Reading Summary

I’ve been doing quite a bit of Biblical Studies reading yesterday. I need to slow down and summarize a bit, which is the purpose of this post.

The Septuagint as Christian Scripture by Martin Hengel.

I’ve been reading through this little gem as supplemental reading for my early Christianity class. The relationship of the LXX and Hebrew scriptures is fascinating. The process in which the LXX came into existence is long and rather complicated. The books were translated “in various times by various people,” which Hengel elaborates on. Translation is a crucial question to consider, especially considering its long history within Christianity. This book is largely a thumbnail sketch of the creation and reception of the LXX within Judaism and Christianity. Some of his suggestions are very interesting, like the possibility that Paul himself took part in the “recension” of the LXX, in that he corrected the LXX at times with his knowledge of the Hebrew. This was an off-hand remark, but one could do quite a bit of research on that issue!

Apostolic Fathers Edited by Michael W. Holmes

I’ve been reading through the Fathers. So far, I’ve read through First and Second Clement, the letters of Ignatius, the Polycarp works (the martyrdom and his own letter), the Didache, and a bit of the Epistle of Barnabas. In addition to general reading, I’ve been pouring over Ignatius, picking out Pauline allusions for my honors paper for early Christianity. I’m planning to examine Ignatius’ self-identification with Paul, and how that impacts his martyrdom beliefs. Ignatius is often spurned by modern readers because he dissuaded his readers from seeking his release from prison. He also seems to think that his only “assurance of salvation” comes from his impending martyrdom (his letters were written on his way to Rome as a prisoner). I’m going to argue that Ignatius got Paul right much more than he got him wrong, and that a lot of his “theology of suffering” is present in the New Testament. It should be fun :-)

NCCS Romans (Commentary) Craig Keener

A recent blog post (HT: Nick Norelli) made me aware of Craig Keener for the first time. For some reason, he had eluded me. This is quite strange, considering he’s an outspoken charismatic scholar (often considered an oxymoron!), which is right up my alley as an aspiring, charismatic armchair theologian. I nabbed his Romans commentary from the library to refer to on my Paul/Ignatius paper. I have not yet memorized much of Romans, so I’m not as familiar with the letter as I am with some of the other Pauline works. I’ve read a bit so far, and it looks like a good read. It has a nice intro, and is much less daunting than I am sure some of his more academic works would be.

I’ve also been trying to improve my Greek. This has resulted in several books getting nabbed from the library:

How Biblical Languages Work Silzer & Finley

This is a little primer on the Biblical languages from a linguistic point of view. I’ve thumbed through it and there does appear to be some helpful items. I don’t plan on reading the whole thing through.

A Grammar for New Testament Greek

I own Mounce’s grammar, but I wanted some more exercises. I grabbed this grammar because it was at the library, but I’ve actually enjoyed using it so far. It’s much simpler and less “flashy” than Mounce’s. The exercises consist of translation from Greek to English, and also from English into Greek. The Greek composition has been tremendously useful. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get a good handle on the language if I don’t start composing my own sentences.

I’ve also grabbed a couple essay collections which are way over my head, but will hopefully contain something useful for a neophyte like myself:

Discourse Analysis and Other Topics in Biblical Greek

Studies in the Greek New Testament: Theory and Practice

And, after all of that, I’m going to a Bible study on Ephesians tonight :-)


Reflections on exegesis

I recently finished three books which are relevant to the task of exegesis (a close reading of the biblical text, with the purpose of discovering the intent of the biblical author).  The three authors are fairly well respected in evangelical circles (and often wider ones as well).  I read D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies, Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors, and David Alan Black’s Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek.   All contributed added to my knowledge of the task, though some were more interesting than others.  Here I’ll collect some various thoughts that resulted from reading and reflecting on the books.

From Carson’s book, I was reminded of the absolute necessity of humility in scholarship.  Scholarship which isn’t humble (and in turn, self critical) usually ends up veering off into some fallacy or another.  Going hand in hand with humility is the need for intellectual honesty.  It’s very easy to get an idea and run with it, ignoring any evidence to the contrary.  Usually this results in ignoring important evidence.  When the scholarship in question surrounds scripture, it’s even more important to be honest and humble.  Reading about all the ways which people misuse and abuse the Greek text of the New Testament warned me as I study Greek:  tread softly and be hesitant about making broad statements.  Don’t try to bend the text to a preconceived notion.  You do yourself and the text a disservice in this case. 

Fee’s book was the most fascinating for me.  As a Pentecostal scholar and minister, Fee has a very strong appeal to me as someone raised in and involved with Pentecostalism, and as someone who loves intellectual pursuits.  The combination is still rare, though slowly changing I hope.  Fee impressed on me the wealth of all the resources that we’ve been given.  Between the lexicons, the commentaries, the synopses, and dictionaries, it’s astonishing.  Seeing a process laid out for doing detailed reading was also helpful, and I know it’s something I’ll return to in the future, Lord willing, when I preach or teach.  The final thing which struck me in Fee’s book was his deep appreciation for the Spirit’s activity in the text.  His appeal, in the middle of all of the scholarship, to encounter God in the text, and to let God examine you through the text, is something that I hopes stays with me. 

Finally, there was Black’s book on Linguistics.  In all frankness, this book was the most difficult.  Perhaps it’s because my lack of exposure to linguistics, but I found it rather boring.  Black did a good job of presenting the basics of linguistics and giving examples from New Testament Greek.  He claimed throughout that the linguistics discipline has much to contribute to New Testament studies.  While I believe him, he didn’t show this very much.  Perhaps that was beyond the scope of the book, but it would have kept me much more interested in the book.  That said, he did cause me to think more about how language works in general.  This definitely helps one not make bogus conclusions when studying Greek, especially when doing word studies. 

All three books were valuable for trying to growing in the art of Scripture reading.  I’d recommend any of them, with the caveat that the linguistics book may not be the most exciting, and also that all of them might be hard to follow without some exposure to Greek.