writing things down…

Archive for July, 2006


If you have ever visited this site before you will notice a new look.  I like it.  I hope you do.

Content, however, is slow in coming.  In addition to devoting energy to the aesthetics of the site, I have been spending a good deal of spare time on my Fall syllabi, plus Gail and I are gearing up for a weeklong holiday.  You can see some of the fruits of my labor in the Resources section of the site, specifically under the Courses heading.  I’ve also added a few books to various Bibliographies.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the above, even my holiday; we are going to Vancouver for a week, with excursions to Seattle (one day) and Victoria (two days).


Yeah, but…

Something I thought about this weekend:

One’s personal hermeneutic is the philosophy by which one utters “Yeah, but…” when reading/interpreting scripture.

Where do you place your “Yeah, buts”?

Thought for the week

This is not my thought but comes from The Christian Science Monitor, which has a nice commentary on women in ministry. It ends thusly,

Christian communities can adapt to the advance of women in society by rediscovering the exalted place that women hold in the Scriptures. And as they rethink their ideas of leadership, those churches that decide to open their hearts to feminine-style leadership will naturally open the pulpit to women.

The rise of women as church leaders | csmonitor.com

Circles and Lines

I’ve been ruminating about the task of NT exegesis and about the first lecture I will deliver in the Fall. Two images come to mind as I think about exegesis: circles and lines. What we do in Exegetical Methods is introduce students to 1) the various circles of writing and reading, 2) the various circles of influence upon those circles of writing and reading, and 3) the lines of questioning exegetes ask of all of these circles.

The first set of circles I have in mind would include the three large circles of author, text, and readers. The second set of circles would include things like the historical-cultural background of the author, the first reading community, the editing, the compiling, etc. It would also include literary and narrative circles within the texts. Finally, the second set of circles would include as well the influences, goals and settings of the many readers and reading communities–an awareness of the the history of interpretation and a consciousness of the tradition(s) from which one arises would be appropriate. These circles represent areas within which an exegete can maneuver; often and most likely exegetes will move around and into several spheres. My job here is to expose the students to these circles and make as clear as possible the importance of each.

The lines of questioning are really where the students’ hands will get dirty. It is also the place where I have to be selective. The various critical methods are at base lines of questioning. Which critical methods to teach is an important question. It seems to me that there are certain methods that are crucial to most good exegetical endeavors. Though I do not want to intimate that a text’s meaning lies wholly in the historical, I do not think there is any way not to deal with some of the historical questions. I also think that grammatical analysis, literary criticism (broadly construed), and other critical methods are vital and will need to be broached. The difficulty for me will be what line of questioning not to include in the “hands on” part of the course.

Anyway, circles and lines…maybe I have a title for my first lecture and themes to return to throughout the term.

Previous matters

  • Previously I had some reflections on teaching exegesis. I’ve now had my first go at lectures on Word Studies and Historical-Cultural Background. My initial thought? There is absolutely too much information for seminary students to digest. Courses on exegetical methods cannot hope to do much more than present some 1) general ideas about methodological approaches, 2) helpful tools for the task, and 3) encouragement in light of the enormity of the task. (NB: ‘some’ is a key word in the previous sentence.) The question then becomes, “What is the pertinent information? What, among all of the ‘stuff’, should students be aware of and exposed to?” For example, what do students really need to know about the historical and cultural background of the NT? I suppose the answer to that question varies depending on what text is under investigation. Ultimately, I also suppose the answer to the question should be “as much as possible!” A better question then is “What (and how much!) can instructors teach students about the historical and cultural background of the NT in one (possibly more, but still one section of a 10-week course) lecture?” I came to class armed with loads of information. I was prepared to retell the story (legend?) behind the LXX. I had some notes on the Hasmonean dynasty and the Second Temple period. I was even ready to discuss some of the specific Hellenistic literature relevant to NT studies. But, we only had time to barely touch on these things. I offered an analogy for what I was doing. It was a bit like being at a party and having someone introduce you to a person but then leaving the two of you behind to get acquainted on your own. I could only introduce the students to the idea that investigation of Judaic and Hellenistic literature would bolster their NT exegetical work. When I could I tried to acquaint the students with some of the literature or at least to sources that would acquaint them. In the end I left class feeling a bit overwhelmed. I can only imagine how the students felt. And, in the end, many of them are wondering what they need to do to write their exegesis papers. How much historical and cultural background information ought to find its way into their papers? The only answer I could give was “enough”. Word studies are not as overwhleming as historical-cultural background. They can lead into some pretty intense historical investigation though. My focus with the word studies lecture was to emphasize the contextuality of the word under consideration. One cannot do a word study of dikaiosyne. One can, however, do a word study of dikaiosyne in Matthew 5. In addition to contextualizing word studies, I also emphasized some of the exegetical fallacies to avoid. I didn’t feel as overwhelmed and incompetent with the word study lecture as I did with the historical background one.
  • Previously, I noted that I planned to work up some thoughts about the two theological commentaries that have recently begun to appear on book shelves. Yesterday Fuller’s boookstore finally replenished their copies of Stephen Fowl’s commentary on Philippians in the Two Horizons series. I have only read the first few pages of the introduction. The most promising thing for me is his short initial section entitled, “Writing a Theological Commentary.” I will want to say more about his thoughts on this task later. Stay tuned.


Patriotism and Religion

The Christian Science Monitor has two thoughtful editorials relating to the confluence of patriotism and religion. They both end with similar challenges: Americans need to read more about their history.

“I hope the evangelicals [who claim Founders as their own kind] and the people who say the Founders were atheists or agnostics,” Professor Holmes says, “will do more reading.”

This July 4, Americans – and their leaders in particular – must take care not to play the patriotism card against opponents. They should refrain from questioning “love … for one’s country” (as Webster’s defines the word), and keep instead to a debate about the substance of ideas, and how well those ideas fit within the Founders’ democratic framework. To do that, they must be familiar with the founding history and documents. Which augers a little reading this year, along with burger flipping.

Any thoughts?