QOTD: Barth on the Eternal Redeemer

“His then living and speaking and acting, His being on the way from Jordan to Golgotha, His being as the One who suffered and died, became and is as such His eternal being and therefore His present-day being every day of our time … In virtue of His resurrection from the dead Jesus Christ—“the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for all”—is (in the same way as the Arena Chapel - CrucifixionOne God) the one Mediator between God and man (v. 5). He was this in the event of Good Friday to be it for ever—this is what the event of Easter Day revealed and confirmed and brought into effect. He not only did represent us, He does represent us. He not only did bear the sin of the world, He does bear it. He not only has reconciled the world with God, but as the One who has done this, He is its eternal Reconciler, active and at work once and for all … His history did not become dead history … He is the living Saviour.”

– Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV.1, p. 314


Review: Warfare in the Old Testament by Boyd Seevers

              Students wading into the vast ocean that is OT studies have their work cut out for them. Not only are they expected to know the various forms of scholarly critical tools that are used in interpreting the text (literary, textual, form, etc.) and to understand the diverse genres that make up the Hebrew Bible, students are required to gain competence in two ancient languages in order to scratch the surface of the study of the OT. Thankfully, scholars in recent years have released some really solid introductory texts that have helped students become more comfortable with the OT’s history and languages. Boyd Seevers’ work Warfare in the Old Testament follows in this line of publications. It is one of the first works that offers an introduction to the history of warfare during the OT times that is accessible for students seeking to better understand how warfare played a role in the history of Israel and her relationship to the surrounding nations.


                Seevers divides this work into six major sections devoted to a specific empire that is relevant to the time period of the OT. Seevers opens each section with a fictional story of a soldier’s life in that empire’s military. These offer a nice break from the usual textbook fare but some students may find them hokey and out of place. After the initial story, Seevers then offers information related to the dating of the empire and a description of its weaponry, tactics, and the various units that made up its military. One of the strongest parts of the work was the obvious care that went into its production. The author offers full color pictures and images of various drawings used to illustrate weapons and soldiers’ uniforms. The maps are detailed and are provided alongside almost every description of the army’s movements and common battle sites. Overall, the work is as good looking as it is informative.

                Another thing that this work does well is offer the actual Hebrew fonts instead of transliteration. I have never quite understood why any publisher would only provide the transliteration, seeing as one who does not know Hebrew would not benefit at all from a transliterated text. Thankfully, Kregel offers the actual Hebrew so that students with some competence in the language can reference Seevers findings to BDB or HALOT. My one small complaint is the use of endnotes instead of footnotes. Whenever I want to go deeper by reading his notes, I have to place one finger in the back of the chapter so that I can move rapidly between endnote and main text. However, this is a very small complaint and in no way diminishes the content of the work.

                Seevers is to be congratulated for taking a specialized and potentially complex subject and boiling it down into a book-length treatment that is accessible for the student. Those seeking to understand the role of the military in Israel’s history should look no further than Warfare in the Old Testament.


I received this book for free from Kregel in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thoughts on the Eschaton in Paul

I have just finished an exam on Biblical Ethics and was asked to comment on the role of the parousia in Pauline ethics. Here’s a bit of what I had to say.

      The study of Pauline ethics has focused intensely on the role that the eschaton plays in his ethical formulation. Although scholars in the early 20th century sometimes overstated the role of eschatology in Paul’s thought, an analysis of the Pauline corpus showcases the centrality of the parousia. In this essay, I will define what I mean by the “eschatological perspective” of Paul and describe how this idea is significant for his view of the Christian life.

                The “eschatological perspective” in Paul is the idea that the coming of the Lord Jesus in glory informs how the Christian should live their life in the present. While some scholars believe that this idea was minimized in the deutero-Pauline canon, throughout his works Paul often grounds his ethical stance in the idea that Christ was coming back, God was going to raise the dead and the whole world would stand before God in judgment. With this idea in mind, Paul demands his congregations to live in accordance with this truth.

                Paul exhorts his congregations to live in certain ways based upon the coming appearance of the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 7:26-31, Paul writes to the single members of the Corinthian congregation that they should “remain as [they] are” (1 Cor 7:26) Not only the single, but the married members should think of themselves as having no wife or husband (1 Cor 7:27). Why should this be so? Because “the appointed time has grown very short” (1 Cor 7:29). God has broken into human history in the person of Jesus Christ, bringing the new age crashing into the present. For Paul, we are living in the midst of a strange era, an interim period where God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, has made a way for the Gentiles to be grafted on to the family tree of the Jewish people. However, this also means that God is preparing to restore the creation to a better place than it was before the Fall. In light of this, Christians must deal with the world in a different way. Paul wants his congregations to act in a way that acknowledges the coming appearance of the Lord Jesus.

The Personification of Wisdom – an Annotated Bibliography

Over the past several weeks, I have been compiling an annotated bibliography for my Supervised Research Experience class. This is the end result. Although it is specifically for the personification of Wisdom as displayed in Proverbs 1-9, there are many articles and books that treat the topic generally. I share this with you in the hope that it might be helpful. Let me know if you have any suggestions! Also, special thanks to Brian Davidson for encouraging me to post this.

The Personification of Wisdom Annotated Bib

Advice for Those Working Within the New Pacifism

    For some time, there has been major buzz in the blogs and Twitter about pacifist re-readings of theology and biblical texts. This “new pacifism”, as it is being dubbed, is not merely a rehashing of older arguments for non-violence (which was primarily based upon the example of Jesus in the Gospels) but takes on the harder texts of scripture, such as the OT portrayals of God as the warrior God who annihilated whole tribes and the image of God in Revelation as the one who will cover the earth in the blood of his enemies.



     For one, I am not inherently opposed to pacifist readings of Scripture. As a high schooler, I was both enthralled and disturbed by Leo Tolstoy’s work The Kingdom of God is Within You. His ideal of one who would never return blow for blow even if that meant the death of a loved one made me wrestle with the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ unique call to a righteousness “greater than the Pharisees”. Over time, I came to a more moderate understanding of the role of violence, namely, that it is only used to protect the innocent and punish the guilty (I am thinking specifically of Paul’s argument in Romans 13). However, based upon new works such as Preston Sprinkle’s Fight, I am again forced to reconsider the argument for non-violence. I do want to offer a few warnings for those who are attempting to interpret the Scriptures through this lens:

    (1) Remember that the whole Bible has to be taken into account for this to work. Unlike older methods which pitted Paul and Moses against Jesus, a consistent, non-violent hermeneutic will seek to unify the teaching of Scripture instead of dividing it. 

    (2) At the expense of jettisoning the clear meaning of Scripture, do not fit “a square peg into a round hole.” This happens more often then not when it comes to various readings of Scripture (whether it be Marxist, deep ecology, feminist, Calvinist, etc.) A sustained, non-violent reading of Scripture will stop speaking when it has said all that it can say.


    That said, I look forward to continue to read New Pacifist readings of Scripture. “Dogmatics is the self-examination of the Christian Church in respect of the content of its distinctive talk about God.” (Barth, CD I/I, 11) May we continually reevaluate our God-talk to be in conformity with Who He is.

Abba, Father – A Call for Unity

    A whole lotta ink (both digital and actual) has been spilled over the issue of Paul’s use of αββα. While I am not going to rehearse here why “αββα” isn’t “daddy”, I will make one comment that I have not heard scholars make about Paul’s use of “αββα” in Romans 8:15.

     A plethora of scholars hold that the letter of Romans was written to a mixed congregation of Jewish and Gentile Christians (although the latter made up the majority). Paul’s purpose in writing the letter is not only to promote solidarity with the Roman church and raise funds for his trip to Spain, but also to build church unity. Paul’s exhortation to the stronger to give up their rights on behalf of the weaker lends credence to the idea that in-house debates between Gentiles and Jews over food laws were promoting disunity rather then love.

     For this reason, when Paul comes to chapter 8, before his middle section concerning the place of Israel in the purposes of God, Paul describes our status as sons and daughters because of the Spirit of God (and not because of our ethnic status). Paul uses the common Christian name for God in the two languages used in the church (Aramaic and Greek) to unify them around their common God. Although Christians may use the term today, there is nothing magical about the term. You may as well say πατηρ!

Studies in Deuteronomy: Narrowing the Promise

Deuteronomy opens up well enough: the Israelites are on the edge of the promised land, waiting for the word from God to go on in and take over. Their enemies will be no match for them because God is going to fight on their behalf (1:30) and the land is bursting with plenty of good things (sans Ski, BBQ and Star Wars!). However, the Israelites are afraid of what they will find when they enter the region; according to scout reports, giants are in the land (1:28). “Woe to us poor Israelite people!” They even have the audacity to think that God hates them and is so wicked as to deliver them from slavery in order to kill them.
Needless to say, God is not happy with their murmuring. His response to their bitter remarks are as follows: אם יראה איש באנשים האלה הדור הרע הזה את הארץ הטובה אשר נשבעתי לתת לאבתיכם זולתי כלב בן יפנה הוא יראנה (If a man among these men [this wicked generation] shall see the good land which I swore to give to your fathers, only Caleb, son of Jephunneh, will see it.) (1:35-36a) This clause is awkward, not containing a clear “then” to finish the “if” clause in 1:36a (unless you count זולתי as some kind of pseudo-apodosis marker, “then Caleb”). Essentially, God is stating that only Caleb will possess the land since the Israelites are not faithful enough to possess it. Naturally, one may retort “But God promised the patriarchs to give the land to their descendents, so he can’t not give it to them.” However, God is engaging in a kind of shifty promise fulfillment.
In 1:8, God tells the Israelites that he is giving the land to them on account of the promise which he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, ולזרעם אחריהם (and to their seed after them). Seed in this passage is singular. However, singular verbs are often used with a collective sense (Williams, Ronald J. and John C. Beckman. Williams’ Hebrew Syntax. 3rd Ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007, 1.) God means to give the land to the whole nation of Israel based upon the promise that he made to the patriarchs.
But because they “murmured in their tents” and accused God of acting in hatred towards them, God decides (initially) to only give the land to Caleb. Wouldn’t this be breaking his promise? Not according to the promise as stated. Since God is only obligated, according to his own promise, to give the land to a singular seed, he can give the land to only Caleb and fulfill the promise which he made to the patriarchs. Of course, God relents from narrowing his promise, although he would be entirely just to do so.

The moral of the story? God will have his way and be just every single time. Israel as a whole is allowed to enter the land on account of the sheer mercy of God, although he is within his rights to narrow the promise which he made to their forefathers.

Studies in Deuteronomy: Beth of Specification

Deuteronomy 1:1 is the prologue for the book, setting forth the theme of the work: Moses’ final words to Israel on the other side of the Jordan. His words are said to be spoken במדבר בערבה. I’m going to forego attempting to understand Moses’ exact location when he gave his discourse since scholars working in historical geography aren’t quite sure of the exact locations given in Deuteronomy. However, it is notable that Israel’s location is said to be “in the wilderness (that is, in Arabah)”. The Deuteronomic author uses ב epexegetically in order to either comment on the exact location of the Israelites in the wilderness or to clarify what he means by wilderness.
The Williams Syntax calls this variety of ב “the beth of specification”. The examples which he gives include Genesis 7:21 (ויגוע כל בשר בעול ובבהמה ובחיה “All flesh died: birds, cattle, and animals”) and Exodus 13:2 (קדש לי כל בכור … באדם ובבחמה “Consecrate to me every firstborn: … human and animal.”) However, is the beth in these examples and in Deut. 1:1 functioning as a “beth of specification” or is the second (or third) word in itself functioning epexegetically? In other words, is the beth the reason a word is epexegetical or is it merely the word’s position in the sentence that makes it so? Considering that Greek nouns can function epexegetically in every case, maybe this is the way that Hebrew makes up for dropping its case system, just as English makes use of “that is”. Thoughts?

Studies in Deuteronomy: Post Series

This semester, I have the pleasure of taking Dr. Garrett for Hebrew Exegesis: Deuteronomy. We are spending a lot of time in the text: quizzes every week over translation and parsing, reading the text aloud in class and going over the grammar. I’m looking forward to the conversations that will arise in our readings!

Since I will be spending so much time in the text, I’m going to devote my posts to questions that spring from my reading of Deuteronomy. Hopefully these series of posts will invite comments and discussion. I am concerned mostly with grammatical phenomenon but may also sidetrack into theological discourse. Looking forward to writing these posts and reading the biblical text!