Introducing New Contributors to Cataclysmic

Jessica Parks:

Exciting changes coming soon! Looking forward to blogging with friends and fellow HBU-ers Chad Chambers and Mike Skinner over at Cataclysmic.

Originally posted on Cataclysmic:

Over the next several weeks, multiple changes will be coming to Cataclysmic.

The most exciting and immediately noticeable change will be the addition of two new regular contributors to the blog. I am happy to welcome – Jessica Parks and Mike Skinner. I met Jessica and Mike through our connection with Houston Baptist University. I was once a graduate student there and now teach as an adjunct; Jessica and her husband (Jimmy) graduated in May with matching Masters in Biblical Languages; and Mike is currently working on his Master of Theological Studies. Bios will post later in the week, in the mean time you can find out more about Jessica on her current blog Facing the Jabberwock (also @mrsjessparks on Twitter) or Mike at First Colony Christian Church (also @mike_skinner on Twitter). I am looking forward to all they will bring to Cataclysmic.

A second change is that Jessica has agreed…

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When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint in the New Testament & the New Old Testament

Happy Monday everyone! I’m extremely excited to be participating in a blog tour of T. Michael Law’s new book ‘When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible’ organized by Brian LePort over at Near Emmaus. I received a copy for review from Oxford University Press and will be reviewing chapters 9 & 10.

When God Spoke Greek is a narrative history of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament.  Law’s goal in writing this book is to make the Septuagint more accessible to both laity and academics, while highlighting its important role in the development of the Christian Bible.  To read more about the preceding chapters (1-8), see the links below.

Chapter 9, The Septuagint in the New Testament

Following his discussion in chapter 8 over the Septuagint available to the New Testament authors, Law next takes a more in depth look at some specific citations found in the NT as well as the method and manner in which they are used by the NT authors. Beginning with the Gospels and Acts, Law provides several examples of OT quotations that demonstrate dependence on the Septuagint text or a Septuagint revision.  Indeed Law concludes that “most if not all of the citations in the New Testament are not in any way strictly dependent on the Hebrew,” (115).

There area several instances in which the Septuagint translation emphasizes a different theological point than the Hebrew text. Although it is impossible to know for sure whether an author intentionally chose one text over the other, Law suggests the Greek translation was often more favorable to the NT authors theological emphases. One such example is Luke’s use of the Septuagint text of Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15:16-18.

“In the context of the Hebrew version, the prophecy is centered on the benefit to the people of Israel: the people are to inherit the remnant of Edom and all the other nations. In the Septuagint, the focus has shifted, and the Gentiles are seeking out the Lord, which becomes very useful in Luke’s hands since he wants to legitimize the Gentile mission,” (104).

Law then moves on to Paul who “most often, perhaps always, preferred the Greek” when quoting the OT as “Paul finds the Greek forms of scripture more suitable for his intention to announce God’s message to the Gentiles,” (105). On more than one occasion it appears that the Septuagint reading of a text is crucial to Paul’s argument. After spending some time on Paul, Law briefly looks at the Septuagint in the remaining NT books, the most interesting example coming from Revelation (2:26-27, 12:5, and 19:15) in which the author quotes the Septuagint text of Psalm 2:9 “where the Greek translator has misunderstood the Hebrew verb or read a different Hebrew text,” (114). As Law points out,

“This example is particularly important since it contains an obviously erroneous reading of an Old Testament passage that was left uncorrected by the New Testament writer,” (115).

That’s definitely something to chew on for a while. Chapter 9 ends with a brief discussion on why the use of the Septuagint in the NT is important. Law concludes,

“It would be worth the modern reader’s time to ponder the significance of the New Testament author’s use of the Septuagint, to consider what theological emphases would not have been possible if the authors were using the Hebrew Bible alone,” (116).

I agree… and I am pondering.  Would the New Testament be any different if the authors had not had the Septuagint as a source?

My only issue with this chapter was the lack of Greek and Hebrew text.  Law provides several examples in which the NT reflects the Septuagint Greek over the Hebrew MT and yet he only provides English translations for comparison.  While this is a non-issue for many reading on the popular level, Greek and Hebrew readers will likely find this frustrating.

Chapter 10, The New Old Testament

In chapter 10 Law describes the development of the New Old Testament noting that the early Christian “Bible” was not a fixed collection of books as we now have it, but rather “a loose collection of texts” (117). When early Christians who viewed themselves as the “New Israel” soon realized the Greek Jewish texts they were using were different from the Hebrew scriptures used by their Jewish contemporaries, the problem was easily resolved. It was obvious to most early Christians that as the New Israel, God had provided a new word in the form of the Septuagint.

“Most early Christian scholars… argued or at least assumed that the Greek Septuagint was the new word of God for the church, a divinely inspired text that God had delivered for the sake of bringing the message of Christianity to the world…” (118).

How did this new word become the New Old Testament?  The process of delineating a fixed set of books came about for practical reasons. In addition to the invention of the codex (or book), the church gave priority to some books over others based on apologetic reasons. Early Christians were concerned with settling disputes with Jews as well as pointing to messianic prophecies in the Greek Jewish scriptures.  Law makes an important distinction here between “canon” and “scripture”:

“Scripture signifies only an ‘authoritative writing in a religious community.’ Canon, on the other hand, is a catalog, a list of scriptural writings. To put it simply: there can be no canon without scripture, but scripture can exist without a canon,” (121).

Thus we shouldn’t automatically assume that if a text was not included within a canon that it was not considered to be scripture. The process of canonization would continue for several centuries during which different groups and the early theologians would advocate for different sets of books, including those that now make up the Apocrypha.  These books eventually fell out of favor among the western church and Law ultimately pits the fault with Jerome who is discussed in more detail in chapter 13.

Some Final Thoughts

When God Spoke Greek is an easy and enjoyable read. Law’s passion and proficiency are evident as he skillfully narrates the rich history behind the Septuagint and the complex text we now call the Bible. He provides definitions and clarifications on terms when needed which is sure to be appreciated by those new to the Septuagint and/or biblical studies, as well as those already aware of the complexities involved in discussing the Septuagint… I mean the LXX… I mean the Old Greek… and so on.

Law addresses the common misconceptions many of us have or have had at one point in our reading of the Bible.  Moreover, this book offers a thoughtful correction to the western church’s centuries of neglect of the Septuagint, a correction that is sorely needed.

I appreciated Law’s use of the feminine pronoun instead of the usual masculine pronoun when discussing hypothetical or generic persons, such as here in the beginning of chapter 4:

“In biblical translation, for example, the richness of Hebrew poetry cannot be communicated in ancient Greek or in modern English, so even when the meaning may not be too different, if at all, the color and depth usually is. Inevitably, however, the translator will be faced with an obscure expression in the source language; assuming she understands it she may nonetheless find no acceptable counterpart in her language,” (33).

I rarely see the use of feminine pronouns by male authors; it was a refreshing change. If you are familiar with me and/or my blog you know that language and gender are two of my favorite topics so I couldn’t not mention this minor detail.

I think the greatest benefit of this book is the questions that it provokes its readers to ask. What does it mean for us today that the Septuagint was seen by many in the early church as inspired? What does it mean for Paul to have ‘misinterpreted’ an Old Testament passage, whether intentionally or unintentionally? If the NT authors were reading some of the apocryphal books, which in turn played some role in shaping their theology, why aren’t we reading these texts as well? Why is finding the so-called ‘original text’ such a priority for many of us today if it was not a priority for the NT authors (86)?

For those interested in learning more about the Christian Bible When God Spoke Greek is a great place to start. It would also be a great accompaniment to a more thorough introduction for students of biblical studies.

A huge thank you to Brian LePort at Near Emmaus for organizing this blog tour. Thank you again to Oxford University Press for the review copy. Here are the links to the other blogs in the tour:

JOEL WATTS (Sunday, July 21st, http://unsettledchristianity.com/)
1 Why this Book?
2 When the World Became Greek

ANDREW KING (Tuesday, July 23rd, http://blogofthetwelve.wordpress.com/)
3 Was There a Bible before the Bible?
4 The First Bible Translators

KRISTA DALTON (Thursday, July 25th, http://kristadalton.com/blog/)
5 Gog and his Not-so-Merry Grasshoppers
6 Bird Droppings, Stoned Elephants, and Exploding Dragons

ABRAM K-J (Saturday, July 27th, http://abramkj.com/)
7 E Pluribus Unum
8 The Septuagint behind the New Testament

Coming soon…

AMANDA MacINNIS (Wednesday, July 31st, http://cheesewearingtheology.com/)
11 God’s Word for the Church
12 The Man of Steel and the Man who Worshipped the Sun

JAMES McGRATH (Friday, August 2nd, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/)
13 The Man with the Burning Hand vs. the Man with the Honeyed Sword
14 A Postscript

Why You Need the Septuagint

Jessica Parks:

This is a great post from Abram K-J on the benefits of knowing and studying the Septuagint. He provides 10 reasons why we should know the Septuagint, my favorite being reason number three:

“It connects us to the broad sweep of history in the Church. This was not only the Bible of the New Testament writers (in many though not all instances); it was the Bible of the Greek-speaking early church.”

There are two classes from my graduate studies that radically transformed the way I thought about the Bible. The first was general linguistics which has, and continues, to shape my understanding of how and why language(s) work. The second class was a Greek reading class and introduction to the Septuagint that I took last fall. I had some knowledge about the Septuagint from my undergraduate studies, having read Jobes and Silva and done a little bit of translation work in Deuteronomy for another Greek reading class. But it was in this Septuagint class last fall that I really fell in love with the LXX.

I look forward to sharing more on Monday when I post my 2-chapter review of T. Michael Law’s ‘When God Spoke Greek’ as a part of the blog tour.

Originally posted on Words on the Word:

It’s not uncommon for people to ask: why the Septuagint? (That comes right after: What is it?)  Why bother with the Greek Septuagint when we have the Old Testament in Hebrew, in which it was first written? English translations of the Bible in most churches use the Hebrew text as a base, anyway.

Before giving my top 10 reasons why, here are a couple ways to access the Septuagint (often abbreviated LXX after the tradition of the 70(+2) who were said to have translated it). This site has the whole Septuagint in Greek with an English translation. And here‘s a good, up-to-date English translation of the whole thing. (For hard copies, the standard complete Greek text is the Rahlfs Septuagint, and a recent English translation is the NETS.)

Here are 10 good reasons to pay attention to the Septuagint:

10. It helps us read Scripture in…

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HBU’s Dr. Jerry Walls On Hell…

Jerry Walls, professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University (my home turf!), will be answering questions on the topic of hell over at Rachel Held Evan’s blog. Her “Ask a…” series is one of my favorite things in the blogosphere so be sure to check it out. It’s a great avenue for asking questions and getting different perspectives on theological topics from all sorts of folks.  Here’s a snippet from Rachel’s blog introducing Walls:

“Jerry holds a traditional view of hell in the sense that he believes hell is a place of conscious, eternal misery. But he says he agrees with C.S. Lewis’ famous line that ‘the doors of hell are locked on the inside.’  So it is the persistent refusal to repent, and accept God’s grace and love that keeps hell going, not His determination to keep sinners there against their will.  His view is a modification of the traditional view in the sense that he believes God always welcomes sincere repentance, even after death.  Unfortunately, he says, some will never exercise that option.”

You can check out more posts in Rachel’s “Ask a…” series here.

BOOK BLOG TOUR: T. Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek

Jessica Parks:

Be sure to check out this blog tour over the next couple of days. It’s sure to stimulate a lot of great conversation about the Septuagint!

Originally posted on NEAR EMMAUS:

This weekend is the beginning of a book blog tour highlighting and discussing T. Michael Law’s new book When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible.

61dirz1lajl-_sy300_I have selected seven bloggers whose interest seem to be aligned with the content of the book. Oxford University Press sent them copies with the understanding that they’d provide unbiased reviews. Joel Watts of the popular Unsettled Christianity will be the first person to comment beginning this Sunday. James McGrath of the equally popular Exploring Our Matrix will end it on August 2nd. In-between I have bloggers who are known for their interest in the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, and all things related.

Why is this book being given this sort of attention?

I think the Septuagint is overlooked by most Christians and many scholars. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible was central to the formation of…

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The War Outside Our Doors & Walking Through Conquered Halls…

I couldn’t sleep. Tossing and turning was all I did after my afternoon on an Elijah Rising van tour of Houston.  Where do I begin?Elijah Rising

In 2011, Elijah Rising (a ministry committed to ending human trafficking) began offering van tours throughout the city in order to promote awareness of the impact and prominence of sex trafficking in the city of Houston.

“Part of our mandate is to drive the reality of modern day slavery into the consciousness of our society. To do this we offer approximately 2 hour tours of high probability trafficking areas. These tours are essentially a rolling Human Trafficking 101 class with visuals.”

Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar per year industry with over 27 million people currently living as slaves.*  Eighty-percent of human trafficking is commercial sex trade.  Out of the 27 million victims, eighty-percent are women and of these eighty, fifty-percent are minors.  Houston is at the top of the list of offenders.

I was aware of these statistics before I went on the van tour and I will admit that, at first, the numbers are just numbers; there are no faces, just statistics.  But within minutes of taking your seat in that van it all changes.

The van tour takes you through three areas around Houston that are heavily populated with brothels disguised as massage parlors, spas, adult studios, strip clubs, and cantinas.  The first real shock is the proximity of these places to other businesses, restaurants, and neighborhoods.  One of the highly populated areas of the cantina-style brothels was just across the freeway from where I once lived.  I couldn’t believe it.  You start the recognize the tell-tale signs of a brothel: dark or boarded windows; high walls and gated parking lots; a series of houses or buildings connected together; some really weird statues.

Once you see the buildings, you begin to hear the stories.  The stories help to put faces to the numbers and that’s when the sick and the dread and the anger and the sorrow start to set in.  This is a reality.  Right outside my door.

And you weep.

You weep because it all seems impossible.  You weep because you wonder “Why?” and “How?”  You weep because you wonder why you sat by idly for so long.photo-8

Elijah Rising is ending human trafficking in our city by equipping a generation of justic warriors for prayer, awareness and intervention in the spirit of Isaiah 1:17 which says ‘Learn to do good, seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, plead the cause of the widow, defend the orphan.’

But there is hope.  I soon learned that Elijah rising has started leasing a building that was formerly a brothel.  We had a chance to walk through the building where they are currently remodeling; the building will serve as one of its offices.  This was by far the worst and best part of the tour.  Being inside that building and walking past shower after shower, room after room, made imagining the women and children trapped in this life of slavery far too easy.  There was a real sense of sadness and darkness that remained in those rooms.

But hope was breaking through.  With each pound of the sledgehammer you could feel the walls of injustice slowly crumbling down.  Many of us cried as we walked those halls.

The Elijah Rising team has been praying over those rooms, the evidence of their faith in a God who saves written on the walls in crayola markers.

This place is a victory.  God is pushing back the darkness.  Jesus’ kingdom is coming.  The Spirit is moving…

And you realize that there is a battle happening right outside your doors. 

If you live in Houston or will be visiting anytime in the future, I suggest you do three things:

  1. Go on an Elijah Rising van tour. It will change you.
  2. Pray. Pray for the end of human trafficking in our city, and across the globe.
  3. Attend the Justice Summit this September 19th-21st here in Houston.

 

*These are the statistics I was presented with during the van tour.

Faith and Hope…

“Faith is the settled, unwavering trust in the one true God whom we have come to know in Jesus Christ. When we see him face to face we shall not abandon that trust, but deepen it. Hope is the settled, unwavering confidence that this God will not leave us or forsake us, but will always have more in store for us than we could ask or think.”
- N.T. Wright, After You Believe

(Re-posted from N.T. Wright Facebook Page)

LXX Susanna, Part 3: One Story, Two Heroes…

One last snippet from my Susanna paper to share which highlights the different endings of the two traditions:

As the story reaches its end, Daniel successfully reveals the truth about what transpired between Susanna and the two elders.  And as Daniel proclaims the punishment that awaits the elders, the assembly lauds the triumphant hero.  But who is the hero in this story?  The OG ending focuses on Daniel and the wisdom of youths.  Daniel’s referring expression is changed in verse 60 to τῷ νεωτέρῳ, the young man, highlighting the fact that he is young in contrast to the elders who are presumably older.  It is Daniel who is the hero in the OG version.  Susanna θ’, on the other hand, ends with a different hero in mind.

Verse 60 reads:

καὶ ἀνεβόησε πᾶσα ἡ συναγωγὴ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εὐλόγησαν τῷ θεῷ 
τῷ σῴζοντι τοὺς ἐλπίζοντας ἐπʼ αὐτόν.

And all the assembly cried out with a loud voice and they blessed God, who saves those who hope in him.

One again we are provided with additional information that constrains the way we as readers view God, this time from the narrator’s perspective.  The focus is now on God who save those who hope in him.  For the author/translator of Susanna θ’, God is the hero of the story.  It is God who knows what is hidden; it is God who sends a wise judge to reveal the wickedness of the unrighteous judges; it is God who saves those who hope in him.

Finally, compare the epilogues of each version:

62a Because of this, young men are beloved by Jacob because of their sincerity.  62b And as for us, let us watch out for young able sons.  For young men will live piously, and a spirit of knowledge and understanding will be in them forever and ever. (OG)

63 Chelkios and his wife praised God for their daughter, along with Joakim her husband and all her relatives, because no shameful deed was found in her.  
64 And Daniel became great among the people from that day onward. (θ’)

Each discourse ends with a different focus: the Theodotion text focuses on the vindication of Susanna, which not only meant that she was spared from shame but the whole family was spared from shame.  Susanna’s parents are reactivated along with Joakim and the rest of the family, by means of anchoring expressions to link them to Susanna.  The Old Greek, on the other hand, ends with a focus on the blessing of wise young men.  The OG ending seems much more characteristic of a fable, relaying the moral of the story: the world needs more young men like Daniel.

 

Peter Conference: Edinburgh 2013

Jessica Parks:

My Greek prof, Dr. Will Rutherford, presented a paper at the recent Peter Conference in Edinburgh. His paper was titled ‘On the Trail of the Scribal Peter: Apostolic Authority and the Production of Jewish/Christian Difference in Peter’s Preaching’.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of hearing him present (he presented a paper at last year’s SBL in the early Jewish-Christian relations section) you’ll know that not only is he a great scholar, he is a master craftsman when it comes to Power Point. His work and his presentations always exhibit excellence and serve as a great model to those he teaches. I’m extremely proud to have been one of his students!

Originally posted on Larry Hurtado's Blog:

The conference on the Apostle Peter sponsored by our Centre for the Study of Christian Origins (Univ of Edinburgh) was held here 4-6 July, and I think we were all very pleased with it.  We had ca. 70 registered, 21 presentations, lots of informed and lively discussions, and a tasty conference banquet and an available bar-service (!).  My colleague, Dr. Helen Bond and I will now try to organize a selection of presentations for publication in due course.  From the quality of the presentations it will be difficult to omit any!

My own presentation kicked off the event with a brief discussion of three major treatments of Peter by Protestant New Testament scholars,  Oscar Cullmann, Martin Hengel and Markus Bockmuehl, spanning several decades. I tried to explore briefly the circumstances in which they wrote and their respective emphases.

Cullmann was deeply concerned with promoting Christian ecumenical efforts in the post-World…

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