Archive for the ‘Biblical Studies’ Category

I am so grateful to Zondervan for publishing this series and I commend them on their choices for commentators. All of the commentators represent a broad stream of solid Evangelical scholarship and exegesis. I chose to review the Ephesians commentary by Dr. Clinton Arnold (NT professor at Talbot seminary). I am familiar with Dr. Talbot’s previous work, especially his monograph, “Ephesians: Power and Magic”. He has done some great work on the topic of Spiritual warfare as well.

I can’t review this entire commentary or else my review would be hundreds of pages, so I will redact my feedback to that which I specifically like about the “Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament “ series itself.  As a point of reference, I own about 50 commentaries on Ephesians and will compare and contrast the Zondervan series with some of the others I own.

What’s to Like?

  1.        The wide double-column format. I love this feature which you don’t find in many other series’. I personally read commentaries by keeping my thumb in a page and constantly looking back and forward to maintain a “Forest” view perspective on the text. With the double-column format, one has access to a total of 4 columns when viewing the open book with 2 pages open. I personally love this.
  2.        Literary Context Section. T. David Gordon suggests, in his book, “Why Johnny Can’t Preach”, that many pastors simply don’t know how to read and engage in basic literary analysis. The very first subsection within each passage section is dedicated to literary context. Surveying the commentary, I was pleased to find this section deal with such things as genre, type of speech, repeated words and themes, among other things. This is invaluable for the person who really wants to understand the oral culture and how the written text would be heard to the listeners. Our culture is becoming increasingly illiterate, not that we don’t know how to pronounce words per se, but that we don’t know how to perceive certain literary features within the text.
  3.        Main Idea. Many commentaries don’t distinguish the forest from the trees and leaves the reader thinking every single word is a really big deal, thus focusing on the trees and not seeing the forest, or flatlines the text in such a way that one only sees the forest and fails to acknowledge the beauty of particular trees.
  4.        Translation and Graphical Layout. This is my most favorite feature. Some commentaries may include some sort of chiastic structure outline of the text, but this series actually provides a true outline based on syntax, noting particular clauses within the pericope. This alone is worth half the price of the book (with the additional features making the commentary a good investment).
  5.        Structure. The structure section provides something of a chiastic structure of the text, noting parallelism, etc. At this point, you might think the commentary overkill on all the subsections dealing with the passage, but this just confirms how important it is to see the text on its own terms before you even get to Arnold’s exegesis. All good exegesis requires this preliminary work and Zondervan chose to enhance this often neglected preliminary work that is usually absent in many commentaries.
  6.        Exegetical Outline. Yes, there’s even more before you even get to the commentary on the text. The exegetical outline provides a good skeletal outline that could very well serve as a homiletical outline for the preacher/teacher.  Such an outline is pretty common in most commentaries, but I appreciate how this outline comes after the previous labors which point to the summation.
  7.        Theology in Application. This section is somewhat similar to what you would find in the NIV Application Commentary Series, however the NIV series emphasizes more of a hermeneutic “So What?” answer that is helpful in bridging the text to contemporary concerns, whereas this series engages in Biblical Theological and Systematic Theological applications. Compiling all of the “Theology in Application” could very well  serve as a Biblical Theology work on Ephesus as a standalone book that could well retail for $15 alone.

 

Bottom Line:

I admit that the $36.99 retail price may seem steep; however this is less than the comparable Pillar series ($44) and Baker exegetical series ($44.99). Note that this volume is over 500 pages and double columned in the commentary portion of the text, whereas the Baker series is the same in pages but single columned in the commentary section, making this essentially larger in raw word count.

I highly recommend this volume for all pastors and would commend it to a general lay audience as well. I will be purchasing this series as I preach through NT books in the future.

As I work through Galatians, I found this comment from John Stott very insightful about the contrast of the Judaizing Burden-Imposing ministry with the directives that the Christian community is a Burden-Lifting ministry:

Human friendship, in which we bear one another’s burdens, is part of the purpose of God for His people. So we should not keep our burdens to ourselves, but rather seek a Christian friend who will help to bear them with us.

By such burden-bearing we ‘fulfil the law of Christ’ (verse 2). Because of the interesting link in this sentence between ‘burdens’ and the ‘law’, it is possible that Paul is casting a side-glance at the Judaizers. Certainly some of the law’s requirements are referred to as a burden in the New Testament (e.g. Lk. 11:46; Acts 15:10, 28), and the Judaizers were seeking to burden the Galatians with the observance of the law for their acceptance with God. So Paul may be saying to them, in effect, that instead of imposing the law as a burden upon others, they should rather lift their burdens and so fulfil Christ’s law.

The Omniscient Biblical Narrator

Posted: December 8, 2010 by joelmartin in Biblical Studies

I was recently looking over some of what Meir Sternberg wrote about the omniscient narrator in the Bible. Today I read the account of Ahab and Naboth in I Kings 21 and it brought Sternberg to mind again. The narrator of the account has access to Ahab’s conversation with Naboth, Jezebel’s conversation with Ahab, Jezebel’s letters to the elders and nobles of the city, and Elijah’s condemnation of Ahab. How can this be? We are never told of course.

The omniscient viewpoint is often used by the writers of the Bible and we often think nothing of it as we read. Perhaps later writers had access to sources around Ahab, or perhaps God simply revealed all of it to Elijah or a scribe of Elijah’s. Who knows? The Bible is very quiet about its method of composition and we can’t really peer behind the scenes with any confidence.

For Luke the charismatic ‘Spirit of prophecy’ is very much the power and life of the church, and so probably of the individual too. It is the means by which the heavenly Lord exercises his cleansing and transforming rule over Israel as much as the means by which he uses her as the Isaianic servant to witness his salvation to the ends of the earth (Max Turner 1998:347).

The bestowing of the Spirit on Pentecost didn’t mark the end of God’s dealings with Israel and a transferring of God’s salvific dealings solely to the Gentiles, but was rather the initiation of Israel’s glory age. They were empowered to be the witnesses to the nations as prescribed in Isaiah. The height of Israel’s existence is their mission to the Gentiles and that is being fulfilled right now in these last days. There remains a distinction in ethnicity between Jew and gentile, no doubt, but both constitute a single people of God who are constituted by the same means of calling upon the name of their common Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all the nations are blessed.

Galatians 5:16-18 “The Ammunition of the Spirit in Civil War”

Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV) — 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

McKnight (1995:272):

I know of no Christian parents or youth leaders, or for that matter any pastorsm who seriously believe what Paul teaches in verses 16-26 (of Galatians 5), that the sole foundation of Christian ethics is dependency on the Spirit and a life of freedom in the Spirit….I have met only one person who ever expressed this view of Paul in a definitive and, to him, practical way. That person was F.F. Bruce…”

I would add Gordon Fee to that list in my own experience as I also shared this same conviction in my study of the reality of Spirit-fullness in the New Covenant. McKnight continues:

To be sure, Paul knew that when a person was controlled by the Spirit, that person was holy. He also knew that a person who lived in the Spirit lived in a loving way. Thus, he knew that the Old Testament moral guidelines and the teachings of Jesus on holiness, righteousness, and compassion would be confirmed by anyone who lived in the Spirit (1995:273).

Needless to say that we can be accused, just like the early Galatians, of wanting to derive our ethic from the law or traditions of man. I am not opposed to the “3rd use of the Law” in relation to our sanctification, but if such is taught in a way that doesn’t necessitate the presence of the Spirit, then we may very well be acting like the early Judaizers.

What has Paul said about the Spirit thus far?

Galatians 3:1–6 (ESV) — 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

–          Received the Spirit by faith

–          Began in the Spirit, but seeking sanctification in the flesh

–          Spirit supplied by hearing with faith, not works of law

Galatians 3:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

–          V. 13 speaks of the verb…Christ redeemed us

  • Followed by two adverbial purpose clauses
    • So that…blessings of Abraham to Gentiles
    • So that we might receive the promised Spirit
      • The work of redemption must lead to salvation and the reception of the Spirit.

Galatians 4:6–7 (ESV) — 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

–          We are sons and heirs through the Spirit, enabled to cry out Abba! Father! The Spirit enables our faith, our assurance as children. This speaks of objective status realized through a subjective cry, which is absolutely brought about through the giving of the Spirit

Galatians 5:5 (ESV) — 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

–          The Spirit is the agency through which we have faith and hope for the coming righteousness.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

–          Walk = present imperative, denotes ongoing life of the Christian, NIV has “Live” although the new NIV has “walk”.  Speaks of direction

–          “by” or “in”, “pnuema” is in the dative/locative/instrumental case with no article. “by” or “in” is supplied to understand the nature of the command.

  • Dative = to, locative = in, instrumental = by, can be referring to the domain we live in, or the means whereby we walk. Both ideas are taught in Scripture. I think “by” makes the most sense, especially in light of Paul’s earlier reference in  3:3 about beginning by the Spirit, trying to perfect by flesh.

–          “you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” – strong double negative, aorist subjunctive expresses certainty, “you will never under any circumstances”. Implied and expected result of walking in the Spirit, it is thus a promise. If you are walking in full reliance on the Spirit, you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (sarx). There is a “pneuma/sarx” battles in Scripture.

  • Is this promise too strong? NO. It is impossible to gratify the desires of the flesh when you are walking in the Spirit, just like it is impossible to lie when you are telling the truth, to starve to death when you eat, to suffocate to death when you are breathing.
  • The law can only inform and instruct, but it is the Spirit that actually empowers!!!
  • This civil war inside of us is dealt with some more: (more…)

The following quote is from Scot McKnight’s commentary on Galatians in The NIV Application Commentary series:

McKnight (1995:272):

I know of no Christian parents or youth leaders, or for that matter any pastors who seriously believe what Paul teaches in verses 16-26 (of Galatians 5), that the sole foundation of Christian ethics is dependency on the Spirit and a life of freedom in the Spirit….I have met only one person who ever expressed this view of Paul in a definitive and, to him, practical way. That person was F.F. Bruce…

I would add Gordon Fee to that list in my own experience as I also shared this same conviction in my study of the reality of Spirit-fullness in the New Covenant. McKnight continues:

To be sure, Paul knew that when a person was controlled by the Spirit, that person was holy. He also knew that a person who lived in the Spirit lived in a loving way. Thus, he knew that the Old Testament moral guidelines and the teachings of Jesus on holiness, righteousness, and compassion would be confirmed by anyone who lived in the Spirit (1995:273).

Needless to say that we can be accused, just like the early Galatians, of wanting to derive our ethic from the law or traditions of men. I am not opposed to the “3rd use of the Law” in relation to our sanctification, but if such is taught in a way that doesn’t necessitate the presence of the Spirit, then we may very well be acting like the early Judaizers.

It is sometimes said that the Holy Spirit is the neglected members of the Godhead. Study of Scripture, however, will make clear that the Spirit is the one who regenerates our hearts, accompanies the inward call, adopts us into our relational standing as children of God, seals the believer as an objective member of the New Covenant, empowers and guides our sanctification, as well as gifting the Church for ministry. I’m sure that there are pastors out there emphasizing this dynamic, however I resonate with McKnight when he claims F.F. Bruce as the first scholar which emphasized these points in Pauline Pneumatology. For me, it was the pages of Gordon Fee’s, “God’s Empowering Presence”, that had confirmed all that I had believed from my own study of Paul’s theology of the Spirit.

Gal.  5:1-6  “Stand Firm”

Galatians 5:1–6 (ESV) — 1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Turning to the Law is Turning Away from Christ (1-2)

Turning to the Law makes you a Debtor (3)

Turning to the Law is Falling from Grace (4)

The Spirit brings Faith, Eager anticipation, Hope and finally Righteousness (5)

Works of Faith through Love is what really matters (6)

 

Turning to the Law is Turning Away from Christ (1-2)

1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

–          This is a transition verse that I attached to the previous section last week. In summary, trusting in the law is like being a carnal, natural born son of Hagar, thus not of promise according to the Spirit. Christ died to set you free from that marriage to the Mosaic covenant.

–          Paul argues in Romans 7 that the law has affect until it dies and then you are free. The Mosaic covenant was fulfilled in Jesus and dies in his death. His resurrection ushers in a New Covenant whereby we are joined to Christ by faith and made possessors of the Spirit.

–          Notice indicative/imperative. We live out what is objectively true. Some people struggle with freedom, believe it or not. Some imprisoned criminals find it hard to acclimate to life outside the walls, becoming bound and dependent upon the institution of prison.

2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.

–          “Look” (behold) is used by Paul on one other occasion and the force is to draw attention to himself in all that He is to these dear believers.

–          “if you accept circumcision” – Circumcision was once the sign that you were in and included in God’s covenant community, so much so that God was searching out Moses to kill him for failure to circumcise his son:

  • Exodus 4:24–26 (ESV) — 24 At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
  • Things have changed dramatically. You neglect circumcision, God’s judgment is upon you; now, if you insist on circumcision, God’s judgment is upon you.

–          “Christ will be of no advantage to you” – not of little advantage, but of none, you put your trust, even just a little bit in something else, then you have totally rejected Christ’s finished work on the cross.

  • This is dangerous. We need to hear the Gospel, love the Gospel, and constantly examine ourselves as to whether we are trusting at all in anything else. The second we say something else is necessary is the moment we say that the Cross is not completely sufficient and that Jesus died in vain. Even if you say that cross is necessary, in addition to something else, you are still denying the cross.

–          Turning to the Law is Turning Away from Christ (1-2) (more…)