The Apostle’s Creed, by Ben Myers (Gupta)

CreedIn seminary, Dr. Gary Parrett got me hooked on the importance of catechism/Christian education as a fundamental ministry of the church. Parrett introduced me to the Heidelberg Catechism and the teachings of Augustine. He also fostered in me a love for the three big staples of the traditional catechetical diet: the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed. And that love has stuck with me and grown over the fifteen years since I took that course (“The Educational Ministry of the Church”). So much so that I wrote a book on the Lord’s Prayer, and I am co-teaching a course next year based on the Apostles’ Creed.

In comes Ben Myer’s new little book, The Apostles’ Creed. This new series from Lexham Press (“Christian Essentials”) aims to reinvigorate knowledge of and love for great traditions of the Church. Authors have been carefully selected both for their academic knowledge, but also for their ability to introduce and pass on these traditions with grace, wit, and insight, all at an accessible level. And Myers was an excellent choice to launch this series, because he is a fantastic and winsome communicator (#jealous). The book size is very small – like a devotional (its about the size of my hand). So, when I say it is ~130 pages, it feels more like 40-50 pages. In 21 very short chapters (4-6 pages each), he breaks the Creed up into small units of usually a few words. In terms of writing style, I would say it seems very C.S. Lewis-ish, or Alister McGrath, Rowan Williams, Kallistos Ware – learned, but faith-forming, accessible illustrations, etc. Easy to read, fresh and thought-provoking.

Myers does several good things at once—he addresses modern concerns and questions, he engages formative Patristic literature, and he draws from the story of Scripture. This is a masterful model of full interpretive integration, and what some call “Theological Interpretation of Scripture.” Perhaps my favorite little chapter is on the “virgin birth.” Myers says the focus is not on a one-off miracle, but rather a pattern in Scripture: “at the great turning points of history, we find a woman, pregnant, and an infant child brought into the world by the powerful promise of God. Israel’s story is a story of miraculous births [Isaac, Samson, Samuel, etc]” (51). So, in Mary we confess a culmination, the gospel of the uniquely-born Jesus “silhouetted against the backdrop of God’s promise to Abraham, the exodus from Egypt, the rule of the judges, the coming of the prophets, and the promised deliverance from exile” (54). Brilliant reading of Scripture, brilliant creedal emphasis, and now this will stick with me!

My only wish for this book (and series) is that it was longer. The short chapters are just a taste, a thought, a brief word. This is not a full-blown interpretation of the Creed (nor should it be). But I think it would have still been successful and useful to laypeople if it was even twice as long. I eagerly look forward to future volumes, not least my friend Wesley Hill on the Lord’s Prayer!

Academic Books I Want to Read 2018-2019 (Gupta)

I was recently asked what books I have my eye on and want to get for SBL/Christmas[/Valentine’s Day?]. This covers the next six months or so.

Luke Timothy Johnson, Miracles. Interpretation. WJK, Jul 2018.

Michael Gorman, Abide and Go: Missional Theosis in the Gospel of John

Graham

Wipf and Stock, Jul 2018.

David deSilva, The Letter to the Galatians. NICNT repl. Eerdmans, August 2018.

Louise J. Lawrence, The Bible and Bedlam: Madness, Sanism, and NT Interpretation. T&T Clark, Aug 2018. looks to be a fascinating study of mental illness and “sanism” assumptions in the Bible and today.

Rowan Human

Rowan Williams, Being Human: Bodies, Minds, Persons. Eerdmans, Sept 2018. Loved his previous books in this series.

Adam Winn, Reading Mark’s Christology under Caesar, Sept 2018. Extra points for a beautiful cover!Winn.jpg

Craig Blomberg, A New Testament Theology. Baylor Press, Oct 2018. 

Donald Hagner, How New is the New Testament. Baker, Oct 2018.

C. Clifton Black, The Lord’s Prayer. Interpretation. WJK, Nov 2018.

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Gerhard Lohfink, The Our Father: A New Reading, Liturgical, Jan 2019.

Preaching Romans: Four Perspectives (ed. Scot McKnight and Joseph Modica). Eerdmans, Feb 2019. The four views are: Reformational, New Perspective, Apocalyptic, and Participationistic.

 

 

 

Theology Podcasts I Follow (Gupta)

Podcasting

So, this year my commute time to work is longer because I am teaching a class at the Newberg campus twice a week (~45 min away). My friend and dean, Roger Nam, recommended that I check out some good theology podcasts. To be honest, I never much listened to podcasts before, but I am really enjoying it. The following are a mix of older podcasts and newer ones, but all of them are worth checking out.

OnScript – for me, this is the current premier biblical studies podcast. Recently, I have enjoyed episodes with Cynthia Westfall, Susan Eastman, and Scot McKnight. But also check out older episodes with lots of fascinating scholars and topics.

Seminary Dropout -this one offers a mix of theology, ministry, culture, and life; great variety of guests, academic and professional. (I was interviewed a while back, but I am not nearly as interesting as most of their other guests!). A good couple of recent episodes are with AJ Swoboda (“Subversive Sabbath”) and another with Dominique Gilliard (“On How the Church Can Rethink Incarceration and Advocate for Justice that Restores”).

Kingdom Roots – This is Scot McKnight’s theology and ministry podcast. He does a good job weaving together academia and real ministry interests and concerns. A good recent episode interviews my buddy Dennis Edwards (pastor and professor) on 1 Peter.

Weird Religion – OK, this is a brand new podcast show. And—even better—it is hosted by my wonderful colleagues Leah Payne and Brian Doak (George Fox profs). This quirky, interesting, and fun podcast covers religion and pop culture. Payne and Doak are great thinkers, but also just a lot of fun. Also, protip, they use excellent microphone and sound systems, so the sound quality is outstanding.

 

An Innovative Greek Reader Textbook-Part 2 (Gupta)

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Why Galatians

We built our intermediate Greek reader on Galatians. I have used many different kinds of Greek reader textbooks in the past, and even though having different types of texts was pedagogically helpful, it felt very choppy. Most reader walk you through short snippets of biblical and non-biblical texts. There is something especially satisfying for me in reading a whole text from beginning to end. So, we chose to build our textbook with a bulk of reading in a complete text.

But why Galatians in particular?

There are many advantages to strengthening your Greek by reading Galatians. It is relatively easy Greek. Most of the time the syntax is straightforward. Also, it is not too long. Six chapters is digestible in a semester. Thirdly, it happens to be one of the most important pieces of literature in all history. Galatians touches upon lots of important NT concepts foundational to Christian theology. Fourth, within Galatians you have different types of discourses; it begins very narrative heavy (chs 1-2); then you get more argumentation (chs 3-4), and it ends with paraenesis and more concentrated “epistle-y” material (chs 5-6). Lastly, it was especially helpful that Galatians contains numerous interactions with the Septuagint. (More on that in the next post)

To be honest, though, I chose Galatians as the main text of the reader because I love it. I am writing a commentary on Galatians and this project gave me a chance to dig deep into the Greek text with the help of my students. I have the luxury of setting up classroom experiences where I get to learn from my students and then utilize those insights in my research and writing.

An Innovative Greek Reader Textbook—Part 1 (Gupta)

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Since Thursday, the new intermediate Greek textbook I co-edited (with a group of my students) has now been downloaded almost 1000 times. I have received words of appreciation and positive feedback from students and Greek nerds in places such as New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Korea, Ethiopia, England, Scotland, India, Canada, Japan, and Brazil. Why? Not because I am famous or anything like that. I believe this textbook is getting attention and recognition because it is a high quality product that fits a major need, and because it is an open access textbook it is available to anyone in the world for free. That is pretty exciting.

In further posts in this series I will talk about why this book is special, but right now I want to talk a bit about how this book came to be. We at Portland Seminary wanted to re-envision how seminary can serve students beyond the old confines of traditional papers and exams. We had a why not attitude. Why not prod our students to dream big? Why not teach our students how to be creative and make something beautiful, excellent, practical, and affordable?

So we did.

When took intermediate Greek in seminary on the east coast, we read a textbook and did quizzes and tests. Fine. But boring.

I wondered—what if we work together to create something we can be proud of, something we can give away. Now, with GoogleDocs, we had the technology to work together from a distance and collaborate. The students (8 in all) worked week by week, reading through Wallace and Mathewson/Emig, and studying Galatians (more on that in a later post). They translated and parsed everything in Galatians, and then created study notes to help others. It’s pretty simple—learn by doing. And knowing it would be published put some pressure on them that they can’t be sloppy, they had to check, double-check, and triple-check their work (and check each other’s work). They felt like professionals. We had a team of librarians, Greek editors, design folks, copyeditors, and consultants help to produce this book.

We (the students and I) distinctly recognized our privileged position – American grad students with the money, time, and luxury of graduate theological education. And we recognized the great need in the world for good, affordable resources. So it makes me proud that the students left the course with the empowered feeling of using their privilege, education, and energy to give away a resource for free. Not a cheap, crappy, “clickbait” resource, but something that took over 1000 combined hours, involved numerous professionals with advanced degrees, all the while meeting program and course objectives and helping prepare these students for lifelong study of Greek.

So now that this book has been live for about a week, the next question is: how can we do this kind of thing again, and again?

My Free Greek Reader Textbook Now Available (Gupta)

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I am excited to announce the publication of Intermediate Biblical Greek Reader: Galatians and Related Texts. This book is an open-access textbook, which means that it is free to download and read through the George Fox digital commons. In the academic year 2017-2018, I taught an advanced Greek seminar with 8 students. Their main project was writing this Greek reader (via GoogleDocs). This textbook is designed for students who have already learned the basics of Biblical Greek grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. IBGR offers guidance for reading through the entire text of Galatians. Then, it guides the student through “related” Greek texts, such as the wider context of LXX passages that Paul quotes in Galatians, the faith/works section of James 2, and a reading from John Chrysostom’s homilies on Galatians. There are also chapters on the basics of textual criticism with examples in Galatians, and the book concludes with a short discussion of Marcion’s redaction of Galatians.

This textbook is designed for both group study (there are discussion questions in each chapter) and independent study. In each chapter, the Greek text is given, followed by study notes that include grammar and syntax helps and reminders, vocab for rare words, and other helpful textual notes. There are several lengthy theological “word studies” of important terms in Galatians such as faith, works of the law, and gospel.

This textbook was funded by the George Fox University library as well as the Open Textbook Network/Library. It is free to everyone forever. I am proud of Portland Seminary and GFU’s commitment to affordable education and the free sharing of knowledge. Please pass this book information on to teachers and students of Greek!