The Collapse of the Water Vapor Canopy

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Back in August of 2008, I did a post on the debatable issues with the water vapory canopy. Though some young earth creationism have used the water vapor canopy to explain the waters lifted above the earth on day 2 of the creation week (Genesis 1:6-7) and how it was possible to rain for forty days and forty nights with Noah’s flood, they have used it only as a model and not as explicit biblical teaching. However, there are good reasons why this model is not viable. Some of these reasons are explained by Bodie Hodge with Answers in Genesis in his recent response to a letter. You can read this response here.

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How Long Did Israel Sojourn in Egypt?

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Every fall semester, I teach an entry level seminary class on the Pentateuch (the picture above is taken from Accordance‘s Pentateuch sites map). Because the theology of the Pentateuch is so rudimentary for properly understanding the rest of the canon, this is a seminal class. One of the issues that I minimally treat is the length of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt; however, this is an important issue and needs more attention.

To overcome the brevity of my classroom presentation, I cite a few other sources in my Pentateuch syllabus. One of the sources is Jack Riggs’ 1971 article “The Length of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt” (Grace Theological Journal 12 [Spring 1971]: 18–35). Riggs thoroughly presents three views about the duration of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt: a sojourn of 215 years, another of 400 years and one of 430 years. Though other biblical texts enter into the discussion, three key biblical texts provide the matrix for some exegetical and theological intrigue among conservative biblical scholars about the duration of Israel’s stay in Egypt: Genesis 15:13-16, Exodus 12:40-41 and Galatians 3:15–17.

I was taught the 430 year view when I did my MDiv work at Temple Baptist Theological Seminary in the early 1970s and my subsequent post-graduate work at Grace Theological Seminary. Since I first started teaching the Pentateuch about thirty years ago, I have advocated this view. Though I have periodically looked at the other opposing views, I have not been persuaded of their overall biblical consistency. Because this subject is a part of the Bible’s historiography, it is an important part of Pentateuchal studies.

A few weeks back my interest was aroused when I read Fred Butler‘s post “The Length of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt.” What prompted his post was two prior blog entries by Turretinfan, a member of the theologically-solid Alpha & Omega blog team. Turretinfan makes a reasonable case for the 215 year view. You should read each of these posts to understand the series of posts at Hip and Thigh: “How then Four Hundred, Thirty Years?” and “From Seventy to More than a Million?.” For me what makes this series of blog entries an interesting read is that each blogger’s examines the key biblical texts. It is great to see these texts discussed from two different, yet theologically conservative positions.

Having read the various posts, I am still convinced of the 430 year view. However, the exchange is a profitable read because both bloggers make a commendable case for their view and they disagree with each other in a reasonable manner. To read a thorough justification for the 430 year view, you need to read Fred’s four subsequent posts: “A Response to Moi, ” “Returning to Egypt [I],” “Returning to Egypt [II]” and “Returning to Egypt [III].” I have profited by reading this series of posts and it should fill in some details that I omitted in my Pentateuch class.

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Sunspot Records and the Earth

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I have been skeptical of global warming for some time now (“About Global Warming“). And, it concerns me that our tax dollars are going to be squandered on this issue and that our major news media sources have ignored the connection between the earth’s climate and the sun. Though many news media outlets appear to be in the tank with the Obama administration and its quest to save us from anthropogenic global warming, there are some key dissenting voices which return to the issue of the connection between the earth’s climate and sunspots. For more information on this connection, see Corey Jones’ “Earth Approaching Sunspot Records.”

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Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 2)

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As announced with my first post, this second one will develop the first hermeneutical guideline for interpreting Proverbs. This guideline relates to recognizing the characteristics of a proverb. I will discuss this principle over the course of three blog entries.

I. Recognizing the Characteristics of a Proverb

The proverb, or aphorism, is found throughout the Bible. It is often assumed that the use of proverbs is confined to the book of Proverbs. The wisdom literature of the Old Testament such as Ecclesiastes and Job are characterized by their use of proverbs. Proverbs are commonly found in poetic literature (Ps 119:105). Jesus also uses proverbs (Mark 12:17). The Epistle of James also contains many proverbs. The proverb is a common literary form used in the Bible.

A proverb is a concise, memorable saying, usually in poetic form, expressing a generally accepted observation about life as filtered through biblical revelation. From this definition, we can observe that a proverb is characterized as being concise and memorable, simple yet profound, specific yet general, usually expressed in poetic form, and observations about life as filtered through biblical revelation. To clarify our understanding of the nature of proverbs, we will examine these five characteristics in individual proverbs.

A. A proverb is concise and memorable.

The verbal conciseness aids in making it memorable. The sage who creates a concise and memorable saying must be skillful in his use of words and syntax. By reducing his observation about life into a proverbial form, the sage was aiming to make his observations permanent. As such, a proverb is a high point drawn from the sage’s observations about life. With the proverb, the sage “captures the clearest and most affective moment and the point of greatest light” (Ryken, Word of Delight, p. 315). A concise and memorable proverb that I vividly remember from my teen age years is Proverbs 12:4: “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.”

B. A proverb is simple yet profound.

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD a weighs the heart” (Prov 21:2). The basic point of this proverb is that people think they have an accurate self-evaluation for their actions, but the LORD has an evaluation of their heart that is truly accurate because of His infinite perspective. Though this proverb is simple, it is quite profound. God knows exactly what is in the heart of every single person better than each individual knows himself, and God with His omniscient knowledge evaluates everyone according to His standard of holiness.

C. A proverb is specific yet general.

This is illustrated in Proverbs 26:27, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.” “Whoever digs a pit” specifically refers to someone laying a trap for another and “a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling” refers to an attempt to place a stone upon one’s opponent but the stone rolls back on its initiator. The result in either case is that the trap backfires. While both part of this verse have a specificity, they communicate a general point that man’s best plans may backfire.

D. A proverb is consistently cast into poetic form.

Hebrew poetry is characterized by brevity in line length, parallelism, and figurative language. If we compare the line length of Proverbs 1 with a narrative such as Judges 1, it is readily apparent that the length of each line in Proverbs 1 is shorter than the length of each line in Judges 1. Proverbs 4:1 is a familiar example of poetic parallelism. Solomon provides an exhortation, “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction.” The second part of this verse parallels the first part with a specification of his purpose, “be attentive, that you may g gain insight.” The parallelism clearly develops what the sage’s point is, viz., listen to a godly father in order to gain wisdom. Proverbs 4:17 demonstrates the use of figures when Solomon picturesquely compares the unbridled lust of the wicked to their eating habits, “For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.” Eating “the bread of wickedness” and drinking “the wine of violence” is a graphic way of illustrating that wicked people live for “wickedness” and “violence.”

As noted in the preceding paragraph, Hebrew poetry is characterized by parallelism. Parallelism is essentially a repetition of thought or grammar in a second line of poetry. The predominant form of parallelism is thought repetition. In the past, parallelism has been divided into three basic types: synonymous, antithetical, and synthetic. With a number of recent studies, we have been able to more precisely categorize parallellism. In the book of Proverbs, there are at least six types of proverbs (much of the following is adapted from Klein, Blomberg and Hubard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, pp. 230–38). However, a development of these six kinds of parallelism will need to wait for my next two posts.

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Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 1)

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I am going to do a 14-part series on interpreting the book of Proverbs. This is an update from a workshop that I did in October of 2000 at the Mid-America Conference on Preaching. This initial post will serve as an introduction to the series. After this, I will do twelve posts on six hermeneutical principles for understanding Proverbs and a final post on a recommended bibliography for studying Proverbs.

How often have you heard a sincere believer claim a supposed prayer promise from the book of Proverbs or a verse that sounds as if success in some aspect of life, such as a business venture or a domestic activity, is guaranteed for one who trusts in the Lord. Yet, when the expected results did not come to fruition, the believer was left in a state of bewilderment about his lack of faith, or whatever sort of deficiency he is able to conjecture. On some different occasions, I have heard someone question a well-intentioned believer about his application and/or interpretation of a passage in Proverbs, and have received a response something like: “this is what the passage means to me!” Though I do not want to minimize an individual believer’s responsibility in applying Scripture to his life, I am convinced that legitimate application can only be accomplished after a believer directs his primary focus away from the application to a foundational level that focuses on what did this passage mean to its original author. This basic interpretative task is especially important when we come to Proverbs.

This interpretative task in Proverbs is germane for two reasons. First, Christians need to know how to live wisely in a humanistic and hedonistic society. Proverbs tells the individual believer how to live wisely in the everyday circumstances of life. This purpose is clearly articulated in Proverbs 1:2–6. This section states that the purpose of the book of Proverbs is to challenge its readers to obtain wisdom. The term translated as “wisdom” in Proverbs can be understood as biblical skill in living. This is to say wisdom enables one to live a successful and godly life. In 1:2–6 we can see that wisdom includes moral skill in holy living (vv. 2a, 3–5) and intellectual understanding (vv. 2b, 6). The theme of Proverbs is found in 1:7. This verse states that wisdom is an outgrowth of one’s relationship to fearing, “reverentially trusting,” God. Thus, Christians need the wisdom found in Proverbs in facing the demands and temptations encountered in a secular society. Second, while Christians need the wisdom of Proverbs to regulate their lives, they must use Proverbs in a biblically informed manner to avoid misapplying the wisdom of Proverbs as necessarily direct guarantees from God. Because the applications drawn from the book of Proverbs have been so abused, we need that which is basic for all effective application of Proverbs: a development of hermeneutical guidelines to establish the meaning of Proverbs. Consequently, my objective with this series of posts is to lay a foundation for effective application by developing six principles for interpreting Proverbs. With my next post, I will focus on the first hermeneutical guideline.

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The Historical and Literal Truth in Genesis 1-11

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Are the early chapters of Genesis historically and literally accurate? In the current issue of Acts and Facts, Dr. Andrew A. Snelling, with Answers in Genesis, answers this question affirmatively in “Genesis: Real, Reliable, Historical“: “The Bible never claims to be a textbook on history or science, but if God is who He claims to be, then He has all knowledge and power, and never makes mistakes. Therefore, if the Bible is the Word of God, then it must be truthful, even when it touches upon matters of history and science. Otherwise, this Creator God is a liar. The very character of God requires the first eleven chapters of Genesis to be a trustworthy record.”

Last year I had the privilege of spending a week white water rafting through the Grand Canyon with Dr. Snelling serving as our geological lecturer. Besides being a good scholar, Dr. Snelling is also a diligent Bible student and a godly Christian. I would highly recommend that you read “Genesis: Real, Reliable, Historical.”

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Congressman Mike Rogers’ Opening Statement on Health Care Reform Is Exactly Right

As President Obama continues to expand big government, some of his expansion can be reversed with the next few elections. However, the one area where a reversal is impossible will be in the area of his proposal for National Health Care. Nationwide Americans are clearly expressing their disapproval of Obama’s radical agenda on National Health Care reform. In spite of American disapproval, I fear that Mr. Obama and his allies in Congress may use their majority to push through their agenda. On a positive note, I was glad to hear Congressman Mike Rogers’ clearly oppose Obama’s plan. Congressman Rogers of Michigan’s 8th District clearly identifies in the following short video the fallacious choice that is before Congress.

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Prizing God above His Gifts: Job’s Message for Today (Part 5)

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As an outgrowth of my four preceding posts on Job (for my last post, click here), I would like to make some suggestions about key motifs and expositional units for a series of messages on Job. This will be followed by resources that would be helpful for this type of series.

The objective of an expository series of messages on any biblical book is to develop an author’s message. The writer’s message is a reference to his argument (the development of his thought). To develop an author’s argument, it is necessary to thoroughly study his book to determine his major and minor motifs and, subsequently, how the sections and subsections correlate with his themes. After this has been accomplished, it is necessary to summarize the author’s message as concisely as possible. I refer to this as my exegetical summary. On a general level, this should be done with a minimal number of sentences. Once the message of the book has been exegetically summarized, we should consider what this abridgment primarily says about God’s perfections, man’s nature and man’s relationship to God. After asking these types of questions, I reduce my exegetical condensation of the book’s message into one sentence, an expositional summary, that focuses on the primary timeless principle taught in a book. For example, in my major concluding paragraph to “Prizing God above His Gifts: Job’s Message for Today (Part 3),” I provided this synopsis of Job: “Because of God’s incomprehensible wisdom and incomparable power as reflected by His creating and sustaining the world and its inhabitants, He is its sovereign who freely administers justice correctly. With Job’s fuller revelation of the theocentric nature of the world, he repented of his wrong and fearfully submitted to the Almighty.” After this exegetical abstract, I broke it down into my one sentence expositional summary of Job: “The mysterious nature of God’s control of life’s moral order should produce in his people a repentant faith in God and a wholehearted reverence for his sovereign majesty.” Using the expositional summary as a filter, I next evaluate the major sections of a book and determine how each unit contributes to the development of the expositional condensation.

The nature of a book in terms of its message and genre determines the detail that each section may require in terms of exposition. Because of the poetical nature with its repetitive nature and the actual content of the speeches, Job is a book that does not lend itself to verse-by-verse exposition. Some genres in Scripture are correlated more readily with verse-by-verse exposition, such as epistolary literature in the New Testament. However, other genres lend themselves to looking at larger thematic units, such as the historical narrative in the Old Testament Historical Books. In this regard, the book of Job has similarities to narrative literature and should be preached in larger units. For example, Job 4–37 have several thematic emphases; however, Job’s three friends and Elihu tediously repeat most of the themes. Job’s responses to his friends’ charges reflect a mixture of faith and pride. As such, an expositor could take this large section of material and demonstrate the most significant charges in two messages. There is a twofold emphasis in these thirty-four chapters that naturally lends itself to two messages: distorting the sovereignty of God to condemn an innocent sufferer and Job’s accurately, though marred by his depravity, challenging the abuses of illicit theology. The following seven units are how I would organize the book of Job for an expositional series of messages. I have also included a brief expositional analysis of the message for each unit.

Thematic Units

1. Job 1:1–2:13: Reverencing God in Great Loss

The essence of godliness is wholehearted love for God above all his gifts.

2. Job 3:1–26: Outbursts of Godly Suffering

Godliness is not perfected without the trials of life.

3. Job 4:1–37:24: Illegitimate Uses of Theology

An illegitimate use of theology is that suffering is always a result of sin.

4. Job 4:1–37:24: Challenging Abused Theology

The suffering of godly people proves suffering is not always the results of sin.

5. Job 38:1–40:2: The God of Nature

Finite, godly people cannot understand how God controls the universe.

6. Job 40:3–42:6: The God of Justice

Finite, godly people cannot understand how God controls the moral order of life.

7. Job 42:7–17: Restoration of the Godly Sufferer

God ultimately rewards godliness.

Selected Bibliography on Job

Andersen, Francis I. Job: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Edited by D. J. Wiseman. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976.

Carson, D. A. How Long, O Lord: Reflections on Suffering and Evil. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990.

Clines, David J. A. Job 1–20. Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1989.

Clines, David J. A. Job 21–37. Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Waco, TX: Word Books, 2006.

Davis, M. Vernon. “Preaching from Job.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 14 (Fall 1971): 65–76.

Estes, Daniel J. Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005.

Habel, Norman C. Job. Knox Preaching Guides. Atlanta: Knox, 1981.

Hartley, John E. The Book of Job. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Edited by R. K. Harrison. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988.

Newell, B. Lynne. “Job: Repentant or Rebellious?” Westminster Theological Journal 46 (Fall 1984): 229–316.

Parsons, Gregory W. “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Book of Job.” Bibliotheca Sacra 151 (October–December 1994): 393–413.

Smick, Elmer B. “Job.” In vol. 4 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and Richard P. Polcyn. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988.

Thomas, Derek. The Storm Breaks: Job Simply Explained. Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1995.

Wilson, Lindsay. “Job.” In Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey. Edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.

Zuck, Roy B. Job. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1978.

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