How reading these verses with a Jewish perspective completely changed their meaning for me

This week, as I was reading through Matthew 8-15 in The Complete Jewish Study Bible for our Bible book club of Matthew (sign up HERE, if you haven’t already!), I stumbled across a passage and corresponding note that really surprised me and changed my view of these verses. The verses were Matthew 8:21-22, when a man pleads with Jesus, “Sir, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus replies, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Preconceptions and Misconceptions

It’s amazing how one small detail can really change the meaning of a passage of the Bible. Whenever I read Matthew 8:21 in the past, I was always shocked but humbled by Jesus’ instruction to not bury his father before leaving home. The man’s request seems so simple, so deserved, to merely dig a hole and bury his father in it. I was struck by Jesus’ firm perspective. I found it convicting because it showed how Jesus was supposed to be our first priority, that we should put everything aside to follow Christ.

But when I read this verse in The Complete Jewish Study Bible, I was introduced to a slightly new way of looking at it. There’s a footnote under the text that explains, “This does not mean that this would-be talmid [disciple] is traveling with Yeshua while his father’s corpse is waiting at home, stinking in the sun. the-father-is-not-dead-yet-the-son-wishes-to-go-home-and-live-comfortably-until-his-father-dies-in-the-future-1The father is not dead yet. The son wishes to go home and live comfortably until his father dies in the future.” At first it seemed that the man was trying to respect his father by burying him before following Christ, but, as the note on the verse explained, the man’s situation was actually a testament to how inclined most of us are to comfort.

The larger article on Matthew 8:21-22 goes into more detail on the traditional Jewish customs for burial, explaining that there are many traditions which require both days of preparation as well as weeks, and even months, of specific stages of burial. Because of how long this process takes “Yeshua knew that this talmid would be out of ministry for quite some time,” especially considering that the father hadn’t even died yet! “This seemingly piercing rebuke of Yeshua was not aimed at this disciple’s desire to care for his father, but toward the delay that would be caused,” taking the disciple away from the more important task of proclaiming the gospel and following the Son of God.

The Unrelenting Jaws of Comfort

To be honest, I’m terrified of Jesus revealing the aspects of my life that need to change, calling me to alter or leave behind parts of myself that I have grown accustomed to and feel like define me. In the same way that the man didn’t want to give up the religious traditions of burial that had been engrained in his life, so the thought of giving up parts of my life that have become rituals in their own way makes me hesitant. The idea that God could call out what makes up my “normal” and ask me to change or leave it behind scares me. What if I go through so much trouble and pain to change a part of myself only to feel emptier or more alone and misunderstood?

It seems selfish, but really I’m just protective of myself. When something is taken away from me and disturbs my carefully constructed personhood and life, it is very jarring and sometimes life-altering. How can I give up all that seemingly makes me me (which is naturally comfortable in its familiarity), for a mysterious path that I have no map for?

To clarify, this call out of comfort isn’t always necessarily literal. More often than not, God calls us to change the orientation of our hearts and minds, rather than our physical location. Jesus doesn’t ask us to simply give things up with no rhyme or reason, in order to embark on a mysterious path with no map. Yes, he calls us to drop our nets and follow him, but often it’s right where we are! We don’t have to go somewhere else and become someone new to follow Jesus. We live out the gospel by following him right where we are, in our everyday lives. While he certainly surprises some of us with callings as missionaries or leaders, for many of us Jesus’ nudging looks more like a brightening of the darkened spots of our hearts or a call to open up a part of ourselves that we had closed from Christ.

do-i-too-seek-to-put-off-following-christ-in-my-daily-lifeThis new insight into the passage that brings light to Jewish customs really strikes me deep and makes me wonder: Do I, too, seek to put off following Christ in my daily life, pursuing my needs above others and His?

Christ’s Deep Understanding

Even though my answer is likely affirmative, I have to remind myself that Jesus understands. He felt the comfort of living in heaven. He felt the sting of a worldly life full of rejection, isolation, and betrayal. I think Jesus understood that it costs us a lot to follow the footsteps of this perfect human and perfect God. But we can try. And God will make up the difference. In fact, God already made up the difference with Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Along with that, I believe, when it comes down to it, that while it is inevitable for me to feel the burns of a life turned toward Christ, God will soothe my pain as best he can. When I go through the process to eliminate what was once comfortable and normal, but was also potentially harmful to myself, God won’t ever leave me feeling lonely or emptier than I was before. The Lord will always, always lay down the roots for a hopeful future. After all, what lies before us is an eternal reunion with God, empty of all pain and sin. He is a faithful God, and will rush into the newly cleaned and empty spaces of my life and fill them with his light, love, and comfort. While what was there before was comfortable merely because of its familiarity, now I am filled with a real and holy comfort, placed there by God himself.

How I Reconciled with My Humanity and Began to Follow

Most days I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone to do something unknown or that seems unpleasant for God’s sake. Yet that is what Jesus is calling me and you to. He wants us to give up our familiar patterns of life to follow him. For us to be faithful servants, we need to sacrifice our whole lives.

in-my-well-meaning-heart-i-genuinely-believe-that-even-the-smallest-bits-of-change-i-can-implement-will-truly-affect-us-and-help-me-on-the-journey-to-complete-trust-and-obedience-of-the-lordIn my well-meaning heart, I genuinely believe that even the smallest bits of change I can implement will truly affect us and help me on the journey to complete trust and obedience of the Lord’s call. Be it giving up a visit to Dunkin Donuts so I can give that money to charity, going the extra mile at work by putting in more effort and a positive attitude than usual, sending a little extra love to a friend who may be in need with a handwritten note, forgiving someone who really hurt us, or, best of all, releasing control on an area of our lives that we struggle to let God take hold of, those little circumstances where we follow Christ a little more closely are helping us turn down the path away from comfort and toward God.

Free Chapter from The Complete Jewish Study BibleIf you’d like to get in on our little Bible study and receive the book of Matthew from The Complete Jewish Study Bible for free, click this link and sign up! Feel free to read our previous thoughts on Mattityahu as well at this link!

Book Review: The Complete Jewish Study Bible

Nathan Albright offers his thoughtful perspective on The Complete Jewish Study Bible in this review:

Edge Induced Cohesion

The Complete Jewish Study Bible:  Insights For Jews & Christians, Illuminating The Jewishness Of God’s Word, edited by Rabbi Barry Rubin

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Hendrickson Bibles.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

As someone who reads and reviews Bibles on a regular basis [1], there are often a few approaches I have when it comes to examining a Bible for its usefulness.  How does the text read?  What sort of extra features and commentary does it contain about the material?  How does the Bible approach the essential unity of the scriptures concerning the high place of God’s law and the importance of faith and obedience among believers?  Does the book address and deal with the essentially Hebraic nature of the writers of both testaments [2]?  How does the book address textual issues and a long history of faulty translation of material, especially in…

View original post 877 more words

“To Be Thankful” by Robert Dingley — Excerpt from Day By Day with the English Puritans

In honor of Thanksgiving and the intentional time of remembrance that it brings of our blessings reaped from the hand of God, Hendrickson would like to share this excerpt from Day by Day with the English Puritans. Robert Dingley’s sermon, named “To Be Thankful,” delves into the importance of thanking God for our blessings and turning our face upwards to the heavens.

There is a grateful and thanksgiving eye; an eye that on all occasions looks upward to bless and praise God for all His mercies, promises, and fatherly corrections. “Jesus listed up His eyes, and said, ‘Father I thank thee, that thou hast heard me'” (John 11:41). The little birds do not sip one drop of water, but they look up, as if they meant to give thanks, to shame all of a swinish diposition, that devours mercies but never looks up to the hand that gives them. Plato thanked God that he was a Grecian, an Athenian, and the scholar of Socrates. And Theodosius thanked God more than he was a member of Christ than the head of an empire. With Him and Paul we should especially lift our eyes to God, and bless Him for all spiritual blessings in Christ. Yet there is no mercy so small but it requires thankfulness. At meals we must look up to God; so did Christ. “And when He had taken the five loaves, and two fishes, He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to His disciples” (Mark 6:41). Epictetus wished he were a nightingale, to be ever singing contentedly day and night. …This is the sure mark of a man unregenerate, to be earnest in craving mercies, but slow and dull in returning praises. Then the dumb devil possesses men. Pliny tells of some that have no mouths, but live on the smell of herbs and sweet flowers. You had better believe him, than go and disprove him. Sure I am, some have no mouths to praise the Lord. They greedily smell the fading flowers of earthly vanities. There is no grace but love, and not duty but thankfulness goes with us to heaven. A good man is not only grateful for blessings, but with holy Job, he lifts up his eyes, and sincerely blesses God for His fatherly corrections: “The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord” (Job 8:21). For, says one, if the Lord whip His children, it is with sweet briar, He does it in faithfulness and mercy; and if He hides His face for a moment, with everlasting kindness He will embrace them. Every Christian knows how to bear afflictions, not only with patience, but also with thankfulness.

Day by Day with the English PuritansDay by Day with the English Puritans is a book of 365 daily devotions by 80 different English Puritans, including John Bunyan, Richard Baxter, Thomas Manton, Thomas Watson, Richard Sibbes, and John Flavel. Diverse and profound devotions cover topics like faith, spiritual growth, temptation, holiness, God’s character, prayer, joy and sorrows, etc.

If you’d like more information about Day by Day with the English Puritans, feel free to visit our website.

What we’re learning in Matthew 1-7 from The Complete Jewish Study Bible

The Complete Jewish Study Bible FREE EBOOKFor the next four weeks, our office is reading through the book of Matthew (Mattityahu) in The Complete Jewish Study Bible. In case you missed the first post on why we’re doing this, here it is.

Here, we offer a few of our own thoughts and reflections on what we’re learning in our Bible book club.

We’d also love to hear what you’re learning in this reading of Matthew from The Complete Jewish Study Bible. (Don’t have your free copy of Matthew yet? Get it here!) Share with us and others on Twitter and Facebook! Tag us using #CompleteJewishStudyBible or #CJSBible. One lucky person this week will win a free print copy of The Complete Jewish Study Bible.

Reflections on Mattityahu Chapters 1-7

  1. Making new connections between Old and New Testaments

Co-worker #1: I like that the notes point out when Matthew is reusing phrases from the Hebrew Bible, because that means he was alluding to those original contexts. For example, “This is the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah…” mirrors “These are the generations (eleh toldot) of the heavens and the earth when they were created” from Gen 2:4 (and several other places in Genesis). To me, this signals that the introduction of Jesus’ genealogy carries the same weight of importance as the creation story for Matthew, and indeed the coming of the Messiah does signal a new creation. Because the New Testament is written in Greek, I don’t think I would have made that connection to the phrase from Genesis. That’s a cool parallel!

  1. Immanu El, God with Us

Co-worker #2: In the book of Matthew (or Mattityahu) of the CJSB, there is an interesting article in “The Tabernacle (Mishkan)” series titled “The Tabernacle and the Incarnation: Immanu El, God with Us.” On page 1383 (Matthew 1:23) in the CJSB, we read regarding Yeshua:

Today, in seeking to refute Matthew 1:23, Jewish theologians have sought to discredit the concept of a divine Messiah. However, evidence exists that this was not an uncommon messianic expectation. This is affirmed by modern scholarship…and among ancient Jewish sources such as Midrashei Geula (Midrashim of Redemption), which states, “In the future, the Holy One, blessed be he, will seat Messiah in the supernal Yeshiva [House of Study], and they will call him ‘Lord,’ just as they call the Creator.”

It is for this purpose that John 1:14 says of Yeshua, “The Word became a human being and lived with us.” The word dwelled from the Greek skene derives from the Hebrew Mishkan [Tabernacle], showing that in his incarnation Yeshua made his Tabernacle with his people. Thus through Yeshua, God did dwell with his people.

As we move from the time of Sukkot—the Feast of Tabernacles—into Advent and finally Christmas, let us remember the beauty and joy of what it means to await the Messiah and to find him in Yeshua, who lives and reigns now and always. In Yeshua, God really is with us. READ MORE…

  1. Visual imagery of t’shuvah

Coworker #3: Passage: Matthew 3:2 “Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

In one of the footnotes for this verse, we learn the Hebrew word t’shuvah, which means turning, or returning. The Jewish understanding of repentance is that each individual must make t’shuvah, yet such requires God’s grace to be able to do it. In the NIV and KJV translations (I’m using this parallel Bible alongside the CJSB), the word “repent” is used in this verse. But I also love the visual imagery in the Complete Jewish Bible version. It makes it feel like there isn’t as long a bridge to cross—that God is close, and all we have to do is turn to him. I think that word—t’shuvah—helps me understand how God does not want us to delay, but to turn to him and keep moving forward in our journey of faith.

  1. Jesus came to “fulfill” the Torah

Co-worker #4: The notes do a great job of explaining what Jesus was saying about the Torah. Apparently, in the idiom of his day, “abolishing the Torah” meant “misinterpreting the Torah. And when he says he came to “fulfill” the Torah, it means “consummate,” not “terminate.” The note says, “Yeshua is here stating that it is not his intention to teach the Torah incorrectly, but quite the opposite, to affirm its fullness and truth by teaching all of it in a way that is true to its intended meaning.”

Free Chapter from The Complete Jewish Study BibleWhat are you learning? Share with us and others on Twitter and Facebook! Check out @CJSBible or tag us using #CompleteJewishStudyBible or #CJSBible. One lucky person this week will win a free print copy of The Complete Jewish Study Bible!

If you haven’t downloaded your free copy of Matthew yet, get it now!

God with Us: A Beautiful Reminder from The Complete Jewish Study Bible

By Patricia Anders, Editorial Director

As I write this, we are currently in the time (September–October) of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s something that many Christians may not be aware of (I had never heard of it until I visited Israel in the month of October many years ago). I happen to live near a synagogue, and on my way to church a few weeks ago, I noticed my Jewish neighbors constructing a structure of wooden beams, canvas tarps, and straw. Inside, they placed a large table laden with all kinds of good things to eat. After all, it is a festival—and a joyous one at that, especially as it follows right after the solemn observance of Yom-Kippur (the high holy time of repentance and atonement). The main point of Sukkot is to remind the Jewish people that God dwells with them and that he will always provide for them. How can his people keep from rejoicing! And what a beautiful reminder that God promises this to all his children, to all who call him Lord. He really is with us.

Over the past year or so, I had the honor of helping edit and produce The Complete Jewish Study Bible, which means I spent a lot of time immersed in this interesting and fresh Jewish perspective of the Bible. In my work on the project, I was constantly amazed at how many times Jesus (or Yeshua, as he is called in this Bible) clearly fulfilled the ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah. I was also amazed at the richness of the Hebrew Scriptures and how much I learned from Jewish rabbinic teaching over the centuries.

“The Word Became a Human Being and Lived with Us”

In the book of Matthew (or Mattityahu) of the CJSB, there is an interesting article titled “The Tabernacle and the Incarnation: Immanu El, God with Us.” This article is based on Matthew 1:23, which is an echo of Isaiah 7:14,

“The virgin will conceive and bear a son,
And they will call him ‘Immanu El.’”

On page 1383 (Matthew 1:23) in the CJSB, we read regarding Yeshua:

Today, in seeking to refute Matthew 1:23, Jewish theologians have sought to discredit the concept of a divine Messiah. However, evidence exists that this was not an uncommon messianic expectation. This is affirmed by modern scholarship…and among ancient Jewish sources such as Midrashei Geula (Midrashim of Redemption), which states, “In the future, the Holy One, blessed be he, will seat Messiah in the supernal Yeshiva [House of Study], and they will call him ‘Lord,’ just as they call the Creator.”

It is for this purpose that John 1:14 says of Yeshua, “The Word became a human being and lived with us.” The word dwelled from the Greek skene derives from the Hebrew Mishkan [Tabernacle], showing that in his incarnation Yeshua made his Tabernacle with his people. Thus through Yeshua, God did dwell with his people.

As we move from the time of Sukkot—the Feast of Tabernacles—into Advent and finally Christmas, let us remember the beauty and joy of what it means to await the Messiah and to find him in Yeshua, who lives and reigns now and always. In Yeshua, God really is with us.

Free Chapter from The Complete Jewish Study BibleFor more posts like this one, join our CJSB book club and get a free book of the Bible: Matthew (Mattityahu)! For four weeks blog posts will be put up, highlighting ideas from the reading that stood out to us here at Hendrickson or that we learned from! Sign up to receive the completely free ebook of Mattityahu here!

If you’d like more information about The Complete Jewish Study Bible, watch this video explaining “What is The Complete Jewish Study Bible?”, read this post where the cover designer explains her inspiration, or this blog series on three major Jewish holidays (Yom Kippur, Rosh-HaShanah, and Sukkot)! We also have two reviews of the Bible that will give insight as to its content: Daniel Greegor’s video review and John Kight’s review!

Join our Complete Jewish Study Bible reading club and get a FREE e-book!

Working at a Christian publishing house definitely has its perks. Besides the wonderful feeling that comes with being part of a team that makes books for a living, sometimes certain projects come along that really feel special. The Complete Jewish Study Bible is one of those projects.

What is The Complete Jewish Study Bible?

It’s a study Bible that includes notes and articles alongside the Scriptures to help you understand (or learn about) the inherent Jewishness of the Bible. Personally, I think this is pretty enlightening, considering the fact that Jesus was Jewish. So, might having a deeper understanding of the Bible’s Jewish roots help us as we study his words and actions? I think so.

We’re doing a Bible book club!

Unwilling to let this opportunity slip by, some of us in the office are going to be reading through the book of Matthew in The Complete Jewish Study Bible at the same time. It’s a little Bible book club of sorts. Now, all of us have read the book of Matthew before. Many times. But some of us have never read it with a Jewish perspective in hand.

So I can’t wait to dive in and learn more from the text and from my coworkers. Seriously, in our office we have seminarians, Harvard biblical studies grads, poets, writers, and readers of all stripes; we have folks from little seaside churches and some from big city churches; we’re a beautiful mess of different denominations, ages, and backgrounds, and for the next four weeks we’re diving together into the Bible’s Jewish heritage.

Why Matthew?

Why are we starting with this book? It’s written from a deeply informed Jewish perspective, and therefore it draws heavily on the Hebrew Scriptures and on first-century Jewish customs and thought to portray Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised Messiah. For those of us just getting into this Jewish reading of Scripture, it seems like a good place to start.

Won’t you join us?

I also can’t wait to learn from YOU. Will you join us in reading through Matthew in The Complete Jewish Study Bible? It’s okay if you don’t have a copy yet. We’ll gladly give you the whole book of Matthew for free! Just sign up here and then follow along with us.

Reading The Complete Jewish Study Bible will…

  • Open your eyes to the Bible as never before.
  • Increase your understanding of the biblical text: This study Bible contains notes and articles from Jewish sources to help explain this thoroughly Jewish book.
  • Help you learn some Hebrew: Most of the names and places in this Bible are referred to using the transliteration of the original Hebrew. For example, instead of the Greek translation of Jesus, the CJSB refers to him as Yeshua, the Hebrew name meaning “salvation.” After all, his friends, family, and followers knew him as Yeshua, and since the meanings of Hebrew names were quite significant in their culture, what better name could he have?

Mattityahu in four weeks

Since Matthew—Mattityahu (another Hebrew word for your expanding collection!)—is comprised of 28 chapters, we can conveniently split it up into four sections:

  • First week: Matthew 1–7
  • Second week: Matthew 8–14
  • Third week: Matthew 15–21
  • Fourth week: Matthew 22–28

That’s seven chapters a week. Only one chapter a day!

Free Chapter from The Complete Jewish Study BibleSo join us! Sign up here to download your free e-book of Matthew. And as you read, make sure to share what you learn with us and others on Twitter and Facebook! Tag us using #CompleteJewishStudyBible or #CJSBible. One lucky person this week will win a free print copy of The Complete Jewish Study Bible!

Q & A with the Grandson of Meredith G. Kline

q-and-a-with-jonathan-klineWe are very excited to share with you this interview we did with Jonathan Kline, the grandson of Meredith G. Kline! Jonathan talks about his grandfather’s posthumously published book Genesis: A New Commentary, which was written just after the late scholar finished his magnum opus, Kingdom Prologue, and distills his mature views on the book of Genesis and, indeed, on Scripture as a whole.

1) In the introduction you write that this commentary feels like you are sitting down with him in his home with the radio buzzing in the background and you’re just having a conversation with him. Is there a specific memory that this book reminds you of?

In the early 2000s, when I was in seminary, I asked my grandfather if he could give me an overview of his ideas about covenant theology. On a couple of afternoons, we sat down at his house (which was in the woods, with a beautiful view of a lake), and he gave me a condensed, personalized version of the material he taught in his well-known seminary course on covenant theology. The ideas we discussed on those occasions are ones he develops in detail in his book Kingdom Prologue. He discusses many of them in what I think is a more accessible form in Genesis: A New Commentary, which is one of the appealing features of this book.

2) Your grandfather’s great strength as a teacher and writer was his ability to pull together all the details and provide a beautiful picture of the organic whole of Scripture. How does this book continue in that stream?

Since this book is a verse-by-verse commentary on Genesis, it obviously contains a lot of details. Throughout, however, my grandfather always emphasizes not only the importance of the narrative details in their own contexts but also their role in the story of redemption (which is often one of foreshadowing later developments). For example, he notes that Lot’s departure to Sodom “now left Abraham to be the exclusive recipient of the covenant promises and sole paternal source of the covenant family, a role in which he was a prototype of the Messiah, the second Adam” (p. 58). Later, my grandfather observes in connection with Isaac’s blessing on Jacob that the “full realization of all these blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant would be attained only through the messianic descendant of Jacob, the true Israel, in the antitypical kingdom of the new kingdom” (p. 97). I came across these examples simply by opening to two pages in the book at random, which reflects the fact that this kind of “zooming out” to see the big picture is a common feature in this book.

3) Who, in your opinion, is this book is for?

Any Christian could benefit from reading this book, since, as I just mentioned, it helps readers understand the details of the book of Genesis and also provides a christological and canonical (i.e., “whole Bible”) framework for interpreting these details. The book will probably appeal particularly to folks who have an interest in covenant theology, especially as formulated in the Reformed tradition. Any pastor who wishes to preach from the Old Testament can also benefit from reading this book, since it shows how one can find Christ-centered, biblical-theological messages in the Old Testament. Finally, anyone who has ever tried to read my grandfather’s magnum opus, Kingdom Prologue (which by all admissions is not easy reading), should find that Genesis: A New Commentary provides a quicker and more accessible path through the material found in Kingdom Prologue.

4) For first-time readers of your grandfather’s work, what can they expect? For long-time readers, how does this work fit with other works that he has done?

My grandfather is well known for packing a lot of information into a small compass. For example, here is how he introduces the flood narrative found in Gen 6–9: “The narrative of re-creation through deluge reflects in many respects the literary form of the original creation account. It has seven sections, distinguished by differing themes, that overlap chronologically. The opening triad deals with de-creation and the entrance of the ark-kingdom into the judgment; the center section, with the judgment crisis; and the closing triad, with the re-emergence of the ark-kingdom in re-creation” (p. 33). There’s a lot here! Anyone who is acquainted with my grandfather’s other writings will be familiar with the typological hermeneutic found here, his emphasis on literary structures as a key to meaning, his special use of the phrase “judgment crisis,” and his penchant for hyphenating words (like “ark-kingdom”) in order to pack a whole constellation of connotations into one expression. For first-time readers, the presence of these elements may take getting used to, but it’s well worth the time spent doing so; after a little while of reading these kinds of passages from the commentary, you start to see the big picture come together.

5) Many are aware of his commentary on Genesis in the New Bible Commentary in 1970. How is this work significantly different?

My grandfather wrote Genesis: A New Commentary in the mid-1990s, that is, a quarter of a century after he wrote the Genesis notes for the New Bible Commentary and, significantly, after he had worked out his mature views on biblical theology. In his famous seminary course on Old Testament hermeneutics, he used the book of Genesis as a launching-off point for discussing the entirety of redemptive history and for exposing his students to his often paradigm-changing perspectives on the beauty and coherence of the biblical story. Kingdom Prologue grew out of that course, and after my grandfather spent the 1980s hammering out the ideas found in that book, he wrote Genesis: A New Commentary. This commentary distills much of the important material in Kingdom Prologue and also contains much more discussion than that book does of the latter two-thirds of the book of Genesis.

6) What was something you learned in the process of editing this work?

When he comments on the story of the Tower of Babel found in Gen 11:1–9, my grandfather observes that this episode “is not an account of the first differentation of speech after the flood, but of a special local instance of such, effected supernaturally” (p. 48). As evidence for this, he cites Gen 10:5, 20, and 31, which refer to people groups listed according to “their clans and languages.” In other words, Gen 10 refers to various groups that spoke their own languages, and then we come to Gen 11, which speaks of God confusing the language of some people in the land of Shinar. The common interpretation of Gen 11 is that it is an etiology (origin story) about the beginnings of human language. But Gen 10 makes it clear that before the time period described in this story there were all sorts of groups that spoke different languages. What this means is that when Gen 11 says that the whole “earth” (Hebrew eretz) spoke one language, the word “earth” cannot refer to everyone on the planet, or even everyone in the known ancient world; rather, the word must mean something like the whole “land” (of Shinar), another perfectly normal and abundantly attested meaning of this Hebrew word. This example shows that taking the biblical text seriously and paying attention to its many details and the interrelationships of its parts sometimes prompts us to rethink traditional or unreflective interpretations. Examples like this are a hallmark of my grandfather’s work and one of the things that makes reading his writings so fun and exciting.

7) Is Hendrickson publishing anything else by your grandfather in the future?

In the fall of 2017, Hendrickson will be publishing a book called Essential Writings of Meredith G. Kline, a collection of sixteen of his most seminal articles that were written over a period of about forty years. I will be providing an introduction for that book, my father (Meredith M. Kline) will write a biographical sketch of his dad, and respected Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman (who studied with my grandfather) will write a foreword. The book is organized according to large rubrics like “creation,” “covenant, law, and the state,” and “resurrection and the consummation.” The book aims to give readers a sense of both the breadth and the depth of my grandfather’s work and provides an entrée into some of his most interesting ideas. In addition, the articles that will be included in this book were chosen because they showcase the combination of academic and pastoral sensitivies that lay at the heart of all of my grandfather’s work.

Genesis: A New Commentary by Meredith G. Kline

Jonathan G. Kline (PhD, Harvard University) is an Associate Editor at Hendrickson Publishers and the author of Allusive Soundplay in the Hebrew Bible and co-author of Biblical Aramaic: A Reader & Handbook.

Meredith G. Kline (1922-2007) was a professor of Old Testament for fifty-five years, teaching at four seminaries: Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary California. He was also an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

For more information about Genesis: A New Commentary, visit our website.

What is Virtue and What Does It Have to Do with Me? — Q&A with Kevin Brown

q-and-a-with-kevin-brownHendrickson has the exciting opportunity to interview Kevin Brown, the author of Designed for Good.

Designed for Good is a study of classical virtue ethics from a Christian perspective. This book shows Christians that their faith contains resources to help them recover the idea of virtue in the face of our modern moral bewilderment.

What first interested you in the philosophy of virtue?

Virtue, in its most general sense, takes an “agency-based” approach to morality. In other words, it does not focus so much on the right action, but rather, the emphasis is on being the right kind of person.

The world is filled with complex moral and ethical dilemmas—and our (over)emphasis on determining the right answer to a given dilemma does little, sometimes, to sort out that complexity. This has made me wonder: Are we asking the right question? Perhaps a better way of thinking about a thorny ethical scenario is not “What should I do?” but “Who should I be?” This latter question is taken up in the virtue tradition.

What inspired you to write a book concerning virtue and ethics from a Christian perspective?

I have taught ethics for several years. The various texts I have utilized all attempt to answer a basic question: Why should I be ethical? Answers tend to appeal to some pragmatic, desirable outcome. For example, why should a business manager be ethical? Well, according to an array of different authors, they should be ethical because such behavior tends to produce desirable business outcomes. A similar argument is made on a personal level. That is, when a person is good they are said to profit in a variety of ways. One can begin to see a formula emerge. Virtuous behavior = good consequences.

I see two problems with this that should be of concern to the person of faith. First, while virtuous behavior might produce good consequences—so does vice. A considerable body of recent research suggests that narcissism, overconfidence, ruthlessness, egocentrism, and a lack of sympathy (among others) tend to correlate with success. Second, even if virtuous behaviors did indeed lead to success—and were thus adopted by the masses—that does not necessarily make us virtuous. At best, this would reflect what I refer to as shadow virtue (behaviors we mimic because they produce better consequences).

These common answers fall short of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Virtue is better understood as a disposition; character traits that are deeply woven into the fabric of human agency (not actions that are mimicked). We should not simply seek virtue and “the good” as a means to an end; it is an end in itself. A virtuous life is our best life. Moreover, I think the person of faith has a much better narrative to offer when it comes to defending our motivation for virtuous activity. In other words, we have a uniquely rich and compelling story to tell. This is the narrative I wanted to spell out in Designed for Good.

How can we encounter the “good life” that Jesus calls us to through virtue?

Not long ago I had the pleasure of watching a Chris Thile concert. For those unfamiliar with Thile, many consider the former Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers member to be the best mandolin player in the world. For two hours, my wife and I were mesmerized as we watched and listened as Thile unleashed an assemblage of notes and chords all banded together to produce a musical experience unlike anything I have ever encountered.

“The music was in him,” my wife commented after the concert, “and it came out through the mandolin.”

Thile has been honing his musical talent well before he was even potty-trained. He has committed himself to a disciplined regiment of mandolin playing for years and years, hours upon hours; it is as if the instrument were an appendage to his body. But there is something in him as well. As my wife commented, there was a well of musical genius inside of him that flowed out in his performance.

In many ways, I think this is a fitting metaphor for Christian virtue. We are called to practices, disciplines, and habits of virtue; training ourselves to discern good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). Moreover, we are told in Ephesians that we were created for good works as a way of life (Ephesians 2:10). But while habits are deeply associated with being a disciple, it is the work of the spirit—the spirit in us—that will flow out into our everyday lives. So, while what we do will influence who we are, who we are (spirit-filled disciples) will influence what we do (virtuous practice).

What do you think helps people make the transition from ethics into virtue?

The terms “ethics” and “virtue” are often used interchangeably—and the relationship between them is easily muddled. In the book I distinguish between “ethics” as a cognitive exercise necessary to determine what is right and wrong and “virtue” as a capacity and a desire for right action. So you might say that field of ethics is about discerning the right choice to make, and virtue is about becoming the right kind of person; the person I was meant to become.

Much can be said here, but I think it is very important to recognize that we are all becoming something. There is no neutral ground in moral development. One of the key quotes from Designed for Good comes from C.S. Lewis, who argues that every time you make a choice, you are turning a part of yourself into something a little different from what it was before. He says, “Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”

Given this, the question is: Who, or what, are we becoming? Moreover, if we were indeed designed by a deliberate designer, are we being shaped into what we were designed to be? Are we fulfilling our intended purpose? Are we participating in our created form?

As soon as we seriously consider these questions, we find ourselves reflecting on virtue. In other words, this is no intellectual exercise. These questions are actually of great practical importance since they ultimately consider what it means to live a good, fulfilling, meaningful, fruitful existence; or in Scriptural terms, deliberating about what it means to “take hold of the life that really is life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

What was the turning point in your life when you realized “I am not good”?

Most of us have examples in our lives that point to the fact that we are not inherently good. For me, my late high-school and early college years were constituted by “trying really hard” as it related to being an upright and moral person. In other words, I thought being a good person was about commitment, certitude, resolve, and grit. This all amounted to a kind of personal, self-manufactured transformation. Of course, self-manufactured transformations aren’t, ultimately, very transformative.

This period of my life led me to realize that not only was I insufficient, in myself, for deep-rooted moral change—I did not even have the constitution for it. I was not wired properly. I was not undertaking something difficult; more accurately, I was attempting the impossible. I needed to be re-wired.

Now, to be clear, I think a virtuous life consists of a suite of choices, habits, and practices that are aimed toward the good, the right, and the true. But, as I make clear in the book, I am insufficient to pick myself up by my own moral bootstraps. I fully believe that being a follower of Jesus is about living a whole life—what God does for us. That is, I may be insufficient to transform myself, but God is more than sufficient. By committing my life to him, I can be re-wired—enabled to do what I was created to do. As I often say, this is the great irony of the Christian faith: It is when we empty ourselves that we become whole.

Designed for Good by Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown is an associate professor of business at Asbury University and also serves as the lead editor of the Christian Business Academy Review. His formal education spans the areas of theology, philosophy, and economics—and his writing seeks to explore the interplay between these fields. He resides with his wife and children in Wilmore, Kentucky.

For more information about this book, visit our website.

On publishing theological translations

James Eglinton, author of the upcoming book Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers being released in 2017 from Hendrickson, wrote this blog post about how he came to translate Herman Bavinck’s works from Dutch to English. Read about his journey to becoming bilingual and the struggles that came with it here:

James Eglinton

Before moving into my lectureship at New College, I spent three years in the Netherlands, where I worked at the Theologische Universiteit Kampen. When I arrived there, I had finished my PhD on Bavinck, which meant I had a good reading knowledge of late nineteenth century theological Dutch. My spoken Dutch was much more limited: I could work through complex technical material (although I had never heard much of it pronounced), but my everyday vocabulary and range of expression were not extensive. My early attempts to converse dried up quickly and required a lot of patience from my Dutch conversation partners (bedankt voor jullie geduld, Marinus en Wolter!).

Three years in a Dutch university context transformed that. I seized every opportunity to improve my Dutch: I went to language classes, absolutely refused to speak English to my colleagues, watched Dutch TV, read Dutch newspapers, read a…

View original post 1,162 more words

Putting Art (Back) In Its Place… A Book in Review

Read John Mark Miller’s (Adjunct Professor of Fine Arts, Dallas Baptist University) review of Putting Art (Back) in Its Place!

The Artistic Christian

“A visually-oriented culture needs a visually-oriented church if it is to evangelize effectively and to give the congregation a culturally up-to-date experience.” – John E. Skillen

From the beginning, great art has always been inspired by religion and religious ceremonies have been greatly enhanced through worshipful art.  It is a relationship which simply makes sense, since taking the gifts God has given us and offering them back to Him is the very definition of worship.  Strangely enough, however, we have begun to fall away from this union in recent years.  Now, there are those who fear allowing quality art back into the church, fretting that this may draw attention away from God.

In his book, Putting Art (Back) In Its Place, John E. Skillen examines the historical relationship between art and worship and makes a solid case for bringing art and the church together once more.  As a specialist…

View original post 707 more words