Baylor Annotated Study Bible – Quick Review (Gupta)

Confession: I really don’t like study Bibles all that much. They are bulky and awkward. The notes can feel random and incomplete sometimes. So, I don’t tend to follow which new ones are coming out.

But when Baylor announced their Baylor Annotated Study Bible with Bill Bellinger and Todd Still in the editorial roles, I took interest. Yesterday, I got the BASB in the mail, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts.

First, it is nicely designed, big (2000 pages) but not awkwardly bulky. It is NRSV with Apocrypha which is great for students. Perhaps the question on everyone’s mind is: who wrote the study notes? There are two main features of the BASB: the book introductions and the study notes. The book introductions are written by a number of senior scholars in the field including John Barclay, Alan Culpepper, Joel Green, Richard Hays, Scot McKnight, Todd Still, and NT Wright (the contributors list is long, but remarkably few women, which surprised me). As for the study notes, they are written mostly by early and mid-career scholars, with a few exceptions (e.g., McKnight did notes for Romans as well as the introduction).

Another handy features of the BASB is the end-of-book glossary of ~100 pp, which is a kind of Bible dictionary.

The Apocryphal books are at the very end of the book, but unfortunately they did not supply study notes for these texts.

How handy are the notes for the (traditional) Biblical books? From poking around here and there, I found the notes to be more literary-theological, rather than historical-critical. Although, historical insights are included sometimes as well. I like notes to express consensus views in scholarship rather than the author’s personal take, and the BASB does well on this also.

Verdict? if you are looking to invest in a more theologically-interested academic study Bible, this one is pretty good. Don’t expect it to offer commentary-level information, but for personal use it would provide some “value added” to Bible study.

Interview with Craig Keener on Christobiography

Craig Keener (Asbury Seminary) has a new book out called Christobiography: Memory, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels (Eerdmans, 2019).

Dr. Keener was kind enough to answer some questions about his new work.

Q1: How did you become interested in studying and discussing the genre of the Gospels in depth for this book?
 CK: Maybe around 1980 Ben Aker, one of my undergraduate professors, taught a course on special hermeneutics, using a textbook by Grant Osborne. I wasn’t in that class, but I was intrigued by what I heard about it, especially exploring different genres. I was already intrigued by apocalyptic, but the subject of genres more generally (explored back then also by Fee and Stuart’s book, which influenced me a lot) got me thinking about the Gospels as biographies. Of course this was also a hot topic of discussion during my PhD work at Duke, and Richard Burridge’s influential work about the Gospels as biographies put the subject in the center of the map. I had of course read Suetonius and some other biographers from the early empire, but began delving into Plutarch as well (following the example of my colleague Mark Matson).
 When I wrote my Gospels commentaries, I was building on that approach, but I took for granted that everybody knew what ancient biographies were like–as if everybody else must have read Suetonius et al. as well. I soon discovered that NT scholars already have way too much to read, and most of them were not very familiar with ancient biographies, and certainly not what implications this genre assignment might have for historical reliability. There was more that I needed to learn as well. I conducted some further explorations, but I assumed it would take me years to finish all of them. In one doctoral seminar on the historical Jesus, however, I suggested some needed topics and a number of my doctoral students agreed to research different ancient biographers and then bring together our findings. We published a collection of those findings, so we could all build on what the others had found (and properly credit one another for the other’s findings). That provided a broader foundation to work from. By then, my friend Mike Licona, whose interests in ancient biography had long overlapped with mine, published with Oxford on Gospel differences and Plutarch, and provided more to work with. There is of course more to be done, and some of my doctoral students are developing dissertations in some of these areas.
Q2: What are some key arguments you make in Christobiography? How do you hope to move the discussion forward on the Gospels and the study of Jesus?
CK: A number of scholars are more skeptical of the Gospels’ portraits of Jesus than the evidence warrants. If someone wrote a biography today about a figure who lived fifty years ago, we wouldn’t start with the assumption that events fifty years ago are shrouded in legend and therefore reject any claim that we could not prove. We might be more optimistic if it were verified elsewhere, but we wouldn’t have reason to simply dismiss its claims a priori unless we found consistent errors. Ancient biographies differed from modern biographies; many of the alleged “problems” in the Gospels fit ancient biographic and other ancient literary conventions. These may be problems for readers who want everything verbatim and in sequence but they are not problems from the standpoint of what the Gospels’ first audiences would have expected based on their experience with other works. Moreover, when you have biographies from the early Roman empire written within living memory of their subjects (as the Gospels are), these biographies are full of information and bound to sources. More often than not, we have good reason to believe that the authors believed that the events they reported actually happened. Are they likely correct in that assumption? Here I look at the character of ancient memory to address the oral period before the Jesus biographies.
Q3: After researching and writing this long book (!), what are lingering questions or perplexities you have about the genre of the Gospels?
CK: It’s not long compared to my Acts commentary. 🙂 Where does each Gospel writer lie on the spectrum of fidelity/fixity and flexibility that ancient biography allowed? Our recent work establishes some of the contours of the spectrum, but more research is needed. Each writer tweaks genre in their own ways. Luke combines biography and historiography (Luke-Acts). Mark may have never looked at another biography. There is material that Matthew and Luke share in common that focuses more on teaching, like collections of sages’ teaching. But after learning more about the sort of information that persists within living memory, I have become especially fascinated by early second-century Christian writers such as Papias and Polycarp. They did not write within living memory of Jesus, but they did write within living memory of the writing of our Gospels. What they tell us whets our appetite, and what they don’t is tantalizing. And of course there are new issues in historiography in general, from the importance of rhetoric to postmodern philosophic concerns about historiography. There are many more issues to be addressed.
Q4: Now that this project is out, what are you working on next? 
CK: In process is a one-volume, paperback version of my Acts commentary, with Cambridge; also a collection of essays on Acts, with Cascade; I am finishing up a commentary on 1 Peter for Baker Academic, and my biggest project, which should take a few years, is an ICC commentary on Mark for T&T Clark. So it might look like I have a lot coming out at the moment, but there will be some lean years ahead as I work on a long project. As I get older, time is an increasingly precious commodity. So much to do, and only so much time. May we number our days well and devote all our resources to what is of lasting value.
NKG: Thanks, Dr Keener, for sharing your thoughts.
CK: Thank you for interviewing me. Always a pleasure and a privilege to be with you, Nijay! Blessings!


Book Giveaway Contest: Prepare, Succeed, Advance Second Edition (Gupta)

If you would like a free copy of my new book, Prepare, Succeed, Advance (Second Edition 2019), enter the contest to win.


  1. In the comment section, post a question for me about doctoral studies, research, the biblical studies guild (etc.)—I will do a Q & A post later on.

  2. Also, follow me on Twitter (or acknowledge in the comment that you already do)

  3. Anyone can ask a question, but I can only mail this copy within the USA. Note that you have a US mailing address in the comment.

  4. In about a week I will randomly select a winner.


Launch Day: 1-2 Thessalonians Zondervan Critical Introductions (Gupta)

It’s not a commentary. It’s not a basic introduction. So what is it? It is a critical guide to the key issues in the study of a particular NT book.

About seven years ago, Mike Bird approached me with this project. He inspired me to do two things: (1) research and write this volume on the level of something in the Anchor-Yale reference series and (2) read every academic writing on 1-2 Thess in English written after 1984 (and the most importance works in German and French). Bottom line: this is not your grandparents’ critical introduction. The works cited contains several hundred items and on a rough calculation this took me about 2000 hours to research and write. The exciting part is that Zondervan has made this work very affordable compared to what a university press might charge.

What kind of topics are covered? Think of injecting the introduction to a commentary with (very healthy, legal) steroids. This series treats matters like text-critical issues, Greek style, genre, structure, historical background, methods of study, major exegetical debates, key theological themes, most influential scholars and scholarship, and history of interpretation and reception.

What are some of the key debates that are covered?

  • Did Paul write 2 Thessalonians?
  • Did Paul write 1 Thess 2:14-16? Is this passage anti-semitic?
  • What was the situation that gave rise to 1 Thess? 2 Thess?
  • How are 1 Thess and 2 Thess related?
  • Who is the Man of Lawlessness? The Restrainer?
  • Is 1 Thess 5:3 (“peace and security”) a reference to a Roman slogan (pax et securitas)?

and much more!

Thanks to Mike Bird and Katya Covrett for the hundreds of hours they have poured into dreaming up this series and launching it. As I was writing this book, I kept thinking, I would love to get my hands on ZCINT Romans, ZCINT Galatians, or ZCINT Revelation.


Find out more information here.

Prepare, Succeed, Advance: Second Edition Now Available (Gupta)

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 9.26.52 AM.png

The second edition of my Prepare, Succeed, Advance (Cascade, 2019) is now available for purchase. There are several updates and new sections.

Updates: GRE, recommended programs, applying for jobs and interviewing, becoming a more effective teacher

New Sections: online/distance PhD programs, doctoral exams, creating a guild more welcoming to women and people of color

Here are the endorsements for the second edition:

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 9.44.52 AM.png

Here are some testimonials for the first edition

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 9.45.52 AM


Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 22 (Gupta)

This is the final post in this series (22). If you want to catch up on or look at old posts, go to the INDEX.

My Hopes for the Women in Ministry Conversation

What do you hope to achieve? I have been asking myself this question for the last 3 weeks, as I have produced these 20+ posts. What difference does it make? I am not the first person to make these arguments. I stand on the should of giants like Keener, Witherington, Bauckham, Cohick, Westfall, Fee, Belleville, Marshall, Reid, and others. And I know for many Christian leaders out there, they are settled into their views of men-leadership only, and I can’t blame them, I too am confident in my view of shared (women and men together) leadership. But here are my hopes.

For Those Who Believe Women Cannot be Pastors, Elders, Preachers, or Teachers over a Mixed Congregation of Men and Women

I hope you will find ways to listen carefully to women in your church. If you don’t permit them to teach or preach, ask women to pray up front and give their testimonies about what God is doing in their life. Women and men in the church need to see faithful women of God up front as part of the people of God in shared ministry. Women can do much more than sing and play piano. They have words of wisdom to share, even as laypeople. Let them be seen and heard.

Even as you thank women in your church for serving behind the scenes, also get to know how they do evangelism in everyday life, what they are up to as they lead Bible studies, and as they regularly give wise counsel to others.

For Those Who Are On the Fence about Women in Ministry

Take the “Gupta” wager. I believe you will lose more by taking the risk of restricting women from vocal and executive leadership (in shared ministry) than if you allow them. You could be wrong. I could be wrong. But I am willing to meet my Maker with a clear conscience that I believe Scripture isn’t 100% clear on this, and I need to act according to conviction and wise counsel. Since I have believed in women in ministry (~2004), I have been impressed with virtually all of the women elders, pastors, and teachers I have encountered. I did not turn into a crazy liberal. I still love Jesus, the Bible, and the Church.

Read more, study more, and stay in the conversation. Talk to women pastors about their discernment of ministry and their experiences. 

For Men and Women Who Support Women in Ministry

Be vocal, encourage and thank the women around you, advocate for them, tell them their sermon was good if you thought so. It is easy to underestimate the amount of negative feedback women receive as women leaders in ministry. They get criticized on outfits, hair, makeup, their voice, their mannerisms, etc. Men walk out of sermons by women sometimes. People occasionally yell negative things. And don’t forget harassment on social media. Send positive emails and notes—things women leaders can read over again to remind themselves they are not alone.

For Women Leaders and Pastors

Be encouraged—many of us think your vocation and the use of your gifts are biblical and fruitful! 

Why I Believe in Women in Ministry: Part 21 (Gupta)

Answers to Questions


How do we know when commands in Scripture are universal vs. contextually limited/cultural?

Often we can sense it based on context (“do not commit adultery”—that’s clearly universal!). But sometimes it is very difficult because the Bible contains so many different genres and you extrapolate ethics somewhat differently based on that. When it comes to Paul’s letters, there are a few ways to be sure—repetition: do we see it in several contexts? Clear and common language; or, the put it the other way around, when Paul uses rare and unusual terms or vocabulary, it leads one to believe the situation is more restricted. On this particular issue, I find the central texts (1 Cor 11, 14, 1 Tim 2) have such peculiar arguments and vocabulary that it hardly proves universal barring of women in ministry leadership. On some of the methodological matters, see my article: “Mirror-Reading Moral Issues in Paul.”

What do you think about wives’ submission in the home? 

I believe Scripture’s ideal is stated in Eph 5:21: mutual submission. I’m not even really sure what female “submission” would look like. My wife and I talk through and share all decisions. Sometimes I go with what she wants, sometimes (perhaps often) she goes with my preference, because she is very generous and thoughtful. On “big” issues, I can’t imagine it would be helpful for me to dictate to her anything. I can confess I often lack common sense, and she is very wise, so I trust her. At home, I do the cooking, she does laundry and cleaning, she does a lot of the yard work, I get the cars serviced and pay bills—we don’t care much for traditional gender roles in the home. What works is that we both try to live out the fruit of the Spirit in our marriage, and we have a happy marriage. We are just husband and wife working together to live for Christ. We have our challenges like anyone else, but power dynamics is not one of them. (Craig Keener has a nice little essay on mutual submission)

Is women in ministry a make-or-break issue? What is at stake? 

I would not go as far as saying that my complementarian friends are unsaved or preaching heresy. But I think that if our churches are 60% women, and we cut them out of decision-making in the church, and we silence their powerful voices, that comes at a high price and leaves the church diminished and weak. I will have a final post on what my hopes are for this issue in the future.

If I read just one book on the subject to learn more, what do you recommend?

If you have the time and know a bit already about the subject, read Discovering Biblical Equality. If you are newer to the discussion, read Derek and Dianne Tidball’s The Message of Women.

If shared ministry (men and women) is the ideal, how did the church so quickly become patriarchal in its dominant forms?

That is not my expertise, I must confess, but I would say that the NT doesn’t come right out and say, “Hey, make women pastors!” It sets the foundation and sows the seeds for it, and the 2nd century and 3rd century Christians needed to move that idea forward, and by and large, they didn’t. I think church tradition has its place, we need to respect the decisions of those who came before us, but we know they weren’t always right. There are some amazing female voices from the Patristic world that we have neglected. Learn more about Macrina the Younger.

What are the most effective tools to create change in the church around this issue?

Writing books has been our usual tactic, and that is good, of course, but it is not enough. This is not going to sound very theological, but I have learned that for change to be widespread, we need to influence influencers. That means gracious and trust-filled conversations with soft complementarians. That means developing relationships with those with whom we disagree, avoiding lobbing grenades, rejecting name-calling, speaking with respect. This can be hard sometimes, but it is the only way to earn a voice.