Sunday, September 19, 2021

 One strength of memoirs as historical documents is that they provide eye-witness accounts of historical events, though this also ties into their weaknesses as shall be discussed below. However, the greatest strength of memoirs as historical documents is in humanizing historical figures. In the scheme of greater history, historical figures run the risk of appearing merely as abstractions rather than flesh-and-blood human beings who lived and acted and made decisions and had relationships and so forth. The memoir gives us insight into the humanity of the individuals who wrote them and offers insight into their perspective on the events they participated in.

The greatest weakness of memoirs as historical genres is that human memory is notoriously fallible. Further, even without suggesting that the author of the memoir could deliberately lie, the author likely has an agenda to portray himself in a positive light, which could potentially lead to distorting the facts, deliberately or subconsciously. These flaws combine to make memoirs an unreliable narration that the reader must evaluate critically.

Memoirs are an ideal source of historical information. Their primary strength lies in providing detail that other secondary sources could have missed. While writing memoirs, individuals often document what they remember based on their perception of each event’s importance. They could include information based on how the environment engaged their senses, such as sight and smell, which secondary sources may not contain. Hence, details that a secondary author may have considered unnecessary contribute significantly to the effectiveness of memoirs in providing extensive information.

Nonetheless, an author’s perspective presents a weakness for using memoirs as historical sources. Memoirs could likely be biased if an author writes from their perspective. However, historians using memoirs often address the challenge by consulting multiple sources addressing a situation and compare them before concluding the event. In other cases, authors could include other primary sources related to an event to improve confidence in their material. Despite the remedies, bias is a common risk observed in using memoirs as historical sources.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

 I want to preface my review of the NIV Grace & Truth Study Bible to say that I own approximately 25 study Bibles and even more journaling Bibles. This Bible is in my top 8 of the best Bibles I own. It ranks up there with the CSB and ESV Study Bibles. This Bible presents a unique manner of Study Bibles.

Dr. Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His work is wonderful. As General Editor, he presents the "NIV Grace & Truth Study Bible" with many evangelical scholars. The Bible is sleek, attractive, and worthy of praise. The NIV translation is good because it brings clarity and precision together. This is nearly the perfect Bible in the NIV translation.

The Grace and Truth Study Bible has some great advantages. First, it has a consistent scholarship. Its notes have some good messages. This Bible promotes the core gospel message well, along with the necessary human response to God’s grace. Second, it is equally careful to adhere to the basic evangelical commitments while also feeling equally free to adopt recent approaches to synthesizing the Bible and science. This Bible gives what the text means for today.

I have only read the notes for the Gospels and 1 John. These notes in the Bible have good structure and are well written. The notes of this Study Bible are straightforward yet very astute and perspective to Baptist faith. The notes are not overly technical but cover a lot of simplistic and easy ground for the lay reader and scholar alike. This is a good thing because we need a Bible for the Church and the Seminary.

Now to the disadvantages of this Bible. For this edition, they did a wonderful job on the printing. The craftsmanship is mediocre. But the paper used in this book did not match their work, not as good as those Bible printed in USA I had before. The small print is hard to read. I would have liked an 11-point font. This Bible does need a darker overlay in the pages due to the small font. The delicate and subtle use of color in headings and cross-references also adds to an easy reading experience.

All in all, I give this Study Bible 4 stars. This Bible can easily be used for laity and scholars alike. This Bible gives us a new and unique understanding of the books of the Bible from an easy and simplistic point of view.

I received this Study Bible for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid


Thursday, September 9, 2021

 Trinity Without Hierarchy by  Michael Bird and Scott Harrower

The editors of this work have assembled a team of scholarly and deeply profound scholars to undo the damage done by Grudem and the reprehensible subordinationists. This book is exegetically sound, theologically, rich, and pastorally sensitive. This book is a welcome and decisive addition to one's theological and biblical library.

I did not know that there was controversy over this particular topic and I don't believe I've ever really considered it before. I unconsciously have always assumed that God the Son does the will of God the Father, and that that is something that has always been the case, as that is what a basic reading of the Scriptures teaching on the Godhead seems to indicate.

I was impressed with the consistent careful scholarship, the fine-grained discussion pressing against the limits of human grasp of the nature of the Triune and wonderful God. Almost every chapter concluded with two to three pages of bibliography, evidence of a resurgence of trinitarian theology. The discussion also both gave me a deep appreciation of the importance of the Nicean-Constantinopolitan formulations regarding the Trinity and yet raised the question of whether this must, or will always be the church’s reference point. This book is far more engaging and practical than I expected.

I got a free copy of the book from Kregel. Thanks. 

 New Reader's Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by Michael H. Burer and Jeffrey E. Miller 

First I will explain the purpose of this work. The purpose of reader's lexicons is to facilitate the quick reading of the GNT so that by eliminating wasted time in extensive lexical work a reader can take in more and more Greek. The quicker pace encourages the reader and in time they master more and more of the text and the need for the reader's lexicon fades.

This source is good but not the best. I love my BDAG except I only have it in ebook form. This work gives aids for all words occurring fewer than 50 times in the GNT. So far so good. Naturally, or so I thought, one would include a list of all those words just in case they had not yet been fully memorized, or if one's memory slipped, or as an aid to memorization. This list is absent from this book. It is ok because I have one from when I took Greek. 

This book is good but not for an elementary Greek student. This volume is simpler to use, more informative, and frankly just more accurate. I like that it does not include parsing except in rare cases. It is particularly useful for anyone who has a fairly good grasp of Greek and a fair amount of Greek vocabulary memorized. The lexicon itself is unique in its orderly verse by verse approach which is nice because when I study I go verse by verse.

However, the usefulness of this lexicon is somewhat reduced if you own a UBS Reader's Edition, which also parses many verbs for you, though not all. But the UBS Reader's Edition does not do any parsing for other word groups and, of course, there is no alphabetically arranged order. Still, in the long run, you will be glad you have purchased this lexicon. To me, the lexicon is an essential buy.  I give this book 4 stars. 

Thanks Kregel for letting me review this work. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

 Lately, I have been studying the issue of baptism in the church. Do we baptize believers only, or do we baptize believers and their children? I’ve actually been raised in both circumstances. I was baptized as an infant in the Presbyterian Church and actually raised in that denomination. However when I was ten, my family started going to a Baptist church and I was baptized by immersion two years ago.

I never took the time to actually study the issue of baptism in the Bible. As I was studying, I came extremely close to accepting infant baptism if it were not for what I see as inconsistencies in the Scriptures. I have compiled a list of ten reason why I reject infant baptism and support believers only baptism.

1. Infant Baptism is not in the Scriptures

Now I know that this may not be the most compelling argument to my Paedobaptist friends because they truly believe that infant baptism is in the Scriptures. However, if we really look at every baptism recorded in the Bible, there are no instances where we actually see that children who were incapable of repenting and believing were baptized. In every instance of baptism in the Bible, there was a profession of faith and repentance.

2. Nowhere are we commanded to baptize our babies.

Now it’s interesting that the Westminster Confession of Faith used by most Presbyterians says that it is “a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance” of infant baptism. I think this is a problem. If the Bible does not command us to baptize infants, then how could it be a sin not to? If it was so important of an issue, you’d think that the Holy Spirit would inspire the writers of the New Testament to include commands to baptize infants in the Bible.

I go back to the regulative reformed principle which says that if it isn’t commanded, then you can’t do it. I’ve had Pentecostal friends tell me to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which also isn’t commanded in the Bible. In that case I also don’t do that, because it isn’t commanded in Scripture.

Many have also made the argument that it is okay to practice infant baptism because it isn’t explicitly forbidden in Scripture which really isn’t a great argument. You can’t imprint with divine authority a command on the basis that it isn’t forbidden in Scripture. If Scripture doesn’t command it, you can’t do it.

3. Repentance is a requirement for baptism.

I think that one of the greatest arguments in support of believers only baptism is that repentance is always the requirement to be baptized. This is why Peter said “Repent and be baptized,” (Acts 2:38) and that “those who had received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). They only people who were baptized on this day at Pentecost were those who heard the word and believed. There was no exception to this in the New Testament church.

Although many Paedobaptists will object to the book of Acts and the household baptisms, this is not a valid argument. First there are only three examples of household baptisms in the book of Acts and here are what happened:

House of Cornelius

“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, ‘Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’ And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:44-48, italics emphasized)

This text is extremely clear. The Holy Spirit fell upon all, all believed, and all were baptized. Those who were baptized were those who received the Holy Spirit.

Household of Lydia

“A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshipper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’” (Acts 16:14-15)

You must notice first of all, that nowhere in this text does it mention the baptism of infants. It is most likely that all believed in her house and that is why all were baptized. Because of her conversion she must have brought the gospel to her family and all must have believed.

Household of the Philippian Jailer

“They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.” (Acts 16:31-34)

This instance is also very clear. Why was he rejoicing? Because his entire household believed. That’s what was so wonderful about it. We can’t take a few examples of these and make it a normative. That is like saying that people spoke in tongues in Acts so that means everyone needs to speak in tongues. The reason these household baptisms were so wonderful are because it was not the normative of the early church for everyone in the household to believe in God. This was not the normative.

Another text the Paedobaptist will mention is 1 Corinthians 7:14, “For if the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”

First of all, I don’t see anything about baptism here. The argument is that children are set apart by virtue of being in one’s family, but so is the unbelieving spouse. With this argument, if one has an unbelieving wife, she needs to be baptized too, even if she doesn’t profess faith. All Paul was saying here is that if someone becomes a believer and their spouse is not a believer, there is no reason to get a divorce. That was the context. There is too much being read into the text here.

Also, there are a couple more Scriptures about God’s care of children that the Paedobaptist appeals to.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

I’m going to have quote Charles Spurgeon on this text: “What on earth does this have to do with baptism?” This text is simply saying that child-like faith is necessary to enter the kingdom.

Another example of paedobaptist defense:

“And they were bringing children to him so that he might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’ And he took them in his arms and began blessing them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

Once again, I don’t see anything about baptism here. This is simply saying that our Lord has a special care for children.

The last Scripture our Paedobaptist friends will appeal to is Acts 2:39, “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” (Acts 2:38)

There are two things wrong with appealing to this text for support of infant baptism. First, the promise is not baptism or external membership in the church. The promise is the Holy Spirit for those who repent. And second, the verse even defines who this promise is for: “as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” In other words, this promise is for the elect of God.

4. The only mode acceptable for baptism is by immersion.

The word for baptize which is baptizo in the Greek language literally means to immerse. That is clear by the meaning of the word in the Greek Septuagint. However, if it isn’t clear, we can just look at the example of when John the Baptist baptized:

“And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:5)

We actually see first of all here that all who were being baptized were confessing their sins, which means no infants could have been baptized. But also they were being baptized in the Jordan River, which seems to say that they went under the water for baptism.

However, if it still isn’t clear, then we can look at the baptism of Jesus:

“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him…After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water.” (Matthew 3:13, 16)

I think this is very clear. Even in the baptism of Jesus, he went under the water and came back up. This means that the only acceptable mode of baptism is by immersion.

Now some have tried to argue that baptism can be administered by sprinkling or pouring water on a person and they do so by saying that there are uses of the word in the Greek Septuagint that do not refer to immersion. However, the word being used this case is not baptizo which is the word always used for baptism in the New Testament, but the word bapto, which is a different word. There is a perfectly good word for sprinkling in the New Testament. It is the word rhantizo. I think that if baptism were by sprinkling, that this would be the word the New Testament authors would use.

 The book, The Jesus of the Gospels: An Introduction by Andreas J. Köstenberger was a fantastic book that used many simple terminologies to explain a complex person, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It combined many perspectives to show Jesus in the Gospel accounts. I used this book for my practical church ministry call while studying the Gospels to show people how the Gospels presented Jesus and what He was really like. Köstenberger offers a perspective some would not see because he looks at the backlight to see Jesus in a clearer picture.

In this valuable and practical introduction to the picture of Jesus of the Gospels, Köstenberger helps readers to appreciate Jesus, see Him in a newfound light, and to understand the complexities around him. If you are teaching either young or old students, using a resource for Adult Bible Study, or trying to show the practicality of Jesus in the Gospels, this book is for you. Köstenberger writes in a way that anyone could understand. Sidenote—my brother, who is 14, read the book to do a poster for his religion class in homeschool.

The author of this review sees no bad parts in the book other than it could have a section for questions for further research. The book is a large-format paperback that easily lies flat on a desk (or one’s lap) while you are reading the Bible. The book is easy to read and often offers applications. This is an excellent resource for anyone beginning to read the gospels, for anyone wanting to discover Jesus again, or perhaps for the first time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

 Although there is no mention about the death of James the brother of Jesus in the New Testament, there are non-biblical sources detailing the end of the brother of Jesus. The earliest report regarding the death of James is by Josephus (c37-c100) Antiquities; published approximately in 93 CE. Porcius Festus who was the Roman procurator of Judea died around the 60s CE. And in his stead, Caesar sent Lucceius Albinus. At the same time Caesar removed Joseph from the position of the high priesthood and in his place appointed Ananus, who was the son of Ananus.

According to Josephus, the younger Ananus was said to be very arrogant with a bad temper. The new high priest was a Sadducee who was said to be both harsh and rigid in his judgment of wrongdoers. Knowing that the new procurator was still on his way, he convened the Sanhedrin of judges and accused James and a few of his followers of breaking the law. He decided that these men be stoned to death (1).

 One strength of memoirs as historical documents is that they provide eye-witness accounts of historical events, though this also ties into ...