Use of Original Languages in Preaching and Teaching

IMG_0670It is a huge blessing to be able to study the Bible in its original languages. There are connections you can make that aren’t always as obvious in English translations. There is a temptation to take the results of studying the original languages dump it all into a class or sermon. There are a lot of reasons that is tempting. Some are harmless reasons but others are harmful. It is easy to assume that everyone finds interesting the same things we do. They may not. It is also easy to assume that digging deeper requires increased complexity. It doesn’t. An effective preacher will have discretion on which things support and clarify the point and which things are distractions that muddy the water. I appreciate the preacher who uses the result of studying the original languages sparingly but effectively. It takes a lot of wisdom to know when it is beneficial for the congregation and when it actually detracts.

In Brian Chapell’s book Christ-Centered Preaching (one of the best books on preaching I have ever read) he writes,

“Preaching should never be an excuse to display our erudition at the expense of convincing listeners that they can never really understand what Scripture says because they read only English. We are obligated to explain exegetical insights in such a way that they make the meaning of a text more obvious, not more remote.” – Christ-Centered Preaching, 124

There are two things I really like about Chapell’s statement. The first is that he uses “erudition” and “exegetical” in a statement about making things easy to understand. The second and more important point he makes is that everything that is communicated in preaching should be aimed at increasing the listeners’ understanding of Scripture. It is not about sounding clever. It is not about being funny for humor’s sake. It is making Scripture accessible, understandable, relevant and applicable.

Questions
For those of you who preach and teach, do you make use of the original languages in your study and your preaching/teaching? If so, how often do you do it and how do you determine what to include and what to leave out?

Rastafarian Samson?

bible-samsonIf you watched the Bible miniseries on the History Channel one of the things you probably noticed was their depiction of Samson as being Black and having dreadlocks. What is interesting about that is that the Rastafari movement makes connection with the Nazirite vow that Samson lived under. Some have even postulated that Samson had dreadlocks based on Judges 16:13,

13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.”

believing his “locks” were dreadlocks. I found that interesting and it sheds some light on why the Bible miniseries took the direction they did. Most likely Samson had seven braids of hair, not actual dreadlocks and since he was from the tribe of Dan, I am guessing he was ethnically Jewish as well.

What Is God Waiting For?

In Judges 10 the people have rejected the Lord and chased idol after idol. 18 years of oppression and their hearts were so hard that they still hadn’t repented of their sin. When they finally do, God tells them that he isn’t going to help. Instead, they need to ask their idols for deliverance. Then the people get desperate. Judges 10 tells us they finally got serious and paired their cry for deliverance with personal action and responsibility…they finally put aside their idols. How did God respond this time? The Bible says God responded “with impatience over Israel’s misery” (10:16). That was when God’s heart and attitude toward his people turned.

Sometimes we ask “What is God waiting for?” The answer may be that we aren’t really ready for Him to show up yet. We cling to our idols, as if they have anything to offer. In those times, God is unwilling to show up because He doesn’t really have our trust yet. We talk like He does but He knows the reality of what is in our hearts and it doesn’t line up. So God waits until it does. If you want God’s deliverance, it often takes action on your part and more than just a cry for God’s help while keeping a few idols in your back pocket for comfort. Deliverance comes to the repentant and true repentance comes through complete and unequivocal trust in the Lord.

Confirmation

I love it when God gives you the confirmation you need. He doesn’t really confirm every detail but He gives you enough to let you know His hand is in something. Maybe it is that other person who has the same idea at the same time and everything fits right together to where your efforts in ministry are multiplied like they never have been before. Other times God gives you a sense of peace about something. Still other times it is the opposite…God really unsettles your spirit about something. You can’t assume that God is going to do it the same way twice. God works in whatever way He needs to in order to help us follow the ways of Christ. It isn’t easy. It is challenging. It is risky. It is also worth it. I love when I get a glimpse of confirmation from God, a reminder that He is right in the middle of my issues guiding, leading and blessing it all.

Last, I am not talking about superstition here…like asking for God to send you a sign and you see a billboard along the highway that has a word in it that you think is the Lord trying to speak with you. If God is that poor of a communicator we are all in trouble! I am talking about prayed out, fasted up, scripture-aligning confirmation from God that convicts you of what God wants you to do.

Psalm 37 (ESV)

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;

    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

12 The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20 But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.

27 Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

ACU Summit 2012 Videos Are Up on Youtube!

I am sure many of you will enjoy watching everyone from Randy Harris to Walter Brueggemann…Enjoy!

ACU Summit 2012 Video

Here is one to get you started, Mitch Wilburn’s “Children of the Living God”

Review of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG) on Logos

BDAGI have owned a hard copy of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG) for the last 8 years and it has been an invaluable resource on my shelf. There just isn’t any other lexicon out there with this amount of detail and accuracy. It has been my “go to” resource for Greek studies. I am going to talk about the hard copy and then about what Logos has done with it to take this resource to the next level. Even if you already have the hard copy, I think you will be very interested to see what they have done to make it ever better.

The hard copy retails for right at $100 on amazon. This book contains every single word used in the Greek New Testament listed and defined in alphabetical order along with a whole litany of pertinent information that will assist you in your studies, preaching, teaching, etc. Here is a list of the most common things listed under each entry.
Formal equivalent/gloss: a word it can be translated with…think of this as single word suggestions that are the English equivalents. Italic font
Extended definition: a full definition which is more explaining the concept than a word to translate it by. Bold font
Translation equivalent: often a suggested translation of a given phrase is supplied
– Multiple glosses/definitions as needed for a given word in Greek
– Every NT occurrence of that Greek word categorized under what they interpret it to be the appropriate definition, relevant extra-biblical usage of the word with a citation so you can go look that up, sometimes a Hebrew equivalent is given.

In the Logos version, you get all of the functionality that I just described in addition to some features that make BDAG a whole lot faster to use, much more user friendly and interactive with other Logos resources. Here are some of the things that I thought were extremely helpful.

Outstanding Search Capabilities
One thing that stand out about Logos’ version of BDAG is that it is way more than just a digital/pdf version of the hard copy. There are tools they have included that have increased its functionality and integrated its search features that have saved me countless hours of searching.thate that takes BDAG above and beyond just taking the print version and making it digital.

First, BDAG is fully searchable. You can type in “church” and get any time it appears in the book. But you can get more specific in your search by filtering your search to a selection of any of the following: search by formal equivalent (blood must be in the gloss), search by extended definition (blood is in the conceptual explanation) and/or translation equivalent. This makes it easier to find more common words by having more specific search options. BDAG is over 1100 pages of very small print so this comes in handy. In order to do this, you click the search button at the top of Logos, click “Entire Library” and change that to BDAG. Then click “all text” and check “search fields”. Last, click the down arrow by search fields in order to select the fields you want. It will then look like this and you can check on or off any fields you want to search within

SearchFields

Let’s say you land at “Ekklesia” it would look like this (notice the extended definition in bold, the gloss in italics)

Ekklesia

If you rollover any of the scriptures they provide you get the verse. If I rollover Acts 19:39 in definition number 1 here is the result

Ekklesia-scripturerollover

Now, let’s say you want more information on a Greek word that is in the text. You can search your other resources for that word by right clicking on it and then selecting the search option you want.

Ekklesia-lookupwordindefinition
In this instance I right clicked the word you see at the bottom left συνερχομενων and then clicked “Search all open resources” which allows me to quickly search BDAG (and in this instance the SBL Greek New Testament since that was open as well) for all other instances of that exact word. Here are the results

results

Those search results demonstrate another great feature. I had my SBL Greek New Testament open at the same time and as you can see the only time that word is used in the GNT is in 1 Cor 11:18. If you double click the word in the text and it is in its lexical form, say you clicked και or θεος it would take you straight to that entry in BDAG. Then you just use the “back” arrow at the top right of the window to get back where you were in your study.

Integration with other Greek Language products
BDAG integrates with many other Logos products. Let’s say you are reading your SBL Greek New Testament and you want to look up a word in BDAG. You just double click the word and you are on the word in the full text of BDAG. I cannot tell you how helpful that is. What is more, if you download the free Logos App you can do this on the fly away from the office. I was listening to a sermon the other day where three Greek words were mentioned in a specific verse. I got out my iphone, opened the Logos app, pulled up the verse in the Greek NT, clicked the words and had them in BDAG right in front of me. On a side note, you cannot click words that have been transliterated and get the same result. For instance, Ben Witherington almost always transliterates his Greek words so the words aren’t in a Greek font. You cannot click those and end up in BDAG as it is not integrated with transliteration.

I am still playing with the features but have really appreciated what I have found. The thing that will make this interesting to many of you is that I have found this helpful and fast enough that it has renewed the amount of time I spend in the Greek New Testament because I can get to what I need quickly and easily. I want to wrap up the review by thanking Logos for allowing me to have a copy for this review.

This can be purchased from Logos bundled with the 5 volume Hebrew/Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) here

bdag-halot-bundle

Gideon’s Weakness and the Grace & Peace of God

We usually associate “grace and peace” with Paul’s letters but grace and peace show up in other places in scripture. One of those places is in Judges 6. Gideon was told to deliver Israel from the Midianites but Gideon is concerned because the days he lived in weren’t like the days of his ancestors. He knew the story of the parting of the sea and deliverance from Egypt. He knew God was present with his people in those days because God acted in mighty ways. Gideon’s assumption was that God must not be present like he was because God isn’t acting like he used to act (see Judges 6:11-13). God assures him that he really was going to be the deliverer of Israel and Gideon’s response went like this,

“If now I have found grace in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.” – Judges 6:17

Gideon brings back an offering and it is consumed in flame. He then realizes he has seen the angel of the Lord and fears for his life. But God says,

“‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace.”

Grace and peace go hand in hand. Without grace there is no peace because, like Gideon, we cannot stand in the presence of a holy God and live. So praise God that he is loving and graceful and we can have peace because he is the ultimate deliverer of his people! If you are going through something and lack peace or maybe you are upset because you just don’t have the power to fix the problems in your life…remember what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Do you know when God responded gracefully to Gideon in Judges 6? It was when Gideon said he wouldn’t be able to deliver the people because he was the least person of the weakest clan from among his people (6:15). God has a way of sorting these things out in ways that remind us that he is in charge, not us. So rest in the grace of God and find your peace there.