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Sound advice on preaching/teaching the parables of Jesus.
Originally posted on Concrete Theology:
Below are 10 rules on preaching Jesus’ parables that I found written over Faith and Theology, a blog by Benjamin Myers, whom I do not know (but just came across he blog). So I take zero credit for them but find them to be enlightening, funny and quite helpful. Enjoy, and feel free to comment.
Rule #1: Don’t assume that God is necessarily one of the characters in the parable.
I was a little surprised to find that the TNIV and NIV 2011 have reverted to the Masoretic text (partially) of Proverbs 26:23 against the 1984 NIV which followed the critical rephrasing of this verse in light of Ugaritic and Hittite evidence (though it includes “silver dross” in the footnote). The updated NIV texts created a mixed text that attempts to blend the emended text of the Hebrew as well as maintaining the traditional (misunderstanding) of the Masoretes (adding “like” and maintaining “silver dross”).
“Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.” (NIV2011 – emphasis added)
“Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.” (NET – emphasis added)
The issue pertains to the Hebrew כֶּ֣סֶף סִ֭יגִים which is properly translated “silver dross”. Based upon the cognate Ugaritic word spsg “glaze” (and another cognate in Hittite zapzaga[y]a) a significant and clarifying emendation was made by numerous translations. The emendation involves several elements: the admission that vowel pointing and spaces between words were lacking in the original text of the Old Testament. Removing the vowel-pointing (as well as the matres lectionis yods) and spacing of the Masoretes was inaccurate and should be altered to read כסףסגם “like glaze”. The kaph has then been understood to be the comparative preposition “like”, the yods have been dropped as matres lectionis along with the vowel pointing and the mem regarded as an enclitic (ESV, NAB, NIV1984, NRSV, NLT and, of course, the NET have followed this emended reading).
While the LXX retains the Masoretic reading of “silver”, but it offers an expansion (apparently because the translator was equally confused by the sense of the Hebrew): ἀργύριον διδόμενον μετὰ δόλου ὥσπερ ὄστρακον ἡγητέον χείλη λεῖα καρδίαν καλύπτει λυπηράν, “Silver given deceitfully is considered as earthenware, a smooth tongue hides a troubled heart” (my translation).
Part of the reason for opting to prefer the emended text in light of the cognate terms of Ugaritic and Hittite is based upon the notion that “silver dross” would simply not be used for such a thing. Glaze would be applied to vessels (though obviously it should not be applied to earthenware unless it is being used to conceal). In both cases the point is simply that one is covering over something that will not endure (earthenware) with something that makes it look better than it truly is. The reality is concealed. It is a ridiculous covering of earthenware. It is, in fact, a waste and deceitful. Its apparent value is only that…appearance. It is a cheap object made to look like it is worth something far more.
K. L. Barker, “The Value of Ugaritic for Old Testament Studies,” BSac 133 (1976): 128-29.
I failed to post the update last week, but I read two books for weeks 4-5 of the Bookshelf Challenge. One is on the shelf, the other is only a digital copy so it could not be added to the shelf for the picture.
- Sam Storms, Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (Kansas City, MO: Enjoying God Ministries, 2005). paperback (see my post about receiving it HERE)
- Tremper Longman, III, Old Testament Commentary Survey (5th Ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013). Logos digital edition. (see my review of this volume HERE)
Storms offers a fine testimony of his journey as a Calvinist theologian to understanding, appreciating and participating the continuation of the charismata of the Spirit. In the second half (after his story is told), he offers a number of theological issues worth consideration by both those self-describing as Calvinists and those self-describing as Charismatics (with the understanding that most often each group may in fact look with disdain upon the other). Overall this is a decent volume worth reading to begin the conversation toward a greater appreciation of the catholicity of the Church. Thanks again to my sister, Holly, for sending this volume to me for my birthday last year. I have been slowly reading it in a somewhat devotional manner (as opposed to many of the books I read).
Longman’s latest update to his review of Old Testament commentaries is always welcome. He offers his own rankings of various commentary series, specific volumes and authors. It is an incredibly helpful tool for pastors, Bible college, and seminary students as they work to build up a reference library of commentaries on various books of the OT. It was with great appreciation that Logos sent me a complimentary copy to review.
I was asked some time ago now if I considered myself a “theologian” or a “Bible scholar”. This was in a context (seminary) where there seemed to be a fair divide among students of each focus and I know it is that way in other institutions than just the one I found myself in. At any rate, my response at the time was “theologian” which shocked the individual inquiring because they knew my experience with the Biblical languages and texts, my grasp of ANE history and culture, etc. Apparently this individual had already considered me a “Bible scholar”.
After the initial shocked look (one I expected when I replied the way I did knowing the questioner), I was asked why that was my answer. I said, because I believed “theologian” belonged to the Church specifically while “Bible scholar” did not necessarily. Perhaps that is an unfair distinction. Both could belong either to the Church or not, but from my perspective at the time I felt it more imperative to confess with the Church concerning Scripture. I was not willing to think of studying the Scripture apart from the confession of faith as a member of Christ’s body.
And then last year I was asked in my interview where I now teach “What do you intend to be as a result of finishing your doctoral work?” For some reason at that moment I no longer felt so clearly a “theologian” much less a “Bible scholar” (or anything else for that matter…other than “finished with the dissertation” ). However, that conversation lingered with me for my five hour drive home. And I still return to it. I had affirmed in myself that my aim was to be a “Biblical theologian” thinking that the best combination of both worlds: word and confession.
Then I encountered the following statement by Graeme Goldsworthy:
“The Biblical theologian that does not strive to be also a dogmatician will be less effective as a biblical theologian, and vice versa.” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000], p.57)
Categorization is always problematic because while it highlights some elements it likely de-emphasizes others which may be equally essential. This points, once again, to the necessary interplay of the meditation and proclamation of Scripture as a canonical whole (a far more Christian practice than simply a study of individual texts) and the confession of the Church (which reminds one of the place within Christ’s body and redemptive history). So perhaps now I might consider myself “Biblical-theologian-dogmatician”. So what are you and why?
Now in its fifth edition (the first published in 1991), Tremper Longman III (PhD Yale University) “Old Testament Commentary Survey” (Baker Academic, 2013) offers a helpful updated appraisal of commentaries on the OT. I am thankful for the review copy that Logos provided for me and am delighted to recommend this volume as an essential tool in discerning how best to select volumes to consider for building a commentary library of the Old Testament. The accessibility and search-ability of the Logos version made reading and reviewing a volume like this one far easier especially given the heavy use of abbreviations (which were all hyper-linked to pop-up when the cursor was placed over them).
Who has Longman written for: “This guide is for anyone, layperson or minister, who desires to buy a commentary. It lists a number of works available for each book of the Old Testament, briefly summarizes their emphases and viewpoints, and evaluates them. This guide will be especially helpful to seminary students beginning to build the reference library that will be crucial to their preaching and teaching ministries” (p.2). Arguably he meets this aim for his targeted Evangelical audience.
There are a number things worth mentioning about this volume. One, Longman’s own criteria for recommending a commentary or not recommending it. Two, its already being out of date once it is published because of the current proliferation of commentaries and the need to be concise.
First, his comments regard several specific criteria that loom large throughout:
- Evangelical issues
- critical perspectives in light of “Evangelical” tendencies
- ancient Near Eastern context
I wonder if any future update might better clarify Longman’s own understanding of “Evangelical”? He uses the term throughout this volume but never offers even a cursory summation of just what he means by it. Perhaps a brief explanation would better orient future readers as to what he means. Otherwise it seems based upon a simple acceptance that if one has uttered the “shibboleth” of “Evangelical” somehow they are sharing common knowledge and therefore stand on common ground. But in this highly diverse contemporary milieu of “Evangelicalism” found in the U.S. context (which it is supposed Longman has primarily in mind) it would perhaps go further to clarify his sense of the term even in broad brush strokes (e.g., issues of inspiration and authority of Scripture, canonical appropriation of any given text of Scripture, etc). Some of these are latently implied. For instance, when Longman seems to propose that engagement with the NT plays into this. This is how I understand his appraisal of “critical” perspectives that he deems to differ with “Evangelical” tendencies.
His own expertise (ANE and theology) is paramount in his appraisal process and thus might best explain why he focuses on such as criteria worth mentioning throughout. On his comments pertaining to readability, one wonders if he has done any readability tests (there are many available) or is he simply commenting on what he regards as highly readable. How does this align with average readability among laypersons and ministers? Or is this just a highly subjective proposal based upon his own judgment of what constitutes being “readable”? Finally, it might be beneficial if there were a comment or two explaining what he deemed “insightful” in the volumes he states are such*. Perhaps this is asking a bit much of a book that covers a LOT of ground in making such recommendations already, but he has already offered some comments on particulars in certain volumes. Why not explain if it pertains to such issues as authorship, theology, genre-classification, exegesis, etc.?
This second issue (involving all such published reviews of other literature) is not against Longman who has done a fantastic job since the first printing of aiding the layman, pastor and scholar alike (within the broad tent of Evangelicalism) in trying to wade through the multiplicity of commentaries on the market. This critique is inherent to the form of literature. For instance, Daniel Block’s excellent commentary on Deuteronomy (NIVAC, 2012)–though I understand from conversations with him that he will be able to also publish a stand-alone with Eerdmans (?), the total absence of the Abingdon Old Testament Commentary series (fifteen of which have been published since 2001), or Paul Shalom’s highly regarded recent contribution “Isaiah 40-66″ (ECC, 2012)–a series which shows great promise to the scholar and yet the series is not even mentioned for review despite volumes also published on Exodus and two on Psalms.
Longman offers a terrifically insightful study of commentaries by describing whom each volume (and set) might best be appropriated: L(ayperson), M(inister/seminarian), or S(cholar). He ranks each by half-star increments (from 1/2 to 5 stars) with five stars being his strongest endorsement. He bases it on the aforementioned criteria and specifies within the commentary how one might understand his rankings: “One or two stars indicate that the commentary is inferior or deficient, and I discourage its purchase. Four or five stars is a high mark. Three, obviously, means a commentary is good but not great. I also use half stars in order to refine the system of evaluation” (p.2). He does not rank his own publications, but does include brief discussions of them. Certainly he understands well the writing of commentaries as he himself has written many in different series on top of being an editor for several. His own commentaries are listed together in Appendix B on p.153:
- Job. BCOTWP. Baker Academic, 2012. 496 pp.
- Proverbs. BCOTWP. Baker Academic, 2006. 592 pp.
- “Ecclesiastes.” In Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. A. Konkel and T. Longman III. CsBC. Tyndale, 2006. 400 pp.
- Ecclesiastes. NICOT. Eerdmans, 1998. xvi/306 pp.
- “Song of Songs.” In Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. A. Konkel and T. Longman III. CsBC. Tyndale, 2006. 400 pp.
- Song of Songs. NICOT. Eerdmans, 2001. xvi/238 pp.
- Jeremiah, Lamentations. UBCS. Baker Books, 2008. xvi/412 pp.
- Daniel. NIVAC. Zondervan/Hodder & Stoughton, 1999. 313 pp.
- “Nahum.” In The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary. Ed. T. McComiskey. Vol. 2. Baker, 1993. Pp. 765–829.
Several humorous side comments are offered throughout, but here are several of note which speak to Longman’s own eschatological perspective (or at least away from those which he would self-identify):
- For instance on Cooper’s commentary on Ezekiel in the NAC series, Longman writes: “This commentary is informative on a basic level but not too profound or thought-provoking. It adopts a dispensationalist and premillennial approach, which I personally find difficult to accept. So if that is your view, add a star. LM[two stars]” (p.108, bolding mine).
- Or Baldwin’s commentary on Daniel (TOTC): “Baldwin is a balanced and sane exegete, which is important to note in a commentary on a book that attracts some wild ideas. ” (p.111, bolding mine–it would be interesting to hear some of the “wild ideas” he might have had in mind as he wrote this).
Anyone looking to gain free digital access to a number of other commentary reviews (including taking into account Longman’s own) should visit bestcommentaries.com.
Longman was my second reader for my M.Div.Honours thesis and had commented in his formal review about my own “insightfulness”. Perhaps this is my own curiosity showing in that he did not comment on the specifics of what he found insightful in that work. FWIW, he gave me very high remarks and grade.
I just realized I have never posted anything (other than my thesis) dealing with the range of meaning for the Hebrew יוֹם (yom) which is often translated as something like “day”. With all of the kerfuffles (that is a specific theological term ) over the word “day” in Genesis 1, I thought I’d do a brief post on my own work on this on what has been taught to my students (and will be tomorrow morning as well).
So here is the semantic range (the range of meanings based upon usage of the Hebrew term) as I have worked it out from my reading of the text of Genesis 1 (which is a distinct literary unit from verse 1 to either chapter 2, verse 3 or possibly verse 4):
- Period of light (v.5)
- Period of alternating darkness/light (vv.5, 8, 13)
- Cultic festivals (v.14)
- A twenty-four hour period (v.14, 18, 19, 23, 31)
- The “day” of God’s resting (2.2-3)
- The week of creation (2.4)
This first usage is what God “calls” the period of “light” which he had just created.
The second is (to be precise) an alteration between darkness and light. While this could be (and arguably is) the same as #4 there are many who see the lack of the sun, moon and stars (interestingly enough remaining unnamed by this text) on days 1-3 as indicative that these “days” are in fact not to be precisely equated with those following the creation of sun, moon and stars. This is argued on the basis of our own calculations of time as we experience it presently. I simply offer this variant because it is a possible (though I think unlikely) usage different from #4.
The third is best translated by the context provided in the New Jerusalem Bible of Gen.1.14: ‘God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night, and let them indicate festivals, days and years’. Many of the translations miss the sense of the festivals as unique “days” in the unfolding revelation of God’s plan for creation. The (second) usage in this passage is not so much simply referring to the passage of days and years, but of the sacred days and years (ie, the Day of Atonement, Sabbath Years, etc.). It is a sacred (the scholarly term being “cultic”) day.
The fourth is typically where folks get rankled with one another and debate as if heaven and hell were in the balance. This is a usage of “day” that refers to twenty four hour periods of time passing (clarified by “evening and morning”) after the sun, moon and stars are in their courses. Now whether one should understand this literalistically (with fullest historical intent) or as a theological construct (without historical intent beyond God’s creating) is another issue. Both can regard it as a “twenty-four hour period”. One never moves beyond that sense. The other understands it as something like metaphor or construct.
The fifth might also simply fall into the category of the fourth, but is differentiated in the text by no ascription of “evening and morning” and technically no movement beyond the “day” of God’s resting (sabbathing). Some (even from the second Temple period in Judaism) regarded this as a reference to the ongoing “day” of God’s “rest”.
The sixth usage of yom is obscured in many translations by the use of “When” or “In the time of”. It is literalistically translated “In the day of…”. And this usage is pointing to the week of creation just laid out. It is not saying it took only one “day”, but points simply to the time of creation.
So what do you make of this semantic range? Is it possible we are missing the forest for the trees?
Andy Stanley and Lane Jones, Communicating for a Change (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2006).
Stanley and Jones have done a wonderful job of communicating the need to be on point about preaching. This is an easy read and very practical for working toward owning your sermon as your own and being able to share it in a way that is both memorable and applicable.