Category Archives: History

It Was His Dog

Moving post from Greg Sykes. An excerpt:

I’m reminded of one of the greatest scenes of such frustrated captivity in modern literature. In Eugene Sledge’s phenomenal memoir of WWII, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Sledge has spent over two months in brutal, subhuman combat on the filthy, stench-ridden island of Okinawa. He has seen atrocities that would destroy the most hardened soldier — and it did in many cases.

He had watched the Japanese strap dynamite to civilian babies and children, sending them into close proximity to the Marines so they could be exploded by gunfire. He had fallen into a hole with a decaying corpse and had the grubs and rotting flesh slide within his own shirt and dungarees. He had killed innumerable enemy soldiers in their suicidal Banzai charges, and he had watched many of his closest friends die.

But he endured the misery and soldiered on . . . until he received a letter from home (Mobile, Alabama). As he read the letter, he finally crossed his breaking point — tears racked him and he lost control. The days and months of being forced to do things that no man should be forced to endure finally caught up to him and the captivity of his role as a Marine in the Pacific overwhelmed him.

And what was in the letter, you ask? Sledge’s mother had written him to tell him that his dog had died.

Reasonable or not, that information shook Sledge to his core. Yes, he had seen atrocities — on a daily basis — that made the death of his dog seem insignificant. But, as he kept telling his companions, that was his dog. He had raised it from a pup. And he should have been there to see it die. It was his dog, he kept saying, as if that explained it.

Read the whole thing for Sykes’s reflections on what we can learn from this.



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Josephus on Alexander the Great and the Book of Daniel

A good deal of biblical scholarship on the book of Daniel assumes that Daniel 7–12 was written after 165 B.C. This date is very difficult to reconcile with the actual historical evidence. For instance, the book of Daniel was embraced by all sects of Judaism, whereas other literature produced after the schisms took place was only embraced by particular groups within Judaism.

As noted in an earlier post, the covenanters at Qumran appear to have gone to the shores of the Dead Sea soon after 200 B.C., and there are at least 8 manuscripts of Daniel at Qumran. Is it plausible that a book produced at that time would be accepted by all groups within Judaism, so that even those who separated themselves from the corrupt temple and retreated to Qumran would take this newly produced book with them to the desert? Amid such fierce controversies, would such a book also have been held sacred back in Jerusalem?

The point of this post is to highlight another piece of historical evidence from the Jewish Antiquities by Josephus. Flavius Josephus describes an event that he presents as having taken place in 332 BC (for the date, cf. the Loeb Classical Library ed. of Ant. XI 317, p. 467 notes c and e):

“. . . he [Alexander the Great] gave his hand to the high priest and, with the Jews running beside him, entered the city. Then he went up to the temple, where he sacrificed to God under the direction of the high priest, and showed due honour to the priests and to the high priest himself. And, when the book of Daniel was shown to him, in which he had declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians, he believed himself to be the one indicated; and in his joy he dismissed the multitude for the time being, but on the following day he summoned them again and told them to ask for any gifts which they might desire. . .”

Two things to note here: first, Josephus clearly regarded Daniel to be the author of the book of Daniel, “the book of Daniel . . ., in which he had declared . . .” Second, Josephus placed this event in 332 BC, so Josephus believed that the book of Daniel had been written by then.


Filed under Bible and Theology, History

Crossway ESV Bible Atlas

If you don’t have a Bible Atlas, this is the one to get. If you already have an older one, the updated graphics and information in this one are, in my opinion, compelling reasons to update. This thing is beautiful, and what a blessing to have such resources! Enjoy.

Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, John D. Currid and David P. Barrett

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Fred Zaspel on The Theology of Warfield

I’m really excited to see this new book from Fred Zaspel, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary. It gives me another nudge to read Warfield himself, which I’m eager to do. So many books . . .

Justin Taylor interviewed Zaspell on the book here.

And the Crossway blog has a link to an audio interview with him here.


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A New Fragment of Athanasius’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter

David Brakke has published a signifcant essay with a fresh translation of Athanasius’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter:

“A New Fragment of Athanasius’s 39th Festal Letter: Heresy, Apocrypha, and the Canon.”  Harvard Theological Review 103 (2010): 47-66.

He points to some of the implications of a “new fragment of the Coptic text” of Athanasius’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter:

“When I read the letter in the mid 1990s, I argued that Athanasius’s promotion of a biblical canon supported a parish-based, episcopally-centered spirituality in opposition to other forms of Christian authority, namely, the teacher and the martyr. I still think that is the case, but the new fragment does suggest that I underestimated the specifically anti-heretical intent of the letter and of Athanasius’s canon. That is, Athanasius promoted a biblical canon not only—as I argued earlier—to support one form of Christian piety, social formation, and authority in opposition to others, but also to refute the specific teachings of persons and groups that he deemed ‘impious’ and ‘heretics.’”[1]

As for what’s new in the new fragment:

“ . . . . These other passages do not, however, include brief descriptions of each heresy’s distinct false teaching as the new fragment does.”[2]

“While the beginning and end of the fragment merely extend or supplement what we already knew of Athanasius’s argument, the brief catalogue of heresies with the biblical passages that refute them in its central section is genuinely new . . .”[3]

Brakke makes an observation that supports the notion that the early church rejected pseudepigraphy/pseudonymity, writing of Athanasius:

“. . . he devotes considerable attention to two particular themes. . . . The second theme is that no ‘apocryphal’ books really come from Isaiah, Moses, Enoch, or any other authoritative figure. They all published their teaching openly, and any ‘apocryphal’ books attributed to them must be recent inventions of heretics.”[4]

This comment adds to a lot of other evidence that when early figures in the church wrongly cited extra-canonical books as Scripture, they did so thinking that the attribution to some ancient inspired prophet was genuine. In other words, had they known the document was pseudepigraphical or pseudonymous, they would have rejected it. To my thinking this adds to the evidence that there were clear notions of authorship in the ancient world, that Jesus accepted the traditional claims about who wrote the books of the OT (e.g., Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Isaiah wrote Isaiah, Daniel wrote Daniel, etc.), and that the early church followed Jesus on this point.

Athanasius’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter is not saying something new about the canon. Rather, Athanasius sees himself re-stating ancient tradition. Brakke writes:

“As Athanasius and others like him present the matter, when legitimate officeholders of the church (bishops) teach, they are faithfully passing on what Christ told the disciples, who subsequently informed their Episcopal successors, and so they are not really teaching at all. Athanasius claims this about himself in our letter: ‘I have not written these things as if I were teaching, for I have not attained such a rank. . . . I thus have informed you of everything that I heard from my father,’ that is, Bishop Alexander of Alexandria.”[5]

Athanasius was a shepherd seeking to protect the flock from wolves:

“Although most scholars remain focused on the lists of books, the greater importance of the letter is that it reveals the role of canon formation in supporting one form of Christian piety and authority and undermining others. . . . The new fragment . . . makes clear that in establishing a defined canon Athanasius sought to undermine not only a general spirituality of free intellectual inquiry and its academic mode of authority, but also the specific false doctrines to which he believed such a spirituality gave rise.”[6]

A fresh translation of the entire letter, with a revised version of the new Coptic Fragment, follows on pages 57–66.

[1] David Brakke, “A New Fragment of Athanasius‘s Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter: Heresy, Apocrypha, and the Canon,” Harvard Theological Review 103 (2010): 48.

[2] Ibid., 50.

[3] Ibid., 51.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 53.

[6] Ibid., 56.


Filed under Bible and Theology, Evangelism and Apologetics, Fathers, Great Quotes, History, NT Canon, OT Canon, Scripture

Mullin Reviews MacLeod’s Biography of Woods

From the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals:

Book Review:  A. Donald MacLeod.  C. Stacey Woods and the Evangelical Rediscovery of the University.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007.  pp. 283.  $25.00

by Miles Mullin

Donald MacLeod, Research Professor of Church History at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, has produced a much-needed biography of the indefatigable C. Stacy Woods (1909-83).  Although less well-known than other evangelical luminaries, Woods’ contributions to evangelicalism are immeasurable, having influenced countless university students towards Christ.

Read the whole thing.

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From the Makers of Modern Parables: Visual Latin

Looking for help learning Latin or teaching it to your kids? Here’s a great deal for a limited time:

Visual Latin | Lessons 1 to 10 Complete [Single/Family]

Price: $25.00 (excluding tax)

Ok, this is a really special, very low, tell-all-your friends intro price.  It is extremelyinexpensive for this product.  We are not sure how long we will offer it for this price, so if you have any interest in Visual Latin, we would encourage you to buy it today.  Really.

These 10 lessons are the first half of the first semester of Visual Latin.  Go to VisualLatin.comfor free previews and further information.

Each lesson includes 3 videos: GrammarSentences, & Reading and 3 PDFs: Instructions,Worksheets, and Answers.

Four free introductory lessons here.



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Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls by Craig Evans

You’ll want to avail yourself of this valuable, attractive new Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls by recognized expert, Craig A. Evans.

Have you ever thought to yourself: I know there is a pile of scholarly information on the Dead Sea Scrolls that I could wade through, but I’d love to be able to sit down with a trusted, balanced, thoroughly informed expert on the scrolls and have him give me the lay of the land.

If you’ve had that thought, this is the book for you. It may not be as good as sitting down in person with Craig Evans, but in this book you’ll find matter-of-fact cut-to-the-chase discussions of all things related to the scrolls.

This is a handsomely produced, well illustrated volume of bite-sized chapters, and every morsel is tasty.

I recommend you buy one for yourself, and this would make a great gift for that student in your family, for your pastor, or for your Sunday School teacher.

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Stephen J. Wellum on Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Stephen J. Wellum’s editorial in the most recent issue of SBJT contains some of the most insightful statements I’ve read on Theological Interpretation of Scripture:

“First, what is it and why has it arisen? . . . . Probably at this point, it is best to characterize TIS [Theological Interpretation of Scripture] as a broad and diverse movement comprised of biblical scholars and theologians who are mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and evangelicals and who are attempting to recover the authority of the Bible and to return it to the church. Obviously this raises the question as to what TIS is recovering the Bible from and the answer to this question helps us describe why it has arisen. In a nutshell, TIS is attempting to recover the authority of the Bible for the church from the debilitating effects of the ‘assured results of biblical scholarship’ identified with the Enlightenment and modern eras which sought to squeeze the Bible within the alien world-view assumptions of methodological naturalism (e.g., Deism, naturalism, process theism) associated with the historical-critical method. That is why, a majority of those in the TIS movement arise out of non-evangelical circles since, like Karl Barth before them (who is often viewed as the ‘founder’ of the movement), they are attempting to recover the Bible’s voice by rejecting the liberalism they were taught and raised in.”

Note: If you’re a student at SBTS, the journal will not be available for you to pick up until early September (sorry . . . but please don’t pester the nice man who works in the Journal office).

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40-50% Off Hendrickson Titles for the Next 10 Days

Great deal here from Eisenbrauns. The text of the notice that just landed in my inbox is below. Note that at the bottom there’s an opportunity to subscribe, which I recommend you take.

If you don’t own the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha by Charlesworth, this is your chance to get it at half price:

BookNews from Eisenbrauns

For the next 10 days, you have the opportunity to save from
40-50% off on selected Hendrickson titles. Don’t miss this
opportunity to get Sasson’s Civilizations of the Ancient
Near East at 50% off (plus shipping).

As always, all sales on this web sale are final; no returns
will be permitted. Offer is good only on orders placed at through July 29, 2010.

To go directly to the weekly sale, click on this link:
“The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon with an
appendix containing the Biblical Aramaic: Coded with the numbering
system from “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible””
by Francis Brown, et al.
Hendrickson Publishers, 1995. Cloth. English and Hebrew.
ISBN: 9781565632066
List Price: $34.95 Your Price: $17.48

“The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha:
Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments”
Edited by James H. Charlesworth
Hendrickson Publishers, 2010. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781598564891
List Price: $69.95 Your Price: $34.98

“The Elements of Biblical Exegesis, Revised and Expanded Edition:
A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers”
by Michael J. Gorman
Hendrickson Publishers, 2009. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781598563115
List Price: $19.95 Your Price: $9.98

“A Basic Introduction to Biblical Hebrew: with CD”
by Jo Ann Hackett
Hendrickson Publishers, 2010. Cloth. English and Hebrew.
ISBN: 9781598560282
List Price: $39.95 Your Price: $23.97

“Christianity in the Greco-Roman World:: A Narrative Introduction”
by Moyer Hubbard
Hendrickson Publishers, 2010. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781565636637
List Price: $24.95 Your Price: $13.72

“Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint: Expanded Edition with
Word Definitions from Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint”
by Bernard Taylor, et al.
Hendrickson Publishers, 2009. Cloth. English and Greek.
ISBN: 9781565635166
List Price: $44.95 Your Price: $24.72

“The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology”
by John Ronning
Hendrickson Publishers, 2010. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781598563061
List Price: $29.95 Your Price: $16.47

“Vines Intertwined: A History of Jews and Christians from
the Babylonian Exile to the Advent of Islam”
by Leo Dupree Sandgren
Hendrickson Publishers, 2010. Paper. English.
ISBN: 9781598560831
List Price: $34.95 Your Price: $19.22

“Civilizations of the Ancient Near East”
Edited by Jack M. Sasson
Hendrickson Publishers, 2000. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781565636071
List Price: $179.95 Your Price: $89.98

“Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible:
A Guide to the Background Literature”
by Kenton L. Sparks
Hendrickson Publishers, 2005. Cloth. English.
ISBN: 9781565634077
List Price: $39.95 Your Price: $21.97

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Eisenbrauns, Inc., P.O. Box 275, Winona Lake, IN 46590-0275

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What Did the Temple Look Like?

Justin Taylor provides a nice article with great visuals from the ESV Study Bible.


Filed under Art, Bible and Theology, History

And If We Refuse We’re Rebels

Eric Auerback (Mimesis, 14-15) writes that the intent of biblical stories:

“is not to bewitch the senses, and if nevertheless they produce lively sensory effects, it is only because the moral, religious, and psychological phenomena which are their sole concern are made concrete in the sensible matter of life. But their religious intent involves an absolute claim to historical truth. . . . Without believing in Abraham’s sacrifice, it is impossible to put the narrative of it to the use for which it was written. . . . The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historically true reality—it insists that it is the only real world, is destined for autocracy . . . The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us—they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.”

HT: A. Philip Brown II, Hope Amidst Ruin, 28 n. 23.


Filed under Bible and Theology, Biblical Theology, Books, Discipleship, Great Quotes, History, Inerrancy, Spiritual Discipline, Typology

Brief History of SBTS

Here’s a short video on the history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

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Filed under History, Reformation and Revival

Christian History Project, Volume 1

I recently learned of The Christian History Project. These books would be a great addition to the library of any pastor or home-school family.

Here’s the Foreword to the first volume:

The most dangerous people, said the twentieth-century Christian essayist G.K. Chesterton, are those who have been cut

off from their cultural roots. Had he lived long enough, he would have seen his observation hideously fulfilled. At the time of his death in 1936, Germany, one of the greatest of the Christian nations, had been amputated from its Christian origins and was embracing instead wild doctrines founded on sheer nonsense. Thus deluded, they set off the world’s worst-ever war. People who don’t believe in something, Chesterton also said, can be persuaded to believe in anything. How right he was.

Today, we are just such a people. That America, indeed the whole western world, is being wrenched away from its cultural origins has become a self-evident fact. For half a century, our literature, our popular music and drama, the visual arts, Hollywood and much of the film industry have been disseminating a genre of nihilism which debases almost every form of human virtue and exalts sensual gratification beyond anything the senses could possibly fulfill. Meanwhile, the liberal arts faculties of our universities work zealously to cut off the branch they are sitting on, diligently destroying the very foundations upon which the whole concept of higher education rests. The result of all this is a culturally dispossessed people, the very situation in which Chesterton saw such mortal danger.

What are our foundations? Though it has of late become intellectually unfashionable to even think it, let alone say it, the fact is that our cultural origins are almost wholly Christian. Our founding educational institutions, our medical system, our commitment to the care of the aged and infirm, our concept of individual rights and responsibilities all came to us through Christianity. Our best literature, our most enduring music, our finest sculptural masterpieces and many of the greatest paintings in every age are those of professed and dedicated Christians. Finally our concept of democracy came to us from the Greeks through Christianity. Is it by mere coincidence that all those nations that have best instituted and preserved democratic government emerged from Christian origins? I don’t think so.

The purpose of this series is to describe these foundations, to say who we are and how we got here. That is, to establish our real roots. It has been a long journey, two thousand years, and neither it nor we have been uniformly benevolent. But this is our past, this our family, and knowing who it is and what it has done is the first step in finding our way home.

Ted Byfield

These handsome volumes are well done–from the website:

Each volume is hardbound, measures 9 x 12 inches, and is lavishly illustrated with original, commissioned artwork, photos, and maps throughout its 288 pages (click here for Art Examples). Researched, written and edited by academics and journalists from diverse Christian backgrounds, The Christians is a multi-denominational history of the faith. This diversity ensures a fair and well-rounded approach to the subject. Click here to see sample page spreads.

Right now volume one, The Veil Is Torn, is very affordable at Amazon Marketplace.


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Andy Naselli’s Let Go and Let God Now Available

The published version of Andy Naselli’s first dissertation is now available for pre-order from Logos.

Here’s my endorsement for the book:

The history presented in this book is fascinating, and Andy Naselli is a gentle but firm guide away from pitfalls and precipices to straight and narrow exegetical and theological paths.

You can see many more endorsements and other front matter, including the full table of contents, here. Kevin DeYoung interviews Andy on the book here.

You’ll want to get this book, subscribe to his blog (if you’re one of the two people who haven’t already), and join me in eagerly awaiting the publication of his second dissertation on Romans 11:33-36.

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Jay Nordlinger on Political and Religious Ironies in America

Jay Nordlinger is always entertaining, and he has a great ear for the English language.

He recently posted some toothy observations on how left of center politicians can say anything they want about religion, whereas if anyone right of center says something similar the talking heads go crazy: When the Left Talks Religious.

Here’s a snippet:

I was reminded of something that Jen Rubin, the champion blogger of Commentary’s Contentions, said some time ago (here). She quoted Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) on the origins of his name: “It comes from the word shomer, which means guardian. My ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov, and I believe Hashem [e.g., God], actually, gave me the name as one of my roles that is very important in the United States Senate: to be a shomer — to be a shomer for Israel.”

Then Rubin wrote, “Suffice it to say that if Sarah Palin ever said that God had given a name to her with a mission in mind, the chattering class would go bonkers.”

Oh, man: bonkers, nutso.

Read the whole thing for more. Great stuff about Bill Clinton waving his Bible.

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Dr. Mohler Describes Them Well

Realistically, I won’t have time to read any of the books on Dr. Mohler’s list this summer, but his description of them is fascinating in itself. Maybe someday I’ll get to them. . . perhaps on audio. It’s a great list! Check it out.

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