Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OT quotes in Romans

The second ETS lecture I attended today was by Andrew Naselli, a doctoral student at Trinity. His paper was "Paul's Use of Isaiah 40:13 and Job 41:11a in Romans 11:34-35." I attended this because my special area of research is in the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Andrew did a very fine job of showing how Paul used two quotes from the OT as part of his praise to God. One section that I found very interesting was his explanation of the poetry of Paul's doxology:

O the depth of the riches
Both of the wisdom and knowledge of God
How unsearchable his judgments
How untraceble his ways
For "who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become his advisor?" (Isaiah 40:13)
"Or who has given to him and will receive back from him" (Job 41:3)
For from him and through him and for him are all things;
To him be the glory forever, amen.

I didn't get a copy of Andrew's notes, so I may be missing something. But Andrew pointed out the chiastic layout, shown in color above. The outer layer (red) refer to God's wealth, then the next layer (orange) shows his wisdom, and the inner layer (green) shows his knowledge.

More to say here, but I am now running off to hear a set of lectures on aspects of the use of the OT in the NT.

Darrell Bock on Acts

This morning, I attended an ETS lecture by Darrell Bock, "Contemporary Claims on Ancient Historiography and Acts: Hengel or Penner: Which Model for Acts is Better?" This session dealt with the historical value of the book of Acts. Conservative scholars like Martin Hengel often point out that Luke imitates the style of ancient historians like Thucidydes and Xenophon, even writing an introduction much like standard introductions to ancient histories. This suggests that Luke was a careful historian like other ancient Greek historians. But Penner wrote a book pointing out that these "careful Greek historians" often were more interested in rhetoric or moralizing, calling their objectivity into question. Penner's conclusion is that Luke is like these other historians, and thus he is so interested in defending Christianity that he is not an objective historian. According to Bock, Penner's attack on Luke's historical value is worth paying attention to, becaue Penner does careful work in both Acts and in the work of ancient historians. Bock thinks there are two ways to address this: a) scholars need to carefully work through the works of ancient historians to address their level of objectivity and factuality; b) on the basis of careful study in both Acts and other ancient historians, demonstrate that is possible for a historian like Luke to be factual even while having rhetorical, political or ideological goals.

Gary in Theological Nerdvana

I am enjoying my week at two scholarly conventions. Right now I am at the annual convention for the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in Providence, Rhode Island. On Friday, I will head over to Boston (not far from here) for the Society of Biblical Literature. There are probably a thousand or so members here at ETS to enjoy lectures on a variety of topics related to theology, biblical studies, apologetics, and pastoral ministry. We also have the opportunity to buy resources very cheaply from thirty or fourty Christian booksellers. For most of us, I think the opportunity to interact with other professors is the highlight of the conference. I have already enjoyed having two meals with old classmates who are now professors, and look forward to many more opportunities for fellowship and stimulating conversation. The next few posts will summarize some interesting (at least to me!) sessions that I attend.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More on Good Eye / Bad Eye (Matthew 6:22-23)

In my last post, I explained that the "good eye" and "bad eye" of Matthew 6:22-23 likely refers to generosity and stinginess. Here's a little more on that topic. (Warning! Bible nerdiness alert!)

The word for "good" here is haplos, which can be translated as simple, single, sincere, healthy, or generous. While haplos does not occur elsewher in the NT, the cognate words haplous (same meaning) and haplotetos (sincerity, simplicity or generosity) occur ten times. In Rom 12:8, 2 Cor 8:2, 9:11, 9:13, and James 1:5, haplotetos has the meaning of generosity. In the others (2 Cor 1:12, 11:3, Eph 6:5, Col 3:22), it means sincerity or simplicity. The LXX uses the word twice to refer to generosity, in 1 Chron 29:17 and Prov 11:25. Since the surrounding context, Matthew 6:19-34, is about money, it seems better to see haplos as a reference to generosity.

The phrase "evil eye" (ophthalmos poneros) has much more certainty about its meaning, since it always means stingy or greedy (Deuteronomy 15:9, Proverbs 23:6, Proverbs 28:22, Matthew 20:15). In the OT, the Hebrew raa ayin (evil eye) is translated as selfish or stingy. (The LXX translates the phrase with baskanos, stingy, in Proverbs, but leaves it as poneuresetai ho ophthalmos sou, your eye does evil, in Deuteronomy, probably because Proverbs and Deuteronomy were translated by different translators.)

Not all gospels scholars agree exactly with this interpretation, although most mention it as a possibility. There seem to be two reasons to doubt. First, the saying has an exact parallel in Luke 11:34-36, and there the context is not about money, but rather is connected to another saying about light (although note the mention of greed in Luke 11:39). In many cases, Matthew and Luke arrange the same sayings of Jesus in different contexts, so some scholars feel that Jesus' good eye/bad eye saying was not necessarily originally about money. Second, although haplos can mean generous, the phrase haplos opthalmos is not found elsewhere, so its exact meaning cannot be confirmed. Some scholars suggest a meaning for eye here that approximates heart, or draws on Greek biological conceptions of how the eye works.

To be honest, despite the doubts of some gospels scholars, I think this one is a slam dunk. I think that the more well-known metaphorical phrase "evil eye" caused Jesus to coin a new phrase, "good eye." The phrase "good eye" already existed in Prov 22:9, but Jesus used haplos instead of agathos (Heb. tov), probably to create an image of health vs. sickness. Even if Matthew is the one who placed the saying in this context (which is not certain), it illustrates that Matthew thought that the saying was about money.

The hard part, as usual with the sayings of Jesus, is obedience. Being generous is often hindered or completely stopped by our slavery to "mammon" or our worry about our own needs.

The picture: The Sermon on the Mount, from Kurtze Postill Herrn Phillippi Melanthonis vber die Euangelia der furnemesten Fest, 1545. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University.