Why is Reading 2 Corinthians so Slow?

There are a couple practical reasons. 2 Corinthians is very personal in nature, and it is sort of a one-sided conversation. You could look at the commentary introductions to get a technical description of the genre, but I just want to note that it is very similar to a type of Greek that we are the least familiar with — personal conversation.

I was thinking about this today, and my mind wandered in a less practical direction. Think about the nature of the conflicts in 2 Corinthians. It’s personal conflicts about money and slander and trust a whole host of people issues.

2 Corinthians is about the hardest issues in life, and so it is somewhat fitting that the Greek is the toughest to piece together.

A Reading Workspace in Accordance

Over the past few weeks, I’ve settled into a reading workspace in Accordance that I really like. A recent post on the Accordance forums prompted me to do a quick screen recording to demonstrate and explain the setup. I didn’t take the time to edit or polish it, but I hope it is helpful in giving you ideas for your own reading workflow.

Logos 9

Faithlife is releasing Logos 9 today, and in this post I will highlight a few of the new features and resources I find most significant:

  • Dark mode for the desktop apps
  • Improved guide aesthetics and functionality for the desktop apps
  • Factbook on mobile
  • New Lexham Reference Lexicons for the Hebrew Bible, Aramaic portions of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek New Testament, and Septuagint

Dark Mode (desktop)

Dark mode is a long-awaited addition, and it looks great on Logos.

Dark mode on MacOS
Dark mode on MacOS

My son frequently falls asleep in the guest bed in my office, and I often need to keep working. With the lights out, night mode makes Logos so much more pleasant to use.

Logos will, sort of, automatically shift with your OS between light and dark mode. I say “sort of” because at sunset and sunrise, you will be prompted to restart the program to initialize the color shift.

Restart to shift between light and dark mode
Restart to shift between light and dark mode

The only two apps on my computer that require a restart to initiate dark mode are the two Bible software programs — Logos and Accordance. Hopefully, in the near future Logos will do the programing necessary to allow the app to more seamlessly switch between light and dark mode.

Guide Aesthetics and Functionality

Years ago I created a custom guide in Logos to search by Bible reference. This guide includes commentaries, grammars, ancient literature, the atlas, and cultural concepts.

In the images below, you can see how the commentaries section has been significantly improved. Now, the commentary results (1) have book cover images and (2) you can click to sort the results by your library prioritization, series, author, and other fields.

In one sense, this is a small improvement, but it is an improvement that makes my experience of using the app better just about every time I use it. The cover images make it especially easy to see exactly which series have hits. Every time I use this guide, I appreciate that feature.

Factbook on Mobile

Factbook is the Logos tool that gives you a launching pad for researching almost any topic that isn’t reference based. For reference-based searches there is the passage guide or the exegetical guide or your custom guides. For discovering what your library has to say about Jerusalem, for example, there is Factbook.

Logos 9 gives you full access to Factbook on your mobile devices. To give you a sense of the breadth of results this tool returns, I’ve taken four screenshots of the Jerusalem report:

Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (1 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (1 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (2 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (2 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (3 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (3 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (4 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (4 of 4)

Whether you are looking for information on a famous biblical city, discussion of an obscure place or person, introductions to books of the Bible, or you are starting a thematic study, Logos 9 significantly improves your ability to put your library to work on mobile devices.

Check out this screenshot showing the various types of entries you find by typing “James” into Factbook.

Lexham Research Lexicons

Alongside the release of Logos 9, Faithlife has produced four new lexicons culled from their years of hard work mining and tagging texts and hand curating data. These lexicons are unique in both the content and organization of their entries. Take a look at this entry on 1-הלף from Genesis 31:7:

Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible
Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible

Here, the Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible includes the following:

  • Basic English glosses
  • Equivalents from the Septuagint
  • Beside each Septuagint equivalent is the number of times that word is used to translate the Hebrew word you looked up. (The LXX base text is Swete, I believe.)
  • In the “Verb Usage” section you are given meanings and example citations that link to the Bible sense lexicon, along with links to other Hebrew words in the same semantic domain
  • Links to key resources in your library that discuss the word

The verb usage section is so helpful in the way it links to the Bible sense lexicon and provides synonyms. Here is an example of what you find in the Bible Sense lexicon when clicking “to transgress,” the first link in the article above:

Jumping from Research Lexicon to Bible Sense Lexicon
Jumping from Research Lexicon to Bible Sense Lexicon

For the parallel word ἀλλάσσω in the Septuagint, The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Septuagint lists the following information:

  • English glosses
  • principal parts that occur in the LXX
  • Hebrew equivalents with word counts
  • Key passages
  • Links to occurrences of ἀλλάσσω in contemporary literature
  • Links to key resources in your library discussing the word
The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Septuagint
The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Septuagint

The name research lexicon is appropriate in light of the unique content of these resources. They are a mix between well organized concise traditional lexicons, concordances, dictionaries based on semantic domains, and word study reports that give you quick access to other resources in your library that discuss the word.

Here is a look at The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Greek New Testament on διοδεύω in Acts 17:1:

The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Greek New Testament
The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Greek New Testament

Finally, The Research Lexicon of the Aramaic Portions of the Hebrew Bible on פְּשַׁר in Daniel 5:8:

The Reasearch Lexicon of the Aramaic Portions of the Hebrew Bible
The Reasearch Lexicon of the Aramaic Portions of the Hebrew Bible

The Research Lexicons are a fantastic addition to any library, and they will be especially helpful to those who don’t have the standard lexicons and are just getting started exploring the biblical languages.

Other Improvements

The features and resources above are the aspects of Logos 9 I find to be most helpful, but there are many other new features and improvements:

  • Sermon builder improvements
  • Preaching mode for Sermons (all platforms)
  • Sermon manager
  • Counseling Guide
  • Images in notes (all platforms)
  • Charts tool (desktop and web apps)
  • Improved reading plans
  • Document info pane
  • App toolbar improvements
  • Easier access to search (mobile)
  • Passage lists (mobile)

Logos will be posting and linking to a host of other articles and reviews discussing these features. You can follow them on Twitter @Logos and #logosbiblesoftware.

Conclusion

If dark mode is something you use and value, Logos 9 is definitely worth looking into. The addition of Factbook on mobile is helpful and the improvements to guides are nice, but dark mode is the major new feature.

The Research Lexicons are the standout new resources; they are absolutely awesome. If you don’t find a package you want that includes them, you might consider picking up one or two as standalone resources.

Logos will have a host of upgrade paths to choose from, and these are all being announced today. Checkout Logos 9 here.

Thanks to Faithlife for allowing me to be a part of the beta process and providing me with the resources necessary to write this review.

NIC and Other Commentaries in Accordance

This is the third and final post on NIC in Accordance Bible Software. Here are links to the first and second.

In this final post on the New International Commentary (NIC) in Accordance Bible Software, I want to demonstrate how the NIC commentary compares to other major commentary series. The idea for this post arose naturally in the course of regular Bible reading.

As I read, I wondered about “law of liberty” (νόμος ἐλευθερίας) in James 2:12, and I checked a few commentaries for what they might say about the context of phrase. The goal was to get a better understanding of the conceptual world with which James might have been operating when he chose those particular words.

Let’s take a look at NIC, the New International Greek Testament Commentary, the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary, and Hermeneia.

NIC on “law of liberty”

Scott McKnight is the author of the NICNT James commentary. He has one short section on the phrase in his comments on James 2:12. He states,

By attaching ‘of liberty’ to ‘law,’ though, James changes the game of the yardstick by which one is judged. Yes, Torah observance is the yardstick, but James’s Torah has been clarified by Jesus … the law of liberty is the law of loving your neighbor as yourself (2:8) … There are no substantive differences, then, between James 2:12 and Matthew 25:31–46.

p. 220

The reason this section is so short, however, is because McKnight devoted four pages to the expression when it first occurred in 1:25.

In his commentary on 1:25, McKnight surveys three options of interpretation. He summarizes the three views this way,

First, there is a (supposedly) Hellenistic Judaism view: it refers to a free life in accordance with reason, with “reason” being a way of describing the Law of Moses. Second is a nomistic Judaism view: it refers to the Law of Moses as that which brings freedom to the obedient. Third is a Christian Judaism view: it refers to the Law of Moses as understood by and interpreted by Jesus in accordance with the double commandment to love God and others.

p. 155

In explaining the first option, McKnight cites Philo and 4 Maccabees, Epictetus and Seneca. For the second view, he discusses Psalms, 1QS from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Mishnah, and Leviticus. Finally, for the third view he discusses Eusebius and several New Testament passages.

The main observation I want to make here is that McKight cites and discusses the primary literature in support of each position. Here’s how he concludes his discussion:

James’s point is this: those who look into the Law as understood by Jesus, which an be called the “word,” is “perfect,” and brings “liberty,” and persevere in their following of that understanding of the Law, are those who will be blessed (1:25c).

p. 158

NIGTC on “law of liberty”

In his NIGTC commentary on James 2:12, Peter Davids comes to essentially the same conclusion as McKnight, stating concisely,

This certain judgment will be according to (διά, as in Rom. 2:12) “the law of liberty,” which, as has already been observed (cf. 1:25), is nothing less than the law of Moses as interpreted (and to some extent altered) by Jesus and the early church, which took its cues from Jesus.

p. 118

Davids, too, devotes more attention to the issue at 1:25. There, he has about a page surveying the interpretive options, whereas McKnight had four pages. Instead of citing and discussing the key passages, Davids merely provides parenthetical lists of references. His conclusion is that “law of liberty/freedom” should be understood as “the OT ethic as explained and altered by Jesus.”

AYBC on “law of liberty”

At 2:12, Luke Timothy Johnson points directly to his comments on 1:25, where he devotes a paragraph to the issue. He also cites Jewish parallels and mentions the Stoic context.

Johnson writes,

The position that obedience to the law renders a person free reminds some commentators … of the Stoic principle that only obeying the law of nature makes a person truly free and that, therefore, only the sage is truly free … but the idea is widespread enough—as the examples from Jewish literature attest—to make direct dependence on Stoic ideas unnecessary.

p. 209

Hermeneia on “law of liberty”

Hermeneia offers a much more extensive discussion of the Stoic context, while citing and discussing the parallel Jewish literature, as well. Dibelius’s commentary is a classic and provides a discussion of “law of liberty/freedom” similar in length to that of McKnight.

Of all the commentaries surveyed here, Dibelius provides the most throughout discussion of both the stoic context and that of Philo. When he cites ancient literature, he provides the key words in the original language and in translation.

Dibelius’s discussion is around four pages, but he offers no definitive conclusion on the context of our phrase. He writes,

Stoic concepts such as those sketched above could easily have influenced this formulation—especially by way of Diaspora Judaism, whose missionary terminology, just like any missionary terminology, made every effort to accommodate the needs of those to whom its mission was directed. But such a hypothesis does not exclude the other possibility that in adopting the expression Jas is looking back already to Paul’s struggle over freedom from the Law. Now, since misunderstandings of the Jewish Law are no longer a threat, Jas ventures to call the Christian norm “law” again, albeit “perfect law” and “law of freedom”—somewhat in the sense of Gal 5:13.

p. 120

Conclusion

No commentary is going to answer every question. I do, however, think McKnight’s commentary is likely the most helpful for most people. McKnight offers the most robust discussion of both the interpretive options and the broader scriptural context, emphasizing the way scripture reshapes the concept of law around the advent of Jesus.

I hope this three post series gives you a better idea of the content the NIC series offers and the benefit of accessing it in Accordance. The sale runs through midnight Monday, 9/21/20. Until that time, the entire 45 volume series is available for $599.

Who’s God for, James?

I think many would say that according to James God is for people who have connected their faith to good works, the people who have their life together. James actually answers this question, and that is not what he says.

In chapter 4, James says some hard things. He says that our interpersonal problems come from the fact that we don’t know how to handle our unfulfilled desires. He says that when we grasp and cling and fight for what we want we live like the world and stand at enmity with God. He makes very clear that God vigorously wants the immaterial parts of us — our minds and hearts and desires — to be redeemed as well as our actions (James 4:1–5).

That’s a message that can lead many to close the book and say, “That’s not who I am today. There is no good word for me here. I don’t fit.” When we walk away from scripture with that message, the issue is very likely that we need to keep reading. Look at the next verse:

μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν· διὸ λέγει· ὁ θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν

But he gives a greater grace! So he says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6

I think that first sentence is emphatic — that’s how I read it. James understands that 4:1–5 is heavy and the call is piercing, and so I hear verse six as an emphatic call to lift our drooping heads. Who is God for? He’s for the humble. If the first five verses make you feel lowly and in need of grace, then you are exactly the type of person God is for! James is saying that feeling lowly and in need of help is the only requirment for receiving more grace.

I haven’t always seen that flow of thought between verses 1–5 and 6. This morning it was A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures that really helped. Commenting on verse six, he writes,

“Greater grace.” Greater than what? “Greater grace in view of the greater requirement” (Ropes), like Rom. 5:20f. God does this. Wherefore (dio). To prove this point James quotes Prov. 3:34. God resisteth the proud (ho theos huperēphanois antitassetai).

A couple thoughts on how this condensed little commentary is helpful to me in Readings James 4:6. I appreciate Robertson asking “Greater than what?” That’s him saying, “So where in the world do the opening words of verse 6 come from? What’s the connection?”

He points to Romans 5:20, which is helpful because that verse is another place where scripture says God’s grace abounds when the requirements seem too much.

Finally, Robertson says, “To prove this point, James quotes Prov. 3:34.” When he says “to prove this point” Robertson is saying that the quote about God giving grace to the humble is cited by James intentionally to offer scriptural proof that greater grace is available to those who fall short and are humbled.

To summarize, here’s the flow of the passage as I read it with Robertson’s help:

  1. 4:1–3 – Our conflicts stem from our inability to control our desires.
  2. 4:4 – When our desires are unchecked, we are in conflict with God, not just other people.
  3. 4:5 – God genuinely cares that our inner life is redeemed.
  4. 4:6 – But don’t fear! He gives even more grace for this. If you hear and are humbled by the requirment, go to him for help. You are exactly who you need to be! Just ask for help. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you (4:8).

I think that fits with the flow of the next few verses. James alternates between saying things that are hard to hear and pointing you to God for help.

LXX Psalm 7

A psalm of David that he sang to the Lord because of the words of Cushi, a Benjamite

Lord, my God, in you I hoped. Save me from all those who persecute me, and deliver me so that he doesn’t pounce on me like a lion when there is no one to rescue or save me.

Lord, my God, if I did this, if there is injustice in my hands, if I have lashed out at those who hurt me, then may I fall away from my enemies empty-handed. May the enemy chase and catch and trample my life into the ground and bury my glory in the dust!

Rise, Lord, in your anger! Be exalted by bringing my enemies to their end. Wake up, Lord my God, because of the order that you commanded. A group of people will surround you, and for this reason return on high!

The Lord will judge people. Judge me, Lord, according to my justice and according the my innocence.

May the wickedness of sinners be done away with right now! And bring in justice. God is one who searches hearts and inner parts.

It’s fair, my help from the God who saves those upright in heart. God is a judge who is just and strong and patient, not one who dishes out wrath every day.

If you do not return, he will polish his sword. He stretched tight his bow and readied it. And with it he prepared instruments of death. He fitted his arrows with burning cloths.

Look! In pain he brought forth injustice; he conceived pain and gave birth to lawlessness. He dug a pit and he cleared it out, and he will fall into the hole that he made. His pain will return upon his head, and his injustice will come down on the top of his head.

I will praise the Lord in light of his righteousness, and I will sing to the name of the Lord most high!

James and the Anxious

Some people read James chapter 2 and walk away feeling afraid. James 2 is the classic “faith without works is dead“ passage. Some read James and say to themeselves, “How can I actually be a Christian if this is the way things are supposed to be?”

A bit of good news: James is writing to Christians, to those he considers brothers and sisters in the faith. He is not wasting words; his message is indeed important and heavy and the point is sharp. But here’s the thing: He is trying to drive Christians closer to Jesus, not convince them they aren’t true Christians.

Sure, it is possible to fake it, and James 2 reveals characters such as this. I don’t think, however, that revealing fakes within flock is James main purpose. That’s just not the vibe I get, and I’ve read it in the original language many times. Shouldn’t the actual introduction and opening words of the letter be allowed to tell the reader to whom it is addressed? He calls those to whom he is writing “the twelve tribes” (1:1) and “brothers and sisters” (1:2).

I think it is well known, but it is worth repeating: Christians are not made whole all at one time. James himself says it in 3:2: “We all stumble in many ways.” From day one to the end of the journey, we encounter the Word, we see our imperfect condition, and we strive to be better reflections of Jesus. The Chrstian life is full of conviction from the Holy Spirit. When we hit passages like this and feel the prick, we shouldn’t think it means we are on the outside. In fact, it most likely means he is within us doing the normal work of calling us towards new life.

NICOT in Accordance Bible Software

This is my second post discussing NIC in Accordance Bible software. The first post is here. The third post is here.

The New International Commentary is wonderfully helpful resource, and it is currently deeply discounted in Accordance. It’s a sale that is worth your consideration. This post focuses on the Old Testament volumes and ways in which they are easily accessible in Accordance.

Who are commentaries for? Commentaries are helpful to anyone who regularly reads their bible — whether layperson, student, or scholar. It is the kind of resource that you want to be accessible when questions arises, and that is why I prefer to have them in a digital format.

One feature of commentaries like NIC that can easily be overlooked, however, is their introductions. Each work provides much more than verse-by-verse comment on the biblical text. The introductions at the beginning of each work offers a thourough overview issues related to authorship, literary structure, theological themes, and more. These introductions are often as valuable as the commentary itself.

Victor Hamilton on Genesis

The introduction to Victor Hamilton’s Genesis commentary, for example, is just over 100 pages, overviewing the title, structure, composition, theology, problems in interpretation, canonicity, the Hebrew text, and offering a twenty-five page bibliography. Granted, for the average reader the bibliography is not going to be quite as useful, but the other seventy-five pages of the introduciton are substantial and very helpful.

Reading a commentary introduction is ideal for teachers or preachers when prepping for a class or a sermon series. When I taught Sunday School, I would either (a) work through a portion of an introduction like this each week before prepping the lesson or (b) read straight through a commentary introduction before the first week’s lesson.

Reading through a robust commentary introduction provides a tour of the unique issues scholars discuss with a particular book of the Bible. Knowing the issues is helpful and important because I found that by becoming acquainted with the scholarly discussions I was able to stand and speak with more confidence. It helped allay lingering doubts of what I might be missing or overlooking. Secions like Hamilton’s “Problems in Interpretation” are especially helpful in this regard.

John Oswalt on Isaiah

In my post on NICNT, I mentioned spending six months teaching through Romans with Moo’s volume as a constant companion. We did the very same thing Isaiah and Oswalt. Oswalt’s Isaiah commentary is one of my favorite single commentaries on any biblical book. Isaiah is difficult, and readers genuinely need help understanding the text. While teaching through the book, I would regularly point people toward Oswalt for help. Sure, there are more succint treatments out there, but Oswalt’s volumes would answer my questions more often than the others.

To provide another example of what an NIC introduction looks like, Oswalt’s two volumes begin with seventy-five pages discussing the title, background, unity of composition, date and authorship, occasion, canonicity, Hebrew text, theology, problems in interpretation, analysis of contents, an outline of the book, and closing with a bibliography.

With a book like Isaiah, it is often difficult to track with the flow of the discourse. Apart from the rich commentary itself, I have regularly benefitted from Oswalt’s detailed outline of the Isaiah. The outline itself spans five pages.

While some might not agree with Oswalt’s arguments regarding the authorship of Isaiah — he argues for a single author — the book pays close attention to the text, the literary structure, the flow of the argument, and the book’s theological contribution to the canon. These are, I think, the issues for which most people turn to commentaries.

Oswalt’s commentary stands out because his writing is so clear. Here’s one example, an extended quote, from comments on Isaiah 2:12–17:

It seems extraordinary that many commentators have difficulty seeing anything but a literal reference here (so Cheyne, Skinner, Gray). It is hard to understand why God should be against anything in nature merely because it is strong or tall. The various attempts to explain this view are all strained and all verge upon the figurative (cedars of Lebanon used to build great buildings, nature under punishment for mankind’s sin; cf. Delitzsch, Cheyne). Clearly, what God opposes is human arrogance and pride. It is these which the prophet is attacking (vv. 9, 11, 17, 19–22; cf. Mauchline). Moreover, Isaiah regularly uses nature, and particularly trees, in a symbolic way (1:30; 6:13; 9:9 [Eng. 10]; 10:33–11:1; 44:14; 60:16; cf. also Ezek. 31:1–18 for an extended figure). There is thus every reason to see the passage as figurative (although not allegorical, where each element must represent one specific thing). The prophet has chosen a number of items that visually represent the spiritual condition of Israel. Kaiser has suggested that he has visualized a windstorm, accompanied by an earthquake, sweeping down from the north (God’s home, 14:13; cf. UT, 51:iv:19–20; ANET, p. 133), and reaching all the way to the southernmost anchorage at Elat. All that is great and impressive is knocked down. So it will be with human pride on the day when the Lord acts. As surely as the wind uproots the trees and knocks down the ship, as surely as the earthquake moves the mountains and cracks the walls, so will the terror of the Lord remove all human pomp and pretension.

pages 126–127

Tremper Longman on Ecclesiastes

One of the first text books many college and seminary students read is John Walton’s Survey of the Old Testament or Tremper Longman’s Introduction to the Old Testament. These two books are classic, evangelical text books, and so many will be intruiged to see that Longman is the author of the NIC Ecclesiastes volume.

Longman’s introduction covers fifteen topics in fifty pages.

Reading through an introduction like this in digital format is ideal on an iPad. The iPad screen provides plenty of space for reading with Accordance’s multi-column view and clicking on references to look at the text in the original language.

Longman’s commentary is written with a balance of argumentative rigor and devotional insight. For example, listen to his closing words:

The book of Ecclesiastes must in the final analysis be understood by the modern reader in the light of the full context of the canon. For the Christian that context includes the NT. For this reason, now that we have looked through the book as a whole, I commend the rereading of the introduction, particularly the sections that concern the theological message of the book. The idea is presented there that Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer to Qohelet’s conclusion of meaninglessness under the sun. Jesus emptied himself of his divine prerogatives to subject himself to the world “under the sun” in order to free us of the chaos to which God subjected the world after the fall into sin (see Gal. 3:3 and Rom. 8:18–27).

page 284

Accessing NICOT in Accordance

One of the easiest ways to access NIC in Accordance is to simply triple click on a Bible verse reference to amplify straight to the commentary. On MacOS, a triple click on Ezekiel 1:1 takes you directly to volume one of Daniel Block’s fantastic Ezekiel commentary. This is yet another example of a magnum opus in the NIC series.

Another simple way to quickly access commentaries in Accordance for MacOS is to use the info pane.

I usually prefer a two column layout with texts on one side and lexicons on the other. When I want to take a quick look at a commentary and not necessarily read extensively, adding the info pane from the “Add Parallel” shows me which resources comment on the verse I’m looking at. As I scroll, the info pane automatically updates. Long-holding on one of the book cover images gives me a pop-up, which though not full screen is helpful for quickly reading a commentary on one particular verse.

Conclusion

I think NIC is the best overall commentary for most people, and Accordance is a fantastic platform on which to access it. When you are thinking of investing in a series like NIC, quality control is very important. Accordance regularly release updates to their modules to correct occasional typos that slip in during the digital production process. If there is one software company that consistently demonstrates concern for quality control, it’s Accordance.

Currently, Accordance is having one of the best sales they have ever offered. This Eerdmans sale offers some of the deepest discounts I’ve ever seen. All 19 volumes NICNT are on sale for $299, and the 29 volumes set of NICOT is $399. The entire NICOT/NT set is $599 at 60% off. If you are on the fence and such a large purchse is difficult to do all at once, Accordance offers payment plans making the deeply discounted sale price even more affordable.

In the next post, I’m going to take a look at the NIC commentary on one particular verse and compare it to other major commentary series.

Rough Water in Acts and James

It is interesting how reading patterns affect what you see in scripture. I think this is my third time through the Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT), but it is the first time I’ve noticed how the theme of rough water spills over from Acts into James.

You see, the order of the NT books is different in the THGNT. In the introduction, they write:

Only a small proportion of New Testament manuscripts contain all 27 books, and book order is not uniform. The order in which we have presented the books—Gospels, Acts, the Catholic Epistles, the Pauline corpus, Revelation—reflects the strong tendency to place the Catholic Epistles immediately after Acts.

This means that James immediately follows Acts.

For the past few weeks, I’ve lingered long over Acts 17–28. It’s a sort of travel journal full of ships and sailing, stormy waters and shipwreck. Just yesterday, I read Acts 27 twice, and it turned out to be a interesting backdrop to James 1.

In Acts 27, Luke narrates Paul’s perilous journey across the Mediterranean and ends with the crash landing at the island of Malta. During the trip, Paul serves as a prophet warning of impending danger and then promising safety to the sailors if they all stay on board. Those commanding the ship didn’t pay attention to him at first, but when all hope was lost Paul’s words served as a lifeline.

In James 1, the faithless person is compared to waves of the sea that are blown and tossed by the wind. Listen to James’ words with the scene set by the stormy waters around Malta:

εἰ δέ τις ὑμῶν λείπεται σοφίας, αἰτείτω παρὰ τοῦ διδόντος θεοῦ πᾶσιν ἁπλῶς καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, καὶ δοθήσεται αὐτῷ. αἰτείτω δὲ ἐν πίστει μηδὲν διακρινόμενος· ὁ γὰρ διακρινόμενος ἔοικεν κλύδωνι θαλάσσης ἀνεμιζομένῳ καὶ ῥιπιζομένῳ.

If someone lacks wisdom, they should ask from the God who gives without reservation or reproach, and it will be given to them. They should ask in faith, not doubting. You see, the person who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is blown and thrown around by the wind.

James 1:5–6

This time, for the first time, I heard James but saw images of Acts 27. I think about “the person who doubts,” and I recall how the sailors doubted and Paul was unwavering. Paul is a model of someone who doesn’t doubt. The sailors doubt, lack wisdom, and nearly die.

To push a little more on this figural reading, some people hear James’ words about doubting and not receiving, and they fear, which leads to more doubt. The sailors with Paul are instructive here. They are tossed about, but they eventually come around. All is not lost if you doubt and are tossed around by life. Learn from your failures, return to the Word, trust, and eventually you’ll make it to Malta.

Hearing James in light of Acts creates a completely different tone and ethos. It’s an interesting connection and one I’ll likely keep pondering.

UPDATE 9/12/20

One more nautical conection between Acts and James: In 3:4, James speaks of how a ship is easily driven by the wind and how someone can steer it with small rudder (πηδάλιον). The only other occurrence of this word in the NT is in Acts 27:40. Just before they crash at Malta, they cut loose the anchors and loosen the things binding the rudders (πηδάλιον).

Paul and the Whirlwind in Acts

When I think of imitation of Christ in Acts, the first picture that usually comes to mind is that of Stephen in chapter 7. Today, however, it’s Paul in chapters 21–22.

In Acts 21:10–14, a prophet warns Paul that in Jerusalem he will be bound and treated severely. His friends begin weeping and begging him not to go. The scene echoes Peter taking Jesus aside and telling him there is no way he would suffer in Jerusalem. Paul’s response is similar to Jesus’: “What are you doing crying and breaking my heart?! I’m ready to go and die.”

On Paul goes to Jerusalem, and there, later in the chapter, an angry mob assaults him and beats him. When the authorities take hold of him and try to sort out the chaos — à la the episode with Jesus and Pilate in the passion narratives — the crowd cries out, “Kill him!” (αἶρε αὐτόν). Toward the end of Acts 22, they shout, “Rid the earth of such a person.” (αἶρε ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς τὸν τοιοῦτον.) Here, the NIV footnotes point to the parallel scenario and language in Luke 23:18 (αἶρε τοῦτον) and John 19:15 (ἆρον ἆρον, σταύρωσον αὐτόν).

Neither Paul nor Stephen are the heroes in Acts. It’s the Spirit of Christ. They are all just caught up in the whirlwind that touched down in chapter 2.