Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Keep It Real, But Not Too Real

I just read an article about a former worship leader and Hillsong songwriter becoming apostate. In it he asks all the tough questions (I’m being facetious) and claims that no one is talking about these issues. The lead singer of Skillet (John Cooper) responded to this article on Facebook (reproduced here) and said many insightful things in his response. But the one thing that stood out to me was this bit:

“My second thought is, why do people act like “being real” covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier. Have they considered the ramifications? As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying “I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.” So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.

How many times have we heard people justify being hurtful with the words, “I’m just being real” or “I’m just being honest.” Okay, maybe you are being real, but perhaps there’s a way to be real that’s seasoned with salt and takes into account the ramifications (as Cooper notes) of your words.

I’m the type of person who tries to the best of my ability to think before I speak. One reason for this is that I don’t like to repeat myself so I like to be clear the first time I say something. Another reason is that I try to be as diplomatic as possible. There’s almost always a way to make a point without being offensive. And yet another reason is that I don’t want to over-divulge and share more than should be shared. Everything isn’t for everyone.

As a minister there are conversations that I will have with other ministers that I wouldn’t have with someone outside the ministry. There are questions I’m wrestling with and need to find answers to first before I’d ever mention them to the congregation. Imagine if every minister shared every doubt that they had. How edifying would that be to the body at large? I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have doubts; I’m just saying that we don’t have to be vocal about every little thing we’re unsure about.

Or take a common question that we ask and get asked multiple times throughout the day, “How are you doing?” My answer to that question is going to be different depending on who’s asking it. If my wife asks then she’ll get the whole truth out of me because I can share that with her. If a close friend asks then they’ll get something close to that but there’s even limits I have to set with them as to how much of my interior life I share. If an acquaintance asks then they’ll get a stock “good, ok, or meh,” without much detail at all. And if it’s a complete stranger then they’ll get a “good,” as I keep it moving.

I could be “real” with everyone and just unburden myself and spew out all of my issues and problems without taking into account how that’s going to make anyone else feel. The casual acquaintance doesn’t really want to know what’s going on. They’re just being polite and making small talk. The stranger doesn’t want that information either. It’s just a standard greeting; no different from saying hello. But imagine how uncomfortable they’d be if I unloaded on them. I know how uncomfortable I’d be.

The point is that we have to take our audience into account when we say anything. As Cooper poignantly asks in his article, “Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?” In the words of Qohelet, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words” (Ecc 5:2–3).

B”H

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In Appreciation of Larry Hurtado

I was saddened to hear the news of Larry Hurtado’s leukemia reactivating after having been in remission for 9 months. I pray his strength in the Lord as he explores whatever options for care that he has, but I wanted to take a moment to note my appreciation for him and his work.

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of books and that I have a decent sized personal library. But there was a time when my library consisted of a single KJV Bible, an NIV Bible, and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. This was what I had for the first 3.5–4 years of my salvation. And then in 2006 I purchased Brenton’s Septuagint, a New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, Robert Letham’s The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship, and Simon Gathercole’s The Preexistent Son.

Letham and Gathercole were both springboards into various streams of scholarship in trinitarian theology and early Christology. I had been studying these doctrines in Scripture, researching them on the internet, and debating them with detractors in chatrooms but I hadn’t really been exposed to academic books on these subjects. And then on July 21, 2006 I printed out an article from a website called For an Answer by L. W. Hurtado. This article was entitled “What Do We Mean by ‘First-Century Jewish Monotheism’?.”

I gleaned a lot from this article while having no idea who its author was. And then in my reading of Letham and Gathercole I saw the name Larry Hurtado referenced several times throughout their books. I looked at their bibliographies and then took to Amazon. I purchased Larry W. Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity and gave it a careful and slow reading. This book would change the way I thought about, argued in favor of, and defended early Christology.

I proceeded to spend years getting my hands on all of the Hurtado resources that I could find. I have a folder on several hard drives (in the even that any one of them crashes) filled with articles that he has written and most of the books that he has authored (save a few of his more recent volumes) and have read them all with great profit.

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On three separate occasions I have emailed Professor Hurtado and three times he graciously responded. The first time was a question concerning a claim about Matthew 28:19 not being original. At the time he was preparing for a 3 week lecture trip to Australia and Singapore and passed my question along to Paul Foster who replied promptly. The second time was a note of appreciation, which I will reproduce along with his response below. The final time was to run a few of my disagreements with James McGrath’s The Only True God by him and see if they held weight (he thought that they did). But I’ve said all this to say that even being as big a name in the field as he was, he always took the time to offer a response to a nobody like me.

And while I don’t find Hurtado’s arguments as substantial now as I once did I still have the greatest appreciation for his work and the paths it led me down. My library grew by leaps and bounds from reading his footnotes and bibliographies. My thinking about the importance of actual real life worship practices wouldn’t be what it is without him. I’d take a lot more issue with his work these days than I did in those days but I’d still argue that it’s necessary reading and has to be dealt with by anyone talking about early Christology and Christian origins.

I will be praying for him and his family as he deals with his health issues and I invite you to join me in doing so.

– – –

Below is my email in appreciation of Prof. Hurtado and his response. I’ll note that he responded to me on July 4, which is my birthday.

July 3, 2009, 1:59 PM

Hi Prof. Hurtado,

My name is Nick Norelli and I’ve emailed you a couple of times in the past to ask questions and you’ve always graciously responded; for that I am thankful.  I was writing now, not to ask any questions, but rather to express my appreciation for your work.

Having come to Christ in mid-2002 in a small Pentecostal church in New Jersey I wasn’t immediately exposed to works of scholarship.  I was of the ilk who thought that the best that Christianity had to offer could be found on the Trinity Broadcastng Network with the likes of Benny Hinn and T. D. Jakes.  It wasn’t until I really got interested in learning more about the doctrine of the Trinity that I was exposed to what I’d consider ‘real’ scholarship.  I noticed your works One God, One Lord and Lord Jesus Christ cited in the footnotes and bibliographies to the books I had been reading so I dutifully got a copy of LJC.  It was life changing in terms of the way I argued for a divine Christology and understood the New Testament.  It’s also the book that got me interested in Biblical studies as much as I was interested in theology.  And I also credit LJC with giving me an appreciation for historical inquiry into Christian origins.

Since then I’ve tried to get my hands on everything that you’ve written (articles and books) and I can’t tell you how encouraged I’ve been by your work.  I consider you the top scholar in the field, and I do so after having read the work of many of your peers.  I just wanted to write this note to let you know how appreciative I am for all that you’ve done for me without even knowing it.  May God continue to bless you and your work.

All the best,

Nick Norelli
https://rdtwot.wordpress.com

– – –

July 4, 2009, 7:41 AM

Dear Mr. Norelli,

I’m very grateful for your taking the effort to send me your  encouraging words.  It is very heartening for a scholar to be read at all, and for me especially so by readers beyond one’s circle of fellow academics.  It is even more encouraging that my works communicate clearly and effectively to you and others.

So, thank you again for your encouragement.  It is really appreciated.

Best wishes,
Larry Hurtado

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

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

On Punctuality (or, More Barber Stuff)

My barbershop uses an app to book appointments. The app allows our customers to rate the barbers and the barbershop overall. Recently I’ve seen a few reviews that have deducted a star for punctuality. Allow me a brief moment to speak on this subject and correct any misconceptions that people may have about how certain types of barbershops operate.

To start, at my barbershop we work by appointment while also accepting walk-in traffic. It is our sincere desire to be able to accommodate everyone who would like to get their hair cut. So in the midst of servicing our appointments we also have to squeeze in the occasional walk-in. This can, at times, cause us to run over and into the time that someone else has scheduled for a haircut. We don’t like to run late but it can and does happen. I can assure you that it’s not a case of not respecting someone else’s time or thinking that ours is more valuable than theirs, which seems to be how some people feel.

Secondly, I’d like to remind people that we’re dealing with people; real life human beings. We’re not machines and neither are they. So there’s no guarantee that every haircut will take the same amount of time for any number of reasons. For example, say that we have blocked out 30 minutes for a haircut but our client runs 5 minutes late. If it does indeed take us 30 minutes to do that cut then we are now going to run 5 minutes late and that will cut into the next appointment. If this happens a few times throughout the course of the day it can have a snowball effect that causes us to run much further behind than we’d like to.

But let’s suppose that our clients are on time, there’s still no guarantee that the haircut that is blocked out for 30 minutes will get done in 30 minutes. If it’s a new client we have to take the time to learn their head and hair. If it’s a returning client who wants to change up their style we have to take the time to make it look how they want. The lighting can be bad at any given moment. We can run into technical difficulty with our equipment. The phones at the shop may be ringing off the hook and we have to take time out to answer them (we don’t have a receptionist at my shop). The point is that there are any number of things that can cause a barber to run behind.

My boss holds to a philosophy that says an appointment guarantees a haircut, not necessarily a haircut at the time of the appointment. I understand that idea, and in truth it’s one that doctors and dentists have been operating on since the dawn of time, but it’s not necessarily my personal philosophy. I like to be on time, I really do, and to the best of my ability I try to be. I recognize that clients choose particular times for a reason and I try my very best to honor those times. We all do.

So I’d urge anyone leaving reviews online for their barbershops or salons of choice to take these things into consideration when talking about punctuality. Also take past experiences into account. I had one client deduct a star for the lone time I ran 10 minutes late. Never mind every other time when I was on time. I didn’t get rated for that, but rather for something that was out of my control. It’s not the end of the world but it is somewhat annoying.

B”H

Answering Common Questions About My Library

Why do you have so many books?

There are a few ways to address this. First of all, I don’t. My library is rather small compared to some others so “so many” is relative. Secondly, I have as many as I do because I got them. It’s the same reason I have anything that I have. I got it so I have it. Make sense?

Have you read all of those books?

The typical response is some of all and all of some. This is nearly true as I generally tend to at least read the table of contents or glance at a bibliography but there are definitely some that I haven’t even cracked the cover on. There are some that I may never get around to.

You couldn’t possibly read all those books, could you?

With God all things are possible (Matt 19:26). Theoretically, I could read them all. It’s not an impossible task. There are dozens of short volumes in my library that could be read in a matter of hours. There are plenty of classics that I could get rapt up in and lose all sense of time so that no matter how long it took to read I’d do it in a single sitting. But all of these books aren’t meant to be read in their entirety. Some are reference works that will be referenced only as needed. Most importantly, however, is my attitude towards unread volumes, which is that they represent potential. It would be a sad thing if I had read all of the books I own.

How much money are all of those books worth?

I couldn’t even begin to tell you. Years ago I used to track what I spent on books. I did this for a few reasons. The first was budgetary. When I began to do that I was working at a job where I was an independent contractor. That meant that I received a 1099 and no taxes were taken out of my check. I was responsible for paying the IRS come tax time. I needed to know where all my money was going.

After that I wasn’t working but I was blogging all the time and receiving review copies of a lot of books so I didn’t have to pay for a good majority of what I was reading. I was also earning gift certificates to various bookseller websites through affiliate programs. I began to challenge myself to spend as little as possible out of pocket and while that was a fun exercise for a few years, I gave up on it as I became busy with other things.

Now I’ve been gainfully employed for a number of years and since all of my bills are taken care of I can buy all of the books I want when I want them without having to worry very much about what’s being spent. So I said all this to say that I don’t know the actual value of my library. To me it’s priceless, but I’d estimate its worth in the tens of thousands just based on retail prices.

Don’t you think you have enough books?

No. And I never will. There’s always more to learn.

Why do you have so many books on the same subjects?

I’ll answer this with a proverb: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17). Reasonable minds differ. I like to weigh arguments and come to my own conclusions.

Why not just use a public library?

I don’t like to give books back. The thought actually makes me ill.

Why do you need so many books?

To be honest, I don’t. But that really depends on what we mean by “need” doesn’t it? Do books fit in on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Maybe on the self-actualization tier but that can be argued. I won’t die without them. At least not physically. But I have an addictive personality and hobbies or habits easily become compulsions for me so in a sense I do have a need to keep growing my library. But the fact is that I’d be just fine with a single Bible. My library started with a single Bible. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut 8:3).

Why do you have so many Bibles?

Aside from the fact that I want them, they all have a purpose. First of all, there are a variety of translations. So having different translations is necessary if I want to compare translations. But why have multiples copies of any one translation? Some are to study, some are to read, some are to mark up, some are to preach from, and some are to just enjoy because I like how they look on my desk or a shelf. Also, I can’t bring myself to throw Bibles away. Unless I’ve given them away I have every Bible I’ve ever gotten.

And that’ll do it for the most common questions I get asked about my library.

B”H

Phil Long (@Plong42) Reviews my Book

Phil Long as reviewed my book Christology in Review over at his blog Reading Acts. It’s a favorable review—thanks be to God—but Phil was surprised to see that I didn’t review the Michael Bird edited How God Became Jesus. To be honest, I’m surprised that I haven’t reviewed it either. I read it when it first came out and I began a post (which I believe is still in my drafts) summarizing each chapter but for some reason I never got around to finishing it. It’s been so long since I’ve read the book that I’ll have to go back and read it again!

Thanks to Phil for taking the time to read and review the book. I have produced a corrected edition in which I have fixed all of the typographical errors I spotted in the original version. I also fixed the format, which I wasn’t happy with in the original version. It looks and feels much more like a real book now. I’ll be sending Phil a copy of the update when they come in. I’d also note that I’ve added 2 other reviews to this corrected edition and a bibliography of the books reviewed. The latter became necessary since I removed the bibliographic details from the reviews themselves.

I’ll post on all that another time.

B”H