Should Barbarians Get to Have God’s Words?

Salmon are anadromous.

That’s a $25 word that feels how terms found in encyclopedias are supposed to feel: formal, scientific. It’s in a higher register of English.

But if you know a little Greek, you’ll see immediately that all it means is “running back.” The salmon “run back” upstream to spawn. And it’s not to avoid confusion with American football that we say anadromous instead of “running back”: it’s because in our culture, scientificky terms are supposed to sound highfalutin.
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The Key to Not Being a Bad Bible Reader

Psalm 37:8 is one of the most important illustrations of the most important concept in my new book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. As I’ve been working on promoting the book, I’ve been talking about Psalm 37:8 in the KJV again and again. I’ve recited it probably 50 times to various people in the last year as I’ve explained my project:

Cease from anger and forsake wrath; fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. (Psalm 37:8 KJV)

But on Sunday at my church we read through the entire psalm in a contemporary translation and I, to my chagrin, noticed something: I’d spent so much time quoting the verse that I’d forgotten the context. I’d violated the cardinal rule of Bible interpretation. Bad Bible reader! Bad!

By itself Psalm 37:8 sounds oracular, proverbial. It sounds like a memory verse for a guy who is prone to blowing up at his kids. At least the first half of the verse sounds good for that purpose:

Cease from anger and forsake wrath.

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How to Write a Funeral Sermon

If you are a preacher of the Word, you will one day have to preach a funeral. And that one day might be Tuesday. Even if you’ve heard a lecture in class on how to prepare for a funeral, it’s almost impossible for that lecture to cover all the bases: every death is different, because every human is a special creation of God.

Though every funeral sermon should also be, therefore, unique and different, the central task is still the same as that of any sermon: to faithfully herald what God has said in Scripture. You will have to face this question:

How can I write a faithful, concise, powerful, comforting sermon for this particular funeral service?

God has a great deal to say to the bereaved, and these principles will help you share his message at a funeral.
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Some Say “Easter” Is Pagan. Is it Really?


Some of the angriest comments I’ve ever received came on a post I wrote about Easter. I honestly forgot that some Christians are very upset about the use of a(n allegedly) “pagan” word to describe the preeminent Christian holiday. Here’s what one commenter wrote:

Easter is a bad translation of a word that does not appear in the original language.… Easter is a carryover from the Greco-Roman world; which was engulfed in sun-worship…. The holiday and the word should be changed back to Passover.

This was one of the best comments from the say-no-to-Easter perspective: it was clear, avoided ad hominem, and was written in lower case. But you should have seen the abuse I got behind the scenes. I am a closet pagan; I am destroying the Christian faith; I am the most ignorantest person ever (that last one may be true, I’ll admit, but not the other two).
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How to Use a Critical Commentary If You’re an Evangelical

Logos sells many different commentaries. Literally thousands. They all fall into different categories, and here’s one schema you could use to organize them (borrowed from here, though there are others):

  1. Devotional/practical commentaries (NIVAC, LABC) focus on applying the Bible to real life.
  2. Pastoral/homiletical commentaries (REC, MNTC) were originally sermons and primarily provide models for other preachers.
  3. Exegetical commentaries (NAC, NICNT) go deep, but typically reserve Greek and Hebrew for footnotes.
  4. Critical commentaries (ICC, WBC) go a bit deeper and assume knowledge of the original biblical languages.

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Good and Bad Goals for Studying New Testament Greek

You want to study New Testament Greek? I talked last week about good and bad motivations for the work. Now let’s get more practical and talk goals.

If you set unrealistic goals you’ll never arrive at them. You’ll get discouraged and give up, and you won’t want to try again. And if you set goals that are too low, you’ll be missing out on some Bible study riches.

So set the right goals. Let me suggest three goals you should not set, and three goals you should.
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3 Reasons To Study Greek, and 3 Reasons Not To


You want to learn New Testament Greek?

Presumably, you’re a Christian, so my advice on this topic will be written for those who desire to love God and neighbor in all they do—even and especially in learning New Testament Greek.

Thinking carefully at the outset about why you want to learn Greek will enrich your study and help ensure that your work is an offering to the Lord.

Here are three reasons not to study Greek—and three to study it.
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How to Spot a Falsely Attributed Quotation

I was looking for a Mother’s Day gift and I stumbled across a quotation on the website of a local massage therapist:

You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending. —C.S. Lewis

I’m a huge Lewis fan, and I immediately said to myself, C.S. Lewis never said that. I just knew.

First a techie lesson on how I confirmed my suspicion, then a few biblical and theological reflections on what it means to know a writer’s voice.
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If Commentaries Were Sports Teams

As much as Americans love democracy, we want sports to be a simple meritocracy: may the best team win.

A lose-and-you’re-out tournament is our idea of a championship. We don’t what sportswriters telling us who they think is best; we want winners to prove who’s best. That’s why Americans love college basketball’s March Madness.

For years, Bible commentary fans have relied on “sportswriters” to tell them which commentaries are best. Carson and  Longman (through their commentary surveys) and Denver Seminary and Detroit Seminary (through their lists) have long determined the best commentaries for each Bible book. Bestcommentaries.com (the Sportswriters Association of the commentary world) has aggregated those votes and become the go-to resource for recommendations. But there has never been a definitive commentary championship.

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A Systematic Theology for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and I took this opportunity to pick up a new Lexham Press title by the late African-American theologian Charles Octavius Boothe: Plain Theology for Plain People.

Our American culture has changed since this book was first published in 1890. People don’t call each other “plain” anymore, so I want to make certain readers understand that Boothe’s title is loving and not disdaining. He writes in the preface, “This little book’s only mission is to help plain people in the study of the first principles of divine truth.”
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