For the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging, but I wanted to let you all know that I’m still alive and am back to blogging. I took a break because I’ve been trying to finish a book I’ve been working on for the last few years (since 2008 to be exact) and I should submit the manuscript to the publisher sometime next week, Lord willing.
Anyway, I thought I’d let you know a bit about the book and ask you to pray for me (and for the book) as I get ready to send it away. It’s tentatively titled Paul and Judaism Revisited (no subtitle yet) and will be published by InterVarsity Press sometime in 2013 (it takes awhile for the word.doc to transform into a book). In it, I examine Paul’s understanding of salvation and compare it with the way the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls understand salvation (They were probably written by the Jewish sect known as the Essenes.) I examine several soteriological motifs, such as the curse of the law, the eschatological spirit, anthropological pessimism, and judgment according to works.
Did I lose anyone?
If I did, don’t feel bad. The book is very technical and academic; it’s loaded with tons of footnotes, Greek and Hebrew words, and references to passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls. So those of you who are on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what 4Q504 frags. 1-2 iv 10-11 and 1QHa 5:19-20 say about salvation, then you’ll be very pleased to see a thorough discussion in chapter 5 of my book.
Ok, so I’m pretty sure I lost the rest of you!
So why would I spend so many hours wasting my time on such nonsense? Believe me, there were times when I asked myself this same question! But, I do believe that there is value in writing technical books on the Bible, even if most people are not called to this. Here are three reasons why:
First, ideas matter. None of you are the way you are simply because you read the Bible by yourself and chose to follow Jesus. Every single one of you have been hugely conditioned by the philosophical treatises of Francis Bacon, the economics of Adam Smith, the psychology of Sigmund Freud, and, of course, the revolutionizing political and social theories of G.W.F. Hegel. Some of you are influenced by way of agreement, others by disagreement, but none of you are untouched by their thought (probably mediated through the teaching and cultural productions of many other people) in one way or another—even though you may not know who these people are.
Ideas matter and they usually trickle down from the ivory down and end up governing the way people think about life. So I think it’s important—essential, actually—that we have at least a few Evangelical Christians peeking into the ivory tower to see what’s going on; perhaps a few others actually living there.
Second, thinking and writing on a scholarly level has shaped the way I teach, counsel, preach, disciple, and even make mundane decisions about raising kids. In other words, the very act of thinking critically with a high level of precision (e.g., I’ve spent several hours hovering over and honing individual paragraphs in the book) trains the brain to think precisely and clearly about all areas of life. So it doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is—the Dead Sea Scrolls or Botany—devoting at least some time in your week to chewing on an issue, resolving a problem, or studying a piece of literature (like 1QpHab), produces many different unforeseen practical benefits.
Third, I believe that the Bible is the breathed-out word of God. I believe it’s powerful, infallible, inerrant, and life changing. In order to unleash it’s power, though, it must be interpreted—and interpreted accurately. And to interpret it accurately, we need to pay close attention to the language, context, and—here we go!—the historical situation in which it was written. But if an accurate understanding of history shapes a more accurate understanding of the breathed-out words of the Creator God—whose words are powerful enough to create a universe filled with 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars—thereby mediating the power of God’s word to God’s people, then studying, say, Paul and the Dead Sea Scrolls may not change the world, but it does (or could) contribute a small piece of clarity to what the Bible says about God, Jesus, the Spirit, and our salvation.
Not every Christian needs to do this. In fact, most probably don’t. But the church of God needs at least some Evangelicals who do.
So this is where prayer comes in. Very few people will read my book, but please pray (this is a genuine request). Pray that what I say in it will be historically accurate and biblically truthful. Pray that the ideas promoted in the book will trickle down into the pew so that the average Joe or Joann will live a more fervent and faithful life that magnifies Jesus through a better understanding of God’s historically rooted word.