away/disappear from the law. That’s a Greek letter. Could this mean Matthew/Jesus are referring to the Septuagint translation of the Torah, specifically? Or at least had the Greek translation in mind, alongside the Hebrew Torah?

More questions, maybe unanswerable: Was Jesus speaking Aramaic here? Or Greek? Or Aramaic and then said ἰῶτα in Greek?

Here’s John Nolland, from his NIGTC commentary:

“To what does Matthew intend ἰῶτα to refer? While ἰῶτα is the simplest of the Greek letters (a vertical line), it does not make a particularly striking image for a tiny detail of the wording of the Law. The synagogue practice of giving the reading from the Law in Hebrew, followed by translation, may suggest that Matthew has the Hebrew text in mind. In that case ἰῶτα could represent yod (as frequently claimed), the smallest of the Hebrew consonants, and one which sometimes contributes nothing to the meaning.”

I find this less than compelling. If Matthew had the Hebrew Law in mind, couldn’t he have put a Greek transliteration of yod (or some other Hebrew letter) on Jesus’s lips?

Or is Nolland right, and Matthew simply translated Jesus’s “yod” into Greek, much as he would already be translating Jesus’s Aramaic speech into Greek (assuming Jesus did, in fact, primarily speak Aramaic)?

The larger interpretive question of what Jesus means theologically doesn’t seem to hinge on these language-specific questions, but I find them interesting all the same.

2018: (Any Language) Gospels in a Year

from The Book of Kells

I am one week in with the Greek Gospels in 2018 reading plan I made. Last week I also invited my congregation to join me in English, so I’ll be able to have some good in-person conversations about the content of the Gospels, too.

Each Gospel has its own three months. Readings are listed for Monday-Friday, with weekends left open for review, other reading, catch-up, or a break. Friday always ends with the last verse of a chapter.

The plan linked below also includes suggested passages each week for ​lectio divina, an ancient way of reading Scripture that goes back to at least the Middle Ages. Lectio divina, many readers of this blog will be aware, is Latin for “divine reading” or “holy reading,” where we read Scripture slowly, reflectively, and prayerfully. (There is a short primer on the practice here, based on a sermon I preached in Lent 2016.)

Let me know if you’ll be reading along! The plan is here.

2018: Greek Gospels in a Year


I plan to read through the four canonical Gospels in Greek in 2018: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

I’ve created a reading plan, which divides the Gospels into three months each, Monday through Friday (with weekends to catch up, review, or take a break).

fullsizeoutput_39f2-e1514662411967.jpegThere is also a weekly reading suggestion for an accompanying Greek textbook to help with vocabulary and grammar: Rod Decker’s Reading Koine Greek.

The plan also includes suggested passages for ​lectio divina each week, for those who want to engage with the Greek text reflectively and prayerfully. Finally, the plan concludes with 16 tips for Scripture memory, for those who want to add that component, as well.

Phew! I am looking forward to reading through the Gospels in this way.

Here is the plan as a PDF, with navigable/hyperlinked Table of Contents: PDF.

And here is the plan as an interactive Accordance User Tool: User Tool.

Would you like to join me? Let me know in the comments or by emailing me through this form. I’m off all social media in 2018 (woo hoo!), but will respond to comments here, as well as at Accordance Bible Software’s “Greek in a Year” forum (here).

Known By God: A Biblical Theology Of Personal Identity (Book Note)



Brian S. Rosner has just published a book I’m excited about working through. It’s called Known By God: A Biblical Theology Of Personal Identity. Here is the overview from the publisher:

Who are you? What defines you? What makes you, you?

In the past an individual’s identity was more predictable than it is today. Life’s big questions were basically settled before you were born: where you’d live, what you’d do, the type of person you’d marry, your basic beliefs, and so on. Today personal identity is a do-it-yourself project. Constructing a stable and satisfying sense of self is hard amidst relationship breakdowns, the pace of modern life, the rise of social media, multiple careers, social mobility, and so on. Ours is a day of identity angst.

Known by God is built on the observation that humans are inherently social beings; we know who we are in relation to others and by being known by them. If one of the universal desires of the self is to be known by others, being known by God as his children meets our deepest and lifelong need for recognition and gives us a secure identity. Rosner argues that rather than knowing ourselves, being known by God is the key to personal identity.

He explores three biblical angles on the question of personal identity: being made in the image of God, being known by God and being in Christ. The notion of sonship is at the center – God gives us our identity as a parent who knows his child. Being known by him as his child gives our fleeting lives significance, provokes in us needed humility, supplies cheering comfort when things go wrong, and offers clear moral direction for living.

The book is part of Zondervan’s Biblical Theology for Life series. (Check the first results here to see more in the series.)

Especially with a new year approaching—and the potential resolutions that come with it—I’m looking forward to reading Rosner’s theology of personal identity.

The book is here (Zondervan) and here (Amazon). I’ll write more about it as I am able.

My First Sprained Ankle

My 25K (15.5-mile) run in September was so invigorating, I decided to do another long race: a half marathon in early November with my spouse.

Here I am, ready to be done. (But, let’s be honest, also having the time of my life.)



My time improved by 0:20/mile from the September run, and my wife and I got to spend a rare Sunday morning together. The ocean views were stunning, and the route was awesome. Lots of fun, and a good challenge.

Unfortunately the next day I sprained my ankle playing basketball.

The good news is I made the shot I was driving in to take, before I landed on my defender’s leg and rolled my left ankle out, landing on it with all my weight.

My ankle ballooned immediately, and I was on crutches for the first couple days.

As I sat on the couch, my ankle elevated, the joy of making that shot dissipated. I had been looking forward to using the perfect November weather to achieve some new 5K and 10K personal records!

That was a month ago, and I’ve come a long way since then. I’m in physical therapy and just this last week got the go-ahead to start running again—a little bit at a time. My 1.5-mile run last night was so refreshing—even if I was a little sore afterwards, and despite my getting winded more easily than I did a month ago!

The day after my injury, I read Mario Fraioli’s excellent weekly newsletter, The Morning Shakeout. (Go here and subscribe. It’s one email newsletter you’ll read!)

He had a perfectly timed section called, “Everybody hurts.” As it is just three paragraphs, I reproduce it here (source):

“I realized quickly [after getting injured and having to pull out of this year’s Boston Marathon], getting over feeling sorry for myself, that I think, essentially, I needed that break. I hadn’t really allowed myself to ever really take any downtime or rest,” Shalane Flanagan admitted to me back in June. “I just am constantly throwing new projects and goals in front of myself, and I think I needed that break. Not until I allowed myself to just take a step back and rest, did I realize how tired I was. I think [taking a break] has rejuvenated me mentally and physically more than I ever would have thought, and it allowed me to appreciate the other amazing things in my life.”

I’m sharing this excerpt for all the injured runners out there. Flanagan had a stress fracture in her back that kept her out of Boston in April. Disappointing as that diagnosis was at the time, those 10 weeks of forced downtime allowed her body and mind to recover, reshaped her perspective, and helped her recharge for the remainder of the year ahead. Flanagan clawed her way back into shape over the summer and on Sunday posted the biggest victory of her career on one of marathoning’s grandest stages. Look at the emotion on her face in this photo. That’s a lifetime of hard work, sacrifice, disappointment, triumph, raw joy, and gratitude captured in one moment. I get goosebumps every time I look at it.

The lesson here? Injuries happen, even to the best amongst us. And when we’re forced to take time off from running, it’s not the end of the world—it’s an opportunity: to rest and recharge, refocus and re-evaluate, and return with renewed vigor and redefined purpose.

Here’s that awesome picture of Shalane Flanagan:



So this month I’ve done my best to (a) not feel sorry for myself, (b) quit complaining about this one thing (of many, many things) that was largely beyond my control, (c) use the time to write and reflect and enjoy relationships more fully, (d) wait patiently.

Now that I’m back on my feet, the trick is going to be not coming back too fast, so I don’t re-injure myself.

That said, round two of my basketball league’s playoffs is this Monday….

Coming Soon(ish): Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint


From publisher Mohr Siebeck:

Edited by Eberhard Bons and Jan Joosten (Université de Strasbourg)

This large-scale collective and interdisciplinary project aims to produce a new research tool: a multi-volume dictionary providing an article of between two and ten pages (around 600 articles in all) for each important word or word group of the Septuagint. Filling an important gap in the fields of ancient philology and religious studies, the dictionary will be based on original research of the highest scientific level.

This project has benefitted from funding from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (French Research National Agency), the Maison Interuniversitaire des Sciences de l’Homme – Alsace (Strasbourg), the Melanchthon-Stiftung (Tübingen), and the Armin Schmitt Stiftung (Regensburg).

The first volume is projected to be published in 2018.

You can check out a lengthy PDF sample here, with a “Wordlist of the First Volume,” as well as some sample articles.

Amusement Parks on Fire Is Back


It’s always a little bit sad when a young band with a ton of talent puts out a couple of great records and then stops releasing music.

My brother introduced me to Amusement Parks on Fire in 2005. Their song “Blackout” is a shoegazing classic. They put out a couple of LPs in the mid-oughts, followed some EPs in the following years. In 2010 they released Road Eyes. I was impressed at the time, but the album didn’t impact me as much as their earlier stuff. Still, this is Amusement Parks on Fire, and even a less-than-stellar album from them is really good.

It had been quiet on the APOF front since 2010’s Road Eyes. Now, however, they are back. There’s a two-song EP dropping next week. (I love both songs.) And I hear rumors of a full-length to follow….

A few months ago the band re-released 2010’s Road Eyes as a deluxe edition. The re-release adds some demos, some tracks that came out on other EPs, and the glorious unreleased track “Airstrike.” (How this did not make it onto an LP or EP already is beyond me.) There are other previously unreleased tracks, too, giving you a full nine-track “Side B” that complements the original Road Eyes LP.

There are very few APOF songs I don’t love, and none I don’t like. I bought Road Eyes the week it came out, seven years ago, but it didn’t wow me then as much as the first two LPs. Going back and listening again now, though, I think Road Eyes is just as good as anything APOF has released. Having new music to digest in this deluxe edition is an added bonus.

I’m stoked that Amusement Parks on Fire is recording again. The deluxe edition of Road Eyes will both fill your APOF-less void and get you ready for their upcoming offerings. Can’t wait.

Check out the album here. It’s currently digital-only, but in February 2018 will be available in vinyl and CD formats.



Thanks to the kind folks at Saint Marie Records for giving me access to the album so I could write about it.