A Ministry of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry—Olivet Nazarene University

Biblically Speaking

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Rachel's Lamentations

 

Six centuries before Christ, Aesop, the Greek fabulist, told the story of The Fox and the Lion. In this fable, the titular fox encounters a lion and since she had never seen a lion before, she is terrified and runs away. The second time she encountered the lion, she was still afraid but not as much as the first time. The third time she sees the lion, she walks up to him and starts a conversation. The moral of the story is, “familiarity breeds contempt.” To wit, our continued and frequent exposure to something causes us to take that thing for granted. As the Christmas season approaches again, Christians are preparing to celebrate the holiday again according to the family and faith traditions we hold dear. But as we unpack the boxes of decorations, choose our trees, bake our treats, and buy our gifts, it behooves us to consider anew what the season means to those of us who celebrate the Incarnation of Christ. Certainly, we can agree that it is a joyous season full of anticipation. Yet, the psalmist asserts,

May those who sow in tears
    reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    carrying their sheaves. (126:5-6)

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Recent Articles

When Theology and Life Collide

 

Paul’s letter to the church at Rome has long been recognized as presenting the most thorough explication of his understandings relating to the Christian faith.  This is not surprising in that Paul wrote this letter to a church neither established nor previously visited by him.  This introductory letter to the Christian community at Rome was likely written near the close of Paul’s third missionary journey and before his consequential journey to Jerusalem (15:28-29).    

Numerous structural breakdowns have been provided for Romans; however, generally this letter is recognized as beginning with a common Pauline salutation followed by a direct address to the church (1:1-7).  This introduction is followed by Paul’s words of thanksgiving for what he has heard of the church in Rome and by an expression of his desire to come to them (1:8-15). 

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Is N. T. Wright Right?

Book Review

 

Wright, N.T. How God became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. New York: HarperOne, 2012.

In How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, N.T. Wright begins his preface with a bold claim. “Most of the Western Christian tradition,” he says, “has simply forgotten what the [canonical] gospels are really all about” (ix). We know that they are about Jesus. We know that they are about God. We know that they are about the beginnings of Christianity. But exactly what are they saying about Jesus, God, and Christianity? Wright spends most of the book arguing that the answer to that question lies imbedded in the fundamental story that the gospels tell: the story of the coming of the kingdom of God, or, as Wright’s title puts it, the story of “how God became King” of the whole world.

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The Woman and the Dragon – A Lesser Known Infancy Narrative (Revelation 12:1-17)

 

As Christmas nears, we commonly hear readings from some of the most familiar passages in the New Testament, namely the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke.  In both, we learn that Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great.  Jesus’ mother is identified as Mary who conceived him virginally by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Mary’s husband is identified as a descendant of David named Joseph.  Jesus’ name is given by divine command which is relayed through an angel.   Differences do appear between Matthew and Luke concerning such details as the parent of focus (Mary or Joseph) and the identity of Jesus’ visitors (Magi or pagan astrologers in Matthew and shepherds in Luke).   In both cases, however, Jesus is clearly presented as a child of promise.  Matthew depicts him as the “one who will save his people from their sins” (1:21, NRSV) and as Emmanuel meaning “God is with us” (1:23, NRSV).  In Luke, Jesus is described as a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.  He is the One upon whom all the hopes of Israel and ultimately the entire world depend.

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Remember

 

February 13 is Ash Wednesday, which begins the liturgical season of Lent, traditionally a time when we Christians, in preparation for the celebration of Easter, examine our hearts and reflect on Jesus’ suffering in our behalf. One of our most cherished ways of calling to mind Jesus’ work on the cross is the sacrament of Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper. It seems fitting here, then, to consider a few Scripture passages that relate to the Lord’s Supper and ask what they teach us about the meaning of Jesus’ death and the meaning of the sacrament itself.

In Mark 14:24, as Jesus and his disciples eat the Passover meal, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many.”1 The phrase “blood of the covenant” calls to mind the establishment of the covenant between the LORD and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai in Exodus 24:4-8. In that passage, Moses wets the people with the blood of oxen that have been offered to the LORD and says, “See the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you . . . ” (v. 8).The idea of establishing a covenant takes us back to a time even earlier in the history of the people of Israel, the time of Abraham. In Genesis 15, Abraham, at the LORD’s command, brings to the LORD a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon. He cuts the heifer, the goat, and the ram in half, lays the halves opposite each other, and waits. Around sunset, Abraham falls into a deep sleep, and a “deep and terrifying darkness” (v. 12) comes over him. As Abraham sleeps, “a smoking firepot and a flaming torch” (v. 17), symbolizing the presence of the LORD, pass between the halves of the animals.” The LORD says to Abraham, “To your descendants I give this land . . . ” (v. 18). In Abraham’s world, the Ancient Near East, the parties to a covenant typically passed between the pieces of slaughtered animals and said something like, “May the gods do to me what has been done to these animals if I ever violate this covenant.” By passing between the pieces of the animals, the LORD Himself takes this oath of self-curse, pledging to remain faithful to Abraham and his descendants. To say that the blood of Jesus is the blood of the covenant, then, is to say that his death establishes a covenant relationship between God and human beings. The Lord’s Supper calls us to remember both our status as God’s covenant people and the great price at which that status was bought for us.

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Preaching and Teaching the Psalms

As a church leader, do you ever have difficulty locating useful resources for preaching and teaching from the Old Testament?  The attempt to find stimulating books that will enrich the mind and connect with the audience in a practical, meaningful way can be quite challenging and frustrating.  In light of this, I would like to propose a monograph written by V. Steven Parrish entitled, A Story of the Psalms: Conversation, Canon, and Congregation.1   In this book, Parrish examines how the canonical arrangement of the Psalter recounts the story of the people of Israel (thus Canon), and he demonstrates how the narrative sequence within the Psalms shares many parallels with the modern congregation (thus Congregation).  He then constructs a historical-contextual bridge between an ancient context and a modern one, thereby making it possible for the church to be in constructive dialogue with the biblical text (thus Conversation).

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Tags: Bible, Psalms