Proverbs 5 Played Out in Real Life

I read an article today that is a great reminder of staying true to one’s marriage vows (here).  Grenville Kent captures the allure of the moment and the knowledge of giving in to the consequences.  It is well worth the read.  Grenville Kent teaches OT in Australia and is a film maker as well.

Preaching and the Song of Songs

Applause to Grenville Kent who tackled the topic of preaching the Song of Songs in church–even on a Sunday morning!  In Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching, (IVP 2010), in which Kent is an editor and contributor, he offers at least an outline of a potential message from the Song: “I Dig Your Garden” (cute title for 4:12-5:1). While I may disagree with a few of his spiritualizing applications, Kent is to be commended for “preaching” a book that many pastors leave out of their pulpits and authors ignore in their books concerning preaching the OT.

PS. If you are interested in preaching the OT, this book is worth a read.

Biblical Methodology

For those interested in methodology (PhD students preparing to write dissertations in any field should take special note), pick up the June issue of JETS (2011).  Eckhard Schnabel has an article on reading the book of Acts: “Fads and Common Sense: Reading Acts in the First Century and Reading Acts Today.” Schnabel focuses his attention on the current methodology employed to understand the NT book of Acts.  Although his focus is on one book, his call for a common sense methodology has implications for all of the books of the Bible.  He writes in his conclusion, “…common sense suggests that the meaning and the significance of biblical texts is analyzed and established with the help of the full arsenal of historical, literary, narrative, rhetorical, and theological questions” (278). (Schnabel defines “method” as a set of questions “which illuminate the text” 277).   While I would lump narrative under “literary,” this common sense methodology understands that each biblical text has an historical context, that the biblical author employed certain literary techniques to make his rhetorical argument to make certain theological arguments.  Any study or reading of a biblical text that leaves out any of these “methods” will not expose the full intent of the biblical author.

Not only is this common sense methodology good for a number of dissertations (and commentaries), it is also most profitable for the church.  While recognizing the need for technical studies that may aim at a specific method, Schnabel suggests, “However, when writing for a wider readership, particularly for the church, the most helpful studies and the most useful commentaries are those which combine all relevant methods…” (277). I always appreciate a scholar who is concerned for the church!

A Good Read

I need to recommend a book entitled Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The author is Laura Hillenbrand who also authored the NY Times bestseller, Seabiscuit. The story centers on Louis Zamperini.  He was an Olympic runner, B-24 bombardier, POW and….  (I will not finish the sentence as not to spoil the ending for you).  In such a story one would think that surviving a  bomber crash in the Pacific and a Japanese POW camp would be his biggest battles.  But they were not; his greatest challenge was coming home.

It is well written. A thoroughly enjoyable and redeeming read.

PS There is a cute line in the acknowledgements:  Once while speaking with Laura Hillenbrand (the author of Seabiscuit) Zamperini quipped, “I’ll be an easier subject than Seabiscuit,… because I can talk” (399).

Does It Matter If They Are Fictions?

In my reading of late I have come across a few biblical scholars who profess that OT characters such as Jonah, Ruth, Job, Esther and lately even Adam and Eve are not literal characters.  They are, in their opinion, works of fiction.  However, these same sages suggest that these imaginary characters have something to teach us.

I just finished reading John N. Oswalt’s, The Bible Among the Myths.  While answering the question is the Bible unique among ANE writings, he makes a statement that needs to be answered by those who present the people of the OT as no more than imaginations.

“…the researcher must believe that falsification of data is inimical to understanding. If he or she concludes that we can learn such and such from what certain persons chose to do in the past, and if it turns out that those persons did not exist and did not do those things, the conclusions are worthless”  (114).

Mark Twain & Job

I am slogging my way through a massive biography on Mark Twain (Mark Twain, A Life) by Ron Powers.  In the life of this esteemed writer I once again see a dynamic that I found while studying the book of Job: when faced with loss or deep pain man can either choose to trust God or he (or she) will lower his view of God.

In 1858 as a cub riverboat pilot, Sam Clemens (Twain) had secured a menial job for his younger brother, Henry, onboard the steamship Pennsylvania. In the summer of that year unfortunately, (or fortunately) Sam had a falling out with the captain and was placed on another vessel.  With a hold full of turpentine the Pennsylvania departed upstream from New Orleans without Sam but with his beloved brother.  Two days later Clemens received word that a boiler explosion had sunk the steamship, killing 150 people.  While not killed in the initial blast, Henry who was asleep over the ship’s boilers, was badly injured and died three days later.

Twain was grief stricken over the loss of his youngest sibling.  In a letter to a family member he wrote, “Long before this reaches you, my poor Henry,—my darling, my pride, my glory, my all…the light of my life will have gone out in utter darkness” (88).  Of this tragedy his biographer writes, “Henry’s death closed a door in Samuel Clemens’s heart. Before it happened, he had talked of joining the ministry, a fantasy had he had in common with Orion (his older brother). Now his skepticism regarding the Christian faith hardened into nonbelief… “(89).

In the face of tragedy and great loss one can choose to exercise faith in God in the midst of pain or he will lower his view of God. Twain and Job illustrate the two options.