Category Archives: book reviews

Review: Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern

I would first like to thank IVP Academic for this free review copy.
You can purchase the book here.
Download the PDF of the review here


Imitation is ingrained into the human experience. People naturally imitate who they admire or honor. Whether it is a child imitating his parents or a student imitating his professor, everybody imitates someone. This can be for better or for worse. Jason Hood’s new book Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern stresses the importance of recognizing imitation as a valid and correct way of reading the Bible.

As with all methods of reading the Bible there can be both helpful and harmful ways of interpretation. Imitation done properly is not exact copying but rather is “actions and mindsets that reflect the actions and mindsets of another (12).” He notes that in todays Christianity there are three main groups that use (or don’t use) a hermeneutic of imitation. First, the “latitudinal left”, who use imitation but leave out the theological grounding. Second, the “muddy middle”, who seem confused and tend to “focus on imitation (that is) disconnected from God’s work for sinners (14).” Finally, the “reluctant right”, who are suspicious of anyone who places an emphasis on imitation. Hood’s goal is to reclaim imitation in the life and practice of the church.


The foundation of the book as a whole is that since human beings are made in the image of God then it necessarily follows that we are imitators of him. Hood continues to show the emphasis that the Old Testament stresses on imitation of God. he notes that many studies of imitation of Jesus and Paul have already been done by imitation actually starts in the Old Testament by imitating God. He says that humans are God’s image-bearers so we should “imitate the character he displays as he works (40).” To be human is to imitate God in all areas including his faithfulness, forgiveness, generosity, and righteousness (40). By imitating God humans are responding to God’s work and are being sanctified. Christians must realize the dual nature of the way God works in the world, it is both his work and our work, we must hold these in tandem. Imitating God is part of the human experience. He notes that often times in Old Testament interpretation interpreters tend to use a “Christ-centered” only approach but the New Testament also uses the Old Testament to exhort people to godly lives. The impetus for imitating Christ is the Old Testament’s call of imitating God.

Hood continues into his next section to focus on the imitation of Jesus. Jesus is the “true image, the true human” and because of this believers are also to imitate him. Jesus as the Messiah is also the “representative human” but the theology of Jesus “should not stop at describing him as a substitute.” Imitation includes all aspects of Jesus life, such as bearing shame and scorn as Jesus did. Imitating Jesus also means imitating the vocations that he gave his disciples. Hood notes three vocations: 1) authorized agents 2) apprentices 3) ambassadors (65–68). Each of these aspects should play a role in the believers life. This can not be done alone but it is only the Spirit empowered life that can imitate Jesus properly. Imitation also takes a major role in the New Testament letters. Hood emphasizes that the imitation that Paul calls for is rooted in the Gospel. Since believers are a new creation this is the “engine” that drives imitation, it is not legalism or moralism but an integral aspect of being a Christian.

The final section on “who” we imitate addresses imitating the “saints.” This section largely argues that we should see the characters in Scripture (Abraham, Moses, Job, Paul etc.) as ones to imitate. Drawing from the New Testament Hood shows that the New Testament writers use characters in the Old Testament as ones to be imitated. James refers to Abraham, Rahab, Elijah, and Job as all ones to be imitated (160) and Peter, Jude, and John also provide numerous examples (161). He concludes, “the use of characters for moral instruction–a pattern so ingrained in New Testament authors that they even used angels as examples–is virtually absent from some contemporary interpretation (161).”

The most helpful aspect of the book comes in the final chapters (13–15). Hood addresses objections that interpreters commonly give to imitation. This section is largely written for the “reluctant right” and quotes numerous pastors and theologians that voice strong opinions for not using imitation in preaching and teaching (Horton, Greidanus, and others). But if preachers and teachers are going to follow the New Testament example they need to include imitation in their teaching. He argues that one of the functions of Scripture is to be used as moral instruction (169). Interpretation should include both a Christ-centered focus and an imitation focus. Too often the “right” solely focuses on the former. finally, he shows how interpreters of the past included imitation in their preaching and teaching. This list of interpreters includes snippets from the apostolic and early church fathers, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, and others. while this chapter seems to focus on the right it is really a call to all interpreters to rethink imitation and look to the past to a time where imitation was rooted in the gospel and taught to the church


Hood is an engaging writer who presents the biblical text clearly. He is able to weave in more scholarly works with a pastors heart that is still accessible to a wide range of people. Throughout the book he tracks through biblical texts showing how every section and genre of Scripture exhorts its readers to imitation. If you do not think imitation is a biblical concept then this book is for you.

I think his analysis of the left, middle, and right is helpful addressing a large range of readers. By showing that this is not necessarily a new concept but one that has been lost in the church’s interpretation today. Hood is reclaiming the church to imitation. For readers who are not familiar with this concept or against a reading of imitation. Pastors, youth leaders, and students are the focus of this book. Pastors will be able to see a vision of how imitation is used throughout the Bible and to spark ideas how to apply imitation properly in preaching and teaching. Imitation is an important concept that should be taught in the church today. We need to follow in the footsteps of the New Testament writers and the interpreters throughout church history and including imitation and are teaching and reading.

The following is not necessarily a critique of the book but rather identifying who this book is for. Personally, while reading this book I found myself wanting more from various topics (imitation in the Gospels, cross bearing, history of imitation etc). Hood covers a plethora of texts in little space. By having a biblical theology of imitation in a short amount of space many concepts are only briefly addressed. It is important to remember the audience when reading a book. Hood successfully writes a helpful introduction to imitation while critiquing various conflicting positions.

One thing that I would like to see is a “how-to” book on imitation for preaching and teaching. This book successfully gets the word out on imitation but a follow up would be helpful to those who are newly persuaded to theologically grounded imitation.

Overall, Hood provides a solid critique of the contemporary scene lack of solid imitation exegesis throughout the Bible. I would recommend this book to anyone who is not familiar with the idea of imitation or is outright against it. If you are wondering what the Bible says about imitation this book is for you. This book will give you a solid foundation of imitation that will allow you to pursue more works that delve more deeply in this idea (see Drama of Doctrine by Kevin VanHoozer). This book is a helpful launching point for discussions within the church for integrating imitation with discipleship.

I’ll end with this quote from Jay. Gresham Mecham:

“Jesus as a matter of fact it is a Brother to us as well as a savior –an elder Brother who steps we may follow. The imitation of Jesus as a fundamental place in the Christian life; it is perfectly correct to represent him as our supreme and only perfect example.” (70)

Book Review: James: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary by William Varner

William Varner’s new commentary on James in the EEC Series by Logos is a goldmine of theological treasures. This commentary is extremely thorough and covers a wide range of exegesis from textual criticism to preaching and devotional use. It is not easy to encounter a commentary that addresses all these issues well but from my use of this commentary since its release I can say that Dr. Varner has succeeded. I have encountered a variety of commentaries on James but this one is by far the most thorough. Here is a summary from Logos on the EEC series:

The publication of the EEC by Logos marks the first time a major Bible commentary series has been published in digital form before its print counterpart—and the first time it has been published with a digital format in mind.

Because it will be published by Logos, the EEC will be fully integrated into the most advanced biblical and theological library available anywhere, powered by Logos Bible Software. It will be accessible wherever Logos Bible Software’s platform is available, including Windows, Mac, and iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. Users who purchase the EEC will also be able to access it online at, and on any future platform where Logos is available.

With the Logos edition, the EEC is completely searchable and full of hyperlinks for easy navigation—including links for Scripture references, cross-references, footnotes, and more. It contains accurate metadata and extensive tagging done by real humans, who understand that when you search for sacrament, results for Lord’s Supper and Communion and Eucharist should appear, too.


The introduction is a standard one covering authorship, recipients, date, occasion, themes etc. One of the strengths is Varner’s outline of James. There has been much debate in scholarship regarding the structure of James, which usually boils down to that James is loosely related. Using discourse analysis he presents a convincing argument for the following structure of James:


Each section of the commentary is generally broken down into nine sections:

  • Introduction
  • Outline
  • Original Text
  • Textual Notes
  • Translation
  • Commentary
  • Biblical Theological Comments
  • Application and Devotional Implications
  • Selected Bibliography

Each section is full of information and is very helpful for the exegete. The detail given to each section does not leave anyone wanting from the student needing assistance in the grammar in James to the pastor needing help teaching James today. The selected bibliography at the end of each section is also very helpful.

The end of the commentary includes three excursuses:

  1. Excursus on Scot McKnight’s Treatment of James 2:18
  2. Excursus on James 3:1–12: Can The Tongue Really Be Controlled?
  3. Excursus on Wisdom in James

Faith and Works

On the issue of faith and works being compatible with Paul’s teaching on justification by faith Varner takes the eschatological judgement of works on the last day. Following the argument of both Moo and Beale Varner says that “While James uses “justify” and “justification” to refer to God’s ultimate declaration of a person’s righteousness, Paul uses it to refer to the initial securing of that righteousness by faith.”[1] He shows that this understanding is also used by Jesus in Matthew 12:37 that the believer will be judged based on his works in an eschatological sense. He concludes, “Paul wants to make clear that one ‘gets into’ God’s kingdom only by faith; James insists that God requires works from those who are ‘in.’”[2]

The Law

Varner sees no difference between the “word” and “law” in James. In a helpful discussion on these topics he points out that James’ sees the law in the same way that Jesus presented the law in the Gospels. This “Jesus-shaped” understanding of the law allows the reader to see the connection between the “word of truth”, “implanted word”, “perfect law”, “royal law”, and “law of freedom”. He concludes by saying, Some readers may think it is necessary to make a distinction between the various synonyms for “word” and “law” in James. I am convinced, however, that James would not intend a semantic or even theological distinction between the Torah and Jesus’ teaching. James bases his argument on the Torah as it was understood, interpreted, and applied by the new King over the reconstituted twelve tribes, our glorious Lord Jesus the Messiah.”[3] I think the comparison with Jesus’ understanding of the law gives the reader a helpful explanation of what James is talking about.

The Rendering of τέλειος

One aspect I think misguides readers in James’ is the translation of τέλειος as perfect. Often times, such as the case here, the explanation of the word describes the way James is using it but the translation is still the word perfect. Perfection in the English language often denotes a negative sense or this moral achievement without any blemish. James uses τέλειος throughout to signify the completeness and totality of what he is talking about. In James 1:4 the word is used to describe the complete nature of the person who endures trials. Using the word perfect in translation hides this meaning and often times gives the reading a negative connotation when James is exhorting the believe to endure because we are to be whole and complete in the same way God is. Varner explains this well by saying, “As τέλειος means “complete,” so ὁλόκληρος means “complete in all its parts,” with no part missing.”[4] Indeed, he rightly compares this passage with Matthew 5:48 and shows that James’ using this word in the same way as Jesus, “to be τέλειος is to be a complete person with integrity, not like the divided man who is about to be described in 1:6–8”[5] This is just a minor quibble and in no way takes away from the commentary itself. I just hope that at some point the translation of τέλειος as perfect in most cases would be abandoned because of the often times negative connotations it brings in that a person must now be “super good” in his actions.


Overall, one would be hard pressed to come across a more complete commentary on James. The strength of this commentary is that Varner thoroughly covers the nitty gritty Greek grammar/exegesis of the text but also provides a biblical theological summary and pastoral reflections. It is not everyday that you can find a commentary that does this well but this one succeeds. Varner’s thorough research and knowledge in the many areas this commentary covers shines throughout. Even where one may disagree with him, Varner is always charitable in his disagreements and provides ample evidence for his own reading. If I were to buy one commentary on James this would be it. You can purchase the commentary here.

  1. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 2:21 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

  2. ibid.  ↩

  3. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 2:8 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

  4. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 1:4 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

  5. ibid  ↩

Early James Traditions

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I have been writing a mini-series of Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon by David Nienhuis. I have been summarizing his arguments throughout the book and giving basic initial thoughts and pushback.

In the second chapter of Nienhuis’ book he goes on to argue that the evidence used for an early dating of James are hypothetical at best and can better be explained by a second century date. He presents a strong case to at least give pause to dating James early. The strength of his case is the observetion that no church father explicitly cites James until Origen in the third century. He states that the “allusions” and “echoes” in writings previous to Origen are overstated based on the assumption that James was written at an early date[1]. This argument is strong given that the prominence of James’ the person was especially high. If this is the case then why do none of the writers explicitly state of a letter written by James or quote him directly? He also notes the many pseudepigraphal works that were on the rise at this time giving high praise to James the person but there is still no mention of any letter that he had written.

In Joseph Mayor’s commentary, he extensively cites many potential echoes and allusions to the letter of James but he does note that it is odd that a letter written so early does not gain canonical status until the third century (lxx) and that Origen is the first to explicitly cite James (lxxxi). Based on these types of arguments Nienhuis says that the burden of proof is on those who say James’ was written early to prove that these authors were referring to the letter of James and not visa-versa. He states that since the assumption that James is written early scholars then assume that later authors used similar language and themes of James.

One of the stronger arguments for a later writer using James is the author of Shepherd of Hermas’ use of δίφυχος. But Nienhuis argues that since “δίφυχος is used 19x, δίφθχεῖν 20x, and διφυχία 16x that this actually becomes a sub-theme of the book (120).” He goes on to say that “if we accept the notion that the Roman writers Hermas and Clement appealed to James as an authoritative source, we are then forced into the unlikely conclusion that the otter was a quotable authority in the Western church by the end of the first century but was somehow subsequently neglected for over 200 years (120).” That is to say why would James be extensively used by a book that was very popular (Hermas) then not be used in later writings?

One of my original questions in regard to Nienhuis thesis was how he would argue against the theory that James is using Jesus traditions in his letter. He argues that this doesn’t not necessarily necessitate an early date. Even until the second century Jesus’ sayings were still being used. Even the church fathers do not always explicitly quote from the Gospels but “echo” and “allude” to them. He says that the reason why Jesus is not explicitly quoted is that “James was not writing to Jews of the first-century synagogue; he was writing to a second-century Christian readership in order to promote the essentially Jewish underpinnings of Christian faith and practice (159).” By showing the importance of the Jewish Scriptures in the life of the Christian, the author follows in the steps of Jesus showing the moral and ethical understanding of the law is what should be followed and not the ritual aspects of it.

In the rest of the chapter he shows the rise of the person James throughout many other sources such as The Gospel According to the Hebrews, Hegesippus’ writings[2] (he makes extensive use of these), Iraneaus’ writings, Gospel of Thomas, and others.

He analyzes each work with 5 questions (122):

  1. How is James named in the text under review?
  2. What kind of authority is attributed to James in each text?
  3. How is his piety depicted?
  4. Some of the sources present James’ as a rather independent figure in relation to Jesus and the broader Christian movement. What standing does he have in these portraits?
  5. How is James’ murder depicted?

By asking these questions he hopes to give an understanding of the James tradition. By doing this he will be able to show “how the canonical letter of James fits into the broader depiction of his identity and character as it developed over the first two centuries (122).”

Overall, his argument so far is strong and needs to be reckoned with. In his introduction he notes that his thesis cannot be “airtight” because the unprovable nature of historical reconstruction but at least it should give us pause to reconsider the dating and authorship of James. Arguments from silence are always the best arguments but as Nienhuis points out the pervasiveness of the silence in light of the material about the person of James, should give us pause. I am looking forward to the final chapter because he will attempt to show the internal evidence for a “canon-conscious pseudepigraph” writing of James

  1. He interestingly notes that Jerome’s’ De virus illustribus was intended to show the Church was established on historical grounds and that he “anchored every other NT text in the authority of the historic, apostolic tradition” except James and 2 Peter. He says that “he (Jerome) lists traditions attributing Hebrews to Harnabas, Luke, or Clement; and on authority of Papias he explains that 2–3 John were written by John the elder and not the disciple of the Lord. The origins of James and 2 Peter, however, are left afloat in mystery. ↩

  2. His argument from Hegesippus using Wisdom 2 as a fulfillment to the murder of James the Just and its relation to James is strong. See pgs. 131–135, 150–152.  ↩

A Canonical History of the New Testament Catholic Epistles Collection Pt. 1

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The other day I wrote about Nienhuis’ these concerning the Catholic Epistles and their formation along with his new proposal that James is a second century document written in order to close the Catholic Epistles collection. It is placed at the head of the collection because James was one of the most venerated of the apostles and it opens up this “division of labor” well.

Today, I just want to summarize the first half of chapter 1 and give some thoughts concerning his method.

The purpose of Nienhuis first chapter is to address the canonical formation of the Catholic Epistles. He first identifies the method/criteria that he will use and then gives his argument for using an “argument from silence.” He then argues for an early acceptance of 1 Peter, 1–2 (possibly 3) John, and Jude. He consistently points out the lack of quotation or allusion to a letter of James or 2 Peter. Throughout, he argues that there was a recognized “division of labor” (not a division of the Gospel) between James, Peter, and John against the apostle Paul. With this focus on the apostolic pillars it seems unusual that there are no explicit citations from the letter of James.

Criteria for the Patristic Citation to Scripture

Recognizing the difficulty in coming to a conclusion to whether or not one is specifically alluding to a scriptural text, Nienhuis gives four criteria that he will use throughout his book. It is of note that he does say that he “will resist the temptation to compile long lists of supposed allusions to and echoes of James from patristic writers as evidence that the letter is known and used before Origen[1].” He accuses Mayor[2] of having an expansive list of “echoes” that do not have much weight. At this point it would be helpful to engage with Mayor and show specifically why Mayor’s echoes are unwarranted[3]. He also argues that it is near impossible to show whether or not James used 1 Clement and Shepherd of Hermas or vice versa[4]. He notes that Luke Timothy Johnson shows a vast amount of parallels but “makes the mistake of simply assuming throughout that James is the earlier text[5].” With these issues in mind he follows with the four criteria he will be using for determining a patristic use of a scriptural text.

4 Criteria for the Patristic Citation to Scripture

  1. In the case of uncertain allusions and echoes there needs to be exegesis of the broader context to see whether it is plausible that the writer was using that specific text.
  2. Refuse to use any parallel that can be traced down to a common previous source[6].
  3. He states that the fathers often “cite(d) apostolic text intertextually (for example, passages from Paul are often supported by appeal to parallel passages from 1 Peter).” For these cases he will show that a cluster of verses cited sometimes have a strong similarity to a James passage but James isn’t alluded to.
  4. One must look at how the church father speaks about a particular apostle. Later he shows that often times the person James is spoken highly of but there is still no citation to the letter of James.

Much of his argument is an argument from silence. In previous studies, arguments from silence were quickly thrown about. But he makes a strong case (building on others) that a well crafted argument from silence can be useful[7].

3 Criteria for an Argument from Silence

  1. Is the silence comprehensive? He notes that if all the Fathers do not echo James then this argument for silence would provide stronger evidence for a late date of James.
  2. Is the silence counterintuitive?
  3. Is the silence contextually suggestive? Can one make a case for the why and how?

Throughout the rest of the chapter he analyzes the texts of Iranaeus of Lyon, Tertullian of Carthage, Hippolytus and Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria to show that both James and 2 Peter are not alluded to or cited.

For each text he does the following:

  1. The Accepted Texts
  2. The Letter of James
  3. Other Ancient Letters Cited
  4. The Figures of James, Peter, and John
  5. Conclusion

So far, Nienhuis has provided a solid argument that the letter of James and 2 Peter were not cited in the above works. I would like to re-read Mayor’s analysis of the use of James in the church fathers to weigh the evidence. But in the mean time his argument by itself seems plausible, defended from a detailed analysis of each text.

  1. Nienhuis, David R. Not By Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and Christian Canon. Baylor University Press, 2007, 30.  ↩

  2. Mayor, Joseph B. Epistle of James, The. Kregel Classics, 1990, xlviii-lxviii.  ↩

  3. At some point I would like to use Nienhuis’ criteria on Mayor’s echoes to James. Much is hanging on his argument that James was not written until the second century so it would have been helpful to have some engagement instead of an one sentence rebuke of his method. Granted, throughout the chapter he does his own analysis to refute the notion that James was quoted early but to show specifically how other commentators are wrong would strengthen his argument considerably.  ↩

  4. He notes that a 1944 article by O.J.F. Seitz, “The Relationship of the Shepherd of Hermas to the Epistle of James”, actually argues for an independent source in which all three are using for certain vocabulary.  ↩

  5. Nienhuis, 31. Again, it would be helpful for some engagement with Johnson on this issue.  ↩

  6. Later he gives an example of Clement’s citation of “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” which seems to be a reference to James 4:6 but the James reference is actually a citation of Proverbs 3:34 (and 1 Peter 5:5). In this case it is difficult to prove (along with not other citations of James) that Clement was quoting James and not Proverbs or 1 Peter.  ↩

  7. For example, “The classic argument from silence sees it as reflecting reality and bases specific arguments on that. This works best when the silence is so comprehensive, yet so counterintuitive, that any general arguments needs to account for it.”, Henige, Historical Evidence and Argument, 175–176 (cited on p. 33 FN11).  ↩

Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon

I just started reading Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon by David Nienhuis. This is a slight revision of his doctoral thesis under Francis Watson at the University of Aberdeen. It is not a new book (2007) but I had not come across it during my James exegesis class. The book proposes an interesting thesis. Nienhuis argues that “the final form of the Catholic Epistles collection was the result of intentional design on the part of the canonizing community in hopes that it might perform a particular canonical function.”[1] But he also goes one step further in that he is arguing that James was “actually composed with this particular canonical function in mind” and it “was written with the nascent apostolic letter collection in view, in order that it might forge together a discrete collection on non-Pauline letters, one shaped according to a particular logic of apostolic authority (that is, ”not by Paul alone“) in order to perform a particular function in the larger Christian canon.”[2] In other words the letter of James is a canon conscience document, pseudipigraphly written in the second century.[3]

After reading Richard Bauckham’s argument for the letter of James being written by the brother of Jesus[4] Nienhuis’ argument of a late second century date seems far-fetched. But after reading the forward of Francis Watson I have decided that this argument may be plausible and needs to be examined.

Watson says:

As a supervisor of this thesis, I would like to put it on record that its starting-point was an interest in intertextual relationships within the Catholic Epistles collection, which long predated the development of the historical hypothesis. There was even an initial prejudice against the assumption that literary relationships were susceptible to historical explanations. If the historical hypothesis eventually took over the entire project, this was because it proved so unexpectedly cogent and illuminating–both to its author and its supervisor. This was genuinely a piece of research, and the outcome was neither foreseen nor foreseeable at the outset.

Some initial question I have are how do you address James 1:1 and its claim to be written to the twelve tribes of the dispersion? Bauckham gives a convincing argument that it was James writing for Jerusalem to the surrounding communities. Also, many (all?) of the allusions to Jesus’ teaching are are not quoted from the Gospels themselves but seem to be allusions to a Jesus tradition. If it were written in the late second century (after the Gospels were “functioning canonically for many Christians by the end of the second century”[5]) then why is there not any direct use of them? If this is a novel thesis, what historical evidence is there for this argument?

I hope to post some of my thoughts on here as I go through this book in the next couple weeks.

  1. He notes that he follows Robert Wall’s approach to the Catholic Epistles closely  ↩

  2. Nienhuis, David R. Not By Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and Christian Canon. Baylor University Press, 2007, 5.  ↩

  3. He makes a similar statement about 2 Peter saying, "2 Peter is not simply a pseudepigraph, but a canonically motivated pseudepigraph.  ↩

  4. Bauckham, Richard. James: Wisdom of James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage. New Testament Readings. London ; New York: Routledge, 1999, 11–28.  ↩

  5. Nienhuis, 6  ↩

ESV Greek-English Diglot Review

This is not a review of the text of the NA28 or ESV.

The Greek-English New Testament Diglot from Crossway features the new Nestle-Aland 28th Edition text (and apparatus) and the 2011 ESV text. The Bible itself is a nice cloth-over-board construction with a sewn binding. Both the NA28 and ESV both use a single column 11-point font. On the English side there is usually a half page that is blank that is great for notes. Unfortunately, the ESV does not have cross-references but the NA28 does.

I have one major complaint and one minor. The major complaint is that the Bible itself is constructed in a way that focuses on the English text. In Luke 20:14, the NA28 text is split in the middle of κληρονόμος while the English text is finished on the page. On the NA28 side it reads οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρο- (the next page reads -νόμος ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν.). The ESV side reads This is the heir. There is enough room on the NA28 side that the word κληρονόμος could have fit on the line below. This happens in several other places also. I understand this was probably a decision that Crossway had to make but I wish that if some type of splitting of words must happen that it would have been on the English side.

The minor quibble is the size of the Bible itself. It is very bulky and I have found myself not carrying it around for that reason. If this is the only thing I am carrying it is fine but that is rarely the case. The font size is plenty large (11 pt) so there is room for a smaller font size, which would result in a smaller Bible.

Overall, the ESV Greek-English New Testament is a great resource. I highly recommend it to anyone that is looking for a Greek-English Diglot.

David Paul Parris – “Reading the Bible with Giants”

The exegesis of the Church Fathers has become a growing interest of mine in recent months. In our modern methods of interpretation we often dismiss the their hermeneutics because it doesn’t match ours. If we trust in early church’s creeds and doctrines then why do we ignore their exegesis by claiming we have a more trustworthy model? The historical-grammatical method has become our bread and butter to get to the “meaning” of a text to the neglect of other methods. But is this the correct way to interpret a passage or are there other viable avenues?

David Paul Parris in Reading the Bible with Giants argues that we should incorporate Reception Theory, which analyzes how a text has been received through history. He says that our exegesis should be a three-way conversation: the reader, Bible, and history. We often want to get the the “meaning” of a text but we need to realize that meaning changes over time. Parris says “to argue that the term meaning is restricted only to the original act of communication misses the fact that every generation of readers perceives meaning when they read the text…if we define meaning as something that never changes we have little or no ground to interact with or incorporate tradition when we interpret the Bible” (95). We need Reception Theory to understand the significance of the text throughout history so it can shed light on new ways of reading today.

Throughout the book Parris examines the history of reception at the level of individual words to whole passages. By incorporating the history of reception at these levels we can begin to understand that our exegesis comes from unavoidable preconceptions. Approaching the Bible with a blank slate is a myth because when we come to a text we have our life situation, training in literature, church teachings, and tradition all weighing in on our interpretation. This is not a negative reality but we do need to recognize that we come to the text with many pre-conceived notions. In this way, “knowledge is not something that is personal, but is highly interpersonal by nature. In this sense, reading is built upon and requires a community. And communities are, in a sense the present instantiation of a tradition” (82). This is where Reception Theory is useful. If we analyze how a text has been received through church history we understand that there have been a variety of interpretations and can shed light on new texts for us. We should not ignore earlier interpretations because if today we value the work of the Holy Spirit in interpretation then it seems contradictory to not value the early church’s exegesis.

The book gives helpful case studies especially on the story of Jonah and the reception history of the word “whale” and the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28:16-20. In each of these case studies he shows that the interpretation we have today varies greatly from earlier interpretations. For example, Matthew 28:16-20 was first read as a formula for the Doctrine of the Trinity and that the commission to “go to the nations” ceased with the original apostles. It wasn’t until William Carey that this passage was understood as a command to all Christians to teach and baptize. By looking at the history of reception we can gain new insights into passages and realize that we are indebted to the church for our understanding of the Bible.

We need to incorporate the history of reception in our exegesis. This shouldn’t be the only method but should be one of the many tools in our toolbox. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants when we interpret the Bible. Let us humble ourselves and learn from our forefathers when we interpret Holy Scripture.

Chris Wright – “The Mission of God’s People”

Chris Wright’s book “The Mission of God’s People” is the one of the best books I have read on the mission of the church. His work is a refreshing oasis in a area of study that is wrought with false dichotomies and primacy in “social justice” over “evangelism” and vice versa. This book is a holistic approach to the mission of God’s people. His approach is a biblical theology of “why the people of God exist and what it is they are to do in the world…what is the mission of God’s people?” and he does this by wading through an ocean of biblical texts pulling from both testaments to present a biblical theology of the purpose of the church. His focus ranges from asking what is the gospel to presenting a case for the place of ecological care in the church. The range of topics is done in a succinct but thorough manner throughout the book. Wright successfully answers the opening question, “who are we and what are we here for?”

Highlights include:

  • A biblical theological approach to understanding the mission of the church. Rather than starting with the Great Commission passages Wright follows the story of the Bible showing the mission of the church
  • A Christian approach to ecological care. This is the best argument I have read on the Christian importance of ecological care. Part of his argument involves Psalm 148 and he argues that if all of God’s creation is to give praise to God and humans destroy his creation then we are taking praise from God.
  • A holistic view of the gospel against an individualistic approach. Wright beautifully states, “Thus, in what is arguably Paul’s most eloquent summary of the identity of Christ and the scope of the gospel, he proclaims that all things in the universe have been created by Christ, are being sustained by Christ, and will be reconciled to God by Christ through the blood of his cross. That is the breathtakingly universal scope of the reign of God through Christ. And that, says Paul, is the gospel (Col. 1:15 – 23 – read and relish this great passage again!). And only after the survey of the cosmic significance of Christ, his church, and his cross does Paul move to the personal reconciliation of believers

Overall the church should have a holistic approach to missions. The idea of primacy of evangelism or social justice is not seen in the bible rather both are weaved together. Just as a table needs legs and a top the mission of the church is caring for physicial needs along with spiritual needs.