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Archive for the ‘hermeneutics’ Category

Note: file this in the “thinking out loud” category.

I’m not sure when this question, the title of this post, popped into my head, but I’ve been mulling it over a bit.  Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of complementarianism is rooting this view in the creation accounts.  Complementarians argue that Paul’s injunction against women teaching in church (1 Timothy 2:11-12) are binding today because they are rooted in creation (vv13-15) rather than cultural mores.   It can’t be seen as temporary because it’s very foundation is the God’s created order.

Let me state right now: the purpose of this post is not to evaluate the merits of this argument.  I am well aware that posts like this can be hijacked and turned into an argument between the “oppressive complementarians” and the “culture-capitulating egalitarians.” 

My purpose in writing this is because I wonder how consistently this argument is applied to other areas, such as the Sabbath.  The observance of the Sabbath is rooted in the creation accounts.  God rested on the seventh day and set it apart as a special day (Genesis 2:1-3, the word normally translated “rest” or “cease [from working]” shares the same Hebrew root with “Sabbath”).  In the 10 Commandments, God instructs Israel to keep the Sabbath day holy (set it apart), “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

So if the Sabbath day is rooted in the created order, should we still observe it today?  Or, more specifically, if complementarians are standing on the creation accounts to support their position, should they also be sabbatarians? 

Perhaps the answer is as simple as arguing that the New Testament doesn’t repeat the Sabbath command, therefore it’s no longer binding to new covenant believers.  I still have questions regarding that approach, but I imagine it’s probably where most people in this camp land.  I welcome any insights our reader(s) might have.

Are non-sabbatarian complementarians inconsistently applying their hermeneutical principles?

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New Interview, New Bible

It’s probably not new, but “new to me” counts towards my naming trend.   I recently watched this interview of Gordon Fee by Mike Feazell of Grace Communion International.  In it, Fee discusses his latest commentary on Revelation, though he arguably devotes equal time to how we ought to read the Bible.  For readers of Fee, much of what he says will sound familiar, but I still found it to be a refreshing half-hour very well spent.

I was particularly intrigued by his comment that Biblica (formerly IBS) has published a TNIV without verse and chapter designations in the text, allowing the reader to read the text naturally, as it was intended to be read (and originally written!).  For $9 (c.f., $44 on Amazon!), this is probably one of the best Bible study tools available.  Mine is in the mail.

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A quick note before I begin.  We here at BBG by and large opt to avoid prominently controversial topics in our posts.  There are a number of reasons for this: they rarely accomplish anything other than getting people riled up, once someone disagrees with your position on one topic they may ignore anything you say on any topic, we don’t want anyone thinking our opinions reflect those of our churches, and so on.  So, I write this post with a little apprehension.

Few topics are as controversial in our day as the one of women’s roles in ministry and the home.  There are long and detailed arguments on both sides of the issue that delve deep into biblical exegesis, hermeneutics, cultural analysis, and plenty of other areas.  I want to ask a question dealing with only one specific argument that I frequently hear from complementarian circles.  So, please, for the sake of my sanity, don’t take this as a chance to spout off on anything related to this topic.  Keep it to this specific argument.  Okay, thanks for sticking with me thus far.

One of the common complementarian arguments is that the authority of man over woman is rooted in the created order.  This is potentially significant, because if it can be determined that man’s authority is a result of the fall, one could argue that Christ’s work has undone the punishments of the fall (death, for example), including the authority of a man over a woman (though this argument is in desperate need of nuance).  There are various arguments that go into this, but there’s one that I’ve been thinking about lately.

It has been claimed that “naming” someone or something is the right of authority.  That is, Adam is given the right to name the animals of the Garden because he is in authority.  Parents are given the right to name their children, God gives new names to Abram and Jacob, and so on.  You can read this sort of argument in Bruce Waltke’s commentary on Genesis.  Adam names the woman in Genesis 2:23, which “entails his authority in the home” (p95).

I’ll point out quickly that some would argue that he does not really name the woman in Genesis 2:23.  Instead, he names her in Genesis 3:20- after the fall.  The footnote (number 18, Genesis 2:23) in the NET Bible gives a linguistic argument against the idea that Adam is naming the woman in case you care to read it (sorry, I don’t know how to link to a footnote in the NET Bible, but the sidebar is easy to navigate).  But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Adam is naming the woman in Genesis 2:23.

Does that necessarily mean, however, that Adam is in authority over her?  I realize that is the assumption of many complementarians, but I have my doubts.  I’ll give one example of someone giving a name who is obviously not in authority over the recipient.

The she (Hagar) called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees’… (Genesis 16:13).

This text indicates to me that is would be hard to argue that naming someone else necessarily implies authority.  Here we have a person giving a name to God.  A lesser being naming a greater one.  Again, this wouldn’t be a “take down” of complementarian arguments of hierarchy in the created order, it would simply counter one specific argument.

Now, here’s why I’m writing this post.  I’m wondering if anyone has encountered (or has one of their own) a complementarian argument that can answer this.  Bruce Waltke, to pick one example, is a brilliant OT scholar and theologian.  I have my doubts he’s so dense that he’s missed something like this.  He even notes the unique nature of this event.  Yet, I haven’t come across a counter-argument (admittedly, have not read much of the literature out there on this) to what I’m presenting here.  Is Hagar simply an exception?  Or is there really no rule to begin with?

I’ve been around long enough to know that few people actually spend the necessary time to investigate arguments for various positions.  We often assume that the scholars we respect have done the requisite homework and weeded their way through the positions.  That simply isn’t true all the time.  The “naming” argument sounds plausible on the front end.  In the words of Proverbs 18:17, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”  But I’ve also been around long enough to know that counter-arguments seem right, too, but are in need of refining.  So I’m throwing it out to my reader(s)- what do you think?

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In continuing effort to recommend quality resources that are available for cheap, I’m letting you know about two great resources available online for free.  And free is, as you know, the cheapest of cheap.

Craig Keener and The Pneuma Foundation have made available Keener’s notes for a class on Biblical Interpretation (link for zip file which can open into a Word Document, link for a pdf).  I think it turns out to be 88 pages of notes.  According to his website, he wrote this as a beginner’s class for work in Africa, so there is no required technical knowledge needed to use it.  This would be perfect for a small group or a church class.  You can also find translations of this material in French, Spanish, Russian and Bulgarian at The Pneuma Foundation site!  You may recall Keener from my “5 Good Read Bible Scholars (for the non-academic)” post- you can add this helpful work to the list.

Biblical Training has posted I Howard Marshall’s A Pocket Guide to New Testament Theology for free at their site!  If printed out, this comes in at a mere 67 pages!  I own Marshall’s slightly larger (almost 800 pages) book, New Testament Theology, and have been very slowly reading portions of it.  At any rate, the Pocket Guide is a nice resource to have handy if you have basic questions on what the NT teaches. 

Happy reading!

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We’re about to embark on a three week course on Revelation at our church’s training school, taught by none other than the great Danny.  To help him out, I sent him a list of points that he will want to stress in the class, to avoid common pitfalls.  I only had six points; he gave me the seventh, making the number appropriate for Revelation.  See if you can spot how many errors there are in our suggestions, and please comment with some of your own:

<sarcasm>

  1. Try to think about what each element in Revelation (bowls, beasts, trumpets, frogs, locusts) represents today, since John probably saw images of 21st century technology (locusts=helicopters?) and didn’t know what to call them.
  2. Don’t worry about the Old Testament.  All of the imagery in Revelation is fresh, and unique to John’s letter.  If you search through the OT, especially the prophetical books, you’ll just get bogged down.
  3. Think chronologically.  John is meticulous about placing things in chronological order.  It will help you decide which dispensation he is talking about, and calculate the dates of certain events.**
  4. If you don’t have enough time to read the whole book, you can focus on two things:  (a) What ‘666’ means, and (b) how to interpret 20:1-10.  These are summary headings of what John is saying, and are keys to interpretation.  If you preach 20:1-10, you’ve preached Revelation; no two passages are more important and exhaustive of the book’s meaning.  Christian eschatology is the millenium.
  5. Bear in mind that Revelation is the only book in the New Testament that is eschatological in nature, and exclusively so.  The other NT writers, Jesus inclusive, simply do not address it.
  6. Read the “Left Behind” series to get a clearer picture of what John is talking about.
  7. Make sure you clip news articles regarding the Middle East to compare to Revelation.  You never know when an evil dictator will be revealed to have his first, middle and last names with 6 letters each.

</sarcasm>

Related to the snarkiness above, you’ll note that I’ve not posted in many a week.  As evidenced above, this is mostly because I have nothing interesting to say these days.  Although nobody has complained, I’m hoping to get one (serious) post in before my next child is born, which is in roughly 3 weeks.

**I drive by a stop sign on my way to work that has a bumper sticker on the back of it reading “Jesus is returning on October 21, 1992.”  Clearly these folks didn’t take point #3 to heart.

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One of the confusing things for many Christians is figuring out what to do with Old Testament laws, specifically those ones that seem completely distant to our culture.  Can we apply them to our lives in our cultural context?

The way I see it, the best way to learn to apply OT laws is to see how the NT writers apply OT laws.  So, let’s take Deuteronomy 25:4 and see what Paul does with it.  Deuteronomy 25:4 states, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”  That seems distant enough for most of us, especially those of us who live in the city and haven’t ever seen an ox.

But Paul applies this to his own day in his letter to the Corinthians, a bunch of city folk themselves.  In 1 Corinthians 9:9-10, Paul writes, “For it is written in the Law of Moses: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’  Is it about oxen that God is concerned?  Sure he says this for us, doesn’t he?  Yes, this was written for us, because when farmers plow and tresh, they should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.”

So what does Paul do with Deuteronomy 25:4?  I see two main things.  First, he applies the principle behind the law to his situation.  The principle is fairly straight forward: the ox deserves to eat the grain it is “treading out” (I’ll admit, I don’t really know what that looks like, but I understand the point).  The ox deserves to be “paid” for its work.  In the same way, Paul argues, the minister deserves to be paid for his work (though if you read on Paul explains why he passes up this right).

Second, Paul uses a “lesser-to-greater” argument.  If this is true of an ox, how much more true is it of people, who are greater than oxen?  This reminds us that the laws of the OT are not exhaustive, but paradigmatic.  What is true of the ox is true of the horse, the dog, the person, etc.

So how does this teach us to apply OT laws?  We look for the principle behind the law itself, not limiting the law to the specific wording alone.  The principle is what we are applying to our context.

Douglas Stuart makes this point in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth when discussing the command to build a parapet around the roof of your house (Deut 22:8).  On page 169 he states,

The Bible contains all sorts of commands that God wants us to know about, which are not directed toward us personally.  If we are not concered about building parapets around the roof of our houses (Deut 22:8), we should nonetheless delight in a God who cared that houseguests not fall off a roof with which they were unfamiliar, and therefore he taught his people to build their houses with that sort of love for neighbor in mind.

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