Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Relevant Teaching

I was doing some reading in John Walton's NIVAC Genesis commentary today (prepping for an adult Sunday school series that I will be teaching at a friend's church), and I came across this quote by Howard Hendricks:

"It is not too difficult to be biblical if you don't care about being relevant; it is not too difficult to be relevant if you don't care about being biblical. But if you want to be both biblical and relevant in your teaching, it is a very difficult task indeed."

Many traditional churches struggle with the first problem; many progressive churches struggle with the second problem. Most of my students teach and preach in a ministry environment where relevance is highly valued and reinforced. Teachers who get "too biblical" in their teaching are sometimes prodded by their ministry peers to get more relevant - and the implication is that they need to spend less time explaining Scripture.

The average person walking into church does not know how important it is to understand ideas like the Kingdom of God, union with Christ, or justification - three of the most important ideas in the New Testament. Relevant churches often respond by not teaching about these ideas. Traditional churches may teach on these topics, but often fail to help people realize their implications.

What do you think? Is this a problem in the church today? What are some things that you do to try to keep your teaching both relevant and biblical?

Erasmus on Greek

"I can see what utter madness it is even to put a finger on that part of theology which is specially concerned with the mysteries of the faith unless one is furnished with the equipment of Greek as well, since the translators of Scripture, in their scrupulous manner of construing the text, offer such literal versions of Greek idioms that no one ignorant of that language could grasp even the primary, or, as our own theologians call it, literal, meaning."

-Erasmus, Epistle 149

The picture: Title page of Erasmus' Ecclesiastae (on preaching), 1535.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Erasmus on Greek

Erasmus' response to Jacob Latomus' De tribus linguis (Whether a knowledge of the three languages is necessary for a theologian).

“I have never said that anyone with linguistic skills will right away understand the mysteries of sacred literature, I said that it is a great help in arriving at an understanding of Scripture; and I have said that this can be achieved through many means, and not only through the help of linguistics. But just as the philologist does not instantly attain an understanding of the innermost mysteries, so – all other things being even – the man who is ignorant of languages is rather far away from understanding them.”

-Erasmus, LB IX 82A-B

The picture: Medallion of Erasmus, Quentin Matsys, 1519

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How to Waste Your Theological Education

The following is a post from Derek Brown's blog, From the Study. Thanks to Pac Rim student Carl Amouzou for drawing my attention to it. I add my hearty amen to Derek's thoughts!

1. Cultivate pride by writing only to impress your professors instead of writing to better understand and more clearly communicate truth.
2. Perfect the fine art of corner-cutting by not really researching for a paper but instead writing your uneducated and unsubstantiated opinions and filling them in with strategically placed footnotes.
3. Mistake the amount of education you receive with the actual knowledge you obtain. Keep telling yourself, “I’ll really start learning this stuff when I do my Th.M or my Ph.D.”
4. Nurture an attitude of superiority, competition, and condescension toward fellow seminary students. Secretly speak ill of them with friends and with your spouse.
5. Regularly question the wisdom and competency of your professors. Find ways to disrespect your professors by questioning them publicly in class and by trying to make them look foolish.
6. Neglect personal worship, Bible reading and prayer.
7. Don’t evangelize your neighbors.
8. Practice misquoting and misrepresenting positions and ideas you don’t agree with. Be lazy and don’t attempt to understand opposing views; instead, nurse your prejudices and exalt your opinions by superficial reading and listening.
9. Give your opinion as often as possible – especially in class. Ask questions that show off your knowledge instead of questions that demonstrate a genuine inquiry.
10. Speak of heretical movements, teachers, and doctrine with an air of disdain and levity.
11. Find better things to do than serve in your local church.
12. Fill your life with questionable movies, television, internet, and music.
13. Set aside fellowship and accountability with fellow brothers in Christ.
14. Let your study of divine things become dull, boring, lifeless, and mundane.
15. Chip away at your integrity by signing your school’s covenant and then breaking it under the delusion that, “Those rules are legalistic anyway.”
16. Don’t read to learn; read only to refute what you believe is wrong.
17. Convince yourself that you already know all this stuff.
18. Just study. Don’t exercise, spend time with your family, or work.
19. Save major papers for the last possible moment so that you can ensure that you don’t really learn anything by writing them.
20. Don’t waste your time forming friendships with your professors and those older and wiser than you.
21. Make the mistake of thinking that your education guarantees your success in ministry.
22. Don’t study devotionally. You’ll never make it as a big time scholar if you do that. Scholars need to be cool, detached, and unbiased – certainly not Jesus freaks.
23. Day dream about future opportunities to the point that you get nothing out of your current opportunity to learn God’s Word.
24. Do other things while in class instead of listening – like homework, scheduling, letter-writing, and email.
25. Spend more time blogging than studying.
26. Avoid chapel and other opportunities for corporate worship.
27. Argue angrily with those who don’t see things your way. Whatever you do, don’t read and meditate on II Timothy 2:24-26 and James 3:13-18 as you prepare for ministry.
28. Set your hopes on an easy, cushy pastorate for when you graduate. Determine now not to obey God when he calls you to serve in a difficult church.
29. Look forward to the day when you won’t have to concern yourself with all this theology and when you will be able to just “preach Jesus.”
30. Forget that your primary responsibility is care for your family through provision, shepherding, and leadership.
31. Master Calvin, Owen, and Edwards, but not the Law, Prophets, and Apostles.
32. Gain knowledge in order to merely teach others. Don’t expend the effort it takes to deal with your own heart.
33. Pick apart your pastor’s sermons every week. Only point out his mistakes and his poor theological reasoning so you don’t have to be convicted by anything he says.
34. Protect yourself from real fellowship by only talking about theology and never about your personal spiritual issues, sin, and struggles.
35. Comfort yourself with the delusion that you will start seriously dealing with sin as soon as you become a pastor; right now it’s not really that big a deal.
36. Don’t serve the poor, visit the sick, or care for widows and orphans – save that stuff for the uneducated, non-seminary trained, lay Christians.
37. Keep telling yourself that you want to preach, but don’t ever seek opportunities to preach, especially at local rescue missions and nursing homes. Wait until your church candidacy to preach your first sermon.
38. Let envy keep you from profiting from sermons preached by fellow students.
39. Resent behind-the-scenes, unrecognized service. Only serve in areas where you are sure you will receive praise and accolades.
40. Appear spiritual and knowledgeable at all costs. Don’t let others see your imperfections and ignorance, even if it means you have to lie.
41. Love books and theology and ministry more than the Lord Jesus Christ.
42. Let your passion for the gospel be replaced by passion for complex doctrinal speculation.
43. Become angry, resentful and devastated when you receive something less than an A.
44. Let your excitement for ministry increase or decrease in direct proportion to the accolades or criticisms you receive from your professors.
45. Don’t really try to learn the languages – let Bible Works do all the work for you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Erasmus on Greek

Erasmus talks about what he will do with grant money that he hopes to receive from a benefactor. Reminds me of my financial situation during seminary!

“If there is a chance, I shall set out for Italy in the autumn with the intention of obtaining a doctor’s degree… I have turned my attention to Greek. The first thing I shall do, as soon as the money arrives, is to buy some Greek authors; after that, I shall buy clothes.”

-Erasmus, letter to Jacob Batt, April 12, 1500.

The picture: Title page of a German translation of Erasmus' Enchiridion, 1520. Erasmus first published it in Latin in 1503.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Erasmus on Greek

On Erasmus' Latin translation of the Greek New Testament:

“Let them not drag me into court if the text does not agree with the original word for word, for, try as you may, it cannot be done.”

-Erasmus, Apologia 170:20-1

The picture: Dedication (to Pope Leo X) of Erasmus' New Testament, 1516.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Erasmus on Greek

“It is a fairly troublesome business to learn to recognize the shapes of letters at sight, to pronounce readily, to decline and conjugate. Do you think a man has achieved nothing who has digested all this tedious stuff?… And maybe he is content with that, for the only reason he wishes to learn Greek is to be able to spend his time with more profit and more sure judgment on the Scriptures.”

-Erasmus, Letter to William Latimer, February 1517

The picture: Erasmus, by Hendrik Bary, 1671.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

William Latimer on Greek

Greek is a complex and many-sided business, as you know, and more than a little involved; and though it is toilsome rather than difficult, yet it needs time, at least until it can be got by heart. Do not think I judge other people’s mental powers by my own slow pace… But neither of you [Erasmus and Thomas More], I think, will say that he ran through these difficulties so fast that after a month or two he could go where he would without a guide; the more so as one meets so many meanders and side-turnings everywhere that they might lead even an expert astray.”

-William Latimer, Letter to Erasmus, January 30, 1517

The picture: Title page of Erasmus' first edition of the Greek New Testament, 1516. William Latimer, a theologian and Greek scholar, assisted Erasmus by proofreading the first edition.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Greek Quotes

As you may have noticed, I have been posting a number of quotes about learning Greek and using Greek (see here for all quotes). I first became interested in such quotes when Alan Gomes, my Church History prof at Talbot School of Theology, shared a quote from Augustine about the pain of learning Greek as a boy (I'll post that one later).

When I began teaching Greek, I tried to find other similar quotes for use in my lecture notes. Mostly, I found quotes that were already being circulated among Greek profs, such as well-known quotes by Zwingli and Wesley (also coming soon). But I found the motherlode of useful quotes on the topic while doing a doctoral paper on the history of textual criticism. I decided to read the letters of Erasmus to try to find out a little more about his text-critical approach when he was editing the first published Greek New Testament. It turns out that Erasmus didn't talk much about his methods in his letters, but he did talk a lot about the value of reading the Scriptures in the original languages. I'll be sharing more of those quotes over the next several days.

Erasmus' interest in Greek and Hebrew had several important results. Erasmus not only compiled (and repeatedly revised) the first Greek New Testament, but also made a fresh Latin translation. Despite Martin Luther's dislike of Erasmus, Luther used Erasmus' Greek New Testament as the textual basis for his influential German translation.

Seminarians of the time did not usually learn Greek and Hebrew; in fact, many theologians were wary of the possible heretical influence of the original languages (see some interesting quotes on this in the next few days). Erasmus encouraged other scholars to learn and teach the original languages, and eventually this became part of the standard seminary curriculum - a fact which causes modern seminarians to either bless or curse the name of Erasmus.

Do you have a favorite quote about learning and using the biblical languages? Please share it!

The picture: Title page of Erasmus' Greek New Testament, 3d edn., 1522.

Erasmus on Greek

Erasmus, commenting on the labor of editing his Greek New Testament, the bestselling book of the early 16th century:

“I am immersed in work, especially in the revision of the New Testament – I wish I had never touched it. If this is what a scholar’s work is, much better to go on sleeping.”

-Erasmus, Letter to Hermann von Neuenahr, November 30, 1517

The picture: Erasmus of Rotterdam, by Albrecht Durer, 1526.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Zwingli on Greek

Zwingli: … He then, in order to show that Christ, although of Divine Nature, had taken upon Him the form of a servant, and been made like to us, cited in the Greek text the passage from Philip. ii.7.
Luther: Let the Greek alone, quote it in Latin or German.
Zwingli: Excuse me; during the last twelve years I have only made use of the Greek New Testament.

-Text of a debate between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli on Oct 1, 1529. Quoted in Zwingli: or, the Rise of the Reformation in Switzerland, by R. Christoffel, 1858.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Erasmus on Greek

"My readings in Greek all but crush my spirit; but I have no spare time and no means to purchase books or employ the services of a tutor. And with all this commotion to endure I have hardly enough to live on; and this is what I owe to my studies!"

-Erasmus, letter to Jacob Batt, 1500.

The picture: Studies of the Hands of Erasmus of Rotterdam, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1523.

Erasmus on Greek

Erasmus, commenting on the value of studying the Scriptures in Greek and studying other Greek literature:

“And where meanwhile are those who say that Greek literature is of no value in the study of Holy Scriptures? Where are those individuals – camels rather than men – who bleat that nothing comes out of Greek literature except heresies?”
-Erasmus, Letter to Carondolet, 1523.

The picture: Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1523. Erasmus commented that the portrait made him look much too handsome.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Top Ten Things To Do While Learning Greek

10. Loudly discuss your pastor’s incorrect Greek usage after the sermon.
9. Find infallible proof that [insert name here] is the Antichrist by translating his name from Greek to Aramaic to English to Elvish.
8. Feel really cool when you write your name in Greek and start all your e-mails with charis humin kai eirene.
7. Discover ancient prophetic messages hidden in the Greek letters of the New Testament: "Jesus calls the antichrist the abomination of desolation, bdelugma eremoseos. The letters in that phrase can be rearranged to form the phrase a submerged eel moos, meaning that one of the signs of the apocalypse will be the creation of mutant eel-cows."
6. Come up with really descriptive word pictures based on Greek: "It says here that 'rivers of living water will flow from' the believer. In Greek, that word flow is rheo, from which we get the English word diarrhea."
5. Find secret Satanic messages in fraternity and sorority names.
4. Consider yourself more holy than the heathen in your church who don’t know Greek.
3. Whisper sweet nothings to your honey in Greek: chairein, brephe. kalle puge (= Greetings, baby. Nice buns).
2. Regularly interrupt your Bible study by saying, “Well, in the Greek New Testament…”
1. Improve your chances of getting a date with an ancient Greek.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Biblioblogger Rankings

Biblioblogger just posted its monthly ratings of Biblical Studies blogs for August. It's fun to read some of the top ten blogs and see all the trash talk going on at the end of each month.

Eutychus' ranking moved up from 230 to 159 - Yay! I think if I want to crack the top 50 I'll need to start writing more often - or maybe I can just start writing some seriously crackpot posts. I'm thinking of starting by claiming that Jesus was really a time-traveller from the 1960s, which explains the robe, long hair, and all the talk about peace.