Tuesday, January 31, 2023

WM 264: Review: Lanier & Ross, The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters



This spoken-word review is based on a written draft of this book. Here is an outline for the abbreivated review content:

Gregory R. Lanier and William A. Ross, The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2021): 216 pp.

This book is co-written by New Testament (Lanier) and Old Testament (Ross) professors at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando and Charlotte, respectively), and it comes out of an elective course they co-teach on the Septuagint. It provides a helpful review of basic facts about and an informed discussion of the influential ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint.

Review of Content:

Structurally, the book consists of two parts: Part 1 (chapters 1-4) answers, “What is the Septuagint?”; Part 2 (chapters 5-7) addresses, “Why does it matter?” The book concludes with an Appendix covering “Ten Key Questions about the Septuagint.”

Four Commendations:

First: The term "Septuagint" is confusing.

Second: To say that the "Septuagint" was "the pew Bible" of the early church is an "oversimplification."

Third: The Apocrypha is not part of the OT canon but can be read with edification to understand Jewish backgrounds for the NT.

Fourth: Quotations from the "Septuagint" in the NT do not mean that the entire "Septuagint" itself is inspired.

A Major Concern:

There is, however, at least one highly significant aspect of this study of the Septuagint that some confessional readers, in particular, might rightly question. This aspect is the authors’ contention that the Septuagint might be used to “reconstruct” the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, or, to use the language in their discussion regarding the framework of authority, that it bears at least some “normative” authority with respect to establishing the text of the Old Testament.

Closing Analysis:

First, this approach appears to clash with the classic Protestant view of the providential preservation of Scripture as outlined in Westminster Confession of Faith 1:8.

Second, this approach is at odds with a distinct tradition in Protestant scholasticism that rejected the use of the Septuagint and other ancient versions to “correct” the traditional text of the Hebrew Old Testament (see Owen and Turretin).

Third, this approach presents a view which many will perceive to be problematic with respect to its proposal of the Septuagint as holding some measure of normative authority for Christianity. 


Friday, January 27, 2023

The Vision (1.27.23): Straining at a Gnat and Swallowing a Camel


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 23:23-33.

Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law: judgement, mercy, faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

In Matthew 23, Christ acts as the Great Prophet declaring a series of woes against the scribes and Pharisees for the sin of religious and spiritual hypocrisy.

In v. 23, he condemns them for their scrupulosity in tithing even the herbs in their gardens (mint, dill, and cummin), while neglecting “the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy, and faith.” They were good at meticulously counting the seeds of their herbs, but not so good at keeping the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12) or the Great Commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).

In v. 24 Christ offers a negative application of this principle. In their effort to avoid minor infractions of the law, they had committed major infractions.

Notice, he addresses them again as “blind guides” (v. 24a; cf. vv. 17, 19).

He then offers one of the most memorable statements in the Bible, as he says these men, “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (v. 24b).

One Study Bible explains: “Some Pharisees would strain their beverages through fine cloth to make sure they did not inadvertently swallow a gnat—the smallest of unclean animals (Lev 11:23). The camel was the largest of all the unclean animals” (MacArthur Study Bible).

The point: Spiritual hypocrites obsess over minor details and neglect major commandments, major areas of obedience.

Charles Spurgeon observed, “There are gnat strainers among us still, who apparently have little difficulty in swallowing a camel, ‘hump and all’” (Matthew Commentary, 357).

We are being called upon by this text not to pass judgement on first century scribes and Pharisees or even on any contemporary phonies and hypocrites. We are being called upon to look soberly into the mirror of God’s Word at ourselves.

We are meant to ask: What is Christ saying about me? What warning is he giving to me?

Have I had a tendency overscrupulously to obsess upon lesser things, while omitting the weightier matters of the law? How have I failed to love God and how have I failed to love my neighbor as myself? And have I been guilty of using a veil of religiosity to justify my disobedience?

Have I in my zeal to strain at a gnat, swallowed a camel?

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Brent Evans' "Preaching in the Name of the Amen" article now available in French

Glad to see that Brent Evans' article "Preaching in the Name of the Amen" has been translated into French and can be read online here.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Byzantine Colophons Suggesting Dates for the Four Canonical Gospels

Note: Taken from twitter: @Riddle1689:

Dating the Gospels is a longstanding challenge in NT studies.

R. A. Boyd's Text-Critical English NT: Byzantine Text Version includes colophons with some conjectures offered by Byzantine scribes:

Matthew: 8 years post-ascension. Mark: 10 years post-ascension. Luke: 15 years post-asension.
John: 32 years post-ascension.

Update (1.25.23):

Nelson Hsieh noted on Twitter that Tommy Wassermen and his student Conrad Thorup Elmelund addressed this colophon tradition in a 2022 SBL paper suggesting that the subscription was taken from Hippolytus of Thebes and reflects a "cascading error" in the entries on Mark-Luke-John with the time reference being not to years after the ascension but the writing of the previous work.

If this is correct, this tradition would suggest the following timeline:

Matthew: 8 years post-ascension.

Mark: 10 years post-Matthew (18 years post-ascension).

Luke: 15 years post-Mark (33 years post-ascension).

John: 32 years post-Luke (65 years post-ascension).

Interesting. Even assuming the "cascading error" this traditon assumes the priority of Matthew (and not Mark!) and the chronological ordering Matthew-Mark-Luke-John. It also suggests Matthew was written early and not multiple decades after the ascension and indeed places the first three Gospels as all being pre-AD 70.


Friday, January 20, 2023

The Vision (1.22.23): Shutting up the Kingdom of Heaven


Image: Early morning view of the moon, North Garden, Virginia, January 2023.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 23:13-22 (audio not yet available).

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in (Matthew 23:13).

In Matthew 23 Christ shows himself to be our great Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet he declares God’s Word. Eight times he pronounces a prophet woe on the failed religious leaders, beginning in v. 13 (cf. vv. 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29).

In the first woe he speaks about the kingdom of heaven. This is the rule or the reign of God that began with the first coming of Christ and will be fulfilled at his second coming.

It was at the heart of Christ’s early preaching, as he declared, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

In the Sermon on the Mount, he exhorted his disciples, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Experiencing the kingdom of God in the here and now is having the rule and reign of Christ invade your life, your present existence, and transform it for the glory of God and for your good and the good of others.

This is what Christ spoke about when he said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

In the first woe of Matthew 23, Christ says that one of the chief sins of the spiritual hypocrites is that they shut up the kingdom of heaven (v. 13b). They do so in two ways:

First, they shut themselves out of the kingdom: “for ye neither go in yourselves.”

Second, they shut out others from entering the kingdom: “neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

Imagine a hospital where those with sickness can be cured, and there is sick man who not only refuses to go into the hospital and be cured, but he tries to dissuade others who are sick from entering. He even shuts the doors and throws his body across the entrance to keep them out.

How does the hypocrite do this? He does so by saying that he is a believer, by saying he is a disciple, but by then failing to believe and live and act as a disciple. Christ says, “for they say, and do not” (Matthew 23:3).

How do we respond to this teaching? We are meant to examine our own hearts and to ask: How am I like the scribes and Pharisees? What warning is Christ giving to me?

Have I shut myself off from the kingdom and have I shut others off from the kingdom through my spiritual hypocrisy?

Let us soberly look at ourselves, repent of our failings, and turn to Christ who always stands ready to forgive and redirect sinners.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Sermon by Ryan Davidson: Accusers, a Sinner, and Jesus (John 7:53--8:11)


I enjoyed listening to this recent sermon by Ryan Davidson of Grace Baptist Chapel in  Hampton, Virginia. Good model for acknowledging textual challenges in the PA, affirming its authenticity, and drawing solid pastoral applications.


Sermon by Pastor Sam Caldwell: The Infallible Word (Matthew 5:18)



This is a sermon by Pastor Sam Caldwell of Grace and Glory Church in Portland, Maine. In it, he focuses on Matthew 5:18 and the infallibility and preservation of Scripture.


Friday, January 13, 2023

The Vision (1.13.23): Although the fig tree shall not blossom


Image: Frozen pond, North Garden, Virginia, January 2023

Note: Devotion taken from the afternoon sermon at CRBC on Sunday, January 1, 2023.

The final chapter of Habakkuk is described as “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet” (3:1). This prayer concludes in 3:17-29 with an affirmation of faith and a confident declaration that God is to be worshipped regardless of the external circumstances his people must face.

Pagan religions are based on a quid pro quo. You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. But Biblical faith is not like that. The one true God is to be worshipped no matter what comes our way, no matter what the Lord in his all-wise providence decrees for us.

In contrast to the pagan view, Habakkuk declares:

3:17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail; and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The evidence of a mature faith is not that you praise the LORD when things are going well, but that you turn to him when things seem awful and beyond your control. There is confidence even in such times that the Lord will be our strength and that he will cause us like the deer to walk in high places once again (v. 19).

This is the kind of faith that Job had. When he had lost everything, Job declared, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

It is the kind of faith that the three Hebrew youths had when threatened with the fiery furnace. They said to the king, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king, But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

It is the kind of faith that the apostle Paul had when he wrote from a Roman prison, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

Friends, we know not what will come our way this year. It may be our last year.

We pray it will be filled with great outward prosperity and blessing, but do we have that sort of mature faith, so that even if it is a year of emptiness we are still resolved to rejoice in the Lord, to joy in the God of our salvation, and to acknowledge him as our strength, even in our weakness?

I pray we will have the same spiritual orientation as the prophet Habakkuk in this year before us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, January 12, 2023

WM 262: Schäfer’s Jesus in the Talmud & An Internal Argument for the PA


My notes:

Peter Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007): 210 pp.

This book is about references to Jesus of Nazareth in the Talmud (both Palestinian and Babylonian), the “the foundation document of rabbinic Judaism in Late Antiquity” (1).

The author sees the scattered references to Jesus, Mary, and his followers as evidence of the early conflict between Jews and Christians (or, we might say, Christianity as a sect emerging out of Judaism).

Chapter One: Jesus’ Family

This traces rabbinic traditions that deny the virgin birth by saying that Jesus instead was conceived through an adulterous relationship between Miriam (who grew her hair long as a sign of promiscuity) and a Roman soldier named Pandera/Panthera.

This Jewish slur on Jesus was picked up on by the pagan writer Celsus.

Chapter Two: The Son/Disciple Who Turned Out Badly

Vague references are made to Jesus as a failed son/disciple who succumbed to sexual immorality.

The author notes here the Gnostic connection of Jesus with Mary Magdalene as his wife.

Chapter Three: The Frivolous Disciple

Jesus is presented as a heretical and idolatrous disciple of the rabbis who practiced magic and even worshipped a brick (!).

Chapter Four: The Torah Teacher

The focus here is on Jews who had become followers of Jesus. One is a disciple named Jacob (James?). Another is called Rabbi Eliezer who was accused of sexual immorality with a prostitute and use of magic.

Chapter Five: Healing in the Name of Jesus

Discussion is given here to depictions of the followers of Jesus as “tricksters and imposters” (62) who use of the name of Jesus as a magical formula to perform exorcisms and healings.

Chapter Six: Jesus’ Execution

This chapter traces vague references to Jesus as one who was put to death by stoning and hanging for idolatry. The “Bavli narrative” even reveals “the precise day of his execution: he was hanged on the even of the Passover, that is, the day before the Passover” (72).

Schäfer notes that the rabbinic authors even stress that “the Jews took upon themselves the responsibility for Jesus’ execution” (74). He summarizes the message the rabbinic authors wanted to convey:

… yes, the Roman governor wanted to set him free, but we did not give in. He was a blasphemer and idolater, and although the Romans probably could not care less, we insisted that he get what he deserved. We even convinced the Roman governor (or more precisely forced him to accept) that this heretic and imposter needed to be executed—and we are proud of it (74).

He concludes, “What we have in the Bavli is a powerful confirmation of the New Testament Passion narrative, a creative rereading, however, that not only knows some of its distinct details but proudly proclaims Jewish responsibility for Jesus’ execution” (74).

The Talmud thus sees the death of Jesus as “the rightful execution of a blasphemer and idolater” (74).

Chapter Seven: Jesus’ Disciples

This chapter discusses a tradition in the Bavli following the execution of Jesus which says he had five disciples (one of whom was named Mattai—Matthew?) who were also put on trial and executed.

The author suggests that “this forms the climax of the Bavli’s discussion of Jesus and Christianity…. Jesus was rightly killed, and there is nothing that remains of him and his teaching after his death” (81).

Chapter Eight: Jesus’ Punishment in Hell

This final section relays a Talmudic tradition about three notorious heretical figures in hell: Titus (the destroyer of Jerusalem); Balaam (the pagan prophet); and Jesus the Nazarene.

Titus must repeatedly be burned and have his ashes scattered over the seven seas.

Balaam is forever placed in boiling semen.

And Jesus is forever placed in boiling excrement.

Final Summary: Jesus in the Talmud

In the closing chapter Schäfer gives a summary of the Talmudic attack on Jesus and early Christianity.

First, he says “the most prominent characteristic” that dominates is the charge of “sexual promiscuity” and immorality (97). Jesus is a bastard. Christianity is an “orgiastic cult” (99). They even engage in ritualistic cannibalism of babies (a parody of the eucharist).

These charges were also picked up by pagan critics.

Second, they charge Jesus with being a magician and deceiver.

Third, they charge him and his followers with idolatry and blasphemy.

Rather than being raised from the dead, his fate will be to sit in excrement in hell.

The author notes that the stronger attacks on Christianity are found not in the Palestinian Talmud but in the Bavli (Babylonian Talmud).

He surmises this is due to the fact that “Palestinian Judaism was under the direct and continuously growing impact of Christianity in the Holy Land” (115), so it is no surprise that the “most graphic polemic against Jesus” was found in the Babylonian Talmud composed outside of Palestine (122).

He suggests that the Rabbis likely had access to the NT (perhaps through Tatian’s Diatessaron or through the Syriac Peshitta) (123).

He takes special interest in John since it seems it seems to be “the most strongly anti-Jewish Gospel of the four Gospels” (124). He sees it as having been written in Asia Minor sometime after AD 100.

He adds:

Having been written in the Jewish Diaspora of Asia Minor, it bears all the characteristics of a bitter struggle between the established Jewish and emerging Christian communities, a struggle that was waged by both sides with the gloves off (128).

He ends: “Taken together, the texts in the Bablyonian Talmud, although fragmentary and scattered, become a daring and powerful counter-Gospel to the New Testament in general and to John in particular” (129).

Observation: In the current context the NT is often accused of being antisemitic (Matthew and John, in particular). This study is refreshing in that it acknowledges that this was a conflict in which both Jews and Christians were mutually engaged and that the rabbis, at the least, gave as much as they received.

On the PA:

Toward the end, the author makes reference to the way in which the PA fits within the overall themes of this conflict between Jesus and his disciples and the Jews or Pharisees. The discussion begins, “Some of the confrontations are portrayed as direct discussions between Jesus and ‘the Jews’ or the Pharisees. When Jesus prevents the stoning of the adulterous woman…” (127-128). He sees the content of John 8:17ff, in particular, as related to the earlier challenge of the forgiveness of the adulterous woman.

Schäfer assumes that the PA is part of the authentic text of John that it fits with the overall theme of conflict or confrontation. Thus, he presents a cogent internal argument for the authenticity of this passage and how it fits within the overall narrative and literary goals of John.

This shows that is it no way irrational to posit that the PA is consistent with the rest of John, but instead exposes the folly of those who reject it or scorn it as their “favorite story that’s not really in the Bible.”


Friday, January 06, 2023

The Vision (1.6.23): For they say, and do not


Image: Garden, behind the Nagytemplom, Debrecen, Hungary, November 1, 2022.

Note: Devotion based on last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 23:1-12.

In Matthew 23 Christ condemns the scribes and the Pharisees under the charge of religious or spiritual hypocrisy. He begins with this description of their problem: “For they say, and do not” (23:3b).

He then proceeds to present at least five illustrations of their hypocrisy:

First, they legalistically pile up various extra-biblical religious duties and requirements upon the shoulders of others, but they themselves do not lift a finger to perform any of these onerous duties (v. 4).

Second, they only seek to perform religious and spiritual duties to be seen by their fellow men (v. 5a: “But all their works they do for to be seen of men”).

Third, their hypocrisy even led them to seek spiritual attention through their clothing and outward appearance (v. 5b: “they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments”).

Fourth, they loved having positions of recognition (v. 6: “And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues”).

Fifth, they loved to receive greetings and to have auspicious titles given to them (v. 7: “And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi”).

Christ continued by teaching that the one who exalts himself shall be abased and the one who humbles himself will be exalted (v. 12).

Spurgeon noted, “The way to rise is to sink self; the lower we fall in our own esteem, the higher shall we rise in our Master’s estimation” (Commentary on Matthew, 352).

Let us heed these warnings and seek to lead a life of humility and integrity before the Lord.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Comparison of Matthew-Mark-Luke prelude to the cross

I've been preaching the last two years on Lord's Day mornings through the Gospel of Matthew. I started the year last Sunday preaching on Matthew 23:1-12. I noted that whereas Matthew devotes 39 verses to Christ's condemnation of the religious hypocrisy in chapter 23, Mark (12:35-37) and Luke (20:45-47). Here are some notes on the parallels between Matthew-Mark-Luke in their accounters of the four controversies preceding this exhortation and the teaching which follows on the Mount of Olives:


Habakkuk 3 as a Prayer Psalm

Taken from my twitter: @Riddle1689:

Habakkuk 3 is a prayer. See 3:1a: “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet…”

It also has the marks of a Psalm. Like many of the Psalms (see, e.g., Ps. 90: “A prayer of Moses, the man of God”), it was a prayer that was also meant to be sung.

A reference to the ancient tune is given in v. 1b: “upon Shigionoth.” Some think the word means “according to variable songs or tunes.”The same term (in the singular) appears in the title of Psalm 7.

There is another musical notation at the end in Habakkuk 3:19b: “To the chief singer on my stringed instrument [Hebrew: Neginoth; the same terms appears in the titles of Psalms 4, 6, 54, 55, 67, and 76].”

Habakkuk 3:2-16 is also punctuated with another term also found in the Psalms, Selah, likely meaning pause or rest (see vv. 3, 9, 13).

So Habakkuk 3 is a Psalm outside of the Psalms.

One question for those who hold to "exclusive psalmody": Since Habakkuk 3 is an inspired Prayer Psalm, would it also be fitting to sing it in worship?


Tuesday, January 03, 2023

My Dad's Preaching Outline for Habakkuk 3

From my twitter @Riddle1689:

My Dad was a Minister. He passed away over 20 years ago with cancer, still able to preach within a couple weeks of his death. I have a small Bible of his I often use for pastoral visits. He rarely wrote in his Bibles, but Habakkuk has some underlinings and notes.

I was preaching last Sunday afternoon in Habakkuk 3 (great text for the first Lord's Day of the New Year) and thought Dad left a pretty good (alliterative) outline for it in his Bible:

Habakkuk I. Prays; II. Ponders;
III. Praises.


Monday, January 02, 2023

Personal Reflections: A Dozen or So Interesting Reads in 2022


I generally like to do some reflection at the end of one year and the beginning of another, including thinking about the reading I’ve done. I used to make it my goal to complete one book each week (so c. 52 books a year). The last few years have not allowed me as much time for sustained reading as I would like. I have the tendency to get started in a book and then leave it when another catches my eye. I’m also more prone to just read a chapter or two from a book that addresses a topic of interest or research. New books seem always to be piling up. I’ve kept a reading journal for many years. I also try to write book reviews (some of which I post to my blog, submit to journals for publication, or just keep for myself). I find that this discipline has helped me remember the contents of my reading better and the reviews/notes also serve as a resource for my preaching, teaching, and writing. Though I have a specific interest in text and translation of the Bible, I am overall a generalist (as most ministers are) and enjoy reading in various areas of theology and church history and in other genres too.

All that said, here are a Dozen or So Interesting Reads in 2022 (in no particular order). Here is a similar article I did last year on Ten Interesting Reads in 2021.

One: Matthew Barrett, Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit (Baker Books, 2021).

This was the Christianity Today book of the year in 2021. Though pitched at a popular level, it still required careful reading. It helped me think through the doctrine of the Trinity and to be more careful when speaking and writing about God.

Two: The Van Kleeck trilogy: Peter Van Kleeck, Jr. A Philosophical Grounding for a Standard Sacred Text: Leveraging Reformed Epistemology in the Quest for a Standard English Version of the Bible (2021); Peter Van Kleeck, Sr. An Exegetical Grounding for a Standard Sacred Text: Toward the Formulation of a Systematic Theology of Providential Preservation (2021); Peter Van Kleeck, Sr and Peter Van Kleeck, Jr., A Theological Grounding for a Standard Sacred Text: An Apologetic Bibliology in Favor of the Authorized Version (2022).

Though the Van Kleecks defend the traditional text (“Standard Sacred Text”) of the Bible from a perspective not exactly the same as my own, I found plenty that was helpful in their books on epistemology, preservation, and Bibliology.

Three: Arnold Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography (Banner of Truth, 1985, 2009):

My family started reading this book aloud together after supper in the fall of 2021, before we made a trip to visit Metropolitan Tabernacle, and finished it up early in 2022. A lively survey of Spurgeon’s life, sometimes bordering on hagiography, that provoked lots of helpful family discussion on everything from historiography to smoking cigars.

Four: The Sentences of Sextus (Scholars Press, 1981).

This slim diglot (Greek and English) of 451 pithy maxims, opens a window into an early effort to blend Christianity with Stoicism, and still offers some sage counsel. A few examples:

Sentence 171b: When among believers listen rather than speak.

Sentence 262: If you want to live happily, do not do too many things; for if you do more than you should, you will do it poorly.

Five: Thomas Oden, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (InterVarsity Press, 2014).

Oden spent the first half of his life as a modern theological liberal and the second half trying to retrieve the wisdom of the ancient church (including his magnum opus, editing the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series).

A few other memoirs I read last year: Frank Schaeffer, Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to Give Love, Create Beauty, and Find Peace (Schaeffer, 2014); Luke Timothy Johnson, The Mind in Another Place: My Life as a Scholar (Eerdmans, 2022); Charles Marsh, Evangelical Anxiety: A Memoir (HarperOne, 2022).

Six: John S. Barnes, Ed., A Stone, A Leaf, A Door: Poems by Thomas Wolfe (Scribner’s, 1945).

The cover of this slim hardback caught my eye when browsing through one of my favorite used bookstores in Charlottesville. Wonderful collection of poems from a writer with whom I share Western North Carolina roots.

Seven: Samuel D. Renihan, Crux, Mors, Inferi: A Primer and Reader on the Descent of Christ (2021).

I’ve been thinking of “the descent” the last couple years, having read the takes of Daniel Hyde, Matthew Emmerson, and Hilarion Alfeyev. Renihan adds more fuel to the fire, but I’m not quite settled on it yet.

Eight: John O’Malley, Trent: What Happened at the Council (Belknap Press, 2013).

A respected Roman Catholic scholar offers a survey of Trent and its response to the Protestant Reformation. What stood out to me was the astounding corruption of the Roman leadership, and this made me admire only more the courage and tenacity of the Reformers.

Nine: Joshua Schooping, Disillusioned: Why I Left the Eastern Orthodox Priesthood and Church (Theophany Press, 2022).

We hear quite a bit about former Protestants and Evangelicals who convert to Rome or Constantinople, but this brief work describes a pilgrimage in the opposite direction.

Ten: Brent Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (Yale, 2013).

I’ve appreciated Nongbri’s writings on the text of the Bible and his challenging the dating of some manuscripts. This made me want to read some of his other writings, including this one on the comparative study of religion. He makes the argument that the very use and definition of the word “religion” has been influenced by modern Protestantism and inappropriately applied both to “world religions” and “ancient religions.”

Eleven: Gregory R. Lanier and William A. Ross, The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters (Crossway, 2021).

This book provides some good information and makes some good points, like the term “Septuagint” is fuzzy, and it’s better simply to talk about the “Greek Old Testament.” Negative: It assumes the LXX (aka Greek OT) should be used to “correct” the Hebrew. Positive: Good discussion of how to understand quotations of the LXX (Greek OT) in the NT.

Twelve: Frank Furedi, Why Borders Matter: Why Humanity Must Relearn the Art of Drawing Boundaries (Routledge, 2021).

This isn’t a book about immigration but about borders or boundaries as a sociological concept. Some interesting applications for religion and even for Bibliology.