Sunday, April 27, 2014

Theological Famine

The Gospel Coalition like to talk about Theological Famine Relief. As far as I can tell this might well mean “sending English language resources to the third world”. Like a whole bunch of ESV Study bibles to Africa.
This is now the end of my third semester teaching here and I am beginning to understand how deep the dearth of theological resources really goes. My Greek students have had 3 semesters with me now, all exegetical subjects. They commonly hand in exegetical papers with zero references. If they do have references, it is 90% of the time a reference to about 5 books – one is a translation of Grudem’s Christian Doctrine (an abridged version of Systematic Theology), another is a Bible Dictionary, and a third is a Pentecostal study bible that I mostly remember for trying to argue that “wine” in the bible is “grape juice”.
Meanwhile, one of my second year students told me this week, handing in an essay on Ezra-Nehemiah, that he had never written an essay before.

It seems to me that there are two main issues.

One of these is that the Mongolian education system is, to be honest, not very good. I don’t even think this is just a ‘cultural’ thing. I mean there are many cultural factors, but the standards of education in this country are not high, students’ success is the teachers’ responsibility, cheating is rampant, critical thinking is non-existent, research is mythical, and as a result students who enter our Bible school are behind the learning curve of other comparable institutions from the very beginning.

I am not entirely sure how to address this first issue. I suspect that I need to change some of my teaching style as well as content. I need to teach my students how to think and how to write.
The second issue is there is just a dearth of quality materials in Mongolian. That is slowly changing, but at a glacial pace. In the first week of my church history course I gave out a syllabus which listed my own English language bibliography. Students asked if there was any reading in Mongolian. I had to answer that I was pretty sure there wasn't any suitable book in Mongolian and that the main content of their course was going to be my lectures. Let alone reading primary sources.

It takes both time and money to get good theological books translated and available. For all my reservations about Grudem, it’s a solid conservative systematic theology. There is also a copy of “Book by Book through the Bible”, which is great. But there is little in the way of commentaries. Students learn Greek and Hebrew via English-language textbooks. It is a great struggle for them.

Pray for the work here. 
There is much to do, and sometimes it is like plowing a field with one’s hands.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

1 Peter 1:22-2:3 Exegetical Notes


22 Τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν ἡγνικότες ἐν τῇ ὑπακοῇ τῆς ἀληθείας εἰς φιλαδελφίαν ἀνυπόκριτον ἐκ καρδίας ἀλλήλους ἀγαπήσατε ἐκτενῶς, 23 ἀναγεγεννημένοι οὐκ ἐκ σπορᾶς φθαρτῆς ἀλλὰ ἀφθάρτου, διὰ λόγου ζῶντος θεοῦ καὶ μένοντος· 24 διότι πᾶσα σὰρξ ὡς χόρτος, καὶ πᾶσα δόξα αὐτῆς ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου· ἐξηράνθη χόρτος, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν· 25 τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα κυρίου μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ ῥῆμα τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν εἰς ὑμᾶς.

2.1 Ἀποθέμενοι οὖν πᾶσαν κακίαν καὶ πάντα δόλον καὶ ὑποκρίσεις καὶ φθόνους καὶ πάσας καταλαλιάς, 2 ὡς ἀρτιγέννητα βρέφη τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα ἐπιποθήσατε, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ αὐξηθῆτε εἰς σωτηρίαν, 3 εἰ ἐγεύσασθε ὅτι χρηστὸς κύριος.



v22 ἐκ καθαρᾶς καρδίας / ἐκ καρδίας ἀληθινῆς External evidence seems to favour the former reading, though the adjective is absent from A B vg.
v23 μένοντος (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα) The bracketed phrase is found in the TR, but is likely an assimilation from v25.
1:24 αὐτῆς / ἀνθρώπου The TRs substitutes the latter to conform the text to the LXX of Isa 40:6.
2:2 εἰς σωτηρίαν This is omitted in TR, perhaps due to scribal oversight.
2:3 εἰ / εἵπερ Metzger notes that the latter reading looks like a stylistic improvement, whereas the former has early Alexandrian representation.


Having consecrated your souls in the obedience of the truth for sincere brotherly-love from the heart love one another fervently, having been born again not from perishable seed but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God; for
               All flesh is as grass
               And all glory as the flower of grass
               The grass withers, and the flower falls
               But the word of the Lord remains forever.
And this is the word, the gospel [that came] to you.
Laying aside therefore every evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, as newborn infants long for the unadulterated genuine milk, so that by it you might increase unto salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.


v22 provides the third major exhortation (1st be holy, 2nd fear God, now 3rd love one another fervently) and is qualified by two participial phrases, “having consecrated your souls...” and “having been born again....” Both of which provide causal grounds for why believers are to exhibit such love. Firstly, believers have ‘consecrated’ themselves, setting themselves apart in voluntary devotion to God, expressed as obedience to the truth, specifically the truth of the gospel.This consecration has as its purpose a new state of being, or moral paradigm, that is ‘sincere brotherly-love’, the kind of community that is to characterise the new covenant.

The second participial phrase again depicts believers as ‘having been born again’, echoing the thought of 1:3. This new birth is qualitatively difference from first birth, as the ‘seed’ is different, not perishable but imperishable. That imperishable seed gives birth to imperishable life, and the ‘what’ of that seed is further elaborated as God’s living and enduring word. We should not miss the theological import here: new birth is accomplished through the Word of God.

In verses 24-25 Peter quotes from the LXX of Isaiah 40:6-8. The context of that passage involves the promises of God in terms of redemption from exile, but in a broader context the latter part of Isaiah is offering eschatological hope and redemption. Peter takes the word of Isaiah, the good news of his day, and identifies it with the word that has come to believers, the good news of Jesus Christ. Peter thus continues to adapt the language of exile, diaspora, and redemption from an Old Testament context to a New. In this manner, he re-applies the message of hope and comfort from Isaiah for believers now experiencing trial and loss.

Specifically, Peter contrasts the weakness of human reality with the abiding reality of the word of God. In the face of the ever-present ‘reality’, the word that God’s word is eternal, abiding, powerful, stands as an encouragement that human temporal realities are indeed temporal.

The structure of 2:1-3 is:

[participial clause] [comparative clause] imperative [purpose clause] [conditional clause]

The participial clause seems to provide both means and pre-requisite to the main imperative verb. Peter relates a list of things that are to be laid aside, as no longer fitting for the believer who has been born again of the living word of God. This clause thus connects to verses 1:22-25, even as it continues to elaborate on the consequences of new birth from 1:3. Besides an all encompassing “every evil”, the focus of immoral behaviour is relational and speech-act-based: deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander”. This provides yet another connection in terms of verse 22’s imperative to love one another.

The comparative clause provides a metaphorical manner in which the imperative is to be fulfilled, “as new born babes”, which matches the semantics of the imperative. It does not necessarily suggest that the addressees are new believers, but rather the manner in which they should crave milk.

The main question in these verses is how to understand λογικόν and what γάλα actually stands for. The dominant interpretive tradition is to understand the metaphor to refer to God’s word, as apostolic preaching or Scripture. Jobes cites Hort on the difficult of this, “The Familiar rendering ‘milk of the word’ is simply impossible” (Hort, 1898). We must ask why Peter did not write τοῦ λόγου in place of the non-synonymous λογικόν. Also how are we to understand the lexical variation between λόγος and ῥῆμα in verse 25? Does Peter’s choice align v2 with 1:23, so that the word is both life-giving and life-sustaining?

There is further difficult in how to translate λογικός at all. “That which pertains to the λόγος” sums it up nicely, but doesn’t read very well in English; “spiritual” is problematically multivalent, “rational” Is another possibility. Jobes highlights Calvin’s interpretation, of the τὸ λογικὸν γάλα as something like ‘the morally transformed way of life that conforms and is true to genuine reality’. Life as reborn people into a new reality thus requires sustenance that matches that new reality. The word of God is that reality and sustenance.
The metaphorical milk is further described as “unadulterated”. Is this in contrast to “adulterated” milk? The context does not point in that direction, as Peter is not primarily laying out a program of “more word ministry, more sermons, more reading, more lessons, more lectures”, so that the contrast is with contaminated/false teaching. Rather milk, at least in the popular mind, is unadulterated.

Skipping over the purpose clause for a moment, Peter ends this section with a strong allusion to Psalm 34:8 (LXX 33:9). The Psalm recurs in this letter in 3:10-12, and is part of the scriptural ‘backdrop’ to the whole letter. The LXX text itself recontextualises the Psalm for the Diaspora setting, e.g., 34:5 ‘from all my fears’ becomes ‘from all my sojournings’ with repointing. Peter makes some minor modifications, changing imperative to indicative, and omitting καὶ ἴδετε. The importance of the quotation is heightened when the second half of Ps 34:8 is brought in,”Happy is the one who hopes in him”. Contextually, because the Christians have experienced God’s goodness, so they can and are to hope fully in Christ. Peter’s addressees have, through the gospel, experienced God’s goodness, and if this is indeed so, they are to continue to consider God the one who gives and sustains new life in the new reality.

For what end? So that they may “increase unto salvation”. Peter’s goal is his reader’s continued growth into maturity, ultimately so that they will continue in the same path that leads to deliverance from the coming wrath.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Greek Ørberg, Chapter 9 excerpt

Little sheep should not get lost in the forest....

ἕως ὁ ποιμήν ἐν τῇ πόᾳ καθευδει, τὸ πρόβατον τὸ μέλαν ἀπὸ τῶν προβάτων τῶν λευκῶν ἀπέρχεται καὶ πρὸς τὸ ῥεῦμα τρέχει. τὸ μέλαν πρόβατον τὰ λευκὰ πρόβατα καταλείπει καὶ τὸ ῥεῦμα ζητεῖ; ὕδωρ πινεῖ ἐκ τοῦ ῥεύματος, καὶ εἰς τὴν ὕλην εἰσέρχεται!

ὁ κύων ὑλᾷ· βαυβαυ! ὁ ποιμὴν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἀνοίγει, τὰ πρόβατα βλέπει, τὸ μέλαν τὸ πρόβατον οὐχ ὁρᾷ. ὁ ποιμὴν τὰ πρόβατα ἀριθμεῖ ὡς ἕν, δύο, τρία, τέτταρα, πέντε ... ἐνενήκοντα καὶ ἐννέα. ὁ ἀριθμὸς τῶν προβάτων ἐστίν ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα, οὐχ ἑκατόν. οὐδὲν πρόβατον λευκὸν ἄπεστιν, ἀλλὰ ἄπεστι τὸ πρόβατον τὸ μέλαν. ὁ ποιμὴν καὶ ὁ κύων τὰ λευκὰ πρόβατα καταλείπουσι καὶ τὴν ὕλην ζητοῦσι. ὁ ποιμὴν τὸ μετὰ ἄρτου θύλακον ἐπὶ τῷ λόφῳ καταλείπει.

ἕως τὰ ἄλλα τὰ πρόβατα ὑπὶ τοῦ ποιμένος ἀριθμοῦνται, τὸ μέλαν πρόβατον ἐν τῇ μεγαλῇ τῇ ὕλῃ, οὗ ὀδὸς οὐδεμία ἐστίν, πλανᾶται. τὸ πρόβατον, ὃ νῦν πόρρω ἀπὸ τοῦ ποιμένος ἄλλων τε τῶν πρόβατῶν ἄπεστιν, οὔτε τὸν οὐρανὸν οὔτε τὸν ἥλιον ὑπὲρ ἑαῦτο ὁρᾷ. ὑπὸ τὰ δένδρα ὁ ἥλιος οὐχ φαίνει. τὸ μέλαν τὸ πρόβατον ἐν τῇ σκιᾷ ἐστιν.

ἐν τῇ γῇ μεταξὺ τῶν δένδρων ἐστὶ ἴχνη λύκου. ποῦ ἐστι ὁ λύκος αὐτός; οὐ πόρρω ἄπεστιν. τὸ πρόβατον τὰ ἴχνη τοῦ λύκου ἐν τῇ γῇ ὁρᾷ, οὐδὲ αὐτὸν τὸν λύκον ὁρᾷ. τὸ οὖν πρόβατον τὸν λύκον φοβεῖται. τὸ μικρὸν τὸ πρόβατον ἄνευ φόβου μεταξὺ τῶν δένδρῶν πλανᾶται.

Corrections always welcome.

Learning to swear

This may seem a slightly odd topic for this blog, but I want to suggest that learning profanities in a target language is, at some stage, a necessary part of the road to 'fluency'.

Think of your own native language. Whether you use them or not, and generally I would discourage their use, you no doubt are familiar with a large range of obscene words that are not fit to print. You know what they mean, how to use them, how to interpret them, and even the grammatical and syntactical rules that surround them.

When it comes to learning a new language, it's unlikely that you are going to find this sort of language in your textbook. It may never be appropriate to ask your teacher. But if you are going to approach some kind of native-like competency, you are going to have to learn these somehow even if you never utter a single one of them.

How then to learn? I suggest three methods.

1. Text-based Internet resources

Plenty of language resources exist for profanities on the internet. You can get nice lists of all the vulgar words you should know with a simple google search. This even works for Mongolian. For Latin, there is a suprisingly well-sourced wikipedia page that will give you etymologies and examples from poetry and graffiti. For Gaelic there is a very recent but brief book that covers the topic with some skill.

2. Observation

Assuming you have access to either target-language community life, or at least contemporary television and movies, you can pick up some by simply observing and learning. I suppose if your really felt like targeting certain words, you could find a suitable hollywood movie with a lot of expletives, and then find a dubbed/subtitled local version.

3. A trusted friend

Assuming you have a same-gender close friend native-speaker I think you could approach them and explain that you need to learn these kind of words, and why you need to learn them.

I haven't found a good source for ancient Greek profanity, so if you know one, this is definitely time to leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Happenings, April 2014

Okay, I generally like to keep this blog a bit more on the thoughtful side, but I think from now on I will write a post a month that is a bit more update-life-happenings.

1. I spent 10 days on a mission trip with some of my Mongolian students. It was a very interesting experience, in terms of (a) seeing some beautiful countryside, (b) a full language-and-culture immersion experience, (c) making new friends, (d) seeing and hearing the gospel proclaimed in a setting very far removed from my home culture. I will be retroactively blogging, with photos, through the 10 days over at the Mongolia blog.

2. It's back to teaching this week. My notes on 1 Peter are a bit slow on coming out on this blog, partly because the class got ahead of my own writing, so I have been writing bits and pieces here and there. For instance, yesterday I wrote notes on 1 Peter 3:13-22, which will be great when my blog posts catch up, but not so useful for when current blog posts are still in chapter 1!

This also means kicking of the Church History course. In this case I have no choice but to keep notes up to date, as they are essentially my lecture materials.

3. I finished off the Greek Ørberg chapter 8 before my trip, and now that I'm back have lined up a schedule to get through a chapter a week. With that kind of schedule the full first draft might be done by the end of the year. I will keep posting excerpts as I go.

4. I'll be putting in a conference proposal later this month, more on that if it gets accepted. It would be a good thing for me to get it accepted.