Jacob Cerone and Matthew Fisher, Daily Scriptures: 365 Readings in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin

Cerone, Jacob N. and Matthew C. Fisher. Daily Scriptures: 365 Readings in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2021. 382 pp. Hb; $34.99.   Link to Eerdmans  

Students who take two years of Greek and a year of Hebrew in seminary often lose touch with those languages because they are not able to read in the original languages every day. The daily grind of language classes is usually replaced by the daily grind of ministry. This collection of biblical readings provides a way for people to keep their language skills sharp through brief daily readings.

Cerone and Fisher, Daily ScriptureIn the introduction to the book the editors explain their goal for the volume is to help students “keep up your languages” but also to “keep you fed in the Word and hopefully spark a desire to explore more deeply how the New Testament at its core relies upon the Old Testament Scriptures.”

For each calendar day, there are two sets of readings. The first is a passage from the Hebrew Bible with the corresponding verse in the Septuagint. The second is a passage from the Greek New Testament with the corresponding verse in the Latin Vulgate. Texts are drawn from Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Rahlfs-Hanhart, Septuaginta, Nestle-Aland 28, and Weber-Grayson, Biblia Sacra: Vulgata. All verses following the original language rather than the English Bible, but readers can use the Scripture index to find the verse in a modern translation.

Words are marked with superscript numerals are glossed in outer margin of the page. Words appearing less than one hundred times in the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Old Testament are glossed, words appearing less than thirty times in the Greek New Testament or Vulgate are glossed. For the rare Aramaic passages, all the words are glossed (the introduction says two passages from Daniel, but the index only has Daniel 7:13 listed). Irregular verbs are usually parsed. The editors also provide brief notes to help with Context (labeled CH) and Translation (TH), some textual critical notes (TC) and pairing aids (PA). A pairing aid is a short explanation of why the two passages are related. For example, In Matthew 4:9 Jesus responds to Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, although the quotation is in Matthew 4:10. The editors do not repeat texts in direct quotations. Some readings are marked with chain link indicating the whole context is related, such as 1 Samuel 2:1 and Luke 1:46 (Hannah’s song and the Magnificat). The editors only include one verse from the larger context and encourage the student to read the larger context.

There are thirty-three mostly chronological categories covering both Testaments. The editors kindly shifted readings on the Advent to December. In addition, there is a section on the Holy Spirit after the Resurrection and before the Apostolic Age. Each pair of readings are related, usually allusions rather than quotations. Sometimes the paired texts are thematically related rather than an allusion. Using several cross-reference systems and lists of “Old Testament in the New Testament,” the editors gathered a list and then ordered them in a “salvation-historical arrangement.”

Most books are represented, although there are no readings from Nehemiah, Song of Solomon, Lamentations Zephaniah, Haggai, Titus, Philemon, 2 and 3 John. The main reason for omitting these books is there is no corresponding New Testament passage. There are no apocryphal texts since there are no Hebrew manuscripts for most of those books.

With respect to the physical look and feel of the book, this is not a workbook like Mounce’s Graded Reader, but it is not designed to look like a Bible either. Eerdmans did include a sewn-in ribbon bookmark. Daily readings do not take up a whole page so there is plenty of white space for taking notes and making comments. Rarely does the list of glosses take up the whole outer column.

Conclusion. This volume differs from other similar collections on the market by focusing on biblical Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Jonathan Kline has several volumes of Keep up your Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek in Two Minutes A Day (published by Hendrickson; read my review of his A Proverb a Day in Biblical Hebrew).  Unlike Bill Mounce, A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek (Zondervan, 1996) or Van Pelt and Practico, A Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew (Zondervan 2006), these readings do not start with easier texts and work up to more difficult passage. This is a result of arranging selections in chronological categories.

Cerone and Fisher’s Daily Scripture is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to refresh their language skills. Since this volume includes both Hebrew and Greek, it is an excellent book for post-seminary biblical language retention, whether one has just finished their language courses, or they are a distant memory. Including the Septuagint and Vulgate add depth to a daily regimen of Bible reading.

 

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

The Transfiguration – Matthew 17:1-13

The transfiguration is a theologically rich event which appears in all three synoptic Gospels (Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). In the previous few verses, Jesus told his disciples ,“The son of Man is coming in glory” and that some of them “would not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:27-28). This is a difficulty since the kingdom of heaven did not literally come during the lifetime of the disciples. There are several suggestions for dealing with 16:28, including the next story in Matthew as the fulfillment. Peter, James, and John will see Jesus glorified, although this still falls short of the “son of Man coming in his kingdom.” For many commentators, the Transfiguration is a foretaste of the coming of the Son of Man in glory.

Transfiguration Raphael

Jesus takes three disciples to a high mountain (17:1) six days after Peter’s confession and Jesus’s prediction of his death, his resurrection, and his prediction that some standing there would not taste death until they see the son of man coming in his kingdom. Nolland calls this a “first, anticipatory fulfillment” (Nolland, Matthew, 699). “Six days later” may refer to Exodus 24:15-18. Moses waited six days on Mount Sinai with the surrounding cloud of God’s glory before the Lord called to him to enter the glory of God for forty days and nights. There are other allusions to God’s glory on Mount Sinai in this story.

Since there is hint which mountain this is, it is likely another allusion to Sinai (Exod 24) and Horeb (1 Kings 19). Both Moses and Elijah both experience the glory of the Lord on the mountain. Now Peter, James, and John will witness a similar revelation on the mountain. The adjective ὑψηλός refers to something which is tall, such as a high mountain, but also for something which is exalted or even noble. It is possible the word refers to a mountain like Hermon, although it is not likely Jesus, and the disciples could have hiked to the top of this 9000-foot mountain.

The traditional site on Mount Tabor is possible since this is a mountain in the Jezreel Plain and the tradition dates to the fourth century. But Tabor is not particularly high (about 1300 feet) and there was a settlement at the top of the mountain in the first century. Psalm 89:12 refers to Tabor in parallel to Hermon, Jeremiah 46:18 refers to Tabor and Mount Carmel in parallel. In the Second Temple Period, Mount Tabor was used to light signal flares to announce the new moon, but any hill north of Caesarea Philippi would do.

Why these three disciples? Peter, James, and John are the inner circle. These three disciples are eyewitnesses of the baptism of Jesus, the Transfiguration, Jesus’s agony in the garden, and the resurrection. These are the only three given nicknames as far as we know, Cephas, and the “sons of thunder.” In Acts, Peter and John are the two apostles who are the eyewitnesses who preach in Acts 3 and suffering at the hands of the Sanhedrin. James will be the first disciple to be executed for his testimony (Acts 12).

The three disciples allude to Moses’s experience on Mount Sinai. When Moses first went up the mountain in Exodus 24:9, he takes Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (and seventy elders) and they “seethe God of Israel.” When Moses went up the mountain to get the two tablets, “the cloud covered it and the glory of God settled on it” (24:15), and it remained there for six days (24:16). Immediately following this, God tells Moses to have the people make an offering (25:1-7) which will become the tabernacle (25:8-9), the tent where Moses will meet with God.

The context is important. Peter has just confessed that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus told him he was right; God had revealed this to him. But Jesus then expanded on what the Messiah was going to do: he was going to Jerusalem to be executed and raised from the dead. When Peter rebuked Jesus, Jesus said he was thinking the thoughts of men and was being used by Satan himself!

Jesus appears with the glory of God (17:2). The verb translated “transfigured” (μεταμορφόω) refers to a change that is visible to others (BDAG). His face glowed (λάμπω) like the sun. The word associated with a shining light. This phrase is added to Mark’s story to connect the story to Moses’s experience in God’s presence. Moses’s face glowed when he came down from the mountain.

This led to a classic translation error: the Hebrew קרן can mean “to wear horns” as well as “a ray of the sun” (HALOT). The Latin Vulgate translated the verse as Moses “had horns” when he came down from the mountain; The LXX has a perfect passive form of διξάζω, a rare word meaning “honor.”

His clothes became “white as light.” Mark used the verb στίλβω, to “be radiant” and adds a clarification that no one could ever bleach clothing this white. Matthew simply compares the whiteness to light. Shining white garments are typical of theophanies in the New Testament and other apocalyptic literature (Rev 19:14, for example). In Daniel 7:9, the Ancient of Days has “clothing white as snow.”

Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus (17:3). Why these two? Law and Prophets? Traditional forerunners of the messiah? Both are associated with the wilderness and Mount Sinai. Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus. The verb (συλλαλέω) is “to exchange thoughts with,” they are having a discussion. In Exodus 34:35, the word is used when Moses enters the tent of meeting to speak with God. This is the same verse that describes Moses’s face as shining.

Peter, James, and John experience a theophany modeled after Moses and Elijah’s experience at Mount Sinai. That Jesus is presented as the true son of God is confirmed by the voice from heaven in Matthew 17:4.

Why Does Peter Rebuke Jesus? – Matthew 16:21-27

After Peter declares the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus defines the messiah’s mission: he is going to Jerusalem where he will be killed and rise again on the third day (16:21). Why does Peter rebukes Jesus? This is not what Peter expected to hear, so Peter tells Jesus this is not at all what the messiah is going to do.    

Jesus and Peter

This is not the idea of the Messiah known among the Jews of the first century. Although Christians read Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 through the lens of Jesus’s suffering, few Jews (if any) in the first century read those passages as messianic. The one suffering was Israel itself, not God’s Messiah suffering in a priestly role to deal with the real enemy of all people, sin and death.

Jesus predicts he will suffer many things and be killed, raised on the third day, a prediction repeated in 17:22-23 and 20:17-19. Peter’s confession is correct, Jesus is the Messiah. But these three predictions make it clear the Messiah’s mission is to suffer and die, and then be raised to new life.

Peter rebukes Jesus: “this shall never happen!” (16:22). The verb ἐπιτιμάω expressed strong disapproval, criticize, or issue a serious warning (BDAG). The word is used when Jesus silences demons (Matt 17:18) and when he “rebuked the waves” when he calmed the storm (Matt 8:26). The reason for Peter’s serious rebuke of Jesus is the prediction that the Messiah will suffer and die (even if he is raised from the dead) is not consistent with the kind of Messiah the Jews were hoping for. When Peter says, “you are the Messiah,” he this thinking only in terms of restoring a kingdom to Israel, led by a new David (or son of David) who will establish a kingdom of peace and prosperity.

Since this is a private discussion, Peter might be saying something like, “don’t say that kind of thing in front of the other disciples!”

Jesus rebukes Peter, calling him a stumbling block (16:23). Jesus takes Peter’s understanding of the Messiah’s role as a temptation by Satan. The classic “Get thee behind me Satan!” expresses the seriousness of this temptation. To what extent was Jesus tempted to avoid the cross?

The ESV translates this as “you are a hindrance to me,” but the word translated “hindrance” is stronger than that. Both the NRSV and NIV (2011) have “you are a stumbling block to me.” A stumbling block (σκάνδαλον) is anything that might trip you up (literally), so it became a metaphor for something that causes a person to sin. Causing someone to sin is an important concept in Matthew 18, but here it refers to a trap, an enticement to not fulfil the plan the father has laid out for the son: to go to Jerusalem and submit willingly to death on the cross.

Peter’s confession was “revealed by God” but his understanding of the messiah’s mission is “based on the thoughts of men.”

The one who wants to follow the messiah must be willing to lose everything (16:24-27). When Jesus refers to “taking up one’s cross” he means be willing to die for the sake of Jesus. This is not some vague burden you must bear, but literally picking up the cross they Romans are going to execute you on! There is irony in following Jesus. The world might see following Jesus as a loss, but the only way to really find your life is to lose it for the sake of Jesus.

Looking ahead to Matthew 18-20, Jesus will continue to demand an extremely high level of commitment from his followers. They are not joining a revolutionary movement in the tradition of Judas Maccabees, following Jesus will lead to persecution and death.

But, as Jesus says, what can a person give in exchange for their soul?

Book Giveaway: Davidson and Turner, The Manifold Beauty of Genesis 1

I have not done a book giveaway in a while. As it turns out I have several books I have been setting aside for a time such as this. In fact, I get occasional emails from readers wondering when I am going to give away another… today is that day.

Genesis 1A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Gregg Davidson and Kenneth J. Turner, The Manifold Beauty of Genesis 1: A Multi-Layered Approach (Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2021). Thanks to the kindness of Kregel Academic, I have an extra copy of the book to give to a reader of this blog.

As I mentioned in the original review, Manifold Beauty is a biblical-theological reading of Genesis 1. Each chapter represents a unique theological interpretation of the creation story. Although the authors do not deny Genesis 1 is a literal creation story, they are more interested in the theology of the creation story than the mechanics of creation. Although the principal topic is Genesis 1, the chapters provide a full canonical perspective for each theological topic.

In the introduction, Davidson and Turner are clear that none of their suggested layers are entirely new, each layer draws on previous scholarship. They argue the themes presented in this book are complementary, they all “contribute to and reinforce the unified message of Genesis 1” (11). The authors agree with the Chicago statement on biblical inerrancy but understand a distinction between the literal meaning and a literalistic interpretation. In the full review, I summarize the seven theological layers covered in Manifold Beauty, so read that post for more details on the book.

If you want a free copy of this book, leave a comment with your name and email (if it is not in your profile already) so I can contact you if you win. I will put all the names in a spreadsheet, randomize them, then use a random number generator to select a winner on November 15, 2021 (one week from today).

If you don’t win this book, check back for another giveaway starting November 15.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grant Osborne, Hebrews: Verse by Verse

Osborne, Grant R. and George H. Guthrie.  Hebrews: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2021. 360 pp.; Pb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press

Grant Osborne’s Verse by Verse commentary on Hebrews is the twelfth in the series and the first published after Osborne’s death in November 2018. The commentary was nearly complete when he died, missing only summary sections on chapters 10- 13, commentary on the final verses of chapter 13, and the introduction. Osborne requested Lexham allow George Guthrie to finish the commentary. As Guthrie explains in the preface, he followed Osborne’s original outline for the book of Hebrews, although he has a slightly different view (see his The Structure of Hebrews: A Textlinguistic Analysis, Brill, 1994; Baker, 1998). Even though George Guthrie is a well-known Hebrews scholar himself, the commentary belongs to Osborne.

Hebrews CommentaryIn terms of its message, Hebrews is unique among the New Testament writings. The author’s interaction with the Old Testament shines a light on early Christology and offers a unique view of Jesus’s sacrificial work. In the introduction, Osborne suggests Hebrews may have been a Jewish synagogue sermon, but the author addresses challenges faced at a critical time in the church’s development. This means the book of Hebrews is pastoral and relevant to the church in the twenty-first century.

Any commentary on Hebrews must deal with authorship of the anonymous letter. Osborne is clear: the author was not Paul (for the usual reasons). He suggests Apollos, although this cannot be known with certainty. We can know the author was well-educated, had synagogue training, had experiences in Jewish exegetical strategies, and was a concerned Christian minister who deeply cared about the congregation.

Regarding destination and date, Osborne argues the book was addressed to Rome (based on Hebrews 13:24, and similarities with 1 Clement). “Hebrews is profoundly Jewish” (7), although the original audience may have included God-fearing gentiles. The recipients of the letter struggled with persevering in the faith (as seen in the warning passages). Based on 5:11-6:3, Osborne dates the book of Hebrews after AD 49 (Claudius’s edict expelling Jews from Rome), but also before Nero’s persecution. Hebrews 12:9 implies the church has not yet suffered death. Osborne concludes “early to mid-60s AD” (9).

With respect to the purpose of Hebrews, he observes Hebrews is a complex and rich theological text, but it is also deeply pastoral. Perseverance in the Christian faith is in direct proportion to the clarity with which the reader understands who Jesus is and what Jesus has accomplished. If the readers really grasp Christ’s identity as the eternal son of God, the creator of the world, and the Lord of all that there is, the one who became incarnate and lived and died for us as our high priest and great sacrifice for sin, it will help an enduring in the Christian life (10).

A major issue for any commentary on Hebrews is the warning passages. Commenting on Hebrews 6:4-8, Osborne suggests members of house churches in Rome are guilty of indifference and low spiritual commitment. The author is afraid they may fall into total spiritual ruin and commit apostasy. The writer does not think they will, but a serious warning is in order. Typically, this passage is interpreted through a theological lens, whether Calvinist or Armenian. Osborne admits he is arguing one side of this debate, but also trying to be open and respectful towards the other side. He does not want to force his opinion on the reader but will provide data so the reader can decide for themselves (117).

He believes this passage teaches there is a final apostasy from which someone cannot possibly be redeemed. Apostasy is the “absolute rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior (121). All five of the blessings listed 6:4b-5 result from a “conversion to Christ” (119) and “define what it means to be a Christian” (121). “Have fallen away” is not a conditional sentence but rather a coordinate clause. The writer is not saying “if they should fall away” but pointing out what will happen when they fall away.

Regarding the warning passage in Hebrews 10:26-27, Osborne points out two factors that make this sin particularly heinous. The apostasy the author has in mind is both continuous and a deliberate, direct defiance of God. The person who has fallen into apostasy “obviously delights in thwarting God and persists,” turning the sin “from an act into a lifestyle” (219). Osborne relates the judgment described in 10:28-29 to someone in Israel who turned from God to worship idols, repudiating the God of Israel. According to Deuteronomy 13:8 and 17:1-6, the one who has turned to idols must be executed without mercy! Since the readers of Hebrews are under the new covenant, the penalty is much more severe, involving eternal, spiritual death (220).

The body of the commentary is divided into fifteen chapters following the outline in the commentary’s introduction (Hebrews 11 is divided between two chapters). The goal of the commentary series is to provide study notes for devotional reading or a small group Bible study. Chapters are brief and do not interact with secondary literature. There is a short bibliography of major commentaries for further study. Osborne’s comments are based on the English text of Hebrews, but he occasionally refers to Greek words (always appearing in transliteration). Uncommon terms appear in bold and are defined in a glossary (midrash, for example).

This makes the commentary readable for both academic readers, yet the layperson will have no trouble reading the commentary as they work their way through the book of Hebrews. Like other volumes in this series, Osborne achieves his goal of helping pastors to “faithfully exposit the text in a sermon.”

 

The Osborne New Testament Commentaries appear in both print and electronic Logos Library editions. Reviews of previous volumes:

 

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