Recommended Resources: StepBible.com

I love books! If you know anything about me you know this to be true. The idea of libraries going completely digital is equal to the unpardonable sin in my mind because I can’t fathom studying the scriptures without a desk full of books. Although I have a deep affinity for physical books, there is a diTyndaleHouseEquippinggital resource library gold mine. This resource is StepBible.com; a Bible software developed through Tyndale House. Dr. David Instone-Brewer has put together an amazing resource with many advantages.

First off, it is totally free! For a poor student, this is great! The program has a great deal of resources, commentaries, translations and texts. This is a huge benefit of a program that is comparable to a logos or accordance, but where logos can cost you thousands of dollars on resources, StepBible hands it over right in the public domain.

Second, it emphasizes the great importance of the original languages. In fact, most of the tools that are used to develop the unique functions of StepBible.com are built around the original languages. The program does not necessitate a knowledge of the biblical languages, but it certainly helps anyone seeking to deepen their understanding. With a program that is intrinsically oriented to the original languages, it begins your study off at the ground level. This basic principle of hermeneutics recognizes that you should never start at the commentary/exegetical level before diving into the original text language.

Third, not only does it start you off at the original languages, it builds additional information on the text. By just hovering your cursor over the text or a word, you are presented with a wealth of data: the semantic range of the word, the way it is parsed, how many times the word is used and so forth. What may have taken hours to find before is readily accessible with this program.

Fourth, the base is the biblical text, but they have indexed words based on their lexical morpheme. This means word searches are not based on the English word used or searching for the word in a particular verb form, but you can search its lexical form and you will find all of its occurrences in what ever range you have set.

The only downside to this program is it does not have the overwhelming amount of resources a program like Logos does. If you are looking for a deep exegetical or theological exposition of a passage, this may let you down. But for a resource that is not only free but so strongly linked to the original languages, it is hard to complain about the lack of commentaries. If that is your only concern, I would highly recommend starting with StepBible.com and then move to your closest theological library and get in contact with some physical books. I would highly recommend using this resource for any study or devotion you might be doing. You never know what you might unlock.


Recommended Resources are posts devoted to videos, blogs, articles, and sermons that have helped me think through some more difficult topics. This segment of the blog is to develop fodder for thoughtfulness in deeper content issues.

Go Big or Go Home: A Question of Redaction

It is very hard to argue with scholars of such great influence and ability as I. Howard Marshall, whose impact is still reverberating through the world of New Testament scholarship. Mars4358456713_2c95f9c8c5_ohall is one of those scholars who had his hand in everything. He was able to work at the theological, exegetical and textual/linguistic levels. Marshall reigns supreme in his own work in the Gospels and in his commentary on Luke[1], where he makes an interesting comment on Luke 8:4-8, the parable of the Sower.

By comparing­­­­ the redactionary relationship to all three synoptic gospels, Marshall says right at the offset:

The section 8:4–8 is based on Mk. 4:1–25. In Mk. this is part of a longer section (4:1–34) on the parabolic teaching of Jesus, which is expanded by the inclusion of further parables in the corresponding section in Mt. 13. Luke, however, has abbreviated his Marcan material at this point.[2]

Here, Marshall gives us the proper context to his argument by laying out the data in the other synoptics. I would like to highlight the quote where he suggests that “Luke, however, has abbreviated his Marcan material at this point.”

Most scholars would say that brevity in discourse or a lack of description is an indication of being an earlier version of a story. It is assumed that because you have less data, your story will be shorter. With the Gospels, we do not know where they get their data from, so we must assume that having less information is an indication of being more archaic.

We even use this principle in textual criticism. When we have a shorter reading and a longer reading of one text, we assume that the longer reading is an embellishment. A scribe might embellish a text in order to be “clearer” on a particular doctrine or to combat a heresy that was gaining traction.

This instance of redaction is slightly different. Marshall is saying that Mark, the shorter, earlier, more archaic version is longer than Luke. Luke is redacting from Mark and intentionally utilizing brevity as a discourse tool! There are a number of reasons that Luke slices down the word count from Mark, but my main issue is the sensibility that longer is better. This has become such a staple of biblical scholarship, yet we see Luke doing something completely contrary, and admitted by I. Howard Marshall.

Marshall explains further why Luke would shorten his Marcan source material,

Then he includes the brief narrative of how Jesus’ relatives visited him (8:19–21 par. Mk. 3:31–35); by holding it over to this point, Luke is able to use it as a final comment on the parable of the sower—stressing the importance of hearing and obeying the word of God. The section as a whole is thus concerned with the theme of hearing the word of God, and the accent has been shifted somewhat from where Mark places it.[3]

Marshall identifies this difference as stylistic; it is an issue of rhetorical strength. Taking into consideration that ancient histories were not considered with sequential chronology in the same sense that modern histories are, it would be okay to cut and paste this parable. But it still leaves the question of why he would shorten a text.

I might be splitting hairs here but I still find the question intriguing and that Mark is true to his source, and so is Luke, but one has cut a piece down to size for rhetorical value, for stylistic purposes. This makes me wonder if we could reconsider things like Marcan priority. Is it possible that the brevity we find in Mark’s gospel a stylistic one? That is not going to be answered here but it is still a good question to ask, and I fear we treat Marcan priority as a scholarly axiom. Is shorter better? Maybe so, but I think the conversation is still up in the air.

[1] Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978.

[2] Ibid 317.

[3] I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), 317–318.

Persecution and Proclamation in Acts 8:1-4

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.1

In the second volume of Craig Keener’s commentary on Acts, he brings to his reader’s attention the theme of persecution-proclamation, which is a prominent theme in Luke-Acts. This proclamation-persecution theme illustrates for the reader of the New Testament that the Kingdom of God will be advanced despite oppression or opposition. Acts 8:1-3 exemplifies this theme as Keener points out; “The theology of the passage is part of Luke’s larger theme of persecution in the setting of proclamation.”2

It should be noted first that Saul’s indictment against the church was a great persecution. This was not a separate or unrelated instance, but a great (μεγας) persecution. The oppression faced was enough that it provoked people to leave their homes and even more, Jerusalem. Specifically, Luke includes Saul here as the main propellant of the Christians in Jerusalem.

What is even more significant is the ramification of Saul’s persecution. It causes people to leave Jerusalem and proclaim the gospel in other areas of the Near East region. Yet despite their imminent danger, they were not dissuaded from proclamation. Instead in the face of oppression they count the cost and proclaim, thusly fulfilling the mandate to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”3 Considering the extent that Saul had gone to in order to stop the “the Way”, this would be counterproductive; this is exactly what he didn’t want to have happen.

In Luke’s overall narrative the next pericope is even more interesting because the gospel for the first time goes to Samaria. The gospel had now been sent to a place the Jerusalem-Jews vehemently opposed. The newly appoint deacon Phillip is the one who, being part of the diaspora, brought the Gospel to that region. Luke continues in the passage, “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.”4 (Φίλιππος δὲ κατελθὼν εἰς [τὴν] πόλιν τῆς Σαμαρείας ἐκήρυσσεν αὐτοῖς τὸν Χριστόν.) Now Philip has gone to an area that was reviled among his peers and brings them the good news about “the Christ.”

The expansion of Christ’s kingdom here on earth has gone beyond a Jewish boarder. The expulsion of the Jewish-Christians in Jerusalem has led to a wide spread Gospel. What Luke has communicated to us is that the expansion of the Gospel is not of our own doing but is a divine prerogative. The measure of success that the church may experience is only due to the sovereign appointment of Christ.

The fact that the church’s success is not measured by programs, events, number of members, or “getting back to the fundamentals” should comfort us. No matter how hard the world presses in against the Church of Christ, the success she reaps is only due to the Lord’s initiative.

Today many American Christians have this embedded fear of the surrounding culture. The fact is, the world has not become any more “Christian” or any more anti-Christian. When the world is pressing in on issues like homosexuality and the trustworthiness of scripture, it is exactly what we should expect from the world. We need to be confident enough that our union with Christ and his faithfulness to the covenant of grace will sustain our life. Becoming syncretistic and adopting the practices of the world that we imagine might be appealing only communicates that we are scared and confused.

The light of the Gospel will provide exactly what we are looking for; comfort in the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 8:1–4.

2 Craig Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013) pg. 1466.

3 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 28:19-20.

4 Ibid, Ac 8:5

Recommended Resources: Apologetics For the Church

Churchgoers who are well equipped to make a well-thought and ardent defense of the faith are few and far between. This is for a wide variety of reasons. For instance we might still hang on to our fundamentalist roots and feel there is little need to break the barrier between us and the world or possibly we just do not have the theological arsenal God has equipped us with in order to make a good apology for the faith that is within us.

Professor Mark Farnham is Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Lancaster Bible College and currently wrapping up his PhD at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia under Dr. Scott Oliphint. He has started a new ministry called ApAP4C Logo Finalologetics for the ChurchThis ministry is not just data and information about apologetics, it is an equipping tool. Mark offers great teaching and pastoral experience which enable him to be a good balance of theory and practice. I would recommended highly Professor Farnham’s seminars and personal teaching for your church. Even more he has a blog that has served me greatly. You can read some of Mark’s thoughts on his blog here.

Professor Farnham in class not only proved he was well prepared to teach us the deep contours of apologetics but his character matched the caliber of his teaching. He is a great resource for the church and I strongly suggest supporting his ministry.


Recommended Resources are posts devoted to videos, blogs, articles, and sermons that have helped me think through some more difficult topics. This segment of the blog is to develop fodder for thoughtfulness in deeper content issues.

Throwback Theology: Thomas à Kempis on Humility

Thomas-a-KempisThomas à Kempis (1380-1471) was a Medieval theologian from Germany. Thomas was most well known for his piece The Imitation of Christ. This piece was written to be a type of Christian devotional broken up into four books, consisting of Book One: Thoughts Helpful in The Life of the Soul, Book Two: The Interior Life, Book Three: Internal Consolation, and Book Four: An Invitation to Holy Communion. These key insights to the Christian life are regarded as one of the most popular devotionals written. This excerpt is entitled Having a Humble Opinion of Self.

Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars, He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes and is not happy when praised by men.

If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it profit me before God, Who will judge me by my deeds?

Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.

Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind, and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God.

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. do not be proud therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. If you think you know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your ignorance. Why prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more learned, more cultured than you?

If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, the love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.

I believe if we are reading this passage honestly and carefully, we will be left on a pile of rubble, a ruin of self. Kempis pulls apart a dignified, magnified, and glorified view of one’s self. Today we are often told that we must find ourselves in order to help ourselves, or the greatest achievable goal is to find our true identity. Contrary to our culture, Kempis gives a resounding “NO!” No we do not need to find ourselves, and God does not help those who help themselves. God bestows grace upon grace! God gives merit and favor to unworthy creatures. This is where a heart of gratitude and a life of service stem from. It is this reason and this end that we live. The great catholic theologian Thomas à Kempis recalibrates for us a proper view of self and humility.


Throwback Theology is a blogging segment of classic sermons, books and articles by some of Christianity’s greatest thinkers. I hope this will encourage you and challenge you to think more deeply about our great God.

Recommended Resources: P.J. Williams on the Gospel’s Historical Reliability

Peter Williams is the Warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University. He is a textual critic and Syriac scholar. This video is a lecture about how the peoples names used in the Gospels help us know how historically viable they are. It is an interesting and persuasive argument for the reliability of our four canonical gospels. Leave some comments, I love hearing your thoughts.


 

Recommended Resources are posts devoted to videos, blogs, articles, and sermons that have helped me think through some more difficult topics. This segment of the blog is to develop fodder for thoughtfulness in deeper content issues.