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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Book Review: Models of Premillennialism

My review of Sung Wook Chung's and David Mathewson's Models of Premillennialism (2018, Cascade Books) has been published in Conspectus 28 (September 2019). The review includes a summary and critique of the book. Here is an excerpt:
Chung and Mathewson have produced a digestible review of premillennial eschatologies put forward since the second century, showing how each one developed and what its unique characteristics are. By restricting their scope to premillennialism, the authors avoided inundating the reader with too much information which is readily available elsewhere. I was particularly glad to discover that the majority view of evangelical theologians is premillennialism, where the impression I had was that it was a minority view among them (even if is evidently popular in the camp of dispensational laymen.) Even so, Chung and Mathewson are not polemical in their presentation, nor do they seek to persuade the reader to adopt any eschatological position.
The review is freely available here:

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wisdom in Esther

What wisdom can we gain from the main characters, Mordecai, Esther and Haman, in the book of Esther?

We learn that the wise decline to act on bad advice, but they respond positively to good advice.

  • Day after day, the king's servants pressed Mordecai to obey the command of the king, to kneel and bow down to Haman, but Mordecai resisted. This appears early in the narrative (Est. 3.2-4) and it's only toward the end that we see that Mordecai's determination not to obey a bad command proved to be wise.
  • In Esther 4.15-17, Queen Esther tells her relative, Mordecai, to arrange a fast for all the Jews in the city of Susa. Implicit in the narrative is an appeal for all Jews in the city to pray for her. Mordecai acted on Esther's word, and God acted in response to the Jews' fasting and prayers, and he saved them. Here, the wise Mordecai acted on a good command, as verse 17 says, "he did everything that Esther commanded him."
  • In another place, Queen Esther was prompted by Mordecai to "go to the king and make supplication to him and entreat before him for her people" (Est. 4.8). Thus she did, contrary to the custom--even at risk of her own life. The wise take good advice!

We also learn from the book of Esther that fools reject good advice, but they act upon bad advice.

  • The wicked Haman took the bad advice of his wife and all his friends (he must have kept bad company!) As Esther 5.14 says, they advised him to erect "gallows" on which to hang Mordecai; "The advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made." Later in the story, we learn that the fate he intended for his enemy came upon him instead--and his ten sons!
  • In contrast, when Haman's advisers and his wife gave him good advice, warning him that he would "not prevail against [Mordecai] but certainly fall before him," Haman rejected it (Est. 6.13). His baseless hatred for the righteous Mordecai compelled him to reject words of wisdom and act in folly instead.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Review of Mark Kinzer's "Jerusalem Crucified, Jerusalem Risen"

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to review Mark Kinzer's latest book, Jerusalem Crucified, Jerusalem Risen, for Messiah Journal (issue 133, Winter 2019). I wrote that it is a:
groundbreaking work aimed at providing an integrated, coherent interpretation of the biblical text on diverse yet inextricable and indispensable components of the euangelion (good news): the Jewish people; the land of Israel; the city of Jerusalem; the temple, the Torah; the ekklēsia (including Jewish and gentile members); and the divine plan for humanity and the cosmos, especially in modern Jewish history. Ultimately these lead to an interpretation of the euangelion as a message that addresses all these matters with “integrative power.” Moreover, the euangelion is not merely historical (pointing to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus) but also prophetic, pointing to what is yet to come for all its components listed above—or all but the temple, which is a special case. ...
The book is not for casual readers; it is for thought-leaders in the ekklēsia and the Jewish world, and it is an absolute must-have for advanced students of Luke-Acts. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The land of promise

Hebrews 11.9 says that Isaac and Jacob were “coheirs of the same promise” as Abraham. Which promise? The promised land, as the same verse tells us: “By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise.” Therefore, the New Testament tells us that the land was promised by God to Abraham and his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob who inherited it from him as his heirs. Jacob is also named Israel. His children became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Recall that Romans 15.8 reminds us that Messiah came “to confirm the promises to the fathers”. Now, then, to whom does the New Testament promise the holy land?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Congregational Teaching on Isaiah 54

Isaiah 54 is one of several prophecies predicting the restoration of Jerusalem. The whole oracle is contained within the chapter's 17 verses, making for a neat study on the topic. This teaching presents the text for a Messianic Jewish audience. The same chapter of Isaiah is almost the whole of the reading from the Nevi'im (Prophets) for the second week of the Jewish reading cycle, the corresponding Torah portion being named Noach after its main character, Noah.

Click here for the overview and verse-by-verse teaching of Haftarat Noach.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Our Father 8: Magnified and sanctified

The request, “Let your name be sanctified,” is not a petition for personal benefit, nor even for the community of the faithful, but simply because of the intrinsic value of God’s name. His name is worthy of special treatment. But there is also a nuance in which God himself sanctifies his name. Here’s the explanation:
  • The appeal is similar to one of the most frequently recited prayers in Judaism: the Kaddish. The Kaddish begins: “Let his name be magnified and sanctified [hallowed] in the world that he created according to his will.”
  • The words “magnified and sanctified” (gadal and kaddash) may be linked to Ezekiel 38:23. Both Hebrew verbs are reflexive, indicating (at least in Ezekiel) that the LORD will be the one who sanctifies his name. In the next verse, we see that God will do this by regathering Israel from exile [1].
Incidentally, the word gadal, magnified, aligns well with the Greek word megaluno that we find Miriam/Mary using in Luke 2:46, “My soul magnifies the Lord”. In this case, she is clearly also hallowing/sanctifying God’s name by using a circumlocution, “the Lord,” rather than pronouncing his name.

[1] Eby, Aaron. First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer. Marshfield, Missouri: First Fruits of Zion, 2014:108.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Our Father 7: Saying God's name—or not!

In Matthew 6:9, Yeshua (Jesus) honoured a Jewish tradition that was well-established by that time: he avoided pronouncing the name of God altogether, even while offering a petition that the name be sanctified/hallowed. The apostles continued this tradition: In writing the New Testament they could easily have transliterated the Tetragrammaton—the four Hebrew letters spelling God’s personal name—into Greek. Instead, they feared God and followed Yeshua’s example of using circumlocutions like “Father,” “Heaven” or “Lord” in place of God’s name. Christian tradition has continued the practice to this day, which is why we see “the LORD” (in capitals) in place of the holy name throughout the “Old Testament” of Christian Bibles. While the holy name is one of the most common words of the Hebrew scriptures (appearing 6828 times), it does not appear in the New Testament at all.

This should give us reason to regard the use of circumlocutions for God's name as a Christian tradition just as much as it is a Jewish tradition (at least since the close of the Hebrew scriptures). Rabbi Yeshua kept Jewish tradition regarding the avoidance of speaking of God's name, and so did his apostles. So, what should you do?