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?

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

Jesus in Context – One of the Most Helpful Biblical Background Books Around

JesusInContext-BockI recently came across the most helpful resources on the historical backgrounds to the Gospels that I have ever seen. It is called Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study by Darrell Bock. This book works through the synoptics and John and pulls just about any relevant extra-biblical text in full quotation to help you see what other ancient writers said about a topic, a city, a custom, etc. Reading the geneaology of Jesus? Look and see how other ancient Jewish writers did genealogies. Studying Jesus’ turning water to wine at Cana? You go to that miracle in this book and it first gives you a bit of historical background on eschatology and wine followed by relevant quotations from 1 Enoch, 2 Baruch, Tobit, and the Talmud on wine and quotations from Josephus on Cana. Combine the content with Logos Bible software and you have an unbelievably powerful resource for your studies. This book concludes with multiple indices that include index by topic, by scripture, by extra-biblical reference and a huge list for further reading broken down by topic, If you are a student of the Gospels and want extra-biblical references all in one place this is the book for you. If you would use Logos and would like to have it at your disposal in a fully searchable, indexed format with clickable links with full references for you to use in your study or writing, you can get it here.

Review of Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection – Part 4

OutOfContextThe 4th and final review of Logos’ “How to Read the Bible” Collection is a review of “Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible” by Richard Schultz. This was the best book in the whole collection. There are a lot of books that cover similar content to this one but this one has two things going for it that the other’s don’t. Books like D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies are excellent but pretty academic. This book can be read and understood by everyone from a beginner to a scholar. That is hard to pull of.

The second thing that makes this book stand out is that Schultz has hundreds of examples of interpretation errors from familiar books and familiar authors. He touches on everyone people like Rick Warren, James Dobson, John Piper, Larry Crabb and many more. What is so great about this is that in no way does Schultz come across like an attack dog. He is very, very humble in his presentation and even concludes the book with a section on his own care for those who make these mistakes in interpretation. The book really makes you respect and admire Richard Schultz.  He does it so well and his examples are so good that I am considering buying this book for my Christian Basics class.

The first section of the book deals with some of the most popular works that relied on misinterpreting scripture. Any guesses as to what his main example is? The Prayer of Jabez! He thoroughly and respectfully dissects that book and shows which principles of biblical misinterpretation went into the writing of that once extremely popular book. Second, he deals with the underlying misconceptions of scripture that lead to the common misinterpretations.

Schultz doesn’t just discuss how to do it wrong. Along the way he finds moments  of opportunity to introduce correctives to the problems he is outlining. So when he discusses proof texting he also discusses the different types of context and how to identify and use context to assist our interpretation. Here is one example where he emphasizes the use of historical-critical interpretation scripture,

What is important to note here is that biblical interpretation can go wrong at various points. When interpreting textual details, we can adopt a questionable translation of key words or phrases. Furthermore, we can ignore both the historical and literary contexts of the passage, which largely determine how the passage should be understood and how it functions within Scripture. We can also pay too little attention to the formal, structural, and stylistic features of a text and how these shape the communication of divine truth. Further difficulties are involved in the process of application, as we bridge the gap between the world of the Bible and our contemporary world and recommend concrete steps toward affirming and living out the truths and lessons of the Scriptures. Here we can move too quickly in universalizing a specific action or instruction, assuming that what one ancient Israelite experienced can and should be experienced by all contemporary Christians. – Schultz, R. L. Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible p. 19

He deals with so much more…common problems with word studies, understanding genre, failure to read prophesy in its original context (aka finding Jesus everywhere), and errors in application.  If you haven’t ever read a book on common ways to misinterpret scripture you really should get this book. So many of the discussions I have seen online would be cleared up if more people understood the even half of the principles laid out in this book.

The Difference Between Eisegesis & Exegesis – Sounds Boring but It is Something Every Christian Should Understand

sherlockholmeswatsonA crime has occurred. The investigator arrives on the scene. He sees the body, the weapon and the footprints leading away. This is nothing new. He has seen similar scenes a million times and knows exactly what has happened. Without any further questions he determines exactly what all of this means, exactly how it happened and the identity of the killer.

What is the problem with this? The problem is, there was more investigating to be done of what this specific crime scene was trying to tell him. He already has his conclusions in mind before he has all the information. The biggest problem was either ignorance or arrogance…he assumed that based on past experience that he would be able to figure all this out based on a cursory glance of the scene. If he really wanted to know what happened, he would be asking more questions, finding more evidence and not assuming that he already had the answer. Remember, a lot is on the line here…an innocent man may get convicted and a murderer walk free! It is important that he gets this right. That is eisegesis.

A second investigator arrives on the scene. She doesn’t come to the scene thinking she already knows what happened. She takes each crime scene (text) by its own merits, requiring a careful study of the background of the crime through asking good questions (as any good investigator knows how to do): Who was this person? Who did they know? Who were they talking with moments before the died? Those things are not readily apparent just glancing at the scene/text. It takes work. It takes an investigative spirit. It all starts with humility. There is a humility that comes when you believe that Scripture is God’s Word to humanity and if we are to understand it and faithfully apply it, it is going to take some work. Remember, there is a lot on the line here. In Biblical interpretation that is called exegesis.

What I have laid out here is the background for biblical “Exegesis”, a Greek word that means “to draw out” or “to guide/lead out”. When you read scripture, you are drawing the meaning from the text into your life. Eisegesis, on the other hand, means “to guide/lead in”. The thing that is being lead in are your own presuppositions, preconceived ideas, biases, culture, etc. Eisegesis reads Scripture solely through what those words mean, stripped out of their historical context (point #3 below) and plopped down in front of someone, pointed whichever way they want to point it and do with it what they want to do with it. Here is how Mark Strauss puts it,

“In the same way, every time you read the Bible you are already interpreting it. The only question is whether you will interpret it well or poorly—that is, whether you will hear the text as the author intended it to be heard, or whether you will impose your own ideas onto the text. Exegesis means drawing out the author’s original meaning. “Eisegesis” refers to the opposite: misinterpreting the text by reading into it your own assumptions and meaning.” – Strauss, M. L. How to Read the Bible in Changing Times: Understanding and Applying God’s Word Today, p. 44.

None of us can read Scripture in a vacuum that is able to remove all preconceived ideas and culture from our minds. It is just impossible. But we must be aware of that potential and recognize it when it influences us strongly enough that we might be missing the actual meaning of the text. When we read scripture we should always come to it with a few things in mind:

  1. Scripture is the Word of God. That means it has authority over us and it is truth.
  2. Scripture has an absolute meaning and intention by the original author that he wanted his audience to understand.
  3. In order to get to that meaning you have to understand the context of the passage (audience, occasion/situation, author, etc).
  4. Because God’s Word is truth and we need that truth to inform our lives, the purpose of Bible study is determining what God’s Word means and applying that to our lives to partner and participate with God in spiritual transformation and renewal.
  5. We do not come to scripture to bend it to our desires or predetermined ideas. That would undo #1 by giving us authority over scripture rather than the other way around.

Review of Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection – Part 3

AllJesusAsksThe third book in the Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection is Stan Guthrie’s All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us. Guthrie takes the majority of questions Jesus asked during his ministry and weaves them into an investigation of the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. In later chapters he turns to questions that explore our identity as disciples (character, (in)competency, attitude, etc) and finally concludes with some apologetics.

After being fairly critical of the other book he did in this collection, “A Concise Guide to Bible Prophesy“. I am really happy to say that this book was excellent. It is thorough. It is insightful. The illustrations are excellent. If I had to compare this to something, I would call this book “Jesus’ Questions for Everyone” as his style reminds me of N.T. Wright’s “For Everyone” Series of New Testament commentaries. He touches on the relevant verses, illustrating and commentating along the way.

I would recommend this book not just to people who want all of Jesus’ questions in one place but to people who enjoy investigation. He doesn’t just linearly and analytically make a list of questions and address them. He weaves the questions of JesusI really love that because any book about questions should feel like an investigation…it is just being fair to your subject…and Guthrie really does pull it off.

There are only three criticisms I have of this book. First, he admits that he is no biblical scholar so there are times I think he missed the point. One of those times in in Chapter 4, “His Humanity” where Guthrie interprets some of Jesus questions to mean that Jesus asked certain questions because he really had no idea of the answer. Here is one example,

When Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate, and a Roman execution for sedition looms large, the procurator asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus is not concerned with saving his own skin, but learning whether this brutal Roman official might be a spiritual seeker, one in whom the seed of faith is likely to grow. “Do you say this of your own accord,” he asks, “or did others say it to you about me?” Jesus genuinely wants an answer because he doesn’t know. – Guthrie, S. (2010). All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us (60). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Jesus was making a point in asking the question that goes beyond him just being ignorant of the answer (much like God asking Adam and Eve “Where are you” after they sinned – Gen 3:9). Of the recorded questions of Jesus in the Gospels, Jesus doesn’t normally ask questions out of ignorance. His questions make a point. This entire book was about how Jesus taught through questions, so I am not sure how he missed it on this one.

The second criticism I have of the book just comes with the territory. Any time you deal with passages out of context and develop a whole book that strings together related topics and verses out of context you run the risk of missing some of the meaning. Like the above examples, that happened a few times in the book. Again, that is to be expected due to the way the book is laid out. Third, when you take out of context verses and force them into a self-made framework you run the risk of twisting some passages to fit your topics. That doesn’t come across too much in this book but it does happen. (See Procrustean bed)

Overall, great book and one I would recommend. What the book lacks in scholarship (which overall is pretty insignificant) Guthrie makes up for in his journalistic style, engaging commentary, and ability to connect the reader to the thrill of the investigation, relevance and application. Questions are powerful and Guthrie does a great job of handling the questions of Jesus from his own perspective without getting in the way.

Review of Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection – Part 2

BibleProphesyThe second book in Logos Bible Software’s “How to Read the Bible” collection is “A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy: 60 Predictions Everyone Should Know” by Stan Guthrie. This is book is an introductory level book that is designed to put some of the most important (and often misunderstood) prophesies all in one place. The introduction gave me the impression he was going to cover 60 misunderstood prophesies. Honestly, I think that would have been a better book! He could have explained the common misconception and then done solid exegesis to show us what he thinks the verses are really saying.

I wasn’t nearly as impressed with this book as I was with Strauss’ book in the previous post. If you ran across these prophesies in study you would probably already be looking in some sort of commentary that is dealing with the verse in context. I was also confused by the “Application” section at the end of each prophesy. His application was a single sentence principle derived from the prophesy rather than an actual application. In other words the application was just a single truth to remember about the prophesy and not anything about how the prophesy actually applies to us. “Key principle” would have been a better label for those. The last thing I wasn’t as impressed with is that his presupposition, stated in the beginning of the book, is that every prophesy of scripture ultimately points back to Christ. I don’t really agree with that. There are many prophesies about many other things that don’t find fulfillment in Christ.

The best part of the book are his illustrations to help you wrap your mind about the prophesy. Other than that, I don’t think this book offered up too much that was unique that you couldn’t get anywhere else. It was more about putting these prophesies all in one place than anything else. I would rather study them in context. Just my two cents. His book (also in this series) “All That Jesus Asks” appears to me to be far superior to this one.