The Gospel and The Gospels

This week’s reading lays the framework for a deeper study of the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in coming weeks. So far, that reading includes Who Chose the Gospels?, by C.E. Hill, Reading the Gospels Wisely, by Jonathan T. Pennington, and Four Portraits, One Jesus (2nd Edition) by Mark L. Strauss. The reading for this week surveys the gospels themselves (what they are), the gospel message (what the gospels are for), and how the gospels have been (and are) used and studied. Great stuff, really – healthy does of history and hermeneutics.

Two passages in the reading stand out to me, both from Pennington. And why not, since he is the prof, after all!

Bringing our discussion of the first two chapters to a close we may ask again, what are the Gospels? After our exploration of the origin and usage of the euangelion word group, I proposed that for the New Testament authors the “gospel” is the proclamation of Jesus’ fulfillment of the promised return of the reign or kingdom of God. We have seen that this oral apostolic proclamation naturally and understandably is eventually written down, and the result is our canonical Gospel, given to us in its fourfold narrative form, or as we say today, the Gospels.

Reading the Gospels Wisely, pp.34-35

That acts as a powerful conclusion that allows him to move into the next chapter on why we need the Gospels, and not just the Pauline (Petrine, Johannine, etc. – the “letters”) corpus. The “modern”, scientific mindset, with its predisposition for analysis in abstract, for atomizing, isolating principles, can easily miss the big picture with all its messy interactions, a “forest for the trees” view of the world and our relationship with its creator. Narrative provides a unique way of teaching that looks more holistically at life, and thus can approach the complexity of faith in interaction with a real, fallen world in need of God. And with that, the other quote (and a reference to Tolkien!):

We are story people. In the very fabric of our beings we are spring-loaded for story. Story is how we make sense of our world and our own lives. Story powerfully creates life and hope, the lack of which is depression. Hope is imagination, and imagination is central for human flourishing and life. When we hope, we are using God’s image-bearing gift to envision a reality that does not yet exist. Creating story (including the writing of history) is at the height of or abilities as those made in God’s image or, to use Tolkien’s language, as “subcreators” modeling after the Creator. Story is created by and creates imagination. Abstract reflection and doctrine are necessary and good, but they do not have the the same kind of effect and transformative power that a story does. (italics mine)

Reading the Gospels Wisely, p.46

In my last class, an author quipped that we are interpreters of life and our circumstances. We don’t view reality objectively, but always interpretively, connecting what we see and giving it meaning. It’s been percolating in my mind, and with all this talk of hermeneutics and meaning, of teaching and life, reminds me also of Douglas Hofstadter’s Surfaces and Essences, where he makes a powerful case for understanding consciousness and thought as essentially a thorough-going development of analogy.

I have to just sit back in awe, and consider how looking at the Gospels connects math (yep), consciousness, artificial intelligence, history, philosophy, language, revelation and the heart, just to name a few things. It reminds me that God does not always give us what we might want (a single, comprehensive, written Gospel, among other things), but he knows what we need. We see glimpses of the grandeur, but he created it, and invites us to partake of his nature (1 Peter 1:4). The Gospels take our costly faith and turn it to the goals of increasing virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and finally love. They give us both the living example and effective work of Jesus. They don’t just give us information to bolster theological arguments, they call on us to follow him and be changed by him.

Blessings to my fellow followers of Jesus, as we look toward our times of local worship tomorrow: May you together experience the blessings of the body of Christ and the power of the Spirit!

Learning Through Fiction

The final “textbook” for NT1 came in the mail today. It is interesting to be assigned a fictional work, Killing a Messiah by Adam Winn. I find the idea behind it reasonable though…sometimes we get caught up in our assumptions about the backdrop, the context, of historical (and in this case religious) events. Fiction can be a way of looking at things from a slightly different angle.

Probably be a bit before I get started n this one, but looking forward to it. Already neck deep in Who Chose The Gospels, by Hill. Chapter one got right down to business countering arguments that non-canonical gospels were on an equal footing in the early centuries of the church.

“The Long Awaited Return of God”

Books are arriving for my next class, “Intro to the New Testament 1”, with Dr. Pennington. This class surveys the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Intro to NT2, which I took earlier, covered Acts through Revelation. I’ve already been through this week’s lectures, and am really looking forward to the class!

Time to get reading!

An elegant hat…for a more civilized age.

My birthday was pretty laid back this year. Jenna made me a nice coconut curry. Kim got me some items to help in the kitchen. The weekend before, a trip to Barnes and Noble resulted in me getting the first two books to the Harry Potter series in Spanish, for study purposes, español being one of the languages I am working on at the moment.

In my last post I mentioned that I received my next round of texts for school. In addition, I’ve waited with much anticipation for a splurge item. which arrived (quite on time) this morning:

I vaguely remember my dad getting a similar Stetson package in the mail when I was a teenager. His taste in hats is slightly different from mine, but it is nice to find that one milliner might serve us both so well!

Break over, time to get back to studying!

Next!

Currently mid-way on Intro to New Testament 2 with Tom Schreiner, but in the mail came some of the texts for my next class. I’ll be taking Personal Spiritual Disciplines with Don Whitney over the winter term.

Two of those are extra credit, but look really promising (both the Whitney books). I already had the other texts required for the course, Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Pilgrim’s Progress.

In The Mail: CSB

So, class number two started yesterday: Intro to New Testament 2, taught by Tom Schreiner (woohoo!). Noted from the syllabus that we have to read Acts through Revelation (the scope of the class) in either the NIV or CSB. I usually read in the ESV these days, so decided to send out for a copy of the CSB. I got the study version, and not the single column version, though I was tempted. Been a while since I’ve used a study bible and not certain this was the best version to choose for a study bible, but thought it was worth trying out.

Looks nice, anyway!

Smells good, too!

In the Mail, Fall 2020 SBTS Edition

Time to get reading!

So, here is what I will be reading (above and beyond the stuff I am already reading) for my first semester (fall, the first two of six class blocks during a year of online instruction):

F1: Biblical Hermeneutics

Required. These, in no particular order, are the required books for my first session:

Optional. I ordered before the syllabus was quite online, and found out after that these were optional – meaning possible replacements if you had already read the book by Alexander. I knew they were optional, but not exactly what optional would mean (one or the other, zero or more, etc.) Nevertheless, I got both:

F2: Intro to New Testament 2

Looking forward to digging in!

G.

Back to School

I’ve finally done it. Applied to go back to school, and today was accepted at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Am looking at getting an M.Div. of Christian Ministry. Now with the application and all that entails out of the way, can focus on registering (and paying) for classes.

I’ll be starting off slow. Still have my job and three kids in the house, one of whom is not far from college herself. And not sure how the “all online” will really work out. Not planning on moving to Kentucky any time soon. Guess that everyone is doing things online right now anyway, what with Covid and all. Anyway, if I’m going to be reading, might as well read for “credit”…

Thinking about starting with Elementary Hebrew and/or Elementary Greek, which are both remedial/prerequisites anyway. My self-taught Greek probably couldn’t get me excused from taking a formal class, my Hebrew even less likely.

As a working guy having been out of school for a while now, I found this post pretty thoughtful. Worked through most of those thoughts getting to this point.

One Afternoon In May

As I finished my last call of the workday, the power went in and out a couple times in quick succession. Then, it stayed out (it is back on now, surprisingly). It has been very windy, so I went outside to see if something had caused any damage to the house.

First, I found a package from Michael Aubrey on my doorstep:

A History of Ancient Greek

All arrived in good condition! Michael and his wife, Rachel, are in the process of some big changes, so he was looking at whittling down some of his book weight. I jumped at the chance to “help”. From his blog:

For ourselves (Michael and Rachel Aubrey), we are currently transitioning to serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators. We have been offered a ministry assignment creating digital Greek & Hebrew tools and resources, grounded in contemporary linguistics for advancing bible translation, resources that integrate corpus linguistics and the digital humanities for the benefit of minority Bible translation. Because our assignment with Wycliffe is directly connected to the purpose of Koine-Greek.com, we hope that transition will also mean more opportunity for regular writing about Ancient Greek linguistics here based on our work with Wycliffe, along side the continued work on our Comprehensive Grammar of Hellenistic and Early Roman Greek.

https://koine-greek.com/2019/06/06/from-the-editors-transitions/

You might consider helping them out with support, if you find the work they are planning to engage in worthwhile…

Setting my new-to-me books to the side to continue problem solving on the power, I found my neighbor in shock (I was soon to follow) at the size of the tree the wind had knocked down just up the road from us:

Crash!

Luckily, not a bit of damage to the house, and as I mentioned, power is even back on now. I did end up missing our church’s prayer time on zoom. Little bummed at that. But glad to be back on the grid earlier than I thought I might be!