August 2006 Archives

Interpretive Translation

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A lot of people complain loudly and frequently about what they call "interpretive translation". Most of these people are criticizing what is commonly called dynamic translation, which includes translations that tend to translate the sense of an expression as opposed to favoring the formal properties of the sentence. Either favoring can obscure the other, and good translators will know how to find the right balance to express the original meaning best. But the complainers don't understand the complexities of translation very well, or they would realize that sometimes capturing the sense of the original means sacrificing the ability to capture its form. Thus translations such as the NIV, TNIV, or NLT will come under their wrath, and they will favor translations such as the ESV, NASB, or NKJV.

One deep irony of this is that lots of interpretive translation goes on in those translations that people are, following the ESV translators, now calling "essentially literal". Wayne Leman points out one example. A lot of these translations that are supposed to avoid interpretive translation do exactly that all the time in ways that their supporters consider the right way to translate those passages. Wayne's example is in capitalizing words like 'son' or 'man' when the translators interpret them to be referring messianically to Jesus. But this is indeed an interpretation, even if the interpretation is based on other scriptural passages that quote it and apply it to Jesus.

Someone wanting to translate this way might defend it on the grounds that interpretations based on other parts of the Bible are infallible and thus can serve as the good kind of interpretation. After all, if Hebrews or Acts quotes Psalm 2 about Jesus, then can't we be 100% sure that it's simply talking about Jesus? If we believe the Bible to be infallible in its quotations, then this kind of interpretation is God's own interpretation, and thus it's true. Whats right about this is that someone who takes the Bible to be infallible should see the Bible's quotation of itself as infallible, i.e. it couldn't be an error in quotation. What's wrong about this argument, however, is that our interpretation of what the quotation is doing might be wrong. If Acts 13 applies Psalm 2 to Jesus, that doesn't mean its original referent is Jesus. It might be referring to the Davidic line in general in most of what it says, with Jesus representing the ideal Davidic king and thus fitting into its reference but not encompassing the entirety of its reference. Those who capitalize the pronouns about Jesus or the word 'son' are thus engaging in the bad kind of interpretive translation in this case, because it might actually give the wrong result.

The 137th Christian Carnival is at Brain Cramps for God.

One of the bigger difficulties of an old-earth view of the early chapters of Genesis is how to deal with what seems to to be the biblical teaching that death came into the world through sin, since old-earth views usually involve lots of animals dying, eating each other, and even extinction of species long before humans even existed, never mind sinned. David Heddle has some very interesting thoughts on what old-earthers can say about death, some of them entirely new to me.

The most important suggestion is perhaps that death was already around before the human fall because of the earlier angelic fall, but this was not death for humans. That's what made Eden special. What separates Eden from the rest of the world on the young-earth view? If there's no good answer to that (and there are some answers in the comments, but nothing as huge as death), then this problem, originally against old-earth views, one of the few that I consider serious enough to worry about) actually favors old-earth views on one score rather than undermining them.

I'm way behind on my Language Log reading, but I just noticed Wayne Leman blogging about this Mark Liberman post about an instance of the singular 'they' in the KJV. I know there are manby older instances, but this is the KJV.

This isn't new to me (see here), but one counterargument in the comments on Wayne's post is worth responding to. The anonymous commenter argues that it couldn't be a singular 'they' but must instead be some roundabout form (particular to this example and not usable in other singular 'they' examples from the same period), and the only real argument for this is that the verb seems to be plural. It's 'have', not the singular 'has' that would be expected if you had a singular subject.

There's one major problem with this. Singular 'they' (in the newer dialects of English that have it as a regular feature nowadays) does not take a 'has' but a 'have'. It's a singular 'have' as well. The following sentence clearly has a singular subject and verb in the second clause: "Someone took my pencil, and they have it on their person." So why couldn't we read 'have' in the KJV as singular, just as it is in today's English?

9/11 Conspiracy Theories

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I've never thought the 9/11 conspiracy theories were remotely plausible, but they were so far from believability that I never actually had to think about why I don't even consider them worthy of suggesting. Stuart Buck thinks through what I never bothered with, offering some excellent reasons why the 9/11 conspiracy theories make little sense:

1. A government that couldn't keep all sorts of lesser things secret surely couldn't hold this so tightly to themselves that no one would find out about it.
2. One theory is that explosives really blew up the buildings, and somehow it's supposed to follow that the government was behind it, which doesn't seem at all related to the thing it's supposed to follow from.
3. If they did use explosives, why also use planes? Why use four planes? Couldn't a conspiracy just as easily do the kind of damage intended just by using explosives?
4. The more people involved, the riskier, and if the hijackers were superfluous, why have more people who could get caught (or diverted by a crashed plane) before they could accomplish the task?

Henry Imler posts some arguments from N.T. Wright in favor of the historicity of the virgin birth accounts. I don't think I've seen these arguments before. He lists three. The first is more an argument against arguments against the virginal conception. The other two actually support the historicity of the virgin birth passages in Matthew and Luke, and those are what caught my interest:

2. Isaiah 7 was never part of any pre-Christian Jewish view of the Messiah being born of someone who was still a virgin by the time of the conception. Everyone who read the passage took it in the way that an ordinary person would. It says that a virgin would engage in sexual relations, conceive, and then give birth. In its immediate context about the children whose names are mentioned in that very passage, it had to mean exactly that. So no one thought of this as a messianic passage about someone who would conceive and then give birth, all while remaining a virgin. But what that means is that it's extremely unlikely that someone would concoct this legend about Jesus being born of a virgin to fit a prophecy that no one interpreted that way. When people invent circumstances to fit a prophecy, they don't usually recast an already existing prophecy in a way that no one interpreted it. It would be one thing to look back on Isaiah 7 if a virginal conception happened. It would be quite another thing to interpret it anew without any such an event. Why insist on taking a passage in a way no one had before if it's not to explain an event that makes much more sense with the newfangled interpretation?

2. Matthew and Luke record two very different sets of traditions about the birth of Jesus. If they were importing a pagan myth because of some theological value, it would be surprising to find no theological hay made of it in either of the two very different literary traditions. But yet that's what we have. Even if the authors of the two accounts didn't think it was a pagan importation but believed it, it would be strange that this was done earlier for theological purposes and yet neither account would actually include such reasons or any sign that there ever were any. What would be more likely is that they didn't believe it because of its theological significance but believed it simply because it had its basis in actual events.

Echolocation in Humans

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Apparently Daredevil's echolocation powers aren't all that implausible for humans. It's not just possible. It's real. [ht: Eugene Volokh]

The 137th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Brain Cramps for God. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Jack Balkin argues that originalism is consistent with a living Constitution, in a very interesting way. See the summary by Randy Barnett, and read the whole paper (follow the links from Barnett's post) if you want to look at the details.

Once you distinguish between original meaning and original application, you can say you're an originalist about original meaning but not original application. The terms of the Constitution mean what they originally meant, but how that is applied in new contexts will change. An example would be that the original application of the equal protection clause obviously did not include things like affirmative action because the people who authored it did not see that language applying to such things (see here for why), while the language itself may actually have implied something that its authors wouldn't have wanted to apply it to. So the living Constitution is when the applications change.

This strikes me as along the same lines as what Justice Alito was saying at his hearings back when he was still Judge Alito. I'm not sure if it's Alito's own view, but it's interesting to see Balkin willing to adopt a form of originalism, since he has been a strong critic of the kinds of originalism that Justices Scalia and Thomas hold (which are distinct from this kind). One irony of this is that the affirmative action discussion I just linked to doesn't follow from this new form of originalism that Balkin has identified. Balkin's argument against the Scalia-Thomas-Rehnquist view of affirmative action is that the original application of equal protection does not include things like what affirmative action now is. But of course that's irrelevant if original application isn't what determines the meaning of constitutional language.

For those who are interested in upcoming biblical commentaries who don't regularly check my posts on those (and I know some of my readers do check in on those posts fairly often), I wanted to make it known that there have been lots of updates to them recently. [You can look at the same information organized in two different ways: by book of the Bible and by commentary series.] In this post I'll give several highlights and major updates among a lot of smaller changes that I won't mention here but are at the main posts. As always, the main posts just linked to will be updated when there is new information, and they include much that's changed that's not here. I will not be updating this post. This is just to draw attention to changes that have occurred on the other posts for those who don't check them regularly.

I'm perhaps most excited about this first item, which I haven't included in the other posts since it's not new commentaries but new books about commentaries. Baker is releasing new editions of Longman's OT commentary survey and Carson's NT one in January. Also, John Glynn is expecting the new edition of his own commentary review to be published by the end of the year. I've already ordered Longman and Carson at Amazon. I couldn't find them there by searching, but you can use the Baker links above to get the ISBNs and then type them into the Amazon search box. I don't believe they have the new Glynn edition listed at Amazon yet.

I've been busy enough lately that I've lost touch with several blogs I've been trying to maintain connections with, and one of the things I've let slip is checking for Rick Mansfield's Bible translation reviews. He's now done the REB and the NJB, two translations I've spent a lot less time in.

I have little to say about these reviews, since I don't know either translation very well, but I did notice something interesting in the comments on the second piece, which arose from the NJB's use of 'Yahweh' to transliterate God's name in Hebrew rather than the standard English translation policy of using 'the LORD' for that name. Since orthodox Jews can't use such a translation because of that, it led to a discussion of the practice some Jewish people have of writing out 'G-d' so they don't use God's name. Apparently that very practice is viewed as sacrilege by many orthodox Jews, despite its opposite intent. This makes sense, though, because 'God' is not the name of God to an orthodox Jew. The tetragrammaton is, i.e. what would be transliterated as 'YHWH'. The fact that 'God' is used in English as a name for God is irrelevant, since it's not the name God revealed himself as having. Thus orthodox Jews see this practice of leaving out the vowel in 'God' as sacrilege, because it raises the status of this English word to the level of the Hebrew name that God used to reveal himself. That's an interesting irony.

Darren Sumner argues that SciFi just wanted to get rid of the show in a long process of remaking themselves as a non-scifi network.

Also, check out the Save Stargate SG-1 campaign. Given that this cancelation is from the network only, and MGM and the producers want to keep SG-1 going, this has a real chance of succeeding.

My original post on the cancelation is here.

Update: This strikes me as junior high pettiness. Basically, it amounts to : "If we can't have it no one can. Well, we can have it, but we don't really want it. But that doesn't mean we want anyone else to be able to have it." They may be well within their legal rights to do this, but insisting on your legal rights is often inconsistent with basic moral decency, and this seems to be a pretty clear case of that.

I have to say that I really, really dislike the idea that people might have to have a good computer-based media system to watch the 11th season if they make it for download only. It would be pretty awful if the only way we'll be able to watch this is on a notebook computer screen with tiny speakers and no way to save them except on CDs that can't be watched except on a tiny screen. Even worse is that you'd have to pay for it beyond the exorbitant prices cable already costs. Ongoing stories would be nice, but if it's not on TV then they lose a huge audience that wouldbe able to watch them if they did TV movies or mini-series. Doing a whole season at its usual expense seems such a waste if it would be download-only.

This is part three of what I was expecting to be a four-part review of Mary Kassian's The Feminist Mistake. I have decided to post what I've written of part three and then not continue, primarily because I have not been reading any more of this book for quite some time, and I need to limit my reading list down to something much more manageable given that I would like to finish my dissertation by the end of next summer. So I've decided not to finish this book in the foreseeable future. Here, then, is the last part of my series of reviews on this book, covering a few chapters into the third section.

Welcome to the 136th Christian Carnival. For information on what the Christian Carnival is, see here. I've decided to arrange the posts this time according to Psalm 136, using the NET. I'm not sure if I like every aspect of this translation, but it's very hard to capture the meaning of 'hesed', which refers to God's covenant love and loyalty for his people (and derivatively of his people's covenant love and loyalty for each other). I like how the NET handles that, translating it as "loyal love".

As always with carnival themes, carnival entries have to go in the best-fitting place for the entry in question, and sometimes the fit is not very good at all. It's first come first serve as well, so earlier posts have a better chance of being placed with a verse that fits more closely. Also, I'll try not to comment much, especially when I disagree with a post, even if that means I've allowed a description that I find somewhat inaccurate or misleading. There's a great deal of variety here in style, content, and viewpoint, and I hope you find enough here to be worth your time no matter where you're coming from.

Gift of Singleness

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Andreas Kostenberger has a thoughtful post on singleness in the Bible. I especially found one observation noteworthy. He finds a trajectory across salvation history with regard to singleness and marriage. Marriage is part of the creation order, part of God's original intent before the fall. It isn't until Jesus comes along to initiate the new covenant that you get any sense at all that there's anything but marriage as the norm, with singleness as an extraordinary exception (e.g. widows, serious illness). But Jesus indicates that some will be single by choice, and Paul even argues that the kingdom is more greatly served (in certain kinds of situations?) by those who are single, and therefore what was once the exception becomes something especially useful.

But Jesus also indicates that there will be no marriage in the resurrection. That means the intermediate phase between the initiation of the new covenant and its ultimate fulfillment in the resurrection is in tension between the marriage norm of the old covenant and the singleness norm of the resurrection. Seeing this according to a trajectory makes so much sense of how Paul can have such a high view of marriage and yet also view singleness as something for some to strive for. This doesn't (as some have argued) imply a lower view of marriage but simply reflects the tension between these two norms, one eventually to be replaced by the other but both having value in the in-between time. But Kostenberger does take marriage as a sort of norm even in this age, citing Matthew 19 as evidence. It's just not a norm in the fuller sense of when most everyone would be expected to get married.

Stargate SG-1 Canceled

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Who besides CBS would cancel one of a network's best and most popular shows, simply because it wasn't doing as well as it was last year (but still doing much better than almost anything else they show)? The SciFi Channel has done it before without even that excuse (with Farscape when it was even at the height of its popularity), and now it's done it again with Stargate SG-1, the show that you would expect them to show some gratefulness toward given its having put them (and cable original programming in general) on the map in terms of ratings successes. It can't be just about ratings, because Atlantis is doing only slightly better.

They've made one bone-headed decision after another in the last couple years with their original programming, and now they decide to do some nice blame-shifting by canceling one of their best original shows. They decided after the good ratings of Eureka to try for original programming every night. Most of the tripe they've been showing now isn't going to last more than a couple months. A lot of it isn't even scifi, even in the broadest sense of the term. Pro wrestling? It's definitely fiction, but where's the science in it? But then they had John Edward on years ago, so I suppose that's not much different. The formula that worked was to have their best stuff on Friday nights starting at 8:00, without Monk opposite the opening show that now starts at 9:00, an hour after most people have been watching some other channel. If they had wanted SG-1 to do well this year, they could have done a much better job. This was as bad as UPN putting Enterprise opposite Stargate in its final year and then canceling it because of bad ratings (which were still better than almost any other original scifi show on cable).

Uncertainty about what the original autographs said is no argument against inerrantism about what the original autographs said, not just because whether the original has errors is independent of whether we know what the original said. Kenny Pearce offers some Bayesian probabilistic reasons for concluding that a doctrine of inerrancy might still make a difference epistemically about particularly propositions despite uncertainty about whether the original autographs teach those propositions. He applies this to doctrinal issues that inerrantists who accept some principle of sola scriptura might nevertheless dispute, and then he applies it to science and evolution. I don't really know any Bayesian probability, so I can't really evaluate this in those terms, but what he's saying seems right to me in general.

I've cross-posted this at Prosblogion, so you might want to check the comments there to see if it generates a good, higher-end philosophical discussion.

The 136th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week, hosted right here at Parableman. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Ecclesiastes and Joy

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From one of the recent Christian Carnivals: Ecclesiastes and Joy at Thinking Christian. A number of scholars go to one extreme or the other on how pessimistic Ecclesiastes is, and Tom Gilson seems to me to get the balance right.

Christian Carnival CXXXV

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The 135th Christian Carnival is up at Wittenberg Gate.

My tire fell off today while I was driving on Interstate 86 just a few miles from the exit to Corning, NY, where we were supposed to be spending a few hours visiting the glass museum. We did get to walk around Corning a bit, and it was a nice day trip overall, but combining it with getting the tire fixed wasn't exactly the day we'd planned. We decided just to walk around the town instead of going to the museum. The place that fixed the tire problem managed to do it in just an hour and a half, and they think the problem was so obviously caused by the people who last worked on it that we can probably get this refunded. But despite the problems, we seem to have had a good time, and we did make it back in time for Sam to make a dance rehearsal and for me to make the Bible study I was scheduled to lead tonight. The ride home was actually fairly nice, and the discussion went very well at the Bible study. Strangely, it feels like it was a good day. So don't take the crankiness of what follows to be a sign of my mood after having my tire fall off just shy of our destination. I wrote most of these before we left, and I just happened to notice the crankiness as I was copying and pasting them into my blog editing software.

do some latinos don't consider themselves black people
I would think that most Latinos don't consider themselves black. Not only that, most other people wouldn't consider them black either.

Why John Piper prefers the CEV
Piper? I would expect him to hate the CEV. I hate it, and I'm not generally opposed to dynamic translations the way he is.

George Bush Theonomist
You do realize that most theonomists hate President Bush, right? Do you know why? Because it's all too clear to them that he's not one of them.

pics of action heroes having sex
Right. Who is this really?

I was sitting in the law school library one night a couple years ago, and a law student asked me if I could remind her the names of the Supreme Court justices. Bear in mind that this was before Roberts and Alito. The Supreme Court at the time had been the same people since something like 1993. This particular law student had probably been in junior high when President Clinton had appointed Justice Breyer. When she found out that I wasn't a law student, a law professor, or a lawyer but merely a philosopher, and yet I could name them off in like three seconds, she was feeling a little Bashful.

Speaking of which, have you heard about the latest poll purportedly showing that the seven dwarfs are more famous than the Supreme Court justices? I've seen it several times now, but most people aren't noticing what Mark Liberman at Language Log has picked up on (see the links within that post, since it doesn't say much itself). It's good reading in general to see how misleading polls can be, indeed how misleading they can be designed to be. Suffice it to say that there's little to be trusted about this poll. It has all the hallmarks of manipulative poll-spinning.

A friend of mine works as the Baptist Campus Minister at my university. He occasionally takes part in interfaith dialogues, and he tells me about his interactions from time to time. One such instance struck me as being apologetically significant and worth blogging about (with his permission). The conversation started out with what the Qur'an says about Jesus, and it ended up moving to what the Bible says about Muhammad. You might be wondering what the Bible could possibly say about Muhammad, since he was around long afterward, but you can't rule something like that out if you're open to predictive prophecy. Why couldn't a divine revelation have something to say about someone who hasn't come around yet? Christians believe the Hebrews scriptures point to Jesus, after all. It doesn't do to insist on that when you like it and then rule it out when you don't like it.

But the particular example many Muslims give of Jesus in the Bible makes no sense. They say that Deuteronomy 18's future prophet like Moses is Muhammad. Many Christians take this prophet to be Jesus. The first-century Christians certainly did, including the book of Acts. But there's one reason even within Deuteronomy that makes it very unlikely that this passage could be referring to Muhammad. Deuteronomy 18 speaks of this prophet as "one of your brothers". That means the prophet like Moses will be Jewish.

Muslim apologists take "one of your brothers" to mean that the prophet will come out of an ethnic group that is a brother group to the people of Israel. Since they take Arabs to be descended from Ishmael, they can happily say that Muhammad is thus one of the brothers of Israel. There's only one problem with this. My friend noticed this immediately, because the day before he'd just been reading the previous chapter, Deuteronomy 17. That chapter uses the same Hebrew expression for "one of your brothers" in its requirements for kingship. It isn't saying that the king ought to come not from Israel itself but from one of its brother peoples. The requirement simply restricts the kingship to Israelites. So why should we think the exact same expression one chapter later would mean something very different? The prophet would come out of Israel, not some related people group.

Theocracy Paranoia

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Daniel Pulliam, in Putting “theocracy” fears in their place, looks at the irrational paranoia many of the left have about a phenomenon that they regularly misrepresent as conspiracies aiming at theocracy. I had been saving this for a little while. I thought the post made several interesting points, and I wanted to discuss them further, but I've got other things I want to do when I finally get a chance to write something more substantive, and I wanted to post something today without putting in any more work. I've been spending enough time lately just responding to comments.


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where to find a copy of the bible in it's original form
Even completely ignoring the offending apostrophe, this is a strange request. I'm not sure 'where' is the correct term. Perhaps 'when' would be more helpful, and even that isn't right if you think there's one time when the originals of all the books were present.

what does ethan mean
I think that depends on what he says. Oh, did you mean "what does 'Ethan' mean?" It's got something to do with firmness and steadfastness.

council of Trent cannons 9
That must be when they gave up on trying to convince Protestants by argument and decided to bring in the big guns instead.

twin girls + one african american and one white
Now I think it says something interesting that so many people are willing to describe one twin as black and the other as white. It means the one-drop rule is no longer in effect, at least in the racial classification systems those people are using. But I look at this, and I think it's just confused. If the term 'African American' is supposed to mean anything, it's supposed to have reference not to what people look like (or Australian aborigines could move to the U.S. and become African American) but to ancestry. Yet these twin girls have the same ancestry. That they can be classified one as black and the other as white shows that for many people race isn't about ancestry but about mere color. But being African American has to involve something to do with ancestry, and it just can't make sense to call one African American and the other not. All this is stupid to begin with, since the twins aren't American in any sense. They're British. But then there are those who want to call black French people African American. Why not British people too? I suppose it's not any more stupid.

did saddam hussein have madonna christen babylon
Wait, I thought he didn't have any weapons that desecrate masses.

The 135th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week, hosted at Wittenberg Gate. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:


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This is a list of the current and forthcoming commentaries in the Hermeneia series. For more series, see my post on commentary series. For a listing in alphabetical order, see this post.

The Hermeneia series is noted especially for its comprehensive attention to parallels in other literature. This will almost invariably involve many speculative connections with literature not necessary for interpreting the biblical text and just amounts to distraction. A number of these commentaries are absolutely excellent and in fact the scholarly standards on their respective books (e.g. Psalms 51-100, Song of Songs, Amos, I Peter. Others are outdated or eccentric (most notably John and the earlier Bultmann I-III John), and such books might be better served by other commentaries. It uses the original language and will be harder to read by those unschooled in Hebrew and Greek, but there is usually a translation of any non-English, which makes it much easier than some other series. Even though it's more detail than necessary in most cases, some of these volumes really are the best detailed exegesis of the book they cover, and I'll indicate some of those when I do the review of commentaries for each book. In most cases, scholars will need to refer to them, but expositors will not. The series is still very much in process in the Old Testament, with only one volume on the historical works in print, and that was just this year. The prophets and wisdom literature have much better coverage, and the NT is much further along. Non-canonical books also appear in this series.

One misleading element of the following lists is that many volumes are translations of German or French works, and the delay between the original and the Hermeneia translation is sometimes more than a decade. Some of these are much older than they seem to be from the date given, which is the date of its release in English translation in this series . Others were new works produced in English.

Volumes out so far:

For some reflections on culture, in particular art and science in relation to faith, check out Bruce Meyer's blog Being Human, in Faith Art Science. Bruce and I have a lot of common friends, but we've never met. He was once part of the congregation I'm now a member of, but he left town long before I arrived. He's been blogging for a few weeks now and has enough posts to give you some sense of what his blog will be like. I recommend checking it out and seeing if it's the sort of thing you'd like to add to your blog-reading menu.

Update: I particularly recommend Industrialized Sex and True Intimacy, Part I and Industrialized Sex and True Intimacy, Part II. He also provides and reflects a little on an excerpt from Aristotle on friendship, whose insight into human nature and psychological matters was in some ways (but certainly not all) extremely insightful and way ahead of his time.

Molly Ziegler, Leaving politics aside?, looks at the media coverage of borderline evangelical Greg Boyd's recent controversy over refusing to get his church involved in politics. (I say borderline because Boyd is an open theist, and many consider open theism automatically a disqualifier for evangelicalism, while others do not.) While I agree with the general sort of view of the church and politics that Boyd is saying, I agree with the criticism of his erroneous claim that Jesus didn't push people's buttons about sex. He most certainly did. Also, I think the abortion discussion toward the end reveals that there's a distinction between the church taking a stance on the best political policies and leaders (which I'd say is contrary to the church's purpose) and the church taking a stance on moral issues that are clear in scripture (which I think is its obligation).

I've just spent a good deal of time working through Augustine on this issue, and when I get a chance to put it into post form I'll be posting my notes. I really appreciate almost everything he has to say on it, but that will have to wait.

The 134th Christian Carnival is at Attention Span.

Justification in James

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Alan Bandy has a nice post on the eschatological sense of justification in James as opposed to the Pauline initial justification that in some ways is out of step with the way Hebrew thought (including in the Old Testament) had typically applied terms for justification, which is more like the way James used it.

His bringing in the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is especially helpful, because that's exactly the kind of way James is thinking when he uses justification language. Keith Green used to say that the only difference between the sheep and the goats is what they did and didn't do. His mistake was in assuming that the overt difference is the only difference. It is a difference, but it isn't the only difference. Paul's initial justification and sanctification are the underlying cause of James's overt difference in the outworking of what the final justification will observe, the outworking of sanctification.

But Green was right to point out that the means of differentiating the sheep and goats is what they did and didn't do. That suggests that a judgment by works as a final justification will not disagree with a judgment by grace through faith at an initial justification. But those who judge only by works now have not seen the whole picture. The way to tell if someone has lived a life of genuine faith from the outset is to see if they have lived a faithful life by the end. This is a case where a "both/and" perspective is the only way to make sense of the biblical statements on the issue.

Joe Lieberman's Ego

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I just heard a guy calling in to C-Span to complain about Senator Joseph Lieberman's ego. If he loses the primary (and he's currently behind as I write this by 52% to 48%), he intends to stay in the race as an independent. This fellow who called in considers this the height of arrogance, since it fails to see what his party is doing, where it's heading. Somehow it is arrogance to consider getting almost half of your party's vote in your state to be a good reason to think the general election voters (who will tend to be much less liberal than the party loyalists who vote in primaries) will continue to support him.

Now I'm really curious to know whether this caller was among those who have complained about conservatives who have treated the 2004 election as a devastating loss for John Kerry. That's been a common complaint from those who supported Kerry, who actually did quite well in the election as compared with losers of presidential races. It's something of a commonplace nowadays to hear people complaining that President Bush is treating a relatively slim victory as a mandate. I don't see a huge difference between those numbers and the numbers they're currently floating for Ned Lamont in this Democratic primary for Senator Lieberman's Senate seat, not enough to justify treating Lieberman as arrogant for thinking he could win the statewide election or for thinking that he could represent a liberal state with such a "devastating" loss in a primary.

But this isn't really about Joe Lieberman. It's about the president whose foreign policy Senator Lieberman supported (to some extent) out of principle. Since any stick is good enough to beat Bush with, any stick is good enough to beat those being tarred as Bushies with, even if it's a stick that the same sort of person would complain about Republicans using against Democrats.

As I've done with several other of my lists of commentary series, I've put together a chronological listing of the Tyndale Old and New Testament commentaries. For the canonical order and a brief review of the series, see here.

Old Testament:

Author of Sin

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Rebecca Stark looks at the expression 'author of sin', finding that many who use it don't really have a clear idea what they mean, and once they clarify it what they're saying may not follow. I think she's expressing thoughts I've had for a long time but haven't really been able to express well. One line struck me:

Somehow, for those who argue that it's the purposeful nature of God's permission of sin that makes him the author of sin, a supreme being who permits sin for no reason is better than one who permits it for a reason. When it comes to the permission of sin, in their view, arbitrary is better than purposeful.

This is something that has always seemed strange to me about certain Arminian/libertarian responses to the problem of evil (especially in their open theistic form but sometimes even in more standard libertarian views that don't necessarily imply open theism, e.g. some of Peter van Inwagen's work). I can't understand how having no reason for something is supposed to be better than having a really good reason for doing or allowing it. But this is commonly trotted out as a better defense of how God would allow evil than the traditional view that God really does have good reasons for allowing evil

The 134th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week, hosted at Attention Span. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

When I'm reading a philosophical work, and I have to put it down, I usually have to skim through the paragraph or two before I stopped to put myself back into the train of thought necessary to move on. I picked up my Cambridge Companion to Augustine to resume my reading of the chapter on his political thought, and I skimmed the paragraph I had just finished before I put it down. (Mind you that this was also in a darkening room at the end of the day without yet having the light turned on after several hours out in the sun.)

This is what my mind interpreted the author as saying: "Augustine intimates in one place that rubber bands count as societies." Something didn't sound right there. Augustine wouldn't even know what a rubber band is. So what was it that I had just misread? Oh, right. I'd even typed up notes on this earlier today. Somehow replacing 'rubber' with 'robber' didn't occur to me without having to go back and read it again to remember what it really said.

I wonder if this is partly because 'rubber band' functions as one word in my mind and not a compound of two things. It's not a band that's rubber. It functions as a unit. Also, the different kind of band plays some role here too. I was trying to figure out what other kind of band Augustine might be talking about, and nothing came to mind, because a robber band isn't another kind of the band in the sense that a rubber band is a band.

I really like Augustine, but the following is just terrible biblical exegesis:

What was said to Cain about sin, or the perverted desire of the flesh, is said in this passage about the sinful woman, and here is to be taken as meaning that man, in ruling his wife, should resemble the mind which rules the flesh. For that reason the Apostle says, 'A man who loves his wife is loving himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh.' [Augustine, City of God, XV.7, Henry Bettensen translation, 1972 Penguin edition]

The sense of 'flesh' Paul has in mind in Ephesians 5:28 is not the same sense as when he speaks of the flesh as something to resist. He's talking about people loving their own flesh as a good thing and thus a model for how a husband treats a wife. How can it follow from that that a husband would rule over his wife the way my mind might rule over my flesh in the bad sense of 'flesh'?

This is an obstacle complementarians face in recognizing distinction of gender roles but equality of nature. That kind of relationship isn't master-slave but can nonetheless have an authority structure. Augustine's view of a husband-wife relationship isn't standard complementarianism today, and it's not the view that I think the biblical passages on this assume. Complementarians tend to place themselves in a mediating position between Augustine and absolute egalitarianism, which calls any gender role distinctions evil.

Egalitarians naturally resist that characterization, since calling a position mediating suggests that other views are extreme. But such resistance shouldn't justify mischaracterizing another's view. We should seek accuracy in representing how relate to each other, and I've seen countless attempts by egalitarians to place contemporary complementarian positions such as those of D.A. Carson, Thomas Schreiner, William Mounce, Craig Blomberg, or Bruce Waltke on the same level as what Augustine says. Those who really do know what complementarians are saying who do this are making the difference between Augustine and contemporary complementarianism out to be nothing, and that strikes me as deliberate misrepresentation. Advocating ultimate husband leadership in a marriage but with significant input and even major decision-making on the part of the wife will in practice look far more like an egalitarian marriage than like the master-slave model that many egalitarians portray complementarianism as advocating. Even those who will still disagree with complementarianism ought to acknowledge that, and I see much egalitarian rhetoric as trying to cover over such distinctions rather than acknowledging them.

The 133rd Christian Carnival is at From the Anchor Hold.

Joe Carter seems to have gotten a little weary of people who constantly accuse ID defenders of committing the No True Scotsman fallacy every time they try to point out a straw man argument. So he turns it against some of the ID opposition.

I do think this gets to a real inconsistency of labeling among a certain kind of ID opponent. It's the No True Scotsman fallacy when ID proponents want to call an anti-ID argument a straw man. That's supposed to stop debate about what most ID arguments actually involve and therefore allow the dysphemistic labeling the anti-ID crowd wants to use. But then it's not the No True Scotsman fallacy when someone offers a parochial and positivistic account of what can fall under the heading of scientific reasoning, tailor-made to rule out anything remotely like ID.

It's noteworthy that such definitions also rule out any other kinds of scientific reasoning that only logical positivism would count as not science (because it's metaphysics, a dirty word for positivists) but most scientists would easily call science. See here and here for more on that. I think that's an inconsistency in science about what counts as scientific reasoning. But the more poignant issue here is that those who insist that there's no true Christianity becaue of different conceptions of Christianity and no true intelligent design argument because there are different versions of ID will then insist that there are those who occupy the scientific profession but aren't true scientists. That's an inconsistency on the popular level of those who criticize ID proponents' defenses for doing something they themselves regularly do. That hadn't occurred to me until I read Joe's post, but I think he's right.

Here's a really stupid argument:

1. Term X can be used in a racist way.
2. Other uses of Term X are therefore racist.

It's got to be one of the poorest excuses to call someone a racist I've ever seen. Yet people insist on doing it to unsuspecting politicians or other public figures. It's for this reason that Governor Mitt Romney of Massachussetts has been bamboozled into apologizing for an action that is in no way wrong. Tony Snow has also been criticized for using the same expression in its original, non-racial sense. A tar baby is generally a sticky situation, and nothing about race is implied by this use of the term. It's origins come from an African folk tale, and its function in accounts of sticky situations has continued undisturbed by those who ignorantly coopted it for racist purposes. In the northeast, where Romney is governor, most people have probably never even heard of the racist use of the expression, and those who do encounter it might easily forget it as so far out of their vocabulary that it doesn't enter long-term memory.

Another example I've encountered (in this case only very recently) is "call a spade a spade", which simply means to identify something for what it is. Some racists in the South have apparently called black people spades as a derogatory term. Since I've never hung out with those people, it never would have occurred to me that someone would do so. Why should an uncommon use of a term in a localized region, a use I've never even heard of, make my use of a perfectly normal idiom somehow immoral? Those who treat such statements as racist seem to me to be linguistically unaware at best and incapable of moral reasoning at worst.

Biblical scholar Leon Morris died last week at age 92. I have a lot of respect for Morris' work, defending traditional doctrines in times when the majority of biblical scholars had rejected them, in some cases leading to a resurgence in the scholarship of the traditional view (e.g. on propitiation as opposed to expiation). During during the months between New Years and Easter of the last five years, our congregation has been studying John, with one more quarter to go to finish up chapters 18-21. I've appreciated his commentary on John a great deal as we've been doing this lengthy study. I dont know which chapters he wrote in the original Carson/Morris/Moo Introduction to the New Testament (now revised by Carson and Moo without Morris), but I read the whole book with much profit. I've also spent a smaller amount of time in some of his other commentaries. My overwhelming sense of his contribution to biblical studies is that he was one of the most influential evangelical biblical scholars of the last generation, and I think evangelical scholars of our day owe a good deal to his work in a time when evangelical scholarship was only just beginning to be recognized as legitimate work among mainstream biblical studies circles.

The Anglican newsletter for Melbourne has an obituary. See also posts at Rebecca Writes, Between Two Worlds, Boar's Head Tavern, American Anglican, and Jesus Creed.

Update: See also D.A.. Carson's tribute. [Hat tip: Cafe Apocalypsis]

The 8th Biblical Studies Carnival is up at Biblicalia, featuring some of the best posts in the blogosophere from last month in the general area of biblical studies.



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