Tuesday, 25 July 2017

‘You Are My Witnesses’


Peter Leithart has a great post here on the recurring refrain in Isaiah, of the Lord to his people, ‘You are my witnesses’ (Isaiah 43:1, 12; 44:8).

I was preaching on Sunday from Luke 24:36-53, in which Jesus says to his disciples, ‘You are witnesses of these things’ (Luke 24:48), language which is then picked up in Acts 1:8, ‘you will be my witnesses...’ On both occasions, their witness extends beyond to Jerusalem to ‘all nations’ (Luke 24:47), ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).

I didn’t make much of it on Sunday, but I think there is a clear echo of Isaiah in Jesus’ commission to the disciples:

‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD,
‘and my servant whom I have chosen...
And now the LORD says...
‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’ (Isaiah 43:10 and 49:5-6)

Mission to ‘all nations’ doesn’t start with Christ’s various commissions at the end of the gospels. It has always been God’s mission to bless all nations. We see it in his original design for creation, in his promises to Abraham, and his calling of Israel – later reiterated through the servant figure in Isaiah who is chosen, made to be a light to the nations.

This is what we see at the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts. In line with the Lord’s promise through Isaiah, the first disciples – and all disciples since – are God’s ‘witnesses’, the servant community who will bring the message of salvation not just to Israel but to the ‘ends of the earth’.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Christian History Magazine on the Catholic Reformation


The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is devoted to The Catholic Reformation’, the fourth in a four-part series on the Reformation.

Here is the paragraph of blurb:

‘The fourth and final issue of our Reformation series features the story of Catholic reform in the sixteenth century. Renewal spread through the Catholic church through new religious orders – foremost the Jesuits – and through individuals and groups who sympathized with “evangelical” ideas while remaining under papal authority. The Council of Trent, the official response to the Protestant critique, would set a course for Catholicism for the next 500 years. The issue also includes closing thoughts on the long-term effects of the Reformation and the prospects for ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants today.’

The whole magazine is available as a 6.8 MB pdf here.

The previous three magazines in the series are available



Monday, 17 July 2017

Prayer on a Vast Canvas


I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world ... I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.
John 17:24-26

The scope of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is huge, overwhelming even. It moves from the oneness between Father and Son ‘before the world began’ (17:5), through the mission of the Son sent from the Father, to the keeping and sanctification of the apostles as those in turn sent into the world (17:18), to those who believe through their testimony – us included – who come to participate in the eternal love of the triune God. Jesus’ prayer embraces nothing less than the whole history of redemption.

The prayer thus reflects God’s mission, and the goal of that mission – to gather a people to share in the fellowship of love and oneness that existed between Father and Son ‘before the creation of the world’ (17:24), that we might be loved by the Father with the love he has for the Son. Just bask in that for a moment.

In a sense, John 17 is the real ‘Lord’s prayer’, with the one recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 best thought of as the disciples’ prayer. It is Jesus’ prayer, not ours. And, as we eavesdrop on it, we hear not just his voice but his heart: his alignment with the will of the Father, his desire to complete the work given him to do, his concerns for his people. Above all, perhaps, the prayer demonstrates the intimacy between Father and Son. But it also beckons us into that intimacy, and invites us to reflect on how we will pray as a result.

John 17 helps us, not because it gives us a technique for prayer, but because it orients our praying. It shows us that prayer is addressed to God as Father and is rooted in relationship with one who knows us and loves us. It also reminds us of the centrality of God’s glory. Our prayers can sometimes be focused on ourselves with concentric circles of legitimate interests and concerns, needs and responsibilities. But Jesus puts the Father’s glory at the centre, and the circles that radiate out are to do with his will and his purpose.

As Jesus promised, answers to such prayers prayed in his name are always given (John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:24). For those who truly know him – and are one in intimate union with him and the Father – pray out of a knowledge of his will and a desire to serve his interests.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Tyndale Bulletin 68, 1 (2017)


The latest issue of Tyndale Bulletin has arrived, containing the following collection of articles.

Kim Phillips
A New Codex from the Scribe behind the Leningrad Codex: L17
Samuel b. Jacob was the scribe responsible for the production of the so-called Leningrad Codex (Firkowich B19a), currently our earliest complete Masoretic Bible codex. This article demonstrates that another codex from the Firkowich Collection, containing the Former Prophets only, is also the work of Samuel b. Jacob, despite the lack of a colophon to this effect. The argument is based on a combination of eleven textual and para-textual features shared between these two manuscripts, and other manuscripts known to have been produced by the same scribe.

David B. Schreiner
‘We Really Should Stop Translating nir in Kings as “Light” Or “Lamp”’: A Response
This essay responds to Deuk-il Shin’s recently published ‘The Translation of the Hebrew Term NI?R: “David's Yoke”?’ I contend that Shin’s argument does not do enough to counteract Douglas Stuart’s call to stop translating nir in Kings as ‘light’ or ‘lamp’. Among other things, Shin does not consider important contributions to the discussion, which therefore renders his argumentation deficient. All things considered, Ehud Ben Zvi’s suggestion of territorial dominion is most appropriate.

John Makujina
‘Behold, There Were Twins in Her Womb’ (Gen. 25:24-26; 38:27-30): Medical Science and the Twin Births in Genesis
Eran Viezel claims that the book of Genesis is ignorant of the fundamentals of childbirth, particularly the presenting foetal member. While the head normally emerges first, Genesis mistakenly thinks that the hands present, as they do in livestock deliveries. Therefore, the veracity of the twin births in Genesis 25:24-26 and 38:27-30, where a hand exits the womb first (Jacob and Zerah), should be rejected. The present article, however, exposes significant inaccuracies and unsupported assumptions on Viezel’s part. Moreover, while maintaining that both births are anomalous, this article proposes medically realistic scenarios for the parturitions of the twins in Genesis.

Murray Vasser
Grant Slaves Equality: Re-Examining the Translation of Colossians 4:1
This essay offers a fresh challenge to the widely accepted translation of Colossians 4:1. Though isotes normally means ‘equality’, most scholars insist that in Colossians 4:1 the term must instead mean ‘fairness’, for the author evidently assumes the continuation of slavery in the Christian community. Thus English versions render the command ‘Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly’ (RSV). In support of this translation, scholars routinely cite a handful of texts that are purported to demonstrate that the term isotes could mean ‘fairness’ instead of ‘equality’. In this essay, I challenge such an interpretation of these texts. Furthermore, by demonstrating that a first-century moralist could exhort masters to treat their slaves as equals without thereby recommending the abolition of slavery, I challenge the assertion that the context of Colossians 4:1 requires a meaning of isotes other than the one well attested in the extant Greek literature. I conclude that Colossians 4:1 should be rendered as follows: ‘Masters, grant slaves justice and equality.’ This conclusion has important implications not only for Bible translators, but also for scholars attempting to reconstruct the situation at Colossae or describe early Christian attitudes towards slavery.

Jermo van Nes and Harro Koning
Motif-Semantic Differences in Paul?: A Question to Advocates of the Pastorals’ Plural Authorship in Dialogue with Michaela Engelmann
New Testament scholarship is witnessing a growing number of studies advocating the plural authorship of the Pastoral Epistles (PE) on the basis of their mutual differences. Among them is the recent study by Michaela Engelmann highlighting ‘motif-semantic’ differences between the PE in terms of their Christology/soteriology, ecclesiology, heresiology, and image of Paul. While Engelmann and others challenging the common authorship of the PE offer significant contributions to the study of the PE’s origins, their overall approach also raises methodological questions. By way of illustration, 1 Thessalonians and Philippians are studied in a way similar to that of Engelmann. Both letters are shown to exhibit a good number of motif-semantic differences, which might bring into question their explanatory power.

Daniel Hill
The State and Marriage: Cut the Connection
I argue that the connection between the state and the institution of marriage should be cut. More precisely, I argue that the state should not (i) solemnise or purport to solemnise any marriages, (ii) register any marriages and (iii) make any laws, civil or criminal, respecting marriage. I advance several arguments for this thesis, and then respond to many possible objections. I do not argue for any change in any of the typical Western laws respecting sexual intercourse; in particular, I do not argue for any change in the laws regarding rape, the age of consent to intercourse or intercourse with a minor.

Julian Rivers
Could Marriage Be Disestablished?
In this paper, I respond to Dr Daniel Hill’s argument that English law should cease to recognise marriage. Rather than focusing on general arguments of political theory for and against such a proposal I consider practical arguments based on the development of the law in response to injustice in family relations. A law of marriage of some sort seems inevitable. This conclusion is reinforced by the arguments of libertarian and feminist writers who seek to ‘abolish’ marriage. Looked at more closely, they do nothing of the sort; they redefine it. Finally, I discuss the problem of unregistered marriages among British Muslims as an already existing example of marriage without the state. I conclude that law has to respond to existing social forms according to an idea of justice in domestic relations, and for that reason marriage cannot simply be ‘disestablished’.

Dissertation Summaries

Sookgoo Shin
Ethics in the Gospel of John: Discipleship as Moral Progress
This study seeks to challenge the dominant scholarly view of John’s ethics as an ineffective and unhelpful companion for moral formation. The Gospel of John has been an unwelcome outsider when it comes to the discussion of ethics since it has been accused of being morally bankrupt, not ethical enough to be included in New Testament ethics, and a puzzling book – indeed, a major challenge – for ethical enquiry. No one has been, however, more sceptical about the value of John’s ethics than Wayne Meeks, whose criticisms have contributed significantly to this negative view. In order to demonstrate the inadequacy of such claims, this study aims to identify the undergirding ethical dynamic that shapes John’s moral structure by bringing out the implicit ethical elements that are embedded throughout John’s narratives, and thus suggests a way to read the whole Gospel ethically and appreciatively of its literary characteristics.

Peter Malik
Studies in P.Beatty III (P47): The Codex, Its Scribe, and Its Text
The importance of papyri in NT textual criticism, if properly understood, is difficult to overestimate. Despite their state of preservation, they allowed the critics to move beyond the fourth-century ‘barrier’ of the Constantinian period, in which the earliest ‘Great majuscules’ were produced. The early papyri thus provided a venue for revisiting previous theories concerning transmission history and even some of the ‘canons’ of textual criticism. And perhaps of equal significance is the fact that the early papyri have provided the historians with valuable evidence of early Christian material culture and worship. Although to varying degrees this applies to all the papyri from the pre-Constantinian time, it is particularly true of those from Chester Beatty (P45-47) and Bodmer (P66, 72, 75) collections.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament 5, 2 (2016-2017)


The latest issue of the Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament is now available online. The main articles (listed below with their abstracts) are available from here, with a pdf of the entire issue available here. As always, it’s worth checking out its book reviews as much as anything else.

Andrew E. Steinmann
A Note on the Refrain in Genesis 1: Evening, Morning, and Day as Chronological Summary
The meaning of the refrain in Gen 1 “There was an evening and there was a morning, X day” (Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) has long been in dispute. This paper argues that the refrain is a chronological summary of the preceding text by demonstrating what the syntax and usage of such summaries are in the OT. The phrase then means “In summary there was an evening and then a morning, X day,” thereby encompassing an entire day beginning at sundown and ending at the next sundown. Moreover, the phrase “evening and morning” is further defined in the refrain as a single day.

Drew S. Holland
On the Commonalities of Deuteronomy 13 with Ancient Near Eastern Treaties
This article evaluates the numerous potential influences upon Deut 13 from ancient Near Eastern treaties. After assessing both the features Deut 13 shares with Hittite, Aramean, and neo-Assyrian treaties and the ways in which Deut 13 is distinct from them, it will become apparent that this biblical text shares some significant literary traits with these ANE treaties, but the degree to which it differs from them does not enable us to confirm literary dependence, a claim many scholars have asserted. Rather, Deut 13 expresses a uniquely Israelite treaty style within a general ancient Near Eastern treaty tradition.

Greg Goswell
King and Cultus: The Image of David in the Book of Kings
The image of David in the book of Kings is of a cultically-observant king, who does not commit the sin of idolatry, and, as a result, David becomes the model of proper royal behaviour for all kings that follow. In the theology of Kings there is an essential link between kingship and the temple cultus, and the kings who were like David reformed the cult and suppressed deviant cultic expression. The author of Kings measures and assesses the performance of every king by the rule of whether he supported the primacy of the YHWH and his temple in Jerusalem (of which piety David is the exemplar). It is argued that the image of David found in Kings is not without connection to the memory of David preserved in the preceding book of Samuel. In terms of the fate of the Davidic house in exile and beyond, various features in Kings suggest that the book is at best ambivalent as to the long term future of kingship as an Israelite institution.

Book Reviews

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath


For the Love of God, Volume 1 (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998) is a series of daily reflections by D.A. Carson based on the Bible reading scheme of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Carson notes that one of the psalms for today (Psalm 146) inspired the following hymn by Isaac Watts, which I haven’t sung for years but which I think is wonderful.

I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler pow’rs;
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life and thought and being last,
Or immortality endures.

Why should I make a man my trust?
Princes must die and turn to dust;
Vain is the help of flesh and blood:
Their breath departs, their pomp and pow’r
And thoughts all vanish in an hour,
Nor can they make their promise good.

How happy they whose hopes rely
On Israel’s God, Who made the sky
And earth and seas with all their train:
His truth forever stands secure;
He saves th’ oppressed, He feeds the poor,
And none shall find His promise vain.

The Lord gives eyesight to the blind;
The Lord supports the sinking mind;
He sends the lab’ring conscience peace;
He helps the stranger in distress,
The widow, and the fatherless,
And grants the pris’ner sweet release.

He loves His saints, He knows them well,
But turns the wicked down to hell;
Thy God, O Zion! ever reigns:
Let every tongue, let every age,
In this exalted work engage;
Praise Him in everlasting strains.

I’ll praise Him while He lends me breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler pow’rs;
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life and thought and being last,
Or immortality endures.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) 

Word and World 3 (2017)


Word and World, published by IFES, ‘aims to promote conversation and reflection about God’s Word and God’s World’, seeking ‘to enable those involved in student ministry to be nourished by the gospel and attentive to the world that students inhabit’.

The current issue explores persecution and suffering, from the days of the early church to a variety of modern contexts, including Iraq, Gabon, and Nigeria.