Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Janet Mefferd Show

I will be appearing at 4pm today (EST) on the Janet Mefferd Show to discuss my book Tithing After the Cross.

I believe you can listen live through her website or later through the audio archive.

India Trip Completed

Thanks for all your prayers. The trip to India went well, despite a lingering sinus infection. I'll provide a summary of some highlights soon.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

India Update

I've made it to India safe and sound. Thanks for all your prayers. Tomorrow I will begin teaching pastors hermeneutics. Please pray that my sore throat is healed and that I can clearly explain the process of interpretation.
The head of the ministry here is sick, possibly a pinched nerve in his neck. He is bedridden with vertigo. Please pray for his healing as well.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Trip to India and Update

In about nine hours I leave to India. I ask for your prayers for the time I'll spend with pastors there and for health. I'll be in India for about 9 days: August 2-10. Hermeneutics is one of the main agenda items.

In the Spring I'll return to South Korea to teach Philippians. If you remember this post after that trip, you'll understand why I'm feeling slightly nervous about traveling overseas.

In other news, I've completed the manuscript for Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions. Originally I had planned 50 chapters, but:
1) 40 is a much more biblical number; and
2) in order to stay close to the word count requirement and communicate sufficiently in each chapter, I needed to have less chapters.
Lord willing, the book should be released next August.

My next project is to begin working on a book that will be several years in works before seeing the light of day. I'm writing the volume on Galatians for the Exegetical Guide for the Greek New Testament with Broadman and Holman. A few volumes are out already (Colossian Philemon-Harris; James-Vlachos; 1 Peter-Forbes). I believe the publication date is 2019.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Urban Legends Post on B&H Academic

It's been several months since my last post. I have been working hard on my next book: Urban Legends of the New Testament (to be published with Broadman & Holman). The manuscript is due in July, so my deadline is fast approaching.

The B&H Academic Blog began posting regularly a few months back and I was asked to write about something ... so I chose my Urban Legends project. You can access the post here. Check it out and let me know what you think!

I do have some major plans for blogging in the future, but right now I'm trying to stay totally focused on the book. Your prayers are appreciated!


Friday, February 28, 2014

Ortlund and Tithing: UPDATE

Dr. Ortlund responded to some of the comments on the thread. In the end, about 39 comments were made and then the comments section was CLOSED.

Ortlund wisely decided not to debate the issue of tithing in a comment thread. But he did make a few points that were helpful:
1. He wasn't saying anything about "storehouse" tithing.
2. He wasn't doing a biblical theology of giving.
3. He wasn't discussing the motivation for giving.
4. He WAS meditating on one verse.
5. "When Jesus says something, I take it that it applies to me - directly or indirectly, but it certainly applies to me somehow. The one thing the words of Jesus cannot be is inapplicable to me. But that's just how I read the Bible. If you read it differently, that's between you and him."

I agree with all five of those points. Now, the way #5 is carried out is a big part of the question. Here's the tension. 1) Every word Jesus said that is recorded in the Gospels was stated while under the Old Covenant. 2) Every word Jesus said that is recorded in the Gospels was penned by the author of the Gospel decades after the inaugurating of the New Covenant and was written to Christians.

So, yes, everything Jesus said applies ... but it's the "directly or indirectly" (as he put it) that's the rub. The story in Matthew 8:1-4 is an example of a passage that would apply more "indirectly." I prefer to communicate this through the concept that the underlying principles apply. So while I agree that "tithing applies," I would say that the underlying principles to each Old Testament law applies to Christians, but that is FAR different from saying that Christians should "tithe" or give 10%. So while I agree with his five points, I'm guessing we would apply them differently.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jesus and Tithing-A reply to Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund has written a blog post on the Gospel Coalition website defending the practice of tithing from Jesus' teaching in Matthew 23:23. It's a very short post, but I think his presentation is pretty much what I've seen in using that passage to advocate tithing. The verse seems straight forward enough: Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their lack of justice, mercy, and faithfulness, but never abrogated the tithe. Instead, Jesus appears to commend the tithe. So how could it be possible that Jesus commended tithing yet Christians wouldn't be required to tithe?

First, those who come from the perspective that the shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant contains much continuity (much similarity) might read Matthew 23:23 and conclude that tithing continues. That makes a lot of sense from that perspective. Someone coming from the view of discontinuity (little similarity assumed) might point out that Jesus made this comment to those under the Old Covenant and therefore assuming it applies to Christians is naive. In my chapter in Perspectives on Tithing, I said: "This verse should not be used to argue for the continuation of tithing based on the clear fact that Jesus' statement about tithing was for the scribes and Pharisees who were still under the olod covenant" (page 74). Reggie Kidd responded to this thought when he said: "It is inadequate to observe that Jesus was addressing scribes and Pharisees rather than post-Easter Christians" (Perspectives on Tithing, page 110). I will take up Kidd's challenge below.

Second, most discussion on the text does not contain much careful, in-depth analysis. It seems clear on the surface so digging deeper doesn't seem necessary.

Third, I was challenged by Kidd (above) to dig a little deeper and I published these thoughts on Tithing After the Cross (chapter 3). Basically it seems that Jesus might be commenting on a hotly debated rabbinic question: is it necessary to tithe dill? The Mosaic Law never says you need to, so Matthew 23:23 doesn't fit well into the Mosaic Law's teaching on tithing. But it is very comfortable in the 1st century rabbinic debate. So it appears that Jesus is in agreement with Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (who post-dated Jesus). Since the parallel in Luke 11:42 says that "every kind of garden herb" was being referenced, and it is clear that the Old Testament does NOT command nor commend that, Jesus seems to be commending Jewish oral traditions, not Old Testament law.

Finally, a detailed study of the tithing laws in the Old Testament reveal that the Jews actually gave closer to 23%, not 10%, in tithes. So if Jesus was commending the Old Testament practice of tithing (and I just argued that he was not), then he was commending about 23%, not 10%. This is a serious issue that needs to be discussed when trying to apply Matthew 23:23 today.

I was very surprised by the comments below Ortlund's post. Of the 16 comments made, 13 were clearly in disagreement. The only "extended" defense said this: "Every single objection I have ever heard or seen to the practice of tithing has been an excuse to try and give less. You’re right, it isn’t matter of the law, it’s a matter of the heart." Attacking the person rather than dealing with arguments is easy to do. This is an unfair statement. While I have encountered this same thought among those who do not advocate tithing, I have also encountered very generous believer's who desire to see God glorified in their finances.

For two free online resources, see the following links to articles published by Dr. Andreas Kostenberger and I on tithing several years ago:
1-"Will a Man Rob God?" (Malachi 3:8): A Study of Tithing in the Old and New Testaments
2-Reconstructing a Biblical Model for Giving: A Discussion of Relevant Systematic Issues and New Testament Principles

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Word about "A word on translation theory": A response to Denny Burk

Bible translation debates can get very heated very quickly. Christians have their favorite version that they like to read. Having a conversation with someone who is informed about Bible translation philosophy is extremely rare. Enter Dave Brunn's book One Bible, Many Versions. Recently DennyBurk posted some thoughts about Brunn's book. I'm not confident that all of Burk's criticisms are fair.
Burk claims that Brunn at times is nuanced in his discussion of Formal Equivalence translation theory (or what some prefer: Essentially Literal) and at other times he is not. He does provide some examples, like Brunn saying that these translators believe that “increased literalness” always leads to “increased faithfulness and accuracy” (on pages 49 and 50). So I looked up pages 49 and 50.

On these pages, Brunn never says that Formal Equivalence translators are claiming that increased literalness leads to increased accuracy. It seems obvious to me that he is trying to correct the common misconception amongst Christians that the more literal a translation, the more accurate. I hear that very consistently in conversations with pastors, seminary students, Bible college students, and members of churches. This is an urban legend of Christianity. Brunn addresses it and doesn't say that the translators advocate it. His audience is not Bible translators of Formal Equivalent translations, but people in the pews. Burk might be “mirror reading” the wrong people into this dialogue.

Burk says, “Readers might be tempted to think that Brunn has uncovered a discrediting inconsistency with Formal Equivalence translation—that Formal Equivalence translations claim to be 'word for word' but that they don’t really carry it out consistently in practice (191).” My fear is that readers of this post might think that Brunn has naively characterized Formal Equivalent translations and then won't take the time to read his book and have informed thoughts on the issue. Not only does Brunn NOT appear to “tempt” readers in to thinking he has uncovered a “smoking gun,” he goes OUT OF HIS WAY to show this. Note this quote from page 68:

The translators of literal versions such as the ESV and NASB are aware of the tension that exists between ideal and real translation, and they acknowledge that tension in their Bible introductions. For example, the introduction to the ESV includes the following statement: 'Every translation is at many points a trade-off between literal precision and readability, between 'formal equivalence' in expression and 'functional equivalence' in communication.” Brunn cites the introduction to the ESV so that what the Formal Equivalence translators are claiming is put right in front of the eyes of his readers. No smoking gun, nothing uncovered, no secrets revealed. Ironically, Burk thought that quoting from the ESV introduction would be the way to resolve any question about what the translators think so he quotes some of the exact same words that Brunn quoted. Seems like Brunn did a great job covering his bases.

Burk does provide an interesting response to some of Brunn's comments on page 191. I find myself kind of stuck between them on this issue. I've heard some “essentially literal” translation advocates say, with my own ears, that when a translation doesn't have an English word where a Greek word was, then the translators must not have a high view of the authority of Scripture.

For example, the Greek text of Matthew 28:18a says:
And Jesus came up and said to them saying ...”
ESV: And Jesus came and said to them ...
HCSB: Then Jesus came near and said to them ...
NIV: Then Jesus came to them and said ...


All of these translations “drop” the (redundant) word “saying.” Does that mean that the translators have a low view of Scripture? No, of course not. I think Brunn may be responding to some of these extreme comments, comments that I have heard translators and lay people make. But Burk asks a good question: how much of that is acceptable in a reliable translation? That truly is where the crux of the debate is at, and I'm confident Brunn would agree with Burk that this is where a valuable discussion can take place.

Overall, I think the confusion here is that Brunn is writing to lay people who have a lot of confusion regarding Bible translations. I can't count how many times I've heard the concept that "literal is more accurate" in small groups. While scholars and translators may not be promoting this idea, lay people do believe this. That is who Dave Brunn is writing to ... not scholars and translators.

Who Can Baptize? Part 3

Kevin DeYoung's post on who is authorized to baptize had four arguments. I've discussed the first two already, the biblical and theological arguments.
The third argument is "exegetical": "an appeal to the priesthood of all believers does not support the administration of baptism by every church member. ... It does not suggest that now in the New Testament there are no rites which may be performed only by ordained officers."
My response is that he makes a great point that the argument from the priesthood of all believers, by itself, is not convincing. If that was the only argument for allowing non-pastor's to baptize, then it would be a fairly weak biblical case to make.
The fourth argument is pragmatic: "for baptism to be responsible there must be some church oversight. ... There must be a process of accountability and evaluation. Invariably, as Grudem points out, the pastor(s) of the church are likely involved in determining who can be baptized and who can baptize. If church officers superintend the process ... it stands to reason that they exercise their Christ-given authority in performed (sic) the baptism itself."
This argument, which, to be fair, he himself considers his weakest, is puzzling. Why can't "church officers" superintend the process and delegate the actual baptizing to a member in the church? Why can't "church officers" evaluate the candidates, but leave it up to other to perform the actual baptism? He starts by saying "there must be some church oversight," but concludes by implying that the church leadership must perform all of it. We can have church oversight while a lay person does the actual baptizing.
Granted, I do appreciate the concept of church oversight regarding baptism. I think it is very wise. I'm not sure it's required, but it's wise.
These are my thoughts on non-church leaders performing baptisms. I have no problem with it. I think Scripture never intentionally addresses the issue, with the closest being Acts 9:18 where Ananias baptizes Saul/Paul.