Here is a profound insight on what self-deception (and then deception of others) looks like:
No man, perhaps, ever at first described to himself the act he was about to do as Murder, or Adultery, or Fraud, or Treachery, or Perversion; and when he hears it so described by other men, he is (in a way) sincerely shocked and surprised. Those others “don’t understand.” If they knew what it had really been like for him, they would not use those crude ‘stock’ names. With a wink or a titter, or in a cloud of muddy emotion, the thing has slipped into his will as something not very extraordinary, something of which, rightly understood and in all his highly peculiar circumstances, he may even feel proud.
—A Preface to Paradise Lost, by C.S. Lewis
We rationalize our actions, even if we might rightly balk at the same actions, were it somebody else. Hard a pill as this is to swallow, I think it’s an important truth to acknowledge—and confess to God.
I keep coming back to this arresting passage in Jeremiah:
For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
— Jeremiah 6:13-14
Any declaration of peace calls for discernment. Anyone can say there is “peace” in a place when there’s really not. In fact, folks with positions of power (formal or informal) have a vested interest in “saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”
That way they can preserve the status quo (from which they benefit). They can avoid “conflict” (or taking a long, hard look at reality and themselves). They can curry favor with those who love to hear that there is peace (don’t we all?).
In Jeremiah it was prophet and priest who were “dealing falsely,” saying “Shalom!” when shalom was decidedly not God’s word for the people. Shalom did not reflect the hard realities.
I find it sobering to remember that prophet and priest are appointed, sacred offices, established by God.
Yes, even sacred communities are susceptible to the abuse of lying leaders who declare peace where there is none.
A hard truth, but I think the even greater challenge is to think about how these verses might apply to our own settings.
It’s easy to call out Jeremiah’s Hananiah, his nemesis who persuaded the people “to trust in lies.” It’s easy to point at pastors, priests, and bishops who have lied and misled people in other communities. It’s easy to call for the resignation of a deceitful and unrepentant church leader in another faith community (or president of a country). Indeed, we should.
But what about when the false prophet is my false prophet? What about when the fake peace proclaimer is our fake peace proclaimer? What about when the deceit is coming “from inside the house”?
We might try to minimize:
Yeah, but she’s been a huge part of our community for decades!
Well, he thinks there is actually “peace” here, and he’s prophesying sincerely.
They’re doing the best they can under the circumstances; how about some grace?
Or the even more insidious: “Who can even know what peace is?”
It’s harder to navigate when Hananiah is one of us… when we have worshiped with Hananiah… when we have shared meals with Hananiah… when we have done mission together… when we celebrated birthdays and holidays and baptisms together. We might even think that Hananiah has somehow earned the right to be wrong, the right to (occasionally?) misrepresent God to the people. Jeremiah’s Hananiah is clearly in the wrong but my Hananiah gets a mulligan.
Jeremiah 6:16 goes on:
Thus says the LORD: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
Instead of an uncritical acceptance of our Hananiah’s lying, instead of asking, “How can we even know?”, God calls the people to stand and look and ask. (“Seek and you shall find.”) And then to walk in “the good way.”
And then there is the last line of Jeremiah 6:16—indeed, it often goes unquoted:
But they said, “We will not walk in it.”
May God have mercy on us, for all the times we choose not to walk in God’s good way. And may God give us the discernment and the courage to acknowledge the truth about Hananiah and his prophecies, even when he’s “one of us.”
BHQ (Biblia Hebraica Quinta) is meant to supersede the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) as the scholarly, critical edition of the Hebrew Bible.
It’s been a few years since I wrote it, but here I describe the BHQ and its use in Accordance Bible Software.
Here’s a bit more from Hendrickson:
At the beginning of each volume, there is a table of accents, a glossary for the Masorah parva, a list of the definitions and abbreviations used to characterize the readings, and a useful sample page that illustrates the features of the layout. Each volume ends with a detailed yet succinct discussion of the textual witnesses for each biblical book that contains a wealth of helpful information, and the manuscripts and critical editions of the texts are clearly annotated. The volumes read right to left.
And a bio of the editor of this volume:
Innocent Himbaza is a Rwandan-born evangelical pastor, theologian, lecturer, Hebrew language expert, and Bible researcher. He is currently a professor at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and in partnership with the German Bible Society in Stuttgart, he participates in the compilation of the Bible Hebraica Quinta. He lives in Switzerland with his wife, Swiss-born Liliane Mouron, and two daughters, Sarah and Esther.
I recently read Leviticus through in English and wondered how that book got its reputation as the most tedious in the Hebrew Bible. (That honor, with all due respect to God’s holy, revealed Word, belongs to Numbers, I think.) And the Hebrew isn’t as difficult as other books of the Hebrew Bible.
You can check out Leviticus BHQ here. For the rest of today (Friday), Hendrickson is offering 45% off with the code LEVI45.
I recently saw a survey given to young people that asked them something like, “Do you use your computer inappropriately?” The number was low, 10% or so of respondents answering yes. The next question was something like, “Do your peers use their computer inappropriately?” The number was much higher; if I recall, close to a majority of respondents said yes. In other words, I don’t do that, but they do.
I suspect that pattern holds with other destructive habits. Take gossip, for example. Deborah Grayson Riegel points out that in her coaching work, her clients often deny participating in workplace gossip, “with a look on their faces that indicates that they are insulted to have been asked such a question.” But when Grayson Riegel reframes the question, the response changes:
When I ask them whether they have ever participated in a “confirmation expedition” — whereby they 1) ask a colleague to confirm their own negative or challenging experience with a third colleague who is not present, or 2) welcome a similar line of confirmation inquiry from another colleague about a third colleague who is not present, most admit that this is, in fact, a regular part of their daily work life.
She talks about the importance of naming gossip (or a “confirmation expedition”) as such:
First, call gossip “gossip” to stop it in its tracks. If you are engaging in “informal and evaluative talk in an organization, usually among no more than a few individuals, about another member of that organization who is not present,” — especially if the aim is to confirm your experience rather than get constructive solutions — then you are participating in gossip.
The intertestamental book of Sirach goes further than just calling gossip “gossip.” It says, “Curse the gossips and the double-tongued, for they destroy the peace of many” (Sirach 28:13, NRSV). Gossip destroys the well-being of persons and disrupts whole communities.
The apostle Paul also warns his first century churches about “gossips,” which in Greek sure seems like an onomatopoeia: psithuristēs (whisperer). Think: “whisper networks,” but not the good, truth-telling kind that rightly bring down folks like Harvey Weinstein et al.
One of the dangers of gossip is that it seeks to confirm information (or at least claims to), but it risks getting reality wrong, because not all the involved people are in the room, including folks who may know more about a situation at hand. Not to mention that such furtive whispering is hard to hear, and often inaccurately conveys information when passed from one person to another (as happens in the kids’ game of “Telephone”).
Grayson Riegel has excellent advice for what to do about this dynamic (see her Harvard Business Review article here). I especially appreciate her “Let people know that you have a policy of ‘if you have a problem with me, please tell me first.’” (Although I think we need to be ready for the unfortunate possibility that some may simply ignore this request.)
I would add this prayer from Psalm 139:23-24, which could help us avoid doing what we are sure only others do:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Bruce Waltke’s Commentary on Micah is on sale for $12.90 in Accordance for a while longer. Even at its list price of $27.90, it’s a bargain.
It’s been a while since I used it in depth, but whenever I have plunged its depth, I’ve been astounded at Waltke’s attention to detail, analysis of the text, and careful treatment of the grammar (and so much more). He has other Micah volumes available, even: Tyndale and McComiskey. But this stand-alone volume is the one it seems he really wanted to write, the volume that was far too long for inclusion in any series. He says in the preface that he treated each pericope as if it were a doctoral dissertation.
When I wrote a lengthy exegesis paper on a Micah passage in seminary, this commentary was close at hand. I used the library copy extensively, then bought myself a hard copy afterwards to celebrate. (I do love the smell of Eerdmans books.) When it became available in Accordance, I quickly made it one of a handful of double purchases, where I get a book in print and Accordance, so that I could access it electronically, as well.
No kickback for me on this post… just one of the best commentaries I’ve ever used for in-depth, original language work (especially text criticism), so wanting to give it its due.
I preached through Jonah in Advent 2014. It remains one of my favorite series to prepare and preach–unlikely liturgical pairing notwithstanding.
In those days, I read as many Jonah commentaries as I could get my hands on. Kevin J. Youngblood’s rose to the top. Then it was part of a series called Hearing the Message of Scripture. Now it has been released in its second edition, with the series name being changed to the less exciting Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament, to bring OT volumes in line with the NT volumes of the same overall series.
Zondervan was gracious to send me a review copy of the Second Edition.
The changes are minor, and they are really only three:
The re-branded series name
Transliterated Hebrew is replaced with actual Hebrew text (yay!)
The author’s translation and visual layout of the text includes the original Hebrw text now, too
Here, for example, is how that text layout section has changed (the new edition is the one on the bottom):
Otherwise, the text is identical to the first edition. (Even the Bibliography has not been updated, from what I can see.) So if you own the first edition, there’s no need to also get the second. But if you don’t own this commentary, by all means, check it out from a library or purchase it. Even if you don’t know Hebrew, this is an excellent guide to a beautiful and challenging biblical book.
For my full review of the first edition (which all applies to the second edition), see here.
Accordance Bible has put its Göttingen Septuagint on sale, at its lowest price ever. There are 19 volumes, which span 34 Septuagint books. As Brian Davidson notes, Logos has five LXX volumes not in Accordance (Judith; Tobit; 3 Maccabees; Wisdom of Solomon; and Susanna, Daniel, and Bel et Draco), while only Accordance has the 2014 2 Chronicles. Neither has yet digitized the recently released Ecclesiastes volume.
$499 for the in-progress critical edition is not cheap, but serious students of the Septuagint will receive at least that much value from the modules. The Genesis print volume alone retails for about $250. The Accordance versions are morphologically tagged, so you never have to guess at a parsing or translation equivalent. As with all Accordance texts, Göttingen integrates seamlessly with lexicons, parallel texts, and other resources.
Here’s what the recently released 2 Chronicles volume looks like, with its apparatus open at bottom and two English translations of the Septuagint also open:
I’ve noted elsewhere that the critical apparatus in the Göttingen Septuagint is a text criticism workout. I’ve posted here and here about how to understand and use its apparatuses. Accordance hyperlinks all the abbreviations (everything in blue and underlined in the screenshot above is a hyperlink). The expanded abbreviations don’t mitigate the need for Latin and German in understanding the apparatus!
What especially sets Accordance apart from Logos is Accordance’s use of search fields in the apparatus, so that you can select a search field and run a more targeted search. I’ve found this most useful for when I’m trying to get a handle on how a particular manuscript might have treated the text. You can also search the apparatus by Greek content, so could see, for example, all of the Greek words that get treatment in the apparatus.
When I read through LXX Isaiah (mostly using Accordance) a few years ago, I made heavy use of Accordance’s “Compare” and “List Text Differences” features. This way you can see at a glance where Göttingen and Rahlfs or Swete differ on the book you’re looking at.
Do you want to really geek out on using the Septuagint in Accordance? Here‘s a post I wrote for their blog the other day, on using Accordance to generate a list of Greek vocabulary that New Testament readers might want to consider when coming to the Septuagint.
Disclosure: Accordance set me up with the 2 Chronicles volume to review. And I lead Webinars for them. That did not influence the objectivity of this post.
Earlier in 2019 Zondervan released updated editions of Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar (Pratico and Van Pelt, now in its 3rd edition) and Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar (Mounce, now in its 4th edition), as well as a suite of accompanying aids for students learning from those textbooks.
I haven’t spent as much time with the new resources as I’d like. But I recently came across Mounce’s own short summary online of what is new and updated in his fourth edition. Here’s his list of “major improvements”:
The layout of the book has been simplified. It’s gone back to its former size (6 x 9) but with a lay-flat binding. You wouldn’t need a brick to hold the pages open.
The layout is cleaner, which makes the content less intimidating, and the Professor has been moved to the website.
Vocabulary is the same (except ἅγιος is moved forward to chapter 9). However, pay close attention to the semicolons in the vocabulary listings. They identify the different glosses for a word.
Exercises 11 and 12, which are made-up sentences, now have space to translate them; hopefully, teachers will start requiring them.
A few exercise sentences have been replaced, and the order of the parsing exercises have been re-ordered in later chapters so that they go from easier to harder. Eventually, there will be a listing of those changes.
A free set of Keynote and PowerPoint slides for both the grammar and the workbook are downloadable for free, and they use Unicode so you wouldn’t have to download a special font. (They use Times New Roman.)
The FlashWorks database, paper flashcards, and the Compact Guide have all been updated to match the changes in the grammar. Roots are added to the cards, and a downloadable PDF listing all the words in alphabetical order is available for free.
Scholarship’s new understanding of the middle voice has been included, and teachers are invited to decide which approach to use. The same goes for the debate over σα and θη forms. QC codes will point you to YouTube presentations on some of these issues.
Aspectual language is now used throughout. So the book talks about the imperfective aspect, imperfect tense, perfective aspect, aorist tense, combinative aspect, and the perfect tense. I always include the words “aspect” and “tense” to avoid confusion.
Roots have been emphasized from chapter 4 on, are listed prominently in the vocabulary sessions, so when the student comes to chapter 20 it is natural and easy to think in terms of roots and stems.
See more here. Mounce’s grammar is available here.
Zondervan has just released updated editions of Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar and Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, as well as related aids for students working through those textbooks. Behold:
Zondervan Academic has sent these for review. It feels like a long time ago (though it was only 10 years) that I began learning biblical languages. I spent hours and hours combing through the previous editions of these Greek and Hebrew textbooks, filling out almost every page of the workbooks, and learning the vocabulary with the cards. So I’m excited to work through these resources and report back.
In the meantime, you can click the links below to learn more. When I post I’ll point out differences in the new editions, but please also leave comments or questions if you’re wondering about a specific aspect of these new resources, and I’ll do my best to address them in the reviews.
I’ve made a plan for memorizing verses of Scripture each week in 2019.
I intend, with God’s help, to follow this weekly plan. So far, so good! I have shared it with my congregation and wanted to share it here, in case any others have interest in joining me, or would otherwise find it helpful.
Each week there is a suggested verse or verses, spanning the whole sweep of the Old and New Testaments. There are never more than three verses to learn per week, except for the Psalm 23 week and the 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 week. Many weeks suggest memorizing a single verse.
You can find a printable/downloadable PDF of the plan right here. You’ll also find (on the first page) some notes about reading in context, as well as “16 Ways to Memorize” that could be helpful, should you choose to take this on.
Let me know if you’ll be memorizing (or reading) along!