Bede "On the Tabernacle" (Review)

Below is a short review I wrote up that covers the Venerable Bede's work "On The Tabernacle." If you want to get an idea of how he did exegesis and what he thought about biblical interpretation, you may find this review helpful. Enjoy.

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Taking 1 Cor. 10.11 as his starting point for an interpretation of the Tabernacle, Bede argues that Paul’s remark concerning “all these things,” urges exegetes to consider items such as topography, chronology and socio-literary contexts in their analyses [1.1.5]. By beginning here, Bede is able to quickly segue into a topographical investigation himself, of Exodus 24, which he sees as a type for other events narrated in the Scriptures such as: The Calling of the Apostles (Mt. 5.1; Mk. 3.13), The Great Commission (Mt. 28.19-20), The Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 7.28), Pentecost (Acts 1.15-2.11) and even The Eschaton (Isa. 2.2). Though Bede omits The Transfiguration and The Last Supper, he does make an interesting move his in attempt to connect the OT & NT, he says: “Consequently, the Lord gave the precepts of both the law and the gospel on a mountain, so that he might in this way commend the sublimity of the two testaments” [1.1.6].

Just as the loftiness of the topographical locations represent types of the exaltedness of the testaments, both Aaron (the mountain of fortitude) and Hur (fire / light), represent types of the Lord and Spirit [1.1.7]. For Bede, a theological interpretation of such passages and personages results in a very practical principle concerning the “height of divine contemplation” [1.1.7]: “let us take solicitous care lest temptation should somehow draw us far away from the mountain of God” [1.1.7]. Like a strong tower, “if we continue steadfastly will be strengthened and raised up by the mountain of fortitude and empowered against the attacks of the enemy” [1.17]. Indeed, even the “cloud” that hovered over Moses on the mountain and that followed Israel throughout the wilderness, is suggestive of divine protection; this same divine protection “mystically” protects those who keep the divine commandments [1.1.8].

In fact, Bede argues that Moses was specifically chosen by God to ascend the mountain after 6 days and on the 7th to receive the law, he notes: “For on account of the good works that he had received from the Lord’s favor he doubtless merited to be further enlightened by him, and to be sheltered from all assaults of the evil ones, and so he attained to the higher gifts of seeing and talking with God” [1.2.9]. For Bede, “height” is linked to a “higher state of enlightenment,” that is, to be situated on a plane above others whereat one contemplates the “ambiguities and secrets of divine wisdom” [1.1.10]. To be on such a level, as Moses was, one realizes that they can indeed perfectly fulfill the Decalogue but that they can only do it by the “grace” of God [1.2.10]. It is only God, then, that can lead humans to a greater state of enlightenment and perfection. Thus, in one of Bede’s most memorable statements—issued, at least in part, against the Pelagians—he proclaims: “we are unable to even begin a good action or thought without the Lord” [1.3.11].

Transitioning directly into his exegesis of Ex. 25.3-8, a passage in which the Israelites are exhorted to provide a variety of material offerings such as gold, silver and bronze, Bede argues for a “spiritual understanding” of these verses [1.3.11]. For him, each of the materials represents a spiritual action to be taken on the part of the giver (e.g. gold represents the fact that the giver shines with the splendor of truth and wisdom) [1.3.11]. Not only are the Israelites called to give these minute offerings, they are also called to give / build Him a sanctuary, a tabernacle. Bede is convinced that when Moses saw the angels in the midst of God, he understood that “they” were the perfect tabernacle because their Creator never “ceases to remain and dwell in them” [1.3.11]. They, then, are a type for the sanctuary that is to be built on the earth; a place where Spirit dwells eternally.

From here, Bede moves into an in-depth discussion of the tabernacle reviewing its varying elements and what they signify (or are types of). Bede begins with the Ark of the Covenant which, he says was “the first of all things ordered [in the tabernacle]” and which “designates the incarnation of our Lord and Savior” [1.3.13]; thus, the Ark is a “type” of Jesus. Even the acacia wood from which the Ark was built, which is thought to be light and incorruptible, resembles the Lord’s body (the Church), which consists of members who are “free from every imperfection” [1.3.13]. It seems that for Bede, a “type” might best be described as that which precedes something similar to itself and is therefore, able to illuminate in a mystical-spiritual sense, that which comes later.

Thus, Bede can even find in the dimensions of the Ark spiritual illuminations for life in and outside of Christ [1.4.14]. Likewise, the “gold covering” of the Ark is for Bede, a theological precedent concerning the dual-nature of Christ [1.4.15], the crown [1.4.15], rings [1.4.15] and carrying poles [1.4.16] are prescriptions for spiritual principles concerning the believer. This sort of pattern continues for Bede with the testimony inserted into the Ark [1.4.17], the golden urn [1.4.17], the tablets [1.4.17], the propitiatory [1.5.18], the cherubim [1.5.18], the table [1.6.22], the vessels, loaves and incense [1.7.27], the lamp stand, lamps and the snuffer [1.8-31 - 1.9.37]. Bede wraps up Book 1 by reviewing Ex. 25.40, which says: “Look and make these things according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

In a way, this sort of brings Bede back to his initial theme of height. He says: “Fore surely the pattern of the lampstand that he was to make was shown to Moses on a mountain because it was on the height of most secret contemplation that he openly learned the manifold sacraments of Christ and the Church” [1.9.40]. And following this, the reader is given more insight into Bede’s hermeneutic when they read Bede’s statement concerning Moses, who “signified” these things to the people “by means of a type through the form and the workmanship of the lampstand and its vessels, until such time as our Lord and Redeemer himself might come in flesh and disclose the inner meaning of that same form to his Church” [1.9.40].

Clearly, for Bede, spiritual enlightenment and exaltation to a higher plane or state of divine knowledge is the chief aim of interpretation and thus, Christian living. His language of “type” and “signification” is in many ways, comfortably at home within the realm of the Early Church Fathers but at times, it has a very Platonic, Eastern and even Gnostic or Mystery Religion aura about it. Nevertheless, Bede, who was revered as one of the greatest exegetes of his day, may, in some ways, be considered a “type” of those who, today, espouse the hermeneutic of theological exegesis.


Rethinking Halloween: A Christian Viewpoint (RePost)

It's not uncommon these days in North America to find some Christian somewhere who makes it their agenda to moderate and critique holidays. Currently, this can be illustrated by a simple perusing of Godtube.com, where a ridiculous debate is going on between those who call themselves believers. Some think it is okay to celebrate Halloween and others do not. Those who do not, as you might expect, label those who do as "un-Christian", "satanic", "worldly", "secular", etc. I can't help but laugh on the one hand and be heart-broken on the other. Clearly, too many people who act as though they are holier-than-thou, are over zealous and under informed. Their logic isn't even clear most of the time!

So, how does one who calls themselves a Christian counter people who act too pious? Well, the place to begin is to rethink Halloween. In fact, it might not even be "re" thinking as much as "thinking in the first place". For example, it is helpful to know that Halloween doesn't have its origins in a secular holiday, no, it can be traced back to Christian roots; it was a Christian holiday celebrated by the Celts (e.g. All Saints' / Souls' Day or Hallow's Eve)--even though the Celts were considered by many to be barbaric. Even more than that, and perhaps, more importantly, it goes back to the end-of-summer Celtic celebration called Samhain, an agricultural festival. This was the time when people would soak up the "light" and prepare for the "dark" winter months. It was a time to celebrate agricultural fruits and goods before the harsh winter came and killed everything. Hmm, so, it was more about life than death in some ways, right? Yes!

So, the over-zealous evangelists who argue that this is a satanic ritual, a celebration of death, etc., need to chill out a bit. I sense that many Christians have a problem with all of the ghoulish attire on the one hand and the supposed celebration of death on the other. Well, as for the ghoulish attire, we may recall that in earlier centuries, the Church actually used ghouls and whatnot to ward off evil spirits. Many modern church buildings still have gargoyles on them. As for the celebration of death, I think too many people have over-played this whole idea. I mean, those of us who have lost loved ones, there are certain times of year and certain things we do to commemorate their memory: We think of them, look at pictures, share stories, go to graveyards, etc. None of this is considered evil, satanic or un-Christian.

On a similar note, some suggest that by celebrating death we are nullifying the resurrection. This is simply not true. First of all, Christians commemorate Christ's death (and resurrection) in communion; Christ Himself bade us to do this. Second of all, to remember the deceased is clearly not the same thing as worshipping them or celebrating death itself. It is this point that I feel many are missing. In missing this point, one Christian accuses another and everything just becomes ridiculous or, no joke intended, even "evil" and "nasty" and "ghoulish".

In the 19th century, when Halloween migrated to North America from Europe, it was not a "devilish" holiday still. For example, the whole custom of "jack-o-lanterns", a pumpkin with a candle inside, was meant to resemble the soul of a lost one who might be waiting in pergatory. It was meant as a reminder to pray for that person or to simply, remember them. But it was also meant to be a symbol of celebration, of celebrating that person's life on earth. So, people would be merry and jolly and walk through the streets singing, sometimes even with bands. Often, this turned into a type of parade. Still, the custom existed that, if you have a jack-o-latnern on your porch, it was not just a memorabilia thing, it was a "message" too; a message to others that your loved one might need prayer or that you might need help appeasing God with gifts for that person's soul. So, people began leaving gifts, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc. next to the pumpkins.

As time progressed, people, usually youths, began stealing these monies (which kind of became an expectation after a while) and run to the stores to buy treats and candies. Now, it's not too big of a step from this "thieving" to marauding and causing trouble--eventually, that's exactly what began to happen! Today, that's what much of Halloween has come to stand for and symbolize: pranks, danger, stealing, causing trouble, marauding, etc. And if there is anything to be against as a Christian, when it comes to Halloween, these types of things are it!

In a world where holidays have become increasingly domesticated (e.g. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.), it seems as though Halloween is the one night, the one holiday, where youths can go out, act crazy and try to subvert the holiday norm(s)! This too, should give us pause! Not only should it give us pause for negative reasons but maybe positive ones too: Maybe we should stop watering down and domesticating all of our meaningful holidays!

So, in the end, there is no good reason for Christians to call each other names or to accuse persons of satanic or whatever. Just as well, there is no reason that Christian children should not be able to go out for candy, dress up and have fun. There is nothing evil about this. I would also say that our kids do not have to be "evangelistic" and dress up as Bible characters, etc. (though there is certainly nothing wrong with them being Bible characters). One last thought: Perhaps this holiday which is so often associated with darkness and evil, brings out the darkness and evil that reside in the hearts of many who call themselves believers. Yes, the name calling, the slandering, the hatred, etc. is all evil and it is all illogical. In my view, Halloween can be a profitable holiday, if for nothing else, to subvert those types of attitudes, a subversion done with merriment and tasty candy!


Ignatius of Antioch: Letter to the Philadelphians (Greek w/Verse Numbers)

Lately, I've been working through Ignatius of Antioch's "Letter to the Philadelphians". One of the frustrating things I kept encountering while working through the Greek text was no verse numbers (this made citations tough to do). So, I decided to compare the Greek text to its English counterpart and add chapter & verse numbers. (*Note that with the Greek version, what are typically divided as the last three sections in English, are actually kept as a single entity.) Feel free to use this at your leisure but please do not modify it without contact me and asking. Thanks & enjoy.


Spring Semester: LXX Greek, Aramaic & NT Research Methods

Here are my profs and the courses I'm taking in the Spring:

* Biblical Aramaic (Dr. John Cook)
* Advanced Greek: Septuagint (Dr. Joe Dongell)
* Research Methods in NT (Dr. Fred Long)


That's What She Said

Have a look at this book title book by Joel Osteen's dad, John.

(Audio) Ignatius of Antioch: Epistle to the Philadelphians

Currently, I am working on a project focused on Ignatius of Antioch and particularly, his Epistle to the Philadelphians. I've read through the letter several times and to get a good feel for it, I also read it aloud (with a sort of performance aspect). To hear this recording / performance, accented by a nice orchestral accompaniment, click the audio player below:


Why I Chose Asbury Theological Seminary For PhD Work

Without a doubt, choosing a PhD program isn't easy work. In fact, a whole lot goes into making such a choice. In my case, there were many variables that shaped my decision to accept the offer to study at Asbury Theological Seminary. To be sure, I had other offers. I was given an offer to work with the renowned Dr. Philip Esler at St. Andrews, I was given a greater financial package from Aberdeen, I could have stayed in the States while doing a distance program with the respected Pauline scholar Dr. Bill Campbell, etc., etc. The point is: I had options.

Some of the specific "variables" that I mentioned above centered around "family," "friends," "money / living expenses," "faith" and of course, "academics."

Comparing ATS to other institutions when it came to family and friends was quite easy. I, of course, grew up in KY, so, we already had those types of connections here. My spouse studied at UK and worked at a hospital for several years as well. Since we were in the middle of an international adoption, it would have been more problematic to move overseas and then try to get things updated. Needless to say, ATS was the best fit for my family...which is a HUGE deal.

One thing that all students think about when applying for a PhD is money. Tuition costs, book costs and just the costs of living in general are all important things to take into consideration. One of the things that helped me choose ATS was that they offered me a full-ride. Again, I could've taken a better deal but I didn't because it would've made it more difficult in a number of the other categories I've listed. Still, in KY, especially where ATS is located, the cost of living is relatively low. This is a BIG plus!!! Plus, with the job market for my wife, who is in the medical field, there are scores of job opportunities here. So, again, in this category, ATS was the best fit for us.

In terms of faith, I can't judge the other institutions I could've gone to because I have no familiarity with how they edify the faiths of their students. However, I had already done a Masters at ATS and I loved everything about how they integrated faith and learning. Even the library's direct and purposeful location right next to the chapel speaks to this connection! Again, I'm very ignorant about many other programs in the US or UK but I would venture to say that ANY other institution would have a hard time competing with the way that ATS does this. While some might see this as problematic or as "fundamentalist" the fact is, that is not at all the case. For me, one who was encouraged by a number of professors to attend a school that didn't operate out of a confessional standpoint (because it's supposedly better for jobs...which, I'm not really sure I buy because a scholar's work speaks for itself), I couldn't be more glad that I went against the grain of such advice. Yesterday when I was sitting in our Monday morning biblical studies gathering listening to Dr. Bauer speak, it was confirmed in me--as it has been so many times since I've been back at ATS--that I made a great decision. I would much rather spend 4-5 years of studying while being built up in my spirituality than being pulled away from it. Again, this was another BIG factor that led me to choose ATS.

As I already noted, I had done a degree at ATS prior to the PhD, so, I was familiar with the academic arena there. ATS has a list of well-known and respected professors:
* Dr. David Bauer (NT, PhD from Union Theological)
* Dr. Bill Arnold (OT, PhD from Hebrew Union)
* Dr. John Cook (OT, PhD from Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison)
* Dr. Joe Dongell (NT, PhD from Union Theological)
* Dr. Fred Long (NT, PhD from Marquette University)
* Dr. Bob Mulholland (NT, PhD from Harvard; Post Doc. work at Duke)
* Dr. John Oswalt, (OT, PhD from Brandeis)
* Dr. Ruth Anne Reese, (NT, PhD from University of Sheffield)
* Dr. Lawson Stone, (OT, PhD from Yale University)
* Dr. David Thompson, (NT, PhD from Johns Hopkins University)
* Dr. Ben Witherington, (NT, PhD from University of Durham)

The majority of these scholars have written important books and articles in their respective fields and are GREAT teachers. While I wish that Sandy Richter wouldn't have left and that David DeSilva would have come, this is still an incredible list of professors! If you are interested in attending ATS, I would highly encourage you to contact some of them and to begin to have conversations with them (you can even tell them I sent you, if you want). Anyway, when I lined this list of scholars up next to some of the lists at other institutions I either looked at or applied to, this list always stood out; this is a great group of scholars to know and work with. So, this helped make my ATS decision as well.

All-in-all, across the board, ATS has a lot to offer any potential PhD student. It is foolish for any applicant to look at 1 area of their lives over and / or above all the other areas too. Ultimately, it is best to choose a school / program that will be healthiest for you and / or your immediate family. In terms of family, friends, faith, expenses and academic reputation, ATS was a great fit for me and my family. One last thing, since I just mentioned spouses and family. ATS has a GREAT "Spouse and Family" ministry. This ministry is VERY intentional about making sure that your marriage stays healthy throughout your time at ATS. They have small groups, gatherings, retreats, date nights, etc., etc. I must say that EVERY SINGLE PROFESSOR I spoke with about a PhD program before I actually entered one (I'm not kidding, all of them said this), made sure to tell me that only 50% of marriages last through a PhD program. So, with a ministry like this one at ATS, where my wife has already been plugged in to a great degree, is invaluable. We want this time at Asbury to be her time as well as my time. So, I would urge you to keep this sort of thing in mind too.

If you have any thoughts, comments or questions about this post or PhD (or Masters) work at ATS, please, feel free to comment or email / get in touch with me. You can access the seminary's website by clicking the following link: Asbury Theological Seminary.


Theological German Podcast

I am pleased to announce the launch of a new Theological German Podcast!!! The podcast offers readings of Theological German texts. I have recruited a number of people to do the readings, which will hopefully add some variety. If you can read German well aloud, can record it and are interested in participating in the podcast, please, let me know. You can access the podcast by clicking the image-link below:

Getting (Theological) German "Word of the Day" Widget

In addition to the number of other resources on my Theological German website (www.GettingGerman.com), I have now added a new resource, which is a "Word of the Day" widget. You can grab the widget and put it on your own website and begin building your Theological German vocab. To access the resources, click the image-link below. Enjoy!


1 Dozen Books Giveaway

A couple of days ago, for my birthday, I gave away a couple of books and had such a good time doing it that I decided another giveaway was in order. This time, however, I'm giving away 12 books which have a value of nearly $150 (well, 13 actually but that's because there are 2 copies of the same book included). The titles of the books and a picture of the "pile" can be viewed below.

To enter to win the free books, all you have to do is point back to this website. There are at least four ways to do this: 1) If you are on Twitter, announce the giveaway with the hashtag #pisteuomen , 2) If you are on Facebook, mention this site in your status or in a note, 3) If you have a website or blog, just do a quick post pointing to this site, or 4) Join the blog network via Facebook, here's the link: "Join / Follow". At the end of the week, someone who did one of these four things will be chosen and the book will be delivered to them.

* Just Another Girl (Fiction)
* Dearest Dorothy, If Not Now, When? (Fiction)
* Burnt Orange (Fiction)
* Courageous Past, Bold Future: The Journey Toward Full Clergy Rights For Women In The United Methodist Church (Non-Fiction)
* Finding Balance: Loving God With Heart & Soul, Strength & Mind (Devotion)
* 40-Day Journey (Devotion)
* Making Love Last A Lifetime: Biblical Perspectives on Love, Marriage & Sex (Non-Fiction)
* Parenting, The Early Years: 10 Biblical Traits Your Kids Will Remember You For (Non-Fiction)
* Women At Risk (Non-Fiction)
* Live the Light: Five Weeks To A Life That Shines (Devotion)
* Beginning To Belong (2 copies; Small Group Leader Manuals)
* Embracing Grace (Companion Guide; Devotion)

Free German QuickType & Translate Tool

In addition to the number of other resources on my Theological German website (www.GettingGerman.com), I have now added a new resource, which I have dubbed "QuickType & Translate". The module has 1 verse from each of the New Testament books. You can click a button for a random verse to show up and then, you can either try to type it in German or translate it in English and then, check your speed accuracy. To access the resources, click the image-link below. Enjoy!

Best Spoken Word I've Ever Heard / One Of The Best Sermons I've Heard


Book Giveaway Winners

The two winners of yesterday's book giveaway are Shaun who blogs over at www.BibleGeekGoneWild.com and Jason who hosts a site called "Εις Δοξαν" over at www.eisdoxan.wordpress.com. If both of you would email me your physical mailing addresses to halc(dot)40dp(at)mailcity(dot)com, I will get your books out to you asap. Thanks and congrats!


Birthday Book Giveaway

Today is my birthday but...I'm the one giving out a gift. The gift is a book written by Harold Burgess and Dennis Kinlaw titled The Framework of Our Faith. You can see the book's contents by clicking the image link below. To enter to win the free book, all you have to do is point back to this website. There are at least three ways to do this: 1) If you are on Twitter, announce the giveaway with the hashtag #pisteuomen , 2) If you are on Facebook, mention this site in your status or in a note, or 3) If you have a website or blog, just do a quick post pointing to this site. At the end of the day, someone who did one of these three things will be chosen and the book will be delivered to them.


Book Blowout!!!

Every year, once a year, Asbury Theological Seminary makes room on its shelves for newer books by getting rid of the "less checked out" and / or donated books it has and / or receives. So, when the doors opened at 7:30am this morning for the sale, one other nerd along with me, stormed the gates and browsed through over 1,000 books. I went, mainly looking for resources that might possibly contribute in the future to my dissertation. Thankfully, I found quite a few things that were right up my alley. In fact, for $14.50, I brought home a box of 29 books, which are all valuable to current or future research projects. Here they are:

* S. Moscati, Ancient Semitic Civilizations
* E. Hamilton, The Roman Way
* D. Carabine, The Unknown God: Negative Theology in the Platonic Tradition: Plato to Eriugena
* C. R. Beye, Ancient Greek Literature and Society
* H. J. Muller, The Uses of the Past: Profiles of Former Societies
* E. Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy
* R. Sowerby, The Greeks: An Introduction to Their Culture
* A. Deissmann, Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History
* A. Andrewes, The Greeks
* A. H. Armstrong, An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy
* Cliffs Notes on Roman Classics
* Cliffs Notes on Greek Classics
* P. Lapide & P. Stuhlmacher, Paul: Rabbi and Apostle
* C. Pearl, Theology in Rabbinic Stories
* M. Hadas, The Stoic Philosophy: Essays and Letters
* R. H. Bainton, Early Christianity
* C. Baldick, Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms
* D. Winston, Philo of Alexandria: The Contemplative Life, The Giants, And Selections
* C. H. Dodd, The Apostoloic Preaching and Its Developments
* E. Przywara, An Augustine Synthesis
* W. W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilization
* T. E. Wick, Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War
* E. Schurer, The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus
* M. Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking: The Dawn of Western Philosophy
* R. Warner, The Confessions of St. Augustine
* R. L. Wilken, The Christians As the Romans Saw Them
* C. Wells, The Roman Empire
* N. D. Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws and Institutions of Greece and Rome
* R. MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire: A.D. 100-400

A Free "Learning German" Bibliography

If you want or need to find some textual resources to help you learn German, especially German of a theological nature, I have created a sort of "beginner's bibliography." To access and / or download resource, click the image-link below. Enjoy!


Getting (Theological) German Discussion Room / Forum

I have added a fun, interactive discussion room / forum to www.GettingGerman.com so that persons interested in German can talk with one another, ask questions and / or share resources. Sign up now, it's completely free!!!


Using A German Dictionary (Module)

If you want or need to learn how to use a German lexicon (dictionary), here's a fun, interactive wordsearch that will help you get some practice in. To access this innovative module, click the image-link below. Enjoy!

Awesome "Speedy Vocab" Builder on Getting (Theological) German

If you want or need to learn German, here's a fun, interactive "speedy vocab" module that is both challenging and addictive. It will help you get some practice in spelling, defining and memorizing German words and definitions. To access this innovative module, click the image-link below. Enjoy!


FREE German Tile Matching Game

If you want or need to learn German, here's a fun, interactive image / tile matching module that will help you get some practice and memorization in. To access this innovative module, click the image-link below. Enjoy!


HangMan: German Verbs

If you want or need to learn German verbs, here's a fun, interactive HangMan module that will help you get some practice and memorization in. To access this innovative module, click the image-link below. Enjoy!


Interactive German (Paragraph) Translation Exercises

If you want or need to practice translating (Theological) German articles or texts, here's a module that will help you get some time in. I have created a few modules that contain texts from theological writings in the German language which you can also practice translating (ONLINE!!!). To access this innovative module, click the image-link below:

Novatian "On Jewish Foods" (Review)

Below is a short review I wrote up that covers Novatian's work "On Jewish Foods." If you want to get an idea of how he did exegesis and thought about the end-goal of biblical interpretation, you may find this review helpful. Enjoy.

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Novatian’s epistle, written to a group of believers with whom he evidently has some cherished relationship, commences much in the same way that we find the New Testament letters beginning. Initiated with a very pastoral tone and several words of encouragement, Novatian, echoing the frequent sentiments of the Apostle Paul, longed to be in contact with those from whom he was separated (1.1). Having already written two letters to this particular group of Christians—one challenging Jewish views of circumcision and another challenging Jewish views of the Sabbath (1.7)—Novatian places in view, here, Jewish ideals regarding foods (1.7).

In the exordium, Novatian challenges the believers to hold fast to traditions (1.5) and to be on the defensive, guarding themselves from heretics and Jewish blasphemers who hand down “irregular” traditions (2.5). For Novatian, a blasphemer is classified as a person or persons who label something “human” that is in fact, “spiritual” (2.1). His bone-of-contention with the Jewish people at this juncture, then, is that they call or treat the Law as “human” when they should refer to and understand it as “spiritual.” The hermeneutic principle for testing whether or not an entity should be taken as “spiritual,” is to examine whether or not it aligns with the character of God and reveal His majesty (2.3).

Novatian then proceeds to exegete Genesis 1-3, where he makes a curious hermeneutical move. He argues that prior to the deception of humanity, fruit was eaten (2.6), fruit which is perched in trees and therefore closer to the heavens. However, after the fall, humans were “bowed down” to the soil to toil the land and to pluck grain, that is to say, that they were now closer to Hell. With all of this work, humans needed more protein and thus, to use his phrase “meat was added” (2.7). Enter: The Law. The Law of the Jewish people began, problematically according to Novatian, to distinguish “clean” animals from unclean animals (and thus, clean food from unclean food; 2.10-17). Novatian took issue with this because in Gen. 1, God created the animals and saw that they were “good,” but the Jewish people immediately turned around and began calling some of them “unclean” or deeming them not good. Applying his hermeneutic principle stated above, Novatian argues that such an approach leads to the conclusion that if God is the Creator of all animals, then when the Jewish people call some animals unclean, then God must also be unclean, which is something that certainly does not align with His character or reveal His majesty.

He asserts then, that what God has created “must” be understood as “clean” (3.1) otherwise, “To find fault with creation is to find fault with its Author” (3.1). The Jewish people, he claims, understood such principles at first. However, it was when they were in Egypt, Novatian suggests, that they “lost their good morals…among a barbarous people” (3.2). At this point in their history, the Ten Commandments were issued—which, for Novatian were “nothing new”—but simply a reminder of what they had forgotten (3.3). What they had forgotten—or lost—was how to understand the “spiritual” aspect of things like the Law.

Here, Novatian proceeds to show his audience how they can understand these things in a true “spiritual” sense. Thus, he begins to offer a spiritual exegesis of the “clean” and “unclean” taxonomy of animals. He says that such a classification is really about (3.7) clean and unclean humans, not animals. In other words, Novatian takes these passages in a euphemistic sort of way. For example, that this is actually about humans, argues Novatian, can be seen by recognizing that “in animals we find portrayed human traits, deeds and acts of will that determine” whether they are clean or not (3.7). The statement about “chewing cud” then, is actually a reference to humans that always have the “divine commandments in their mouths” (3.7) and the “cloven hoof” is representative of the path of innocence, justice and virtue that humans can take (3.8). The Law, which is a “mirror,” shows these simple traits in animals, which, if humans fail to see them and to take note, reveals that they themselves are truly ignorant of the “spiritual” way of life (3.12).

Novatian proceeds to give more examples like these by referring to fish, camels, swine, weasels, skinks and more (3.13-24) pushing his argument further that, if even animals are born with these characteristics and can live them out, then, when humans fail to uphold them, they must be seen as reprehensible (3.24). In their ignorance and clouded judgment, the Jewish people, totally missing the “spiritual” sense of such things, even went on to choose, says Novatian, the “bitter” food of the Egyptians and to reject the “manna” provided by God (4.5). This they deserved, he contends.

Novatian’s next step is to assert that even Christ, Himself of Jewish descent, acknowledged the “cleanliness” of all foods and as such, understood the true, spiritual sense of things (5.2-5). He also appeals to apostolic authority by citing a number of Pauline passages that undercut the “unclean foods” argument often espoused by the Jewish people (5.6-9). “True and holy and pure food,” says Novatian, is actually not that which is edible but rather, “an upright faith, immaculate conscience and innocent spirit” (5.10). Even Jesus says that His “food” is “to do the will of He who sent Him” (5.13). After feeling as though he has made his point, Novatian actually launches into an argument, which asserts that, while these passages are not really about edibles, persons must still refrain from gluttony or fulfilling an incessant drive to satiate their appetites with food or drink (6.3; 6.6).

“Temperance,” “frugality” and “moderation” are all virtues that cannot be overlooked by the Christian (6.2-5). Though “freedom” (from the literal Jewish interpretations of the Law) has been given to Christians, they are not “free” to merely do as they please or to act in ways that diminish God’s character or majesty. For example, this “freedom” does not make an allowance for eating food sacrificed to idols or other deities (7.1-2). The point then, is that Christians should, in understanding the difference between the “spiritual” and the “human,” “observe the Rule of Truth in all things and give thanks to God through Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord, to whom be praise, honor and glory forever” (7.2) for this is a true, spiritual act of worship.


St. Augustine's On Christian Teaching (Review)

Below is a short review I wrote up for a class presentation, which deals with Augustine's book On Christian Teaching. Here, I interact here mainly with Book I but still, if you want to get an idea of how he did exegesis and thought about the end-goal of biblical interpretation, you may find this review helpful. Enjoy.

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Near the end of Book I of his On Christian Teaching, St. Augustine makes a curious statement: “Therefore, a person strengthened by faith, hope, and love, and who steadfastly holds on to them, has no need of the scriptures except to instruct others” (I.93). Such a view, for Augustine, is rooted in 1 Cor. 13.8-13 whereat the Apostle Paul asserts that while one day prophecies, tongues and knowledge will cease, faith, hope and love—of which, the greatest is love—will never vanish. Perfect love, for Augustine, is actually more binding and authoritative than the very Scriptures themselves. To be sure, this argument is of the utmost importance for Augustine as his exegetical method is deeply rooted in this principle.

It may seem strange then, that Augustine even finds it necessary to exert the effort to produce a volume on the principles of scriptural interpretation (see esp. I.1) at all. This being said, Augustine realizes that given the fallen and impaired nature of human beings, there is always a possibility for errant and / or misleading interpretations. His work, then, seeks to act as a guiding corrective against such measures (I.57). Though his overarching approach is deeply rooted in his exegesis of 1 Cor. 13, he seems to take as his explanatory point of departure, Mt. 22.37-40: “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind…and love your neighbor as yourself…”

By starting here, Augustine is able to begin to develop his theory—influenced, of course, by Platonic thought—of “things” and “signs” (I.5-6). In Book I, he focuses on “things,” which, at this point, he is only really interested in considering as entities that “exist” (I.3.6) and which are capable of being “loved” (I.8). Of such “things,” God (the Trinity) is the “supreme thing” (I.10) that exists and there is no thing in existence that is greater (I.16) or more enjoyable. Therefore, humans, who “by virtue of having a rational soul and thus a higher status than animals” (I.40) are actually not greater than animals—who also love themselves and their own bodies—if they cannot love their neighbor (I.57-63) and likewise, God.

In fact, Augustine teases this view out even more when he says that “loving” (and therefore enjoying) one’s neighbor, is, in all reality, an act of “enjoying God rather than that human being” (I.79). Indeed, the two are so intertwined that he proceeds to say: “So anyone who thinks he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them” (I.86). Regarding exegesis, it is intriguing that, for Augustine, even those who have misunderstood and / or misinterpreted the Scriptures can still actually be considered edifiers of the community of God, if their interpretation “builds up love” as the double commandment exhorts (I.88).

This, then, is the “chief purpose” of it all: “that the fulfillment and end of the law (Rom. 13.10; 1 Tim. 1.5) and all the divine scriptures is to love the thing which must be enjoyed and the thing which together with us can enjoy that thing…” (I.84). If this one scriptural point is missed, vies Augustine, pseudo-interpretation has occurred and the doors have been opened wide for division to creep into the community. Such a “lapse” argues Augustine, encourages “evil to spread” (I.89) and when evil spreads, people become immune to being able to genuinely love because “love itself decays” (I.89).

This is precisely why, without fully contradicting himself, Augustine can say at once that some have “no need of the scriptures, except to instruct others” (I.93) while for some, “faith will falter if the authority of holy scripture is shaken” (I.89). In the former, persons have based their love of the “other” and the “supreme thing” on the foundational Pauline principle (1 Cor.) of “perfect” love, whereas the latter have based their ideas of love on “misled” interpretations (of Scripture and reality) that result in “injustice (I.88). The reason, then, that Augustine seeks to issue any sort of guiding principles to the interpretive process at all is so that in the end, people will not use Scripture for the purposes of self-gain (e.g. through misinterpretation) but rather to love God and to love others more. Any exegesis whatsoever that does not result in the fulfillment of this double command and therefore purposefully veers away from “perfect” love (1 Cor.), is to be avoided and rejected at all costs; this, then, is the chief-end of the Augustinian hermeneutic.

The Monopolization Of Seminary On A Life (seminaryscholarship.com)

If we were to count my undergrad work at a Bible College as seminary, then add to that my MDiv and MABS degrees and now a PhD, by the time I am done with that PhD, I will have been in seminary a total of 12 1/2 - 13 years. That's more years in seminary than in primary and secondary (elementary - high) school!!! Or, to put it differently, out of my 29 years of living so far, just about 25 of them have been spent in school! Sometimes I wonder if it's my calling to be a lifelong seminary student?

Regardless, seminary has had its ups and downs; it has been challenging and rewarding. Still, one thing that cannot be ignored is the COST!!! I'm not even talking about the cost you must pay in terms of a lack of sleep, how much time it costs or even the expense it takes on your personal and family life. I'm talking mainly about the financial cost; seminary can be incredibly expensive. My BS degree was $40,000, my MDiv was about $40,000, my MABS was about $20,000 and my PhD will be around $75-80,000. Add that up and you're close to $200,000 in education.

As you can imagine, I've had to take out a great deal of student loans. Some people wonder why in the world I keep doing this if it's so expensive? You don't have to do all of this to be a preacher do you? Well, no, you don't. But my goal is not to be a preacher in a pulpit, necesarrily. Instead, I want to be a professor and an author who can help shape and educate the preachers that will fill pulpits and other teaching, speaking and writing venues. That is why I'm doing this! And even on a smaller level, that's why I started this blog: to help educate believers and provide them with biblical research and resources.

In the end, while seminary has had sort of a monopoly on my life, I still love it. And I would be incredibly grateful to recieve the scholarship from SeminaryScholarship.com to help put a little dent in next semester's costs! With a working wife who is trying to support me and two children, every little bit of help goes a long way. So, SeminaryScholarship.com if you can help, that'd be great.

Now, to have a little fun, check out the new SeminaryScholarship.com monopoly board I've created. (Click the arrows in the bottom left corner to turn the board.)

Top 200 Used Words In The First 2 Pages Of A Theological German Article

For those who must translate portions of a German article as part of their PhD requirements, here's a module that will help you learn the top 200 words found within the first two pages of scholarly articles. Recently, I compared 62 articles (ranging from 1998-2009) and the free module (as well as .pdf of over 2000 words) are the results of that research, which you can study and even test yourself on, can be accessed by clicking the image-link below:


Interactive German Jigsaw Puzzle

Hey friends, just wanted to alert you to another free interactive module over on my theological German site (www.gettinggerman.com). It's a very fun and helpful puzzle, so, click the image-link below and check it out:

10 German Word Order Tips & Interactive Exercises

For those of you with a German exam lingering over your head, why not give my "10 German Word Order Tips" & "10 Interactive Word Order Exercises" a try? To access these FREE resources, click the image-link below:


Linguistic & Grammatical Glossary (FREE)

Are you a student whose course requirements include studying English or perhaps some foreign language? Are you someone who, when they read or hear words like "nominative," "aorist" or "indefinite article" you feel like your brain is about to explode? Well, I have created a FREE resource that may be of great help to you: Halcomb's Linguistic & Grammatical Glossary. This glosarry has tons of words, simple explanations and is geared towards Koine, Hebrew, German, French and English. If this sounds interesting to you, check it out by clicking the image-link below:

German Bible Books & Their Abbreviations (Free): www.GettingGerman.com

For those of us interested in reading German, when it comes time to interact with the Bible or scholarly articles on the Bible, we need to know the different names of the biblical texts and their abbreviations. So, I created a free chart that provides both of these. There are many similarities between the German and English names and abbreviations, as you will see, but it is important to take note of the differences. So, check out the www.GettingGerman.com site update and get your copy of this free text! To view it, click the image below:


40 "Must Know" German Words For Translating An Article

Recently, I have been hitting the scholarly German articles in "translator mode" like never before. Having worked through numerous articles so far, I have noticed a few handfuls of words that continually re-appear, words that, if you want to move more quickly through the translation process, you "must know." So, I decided to create a new module which focuses on 40 words. You can access this fun, challenging (timed) module for free at www.GettingGerman.com or by clicking the image below. By the way, if you have found the site helpful, why not tell your friends about it or post a note about it on your site / blog / social media network, etc.? Enjoy!


SBL Sunday Lunch & Sage Journals

Hello friends, I just wanted to add a quick post to Pisteuomen today mentioning 2 things. The first is that a group of us biblio/biblica bloggers are planning to get together for an informal lunch, Sunday the 22nd at SBL in New Orleans (no, this is not to react against Jim's meal gathering but rather, to provide an additional, less formal and perhaps, less expensive, chance to meet-up). If you are interested in joining us, let me know and I'll post the list here after several more have opted-in.

Also, I wanted to let everyone know that the journal powerhouse "SAGE" is currently offering a month's worth of free journal access to anyone who wants it. You can register for free and access journals like JSNT, BTB, ET, etc. Here's the link: Free Journal Acess.



Getting (Theological) German Update

I have recently updated the www.GettingGerman.com site by adding over 1,300 words (cognates / loanwords) to it, along with a list of sound shifts that have taken place in German pronunciation (esp. with cognates). To access the site, click the image below: