Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Alan Knox has some great postings on church discipline and the bodily resurrection over at Assembling.

Textual Variant in Acts 2:42

I am currently working on a research paper on the texual variant in Acts 2:42. There are actually two variants in the verse. The one I am working on is the inclusion or exclusion of the "kai" between "fellowship" and "the breaking of bread." Your may be asking, why does it matter whether the word "and" is present in this verse or not? (The editors of the UBS New Testament must have thought the same thing since they did not include the variant in the textual apparatus.) If we are to understand the life of the early church, this variant needs to be dealt with.

There are two possible readings to this verse:

1. And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

2. And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

Now, if reading 2 is the original, then Luke is speaking of four distinct activities that the early church devoted themselves to. If reading 1 is original, then there are two possibilities or how it can be read. First, Luke could be referring to two distinct activities, the apostles teaching and fellowship, with fellowship being explained by the breaking of bread and prayer. Second, Luke could be referring to three distinct activities, the apostles teaching, fellowship, and prayer, with fellowship being explained by the breaking of bread.

Since none of these aspects of the life of the early church were bound by the culture they lived in, the proper interpretation of this verse has great significance on our practice as a community of believers today.

I will continue to post on how I resolve this variant over the next few weeks. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would guide my mind as well as my pen.

The Past Two Weeks...

The past two weeks have been quite busy. My wife and I have been on a trip to Atlanta to visit family and friends. We had a good time catching up with everyone and even had some opportunities to minister to some of our family while there. When we returned to Wake Forest, I participated in a week of training with my job. It was a fruitful week no matter how exhausting it was. Anyway, it is good to be back and blogging again.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Structural Diagramming in Bible Study!

We continued our Wednesday Bible study last night in the book of Philippians. We began by creating a structural diagram on 1:27-30. This was the first time we had done something so "academic" in this group of people. Everyone loved it. As we diagrammed the passage on a white board, people could visually see Paul's intended meaning in the passage. We even spent time discussing Paul's use of politeuomai instead of peripateo in verse 27. A harder issue that we tackled was the use of the neuter demonstrative pronoun touto at the end of verse 28. What is the "that" that Paul is pointing back to? There were several options given. What do you think?

After finishing the diagram and discussing the argument, we talked about how this passage applies not only to our lives individually, but also to our life as a body of believers. The passage is clear: it has been given to us to suffer on behalf of Christ not for evil things we do, but to suffer unjustly for the fact that we follow Christ and obey Him. However, we do not suffer alone. In our suffering we are to live worthy of the gospel by standing firm in four ways: in one Spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel, in no way terrified by our adversaries. Notice the emphasis on unity among the body in this passage.

It was a great evening helping people see the joy of digging deeper into the Scriptures and training them to dig in themselves.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Are Seminaries in Need of a Reformation?

Before raising some questions about the current state of seminaries, some preliminary thoughts. I am currently a masters level seminary student who is eternally grateful for the education I am receiving. There are many godly men who have meant a great deal to me during my education. I in no way wish to downplay the influence they have had on my life, but to raise some questions as to the effectiveness of today's seminaries. With that said, on to the questions...

During the Protestant Reformation, one of the issues that the reformers faced was the fact that the common people did not have the Scriptures in their own language. Only those with special training in Greek or more likely Latin were able to read the scriptures for themselves. The reformers sought to remedy this by translating the scriptures into the languages of their day. I wonder if we are facing a similar situation in seminaries today?

Now, I do not mean to say that the Scriptures need to be translated into another language. What I am getting at is this: the seminary, more often than not, is designed to prepare the "professional minister" to preach and teach to a congregation. This "professional" gets wonderful training in Greek, Hebrew, Hermeneutics, New & Old Testament, and Systematic Theology. He gets to delve deep into God's Word and grows in maturity in Christ. However, this wonderful knowledge that he has gained usually does not get passed on to the congregation he becomes a part of. The "minister" continues to be enriched through his studies, while the congregation continues to eat "previously chewed food."

Therefore, there is a new divide that has been created between the "professional minister" and the common people. There is a dearth of biblical knowledge and reflection among many Christians. There is the "minister" who grows in his faith, while the others have not been taught to read and understand the Scriptures for themselves, but have been trained to get their spiritual nourishment from another man instead of the Word of God.

We must bridge this divide. We must show people how to study the Scripture for themselves. (yes, this even means teaching them Greek and Hebrew!) The church will never be what it is called to be by relying on a few good human leaders. The whole body must be transformed by a deep love for and study of the Word of God.

So how can we reform our seminaries and our churches to reconnect all believers with the deep riches of God's Word? Is it just through pastors making the effort to teach these things? Should the seminaries make an effort to go out and train whole congregations? Are there other ways? You comments are most welcome.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Rethinking Systematic Categories

I have been pondering the idea recently as to whether we need to redefine our typical systematic theology categories. I have particularly been thinking in the area of ecclesiology.

When we talk about the doctrine of ecclesiology, what do we mean by the term ecclesiology? Are we speaking only of the assembly or gathering of God's people? This is what the term ecclesiology would imply since the greek word ekklesia carries the meaning of gathering or assembly. So, are we only seeking to define what happens within the context of the assembly of believers? Or are we seeking to define something larger than the assembly?

Perhaps we need to change the labels that we use. Maybe instead of the Doctrine of Ecclesiology we should use the title the Doctrine of the People of God.

I am still working through this, but there appears to be some basic presuppositions that come to mind when we use the word church. Some people would immediately think of a physical building or of a Sunday morning "worship" service. The Scripture, though, does not define the church in this way.

There is so much work to be done in redefining our terms to match the biblical pattern. How would you seek to define the way the Scripture portrays God's people?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wednesday Night Gathering

We just arrived home from our regular Wednesday gathering with some of our brothers and sisters from Messiah Baptist Church. We gather each week to build each other up toward maturity in Christ. Tonight we spent time sharing our lives with one another, studying the Scripture (Philippians 1:18b-26 in particular), and praying together.

Paul's outlook on life in Philippians 1:21 continues to challenge me. He found absolute fulfillment in Christ. We, oftentimes, love the world far too much. I pray that God will grow my brothers and sisters as well as myself to find that kind of fulfillment in Christ.

Next week we will study verses 27-30. These are such rich verses. Did you know that the first imperative verb in the epistle is found in verse 27?

The Byzantine Text Type

Today in Textual Criticism class we read some of Harry Sturz work on the place of the Byzantine text type. While some have argued for the Byzantine text being a late conflation of the Alexandrian and Western texts, Sturz argues for an early date of the Byzantine text. He bases this on distintively Byzantine readings found in the second century papyri. Some are even readings where the Byzantine is the shorter text compared with the other two.

I think this shows that the Byzantine text is just as early as the Alexandrian and Western. Therefore, given the early nature of all three text types, it is my belief that we should give all three equal weight when attempting to resolve a textual variant. I have not yet been convinced, as Dr. Maurice Robinson has, that the Byzantine should be given priority over the Alexandrian and Western.

I am still in the process of working through all these issues. Let me know what you think.