Rethinking Testimony

Testimony is a word that has acquired a religious meaning. According to the Oxford dictionary, one of the meanings of testimony is “A public recounting of a religious conversion or experience.” However, not many realise that there is a difference between religious terminology and biblical terminology. Sometimes they overlap and compliment one another but other times they do not. Often the popular religious meaning of a word is not the biblical meaning of the word. This is the case when it comes to the word “testimony”. Continue reading “Rethinking Testimony”

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The Dominating Influence of Exodus 34:5-7 in the Old Testament

The Strange Triumph of the Lamb

I pieced together this handout for a Bible study that I’m teaching on the Minor Prophets at Harvard for students who are around for the summer.  At a few critical junctures within this so-called Book of the Twelve the various individual prophets allude to Exodus 34:5-7, clearly holding it up as the core revelation of who God is in relation to His redeemed people and to the world He has created.  This character description functions as an explanation for why the God of Israel acts in history the way that He does. 

This canonical act of remembrance recurs in many other Old Testament writings which likewise lean heavily upon God’s primal manifestation of His name to Moses in Exodus 34:5-7.   As I mention in a footnote below, I have especially found the works by Lane and Hamilton to be rich sources for insight upon this scriptural pattern.  Note: in the many passages that (arguably) allude to the foundational depiction of God’s nature in Exodus 34:5-7, the several connecting “echoes”–whether verbal or…

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Cognitive Bias and Theology

We are more accustomed to thinking of syncretism as an errant imposition on the biblical text from culture. The point often overlooked is that even church and denominational subcultures are shaped by various dynamics in their surrounding culture(s). Who possibly knows the all the ways Christian organizations reflect the values and priorities of the numerous cultures in which we belong?

Furthermore, the inertia of tradition moves us along. We filter out certain texts and theological conclusions; or perhaps, we will overemphasize ideas beyond what is found in Scripture. In effect, our traditions and “Christian” subcultures create biases and impose significance or meaning into a passage.

Continue reading “Cognitive Bias and Theology”

Why Biblical Scholarship Matters

About three years ago I started taking biblical scholarship seriously and it absolutely transformed how I understood Christianity. Growing up in the Church scholarship was largely ignored or totally dismissed. Things have not changed. From time to time you hear some people say (or insinuate) that they do not need any scholar to tell them what the Bible says because it is God who reveals what his word means. While I can appreciate the sentiment the truth is biblical scholarship matters if you are a Christian, whether you know it or not, so I want to give four reasons why.

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Why composition history matters

One of the things only true Bible nerds care about is composition history. Composition history, as the name suggests, is the study of how the biblical texts came to be written. For the average Christian it seems quite simple but it is actually a complicated issue and a lot of scholarly ink has been spilt over it. As with many academic matters the ordinary Christian is not concerned about them. Even though debates about composition can get incredibly technical and sometimes steeped in a lot of conjecture and educated guess work, I still think it matters for how the ordinary believer reads the Bible, even if they are unaware of all the details.

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The Hammer and the Oil

In a previous post, the so called “inter-testamental” period was briefly explored as critical to understanding the radical, sometimes jarring, changes that emerge when we transition from the Hebrew Bible to the New Testament. The New Testament does not even bother giving a quick heads up and takes things for granted because they are addressing an audience familiar with the times. As modern readers we have to put in a bit of work before we can understand their era.

One of the defining events of the past as far as the New Testament and Jewish history in general is concerned is the Maccabean Revolt. Continue reading “The Hammer and the Oil”

Biblical Studies and Related Fields

A while ago I wrote an article on N.T. Wright’s approach to the Bible. In that piece I identified the four main disciplines that he draws on for his project as a Christian New Testament scholar over his four decade long career. They were history, theology, literary criticism and philosophy. Seeing how productive these fields were in Wright and other scholars’ work, I have since paid attention to the important insights those disciplines provide for interpreting the Scriptures as accurately as possible. Even without formal education the internet makes it possible to keep up with where each discipline is generally at as it relates to the Bible.

Continue reading “Biblical Studies and Related Fields”