Archive for February, 2008

Chiasms in James

Hopefully, my commentary on James will be out later this year. But here are a few chiasms for your consideration. I think the James 5 chiasm orginally came from Doug Jordan.

The entire book of James is focused on how the pastors and leaders (“brothers”) of the church use their tongues.

The Whole Book

A. 1:2-8 – Trials, faith, steadfastness
  B. 1:9-27 – Suffering, patience, etc.
    C. 2:1-7 – Rich and “the poor man”
      D. 2:8-13 – Love, liberty, and mercy
        E. 2:14-26 – Justification [dikaio] & works
          F. 3:1-12 – The tongue
        E’ 3:13-18 – Righteousness [dikaiosune], Wisdom, & works
      D’ 4:1-12 – The members at war
    C’ 4:13-5:6 – Rich & “the righteous one”
  B’ 5:7-18 – Suffering, patience, coming judgment, fruit, etc.
A’ 5:19-21 – Wandering, sin, death

James 5:1-18
  A. 5: 7-8 – be patient, as a farmer waiting for rain, fruit of the earth
    B. 5: 9 – do not grumble against each other
      C. 5:10-11- prophets/Job example of suffering, v10 “name of the Lord”
        D. 5:12 – above all, do not swear
      C’ 5:13-15 – how to deal with suffering, v14 “name of the Lord”
    B’ 5:16 – confess your sins to one another and pray for one another
  A’ 5:17-18 – pray, as Elijah prayed for rain, earth bore its fruit

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Yesterday, I took part with my oldest son in a church-sponsored city outreach project (not because I’m especially prone to such behavior but because my son has a Boy Scout requirement that this would help him meet). Before we were sent out on our various jobs, the leader gave a devotional about the following text (unless he used Mark or Luke instead):

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

When we read “sinners,” he pointed out, we tend to universalize the reference to cover everyone who sins–which is, in fact, everyone. But that is not the way the term is being used in this passage, he claimed. “Sinners” was not a term that could be legitimately applied to anyone and everyone who sinned. Rather, it referred to those who were regarded as having abandoned or compromised beyond recognitions the covenant of God the promised the forgiveness of sins–such as tax collectors, prostitutes, and even all non-Pharisees.

(He didn’t mention this, but it is obvious Paul uses the term, “sinner” the same way in Romans 5.8. If Paul had our modern definition of “sinner” in mind, he could not have said that Jesus died for us while we were “still sinners.”)

His point of application was, I thought, quite needful and helpful. By turning everyone into a “sinner” in order to universalize the need to grace, we have, he argued, escaped Jesus’ immediate point. Jesus’ point was that there are people who appear to be outside the pale, but to whom we are supposed to be in direct contact. Jesus wants us not to think of everyone, but especially of the people we would never consider worth spending time with.

I’ve heard people paraphrase Jesus’ last statement in the passage (“For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.“) as a statement that he came not to call the self-righteous, but those who acknowledged themselves as sinners. But there’s no indication that all of Levi’s friends were repentant in this way. I think it is much more probable that Jesus is saying that he, as a righteous man, wants to call sinners, and that if they are righteous, they will go an do likewise.

In my commentary on Mark, I veer away from the generic moral lesson that Jesus might have been teaching, to focus on Jesus’ claims about himself. But I don’t think this eliminates the possiblilty that Jesus is modeling an ethic for anyone who would want to demonstrate righteous behavior. Rather than calling one another, the righteous call those who are social outcasts to the covenant (c.f. Matthew 5.43-48; Luke 14.12-14; John 5.43, 44).

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There is a scene in Prince Caspian, the second in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia that helps explain why it is we have four Gospels, that is four accounts of the Good News of Jesus Christ—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is the account of Lucy’s longed-for experience of Aslan, the Lion, remember, who symbolizes Christ in these stories. Finally, Aslan appears to Lucy.

The Great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large, wise face.
“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” he answered.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.

This is a form of the old scholastic maxim adaequatio rei et intellectus—”the understanding of the knower must be adequate to the thing known.”

Thomas Aquinas put it this way: “Whatever is received is received according to the mode of the one receiving it.”

This “adaequatio” principle can be applied to our understanding of Jesus Christ. But not only is this true of individuals, but it is true of the church as a whole.


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Jeremy Sexton wrote this in an earlier line of discussion:

“Along those lines, I think what we most often miss in our theology of baptism (though Calvin didn’t miss this) is that Christian baptism — if it “is” anything that came before — is Jesus’ water baptism. In our baptism, we receive the same waters and same Spirit that Jesus received in his baptism. Our baptism is Jesus’ baptism, which means that we need to see baptism, foremost, as God’s opening heaven, sending down his Holy Spirit upon us, calling us his beloved son or daughter, and ordaining us into priestly service.”

Well, yes and no. Jesus received the old baptism from John, which set Him aside for His work. The baptism of Jesus on the cross follows from this, and thereafter His resurrection in glory and ascension to the throne. The baptism that follows this, on Pentecost and thereafter, is not the same as Jesus’ baptism, but is the eschatologically advanced and glorified version of it. Jesus was not baptized into glory; we are.

Moreover, in Jesus’ baptism the Spirit proceeded from the Father, placing Him in union with the Adamic calling and position. In our baptism, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, placing us in union with the Son’s glory.


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What follows are from a couple of posts on my blog.  I hoped to do a series.  If I do follow up, I will probably want to do it here on the BH blog rather than my own.  Feedback welcome:

It is no secret that some have been scathingly critical of N. T. Wright, the “New Perspective,” and anyone who would appreciate those things–all in the name of the Reformed Faith or, worse, “the Gospel.” To hear them tell it, there is absolutely no legitimate reason for this appreciation. People are only attracted to the New Perspective because they don’t understand the perfectly satisfactory traditional perspective.

If one wants to understand why the “traditional perspective” has, in certain cases, utterly botched exegesis, one need only look at one example of traditional preaching on Romans 4. Particularly this passage:


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Our own Steven thinks that he has the freedom to post BH quality insights on his own blog.  So I’m linking him.  Let us comment here and teach Steven a lesson.  OK?

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Nobody posted anything today, so I may as well continue my reflections on the parables. I’ve had a busy day today, but I have about an hour of free time while the rest of the family watches Lost. I’m almost finished with the end of the third season, but not quite. By next week I should be caught up.

In my first post I noted that the parables of Jesus were not simply illustrative stories. They are really nothing like the kind of simple, homely illustrations that preachers often use to explain difficult concepts to their congregations. Just to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with illustrating one’s sermonic statements. Nothing at all. That’s just not what the parables of Jesus are. Parables are more mysterious than that.

The meaning of the word “parable” is somewhat elastic in the Scriptures. The word “parable” refers to a teaching device whereby two things are compared. It can refer to proverbs, wisdom oracles, fables, allegories, riddles, and even dark enigmatic sayings. We have to determine its meaning from its usage.

When the word appears on Jesus lips, it already has a frame of reference, a history. What might that be? The Hebrew Scriptures. The few examples of “parables” (mashal) in the old creation are very revealing.


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(I originally posted this at my personal blog.)

John Davenant was perhaps the single most influential delegate at the Synod of Dort (particularly for what he kept out of the final Canons). Much of his influence was examined in my previous post on the subject, but it is certainly the case that he remains a neglected figure. I had never heard of him until I began my studies on Dort, and as I survey some of the secondary literature, I see that a few commentators have questioned whether or not he ought to be considered a Calvinist. G Michael Thomas addressed Robert Godfrey’s claims on Davenant in his book The Extent of the Atonement, but I would like to address this issue a little myself by contrasting Davenant with John Overall, a man who had great influence on Davenant, but also a man whose historical point of view was quite different from Davenant’s.

Davenant wrote an extended treatise on the extent of the atonement, partly meant to explain the Canons of Dort. This is his A Dissertation on the Death of Christ. It was originally included within his Colossians commentary, but some modern reprints have removed it. In this treatise, Davenant affirms that Christ’s death established the new covenant and that the death of Christ is sufficient for all men, but for the elect alone effectually. Davenant’s two-fold approach to the death of Christ, allowing for a general universal atonement and a particular effectual atonement, was not original to him, however, and as Peter White has noted, Davenant was directly influenced by Bishop John Overall (Predestination, Policy and Polemic, pg. 191). Overall’s treatises on the atonement can all be found in Anthony Milton’s The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (pg. 64- 92). (more…)

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Once a upon a time, one Sunday morning, a pastor mounted his pulpit for the sermon and said the following:

A troubled young man walked into a downtown high-rise building. As he approached the directory on the wall, he took out a small booklet and looked back and forth from the booklet to the directory. Satisfied, he moved over to the elevators and waited so he could enter one by himself.

When an empty elevator opened, he entered and punched four buttons: 9, 35, 42, 46.

When the door opened on the 9th floor, he leaned out of the elevator and looked around. The floor appeared to be empty. He could hear many people talking, but could make no sense of the words. And the level didn’t seem to have a solid floor. Vertigo seized him when he looked down. He ducked back into the elevator and rose to the next stop.

Poking his head out again on the 35th floor he saw frenetic activity: people running, jumping, and moving the human body in every conceivable way. The confusion of colors and the noise of huge crowds made his head spin. So he allowed the door to close and punched button number 42.


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Jeff pointed out that baptism is not Christian circumcision. Looking at the comments, I think it might be helpful to point out that Israel was not the Church.

In the new creation, the idea of an “unbaptized Christian” is either very temporary or an anomaly. Those who came to faith were baptized immediately, together with their children. One does not remain outside the Church as a Christian.

But there were plenty of God-fearing Gentiles in the Old Testament economy who remained uncircumcised and yet whom we will meet at the resurrection in glory. Melchizedek, Potiphera, Reuel/Jethro, Uriah the Hittite, Hiram of Tyre, Naaman, and Nebuchadnezzar are a few, and they are certainly representative of many more.

In the time of Moses, Jesus (aka Yahweh) was quite clear that uncircumcised Gentiles had the same privileges (in almost all cases) as a Jew. Thus we read in Numbers 16:

Thus it shall be done for each bull or ram, or for each lamb or young goat. As many as you offer, so shall you do with each one, as many as there are. Every native Israelite shall do these things in this way, in offering a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, he shall do as you do. For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you….

If one person sins unintentionally, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the people of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them.

These are laws for uncircumcised residents to be treated just like the circumcised natives. Other than Passover, which required circumcision and, therefore, naturalization (“he shall be as a native of the land”–Exodus 12.48).


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