Category Archives: Uncategorized

Built in Thesaurus Coming in iOS 12

I do a lot of writing on the iPad (and on my iPhone) and one feature that I’ve constantly missed is the built in thesaurus like you have on the Mac.

Well, the thesaurus is coming to iOS 12 😎


Help Fund Our Adoption by Donating to Our $5,000 Matching Grant

As many of you know, my wife and I are in the process of adopting. We recently had a failed adoption after being matched with a birth mom for about five months. We lost almost $10,000 with the failed adoption so we are in the process of trying to recoup those costs with a matching grant from our church, Sojourn East Community Church. The donation is tax deductible. Here is where we are standing now:

  • Goal: $5,000
  • Raised to date: $4,167
  • Total needed: $833

Donate Here

Here is the full update that my wife wrote:

Our journey to growing our family began over three and a half years ago. We were excited and full of hope as we waited each month to see signs that we were pregnant. We hoped and prayed for a baby to love, a child to bring home. But, the years wore on with no signs of pregnancy and we eventually decided to pursue medical opinions. After two and a half years of trying to conceive, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility.

After several cycles of different types of non-invasive fertility treatments, we began to seriously consider the road of adoption. Adoption is something that we have always respected, it has never been our “last resort”. We confidently believe that God will lead the child we are meant to raise into our open arms. We now know that, that is meant to happen through adoption. So, in May 2017 we began to pursue a domestic adoption of an infant. Our hearts were open and ready to love a child.

In October 2017, we accepted a match to a baby due in early 2018. We spent the next several months preparing, finishing our fundraising, and getting to know this baby’s mom. We felt like this was the right situation for us and were so excited. In late January, a week before the due date, we got a call that our birth mom had given birth and had decided to parent him. While we 100% support her decision to parent, it has been a very hard road to walk. We experienced many intense emotions as we grieved the loss of this life in our home. Experiencing a failed match is painful and hard to understand or explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it.

Through this disruption, we lost almost $10,000 in expenses that were already incurred related to that specific match. In March 2018, we were awarded a $5,000 matching grant from the Sojourn East Community Church Adoption Fund, administered by Lifesong for Orphans. The amounts raised through this website are tax deductible and will be matched dollar for dollar by the adoption fund grant. If we can raise the full $5,000, our entire loss will be recovered. This is a huge blessing to our family and we are in awe of this amazing opportunity!

Today, we are now actively waiting to be matched again with our agency. While we don’t know the exact cost since we aren’t matched yet, we estimate the total amount due will be around what our previous match was. Therefore, we would love to raise the $5,000 here so we have the full $10,000 ready when we match again!

This journey hasn’t been what we planned or expected. These last three and a half years have been hard, harder than we could have imagined. We have cried out to God and walked through intense sadness and grief. The pain and loss of being childless has been a weighted presence in our lives each day.

However, we are committed to working through the emotions that this roller coaster of a journey brings. We turn to those around us when we have no hope and try to step each day toward God. Because the reality is that this was never unexpected to Him. He is walking on this road with us and there is not a place we’ll be, he hasn’t already seen. We are working to remain open and hang onto hope as we wait. We have no doubt that this is the place God has led us to and we hope you will support us as we continue on this road!

What Lies are You Believing that Are Stopping You From Making Lasting Change in Your Life?

I recently started reading Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith after listening to CGP Grey and Mike Hurley’s discussion of the book on a Cortex episode. The basic premise of the book is to teach you how to make lasting change in your life. I’m only three chapters in but so far it has been quite helpful.

In chapter two, Goldsmith talks about false beliefs that we tell ourselves that don’t allow us to make changes. He says that yes, these are obvious, but too many people don’t actually take these to heart and truly believe them. So below is just the 15 lies that we believe and what this tiggers in us. I’ve also added a couple extra notes that I found helpful.

What is a belief trigger?

“An excuse explains why we fell short of expectations after the fact. Our inner beliefs trigger failure before it happens. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result.”

  1. If I understand I will do – this belief triggers confusion
  2. I have willpower and won’t give into temptation – this belief triggers overconfidence
  3. Today is a special day – excusing our momentary lapses as an outlier event triggers a self-indulgent inconsistency
  4. “At least I’m better than…” – this belief triggers a false sense of immunity
  5. I shouldn’t need help and structure – this belief triggers an unappealing exceptionalism
    • This is a natural response that combines three competing impulses
      1. Our contempt for simplicity (only complexity is worthy of our attention)
      2. Our contempt for instruction and follow-up
      3. Our faith that we can succeed all by ourselves
  6. I won’t get tired and my enthusiasm will not fade – this belief triggers depletion
  7. I have all the time in the world – Faith in time’s infinite patience triggers procrastination
  8. I won’t get distracted and nothing unexpected will occur – this belief triggers unrealistic expectations
    1. You have to realize the high probability of low-probability events. We don’t plan for low-probability events because, by definition, any one of them is unlikely to occur…yet the odds of at least one event occurring is high
  9. An epiphany will suddenly change my life – this belief triggers magical thinking
  10. My change will be permanent and I will never have to worry again – this belief triggers a false sense of permanence
    • Even when we get there, we cannot stay there without commitment and discipline
  11. My elimination of old problems will not bring new problems – this belief triggers a fundamental misunderstanding of our future challenges
  12. My efforts will be fairly rewarded – this belief triggers resentment
  13. No one is paying attention to me – this belief triggers a dangerous preference for isolation
    • When we revert to our previous behavior, people always notice
  14. If I change I am “inauthentic” – this belief triggers stubbornness
  15. I have the wisdom to assess my own behavior – this belief triggers an impaired sense of objectivity
    • We are notoriously inaccurate in assessing ourselves

What “belief triggers” are you falsely believing?

Grit and Deliberate Practice When Learning Greek (or any other language)

This was just a short announcement I sent out to my online Greek students this morning and thought I would share with you all:

In Angela Duckworth’s excellent book titled, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance she argues that all people can optimize their achievement in all areas of life. In general, this means that everyone can improve their skills and achievements through what she calls grit. This can be broken down into four categories:

  1. Interest – you must have an intrinsic interest in what you are doing. Thus, in order to succeed in learning a language you must have an interest to actually do so!
  2. Practice – practice must be deliberate and purposeful (see below)
  3. Purpose – you must know why you are doing what you ultimate goal is (for Greek students our ultimate goal is to be able to rightly divide the Word of God in the original language that he inspired the apostles to write in)
  4. Hope – the mindset that you can do it and keep it all in perspective

With regards to practice I want to highlight what practice should look like from the book Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

Practice must be…

  • Well-defined and have specific goals – this means that each time you are studying Greek set a specific goal that you want to accomplish during that session and strive to reach that goal. Don’t make your goals too big but remember slow, steady, and simple wins the race
  • Focused – you must remove all distractions and focus during your session (see Cal Newport’s Deep Work for strategies for focus or my post, “Focus is Hard Work” or “Deliberate Practice”)
  • Feedback – this is why I do the videos for you all. You need feedback on what you are doing. You have to review to understand your mistakes. This is of utmost importance in Greek. If you don’t learn from your mistakes you will not be making progress
  • Get out of your comfort zone – learning and developing a skill is hard. Push yourself…they say “If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.”

The more you learn the more you brain will be putting together connections and your “mental representation will grow and you will get better at assimilating new information.” This means for you Greek students that learning Greek is like a snowball. The more you learn continues to grow and grow and you will be understanding the language more fully and in a wholistic manner.

So, as you study this week and through the semester engage in deliberate and focused practice. You can do it, learning a language is not for the faint of heart but anyone can do it. You just have to put in the time.

Study hard, stay focused, and have a good week.


Greek Flashcards for Terms Occurring 10-50x

Several years ago I created numerous flashcards for studying in my Greek Syntax class. I separated out the decks so there are around 20-40 terms per deck except when you get to words occurring 16x or fewer there are more. Previously, I used Quizlet to house everything and sync with a great app on my iPhone, Flashcards Deluxe, which has superior study tools for learning a language. But Quizlet went to a subscription model and stopped all outside apps from using their sync service. You can still find them on Quizlet here but the reason I went away from Quizlet is that on their iOS app their study tools are terrible for this language study.

Therefore, I recommend purchasing the Flashcard Deluxe app for iOS (link) or Android (link) for $3.99. Then download my sets of plain text files here and upload them to the app via Dropbox (instructions here)

Flashcards Deluxe has several different study modes:

  1. Ordered – each card is shown in order (default for new decks)
  2. Random – cards are shuffled before each round
  3. Short Term Goal – focus is given on cards you don’t know as well.
  4. Spaced Repetition – advanced learning method where cards are scheduled at timed intervals.

Personally, I prefer the Spaced Repetition model for learning the cards then the Short Term Goal for review once I have that set memorized. These models allow you to focus on a subset of the cards as you go along, which aids for better memorization.

The terms are numbered and glosses are given according to Warren Trenchard’s Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament

Sets Included:

  • Trenchard 50+ (310)
  • Trenchard 49-45 (29)
  • Trenchard 44-40 (39)
  • Trenchard 39-35 (40)
  • Trenchard 34-32 (23)
  • Trenchard 31-29 (40)
  • Trenchard 28-27 (19)
  • Trenchard 26-25 (34)
  • Trenchard 24-23 (37)
  • Trenchard 22-21 (37)
  • Trenchard 20 (20)
  • Trenchard 19 (21)
  • Trenchard 18 (32)
  • Trenchard 17 (32)
  • Trenchard 16 (42)
  • Trenchard 15 (48)
  • Trenchard 14 (48)
  • Trenchard 13 (41)
  • Trenchard 12 (69)
  • Trenchard 11 (77)
  • Trenchard 10 (81)

If you have any questions please contact me via twitter: @renshaw330

People Value Clarity Over Accessibility

Owen Strachan recently interviewed Cal Newport, author of one of my favorite books, Deep Work, where they discussed many of the ideas in the book. Cal’s big push is that in an ever increasing knowledge work society the ability to focus deeply to work and create is vital. There are many aspects of this idea such as growing and developing oneself into a deep worker but one key aspect is to rid yourself of distractions. Too often in the work place people value being always accessible and responding quickly to questions or having an open door policy. Cal helpfully points out that accessibility isn’t exactly what people want it it is actually clarity of when one is available. Thus, if you have a closed door policy until 11am each day so you can engage in deep work people won’t actually frown on this. Instead, communicating when you are available is more important. Thus, people value clarity over accessibility.

I have found this to be true in my office as well. I try to mark off specific times on the calendar to engage in deep work and let my colleagues know when this will happen. The rest of the time is for the more mundane such as answering questions, responding to emails, and just engaging in the everyday activities of the office. I challenge you to think through your schedule and realize that you don’t have to be accessible all the time. Rather, mark certain times you will be engaged in deep work and when you will be accessible and communicate that with your team.

You can listen to the whole episode here:

Keeping Twitter a Happy Place

Using mute filters liberally on Twitter can help keep your experience sane, less rage inducing, and overall a place that you can enjoy and not get sucked into the vitriolic tweets so often expressed. You don’t need to see everything on Twitter. There may be topics that you have an interest in but reading peoples reactions to those topics and being inundated with them constantly may not be good for your soul. Don’t think that you have to immerse yourself in this on Twitter. Of course, one solution is to stop using Twitter altogether but personally, I find a lot of good information and people on Twitter and when I am conscious about the time I spend on there I really enjoy it. Thus, I’ve chosen to use mute filters for many topics.

In order to mute on the native Twitter app you can read the instructions here but personally I prefer either Twitterrific or Tweetbot’s mute filters because you can use regular expressions for more gradual control of your mutes. For example, you can add an asterisk to the end of a word to mute all forms of the word. I can put in and it will mute tax, taxes, taxing, etc. Instructions for Twitterrific can be found here and Tweetbot here. Here are some topics and keywords (I am constantly adding to this list) that I’ve muted to make Twitter a happier place:

  • Politics – so much of the political conversation on Twitter is harsh and just not good for people’s sanity. Some keywords I’ve found helpful: tax*, legistlat*, POTUS, SCOTUS, president*, Trump, Clinton, Russia, and more
  • Sports – soccer*, NFL
  • Annoying – follower*, Dr. Who, CNN, Fox News, How I did on Twitter this week, android
  • Hashtags – if an annoying hash tag appears I just mute it immediately
  • Websites – certain websites I may be interested in reading but don’t need to see constant tweets about them. This is why I use RSS
  • Accounts – certain accounts I just never want to hear from

Don’t get sucked in to FOMO and think that you may be missing something important. If it is really that important you will come across it eventually and if you miss out then it probably doesn’t matter in the long run. Keep Twitter a happy place and curate it for topics and people your interested in.

Cellular iPad

This is the first iPad I purchased with cellular. I’ve always debated whether or not to get the cellular version as it is an extra cost but this is also the first time I’ve dedicated to using my iPad as my primary device.

Its come in handy several times but no times that I’ve thought, sheesh, this was a really good decision until now. This week I’ve been in Providence, RI for a conference and have been using my iPad heavily. Hotel and public WIFI spots are sketchy at best. I’ve noticed that not once have I had an issue with being online. When the Wifi isn’t working then I just switch to cellular and I’m good to go.

So if you do any travel or are in these types of situations think about the cellular version I’ve found it very helpful.

Don’t Let Email Control You

Email is infinitely distracting and most people let hundreds or thousands of emails both read and unread pile up. The cognitive load that your brain encounters every time you open up your email client is massive. For example, on Monday you receive an email. First, you open, scan, and think I can’t actually answer that right now but I’ll get to it later. The next time you open up your email client you see that same email again and your brain will subconsciously go through the same process again (even if you don’t read it over). Additionally, you are reminded that you have this email to answer at some point in your upcoming, and presumably busy, schedule. This will happen over and over again. If you are one to receive a lot of email then this will be pushed towards the bottom of your inbox while your total count in your inbox continues to rise. Every time you open up your email you are reminded of what all you have to do.

So, make this a rule, every time you touch an email get it out of your inbox and put it in your task manager and archive so its out of your inbox. For me, this means if there is an email that I can’t answer at that moment I throw it in OmniFocus to process later. I have a specific list for emails to answer. Thus, on my own schedule, I set aside time to go through that list and search for the email and reply back to it.

You’ll know longer have the overbearing weight of email hanging over your head when you open your email client. 

Don’t let email control you

10 Thoughts on iPhone X

I’ve been fairly busy lately and haven’t had much time to blog but I recently bought the new iPhone X (pronounced 10 not X…don’t get me started on the weird naming convention). This phone is supposed to be the future of the iPhone. Now, many of these new technologies such as a full phone display, OLED, and even Face ID are not necessarily new but in true Apple fashion they try to build on existing technologies to perfect them. In the same way that the original iPhone didn’t introduce a touch interface but when the the debut of the iPhone was released it set the standard of what a touch interface should be. I think Apple did a similar feat with Face ID in the new phone. As I’ll explain below having Face ID makes it feel like the phone is never actually locked but in reality the phone is twice as secure as it was with Touch ID. Anyways, below are some of my initial thoughts on the iPhone X with a little over a week of use.

  1. As I stated earlier, Face ID makes it feel like the phone is never locked. If you look at comparisons around the web on the speed of Face ID vs Touch ID you’ll notice that Face ID is actually slower than Touch ID but in use not having to hold your finger on the home button and just looking at your phone naturally it feels quicker. Face ID continues to improve because each time it authenticated it learns more about you. I’ve been amazed that this works regardless of what I’m doing: sunglasses, hat, darkness, outside, inside, etc I rarely have an issue. I actually think I have more success than with Touch ID because times when my hands are sweaty, have food on the, gloves, and more Touch ID does not work. I’m sure I’ll be frustrated in the future but so far Face ID is an absolute success
  2. The OLED screen is fantastic. The fact that black is actually black and not black with an illuminated background that turns it somewhat grayish (if you can compare the back of the iPhone X and another iPhone and you’ll notice the drastic difference).
  3. You can now switch between recently used apps by swiping to the right from the bottom of the screen. I’ve found I am using this all the time when going back and forth from an app. This is much quicker than double clicking the home button and picking from the app switcher.
  4. The speakers around around 30% louder, which is really noticeable. I listen to many podcasts and audiobooks just from my phone without headphones or connected to the speaker and it is plenty loud.
  5. The optical image stabilization for the second zoom lens produced great looking photos in all types of light.
  6. I’m not one to take a lot of selfies but the portrait mode on the front facing camera works great.
  7. Animoji is fun
  8. The position of swiping from the top right of the screen to pull down Control Center is less than ideal. I’ve now added the Camera icon to the bottom right of my apps for quick access instead of using Control Center like I did previously.
  9. There was much talk about the notch at the top where the camera sensors are. In mockups this was very noticeable but when using my phone I don’t notice at all.
  10. Adjusting to not having a home button took less than a day. Swiping up to get back to home screen, swiping left to switch apps, swiping up and to the right to get to the app switcher, swiping from the top for notifications, and swiping from the top right for Control Center is all very fluid (except the Control Center one) and I quickly internalized it.

Rules for Brainstorming

I’m currently reading Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s book, Design Your Day. In chapter two she lays out some rules for brainstorming from Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving by Alex Osborn. I’ve never been good at brainstorming (if that is even a skill). I often limit myself by automatically throwing out bad ideas. I know, in principle, that only good ideas come from pile of bad ideas but there is still a mental roadblock to me. Often times with my team at work I will put this front and center and force myself and others to come up with all ideas, both good and bad. I’m slowly learning the power of brainstorming and I found these four principles helpful and will incorporate them in my next brainstorming session:

  1. Focus on quantity not quality
  2. Withhold criticism
  3. Welcome unusual ideas
  4. Combine and improve ideas

This last point I think will might prove especially helpful. I think this probably happens naturally but it is still helpful to have this as a specific step to take in the brainstorming process.

Saturday Recommendation: AeroPress

Saturday Recommendations are a brief highlight of something I enjoy that I think is worth you checking out.

The AeroPress is one of the most simple ways to manually brew a great cup of coffee. Unlike many pour over solutions you don’t need a special kettle for an even pour. Personally, I use the AeroPress for travel because it is durable, quick, and doesn’t take a lot of extra equipment. You just need some ground coffee (or whole bean + a hand grinder ) and hot water. If you’ve never tried an AeroPress, you really should get started. Plus, you can purchase one for around $30. There are several ways to brew with this device. Stumptown Coffee Roasters has some helpful videos, which you can find here.

Buy on Amazon

Saturday Recommendation: Seth Godin’s Blog

Saturday Recommendations are a brief highlight of something I enjoy that I think is worth you checking out.

Seth Godin’s blog is one of the few sites that I read everyday. His short, to the point, and often times insightful writing have sparked so many thoughts and ideas in areas of writing, leading, communication with others, self-reflection, and more. He’s also been a guest on several podcasts and this is one of my favorite appearances ( link ).

Seth’s Blog & Twitter

Thoughts on Research and Note Taking After O’Brien and Eerdmans

Recently Eerdman's released a sad and tragic statement regarding some of Peter O'Brien's commentaries. They said

Eerdmans editors compared the text of The Letter to the Hebrews (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2010) with various secondary sources and submitted findings to external experts for verification. Summing up the findings, Editor-in-chief James Ernest said, "Our own editors and our outside consultants agreed that what we found on the pages of this commentary runs afoul of commonly accepted standards with regard to the utilization and documentation of secondary sources. We agreed that the book could not be retained in print."

Examination of the same author's Letter to the Ephesians (PNTC, 1999) and Epistle to the Philippians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1991) found them less pervasively flawed but still untenable.

Peter O’Brien responded with a heartfelt apology,

In the New Testament commentaries that I have written, although I have never deliberately misused the work of others, nevertheless I now see that my work processes at times have been faulty and have generated clear-cut, but unintentional, plagiarism. For this I apologize without reservation.

From the outside looking in this seems to be a situation where an honest mistake (a big one at that) occurred and, if I were to guess, it happened at the level of research and note-taking where personal writing and quotations/notes became conflated and sources were lost. This situation really could happen to anyone and it has caused me to rethink my research and note-taking strategies. In an age where information is at our fingertips and there are a thousand ways to organize, research, and write in a digital format it can be easy to get lost in it all. This is where a research workflow becomes vitally important so you can stay organized, cite correctly, and write efficiently.

Most broadly, there are three ways that research and note taking occurs:

  1. Direct quotations
  2. Summary
  3. “Original” thoughts1

When you are researching and doing steps 1 & 2 you always always always need to keep the citation with your writing. This is where an application such as Zotero can come in handy. Anytime I have any new research documents I add the citation in Zotero. Then when I am writing and taking notes I can just copy that citation from Zotero and just paste it in my writing document. I also find it helpful to use an app such as Evernote, Ulysses, or other writing software to keep a file for each document that I am using for research and tag it with the specific project.

For example, I am reading through Brant Pitre’s excellent new book, Jesus and the Last Supper. I currently have a document with the title of the book and all my notes go in there. After each entry within the note I will now put in parentheses (quote, page #) or (summary, page #). Quote will mean that this is a direct quotation from the book and summary means that I have modified it in some way. This also means I need to be careful to not conflate summaries and quotes in my notes or if I do to identify them correctly.

If I am writing some thoughts that are not quotes or summary from the book I will write (original, page or chapter). This way I can trace back to when I am writing my “original” thoughts. If I am reading chapter 2 of the book and I end up writing a paragraph or two sparked from what was said in that chapter I still want to document my thinking process even, if, in the end, I don’t need to cite it depending on how much dependence comes from Pitre.

All in all, I think this is a sober warning to all students and full-time researchers to document your research carefully. Yes, it takes more time and can be annoying but it is vital in the research process.

If you have any other thoughts or workflows I would love to hear them in the comments or via Twitter (@renshaw330).

  1. I put original in quotes because nothing is new under the sun but there is a difference between summarizing someone’s work and writing your own thoughts ↩︎

Pre-order @DrJTPennington’s new book on the Sermon on the Mount

I’m really looking forward to the release of The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary, by my good friend and supervisor Dr. Jonathan Pennington. I just saw today that you can pre-order on Amazon, which you should do right now!

I’ve read through most of it and have engaged in several discussions about the book with him and, yes, I may be biased, but I think this will be one of the better resources out there for reading and preaching the Sermon. This book will provide a helpful and comprehensive reading of the Sermon without getting caught in the minutiae of details or the disconnected readings of the Sermon that many books tend to do. Plus, I find Pennington’s writing style highly engaging, which makes for an enjoyable but also profitable read.

Excerpt from the back of the book:

The Sermon on the Mount, one of the most influential portions of the Bible, is the most studied and commented upon portion of the Christian Scriptures. Every Christian generation turns to it for insight and guidance.

In this volume, a recognized expert on the Gospels shows that the Sermon on the Mount offers a clear window into understanding God’s work in Christ. Jonathan Pennington provides a historical, theological, and literary commentary on the Sermon and explains how this text offers insight into God’s plan for human flourishing. As Pennington explores the literary dimensions and theological themes of this famous passage, he situates the Sermon in dialogue with the Jewish and Greek virtue traditions and the philosophical-theological question of human flourishing. He also relates the Sermon’s theological themes to contemporary issues such as ethics, philosophy, and economics.

Pre-order the book now.

Jeremy Begbie, The Trinity, and Music

“There is a very big difference in the way we see the world and the way we hear the world. When we see the world we can’t have two objects in space at the same time and see them as different…in the way we hear that is not the case…notes in music fills the whole of what we hear. If we add another note then both notes fill the same space but hear them as two notes. They can be inside each other but stay distinct.”

Additional Resources:

May 2016 Biblical Studies Carnival: School’s Out Edition

Welcome to the May 2016 Biblical Studies Carnival. I hope all of you are finishing up your final papers, grading papers, and getting grades in as most Spring semesters are wrapping up. For your enjoyment listen to some classic Alice Cooper before diving into the carnival for this month!

The world lost one of the greatest theologians of our time in the month of May. Several people wrote reflections on the impact that John Webster had on modern theology: Andy Goodliff, Resident Theology, Christian Today, Mark Gignilliat, Bobby Grow, Mere Orthodoxy, and more.

Old Testament

Marg Mowczko examines the translation issues of Malachi 2:16 and the phrase “I hate divorce.”

Dr. Claude Mariottini summarizes the book of Jonah’s message adapted from a teaching series he did at his local church.

Randy McCracken asks the question “How Tall was Goliath?” He also examines if David is portrayed as a New Adam.

Over at The Outward Quest David Corder writes a series of reflections on David Carr’s book, Tablets of the Heart.

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg answers why Moses is pictured with horns by many famous artists.

New Testament

Paul and the Gif

Larry Hurtado writes some thoughts about Rome and Christians after viewing the final installment of “Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limit” on the BBC2. While you’re at it you should take a look at his recent short but helpful book Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries, which is from his recent Pere Marquette Lecture in Theology.

Pete Enns follows up after his provocative post about Paul “winging it” when it comes to writing Romans.

Over at the Dustin Martyr Blog, Dustin argues that “great is your reward in heaven” is speaking of the believers reward comes out of heaven at the return of Jesus.

Reflecting on the latest collection of essays in The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life: Ethical and Missional Implications of the New Perspective Scot McKnight discusses the holiness tradition and the New Perspective. You should also check out the excellent podcast with Scot McKnight titled, “The Kingdom Roots Podcast.”

Over at Corinthian Matters David Pettegrew has an interesting post on crowdsourcing Paul’s Letters to Corinth.

The Ancient Bookshelf asks the question are we interpreting women out of the New Testament?

Wayne Coppins, who has a must read blog German for Neutestamentler, translates a section of Oda Wischmeyer’s essay about the “Gradness” of N.T. Wright.

Brian Davidson posts is Friday the 13th practice Greek adjectival practice for his 7th and 8th graders. Good luck!

Michael Kok begins some writings on the Apostle Paul

Nijay Gupta points us to a debate between Bart Ehrman and Richard Bauckham about eye-witness testimony.

Peter Gurry asks if the longer ending of Mark is inspired.


The Ancient Bookshelf posted a 1 Enoch reading guide this month.

And Phil Long begins blogging through 1 Enoch.

Jacob Prahlow concludes his series on Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

George Aldhizer reflects about Polycarp.

Updated: James Pate shows of evil people performing miracles or impressive wonders to deceive others in the Apocalypse of Elijah and Gospel of Nicodemus. Also check out his post reflecting on who the Pastoral Epistles could be responding to and poses the question could they be responding to the “Acts of Paul and Thecla.”


Experimental Theology is trying to recover a Catholic imagination

Josh Carroll has a tongue-in-cheek post about biblical interpretation titled, Biblical Injunctions for Bearded Awesomeness.

Book Reviews

Shawn Wilhite reviews You Are My Son by Amy Peeler.

William Brown, over at The Biblical Review, reviews Goliath’s Legacy: Philistines and Hebrews in Biblical Times by Łukasz Niesiołowski-Spanò. Also check out his review of The Power of Myth by Daniel Gorman Jr.

Jacob Cerone reviews the recently released Going Deeper with New Testament Greek by Andres Kostenger, Ben Merkle, and Rob Plummer.

Susan Eastman over at the Marginalia Review of Books reviews John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift. She concludes,

For the present, Paul and the Gift is a stunning invitation to consider deeply, broadly and creatively the tremendous power of grace as divine gift, and its implications for every aspect of human life, from intimate family relationships to global politics. It certainly will change the work of Pauline scholars, but it deserves a wider readership as well. Anyone interested in Jewish as well as Christian theologies of grace and in the dynamics of human transformation, will benefit from the riches of this book.

Phil Long review John Collins’, *Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy

James McGrath reviews The Scepter and the Star: Messianism in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Ruben de Rus review the New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic

The Jesus Blog concludes their five-part series on Bart Ehrman’s Jesus Before the Gospels. Also see Michael Kruger’s review of the book as well.

Nijay Gupta reviews Francis Watson’s Fourfold Gospel and has a multi-post review of NT Wright’s Paul and His Recent Interpreters


If I have missed a post that you think should be added please send me a tweet @renshaw330 and I will go ahead and add it here!

Kris Lyle over at the Old School Scripts blog will be hosting the carnival for June 2016 so be sure to send him your links during the month of June.

Also, if you would like to host the carnival at some point please contact Phil Long ( or @plong42). It is a great way to get your site out there and contribute to the biblical studies genre of blogs in general. I love reading these each month but we can’t have a carnival without volunteers so please contact Phil to reserve your spot!

Two Helpful Biblical Greek Sites

I just wanted to point out two helpful (and free!) online Biblical Greek resources.

Daily Dose of Greek

The first, is by one of my favorite professors at Southern Seminary, Dr. Rob Plummer. He has a vision to help people keep their Greek after seminary and part of accomplishing this vision is his excellent site, Daily Dose of Greek. Every weekday he walks through a verse explaining the syntax, vocabulary, and translation. On Saturdays he generally has a special topic or a guest host. The great thing about Daily Dose of Greek is that it is short (and helpful!) so it is easy to watch daily.

You can sign up for the email list here, RSS feed, Twitter, or Facebook

Master Greek

Another site that I recently was alerted to is Master Greek by Dr. Paul Hoskins. This site’s aim is to help with parsing. It is a simple web app that allows you to practice parsing Greek words. You can either do practice mode or quiz yourself. It works well in your browser on the computer or on your phone/tablet.

I was only recently introduced to this site/web app but it functions really well and I can see it being helpful for keeping up with my parsing.

Henri De Lubac on the Chasm Between Current and Patristic Thought

In Henri De Lubac’s book, History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture According to Origen, he makes a brief comment in passing that I think often times is overlooked when comparing hermeneutical methods. The early church is working with an entirely different worldview and thought when it comes to Holy Scripture. It isn’t necessarily a method that we can just mimic but it is a whole approach when engaging the text. This is one of the chasms that we may or may not be able to cross when it comes to the oft times odd (to us) figural/allegorical/christological approach to reading scripture. There wasn’t history versus figural reading but rather it is all wrapped into one way of thinking about the text. This doesn’t mean they didn’t care about history or the historical nature of scripture (see Augustine’s Harmony on the Gospels) but they didn’t slice and dice the exegetical process like we do today.1

But as I looked in those works for the necessary information, the subject I had at first envisioned assumed a broader scope in my eyes. It was no longer a matter of measuring, in any given exegesis, the part allotted to the “letter” or to history., It was no longer even a matter solely of exegesis. It was a whole manner of thinking, a whole world view that loomed before me.2

Also see Hans Boersma in response to de Lubac’s observations,

Both in his book on Origen and in his other writings on spiritual interpretation, it would have been good to read more about what allowed both Origen and later Christian tradition to allegorize particular details of the biblical text….What was it, for example, that allowed the church fathers to see the lamb and the sheep mentioned in Isaiah 57:7 as a reference to Christ? What was it that enabled them to see Christ in the wisdom of Proverbs 8? These questions do have some urgency if spiritual interpretation is to avoid the common charge that it renders interpretation arbitrary and subject to the whims of individual interpreters. We might wish that de Lubac had touched on these kinds of questions.3

  1. I found the quotes by de Lubac and Boersma in Lang, T.J. Mystery and the Making of Christian Historical Consciousness. BZNW 219. Berlin; Boston: de Gruyter, 2015, 1-2. ↩︎
  2. De Lubac, Henri. History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture According to Origen. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007, 11. ↩︎
  3. Boersma, Hans. Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011, 147. ↩︎

The Need and Help Beatitudes

Frederick Bruner, one of the masterful commentators of Matthew, helpfully reflects on the idea of the “need” and “help” nature of the Beatitudes.

“It can be said fairly, I think, that a certain post-Reformation exegesis stressed the need Beatitudes too much, emphasizing that the Sermon on the Mount was intended to drive us to our knees, to our sense of need, to our impotence before the law of God. This exegesis did take seriously the almost insuperable difficulty of living the Sermon on the Mount, and it took seriously the central content of the gospel’s Cross and Resurrection. Yet Jesus calls us not only to our knees, and the purpose of his sermon is not only to make us feel weak. Half the purpose of his sermon is to set us on our feet again and to give us the strength to go out and be a help. The help Beatitudes  belong as much to jesus’ teaching as the need Beatitudes, and deserve equal time.

God helps those who cannot help themselves (the need Beatitudes), and he also helps those who try to help others (the help Beatitudes), but he does not in any Beatitude help those who think they can help themselves—an often ungodly and antisocial conception. Jesus wants faith and love. Only faith justifies, only love proves faith real. There is no contradiction between the fact that God helps the helpless (that is God’s free mercy) and that he helps the helpful (that is God’s justice). The Beatitudes reward not only helplessness—Reformation exegesis has always delighted in knowing this; the Beatitudes also reward helpfulness—we have been reluctant to see this from a fear, often enough legitimate, that a teaching of merits might creep in. But if we can stick closely to Jesus’ definition of the righteous deed in the Beatitudes, and see the exact nature of that deed—that it involves people at center and not first at their works—we will be half way to freedom from new legalisms. The need Beatitudes engage us deeply with God; the help Beatitudes engage us deeply with people. The need Beatitudes enlist us in all that we are not. The help Beatitudes enlist us in all that we are. In the need Beatitudes we are salted (passively); in the help Beatitudes we are salt (actively). In the need Beatitudes we are picked up from the earth; in the help Beatitudes we are thrown into it. What happens to us when we hit earth is described in greater detail in the final double Beatitude.”

F.D. Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary. Matthew 1-12, The Christbook  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 152. 

Why the Lack of the Institution of the Eucharist in John (Bauckham)?

Why is the Eucharist not an explicit event narrated in the fourth Gospel? Richard Bauckham answers by saying,

I have argued elsewhere that john presupposes that his readers know Mark’s Gospel and deliberately does not repeat what could be read in Mark unless he has a specific reason for doing so. And second, To call Mark 14:22-25 and Matt. 26:26-29 accounts of “the institution of the Eucharist” is misleading because, unlike Luke 22:19 and Paul in 1 Cor. 11:25, they contain no indication that what Jesus does is to be repeated by his disciples. The function of these accounts in Mark and Matthew is to provide readers, in advance of the narrative of Jesus’ death, with a sacrificial interpretation of that death. John has no need of such an account for this purpose, because his narrative of the death of Jesus itself suggests a sacrificial interpretation (John 19:34). So, at the Last Supper he narrates instead another symbolic act of Jesus, the foot-washing (John 13:1-11), which also interprets the death of Jesus, in this case as the culmination of his ministry of loving service in the role of a slave.1

  1. Richard Bauckham, “Sacraments?” in Gospel of Glory, p. 104. ↩︎

Richard Bauckham on Participation in Christ from John 6

Richard Bauckham in his recent collection of essays/lectures, Gospel of Glory, writes about the possibility of the sacraments in the Gospel of John. One of the striking aspects of the fourth gospel is the absence of the sacraments but many theologians and scholars throughout history recognize the presence of sacramental type language throughout. Bauckham argues that John in chapter six is making an allusive reference to the Lord’s Supper to highlight the believer participating in the life of Jesus. He says,

It now becomes clear that eternal life is not just a divine gift to those who believe in Jesus; it is actual participation in Jesus’s own life, made available through his death. This is the significance of John 6:56–57. In verse 57 Jesus explains that he himself lives out of the eternal divine life of his Father, and so believers, participating in Jesus’s life, are alive with this same divine life. In verse 56 he explains that faith in the crucified Jesus unites the believer with him in a union so intimate and enduring that it can be depicted as mutual indwelling and abiding. This language of the reciprocal indwelling of Jesus and the believer is itself, because of its reciprocity, an advance on the language of eating and drinking. John introduces here as a means of connecting this discourse with the Last Supper Discourse, where the image of mutual indwelling recurs (John 10:14–23; 15:4–7) in the context of fuller discussion of the life of discipleship.1

  1. Richard Bauckham, “Sacraments?” in Gospel of Glory pp. 102–3. ↩︎

Dunn on Pitting the Imminent and Future Kingdom of God Against Each Other

In James Dunn’s helpful collection of essays in Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels he says this regarding scholarship pitting the imminent and future kingdom of God sayings in the Synoptics against each other,

In New Testament scholarship there has been a huge and long-lasting debate as to which of these two strands is the more ‘original’, although it has been a good deal quietened by the realisation that some of the Dead Sea Scrolls reflect a similar tension between an eschatological hope already fulfilled and a hope still maintained for imminent consumption. The debate within New Testament scholarship demonstrates more clearly than most others the futility of making conclusions regarding ‘the historical Jesus’ depend on individual verses and the conclusion that can be inferred from them. The fact is that both strands are well rooted in and run through the Synoptic tradition. Both are characteristic of the Synoptic Jesus. How dare we exegetes and expositors insist on squeezing such diverse traditions into a single mould and on squeezing out what does not fit our own ideas of consistency and good sense. It is much more responsible for historians and exegetes to recognise that this double characteristic of the Jesus tradition is best explained as a double characteristic of Jesus’ own teaching and mission. The overall two-sided impact of Jesus remains clear, even if it remains unclear how the two side were held together by Jesus and his first disciples.1

  1. James Dunn in Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels “Fact or Fiction? How Reliable are the Gospels?” p. 16 ↩︎

Karl Barth on The Lens To Which We Read Holy Scripture

Mark Bowald in describing Karl Barth’s typology of theological hermeneutics cited this helpful quote about the lens of which we should read Holy Scripture:

No one has ever read the Bible only with his own eyes and no one ever should. The only question is what interpreters we allow and in what order we let them speak. It is a pure superstition that the systematizing of a so-called historico-critical theology has such a greater affinity to Holy Scripture itself and has therefore in some sense to be heard before the Apostle’s Creed or the Heidelberg Catechism as a more convincing exposition of the biblical witness. What we have in the historical critical theology is simply the commentary of a theology if not a mythology. The only thing is that this commentary has not been affirmed by a Church, that so far the theology or mythology has wisely hesitated to claim the character of a real decision. Obviously we cannot choose between the biblical text and a Church confession. We are definitely pointed and bound to the text, and not to the commentary. Again, we cannot choose between the possibility of using all available commentaries for and understanding of the text, including that of the historico-critical theology—or that of using only a few more convenient ones, including, of course, the Church confession. But we have the possibility of giving first place among all the voices which have to be heard to that of the Church confession, i.e., to listen to it first on the assumption that it has something particular to say to us as the solemnly gathered deposit of the significant existing experience of the Church with Holy Scripture. We then have to be constantly ready for corrections of its view either by other voices of by our own insight…If we cannot do this, if we have to reject as contrary to Scripture the direction indicated by the confession, we then have to face the difficult problem of an exchange of confessions, that is, an alteration of our ecclesiastical position.”1

  1. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 1.2, 649–51. Quoted in Bowald, Mark Rendering the Word in Theological Hermeneutics pp. 181–182. ↩︎

Abridged Reading Guide for John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift

After reading Barclay’s Paul and the Gift I’ve had several people express interest in reading the book but generally with the comment “if I ever have the time” or something to that effect. Granted, this book is fairly long and does take awhile to read. While most people outside those with a vested interest in NT scholarship will probably not have the time to read something of this size outside their field. But this book is important in many aspects and I think that many outside the field of NT (thinking especially of systematic theologians and those interested in church history) will need to wrestle or be familiar with the arguments of the book.

I thought writing up a simple reading guide for the book my help those who have an interest in the book but don’t have time to wade through the 500+ pages. So here is what I would recommend people who fall in this category to read in order to understand the argument without wading through the details. Of course, if you have questions on some of the conclusions you can dive deeper into some of the exegesis of individual texts.

  • 1.2 (24-50) – this sections covers some of the Greco-Roman background to the idea of gift and reciprocity. This sections is vital to understanding the patronage nature of ancient society and serves as a helpful foundation for the rest of the book.
  • 1.3 (51-62) – this section discusses the modern understanding of gift. Reading this will give you a helpful idea of how gifts are understood in the modern world and you will immediately notice some of the disconnect between modern western society and the ancient world regarding gifts and reciprocity.
  • 1.4 (63-65) – Barclay provides some summary of the first chapter. Personally, I find his conclusions and summaries very helpful in understanding the overall thrust of his book.
  • 2 (66-78) – this section is especially important as Barclay outlines his six perfections of grace. You will want to understand these perfections as they serve as guideposts for the rest of the book as he discusses different theologians, exegetes, and other ancient writings in connection with grace.
  • 3 (79-182) – this chapter surveys the history of interpretation of theologians and exegetes understanding of grace in Paul. The strength of this chapter is that Barclay utilizes his six perfections of grace outlines in chapter 2 in order to evaluate each person’s understanding of grace. Personally, I found this chapter one of the most intriguing and helpful in the book.
  • 4 (183-193) – Barclay helpfully summarizes part one of the book.
  • Part II of the book outlines the notion of divine gift in Second Temple Judaism. Within these chapters he surveys Wisdom of Solomon, Philo of Alexandria, The Qumran Hodayot (1QHa), Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, and 4 Ezra. While these chapters are extremely important for NT scholars I think most people can skip to his conclusions in chapter 10 (309-330). Once you read his conclusions and summary and you have specific questions you can go back to the relevant texts for a closer look.
  • 11.1 (331-332) – this short section introduces the notion of gift in Galatians
  • 11.4 (339-350) – Barclay outlines four different readings of Galatians (Martin Luther, James Dunn, J. Louis Martyn, and Brigitte Kahl)
  • 14.4 (442-448) – Barclay summarizes his conclusions to his exegesis of Galatians. Once again, if you have further questions find the relevant section and read his exegetical conclusions of that particular issue.
  • 15.1-2 (449-454) – Barclay outlines the notion of gift and mercy in Romans and discusses the transition from Galatians to Romans
  • 15.8 (490-492), 16.5 (516-519), 17.5 (556-561) – These are all conclusions and summaries to the different sections of Romans he discusses.
  • 18 (562-574) – Barclay provides his conclusions of the book.

Well there you have it! You can read Barclay’s Paul and the Gift in roughly 200 pages and get a general understanding of his argument and conclusions. I think it would be well worth you time to do so.

SBL Handbook Tip: Formatting Names of Publishers

Yesterday, looking through the SBL Handbook (2nd Edition), I came across section Names of Presses, which lists the preferred bibliographic forms for publishers’ names (76) along with some other useful information. I’ve always struggled with discerning the format for publishers. For example, should is Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company supposed to be formatted as Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Wm. B. Eerdmans, or Eerdmans? Should the state be listed alongside the city like Wheaton, IL or left alone like Grand Rapids? All this and more is found in the handbook in section 6.1.4 pages 76ff.

This is a welcome update from the first edition, which only gives a few examples for formatting publishers and ambiguous about whether or not you include the state along with the city. Granted, not every publisher is listed but it does include over 500 publishers. If the publisher is not listed then the following guidelines are give, which is similar to the first edition:

If the title or copyright page lists more than one city, only the first city should ordinarily be used in the bibliography and notes (see CMS §14.135). When the city or publisher is not well known, reference to the state or country should be included. Be careful to do this consistently; thus if you name “Grand Rapids, MI” in one citation, you must include the state in every other citation of a publisher in Grand Rapids. On the use of two-letter postal abbreviations for state/province references, see §8.1.1 (82).

Another interesting tidbit related to publishers is

Presses named after a founder or family member are generally identified by the founder’s last name only (e.g., Brill rather than E. J. Brill; Eerdmans rather than Wm. B. Eerdmans). Presses named after a historical figure who was not a founder are identified by the full name (e.g., John Knox rather than Knox) (76).


  • Physical copy (link)
  • Kindle (link)
  • List of additions and rule changes to the second edition (link)
  • Accordance version (link)
  • Logos version (pre-order link)
  • SBL Series and Journal Abbreviations provided by Danny Zacharias (link)
  • SBL Style Guide Digital Supplement ($5) from Danny Zacharias (link), which includes:

    • Primary Literature Abbreviations
    • Serial and Abbreviations List in Word
    • How to Create a Scripture Index on a Mac
    • Screencast Tutorial for Creating an Abbreviations List

A Narrative Reading of Apollos and Paul (Acts 18:24-28; 19:1-7)

In our Acts seminar today we had a helpful discussion on the relationship of Acts 18:24-28 and 19:1-7. It seems that a cursory reading of scholars understand Apollos as being a Christian who just needs to understand the Gospel more fully while the disciples in Ephesus are clearly not Christians who need to hear the Gospel from Paul. David Pederson in his commentary on Acts sums the discussion up nicely:

It seems likely that some of John the Baptist’s disciples retained their distinctive beliefs for a while after his death and continued to urge other Jews to prepare for the coming of the Lord by accepting the baptism offered by John. While many of the Baptist’s disciples recognized in Jesus the fulfillment of their expectations, others may have had a mixture of beliefs and practices that fell short of the understanding and experience of mainstream Christianity as portrayed in Acts. Apollos and the Ephesian ‘disciples’ appear to have emerged from that sort of background. Apollos was clearly Christian when Priscilla and Aquila met him, but the Ephesians had not come so far when Paul encountered them1

From my brief examination of the two narrative I think Luke is presenting the two narratives not necessarily to show differences and similarities of the situation but rather the two provide two stories back-to-back that shed light on one another. My reasoning below is brief and I would love to hear any feedback you may have.

When we read these two narratives together we are presented with a more complete picture of the deficiencies of only following the teaching of John the Baptist. I take the story to present Apollos as a Jew who was following in the tradition of John the Baptist and proclaiming a message of repentance.

Acts 18:24-28

First, we can note that Apollos was well-versed in the scriptures, been instructed in the way of the Lord2, presented accurately the facts of Jesus, and was fervent in spirit (Acts 18:24-25).3 On the surface this seems to portray Apollos as a Christian who is preaching but needs further teaching from Priscilla and Aquila. The key caveat is that “he only knew the baptism of John (Acts 18:25).” Without the subsequent episode of Paul and the disciples in the next story we could easily read Apollos as a Christian preacher, as many commentators do, but Luke provides a subsequent story to give a more complete picture.

Acts 19:1-7

When Paul arrives at Ephesus he is greeted with whom he thinks are disciples. Upon meeting them he asks if they have received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). When they reply that they didn’t even know of the Holy Spirit Paul quickly asks them how they were baptized (Acts 19:3). They respond that they were baptized in John’s baptism. Paul then tells them that John’s baptism was only a baptism of repentance and that they needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:4).


This last encounter sheds light on the situation with Apollos. Apollos, who only knew the baptism of John, was, according to the narrative flow of the two stories, only preaching a baptism of repentance. Indeed, he was preaching the things of Jesus and the way of the Lord in the same way that John the Baptist was. The things of Jesus do not necessarily have to refer to the acts and teaching of Jesus but instead could be in reference to the same Messianic expectations that John the Baptist was speaking of. This preaching was in preparation for the Messiah. But the Messiah has now come and the message is to believe on Jesus in order to receive the Holy Spirit and subsequently be baptized in his name.

Luke shows how Paul laid hands on the disciples then they received the Holy Spirit and were baptized. Afterwards they went about speaking in tongues and prophesying. Luke does not need to explicitly state that Apollos was converted at this time. But the similar situation in understanding the baptism of John in the next story makes it probable that he was converted during the “more accurate teachings of the ways of God” by Priscilla and Aquila. This story fills in the gaps of Apollos. Only knowing the baptism of John is only further defined in the subsequent story with Paul and the disciples.

Thus, reading the two stories together we get a clearer picture of why Priscilla and Aquila needed to teach Apollos more accurately the things of God. His message was not contrary but just deficient. It seems a more literary reading of the two stories together gives us a complete picture of Apollos.

  1. David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 524. ↩︎
  2. This should not be understood as a reference to “The Way” as in Acts 9:2; (16:17); 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22. This is the only place with the modifier “of the Lord,” which may imply a reference to John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord. All of references are just to “The Way,” which implies either the Christian message or sect. ↩︎
  3. I take this phrase to be an emotional state and not being fervent in the Holy Spirit ↩︎

QOTD: Acts for Christians Today

Something to think about when reading Acts…

They (Christians) can learn patience and faithfulness in mission in the midst of a world they do not control. The strong experience of resistance and rejection in Acts results in a necessary tempering of the mission. Peter and Paul are meant to impress us as powerful persons, but they are not all-powerful. The imprisonment of Paul is a particularly vivid indication of strong social limitations on the mission, and this imprisonment persists to the end of Acts. It does not change Paul's dedication to his task, as the final verses of Acts indicate, but Paul must learn to work within limits. He does so while maintaining trust in the purpose he is serving and in God's power to reach the ultimate goal. Such trust is supported by a perception of God as a God of surprises, indeed, a God who works by irony, who can use even opponents of the mission to move the divine purpose forward. The mission must work within limits, yet God repeatedly breaks out of these limits in ways that surprise both the church and its critics. Faithfully serving in mission while trusting in a God whose exact moves cannot be anticipated is part of the ongoing struggle of faith. The resulting life of service is a lesson in which we are repeatedly taught to push back our limited views of how God may act and whom God may use for the divine purpose. The church must be confident that it has a valid and important mission, as Peter and Paul are in Acts, yet it must recognize that God has other and surprising ways of working.

Tannehill, Robert C. The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: The Acts of the Apostles. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989.