Commentaries on Isaiah
When I first started out preaching and teaching Isaiah, there were very few good commentaries on Isaiah. In the last fifteen years or so there have been some excellent new additions:
- Alec Motyer's long commentary is very detailed and requires hard work but is thorough and rewarding.
- Alec's shorter Tyndale commentary is much more accessible and also very helpful.
- Since I started work on Isaiah, I have come across John Oswalt's two volume commentary on Isaiah (NICOT). It's good and accessible given its depth.
- Not surprisingly, he has also produced a more condensed version in the NIV Application Commentary series. His volume is an excellent contribution to this series.
- For groups and study guide Barry Webb's BST commentary is also very worthwhile.
[Editor's note – we would also include, of course, David's new volume Teaching Isaiah.]
Rural Ministry Seminar
Evangelicalism in England is strongest in the cities and suburbs, and we often struggle to make headway in rural ministry – so we are glad to spread the word about a Rural Ministry Seminar in Sussex. David Hall and Dick Farr are speaking, and are both men with substantial experience in rural churches and with wisdom to pass on.
They’ll be talking about understanding and ministering in a rural context, and leaving lots of time for questions and conversations. They’ll also deal with some of the unusual challenges of this kind of ministry (multiple churches and so on) and would like to know what issues people would like to see discussed.
The seminar is mainly for ministers of rural churches (any denomination), though if there is space, others will be welcome.
If that’s you, do take a look at the details below:
10am – 4pmTuesday 1st March 2011
Venue: Warbleton area, between Hailsham and Heathfield in the lovely Sussex Countryside (Warbleton Church Rooms, Church Hill, Warbleton, East Sussex, TN21 9BD – subject to numbers).
Cost: £5 including coffee, biscuits, soft drinks etc. & materials. Please pay on the door. Please bring a packed lunch or head to a nearby pub.
Booking: Email firstname.lastname@example.org Booking is essential. Places may be limited. Please note that this is not a PT event – we can’t take your booking.
Speakers / facilitators:
Rev'd David Hall is the Vicar of Danehill with Chelwood Gate nr Haywards Heath in East Sussex where he has ministered for over seven years. During this time the churches have seen significant growth, including in the music ministry and amongst children, young people and families. David is also a training incumbent supervising a curate. David's first degree was in Business Studies with Marketing Honours. After graduation, he joined the graduate training scheme of a top-ten public relations consultancy, before moving into a management role advising major companies on everything from consumer PR to crisis management. He has met with and learned from Christians all over the world from Africa to North America and firmly believes that small rural churches can have the ministries of large ones!
Rev'd Dick Farr was the senior minister of 3 growing evangelical churches in rural East Anglia for 19 years (Henham and Elsenham with Ugley in the Diocese of Chelmsford on the north Essex Hertfordshire border from 1990 – 2009) working with an ordained and lay team. He is currently the Associate Vicar at St John's, Tunbridge Wells.
Autumn Ministers Conference: Isaiah (1)
Blogging from our Autumn Ministers Conference with David Jackman on Isaiah. Tonight it's a birds eye view of Isaiah which has already whetted my appetite for going back to Isaiah again:
- "The holiness of God is not just his purity but his overwhelming and absolute otherness from the entirety of the creation he has made. Of course, it includes his righteousness, but it is certainly not limited to this facet."
- "The Holy One of Israel" is Isaiah's favourite title for YHWH. Used 26 times in Isaiah, it only then appears 6 times in the rest of the Old Testament."
- "What the prophets do is to say 'Look out, I've seen what's coming. Act now or this will happen.' If the people listen and the prophetic word is heeded and does not come true, the prophetic word has not failed – rather it has been fulfilled. This is why gospel preaching is always prophetic – turn from the coming wrath, we say!"
- The key idea outlined in chapter 1 is that God laments that righteousness no longer resides in the city (Isaiah 1.21) but he wants to restore it (Isaiah 1.26). Therefore there is a difficult refining and restorative work that needs to be done, painful though it will be.
- The restoration of Zion will not be a gradual process but will require a significant intervention in history, both in judgement, a new exile, return and ultimately the coming of the Servant
- God's people will be redeemed by justice and righteousness. There will be no peace with God except through righteousness. You cannot have peace with God except on this basis.
- Three sections to Isaiah; classically, Isaiah 1-39, Isaiah 40-56 and Isaiah 56-66 (the latter section is the one we will be focusing on over these three days)
- Just had Louis Berkhof's classic three peaks illustration. I still like this one and use it all the time with Philip Project students. "When you start out your walk you see three hills and they all look similar, but as you get close you realise that there are some considerable distances between them."
- The three significant points are: fulfilment in Zion primarily (not exclusively) mentioned in 1-39; the fulfilment in Christ primarily focused in 40-55; final fulfilment primarily addressed in 56-66. Therefore 1-39 primarily prophesies to people in Jerusalem; 40-55 primarily prophesies to those awaiting Christ; 56-66 are especially relevant for the church today.These latter chapters speak to our time with future fulfilment.
- In each case the focus is on a messianic figure though he is called something different in each section. In 1-39 it is Immanuel; in 40-55 it is the suffering servant. In 56-66 it is the anointed and conquering warrior.
- A quick look at the description of Immanuel in Isaiah 9.6 – each of the couplets, says David, has a human element and a divine element – a great Christmas Carol service message!
- Waiting is a key theme of Isaiah. For us, waiting is a very negative experience. For Isaiah, it is a positive experience. Waiting time is when we believe the promises of God and obey his commands as we wait for the final fulfilment of all he has said he will done.56-66 shows how we are to live in the light of the not yet – the waiting time.
A great start! Looking forward to more about the waiting time tomorrow!
NIV update. Defining issue?
I first heard great preaching from the RSV. It was the first time I had sat through a rigorous, applied message (40 minutes too) and I was mesmerised. The preacher – a little unknown called Richard Cooper, from a little unknown church close to University, Woodhouse Eaves Evangelical Baptist Church – had a formative influence on my preaching.
But the RSV was not the evangelical's favourite. Strange this, because it was a good translation and, of course, became the basis for the ESV. Nevertheless, it made one well-trailed change from previous versions. It translated Isaiah 7.14 as "young woman" instead of "virgin." Technically, of course, that is correct. It could be either; and arguably (as the translators argued anyhow), it is only by reading back from the New Testament that you would assume the word should be translated "virgin." Nevertheless, it became the defining issue of the translation (along with the reduction of propitiation to pitiation, perhaps). Interestingly, the ESV revision reversed the change.
Strange how a translation should largely stand or fall on that one issue.
The updated NIV has been causing a bit of a stir in eLand because it has changed the way that Romans 1.17 is translated:
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”(original NIV)
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (updated NIV)
Notice the difference? This is part of the 5% only that has been changed and will have Lutheran historians shaking, for, of course, it was this realisation that the righteousness came from God, rather than just his righteousness being revealed that kick started the Reformation. And there is no doubt that this is a politically sensitive issue because those who want to read Romans a slightly different way (be it Federal Vision or New Perspective on Paul) need the "from" to be taken out. Is this the new NIV's defining issue?
I don't think so.
First, the ESV translates the phrase dikaiosyne theou this way anyway. Plus ça change.
Second, the phrase "righteousness of God" is probably a more accurate translation. It is, after all, genitive. "righteousness from God" (original NIV) is an interpretation rather than a translation. And the wording is still left open for a traditional interpretation. In fact, arguably (and this is probably the reason it was changed) it lays open a more thorough understanding.
Moo, in his huge Romans commentary explains that the phrase can be understood three ways:
- An attribute of God. This is, of course, the way it is often understood by NPP guys.
- A status given by God. This is Luther's favourite.
- An activity of God.
Moo argues that the context, OT usage and Romans thrust take you down both line 2 and line 3. "Righteousness from God" excludes a simple understanding of line 3.
"This more comprehensive interpretation of "righteousness of God" in 1.17 has several advantages. First, it is built on the most frequent meaning of the phrase in the OT, so that Paul's readers in Rome would have an immediate starting point for their understanding of Paul's language. Second, it does justice to the nuances of both divine activity and human receptivity that occur in the text. Third, it enables us to relate the phrase to Paul's broader use of "righteousness" where he frequently highlights the end result of the process of justification in the believers status of righteousness." (Moo, p75).
Defining issue? No. Quite interesting though. And important to get right because the NIV update will replace the NIV.
Duh! It’s a donkey
Been reading Zechariah 9.9-10 this morning:
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River[a] to the ends of the earth.
What's the significance of the donkey? This is a prophecy, of course, of the Triumphal Entry (as Matthew makes clear in Matt. 21). I've heard sermons which carefully explain that the donkey is a symbol of humility.
But that is worthy of an entry in the Donster's Exegetical Fallacies. The donkey was certainly the mode of transport of the rich and famous (see, for example, Judges 12.14). Poor people walked. The point of the donkey is this – it's not a war animal. The coming of the King is to usher in a reign of peace. A warrior King would have ridden a war horse. That much is made clear in the verse that follows. The King who comes on a donkey will remove the chariots, warhorses and battle bows – they simply will have no need of them in the kingdom of peace.
Of course this King comes humbly too (as verse 9 says, not only is he riding on a donkey, is is also lowly, compare the hymn in Philippians 2). But the donkey indicates a reign of peace. And that is the kind of King I want!
Pass the sermon
'OVER 100 YEARS AGO it was D.L. Moody of Chicago who said, “If you have got a sermon that is good for anything at all, pass it around!”
This is basically what a number of us Christian preachers are attempting here in The Sermon.' Richard Bewes
While there are a lot of sermons online, most of them are pretty hard to find, unless you happen to know who all the best Christian speakers are.
‘The Sermon’, a new website launched recently, aims to provide one place to go to for good sermons by proven preachers. There are still only a few online, but do keep an eye on it as the collection grows. The speakers are certainly worth listening to! The site uses video rather than audio, which is great for those who need a bit more to hold their attention.
This is a really helpful site for those in our churches who would like to listen to helpful sermons, but who don't know where to look.
Of course, there are a few other places doing this. One of the best is The Gospel Coalition website, with its almost awe-inspiring sermon collection. If you do want something on a particular passage, they probably have it.
And of course there are a good few sermons on our own website…
In the long run, perhaps we can pray that websites sharing good preaching by a number of people will help mitigate the cult of the celebrity preacher. Famous men are used to bless us, but help finding good sermons that aren't recommended by fame is surely a good thing.
Perhaps that will help us concentrate less on the preacher’s name and following, and more on the word being preached.
An interesting addendum to my post on the NIV update. The Greek word sarx was originally translated "sinful nature" in the NIV. Now, in the update, it has become "flesh" again.
Hand of Moo – updated NIV launched this week
The long awaited update to the NIV is launched this week on BibleGateway. You'll have to wait until Spring 2011 for printed copies – but the online version gives you a chance to browse and read the translators notes and see a video from chair of translation committee Doug Moo. It's comforting to know that this project has been in his hands – he's a safe and thorough Bible scholar (and will be speaking at one of 2012 conferences!).
I went straight to the passage I've been studying to see if I could spot the hand of Moo. The original NIV for Colossians 3.16-17 reads:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Moo, in his Pillar commentary on Colossians, makes it clear that he thinks this is a less-than-the-best translation. And so it is perhaps no surprise that the updated NIV (what do we call it?) reads thus:
16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Not surprisingly, most people will be holding their breath to discover what line the updated NIV has taken on gender-inclusive language, given that this was the ONE issue that marked the short life of the TNIV. There is a long section in the translators' notes on this. Basically, "almost nothing has changed in the translation of the majority of these texts from the 1984 NIV to the updated NIV. But the careful reader will notice a few differences." These are outlined in the translator's notes.
My favourite English translation is still the Holman Christian Standard, but perhaps an NIV update might make it redundant? Only time (and a good read) will tell. There's a detailed interview with Doug Moo with some interesting insights here.
OK, so it’s pretentious, but it’s true
Pretentious, moi? I try to be a down to earth kind of bloke. After all, I grew up in Essex, went to a state school and can't speak Latin. But I do love Opera. Sorry, but there you are.
And it was this love that took the whole famille Reynolds to Glyndebourne last week. This is the first outing for the three likel Reynolds' girls (aged, 15, 13 and 6) to a live opera. We went to see Cinderella (or, rather, La Cenerentola by Rossni) starring a magnificent Jonathan Viera (Christian and active participant in last Easter's Passion for Life). It was truly wonderful.
Here's the relevant bit! We went to a children's workshop for an hour before the opera. It was incredible what a difference it made!
- They explained the overall plot so that we could understand where we were at any point and what was going on.
- They explained how this story was different from those we might have heard (no fairy godmother or glass slipper) so that we wouldn't be confused by things we expected to see.
- They showed very carefully how the genre of opera needs to be understood – it's not just theatre, it's operatic theatre (and half the reason why it takes 35 minutes to say "I've lost my shoe" – or in this case "I've lost my bangle")
It made me think of the value of teaching our people Bible overviews: so that they can see where they are and how things fit together. It made me realise the value of teaching our people to avoid common errors. There is no glass slipper. It made me appreciate the value of teaching our people to understand that the Bible contains different kinds of writing – don't expect the same from narrative that you do from song and so on.
My kids' workshop helped me enjoy the opera so much more. Some basic Bible handling skills can help our people enjoy sermons and Bible reading heaps more. And I know which is more significant.
The gospel that works
‘It is difficult in many cultures to find ways to preach the cross. But we have to find ways, no matter how hard it is, because if it is difficult to do it with words, it is impossible to do it without words.’
The apologist Michael Ramsden is less well know than – at least in our circles – than the other speakers we have posted on this week. Unlike the others, he hasn’t ever spoken at our conferences. But if you do ever get a chance to listen to him, take it!
The two videos below are short, with less content than Michael usually gives, but they are a wonderful encouragement to preach the gospel. Whatever it costs, however hard it seems, preach the gospel.
And that is what we, at PT, are about.
‘The gospel is not about me – we are not asking people to accept us. With humility, with dependence on God, with dependence on the Spirit, with a clarity from his word, and a conviction in our hearts, we preach Christ Crucified. We ask people to accept him.’