As you can see, NTResources is taking on a new and fresh look. Along with this new look, is a new weekly blog titled Greek for a Week. Greek for a week is a weekly video resource provided for those who want to learn, retain or grow their knowledge of New Testament Greek. The weekly 2-3-minute video provides a translation of a Greek text, and a discussion highlighting important grammatical point(s) that are beneficial for interpretation, application, and preaching.
The weekly blog is set to begin in February.
I am amazed at how God utilizes circumstances, children, and every day life to conform, challenge, and care for his own. This morning I stepped back and thought to myself, “Thank you God for the opportunity and privilege to rear children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Please place a hedge of protection around them as they begin a new school year.” God is a caring and loving God; He’s doing it through my children, Jack (14 years of age, Freshman in high school) and Nick (10 years of age, 5th grade in middle school).
My boys are a blessing to Missy and me; we are thankful. The boys love the Lord, love soccer, and strive, each in his own way, to honor and glorify God. These boys, . . . they are dependent upon their parents to provide, guide, and love & care for them. Missy and I are happy to take the mantle of shepherding our boys. Is it easy? No, not quite – but certainly a joy. My prayer for my two boys is Paul’s prayer to the Colossians,
“. . . asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:9-10).
I am blessed and thankful.
Once again, this is not New Testament related; but it is an opportunity for you all to meet my family. My younger son Nick is 10 years old today. He is smart, witty, energetic, and funny. Nick has interests in math, reading, and sports; basketball and soccer (see picture below). I am thankful to God for his tender heart and willingness to grow in God’s word. He loves Awana. May God bless you son. I love you “little man.”
According to Solomon, “there is a time and season for every purpose under heaven.” Sometimes God moves in a direction or through a situation that causes you to pause, . . . reflect . . . and realize your dependence is solely on Him. I am in this position right now.
This new beginning is one that I do not take for granted, and as a matter of fact, consider it a privilege and honor. It centers on my new administration and faculty responsibilities at Baptist Bible Seminary, Summit University. God has graciously provided me with an opportunity to continue to affect change in the lives of students while teaching them Greek. But to me, it is more than that. I’m following in the footsteps of one of my mentors, Dr. Rodney Decker.
Dr. Decker’s passion was to teach men the Word of God in order that they may also teach others. This too is my desire, to teach men to love Greek and know the God of the Bible more intimately in the process. Part of this not only includes teaching courses at the Seminary, but also the writings on this blog. It is my goal to continue the legacy of Dr. Decker by providing information that relates to the New Testament, Greek, and pastoral ministry. I want the blog to be informative and practical; that is, touching both the academy and the local church.
You will see posts on this blog that strive to teach and encourage others. Although the goal will be to write posts on a regular basis (e.g., weekly), this may not happen. And it is at these times I ask for your patience, . . . more than likely the administrative responsibilities at the seminary have occupied my time. None-the-less I will, as Dr. Decker would often sign his emails to us as PhD students, “press on.”
I want to thank Linda Decker for patiently assisting me through the transition of this blog’s care from her husband to me. I know it was not easy, but I’m thankful for God’s grace that enables both of us in our new roles to move on.
This is a new season for me, one that includes teaching, writing, developing, and growing for God’s honor and glory. I look forward to the days ahead with great anticipation that what God has purposed for me during this ‘new beginning,’ He will supply the necessary grace to accomplish it. But I will also look back each day with humble reflection that what I indeed accomplished was helping others interact, engage, and impact their global society with the gospel, love & service to others, while growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Test ‘of’ single ‘quotes’ using iOS WP app.
I’ve had my share of things to say about matters digital/cyber. Some think I’m a Luddite. Interestingly, others think I’m a digitopian—or at least a nerd. In reality I’m none of those things. I have tried to make the best use of technology that I can, whether in the classroom or out, but I’ve also been cautious about some aspects of the digital world (most notably expressed in my “Cyberspace” article published in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 5 : 45-70; an older version is posted here).
My journey began in 1985 when I paid $2,500 for a desktop computer, a dot-matrix printer, and MS Word v. 1.1. In those days I took out a bank loan to afford it. High tech in those days. 512K (yes, “K”!) RAM, a single-sided 400K floppy drive, 9″ monochrome monitor (one that could display graphics and multiple fonts—imagine that!), and a new innovation—a “mouse.” Friends at the time had other forms of this new technology: one a KayPro, a Commodore 64, another an Amiga. Mine was a Mac.
I had been making the rounds of computer stores within reasonable driving distance from my Michigan pastorate for several months. By now I had my patter down better than the salesmen: If you can show me a computer that can do word processing and both display on screen and print Greek and Hebrew, I’ll buy it immediately. All promised their computer could surely do that, but none could actually make it work. One day while on hospital visitation in Saginaw (not quite an hour from home) I ran across an Inacomp store I’d not visited. The salesman who meet me hungrily at the door had been a plumber until 2 weeks before, but got tired of driving so many miles to work. His response to my query was a blank look (he probably didn’t even know what I was talking about). He was smart enough to say, “Wait until I ask.” Providentially, there was a company rep visiting that day from Apple. Her response? “Sure, let me show you how.” And she did. Sold.
Things have changed a lot since then. Over the years I’ve become trilingual (Mac, Windows, Ubuntu—and come to think of it, DOS), but my main work is done with a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 4, and recently an iPad 2. The experiment to which the title of this post refers is two-fold.
First, is the iPad a useful tool or just a nice gadget? I deliberately skipped the first generation and I still think that was wise. The 2d generation allows VGA video out which may make it useful in the classroom—once I learn to use it well enough to make that it a natural tool.
Second, I’m going to try using it as an eReader. I’ve resisted that before, but now that I have a large tablet screen I’m wondering if it just might be usable for some types of reading. I’ve tried using it at church and in chapel during sermons and that may be OK. I’ve tried several different Bible programs and the best for reading purposes is OliveTree’s reader. (I find the Logos app useless and the new Accordance app ‘”OK” for reading; for language study, neither of the other two can match Accordance even though it’s still very new and has some rough edges.) The “Bible” app is interesting in providing a large number of translations in many languages—so long as you’re connected to the net, but has no other advantages that I can see.
But now I’m going to try other types of books. I just ordered my first, in-print, “new” book in Kindle format (which has an iPad app). I don’t think the digital format is suitable for many types of reading that I do, but for books that will have a relatively limited life span the cost savings in this case sounded attractive to me ($6 vs $20, or $13/14 at discount, so half the discount—and no shipping). The book I ordered is a new one: The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies (Zondervan, 2011). The subject matter seems to be appropriate! 🙂 There’s a great promo video for the book; it’s posted on YouTube:
(Hmm. That embed link seems to work, but it also displays part of the code. Apparently I’ve done something wrong. As you can tell, I’m not an html coder.)
Along the way I’m learning how to type and edit on a virtual keyboard. (It’s a lot slower at least at the beginning!) I’m typing this post on the iPad WordPress app. Once I get that under control, I’ll try connecting my Bluetooth keyboard that I use on my laptop.
Stay tuned. 🙂
Most readers of this blog know (or at least sense), I think, that I am not a Luddite, though I have a considerably more chastened view of technology than do some digitopians. In any event I have been experimenting with various uses of a SmartPhone of late. My most recent tests have been stimulated by the arrival this past week of my new iPhone 4—an upgrade from my older 3G. The phone itself is substantially faster than the 3G (though I’ve read that the difference from the 3GS is not as pronounced). That plus the increased RAM and higher resolution screen enable new considerations.
Though my ultimate goal is to consider Bible-related uses, my immediate tests relate to more general uses. I just read two books in the iBooks reader: a novel (Pride and Prejudice) and a piece of nonfiction (Luther’s essay on Bible translation). I found the novel easier and better reading on the small screen than I expected. The increased resolution and greater speed made it much more practical Than my previous attempts. The screen orientation lock also helped. As for nonfiction use, I have mixed feelings. It “reads” OK, but other purposes have challenges for serious use. For one, how do I quote efficiently? E.g., if I want to quote this extract from Luther,
“We do not have to ask about the literal Latin or how we are to speak German—as these asses do. Rather we must ask the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common person in the market about this. We must be guided by their tongue, the manner of their speech, and do our translating accordingly. Then they will understand it and recognize that we are speaking German to them.”
I can easily copy it and paste it into my WordPress app (as I just did). But how do I cite it? It was p. 22 of 88 when I copied the text, but I’d had to reduce the font size to get it all on the same screen. If I had copied it at my regular reading size, it would have been 35 of 140! So unless e-books include “hard” page numbers from the printed editions, quoting is not very useful—or at least helpful.
I also find it much harder (if not impossible) to compare passages that are very far apart—or even to find those passages. Despite the claims of search abilities in e-texts, one must remember enough of the exact wording. But I’m often thinking, “didn’t the author say something about this earlier?” and that’s as close as I can remember it. At that point search isn’t very helpful—and the small pages make skimming very difficult.
Someday some smart people will probably find solutions to these problems (and maybe already have).
The other tedious thing is entering lots of text this way, i.e., tapping with one finger! I’ve entered this entire post that way. It’s doable, but only that. In due time I want to try synching this iPhone with a BlueTooth keyboard. That wasn’t possible with the 3G, but is supposed to be supported with the new phone and iOS4, but that keyboard is not at home to try tonight.
One of these days, hopefully soon, the Accordance app will be released and I’ll have even more to try out–and perhaps an iPad to buy (but I’m trying to wait for the 2d generation to do that).
But for tonight my one finger is tired!
This is a late reference to some good words of advice from Dave Black on what you won’t learn in his Greek class (and you won’t in mine either!). (Since Dave doesn’t use regular blog software, you have to find the original by scrolling to the date: Jan 19, 2009.
Some things you will NOT learn in this class are:
1) Greek is the Abracadabra or Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. Hardly. Greek will not automatically tell you what the text says though it will limit your options.
2) Greek is inherently difficult to learn. Wrong. Greek is impeccably logical. It has mathematical precision. After all, God invented the language, and He does all things decently and in order. Anyone can learn it who is hardworking and motivated.
3) Greek is never abused by preachers and theologians. Wrong again. This happens all the time. This is one reason to learn Greek for yourself — so that you can check the accuracy of those who use Greek in their teaching (see this discussion for a current example). Greek is often (more often than we think) used to support one’s a priori conclusions as to what a text means. It’s what I call “evangelical Greek,” and no one, myself included, is immune from it.
4) Greek is strange and unique. Absolutely not! Greek is like a long-lost relative you’re meeting for the first time. Like English, it is an Indo-European language and thus shares many cognates and derivatives with your own mother tongue.
5) The New Testament had to be written in Greek because it is superior to other languages. (Sometimes this is phrased as follows: “The New Testament could never have been written in Hebrew because Hebrew lacks the complex semotaxis of Greek.”) True, Greek morphology and syntax is a bit complicated, but the real reason the New Testament was inscripturated in Greek (rather than, say, Hebrew) is a man named Alexander the Great.
6) Greek makes you a more spiritual person. Nonsense. Just remember 1 Cor. 8:1: Knowledge puffs up. Love builds up. Will Greek make you a more loving person? No. Will Greek help you learn truth that can change your life? Absolutely!
I might take issue with stating that Greek has “mathematical precision”–it is a human language! 🙂 And perhaps the quote from 1 Cor 8 is Paul quoting the Corinthians rather than his own advocacy, but all in all, this is good advice. And Dave’s #1 point is perhaps the most important of all.
I just came from a NT dissertation defense by Dan Fabricatore. His dissertation was titled, “A Lexical, Exegetical, and Theological Examination of the Greek Noun μορφή In Philippians.” It will be available later this summer via ILL from our library, and eventually from UMI/ProQuest.
During the defense Dan shared this wisdom:
Lessons Learned from Writing a Dissertation
• You will never feel dumber than while trying to earn a Ph.D.
• Writing a Ph.D. dissertation is a lot like remodeling a kitchen in a 100 year old house: It will take you where you did not want to go, keep you there longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you were willing to pay.
• Keep a family picture near by so you can remember what they look like.
• Your advisor is not Attila the Hun; it just seems that way.
• When you think you are done; you’re not even close.
• Don’t type when you’re tired.
I suspect that list could be supplemented! 🙂 (If you have suggestions, use the Comments section below.) And yes, I’m “Attila.” 🙂
For those who might be interested, here’s a preliminary summary of the dissertation which Dan wrote for his introductory statement at the defense.
Dissertation Defense 4/18/08
The purpose of this dissertation is to determine the meaning of μορφή in Philippians 2:6-7. The dissertation adopts a synchronic approach to lexical semantics, and examines a cross section of Greek writers who use μορφή from the classical period up through the first century A.D. The dissertation also looks how the μορφή has been interpreted throughout the church age, before exegetically examining the passage and interpreting the term in its context.
The conclusion reached in this dissertation is that μορφή denotes the visible appearance of the Son as God prior to his incarnation. This visible manifestation of Christ as God is associated with his glory (δόξα). When Christ became a man, he took on the visible appearance of a slave, an interpretation made against the social backdrop of slavery in the Greco-Roman world. When Christ became man, the visible manifestation of his divine glory was veiled. This understanding of μορφή is in contrast to a popular connotation that μορφή refers to the essence or nature of God (2:6) and the essence or nature of a
This interpretation of μορφή is based primarily in the lexical data regarding μορφή, as well as contextual indicators in Philippians 2:6-8. Lexically, a thorough sampling of μορφή among classical and hellenistic Greek writers demonstrates that the overwhelming uses of μορφή denote the visible form or shape of someone or something. This fact is also true of Aristotle and others who are sometimes cited by commentators (such as J. B. Lightfoot) as being the source for Paul’s understanding of μορφή in the philosophical manner of essence or nature. On some occasions μορφή refers to the physical stature or beauty of a person. On rare occasions it denotes the essence or nature of an object. Contextually, the uses of ὁμοίωμα, σχῆμα, and ἄνθρωπος all serve in verse 7 to stress the visible reality of the humanity of Christ.
This interpretation does not diminish the essence or nature of Christ as God or a slave, since both θέος and δοῦλος carry such a semantic understanding. It is just that μορφή does not mean that here.
Determining the meaning of μορφή in Philippians 2:6-7 in light of the lexical data suffers from one inescapable reality. Of the some 650 known uses of μορφή from Homer up to Josephus, only 2 are in the New Testament and both are in Philippians 2.
The dissertation examines over 100 separate uses of μορφή in classical and hellenistic Greek writings, papyri, inscriptions, and the early church fathers. Since Aristotle is cited as the one whose use of μορφή Paul draws upon in Philippians 2:6-7, his uses were examined extensively.
The term μορφή possessed a semantic range that remained stable for 800 years. From the earliest uses, it predominantly denoted the visible form or shape of an object.
For example, an early use of μορφή is in Aeschylus’ work, Eumenides. In the scene, Apollo enters from the inner sanctuary and responds to the chorus of the Furies, stating,
ἆρ’ ἀκούετε οἵας ἑορτῆς ἔστ’ ἀπόπτυστοι θεοῖς στέργηθρ’ ἔχουσαι; πᾶς δ’ ὑφηγεῖται τρόπος μορφῆς· λέοντος ἄντρον αἱματορρόφου οἰκεῖν τοιαύτας εἰκός, οὐ χρηστηρίοις ἐν τοῖσδε πλησίοισι τρίβεσθαι μύσος.
D’ye hear what sort of feast ye love that makes you detestible to the gods? The whole fashion of your form doth set it forth. Creatures such as ye should inhabit the den of some blood-lapping lion, and not inflict pollution on all near you in this oracular shrine. Begone, ye herd without a shepherd!
In the drama, Apollo casts out those who are reproached by the gods. The sense here is “the whole ‘makeup’or ‘guise’ of your form.” Aeschylus uses a construction (τρόπος μορφῆς) that contains two words that are sometimes used as synonyms. However in this construction they apparently are not used that way, since one is modifying the other. This type of construction also occurs among Greek writers on occasion with the terms μορφή and φύσις.
As a matter of fact, one is hard pressed to find uses that denote “pure” essence or nature. Such rare uses are found in the philosophers, where one would expect. An example would be from Aristotle in his work, The Physics. In it he writes, ἡ ἄρα μορφή φύσις (It is, then, the form that is nature). Such a use even by Aristotle is rare. In addition, it is possible even in this context to argue that μορφή and φύσις are different given the additional context. Yet even with Aristotle, the vast majority of his uses of μορφή denote something visible.
Writers of history such as Josephus use the term exclusively to refer to a visible object. Even in the rare uses where a writer is speaking of the nature of someone or something, it is often in reference to that which lies “behind” the visible entity. The overwhelming uses of μορφή to denote the visible appearance of an object puts great pressure on the interpreter to validate why he would dismiss such evidence. I believe that the context would need to be crystal clear that the normal use of μορφή could not be possible before attempting to defend a rare use of μορφή. The only good reason that I found to dismiss such lexical support was theological expediency.
I don’t think I should spend much time on this area since it is not critical to the interpretation of μορφή. I will say that the majority of scholars and preachers that I examined did seem to adopt the view that the “form of God” spoke of the essence or nature of God in contrast to the visible appearance view. However many of them would also hold that God’s glory was in play as well. Both views, the essence/nature view and the visible appearance/glory view hold to the deity of Christ prior to his incarnation. There is some “cross pollination” at work. Fortunately, the Bible has much built-in redundancy.
In addition, there would be reluctance to challenge such an interpretation of μορφή in Philippians 2 since the view is theologically robust. In other words, Why dabble with any view that magnifies the deity of Christ?
I believed going into the dissertation (and after as well) that the key to properly interpreting μορφή would ultimately reside in the text itself. I am a minimalist in many ways, and do not think that individual words in and of themselves can be asked to carry the bulk of semantic freight in a particular passage.
I do not believe that μορφή adds much to the passage in terms of essence or nature. If it had been left out altogether, the passage is not weakened in that regard: “who, though existing (as) God … took on servant(hood). If μορφή were absent, one could argue just as strongly that Paul was speaking of Christ as existing as “true” God (possessing his nature) and then took on the essence of a slave. This observation then begs the question: why μορφή? I believe Paul chose it to let his readers know that Christ possessed the very “form” of God that was often manifested in glory but that in an act of humility, he took another form (a slave) whereby his glory was veiled. In addition, the context in 2:7 argues for reference to Christ taking on a physical, visible form.
I hold that the visible appearance view regarding μορφή has theological implications in the passage that are theologically defendable. The view:
• Supports Christ as existent prior to his birth
• Supports Christ to be very God
• Supports Christ to be fully human
In a supporting manner, the term is used in conjunction with other theological truths:
• Christ is an obedient Son
• Christ is a humble God
Philippians 2:6-7 are at the heart of a great NT Christological passage, a passage that sets an example for believers to emulate. Christ had a great position of prominence, but he did not use that power for his own advantage, but for ours. Though he existed in the form of God, he humbled himself and took on another form, the form of a man, and a servant at that. He obediently died on a cruel Roman cross that sinners might be right with God.
Just a brief note to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Though we don’t know most of you (and those of you whom I do know, I often don’t know that you read my blog! 🙂 ), I trust you will celebrate the birth of Jesus this season rather than the season per se. Our week looks to be a busy one with family schedules, so I’ll not likely post again until after the new year.
Rod and Linda Decker
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