Goldingay’s The First Testament on Jesus Creed


Scot McKnight invited me to respond to questions about John Goldingay’s translation of the Old Testament, The First Testament.

Here are my responses just posted on Scot’s blog, Jesus Creed.

Enjoy.

Full disclosure, I also endorsed the book (see quote on the back cover).  I think it’s a great translation.

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Urbana 2018

Since 1946, God has spoken to over 300,000 students at the Urbana conference about missions and what he is doing around the world.  The conference started in Toronto, moved to Urbana, Illinois in 1948, and since 2006, it has been held in St. Louis (but they kept the name Urbana).  It is the largest student missions conference in North America.  The theme Urbana 18  is “Faithful Witness: Discern your place in God’s Global Mission” and the biblical focus will be on the book of Revelation.

God spoke to me about missions and ministry at Urbana 1981, and 37 years later I’m still teaching the Bible.  And God has led me to be involved in cross-cultural projects in Hawaii, Nigeria, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia, Israel, Liberia, and Korea.  It has been my delight to attend seven Urbanas (1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996, 2015), and from December 26-January 1, I’ll attend my eighth, this time with my wife Shannon (who’s been to four more than me).

At Urbana, I’ll be leading two seminars:

  1. God Behaving Badly: Is God Really Angry, Sexist, and Racist? At America’s Center (AC) 223-224 on December 28 from 2:00-3:00.  Many people think of God as wrathful, smiting people for no apparent reason. The Old Testament seems to portray God as malevolent, punishing enemies with extreme prejudice. But alongside these passages are pictures of God’s love, goodness, and compassion. How do we make sense of the seeming contradiction?
  2. Sexual Abuse in the Bible (#metoo), Hyatt Regency @Arch, Regency Ballroom DEF on December 30 from 3:30-4:30.  While people in power have been covering up sexual abuse for millennia, the Bible boldly records the tragic stories of Sarah, Hagar, two Tamars, and Bathsheba. As we examine these stories, we will discover how God shows mercy not only to victims but also to perpetrators of sexual abuse.

The first seminar will be based on material from my book, God Behaving Badly, and the second, on material from my book, Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style.

My wife Shannon will be co-leading a Bible study with Esrael Seyum on the book of Revelation with 800 international students (in AC 223-224, December 28, 29, 30, 31 in the mornings).  As many of you know, Revelation can be confusing, so she and Esrael will need great wisdom to lead this large group into clarity about God’s word.

If you’re coming to Urbana, I hope to see you there.  If you’re the praying sort, Shannon and I would covet your prayers.

Bible Reading 101 (Part 2): Keep Track

Bible Reading Chart 2What do you keep track of?

People keep track of calories, expenses, water consumption, sex, bills, medications, vacation time, chores, taxes.  Why do we record these things?  When life is complicated, it’s easy to forget (particularly as we get older), and there are often serious consequences when we can’t remember what we have and haven’t done.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

For the past four years I’ve been using a fitness tracker (first a Fitbit, then a Garmin watch) to help me record my steps, my runs, my heartbeat, my workouts.   A few years ago, it seemed like no one had fitness trackers, but I was in a meeting a few days ago, and I looked around and the majority of the people were wearing some type of tracker.  Why do I have a tracker?  It is important to me to know how much exercise I am getting.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

In my last blog, I wrote about reading the Bible slowly, one chapter a day.  Here, I’m going to encourage you to “Keep Track” as you read the Bible.

For most of my adult life I would randomly pick a part of the Bible to read next in my daily devotions.   I would feel like reading Mark, then Exodus, then 2 Timothy (my favorite books).  I would continue this cycle for a while until I thought, I think it’s time for me to go back and read Mark, then Exodus, then 2 Timothy.  Strangely, I never felt like reading Leviticus, Nahum, or Jude.

In my optimistic moments, I would rationalize that I had probably read through the whole Bible in its entirety in my random Bible reading plan.  But in my more realistic moments I realized that the odds of me randomly completing the Bible were the same as winning the lottery.  It is important to read through the whole Bible if you believe all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching.

Things that are important you keep track of.  

About 6 years ago I started to keep track of which parts of the Bible I’ve read.  I decided I didn’t need a high-tech solution to this problem.  A piece of 8.5″ by 11″ paper listing the  66 books of the Bible would suffice (see image).  After I finish a book, I record the month I complete it.  To decide which book to read next, I just find one I haven’t read for a while.  It took me about 5 years to finish.

There are 1189 chapters in the Bible.  If you read one a day (and you keep track), you should finish the Bible in 3.25 years.  If you are young, you could read through the Bible 10-15 times over the course of your life.

I know there are apps for keeping track.  But I’ve decided to not use my phone during devotions or prayer times because it is too easy for me to get sucked into emails, news, sports, youtube, or other temptations.  Perhaps you are better at resisting temptation than I?

I also don’t like using devotional guides that direct you through the Bible because it is easy to spend more time on the fluff (the side bars, the personal stories), so you don’t actually spend much time reading the Bible.  Pure, unadulterated Scripture is my preference.

I would be happy to email anyone (dlamb@biblical.edu) my Bible Tracking chart.  I folded mine in half and I keep it in my devotional Bible, so I know where it is.

There are a lot of ways to record what you’ve read, but figure out a method that works for you, since…

Things that are important you keep track of.  

Bible Reading 101 (Part 1): Start Slow

Image result for slow runningI often hear someone say, “I’m going to read through the whole Bible this year.”   I don’t say it, but I think, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”  I’m not normally a pessimist.  When I applied to college, the adjective I used to describe myself on my application was “optimistic.”  But when I comes to year-long Bible plans, I’m a realist–they are rarely realized.  I don’t want to be a heretic, but I think trying to read the Bible in a year is usually a bad idea.  And I love reading the Bible.

I’m reminded of the new jogger who boldly declares, “I’m going to run a marathon in 3 months.” I’ll believe it when I see it.  I’ve been running for twenty years.  I’ve run three half-marathons, but haven’t been able to do a full marathon for a variety of health reasons (AFib, plantar fasciitis, and a varies of injuries to my toe, calf, knee, hamstrings, etc).  Running in a marathon won’t happen for most people, and it’s probably a bad idea (running is hard on the body).

Reading through the Bible in a year is a lot like running a marathon.  It’s hard for most of us to do, and not very helpful.  The Bible contains 1189 chapters, which means if you read seven days a week, 365 days a year, you’ll need to read 3-4 chapters a day just to finish.

If you’re sick, or miss a few days on vacation, it goes up to 5-6 chapters a day.  How much do you comprehend, or even remember when you are reading that much Scripture that quickly?  Not much.  (If you’re retired and have several hours a day for long Bible reading–that’s fantastic–I’ll look forward to that!)

Most people who start with this lofty plan end somewhere in Exodus, or perhaps they make it as far as the desert of Leviticus.  Then they feel defeated, discouraged, perhaps like they let God down.

I never recommend reading through the Bible in a year.

I was speaking this past Sunday to the high school group at my church (Calvary Church of Souderton) with my wife Shannon about personal Bible study.  I gave them three recommendations.  My first was, “Start slow.”

Most people when they start running are excited, eager, energetic, so they run too fast, too far, too long, which often leads to injury, pain or burnout, which means they give up after a few runs, like most year-long Bible readers.  If people ask me about starting to run, I say, “Start slow.”

When I started running (in my 30’s), I began running a slow mile, for several weeks, and then very gradually running longer distances.  Over the course of a year, my distances increased, and I started running in races: a 5K, a 10K, then a half-marathon–but only after having run for several years.

When it comes to Bible reading, “Start slow.”  Plan to read your Bible just a chapter a day, or perhaps 5-10 verses.  It may take you a few years to finish it but you probably already know how the story ends.  And you will get more out of it from a slow read.  If you’re reading a short section, you can re-read it, and reflect on it since you aren’t in a hurry to tick off those four chapters.  You are far more likely to remember a chapter you’ve read twice, than 4 chapters you’re read once.  If God can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22), he can certainly speak through speed-reading programs, but it is more likely we will be able to hear him if we are reading his word slowly.

My next blog, “Bible Reading 101 (Part 2): Keep Track.”