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An Interview with Dr. Craig Blomberg

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Craig Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. Bloomberg is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of 14 books and more than 80 articles in journals or multiauthor works. Many of his writings examine the historical reliability of the Scriptures, and he has also covered such diverse issues as wealth and poverty, hermeneutics, and women in ministry.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Dr. Blomberg. Can you briefly share a little about where you were educated and where you currently teach?

You are most welcome. Thanks for the invitation. I grew up in Rock Island, Illinois, part of the Quad Cities, right on the Mississippi River across from Davenport, Iowa. I went to a Division III Lutheran liberal arts college in my hometown, Augustana College. After teaching a year of high-school math on Chicago’s North Shore, I attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where I met my wife, Fran. We were married in the summer of 1979, and we left shortly after that for my PhD studies in Scotland at the University of Aberdeen, which is where I became a Baptist.

My first job teaching New Testament studies and Greek was at Palm Beach Atlantic College (now University) in West Palm Beach, Florida, for three years. Then we had an opportunity to live and work in Cambridge, England, for a year, thanks to an invitation and a grant from the British wing of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. There I researched and wrote my first book, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, and finished (radically) revising my dissertation, which turned into my second book, Interpreting the Parables. We moved to the Denver area in the fall of 1986, where I have taught at Denver Seminary ever since.

The first edition of Jesus and the Gospels was published in 1997. With this second edition, what were some of areas you felt needed to be updated? Also, has your overall understanding of Jesus and the Gospels remained the same since you first published the book over 10 years ago?

The areas that were most updated explain a number of the critical methods that some use for studying the Gospels, especially literary and postmodern criticism, developments in the “quest for the historical Jesus,” claims and counterclaims about the significance of the Gnostic Gospels, and research on the historical reliability of John. Thanks to some devoted research assistants, especially Jonathan Waits (who is now a Baptist pastor in Virginia, and who sifted through a ton of secondary literature for me and identified the studies to which I needed to pay the most attention), the footnotes and bibliographies were very thoroughly revised and updated in every chapter.

I certainly didn’t have any “sea change” in my understanding of any significant topic, but I frequently found better ways of saying things, better support for my positions, and new research that enabled me to nuance my views here and there a little better. If anything, I learned how scholarship as a whole is recognizing more and more material, even in the Gospel of John, that can be accepted as historical, even without presupposing Christian faith. Unfortunately, this is not the scholarship to which the media pays nearly as much attention as it does to the novel and the eccentric.

Gospel scholars like Richard Burridge have argued that the Gospels are best understood as resembling Greco-Roman biography. Would you agree with Burridge—classifying the Gospels as biography—or do you find a better genre to place them in?

They very much are biographies, but some Greco-Roman biographies play somewhat fast and loose with history. So I would prefer to be more precise and call them historical biographies. Of course, we can’t think of either history or biography with contemporary expectations about comprehensiveness, complete chronological ordering, verbatim quotation, or dispassionate chronicle. But by the standards of the world in which they were written—which recounted episodes from people’s lives very selectively, sometimes ordering their material topically, paraphrasing others’ words in a world that had yet to invent quotation marks or feel any need for them, and assuming that the only parts of history that were worth retelling were those from which you could learn lessons—the Gospels would have been viewed as highly accurate.

In part one, you discuss the historical background for studying the Gospels. How does understanding Jesus’ historical context give us a better understanding of the message and theology of the Gospels?

The only way to avoid misunderstanding any writer from any time period is to understand the historical and cultural context in which that writer wrote. To understand fully what Jesus meant by “go the extra mile,” we need to know that Roman soldiers occupied Israel during the first century and could legally commandeer any civilian they came across to carry their equipment for them for up to a mile. But they couldn’t force them to carry it any further. Jesus tells his followers and would-be followers, however, to do so voluntarily, and the expression has made its way into English as proverbial for going “above and beyond the call of duty.” When Jesus is asked if he is the Messiah, one has to understand that Jews were looking for a military and/or political deliverer who would help them rid the land of the Romans. When Jesus seems reluctant to come straight out and say he is their Messiah, or when he tells people not to tell others that he is, it’s because he believes that spiritual liberation is more needed than physical liberation. He realizes that a straightforward identification with the kind of Messiah most of his kinfolk were looking for would lead to serious misunderstandings about his ministry. Countless additional examples could be given.

Since the publication of The Quest for the Historical Jesus, there has been tremendous speculation on the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. How does your work help inform the layperson about the quest(s) for the Historical Jesus?

I devote about two-thirds of one chapter to quickly and simply surveying the three main quests (or three phases of the quest), the strengths and weaknesses of each, and where we are today. I highlight the main portraits of Jesus popular in today’s scholarly literature, talk a little about why there is such a diversity of portraits, and outline what criteria various scholars use to determine what they will accept as historical. Then, in the section of the book that proceeds sequentially through the life of Christ, I include a short section near the end of each main topic on the principal historical reasons we can consider this collection of teachings or activities something that Jesus really did say or do.

Besides Jesus and the Gospels, what other resources would you recommend to someone who wants to study Jesus and the Gospels more?

That’s an almost unanswerable question. I would have to know first what specific areas they were most interested in, and then how much background they already have. Are we talking about a high-school student from a non-Christian background, a young adult raised in a church that emphasized teaching the Bible and especially the life of Jesus in their Sunday School curriculum, a Christian-college graduate who majored in biblical studies, or a pastor with a doctorate? Because people have such diverse backgrounds, each of my chapters closes with recommendations for further study divided into introductory, intermediate, and advanced resources, and I would refer the interested reader to those highly selective bibliographies.

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The second edition of Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey is 30% off right now. Get yours before it leaves Pre-Pub and the price goes up!

The Ministry of Happiness

The Paradox of HappinessToday’s guest post is by René Breuel, author of  The Paradox of Happiness and founding pastor at Chiesa Evangelica in Rome, Italy.

Happiness is a G-rated theme

People say happiness is for kids. For naïve, simplistic folks who buy into easy steps and who have not yet bumped against the complexities of life.

I disagree. Happiness is a serious, vital theme, especially for pastors and Christian leaders. It’s a theme begging for Christian reflection—the word holds within itself a whole cosmos, because our understanding of happiness is our understanding of life. It is a token of our soul, a window into our worldview, and the surest sign of what we prize and what we live for.

I’ve been rather unhappy about our current understandings of happiness. Not only does someone reflecting on happiness today feel dumbed down—“buy this product,” “get this gorgeous,” “follow the seven magical steps”—but (and here I get really worked up) there seems to be no real Christian alternative. Christians have just bought into our consumer society’s definition of happiness without thinking it through critically, and have substituted the self-help steps to happiness with Christian terminology. Rough edges are smoothed and spiritual language is sprinkled, but the approach is still the same: self-centered, self-serving.

Is there an alternative Christian understanding of happiness?

I went on an experiment. Could a Christian understanding of happiness actually spring out of our core beliefs about reality? And could this alternative be not just well-meaning, but really happy, happier than any other alternative?

It was a fascinating experiment. I went back to Jesus and to what I feel is his key insight into life—that we gain life when we lose life, and that we do so when we deny ourselves and take up our crosses to follow him. The result of that reflection is my book, The Paradox of Happiness. And with the book comes a wish: I hope readers come out of the book less worried about their own happiness and, paradoxically, happier than before. I hope they live serenely and joyously because they are less self-oriented.

We don’t find happiness when we try to fulfill our desires—we find it when we stop looking for it and start focusing on serving others. Happiness according to Jesus is generous and unexpected: by letting go, we find; by giving, we receive. Happy are those who share their happiness.

* * *

Begin your journey to true happiness. Download The Paradox of Happiness today.

Save 15% on a Base Package during Our Spring Sale!

Logos Base PackagesFor a limited time, you can save 15% on Logos 5 in our Spring Sale. Just use coupon code SPRINGSALE through May 20!

You’ll get a massive digital library and the most powerful Bible study tools available. You’ll find biblical answers, gain a deeper understanding of the text, and apply the Bible to your life.

Do better Bible study with Logos 5

Base packages give you hundreds or thousands of biblical and theological resources. Logos 5 connects your texts, allowing you to jump from Scripture to commentaries, from sermons to source texts, from arguments to evidence. Learn the original meaning of biblical words, read others’ interpretations of any biblical passage, and find biblical answers in seconds.

Logos 5’s Timeline catalogs every major event in biblical and church history, allowing you to explore biblical connections in context. The new Clause Search helps you find exactly what you’re looking for, linking Scripture’s pronouns and phrases to the people, places, and things they refer to. The Topic Guide gives you topic-specific lists of passages, articles, and themes—starting points for deeper study. See all the new features

The Logos 5 lineup:

  • Portfolio: over 2,500 resources, every Logos 5 feature, and the largest collection of books, with a print value of $78,000!
  • Diamond: over 2,000 resources and all the Logos 5 features—a library worth over $52,000 in print.
  • Platinum: 1,370 resources and all the Logos 5 features, with a print value of $28,700.
  • Gold: nearly 1,100 resources and all our features—a library worth $21,000 in print. 
  • Silver: a library of nearly 700 resources, worth $13,000 in print, with the Timeline, Sermon Starter, and more. 
  • Bronze: the essentials for studying the Bible by passage and topic—429 resources valued at $8,000 in print.
  • Starter: a Bible study foundation, with nearly 200 resources and a print value of $3,500.

Save 15% on Logos 5 today!

This sale lasts only until May 20—use coupon code SPRINGSALE to get the most powerful Bible study tools available.

Save on Logos 5

Save on the Studies in Faithful Living: Patriarchs Collection

As a small group leader, you have an important and challenging role. You know the time it takes to organize and research weekly lessons. You know your primary goals are to help your group engage and grow—with the Word and each other. Logos’ Studies in Faithful Living series equips small group leaders with all the tools you need to lead a rich and insightful study without sacrificing time for other priorities.

The second and third volumes of the Patriarchs Collection, Jacob: Discerning God’s Presence and Joseph: Understanding God’s Purpose, are now available. Each volume is an eight-week study of the lives of two of the Old Testament patriarchs. The complete church curriculum includes several features designed to help you as you lead your small group.

  1. It provides lesson plans. One of the most time-consuming aspects of leading a small group is deciding how to organize your lessons. The Studies in Faithful Living small group resources do that for you! Each series comes complete with weekly lesson plans, including learning objectives that summarize the theme and concepts of the chapter. Lesson plans also offer an outline that draws from the chapter text, prompts that suggest when to explain concepts or read passages aloud, and discussion and application questions to engage your group and make participation easy and comfortable.
  2. It provides slideshows and videos. Sometimes small groups can be dry. The Studies in Faithful Living curriculum provides media resources to help you ensure your small group time is engaging and fun. Each chapter includes an opening video to introduce the chapter’s themes and provide a dynamic start to the study. Each chapter also comes with a slideshow—available in three file formats and two dimensions, either 16×9 or 4×3—that follows the lesson plan. Slide graphics illustrate concepts within the chapter, display key texts or quotes, and present the discussion and application questions found in the lesson plan.
  3. It provides handouts. You’ll save time by using the printable handouts—available in Microsoft Word and PDF formats—of the week’s application questions. Since small group members can purchase just the book, they will have the opportunity to read each chapter before the meeting  and come prepared for discussion.
  4. It provides easy access to further research. Want to take your study deeper? At the end of every chapter, the authors provide a list of suggestions for further reading. The list is annotated with a brief description of what you can expect to gain from consulting each additional resource. All of these suggestions are available in Logos Bible Software, making your additional research only a click away.
  5. It gives you great content. None of these features would be worth much without great content. Each edition of Studies in Faithful Living includes eight chapters—in this case, tracing the lives of Jacob and Joseph and their journeys of faith. Each chapter walks you and your group through the biblical text. You’ll gain not only literary and historical context, but an understanding of how each story fits into the larger narrative of the Bible and what early interpreters thought of it. Application reflections and questions then allow you to see how these ancient stories of faith are relevant to your own story today.

Jacob: Discerning God’s Presence: Complete Church Curriculum and Joseph: Understanding God’s Purpose: Complete Church Curriculum make it easier for you to lead your small group through an engaging and thorough study. To celebrate shipping these final volumes in the Studies in Faithful Living: Patriarchs Collection, use coupon code SFLPAT through Friday, April 26, to get the discounted price of $229.95.

One-Day Archibald Alexander Sale!

ArchibaldAlexanderArchibald Alexander, born April 17, 1772, was an American Presbyterian theologian and Princeton Theological Seminary’s first professor of theology. Over the course of his 79 years, he contributed greatly to the world with his wisdom and theology.

Here are some of his noteworthy quotes:

  1. “No one was ever saved because his sins were small; no one was ever rejected on account of the greatness of his sins. Where sin abounded, grace shall much more abound.” (Practical Truths p. 164)
  2. “God has set before you an open door which no man has a right or power to shut. If you should be shut out, it will be by your own unbelief, and not for want of a warrant to come. Enter, then, without delay or hesitation. None can less afford to delay than the aged sinner. Now is the time. Now or never. You have, as it were, one foot already in the grave. Your opportunities will soon be over. Strive, then, I entreat you, to enter in at the strait gate.” (Practical Truths p. 166)
  3. “But however long you may have continued in rebellion, and how ever black and long the catalog of your sins, yet if you will now turn to God by a sincere repentance, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall not be cast out.” (Practical Truths p. 165)
  4. “God is not glorified in any transaction upon earth so much as in the conversion of a sinner.” (Practical Truths p. 174)
  5. “If you were not a sinful, polluted, helpless, and miserable creature, this Saviour would not be suited to you, and you would not be comprehended in his gracious invitations to the children of men.” (Practical Truths p. 167)
  6. “There is but one step to be taken, strictly speaking, in coming to Christ, and that is believing in him with all the heart. We are not required to repent and do good works before we come, but to come to him to give us repentance unto life, and to create us anew to good works.” (Practical Truths p. 178)

Celebrate Alexander’s birthday by learning more about him. Save $50 on the Archibald Alexander Collection (with coupon code ARCHIBALD) and $100 on the Princeton’s Theology Collection (with coupon code PRINCETON13)—today only.

All quotes from Alexander, Archibald. Practical Truths. New York: The American Tract Society, 1851.

Discover How We Really Got the Bible

Why was the Epistle of Barnabas removed from Bibles? And why did the Gospel of Thomas never make it into the canon? Find out in the May–June ’13 issue of Bible Study Magazine, where we address one of the most controversial topics in recent history: how we got the Bible. We’ve brought in the world’s leading experts on the biblical canon to tell the story. This issue exposes myth, debunks fallacious claims, and shows how our modern Bibles came to be. You won’t want to miss it!

Here’s what’s included in the May–June ’13 issue:

  • What does “canon” mean, anyway? Dr. Nijay Gupta explains the history of the term, and why we use it today to refer to authoritative biblical books.   
  • 9 books that used to be in Bibles. They were once considered worth including in Bibles, but few modern Bibles contain them. What were they, and why were they removed?
  • A timeline of canon history. How and when did biblical books become authoritative? Get a bird’s-eye view with this stunning fold-out infographic.
  • Origins of the Old Testament. The story of the Old Testament is complex, but this article by Dr. Lee Martin McDonald helps you understand milestones in the history of its formation.
  • Making the cut of the New Testament canon. Four criteria characterize authoritative biblical texts. Find out what they are—and if inspiration is one of them—in this article by Dr. Craig D. Allert.
  • Do new archaeological discoveries answer our canon questions? How do the Dead Sea Scrolls shed light on the canon—if at all? Dr. Michael S. Heiser shows us which texts the community at Qumran used.
  • Which books are divine? What do we learn about the canon from church fathers like Athanasius?

In addition, this issue features Joni Eareckson Tada on the cover, an interview with Elyse Fitzpatrick, and a new eight-week Bible study on the Psalms. Subscribe today to get the May–June ’13 issue of Bible Study Magazine!

Strack and Billerbeck’s Works in English

Today’s guest post is from Dr. David Instone-Brewer, senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House in Cambridge. He is an expert on rabbinic literature and curator of the website Traditions of the Rabbis in the Era of the New Testament.

commentary-on-the-new-testament-from-the-talmud-and-midrashStrack-Billerbeck’s Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Midrash is a wonderful treasury of rabbinic parallels to the New Testament. These parallels are sometimes obvious, sometimes obscure, and almost always interesting.

This is a resource for preachers as well as scholars. Preachers and scholars who want to present a rounded picture of the New Testament Jewish world have everything they need in this collection. Although most of the material was written after the New Testament was finished, it represents the thinking and culture of the Pharisees, as well as Paul’s opponents. The second- and third-century rabbis were not the same as the Pharisees of the first century, but neither group was a monoculture, and the overlap is much larger than the differences.

Paul Billerbeck, the main author of this work, was a lifelong pastor and preacher who collected these parallels in order to enlighten his congregation. He was also an accomplished scholar, whose publications brought him to the attention of the distinguished Berlin professor Herman Strack. Strack encouraged Billerbeck to write a theology of the ancient rabbis, but Billerbeck was more interested in creating a collection of sources that would be useful for preachers and scholars. He arranged them in the form of a commentary, following the example of John Lightfoot two centuries previously.

Although Billerbeck, in his introductions, explains that he merely helped Strack, this wasn’t the case, since Billerbeck was the primary author of this work. However, Billerbeck needed Strack to give credence to his works. Billerbeck, born of Jewish parents, could never have found a publisher without Strack’s help, especially in the increasingly anti-semitic climate of Germany.

Of the commentaries included, the commentary on Matthew is by far the largest, since the other Gospels contain only the material that was not paralleled in Matthew. The epistles are dealt with much more briefly than the Gospels, partly because their background is often Roman, rather than Jewish, and because the rabbinic sources are sadly lacking in theological discussions. They are concerned far more with the minutiae of how to obey the Law in daily life.

Many of the rabbis were like Nicodemus—honestly trying to please God by following the Law. This is why they were so concerned to know how they should live. This collection opens up their world, and helps us to picture the people with whom Jesus spoke, and the rich soil from which Christianity grew.

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You can be a part of bringing this monumental work to the English-speaking world! Pre-order your copy of Strack and Billerbeck’s Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Midrash today!

Logos March Madness Savings End April 15

The Logos March Madness sale is one of your best opportunities to score superb deals on bestselling individual titles—but this year’s sale ends Monday, April 15.

You can choose from over 700 products, by 64 authors, discounted by 30–75%! See all deals now.

This year’s biggest winners

D. A. Carson was crowned this year’s champion. A selection of his works are discounted by 75%. Titles available include Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel according to John, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, and The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. See all of Carson’s works on sale.

This year’s runner-up, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, has been one of our best-selling authors. Titles by Lloyd-Jones are 60% off! For less than $10, you can pick up Courageous Christianity, Glorious Christianity, and Authentic Christianity, or other top works. See all of Lloyd-Jones’ works on sale.

Hundreds of titles from 62 authors

  • Save 50% on N. T. Wright and Charles Spurgeon.
  • Save 45% on Douglas Moo, John Piper, A. W. Tozer, and Bruce Metzger.
  • Save 40% on John MacArthur, J. I. Packer, John Calvin, and 5 more authors.
  • Save 35% on Warren Wiersbe, R. C. Sproul, John Owen, and 13 more authors.
  • Save 30% on Charles Ryrie, Jack Hayford, J. C. Ryle, and 29 more authors.

Don’t forget—this sale ends Monday, April 15. Save now!

Already picked up your favorite titles? Recommend your favorites in the comments.

Improve Your Preaching with the Baker Contemporary Preaching Collection

Preaching week after week can be an exhilarating and daunting task. And once you’re in the thick of sermon prep, it’s hard to find the time and tools to adequately assess how you’re doing. How do you set goals to get better? How do you stay on top of the important preaching trends? How do you get better at developing ideas and turning them into powerful, life-changing sermons?

With the 19-volume Baker Contemporary Preaching Collection, you’ll have all the resources you need to take your pulpit ministry to the next level.

This collection includes modern classics like:

Performance in Preaching: Bringing the Sermon to Life ed. Jana Childers and Clayton J. Schmit

“Two of our finest teachers of preaching here collaborate on an invigorating book for preachers. Jesus doesn’t mean for us to think about the Gospel, even to understand the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to be enacted, embodied, and performed. Childers and Schmit show us how we preachers can better enable our listeners to not only hear but also perform the Gospel. One of the best books on the craft of preaching that we’ve had in a long time.”—Will Willimon, bishop, North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church

Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition by Calvin Miller

“One of our best preachers and writers tells us what he does best—and why and how.”—Eugene Peterson, pastor, scholar, and author

Preaching as Worship: An Integrative Approach to Formation in Your Church by Michael J. Quicke

“Michael Quicke’s winsome and insightful exploration of preaching as an integral component and reflection of Trinitarian worship is a welcome contribution to thoughtful literature on both preaching and worship. For too long, one has been viewed as simply a prelude or culmination of the other. Quicke helps us understand how worship and preaching function organically and holistically to honor the persons of the Godhead who also comes to us as one.”—Bryan Chapell, chancellor, Covenant Theological Seminary

Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons That Connect with Our Culture by Zack Eswine

“Zack Eswine moves the Christ-centered preaching movement forward with this volume. He not only calls us to carefully contextualize our message to various cultures, sensibilities, and habits of heart, but he also gives us a host of practical tools, inventories, and guidelines for doing so. All the while he assumes and strengthens the foundational commitment to preaching Christ and his restoring grace from every text. A great contribution.”—Tim Keller, senior pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

Preaching to a Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-First Century Listeners by Graham MacPherson Johnston

“Here is a significant book, one that urgently needs to be in print. Well written, biblical, and practical, it opens the stained glass windows. For anyone desiring a ministry of impact in today’s postmodern society, Graham Johnston has provided an understandable and useful focus for both the professional and the casual reader.”—Howard G. Hendricks, emeritus distinguished professor of Christian education and leadership, Dallas Theological Seminary

These five titles represent less than a third of the resources available in the Baker Contemporary Preaching Collection. And while these resources are on Pre-Pub, you can add them to your library for only $189.95. Don’t wait. Pick up these resources while they’re available at this low Pre-Pub price!

Greek Poets Influenced First-Century Judaism?

“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” 

When church father Tertullian asked this question, it was rhetorical; the answer, to him, was ‘Nothing.’”

But that’s not exactly true.

To understand the Hellenized Jewish culture Jesus was born into, one should have a cursory familiarity with the poets Homer and Virgil. The Jews, like many of the cultures conquered by Alexander the Great or within Greece’s circle of influence, experienced an assimilation of Greek speech, manners, and culture. Although the more orthodox Jews clashed with their Hellenized brethren over the extent to which Greek culture should infringe on Jewish practices, one can simply look at the translation of Hebrew Scriptures into the Septuagint’s Greek to see how deep that influence went.

Regarding Homer and Virgil’s influence on Hellenized cultures, Karl Olav Sandes writes,

“[Virgil] and Homer, in particular, formed a ‘canon’ of texts that the students met repeatedly and at various levels: ‘Homer’s epics had become the basis for Greek culture. Since classical time they were everybody’s schoolbook (to be more or less retained by memory) and companion for life.’ Homer was the foundational text of the culture in which many NT texts came to life. This conclusion can be inferred from Philo’s extensive discussion on encyclical education, and is supported by Josephus’s writings as well. On the basis of this fundamental role of Homer, it makes sense to look for Homeric traces in the NT, and not to restrict oneself to obvious citations.”—Journal of Biblical Literature vol. 124

The influence of these poets on Hellenized culture goes beyond the literary:

“The impact of the Homeric poems on geographic questions is profound. Geographers normally debated whether Homer accurately relayed geographic information. There is more at stake in these questions, however, than whether Homer is an accurate geographer. Ancient authors of all genres were particularly indebted to Homer as a model and source of material. It is no surprise, then, that ancient geographers engaged the epic poems of Homer.”—Eric C. Stewart, Gathered around Jesus

We might even be surprised by their influence on Scripture. Here Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier discuss Virgil’s possible influence on a Pauline metaphor:

“It is not uncommon for commentators to suggest what might have been in Paul’s mind when he cried out, ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ (Rom. 7:24). ‘Wretched’ we understand, but what is the ‘body of death’ from which he wants to be rescued? A most gruesome picture is that presented by the Roman poet Virgil (70–19 b.c.), with which his audience in Rome might well have been familiar. In Book Eight of the Æneid, Virgil’s epic poem that chronicles the wanderings of Aeneas after the fall of Troy, the horrific cruelty of the Etruscan king Mezentius is told. To punish and torture his living captives, Mezentius tied them face to face with decomposing corpses of those killed in battle, leaving them bound together until the living captive died. Virgil’s poetic presentation does little to soften the horror of such a fate:

The living and the dead at his command
Were coupled, face to face, and hand to hand,
Till, chok’d with stench, in loath’d embraces tied,
The ling’ring wretches pin’d away and died.
—Virgil’s Æneid, Book Eight

What did Paul call himself—a ‘wretched man’? What did Virgil call those locked in the embrace of death—those ‘ling’ring wretches’? Surely no word other than “rescue” would fit both scenes. And if Paul had Virgil’s epic in mind, then this image of “body of death” suddenly puts the gospel’s deliverance from the law in a new and more serious light.”—Holman New Testament Commentary: Romans

Get works of Homer and Virgil on Community Pricing!

Now you can help set your own price to add these two cultural icons while they’re on Community Pricing.

Homer’s eight-volume Iliad and Odyssey is currently tracking to head into production at $14, and more bids could drive that price down even further. And the four-volume Select Works of Virgil is brand-new to Community Pricing. Bid now on these two important writers!