Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Peter O’Brien’

It is certainly no accident that with his [the Holy Spirit] entry, there is no further talk of defeat.  In Romans 7:14-25, a rough count that I made indicates that the words “I,” “me” and “my” (in the RSV anyway) were used over 40 times. In that context there was no reference to the Holy Spirit, and thus, defeat.  In chapter 8 where the Holy Spirit’s presence is all pervasive, confidence and assurance are set forth.  The warfare between the two natures goes on, but where the Holy Spirit is in control, the old nature is compelled to give way.  And as long as Christians seek to carry on the warfare at their own charges, they fight a losing battle.  But when the avail themselves of the resources of life and power that are their’s in Christ Jesus, they are more than conquerers. 

From Peter O’Brien, Freedom from Death Talk 1 (on Romans 8:1-4)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

In Ephesians 4:8, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18:

“When he ascended on high,

he led captives in his train

and gave gifts to men.” (NIV)

If you flip to Ps.68:18 in your Bible, however, you’ll find that the text reads:

“When you ascended on high,

you led captives in your train;

you received gifts from men” (NIV)

What do we do about this?  The change of subject (i.e., from “you” to “he”), isn’t entirely alarming, since the NT frequently applies things said of God to Jesus (e.g., Peter’s sermon in Acts 2; never mind that we understand God to be Triune, so putting Jesus and God on the same footing is no offense).  The issue is “received” and “gave.”  Is Paul misquoting the text?  There are no easy answers.  Peter O’Brien, in his excellent commentary on Ephesians, admits as much.  After listing five major interpretations of this verse, he admits, “None of the above-mentioned suggestions fully solves this difficult crux” (Ephesians, PNTC, p.293).

We find no help here from textual criticism; the textual evidence is very strong for Paul’s use of “gave” in Eph.4:8.  We find less help when we refer to the Hebrew Masoretic text or the Septuagint.  Both write “received;” not “gave.”  The problem won’t go away that easily.

Historically, these types of things have shaken me, bringing up questions in the “is the Bible reliable?” vein.  Something helpful to me in such circumstances has been the mental equivalent of taking a deep breath, and reminding myself of what we know about Paul, and NT authors in general:

  1. Paul probably knew the OT (in Hebrew and Greek), better than most of us, let’s not forget that he was a Pharisee (Php.3:5).
  2. Paul probably held the OT in higher regard than most of us (this is the man who wrote 2 Tim.3:16, after all).
  3. Paul was probably writing to people who knew the OT, and had a high regard for it.
  4. Paul is no sloppy writer.  As literature, the structures, words and themes of Paul’s letters show amazing skill, purpose, thoughtfulness and depth.

Given the above, the most reasonable thing to conclude is that Paul’s use of “gave” in his quotation is intentional, serious, and with scriptural basis.  It is no accident, no light treatment of the OT, and no Biblical contradiction.  Also, it is worth reminding ourselves that it is dangerous to impose our contemporary ideas about quoting sources upon Paul, who comes from a vastly different culture than our own, with completely different technology, expectations, and assumptions about the transmission of ideas.  In our eye witness news days, with entire books written on how to properly quote a source, where we even insert special words to remind readers that we’re quoting a source exactly as the author wrote it (e.g., sic), it’s easy to lose sight of this.

So in the first instance, we can relax, and doubly so because I haven’t even mentioned yet that Paul is an apostle writing by the power of the Holy Spirit, a fact itself capable of allaying our fears.  But we still have a problem, namely, what is Paul saying and why?

The explanations I’ve read broadly fall into two categories.  The first suggests that Paul is applying some flavor of Jewish technique for Biblical interpretation, called a midrash.  There were targumim (i.e., midrashic interpretations of the OT) available to Paul at the time that actually use “gave” instead of “received” for the verse in question.

The second has to do with the words themselves.  The word for “receive,” it is argued, can mean “receive in order to give.”  In other words, the gifts are received, but only to be given back.  Expanding on this, some have made connections between Psalm 68 and Numbers 8 and 18.  In these texts, God takes or receives the Levites only to give them back to serve the community (c.f., Num. 8:16 and 8:19).   This explanation fits nicely in the context of Ephesians, because in Eph.4:7-16, Paul is talking about gifts that God has given to the church, specifically people (apostles, prophets, etc.), for the purpose of serving it.

My summaries above all require much defense, and again, as O’Brien notes in his commentary, none are without deficiencies.  The one unifying premise we might note, however, is that to say Paul “quotes” Ps.68:18 may be misleading in itself.  It might be better to say that Paul is interpreting the Psalm for us as much as he is quoting it.  He actually does this quite explicitly in the verses that follow (vv.9-10), when he shows how the Psalm points to the incarnation and ascension of Jesus.  Paul is in “interpretive mode,” as it were.

Finally, we should note that this text poses no great exegetical problem.  Had we no knowledge of Psalm 68, Paul’s point is in this passage is clear:  God (Jesus) has a history of giving gifts to us, in this case the gifts are people who help us grow to the unified maturity that has Christ-likeness as its ultimate goal.  And exhale.

Read Full Post »

I figured I’d continue my “5 Scholars” gimmick series with some thoughts on scholars who I wish would write more for a non-academic audience.  This is a follow-up to my “Must Read” and “Good Read” lists.  Some of these guys have already written some things for a non-academic audience, but would benefit many by writing even more.  In my opinion, it takes a certain skill to write for laypeople, a skill not all Bible scholars (or scholars of any stripe) are blessed with.  These five, however, have what it takes to make it work, and I hope they do so in the future.  Anyway, without further ado, here we go.

(1) Craig Blomberg.  Blomberg is a favorite of mine.  He’s a solid Bible scholar; writes nothing flashy or earth-shattering, but consistently churns out quality books.  I’ve previously reviewed his Jesus & the Gospels and Neither Poverty Nor Riches here at BBG.  Both of these books can be read by lay people (especially the one on the Gospels), yet are bulky and detailed enough that I’m not sure many would be drawn to them.  The same goes for his The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I feel like his books could be read by laypeople, but don’t target them. 

Books I’d like to see

  • Blomberg is excellent on parables, perhaps a scaled down version (i.e., not 300+ pages) of what he’s previously written
  • A lay introduction to Jesus, focusing less on scholarship and more on the Gospel accounts (maybe condense sections 3-5 of his Jesus & the Gospels)
  • Of all the scholars I read, Blomberg could pull off a Jesus/Gospels Q & A better than anyone.  I could see him sitting down in a room with 20 laypeople, answering questions in a way that would be informing and transforming.  I’d love to see him do something like this, addressing questions of interpretation, historicity, etc.  This may be something better done on his blog, but either way, I think it’d be great. 

(2) Douglas Moo.  For my money, Moo is one of the finest NT scholars out there.  I place his Romans commentary as my personal favorite, his James commentary is up there with the best, and I’d bet his Colossians/Philemon commentary is just as good.  Granted, he has written lay level commentaries on Romans and James, but I’m learning that commentaries are not as popular amongst laypeople as perhaps they once were. 

Books I’d like to see

  • An Intro to Paul, something along the lines of what Michael Bird accomplished and Anthony Thiselton tried to
  • Some of D A Carson’s best stuff are his expositions on sections of Scripture (Sermon on the Mount, for example).  I could see Moo doing something like this on a section like Romans 5-8, or maybe the intersection of faith & works.
  • I’ve heard Moo is writing a book on creation and the environment.  Again, if anyone could write a book like this detailing what the Bible teaches about God’s creation to a lay audience, I think Moo could do it.
  • A book on Bible translation.  As the chairman of the committee responsible for the upcoming NIV2011, Moo could do everyone in the church a service by writing about how translations are done, what sorts of issues are involved, why it’s more complicated than it looks, etc.

(3) Bruce Waltke.  Waltke is a gifted communicator with a passion for the church.  He openly admits that he writes for the church more so than the academy.  The only problem is that his books tend to be huge and detailed, something that makes them far less accessible to laypeople (you know, the ones who actually comprise most of the church) than to scholars &/or trained pastors.  His OT Theology weighs in at 1000+ pages (and took me forever to review), and his Proverbs commentary might be the best around, but is 2 Volumes totalling 1300+ pages.

Books I’d like to see

  • A condensed version of his OT Theology
  • A book on biblical wisdom, not so much an intro to wisdom literature, but a look at what it means to live wisely in a biblical sense in the 21st century
  • A similar book on the Psalms, what can the Psalms teach us about how we live, worship, etc.

(4) Gordon Wenham.  I feel like Wenham is often overlooked when discussing the best OT scholars out there, but if I were to list some of the best Pentateuch commentaries, he’d be near the top for Genesis, Leviticus and Numbers (the latter being one that could reach a lay audience).  He has written Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, which could hit a lay audience if it weren’t so textbookish. 

Books I’d like to see

  • His Leviticus commentary is quite good, I wonder if he could write a book on the theme of sacrifice in the Bible, culminating in Jesus (and I’d love to hear his thoughts on Hebrews)
  • I’d love for someone to write a book taking a few major themes of the Pentateuch (3-5) and showing how they set the stage for what comes in the rest of the Bible.  I’m thinking of themes like: creation, blessing, sacrifice (see above), covenant.  Wenham would be a great scholar to write such a book, and could probably do it in a non-scholarly fashion.

(5) Peter O’Brien.  O’Brien has written some of the best Pauline commentaries out there.  His commentaries on Philippians, Colossians and Ephesians are either the best for those individual books are darn close.  It is clear he has a desire to explain the text for pastors and teachers in a way that is biblically faithful and responsible.  Yet, he’s written almost nothing for the lay person to read. 

Books I’d like to see written

  • Philippians and Ephesians both have a lot to say about the church, since O’Brien has written excellent commentaries on both, I bet he could do something along these lines
  • Moore Theological College has posted 100+ O’Brien sermons/lectures online.  Could any of these be turned into smaller books of expositions?  I’ve listened to his series on Romans 8 and I think so.
  • Like Douglas Moo above, I think he could write an excellent lay level Intro to Paul.

Is there anyone I’m missing?  Any other book ideas (which, by the way, is another post I’d like to write)?

Read Full Post »

This was mentioned in a comment on a previous post, but I’ll post it here: Moore Theological College in Australia has posted 1700+ free sermons and lectures online.  I’ve already listened to Peter O’Brien’s 4 sermons on Romans 8 and thought they were outstanding (I’ll have to listen again and take notes).  There’s William J Dumbrell on eschatology, stuff from Brian Rosner, D A Carson, N T Wright, and so on.  I highly recommend you take the time to browse through and pick some good stuff out.  For anyone who’s already listened to some, I’d love to hear any recommendations in the comments.

(HT: New Testament Perspectives)

Read Full Post »