A Gift of Charity

Nearly ten years ago I wrote four ‘living eulogies’ about people who had influenced my life in ways impossible to measure. These four folks—three men, one woman—were believers who had shaped my thinking, infused me with direction and purpose, inspired me to press on, and pointed me to Christ. I posted the eulogies at Parchment & Pen. Three were my elders, one my junior. One was a relative who instructed me from my birth; three were godly leaders whom I met later in life.

Ed Komoszewski

Three are now with the Lord. Only one is left. Dr. Harold Hoehner was the New Testament department chairman at Dallas Seminary and a genuine Doctor-Father to me. He instilled in me the desire to dig deeper into God’s word and above all to have integrity in my scholarship. Dr. Joe Aldrich was my pastor at Mariners Church in Newport Beach back in 1970—he joined the staff just a couple of weeks after I did as the church’s first youth director. He was one of the main reasons I decided to enroll at Dallas Seminary.

Harold Hoehner and Joe Aldrich both died on the same day, February 12, 2009.

The third influential person was my mother, Nayda Baird Wallace. She taught me the importance of centering my life on Christ and on getting the core of my theology right. She would say, “Nail one foot to the floor inside the circle where Christ is; let your other foot tap dance all it wants, recognizing that you can never get too far away from that inner circle.” The makings of a rudimentary doctrinal taxonomy!

Mom passed into the presence of the Lord on January 30, 2017.

The last person is still with us. He is the only one on this list younger than I am—and by more than fifteen years. He was one of my interns back in c. 1999. He volunteered to be an intern not to learn from me but to help me in any way he could. I had contracted encephalitis in 1997 and lost much of my memory—most of my languages, most of the people I knew, who the president was, even my wife’s name! I was in a wheelchair for nearly a year and had next to no energy for many years afterward. At one point I was sleeping 22 hours a day and not able to read more than ten minutes without falling asleep. I could read for a maximum of twenty minutes a day. Two men wanted to help me get back on my feet—literally. One of them, a promising young man named Kris Boring, died a year after the internship from a bizarre disease that he contracted in Guatemala. The other is, frankly, barely hanging on because of other diseases that have ravaged his body.

And yet, in spite of his physical limitations, he has been able to co-author two books in the last few years—Reinventing Jesus and Putting Jesus in His Place. His name is Ed Komoszewski.

Over the past two decades our friendship has deepened, and my respect for Ed has soared. In many respects he, too, has become one of my spiritual mentors, and in the process he has become my best friend. I could tell you about the variety of diseases that have taken hold of his mortal shell, but I want to respect his privacy. Ed’s energy levels on his best days almost make my encephalitis look like I was some sort of an energetic superhero. I don’t know how much time Ed has left for this realm, but I do know that he intends to use all of it to magnify the name of his God and King. His book, Putting Jesus in His Place, co-authored with Rob Bowman, was endorsed by dozens of the world’s most notable biblical and theological scholars. I consider it the best—and most accessible—Christology to come down the pike in a long, long time. It belongs in every thinking Christian’s library.

Ed Komoszewski breathes Christ. He has often stated pensively, “Even though I’ve thought about it a lot, I don’t know what I’m going to say when I meet my Lord face-to-face for the first time. One thing I know I won’t say is, ‘Hey, it’s good to connect a name with a face’!”

We need Ed to stay in the fight, to continue working on his vital writing projects, to struggle through the pain and weakness and bring glory to the Risen One.

But the medical bills are mounting. They’re getting out of control. A good friend of Ed’s, Alex Blagojevich, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 to help cover Ed’s medical costs. Alex has already committed to match the first $2500. Ed has a growing family and his dear wife, Shelley, works full time. They need our help.

This is a time for believers to come to the aid of a brother in Christ. The eternal rewards for such an investment cannot be overestimated. I ask you to consider making a generous, even sacrificial gift, to Ed’s GoFundMe account. Share the news with your friends on social media. Tell your church. Get involved. Only a small fraction of the funds have been raised so far. The word needs to spread. Here’s the link, my friends:

https://www.gofundme.com/ed-komoszewski039s-medical-expenses

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Contradictions in the Gospels: An Interview with Mike Licona

On April 21 Christianity Today published an interview with Dr. Michael Licona about his new, provocative, and innovative book, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography (Oxford). In the interview Licona says things such as, [Christians] often engage in “harmonization efforts, which sometimes subject the Gospels to a sort of hermeneutical waterboarding until they tell the harmonizer what he wants to hear”; “If I fail to [let the Bible’s evidence about itself speak], I deceive myself, claiming to have a high view of Scripture when in reality I would have a high view of my view of Scripture.”

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And the heart of the interview–and the recent book: “What my book does is look at how one of the most highly regarded biographers of antiquity—Plutarch—reported the same events differently. By looking at those different accounts, I can identify patterns in those differences, infer compositional devices from those patterns, and then read the Gospels with those devices in mind. It’s truly amazing to see the Gospel authors using many of the same compositional devices employed by Plutarch!”

And what does he say about historical reliability in the Gospels? You’ll just have to read the interview and, more importantly, read the book!

NT Syntax video lectures on sale this week

My video lecture set Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Video Lectures is 55% off in this Video Lecture sale: http://bit.ly/2pe1E2S. The deal ends April 20.

Although it is based on my grammar, four things especially are new: (1)  greater discussion of a few key exegetical passages and the impact syntax makes on them; (2) interaction with the recent view among some linguists and grammarians that deponency is a myth; (3) more arguments and evidence against the view that the Greek verb system does not grammaticalize time; and (4) an updated discussion of reasons for the historical present’s usage. In short, there are some things in this video lecture set that cannot be found in my grammar.

Ryrie’s Bibles and Manuscripts Auctioned off

On 5 December 2016, Sotheby’s had an auction of one of the world’s largest private collections of Bibles and manuscripts. The collection was Charles Ryrie’s, former professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Seminary. For many years I would take my students to visit his home and see the treasures in his collection. Every year he would bring out new marvels that astonished me. I never saw the whole collection, but he was always generous in bringing out scores of volumes.

Ryrie died earlier this year. He was just a month shy of his 92nd birthday. I had been keeping a close eye on his collection and had discussed it with him many times over the years. Among other things, he owned three Greek New Testament manuscripts, one of only eleven vellum Luther Bibles in the world, and the finest copy of the 1611 King James Bible anywhere. He also owned several of Erasmus and Stephanus editions of the Greek New Testament, a couple of leaves of the Gutenberg Bible, and virtually every major English Bible from Wycliffe to the KJV. Altogether, nearly 200 items were auctioned.

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Benton Gospels—Codex 669

His Wycliffe Bible sold for $1.4 million, which was way over the anticipated price. The KJV sold way under its expectations—only $320,000. The Greek New Testament manuscripts were auctioned for $140,000 to $250,000. Codex 669, the Benton Gospels manuscript, was the most important (and most expensive) of these.

Sotheby’s does not let one know who the bidders are. We’re all given a paddle number and we bid with that, protecting our identities. But clearly someone was buying up a lot of these treasures, and the desire to get them no matter the cost (or so it seemed) certainly brought the price up. I bid on two small items, which quickly escalated out of my price range.

Ryrie did not own junk. His printed books were in excellent condition. The selling price reflected this. The very first published Greek New Testament, Erasmus’s Novum Testamentum (1516), sold for $24,000. The third edition (1522)—the first one to have the comma Johanneum in it—was a bargain at $5500.

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Erasmus’s Novum Instrumentum (1516)

A second edition of Tyndale’s New Testament (Ryrie owned nearly a dozen of these!) sold for $75,000. There were also several copies of the Matthew’s Bible ($22,000), Coverdale Bible ($11,000–$21,000), Great Bible ($4,000–$28,000), Geneva New Testament ($30,000), Bishops Bible ($48,000), Douay-Rheims Bible ($18,000), a rare copy of the KJV ‘Wicked Bible’ (1631; so-called because the printer left out the ‘not’ in the seventh commandment; thus, “Thou shalt commit adultery”!) for $38,000.

The Luther vellum Bible sold for $260,000. It is probably the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen. This was more than double the expected sale price.

A rare Complutensian Polyglot (only 600 were printed) came in under expectations at $70,000. This included actually the first printed Greek New Testament, though it was not published until six years after Erasmus’s work was out. The Textus Receptus—the Greek that stands behind the KJV—was essentially Erasmus’s Greek New Testament, with some wording from the CP as well as later editions of the Greek New Testament that were largely based on Erasmus.

A very rare certificate of ordination signed by Luther brought $60,000. And the third edition of Pilgrim’s Progress netted $75,000—as much as three times the expected sale price. Finally, the Gutenberg leaves each garnered only $38,000, way under what was anticipated.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts owns a 10th–11th century Greek copy of Luke’s Gospel that was appraised at a price that is significantly lower than any of these Greek New Testament manuscripts. Now we have more recent comparisons and the value of such a manuscript can be weighed in light of these other manuscripts. I think we need to up the insurance value!

I hope that these books and manuscripts have found decent homes, and that the new owners will take the best possible care of them. And I also hope that the owners will reveal who they are and make known their remarkable volumes to others. I especially would like to see them digitally preserved and the images posted on the Internet—in particular, the Greek NT manuscripts. CSNTM would be more than happy to digitize these manuscripts. It’s a good time of year to express such hopes. This is more than my bucket list—it’s my Christmas list! Owners, please do not hide your light under a bushel, but let the world see these historical items that all of us may be enriched by Ryrie’s collection.

 

 

Μονογενής = ‘only begotten’?

So says Charles Lee Irons, “Let’s Go Back to ‘Only Begotten,’” Gospel Coalition website, 23 Nov 2016: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/lets-go-back-to-only-begotten#_ftn3

Irons begins by noting that in the KJV there are five Johannine passages that speak of the “only begotten” Son of God (John 1.14, 18; 3.16, 18; 1 John 4.9). He then notes that in the modern era there has been a broad scholarly consensus that μονογενής means ‘one of a kind.’ He then accurately represents the rationale for this consensus: “Scholars have argued that the compound Greek adjective is not derived from monos (‘only’) + gennao (‘beget’) but from monos (‘only’) + genos (‘kind’). Thus, they argue, the term shouldn’t be translated ‘only begotten’ but ‘only one of his kind’ or ‘unique.’”

Irons offers as his first argument that μονογενής means ‘only begotten’ in some passages. This presumably means that there is no noun like ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ in the context to already suggest birth, though he does not say this. It is certainly what I expected in order for his argument to make much sense, however. Otherwise, ‘one and only son/daughter’ makes perfectly good sense, which would defeat his point.

Irons begins by citing one reference from Plato—Critias 113d: μονογενῆ θυγατέρα ἐγεννησάσθην. Here not only is ‘daughter’ mentioned explicitly, but also that she had been ‘born.’ If μονογενής here means ‘only begotten’ then an awkward tautology occurs: “They begot an only-begotten daughter.” (The Attic aorist middle dual is here used.)

Further, I was surprised to read his three biblical examples:
Luke 7.12: μονογενὴς υἱός—here ‘son’ is explicit.

Luke 8.42: θυγάτηρ μονογενής—again, explicit.

Luke 9.38: διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου ἐπιβλέψαι ἐπὶ τὸν υἱόν μου, ὅτι μονογενής μοί ἐστιν. But here ‘son’ is already mentioned, so the ‘one and only’ [son] is simply good economical Greek style.

Thus, Irons’s approach so far is simply question begging.

He follows this up with 1 Clement 25.2 [Irons says it is 25.1], which speaks of the Phoenix as ‘one of a kind’ using μονογενής. He also mentions an unidentified text (‘an ancient treatise’) that speaks of trees as ‘in one kind.’ But he adds, “these are uniformly metaphorical extensions of the basic meaning…” That, too, is begging the question, because he is assuming that the essential idea of μονογενής has to do with birth.

Second, he says that “careful examination of the word list of Thesaurus Linguae Graecae reveals at least 145 other words based on the –genēs stem.” This is a more significant argument, but I would need to see his evidence before recognizing its validity. He also adds that “fewer than a dozen have meanings involving the notion of genus or kind.” To argue from other words that have the –γενής stem as though they must inform the meaning of μονογενής may seem to be imbibing etymological fallacy, especially since there are some –γενής words that have the force of ‘kind’ or ‘genus.’ However, if ‘begotten’ is the routine meaning diachronically, and especially synchronically during the Koine period, Irons may well have a point.

He does seem to engage in etymologizing, however, when he says that γενός and γεννάω “both genos and gennao derive from a common Indo-European root, ǵenh (‘beget, arise’).” He finishes his arguments by again claiming that –γενής essentially has to do with birth. The BDAG lexicon allows for the meaning ‘only begotten’ for μονογενής but seems to view this meaning as secondary. In addition, they note that in the Johannine literature “The renderings only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here.”

 All in all, Irons is right to focus on the data provided in TLG for this certainly expands our knowledge base of the term. But that he seems to have focused on cognates that have the morpheme –γενής rather than the specific usage of μονογενής, both diachronically and synchronically, is a weakness in his argument.