Incognito – Book Titles

While viewing books about writing at the University of Wisconsin Bookstore, I found these biblically allusive titles.

“The Pen Commandments” by S. Frank.  (Exodus 20 – the 10 Commandments, which by the way are not enumerated there, but are called the ten words in Deuteronomy – hence differing numbering systems.)

“The Grammar Devotional” by M Fogarty

“Naming the World” by B. Johnson, ed.  (Genesis 2 – naming the animals.)

Dear Reader, do you have any? 

Obvious: Paradise Lost, East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath.

Incognito: The Narnia Series, Leviathan,

It’s Personal – Genesis, John and Tim Keller

Our adult class has been working through Tim Keller’s book, “The Reason for God.”  his penutlimate chapter is about “the dance of God’, which is how he describes the dynamic of love between the persons of the Trinity.  This is the font from which comes all of creation and all of life.  Therefore life is at its core personal and should be about love.  God not only loves, but he is love.

Here is some food for thought if you can’t make the discussion this Sunday.

Genesis 1:26-28

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

Tim Keller:

“If God is triune, then loving relationships in community are the ‘great fountain at the center of reality.’  When people say ‘God is love,’ I think they meant that live is extremely important, or that God really wants us to love.  But in the Christian conception, God really has love as his essence…..Ultimate reality is a community of persons who know and love one another.  That is what the universe, God, history, and life is all about…” p. 216

 “We believe that the world was made by a God who is a community of persons who have loved each other for all creation.  You were made for mutually self-giving, other-directed love.  Self-centeredness destroys the fabric of what God has made.”  p. 217

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism, 2008, Dutton,  NY, NY.

Literalism – Malachi 1:11

There is a long discussion over how literally we should take Biblical passages.  Are heavenly streets really gold or is it a metaphor (how can gold be as clear as crystal?).  Will there be a restored sacrificial system in the millennium, or is that a metaphor of something else? (If it is restored how to you explain Hebrews 10?)

In Malachi 1:11, the prophet points out the lack of vision among the Spiritual Leaders of Israel – they did not see the bigger work that God was intending to do in the world.  This larger work was not just in Jerusalem, but among all the nations.

In discussing this he states that “incense and offerings will be brought in my name.”  Some take this to mean that the Lord accepted worship in pagan temples – but that misses the stress on “my name” (v. 6,11(2x), 14).  Offerings to Baal or other deities can hardly be said to be given toward the Name of the LORD.

What about his incense?  Some suggested that this verse endorses the concept that Christian worship ought to have an OT Priestly and sacramental character – that incense is really important to NT worship.  Others suggest that this can not refer to the Christian era (where the gospel has gone to the Nations, and where among the nations we can say that worship and prayer is offered in his name), because of the incense.

It would seem best to see that the incense is more incidental, as a method of worship, than it is central to the promise.  Incense is said to represent prayer (Psalm 141:2; I Peter 2:4;).  A fulfillment does not have to be literalistic.

Tools and Translations

Due to a recent comment on the article “Picking a Translation”, I have decided to add here a couple of useful resources:

ESV Study bible – I have come to use the ESV a lot, as it is both readable and a more literal translation.  Lots of friends are sold on the Study Bible, but I have not as yet taken the plunge.  Most often I print an english copy of the text from the ESV for the colored pencil treatment. is a great new website with several translations. I’d like them to have a notes free version of the ESV, but otherwise it is nicely done.

There are OT and NT bibliographies at Denver Seminary’s web site – this is excellent.  There is an Annotated O. T. Bibliography and a N. T. Exegesis Bibliography.

This is a Rant! – Malachi 1:11

Here is what I see very often.  An academic offers an outside the box interpretation or suggests making an emendation to the biblical text.  This is taken up by subsequent commentators, more often based on the fact that other commentators have taken the bait.  This comment then rings down through the decades and is usually dismissed or it is tagged with a category such as “conservative reading”, “anti-supernatural bias”, “not generally accepted.” etc.

This is an important exercise in the academy – you need to know who else has said what on your passage.  For the normal reader, it is often advisable to skim (so you are familiar with the outline of the issue) but avoid getting entangled.

Case in point:  Malachi 1:11 – does this word affirm that worship by gentiles in gentile temples is acceptable?  This is the view of G. A. Smith, and is discussed by Verhoff (NICOT, p. 222-232, footnote p. 222) extensively as it is by R. Smith (WBC, p. 312-316) and others.

I find this interpretation highly unlikely because 1.  It runs against the rest of the Prophetic literature which diagnoses the people’s problem as either nominalism or idolatry.  2. it is said as if it would be understood and accepted by the post-exilic audience without need for explanation, 3. and because it fits a large prophetic theme of the gospel for the nations (from Genesis 12 through such passages as Isaiah 2, 11, 55 etc) – that the Nations will come and worship the LORD, and 4. from the other “my name will be great among the nations” comments in Malachi (1:5, 1:14, 3:12)

What is produced in the academy is very useful for any student of the scriptures, but also note that the interests of the academy (analysis, original research, pushing the envelope) is not the same  for the disciple, pastor or the church (hear, reflect, keep).

So let the academy wrestle, listen to their various voices if you like, but first go to the summary paragraph of these long, arcane academic discussions.

Start at the end!

Show me the Love – Malachi 1:1-5

There are two interesting points in this passage. One grammatical and one theological.

“I have loved you.” says the LORD.

This is in the perfect tense – which is the default setting of the verb in Hebrew.  the Perfect tense generally indicates when an action occurs in the past that has lingering consequences in the present.  In English it is different to say “I ate.” and “I have eaten.”  In the simple past, “I ate”, the eating could have happened days ago so you are hungry now.  In the perfect, “I have eaten” the eating was recent enough so you are in the state of being full now.  However, one has to be carefull not to make too much of this, because the Hebrew verb form more or less starts in perfect (meaning completed action). It is really only significant if the verb form changes to something else.  At any rate the meaning is the same – the Lord said that he has loved Israel and that love is a present reality.  The translation can be “I have loved you” or “I love you.”   Preserving the perfect tense force places an emphasis on the historic and enduring nature of God’s love – it is not just that at this moment.

“I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” 

In context this is really talking about Judea and Edom, nations that descended from Jacob and Esau.  God chose to pass his blessing down the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The idiom of “love/hate” in this context really means something like “I have loved/not loved” or “I have chosen/not chosen.”  Because despite his status outside of the line of promise, Esau was not disregarded or cast aside by the Lord.   The blessing of one family was not to be just for Abraham’s line only, but for all people. (Genesis 12:1-3)

Now when this is quoted in Romans 9:13, it is taken by some interpreters as referring to individual election for salvation.  However, what is forgotten in the discussion is that the verse about Jacob and Esau is that its primary reference is to two Nations not two Individuals.  In the context of Romans 9-11, Paul is discussing the role of Israel vis a vis the Gentiles.  That is to say, it is primarily a discussion of two communities, not two individuals.

If you like the doctrine of Election or if you hate it, this passage in Romans 9 and Malachi 1 needs careful handling.

Snowpocalypse – Incognito

 Here in the Midwest, we have a two phase snow storm resulting in about 16 inches of the white stuff.  In addition were winds to creat blizzard conditions.  Drifting resulted in hip high drifts, wich makes operating a shovel or a snow blower a matter of skill and imagination.

The media has been using two expressions for this storm: Snowpocalypse and Snowmageddon.  Both of these are Biblical allusions.  Also, one hears when there are natural events of great power and which are usually destructive that they are “of Biblical proportions.”

Apocalypse is the name of the book of Revelation – it is a Greek term that means “to unveil” or “to reveal.”  There is a literary style  called “apocalyptic”.  The book of Revelation contains elements of that style, along with that of the Prophetic.  What is typical of the Apocalyptic is that it uses very figurative imagery to depict the spiritual realm and its breaking into normal history.  The book of Revelation has Four Horsemen and various Angels pouring out or calling down plagues, famines, earthquakes and the like.

Armageddon is the name given to the place in Revelation 16:16.  It probably means “hill of Megeddon” .  A passage on the defeat of “Gog” at this location is found in Ezekiel 39:1,4. 

  Here from Wikipedia, for what that is worth:  Mount Armageddon is a small mount or hill on which ancient forts were built that guarded the main highway, the Via Maris, that connected Ancient Egypt with Mesopotamia. Megiddo was the location of many decisive battles in ancient times (including one in the 15th century BC and one in 609 BC). The town Megiddo in Israel is approximately 25 miles (40 km) westsouthwest of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee (or Lake Tiberias to the Romans) in the Kishon River area.  (

So in the collective memory, these terms retain the meaning of “a powerful force of nature unleashed.” 

As I was operating my snowblower yesterday, and watched its outshoot come close to being a periscope, I got to thinking that this storm did remind us that we are not as much in control as we would like to be.  Even in Wisconsin, where we take pride in our winter driving skills, people cancelled events, stayed home and got lots of exercise moving snow. 

Earthquakes,tsunamis, bilzzards, as well as wars, depressions and popular uprisings (recently in Egypt) all are events that show us how tenuous is our control of the world.  There is a bit of revelation in that.