And the Winner Is…


…Nick Norelli of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth! Yes, I know that Nick gets far too many free books already, but this isn’t just because of his pretty face (he hasn’t got one).  It’s because he puts some actual effort into these things. Witness, for example, his clever theory of Qumramic origins:

“My theory regarding the Qumran community is that they were actually the originators of the Arabic text commonly referred to as the Qur’an.  Anyone who has ever had a look at the Dead Sea Scrolls realize how fragmentary the texts are.  It is only logical to conclude that as the Qumran settlers traveled east into the lands of Jordan, Arabia, and Iraq that they carried their scrolls with them, one of those scrolls being a text of manifold wickedness, a collection of detestable sayings gathered from the various pagans they had come across in their journeys, and this text of course was marked by the name of the community, ‘Qumran,’ but due to the dry climate of the Middle East and the centuries of time that had elapsed between their original travels east and the uprising of Muhammad, this wretched document of demonic dreck deteriorated, and once discovered by the illiterate Muhammad its fragmentary title read ‘Quran.’  So this is to say that the Qumran community were the keepers of records of all sorts, records that have since been lost and found and co-opted for all kinds of insane purposes.  The Qumran community were the pre-Arabian librarians of the ancient Mediterranean.”

Fascinating, and dare I say, persuasive! Well, congratulations to Nick, whose book will be in the mail shortly. And if you didn’t win today, do not be discouraged: there is another giveaway coming in just a couple of weeks!


A Reminder

Today is the last day to submit your entry for the Covenantal Blessings Book Giveaway! If you haven’t gotten around to formulating your theory of Qumramic origins yet, the time to do it is now. I will close the comments at midnight tonight, and the winner will be announced tomorrow morning, God willing.

The Prophet Amos and the Resurrection

Holy Prophet AmosToday, June 15 by the Church calendar, we commemorate the holy Prophet Amos, known to us from his prophecy in the biblical canon. As readers of this blog already know, one of my primary research interests is the history of biblical interpretation, particularly as it pertains to Apostolic (i.e., intracanonical) and Patristic exegesis, and their continuities and discontinuities. On the occasion of this feast, then, it occurred to me to share a remarkable example of continuity between these involving the Prophet’s better known oracle in Christian antiquity (and indeed, the very text written on the scroll he is holding in the icon to the right), Amos 9:11-12:

On that day I will raise up
the tent of Dauid that is fallen
and rebuild its ruins
and raise up its destruction,
and rebuild it as the days of old
in order that those remaining of humans
and all the nations upon whom my name has been called
might seek out me,
says the Lord who does these things. (NETS)

As is well known, this passage is quoted in Acts 15:16-17, where St Luke essentially reproduces (with some editorial variations) the LXX text in his retelling of St James’ address to the Council of Jerusalem. The point that this quotation is meant to prove in that context has been the subject of hot debate among commentators, but I believe that Ernst Haenchen is right when he states:

“When [St Luke] speaks of the re-erection of the ruined tabernacle of David, he does not see this as the restoration of the ruined tabernacle of David, he does not see this as the restoration of the Davidic kingdom, nor does he even see in it an image of the true Israel. He conceives it as adumbrating the story of Jesus, culminating in the Resurrection, in which the promise made to David has been fulfilled: the Jesus event that will cause the Gentiles to seek the Lord”1.

Apostolic exegesis, then, sees in this passage a foretelling of the “Jesus event” centered in the Resurrection, which (as I have noted earlier) is arguably the locus of Davidic fulfillment in the New Testament. Patristic exegesis, consciously patterned after that of the Apostles, follows suit. Note what St Irenaeus  of Lyons writes in his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching (36-38):

And He fulfilled the promises [made] to David; for God promised him to raise up, from the fruit of his ‘womb’, an eternal King, whose reign would have no end. And this King is Christ, the Son of God become the Son of man, that is, become the Fruit from the Virgin, who was of the seed of David. And for this reason the promise was “from the fruit of the womb,” which is proper for parturition from a woman; and not, “from the fruit of the loins,” or, “from the fruit of the kidneys,” which is proper for generation <from a man>, so that the proper Fruit of the virginal womb [descended] from David might be announcedwho reign<s> forever over the house of David, and of whose reign there is no end.

Thus, in this way, he gloriously accomplished our salvation and fulfilled the promise made to the patriarchs and dissolved the old disobediencethe Son of God become the Son of David and the Son of Abraham [….] Rich in mercy was God the Father: He sent the creative Word, who, coming to save us, was in the same place and situation in which we were when we lost life, breaking the bonds of the prison; and His light appeared and dispelled the darkness <of the prison>, and sanctified our birth and abolished death, loosening the same bonds by which we were trapped. And He demonstrated the resurrection, becoming Himself the “firstborn from the dead,” and raising in himself fallen man, raising [him] above to the highest heaven, to the right hand of the glory of the Father, as God had promised, by the prophets, saying, “I will raise the fallen tabernacle of David,” that is, the flesh [descended] from David: and our Lord Jesus Christ truly accomplished this, gloriously achieving our salvation, that He might truly raise us up, saving us for the Father”2.

In the next installment I will offer one further example of patristic exegesis that addresses the  question of the “historical meaning” of this prophetic text and its expansion in Apostolic use.


1 Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1971), page 448.

2 St Ireneaus of Lyons, On the Apostolic Preaching, trans. [Fr] John Behr (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), pages 63-64.

Book Notes

I. I was recently overjoyed to learn that a revised edition of J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism was released a short few weeks ago by Eerdmans. Thus far, all available copies of this work have been simple photostatic reprints of the 1923 edition. Not so here: the full text has been reset for this revised edition, and a short but informative foreword by Carl Trueman has been added. To view a PDF sample of the new edition of this classic work that includes Trueman’s Foreword and Machen’s Introduction, please follow the link.

II. Readers of this blog already know that I often lie awake at night wondering what kinds of projects the infallible Moisés Silva may be up to from his retirement in Litchfield, MI. Well, just yesterday I discovered some exciting news in this regard. For some years now, Zondervan’s “author bio” for Moisés Silva has noted that he is serving as the revising editor for the  5-volume Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (originally published in 1975; ed. Merrill C. Tenney). I have never before been able to find news on this project, but yesterday a simple Google search lead me to, where I learned that all five volumes of the new edition are slated to appear in October 2009! I eagerly look forward to acquainting myself anew with this helpful resource, soon to be re-published under the able editorship of our infallible hero.

Saturday à Machen: On the Causes for the Rejection of Christianity

Lately I have been reading various books on apologetics: Tim Keller’s The Reason for God and Alister McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion?, both of which are excellent, and more recently David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions and Mel Lawrenz’s I Want to Believe. A common complaint in works of this kind is that the “fashionable enemies” of Christianity fail to engage their chosen foe with any degree of seriousness, and in the end, they reject the Christian faith not for what it is, but for that they think it is. Machen agrees, of course; he bemoans the loss of real education and cultural refinement (which loss is often identified as the reason behind this sorry state of affairs) more loudly than any contemporary apologist. But, typically, Machen goes a step further: at the root of such ignorance of Christianity in the culture at large is the scandalous ignorance of Christianity in the church. It is this call for us Christians to own up to our own neglect in this connection that is not very often articulated, and much less heeded.

J. Gresham Machen“The rejection of Christianity is due to various causes. But a very potent cause is simple ignorance. In countless cases, Christianity is rejected simply because men have not the slightest notion of what Christianity is. An outstanding fact of recent Church history is the appalling growth of ignorance in the Church. Various causes, no doubt, can be assigned for this lamentable development. The development is due partly to the general decline of educationat least so far as literature and history are concerned. The schools of the present day are being ruined by the absurd notion that education should follow the line of least resistance, and that something can be “drawn out” of the mind before anything is put in. They are also being ruined by an exaggerated emphasis on methodology at the expense of content and on what is materially useful at the expense of the high spiritual heritage of mankind. These lamentable tendencies, moreover, are in danger of being made permanent through the sinister extension of state control. But something more than the general decline in education is needed to account for the special growth of ignorance in the Church. The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever be the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is; and the fair and logical thing is to learn what Christianity is, not from its opponents, but from those who themselves are Christians. That method of procedure would be the only fair method in the case of any movement. But it is still more in place in the case of a movement such as Christianity which has laid the foundation of all that we hold most dear. Men have abundant opportunity today to learn what can be said against Christianity, and it is only fair that they should also learn something about the thing that is being attacked.”

(J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism [1923; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], pages 176-177.)

New Testament Student Becomes Son of the Fathers

It appears that our friend Josh McManaway, stirred by the righteous example of many others, has passed over from the darkness of Blogger to the light of WordPress. However, unlike the glorious company of those who preceded him, Josh did not simply move his old blog, A New Testament Student, but rather has decided to start anew in WordPress. He explains that the move affords him the opportunity to change his blog’s focus to reflect the shift in his academic interests:

So, here I am today – after converting to Catholicism, I left Southeastern. I now am a student at a public university studying both Religion and Classics. I still have a lot of interest in the New Testament – not only in the modern study of the New Testament, but in the ancient as well. [….] This is why I’ve chosen my new blog title: As a “son” (and student) of the Fathers, I’m able to have my cake and eat it too. I’ve stumbled across a field with a pearl hidden within and I’ve sold all I have to buy it. The pearl is the collective wisdom of the Fathers through which I can now read the New Testament.

Josh’s posts have typically been delightfully astute and very interesting to read, and I eagerly anticipate his re-focused offerings over at  his new blog, Son of the Fathers.

(Incidentally, it should be noted that Josh is one of only two Papists officially allowed on The Voice of Stefan. The other, of course, is our good friend and almost-neighbor Tim McCormick of Catholic Bibles. There used to be a third, Sr Macrina Walker of A Vow of Conversation, but she has departed the blogosphere. Any others lurking around do so illegally, and had better plead with either Tim or Josh that they request official recognition of their status. ;-))

More on Stek, His Festschrift, and His Church

Make no mistake about it: the late great John Henry Stek was a churchman. He attended his church’s seminary, was ordained to its Ministry of Word and Sacrament, and after a few years of active pastoral ministry, was called by it to teach at his alma mater. This churchly summons he attended to faithfully, and he remained at Calvin Seminary until his retirement. Stek’s bibliography is littered with references to publications that bespeak vigorous engagement in the life of his church: among others, the Reformed Journal, Torch and Trumpet, Insight, the Reformed Review, Perspectives, and of course, The Banner. And his involvement in the project that would become his crowning achievement, the (T)NIV with their respective Study Bibles, began with with his defense of the proposal for a new English translation of the Bible at the Christian Reformed Church‘s Synod of 1957, which he attended as a delegate. Such dedicated churchmanship in a Bible translator should come as no surprise, for even as it takes a church to raise an exegete for the church, it also takes a church to raise a translator for the church.

His Festschrift paints a clear picture of Stek’s churchly commitments: over two-thirds of its contributors were “former and present students, colleagues and friends at Calvin Theological Seminary, former and present members of the Old Testament Club at the seminary, . . . [and] fellow members of Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan”1. Further, Leder’s short biographical introduction describes powerfully and succinctly the enormous influence of this churchly context in the making of the man. Of course, Stek himself was keenly aware of it, and, again, it is hardly surprising that in his essay for the Youngblood Festschrift (to which I made reference in my previous post and which I have since discovered may be partially viewed online), he brings himself into the discussion of the history of the NIV in the section entitled “The Role of the Christian Reformed Church.” A little later, he makes it clear that he joined the committee discussions between the CRC and the National Association of Evangelicals, which would eventually bring about his life-long association to the (T)NIV project, because he had been called to serve on the faculty of his church’s seminary. Leder is right, then, to note that Stek contributed to “the Christian Reformed Church in North America as a minister of the Word and sacraments [sic] and a professor of Old Testament in its seminary, and to the church at large through his publications and work with the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible”2in that order, because the general clearly flowed from the particular.

In addition to shedding light upon the (churchly) making of the man, the Stek Festschrift is a remarkable compilation of essays that deserves a wide readership. I have already presented the Table of Contents, and will now reproduce the editor’s description of the essays:

“In light of John H. Stek’s work with the biblical text in the classroom, with TaNaK [the “Old Testament club” at Calvin], and as an NIV editor, and in view of the consequences of his teaching for preaching and theology in the church of Christ, the essays in this volume have been organized in three parts, each of which reflects an aspect of the movement from text to sermon: access to the text itself and a methodology that aids in understanding; a careful reading of the text itself, leading towards suggestions for preaching; and a theological reflection on preaching in the church.

In Part One, Kenneth L. Barker and Ronald F. Youngblood explain the importance of a good translation, how such a translation comes into existence, and the reasons for addressing a specific audience.  . . . Barry L. Bandstra, using 2 Kings 5, examines the usefulness of discourse analysis for exegesis.

Part Two contains exegetical essays that move from a close reading of the text towards some suggestions for preaching. Texts were selected from the sections of Scripture taught by Stek at Calvin Seminary: Pentateuch (Koopmans), Former Prophets (Leder, Vannoy), the Writings (Bosma, Seerveld, Waltke, Wolters). It is not important to explain how two essays that focus on Proverbs 10 came to be included. Call it providential serendipity. When I received the second essay on this text, I took some time to think about this unexpected complication, consulted with colleagues, and contacted the authors (Waltke and Seerveld). Each received a copy of the other’s essay; neither objected to both being included. Let us take these essays, then, as an example of a fact in the history of exegesis: scholars who study the same chapter of Scripture come to conclusions that differ on the extent of the text, its structure, syntactical constructions, and so on. What better place to find such essays than in a volume honoring a careful exegete.

Essays in Part Three reflect theologically on the life of the text in the church through preaching and application (Bolt, Plantinga, Greidanus). And Roy M. A. Berkenbosch’s sermon in Samson is a fitting tribute to a teacher whose classroom work with the Samson narrative was inspiring. Paul W. Fields closes this volume with an up-to-date [1998] bibliography of John Henry Stek”3.

Again, avail yourselves of the opportunity to obtain a reasonably-priced copy of this book, and join the chorus that praises the life and work of John Stek.

(N. B.: Stek’s ecclesiastical obituary is undoubtedly due to appear, as is usual, in next month’s issue of The Banner. I will call attention to it once it is published and available online.)


1 Arie C. Leder, “John Henry Stek, Professor of Old Testament from 1963 through 1990,” in Arie C. Leder (ed.), Reading and Hearing the Word: From Text to Sermon. Essays in Honor of John H. Stek (Grand Rapids: Calvin Theological Seminary/CRC Publications, 1998), page 7. Brackets mine.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., page 14. Brackets mine.

John H. Stek: Requiescat in Pace

John H. Stek (1925-2009)Wayne Leman informs us that the great John Stek,  former chairman of the (T)NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation and Associate Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Calvin Theological Seminary, died last Saturday, June 6, 2009.  Like countless others, I mourn the death of this master teacher and Bible translator, and celebrate his enduring legacy, which will still be with us for decades to come. As his obituary in The Grand Rapids Press rightly states, “[m]illions around the world continue to be blessed by his work.” Last year, Professor Stek was honored by Calvin Seminary, his alma mater and the institution where he spent his entire academic career, with the Distinguished Alumni Award. I am glad that they had the opportunity to bestow this honor upon him before his time on earth was spent.

You can listen to a Talk of the Nation interview with John Stek on the TNIV here. A transcript of another interview with Stek on the same subject is available here. Additionally, a number of Stek’s talks and panel discussions on exegetical and translational subjects are available for purchase from the Calvin College bookstore.

In 1998, Calvin Seminary and CRC Publications jointly published a marvellous Festschrift for Professor Stek under the editorship of Arie Leder, his successor in the Old Testament chair at Calvin. Below I give the publishing information and table of contents.

Reading and Hearing the Word: From Text to Sermon

Arie C. Leder (ed.), Reading and Hearing the Word: From Text to Sermon. Essays in Honor of John H. Stek (Grand Rapids: Calvin Theological Seminary/CRC Publications, 1998). 260 pp.

Table of Contents


1. John Henry Stek, Professor of Old Testament from 1963 through 1990
Arie C. Leder, Professor of Old Testament
Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Part One — The Biblical Text: Translations, Version and Syntax

2. Hearing God’s Word through a Good Translation
Kenneth L. Barker
General Editor, NIV Study Bible, Lewisville, Texas

3. The New International Reader’s Version: What, Who, How, and Why
Ronald F. Youngblood, Professor of Old Testament
Bethel Theological Seminary West, San Diego, California

4. The Textuality of Narrative: Syntax and Reading the Hebrew Bible
Barry L. Bandstra, Professor of Religion
Hope College, Holland, Michigan

Part Two — Exegesis and Interpretation

5. Grave Reflections on Genesis 35:16-29: From Text to Application
William T. Koopmans, Pastor
Cephas Christian Reformed Church, Peterborough, Ontario

6. David and Nabal: A Paradigm of Temptation and Divine Providence
J. Robert Vannoy, Professor of Old Testament
Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, Pennsylvania

7. 2 Kings in the Pulpit: One Leper or Two?
Arie C. Leder, Professor of Old Testament
Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

8. Job 32-37: Elihu as the Mouthpiece of God
Al M. Wolters, Professor of Religion and Theology and Classical Studies
Redeemer College, Ancaster, Ontario

9. A Close Reading of Psalm 13: Daring to Ask the Hard Questions
Carl J. Bosma, Associate Professor of Old Testament
Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

10. Proverbs 10:1-16: A Coherent Collection?
Bruce K. Waltke, Professor of Old Testament Studies
Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia

11. Proverbs 10:1-22: From Poetic Paragraphs to Preaching
Calvin Seerveld, Senior Member in Aesthetics, Emeritus
Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, Ontario

Part Three — Hearing the Word in the Church

12. The Necessity of Narrative Imagination for Preaching
John Bolt, Professor of Theology
Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

13. Seeking God through Preaching
Cornelius Plantiga, Jr., Dean of the Chapel
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan

14. Application in Preaching Old Testament Texts
Sidney Greidanus, Professor of Homiletics
Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

15. Samson: The Riddle and the Reason
Roy M. A. Berkenbosch, Campus Minister and Dean of Students
The King’s University College, Edmonton, Alberta

Bibliography of John H. Stek
Paul Fields, Theological Librarian
Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Regrettably, this volume is now out of print. However, I have discovered that copies are apparently available from Cokesbury for $11.96 (20% off the original list price). If this is indeed the case, I encourage all interested parties to promptly obtain a copy from this source, since used copies of this same volume are going for as much as $265 in other bookshops.

Also not to be missed is Stek’s fascinating chapter “The New International Version: How It Came to Be,” in Glen G. Scorgie et al. (eds.),  The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God’s Word to the World. Essays in Honor of Ronald F. Youngblood (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), pages 235-264.

May John Stek, beloved teacher of many and communicator of God’s Word to untold multitudes, rest in peace.

Another One for the Books

Since we have recently considered the utter uselessness of blurbs on account of their noxious sycophancy, it occurs to me that it would not be altogether inappropriate to provide further proof in support of my earlier argument.

After rather some time of (to borrow Felix Culpa‘s felicitous expression) “studiously ignoring” the work of one David Bentley Hart, Wednesday evening I finally convinced myself  to purchase a copy of his new book Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven: Yale, 2009). The back of the dust jacket features a blurb by John Milbank which reads as follows:

“Surely Dawkins, Hitchens et al would never have dared put pen to paper had they known of the existence of David Bentley Hart. After his demolition job all that is left for them to do is repent and rejoice at the discreditation of their erstwhile selves.”

This is so excessively adulatory as to be nauseating. (Incidentally, that John Milbank should have written such a blurb for David Bentley Hart is not lost on me: birds of a feather, as they say, flock together. Nor, I believe, would it have been lost on the eminent and learned Jürgen Hauwerwas, had he not altogether ceased to grace us with his online presence.) Mercifully, Fr Jonathan Tobias has already commented on the fatuity of this particular blurb and so I won’t have to concern myself with that point any further. But, in the face of blurbs like the above, I wish repeat here the conclusion to my earlier post:

[I]t is the nature of blurbs to be given to exaggeration of various kinds because, by and large, blurbing is an exercise in truthiness. Blurbs toe party lines, deride straw man opponents, and hyperbolize the merits of any given book beyond recognition. For this reason a majority of them are useless, and if considered at all, should be taken with an enormous grain of salt. More often than not, however, they should be altogether disregarded.

In Which You Reap the Benefits of My Covenantal Blessings (Or, a Giveaway)

baqMoving to WordPress in fulfillment of my vow has certainly been the cause of manifold blessings for me personally, but surely my joy would not be fulfilled unless I endeavored to share them with all of you, my gentle snowflakes. For this reason, following the strategically impressive example of Mark Stevens, I have decided to announce the Covenantal Blessings Book Giveaway at The Voice of Stefan! The prize this time around is a copy of Peter W. Flint (ed.), The Bible at Qumran: Text, Shape, and Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), the fifth volume in the series “Studies in the Dead Sea Scroll and Related Literature” edited by Flint, Martin Abegg, and Florentino García Martínez. Here, for your edification, is the Table of Contents:



Diacritical Marks, Sigla, and Abbreviations

Peter W. Flint

Part 1: The Scriptures, the Canon, and the Scrolls

Canon as Dialogue
James A. Sanders

How We Got the Hebrew Bible: The Text and Canon of the Old Testament
Bruce K. Waltke

The Bible in the Making: The Scriptures Found at Qumran
Eugene Ulrich

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Canon of Scripture in the Time of Jesus
Craig A. Evans

Noncanonical Writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Apocrypha, Other Previously Known Writings, Pseudepigrapha
Peter W. Flint

Part 2: Biblical Interpretation and the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Interpretation of Genesis in 1 Enoch
James C. VanderKam

Abraham in the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Man of Faith and Failure
Craig A. Evans

Moses in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Living in the Shadow of God’s Anointed
James E. Bowley

Korah and Qumran
James M. Scott

4QMMT, Paul, and “Works of the Law”
Martin G.Abegg Jr.

The Intertextuality of Scripture: The Example of Rahab (James 2:25)
Robert W. Wall

Bibliography and Indices

Select Bibliography
Index of Modern Authors
Index of Ancient Literature

Truly an impressive collection of essays! And what can you do, you ask, to get your hands on this outstanding volume? Well, it’s really very simple. I ask of you two things:

1. First, that you announce my change of address and this giveway on your own blog, and provide a link to your announcement in the comments to this post. (Note that WordPress blogs generate automatic pingbacks, and therefore you don’t need to provide if a link if you blog on WordPress.)

2. Second, that in your comment you provide your most creative theory regarding the identity of the Qumran community (if there was one, according to your theoretical construct). Obvious things like the Essenes and the Golbian Hasmonean fortress are out of the question. I, for instance, hold that Qumran housed the easternmost (and most learned) first-century outpost of the KISS Army.

I will accept submissions until Monday, June 29, and will announce the winner on the morning of Tuesday, June 30. Best wishes to any and all who choose to participate!