All posts by Nick Norelli

The Myth of Objectivity

Eric Vanden Eykel posted a Tweet thread on a recent blog post by Tavis Bohlinger on the Logos Academic Blog. The post in question was Joel B. Green’s answer to the question: “What makes a good biblical scholar?” Joel has clarified in the comments to that post that he was addressing a similar but different question, namely: “What makes a good scholar of the Bible understood as the church’s Scripture?”

My concern isn’t with the post itself but rather with one of the comments that followed the post. Someone named Matt West said the following in response:

What makes a good Biblical scholar is someone who studiess [sic] the writings in terms of their origin, history, and intent; someone who strives to comprehend the material and its impact on history, literature, and philosophy. What you describe in your essay is what makes a good Christian scholar. There is a huge difference between these two. The first is objective and scientific, the second is subjective and done with prejudice.

I wish I had the time to adequately unpack everything that’s wrong with this comment but I’m writing this on the fly before I head off to work. I will say two things. First, objectivity is a myth. What do I mean? I mean that there is no such thing as a “brute fact,” that is, an uninterpreted fact that has no reference to some other fact. Any-and- every-thing has to be interpreted and every interpretation will be contingent upon the facts that one has already acquired or the beliefs that one already holds.

An atheist who interprets the Bible does so through the lens of their disbelief. A Christian who interprets the Bible does so through their lens of belief. There’s a lot more to be said about this (especially in terms of autonomous reasoning versus thinking God’s thoughts after him) but I’ll have to say those things at a different time. The point is that Bultmann was right when he said there is no presuppositionless exegesis. This idea that one can just read the text and understand it without coming to the text with both hidden and apparent presuppositions is preposterous.

Second, Mr. West seems to say, or at the very least imply, that a Christian is not capable of this so-called scientific and objective scholarship. Christians, you see, approach the text subjectively and with prejudice. One could reason that as long as you’re not a Christian then you’re good to go and can understand the text for what it’s really saying. I mean, Christians don’t study “the writings in terms of their origin, history, and intent” and they certainly don’t “[strive] to comprehend the material and its impact on history, literature, and philosophy.” Why would they?

I’d love to take a moment to note how absolutely arbitrary this list is anyway, but I really do have to get to work. I’d argue that Christian scholarship is even more concerned with getting to the truth of the biblical text because they’re the ones who think this stuff actually matters! The believing scholar genuinely cares (or should) about what the original author intended to communicate to his audience and is constantly asking what impact this has on the community of believers today. Asking that question forces the believing scholar to look at the impact of the text throughout history.

Okay, I really gotta go. More anon…

B”H

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The Greek-English New Testament (NA28/ESV)

The Greek-English New Testament: Nestle-Aland 28th Edition/English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.

There are no shortage of Greek-English Bibles on offer in the world of modern publishing. I have a number of useful editions of the Greek New Testament with English translation on facing pages adorning my shelves. They each have their own particular strengths while some exhibit more weaknesses than others.

There is the NIV Greek and English New Testament, which features the Greek text underlying the NIV translation. This is a rather straightforward volume presenting mainly text with very little by way of notes. When a note appears on the English side it’s usually signaling a translational issue. When they appear on the Greek side it’s mostly to note differences between this text and the UBS/NA text.

I also have a NA27/RSV diglot, which is a real gem. This contains the full NA27 critical text with full textual apparatus alongside an RSV translation that has quite a substantial textual apparatus in its own right. For quite some time I considered this the gold standard by which I judged all other diglots.

The NA28 Greek-English New Testament was a departure from the one modeled a version before. This particular text gave the full NA28 with apparatus on one page and then on the facing page in double columns the NRSV and REB. The NRSV appears in standard print while the REB is italicized throughout. There are scant notes for the English translations.

The UBS5/NIV is more in line with the NA27/RSV in terms of appearance aside from a thicker white Bible paper of the UBS5/NIV to the thinner cream colored paper of the NA27/RSV. But once again we’re left with hardly any notes for the English edition accompanying the Greek text.

The NA27/NET diglot on the other hand provides more notes for the English translation than even the RSV. The RSV contained a critical apparatus but the NET is another animal altogether. While the regular NET Bible contains three types of notes, namely study notes, translator’s notes, and text critical notes, this edition has removed the study notes and opted to abbreviate the translator’s notes, and have placed many (though certainly not all) text critical notes in an appendix. Still, this is the most useful volume of the lot in terms of information provided and layout. It’s also the only large print version available.

But all of these diglots, useful as they are, lack one thing: ample room to take notes. This is where the NA28/ESV excels. Alongside the full NA28 critical text and apparatus is the ESV, which has become my English translation of choice over the past few years. Like many of the newer editions it has very little by way of notes for the ESV text, but the lack of notes and the absence of a textual apparatus creates a large void on every  page of English text that leaves a significant amount of space to write.

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Like the NA27/NET diglot this one is also large print. And like the UBS5/NIV this one has a seemingly thicker white paper than the standard cream colored paper of other versions. This makes things quite easy on the eyes. However, this is the only volume of the Nestle-Aland lot that doesn’t contain the standard leaflet of witnesses, signs, and abbreviations. Sure, there are appendices in the back matter (1581-1674) that contain this information but it is an unnecessary burden to have to flip back and forth between the back of the Bible and the page that you’re studying in order to decipher the textual apparatus. We’re not all textual critics who have this thing committed to memory.

And while this is a beautifully bound volumes in blue cloth-over-board there is regrettably no ribbon marker (something missing in the NA27/NET as well). This was an easy enough fix but you’d think that by this point in that Bible publishers would include such things of necessity. I shouldn’t have to modify my Bibles to meet basic needs.

Lastly, because this is the large print version of the NA28 it follows the same page layout as the standard edition. This is fine as far as it goes but it creates a strange flow when dealing with the facing English page. Remember, there is no textual apparatus or significant amount of space dedicated to notes on the English page. So if the Greek page begins a new verse and there is only room for one or a few words of that verse at the bottom of the page it creates an awkward look and feel on the English page. For example, on p. 980 Romans 5:15 being with “Ἀλλ᾿” which looks fine. On the facing English page (981) we have “But” just floating there by itself.

On p. 1022 Romans 15:8 has “λέγω γὰρ Χρι-” with the facing English page (1023) having “For I tell you that Christ” but this signals another awkward type of break in the text. The beginning of Χριστὸν appears on p. 1022 but we don’t see the rest of the word until p. 1024. The English translation opted to not break the word up (how could they?) but there’s something unsettling about this kind of break. I don’t know how much work would be involved in the removing little things like this, nor do I know if anyone other than me would be bothered by it, but in a perfect world they wouldn’t exist.

These are rather minor complaints though and the strengths of this particular diglot outweigh its weaknesses considerably. Those readers of the ESV who would like the reference the Greek text without a separate volume would do well to pick this one up. Honestly, anyone who likes to take notes other either the Greek or the English text of the New Testament would do well to pick this up. There’s more than enough room to do so and this is its major benefit in my opinion.

B”H

In the Mail

After my brother-from-another-mother Fr Esteban Vásquez gave me some tips to improve upon my Amazon searching I’ve gone crazy with book purchases. On Sunday I received four new volumes and on Monday I received another 10. I will list them in due time but I have to preface this by saying that I saved a lot of money. A whole lot.

Tuesday brought another couple of volumes but one of those was the prize from a contest held by Jim West. The rules for the contest were as follows: “You tell me in comments below why you deserve the book and why you love Zwingli more than you love your own spouse and children.” In my entry I said, “I’d drown an entire flock of Anabaptists for this volume. My wife and kids are Anabaptists. Therefore…” Therefore I won!

Okay, so here’s a list of the books I got along with their retail prices versus what I paid for them and my savings.

Book

Retail Price

My Price

Savings

Filling up the Measure

$140.00

$6.73

$133.27

The Message of Acts in Codex Bezae (vol 4)

$175.00

$9.48

$165.52

The Christology of Hans Küng

$89.95

$4.55

$85.40

The Testing of Jesus in Q

$87.95

$6.04

$81.91

The Micah Story

$64.95

$6.01

$58.94

Let Your Peace Come Upon It

$89.95

$5.16

$84.79

The Marcan Portrayal of the “Jewish” Unbeliever

$103.95

$6.41

$97.54

Beyond Vengeance and Protest

$90.95

$6.58

$84.37

Talking About God

$83.95

$5.44

$78.51

Rejection by God

$82.95

$6.28

$76.67

The Gospel of Paul

$53.95

$4.13

$49.82

Conflict and Authority in Luke 19:47 to 21:4

$67.95

$4.91

$63.04

Theodoret of Cyrus on Romans 11:26

$83.95

$8.66

$75.29

David, Solomon and Egypt

$148.00

$8.77

$139.23

Legitimation in the Letter to the Hebrews

$230.00

$11.35

$218.65

The Anecdote in Mark, the Classical World and the Rabbis

$220.00

$7.03

$212.97

Pauline Persuasion

$175.00

$6.24

$168.76

Verbal Aspect, the Indicative Mood, and Narrative

$144.95

$9.38

$135.57

TOTAL

$2133.40

$123.15

$2010.25

B”H

Just Ordered

It’s been quite some time since I’ve notified my readers of my book purchases. I’ve acquired quite a few volumes in the past few months but I thought it necessary to note the following four volumes I ordered yesterday (not because they’re any more important than others I’ve purchased, but because of the incredible deal I got on them).

The Church in Antioch in the First Century CE: Communion and Conflict (The Library of New Testament Studies) by Michelle Slee (Retail $89.95)

Breaking Monotheism: Yehud and the Material Formation of Monotheistic Identity (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies) by Jeremiah W. Cataldo (Retail $35.95)

Power and the Spirit of God: Toward an Experience-Based Pneumatology by Bernard Cooke (Retail $71.00)

Wise King, Royal Fool: Semiotics, Satire and Proverbs 1-9 (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies) by Johnny Miles (Retail $202.00)

If I paid the full retail price for these volumes then I would have spent $398.90. Now let’s say that on average Amazon discounts books 35%. It still would have cost me about $259.28. After taking advantage of a $5 promotional discount I got these for a whopping $21.00!  Friends, you can’t beat that! You just can’t!

Now I will say that none of these volumes were on my radar before I searched Amazon for such great deals. But I’m quite happy to give them a shot considering the price. The last volume interests me most as the author argues that Proverbs 1-9 is a critique of Solomon’s socio-political policies and sexual indiscretions. I can’t wait to see this argument developed!

Oh, and I’d also note that I was able to get Chen Xun’s Theological Exegesis in Canonical Context: Brevard Springs Childs’s Methodology of Biblical Theology (Studies in Biblical Literature) a few days earlier for a paltry $11.31. This volume was on my wish list for around 7 years. It was $102.95 when I first placed it on the list. I jumped at the chance to snatch it up at this price!

Search Amazon friends. Search Amazon.

B”H

Gregory the Theologian on Athanasius

“He was the first and only one, or with the concurrence of but a few, to venture to confess in writing and with entire clearness and distinctness the unity of Godhead and essence of the three Persons and thus to attain in later days, under the influence of inspiration, to the same faith in regard to the Holy Spirit as had been bestowed at an earlier time on most of the Fathers in regard to the Son.”

Oration 21.33 as quoted in Athanasius (The Early Church Fathers), 24.

B”H

 

Turn My Eyes

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the US. It’s a day that many of us gather together with family to give thanks and eat and enjoy each other’s company. I started the day at my sister’s house where I didn’t overindulge since I knew I’d be heading down to my in-laws’ house for a second meal. I must have eaten something that disagreed with me because I felt like death warmed over. I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say that I was ill. Very ill.

In the midst of all of this I prayed. A lot. Like a whole lot. And during my prayers I once again became convicted of something that I read in Psalm 119 last year. The psalmist said, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Ps 119:37). When I read this last year it prompted me to get off* of Facebook. I wasn’t on there much but any time I spent on the app was an exercise in looking at worthless things.

Then in January of this year I took a hiatus from Instagram. I realized that I was spending way too much time scrolling through pictures in a mindless daze. After several months I decided to give Instagram another shot. I wasn’t on there nearly as much as I had been but as I was praying yesterday I became convicted that even the time I spend on there scrolling nowadays is too much. So I once again got off*. I don’t know if I’ll be back but I suspect that I won’t be.

Paul told the Ephesians to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16 KJV). I won’t speak for anyone other than myself but I know that for me personally, looking at social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram is neither wise nor a means of redeeming (“making the best use of” [ESV]) the time. Twitter is another animal altogether. I actually sharpen my mind on Twitter through discussions, debates, and mere observation, but that’s another post. 

So even though I spent Thanksgiving feeling ill I’m thankful for the Lord using that as a way to once again convict me and get me back on track. As we approach the end of the year I’d like to make better use of my time and devote myself to looking at things that are worthwhile, like Scripture or the myriad books I own to help me understand Scripture better. I don’t want to wait until the new year to make this resolution.

B”H

 *When I say “get off” I mean that I deleted the apps from my phone and no longer use them. The accounts still exist in case I ever do need or want to resume use.

I Was Just Reminded that I’m a Prophet

I was looking through old blog posts for something or another and I came across my post “The Fruit of Impatience” dated August 31, 2010 in which I note how I printed Chris Tilling’s doctoral dissertation and had it bound for use when I was away from the computer.

In a comment to that post dated September 1, 2010 I said the following to Chris himself:

“Chris: I’ll be hugely honored when I receive my FREE autographed copy of the published edition! ;-) If you need a proofreader to take a look at your revisions you know where to send them. Also, which publishers do you have in mind? I think it’s a natural fit for WUNT for it would go good anywhere. You might even consider foregoing the prestige of an expensive monograph series and publish it with Eerdmans or someone else affordable so us common folk can get our hands on it. ;-)”

On March 31, 2012 Tilling announced that he was publishing with Mohr Siebeck. I shared the news of that announcement and mocked up what I thought the book would look like given the assumption (or prophetic premonition) that it would be a WUNT II volume.

Fast forward to July 14, 2012 when I shared the news that Mohr Siebeck had informed me that they’d be sending a copy of Tilling’s soon to be released monograph for review. Guess what series it was published in? WUNT II. Fulfillment numero uno.

Then on November 23, 2014 I shared a video of an interview that Rachel Bomberger conducted with Chris about his soon to be released book. Guess who Rachel worked for? Eerdmans. Guess what book was soon to be released? Paul’s Divine Christology. Fulfillment numero dos.

And on May 21, 2015 I noted ordering the Eerdmans edition and then on May 25, 2015 I noted its arrival.

Boom!

B”H