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Posts Tagged ‘Douglas Stuart’

A few days ago I wrote a post called “5 Must Read Scholars (for the non-academic),” and this is intended as a quick follow-up (that’s taken me 3 days to write).  You can call this the “honorable mention” list, the “B-Team,” the “JV Squad,” etc.  I’d like to follow this up with a list of scholars I wish would write for a non-academic audience, but that probably won’t happen for a few weeks as I’ll be off the radar for a while.  Anywho, see my previous post if you want to know my angle on this.  Without further ado…

(1) Craig Keener.  Of the 5 on this list, Keener was the hardest for me to leave off the original.  Part of this is because he’s a great scholar.  His knowledge of ancient backgrounds is simply astounding (though he can overdo this and include much that is less relevant, such as in his large Matthew commentary).  But what I appreciate about him the most is his humility.  Keener sees himself primarily as a servant of the church.  I was hooked just reading the dedication page of his Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament, which is dedicated to those working on the “frontlines” of ministry and do not have the time to research historical and cultural backgrounds to the Bible.  Keener isn’t simply amassing knowledge to write books; he’s dispensing it for the benefit of the church.  (I should also mention, he fits firmly in the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp and, thus, I have a soft spot for him.)

If you want a feel for his humility, check out these two interviews: with Matt at Broadcast Depth and with Nijay Gupta (Part I and Part II).

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(2) Douglas Stuart.  I need to give a shout-out to one of my former profs.  Stuart is an excellent combination of scholarly rigor and pastoral sensitivity, and I’m privileged to say I’ve learned from him firsthand.  One top of the “How to Read the Bible…” books he’s coauthored with Gordon Fee, Stuart has written a couple commentaries for both pastors and scholars (and the mix, of course), as well as an excellent book on OT exegesis.  While I’m here, I might as well plug (once again) his OT Survey course, available for free at Bible Training. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

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(3) Darrell Bock.  In my last post, Nick mentioned Bock as another option, and I heartily agree.  His massive 2-volume Luke commentary is outstanding, and has written 2 shorter ones that would be great for laypeople.  One main reason he didn’t make my first list is that I haven’t read a ton of his stuff, so I can’t speak first hand about everything (maybe Nick can chime in if he reads this).  Nonetheless, the stuff he has written on the popular level, specifically dealing with the trustworthiness of the biblical Gospels, would benefit anyone who reads them.

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(4) Tremper Longman III.  Longman is an excellent OT scholar and widely respected.  Some of his more popular level stuff I haven’t read, though IVP sent me How to Read Exodus a while back and it looks helpful.  Again, I think I appreciate his desire to communicate effectively with non-scholars, so I’m including him on this list.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(5) George Eldon Ladd.  Ladd may seem like an odd choice here, and not just because he’s the only deceased scholar on either list, but his inclusion is definitely deliberate.  Given all the confusion regarding eschatology in the church, I think it is important to read solid biblical scholarship on the issue (part of why I recommended N T Wright on my first post).  Greg Beale is also good here, but I think Ladd’s influence is greater than many realize.  I see bits of his work on eschatology and the kingdom in many different places, from scholars like Gordon Fee & Craig Blomberg to men like John Wimber.  Someday, when I have a year with nothing to do (read: never), I’d love to do a side-by-side reading of George Ladd and N T Wright.  Between the two of them, I think you can end up with a pretty solid view of God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

Is there anyone else I’m missing?

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In the comments of a previous post, Marcus asked what books I’m using in my study of Ezekiel.  For those who know me, it doesn’t take much to get me talking about books, especially commentaries.  But I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to stress how I use commentaries and other resources in the process of studying a book of the Bible.  Obviously commentaries serve well as resevoirs for “quick answers,” but are even better used over a long period of study.

I want to put all of this in context.  Sometime in the fall, I decided to embark on a prolonged study in the Book of Ezekiel.  I picked Ezekiel for a few reasons: of the major prophets, it’s the one I know the least; I’ve often found it confusing; I wanted to justify my purchase of Daniel Block’s two volume commentary; and Ian Boxall’s commentary on Revelation convinced me that Ezekiel was important to John’s Revelation. 

So here are the steps I am taking in my study of Ezekiel.  Mind you, I’m actually only 7 chapters in; I’m moving intentionally slow (and I took a bit of a break when my computer died).  I also don’t want to give the impression that I really think of studying the Bible in a mechanical, step-by-step process.  The crucial thing about these steps is that I never jump forward, but I may move backward.  That is, just because I move on to a new step doesn’t mean I won’t go back and redo a previous one.  But I try not to get ahead in the process, for reasons I’ll explain as I go. 

The one step I’m leaving out of the list is actually the most important.  I pray a lot as I’m studying, through every step.  Not only do I pray the words of Scripture (which can be difficult in a book like Ezekiel), but I pray that the Spirit of God give me wisdom as I go.  If, after all, He inspired the book, I’d rather seek His insight than anyone else’s.

Read the Text

Sounds obvious, huh?  It doesn’t get any more basic and necessary than this.  I try to read the entire book every now and then.  I read large sections at a time, then narrow down to smaller sections as I see them (chapter divisions in Ezekiel are generally pretty good, though chapters can be grouped together, more on that in a second).  I’ve been using the TNIV, though when I start to look at smaller chunks of verses, I compare other translations.  For this study, I’ve opted not to do my own translation work, or at least not the entire book.  I’ve done that before for other books, and will continue to do so.  But, honestly, it would take me far too long to study Ezekiel if I tried to translate the entire thing. 

Break Off Natural Sections

As I noted above, chapters can be grouped together to form units.  For instance, chapters 1-3 go together, with chapter 1 and chapters 2-3 forming subunits.  Chapters 8-11 all go together.  And so on.  This is something I may adjust as I spend more time in the text, if needed.  These sections are the ones I study, so on my computer, there are separate documents for Ezekiel 1-3, 4-7 (4-5 & 6-7 go together), 8-11, etc.

Make a Rough Outline

My outlines are never super detailed, just enough to give me an idea of the flow of a passage.  When I broke down the vision of chapter 1 into 3 main parts (Vision of the 4 Living Creatures vv4-14, Vision of the 4 Wheels vv15-21, Vision of the Glory of YHWH vv22-28), it helped me make sense of what was otherwise a mess in my mind.  Again, I’m always willing to correct this outline, but I find it a good place to start.

Taking Notes & Asking Questions

Using my outline, I begin to take notes on what I think is important.  For example, in chapters 2-3 there is some ambuguity as to the identity of ruach, which can mean breath, wind or S/spirit.  I look at the text and come up with my own thoughts, and try to see if there is anything significant to it.  I note repeated phrases, of which there are many in Ezekiel (e.g., “then they will know that I am YHWH”).  I also write out any questions I have that I may not be able to answer myself, or that I’m unsure of the answer.  I was a bit confused by the 390 and 40 day periods in Ezekiel 4, so I made a note to check it out when I hit the commentaries (again, after I tried to come up with possible answers myself).  This step can take quite a while.

Theological Reflection

After I do the above (which would be termed “exegesis”), I begin writing out some of my thoughts on what the text teaches about God.  There may be a particular phrase that sticks out, an important action, etc.  I’m already thinking about this stuff as I’m taking notes, but now I spend more time thinking on it.  This is important for two reasons: the Bible teaches us about God (duh) and, in my opinion, the theology of the text is the key to hermeneutics.  In other words, if I can determine what a passage is teaching about the unchanging God, I will have a much better shot at faithfully applying a text that is written in a foreign language, to a foreign people living in a foreign world.

Application Ideas

This is where I write out some thoughts on how a text might be preached or taught.  I’m consistently going back to this, sometimes weeks after I’ve finished a section.  This area is a struggle, especially on the personal level, because I seek to apply it to my life before I go tell anyone else how they should live.  The first 3 chapters of Ezekiel really kicked my butt.  I was so powerfully struck by the immensity of what Ezekiel experienced, I couldn’t get it off my mind.  I remember going out for a run (don’t laugh) and realizing that I had actually been walking around aimlessly for 30 minutes, thinking about Ezekiel’s call.  Needless to say, I’ve had the tendency to become consumed with the book. 

Anyway, all that to say, applying a text is much harder than many assume, which is probably why Ezekiel doesn’t get preached on very often (unless you opt for “what’s the vision by the Kebar River in your life?”).   Maybe somewhere down the road I’ll dive into this even more, but this is already getting long enough.

Using Outside Resources

You’ll notice that this is the last item on this list (yes, we’re at the end).  When I was in school, I would always try to do my own exegetical work before I looked at anything else.  I would translate, diagram, work on syntax, etc, without looking at BibleWorks (only cheaters use it) or commentaries (or at least I tried, sometimes I’d get stuck and look something up, only to realize I probably could have figured it out myself).  In my experience, commentaries work best when you have already thought through a text yourself and are looking for specific insights.  Very few commentaries are so well written that you can just pick them up and start reading, gaining incredible wisdom.  Doing that virtually guarantees you’ll learn next-to-nothing.  But if you know what you’re looking for when you start, you’ll glean much that is useful.  I also check out a few other resources, which I’ll give below.

Commentaries

The two Ezekiel commentaries that I am using are Daniel Block’s previously mentioned two volume commentary in the NICOT series and Iain Duguid’s volume in the NIV Application series.  Both are outstanding.  I was already familiar with Block’s, and had heard good things about Duguid’s.  I have to be honest, I was skeptical at first, but am now a huge fan (so is my wife, for what it’s worth).  Although his space is limited, especially in comparison to the ginormous Block, he makes the most out of it, even including things missed by Block.  Once in a while his practical insights are a bit of a stretch, but I think they’re designed to get the reader thinking rather than suggesting sermon bullet points.  If you can’t afford Block, then I strongly recommend Duguid.  Even if you can afford Block, I’d strongly recommend Duguid.

Block has pretty much everything you’d want in a commentary.  He doesn’t just comment on the text, he interacts well with other writers, brings in helpful historical background and, best of all, takes time to discuss the theological implications of the text.  This commentary is worth the hype.

I also own John Taylor’s commentary in the Tyndale series, but haven’t looked at it much.  I go back and look through it every so often, but there’s little in there that isn’t already covered by the other two.  My wife was using this one until I got Duguid for Christmas.  If I were living near a library that carried commentaries, I’d probably look at Allen, Zimmerli and Greenberg, but I don’t so I don’t.

Other Books

Every so often I consult a book that isn’t a commentary.  I would probably take a look at an OT introduction if I liked any.  I’ve poked around Bruce Waltke’s OT Theology to see what he says about Ezekiel, but for the most part, I stick to the commentaries. 

Online Classes

Another helpful resource is BiblicalTraining.org, which we’ve plugged multiple times.  Douglas Stuart has a lecture on Ezekiel, but it’s only 19 minutes, which is too short for anything more than a basic orientation.  On iTunesU, there is an entire prophets class for free taught by John Goldingay at Fuller Seminary.  His lecture on Ezekiel comes in close to 80 minutes, so naturally he covers more ground than Stuart.  Goldingay is left of where I am, but often has much that is helpful.

Sermons

I’ve mentioned before that Ezekiel is rarely preached on, at least in my circles.  I’ve found a few online; you can check out The Gospel Coaliton site for some examples.  Like commentaries, I won’t listen to anything until I’m done doing my own work.

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So there you have it, far more than you ever wanted to know about my process of studying a book of the Bible.  This process is always subject to revision, so if you have anything to add, I’d be happy to hear it out.  Let me end with this:

The more time I spend in Scripture, the more amazed I am at the treasures contained within.  I’ve spent years now studying the Word (and I have the school debt to prove it!), but on a consistent basis I find myself feeling like a novice.  It’s humbling to jump back on the bunny slopes, but humility’s definitely a good thing.  I had no idea Ezekiel, the book and the prophet, could be so compelling, challenging and God-exalting.  Lord help me (literally) if I ever lose the excitement I feel today.

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In preparing for my own teaching, I’ve been listening to some more lectures from Dr Douglas Stuart’s OT Survey course, provided free by Biblical Training.  He has one lecture in particular called Three Kings, contrasting David with Saul and Solomon.  In it, he argues that when the Bible says, “The LORD has sought out for himself a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), it is referring to David not being a syncretist, unlike the other two.

My immediate reaction was, “where is there evidence that Saul was a syncretist?”  After all, it isn’t obvious in the narrative.  There are many faults of Saul explicitly detailed, but worshipping other gods isn’t one of them.  Stuart, however, argues that this was the case.

In 2 Samuel 2, Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, was crowned king and set up as a rival to David.  “Ish-bosheth” means “Man of Shame.”  Stuart’s argument is that no one would name their son “Man of Shame,” that this is a later scribal change to his real name.  His real name is to be found in 1 Chronicles 9:39, “Ishbaal.”  This name means “Man of Baal.”  This, of course, could be taken to mean “Man of the Master/Lord,” referring to God himself.  Or it could be taken to refer to the Canaanite deity, Baal.  Stuart’s argument is that the latter is more likely, since it helps explain why he is called “Man of Shame” in Samuel (scribal change, possibly to avoid the use of the name of Baal in one of the king’s sons, though I think very well could be debated).  Thus, Saul himself was a Baal worshipper, going so far as to name one of his sons in honor of the pagan god.

Proving Solomon’s syncretism proves to be a much easier exercise.  1 Kings 11:4 says, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of his father David had been.”  Here Stuart sees a clear echo of the description of David in 1 Samuel 13, and I’m inclined to agree.

So what set David apart from these two kings, what made him a man after God’s own heart, was the fact that he held “exclusive trust” (Stuart’s term) in YHWH.  For all of David’s faults, and there are many, he never wavered from his faith that God alone was his hope.

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Twelve Tribes of IsraelA friend of mine is taking Dr Douglas Stuart’s OT Survey course at Gordon-Conwell right now and is studying for the final (you can actually access these lectures for free here).  One of the questions on the final is regarding the allotments of land for each tribe.  My friend’s question was regarding whether Benjamin is considered a southern or northern tribe (I vote south, since that’s where they ended up in the split- 1 Kings 12:21-24).  But then he brought up the tribe of Simeon, who geographically is in the southern portion of Israel, but seemed to end up siding with the north in the split.

So then, what happened to them?  Clearly they couldn’t takes sides with the north but keep their land in the middle of Judah, the powerful tribe of the south.  I think the answer can be seen in 2 Chronicles 15:9, when it says Asa, King of Judah, “assembled all Judah and Benjamain and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him” (TNIV).  This implies that the people of Simeon probably relocated to the north when the 12 tribes split into 2 kingdoms.  Some of those people came back when they realized they were on the wrong side.

If we were paying attention back when we were reading Genesis, we may have forseen something like this.  Before Jacob died, he “called for his sons and said: ‘Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come'” (Gen 49:1).  Here are the appropriate verses for our topic (vv5-7):

Simeon and Levi are brothers- their swords are weapons of violence.  Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.  Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel!  I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.

So Jacob predicted these tribes would be dispersed, but this was fulfilled in different ways.  For Levi, his descendents became the priests of Israel.  Levi wasn’t alloted a specific plot of land, but cities throughout the land from which to minister.  Simeon, on the other hand, was alloted a plot of land in the middle of the tribe of Judah.  Some might consider that a fulfillment of Jacob’s words, but I think there’s more to it than that.  The tribe of Simeon, as implied by the 2 Chronicles passage mentioned above, seemed to scatter themselves by leaving their land and joining the northern tribes.

For me, checking into this was a good reminder of the coherence of the Old Testament.  It also reminds me of how Jacob’s prophesies in Genesis 49 sets the stage for some of what happens in the rest of the Old Testament narrative, but that’s another post for another day.

Note: I got the picture from eBibleteacher.com, which offers up images for free.  I checked the site to make sure I could use it, but it was hard to find that kind of info on the site.  At any rate, the site offers free images; I highly recommend checking it out.

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For our Resource of the Month, Brian and I have opted to use biblicaltraining.org and its free access to seminary classes.  One nice aspect for me is the chance to listen to Douglas Stuart’s Old Testament Survey class, which was a favorite at Gordon-Conwell but one class I did not take.  I’ve enjoyed the lectures immensely, which give you a good idea of Stuart’s engaging personality and desire to show the relevance of the Old Testament to the life of the church.

As I was listening to his lecture on the Prophetical Books (lecture #23), he made a point about the dating of the Law and the Prophets that I did not know.  It was (is?) a fairly common assumption within the world of Old Testament liberal scholarship for years that since the prophets do not quote the Law, the Law must have not been written yet.  The thought is that the Law must have been written after the prophets, perhaps with the authors of the Law using the prophets as their guide.  After all, if the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant, wouldn’t they have quoted from the covenant itself in order to make their case?

But Stuart points out that while in our culture lawyers would point to specific laws and quibble over the precise interpretation of the actual wording to make their case, this was not the method used in the time of ancient Israel.  To make his point, he shows that other cultures in Mesopotamia did not quote their laws in court either.  Drawing on Driver and Miles’ study (I don’t know the exact date, but probably written 100 or so years ago), The Babylonian Laws, he notes how, for example, though Hammurabi’s Law Code (which existed before Moses’ Law) was placed in the center of every city, it was not quoted in trials in those very cities.

Thus, the argument that the prophets did not quote the Law in their accusations against Israel loses its foundation.  Stuart goes on to point out that the concept of “legal citation” didn’t really begin until the Roman period.  It is anachronistic (there’s your vocab word for the day) to argue that the prophets would have to refer to the Law if they needed to make their case.  Unfortunately, Stuart claims, there are still some scholars argue using “100-year old data.”

I commend this class to you, I’ve really enjoyed it.  Dr Stuart is an easy professor to listen to, and a true servant of the church.

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