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Archive for the ‘bible’ Category

Strong’s Goes Excel

strongsMatthias Müller has already given us the Koine Greek audio Bible. Now he’s produced another brilliant resource for those interested in biblical languages. It’s an Excel spread sheet of the entire Strong’s concordance.

What’s the point, you might ask, since so many free Bible programs include Strong’s?

The spreadsheet has the following possibilities. You can:

  • Sort the entire Greek and Hebrew vocab of the Bible by different criteria
  • See at a glance, which words come from which root
  • Find out what the Greek equivalent is for a Hebrew word and vice versa
  • Sort the vocab by frequency and so easily create your own vocabulary lists for language learning
  • See where a word is used the first time

In the future, Matthias hopes to add columns and fill them in – e.g. columns for every biblical book.  The whole project could take years but updates will come as Matthias works on it.  Keep the link and download it a few times a year to see what has been added. But if you would like to help, fill in the blanks or add functionality just email christisinn which is a gmail address.

Strong’s Concordance Download (Dropbox)

UPDATE 25/07/13 Frequency of Hebrew words up to Strong’s #H5000 completed alongside first occurrence.

Also completed “part of speech” columns for all words in both Greek and Hebrew.

Now you can also separate Aramaic words from Hebrew words with the first column.

UPDATE 05/08/13 Now the rest of the Strong’s concordance is updated on frequency and first occurance – both for Greek and Hebrew. Have fun creating vocab lists or doing some analysis of which NT author in the Bible introduces the most new vocabulary.

Make sure to use the filter options in the gloss column: click the little arrow in the cell of the header, then “text filters”, then “contains…” and enter any strong’s number you want to filter out. To get rid of the filter, click the arrow again and then “clear filter from “gloss””… enjoy

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Book by Book 1
For the last two days we’ve been filming Book by Book’s study in Job. Here’s me with Richard Bewes and Paul Blackham – what a privilege to be involved! I think the DVD and Paul’s insanely good study guide (best resource you’ll find on Job!) will be available later in the year.

In the past I’ve blogged my way through Job on the King’s English:

The LORD gave and the LORD hath taken away

Miserable Comforters

Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward

Escaped by the skin of my teeth

I know that my Redeemer liveth

Gird up thy loins

Repent in dust and ashes

Old and full of days

…And given this sermon on the whole book…

But it was great to look in more depth at the book. Some new thoughts I’ve had as we’ve studied this more together:

1) So much of Job is about knowing Christ – the Mediator.  His mediatorial work comes up at key points – Job 9:32-35; Job 16:19-21; Job 19:23-27; Job 33:23-28; Job 42:7-9.  Whenever Job is doing well, he has his eyes on Christ. Whenever he’s doing badly, he has his eyes back on himself.

2) The great problem with the miserable comforters is a total ignorance of Christ. Eliphaz, the prosperity teacher, thinks you can get your best life now without Christ and His future. Bildad, the works righteousness preacher, thinks you can become just by your own efforts. Zophar thinks you can be spiritual, without Christ, just by your own devotional commitments. From their christlessness flows their terrible theology – in their various ways they basically believe ‘you get what you deserve.’  And from their terrible theology flows their terrible pastoral care.

3) The comforters don’t intend to be tormentors. They come in chapter 2:11 to sympathise with Job. They spend a week sitting in silence with him – what commitment!  It’s just that having miserable theology means – necessarily – giving miserable comfort.  Application: If you don’t know the gospel, don’t you dare do pastoral care!

4) Elihu is a good guy. Once you grasp this, it really helps you a) to take his own wisdom more seriously, but even more importantly, b) to reappraise Job as someone who errs as well as speaks rightly (cf 32:1-4). Job errs (especially from chapter 30 onwards) in continually justifying his own uprightness to the friends, and even to God. Job is certainly a believer and he hasn’t brought his suffering on himself through any particular sins. However, he ends up insisting on his innocence almost as much as the comforters insinuate his guilt.  In his better moments he forgets about either innocence or guilt and looks to Christ. But when he doesn’t, he invites the critique of Elihu (and then the LORD).

5) Job’s insistence on his innocent suffering – while correct on one level – tips him, at times, in the direction of a miserable-comforter-style theology of glory. Towards the end, he begins pitting ‘knowing God’ against ‘experiencing suffering’. He becomes nostalgic for times of intimacy with God. But he loses sight of the intimacy he can have in suffering.  This is a key truth Elihu brings.

6) I’d never really noticed them before but Elihu’s words in Job 36 are some of my favourite in the book:

“But those who suffer the LORD delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.” (Job 36:15-16)

Beautiful!

7) Job asks for answers throughout the book.  But he never gets them.  Instead he gets an experience of the LORD in suffering (Job 16:19-21; cf Job 38-41) and a promised hope after it (Job 19:23-27; cf Job 42).  It’s the same with us.  Who cares about answers?  We need the LORD Jesus Himself and the future He will bring.

8) When James looks back on Job, his take-home message is: “Job’s perseverance and… what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11) Job’s ending is crucial.  It’s a happily ever after that pictures the good purposes Christ has for all our suffering.  When we read Job all the way through, our response should be: “Hallelujah, the Lord is so full of love and grace!”  If we’re not saying this, we haven’t understood the book (and we won’t cope with suffering as we should).

Book by Book 3

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In our last episode, we asked Hasn’t the bible been changed?  Have our modern bibles preserved what the original authors wrote?

In this episode we talk about the internal consistency of the bible. How can the bible be God’s word when there are contradictions in it?

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[audio http://revivalmedia.org/medias/audio/TEP013.mp3]

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In the programme, we discuss these two infographics…

63,779 Biblical Consistencies

63,779 Biblical Consistencies

439 Biblical 'Contradictions'

439 Biblical ‘Contradictions’

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Moving away from morsels

small_food_portion1

[Repost from 2011]

Last night we had a home group bible study with the folk who have graduated from Christianity Explored.  Here’s what we’ve been studying:

Week 1: Galatians

Week 2: Ephesians

Week 3: Philippians

Week 4: Colossians

Last night was week 5:  Romans 1-4 (though we stopped at the end of 3 because everyone was blown away!)

When I tell them that the other home groups study half a chapter at a time they are amazed!   “But that’s like stopping after three paragraphs of a letter!” they exclaim.  That is precisely what it is!

Everyone prints off the chapters for that week and reads them with a pen to hand.  They circle things they don’t understand and underline things they love so they come to the evening quite well prepared.

In the studies we just read a big chunk and then discuss, read a big chunk then discuss.  We’ve been getting through 4-6 chapters in a night.

Some outside the group have been impressed by it, but also have raised valid concerns:

Question: How long can you keep this up?

Answer: The bible’s a big book.

Question: Not many people could lead a study of a whole book of the bible, doesn’t this concentrate leadership in the hands of the trained few?

Answer:  Actually it puts the bible in the hands of everyone.  People have really taken responsibility for trying to get a handle on the passage before the meeting and they’ve been great at answering each other’s questions.

Question: Not many people could field the range of questions that would be generated by study of a whole book.  Leaders might be caught out by the number of different topics that could arise in any given week.

Answer: Schedule in some weeks every now and again where you tackle the most recurring topics from the last couple of months.

Question: Won’t this mean you miss nuances and details?

Answer: Yup.  But you’ll be revisiting the same material a lot more often too.

Anyway, I commend it to you.  Not least because last night was devastating.  We began in chapter 15 to get some context and then moved through Romans 1 to 3 the way it was intended.  It crushed us to dust and then lifted us up in Christ.  I can’t now imagine spacing that out over three weeks!

My advice: move away from the morsels.  Get stuck in!

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WTS is offering Ian Duguid’s “Is Jesus in the Old Testament?” as a free eBook until 26 June.

GET IT HERE

You might think the book is free because it’s only one word – a resounding ‘Yes!’  But actually, we can be grateful there are a further 39 pages of material from Ian Duguid.

Here are some highlights:

This little booklet contends that Christ is present throughout the Old Testament. He is not merely present through a physical appearance here and there, or through the right interpretation of this or that Old Testament prophecy or type, but he is there on every page as the central theme and storyline of the entire book…

…According to Jesus and the apostles, then, when you interpret the Old Testament correctly, you find that its focus is not primarily stories about moral improvement, calls for social action, or visions concerning end-time events. Rather, the central message of the Old Testament is Jesus: specifically the sufferings of Christ and the glories that follow—both the glorious resurrection of Christ and the glorious inheritance that he has won for all of his people. Certainly, understanding this gospel should lead to a new morality in the lives of believers. It should motivate and empower us to seek to meet the needs of the lost and broken world around us and should engage our passion for the new heavens and the new earth that will be realized when Christ returns. But the heart of the message of the Old Testament is a witness to Christ, which centers on his suffering and glory, his death and resurrection.

…The ministry of Christ in his suffering and resurrection is thus the central focus of the whole Old Testament: he is the one toward whom the whole Old Testament is constantly moving, the one for whom as well as by whom it exists [emphasis mine].

The Old Testament is not simply the record of what God was doing with a motley crew of religious misfits in a land in the Middle East, far less a catalogue of stories about a series of religiously inspiring heroes. It is the good news of the gospel that we have been called to declare to the nations, beginning in Jerusalem and continuing until the message has been heard to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Well said. There are just a couple of points I would put differently though (I’m sure Duguid’s devastated!)

Firstly, the book mentions the presence of Christ in the OT, which is a marked improvement on some OT theologies, but in practice Duguid doesn’t demonstrate the fact or make anything of it.

The verses he quotes (p6-9) about the NT’s assessment and use of the OT don’t simply say that the OT is about Christ. They also speak of OT saints consciously trusting Him. The importance of this is well put by David Murray:

I’m a bit concerned that an overuse of [the “types and trajectories”] tool can give the impression that Christ is merely the end of redemptive history rather than an active participant throughout.

Puritans such as Jonathan Edwards were masters of balance here. In his History of the Work of Redemption, Edwards shows Christ as not only the end of redemptive history, but actively and savingly involved from the first chapter to the last. He did not view Old Testament people, events, etc., as only stepping-stones to Christ; he saw Christ in the stepping-stones themselves. He did not see the need to relate everything to “the big picture”; he found the “big picture” even in the “small pictures.”

I’d also like to encourage preachers and teachers to be clear and consistent on the question: “How were Old Testament believers saved?” The most common options seem to be:

1. They were saved by obeying the law.

2. They were saved by offering sacrifices.

3. They were saved by a general faith in God.

4. They were saved by faith in the Messiah.

Unless we consistently answer #4, we end up portraying heaven as not only populated by lovers of Christ, but also by legalists, ritualists, and mere theists who never knew Christ until they got there. Turning back again in order to go forwards, may I recommend Calvin’s Institutes Book 2 (chapters 9-11) to help remove some of the blur that often surrounds this question.

Secondly, at points the book seeks to guard us from making direct Christian applications of the OT text (keeping us from allegory and moralism). But the kinds of warnings given sit, at times, uncomfortably with the NT’s own assessment and use of the OT. Paul seems more comfortable with allegory and direct moral application than Duguid is.

I think this is important for many reasons, but one is well put by Tim Chester in his book “Unreached.” (I don’t have it to hand so I’ll paraphrase.) Right towards the end, Tim speaks of gospel ministry in non-book cultures. In such environments he’s often struck by the way people apply the bible’s truth directly to their situation in a way he’s been trained not to do. But upon reflection, Tim concludes that this direct immediacy to Scripture’s voice is, in fact, the way the believers in the bible actually handle Scripture. The non-book culture is closer to the bible’s own hermeneutic than the systems which preachers often learn.

If Tim is right – and I reckon he is – then it calls into question complicated systems of OT interpretation. If we’re going to reach non-book cultures, can we really insist on passing the OT text through the stages which p13 outlines?

I remember listening to a fascinating lecture at Oak Hill by Don Carson. His subject was the OT quotations of Hebrews chapter 1.  His mission was to demonstrate that these OT texts were originally not ‘concerning the Son’  but that now they were about Him. That’s why the lecture was 2 hours long. It took all that time for him to run us through the steps of his argument. Like I say, it was fascinating. Carson often is.  But why did it take 2 hours to say what Hebrews takes no time to say: i.e. that Psalm 45 is “concerning the Son”?  It seems to me that these kinds of systems steal the bible out of the hands of the ordinary Christian and make us all jump through hoops of which Jesus and the apostles seem unaware.

Having said this, there are certainly OT interpretations that are false. It’s not a case of “any road to Christ will do.” But you see, it’s the very idea of needing a “road to Christ” that reveals the real problem. I contend that the OT, in all its detail and historical contingency, is already and consciously a witness to Christ. Christ is already the Light illuminating the path. And He is the Way, not just the destination.

As an example of false interpretation, Duguid refers to a writer who allegorizes from the tabernacle’s tent pegs – half in the ground, half out – to the need to proclaim the whole of Christ’s atoning work – He was dead and buried (beneath the ground), but also risen and ascended (above it)!  Yes indeed that’s a false use of Scripture.  But it’s not that he found the wrong “road to Christ” and learning a better system would give him a better road. The problem is: he didn’t take the Christ-centred origins of the tabernacle seriously enough. If I want to talk about Christ’s death and resurrection, I don’t need to take a road from the tabernacle. In the tabernacle we are already witnessing a profound proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection.

At which point, the heart of Duguid’s book – showing the shape of the OT and re-telling its redemptive story – becomes a great help to us.  Indeed we need to know about prophets, priests, kings, the temple, the sacrifices, the significance of Adam, of Israel, of David, etc, etc. Inhabiting this world is essential for understanding the Scriptures rightly.  I’d just want to add that the Christian significance of these things is the Alpha as well as the Omega point.

***

With all that said, Duguid’s book is a stimulating and useful read. For me though it highlights the need to insist on Christ’s presence and promises as well as the patterns of the OT’s “redemptive history”.

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TEP-PodcastCover-1024x1024

Episode 12 of the Evangelist’s Podcast

Has the truth of the bible been compromised? Has the text been changed? How can we trust it when there are so many variances in the manuscripts?

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[audio http://revivalmedia.org/medias/audio/TEP012.mp3]

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In the podcast we reference a fascinating debate between James White and Bart Ehrman here:

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Road-to-EmmausAt Ed Stetzer’s Blog he’s about to host a series of posts on Christ-centred preaching. The contributors are

  • Dr. Daniel Block (Wheaton College)
  • Dr. David Murray (Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary)
  • Dr. Walt Kaiser (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)
  • Dr. Bryan Chapell (Grace Presbyterian in Peoria, IL)

I’m looking forward to David Murray’s contribution but first up to bat is Daniel Block who’s posted the first half of his contribution here.

Block begins by saying that not enough people wrestle with this issue since they basically neglect the OT. “Because they preach primarily, if not exclusively, from the New Testament their preaching is almost by definition Christ-centered.”

I’m not convinced. Why should preaching from the NT be “by definition” Christ-centred?  I’ve certainly heard my fair share of Christless sermon on the fruit of the Spirit, the Jerusalem council,  the pastoral epistles, even the sermon on the mount. No-one should have to endure such things, but many of us have.  A sermon is not rendered Christ-centred because it’s derived from the Greek, rather than Hebrew Scriptures.  (Read here for more on Christ in the New Testament).

Block goes on to list some benefits of ‘Christ-centred preaching’, the first of which is:

  1. Christ-centered preaching has a long history, beginning with the apostles, the church fathers, the reformers (especially Luther), and extending to more a recent revival Christ-centered preaching in some circles

This is a heck of a concession for Block to make! How will he out-argue this hermeneutical tradition that traces back to reformers, fathers and apostles!?

He doesn’t say. Not in this post. Instead Block moves to his own misgivings about Christ-centred hermeneutics:

Christo-centric preaching often morphs into a Christo-centric hermeneutic, which demands that we find Christ in every text.

Notice how Christ is being spoken of here? An item of knowledge located in some texts (and not in others).

Instead Block wants us to have a grander vision of the sweep of God’s revelation. He writes: “The Scriptures consist of many different genres and address many different concerns. Not all speak of Christ.”  Again – how is Christ being considered here?  One concern among many.  I’m sure Block would say that He’s the ultimate concern (he wants a christotelic hermeneutic – one that ends up with Christ).  But I can’t help feeling that the vision we need to expand here is our vision of Christ Himself. 

Block’s second misgiving about Christ-centred hermeneutics is this:

Christ-centered preaching may obscure the intent of the original author and in so doing may actually reflect a low view of Scripture.

Well there might be folks with a low view of Scripture snipping out of their OT’s everything that they can’t squeeze into some narrow Christocentric hermeneutic. I’m sure things like that happen. But let’s be honest, preachers pull that kind of fast one with both testaments don’t they? And isn’t it also possible that those who take Block’s protests to heart end up reflecting a low view of Christ.  After all He is called the Image of the invisible God, the Word of the Father, the Radiance of God’s glory, the Exact Representation of His Being, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the One Moses wrote about. If we don’t reflect that Christ-centredness in our handling of God’s revelation then can we be said to be properly handling God’s revelation?

But of course, there’s a way of doing both.  There’s a way of having the highest regard for Scripture and for Christ. It means reading the Scriptures as already and intentionally Christian. If you do so you can honour both Christ and Scripture and you are never asked to trade one off against the other. But, of course, to do so is to concede that the OT Scriptures just are Christ-centred in all their historical particularity.

Block says that Luke 24 is misunderstood to mean that all the Scriptures do concern Jesus. It’s just that, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus ran through the particular verses that did actually refer to Him. Presumably then the vast majority of the Old Testament does not “concern Him” in the Luke 24 sense. I suppose that kind of reading is possible but it doesn’t deal with any of those solus Christus verses above.

Block then says “Few proverbs in the book of Proverbs speak of Jesus.” Well the proverbs themselves only come after 9 chapters of deep theology in which the royal son is introduced to Wisdom. And, emphatically, Wisdom is not introduced as the accumulation of pithy aphorisms but the personal co-Creator of the universe in Whom is life and grace. The royal son is invited to feast with Wisdom and then out come the pithy sayings.

This example from Proverbs might help to clarify what I mean by Christocentric hermeneutics. I’m not talking about allegorizing from an isolated verse and making an improbable leap to the cross. I’m taking the proverbs very much in context, seeing their source in Christ and also expecting to see a certain cruciformity to them as I read them individually (e.g. Why does a gentle answer turn away wrath? I will wonder aloud, Prov 15:1).  All of them flow from Christ and are shaped by Him – the Righteous Royal Son in whom all the treasures of Wisdom reside (Colossians 2:3)

Finally (for this initial post), Block contests:

Rather than clarifying many First Testament texts, Christ-centered preaching may rob them of both their literary quality and their spiritual force.

I grant that this is indeed a danger. But it’s a danger inherent in all preaching, no matter what the preacher’s hermeneutical grid.  We’ve all got a grid and therefore we’re all in danger of missing what’s there in order to preach our system.

But is there a grid that is given by the Scriptures themselves? Surely the answer is Yes, and the fact Block lists ‘the apostles’ as teachers of the christocentric hermeneutic gives the game away.

If we follow them then our conviction will be that the OT Scriptures in all their concrete details and historical particularity are already Messianic through and through.  Isn’t that the grid that’s going to make you delve deepest into the OT and herald Christ from every passage?

Let me finish by pointing again to Nathan Pitchford’s brilliant short article on the Reformer’s Hermeneutic. He shows how, for the reformers, the literal meaning was the Christ-centred meaning.  Today, however, the “literal” meaning has come to mean “the naturalistic” meaning which is kept separate from any centre in Christ.  He finishes by showing 6 ways the naturalistic reading fails:

1. A naturalistic hermeneutic effectively denies God’s ultimate authorship of the bible, by giving practical precedence to human authorial intent.

2. A naturalistic hermeneutic undercuts the typological significance which often inheres in the one story that God is telling in the bible (see Galatians 4:21-31, for example).

3. A naturalistic hermeneutic does not allow for Paul’s assertion that a natural man cannot know the spiritual things which the Holy Spirit teaches in the bible – that is, the things about Jesus Christ and him crucified (I Corinthians 2).

4. A naturalistic hermeneutic is at odds with the clear example of the New Testament authors and apostles as they interpret the Old Testament (cf. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, Paul’s interpretations in Romans 4 and Galatians 4, James’ citing of Amos 9 during the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, the various Old Testament usages in Hebrews, etc.).

5. A naturalistic hermeneutic disallows a full-orbed operation of the analogy of faith principle of the Reformation, by its insistence that every text demands a reading “on its own terms”.

6. A naturalistic hermeneutic does not allow for everything to have its ultimate reference point in Christ, and is in direct opposition to Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:16-18, and Christ’s own teachings in John 5:39, Luke 24:25-27.

Read the whole thing

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Hebrew-BibleI am not at all naturally inclined to study languages myself so I’m not writing as a language buff. But I think “correctly handling the word of truth” means a certain level of knowledge about the way that word was written and how it can and cannot be handled.

What is the semantic range of this word? Do I realize how meaning can change depending on which prepositions are attached or what verb stem it’s in? Do I at least understand the arguments for why the New World Translation gets John 1:1 wrong? I think a pastor should have a handle on this kind of stuff – not that they can necessarily weigh in with great scholarship but that they at least know why the NIV says what it says and can justify it if they disagree.

And it can have revolutionary significance.  Think of Matthew 4:17 – the Vulgate says ‘Do penance’ but when Luther sees it’s actually “Repent” it becomes the very first of his 95 theses.

I’m not saying someone can’t have a hugely powerful ministry without knowing the original languages (who can deny that in places where the church is growing fastest, pastors very often don’t). And I’m not saying every pastor needs to get to the level where they do all their prep and quiet times in Hebrew. But if our pastors have been given significant formal preparation for word ministry then studying those words in the original languages should be a key component of that. It’s surely not right that pastors have a hundred opinions on the new perspective but don’t actually understand the linguistics behind “pistis Christou” for instance.

I think the tools of a pastor’s trade are words – the bible’s words more specifically. I wouldn’t have confidence in a car mechanic who said “We just need to twist the doo-hickey until the thingumy-jig pops out.”

I’m not suggesting that pastors need to be fluent or anything like it.  You don’t need to be able to speak these languages or hear them or even write them.  Just to read them, painstakingly slowly and usually with some bible software close to hand!

But it pays off. Very quickly you’re able to see a thousand links that are there to see in the original languages but (necessarily) obscured by translations.  Let me give some examples:

Last week I preached on Isaiah 2 and then 1 Corinthians 7:

Isaiah 2:

All translations conceal just how much ideas of highness, loftiness are repeated in verses 11-17. Reading this in the Hebrew definitely allowed the word to dwell in me more richly. I was more impacted by the word because of reading in the Hebrew.

Searching for a theology of trees and hills was easier to do with knowledge of the Hebrew. (Of course it’s not impossible to do without Hebrew but it takes longer and you end up relying on things like bible dictionaries – and I’m never sure if I’m always on the same page as the bible dictionary contributors (esp on OT)).

In v10, ‘The Rock’ vs ‘the rocks’ – I might decide to prefer ESV because of many factors, but surely the best factor is that the Hebrew says bazur not bazurim. This was a key point in my sermon – a big talking point afterwards. I’m glad I know something of Hebrew when those conversations come up. If you’re going to argue for Christ in OT (which I am), the majority of your biblical scholarship / commentary help is at least 300 years old. It’s brilliant stuff, but a lot of the contemporary stuff is just not that interested in christocentric detail. But, learn Hebrew yourself and you’ll see it on every page.

1 Corinthians 7:
There are so many minefields here – and so many ethical issues that depend on language debates. I’m nowhere near in a position to contribute to these debates, but it’s very helpful to be able to follow them especially when I’m telling certain people they can’t marry or can’t divorce and telling them on the basis of these ten Greek words which have multiple interpretations.

e.g. what’s the difference between ‘separating’ in v10 and ‘divorcing’ in v11-13? What does it mean for the woman not to be ‘bound’? in v15? Is that relevantly similar to the word for ‘bound’ in v39? Your stance on divorce and remarriage is fundamentally affected by that question.

Now the language alone is not going to decide it and not everyone needs to have language knowledge. But I’m recommending an investment of time in languages that better places you to think through all these issues.

On the one hand learning languages saves you time. It really does – searches are far faster, technical commentaries are much easier to read. If you’re at all interested in the detail of the text, knowing some Greek and Hebrew makes things faster not slower. On the other hand, it slows you down in the right way. Reading the passage in the original allows you to see details and emphases and repetitions that are necessarily filtered out in translations, to see things of Christ that aren’t usually picked up on. It comes home a bit stronger. Maybe none of that will translate to the pulpit, but it translates to my heart – and that’s good for my ministry.

So here’s what I’m saying: It is a tremendous help in correctly handling the word if you know enough about Greek and Hebrew to at least be able to read the technical commentaries and use the bible software. This will mean that, with help from commentaries and Bibleworks etc, you are preparing sermons from the Hebrew and Greek and not simply from the English translations. I really think this makes a significant difference to your word ministry. Enough difference that it is worth the expenditure of, say, 160 hours in training – i.e. 4 hours a week (2 in classroom, 2 in homework) for 40 weeks or something? To be honest you could probably get away with less. And you do NOT have to be a language buff to be able to get to this level. I am in no way naturally gifted for languages, but I found huge payoffs in forcing myself to do it.

Now put that 160 hours (or less) in context. I’ve spent many times over that amount in studying church history, many times over that amount simply reading theologians, simply reading systematics, simply reading Christian paperbacks. I’ve spent hugely more time blogging!

I’m not talking about secret knowledge that takes decades of training and special anointing. I’m talking about learning alphabets and a bit of vocab, learning some verb and noun tables and then figuring out how clauses and sentences fit together. Most of that is dead boring – but these are the nuts and bolts of God’s revelation to us. And pastors deal in God’s revelation. Yes we deal in people and that is crucial (Tit 1:6-8). But we also deal in the word (Tit 1:9). We find time for all sorts of other nonsense in preparation for word ministry (JEPD anyone?!) languages is a really good investment of time. If you have the chance to do it, do it.

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christ-and-mosesSeems like, these days, we’re all reading our Old Testaments as though they are Christian Scripture. And if there are a few old fogeys holding out against the tide of “true and better” typology then – c’mon baggy, get with the beat.

This is cause for some celebration. It’s far better to preach the Old Testament as thoroughly Christ-focused than to give 25 minutes fit for the synagogue followed by a 5 minute icing of penal substitution.  But… I’m not sure the current fad for re-reading the OT through typological lenses will be able to carry the day unless we believe that the OT saints were themselves Christ-focused.

On the Gospel Coalition website, Mitch Chase recently wrote “Preach the Old Testament As If Jesus Is Risen.”  In it he makes the excellent point:

If your hermeneutic is grammatical-historical but not christological, you’re not reading the Old Testament as the apostles did, as Jesus taught them to read it.

Amen, Amen.  Unfortunately though, the whole article is framed by a depiction of the OT as a dim cavern which needs the blazing torch of the Christ-Event to illuminate it.  Yet, just last night our home group looked at John 5 in which Jesus puts things exactly the other way around.  Moses casts light on Jesus – and if folks don’t trust Moseshow will they ever believe Jesus. (J0hn 5:37-46)  The whole re-reading paradigm would have Jesus saying “I understand that you didn’t get the dim, dark witness of Moses, but let me shine a light on Moses.”  No, He says, “My Father’s testimony through Moses illuminates me.

Why is this important? Well, there are a couple of dissenting voices in the comments, who are coming from a different place than me, but they are sounding some quite understandable gripes about a, now fashionable, “Everything’s-a-Type-of-Jesus” hermeneutic.  They want to honour the intention of Moses and the Prophets and not simply jump to Jesus (by which they mean, Jump via some leap of desperate hermeneutics to Golgotha). Well, who can blame them?  They have a terrific point.

If Moses and the Prophets aren’t saying what we’re saying, then we’re just twisting the Scriptures aren’t we?

But when Paul preached Christ – His death and resurrection – from the OT he insisted “I am saying nothing beyond what Moses and the Prophets said would happen.”  (Acts 26:22)  Yes his interpretation was Christ-focused. But it was also wedded to authorial intent.

So how do we keep those two things together: Christ-focus and authorial intent?  Only by saying that the OT in its own context is consciously a proclamation of Christ – His sufferings and glories.  Without an insistence that the Hebrew Scriptures are already and intentionally Christian – without maintaining that ‘the lights are already on’ – then the “true and better” typology stuff will be good for a sermon or two, but it won’t transform our preaching or our churches.

I’ll finish with that same caution from David Murray here:

I’m massively encouraged by the church’s renewed interest in preaching Christ from the Old Testament, and especially by the increased willingness to see how Old Testament people, places, events, etc., point forward to Christ. This “types and trajectories” (or redemptive-historical) hermeneutic has many strengths.

However, I’m a bit concerned that an overuse of this tool can give the impression that Christ is merely the end of redemptive history rather than an active participant throughout.

Puritans such as Jonathan Edwards were masters of balance here. In his History of the Work of Redemption, Edwards shows Christ as not only the end of redemptive history, but actively and savingly involved from the first chapter to the last. He did not view Old Testament people, events, etc., as only stepping-stones to Christ; he saw Christ in the stepping-stones themselves. He did not see the need to relate everything to “the big picture”; he found the “big picture” even in the “small pictures.”

I’d also like to encourage preachers and teachers to be clear and consistent on the question: “How were Old Testament believers saved?” The most common options seem to be:

1. They were saved by obeying the law.

2. They were saved by offering sacrifices.

3. They were saved by a general faith in God.

4. They were saved by faith in the Messiah.

Unless we consistently answer #4, we end up portraying heaven as not only populated by lovers of Christ, but also by legalists, ritualists, and mere theists who never knew Christ until they got there. Turning back again in order to go forwards, may I recommend Calvin’s Institutes Book 2 (chapters 9-11) to help remove some of the blur that often surrounds this question.

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What does John 20:21-23 mean?

Messiah mints

Don’t worry, when Jesus breathes on you, it’s always minty fresh

Many will be preaching on John 20 over the next two Sundays.  Often the question comes: “What does Jesus mean in John 20:23?”  Let me give you the context.

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said,“Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  (John 20:19-21)

How do we understand this?  Can Christ’s followers run out into the street and address passers-by: “Forgiven… forgiven… UNFORGIVEN… forgiven”?  Is Jesus promising a heavenly underwriting of any and every act of forgiveness?

No.  Verse 21 interprets verse 23: the disciples will forgive just as Christ has forgiven.  How has Christ forgiven?  On the basis of His death and to be received by faith.  How should the disciples forgive?  On the basis of Christ’s death and to be received by faith. So as the disciples declare Christ and His forgiveness in the power of the Spirit, the world’s response to their message will be its response to Christ (which, in turn, is its response to the Father).

Jesus has already taught them this in John 14.  When Judas (not Iscariot) asks why Jesus will only appear to the disciples, Jesus essentially answers: “I don’t need to appear to the world.  I don’t need to go on a resurrection roadshow to the nations.  You need to go on the roadshow and take my teaching with you. The world’s response to my teaching will be its response to me. So go in the power of the Spirit and take my words with you…”

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:23-26)

Even before His death, Jesus has taught His disciples how it’s going to unfold.  So in John 20, when He comes and breathes His Spirit on them, He’s saying: “Now’s the time.  Go and testify. And as you go with my message, my forgiveness goes with you.”

So does this verse endorse the willy-nilly preaching of an abstract forgiveness, divorced from the Forgiver?  No. But it does give us great confidence as we share the words of Jesus.  As we offer the apostolic gospel in the Spirit of Christ we are offering divine mercy.

This verse should not so much produce confessionals as confessors of Christ.  But those confessors of Christ (which I hope is all of us) ought to know the power and privilege of offering Jesus.  To confessing Christians and to seeking non-Christian we hold out the Christ in whom is all forgiveness (Col 1:13f).  We don’t just speak about forgiveness, we speak forgiveness itself, because, by the Spirit, the Forgiver Himself is given through the gospel.

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Below you can watch Richard Dawkins speaking in advance of the 2011 KJV celebrations. He makes the case for being steeped ‘to some extent’ in the King James Bible.  If we don’t know the KJV we are ‘in some small way barbarian.’  But he ends by saying:

it is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource.

Notch it up as another Dickie Dawkins classic.  But before we laugh and point, let’s make sure there aren’t three fingers pointing back.

You see, because he’s talking about the bible the stupidity of his position is obvious.  Of course it’s ridiculous to view the bible as first a cultural resource that religion then hijacks.  Any fool knows that the bible is originally, purposefully and most meaningfully a religious text (or if you don’t like ‘religious’, say ‘spiritual’ or ‘theological’ or even ‘Christian’).  It is evident (but not to Dawkins) that the essence of the bible is appreciated only when it’s treated according to its true theological nature.  And that to read it through atheistic lenses is the real hijacking.

But Dawkins’ inability to appreciate the bible according to its true nature is only one more example of his inability to appreciate the world according to its true nature.  The whole atheistic project follows exactly the same line.  It says that everything is most ultimately a physical, chemical, biological, historical or cultural artefact, let’s not allow ‘religion’ to hijack it.  But to pretend you are honouring the world by treating it non-theologically is just as ridiculous as pretending to honour the Word by treating it non-theologically.

The only reason we don’t see its foolishness is because we have, to some extent, bought the double-decker atheistic approach.  When it comes to the world around us we pretty much assume along with the atheists that there are brute facts that are perfectly understood in non-theological terms and that we then work with this raw data to make our theological (or atheistical) pronouncements.  And even if we do dare to wear some theological lenses to view the world, we have a slight guilty feeling that maybe we are hijacking a properly non-theological reality.

But no.  You’ve got to begin by treating the Word theologically.  And you’ve got to begin by treating the world theologically.  And it’s best you do so in that order.

It’s those who fail to see the world according to its essentially theological character who hijack it.

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On Monday I got up to give an evangelistic talk.  I was expecting there to be Luke’s Gospels for all (NIV translation).  There weren’t.  No worries, it’s a short parable (the Lost Coin), I’ll just read it out from my ESV Pocket Bible, right?  What could go wrong?

So I read the first verse of the parable:

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?”  (Luke 15:8)

And then I read it again.

And then I translated it into English for them.

NIV’s got:

‘Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

See the difference?

I really like the English Standard Version, but sometimes I wish they actually used Standard English.

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Why listen to God’s word?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – so the saying goes.  The LORD begs to differ:

Isaiah 55:1-3 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

A free lunch is exactly the kind of thing our heavenly Father provides.  After all, if we ask for bread, will He give us a stone?  If we ask for an egg, will He give us a snake?  (Matthew 7:9-10)  No, He gives us free sunshine, free air, free water, free life.  His very nature is to offer us free sustenance.

How does this sustenance come?  Through His word.  Notice how the LORD says “Listen, Give ear, Hear me.” Whatever God has for us, it’s dished up in the word.  See verses 10-11:

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Just as rain brings grain, so the word brings food to us.  The purpose for which God sends his word is to bring life.  It’s like rain on a parched land.  It makes people dying with thirst to bud and flourish.

Back in verse 3, simply to hear this word brings life to our souls.  Why?  Because through God’s word we receive His “faithful love promised to David.”

Now think about that!

In the words of the King James version, He offers “the sure mercies of David” to peoples and nations.  He invites the world into His covenant with David.

When Isaiah wrote this, King David was long dead.  Yet all Israel knew that David foreshadowed the true King of the Jews.

In Isaiah 9, we read about the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace who reigns on David’s throne.  Christ is the true David and Isaiah knew it.

In Isaiah 11 he prophesies about Christ as the shoot of Jesse.  The Messiah is the Ideal David, filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.  He is a Cosmic King to bring justice and righteousness to the world.

Thus “the sure mercies of David” refers to the Father’s covenant love for His Son.  This is what God wants to give us: He wants the world to enjoy His love for Christ.

In Isaiah 42, we read about how the Father feels towards Christ:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.

Those are the sure mercies of David.  That’s the Father’s everlasting love for His Son.

From all eternity the Son has been the true David – the Anointed King.  He is the Father’s everlasting delight and He pours His Spirit without measure onto Christ.

This is the everlasting covenant.  These are the sure mercies of David.  They’re all found in Jesus.  And in God’s word we are given Christ for free.

That’s why we read our Bibles.  That’s why we have preaching.  That’s why we encourage each other with the word.  Because in God’s word, God’s Son is offered.  And He is Bread for the hungry.  He offers Living Waters for the thirsty.  All without money and without cost.  We simply “listen” / “give ear” / “hear” our Father and through the gift of Christ our souls will live.

Why listen to God’s word?  To feast on Christ.

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This is taken from the introduction to my Isaiah talks

It’s also the theme of my latest devotional’s preface

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Free Greek Audio Bible

Thanks so much to Matthias Muller for making this available and Theo Karvounakis for reading the Koine Greek!

The Koine Greek (Textus Receptus) audio Bible is now available for download for all who have already learned Greek but don’t mind getting used to modern Greek pronunciation (100% native). Freely you have received, freely you shall give…

437MB, 260 chapters, 27 folders, 20 hrs, 48kbps mp3s, £0.00, value – infinite.

Add it to your dropbox for simple download and spreading. It’s meant to be public domain. Glory to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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Download Koine Greek Bible via Dropbox

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The videos are coming as well but take longer.

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Koine Greek New Testament (audio)

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Disciplines

At the Cor Deo Conference on Saturday (mp3s to follow) there was a great question on Bible reading.  It was addressed to Ron and he both answered at the time and has written some more thoughts here.  I thought I’d add my two-pence, because, well, that’s what I do.  Whether invited to or not.

The question of disciplines arises whenever you emphasize God’s approach to us in Christ, over and above our approach to Him.  Well then, people ask, what place does our devotional life have?

I attempted to answer that with the preface to my own devotional, but let me put it another way.

On Saturday I spoke of the difference between a medieval system of salvation and the gospel announcement of Christ as Saviour.  Bible reading happens in both paradigms.  But in the system, it’s a rung on the ladder.  In the announcement paradigm, it’s a revelation.

Here’s the thing – when I haven’t read my Bible for a while and/or when I’m in a bit of a spiritual slump, the devil plays a brilliant trick on me.  He adopts the voice of an earnest religious devotee and says “Ah Glen, what a pity you’re so far from God.  But not to worry” he says, masquerading as a spiritual adviser, “two weeks of solid Bible reading and you’ll be back on top of your game.”  Ug, I think.  And so I slide deeper into my spiritual sulk.

The system paradigm just doesn’t get me reading.  But what if I realize the gospel?  What if I tell myself, “Closeness to God does not lie on the other side of two weeks hard graft!  Closeness to God is IN JESUS.  And that’s where I am.  Let’s pick up this gracious word and be reminded.”

If I’m believing in the system, I might open the Bible but only to receive a lecture, or a to-do list.  More often I’ll leave it closed.

If I realize I’ve already arrived, you never know, I might just open the Bible, eager to receive Christ!

 

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Some friends of mine in London are beginning a 120-day Bible read-through on April 15th.  Check out the plan here.  And here’s their explanation…

At the age of 67 George Müller started to read through the entire Bible 4 times a year. He continued that for 25 years until his death, which means he read through the Bible more than 100 times in his life. Likewise it was said of John Bunyan, author of pilgrims progress, that his blood was “bibline”. In whatever place you cut Bunyan, he bleeds the Bible because he was able to relate every situation in life back to God’s word. And also Charles Spurgeon once said that he found the Bible more thrilling after having read it through 100x than at the first time. Men like these are the inspiration to read through the whole of Scripture in less than a year. So on 01.01.2012 a group of people started out to see what it was like to read through the Bible in 90 days and – they loved it. But because most of us got behind at some point we thought we make it a bit easier and share the experience with more people. B120 is a more moderate attempt to follow George Müller’s example by simply trying to read through the Bible in 120 days.

Throughout those first three months a few significant realisations emerged: the Bible can be read through in less than a year and be great fun! But some might say; “What good is that supposed to be? If I rush through the Bible I won’t be able to take everything in! The Bible is special and shouldn’t be read like a novel.” But let me say something to that.

a) A reading plan was created with the help of an audio Bible which is always a very slow reading speed. Based on those times, one has to read about 32-40 minutes a day, to get through the Bible in 120 days. No rushing is needed. People who want to read through the entire Bible usually have two psychological barriers to overcome if they use the standard 365 days reading plans. A big book with 1189 chapters on the one hand and a long time commitment with the goal at a far distance for most of the time on the other. B120 brings the desired goal 3x closer without making the daily reading commitment unmanageable.

b) It’s a myth that with slow reading you will take in ‘everything’. Actually on average a person only remembers about 10-15% of what they read afterwards. Repetition works far better. Therefore slow reading is more in the category of meditation than reading. But in order to mediate well, you need to have a good amount of context or you will read things into the passage, that the Holy Spirit never intended. We all read the Bible through the glasses of our own experiences, theological bias and cultural presuppositions. Starting out with broad reading helps to wipe those glasses clean so that through the context we get a better view on what the Holy Spirit actually intended to say to us. First we assemble the borders of the jigsaw puzzle and after that we find the correct place for the details inside much more securely.

c) It’s easy to only read your favourite passages and books and avoid others. But just as expository preaching protects the congregations from only hearing the favourite topics of the preacher, so broad Bible reading protects the Christian from focusing on his theological hobby horses and making big issues out of what the Bible considers small issues.

d) B120 takes discipline because the flesh hates spiritual truth. And it takes effort because it takes a bit of time every day. Therefore it’s done best in community. When you share the same reading plan with other people, you can naturally and regularly bring the Scriptures into the conversation. You teach each other by sharing insights and sharpen each others attention for details because your friends asked questions you didn’t and vice versa. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 comes alive.

e) The Bible is both the word of God and the words of men, which were used by the Holy Spirit to pen down exactly what He intended to say. There are different ways of engaging with the Scriptures; meditation, memorisation, study, and the most basic and foundational is reading. It would be wrong to focus on Jesus’ deity at the expense of his humanity and why would it be any different if we only engage with the divine revelation, at the expense of treating it as a book, written in human languages. Most of the Bible is stories and letters. Give it a try and add novel-style reading to your Bible study tools.

Lastly, f) Tim Keller said, in order to see Jesus in all the Scriptures you got to know it really well. First you need to get yourself familiarised with the big storyline, before you recognise it in the types, shadows and allusions. Then Luke 24:27 comes alive as well.

Many more reasons are to be found on http://b120.bible-reading.org/

Because it’s great, to read together, let’s also start together on the 15th of April 2012. Many who hear of it here in London get really excited. Of course it’s up to you, if you have the time, when you start etc. Neither is it meant to be a religious cool-club or Christian elitism. Far from it. To us it has been an eye-opener and I hope you will just as much enjoy it.

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The Bible is PLAIN, POWERFUL, it’s for PASSING ON, and it PRESENTS JESUS.

Sermon Text

Sermon Audio

Powerpoint Slides

 

 

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Make yourself heard

Keep “Father”, “Son” and “Son of God” in Bible translations.

Western missions agencies Wycliffe, Frontiers and SIL are producing Bibles that remove FatherSon and Son of God because these terms are offensive to Muslims.

Read and sign this petition.  Then pass it on, facebook, blog, retweet.

Also…

For Brits, here’s an e-petition to put the world-wide persecution of Christians on the map for our government.

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