InterVarsity Alumni Bible Study: Philadelphia

IV Alumni

I love to give others a love for God’s word (see here), and the context where I learned to love the Bible was InterVarsity, where we studied the text in depth.  Because of my experiences doing Scripture study as an undergrad, I came on IV staff, and then later felt a call to teach Old Testament, where I now teach at BTS.

Many IV alumni find it difficult to reproduce their Bible study experiences in churches, in small groups, or in other ministry contexts once they graduate.  There are books out there to help them transition from the campus to the real world (see in particular Rich Lamb’s, Following Jesus in the “Real World), but still they long for a profound experience in the word like they had as undergrads.

If you live in the Philadelphia area, you’re in luck.  On April 17-18 (2015) InterVarsity will be hosting an alumni Bible Study at the Conference Center at Valley Forge.   It will be a great opportunity to study Scripture, to listen to God, and to others.  Jen Eisenberg, Becky Detrick, Liz Kidney, and a few other folks (including Shannon and I) helped organize it.

We’ll be looking at the end of Matthew’s gospel, the less familiar parts that sometimes get ignored.  Here’s the schedule:

Friday evening:          Jesus’ anointing at Bethany                (Matt 26:1-16)
Saturday morning:     Jesus’ burial in Joseph’s tomb            (Matt 27:57-66)
Saturday afternoon:   Jesus’ resurrection and commission   (Matt 28:1-20)

Here is the link to register.  You can either stay overnight, or drive home Friday night and come back Saturday.
Here is the link to the Facebook page.

It will not only be a chance to study Scripture, but also to re-connect with old friends.  So, don’t just register yourself, invite some friends you haven’t seen for awhile.  Please tell other IV alumni you think might be interested, or send them a link to this post.

We plan to schedule more of these alumni Bible studies in the future.

I’m going.  Hope to see you there.

Jefferson, Selma, and the Ordinance of 1784

As we remember MLK’s march for voting rights fifty years ago, it’s interesting to go back further in our history, we can wonder how the story of race in the US might have been very different, and how a march in Selma, Alabama might not have even been necessary if one man from New Jersey hadn’t been sick over 230 years ago.

I had never heard of the Ordinance of 1784, but I learned a little about it as I was recently reading Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (2012).  (If you enjoy presidential history, you’ll love it. It’s a great read.)

Jefferson is a bit of a conundrum when it comes to the issue of race and slavery. He most famously wrote that “all men are created equal…” in the Declaration of Independence, and yet he owned hundreds of slaves. He argued for the abolition of slavery, but only freed a few of his own. He was almost certainly in a long-term relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and probably fathered several of her children.

In 1784, the new US government was trying to determine how to govern the territories generally to the west of the Thirteen Colonies, as the expectation that they would eventually become states and join the union. Jefferson drafted the ordinance, he was kind of the “go to guy” for this sort of thing.

The fifth article of the ordinance essentially said that after 1800, none of the newly formed states that were formed from these territories would have slavery or involuntary servitude (Meacham, 173).

As the congress debated the fifth article, they voted to remove it by a margin of only one vote.  Unfortunately for Jefferson and other proponents of this fifth article, a member of the New Jersey delegation, who apparently would have voted to keep it in the Ordinance, was sick in bed.

Future states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, home of Selma, would not have been slave states after 1800 if this fifth article had passed.  It didn’t, and they became slave states.

Jefferson wrote, “Thus we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and heaven was silent in that awful moment” (Meacham, 173).  Two years later, he was expressed a similar sentiment, but slightly more positively, “The voice of a single individual would have prevented this abominable crime; heaven will not always be silent; the friends to the rights of human nature will in the end prevail” (from Wikipedia).

Obviously, even if slavery were not allowed in these post-Thirteen Colonies Southern states, racism would likely have still continued unabated.  Since the Selma March for equal voting rights was still necessary a hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation.  But it’s hard not to imagine that things could have been very different, but for the absence of one person’s effort as Jefferson so eloquently put it.

This story convicts me to not be like that guy from New Jersey in 1784, but like those marchers in 1965, and like even the confusing Thomas Jefferson, to do something to advance racial equality.  We haven’t fully overcome yet, but we are slowly making progress.

The Good Shepherd: An Endorsement

The 23rd Psalm must be the best-known, most-loved psalm, or perhaps even poem, in the world.

Kenneth E. Bailey, author of Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, has written a book tracing how readers have read and interpreted the psalm: The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament (IVP). See top image.

Here is my endorsement, which appears on the back cover:

“Kenneth Bailey refreshes the souls of readers with deep textual insights and helpful contextual background to safely shepherd readers through the thousand year story of Psalm 23, making several stops along the way in the Prophets, before settling into the Gospels where he deftly introduces us to a fresh understanding of the Good Shepherd. Anyone who loves the 23rd Psalm will love this book.”

I felt honored that my endorsement appeared alongside those of Gary Burge, Tremper Longman III, and Christopher Wright (the latter two have gracious agreed to endorse my next book), but curiously, the British publisher for the book (SPCK) decided to omit one of the four IVP endorsements from their back cover (hint: the one dropped wasn’t from Longman, Burge or Wright). See bottom image.

IVP generously sent me two copies of this book (one as an IVP author, one as an endorser).

In addition to endorsing the book, The Good Shepherd, I always endorse the person known as the Good Shepherd (see John 10:11).

I hope this book restores your soul.

Book Review of Did God Really Command Genocide? Part 2

In recent years there has been a spate of books addressing the problem of the “Canaanite genocide” by Wright, Copan, and Seibert. Even Lamb entered the fray.  In 2013, a collection of essays edited by Thomas, Evans, and Copan addressed the issue of Holy War in the Bible.  In my contribution, I argue that biblical warfare shouldn’t be associated with holiness since, according to the text, divine anger and compassion are its primary motivations.

The most recent addition to the discussion of biblical warfare comes from Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan (C&F): Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God.  In Part 1 of my review (click here) I examine the first section of the book, and Part 2, I will look at the next section of the book which begins to work through the relevant textual issues, which is the section of the book I’m personally most interested in.

Chapter 4 asks, “Does the Bible Command Us to Kill Innocent Human Beings?”  The answer to this question might seem to be an obvious “No.” But the argument is sometimes made that the Canaanite slaughter could be seen as establishing a biblical precedent for later slaughters (let’s mention the Crusades, since that’s the obvious one always referred to).  C&F argue persuasively that the command to “utterly destroy” was unusual and shouldn’t be understood as establishing a precedent.

Chapter 5 asks, “Does the Bible portray the Canaanites as innocent?”  The answer here again is “No” and C&F make three points. First, Israel owned the land because God gave it to them.  I generally agree with this point, but a skeptic or an atheist won’t be convinced by it, because the Canaanites were in possession of the land. Second, the crimes of the Canaanites, which included human sacrifice, were serious crimes, worthy of punishment. Third, the Israelites needed to remain free from the influence of the Canaanites.  They conclude the chapter with three examples of Canaanites who were spared: Caleb (not sure about this one), the Shechemites, and Rahab, who is the best example since she’s clearly Canaanite (not like Caleb), and yet she and her family are spared.

Chapter 6 makes the point that instead of annihilating the Canaanites the most common textual image for the conquest is that of “driving them out,” a point I also make in God Behaving Badly (p. 100).  This point is helpful for several reasons.  It takes the text seriously and it acknowledges that the process of removing the Canaanites from the land may have taken awhile and wasn’t exclusively done by extermination.

Chapter 7 argues that readers of the “utterly destroy” texts of Joshua should not read these texts literally, but as examples of hyperbole.  A hyperbolic interpretation makes a lot of sense, particularly as one compares these more problematic texts with other texts in Joshua and Judges.  I make this point in my Relevant article (“Reconciling the God of Love with the God of Genocide”), but C&F use Wolterstorff and Kitchen, which are probably a better choices.  For the most in-depth academic discussion of the topic of hyperbole in ancient conquest narratives, check out the monograph of Lawson Younger here.

If my review continued I’d get in trouble for too many spoilers.  So, for the motivated reader who’s interested in making sense of the problem of the so-called “Canaanite Genocide” I’d highly recommend this book.