Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's Herod's Ethnicity?

Deanna asked a great question about Herod descending for the line of the Edomites.

Here's an excerpt from Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, p. 340: (if you have Libronix, click on the link and it will open to this spot in the book!)


Even in the New Testament times strife between the Hebrews and Edomites continued in the Jews’ hatred for King Herod who was of Idumean (Edomite) descent. Herod tried to kill the ultimate Representative of Israel, Christ (Matt. 2:1–18). The judgment that would come upon the Edomites because of their cruelty and lack of compassion toward the descendants of Jacob was described in many Old Testament prophecies (cf. Isa. 34:5–15; Jer. 49:7–22; Lam. 4:21–22; Ezek. 25:12–14; Amos 1:11–12).

Grace in Galatia Ep. 2

Post your comments, questions, or responses to our time together on Monday evening.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm Back

That was quite a break.

I wish I could say that I was on sabbatical, working diligently on a scholarly exegetical tome, but I wasn't.

I'm back to this blog for the same reason I went to Regent College in the first place - to help people read the Bible better.

Buckle your safety belts, friends...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oil and Its Uses in the Bible

In our study of 'messiah' or 'anointed one' we discovered that 'to anoint' means 'to rub with oil'. Often in the bible we find that oil was used to designate people for special office (e.g. priest, king, prophet). It was a way of showing God's pick. Oil was also used on objects to set them aside for for a special function like ceremonial rituals. You may wonder, "Why oil?" So I turn to the place that all should turn to when trying to find out more about a term or concept: a bible dictionary. In this case, my pick is The Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible. The next paragraph is a summary of the article found there.

Oil, along with wine and grain, was an important agricultural item in the promised land(Deuteronomy 7:13). People used it with meals, for skin care, and for lamps. Because of its wide usage it was exported often. Egypt and Mesopotamia produced very little olive oil and as a result, it was treated as a luxury item (oil was apparently produced in varying qualities). Check out this old school Egyptian text dated from around 2040–1650 BC:

"In it were riches from the treasury; clothes of royal linen, myrrh, and the choice perfume of the king and of his favorite courtiers were in every room. Every servant was at his task. Years were removed from my body. I was shaved; my hair was combed. Thus was my squalor returned to the foreign land, my dress to the Sand-farers. I was clothed in fine linen; I was anointed with fine oil. I slept on a bed. I had returned the sand to those who dwell in it, the tree-oil to those who grease themselves with it" (Story of Sinuhe)

As I noted earlier, oil was used for common everyday tasks. However, it was also used for some very extravagant tasks. By 'extravagant' I mean ceremonial and/or luxurious events. This insight into the use oil is especially interesting when considering the extravagant language that God uses concerning humanity (e.g. image of God). Perhaps the usage of fine oil goes beyond a designation of office to an affirmation of God's intention for humanity to be special to/for him.

When Jesus was anointed by a woman at Bethany the disciples were irritated and said, "That oil could have been sold and the money given to the poor!" Jesus replied, "Leave her alone...She's done a beautiful thing to me." I bet King David thought of it as beautiful. He recognized that he was but a sheep with the Lord as his Shepherd. Still, this holy Lord was not beyond expressing his care and concern for his creation. He anointed David's head with oil, his cup overflowed. Talk about beautifying.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


So we've been looking at some ancient texts outside of our bibles, such as 1 Enoch, in order to get a pulse on the culture surrounding the New Testament. In any introduction to the book of 1 Enoch one will note that Enoch of Genesis 5:24 did not write this book. Why would people write under a different name and why would a community of people accept such a writing? I have here some info about the whole 'writing under a different name thing' or pseudepigraphy ('pseude' - false, epigraph - writing/inscription). The Dictionary of New Testament Background gives eight reasons for why people would write under a false name. Keep in mind that writing under another person's name occured quite often back in the day. Also, the writings were not just restricted to 'religious' texts. Pseudepigraphy occured in other genres of literature as well. So here's the top eight motives of writers taken from DNTB, in no particular order:

(1) Sometimes literary forgeries have been crafted out of pure malice.
(2) More commonly, literary forgeries were prompted by promise of financial payment.
(3) Sometimes the pseudepigrapher used an ancient name to gain credence for his writing in order to support a position he knew to be false.
(4) Similarly the pseudepigrapher sometimes used an ancient name to gain credence for his writing in order to support a position he judged to be true.
(5) A more idiosyncratic case of the same thing has occasionally occurred when an individual has purposely hidden his or her own name out of modesty, using the name of another.
(6) A deep desire to get published and be widely read, for both personal and ideological reasons.
(7) A skill within a literary genre. In the post-Aristotle period, the rise of the great Attic orators generated high interest in rhetoric and oratory. Students were taught to compose speeches based on models left by the ancient orators. The most skillful of these were doubtless difficult to distinguish from the originals. This drifted over into the reconstruction, by historians, of speeches that their subjects probably would have made (in the view of the historians).
(8) Finally, several bodies of writings are ascribed to some philosophical-religious-mythical figure.

So any combination of the above could be at work in a pseudepigraphal writing. This explains motives for writing, but not necessarily why people in a certain community would have readily accepted such writings. That's a much more complicated issue because one would need to reconstruct a specific groups' worldview. In our case, studying the first century Jewish social climate, one could understand why writings which promote a certain worldview would be accepted on the basis of the writing's content not just the author's name. I think also at the heart of it is this (taken from DNTB): Did the community to/for whom the pseudepigraphal writing was written suspect that the writing was crafted with the intent to deceive? If not, then it would probably be well received.

How Do I Dig Deeper: An Overview

Remember this is just an overview. Each step will be blogged on. The order represents a progression of actual steps.

1) Read a book bible through in one sitting (Get the big picture and take note of things).

2) Read the corresponding chapter on the book in How to Read the Bible Book by Book (get a tour guide through the book as to how it 'fits' together).

3) Read through the book of the bible along with the IVP Bible Background Commentary for cultural insights (get clarity on cultural issues and make note of things which are still unclear).

4) Take the list of topics or issues noted in step three to Eerdmans' Dictionary of the Bible. Reread the book of the bible in light of your findings from your bible dictionary.

5) For even more specific issues regarding a passage or verse of the book, consult a bible commentary. If possible, one should find a commentary on that specific book of the bible (e.g. Luke) as opposed to a single volume commentary (e.g. Genesis-Revelation). A commentary on a specific book is more likely to have greater detail on a verse or passage than a single volume commentary. I would recommend for starters the New American Commentary series by Broadman and Holman.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Rhythm of Study at Mosaic Chruch

What is the purpose of bible study? Do we really need more ‘knowledge’ about the Bible or about God? Shouldn’t we just ‘do’ something instead of just acquiring more facts?

The rhythm of study is at best only a fifth of what it means to be Mosaic. It is not merely getting more facts about the Bible or more propositional statements about God (e.g. God is _insert big word here_) that don’t connect to real life. Instead, the rhythm of study can be a window into the other rhythms (i.e. Beautify, Listen, Eat, and Send). From the window of the rhythm of study we learn of the God who beautifies the outcast, listens to the lowly, eats with the sinner and sends the unexpected. The outcome would be that as we become better ‘studiers’ of God and his mission we become better ‘doers’ of that mission.