Reading Isaiah as Christian Scripture

Will I be able to complete my PhD in Biblical Studies?

Posted in Humor, Life of Fatih, PhD Research, Uncategorized by Bacho on December 4, 2010

The answer is a resounding “NO”.  How depressing.  Why?  What is the reason for such shocking news?  Well, there are 171 days left until Jesus’ second coming.  According to this article, that’s the message on 40 billboards around Nashville, proclaiming May 21, 2011, as the date of the Rapture. Billboards are up in eight other U.S. cities, too.  Who can we thank for such amazing news?  Harold Camping, the founder  of Family Radio Inc made this prediction that has been plastered all over Nashville.

Here is his rationale…

“In 2 Peter 3:8 Holy God reminds us that one day is as 1,000 years. Therefore, with the correct understanding that the seven days referred to in Genesis 7:4 can be understood as 7,000 years, we learn that when God told Noah there were seven days to escape worldwide destruction, He was also telling the world there would be exactly 7,000 years (one day is as 1,000 years) to escape the wrath of God that would come when He destroys the world on Judgment Day. Because Holy Infinite God is all-knowing, He knows the end from the beginning. He knew how sinful the world would become.
Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar).
4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000
[One year must be subtracted in going from an Old Testament B.C. calendar date to a New Testament A.D. calendar date because the calendar does not have a year zero.]
Thus Holy God is showing us by the words of 2 Peter 3:8 that He wants us to know that exactly 7,000 years after He destroyed the world with water in Noah’s day, He plans to destroy the entire world forever. Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment.
Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C.”

How does one reconcile this non compos mentis exegesis with with the following assertions of the New Testament?

Matt. 24:42 “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

Mark 13:32-33“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”

Luke 12:39-40“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

This entire interpretive acrobatics hinges on 2 Peter 3.8:”But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.”

This text is based on the quotation of Psalm 90.4:

For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.

Psalms are poetry.  They do not supply ready-made eschatological time-tables.  This is about asserting God’s sovereignty over time and human life.

When Peter brings this text into his letter, he has a similar intent yet slightly different.  Michael Green in his TNTC commentary writes, “Whereas Psalm 90 contrasts the eternity of God with the brevity human life, 2 Peter contrasts the eternity of God with the impatience of human speculations.”    The context of that text is that the hearers of this letter were living in  tension of expecting the Day of the Lord as imminent, yet facing the reality of its delay.  Delay that to them appeared to be lengthy, possibly eliciting the skepticism of scoffers around them.  So this text calls them to consider that this delay, which seems agonizingly long, may not be so significant when seen in the larger context of what God was doing in history.  God alone has that overarching perspective.  He alone retains the knowledge of the date of the Second Coming.  His power and wisdom call his people to patent and creative faithfulness rather than mathematical speculations or loss of hope.  This Christmas season we are urged by the gospel texts above to live lives awakened and expectant.  Praying and longing for His appearing.  Nourishing faith, caring for people around us, living lives of the Kingdom to Come right here and now.  Practicing the Resurrection, as Eugene Peterson would put it.

It is worth hearing Robert Banks’ words from his book The Tyranny of Time, ‘There is both extraordinary slowness and intermittent suddenness in God’s way of working. Think about God’s creative activity. From scientific studies we know that the evolutionary process through which God brings everything into being is a slow affair which is still unfolding. Changes in the inorganic, animal and human world over a period of six thousand million years were mostly infinitesimal. Yet every so often explosions of biological novelty took place. These surprising bursts of evolutionary activity followed protracted development within species, and occurred, biologically speaking, with unexpected rapidity. Is it improper to read from this something about the way God approaches his work?’

According to John Calvin, Peter is urging his readers “when the coming of Christ is talked about, to raise their eyes upwards, for by so doing they will not subject the time appointed by God to their own ridiculous wishes.”

Finally we bear in mind Barnett’s words, “Faith orients man to eternity, whereas scoffers remain children of time.”



Out of this world idea for funding your PhD in Biblical Studies

Posted in Humor, PhD Funding Ideas, Uncategorized by Bacho on December 1, 2010

Angeles Duran, 49-year-old Spanish lady has claimed to be the owner of the Sun. Duran said she registered the star at a local notary public as her property after learning about the Nevada entrepreneur Dennis Hope, who registered the Moon and most planets in our solar system as his property.

Duran has used the same loophole as Hope by getting around the United Nations Outer Space Treaty, adopted in 1967, that stipulates “outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” According to Duran this international treaty, while prohibiting nations from ownership of a planet or star, says nothing about individuals.

“There was no snag, I backed my claim legally, I am not stupid, I know the law. I did it but anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first,” she told the online edition of Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo.

The document issued by the notary public declares Duran to be the “owner of the Sun, a star of spectral type G2, located in the center of the solar system, located at an average distance from Earth of about 149,600,000 kilometers,” Barcelona News reports.

Duran said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government and 20 percent to the nation’s pension fund. She would dedicate another 10 percent to research, another 10 percent to ending world hunger — and would keep the remaining 10 percent herself.

OK…I am on my way to the title agency to register the ownership of UFOs.  Every time anyone wants to refer to them or claim to have detected them will have to pay a fee, preferably in British currency. 100 percent of the proceeds will go towards my PhD research.

Top 50 Biblioblogers in November

Posted in Uncategorized by Bacho on December 1, 2010

The November rankings for top 50 biblilobloggers is out.  Check it out on Free Old Testament Audio Website Blog.

Legos and the Sache of Christian Scripture

Posted in Humor, Uncategorized by Bacho on September 21, 2010

My kids love legos.  I love the Bible.  How does one merge these two worlds?  Well, tonight the riddle is solves.  Here are few Biblical lego shots that I came across:

1.Adam and Eve in the garden

2.Samson on his way to Timnah

3.Job’s misery

4.David kills 100 men and removes their foreskins

5.The Armageddon

6.Maranatha

One Essential Ingredient for Writing a PhD Dissertation in Biblical Studies

Posted in Uncategorized by Bacho on August 23, 2010

COFFEE.  OK. If you are British or one of those Americans who picks up the accent and habits of their Doktorvater: Tea.

Most of us in the States will write our magnum opus at Starbucks.  So I thought, I would give few random facts about our academic domicile:

-Cinnamon Chip scone has more calories that a quarter pounder.  At 480 calories it supersedes McDonalds’ quarter pounder by 70 calories.  So next time you are tempted to “save time”, think twice.  A brisk walk to the golden arches might be both invigorating for your soul and your waist.

-Smiling is a part of Barista’s job description.  Well, I have suspected that.  All those detailed questions about my weekend, my dissertation, my LIFE…I thought they really care.  Well, maybe.  Or it might be their tool of trade.

-Tables are designed with a solo visitor in mind.  Where am I supposed to put my books?  Notes? Computer?  I guess they did not design these tables with a solo PhD student in Biblical studies in mind.

-Most stores are designed according to one of three templates.  I wondered why they all look the same.  Do all PhD dissertations written at Starbucks also come in three basic templates?

Well there are a total of nine interesting facts that I gleaned today.  Feel free to check them all out.

Franz Delitzsch on Reading the Bible as Christian Scripture

I just came across Franz Delitzsch’s short article titled “Must We Follow the New Testament Interpretation of the Old Testament Texts?” published in The Old Testament Student, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Nov., 1886), pp. 77-78

Here is Delitzsch on the relationship between the two testaments:

“The New Testament is the key to the Old, and the citations of the Old Testament in the New are the norm according to which the Christian interpretation must use these keys of knowledge (cf. Luke xi. 52). These citations, however, are not specimens of the art of grammatico-historical exegesis, but illustrations of prophecy by the history of its fulfillment. The apostles determine the meaning of the Scriptures, not according to the consciousness of the Old Testament writers, but according to the meaning of the Holy Spirit, who passes into them, as the one “auctor primarius” (cf. Ileb. III. 7).”

Furthermore, here is Delitzsch on Jesus as the key interpretation of scripture:

“The New Testament writers presuppose that not merely this or that passage in the Old Testament is a prophecy looking to the New Testament, but that the whole is a prophecy of the New. Jesus is the fulfilling of the law and the prophets (Matt. v. 17); he is the “end of the law” (Rom. x. 4). The history of the Old Testament, the cultus of the Old Testament and the prophecy of the Old Testament-all look to him as their goal.”

Finally, here is Delitzsch’s memorable words that point to our need to reading the Bible as a whole, two-part canonical Scripture:

“Without the New Testament, the Old Testament would be a labyrinth without a clue, a syllogism without a conclusion, a riddle without a solution, a torso without a head, a moon without a sun, since Christ is the proper interpreter of the Old Testament.”

John Goldingay: Brilliant Old Testament Scholarship and Genuine Faith

John Goldingay is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Seminary.  He seeks to combine his superb scholarly training in Old Testament with genuine Christian faith.  Among things written by him that should be on everyone’s shelf are 3 volumes of Old Testament Theology and Models for Interpretation o Scripture. He has also begun a series Old Testament for Everyone that is a counterpart to NT Wright’s New Testament for Everyone.

As much as one might appreciate and at times strongly disagree with his approach, there is also another side to this brilliant scholar.  It is his tender faith.  Reading his book Walk On that chronicles his life journey and struggle with his wife’s severe disability brought tears to my eyes and gave me a new appreciation for his scholarship as well.  As someone who seeks to stand on the border of academy and believing community, I find Goldingay as superb example to follow. Here is a short video that gives a very personal side of John Goldingay.

[NB. Some might find his language offensive.  Yet I hope that we find him more convicting than scandalizing]

What will or will not make NT Wright a great PhD supervisor?

Posted in PhD Research, The Vocation of a Theologian, Uncategorized by Bacho on May 5, 2010

As NT Wright moves to ST. Andrews many aspiring scholars are polishing their applications in hopes of studying under one of the modern-day giants of Biblical scholarship.  What will or will not make him or anyone else a great supervisor to work with?  Here are some thoughts on PhD supervision…

1.Availability: Some supervisors can be so entrenched in their own research, teaching, and personal life, that their grad students can be looked at as annoying distraction.  Bare minimum of time is given to those who really need more than time.  The intangible pastoral issues like encouragement, help with overcoming the writer’s block, patient listening to grasp where real issues, misunderstanding, and gaps of knowledge are- these all come as a result of ample times of interaction.  Slow, leisurely, and focused immersion in the PhD student’s life and work is an absolute necessity.  If you hear the current grad students complain about the lack of time given to them by their supervisor- run away as fast as you can and find other places to apply.

2.Subject competence: Find someone whose work you already like and whose area of competence fits with your own research.  A big name might or might not mean a competent supervisor.  Nobody can know in depth about every area of study.  I have seen some who ended up wasting some precious time as their supervisors sent them on months long side projects and detours.  The easiest way to find out is by looking up on ATLA what they have written lately or simply asking them about the direction of their own research in a near future.

3.Unpacked bags: Does this scholar have any plans of moving any time soon or will they be there to see you complete your degree?  Changing supervisors mid-course can a death blow to your research or at least lead to major set-backs.  It is hard to tell, but there might be some clues like sudden burst of publishing activity, frequent trips to various other academic institutions.  An honest e-mail exchange or face-to-face conversation can also be very helpful.

These are my starter thoughts.  Feel free to add some of your own…

View from Durham: Thoughts on NT Wright’s Move to St. Andrews

Posted in PhD Research, The Vocation of a Theologian, Uncategorized by Bacho on April 28, 2010

The news about NT Wright moving to the University of St. Andrews spread like wild fire around the blogging world.  What does this move mean for NT Wright, St. Andrews and Durham?  I will try to venture into some of my own observations and ideas.

As I blog this entry I am looking at the Durham Cathedral [Theology and Religion department sits right next to it].  Durham Cathedral, built in 1093 is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Durham.  Currently N.T. Wright still holds that seat.  From 1080 until the 19th century the holder of this seat enjoyed the powers of a Prince-Bishop, combining military and religious authority.  The seat of the Bishop of Durham is the fourth most significant in the Church of England hierarchy.  The Bishop of Durham stands at the right hand of the monarch at coronations.  This position is political in nature as well as spiritual as both the Prime Minister and the Queen are involved in the appointment of the Bishop of Durham.

The point of this excursus into history and nature of this role is to give a sense what NT Wright faces on the daily basis.  He is a public figure with extremely high demand on his time and attention.  In addition to the significance of this role in the Church of England hierarchy, Durham has some of the poorest areas of this country.  This too comes with its own set of challenges.

All to say that to do this job and to do it well is more than a full time job for any human being.  One can imagine it being stressful and demanding.  NT Wright himself has alluded that one can only do it well for about 8 years.

Just as many of us have done in our lives, he comes to a fork in a road.  Two passions clamor for his time and energy.  He has to make a choice.  So he is going to St. Andrews.  This a fantastic move for him personally and for St. Andrews.  For him this means more room to write, reflect and teach, as he loves doing that.  Also, one can imagine that this gives more room for his family.  Why is this a good move for St. Andrews?  Some have speculated that this will increase the number of PhD students.  In some ways this is true.  NT Wright has enough of a fan club for that to happen.  At this point it is not clear if he will supervise any PhD students.  He will most likely teach some modules as many here have alluded to his love of teaching.  But the bulk of his time will be spent on writing, so the initial wave of fresh PhDs will eventually die down.  The real win for St. Andrews is that this will boost their ratings in REA rankings.  What is REA?  Research Assessment Exercise is done in the UK approximately every five years to measure the quality of research in various disciplines.  In the Research Assessment Exercise for 2008, Durham University was ranked no. 1 among all departments of theology and religion in the UK in two categories: (a) the highest percentage of publications at 4* (world-leading research) and (b) the highest Grade Point Average for these publications.  It seems that NT Wright’s scholarly contributions have something to do with that.  All that now goes to St. Andrews.

What does this mean for Durham?  Well, Durham looses its most celebrated icon and a passionate churchman.  Yet as NT Wright moves there is still plenty of top notch scholarship going on here. The faculty is still very strong. In OT and related studies : Moberly, Weeks, and Hayward. In NT and related studies: Barclay, Barton, and Watson.  In Historical Theology and Church History: Ayers, Louth, and Harrison.   Durham was and still is a great place to study even if the NT Wright fan base moves to St. Andrews.