Category Archives: Biblical Studies

Diligence and Vices: Andreas Köstenberger on Plagiarism

In light of the recent discovery of Andreas Köstnberger’s plagiarism of D. A. Carson’s Pillar commentary on John in his own BECNT volume I thought I’d check what he had to say on the issue in a book of his that I recently picked up called Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. In a section entitled “Diligence and Vices” Köstenberger says:

The lack of diligence leads to such vices as plagiarism and laziness. Plagiarism generally becomes a temptation when a student of scholar fails to put in the diligent work necessary and suddenly finds that the deadline is fast approaching. Once there is no time left to do original research, plagiarism can seem like the necessary quick fix, but there is hardly a more deadly ethical violation of the ethos of academic work. If you plagiarize, you are engaging in a form of theft, stealing the intellectual property of others.

What is more, once a scholar’s reputation has been marred by plagiarism, it is virtually impossible to regain credibility. Even if those whom you harmed by plagiarism forgive you and you avoid losing your job and you avoid being expelled from an academic program or institution, you can never turn back the clock, and your reputation will likely suffer permanent damage. What is more, you bring dishonor to the God whom you serve and with whom you have chosen to publicly identify. Of all students, it is those engaged in biblical and theological studies who should hold to impeccable standards when it comes to respecting and referencing the work of others.

Like other forms of sin, plagiarism may seem appealing when tempted, but it is never worth it. Why would anyone working on a theological degree plagiarize? As mentioned, as a form of intellectual theft, plagiarism is completely at odds with the study of God and his ways. Ultimately, plagiarism is a selfish act that says, “I want a degree, or recognition, without putting in the work, and I don’t care if I hurt or deceive others in the process, as long as I get what I want.” This hardly is good character, and even if repented of, still casts doubt on the character of a person who committed this kind of act, especially if repeatedly and egregiously.

Andreas J. Köstenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 98-99.

This reads like both prophecy and memoir. I wonder if it ate at him while he penned these paragraphs knowing that he had stolen from one of his mentors. I wonder how readily he’ll accept the reproach brought on his name and character by his intellectual theft. Also, I’d note how easy it was to attribute this material to its author. It’s not a difficult thing to do and there is absolutely no harm in quoting others. Just give them the credit for the things they’ve said.

B”H

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Home Library/Office Tour

I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.

B”H

The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary

Hultgren, Arland J. The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000. Pp. xxix + 522. Paper. $42.00. 

For the last few months we’ve been doing a Bible study series on Jesus’ parables at my church. As I’ve prepared to teach there have been three books that have become indispensable. The first has been Klyne Snodgrass’ Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, which I reviewed a few years back. The second is Eugene Peterson’s Tell it Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers, which was graciously given to me by my friend Robert Jimenez. The third is the title under review, Arland J. Hultgren’s The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary.

Hultgren’s volume was published in 2000 and sat on my shelf for a few years before it got any regular use but has since become invaluable in my preparation to discuss Jesus’ most popular form of teaching. This book served as the basis for the introductory class I taught that gave us the basics on how to read and interpret Jesus’ parables. Hultgren begins with an introductory chapter that gives the reader the who, what, when, where, and whys of parables in the Gospels, namely how to identify and interpret them and what makes Jesus’ parables unique (or not).

The working definition that drives Hultgren’s study is that “A parable is a figure of speech in which a comparison is made between God’s kingdom, actions, or expectations and something in this world, real or imagined” (3). He says that there are two types of parables: narrative parables and similitudes, which is somewhat simplistic compared to the categorization that Snodgrass uses, but workable in a general sense. Under this definition and these categories Hultgren identifies 38 units that can be treated as parables.

He separates them thematically and treats them as:

  1. Parables of the Revelation of God
  2. Parables of Exemplary Behavior
  3. Parables of Life Before God
  4. Parables of Final Judgment
  5. Allegorical Parables
  6. Parables of the Kingdom

There are also chapters on the Evangelists as interpreters of Jesus’ parables as well as parables in the Gospel of Thomas. Each individual parable receives the same general treatment although the length of the treatment varies from one parable to the next. But Hultgren’s approach is to first provide a translation of the parable followed by notes on the text and translation. He then gives exegetical commentary before moving on to exposition while rounding the studies out with select bibliographies. Sometimes he provides general comments on the texts when a parable appears in more than one place (e.g., “The Lost Sheep” in Matt 18:12-14//Luke 15:4-7; Thomas 107; Gospel of Truth 31-32).

It’s quite helpful to see how non-canonical material draws certain parallels with the Gospels but also where that material differs. For the most part Hultgren doesn’t go into the depth that Snodgrass does but his volume is half the size so we wouldn’t expect him to. Where I find him to be at his best is in the exposition, which is full of theological reflection and insight for practical application. He makes it clear early on in the book that his approach is to interpret the parables in light of the canon and for the benefit of the church. He does this well by building the foundation for his exposition on exegesis.

Is there room for disagreement in his interpretation of certain things? Of course! But that doesn’t detract from this volume any more than it detracts from others with a similar focus. Perhaps the section that will receive the least disagreement from scholars but possibly the most from those steeped in tradition is the chapter on the Evangelists as interpreters of the parables. Here Hultgren assumes Markan priority and proceeds to discuss the ways in which Matthew or Luke adapt, revised, or altered Mark’s material. This is in no way certain and it could have been helpful to see the alternatives explanations based on Matthean or Lukan priority. But this is a minor complaint.

In all, this is a wonderfully helpful commentary that is sure to aid anyone who is studying or teaching the parables. I wouldn’t say that it should be the only volume you should consult but in the event it was the only volume you could consult then I wouldn’t be too worried. Hultgren’s evenhanded discussions are more than enough to get the student heading in the right direction.

B”H

On Bultmann’s Clarity

30 years ago today Rudolf Karl Bultmann died. I’ve noted many times on this blog that he was an exceptionally clear communicator and I thought to commemorate the anniversary of his death that I’d mention it again. He was a biblical scholar and theologian of the first rate. Sure, many of his ideas are quite simply wrong, but he was able to put them across in such a way that one doesn’t have to guess at what he’s saying. This is quite different from many of his German contemporaries (e.g., Karl Barth) or those who came after him (e.g., Pannenberg or Moltmann). It is my honest opinion that he was the best German to ever put pen to paper when it comes to biblical studies and theology. Not because I agree with so much of what he says—I don’t—but because I can understand it (at least in English translation).

B”H

In Which I Wax Eloquent on Bible Software (@emschumacher)

Eric Schumacher asked for some advice on Twitter about whether he should go with BibleWorks or Logos since he’s just switched over to a Mac. To complicate things I threw Accordance into the mix. The reality is that all of these programs are great and they can all run on either Windows or OS X nowadays. This wasn’t always the case. There was a time when Accordance was the only game in town for exegesis on a Mac. Then Logos crossed over and from what I understand, the early version of Logos 4 for OS X was buggy and not a great joy to use. They’ve come a long way. I’m still using Logos 5 even though 6 is out and I love it for the things I use it for.

And that’s the issue. Logos, for me at least, is a great searchable digital library. I mainly use it for reading and searching the texts that I’m reading as well as it’s fantastic cross referencing features (you don’t know the joy that it brings me to be able to hover over a footnote in one of Craig Keener’s commentaries to an ancient writing and have the Greek or Latin version of the writing along with an English translation [thanks to the Perseus collection!] ready to be referenced at the click of a button). I know that it’s capable of doing intense exegetical work but compared to Accordance and BibleWorks it takes too long. To be honest, the mobile app is what I love most about Logos, and when I say love, I mean it! That app is fantastic and if ever I do use Logos for exegesis it’s when I’m out of the house and have the app handy.

But Accordance and BibleWorks both fly through even the most difficult tasks. Sure, over the years they’ve built up respectable book packages, but nothing that comes close to rivaling Logos’ massive library options. But that’s not a problem since they’re both great for—you guessed it—exegesis! Now a couple weeks back I noted how I’m just getting back into BibleWorks 9 even though it’s the reason I put a virtual machine on my MacBook Pro in the first place. The reason I stepped away is because I’ve been using Accordance. Honestly, they’re both equal in my eyes, but Accordance offers a little more customization in terms of the user interface. I like that. I like it a lot.

But this is all stuff I’ve said before. Just search through the technology category on this blog and you can find my thoughts on all of these programs as I’ve used them throughout the years. The bottom line—and this seems to be the sentiment of most that I’ve discussed this with—is that Accordance & BibleWorks are preferable for exegesis; Logos is preferable for building a strong digital theological library.

B”H

Late to the Game: Some Scattered Thoughts on BibleWorks 9 (Mostly about NT Manuscripts)

Introduction

I know that BibleWorks 10 has been out for a little while now and from all I’ve seen it looks fantastic. My introduction to BibleWorks came with version 8 and it was incredible. I used the program daily in my study of the Bible and ended up writing a series of review posts sharing some of my thoughts on the features I used most. Then came BibleWorks 9 and I was provided with a copy for review… 2+ years ago!

My apologies for this delayed response. I’d love to say that the cares of life kept me from using the program but that just wouldn’t be true. The truth is that I had installed BW9 on my Toshiba Satellite Pro and after doing one of the routine updates it began to crash every time I opened it. This went on for quite a while and I tried to fix the problem by doing multiple system restores in Windows Vista. That didn’t work.

It took quite a bit of deliberation for me to finally decide to do a fresh install. The main issue was that my laptop’s screen had given up the ghost and I had it hooked up to an external monitor. The laptop was, for all intents and purposes (not intensive purposes!), a desktop. But it was situated in a spot behind the monitor in the dark recesses of my desk that made the disc drive difficult to access. A reinstall would mean more work for me than I had really wanted to do.

But a fresh install I did, and I ended up loading the program on an external hard drive since my Toshiba’s hard drive was nearly full and slowing daily. So onto the 1TB Seagate it went. I was finally able to open the program without issue but then I became gun-shy with updates, refusing to install any. The truth is that after the reinstall I really didn’t take advantage of any of the new features of the program. I used BW9 just like I used BW8. And then I got a Mac.

When I got the MacBook Pro I installed Logos 5 on it and that was my go-to Bible software in the earliest stages. Then I contacted Accordance because I wanted to see how well their software worked on the machine it was designed for. It works great by the way. But I still wanted to use BibleWorks and it was now a possibility on OS X. There are three options: native, virtual, dual boot. I opted for running it in a virtual machine so I installed Parallels, Windows 8.1, and finally BibleWorks 9.

I will note that BibleWorks 9 was the sole reason that I put a virtual machine and Windows on my MacBook. It’s also the sole reason that I bought Apple’s overpriced Superdrive since I had the installation DVDs and needed to get them onto the laptop without a disc drive. That’s how much I cared about this program!

Scattered Thoughts

So how does BW9 work on my Mac? It works great! It’s fast as ever once opened but it does take a moment to load initially (longer than Accordance but that shouldn’t be a great shock). But it seems to me that the real difference between BW9 and BW8 is the addition of the fourth window and all of the manuscript features (pictured in part below).

Screenshot 2015-05-19 07.33.11(2)

The addition of transcribed versions of Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, Washingtonianus, Boernerianus, and GA 1141 including high resolution images of the actual manuscripts is a boon to those engaged in textual criticism. I don’t do much textual criticism these days and in the interest of saving precious space on my limited hard drive I have opted to install Sinaiticus alone (which can be seen in the above screenshot).

I was somewhat surprised to find that only the NT portions of Sinaiticus appear in the program. It would have been desirable for the OT portions to have been transcribed and images included as well. One might argue that much of the OT material is fragmentary, which is quite true, but there are entire books (e.g., Jeremiah) that do appear in the manuscript, and access to those portions of Scripture would have been quite helpful.

There are a number of image processing options that are designed to allow the user to alter things such as the color or sharpness of the manuscript in order to get a better look at hard to read portions. I haven’t found that any of the alterations I’ve tried have made the text any easier to read, in fact, I think the original image provided is probably the best quality I’ve seen.

Screenshot 2015-05-19 21.52.18

The transcriptions themselves are what I find most useful though. It’s immensely satisfying to have a searchable text that includes the nomina sacra (which can be copied from BW9 and pasted into MS Word, Pages, or even a WordPress blog post in unicode – Χ̅Ω̅ Ι̅Υ̅ – by the way!) and does the work for me in separating the scriptio continua. I’m well aware that there are people who enjoy working through manuscripts and deciphering such things but I’m not one of them. I also enjoy reading the occasional transcription note that appears below the manuscript image (see below).

Screenshot 2015-05-19 22.00.28

The Center for New Testament Textual Studies’ New Testament Critical Apparatus appears, as far as I can tell, to be a powerful tool. I’ll admit that it frightens me a bit and I don’t quite know how to use it to its full potential just yet. Thankfully, the BibleWorks website has a page explaining just what it is, what it does, and how to use it.

Screenshot 2015-05-19 22.13.47

There are undoubtedly thousands of other features that I’ve yet to discover, and I’m pleased to report that everything I loved about BW8 (e.g., the diagramming, the lightning fast searches, the ability to create custom parallel texts, etc.) has been carried over into BW9. I look forward to getting back to my roots and using this program more in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Who knows, maybe I’ll get proficient in it one day and make the move to BW10. More anon, I’m sure.

B”H