New Online Resource for Biblical Literacy

(Posted by Paige)

Compass Rose 1I am pleased to invite you to visit the Grass Roots Theological Library, a newly minted website housing the creative debris of a very busy mind.

Not at all intended to rival this worthy blog, my site is meant to be a collection of free, excellent, user-friendly resources for those who are serious about promoting and pursuing biblical and theological literacy for themselves and for others in their spheres of influence.

For pastors, teachers, and other leaders there are original, elder-tested Bible lesson plans and “Reviews of Books You’d Rather Not Read Yourself” . . . For the self-feeding autodidact who may lack professors or peers for the journey there are numerous resources, essays, talks, and lists to help. My goal with all of this is to offer worthy, unpretentious and unique contributions to the never-ending task of nurturing Christian literacy.

Suggestions are always welcome, and new material will keep showing up as time goes along. My personal favorite stuff: over 500 original text-based questions to ask when studying the book of Hebrews . . . weekly brief “Bible Journal” posts sharing some lively commentary on whatever I’m studying . . . my wall maps (you’ll see!).

Intrigued? The proof of the pudding is in the eating – please visit and glance at the Library so that you can know better what I am talking about. If you like what you see, please Bookmark or “Follow” so that you don’t forget about it (you can follow on Twitter also, @GrassRootsTheo). I promise you’ll only get notifications when I post a new Bible Journal piece. And please share this with those in your circles, whether leaders or learners, who would benefit by it!

Welcome to the Library!

Books You’d Rather Not Read Yourself

(Posted by Paige)

Two curious questions for you:

One, in your church, who has responsibility for choosing and vetting the material used in Bible studies or classes for women? I know that some churches have pastor or elder-led systems of review in place, and some not so much.

Two, if you are someone who has this responsibility, are there any titles – whether written for popular audiences or specifically for women — for which you would appreciate a sound and careful review, so that you do not have to read the books yourself?

Putting together a Library of a website with resources for Christian literacy, and hoping to include a shelf of Reviews of Books You’d Rather Not Read Yourself. Give me some suggestions! (Some of these are truly painful to read – so this is Christian service in action! :)

Getting into the Acts

(Posted by Paige)

Two research questions for the scholarly amongst us:

1. Do you know of any book or article-length treatments of Luke’s Greek, covering both Luke and Acts? He uses so many unique words that I’d love a guide through the Lukan Lexicon.

2. Has anybody ever written about the similarities between Stephen’s speech and the book of Hebrews? I’m noticing some intriguing connections, both lexical and conceptual. Don’t know what to make of them yet, but I find them striking. Who else has thought this through?

Thanks, all!

A Friendly Intro to Biblical Theology, Take Three

(Posted by Paige)

Here is a link to a 30-minute talk that I gave at a Bible study conference this October. It’s another introduction to redemptive history, this time tracing the theme of God’s inclusion of the Gentiles through the Old and New Testaments. I also play around with a connection between the Syrophoenician woman and Paul’s words about the “mystery” of Gentile inclusion in Ephesians 3. It’s on YouTube this time NOT because it’s a video of me speaking, but because I made slides to illustrate the audio. Please listen if you like, and pass the link on to others who might benefit, especially those who are just getting to know the Word.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Shaking Things Up: Hebrews 12:26-29

(Posted by Paige)

Here is another Hebrews puzzler for you! In our study we have finally made it to ch. 12, and I am contemplating possible readings of 12:26-29, where the author exposits Haggai 2:6 re. the “shaking” of the earth and the heavens. In his 2010 commentary Peter O’Brien sums up the general consensus on this passage when he writes in a footnote:

The shaking that God will do ‘once more’ is usually taken to mean that the whole universe will be shaken to pieces and the only things to survive will be those that are unshakeable. It is understood as the eschatological judgment to be visited upon the earth at the end of the age, when the material universe will pass away (1 Cor. 7:31; 2 Pet. 3:10, 12; Rev. 21:1). At that point only the kingdom of God will remain, the kingdoms of this world having been utterly destroyed (Guthrie, 422). (O’Brien, p.495n.262)

This eschatological reading seems largely to be based on the phrase “ὡς πεποιημένων,” usually translated “that is, created things.” But John Owen points out (in an appendix of Calvin’s commentary) that this could also be read as “things that are completed, accomplished, finished,” allowing us to read as the object of “shaking” the Old Covenant, or the Jewish religion, instead.

I am wondering whether there is any legitimacy to the suggestion that the author has in mind here NOT the final eschatological transformation to new heavens and new earth, still pending; but rather the completed, accomplished, finished “shaking” of heaven and earth that occurred when Christ entered the heavenly sanctuary and inaugurated the New Covenant, new kingdom, new world order by the sprinkling of His blood (cf. Heb. 12:22-24). This event would still have been future in relation to Haggai’s time, but (in contrast to the eschatological reading) would have already been accomplished by the time Hebrews was written.

Although I have not encountered it in my resources outside of Owen, I find this possible reading compelling in light of the stress in this epistle on the dramatic and decisive change from Old Covenant to New; and it is also in keeping with the author’s assertion in v.28 that “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,” indicating that this unshakeable kingdom is already an accomplished state of affairs.

What do you think? Does this passage give us information about a future event involving the material universe, or is it conveying the earth-and-heaven-shattering nature of the already-accomplished work of Christ?

Thanks in advance for your perspective!

Hebrews 10 and the LXX

(Posted by Paige)

So, who is up on recent developments in manuscript studies of the LXX?

I encountered an intriguing difference as I read through Hebrews commentaries in chronological order, focusing on the use of Ps. 40:6-8 in Heb. 10:5-7, specifically the line, “But a body you have prepared for me.” This rendering of Ps. 40:6 differs from what our MT-based OT says, whether “But ears you have pierced for me” (NIV) or “But you have given me an open ear” (ESV), each a paraphrase of the literal Hebrew “But ears you have dug for me.” Sure enough, when I checked my copy of the Septuagint, I found that it matches with what is written in Hebrews 10:5, “But a body you have prepared for me.”

Now, commentators from Calvin through F. F. Bruce (1990) and Peter O’Brien (2010) have been concerned to harmonize the difference between the MT and the LXX in some way, explaining the diversity by way of paraphrase. Ears, after all, are body parts; ears being “dug” certainly suggests listening or paying attention, but it could also refer to the formation of the ears in the first place – so, “Body parts you have created (or prepared) for me.” One more step gets to, “A body you have prepared for me,” which became the version happily appropriated by the author to the Hebrews, who wanted to present the obedient, bodily sacrifice of Christ as superior to all the animal sacrifices prescribed by the Mosaic Law.

And maybe it happened just so. But in Beale & Carson’s splendid tome on the NT’s use of the OT (Baker Academic, 2007), I encountered a different explanation, offered by George Guthrie in his chapter on Hebrews. On the textual background of Heb. 10:5-7 (Ps. 40:6-8) Guthrie writes:

“In 10:5c we find sōma (“body”) rather than the LXX’s ōtia (“ears” [also in LXX La(G) Ga]). Although it is true that LXX B S A have sōma, these probably should be read as corrections by scribes wishing to bring the manuscripts in line with Hebrews’ quotation.” (p.977)

In other words, according to this explanation the variation originated with the author of Hebrews, NOT the LXX, and was subsequently absorbed into later copies of the LXX.

Is anyone aware of which of the above explanations is current scholarly consensus? Do you find Guthrie’s suggestion compelling, based on the dates of the different LXX manuscripts, or are you satisfied with the harmonization approach?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you have on this.

Reflections on a Senior Pastor Search

(Posted by Paige)

We are well into our search for a new senior pastor at my PCA church, and as the meeting schedule is easing a bit to accommodate the holidays, I thought I’d take the time to reflect on what we’ve learned and what has gone very well, in case these notes might be helpful to others. Like most search committees, we are laypeople and RE’s (Ruling Elders) who have never either hired a pastor or been a pastor looking for a pulpit, so we have cobbled our process together with advice and wisdom and prayer and some good guesses. Maybe there’s something here worth passing along.

First, I have to say that I regret that we can’t hire ALL of the excellent people who have applied, because we have seen some really terrific men among these applicants. In fact, if any of you are in a search situation soon at your church, whether for a senior or an associate pastor, I’ll be happy to give you the names of some fine possibilities (with their permission). Ours is a particularly “special needs” church at this time in our history, so we have had to pass by some otherwise qualified people in order to zero in on the gifts and experience that we feel will fit our unusual situation. But our eyes have been opened to God’s good work among our brothers both inside and outside our denomination, and we are very grateful for the depth we’ve seen in this pool of applicants.

When we started off in the late summer we had the advantage of the counsel of Tucker York, a TE from Westminster Presbyterian (PCA) in Lancaster whose doctoral project is focused on the pastoral search process (and he is willing to act as a consultant in your case, too, as his time permits, so get in touch – see first comment below). Tucker walked us through some resources provided by the PCA for search committees as well as some of his own observations. He stressed the importance of confidentiality, balanced by clear communication to our congregation at regular intervals, and warned us about the common pitfall of choosing a pastor who is a full pendulum swing away from the personality and style of our previous minister.

I’m also really grateful to all of my pastoring brothers whose first charge to me, when I asked their advice, was to RESPOND PROMPTLY to applicants (many of them having had their own submissions fall into a black hole when they applied for a position somewhere!). Add to this our committee’s desire to be candid about our church’s baggage (at least at a certain stage in the process), and we seem to have startled and impressed most of the men who have applied. Our team also adopted Lane’s suggestion to me that we make a connection by phone with any man whose application we decide to pursue, in order to quickly personalize the process for them and gain an initial sense of each pastor’s style of interaction that we could not get from their written application materials.

Like the Roman roads and the lingua franca of the Early Church era, the common-grace advantage of the internet and email has smoothed our way, making promptness a real possibility in this 21st-century quest. Along with an independent gmail account for correspondence, we created a stand-alone informational site at WordPress for our search process, which you can check out at faithprespastorsearch.com. (It’s missing the applicant instruction part because we are no longer accepting applications.) One of our techie team members introduced us to Teambox (www.teambox.com), which has been just a fabulous (and private) way to store and share applicant information, coordinate meetings and interviews, and keep track of our “homework” in between meetings. It’s well worth the couple hundred budgeted bucks to have this venue.

Most of all we’ve been blessed to be a team of diverse but compassionate people, wise in listening and diligent in digging through the information we’ve received to get at the hearts of the men who are applying. As we went through our latest season of panel telephone interviews, I was impressed by the variety of questions thought up by my fellow travelers: each of us seems to have our own area of interest or expertise that neatly complements the other eight. And again, one of the perks of this work is getting to read about and talk to the interesting people who have applied from all around the country, each one a fascinating, historied individual and a testimony to God’s grace.

Here’s a link to the original questionnaire that we created for applicants. We were delighted to see how well our fairly simple chosen questions accessed the individuality and the heartbeat of the pastors who shared their stories with us. You are welcome to use or alter what we made if it would be helpful to you.

Finally, one small note to future pastoral candidates: a really, really unusual and winsome thing to do, if you are applying to a church with other staff who preach, is to take the time to listen to some of their recorded sermons so that you can comment knowledgeably about the men you might be working with whenever you begin interviewing. (Such a degree of unprompted care for our church and staff startled us when one applicant did this, probably as much as we’ve startled our applicants with our promptness!)

Looking to God’s good grace and provision in this unusual adventure. It has definitely felt at times like we are collectively trying to locate a particular tree in a forest while blindfolded. Soli Deo Gloria!

The Unique Priesthood of Moses

(Posted by Paige)

We’re working in Hebrews 9 now in my Bible study, and I have been struck afresh by the unique priestly role that Moses has in Israel’s history.  I’m wondering if any of you have remarked on this unique priesthood or taught or read about it.  I’d benefit from your observations about its features and redemptive-historical significance.  Would it be fair to say that Moses’ priestly work of intercession, mediation, & consecration  (esp. Ex. 19-20, 24, 29, 33-34) is something of a cross or a bridge between the patriarchal priestly roles and Aaron’s high priestly line?  It’s fascinating to me that when we think of Israel’s first priest we think of Aaron — but Moses was the priest who installed him!

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful ideas.

Announcing the New Covenant

(Posted by Paige)

Here is a curious question that arose in our Hebrews study recently (starting our second year at ch. 8!):

We understand that the Old Covenant was inaugurated with blood (Ex. 34) and its terms were verbally established for God’s people through the giving of the Law. If the New Covenant was similarly inaugurated with blood (Luke 22), when was its content verbally established?

I suspect possible answers might include one or all of these: at the articulation of the Abrahamic Covenant; in Jeremiah 31; whenever Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God is at hand; whenever the gospel was/is proclaimed after the resurrection of the Son. More? How does the NT itself fit into this picture?

Just curious how any of you would frame an answer, and what you would choose to emphasize as the verbal establishment for God’s people of the terms of the New Covenant. Thanks!

Senior Pastor Opening — Faith Reformed PCA

(Posted by Paige Britton)

On behalf of the pulpit committee at Faith Reformed Church (PCA), I’m pleased to announce that we are now  accepting application materials from those interested in our Senior Pastor position.  We are a nearly 500-member church located in the southern part of Lancaster County, PA, a rural/small town setting that also serves as a bedroom community for many who work in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and even NYC.  Eligible applicants (who are ordained by, or are ordainable by, the PCA) should seek more information and instructions at our web portal, http://faithprespastorsearch.com/. Our current plan is to hold the position open to applicants until mid-October.

If you have any make-or-break questions that I can answer quickly, you are welcome to contact me OFFLINE. I would be happy to speak to you in person or by email about this (but not in the comments below).  My addy is paige, then a dot, then britton, and it’s a gmail address.  Our pulpit committee team is committed to the considerate and confidential care of all applicants.  Hope to hear from some of you, one way or another!

We’re excited to see God’s leading and provision in this process as it unfolds. 

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