How New Is the New Testament?

A wonderful volume appeared late this year, and it’s one you’ll want to put on your Christmas list: How New Is the New Testament?: First-Century Judaism and the Emergence of Christianity, by Donald Hagner (Baker Academic).

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The mature reflections of a seasoned and dedicated NT scholar, Hagner’s How New Is the New Testament? offers a straightforward assessment of the current climate of NT studies with reference to its Jewish roots. Hagner traces the historical see-saw between continuity and discontinuity throughout church history and offers compelling evidence that the pendulum has swung too far toward continuity in recent decades. He takes the reader on a fast-paced tour, from Matthew through Revelation, on what is really new in the NT. The author virtually unties the Gordian knot between the New Perspective on Paul and the old perspective, though he comes down, in all essentials, on the side of the old perspective. Hagner weaves a rich and complex tapestry of OT promise and NT fulfillment, the backside of which tapestry has been occupying exegetes for too long. The panoramic view of the NT presented here, written by a first-class Neutestamentler, is beautiful in its simplicity and compelling in its cumulative argument.

 

 

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

I want to tell you about a special giving opportunity through CSNTM that will make a substantial difference in our mission to preserve ancient New Testament manuscripts for the modern world.

It is called the 25 Days of Christmas. We are inviting 25 of you to give $25 monthly by December 25th. Together, your partnership will give $7,500 in year-round support for CSNTM’s mission to preserve, study, and share Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Monthly donations are a critical part of CSNTM’s planning for future expeditions and special projects. Your monthly donations could unlock the partnership between CSNTM and a library or monastery. You can preserve a unique manuscript before it experiences further deterioration. And you would give everyone worldwide access to the best images of some of the earliest texts of the New Testament.

Will you join our special team of 25 and make a monthly gift of $25?

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UPDATE ON ED’S HEALTH

Ed Komoszewski was once again my roommate at the annual Evangelical Theological Society and Society of Biblical Literature conferences. Every year, these combined conferences take place over a 7–8 day period just before Thanksgiving, somewhere in North America. This year, it was Denver. These academic conferences are vital for current research and books in biblical studies. Lectures from world-class scholars—both Christian and non-Christian—fill the meeting rooms that span several hotels and the Convention Center. The book area is almost the size of a football field. All the most recent works in biblical studies are there.

Ed comes every year. He has friends who cover virtually all of his costs. It’s not a vacation. It’s work. And it always takes a toll on his body. Weeks are needed for him to recover. In the afternoons and evenings, he can get out of the hotel room. This year he was able to get to only five sessions between the two conferences combined. He also met with publishers, editors, co-authors, scholars, and folks who simply wanted to get with Ed.

He met with everyone who wanted to see him—even some old friends. He talked with them about his faith. They all had a stimulating conversation. However, when Ed got back to the hotel, he was exhausted almost beyond belief. He could not form words properly because he lost control over his facial muscles. His whole face was literally sagging. He looked like he had aged 20 years right before my eyes! I’ve never seen anything like this. I scolded him, and said that he needed to take better care of himself. He needed to not say yes to everything and everyone. But Ed was just being Ed: everyone else is more important, the gospel is more important, and his life counts for naught. I could not dissuade him.

Ed Denver 2018

During most afternoons and evenings, to look at Ed you’d swear he was in good health. He works hard to make others comfortable around him. I know the truth. Ed has an invisible illness—or rather, invisible illnessES. By Thursday of last week he hit the wall. Just to get out of bed took extreme effort. At one point he was in such pain that he couldn’t even take his shoes off. His health has continued to degenerate. I have urged him to stay home from the conferences. But he’s far more concerned about making an impact for Jesus Christ than his own comfort or health. I could list a litany of physical issues he faced just on this trip. But suffice it to say that he sacrificed much to be here, and he continues to sacrifice much for the gospel.

I want to thank so many of you for your generous gifts to Ed’s GoFundMe account. Such a great response! Just a few more thousand dollars to pay off the current medical bills. Wouldn’t that be a marvelous Christmas present? This is an investment in eternity. Hundreds of small donations would add up to a big gift. Let’s do this.

Ed Komoszewski needs your help!

Dear friends, you may know about Ed Komoszewski. If not, you should! He co-authored Reinventing Jesus with Jim Sawyer and Dan Wallace. He also co-authored Putting Jesus in His Place with Rob Bowman. This is probably the best book in defense of the deity of Christ. Ed is a champion of the faith, a superb writer, and a gifted speaker. But he has battled serious health problems for years. And he’s struggled to provide for his family as a result.

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Ed had another serious health incident about a month ago. While pushing a cart at Walmart, Ed’s heart totally failed; he immediately lost consciousness and hit the floor. When he woke up, he was in the Intensive Care Unit at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in McKinney, TX. Four days later, when doctors determined that the electrical system in Ed’s heart would not recover, a pacemaker was surgically implanted in Ed’s chest.

This latest incident came out of left field. It was unrelated to Ed’s other chronic health conditions, which continue to wreak havoc. Indeed, over the past sixteen months, Ed has been hospitalized for serious complications four times.

Through all of this, Ed has fought to remain as productive as possible. He and Darrell Bock recently submitted a manuscript on the historical Jesus that they are co-editing. And Ed and Rob Bowman are currently working to revise their book on the deity of Christ within the next year.

Though many are aware of Ed’s health situation, fewer are aware of the GoFundMe campaign that was launched for Ed a year ago. The campaign is still far short of its goal, and Ed’s bills have only increased (significantly!) since the campaign commenced.

We need Ed in the battle, and if countless people would donate even a small amount it would encourage Ed to keep fighting. In fact, it would enable him to keep getting the medical attention he needs to stick around! If 3000 people donated $10, he could pay the bills he has accumulated to date. The bills will continue to pile up; my desire is to see some folks give to Ed’s GoFundMe account every month for as long as it takes. And I’ve put my money where my mouth is.

Here’s the link to the GoFundMe page

The Battle Cry of the Reformation and the Surrender of Greek and Hebrew

One of the great ironies and unnecessary casualties of the Protestant Reformation is shaping up in America today. The battle cry of the Reformation was ad fontes—“back to the sources!”—which meant going behind Jerome’s Latin Vulgate and reading the original Greek New Testament. This was coined by Erasmus, the man responsible for publishing the first Greek New Testament in 1516. He was a Roman Catholic priest who was swimming against the current of much of 16th century Catholic scholarship. It was especially the Protestants who latched onto Erasmus’ Greek New Testament. During his lifetime, over 300,000 copies were sold! A few years after his death, the Council of Trent banned many of his writings.

The Reformers also went beyond the Vulgate and translated the Bible into modern languages.

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Now, half a millennium after Luther nailed his theses to the door of the great Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, theological seminaries are on a rapid decline. Greek and Hebrew continue to be casualties. Genuine study of the biblical languages is being replaced by “Greek/Hebrew appreciation” courses—a euphemism for anything but deep appreciation, or nothing at all. Bible software, which can be an absolutely amazing tool for profound study of the original languages, has too often become a crutch. Rely on it enough and it becomes a wheelchair. One really needs to get immersed in Greek for a couple of years before being able to profit fully from Bible software that deals with the Greek.

Evangelical churches are frequently seeking pastors who have amazing speaking abilities, but who can’t exegete their way out of a paper bag. This is hardly what the Reformers had in mind. Listen to Luther:

In proportion as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone—the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. Now if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his word, then we too ought to honor them above all others.

And let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.

It is inevitable that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.

Melanchthon was more to the point:

Those who advise inexperienced young students, training for ministry, not to study the languages ought to have their tongues cut off.

More positively stated, Erasmus said this in the preface to his Novum Instrumentum—the Greek New Testament published in 1516:

These holy pages will… give you Christ… they will give him to you in an intimacy so close that he would be less visible to you if he stood before your eyes.

In a role reversal from the 16th century, Roman Catholic graduate schools are doing incredible work in the biblical languages. I applaud this endeavor at these institutes, but grieve for what is happening in the conservative Protestant tradition. MDiv and ThM programs are shrinking at an alarming rate. And those that are remaining strong have often sacrificed the biblical languages on the altar of student enrollment.

The Reformation deserves better than this. Our churches deserve better than this. And, above all, Jesus Christ deserves better than this.

To those who are thinking about committing their lives to a lifetime of service in the Church, and especially to a ministry of the Word, I urge you to take the high road. Don’t shortchange your education and don’t shortchange your flock. Log time—significant time—learning the languages. Go to a seminary that is strong in Greek and Hebrew. And when you get into ministry after your theological education, do not measure the success of the church by the size of the congregation but by its depth of devotion to Christ and the Word.