Taking quizzes in Greek class without studying ahead of time is like sitting in a rocking chair. You get the sense of movement without making any forward progress.
Sunday, October 30, 2022
Markus Barth, in his superlative Ephesians commentary, writes this about Eph. 4:11:
In summary, the task of the special ministers in Eph. 4:11 is to be servants in that ministry which is entrusted to the whole church. Their place is not above but below the great number of saints who are not adorned by resounding titles. Every one of the special ministers is a servus servorum Dei [servant of the servants of God]. He is a "pastor" of God's flock, who understands himself as a minister to ministers.
Divers [various] books of the NT show that all "clerical" titles available from Israel's history and literature have been conferred upon Jesus Christ and comprehended in him. If after Christ's coming and under his rulership any legitimate clergymen are left in the world, then all saints and the whole church are these clergymen of God, installed for the benefit of those as yet unaware of the Messianic peace.
Pastor, I implore you to let Jesus have your title of "Senior Pastor" (1 Pet. 5:4). If you need an extra title other than "elder," why not use servus servorum Dei -- or simply "Servant Pastor"? That would send an interesting message to your congregation, don't you think?
I snapped this pic in the elevator of the hotel where I stayed Friday night.
You can see that the building had three stories. So when we read in Acts 20 that Eutychus fell to his death from the "third story" while sitting in a window, we might assume that the building he was in had no ground floor. But in Europe, this is exact what you commonly do have. Let's compare what one might find in Richmond, VA with what one might find in Basel, Switzerland. I'll list the Swiss term first.
Erdgeschoss (Ground Floor) = First Story (US -- though sometimes you will also find a "ground floor")
First Story = Second Story (US)
Second Story = Third Story (US)
Third Story = Fourth Story (US)
Now, if a "story" is about 10 feet, then Eutychus fell either 30 feet or 40 feet. Of course, this doesn't matter, except that scholars like to argue about everything. They seem to miss the real point of this narrative:
Never fall asleep during a sermon! [*Sarcasm.*]
By the way, this information is relevant if you ever find yourself trying to locate your hotel room in Europe. The apartment Becky and I lived in while staying in Basel was called the Parterre. It was neither the ground floor nor the first floor but something in-between. It was not a one bedroom apartment; it was a one room apartment. Tiny! In Switzerland, the higher up you live, the more status you are likely to have. So you might say that Becky and enjoyed a very lowly societal status. Shoot, we were as poor as church mice. But we had the Lord, and we had each other. What more could you ask for?
|The entrance to our humble abode on the Immengasse. Such happy days!|
Today's morning devotions? Mark 5:25-28. And here I found something I wasn't expecting. It's the story of the healing of the woman who touched Jesus' clothing. Now, here's what is so different about this passage. Every Greek student knows that Mark loves to use a simple kai ("and") as a conjunction in his Gospel. A full 64 percent of sentences in Mark begin with kai. That's 376 sentences out of a total of 583. Of the 38 sentences in Mark 1, for instance, 33 of them begin with this simple conjunction. We might say that kai is the unmarked connector in this Gospel. This is one reason why some claim that Mark, as a writer, was incapable of forming complicated sentences like we find in Paul's writings.
So what do we do when we come to Mark 5:25-28, as I did today?
Here Mark uses 7 -- count them, seven-- dependent clauses (underlined below) before introducing his main verb (circled). These dependent clauses are all comprised of participles in the Greek.
Here's my slavishly literal rendering of these verses (with the Greek participles underlined):
And a woman, being in an issue of blood twelve years, and many things having suffered under many physicians, and having spent all that she had, and having profited nothing, but rather having come to the worse, having heard about Jesus, having come in the multitude behind, she touched his garment."
What do y'all think of this? Pretty amazing if you ask me. I call this a writer's "tone" in writing. All writers have their own points of view and feelings toward the subject they are writing about. Through word usage and syntactical choice, they can convey that tone precisely to the receptor audience. In fact, the same writer can adapt his writing style even in the same work. Shakespeare is famous for his poetic writing style, including both blank verse and iambic pentameter. But he could also use simple prose without any attention to meter and rhyme, especially for everyday conversations. In Romeo and Juliet, for example, we hear Tybalt say to Benvolio:
What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds?
Turn thee, Benvolio; look upon thy death.
Here we see 10-syllable lines but they don't rhyme -- hence, "blank verse." But Shakespeare can also use iambic pentameter (10 rhyming syllables) when it suits his purposes. Later in the story, Romeo is talking about a woman for whom he is love sick but who does not return his love. Romeo is depressed, he is grieving, he is sad -- lots and lots of emotion here. So we're not surprised to see iambic pentameter:
Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast,
Which thou wilt propagate to have it pressed
With more of thine. This love that thou hast shown
Doth add more grief to too much of mine own.
Here we see "breasts" and "pressed," "shown" and "own," "sighs" and "eyes," causing these lines to rhyme and adding to the pathos of the plot line.
Back to Mark 5:25-28. What pathos! A woman in great distress is suffering from hemorrhages for a period of 12 years. The drain of blood is apparently without any intermission. It is impossible for her to ever feel healthy. She cannot be healed by any physician. Her sickness is -- incurable! All of this is background information that Mark nicely highlights by his use of participles. The greatness of the woman's faith in the healing of power of Jesus, however, overcomes all of her reservations and she TOUCHES his garment. And in that one brief moment her bleeding stops. Health now surges through every part of her body.
Takeaways for me:
1) Not only does Jesus by means of miracles display his power but also his infinite love. He carries our diseases by taking our infirmities upon himself. His sympathy overleaps the boundaries of race, gender, and nationality. "Hallelujah, what a Savior," as the old hymn puts it.
2) There's nothing like studying a passage from the New Testament in the original language. (You knew I had to add that, right?)
Saturday, October 29, 2022
What's not to love about Richmond? It's got great architecture.
And great concerts.
It appreciates great music.
Its races are amazing.
I keep having to pinch myself that I am actually living within driving distance of both Richmond and Raleigh/Durham. Today's race was the tenth 10-Miler I've done and it was so much fun. Today and tomorrow are recovery days, and then we will start the process all over again -- lift, run, bike, swim, teach, write, farm. This time next week I'm scheduled to be in Alabama. Should be an adventure. I'm keeping this post short because runners are good at providing people with Too Much Information (TMI). It's pretty common for a runner to tell people how black his toes are or how hard that hill turned out. I'll spare you -- for now. I will add one thing: the meteorologists were not wrong. It was indeed a beautiful day.
Friday, October 28, 2022
Hey all! This morning I got in one last workout before heading up to Richmond. Today's workout followed this routine (3 sets each):
- Barbell bench press
- Overhead shoulder press
- Lat pulldown
- Pull up
- Dumbbell row
- EZ bar curls
- Dumbbell hammer curl
- Incline dumbbell bench press
- Dumbbell lateral raise
- Tricep pushdown
- Seated dumbbell curl
I added in some ab work at the end. Feeling great and ready for tomorrow's race. I'm taking this book along on my trip.
It's been a while since I've read Lewis and Demarest. But my, what an outstanding way to approach theology. Their "integrated" method combines historical theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, and even practical theology. If I were to ever teach theology courses, this is the textbook I would use. That's because for every doctrine of Scripture -- Christology, for example -- you need to ask at least 4 crucial questions:
- What have Christians said about this topic through the ages?
- What do the Scriptures themselves have to say?
- How can we best systematize all this knowledge?
- What are the implications of this doctrine for Christian faith and practice?
I love this approach.
Before getting on the road I might mention that in five days (Nov. 2) we will be commemorating Becky's homegoing 9 years ago. I have been blogging about this for all these years as you know. I hope you've found at least some of this helpful. I know that some of my posts may seem to be pedantic, but I've found that using the same words and expressions over and over again has been extraordinarily helpful to me as I try to regain a sense of control when I'm facing hard times. It's a different kind of hard, losing a spouse to cancer. Don't get me wrong. This is probably nothing like the hard that I imagine so many of you have experienced through the years. Please hear me. I am not trying to compare my apples with your oranges. I think we can all agree that life is tenuous and breakable and so very fragile. But God, the God of miracles even when no miracles are to be had, asks us to believe the hardest thing even when you feel like your life is perched on a single rock in the middle of a raging river with no place to go but deeper into his love.
I'll have further reflections on the 2nd. Right now I have nothing else to say but a prayer of thanks to my God. I am so grateful he brought Becky into my life. I have been so blessed by her love and by the life she shared with us. And as much as I wish that my heart wasn't broken right now, I'm so thankful that I knew her. So thanks be to God. Because he loves me. Wholly and unreservedly. And I am starting to realize that he will never tire of showing me that.
Thursday, October 27, 2022
Lord willing, this is promising to be a unique weekend for me, with both a musical concert in Richmond and a race in the same historic city. The church organist at Notre Dame in Paris will be performing tomorrow night at the River Road Church.
Here he is playing Widor's incredible Toccata.
Then on Saturday, I've signed up to do a 10 miler on the Virginia Capital Trail.
I am quite familiar with this course, having run it in 2019 and having biked this trail probably some two dozen times.
It's an out and back course, with one giant uphill section on the out leg (see elevation chart above), which means (thankfully) a nice long downhill section on the return leg. The meteorologists are calling for a very nice day for running -- cool but sunny. The course can be windy, but despite the wind I was able to finish in under 2 hours three years ago.
Oddly enough, I just found out about this race today via email. The race organizers obviously have my email address because they sent me an invitation to run in the event. I usually plan my races in advance, but sometimes I just decide as things come up, as with this race. It's definitely a God thing that it dovetails so well with tomorrow night's organ concert in Richmond because, duh, we all like to save on gas money and so we try to group our errands and such like together. Personally, I can't think of something I'd rather do than spend a weekend enjoying great classical music along with a really challenging race to test my metal against some hardy competitors. This year I am only picking races I am extremely excited about. No more "shoulds" or "maybes." I'm still very very very much on the fence about my final marathon of the year, but right now it's looking like it will be Richmond (for the fourth time). It's close, convenient, and enjoys amazing crowd support. It's challenging as all get out. It's gorgeous, peaceful, and beautiful. You get to see all kinds of wildlife along the James River. And the best part is that the finish is all down hill.
I love to be racing again. I am happy.
Chiasm is a rhetorical device seen frequently in the Bible. In a chiasm, elements 1 and 4 are parallel in thought, and points 2 and 3 are parallel. In my morning Bible reading I noticed one such structure in Prov. 3:5:
Literally, the Hebrew here says:
Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and on your own understanding (do) not lean.
To bring out the force of the chiasm here, I might paraphrase the verse as follows:
Trust the Lord completely! Don't ever trust in yourself!
This is a challenge we must each face individually. I need to worry less about attaining God's plan for my life and just work on today. Trust in God is built by laying stone on stone, one day at a time, in a thousand small, seemingly insignificant ways. Let Christ be our example. He trusted the Father implicity. He knew that his Father could be relied upon. Indeed, God has a magnificent plan for our lives that exceeds our wildest imaginings. And he's willing to both guide and protect us toward that destination.
Will we trust him completely?
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
My friend Heinrich von Siebenthal emailed me today to say that his grammar is now available online for free. Here is the link. This is a fantastically kind offer from the publisher. Please check it out and let your friends know about it.
Read my review of his grammar here.
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Interestingly, one of the classic passages in the New Testament on the Bible's inspiration states that "All Scripture is God-breathed" and that it is "useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness" -- that is, it shows us God's ways, calls attention to places in our lives where we have failed to heed what the Scriptures have taught us, restores us back to the correct path, and continues to mature us in righteous living. As a result of these activities of the Bible, we may be "thoroughly equipped for every good work." The word translated "equipped" may also be rendered as "fit." The idea is to get into fit shape or condition to live out the word of God. The importance of good works in the life of the believer cannot be overemphasized. These are the marks of the genuine people of God in contrast to the false teachers. To affirm the inspiration of the Scriptures, therefore, has profound implications both for correcting error and for pursuing good works and faithful service to Christ. Growing in knowledge and obedience is not a privilege reserved for the doctrinally elite. Every one of us needs to become "fit" -- doctrinally mature and practically ministering. It is this emphasis of the Bible that has undergirded all my years of teaching. The Bible is relevant, because it is God's word, and determining how God's word relates to us and how we ought to respond to it is the task of every disciple.
So, are you fit?
My Bible study this morning was in Acts 20. In verse 7 there's a very interesting use of the Greek infinitive. And since we discussed infinitives in class last night, I thought this might be a good time to bring up this text. The specific use of the infinitive in Acts 20:7 is called the "telic infinitive" or the "infinitive of purpose." It's one of the most common -- and most important uses -- of the infinitive in the Greek New Testament. In this verse, Luke is giving us the purpose for which the early church gathered. And what makes this verse so interesting and important is the fact that Luke's stated purpose for the gathered church and our purpose for gathering today seem to be at odds with each other. For example, here's a brief survey a pastor once gave to his congregation:
Why do you mainly attend church?
- The sermon.
Actually, the clearly stated purpose for the gathered church in the New Testament writings themselves is not for either of these reasons. You will never find the gathering of the church described as a worship service. Nor will you see it described as sermon central. Neither a stage nor a pulpit was central. A table was -- the table of the Lord.
Here is Acts 20:7 in my Greek New Testament.
I might paraphrase the passage as follows:
On Sunday, we gathered for the Lord's Supper, with Paul bringing the message. Since he was leaving the next day, he prolonged his talk until midnight.
As you can see, the church gathered specifically to celebrate the Lord's Supper (the breaking of the bread). This purpose statement of Luke's is confirmed by a passage by Paul. In 1 Cor. 11:33, Paul writes, "When you gather to eat the Lord's Supper, wait for each other." Here again, we have the infinitive of purpose in the Greek.
Today we are told we gather for worship. I'd say we gather as worshippers. And at the center of our gathering is our risen, resurrected, ruling, and returning Lord of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This makes perfectly good sense to me. After all, in all things he is to have the preeminence (Col. 1:18).
Read my perspective on this here.
This is me taking a break between sets today at the gym.
Whether it's studying a foreign language like Greek or doing weight training on a consistent basis, a fixation on "rushing through time" demeans the experience. Stay in the moment. There is no need to rush the process in a mad dash to get to where you want to go. The achievements that will come later are ornaments on the tree but they do not define who you are. Let results emerge gradually. It is ALWAYS the desire for instant gratification that gets everybody. Nothing worth doing happens quickly. You just have to have some will power and patience.
Monday, October 24, 2022
Pastor to congregation: Please turn in your Bibles to the book of "Ephesians."
Despite the popularity of the so-called encyclical theory of Ephesians, you can remove the quotes from around "Ephesians." Ephesians was written to, sent to, and first read by the Ephesians.
Is simply not going to the gym.
The infinitive is on schedule for tonight's Greek class. I could not be more excited. In English, we translate the infinitive with the word "to" -- to go, to be, to teach, etc. But in Greek, kind of action often plays a prominent role in the use of the infinitive. A present infinite might suggest a continuous action. This should be brought out in English when possible. A classic example is Phil. 1:21 -- a verse many of us have memorized: "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Notice there are two infinitives in this verse:
- to live
- to die
But the first one is a present infinitive, again, implying continuous or habitual action. We might render this verse as "For to me, to go on living is Christ, and to die is gain."
This is called verbal aspect and it merits our careful attention whenever we read the Greek New Testament. For an overview, go here.
Sunday, October 23, 2022
To reach your fitness goals, you need to train consistently hard. In order to master beginning Greek, you likewise have to study hard. You need to study consistently hard. Don't look for straight lines. There will always be peaks and valleys. But improvement absolutely cannot come without consistent effort.
Greek student: Stay the course.
Abysmal. That's pretty much what I think about the paragraph titles in my Greek New Testament.
Today's sermon at church is an example. It was from Luke 11:33-36. My UBSGNT gives this as the paragraph title: "The Light of the Body." Which tells me absolutely nothing. It wouldn't take much to improve on it. Here are a few sermon titles for this passage I found online. My favorite is the last one:
- Receptivity to Revelation
- Can You Pass Jesus' Eye Examination?
- This Little Light of Mine
- How's Your Vision?
- Darkness Or Light?
- Welcoming the Light
- Hard Words for Hard Hearts
- Clean Your Windows
- Our Response Matters to God
- What Does Your Eye See?
- Glow in the Dark
- Headlights for Your Life
- To See Or Not to See
Come on, editors. Y'all can do better.
Saturday, October 22, 2022
Feeling a bit ragged this week? I thought about that question during my morning workout.
Could it be due to lack of exercise?
Everyone loses muscle as they age. And with less muscle, we will move less.
As we age we also tend to develop balance issues. Weight training can help with this. Simple lifting movements can build leg strength, core fitness, and balance. You could hardly ask for more.
No one can guarantee that weight training will add years to your life. But it will definitely add life to your years.
Friday, October 21, 2022
One very important tip where you're teaching yourself Greek is that you don't have to go out and buy every beginning grammar that's out there. Very often having lots of different textbooks will do nothing more than make you frustrated with your progress. You'll be a lot better off in the long run if you stick with one grammar and master it.
Okay, I'm always full of running stories. But today I want to talk about walking. That's right -- after my ab workout at the gym I went for an old-fashioned walk.
I enjoy walking because, generally speaking, walking is not a sport. It's not a matter of learning all the right movements and tons of rules and regulations. There's no thought of ranking or time. We run for discipline, for effort, for competition. Walking is not like that. Anybody can put one foot in front of the other.
I walked long before I began running. To walk, all you need are two legs. The rest will take care of itself. And when you're walking there's only one thing that matters: the beauty of the day, the splendor of the landscape, the joy of pure movement. Walking is throwing off the cares of life and forgetting about your work for a time. Nietzsche once described a walk he was taking in the Black Forest with these words: "I am walking a lot, through the forest, and having tremendous conversations with myself." Nietzsche walked all day long, writing down here and there what his walking self breathed into his brain. I too am an incurable wanderer. "Outside" is where I belong. I seem to truly find myself when I have the wind in my face, right in the middle of the world. This is really my home all the day long. I'm a pedestrian, nothing more, nothing less.
It's impossible to be alone when walking, for God is there, and so are the many things we gaze upon.
All those trees and flowers and and forests and houses and paths are ours for the taking. Every step is an inspiration born of adventure. When you walk, you're doing nothing and yet everything at the same time.
Overall, I think I need to walk more often than I do.
Thursday, October 20, 2022
I'm listening to Glenn Miller in 2022. Anyone listening with me?
Strange as it may seem, this music makes me nostalgic for an era I didn't even live in. Sadly, 1941-1945 was probably the last time all Americans were united in a common cause.
Tomorrow will be another day of running. Some of us (maybe most of us) run the same routes repeatedly yet it's never exactly the same. Conditions change, sometimes subtly. It's only boring if you make it so. I run the same routes over and over again and the changes big and small delight me, be it the changing of the color of the leaves or the simple differences of the lighting between an early morning run and a noonday jog.
Tomorrow morning people like me all over America will wake up in quiet obscurity to privately toil along paths known only to them, each seeking the greatest measure of themselves, always striving for progress and always moving toward a destination born of dreams and determination. I wish each of you well.
During today's workout I focused on my upper body, including pull ups.
Afterwards I got my semi-monthly B12 injection.
Vitamin B12 is essential to maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system. Mine went kaput a couple of years ago. At that time the doctors thought I was suffering from an infection and treated me with antibiotics. The symptoms were awful -- weakness, shortness of breath, difficulty walking let alone running, tingling in your feet, and an almost complete loss of balance. Then a friend asked me if I had ever had my B12 tested. He said that B12 deficiency is common among long distance runners. I went right in for the test and the results came back positive. I no longer had any B12 in my system. My intrinsic factor had stopped working completely. I simply cannot absorb B12 from the foods I eat. Thankfully I was able to start on B12 injections immediately. I had an injection daily for three weeks, and then we changed that to every other day. Eventually I was going in for a shot once a week. Now it's once every two weeks. My B12 levels are back to normal and I feel great. I am on B12 injections for life. But I am so grateful that this treatment is available to me. B12 deficiency is easily treatable. I'm thankful I'm able to be physically active even though I still have a bit of neuropathy in my feet.
Are there risks in running? In exercising, period? Absolutely. But that's true of anything in life. As you know, I love to run marathons. Are there dangers in running 26.2 miles? Of course there are. But your odds of dying while running a marathon are 260,000 to 1. I'll take that any day over the risk of dying from sitting on the sofa all day eating junk food and watching TV. Here's my opinion, for what it's worth. Running marathons and mountain climbing and doing triathlons etc. is a lifestyle. These and other activities encourage a number of good things like healthy eating, moving your body, getting outdoors, and stress relief. People always worry that I will get bad knees because I run so much. Well, by the grace of God, my knees are fine. But I'd rather have sore knees from time to time than to be overweight and unhealthy. I CHOOSE to be outdoors, enjoying God's creation and taking it all in. I'll take my chances with running. I know what the risks are and I choose to run anyway. Life is a terminal illness, so either way you're going to lose the battle. We can either be passive and take pills to treat all of our ailments, or else we can be strategic in the battle by being active and healthy if the Lord should grant us that ability (and for most people, he does). Running has done even more for me mentally and emotionally than physically, and that is saying a lot. Looking back to my very first marathon in Cincinnati 6 years ago, the training and dedication and work in preparation for that race were some of the most rewarding days of my life. You have to take risks in life if you really want to live. Right now my doctor says it's fine for me to run marathons, so that's that. Always ask your doctor before training for an endurance event. That's just common sense. Overall, however, fit men are 50 percent less likely to die from heart disease than your classic couch potato.
At any rate, I'm not looking for a debate on this topic. Bottom line for me? The risks associated with exercise are far smaller than the risks associated with not exercising. The biggest risk with running is doing too much. In that case, take a week or two off. But as long as my body allows me to enjoy running in a healthy way, I see no reason to give it up.