Deeper Waters Podcast 7/11/2020

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Trinity is one of those doctrines that Christians get out when they need to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they don’t pay much attention to elsewhere. It’s a shame because the Trinity is a birthright of Christians. It is a teaching that can change everything for us if we let it.

While Jehovah’s Witnesses will say it is a late development, it is all over the pages of the New Testament. One such place is in Romans. Paul moves back and forth from the Father to the Son to the Holy Spirit. Does a Trinitarian understanding help us in any way here? What difference does it make?

To discuss this, I have brought on a friend of mine who got in touch with me who recently wrote a book on this topic. He is a New Testament scholar and very well informed and also known as the Greek Geek. I can also assure listeners that if for some reason we cannot do the show, it will indeed be his fault. (Inside joke for those who understand it.) His name is Ron C. Fay.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Ron C. Fay did his undergraduate work at Calvin College (now Calvin University), where he majored in Physics/Math and Classical Greek. He earned his M Div and PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), where he was the New Testament Department Scholar. He has taught at both TEDS and Liberty University, at the School of Divinity, as part of the New Testament faculty. He has taught from Junior High to doctoral level courses. He spent 7 years in the pastorate as well. He currently teaches for both Liberty and the Stony Brook School. He has published on Paul, Greco-Roman Backgrounds, John, and Luke-Acts and is coediting the series Milstones in New Testament Scholarship with Stanley E. Porter. His book Father, Son, and Spirit in Romans 8: The Roman Reception of Paul’s Trinitarian Theology was just released. 

Romans is a great treasure for Christians and we will be diving into it. Prepare yourself to see the Trinity in the book through new eyes. We have also recently uploaded several episodes and are catching up on others so hopefully, we will be up to date soon.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/17/2016: Jeffrey Weima

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We had some recording problems with a past show so once we get that taken care of, we will be uploading again. This could also be the last show of the year. I’m not sure, but I don’t think many people care for a new podcast on Christmas and New Year’s Eve both. So if this is it, let’s see how this year will end.

Letter-writing is today seen as a lost art. It’s certainly not one I partake in. It was done in the ancient world and one of our most prolific writers was Paul. Have we ever stopped to think not just about the content of what he said but the way he generally worked his letters? What is the style of Paul? What does he intend to do with openings and closings and everything in between?

We may not have, but someone has. That someone is Jeffrey Weima. He is the author of Paul: The Ancient Letter Writer: An Introduction to Epistolary Analysis. We will be talking to him about what all went into Paul writing his letters and recognizing the various parts of his letters, but who is Jeffrey Weima?

jeffreyweima

According to his bio:

Dr. Jeffrey Weima is Professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, where he has taught for the past 25 years. He is a sought-after speaker who is able to communicate well the truths of the Bible in an interesting, contemporary and practical manner. Jeff has published five books (Neglected Endings: The Significance of the Pauline Letter Closings [1994]; An Annotated Bibliography of 1 and 2 Thessalonians [1998]; 1 & 2 Thessalonians [2002]), recently completing a major commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Baker Books: 2014). His fifth and latest book, Paul the Ancient Letter Writer: An Introduction to Epistolary Analysis, appeared in the fall of this year (Baker Books: 2016). Jeff is also the author of numerous scholarly articles, academic essays and book reviews. He has taught courses all over the world: Hungary, Greece, Italy, South Korea, Kenya, Taiwan, The Philippines, and South Africa. Jeff is an active member of several academic societies, lectures overseas, leads biblical study tours to Greece,Turkey, Israel/Jordan, and Italy, conducts intensive preaching seminars for pastors, and preaches widely in the Christian Reformed Church as well as many other churches in both the USA and Canada.
Jeff and his wife, Bernice, have been married for 33 years. They have four children and five very cute grandkids.

Many of us have studied the writings of Paul and read about them, but how many of us have studied the style of Paul and the importance of every single part of his letters? Is there really something significant in the introduction to Galatians for instance? You might be surprised. In fact, I hope you will be. Weima’s book is a fascinating work that I recommend greatly.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to this new episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review. You know I love to see them!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Paul The Ancient Letter Writer

What do I think of Jeffrey Weima’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Writing letters nowadays is a lost art. Very few people do anything like that with email being available now. In the digital age, it’s hard to think about what it was like in prior ages, especially in an oral age. When you wrote a letter, you had to use few words and say much with those words. It was timely and expensive.

Paul in writing would have to be a master and demonstrate masterful rhetoric to get his point across. Unfortunately, in our society we see that as a negative where rhetoric has in fact become a word to refer to talk without substance. In Paul’s day, it would mean making a great substance for a talk using keywords.

Also, we have to understand the mood of the day. Was Paul engaging in emotional blackmail to Philemon? Were Paul’s greetings or closings just throwaway material? Can there really be anything in a simple benediction or introduction? What difference does it make to list the names of people you were with as you start or introduce a letter?

Fortunately, we have Jeffrey Weima’s book to help with this. Weima goes through each section of a letter wrestling with the implications of what is meant. Of course, no thorough analysis of long letters like Romans or 1 Corinthians are available and we can only touch some of the letters like Galatians or 2 Thessalonians. Still, what there is dealt with should be grabbed onto.

There is also looking as I said at the introduction and closings. For instance, Galatians 1 starts with saying “And all the brothers and sisters with me.” Is Paul just being friendly here? Nope. Paul is pulling weight. He is saying he is not just a lone wolf apostle. He is saying that he is backed by all of the brothers and sisters there. Not just some. All of them. Immediately the Galatian hearers would know that if they challenged Paul back, it would be a challenge against not just him, but several others.

When Paul lists who he is with, is there something to this? Yes. In his closings, Paul often makes some final appeals and usually has his autograph statement to show that it is his letter. Compare the names in Colossians with those in Philemon. Is Paul again pulling weight?

We often look at the body and can miss some of the main points Paul makes because we don’t think the way Paul did. We miss ideas like chiasms for instance, such as Paul speaking about sending Timothy in 1 Thessalonians. We also miss that if he sends Timothy, it’s a big deal, since Timothy is practically his right-hand man. We can miss that in the correspondence in 2 Thessalonians, Paul seven times refers to his audience as “brothers and sisters.” Let’s not get so caught up in the argument that we miss underlying points.

Weima wraps this up in the end by looking at Philemon as a case study. It’s a good and short letter and everything he mentioned is in it. When you finish it, you’ll get more out of Philemon than you ever did before.

This work will give you plenty to think about. I would have liked seeing some more interaction with the idea of secretaries. If we say Paul wrote the letter, just how much did he write. Was this the master craftsmanship of a secretary or of Paul? After all, we know some of his letters, and quite likely all, were written with the help of secretaries. Just how much did Paul influence?

This is a good book still that you will want to add to your library. It’s a wonderful look at the Greco-Roman rhetorical style for writing. Your reading of Paul’s letters will never be the same.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Is Romans 7 About Paul?

Is Romans 7 about Paul’s struggle with sin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about Romans 7 and briefly stated that it’s not autobiographical. To some readers, this was a bit of a surprise. They had always read it as Paul describing his struggle with sin and I have heard more than enough sermons describing it that way. Is it really the case that Paul is not describing himself?

First off, this isn’t a minority view. This is a common view found in scholarship. It was also the view of Origen just a couple of centuries or so after the writing of Romans. What has really got it going more is that we’ve come to realize that in the West, we are very introspective and we often read our culture into the Bible. The people in the Bible were not really introspective and they did not live in our culture.

So let’s start by looking at the passage itself.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment,deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Seems straight forward enough. In fact, one reason we go to it is that so many of us can relate. Many of us know about not doing something that we really know we should and doing something that we know we shouldn’t. It seems common so it’s not a shock that we read this passage and think that Paul is speaking about us and that he went through the same thing.

But let’s go somewhere else. How about Philippians 3. How does Paul describe himself there?

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

We often have this view of Jews wrestling under the Law like it was the Islamic system and just hoping that they were good enough to merit the favor of God. They weren’t. In fact, the larger question for them was not their faithfulness to the covenant, but God’s. After all, they had done what they were to do, and yet here they were in their land which is being dominated by these wicked Gentiles from Rome. It’s too easy to take a Reformation scenario and project it back onto Judaism.

Paul has no wrestling going on in Philippians 3. We don’t see any death when the law comes. In fact, how can we even speak of Paul having life apart from the Law? That would not make sense to a Jew. Your whole life was the Law.

In fact, there’s a great danger that if we identify so much with Romans 7, we will fail to identify with Romans 8, and Romans 8 is all about how we live by the Spirit instead of by the Law. If we are living by the Law, we are not living by the Spirit. If we are not living by the Spirit, then the great promises of Romans 8 won’t apply to us and we can miss out on the victory over sin.

I don’t want to scare anyone though into thinking that I am calling into question your salvation. Not at all. I am calling into question though your identification. Do you identify with Romans 7 or Romans 8, and Romans 8 indicates at the end that we still struggle, but who can bring a charge against us?

So what is going on in Romans 7 if it’s not autobiographical?

There are many ideas, but I think Paul is speaking as Adam who he has mentioned in Romans 5. Ben Witherington in What’s In The Word? points out that for the rabbis, coveting was also the sin in the garden. This would mean that Adam had life, and then came the law and through that he fell into sin and died. Now the question for Paul’s audience is if they identify with Adam or with Christ.

It’s also your question today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: If You Call Yourself A Jew

What do I think of Rafael Rodriguez’s book published by Cascade books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

First off, some of you are wondering where the blog has been. We had some web site difficulties, but it looks like things are working now and hopefully they will stay working. We have been unable to record the last two episodes of the Deeper Waters Podcast, but we will be putting up soon the wonderful interview I had with Craig Keener on December 5th. For now, let’s look into the book we’re reviewing today.

I must admit my possible bias upfront and how I am entering dangerous territory in some ways. I am studying a Romans course next semester and the book that I am writing a review for here is actually not only on the reading list, but is in fact a book written by my teaching professor himself. Still, I will try to be as impartial as I can. Where there is something to praise, I plan to praise, and where there is something to critique, I hope to critique.

The idea Rodriguez starts with is that too often we have assumed that there were Jews of a sizable portion in Rome who had returned after the ban of Claudius was lifted. We know from Seutonius that the Jews had been expelled around 49 A.D. and this matches with what happens in Acts when Priscilla and Aquila show up and Paul starts working with them. They did get to come back and many commentators on Romans think that there was a sizable portion in the Roman church and Paul wrote to deal with a situation that was involving relations between Jews and Gentiles. This is something common, but Rodriguez calls it into question.

At the start, I do wish there had been some clarification here. It would be good for it to be said that there was no sizable population because sometimes I got the impression that it was believed that there weren’t any Jews in the Roman church. I would doubt this on simply historical grounds and on purely historical grounds, I do not think there is any way we could know this since we don’t exactly have the demographics of the Roman church. There is unfortunately no doubt going to be a lot of speculation on history whichever way we go since the specifics are not spelled out for us. We know Paul wrote Romans. We have a good idea of when he wrote it. We know he wrote it to the Romans church. We know what he wrote to them. It’s the why that’s often so difficult.

Rodriguez is not so sure on this point. Some of us will look at passages like Romans 2 which seem to be talking to a Jewish audience and saying “Well this sure looks like someone Jewish to me?” Rodriguez suggests that instead of seeing it as a Jew that Paul has in mind for who he’s interacting with, imagine Paul has in mind an interlocutor who is in fact a Gentile that has chosen to live under Jewish Law. What would such a person have to say about the righteousness found in Christ? After all, Paul makes the statement of “If you call yourself a Jew.” Could it be this is someone who sees themselves as a Jew not by nationality, but rather by an adoption of sorts?

It’s not really a far-fetched idea. I have heard some people theorize for instance that the Judaizers who went to the churches in Galatia might not have been Jews themselves but Gentiles who had chosen to live under Jewish Law. Rodriguez theorizes that if you take the position that he does, it changes the way the whole letter is read including when you get to chapters 9-11 which are often a hotspot of controversy in the book. I cannot say that I am fully persuaded by his hypothesis at this point, but I can definitely say that it does make sense and is no doubt worthy of further investigation.

From then on, the book becomes a commentary as well on the passages and often this can be a commentary that will be theologically motivating. The reader will be greatly blessed by reading this even if one does not agree with the hypothesis overall as there are some excellent writings on Christian living. This is not a book just meant to argue a case for a position on Romans after all, but to leave the reader with a greater understanding of Romans.

I do also agree with Rodriguez that the passage in Romans 7 is not autobiographical. Although many Christians can relate to it, Paul is not describing his own life before becoming a Christian. I don’t think Rodriguez’s interpretation of the Gentile interlocutor is as convincing as Ben Witherington’s idea that Paul is speaking as Adam and I do not think going back to Romans 5 is going back too far in the letter. Despite that, I am thankful that Rodriguez definitely recognizes that this is not Paul speaking of himself.

I did often wish that there would have been more on some difficult passages. For instance, what about in Romans 8 where it talks about he who put creation in bondage. Who is the he? There was not much if anything said on this and I would have liked to have seen that. I wouldn’t have minded also seeing some more expounding on a passage such as Romans 9:5 where it speaks about Jesus and describes Him as God.

I also was not convinced by his handling of Romans 16. I found that too brief and with the suggestion that the people there were not part of the Roman church. It could be, but I’m just not sold yet and that passage does indeed show that there were a number of people in the congregation then who would have been of Jewish descent. A most interesting case would have been Junia who Witherington thinks could have been Joanna from Luke 8:3 with a Greco-Roman name and possibly a new husband as well.

Also, I think Rodriguez does play too little with the extra-biblical data. While it can be that too many commentators have looked outside the text for information instead of focusing on the text, there is in fact a danger of missing the context the letter was written in and if we want to know who the audience was, any information from outside of the text should be taken seriously. Rodriguez does interact with this, but not as much as I would like.

Despite this, Rodriguez’s book is an easy read and in fact one the layman with some background knowledge could read. If you want to be a student of Romans, this is an idea worth considering. I hope more scholars will consider the idea of Rodriguez since it is an intriguing one and I must say I am certainly open to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Rediscovering Paul

What do I think of the book by Rodney Reeves, E. Randolph Richards, and David Capes published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Paul. He’s a fascinating figure. Who is the man and what shaped him? What can we learn from him today? There are many fine books out there about Paul and many fine ones from a Christian perspective, but now we have an extremely thorough one that seems to hit Paul from all angles and the church owes Reeves, Richards, and Capes a debt of gratitude for this excellent gift. It is a book that is highly readable and with solid content. While it could be seen as a primer of sorts with further reading at the end of each chapter to encourage the reader to study further, it could easily be seen as a reliable guide in itself and one who reads this will have an excellent understanding of the world of Paul.

The book also includes several sidebar statements where the authors ask about a claim “So what?” Students often want to know what difference that something that can be often thought to be a tangential point. Isn’t this just something that nerdy scholars would care about? What difference will it make in my own life. The authors want you to know what difference it does make. There also are “What’s More” sections. In these, the authors add in additional details and sometimes even post ideas that would be challenging to our modernistic ways of thinking and say “Maybe we should take Paul a little bit more seriously here.”

It is incredible how thorough this book is. I particularly enjoyed the first part with reading about the honor-shame culture. This is a favorite area of mine to study and I wish more people spoke about it and I’m encouraged to know that NT students who are beginning their studies will be learning about this fascinating area. In fact, there are a number of times in the book I was thinking an area had been left out. For instance, when it comes to the section on the writing of letters I knew I was getting to the end and was thinking “What would be really nice is if they had included something on how much it cost to write one of these letters.” What do you know? Right towards the end there’s a section on the cost of writing the letters.

The authors also spend time going through each book of Paul’s. Some of these are handled in sections, such as the Pastorals. Some of them have their own chapters, which is fitting due to the influence of these books. The student who comes to the text will have a greater knowledge of all of the epistles of Paul as a result. It rounds off with a look at Paul’s theology as well as an excellent look at how it is that Paul’s letters came to be collected and made into a canon. The final section is on Paul’s legacy. What difference has Paul made? How has he been seen in history? What does he have to say to our world today?

It’s hard to think that a book could be so thorough on the life of Paul and his work and impact, but indeed, it is. I absolutely stand behind this book and hope that it is put into the hands of students going into ministry. The student who reads this book will be better equipped to understand Paul the man, the works of Paul, and be able to even make a defense for the works of Paul today. Even better, he will be able to take his own personal holiness much more seriously and consider how Paul is to have an impact on his life today. Hopefully he’ll have the same focus that Paul had, that God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

This is a must read book for all interested in Paul.

In Christ,
Nick Peters