Overlooking Details in Biblical Literature

Photograph of Karl Barth
Photograph of Karl Barth via Wikimedia Commons

In commenting on the “onesideness” inherent in Martin Luther’s law-gospel contrast as it applies in various biblical corpora, Karl Barth reflects:

In all these cases the failure to recognise the unity of Scripture involved sooner or later, and inevitably, a failure to recognise that it is Holy Scripture. For when we have such arbitrary preferences, we do not read even the parts which we prefer as Holy Scripture. The same is true of any preference, even the most detailed. This criterion ought to be applied to the most commonly accepted doctrine of the Church, even that which we find in the confessional documents. And particularly should it be applied to individual teachers, even the greatest of them. For fundamentally, whenever anything which is “written” is overlooked in the exposition of Scripture, whenever for the sake of the exposition we are forced to weaken or even omit what is written, there is always the possibility that the exposition has really missed the one thing which Scripture as a whole attests, even when it thinks that it has found it. (Church Dogmatics 1.2, 485; underlining added).

To be sure, it is important to be able to see a really viable argument through apparent difficulties. But, at the same time, when interpreting biblical literature, one must always be alert to a sense of the text’s starting to “present itself in all its otherness and thus assert its own truth against [our] own fore-meanings” (Gadamer, Truth and Method, 282).

Sorensen on Luther

One of our current PhD students in Humanities, Rob Sorensen, has been featured on Baylor’s “Research on Religion” podcast. The discussion mostly revolves around Rob’s reflections on and in his Martin Luther and the German Reformation (Anthem Perspectives in History, Anthem Press, 2016).

For more about Rob, see his faculty page at the Bear Creek School. For more about Faulkner University’s PhD in Humanities, see the university website.

Free books for March from Faithlife

Faithlife logoMarch’s free and reduced-price companion volumes from Faithlife include:

Logos: Paula Gooder, This Risen Existence: The Spirit of Easter, and for $1.99, Dennis Ngien, Fruit for the Soul: Luther on the Lament Psalms

Verbum: Bonaventure, The Life of Saint Francis, and for $0.99, Bonaventure, Mystical Opuscula

I haven’t yet found a dedicated Spanish “free book of the month” page, but the past several months have also had on offer a free Spanish resource. This month’s is, in translation, A. W. Pink’s Reflexiones paulinas: Estudios en las oraciones del Apóstol (vol. 1).

Why Searching Shouldn’t Replace Reading

As a prefatory note to this post, I’ve noted before my very great appreciation for what Faithlife does through its Logos Bible Software platform. I’ve been using Logos to some extent since the early “Libronix” versions and more so for about the past 8 years. One of the feature’s I’ve appreciated about the software is the ease with which one can report any typos one finds (select text, right-click, “Report typo”). What follows is an example of one such typo that illustrates the value of reading even when we can search in a few seconds through enough material that would take years to read. (Or, it’s an example of user error in creating a search, in which case, commenters can certainly feel free to supply the corrected search syntax.) But, careful, long-time users of other software would probably be able to point out quirks of those platforms too.

If one tries a morphology search in the Nestle-Aland 28th ed. with morphology resources (either with or without text-critical siglia), “lemma:ιουδαιζω” should pop up a drop-down to select the lemma with diacritics and make the search “lemma:ἰουδαΐζω”.

Running the search, however, gets zero hits:

Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Hmm. The texts have ἰουδαΐζειν (“to live like a Jew, Judaize”) printed where it’s supposed to be in Gal 2:14. Searching the Nestle-Aland 27th ed. with text-critical siglia shows this text in its results list. But, both versions without text-critical siglia (with and without the McReynolds interlinear) show no results like the two NA28 resource results pictured above.

Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Click to enlarge


Why? There may be other reasons too, but one promising candidate looks to be that the NA28 resources and the NA27 resources without text-critical siglia have had their lemmas for ἰουδαΐζειν in Gal 2:14 tagged as “ἰουδαί̈ζω”—that is, with the second iota using two characters (one iota precombined with an acute, plus a diaresis) rather than with the precombined single character ΐ (iota precombined with both an acute and a diaresis).

The moral of the story is “yes, search, but also read, note, and remember.” What Martin Luther had to say for his own day remains salient advice and is surely much truer for our own day than it was even for his:

Since it becomes Christians then to make good use of the Holy Scriptures as their one and only book and it is a sin and a shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God, it is still a greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book. O how happy the dear fathers would have been if they had our opportunity to study the languages and come thus prepared to the Holy Scriptures! What great toil and effort it cost them to gather up a few crumbs, while we with half the labor—yes, almost without any labor at all—can acquire the whole loaf! (“To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany that They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools,” qtd. Pratico and Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, §11.9)

July's Luther Resources @ Logos

Hans Iwand,
Hans Iwand

This month, Logos Bible Software is giving away Hans Iwand’s The Righteousness of Faith according to Luther (trans., Randi Lundell; Wipf & Stock, 2008, originally published in 1941). According to the product page, the volume:

is an important contribution to contemporary appreciation of Luther’s theological significance. Although Iwand wrote his study three decades after the beginning of the Luther Renaissance, it nevertheless developed some of the central insights of Luther scholarship during that period. Two concepts—in particular, promise and simultaneity—are crucial to an appreciative understanding of Luther’s doctrine of justification. The language of promise presents justification to the believer as a reality that has yet to arrive or is hidden under present reality. And the language of simultaneity attests that humans remain throughout their lives one in the same, sinner and saint.

Brett Muhlhan,
Brett Muhlhan

The companion $0.99-discount for the month is on Brett Muhlhan’s Being Shaped by Freedom: An Examination of Luther’s Development of Christian Liberty, 1520–1525 (Pickwick, 2012), which:

seeks to find the answer to this question by examination of two elements: What is Luther’s understanding of Christian freedom? How did his understanding stand up under the pressure of reformation? Muhlhan explores both of these elements and contends that the sublime beauty of Luther’s early understanding of Christian freedom . . . is consistently the same understanding he used to undermine papal heteronomy and refute radical legalism. . . . Muhlhan shares insight on how the relational character, cruciform substance, and complex structure of Luther’s concept of freedom enabled him to speak both polemically and catechetically with a clear and authoritative clarity that reinvoked the magnificence of Christ and him crucified for sinners.

For more information, please see the links above and the Logos Blog.