Review of A Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic Two-way Index to the Septuagint by T. Muraoka

T Muraoka

As I read Isaiah 22:19 recently, I had a question about a rarely occurring word in that verse. The Greek reads:

καὶ ἀφαιρεθήσῃ ἐκ τῆς οἰκονομίας σου καὶ ἐκ τῆς στάσεώς σου.

(And you will be removed from your office and from your post.)

The word οἰκονομία occurs in the Septuagint only here and two verses later. In the New Testament it appears just nine times.

A traditional lexicon (like LEH or LSJ) can give useful information about the word, but not necessarily any information about the underlying Hebrew. Continue reading “Review of A Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic Two-way Index to the Septuagint by T. Muraoka”

Colossians and Philemon (Zondervan ECNT), reviewed

col phil zecntI got an ad in the mail the other day for a new commentary series that claimed to avoid all the weaknesses of previous commentary series while building on their strengths. (!)

With how many good “old” commentaries there are, I think commentary users should critically examine new series, and certainly not take claims like the above too seriously. (Every commentary set has weaknesses.)

That said–Zondervan’s new Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series is a real winner. It adds important elements to the mix that are not present in previously published commentaries. As a preacher with a scholarly interest in Scripture, I find this series to cover many bases well. It would be good for a student, professor, preacher, or even someone who didn’t know Greek and wanted to go more deeply into a given book.

I’ve (favorably) reviewed James and Luke in the same ZECNT series. Like the rest of the series, Colossians and Philemon includes the following for each passage of Scripture:

  • The full Greek text of Colossians and Philemon, verse by verse
  • The author’s English translation
    • First, passage by passage in the graphical layout
    • Second, verse by verse next to the Greek
  • The broader “Literary Context” of each passage (within the larger book)
  • An outline of the passage in its surrounding context
  • The Main Idea (this is a great focus point for preachers)
  • Structure
  • A more detailed “Exegetical Outline”
  • “Explanation of the Text,” which includes the Greek and English mentioned above, as well as the commentary proper
  • “Theology in Application” concludes each passage

The fact that the commentary has within it all the Greek and English of the two books under examination means you can take the single book (and no other) with you for thorough study of Colossians and Philemon.

Author David W. Pao makes frequent use of Greek throughout the commentary, but a non-Greek reader would also make profitable use of his comments.

Colossians has a 16-page introduction and 8-page bibliography; Philemon’s introduction is 13 pages, its bibliography 4. A “theology” section of 13 and 9 pages, respectively, concludes each book.

Regarding authorship of Colossians, Pao writes, “Among the various possibilities, to consider Paul as the author of Colossians is still the best hypothesis on which our reading can be constructed.” Like Murray J. Harris, Pao deduces this due to the various parallels (e.g., the opening greeting sections) between Colossians and Philemon, which is almost universally accepted as Pauline. He dates both letters to 60-62 AD, being written by Paul during his Roman imprisonment.

Pao is a good writer, too. This is from the introduction to Colossians, on its significance:

This letter that addresses a congregation challenged by a form of syncretism has significant contemporary application in a society in which the “virtues” of pluralism and tolerance are exalted as most important. Instead of simply pointing out the errors of the various practices and beliefs promoted by the false teachers, Paul begins and ends with an intense focus on Christ as the foundation of the believers’ existence. As a result, one finds powerful theoretical and practical outworkings of a robust Christology. In this letter, the readers encounter a detailed portrayal of the unique identity and final authority of Christ, and this portrayal enriches the high Christology found elsewhere in Paul’s letters.

This  slightly longer excerpt on Col. 3:3 shows how adeptly Pao blends lexical study with historical background in a way that incorporates today’s Christian settings… all from an appreciated doxological posture:

That this life “is hidden with Christ” is significant in a number of ways. First, the verb “to hide” (κρύπτω) can signify close association (cf. Luke 13:21), and this meaning is certainly present in light of Paul’s identification of Christ as “your life” (ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν). To be “hidden with Christ” reaffirms the believers’ participation in Christ’s death and resurrection as they anticipate the final consummation of God’s salvific act at the end of time.

Second, to be “hidden with Christ” necessarily implies the security that one finds in Christ. The following verse explains the purpose of this hiddenness as it guarantees the final participation of believers in the revelation of God’s glory. This security from the evil powers is also implied in the reference to their dying with Christ, an act that points to the freedom of the threats posed by the opposing spiritual powers (2:20).

Third, in light of 2:3, where Paul asserts that in Christ “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden,” Paul is here affirming that the lives of believers are also contained in Christ. This may serve a polemical purpose as Paul argues against those who continuously seek to get access to the heavenly mysteries. Paul’s response is that believers are already hidden with all the treasures in Christ. The sufficiency of Christ cannot be challenged, and to seek for these treasures elsewhere is to betray the true gospel. 

Out of all of the above features, the graphical layout is my favorite in this series and in this volume. It’s what makes the ZECNT something I’ll always reach for when preaching on a given passage–and early on in the process, too. Here’s what it looks like:

Col. 3:12-17
Col. 3:12-17

The main clauses are in bold, and subordinate clauses are indented under them. It’s easy to see, at a glance, how all the parts of a sentence and paragraph relate. The words in gray at left describe the function of each line (exhortation, expansion, etc.).

Pao is a refreshingly enjoyable writer who knows this terrain very well. Preaching or teaching from Colossians/Philemon (or even studying in depth on one’s own or with others) would be greatly enhanced by use of his commentary.

I am grateful to Zondervan for the gratis review copy of this commentary, which was offered to me in exchange for an unbiased review. You can find the book on Amazon here. The Zondervan product page is here. See a pdf sample of the book here.

A Review of Mine, Published in Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies

I’ve just received the new Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies (JSCS) in the mail today. This issue publishes my review of a Greek Septuagint lexicon. I find lexicons (more or less, dictionaries) significantly more challenging to review than books or even commentaries. (But enjoyable.) I’m glad this one has been published.

See the full contents of this year’s journal here. Photos below.



Psalms of Lament (for “Scalding Tears”)

Psalms of Lament

Psalms of Lament is a heartbreakingly beautiful collection of poetry. Weems alarmingly yet assuringly gets right down to business in her Preface:

This book is not for everyone. It is for those who weep and for those who weep with those who weep. It is for those whose souls struggle with the dailiness of faithkeeping in the midst of life’s assaults and obscenities. This book is for those who are living with scalding tears running down their cheeks.

Her Psalms are for those whose experiences are “painful, too painful for any of us to try fitting our souls into ten correct steps of grieving.” They come from experience: Weems unexpectedly lost her son (“the stars fell from my sky”) just after his 21st birthday.

Drawing on the great biblical lament tradition, Weems writes lament psalms of her own. David’s familiar structure of

“How can you leave me like this, God?”–>”Yet I will trust you”

is on display throughout the collection. As personal as Weems’s psalms are, like David’s and Jeremiah’s laments, they are universal and could be prayed by anyone who is lamenting.

If you read with an open heart, Weems’s laments can evoke tears at nearly every line. And it’s a profound Godward lament in which she engages: “Anger and alleluias careen around within me, sometimes colliding.” There’s no bitterness here, but neither is there a naïve attempt to placate reality (as if we could!) with boring pseudo-truths like, “Everything happens for a reason,” or, “God took her away because he needed her for his heavenly choir.” Here is Lament Psalm Twelve, one of the starker and more personal psalms, in its entirety:

O God, what am I going to do?
He’s gone–and I’m left
with an empty pit in my life.
I can’t think.
I can’t work.
I can’t eat.
I can’t talk.
I can’t see anyone.
I can’t leave my house.
Nothing makes any sense.
Nothing seems worth doing.

How could you have allowed this to happen?
I thought you protected your own!
You are the power:
Why didn’t you use it?
You are the glory,
but there was no glory in his death.
You are justice and mercy,
yet there was no justice, no mercy for him.
In his death there is no justice for me.

O God, what am I going to do?
I’m begging you to help me.
At least you could be merciful.
O God, I don’t remember a time
when you were not my God.
Turn back to me;
you promised.
Be merciful to me;
you promised.
Heal me;
you promised.
My heart is broken.
My mind is broken.
My body is broken.
Nothing works anymore.
Unless you help me
nothing will ever work again.

O Holy One, I am confident
that you will save me.
You are the one
who heals the brokenhearted
and binds their wounds.
You are the power
and the glory;
you are the justice
and mercy.
You are my God forever.

The six “I can’t” statements (“I can’t think. I can’t work. I can’t eat. I can’t talk. I can’t see anyone. I can’t leave my house.) evoke the monotony and hopelessness that the grieving one feels. Yet three times: you promised… you promised… you promised. Given the way the poem begins, the last stanza seems almost out of place. But it’s a move David made (forced himself to make) in his Psalms.

I only wonder if those who grieve will be ready to pray along to the end of each psalm with Weems, as her laments so often end with an affirmation of God’s promises. For those whose grief is acute, fresh, and numbing, such prayers may at the moment be impossible.

Yet Weems gives us language for when we need it most, for when words of any kind are impossible. A person in the throes of grief not yet be able to say, “Alleluias spin in my heart!” But she or he may want to be able to make such affirmations, if not now, then eventually. Weems offers wording for the griever to attempt that journey. In so doing she provides a pattern for lament that is true to the biblical tradition, true to life.

Psalms of Lament 2Psalms of Lament is a gift to the Church and to those who grieve. Pastors, campus ministers, youth ministers, and worship leaders would all do well to have copies on hand. While Weems seems to have composed her laments with the individual in view, I’m intrigued by the possibility of reading and praying these psalms in corporate worship settings. A funeral or a Sunday after a tragedy would be particularly appropriate times. Yet if we consider, as Weems notes, the possibility of weeping with those who weep, those who pray would do well not to wait until a tragedy to employ these psalms.

Weems’s prayers floored me. I had turned to her before. As I read her again I never made it very far without choking back tears. (In my better moments, I gave up on trying to choke them back.) The tears Weems evokes, though, are not just tears of sadness, but tears of hope in the God who “will put the stars back in the sky.”

Thanks to Westminster John Knox Press for the review copy. I am confident I’ll want to pick up additional copies of Psalms of Lament for others. You can preview a good deal of the book at Google Books here.

Review of Beale’s Handbook at The Blog of the Twelve

I’ve just recently learned about The Blog of the Twelve. Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s recommended reading, especially for folks with an interest in the Minor Prophets.

There is a good book review from that blog of G.K. Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. (That book was a text for one of my classes this semester.) An excerpt:

The usefulness of this book can hardly be stated for those seeking to rightly handle the Scripture, whether student, pastor, or laity. Beale’s clear writing style, in addition to the uncharacteristic conciseness of the book, makes the method accessible to a wide audience. Furthermore, Beale, while emphasizing the indispensable value of learning the biblical languages, formats the book in such a way that those not familiar with Hebrew and Greek are able to profit just as well from the work.

Read the whole thing here.

Biblical Studies Carnival: please send me links


I am hosting the next Biblical Studies Carnival. (See here for the last one, by Bob MacDonald.)

The carnival is basically a long list of links, and anthology of analyses, a précis of posts, etc., etc., on all things biblical and theological in the blogosphere.

If you know of good links I should include (anything that has been or will be posted in December), please let me know.

And, since I have you here, don’t forget about the book giveaway going on now of Devotions on the Greek New Testament.

Free book giveaway: Devotions on the Greek New Testament

Devotions GNTYesterday I reviewed Zondervan’s new resource, Devotions on the Greek New Testament.

I have an extra copy to give away (not my review copy). I recommend this volume, for either you or the Greek language-lover in your life.

To enter the giveaway, simply comment on this blog post and say why it is you would want to win a copy. I will accept entries through next Monday afternoon, December 17, with 3pm EST being the cutoff.

Then if you link to this post on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc., come back here to tell me in the comments section that you did, and you’ll receive a second entry. I will announce the winner just before 5pm EST Monday.

If you want to check out the book before you decide to enter, my review of it is here.

Devotions on the Greek New Testament, reviewed

Devotions GNT

I used to think it was just a scare tactic when professors of biblical languages said, “Use your Greek! Don’t let your Hebrew get rusty, or it will be gone forever!”

They were, of course, right. For various reasons I had to have a bit of lag time between Hebrew I and Hebrew II, and quite a bit fell by the wayside then. I find myself highly motivated now to keep reading Greek and Hebrew, several years in to each language.

The key question is–when? How do I find time to do that? I’m a husband, father of three kids age five and under, work full-time, take classes, and try to have some semblance of a social life.

So I try to work smarter, not harder. I take my Hebrew and Greek Bible to church with me and follow along in it–and let me here publicly apologize to my wife for asking her to carry it in her purse for me. (Bible software in church still seems a bit tacky to me.) And I try to do my personal Bible reading/devotions in another language whenever possible. For example, I’m having a blast with Greek Isaiah in a Year.

For people like me who want to keep and improve their languages, I think that sort of integration is vital. Learning Greek and Hebrew can’t be just rote study time with piles of vocabulary cards and pages of sentence diagrams. Especially for those who want to improve them, languages need to become, I think, part of life, and part of one’s regular reading and worshiping patterns.

Enter Zondervan’s Devotions on the Greek New Testament. The book fills a gap for ongoing language study that not many other resources meet, at least not in this way. It contains “52 reflections to inspire and instruct,” offered by scholars like Scot McKnight, Lynn H. Cohick, Roy E. Ciampa, Linda Belleville, Constantine R. Campbell, and more.

Readers of this blog will not be shocked that I agree with the doxological focus this volume has:

The need to know why you are studying Greek, particularly in relation to the ultimate purpose of strengthening your walk with the Lord, never fades into the background.

Each devotion is a couple of pages long, beginning with a block of untranslated Greek text and followed by English commentary on the text. The 52 reflections could be spread out over the course of a year for one a week. (Those who want to do regular Greek devotions, however, might go through the book more quickly.)

There are 28 male authors and 3 female authors, which as out-of-balance as that may sound, is actually more diverse (sadly) than many resources like this. The variety of authors, perspectives, and approaches makes Devotions on the GNT rich. The reflections are listed in canonical order, with every NT book represented except for 2 and 3 John.

The book succeeds in its effort to “instruct.” Some devotions focus on single words or phrases from the Greek text (Ciampa has a great clarifying devotion on Joseph’s righteousness in Matthew 1:19, teasing out δίκαιος ὢν in the text). Dean Deppe unpacks participles and main verbs (or shall we say, parses participles and primary predicates?) in Mark 5:25-27 to unearth more of what Mark and Jesus are up to. J.R. Dodson offers a fantastic literary analysis and sentence flow (which is presented well on the page) to ask how well the reader is doing embracing the freedom the Gospel brings.

Devotions on the GNT does “inspire,” too, and I’m encouraged that this resource exists for students of the Greek Bible like myself. However, at times I found the application sections to be a bit shorter than I’d have hoped (sometimes just a sentence or two). The reader may be perfectly capable of making the application herself or himself, but more could have been offered here.

The only other similar resource of which I’m aware is More Light on the Path (Baker, 1999). That devotional has both Hebrew and Greek, with uncommon vocabulary and parsings footnoted. But Devotions on the GNT goes more in-depth with the passage it treats, making it suitable as a true “devotional.”

After reading a given reflection, I do generally feel instructed and inspired: I feel that I’ve worked at my Greek for the day and have something to take with me. And it takes less than five minutes to work carefully through a reflection.

You can find Devotions on the Greek New Testament at Amazon or at Zondervan. In both places you can look inside the book.

I hope Zondervan publishes a corresponding Hebrew volume, and it would be a dream to see a Septuagint Greek devotional, too! Devotions on the Greek New Testament constitutes yet another step forward for language-learning students.

And keep an eye on this here blog. Within the next couple days, I’ll have a giveaway contest with an additional copy I’ve received of this book. (Update: go here for the giveaway.)

(I am thankful to Zondervan for the free review copy of this book, which was sent to me with the understanding that I would then write an unbiased review.)

My 5-year-old son reviews The Friendly Beasts

The Friendly Beasts

This book tells the story of the friendly beasts. The friendly beasts are a cow, donkey, dove, and lamb. I don’t see another animal. But there’s baby Jesus! And there’s a camel in there. The camel brought him a gift. The donkey carried Jesus’ mama.

Jesus was a baby. (I knew that before I even had this book.) He was born in a manger.

I liked the CD [AKJ: that comes with the book–four tracks, including “The Friendly Beasts” by Rebecca St. James], because it was about Jesus. I liked the book because of the animals.

This book is good for 8-year-olds and 6-year-olds and 1-year-olds and 5-year-olds. This book would make people feel good.

Thanks to Zondervan/Zonderkidz for the review copy for my 5-year-old son to review with his honest impressions. Click on the image above to find out more about the book.