Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hebrew and cheese: the pragmatic necessity of the biblical languages

So, here is a not so surprising confession: I love Hebrew almost as much as I love cheese, which is a lot. One of my overarching purposes in life is to promote the value of utilizing the biblical languages for the task of ministry. This means that I am committed to reading the Bible in the original languages and proclaiming the gospel based on an understanding and close and reading of the Bible. You may or may not be convinced that the biblical languages are that important. You may be of the position that only specialists and scholars should concern themselves with the languages, whereas is sufficient for the pastor and the layman to understand the gospel from an English translation. I would suggest that it is certainly necessary for the layman, but not sufficient for the pastor. Why?

This morning I would like to make my case merely from church history. Luther was able to recover a clear understanding of the gospel on the basis of a first-hand reading of the Scriptures in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic. This made the Reformation possible. In other words, his rediscovery of the gospel may have been the spark that ignited the Reformation, but that spark needed thrown on kindling before turning into a bonfire. There were other pre-reformers who make similar rediscovery of the gospel, which did not result in a all-out reformation of the church. Think of John Huss among others. So how was the Reformation brought about? (I realize that this is a large question, which can be answered from a wide variety of factors such as socioeconomic conditions, political climate, technological advance, historical precedent, the sovereignty of God, etc.). I would suggest that the publication of a Bible in the language of the people published the Reformation. In other words, a Bible translation spread the Reformation throughout Germany. This means that the Reformation was humanly speaking contingent upon two things: a first-hand reading of the Scripture and the readable translation of the Bible.

So why not merely and continue to rely on a good readable translation? I would suggest that we should not do this because a translation is subject to ambiguity and change over time. A translation can capture the meaning of the text of Scripture, but it will only do so as a snapshot. Over time as languages change and evolve, then the meaning of certain words terms and even grammatical constructions become subject to misunderstanding. This is essentially what happened with the Latin Vulgate. In other words, we must be constantly vigilant about the meaning of the Bible in relation to published and readable translations of the Bible. This is not the responsibility of the average churchmen, but the responsibility of church leaders, pastors, missionaries, and Sunday school teachers.

If we wish to continue the work of the Reformation, then we must do the work of the Reformation. We must continue to publish the Bible in a readable and accessible language, but we must also continue to correct and edit those translations as we become subject to error, which is an inevitability.

For those of you who are completely convinced of the value of Hebrew, here's an interesting blog article I happened across yesterday:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Does Jonah talk about the Messiah?

The theme of kingdom in the book of Jonah is not very prominent or explicit. However, this does not mean that it is completely absent. I would suggest that the theme of kingdom can be interpreted broadly from the book of Jonah. God is the righteous and the compassionate King over all the nations, presence cannot be constrained by the Temple. Let me demonstrate this thesis. First, it must be noted that Joseph fled from the presence of the Lord after he received his prophetic mission. This fact is noted on three different occasions (1:1 – 3;9). Jonah has a very small view of God. He falsely believes he can flee from his presence.

Second, Jonah places great confidence in the fact that his prayer is received in the holy Temple – the place of divine presence – even though far removed from the Temple (2:7 – 9). So, when push comes to shove and his own life is on the line, Jonah gladly admit that he can access the divine presence from anywhere – from the bottom of the ocean! In other words, Jonah falsely believed he could flee from the divine presence at the beginning of the story, but one he is thrown into the ocean and finds himself in the belly of the fish a radically reorient this theology – of course, God's presence is everywhere! This is why Jonah can pray with full confidence knowing that his prayer has been received in the Temple. The Temple is not something that constrains God.

Third, after Jonah washes up on the shore and finally carries out his mission to proclaim judgment to Nineveh, Nineveh repents. In fact, Nineveh offers up prayer and repentance to God without any apparent knowledge of God divine presence in the Temple. Surprisingly, God answers their prayer and avert his judgment. After this turn of events, Jonah offers a prayer which acknowledges that he knew that God would extended lovingkindness to the people of Nineveh and he petitions God to take his life. How ironic! In the midst of danger, Jonah cries out to God for his life. In the midst of complete safety, Jonah cries out for death.

Fourth, there is a theme of idolatry. The irony in the book of Jonah is that idolaters turned Yahweh – and the one who should be worshiping Yahweh is running from him. In effect, one could say that Jonah is the idolater in the story because he is trying to disobey/stymie the will of God. The overall conclusion is that Jonah's Idol – a small constrained perception of Yahweh – demolished in the face of a great and compassionate true God who exercises mercy on the nations (4:10). God is a just and compassionate God is not constrained by the Temple, but his presence and blessing is extended to all who call upon him and turn from their evil (3:6). So, although there may no mention of a covenant King, Davidic King, or even a future messianic King, the overall point about the supremacy of God's great, extensive, compassionate kinship remains. Yahweh is the great King escalation point

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Language Learners Beware

Okay, so you may say, "Phil, I love the biblical languages and deeply desire to them in my personal ministry." You may further add," in fact, I love Greek and Hebrew so much because they are superior languages to my native English!" To this I would reply: is this good? In other words, is it good for someone to love Greek and Hebrew so much that they despise their native English? I would suggest that this is unhealthy because this is an attitude that falsely prizes one's acquired language and falsely despises one's native language. This is a condition that I would like to call: Reverse Linguistic Prejudice (RLP). There are several reasons why RLP is less than desirable for a student to maintain.

First, the student does not understand the nature of language. Language is a form of communication, which can be expressed through voice or manuscript by way of an intentional structuring of words used in convention. In other words, language is a way in which humans make intellectual contact with other humans. The way we make contact is through words, which represent our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and intentions. These words are used in structured ways. That is words are situated in intelligible patterns, which we would commonly referred to as sentences. These words are also conventional, which means the words we use have a shared sense of meaning. Now, certainly and without a doubt there are many languages, which express communication through many different means. However, the simple fact is all humans use languages to accomplish largely similar tasks. Languages differ in their particularities – the way they structure sentences, the way they express sounds, the way they tie certain sounds to particular referents – languages are united accomplish various tasks. All humans need to express their distress, their desire, their ideas, their reactions, etc.

Furthermore, language is a necessary component for any given society to continue to exist. Therefore, it could be said that any society that exists, has managed to find effective ways to communicate. This does not mean that every language community contains the same ideas of every other language community. What it does mean is that every language community has the potential to acquire new ideas and ways of expressing those ideas. A language community can coin a new term from previously existing word, it can take in a new term, it can create a new term by translating a word bit by bit. The idea being stressed is that – there is no such thing as a language that is superior to another language. Certainly we can say that there are language communities, which may lack a given concept at a given time, but this says nothing about the deficiency of the language itself. This is only a true about the status of a given language community. All this to say, it is not truly desirable to love the biblical languages while despising one's native language because this is a personal judgment based on a false reality. One can love the biblical languages but one need not despise the native language.

Second, if one continues to love the biblical languages [or any language for that matter!] While despising the native language, then one will be unable to learn and make accurate progress in one's knowledge of the language. This is because one is living out a false worldview. This will result in coming to false conclusions about a given language. For example, some people prize certain biblical words over and against English equivalents like words for love, justice, etc. an aspiring student may say something like – "this is the word in English "love" but the word in Greek is "agape" and agape means selfless love. This is not what the word means in English." (I realize I'm trotting on a well worn example, one which DA Carson as thoroughly critiqued, but I can't think of a better one at the moment). However, the problem with this so-called philological comparison is that it simply not true. There are cases in which agape can refer to the concept of selfless love, but this is not always the case. Furthermore, this is a misunderstanding of the nature of the way language conveys meaning. The word "love" in English can mean a wide variety of things, but it does not necessarily exclude the idea of selflessness. The meaning of the word is dependent upon the context (i.e. it's pragmatic function – what a given speaker is trying to accomplish by using in a meaningful sentence). All this to say, when a student prizes the biblical over the native, then she positions herself to make mistaken judgments about specific languages.

Furthermore, this attitude hinders the student to learn anything new about language and specific languages. If one person is in a position of Prizing/despising, then one cannot further advance in the field of language learning because language acquisition is contingent upon one's ability to find connections and similarities between one's native language and one's newly acquired language. The optimal language attitude is one of gratitude and openness. One must acknowledge the value of one's native language and remain open to learning new possibilities and concepts from the other language. For example, the task of learning foreign prepositions can be exceedingly difficult because prepositions rarely have a one for one correspondence in relation to any other language. Furthermore, prepositions in any language can function to indicate temp oral relations, spatial relations, conceptual relations. This can be very difficult because the overlap is rarely or easily perceivable. However, the task of learning prepositions can be ameliorated, if the student first learns the many meaningful possibilities found within prepositions within English. If one can appreciate the ambiguity in English, that one can grow comfortable with the ambiguity in other languages.

In conclusion, Reverse linguistic prejudice is an unhealthy attitude whereby the student falsely believes the newly acquired language is superior to one's native language. The way to overcome Reverse Linguistic Prejudice is by first recognizing the uniform possibility for all languages to communicate the same ideas. Second, the student must exercise gratitude for one's native language will remain open to conceptual possibilities discovered from another language community. The important distinction here is the difference between language and language community – it's not the language that teaches but is the instrument of instruction. Finally, the student can benefit by looking for ambiguity is present in one's native language. In other words, a new language can look more sophisticated to a student because she is initially overwhelmed by the complexity and ambiguity of that the language. However, ambiguity and complexity are present in every language. Therefore, learn about and get comfortable with it. Reverse Linguistic Prejudice is an attitude, which every serious student of language should seek to avoid.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Davidic Hope and the book of Amos

My next step in the research project is to survey the book of Amos. I will be looking for anything that seem to connect to the idea of royalty, Royal throne, justice, Royal power. I will also be attending to possible themes of messianic deliverance, human Kings, divine agency, and Davidic covenant. Stay tuned as I work through this. Feel free to offer any comments or criticisms along the way.

Joel and the kingdom

The book of Joel is interesting with regard to the theme of Royal throne. There is no explicit mention of a human King in the book of Joel. Predominantly the book is a book of vindication – the prophet is declaring future hold for God's people in terms of a vindication over and against Judas enemies and a right recompense for what they have suffered (3:19 – 21). God is depicted as a warrior and a judge. The locus of judgment is from Mount Zion and in the city of Jerusalem. These are places of Davidic significance. My theory is that the final form of the text draws together the agency of Yahweh and the royal functions of the covenant King. Covenant Kings were to administer justice executively and judicially. Although the author does not explicitly mention a coming future human Messiah, Yahweh is depicted as somebody that brings about all the proper conditions of a messianic age. In other words, the author does not say that the Messiah himself will be divine, but he certainly draws a strong connection between what God does and what God will bring about. Here we have a subtle hint at the fact that the Messiah must be conceived in some sense as divine.

Davidic Hope in The Minor Prophets

Okay, so my current research project concerns the idea of the Davidic throne in the corpus of the Minor Prophets. I would like to explore the connection between the prophetic indictment against Israeli and Judean kings in relationship to the idea of Davidic Hope. At this point in my research, I am aiming to carve out the broad contours of a biblical theology with in that given corpus. In other words, I'm going to explore the themes broadly without necessarily giving exhaustive attention to how these themes were within the context, although I will attend to the immediate context. Presently, I have worked my way through the book of Hosea and now I'm going to begin to work through the book of Joel. Stay tuned and track of my progress as I work through this corpus. Feel free to comment or contribute to this discussion. I welcome any feedback or criticism along the way.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Good Teachers Don't Tell the Truth

Okay, so there are two circumstances when a teacher should not tell the truth. First, a good teacher will not tell the truth when he is seeking to maintain confidence. In other words, a teacher can and should cultivate a relationship with the students. These relationships should be characterized by trustworthiness in secrecy. A teacher interacts with students both in the classroom and outside the classroom. Teachers should seek to remain respectful of the things that need to be kept secret from public view. In other words, if a student says something that is private or personal, then the teacher should not broadcast it. This may sound mind numbingly fundamental, but the simple fact is some teachers are prone to public broadcast. A teacher may not name names, but he may manifest an attitude in front of the students that expresses impatience or anger at his students in general. For instance, I once had a teacher that spent a good 5 to 10 min. castigating the class for their hypothetical absence. In other words, he was trying to warn us from not using out on class. This is certainly good advice. However, he proceeded to talk about how he's had students in the past continually abstain from showing up. When he said these things he said very angry. In my judgment, this is a lack of self-control. It is good to talk about the importance of class attendance, but it is unnecessary to express anger in the presence of a class that has yet to violate teachers rules. The teacher should have merely expressed the importance of attendance and lay down the consequences for lack there of. He should have kept his anger a secret. The consequence of this lack of secrecy demonstrates a lack of self-control and trustworthiness.

Second, a good teacher will not tell the truth before the student is ready. In other words, students only learn what they are ready to learn. Generally speaking, most classroom will be full of a handful of people that are ready to learn, but you must always take into account the students that are not fully ready to learn. For example, I once attended a class that concerned broadly the topic of pastoral leadership. The teacher began his lecture with a quick survey of vocational interest. He said, now raise your hand if you are going to be a pastor. Most of the class responded by raising their hand, but I was among the few that did not because do not have the vocational goal of becoming a pastor. The teacher then proceeded by saying, "good, then a great many of you need to understand the importance of pastoral leadership…" The teacher continued to only address those that were going into pastoral leadership. The mistake that he made was that he failed to make an argument for why others should also be concerned about this topic. The beginning of every lecture should be concerned with establishing the necessity and importance of the topic. But the importance of the topic should extend as far as I can go to as many people as I can go. The teacher could have strengthened the force of his topic by arguing why many more people than just pastors should be concerned about this topic. Those that are aspiring pastors have already bought in. The people that need the sold are the ones who do not believe or may not believe the subject is pertinent. If you can make an argument for your topics importance to those people, then you will certainly win over those that are readily concerned. In this case, the teacher failed to uncover a secret. He neglected to tell the truth to those who did not know how to be ready for the truth.

Learning readiness can also manifest itself in terms of antagonism. If a student is antagonistic to a topic, then quite frankly you need to disarm him before you can inform him. There's no sense in trying to get information that he strongly believes is irrelevant or perhaps untrue.

In conclusion, a teacher must not just be concerned with the art of proclaiming what is true, but he must also be concerned about discretion and reference. He must learn to discern when to tell the truth and when not to tell the truth. He must learn to demonstrate reverence for his topic and his students. Above all he must work hard at extending trust both in the classroom and outside the classroom.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Defining Leadership

I am always searching for a good definition of leadership. Here's one that I came up with this morning. Leadership consists of the ability to guide one's self in private and manage oneself before others. In other words, a leaders operate according to just principle in isolation from others and in the presence of God, then he manifests habits of justice before others. This means that he possesses integrity in every domain of life. He exercises holistic character, which is not motivated by the witness of others but by a desire to act according to the principle. What would appear to be leadership to others is actually the manifestation of self-management. In other words, what you or I see as leadership in leaders is not the whole exercise of leadership, but merely the manifestation of an already covered leader – a leader who has already govern himself. Self-control is the prerequisite for social control.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Power of Respect: a disappointing quest

Why does it hurt so much when someone doesn't listen to you? This question may seem juvenile. However, if you're like me, you may ask yourself this question throughout the day. There are many circumstances prompted it. For example, maybe you just had a conversation with a good friend of yours, but you asked more probing questions of that person then she asked in return. Maybe you talked to a role model, your parent, your future boss, or whoever. Whatever the circumstance, the common denominator is a lack of respect.

As human beings we deeply long to be respected by our peers, our loved ones, are role models, and even our enemies. The problem is we may feel as if we show respect to many people without ever receiving it in return. Is this really the case? There's probably a good chance that there are more people out there that feel as if they show respect than actually are. If many of us feel this way, yet many of us did not receive a right recognition of our capacities, character qualities, and accomplishments, then it probably follows that many of us are not actually going out of our way to respect.

So how do we overcome this impasse of mutual disrespect? First, know what respect is. Respect is not just that subliminal emotion of all of that one feels in the presence of a highly accomplished person. Certainly, that feeling has been produced by respect, but it's not equivalent to the moral action of respect. Respect is the habit of identifying and acknowledging another person's abilities, character qualities, and personal accomplishments. One must first learn how to recognize another person's unique capacities, virtuous traits, and accomplishments. Humility is required in order to recognize another's unique capacity. To recognize what is unique about somebody requires that you must admit what is not unique about you. One must know what virtue is in order to recognize it in another. Many of us falter at this point. You can prove this by a simple test. Sit down with obtaining a piece of paper. Take a few minutes to write down all of the character qualities that you admire in people. Now, provide concise definitions for each character quality. Many of us can accomplish the first few steps, but it is the last step that many of us began to stammer.

The bottom line is, respect is difficult to communicate to another person, especially if we ourselves are unclear about what we admire. Yes, we can show respect to people by acknowledging their capacity and accomplishments, but if we want to show a deep respect for somebody we must recognize the principles that govern their power and enable to accomplish their achievements. If we begin to show deep respect for others, we will not necessarily feel the need to be respected at all times by all people because strong character does not seek constant human recognition. That truth alone is more enabling then the disappointing quest for respect.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Give up!… Sometimes

It seems that at some point when it comes to writing a paper you just got print it and send it off – I have definitely gotten to that point. I know there were a few errors and incomplete footnotes. But, I just wanted to be done with the darn thing – I don't think Dr. Timmer was anticipating that I would be publishing shortly after finishing him. Anyway, it's done. I've got no more advice. And I'm going to bed.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Democracy versus Republicanism

Politics is not just about accomplishing some worthy agenda, which affects the population (or a portion of the population) at large, but it is also about the art of negotiation and discussion. Certainly, this aspect of politics is coming to the forefront as GOP candidates campaign their way through the country, while Barack Obama generates strategy and support for his own campaign. As we enter into this exciting season of political frenzy I would suggest that we should work hard to remain clear about our political beliefs, stances, principles, and goals. It is a strong temptation of political discussion to reduce discussion to the debate about specific political accomplishments and tasks.

The problem with that discussion there is no clarity. How do I know that reducing spending on the military is a good decision? Are we spending more on military costs then justify the mission and tasks of the military? In order to remain coolheaded and clearheaded in the season I would suggest that we start with defining our political principles – is only from our principles that we can adequately maintain or develop a proper sense of political mission and strategy. Here is an article that I have found helpful in identifying some principal issues among different political parties (i.e. Democrats and Republicans): Cheers! And may the rightly principled man win!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughts on Moshe Weinfeld and the like

So, today I was able to incorporate Moshe Weinfeld's article "The Covenant of Grant in the Old Testament And in the Ancient near East." His article is a seminal article in the field of ancient near East background for understanding the Old Testament. He basically proposes that the proper historical background for understanding the Davidic covenant is the Royal grant treaties, which have their source in the second millennium Hittite covenant documents.

In addition, I was also able to incorporate some reflection on how to categorize various scholars with regard to the topic of the Davidic covenant. I came up with a distinction, which I call covenantal minimalism and maximalism a minimalist is someone who at the very least recognizes the fact that there is a covenantal framework which is at work in the Hebrew Bible – this framework is operative at the very least at the level of literature. This is a broad category that can include just about any scholar. A maximalist therefore is someone who not only recognizes the covenantal background but also accept that background as something which has literal historical referent. This means that the Davidic covenant – or whatever else may referred to the Davidic covenant – has its roots in an actual, unified, identifiable, and intelligible historical event. A maximalist gives priority to the fact that the literature bears witness to a single historical reality.

This may not be a satisfying distinction for everyone, but it's helpful in recognizing the different research goals, which given scholars are pursuing. Some are pursuing goals which are focused at understanding the world of the text – the world that the text bears witness to. Others are merely interested in understanding the subtext – the possible world that may have given rise to the text. I do not find this latter goal particularly helpful or beneficial for enhancing our understanding of the biblical text. This goal is not necessarily evil or counterproductive but it's certainly not the most productive gold pursue, especially one takes into account that exposition of the Scriptures is an exposition for the church – it's not merely academic – all biblical knowledge is missional.

Reading and Appreciating Secondary Literature

An important task in research is reading secondary literature – literature that concerns or discusses the primary data. Secondary literature comes in many forms. It can come in the form of a published essay anthology of essays. It can come in the form of a commentary, an abstract, an unpublished dissertation, or a journal article. Reading secondary literature can be a difficult and daunting task. I would suggest that the task of reading a journal article can be made easier, if one knows how to recognize the purpose of an article.

How can one identify the purpose of a well-researched article? First, one must recognize that the task of research is basically the systematic pursuit of a worthy question. A worthy question is a clear question that seeks to connect to some unknown aspect of knowledge in order to gain a deeper understanding of what is not yet known. In other words, a worthy question seeks to understand some part of something in order to understand the whole of something. For example, a zoologist me posit an inquiry into the mating habits of African lions in order to understand something about cats in general. What makes a research question worth the is the fact that it is not just a personal question. It's not just a question that seeks to inform or enlighten a single individual, but it's a question that helps clarify an understanding that is beneficial for a group of individuals or a large class of people, or perhaps even humanity in general. In other words, research questions have a public and representational dimension to them.

Second, one must understand the various purposes of research projects. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of research projects that can be conducted: theoretical, applied, and practical. Theoretical projects aimed at understanding the world as it exists. This means these projects aim at describing or defining the world as it exists in some small way. By this definition, our zoologist is someone who is conducting a theoretical project – is attempting to describe the mating habits of African lions as they exist in the real world. Applied research projects aim at developing a principal or set of principles that can be used to achieve some practical objective. Or better stated, these are research project that aim at articulating universally true principles as they relate to a specific real-world practice. For example, presently I am conducting a project that seeks to understand the basic questions that have been generated with regard to the Davidic covenant within the corpus of the minor prophets. The purpose of this paper is to obtain an idea for the scope and range of research that has been conducted in this area in order to carve out a research starting point that is not redundant. This is by definition a project in applied research.

Practical research is like applied research except that it is more specific. The difference is that practical research into articulating a set of rules that apply to a given circumstance. Applied research aims at generating a set of principles. Principles are general truths that can be used to generate rules. In other words, principles can be applied in many circumstances whereas rules are specific prescriptions for behavior in a specific circumstance. For example, one could theoretically develop a research project on the philosophy of cooking. This project could be theoretical in that it could aim to describe the process of cooking as it is in the world at large – this would be theoretical research project. Or one could conduct a research project into the principles that govern the art of cooking – this would be applied research project. Finally, one could write a cookbook – this is an example of a practical research project. If one keeps the different types of research projects in mind, one can have a better appreciation for how to read a journal article. There's a lot more that could be said, but this should be enough to get you going. Oh, one final hint – most research articles in the field of Biblical Studies are written for the purpose of describing or clarifying an understanding of the Bible – nine times out of 10, you can bet the article is usually a theoretical research project.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Slow exposition: is it worth it?

I just spent the last forty minutes puzzling over the phrase "go into your room and close your door" (εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμεῖόν σου καὶ κλείσας τὴν θύραν σου (Mat 6:6 BGT). I would like to raise a very simple question: was it worth it? Yes, it was worth it for several reasons. First, although the phrase seems clear enough English, there is a lot of different semantic possibilities. For instance, the verb "go" (εἴσελθε) doesn't always just mean to move from one geographic location to another. It can also mean to enter into a state or circumstance. Now, clearly it does not mean that in the circumstance. But now the difference for me is that I am aware of various semantic valences of the term. This means that when I come to future occurrences of this word that does not seem to fit the literal rendering, I have a history with the term itself. I can remember that there is more than a literal rendering of the phrase. Second, I am now more confident of the fact that it means to move from one geographic location to another – specifically to go from not being in your room to in your inner room. This is payoff. That means that when it comes time to preach this text before congregation I can confidently restated the meaning of this verb and snowfall well that it does not mean something else. This confidence will affect the way I project my presence to the audience and in turn the audience will be more receptive to learn from my explanation of the text. The bottom line is that exposition of the Bible is an exposition of the original languages. The purpose of installing from the original languages is not to establish what is known to the larger theological community, rather it is that the preacher can glorify God by proclaiming the text with clarity, confidence, and passion. It may feel like you're slowing down when you do so, but that's a good thing because that means you're less likely to make mistakes and more likely to catch the truth.

Research strategy: how to report on secondary literature

Okay, so the strategy of summarizing and teaching was very effective. I was able to relax as I pinpointed the basic facts from Lambert's article. This enabled me to organize those facts in a comprehensible and useful manner. After I did this, I printed out a copy of my results. This enabled me to teach what I had learned – in other words, writing a research paper is a form of teaching. Teaching demonstrates that one has mastered the basic facts of a subject, organized them, and is able to lead others into an understanding of that subject. By this definition, teaching is a form of leadership. Teaching is leading a mind into a subject – an orientation or roadmap of that subject – a basic explanation of the signposts found on the roadmap – and it to her through that country of knowledge.

Kings in ancient Mesopotamia

Yesterday, I was attempting to do too much at once. I was trying to summarize an article on Egyptian kingship while trying to incorporate that summary into my paper. This was a frustrating task because I was trying to learn the article and teach the article simultaneously. Certainly there is much overlapping these two tasks, but teaching and learning must be differentiated – learning is the process of absorbing information – i.e. identifying points of information and understanding it – where is teaching is the process of presenting that information in a clear, orderly, and illustrative manner. I hope to overcome this difficulty by creating a separate page where I will summarize the article – after which I will print out that summary and then incorporate a summarized version of that report. This will enable me to differentiate the tasks of understanding information and presenting information.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Giving up for the day

Okay, I have summarized the Baines article. And I have about an hour before my wife comes and picks me up in order to go swimming. My brain is pretty fried from trying to pound out this paper on the Davidic covenant. So I think I will take a break for the day. I may try to do some preliminary reading later on this afternoon or evening in order to prep for tomorrow. Whatever the case, I'm going to take a coffee break and then work on some Greek.

Who actually knows anything about Egypt anyway?

I am having a hard time right now trying to summarize an article by John Baines – who is summarizing his own research on the Egyptian concept of King. I admit that I know very little and next to nothing about Egyptian history – in fact, I think most of my knowledge on the topic comes from the 10 Commandments (i.e. Charlton Heston as Moses, the mummy (part one and two), and a few snippets I've seen from Cleopatra. But other than that, I've got nothing! So working through this article is like sloshing through mud! Anyway, I'm going to try my hand one more time at summarizing this article – and then I may move onto a new topic for the day.

Research into the Davidic covenant

Presently right now I am working on a paper that is an investigation into the precedent research into the Davidic covenant. I realize that's a mouthful. My goal is to try to understand the questions that have been raised in relation to this topic. So far, I have crafted a basic outline, introduction, and conclusion. My goal over the next hour is to sketch out the basic research that has been conducted concerning the historical/conceptual background of Kings within the Bible. In order to do this, I must introduce five different scholars. My task will be to introduce their major research question, to state and clarify the results of their investigation, summarize their basic argument and evidence. I do not need to do this exhaustively, but I must do this carefully and concisely.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Taking a Step of Faith

If you have conversed in Christian circles for a significant amount of time in your life, then you have probably run across this phrase – "taking a step of faith." I find this phrase somewhat puzzling because the phrase is very often invoked in the context of a monumental life change. Very often one brother or sister in the faith will divulge to another brother or sister a life circumstance that will result in a change in job, geography, or relationship. For instance, one sister may say something like: "the Lord has really opened up the opportunity to practice my nursing in the country of Zambia and, although I'm not quite sure how I'm going to fund myself while I'm there, I have decided to take up this opportunity." And someone else may respond like this: "well, that's a very big step of faith that you are taking." What puzzles me about this interaction is the meaning of the word faith. Generally speaking the word faith means a strong confidence. My question is: in what way is an affirmation of confidence beneficial to the one who has openly divulged a story that concerns a life transition? Certainly making a life transition requires confidence, but confidence is merely the muscle that moves a decision; it is not the basis of a decision nor is it the act of the life change. Now, more than likely people that say things like "taking a step of faith" are attempting to assert the centrality and importance of Christian belief as one moves through life, but to emphasize the virtue of faith runs the risk of reducing the act of faith to a monumental life decision. However, the reality is that Christian belief frames every decision of life from the decision to rise up in the morning with the sound of the alarm clock to the decision of cross-cultural missions. I would suggest that certainly an affirmation of faith is in order, but it must be more specific than just faith – it must be an affirmation of courage – faith empowered encourage which is able to assess and realize the risks involved in such a life transition, but also able to act in spite of those dangers – I would suggest that we should step away from affirming steps of faith and move towards affirming leaps of courage.