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The Beginning of Things tells you Stuff: Determining Genre

Pay careful attention to the opening section of any discourse. The first five minutes of a movie, the first chapter or so of a novel, the opening introduction of a sermon, the first paragraph of a newspaper article—all of these “first moments” are specifically designed to orient you to the thing that you are reading or hearing or watching. Remember, authors generally want to be understood, and because they want to be understood they want to set you up to read well.

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Another way to Read the Lord’s Prayer

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series The King's Petition

So our path begins with the observation that the Lord’s prayer is not just the kind of prayer that our Lord taught, but rather the kind of prayer our Lord prayed.

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The Problem with Reading the Bible Verse-by-Verse

Over the years we have trained ourselves to read the Bible in an unnatural way, so we’re going to have to break some bad habits. We are trained to read the Bible verse-by-verse, but in keeping with the “ordinary reading principle” we need to change our habits. We should ordinarily be reading the Bible paragraph-by-paragraph or, even better, book-by-book.

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I will Tell you a Mystery: Translating μυστήριον

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Real Questions

The μυστήριον for Paul is less the “secret” of Christ’s Messianic identity and more like the “surprise” that the Gospel, as it is fulfilled in the resurrection and Pentecost, goes out beyond the Jews; it goes directly to the Gentiles too, and to the ends of the earth.

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The Gated Community: Heaven’s Open Gates

Hells gates are shut in fear, but Heaven’s gates stand perpetually open so that all may receive the blessings of Jesus.

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The Bible isn’t Just Extraordinary, It’s Also Ordinary

In other words, while the Bible is always extra-ordinary, it is such through the use of the ordinary ways that human beings speak to one another. It is supernatural revelation that God has given in natural language. The Bible is special and unique, but it is not special and unique in this way, that is, in the manner by which it communicates truth to human beings. That’s why the Westminster Standards go on to describe the meaning of the Bible as accessible “through a due use of ordinary means” (WCF 1.7).

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Let the Text Question You: Exegesis is Application

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Exegesis without the Languages

As we question our souls we are really just turning Scripture inward. In the end, it’s God that asks the questions. We are involved in the process, investigation ourselves on his behalf, as it were, but in the end we can only know ourselves in so far as God begins the inquiry.

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How to Write a Seminary Paper, Part 4: Research as Conversation

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series How to Write a Seminary Paper

Research isn’t about gathering data. Research is a conversation, one in which you are both a contributor and a moderator.

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Seeing New Things in Old Texts: More Tips for Exegetical Inquiry

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Exegesis without the Languages

After multiple readings, we can get “stuck in a rut;” we grow content with our prior understanding of the text and are unable to see things anew. One way to see the text differently is to see it from a different angle. Deliberately switch your reading posture (both figuratively and possibly literally).

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Exegetical Inquiry: The Question is more important than the Answer

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Exegesis without the Languages

We think exegesis is at its best when we arrive at “the answer,” when we reach “understanding,” but actually exegesis is at its best when the text seems strange and alien to us. We need to make the text strange again.

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Should I be more “literal” or more “readable” when translating the Bible?

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Real Questions

The question is really a matter of “how many exegetical decisions am I going to answer in my translation.” The more you leave ambiguous, the more burden you put on the reader. The more exegetical questions you answer, the less burden you put on the reader.

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Everything I need to Know about Revelation I Learned in the First Eight Verses

Revelation seems so difficult and confusing, but John has actually given us firm footholds in the opening of his letter. He’s guiding his readers in how Revelation is to be read.

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The Gated Community: A Biblical Theology of Gates

I recently had the privilege of writing about “Gates” over at TableTalk. Here’s an excerpt: The high walls of the new Jerusalem are punctuated by a dozen gates (that’s a lot), and these gates...

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When to use the original languages. Part 3: The Point you are Making Must Be Sufficiently Important

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series When to use the Original Languages

Your audience might be under the assumption that the “original languages” are possessed with a kind of magic, a deep meaning that they cannot get from their plebian translations. In appealing to the original you may be reinforcing that conclusion, sowing the seeds of distrust of translation, or worse, cultivating mistaken conclusions about biblical interpretation.

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Save Time: Stop Doing Word Studies

Word studies are a favorite tool of Biblical exegetes, but usually aren’t worth the time. Why not? Because either (1) the work has already been done for you, or (2) what you are trying...

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Real Questions: What does “the” mean?

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Real Questions

The point: when translating from the Greek, these subtleties won’t always show up in translation. That’s why it probably feels “low impact.” But such questions are worth thinking about because, though subtle, the rhetorical and semantic functions are different in many contexts.

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Why the NLT is Good, actually

As a working guideline, then, I propose we evaluate translations on the basis of three criteria. A good translation (1) has a well-defined, well-reasoned, and useful translation philosophy, (2) applies that philosophy consistently over the “many parts and various ways” God has spoken to us in his word (Heb. 1:1), and (3) uses the “best of what’s around” to understand the original Hebrew and Greek text. The NLT gets an “A” in all three of these categories, as I will establish in a bit.

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Four Ways to Preach Jesus from James

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series The Gospel in James

When we shine a bright light upon the shape of James, the shadow that is cast is inevitable that of Jesus. So here we meet Jesus yet again because here we find his values and actions described for us. Read James, then, and meditate on how these verses reflect the perfections of your redeemer.

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The Working Wisdom of James

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series The Gospel in James

Ancient wisdom literature tends to be provocative and probative. It wants you to think differently about everything, even the most fundamental aspects of our lives.

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Reading James: The Challenge

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series The Gospel in James

“I’m really struggling to preach about Jesus from the book of James.” A Sunday School teacher at our church recently approached me about the topic. The class is enjoying the book, and so is the teacher, but it’s become apparent that it’s hard to “get to Jesus” through typical exegetical methods. “I feel like every week I preach Christ the same way: ‘James commands us to do this or that, I consistently fail to do this or that, and so Jesus forgives me for this or that.’ Am I missing something?”

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When to Use Your Language Knowledge, Part 2: Only if it’s Absolutely Necessary (and it probably isn’t)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series When to use the Original Languages

Even if you can utilize your knowledge of Greek or Hebrew syntax and vocabulary, there’s probably a better way to prove your point, and you should take that route instead.

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The Best Translation to use for (Public) Exegesis

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Exegesis without the Languages

It might not be your favorite translation; it might not be the one you memorized as a kid, or the one that represents your hermeneutical and theological ideal, but you need to regard it as yours. Why? Because it’s the one your church uses.

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How do I do good exegesis if I don’t know Hebrew or Greek? (Part 1)

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Exegesis without the Languages

Let’s say that you want to do some serious exegetical work on a passage of Scripture–perhaps you need to write an exegetical paper, or you’re running this week’s Bible Study, or counseling a client...

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