Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recent Research on Revelation: Book Notice

My friend and colleague, Dr. Russell S. Morton, professional fellow at Ashland Seminary, has published a new book. It is part of the Sheffield Phoenix "Recent Research" series and promises to be a useful resource for those doing serious study in the Apocalypse of John. Here's the blurb.

Perhaps no other biblical book has been the source of as much consternation to its readers as the Revelation of John of Patmos. Their distress has been accentuated by popular approaches, which often advance sensationalist visions of the future. But did John’s vision focus on the distant future, or was it directed to concerns of his own day? If it was directed to his own situation in Roman Asia Minor, what lasting significance, if any, does it have for people two thousand years after the composition of the work?
Recent Research on Revelation is an ambitious attempt to comprehend the great range of scholarly views on the Apocalypse. Avoiding popular and sensational readings of Revelation, this book outlines how scholars of various stripes grapple with John’s dramatic and often disturbing book. Beginning with a historical survey of scholarly opinion, the book examines the question of what form of literature Revelation is. It then offers an overview of various methods used to interpret the Apocalypse, ranging from traditional historical-critical analysis to feminist and postcolonial criticisms.
The Apocalypse continues to evoke strong reactions in its readers, both positive and negative, from comfort to perplexity to revulsion. At the very least, it stimulates readers’ interest to an extent not surpassed by any other New Testament book. We cannot shut our eyes to John’s vision, for it has had too much impact on who we are, whether Christian or not.

You can see the full table of contents here
Congratulations, Russell! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Infusing Hope into Difficult Circumstances: Paul's letters to the Thessalonians

My recent commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians in the Story of God Bible Commentary series was released earlier this month. Here is a short video in which I explain purpose of the series and talk about what I see Paul doing in these letters.

You can buy it on Amazon for  only $23.00 in print or $20.00 in digital format.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pete Enns on the Gift of Darkness

Only those who have gone through a difficult, dark period in their life and faith truly understand the experience. 

Pete Enns has a short piece on his blog today about the gift of darkness. His post is a reflection on St. John of the Cross.

The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. Only those who suffer them will know what this experience is like, but they won’t be able to describe it.”
St. John of the Cross 
"During the dark night the tried-and-true rituals and creeds of religion no longer satisfy or bring assurances of God’s love. (So you might get bored with church services for very good reasons too, but that is not the same as mere spiritual laziness or a lack of faith.)"
Pete Enns

You can read the full post here

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Biblical World reaches one million hits!

Today the Biblical World blog reached one million hits! I started the blog in July of 2010 and never thought I would see this many visitors.

 Of course not everyone who visits is looking for my blog, but I still consider it accomplishment. Over the last few years I have tried to ensure that people who visit the blog do so because they are interested in the content and not because I had a picture or title that was designed to hook-in visitors who are looking for something else. I am unsure to what degree I have been successful.

Many thanks to everyone who reads the blog. It's not as active as it once was, but I still try to use it for letting people know about important events and developments related to the Bible.  Perhaps we will hit two million even quicker?

Now if I just had a dollar for every person who visited . . .

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Afraid you'll be left behind? The Origins of the "Rapture."

The Nicholas Cage reboot of the Left Behind series is attempting to breath new life into a story that is fairly worn out.

Although I haven't seen the film, I know that its premise is based on the idea that God will secretly "snatch away" the Christians just before a period of intense suffering begins on the earth under the leadership of the Antichrist.

The belief in a pretribulation rapture is well known in North America. Even people who aren't believers are aware of it. This is probably due to the way it has been woven into various aspects of Protestantism throughout the 20th century.

The problem, however, is that belief in a pretribulation rapture is relatively new in Church history. It began with a prophecy at a prayer meeting in either Scotland or Ireland and moved to the USA with the teachings of J. Nelson Darby and was popularized through the preaching of D. L. Moody and the Scofield Bible. I have told this story to my students a number of times over the years.

Today, in response to the Nicholas Cage reboot, Ben Witherington has produced a short video explaining the (short) history of the pretributlation rapture. If you have never heard this before, I think you will find it quite interesting.

 Incidentally,Witherington places the prayer meeting in Glasgow, Scotland. I had once read it took place in Ireland at the home of Lady Powerscourt.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Online sample of my new commentary

Zondervan has uploaded a sample from my forthcoming commentary. 

You can read the introductory material and the exposition of 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3 here

To learn more about the Story of God Series click here

A new commentary for today’s world, The Story of God Bible Commentary explains and illuminates each passage of Scripture in light of the Bible’s grand story. The first commentary series to do so, SGBC offers a clear and compelling exposition of biblical texts, guiding everyday readers in how to creatively and faithfully live out the Bible in their own contexts. Its story-centric approach is ideal for pastors, students, Sunday school teachers, and laypeople alike.

It's scheduled to be released on October 14th, but you can pre-order your hardcover or Ebook version today!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It (A review)

Every once in a while someone writes a book that says exactly what you have been thinking for a long time. In Pete Enns’ most recent book I found a description of the Bible and how it works articulated just the way I would say it. In fact, I wish I had said it!

In The Bible Tells Me So: Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read it (HarperOne, 2014), Enns leads readers on a journey of new discovery. Many readers of the Bible (ok, all of us) approach the Bible with certain presuppositions about the way we think the Bible works. But as Enns points out time and again, while we may approach the Bible with an “owner’s manual” or “rule book” mentality, the Bible rarely behaves the way we want it to behave (p. 73). In fact, the more we read the Bible and try to apply it, the more we realize that it is a complex book that is not so easily tamed.

Enns’ goal in this volume is not to tame the beast, but to help readers discover a new appreciation for the Bible.  And although Enns has a PhD from Harvard and is probably too smart for his own good, this is not an academic essay on the Bible that will help cure your insomnia. In many ways this is a personal story in which Enns describes his own journey from an “owner’s manual” approach to the Bible to informed believer. This is a book by someone who found that the Bible is much more exciting and useful than a simple “rulebook.”

The central thrust of the book is the importance of story. Enns notes the difficulty with holding up the Bible to modern ideas of “history.” While he acknowledges that a lot of history lies behind the Bible, he also gives a number of examples where the Bible simply wouldn’t make the cut in documentary. But the problem is not the Bible, but the expectations moderns readers bring to the Bible.

When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey. The journey was recorded over a thousand years span of time, by different writers, with different personalities, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons.

In the Bible, we read of encounters with God by ancient peoples, in their times and places, asking their questions, and expressed in language and ideas familiar to them. Those encounters with God were, I believe, genuine, authentic, and real. But they were also ancient – and that explains why the Bible behaves that way. (p. 23)

Rather than view this as a diminishing of the Bible, Enns argues that this is what makes the Bible useful. The Bible is “Story” it is that which shapes the past in order to help us make sense of the present (p. 99).

But it’s not just the stories of the Bible that are complicated. The God we read about in the Bible is also complicated and doesn’t always behave the way we would like. At times God is loving and merciful and at other times he is vengeful and violent. And try as we may to reconcile those contrasting pictures, it’s not possible. Enns, however, invites his readers to embrace this diverse presentation of God.

God certainly is a multidimensional character in the Bible. Sometimes he is up there and out of the way, unmoved and unmovable. But more often he is the kind of God you can actually have a relationship with. Both are in the Bible. Neither cancels the other out, but – ironically, perhaps – the biblical God that is least Godlike is the one we tend to connect with more in our day – to – day lives. A God like us is not a problem. The New Testament, Where God becomes one of us, calls this Good News. (p. 159).

For Enns, it is the revelation of God in Jesus that is most important.  After demonstrating how Jesus, like the Bible, didn’t always behave the way people would expect, Enns proposes that Jesus is actually bigger than the Bible. That is, while the Bible is important and tells us about and directs us towards God and Jesus, it isn’t the final word. Jesus is the final Word (p. 195).

Enns concludes the volume by suggesting that the Bible is unsettling and that it is supposed to be that way (p. 239). Our attempts to tame the Bible, to make it behave will never succeed and only frustrate us more. But that is not a reason for us to give up. Enns suggests that an unsettled faith is a maturing faith (238). He also warns that we shouldn’t expect more from the Bible than you would from Jesus (p. 243). If we are willing to accept the mystery of Jesus as God come in the flesh, we should also accept the mystery of how the Bible came to us with human fingerprints all over it.

This is a book that needed to be written. And if you know anything about Pete Enns and his story you will know that he was just the person to write it. This book should be read by anyone who has been raised in evangelical thinking, but found that at times the answers it provided were unsatisfactory. It’s a book for people who cling to their faith in God in spite of the messiness of the Bible and the way it has been used over the centuries. It is a book that I think puts into words what many have been thinking for a long time.

I highly recommend it!