Black Friday 2020 at Logos Bible Software

Logos Black Friday

Logos is doing their annual “Black Friday Weekend” sale, and there are some great deals this year. You can save on new Logos 9 base packages and Logos 8 Legacy packages. Legacy packages are “without features and datasets, making it the perfect standalone collection of resources to help grow your library.” You can choose your the level that fits your budget best, the started Legacy package is only $30,but of course you can get Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, probably gold-pressed Latinum, Solari and Melange levels.

I see quite a few things on the sale page worthy of my dollars..maybe too many books! Here are a few highlights from the sale:

  • The Romans Collection (125 vols.) 80% off, $199.99 sale price
  • Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible | BTC (24 vols.) 50% off, $299.99 sale price
  • Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 46 | WBC $19.99 per volume
  • Gordon D. Fee New Testament Studies Collection (8 vols.) 70% off, $59.99 sale price
  • Wipf & Stock D.A. Carson Collection (5 vols.) 66% off, $29.99 sale price
  • The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (20 vols.) 85% off, $42.99 sale price
  • Crossway Top Authors Bundle (94 vols.) 75% off, $219.99 sale price
  • Opening Up Commentary Series (47 vols.) 66% off, $99.99 sale price
  • John Goldingay and N. T. Wright’s The Bible for Everyone Commentaries are only $2.99 per volume
  • Black’s New Testament Commentaries are only $9.99 per volume (get Dunn’s Galatians!)
  • Volumes of the Socio-Rhetorical Commentaries (Witherington, etc) are 50% – 66% off, $9.99-$19.99
  • Zondervan Counterpoint Volumes are only $9.99 each
  • All Lexham Press titles are 40% off.

These on-sale resources will work on earlier versions, but if you are using any version prior to Logos 8, then you should consider an upgrade. The new version is much faster than Logos 7 and the upgrades are worth the money. If you are happy with Logos 8, you might consider a minimal upgrade in order to take advantage of the updated datasets. 

There are many more excellent deals to be had before midnight (PST) November 29, 2020.

Book Review: Timothy D.Padgett, ed. Dual Citizens: Politics and American Evangelicalism

Padgett, Timothy D., Ed. Dual Citizens: Politics and American Evangelicalism. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. 489 pp.; Hb.  $28.99  Link to Lexham Press

This volume is a collection of essays on American politics drawn from the pages of Christianity Today. In 2015 The Washington Post called Christianity Today “evangelicalism’s flagship magazine.” Timothy Padgett sifted through sixty years of articles and editorials in Christianity Today to collect the essays in this volume.

Padgett, Dual CitizensThe material is divided into five topical chapters with essays arranged chronologically (as early as 1956 and as recent as 2016). Charles Colson (with and without Nancy Pearcey) is featured frequently, and there are articles from Ron Sider, Carl F. H. Henry, and Francis Schaeffer.

The first chapter focuses on U.S. Presidents. There are editorials on the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate, and the election of Ronald Reagan. Philip Yancey’s “Why Clinton is Not Antichrist” (August 1993) is still timely, just swap out Clinton for the current candidate for antichrist. The chapter concludes with three essays concerning the 2016 election, Ron Sider, “Why I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton” followed by James Dobson, “Why I’m Voting for Donald Trump” and Sho Baraku, “Why I’m Voting for Neither Candidate.”

The second chapter covers the “Religious Right and Evangelical Left.” The essays concentrate on the growing influence of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, including a three-views essay by Charles Colson, Jerry Falwell and Jim Wallis on “The Christian as Citizen.” Sadly, this chapter only includes essays up to 2007 so there is nothing on so-called evangelicals and the 2016 election.

The third chapter concerns “Communism and Foreign Policy.” It may seem odd today, but Christianity Today published an article by J. Edgar Hoover on “The Communist Menace” in 1960. Even Billy Graham participated in these anti-communist essays with “Facing the Anti-God Colossus” (1962). The chapter includes Charles Colson’s response to the collapse of the Soviet Union, “If Communism Fails, Do We Win?” (1989) and his defense of “Just War in Iraq” (2002).

The fourth turns back to “Domestic Affairs,” although this essentially means race relations and abortion. Beginning with Earle Ellis, “Segregation in the Kingdom of God” (1957), the book collects quite a few articles on desegregation and race relations. In an essay dated September 30, 1957, the editors say “The Christian church should work for the elimination of every restriction, discrimination and humiliation aimed at people of any race. She should preach and exemplify love and compassion and consideration at all times” (321). In an important essay, “Our Selective Rage.” Ron Sider points out that being pro-life means more than being anti-abortion, a message that has fallen upon deaf ears in recent years.

The last chapter, “God and Country,” deals with the relationship of the church and state. Even as early as 1957, evangelicals were writing articles with titles like “is America Losing Her Cultural Distinctives?” (S. Richey Kamm) and “America’s Future: Can We Salvage the Republic?” (Carl F. H. Henry). Terry Muck suggested in 1987 separating church and state does not require separating religion and politics “The Wall that Never Was” (454). In 2001, Charles Colson warned “poll-driven elections turn voters into self-seeking consumers” (“Pander Politics”), another message that would be good for contemporary Christian leaders to here.

Overall, this is a fascinating book which documents several important shifts within the evangelical world. There are a number of issues missing from this collection, such as homosexuality, feminism, and environmentalism, but this is the choice of the editor. Perhaps another volume will appear collecting articles on these topics. It would be fascinating to track the developing viewpoints within the larger evangelical world on these controversial topics.

It is sometimes shocking how conservative some of the early articles are compared to contemporary Evangelical thinking (the articles on communism for example). On the other hand, reading these essays draws attention to the dumbing-down of evangelical political thinking over the last decade (culminating in the last five years). This book serves well as documentation of the ongoing development of conservative Christianity in America.

Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Book Review: Murray J. Harris, Navigating Tough Texts

Harris, Murray J. Navigating Tough Texts: A Guide to Problem Passages in the New Testament. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. 222 pp.; Pb.  $23.99  Link to Lexham Press

Murray Harris is well-known from his 2005 commentary on 2 Corinthians in Eerdmans’ NIGTC Series and in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary as well as his books on New Testament exegesis. This new book designed for pastors, teachers, theological students and thinking Christians who want to think more deeply about their faith and be exposed to some of the intricacies of the Greek language. Harris explains the studies in this volume arise out of his own experience teaching the New Testament for fifty years. The acknowledgment page points out some of his answers rely on some of his earlier published works.

Murray Harris, Navigating Tough TextsThe book answers 123 questions on “hard passages” in the New Testament. Some of these verses have been significant in church history (Matt 1:25 and Mary’s perpetual virginity), others are theological important (Rom 3:25, “the most important verse in the Bible”), evangelistically significant (John 3:16, “unique giving by unique love”) or contain issues relating to the Christian life (Luke 7:47 and forgiveness). Several questions and answers contain apparent contradictions (Acts 21:4, should Paul go to Jerusalem or not?). Some are key passages for understanding the person of Christ (John 1:14 and the incarnation) or the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29, what is the unpardonable sin?). Harris challenges several commonly accepted ideas. For example, commenting on Galatians 4:6 (“Should abba Be Translated as ‘Daddy’”), Harris states abba was not a childish term of the nursery comparable to “daddy” (p. 157).

Questions are arranged in two sections (Gospels and Acts, Epistles) and grouped by books. John has the most questions with nineteen and 1-2 Corinthians combined have twenty-one questions (reflecting Harris’s previous work in these letters). There are only five questions from the three pastoral epistles (and he does not deal with “save by childbirth” in 1 Timothy 2:15). Although he does comment on divorce and remarriage (on 1 Corinthians 7:15) and baptism for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29), he skips the difficult text in 1 Corinthians 11 on head coverings, the problem of people becoming ill or dying as a result of abuses at the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:30) and the very controversial 1 Corinthians 14:28 (silence for women in church). It is important to observe here that the title of the book refers to “tough questions” not “controversial questions.”

Harris’s approach to answering these questions is exegetical. Greek appears in transliteration. He does comment on grammatical and syntactical issues when necessary, but the discussion is presented clearly enough that a non-specialist will follow his point. Most often, his answers rely on lexical studies of key words. For example, in his discussion of Romans 3:25, he defines protheto (“set before himself”), hilasterion (“propitiation” or “atoning sacrifice”) and the phrase “in/by his own blood.” He rarely refers to secondary literature, even when defining key Greek words. This makes Navigating Tough Texts easy to read for the layperson.

Although he discussions theological issues, Harris does not answer theological questions directly, such as, “What is Justification?” Because his approach is exegetical, he does not answer hermeneutical questions directly. He does not answer questions about the synoptic problem in the Gospels or authorship issues in the epistles, not does he really do much in Revelation, a New Testament book which could generate enough questions to fill its own volume! Oddly, Mary’s perpetual virginity is discussed twice (questions #1 on Matthew 1:25 and again on question #16 on Mark 6:3 (the brothers of Jesus).

Conclusion. This book will make for an excellent devotional reader for the layperson who wants to go a little bit deeper than the English translation of the New Testament. In addition, the book will be a good resource for the Bible teacher who is looking to clarify their thinking on some of these difficult topics.

Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Jesus Raises the Dead – Matthew 9:18-26

In Matthew 9:18-26 Jesus raises a young girl from the dead and heals a woman with a flow of blood. These miracle stories immediately follow Jesus’s response to the Pharisees and Disciples of John who question his practice of eating with “sinners” like the tax collector Matthew. In fact, these two miracles illustrate Jesus’s teaching that it is not the time for mourning, but celebrating.

Raising Jairus's Daughter (Ilya Repin; 1871)

As expected, Matthew greatly reduces Mark 5:21-43. Luke 8:40-56 is also shorter than Mark, but many of the details dropped in Matthew remain. The child is dying in Mark 5:23, but in Matthew 9:18 she has just died. Matthew drops the name of the man and simplifies his title. With respect to the woman, Matthew reduces the description by omitting what she had spent on doctors. She does not touch Jesus, he speaks to her when he sees her. This allows Matthew to omit the troubling line about Jesus feeling his power go out if him and the question “who touched me?” Since the daughter is already dead, no one tells the man his daughter just died, and mourners are reduced. He does not take Peter, James and John into the room with him, nor does he speak to the girl (the Aramaic words are dropped) and he does not give strict orders not to talk about the miracle or tell her parents to give her something to eat. Mark reports the girl is twelve years old; Luke includes this detail but moves it to the request for healing.

John Nolland thinks this is the first of three miracles illustrating the three metaphors in the previous section (Matthew, 394). Jesus does not mourn at funerals; he raises the dead (taking the two women in 9:18-26 as both dead women). The next two (healing the blind and casting out a demon) are less clearly connected to the patch and new wine metaphors.

Going back to 9:6, Jesus healed the paralyzed man so that the teachers of the Law would know he has authority to forgive sin. This is followed by calling Matthew as a disciple and sharing a meal in Matthew’s home. That meal generates two more reactions, first from the Pharisees and then from the disciples of John. To the Pharisees Jesus says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” and to the disciples of John he response with three metaphors (a bridegroom, patched clothing, and new wine in old wineskins).

In Matthew 9:18-19, A man asks Jesus to raise his daughter. The man is identified as a ruler (ἄρχων), in Mark 5:23 he is a synagogue ruler (ἀρχισυνάγωγος in Mark, ἄρχων τῆς συναγωγῆς in Luke). In Mark and Luke his name is given as Jarius.

A synagogue ruler is the person in charge of the daily operation of a synagogue. He is not a priest or a rabbi. In Matthew, Jesus has not left Capernaum (8:5 he enters Capernaum and in 8:14 he went to Peter’s house and he is in “the house” in 9:1 where he forgives the paralytic’s sin), so the man is in charge of the synagogue in Capernaum. Undoubtedly this leader knew Jesus and perhaps witnessed his healing of the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). He would certainly have known Jesus’s reputation as a healer and exercised.

In this case it is remarkable because the man is the leader of the synagogue, usually the religious establishment is somehow against Jesus. It is possible however the ruler of the synagogue in Capernaum was not part of the religious aristocracy or a Pharisee. Think of him as a custodian of a small country church. It is unlikely denominational leaders will know hm at all. This may explain Matthew’s reduction of his title from synagogue leader to just a leader, with no reference to the synagogue. Although an archon could be a lord or prince, it can refer to anyone who has some administrative authority.

The man knelt before Jesus and says his daughter has just died. He expresses faith that if Jesus is able to lay his hand upon her, she will live. Kneeling (προσκυνέω) is often associated with worship. In Matthew the verb appears 13 times, three times in the story of the wise men, who worship Jesus as a child; twice in the temptation story. In 14:33 the disciples worship Jesus after he walks on water and calms the sea. The word appears twice in Matthew 28:9, 17 for people who realize Jesus has been raised from the dead and they worship him.  In every other case Matthew uses the word to describe someone who coming to Jesus with a special request (healing, in 9:2, 9:18; a servant in a parable, 18:26; James and John’s mother, 20:20).

The man expresses remarkable faith. In Matthew, the people who express faith in Jesus are usually outsiders (lepers, centurions, unclean women). This is another hint the man is not from a high social status.

By the time Jesus arrives at the ruler’s home, the professional mourners have already arrived: flute players and the crowd making a commotion (Matthew 9:23-26). The verb θορυβέω refers to making a fuss, shouting or other chaotic activity. The place is in an uproar!

As the leader of the synagogue, he would have been expected to hire several professional mourners to wail and sing appropriate laments. Matthew mentions flute players (αὐλητής), this refers to reed-flutes typically used for mourning the dead.

Jeremiah 48:36 describes the mournful sound of flutes played for the dead. Josephus mentions professional mourners with flutes or pipes: “a great many hired mourners, with their pipes, who should begin the melancholy ditties for them” (JW 3.437). Rabbi Judah said, “Even the poorest man in Israel should not hire fewer than two flutes and one professional wailing woman” (m.Ketuboth 4:4).

The mourners mock Jesus when he tells them she is not dead, but only sleeping (v. 24). These mourners know their business, and the girl is clearly dead. When Jesus declares that she is not dead but rather only sleeping these mourners laugh at Jesus!  Jesus is telling them their behavior is not appropriate because she is not dead (like a mourner at a wedding in 9:15).

The resurrection is simple: Jesus takes the girl’s hand and she got up (v. 25). Mark includes the Aramaic phrase Talitha cumi, meaning “little girl, rise up.” Since the Pharisees suspect Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the Devil (Matt 9:34), the Aramaic could have been dropped so that Jesus does not appear to be using a “magic word.”

As with other miracles in Matthew 8-9, it is impossible to keep this quiet. News spread throughout the region that Jesus had raised a girl form the dead.

Book Review: Matthew S. Harmon, Rebels and Exiles: A Biblical Theology of Sin and Restoration

Harmon, Matthew S. Rebels and Exiles: A Biblical Theology of Sin and Restoration. Essential Studies in Biblical Theology; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2020. 207 pp. Pb; $22.  Link to IVP Academic

The Essential Studies in Biblical Theology attempt to span the whole canon of Scripture and seeks to connect the theme to the person of Christ. In this third volume of the series, Matthew Harmon traces the related themes of sin and exile from the original rebellion in the Garden of Eden to the end of the exile in the New Creation. Harmon (PhD, Wheaton College) serves as professor of New Testament studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Harmon’s The Servant of the Lord and His Servant People: Tracing a Biblical Theme Through the Canon (NSBT) will be published in January 2021. He has also written commentaries on Galatians, Philippians, 2 Peter, and Jude.

Harmon, Rebels and ExilesHarmon acknowledges the catalyst for significant attention on the theme of exile and restoration is the work of N. T. Wright. Wright argues the “return from exile” motif is central for understanding the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Wright himself has published several books and essays on this topic, and these works have generated responses from various scholars. However, this book is not slavishly devoted to Wright, even if his influence is not far from the surface. Harmon’s goal in the book is clearly present how Scripture describes the believer’s experience of exile as “a longing for a place we have never been.” The German word Fernweh expresses this idea (3). He relates this to well-known books (The Hobbit) and films (Terminal), although I am surprised Harmon does not refer to the U2 song “All that you Can’t Leave Behind.”

This longing results from the fall. Harmon therefore begins with a summary of the Fall, “Humanity’s Original Rebellion and Exile” (ch. 1). When humans rebelled and were exiled from the Garden, they lost their status as God’s people, their place in Eden and their experience of God’s presence in the earthly sanctuary of Eden. The promise to Abram in Genesis 12 begins the restoration of these three things; God promised Abram that his descendants will be the people of God, that people will have a place (a land), and a new Edenic home where God’s presence will dwell with them (23).

Chapters 2-3 deal with the reality of the exile foreshadowed as early as Mount Sinai and the golden calf incident. Abraham’s descendants are as rebellious as Adam and will suffer the same kind of exile from the land. Harmon rightly shows the curses for failure to keep the Law result in exile from the land where God’s presence dwells. He traces this theme (briefly) from Joshua to 2 Kings. He describes life in exile as a time when some of God’s people remained faithful to Yahweh (Daniel, for example) while others continued their rebellion against God (Ezekiel 14).

The fourth chapter of the book deals with the prophetic anticipation of the return from exile when Israel repents. The prophets balance nearly every threat of exile with a promise of restoration. Harmon points out four aspects of these promises. First, God promises a restoration of Temple worship. Second, God’s people will (finally) keep his law (Torah). Third, God will restore his people to a particular land (turf, to keep the alliteration going). Fourth, a Davidic king will rule over this restored people (a throne). Harmon argues these four restoration promises embody the foundational components of people, place, and presence lost in the original fall, but promised in the Abrahamic covenant (67).

Since this restoration will require a New Covenant, Harmon examines new covenant language in Isaiah 40-55, Jeremiah 31, and Ezekiel 34-37. The exiles who returned to Judea in 539 B.C. expected these promises to be fulfilled, but reality did not live up to expectation. They rebuilt the Temple, but God did not fill the second temple with his glory. The returned exiles kept the Torah, but there was still rebellion as demonstrated by the problems addressed by Nehemiah and Malachi. The restored exiles only possessed a fraction of the land and a Davidic king never appeared to rule a restored kingdom. As Harmon describes it, the four aspects of restoration (Temple, Torah, Turf, and Throne) were inaugurated, but not consummated.

Chapters 5-6 pick up the restoration from exile theme from the prophets and apply it to the life and ministry of Jesus, but especially in his death, resurrection and ascension. Harmon follows N. T. Wright closely here and argues Jesus inaugurates the restoration from exile through his ministry. This restoration is demonstrated by his healing the sick (expected in Isaiah 35:5-7, for example), his authority over the demonic realm, and in his teaching ministry. But it is in his death that Jesus brings an end to humanity’s exile. First, Jesus dies as the suffering servant promise by Isaiah. Second, Jesus ends humanity’s exile by drinking the cup of God’s wrath. Third, Jesus ends the exile by dying at Passover as the Passover lamb who takes away the sins of the world. The resurrection in the ascension represents God vindicating Jesus as the one who ends the exile. Harmon considers this an inauguration of the New Covenant and the end of the exile, but the end will not be consummated until the (future) return of Christ (108).

Harmon then turns to the epistles to develop exile themes (ch. 7, “Life as Exiles in a Fallen World”). Given the title for the chapter, it is not surprising that he gives serious attention to the letter of 1 Peter. He excepts the dominant view that 1 Peter was written to Gentile believers, although this once dominant view has a few recent dissenters. This does not distract from Harmon’s point that the letter portrays believers as sojourners and exiles in a fallen world. Through the death of Jesus, sinners are formed into a renewed and redeemed people, yet they are still living in a foreign land and looking forward to the end of the exile. Second, he turns to Hebrews and James as examples of how the church continues to live in exile. Like with 1 Peter, Hebrews and James seem clearly addressed to Jewish Christians who would resonate with the metaphor of exile.  Harmon includes four pages on two Pauline letters, although this is not as convincing as his sections on 1 Peter, Hebrews and James. Regarding Galatians, the examples Harmon offers have little to do with exile. For Philippians, focuses on citizenship in heaven. In either case the exile is not prominent, or even mentioned.

The penultimate chapter examines the book of Revelation and the ultimate end of Exile in the New Creation. There is nothing in this chapter on Revelation as a whole in this chapter, although the book has a great deal to say about living as an exile and second exodus themes run through the main section of the book. Harmon’s focus is in a “final exile” (Rev 20:11-15) and the new heaven and new earth. As expected, Harmon sees the description of the new creation in Revelation 21:1-5 as a new Eden. The river of life flowing recalls the rivers of the original Eden, and the tree of life returns. There is no hint of anything cursed in the new creation, so God’s glorious presence fills the new creation and humans are at least able to live out their purpose of the image bearers of God: “his servants will serve him” (136).

Harmon concludes this book with a chapter on practical implications of sin, exile, and restoration. Please seven brief points are pastoral, focusing on what God has done to fix the brokenness of this world, reminding us that this fallen world is not our home and that are true hope lies in the restoration planned by God from the beginning.

Conclusion. Since one goal of the Essential Studies in Biblical Theology series is accessibility to beginning students and laypeople, Harmon’s book does not interact in detail with scholarly work on the exile and restoration. He has a section of recommendations for further reading divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced studies. He includes the very popular text by Lee Beach, The Church in Exile (IVP 2015) and Stephen Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty (IVP 2003). Several of the advanced studies interact with N. T. Wright, including two important essay collections: Carey Newman’s Jesus and the Restoration of Israel and James Scott’s Exile: A Conversation with N. T. Wright.

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

What Did Jesus Mean by “Old and New Wineskins”? – Matthew 9:16-17

Jesus is the guest of honor at a festive meal at Matthew’s home and he shares food with tax collectors and “sinners.” The Pharisees question his choice of table partners (Matt 9:10-11) and John the Baptist’s disciples question him on the practice of fasting (Matt 9:14). In response to the question about fasting, Jesus offers three analogies explaining his practice of sharing food with “sinners.”

The first analogy is that Jesus is like a bridegroom and fasting is inappropriate at a wedding. The second and third analogies, patching cloth, old and new wineskin, have a slightly different nuance. Putting new, still fermenting wine in an old dried out leather wine skin will destroy both the skin and the wine. “The fermenting wine was stored either in earthenware jugs that could hold up to ten gallons or in leather skins” (Donahue, 108; here is a photograph by Ferrill Jenkins of a Bedouin skin for churning). If the new wine is placed an old skin, then the skins would naturally burst.

Likewise, patching an old cloak with a new piece of cloth that has not been preshrunk will likely result in tearing, and perhaps ruining the old cloak. It is inappropriate for a person to patch clothing or store wine in these ways, the result will ruin the clothing, the wine and the wineskin. Likewise, one who mourns at a wedding celebration ruins the celebration.

What is the old and new in these analogies? What is the old thing that has been replaced by a new thing?  

The new wineskins saying has often been taken to mean that Christianity is superior to Judaism and will replace it. For example, R. C. Sproul says “The bridegroom in the Old Testament is God and the bride is Israel. But in the New Testament, the bridegroom is the Son of God and the bride is His church” (Mark, 47). This supersessionist reading is not what Jesus is saying.

First, the contrast is not between Jesus and the Pharisees. The disciples of John the Baptist are also questioning Jesus on fasting. The point of the metaphor is not replacement of old things with new, but rather appropriate behavior when the bridegroom is present (Gundry, Mark, 138).

Second, the image of new wine is suggested by the context of a feast at the beginning of a new age. When Hosea describes the restoration of the marriage of Israel, the wife is given vineyards (2:16-17 [ET14-15]) and the Lord will cause the earth to produce grain and תִּירוֹש, “new wine.” New wine is associated with the eschatological age in Joel 2:24 and is the wine served in the messianic banquet in 1QSa.The noun תִּירוֹש was used in 1QSa because this is the wine set aside for the priests in the first fruits offering (for the details, see Long, Jesus the Bridegroom, 160).

Third, in both metaphors everything is ruined, both the old and the new. It is not the case that new wine is somehow preserved when it bursts the old wineskin. It to spills all over the ground in this ruined! The clothing is ruined when it is inappropriately patched. If this is an allegorical description of the state of the church during Matthew’s day, then it is difficult to see how the new wine of the Christian church has destroyed the old Jewish wineskin yet somehow was preserved.

In summary, in the bridegroom saying in Matthew 9:16-17 Jesus describes his practice of open fellowship as like a wedding banquet and himself the bridegroom. Jesus emphasizes the joy of feasting in contrast to gloom of fasting based the New Covenant (Jer 33:11). The people participating in this joyous meal are celebrating the restoration of Israel’s marriage at the end of the Exile (Jesus the Bridegroom,197).

Why Does Jesus Call Himself a Bridegroom? – Matthew 9:15

In response to a question from the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus explains why he does not fast by comparing himself to a bridegroom and his ministry to a wedding banquet. Later in this passage he will use the metaphor of patched clothing and new wine in old wineskins. But here I want to focus on the first metaphor, that Jesus is like a bridegroom.

wedding feast of the Lamb

The first analogy for Jesus’s ministry is a wedding celebration. Later in Matthew Jesus will say the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who makes a wedding banquet for his son, comparing the invitation to come to a wedding celebration to his invitation to the Jews to follow him and celebrate the presence of the Kingdom (Matt 22:1-12). Another parable uses the long delay of the arrival of the bridegroom as a warning to keep alert before the return of Jesus (Matt 25:1-14). Here in Matthew 9, Jesus compares himself to the bridegroom and the people he is currently celebrate with are the guests at a meal which is in some ways like a wedding banquet.

Wedding banquets in the first century were the opposite of a fast. A family might invite the whole village to a festive meal with plenty of food, music, dancing and wine. Like the celebration in the parable of the Prodigal Son, when a father gave a wedding banquet, he would provide food and drink for the community, perhaps even celebrating for seven days. Consider the amount of wine consumed at the wedding at Cana (John 2).

The Old Testament often uses a marriage metaphor to describe God’s relationship with his people. Beginning with Hosea, this marriage ended in separation or divorce because of the infidelity of the wife, Israel. The eschatological age will be a time when the marriage between God and Israel will be renewed. The unfaithful wife will be restored to her former position because her sins have been forgiven and the marriage covenant has been renewed.

The marriage ended in disaster because Israel was an unfaithful spouse. But in the eschatological age, God will restore Israel to her former position and create a new covenant with them. God in fact does a miracle by restoring the faithless bride to her virgin state and re-wedding her in the coming age. It is therefore not implausible that Jesus stands in this prophetic tradition when describes the eschatological age as a wedding celebration and himself as the bridegroom.

The book of Revelation picks up the theme of the eschatological age as a banquet, albeit the “great supper of God” is the slaughter of the nations (19:17-19, cf., Ezek 38-39). Revelation 21:1-4 the New Jerusalem is described as “a beautiful bride fully dressed for her husband.”

If Jesus is the like a bridegroom, then his ministry is like a wedding celebration. If this is the case, then it is inappropriate to fast. Commenting on the Markan parallel, Anderson argues Jesus is merely making a contrast between his disciples (who are feasting) and the disciples of John (who are fasting) (Mark, 107).  Cranfield suggests the disciples of John the Baptist are fasting because of the recent death of John. This would explain the contrast between wedding and funeral imagery in the saying without assigning the saying to the later church (Mark, 111).

But as Gundry comments, this trivializes the issue since the main problem is regular fasts, not an occasional fast in at the time of a death (Mark, 135). Far more can be said about the background to the bridegroom metaphor (this was my PhD topic, see the right sidebar for a link to my book on the topic). In Matthew 9,

The people participating in this joyous meal are celebrating the restoration of Israel’s marriage at the end of the Exile (Jesus the Bridegroom,197).

Why Doesn’t Jesus Fast? – Matthew 9:14

After Jesus called the tax collector Matthew to follow him, Matthew hosted a meal in honor of Jesus (Matt 9:10-11). Jesus is eating with people the Pharisees considered “sinners,” prompting a Pharisee to ask about Jesus’s practice of eating with potentially unclean people (Matt 9:11-13). But this meal prompts a second question from some of John the Baptist’s disciples. The meal seems to have fallen on a day the Pharisees and John’s disciples fasted, yet Jesus and his disciples are feasting!

Jesus Feasting with Sinners

The story appears in Mark 2:18-22 and Luke 5:33-37. One significant difference in Matthew is the question comes from the disciples of John; in Mark it comes from “some people” after the observation that the Pharisees and disciples of John were fasting. Unlike Mark, Matthew does not mention both John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.

John’s disciples ask about the common spiritual practice of fasting. Other than the Day of Atonement, the Law does not mention required fast days. Fasting was associated with mourning for the dead. David fasting after his son died (2 Sam 12:17-23). Fasting is often associated with prayer. Daniel fasts while praying and seeking the Lord’s will (6:18; 9:3; 10:1-3;  cf., Neh 1:4-10). Fasting and prayer are often linked in the Psalms (35:13; 109:21-24). Fasting is often associated with repentance. In Jonah 3:4-9 the people of Nineveh fast after hearing Jonah’s announcement of God’s judgment. In Esther the Jews fast when they hear of Haman’s threats (4:3) and then feast in celebration of God saving the people from Haman (9:25-32).

These reasons for fasting are also found in the literature of the Second Temple period. For example, Tobit 12:8 associates fasting and prayer (although almsgiving is better). In The Testament of Joseph 3.4-6 Joseph claims to have fasted for seven years when his master was gone and he needed strength to resist Potiphar’s wife.

Tobit 12:8 Prayer with fasting is good, but better than both is almsgiving with righteousness.

Testament of Joseph 3.4 For those seven years I fasted, and yet seemed to the Egyptians like someone who was living luxuriously, for those who fast for the sake of God receive graciousness of countenance.5 If my master was absent, I drank no wine; for three-day periods I would take no food but give it to the poor and the ill. 6 I would awaken early and pray to the Lord, weeping over the Egyptian woman of Memphis because she annoyed me exceedingly and relentlessly.

Based on Daniel’s fasting, some Second Temple texts imply fasting is necessary before an encounter with God. For example, in the Apocalypse of Abraham 9.7-10 Abraham is told to abstain from food cooked by fire and wine and from anointing himself for 40 days. After this period God will reveal what judgments are coming on the evil of the human race.

By the first century the Jewish practice of fasting was well-known. “Fasting like a Jew” was proverbial in the Roman world of the first century (Suet. Aug. 76). The Pharisees fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. Didache 8:1commands Christians to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays to avoid looking like the hypocrites, the Pharisees. In Matthew 23 Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites for many of their practices, although he does not mention fasting. In Luke 18:12 the Pharisee boasts of his righteous practice of fasting twice a week.

Although he fasted for forty days prior to his public ministry, Jesus seems to distance himself frequent fasting even though the practice was considered a pious spiritual practice in the Judaism of his day. This is consistent with his practice of the Sabbath. He certainly kept the Sabbath but challenged the traditions of the Pharisees. With respect to fasting, undoubtedly, he would have fasted on the Day of Atonement. But it does not appear he would have fasted twice a week like the Pharisees.

Early Jewish Christianity continued to practice fasting as a spiritual discipline despite the fact Jesus did not teach his disciples to fast (Didache 8:). The bridegroom saying in Matthew 9:15 explains why Jesus’s disciples returned to fasting after the resurrection.

Jesus’s answer does not address the issue of Christian fasting or feasting. The Sermon on the Mount assumes his followers will fast at times, but he re-defines how they ought to practice the spiritual discipline (Matt 6:16-18).

 

Bibliography: David Seal and Kelly A. Whitcomb, “Fasting,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016); John Muddiman, “Fast, Fasting,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 2:774-76.

Black Friday Deals for Logos Bible Software

It is that time of the year again, when businesses try to pry open your wallet by calling it a “Black Friday Sale.” To be honest, I am not tempted at all to wade into the chaos that is a Black Friday sale at Walmart to get a new TV or cheap laptop. But a Black Friday sale on books, now you have my interest. When Logos Bible Software says “Commentaries for $7.99,” now you have my attention! Here are a few commentaries whic caught my eye (and ended up in my shopping cart):

  • Walter Brueggemann, Genesis in the Interpretation series
  • James, Dunn, The Acts of the Apostles (Eerdmans, my review here)
  • G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Eerdmans, my review here)
  • Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd ed.

Various volumes of the following series are available as well:

  • The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary
  • Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching
  • Understanding the Bible Commentary
  • Preach the Text
  • Old Testament Library (WJKP)
  • New Covenant Commentary (Cascade)
  • College Press NIV Commentary
  • Reformed Expository Commentary

There are many more than this on the sale page, so check them out. This $7.99 commentary sale expires Monday, November 23. Logos plans on a fourth week of deals, so maybe it is time to open a new credit card. DOn’t even think about what Dave Ramsey would say.

Don’t forget Logos just released a new version of their software. These on-sale resources will work on earlier versions, but i9f you are using any version prior to Logos 8, then you should consider an upgrade. The new version is much faster than Logos 7 and the upgrades are worth the money. If you are happy with Logos 8, you might consider a minimal upgrade in order to take advantage of the updated datasets. Since this is a new release, Logos is offering upgrade discounts, click the links and pick an upgrade path that fits your budget. If you are a first time Logos customer, there are some free books and other perks for you.

 

Book Review: Michael Wittmer, The Bible Explainer

Wittmer, Michael. The Bible Explainer: Questions and Answers on Origins, the Old Testament, Jesus, the End Times, and More. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour, 2020. 464 pp.; Pb.; $19.99. Link to Barbour Books   Link to Amazon

In the introduction to this new book from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary professor Michael Wittmer, the publishers explain the Explainer as simple answers to common questions about the Bible. The book is like a “frequently asked questions” page for the Bible and basic Christian theology. Many of these questions and answers clear up misunderstandings about the Bible and Christian theology, others are concise summaries of Christian beliefs.

Wittmer, Bible ExplainerThe book is divided into six parts. The first part covers eighty questions on “Bible Basics: What it is and how we should read it.” Some of these questions are good for new believers opening a Bible for the first time, such as “why does the Bible have chapters and verses” and “why are some letters red?” “What’s a Study Bible?” “What about translations?” Others are more apologetic in nature, such as “How were the original Bible writings preserved?” The answer, “they weren’t.” What follows is about a page on how copies of ancient books were made. A few questions deal with authorship questions. For example, “Did Moses write the Pentateuch?” and “Who wrote Isaiah?” Three related questions (36-38) deal with the truth of the Bible; question 41 asks, “What should I do if I think I’ve found an error?” Question 54 lays out a simple four-point method for understanding any Bible passage and several other questions and answers focus on reading various genres in the Bible. For example, question 64, “What’s up with the Song of Solomon?” The final line of the answer is, “take a cold shower.” Questions 75 and 75 lay out six steps in applying biblical passages to one’s personal life.

The second part concerns Origins: Where everything comes from (forty-six questions). Much of this section is what might be called theology proper, with questions on Trinity and the nature of God. He answers why, when and how God created the world. In question 92, Wittmer compares four views of creation, noting both strengths and weaknesses of each view. This section also tackles Adam and Eve, Sin and the Fall, the origin of Satan and the fallen angels, and the problem of evil. The section covers many questions people have about the flood and the events after the flood. Wittmer also gives an answer for where Cain got his wife and whether (or not) the angels had sex with humans.

In part three, Wittmer answers questions on Israel and why the Old Testament matters today (thirty questions). If Part two covered Genesis 1-11, part three covers the seep of Israel’s history from Abraham (Genesis 12) to the years just prior to Jesus in about sixty pages.  Some are questions of basic facts, such as “Why are God’s people called Hebrews, Israel and Jews”? or “Who is Yahweh?” to more difficult theological problems such as “did God command Israel to commit genocide?” The section has several matters of application of the Law, such as “what does the Bible teach about” issues like immigration, homosexuality, polygamy, or slavery? Wittmer deals with the very common criticism of Christianity, “Why do Christians follow the Old Testaments teaching on homosexuality bit not its commands about eating bacon and shrimp?” And yes, I caught the allusion to Ron Swanson: “bacon wrapped shrimp.”

Part four concerns Jesus: who he is and what he means (forty questions). This unit is more theological than the first three, beginning with “who is Jesus?” and “Was Jesus divine?” Wittmer deals with several questions about Jesus’s teaching such as was Jesus a pacifist, a feminist, socialist, or a racist?  (He answers “Was Jesus married” with a simple, one-word answer. You will need to buy the book to find out what it is.)

The fifth part of the book covers a range of theological questions on “how the New testament affects our world” (thirty-two questions), but the primary focus of the section is what the church believes and how the church functions today. For example, he defines grace, salvation, faith, repentance, adoption, and prayer (although there are no questions and answers on justification by faith, redemption, reconciliation). He also defines key terms used frequently in churches a new believer may not fully understand, such as sacrament, baptism, Lord’s supper.  Several questions in this section clear up misunderstandings about what the church is. “Does God want my money?” Does God want to take away my fun?” There are a few controversial issues here, such as women in ministry, speaking in tongues, and how Christians ought to relate to their government.

The last section concerns the end times, heaven and hell. At only seventeen questions, this is by far the shortest section, although questions these topics could fill an entire book. More than half of these deal with heaven and hell. He defines millennium, rapture, antichrist, Armageddon and the significance of 666 (no, it is not who you are thinking…) For most of these he compares and contrasts the views of dispensationalism and amillennialism and he treats both sides fairly. But the most important things for Wittmer are the “three Rs: the return of Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the restoration of all things” (438).

Occasionally he sneaks an extra question into the book, for example, “What are BCE and CE” (page 48). There are two-pages each on the Roman Catholic Church vs. Protestant church and the Western church vs. the Eastern church. Since these are not phrased in the form of a question, they are not counted as one of the 250 questions. Wittmer has a sense of wry humor, and this comes through in his answers. For example, “the Bible is a big book. It’s much larger than Cool Dads of Teenagers or The Wisdom of Daytime Television, though it is still roughly 30% smaller than the Harry Potter series” (18). In discussing how Christians ought to relate to their government, “I’m looking at you America.”

Conclusion. The Bible Explainer is an excellent book for a new or young believer who has questions about the content of the whole Bible. It would make an excellent supplement to a basic discipleship class in a local church or a supplement for a small group Bible study or a handy reference for Sunday school teachers. Although Wittmer includes plenty of Scripture in his answers, the book may be even more useful if each question (or group of questions) concluded with suggestions for further reading.

NB: Thanks to Barbour Books for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.