Nov 2011 Expository Times


An interesting dialogue on eating meat…

Logos Soars to New Heights with Perseus Collection

I have had Logos Software for a good while (about 6-7 years) and I basically have used it to consult commentaries. It has streamlined its searching and cross-referencing features in recent years to make it easier, but essentially it has served me as an online library. When I heard about the addition of the Perseus Collection of classical texts I thought, “Big deal, so they added some more free books…”

Boy, I did not realize what they were offering! Now there is a convenient way to do Greek New Testament (and LXX) word studies that not only give you material from other parts of Scripture (or Josephus or Philo or the Greek Pseudepigrapha), but a huge collection of classical literature! This is awesome!

Since I am working with Colossians, let me give some examples.

In Col 2:11 we have the word ἀχειροποιητος (made without hands) which only appears in the NT in Mark 14:58, 2 Cor 5:1 and Col 2:11. It is not in the LXX (though χειροποιητος does appear). Not in Philo or the Pseudepigrapha. It is not in the massive Perseus collection of Classical texts. That is a big deal. It makes me wonder, if we have a pseudepigrapher at work in Colossians (which I am not convinced we do), how did he happen upon this word? Interesting. Knowing its extreme rarity (even in the Classical literature) is very useful.

Take the word ἀγνιζομαι (I struggle), which occurs 8 times in the NT (mostly in Paul). But it occurs a whopping 900+ times in Classical literature. Think about how useful it is to have all these texts, easily searchable and readable (many in Greek and English) at your disposal – instantly! Amazing!

The word θρησκεια (as in “worship of angels”) has long perplexed scholars. Are humans worshipping angels or are humans worshipping God like the angels? The trouble with the nature of this debate is that we are treating this “worship” word as if it were a synonym of proskuneo, which it is not. It means something more like way of religion or manner of worship. In that sense, offering worship to angels doesn’t make sense when it comes to the use of this word. Let’s take an example (which I found using Logos’s Perseus Search feature). In Herodotus’ Histories (2.37.3), he is referring to Egyptian priests.

They are religious beyond measure, more than any other people; and the following are among their customs. They drink from cups of bronze, which they clean out daily; this is done not by some but by all. [2] They are especially careful always to wear newly-washed linen. They practise circumcision for cleanliness’ sake; for they would rather be clean than more becoming. Their priests shave the whole body every other day, so that no lice or anything else foul may infest them as they attend upon the gods. [3] The priests wear a single linen garment and sandals of papyrus:93 they may have no other kind of clothing or footwear. Twice a day and twice every night they wash in cold water. Their religious observances are, one may say, innumerable. (Histories)

Here, the word θρησκεια does not refer to “worship” as in “spiritual devotion” as much as “religious observances,” specifically in view of what Herodotus mentioned before. This is the manner or style of worship that the noun communicates. In this sense, I believe Colossians is referring to a worship style similar to the angels which is in keeping with a  subjective genitive interpretation for ἀγγελος.

Another example. In Col 1:24, a highly controversial passage in Colossians, the verb ἀνταναπληρω (I fill up) is used in reference to filling up what was lacking with respect to Christ’s afflictions. What was missing in this that needed filled and how did Paul fill it? One of the challenges is that this verb is exceptionally rare. Not elsewhere in NT/LXX or Hellenistic Jewish Literature. The Perseus Collection has only one occurrence: Demonsthenes’ Speeches 10, On the Navy. Demosthenes outlines a plan to recruit eligible men for a sea vessel. He give specific plans for the division of groups on the vessel. He uses the verb ἀνταναπληρω once (Speeches, On the Navy 17) when he refers to “filling up for those with means (wealth) those without means, to keep the balance.” Here, “filling up” is not about a a failure of some kind, as much as recognizing a need for balance. He wants to set a balance of wealthy and poor in each subdivision in the vessel. Could this help with our interpretation of Colossians 1:24? There, the language of “lack” or “missing” is more explicit, but perhaps the “lack” is balance? I don’t know, but since this is the only other occurrence of the word in so much literature (Jewish and classical), it is worth our attention.

A final example. In Colossians 1:14, Paul uses the language of Christ giving “redemption” (ἀπολυτρωσις). Typically, this is thought of as a word that comes from slavery – of freedom from enslavement (like slave market imagery or Exodus imagery). When you look up this word in Perseus Logos search, you get one hit: Plato’s Laws (919a). Plato, in this discourse, is talking about the selfishness of humankind when it comes to retail and hospitality.

But as things are now, whenever a man has planted his house, with a view to retail trade, in a desert place and with all the roads from it lengthy, if in this welcome lodging he receives travellers in distress, providing tranquillity and calm to those buffeted by fierce storms or restful coolness after torrid heat,—the next thing is that, instead of treating them as comrades and providing friendly gifts as well as entertainment, he holds them ransom, as if they were captive foemen in his hands, demanding very high sums of unjust and unclean ransom-money (919a)

Our noun, ἀπολυτρωσις, appears as “ransom” here, but I am also interested in the language of “captive foemen” which is “ἐχθρους αἰχμαλωτους,” both words appearing in Colossians (or cognates of them). Paul refers to himself rather indirectly as αἰχμαλωτος when he refers to Aristarchus as  συναιχμαλωτος (4:10). Could the imagery of 1:14, then, of “redemption” be about freeing prisoners? this would be ironic in Paul’s case, as he stays a literal prisoner, but it alludes to his true freedom in Christ that no human chain can restrict. While making this connection could be a bit tenuous, I found the connection between prisoner and redemption interesting and fitting for Colossians.

In any case, whether you appreciate the connections I have noticed or not, the point is that Logos has made these classical resources accessible and I, for one, am deeply thankful. Do sign up for them when they are available and dig in!

Confessions of a (Former!) Bible Snob

When I was in Seminary, it seemed liked there were 4 kinds of students. The “ministry” students. The “Bible” students. The “counseling” students. And the “theology” students.

I was a “Bible” student, so I took a lot of language courses (Aramaic, Akkadian, Latin, German, French, Greek/Hebrew, etc.). I took exegesis courses. Bible backgrounds. Hermeneutics. Advanced hermeneutics…And I avoided “theology” courses like the plague. No Luther. No “systematics” (except what I had to take). No “Christology” course (because it wasn’t taught by a Bible prof). I was a Bible snob.

I have changed a lot in the past 7 years and I repent of my former anti-theological idiocy. How I wish I could go back and take Gordon Isaac’s Bonhoeffer or Luther class! Or a course on philosophical theology from Richard Lints. I came to realize that we cannot ignore the Church when we study the Bible, or the impact of history and theological thinking in the past 2000 years. In fact, there is much wisdom in embracing and learning from theologians of the past. (This may seem like a “duh” idea, but it is rather new for me).

Why am I saying this now? (I had an epiphany about this a few years back now). In my Colossians commentary there is a “connections” section where I will engage the text theologically and for preaching/application. So, to show my penance for so many years looking down on “theologians,” here is the list of books I just checked out at the library and which I plan on incorporating into my research on Colossians.

Prayer (Hans Urs von Balthasar)

God and the Art of Happiness (Ellen Charry)

Incarnation (Alister McGrath)

Incarnation (T.F. Torrance)

The Humanity of God (Barth)

The Crucified God (Moltmann)

God Incarnate (Oliver Crisp)

And, of course, I will include a good amount from my new favorite theologian Bonhoeffer. I plan on working through some of Miroslav Volf’s work on reconciliation, and on the Trinity in due time.

I know, for those “theologians” out there, this the tip of a huge iceberg, but it is a start.

Still, I wanted to make the confession to warn others who may have been or are like I was  – take that “theology” class that looks interesting! Explore new horizons! If you have patience and an open mind, there is much to be gained!

First JSPL issue is out! Great articles!

Yesterday, I received in the mail the first official issue of the new Eisenbrauns periodical Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters. This first issue is rather long with 8 excellent articles (two of them reviews of Doug Campbell’s Deliverance of God, and a third Campbell’s response). The first article is the “sample” article we previewed at SBL – Susan Eastman’s lucid, creative, and illuminating study of Philippians 2:6-11 from a theatrical perspective.

My favorite article in this issue is Mike Gorman’s Justification and Justice in Paul” which underscores the theological importance of social justice in the apostle’s theology. His argument is cogent and very important to understanding the significance of Paul’s theology of “justification” and its implications.

There is a very short, but useful, update on the planned excavations of Colossae, written by Michael Trainor.

All in all, this is a very impressive issue (with pieces by Richard Bell and Paul Foster as well). May I just say that a subscription is a mere $30 for the year (2 issues). Compare that to a prominent NT journal (that will remain nameless) that is $289 a year! With this unnamed journal, the cost of downloading one article is $30 (no kidding)! So, while we do not have the reputation (yet) of an elite journal, we do have very reputable scholars on our board and you can’t beat the price.

Please ask your librarian to consider subscribing, if you are not interested in a personal subscription. We have some great things coming down the pipeline. You won’t be disappointed! Thank you Eisenbrauns and thank you editorial board and authors!


“Philippians 2:6-11: Incarnation as Mimetic Participation” (Susan Eastman)

“Justification and Justice in Paul, with Special Reference to the Corinthians” (Michael Gorman)

“Reading Romans with Arthur Schopenhauer: Some First Steps towards a Theology of Mind” (Richard Bell)

“The Eschatology of the The Thessalonian Correspondence: An Exercise in Pastoral Pedagogy and Constructive Theology” (Paul Foster)

“The Deliverance of God, and of Paul?” (Chris Tilling)

“Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God: A Review by a Friendly Critic” (Michael Gorman)

“What is at Stake in the Reading of Romans 1-3? An Elliptical Response to the Concerns of Gorman and Tilling” (Douglas Campbell)

“Colossae: The State of Forthcoming Excavations” (Michael Trainor)

Study Joshua and Judges with me online!

At Seattle Pacific University we have a Center for Biblical and Theological Education that began, last year, a campus and world-wide four-year plan of studying Scripture together. Each quarter of the year, a faculty member of SPU serves as a guide through a 10-week study of a book (or book set) from Scripture (see here). This is called Lectio and we are beginning the second year. In the fall, we study the Old Testament, and I volunteered to guide the school and worldwide readers through Joshua and Judges. I am no expert when it comes to Ancient Near Eastern studies or Akkadian or Ugaritic or form or source criticism of the OT. But I do love the whole Bible and I have learned immensely from this experience and I bring to these texts a perspective from the NT and a missional mindset and spirit.

To learn more about CBTE, see here.

There will be opportunities, as you get a weekly guide” to the assigned text (like a short theological commentary), to ask questions and engage with me through the CBTE website. Consider starting a Bible study with your neighbors, family, friends, or co-workers. We have gotten great feedback on how this project has been encouraging as Christians seek to make time for study and learning from the Bible in the midst of life.