Teach the Text of 1 Corinthians with Preben Vang (Book Review by Gupta)

Vang TT 1 CorI am excited to following the earliest releases of the new commentary series from Baker called “Teach the Text.” This series focuses on directing pastors and Bible teachers regarding the interpretation, basic message, and potential illustrations for biblical texts. The late Dick France did a fantastic job on Luke. Recently, the volume on 1 Corinthians was released (authored by Preben Vang).

I am not going to go into a detailed discussion (see my discussion of the series here).I will briefly mention that “exegesis” is kept to a minimum, because the purpose is to keep sections succint and focus on (surprise, surprise) teaching the text. So, three key sections are included in each chapter: “theological insights,” “teaching the text,” and “illustrating the text.” Along those lines, there are lots of great photos and images of art for inspiring illustrations. Here are a couple of interesting things I found in Vang’s work

On the ever-controversial “headcovering” passages (ch. 11), Vang does a great job navigating these waters. He takes the view that female headcoverings signaled married status and it was getting confusing in the church (which met in homes) whether or not women had to wear their marital coverings as they did in public. Vang argues that the house-church patroness could be unveiled in her own home and show off her wealth. Her friends (who were probably also wealthy) could remove their veils at church. But what about other women there at church? For Vang, this could easily create social divisions in the church. Not sure if Vang has enough evidence in favor of this view, but this is possible.

I am more impressed with his discussion of “head” imagery in 11:3

God is the head of Christ because Christ bears the mark of exclusive relationship to God. Christ is the head of the Christian man for the same reason, and the husband is likewise for his wife…A women should cover her head; the veil is her sign of exclusive relationship to her husband. Taking off her veil suggests that her relationship to her husband is less than exclusive (148)

This is an angle on this text I have not heard before. Food for thought.

On a later text (1 Cor 15:50-58), Vang writes this in his “Theological Insights”

Christian discipleship is not empowered by a new set of rules to follow or commandments to obey. Rather, the believer’s continuous motivation to imitate Christ is his or her ongoing participation in Christ’s victory over evil. Resurrection guarantees that this victory will be ultimate. (221)

I want to give an important caveat to pastors about using this commentary series. While it is extremely handy (and I look forward to collecting more), consulting these is not meant to replace personal study of the Bible for preaching and teaching. I would suggest (1) personal exegetical study of the text, then (2) consulting helpful reference works (dictionaries, lexicons), then (3) detailed exegetical commentaries (like Fitzmyer, Thiselton, Fee), then (4) a good theological commentary (like Chrysostom, Calvin, Hays), and then (5) Vang for clarification, fresh ideas, and to make sure you got the central theological ideas. Sure, if you are asked to preach tomorrow, you might have to go straight to #4 and #5, but please make personal, careful, deep, close reading of the text your first step (with much prayer).

Back to Vang – the study of 1 Corinthians is an interpretive minefield and I wondered whether Vang could pull it off – and he did! This is a very impressive work that demonstrates careful reasoning at the historical, literary, and theological levels.

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Doug Moo’s Galatians Commentary – Review P4 (Gupta)

Moo GalAfter a couple weeks away from Doug Moo’s commentary, I am back again to discussion his notes on Galatians chapter 3.

3:1 (“evil eye”) – is Paul being rhetorical or is he being serious about the Galatians being bewitched? For Moo, “The truth probably lies between these views.” I think this is a reasonable proposal. (181)

3:2 (“hearing accompanied by faith”) – I like Moo’s translation here, but even better I like one of the options he mentions in his discussion – “the ‘hearing’ that Christians call faith” (epexegetical) (p. 183).

3:6 (Abraham believed) – Moo writes, “The meaning of this passage is disputed, but it is best taken to mean that God graciously viewed Abraham’s faith as having in itself fulfilled all that God expected of Abraham in order for him to be in the right before God” (188). I think Moo would be right if the text said “Abraham believed God and God declared him righteous,” but the impression I get from the use of logizomai is that his faith was allowed to “count” (as credit) for something else (i.e., obedience, or demonstrated righteousness). Moo directs God’s “counting” backwards based on what Abraham had already done (“fulfilled,” “expected”), but I think the whole nature of the Genesis and Pauline text is forward looking – it is about what is guaranteed to continue in the future because of the prospective nature of faith itself.

3:9 (Abraham, the “man of faith”) – Moo takes pistos here as “believing,” hence “man of faith.” He does this because Paul has been contrasting faith and works, and translating pistos as “faithful” (a more natural meaning of the word) would confuse things by place Abraham back on the “works” end. I can see why Moo would be worried about this, but I think the word choice for Paul is strategic, and it is misleading to the English reader to obscure the fact that Paul chooses this word that can be used for both sides (faith or faithfulness). I think Paul is trying to score an extra point (hard won, but worth it), but saying that, even if Abraham is the “man who believes and trusts in God,” it is altogether appropriate to call him the faithful Abraham. I know Moo is following many translations on interpreting pistos as “believing/faith,” but here I think practically only the KJV gets it right: “blessed with the faithful Abraham.”

3:20 (“the mediator is not of one”) – for Moo being a translation expert, I am shocked he chose a translation (“the mediator is not of one”) that is so wooden and inelegant. I checked and no modern translation I use follows this confusing phrasing. I think Moo’s rendering is close to NASB: “a mediator is not for one party only.” but I would prefer that over Moo’s option.

3:16 (Paul referring to “seed” passages from Gen 15-17). Moo tries to make sense of how Paul is reading Genesis, especially in ways modern readers might find dubious. Moo writes:

…while Paul’s claim resembles Jewish interpretation of his day at the level of his exegetical technique, he is, in fact, operating with certain hermeneutical axioms that provide warrant for his interpretation. Especially important is Paul’s reading of salvation history as the story of how God’s promises become concentrated in one person, Christ, the seed, through whom those promises become applicable to the worldwide people. (p. 230)

I am not in disagreement with any of this, but it still doesn’t address the questions of (1) was Paul trying to be faithful to the original context and (2) is this a hermeneutical approach that we today should repeat?

3:24 (“paidagogos” = “guardian”). Moo opts for English translation of “guardian.” Nothing really works well here (custodian, tutor, schoolmaster). Tough to get this right in English!

3:26 (uiou theou) – I appreciate Moo’s discussion of how to translate this. Some translations render it “children of God” (for gender-sensitive reasons), but I concur with Moo that “it runs the risk of missing some of the connotation that Paul intends.” (250)

“Sonship” in the Greco-Roman world symbolized a certain status and right of inheritance. The language of “sons” also highlights the significant organic connection between Christ as “the son” and Christians. As applied to women, then, Paul’s point would be that they can now enjoy, equally with men, the status of being “sons.” (250)

Evaluation

As you can tell from the above notes, my impression is mixed. I like a good many things in this commentary and the best word for most of his notes is “sound.” But I feel like some of his assertions are poorly (or too briefly) argued – especially those related to see believing vs. working in Galatians as a master theme. More to come!

 

Where Do You Stand on Greek Verb Tense-Forms – Take the Poll (Gupta)

In a couple of weeks I am gearing up to teach NT Greek. I have generally just defaulted to the Mounce approach to keep things simple when it comes to the meaning and significance of tense, but the whole Porter-Fanning Debate has attracted my interest in the last few years. I am curious how all of you approach and think about the tense-form issues. Take the poll and let’s see where folks stand.

Which of the following best represents the significance of (indicative) tense-forms in Greek? (the poll below is modified from a table by Andrew Naselli, “A Brief Introduction to Verbal Aspect in NT Greek,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 12 [2007] 17-28, at 20)