Jonah: a Children’s Story of Verbs


Jonah-boat-comicMy Hebrew class has moved from learning grammar to the actual process of translation and interpretation. To do this, we’re going through the book of Jonah. Our first interpretive assignment was to look at all the Jonah-related verbs in the first six verses and draw some theological conclusions. Here was my contribution.

But first, my incredibly literal and somewhat stilted translation of the opening verses [Jonah 1.1-6], including all the odd word order and idioms of Hebrew:

(1) And the word of the LORD was to Jonah son of Amittai, in order to say, (2) “Rise, go to Ninevah, the large city, and cry out against her because their evil arose to my face.” (3)And Jonah rose in order to flee in the direction of Tarshish from the toward-facing faces [Hebrew idiom for “Presence”] of the LORD and went down to Joppa and he reached a ship going to Tarshish and he gave its fare and went down in it in order to enter with them to Tarshish away from the toward-facing faces of the Lord. (4) And the LORD hurled a large wind upon the sea and it manifested as a large storm among the sea and the ship thought to shatter towards itself. (5) And the sailors were afraid and they cried out, man to his God, and they were made to throw the receptacles which were in the ship into the sea away from them towards making themselves small and Jonah had gone down into the rear of the vessel and had laid down and slept heavily. (6) And the chief sailor came to him and said to him, “Why are you sleeping? Arise! Cry out towards your gods! Perhaps the god of you will bear us in mind and we will not perish.”

And now for some lessons we can draw…
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A Biblical Critical Advent: Luke’s Cosmic Christmas


Charles-le-Brun-Adoration-of-ShepherdsFor Advent this year, I wanted to put up a few posts looking at Matthew and Luke’s Nativity stories as they were meant to be read: as two separate stories with their own purposes and themes. We often just mush them together, and I think we lose something in that process. Last week, we sat with Matthew’s Nativity story. Today, we turn to Luke’s Christmas.

Matthew’s Nativity focuses on how Christmas plays right into Israel’s own story; how this is exactly how the Jewish Messiah should be expected to have come into the world. Luke’s Gospel, on the other hand, emphasizes Jesus’ significance to the entire world, all parts of society, and the entire cosmic order.

In other words, Jesus’ mission in Luke is much larger than simply Israel. These and other Lukan themes are brought out quite strongly and explicitly in his Nativity narratives. Today we’ll see how he does this through signs of the universal mission of Jesus, the story’s emphasis on the lowly and powerless, and his stories of Spirit-filled joy.

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A Biblical Critical Advent: Matthew’s Old Testament Christmas


root-jesse-matthew-icon

For Advent this year, I wanted to put up a few posts looking at Matthew and Luke’s Nativity stories as they weren’t meant to be read: as two separate stories with their own purposes and themes. We often just mush them together, and I think we lose something in that process. Today, we look at Matthew’s Christmas Story.

It’s well-known that the Gospel of Matthew portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish messianic expectations. But the path Matthew takes in doing this moves against the way most messianic expectations played themselves out at time. Matthew recalibrates these expectations to show how even in Jesus’ infancy and birth, his “Messiah-ness” includes a retelling of Israel’s own history, both good and bad.

You can see this especially clearly in the way Matthew crafts his version of the Nativity story. Today, we’ll look at three particular aspects of this story that show his unique thematic and purposeful crafting of the birth story: his use of people and names, geography, and the fulfillment of the Old Testament.
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Have yourself a biblical critical Christmas


Nativity-logosSorry, this post isn’t about the pessimism and critical irony that can sometimes mark how we engage in this time of year. When I use the phrase “biblical criticism”, I’m referring to (as Wikipedia says) the  “[scholarly] study and investigation of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings”.

Last year, I wrote about how the story of the Wise Men can inform our doctrine of the Bible. This Advent, I want to do a brief series where we use the tools of scholarly observation to look at each of the two Nativity compositions (yeah, only two out of four gospels have them) and see each of them on their own terms.

For millennia, the birth narratives of Jesus Christ in the Gospels have captivated readers both within and without the Christian faith. Their reading and meditation form the beginning of the Christian Church calendar, and their theological implications of Incarnation form the foundation of nearly all of the distinctives of the Christian faith.
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