Book Review: The Lost World of Genesis One – By John H. Walton

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Letter TPerhaps there is no topic more widely and hotly debated in the past century of Christianity – and especially in the past few decades – is that of creation and evolution as it relates to Genesis.

The Lost World of Genesis One is one of John H. Walton‘s multiple contributions to this discussion. This is a work which according to Walton serves to be faithful to the original context and to not only preserve but enhance the theological vitality of the text.

Central to Walton’s approach to Genesis 1 is an understanding that while the text does communicate to us and was written for all of humankind, it is not directly written to us, but to Israel; there is a barrier of sorts separating 21st century Western American and European cultures from that of the ancient Israelites). Because of this it is not only the language that needs to be translated but also the culture. While the key to translating certain ancient languages might have been the Rosetta Stone, for Walton the key to translating this ancient culture is the literature from the rest of the ancient world (noting that there are bound to be both similarities and differences).

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Book Review: The Unseen Realm – By Michael S. Heiser

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Letter IIf there is one great noteworthy trend going on right now in the realm of biblical scholarship it is the turn towards attempting to re-read the Scriptures in their original context. In the 21st century there are many layers of cultural filters that lay between us and the text; Michael Heiser is one of the scholars working to help peel back those layers and give us a better understanding of what the words of the bible meant to those who originally wrote and read them.Mugatu-So-Hot-Right-Now-ANE.png

The Unseen Realm is revolutionary in a certain sense – in the sense that G.K. Chesterton used the term – that “a revolution is a restoration.” In this work Dr. Heiser sets out to restore the supernatural worldview of biblical writers, a worldview which has since been watered down, diluted, and at times totally done away with either due to our post-Enlightenment mindset or due to our simple ignorance of ancient near eastern patterns of thought.

The specific goal of Heiser’s book is to explain the notion of “the divine council.” This is the idea that when the bible speaks of God’s “divine council” (Psalm 82), the “host of heaven” (1 Kings 22), the plural uses of elohim in Genesis, references to the gods of other nations, etc, these are all references to actual spiritual beings whom God has given some measure of authority beneath himself.

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Book Review: Symphonic Theology – By Vern S. Poythress

Vern Poythress Symphonic Theology.pngLetter TThis book begins with a simple undeniable statement: “People are not all alike. They do not always notice the same thing even when they are looking at the same object. This commonplace observation has some profound implications for the way in which we do theology.”

It is the implications of this fact for the interpretation of Scripture with which this book deals. When you to look at Scripture there are a variety of different perspectives you can take, a number of different themes you can choose to center yourself around, along with the unique experiences and assumptions that you bring as a reader. All of these different factors influence the way you read the Scriptures.

Symphonic Theology is Vern Poythress‘ assessment of how we as Christians can harmonize those varying approaches. More specifically, by “trying to see the same material from several perspectives” we can “use what we have gained from one perspective to reinforce, correct, or improve what we understood through another.” It is this process of using different perspectives to balance others that Poythress refers to with the term ‘symphonic theology’ “because it is analogous to the blending of various musical instruments to express the variations of a symphonic theme.”

Content:

According to Poythress there are a number of different perspectives for approaching the Scriptures, but people with a single dominant perspective may see only what that perspective has trained them to see. In the first section of his book Poythress gives three primary examples of such approaches: the ethical, the devotional, and the theological (each of which is incomplete on its own). Thus an individual might read the Bible with a primarily devotional lens, and this lens is going to affect what truths they garner from the text.

By intentionally looking at the Scripture through a theological or ethical lens, the reader will thereby gain a more complete picture of what the text is saying and pick up on some aspects of the text that they would have otherwise overlooked. Because the Bible is one it is expected that these different lenses will not produce contradictory results, but will instead be in harmony with one another, serving to reinforce and enhance the reader’s overall understanding of Scripture. These perspectives thereby ‘facets of a jewel’ such that “the whole jewel–the whole of ethics–can be seen through any one of the facets, if we look carefully enough” and there is the need to look through multiple because “not everything can be seen equally easily through only one facet.”

This notion of harmonizing varying perspectives is the primary thesis of the book, the rest of which is primarily “an attempt to show just how much positive value we can obtain from such stretching operations.”

The remainder of the book is spent discussing various topics as they relate to the author’s notion of symphonic theology, offering different lenses, giving examples of how the symphonic approach plays out in practice, and answering potential objections to such an approach. In these discussion Poythress briefly examines how worldviews play into how the Bible is read, offers the different attributes of God as yet another set of lenses through which to examine Scripture (such as the roles of prophet, priest, and king), and a case study around the concept of miracle in Scripture to display how his method works.

In the midst of offering these different lenses Poythress interweaves a more philosophical discussion regarding the impact of trying to approach truth through different perspectives, as well as a look at the nature of language and communication in and of itself.

For this reason after presenting his symphonic method, the first question that Poythress turns to discuss is the question of relativism, because the question if raised that “If all perspectives are valid in principle, isn’t truth relative to one’s perspective? By putting everything in flux, do we undermine any idea of absolute truth?”

From this question Poythress enters into a discussion of the nature of truth, noting that the use multiple perspectives does not constitute a denial of absolute truth but instead “constitutes a recognition of the richness of truth” which “builds on the fact that human beings are limited.” Because we as humans are limited and our knowledge of the truth is only partial, we may know truth, but not all of the truth, while others may know truths that we do not. One way to gain insight into these other truths is by examining the issue from their perspective. What keeps the truths from being relative is that they are all perspectives on the same truth, facets of the same jewel.

This lack of relativism is further strengthened – as Poythress argues – because even though we as humans only have a partial and flawed knowledge, God knows all things exhaustively, such that “he is able to isolate each bit of truth and know it precisely.” God has this sort of knowledge, but as Poythress argues, Christians should not presume to be themselves capable of that sort of knowledge. Furthermore, Poythress argues that God’s knowledge does not merely “consists in an infinite collection of bits” with “each bit being a truth from God’s single perspective.”

Flowing from this Poythress continues his discussion of the nature of language. This discussion includes comments on the relationship between technical terms and ordinary language, noting that how when theologians use technical categories and terms they “are inevitably selective.” The Bible contains “a complexity of interlocking and multifaceted themes” and “defining technical terms and categories cannot reduce this complexity into a pristine simplicity. It will not furnish us with ‘ultimate’ categories.” 

The Bible is not written in technical language, but ordinary. The words have meaning “but the meaning has fuzzy boundaries that are usually not as sharp as the boundaries of technical terms.” All of this plays into the way in which we must approach and interpret Scripture, and ties back into the symphonic ideal: because no single category or concept can provide an infinitely deep analysis – and “no category gives an analysis that is innately more penetrating than any other could be” – there is a need to look through multiple.

As argued by Poythress this multiplicity does not allow any and all perspectives, for some are ‘outright error’ and thereby not harmonizable. When this is the case – argues Poythress – “it is often worthwhile trying to figure out what other people fear and what are the strongest points in their arguments” such that “we should try to find some grain of truth in their fears, in their strong points, and in the things that they care for most intensely” because “even if there is only a distant similarity between what they assert and what is actually true, we can find the primary points of similarity. Starting with the actual truth closest to their viewpoint, we can develop a perspective from which to expand to the truth that we want them to learn. We can, in other words, ‘steal their thunder,’ or preempt their strong points.”

Following the presentation of his method, Poythress ends his book with a case study designed to show how his method may be applied, using a variety of perspectives to assess the Biblical account of miracles.

Analysis:

Poythress writes in a straightforward and easily accessible manner, which makes his book fairly easy to read on the whole. He discusses a variety of topics at a survey level, giving the reader a wide range of insight into the topic at hand. There are, however, two downsides to this. The first is that he often writes in a simplistic or reductionistic manner. The other is that although Poythress writes clearly on each given topic, his overall discourse is rather jumbled and disconnected, often moving between points which do not connect directly to the topic being discussed.

This dynamic is perhaps best seen when Poythress transitions from his initial discussion of Symphonic Theology to his discussion of truth, especially his defense of truth as not being relative. As was described above, Poythress’ thesis revolves around a desire to approach Scripture through a variety of lenses (devotional, theological, ethical, etc). Thus, one can read a given passage for its devotional value or for its ethical value; one can read a passage as it relates to the redemptive narrative or as it relates to its immediate context. This is no doubt a helpful point for exegesis and lower level hermeneutics, for it is too often the case that someone will try to merely read the Scriptures in a theological or devotional or Christ-centered lens.

Poythress reminds us that the Scriptures can be approached in a variety of ways. This is good.

The disconnect comes in that he overestimates the impact of this on higher level hermeneutics and philosophy. Poythress’ Symphonic Theology is a very simple and helpful method for analyzing Scripture from within the Christian framework, and as such it has absolutely nothing to say about the ultimate nature of truth or relativity. Poythress begins his section on truth with the assumption that his method could somehow imply relativism, and uses this as a springboard for attempting to discuss the general nature of truth.

The problem is that Poythress’ method does not in the least imply a relativity to truth, and therefore his entire discussion becomes forced. He effectively says “Now you may think all this talk of perspectives implies that truth is relative” and the simple answer is “no, why would we?” The fact that I can analyze a text for its theological insights or its devotional insights makes absolutely no impact on the ultimate nature of truth and says nothing philosophically significant – the problem is that Poythress pretends that it does, and uses this pretense as reason to engage in a discussion wholly irrelevant to the main thesis of the book.

With that said, while Poythress’ specific formulation of Symphonic Theology is not philosophically significant, it could be expanded such that it would be. This is due to the fact that Poythress has a habit of seemingly inadvertently making philosophically significant statements that he never fully follows through with. If Poythress’ ideas were actually followed through, and if the ramifications of this method were applied on a grander scale, then perhaps he would be on to something – or at least, if he followed through with his ideas he would be much closer to Kevin Vanhoozer in his thought.

Now, this doesn’t impinge on the helpfulness of Poythress’ method for doing Bible study – in that regard he is very helpful, in broadening our lenses. But he overestimates how broad he is going. The goal is thus merely to “use of a multiplicity of perspectives” as “one protection against our tendency to read the Bible only in terms of a preestablished single perspective,” but all from within the Christian worldview.

That he is sure to stay within the Christian worldview is no doubt a good thing, but it does make his thesis philosophically irrelevant. This irrelevance is not a bad thing, but simply an acknowledgement that philosophy is not the thing being done here. For the purposes of learning how to do Bible study, Poythress is excellent, the issue arises when he presents his thesis as going beyond that.

Thus, on the whole, Poythress method is in and of itself very helpful, and any student of the Bible should employ it in order to ensure that they are not being overly narrow in their categories. Too often we only focus on one Christian lens, and by doing so fail to get the full picture of Scripture.

Poythress’ text may be philosphically irrelevant, it is hermeneutically/exegetically quite relevant, which is the more important thing in this context.

Memorable Quotes:

-“What God says is not exhaustive, but it is sufficient to save us and to provide a sure guide for our life.”

-“The introduction of sin did not create diversity but rather made it contentious… Our true unity and diversity is restored in principle in our union with Christ. Being united to Christ and conformed to his image destroys only the bad forms of diversity.”

-“God is not mainly concerned in the Bible to furnish grist for the mill of theological experts or speculators. He intends mainly to bring us to know him personally, to save us, to enable us to serve him from our hearts. Hence, very few if any individual words occurring in the Bible have technically precise meanings.”

-“By deliberately looking at a subject in terms of a given analogy, we notice things that we would not otherwise notice.”

-“Any statement of fact implies an obligation to believe that fact. Our ethical obligations include not only obligations to do overt actions but intellectual and emotional obligations.  We ought to think certain types of thought, to believe certain truths, and to have emotions and attitudes befitting godliness. The whole of systematic theology can be viewed as a description of what we ought to believe on the basis of the Bible. Thus all of systematic theology–all of doctrine–is simultaneously ethics!”

-“Knowledge of the truth is not exhaustive knowledge of all truth.”

-“As long as we are using a natural language rather than a formalized language of mathematics, fuzzy boundaries are going to interfere with the ideal of infinite precision.”

-“Ideally, we may think, theological knowledge should resemble the certainty and rigor of Euclid’s system. We may dream of such an ideal goal, even though we are realistic enough to know that theology will never perfectly attain this ideal in this life. But Euclidean mathematics is very selective in what it notices about the human element in mathematical knowledge and the human contributions to the growth of mathematics. And even if it were not, why should we use one field of knowledge as the ideal for the whole? It is only one possible analogy.”

-“In virtue of our metaphysical status as creatures and as fallen and in need of salvation, biblical revelation gives us an appropriate metaphysical orientation.”

-“To be at all plausible, errors and lies must somehow look like the truth. They cannot sustain themselves long, and they will not be believed long, unless to some degree they disguise themselves as angels of light.”

 

Specific Criticisms

There are a few other areas of this text which can be subjected to criticism, even though they don’t directly affect the main thesis of the text.

Thus one can contest Poythress’ point that “In the nature of the case, people can have only one world view. With effort, they may be able to see to a certain extent how things look from an alternate world view. But they themselves believe in only one world view, because world views, by their very nature, are ultimate frameworks for human knowledge. To begin to adopt a second world view, in the sense of believing it and treating it as an ultimate framework, is to leave behind (or at least subtly alter) one’s former world view.”

This seems like a very rational position to take, and if humans were perfectly rational beings – if we were mere computers operating off of a unified logic – then Poythress would be correct. The problem is that we are not.

People are not fully rational, they do not always – indeed, if ever – operate off of any one unified system, and we often engage in a fair amount of cognitive dissonance. Thus in the world today any given individual will simultaneously hold to a modernistic, postmodernistic, and even premodernistic worldview, usually with the application of each worldview depending on the context or area of the individual’s life being assessed. Thus they may be modernistic in their understanding of science and at the same time postmodernistic in their understanding of ethics.

Contemporary society, indeed, is a giant stew of conflicting worldviews, and not just between separate persons, but within every individual. And this is possible for the chief reason that none of us are perfectly logical or consistently operating according to a unified field of understanding, which is perhaps augmented by the fact that no worldview is actually ultimate or all-encompassing.

A minor criticism that might be offered to the text is that while Poythress warns against using multiple perspectives becoming “an excuse for overlooking, dismissing, or reinterpreting the obvious” it seems that to an extent this must be necessary, unless one accepts that perhaps the chosen lens will be invalid. In this case it would have been helpful for Poythress to have had a discussion on how to know when a lens just doesn’t apply.

A final minor criticism that might be offered is that Poythress simply accepts that the Trinity is the answer to the question of the one and the many. This is perhaps best seen in the comment that “There is a single ultimate perspective on truth, God’s perspective, because there is only one God. But also there are three ultimate perspectives on truth–the perspectives of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit–and these three are not identical with one another in every respect.” This solution to the problem is seen by many as a sort of cop-out answer to one of the more significant questions in philosophy.

[This book is available for reading free online.]

 

Book Review: Homosexuality ~ Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature And Law – By James B. DeYoung

De Young Homosexuality.pngletter-aAuthor James B. De Young’s preface opens with the line “Western civilization has been undergoing as dramatic a shift in its ways of thinking and living as at any point in history.” This book is his analysis of that shift.

Yet De Young does not merely wish to analyze that shift on its own, but rather as the relatively long subtitle suggests, to examine contemporary claims regarding homosexuality through the lens of the Bible and other ancient literature and law. The latter part of that description makes this book seem especially compelling, as it implies that the book will work to truly examine the context in which the Scriptures were written and to get a handle on the ancient understanding of homosexuality.

In this task the book both fails and succeeds in various ways.

Content:

The format of the book is fairly straightforward. It is divided into three main parts, each analyzing ancient views of homosexuality through a different lens. Thus the author first discusses homosexuality as it is presented in the Old Testament (to include the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Septuagint), moves on to discuss homosexuality as it is presented in the New Testament (first in Romans, then 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, and then in the teachings of Jesus), and finally moves on to discuss homosexuality in the ancient world.

Throughout the text the author’s goal is to dispel three different ways that contemporary re-interpreters have mishandled the text: by arguing that references to homosexuality in the Bible don’t really refer to homosexuality as such (partly due to the word homosexual having no corresponding term in Hebrew, Greek, etc); by arguing that prohibitions against homosexuality were only meant for Israel; and by arguing that the Scriptures are outdated and irrelevant, either by casting doubt on the meaning and extent of the canon or by re-interpreting Scripture such that it renders references to homosexuality as either contextually irrelevant or contemporarily anachronistic.

In his discussion of the Old Testament, De Young focuses on the creational narrative and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus he argues that the creation narrative creates relationships as necessarily male and female, and then spends much time addressing modern interpretations that argue the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not related to homosexuality (but instead a lack of hospitality or rape). This discussion moves into an analysis of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, working to further point out that these texts associated Sodom’s sin with homosexuality, and that this is not therefore a modern innovation. Finally in this section he addresses the Septuagint, which critics seek to discredit since it uses terminology referring to homosexuality. In each case the author finds through exegesis that each text supports the traditional view.

Moving on to an analysis of the New Testament understanding of homosexuality, DeYoung first addresses Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality as ‘against nature’ in Romans 1, followed by discussions of his use of the term in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. These discussions are largely aimed at proving that Paul was not merely referring to pederasty or cultic prostitution, but was indeed referring to homosexuality as we understand the term today, especially where it is held that Paul and the ancient Christians had no conception of a consensual adult-adult relationship based on love.

In closing this section the author moves on to a discussion of homosexuality as it is seen in the teachings of Christ. While the author notes that while “Christ did not explicitly address the practice of same-gender-behavior or orientation” he did affirm the OT understanding and condemned the practice through implicit or indirect references.

The final primary section of the text is a discussion of homosexuality in extra-Biblical literature. This is especially aimed at addressing how the ancients understood the concept, and looking at legislative precedent in ancient world. In this the author cites Philo and Josephus as furthering the traditional understanding, points out that through a discussion of Plato that ancient Greece was aware of homosexuality as we understand it today, and that they were ok with the practice. This is relevant to the discussion due to the assertion of critics that “the Greco-Roman culture is responsible for the early writers condemnation of homosexuality” ; because “the ethical stance of Jews and Christians toward homosexuality is unique”, it could not have been a mere holdover from Greco-Roman society.

In each of these sections the author painstakingly goes through the ancient languages and contexts to make his argument that the traditional interpretation of each area is correct. The author then concludes his work with a chapter of questions and answers, each answer citing a page in his book for easy reference such that the reader can go directly to the section that answers their specific question, rather than wading through the entire text. This is an interesting feature that I haven’t seen in any other texts.

Analysis:

On the whole, the author presents plenty of support for his case. That said, writing is not the author’s strongpoint. The book is largely tedious, unengaging, and jumbled. The train of thought does not flow smoothly, largely because the author is attempting to do too much at once. The book reads more like a dissertation rather than anything meant for popular consumption.

So far as his arguments go, the author does support his case well, but in each instance is forced to point out that one cannot bypass all ambiguity. Thus after all his argument he does concede, for instance, that “there is no single Greek or Hebrew word meaning ‘homosexuality'” and “a lack of explicit references” due to the use of euphemisms and in another instance settles for arguing that “in light of the linguistic and cultural contexts, one cannot eliminate homosexual practice from the range of meaning.”

In this the author is at least honest that the positions of the critics are not entirely without basis – even if they overestimate that basis – though he does still feel confident in asserting that the thing being condemned is homosexuality as traditionally understood. In this he does a relatively good job.

Apart from his primary argument, however, the author does not present his case in a very charitable fashion (although he is still no Martin Luther or John MacArthur). Thus he begins with the assertion that “Until recently, homosexuality referred to disgusting practices that brought shame and were confined behind closed doors.” The reader gets the impression that the author desires this to still be the case; this is problematic for a variety of reasons that are too long to go into here.

In other places the author puts words in the mouths of Biblical authors in a question-begging manner; thus in one of his dramatization that serve as introductions to each chapter writes “To have sex with men was against his religion, Lot had often confessed.” This assertion comes before the analysis of Sodom and Gomorrah has been done, thereby short-circuiting the actual analysis.

Finally, while the author aptly notes that “Every person comes to the matter of homosexuality from an established opinion, which has been shaped by a worldview” , he doesn’t spend any time unpacking his own worldview and his own [extra-Biblical] biases. A similar shortsightedness can be seen when the author asserts that “One’s worldview determines whether homosexuality is perceived as right or wrong.” Yet this simply isn’t true, and there is no better evidence than this very book.

The very fact that a book needed to be written going through a systematically dismantling the ways in which contemporary scholarship has re-interpreted the Scriptures goes to show that those who have bought the argument that homosexuality isn’t condemned in Scripture aren’t necessarily operating off of a different worldview. As this book could be used to show, these individuals very well may hold the infallibility of Scripture and believe every other tenant of the Christian faith, but have simply been convinced by shoddy exegesis that the traditional view of homosexuality is mistaken and Biblically inaccurate – where this is the case the individual is not operating outside the Christian worldview.

On the whole, this book could make a decent reference work for exegesis of passages dealing with homosexuality, but even for this purpose the text is fairly jumbled and not the easiest to follow, simply because De Young tries to pack too many different rebuttals into one book.

TL:DR – Not the best book on the topic, albeit well-researched.

Memorable Quotes:

-“Homosexuality must affirm that the male gender by itself, or the female gender by itself, is an adequate representation of the divine image. It claims that the sexual differences arising from Creation are not foundational and essential and can be bypassed and overlooked.”-p15

Specific Criticisms

There are a few nit-picky problems with this text.

The first of these is the seemingly arbitrary connection of homosexuality with pride towards the beginning of the book. The argument in that section doesn’t really tie into the overall flow of the book, and merely serves to further muddle the text.

The second of these is that the author introduces each chapter with a dramatized version of some story; these are largely annoying, further muddle the flow of the text, and merely serve as an attempt to subtly insert the author’s views through narrative form.

The third of these is that even though the author clearly has a high degree of familiarity with the original language and textual criticism, he still chooses to base one of his introductory dramatizations around the woman caught in adultery, which as any first year student of the canon knows is not original to the text but a later addition.

The final criticism of this text is that the author seems to arbitrarily argue against a distinction being made between homosexual condition and homosexual practices. For some reason that isn’t ever really established, the author feels the need to argue that the Bible does more than just condemn homosexual practices, but condemns homosexuality itself (though he does seem to waffle on this point). This is one of those areas that serves well to demonstrate the way in which the author fails to get beyond his own biases.

The Minister and His Greek Testament — J. Gresham Machen

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The widening breach between the minister and his Greek Testament may be traced to two principal causes. The modern minister objects to his Greek New Testament or is indifferent to it, first, because he is becoming less interested in his Greek, and second, because he is becoming less interested in his New Testament.

The former objection is merely one manifestation of the well known tendency in modern education to reject the “humanities” in favor of studies that are more obviously useful, a tendency which is fully as pronounced in the universities as it is in the theological seminaries. In many colleges the study of Greek is almost abandoned; there is little wonder, therefore, that the graduates are not prepared to use their Greek Testament. Plato and Homer are being neglected as much as Paul. A refutation of the arguments by which this tendency is justified would exceed the limits of the present article. This much, however, may be said—the refutation must recognize the opposing principles that are involved. The advocate of the study of Greek and Latin should never attempt to plead his cause merely before the bar of “efficiency.” Something, no doubt, might be said even there; it might possibly be contended that an acquaintance with Greek and Latin is really necessary to acquaintance with the mother tongue, which is obviously so important for getting on in the world. But why not go straight to the root of the matter? The real trouble with the modern exaltation of “practical” studies at the expense of the humanities is that it is based upon a vicious conception of the whole purpose of education. The modern conception of the purpose of education is that education is merely intended to enable a man to live, but not to give him those things in life that make life worth living.

In the second place, the modern minister is neglecting his Greek New Testament because he is becoming less interested in his New Testament in general—less interested in his Bible. The Bible used to be regarded as providing the very sum and substance of preaching; a preacher was true to his calling only as he succeeded in reproducing and applying the message of the Word of God. Very different is the modern attitude. The Bible is not discarded, to be sure, but it is treated only as one of the sources, even though it be still the chief source, of the preacher’s inspiration. Moreover, a host of duties other than preaching and other than interpretation of the Word of God are required of the modern pastor. He must organize clubs and social activities of a dozen different kinds; he must assume a prominent part in movements for civic reform. In short, the minister has ceased to be a specialist. The change appears, for example, in the attitude of theological students, even of a devout and reverent type. One outstanding difficulty in theological education today is that the students persist in regarding themselves, not as specialists, but as laymen. Critical questions about the Bible they regard as the property of men who are training themselves for theological professorships or the like, while the ordinary minister, in their judgment, may content himself with the most superficial layman’s acquaintance with the problems involved. The minister is thus no longer a specialist in the Bible, but has become merely a sort of general manager of the affairs of a congregation.

The bearing of this modern attitude toward the study of the Bible upon the study of the Greek Testament is sufficiently obvious. If the time allotted to strictly biblical studies must be diminished, obviously the most laborious part of those studies, the part least productive of immediate results, will be the first to go. And that part, for students insufficiently prepared, is the study of Greek and Hebrew. If, on the other hand, the minister is a specialist—if the one thing that he owes his congregation above all others is a thorough acquaintance, scientific as well as experimental, with the Bible—then the importance of Greek requires no elaborate argument. In the first place, almost all the most important books about the New Testament presuppose a knowledge of Greek: the student who is without at least a smattering of Greek is obliged to use for the most part works that are written, figuratively speaking, in words of one syllable. In the second place, such a student cannot deal with all the problems at first hand, but in a thousand important questions is at the mercy of the judgment of others. In the third place, our student without Greek cannot acquaint himself with the form as well as the content of the New Testament books. The New Testament, as well as all other literature, loses something in translation. But why argue the question? Every scientific student of the New Testament without exception knows that Greek is really necessary to his work: the real question is only as to whether our ministry should be manned by scientific students.

That question is merely one phase of the most important question that is now facing the church—the question of Christianity and culture. The modern world is dominated by a type of thought that is either contradictory to Christianity or else out of vital connection with Christianity. This type of thought applied directly to the Bible has resulted in the naturalistic view of the biblical history—the view that rejects the supernatural not merely in the Old Testament narratives, but also in the Gospel account of the life of Jesus. According to such a view the Bible is valuable because it teaches certain ideas about God and his relations to the world, because it teaches by symbols and example, as well as by formal presentation, certain great principles that have always been true. According to the supernaturalistic view, on the other hand, the Bible contains not merely a presentation of something that was always true, but also a record of something that happened—namely, the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. If this latter view be correct, then the Bible is unique; it is not merely one of the sources of the preacher’s inspiration, but the very sum and substance of what he has to say. But, if so, then whatever else the preacher need not know, he must know the Bible; he must know it at first hand, and be able to interpret and defend it. Especially while doubt remains in the world as to the great central question, who more properly than the ministers should engage in the work of resolving such doubt—by intellectual instruction even more than by argument? The work cannot be turned over to a few professors whose work is of interest only to themselves, but must be undertaken energetically by spiritually minded men throughout the church. But obviously this work can be undertaken to best advantage only by those who have an important prerequisite for the study in a knowledge of the original languages upon which a large part of the discussion is based.

If, however, it is important for the minister to use his Greek Testament, what is to be done about it? Suppose early opportunities were neglected, or what was once required has been lost in the busy rush of ministerial life. Here we may come forward boldly with a message of hope. The Greek of the New Testament is by no means a difficult language; a very fair knowledge of it may be acquired by any minister of average intelligence. And to that end two homely directions may be given. In the first place, the Greek should be read aloud. A language cannot easily be learned by the eye alone. The sound as well as the sense of familiar passages should be impressed upon the mind, until sound and sense are connected without the medium of translation. Let this result not be hastened; it will come of itself if the simple direction be followed. In the second place, the Greek Testament should be read every day without fail, Sabbaths included. Ten minutes a day is of vastly more value than seventy minutes once a week. If the student keeps a “morning watch,” the Greek Testament ought to be given a place in it; at any rate, the Greek Testament should be read devotionally. The Greek Testament is a sacred book, and should be treated as such. If it is treated so, the reading of it will soon become a source of joy and power.

–By J. Gresham Machen