Josh Philpot

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The “Voice” of Moses in Deuteronomy

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In his new collection of essays, The Gospel according to Moses: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Book of Deuteronomy (Cascade, 2012), Dan Block has a helpful chart delineating the “voices” in Deuteronomy, which I’m providing below. The content comes from a previously published article, “Recovering the Voice of Moses: The Genesis of Deuteronomy,” JETS 44 (2001): 385-408. Based on internal and external evidence, Block argues that three particular voices are clear: (1) Yahweh’s voice, (2) Moses’ voice, and (3) the narrator’s voice.

  1. Yahweh’s Voice in Deuteronomy—31:14b, 16b-21, 23b; 32:49-52; 34:4b
  2. Moses’ Voice in Deuteronomy
    1. Moses’ Lone Voice—1:6-4:40; 4:44-26:19; 28:1-69 [Eng 29:1]; 27:11-26; 29:1 [Eng 2]-30:20; 32:1-43, 46b-47; 33:2-29
    2. Moses’ Accompanied Voice—27:1-8, 9-10
  3. The Narrator’s Voice in Deuteronomy—1:1-5; 2:10-12, 20-23; 3:9, 11, 13b-14; 4:41-43, 44-5:1a; 10:6-9; 27:1a, 9a, 11; 28:68 [Eng 29:1]; 29:1 [Eng 29:2]; 31:1-2a, 7a, 9-10a, 14a, 14c-16a, 22-23a, 24-25, 30; 32:44-46a, 48; 33:1-2a; 34:5-12

Block holds the traditional view that Moses is the author/speaker (the main “voice”) of the majority of the book of Deuteronomy, and I think his article is convincing on this point and helpful, especially as I read through the biblical book. Block has also published a companion volume prior to this one, How I Love Your Torah, O Lord!: Studies in the Book of Deuteronomy (Cascade, 2011). Both volumes are great to have in my personal library, and I look forward to his forthcoming commentary on Deuteronomy in the NIVAC series, which is slated to be released in August 2012.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 22, 2012 at 11:15 pm

God’s Wisdom in Proverbs—Dan Phillips

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Intro: I read most major works on the book of Proverbs for my doctoral coursework. So I try to make myself aware of new material on Proverbs. Kress Biblical Resources recently released a new book by Dan Phillips entitled, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs. Phillips is a pastor and blogger (see here). I first heard of him via his contributions to the Pyromaniacs blog. His writing is engaging and often humorous. It’s unique in the sense that I almost get the feeling that I’m conversing with him as I read. There is a give-and-take feel that is enjoyable. This new book is no different in style, although it is particularly rich theologically and pastorally, which is a refreshing take on a book that many take to be full or moralistic maxims.

Summary: The main thrust of God’s Wisdom in Proverbs is that the biblical book is not primarily about wisdom in general, but wisdom rooted in the revelation of God’s word; i.e., a wisdom that is defined as the skill for living in the fear of Yahweh. The first two chapters deal with interpretative issues, authorship, and design. Then Phillips spends a great deal defining “the fear of Yahweh” and “wisdom” in both the context of Proverbs and God’s unfolding revelation. These early chapters are focused on the sections of Proverbs that are most familiar: 1:1-7, 2:1-5, and 3:1-12. Then Phillips has three lengthy chapters on big topics in Proverbs like godly relationships, marriage, and child-training. The book ends with four appendices that provide further material—FAQ’s, as it were—on common mistakes and questions that Proverbs addresses, as well as some suggestions for teaching or preaching from the book. As someone who has thought a lot about how best to preach from Proverbs, I found this section particularly helpful.

I was a little confused as I began reading this book because I was expecting something entirely different. The title suggests that the book is a commentary. It is not a commentary. It begins like one (with introductory topics on the front end) and ends like one (with appendices on a few ancillary issues). So my initial comments in the margins of the book are the critical “this-is-not-how-to-write-a-commentary” type. But as I continued to read I was corrected, and then I was more and more refreshed by Phillips’ writing, particularly  in the chapters on marriage and child rearing. Indeed, I think Phillips has written the best thematic study on training children in Proverbs that I have read. No other commentary or book goes into the depth that he does on this topic, which includes a helpful biblical theological perspective. I was greatly encouraged by it and I hope to read that section again with my wife.

A little criticism: I have a few points of critical interaction. First, if someone is interested in delving into the issues surrounding Solomonic authorship I would suggest a few other resources. This is not to say that Phillips’ arguments are invalid, only that he doesn’t deal with all the historical and grammatical evidence against Solomonic authorship (I obviously agree that Solomon wrote the majority of the book). For instance, there is no mention of the Wisdom of Amenemope and how it relates to Proverbs 22:17-24:22, which is a huge issue in the authorship of Proverbs debate. One might think that this discussion has no place in a book like the one Phillips is writing, but since he devotes 11 pages at the beginning of the book to the issue of authorship in addition to an entire appendix (20 more pages), I would say that a big issue like this is worth treating (or at least referencing). He could easily point to Kenneth Kitchen’s article, “Proverbs and Wisdom Books in the Ancient Near East” (TB, 1977) or even Waltke’s section in his commentary to refute the critical view that says the Proverbs were adapted from Egyptian wisdom literature (which is patently false).

Second, the bibliography is a little dated, too, and Phillips missed a few excellent works like Steinmann’s commentary in the Concordia series (2009). That commentary has its own issues, but overall it’s the newest exhaustive commentary on Proverbs from a conservative perspective. Additionally I would have liked to see journal articles in the bibliography, of which there are very few. On the sources that Phillips does include in the bibliography, he adds a few comments so that readers know ahead of time what he thinks about the source. I’m studying with Duane Garrett who wrote a commentary on Proverbs (albeit a short one). On this book Phillips writes, “I would say that 90% of the time I go to Garrett for help with a verse, I come away disappointed.” I would be happy to expound on that point if Phillips ever desires to hear it. 🙂

Third, sometimes the organization of the various chapters is confusing. I would expect that in a book on Proverbs, for instance, the author to treat the material of a specific topic (such as marriage) within the book of Proverbs first before going to other books of the Bible to find material on the same topic. Phillips does this the other way around. In the end the reader arrives at the same point, just only by getting there via different avenues.

Last, Phillips goes a little overboard on word studies. I grant that lexical analysis is needed, especially in Proverbs as every commentator is prone to point out. But I think that Phillips could communicate his points clearly without going into the definitions of so many words. The definitions help, 0f course, but I was more interested in how the words are used in various contexts.

Conclusion: Dan Phillips and I are a like in a few ways. We’re both pastors. We’re both new to the Houston area. He’s bald and I’m balding. And we both love the book of Proverbs. On this last point I’m grateful that he has given us a fresh look at Proverbs with a pastoral perspective. He is a clever and witty writer, and the his points are clear. Although I have a few foibles with the book, it’s infinitely better than Longman’s How to Read Proverbs, and deserves a place on the shelf. I’m glad to have read it and I would certainly recommend it to others. It’s not a seminary-type book and I wouldn’t use it in the classroom at the M.Div. level, but I would in an undergrad setting.

Written by Josh Philpot

May 31, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Numbers 16 in Psalm 55

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Tonight I taught on Psalm 55 at Kenwood Baptist Church. The psalm is about David’s inner turmoil and anguish due to the betrayal of a close friend(s). Verse 15 stands apart in that David calls for harsh judgment on these former companions—”Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive.”

“Sheol” is found frequently in the Bible, but as I was studying the psalm I realized that the latter phrase of v. 15—”let them go down to Sheol alive”—is unique in that it appears only twice in the OT: here in Psalm 55:15 and also in Numbers 16:30, 33, the passage about the Korahite rebellion. In that passage, Dathan and Abiram are destroyed as a consequence of their rebellion against God and their rejection of Moses’ leadership. To demonstrate that God had judged their insolence and that their death was not the ordinary lot of human beings, the ground opened up and Dathan, Abiram, and their families “went down alive to Sheol.” The Hebrew construction in Numbers 16:30, 33 is essentially identical to the one in Psalm 55:15:

Num 16:30 — וְיָרְדוּ חַיִּים שְׁאֹלָה
Ps 55:15 — יֵרְדוּ שְׁאוֹל חַיִּים

So perhaps David had the Korahite rebellion in mind when he called for judgment on his enemies/former-friends. What he wants is probably not the same mode of judgment (i.e. the ground opening up), but the same kind of judgment—abrupt and unexpected.

Written by Josh Philpot

September 29, 2011 at 2:09 am

Posted in Old Testament

A few thoughts on Exodus 34:29

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  1. Moses’ second descent from Sinai is much different from the first. This time he has two new tablets and a changed complexion: the skin of his face is “shining” (from Heb. qrn) because he had been talking with God. The use of qrn here is odd since it usually means “horns,” not “to shine,” as depicted in Michelangelo’s statue of  Moses in the church of San Pietro, Rome. Michelangelo based his depiction of Moses on the translation of qrn in the Vulgate (“he knew not that his face was horned“).
  2. Scholars differ on the interpretation of qrn in Exod 34: Jirku (“horns”), Propp (“disfigurement,” or blistered skin), Sasson (“horns”), Stuart (“rays”), Sanders (“light”), Cassuto (“rays of light”), Childs (“rays of light”), Enns (“afterglow”), etc. The LXX has, “the skin of [Moses’] face had become glorified.” Paul follows the LXX: “The Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory” (2 Cor 3:7).
  3. While it is true that qrn normally means “horns” (see HALOT, vol 3, 1144), in this case we must consider alternatives. The verbal form here in Exod 34 literally means “to show horns,” not “to shine.” But consider this analogy: my kids and I drew a picture of the sun today with yellow crayons. Like most kids do (and adults too), we drew spikes, or “horns,” around the sun to show that it emanates light and that it’s really hot. Perhaps what we have in Exod 34 is similar. The skin of Moses’ face shines just like the sun shines. Instead of saying that Moses’ face “was shining” (using the normal language of illumination) the author of Moses depicts Moses’ face much like we would draw the sun: he had horns of light (a similar analogy would be the head of the Statue of Liberty); that is, rays that reflect the very brightness of  Yahweh’s own presence. As Cassuto writes, “Something of the divine glory remained with [Moses], and on an infinitesimal scale he also had rays at his side—enveloping his countenance.”
  4. Habbakuk 3:4 substantiates the interpretation of qrn as rays of light: “[God’s] brightness was like the light; beams of light (qrn) come from his hand; and there he veiled his power.”

Written by Josh Philpot

July 13, 2011 at 2:02 am

New Titles from Peter Enns

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I noticed today that Peter Enns has two new books that will be available later this year: a commentary on Ecclesiastes (NHC) and another entitled The Evolution of Adam. He gives a description of each in this post, and both will be intriguing to say the least. I think it interesting that he says the following in his description of the Ecclesiastes commentary:

Those of you who know me well will not be surprised that in the theological section I apply a Christotelic hermeneutic. Also, for the truly geekified among you, I do not see Qohelet’s words as corrected by the epilogue but affirmed as wise–though not the final word. I also see Qohelet as a suffering Christ figure. (Yes, you heard me right.)

Having read Enns’ Exodus commentary in its entirety (in the NIVAC series), I can vouch for Enns’ exegetical skill. That commentary is superb, and so I look forward to good things from this one too. Enns is well-versed in the Wisdom writings and the secondary literature. Interested students should pick up his annotated bibliography, Poetry and Wisdom (Baker), which I found really helpful last year during my independent study on Proverbs with Duane Garrett.

On The Evolution of Adam, Enns says it “applies the approach of Inspiration and Incarnation to a specific and pressing issue: in view of evolution, what does it mean to read the Bible well? So think of EOA as I&I part two.” Having also read I&I (and having significant disagreements), this new work will no doubt receive attention from evangelicals, especially given the events surrounding I&I at Westminster Seminary and the ensuing debate that lead to Enns’ departure.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Books, Old Testament

Old Testament Readings, Anonymous Elders, and Jim Hamilton

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At Kenwood we have three scripture readings during our main worship service: a Call to Worship, an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading. This past Sunday (6/27) we had a hiccup in the service. One of our elders (who will remain anonymous) didn’t realize that he was scheduled for the Old Testament reading. So, when we finished singing “A Mighty Fortress,” and I noticed that this anonymous elder was not walking to pulpit, I began to get a little nervous. But you must understand why I’m nervous at this point: I’m the one responsible for the worship service. If someone is not walking to the pulpit it’s really my fault! So I scramble through hymnals and papers around the piano looking for a Bible, somehow hopeful that I can get to the pulpit and do the reading myself without making it look like I’m unorganized (pet peeve, by the way). I look over at Jim Hamilton seated in the second row, and he’s looking conspicuously around the room for that same anonymous elder who should be at the pulpit reading the Bible by now. He strikes back an inquisitive but partly accusing look in my direction, as if to say, “Haven’t you organized the worship service?” I send back a shrugged shoulder, hoping that he gets the message that the anonymous elder is supposed to be reading. Jim gets my drift, and true to his character (he’s great at spontaneity), he marches quickly up to the pulpit, ready for the task. And this was the result:

Isaiah 44:24-45:7

We  have all been in worship services where our concentration is broken by some distraction. It’s either a high screeching microphone, a baby crying during a prayer, or an anonymous elder forgetting that he’s scheduled to read and pray during the service. We know this well and its amusing to some degree. But each week I try to organize a worship service that might limit our distractions and instead cause all of our efforts to focus on the greatness of God in Christ. Indeed, the whole elder team labors to do this, not simply because we think it’s the right “mood” for worship, but because we want to worship God rightly; that is, in a way that would bring him the most glory. Limiting distractions, I think, is helpful to meeting this goal.

So Jim marched to the pulpit without having read Isaiah 44:24-45:7 and without having prepared a prayer. But afterward, instead of being distracted and instead of feeling some disconnect, Jim helped draw our attention to the greatness of God by reading the Bible with emotion, vigor, sincerity and enthusiasm. And I think his response helped everyone in the congregation, not least myself. In the end, our minds and hearts were once more focused on magnificence of God, and on the awesome privilege we have of worshiping him freely.

I think that Jim should consider a Bible audio book, no?

Written by Josh Philpot

June 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Old Testament

Pun from Judges 16

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The Old Testament is full of literary and rhetorical devices, most of which are only obvious if you know Hebrew. I’m still working on Hebrew so I don’t always notice these things when I’m reading through a text. But one such literary device that is usually recognizable is the “pun,” which in some cases adds tremendous interpretive weight to a passage. A pun is a play on words which at times yields funny results.

Consider the following passage from Judges 16 that Charles Halton pointed out in a recent article in JBL (“Samson’s Last Laugh” in JBL 128.1 [2009]: 61-64 ). This is, of course, the famous story of Samson and the Philistines. After being deceived by the promiscuous Delilah, Samson is tortured by the hands of his captors and forced to do hard labor. In 16:25-27 the Philistines desire to get one last laugh over  Samson, and it is here that we see the pun: “And when their hearts were merry, they said, ‘Call Samson, that he may entertain us.’ So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars . . . Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained” [ESV].

Halton shows that the majority of English translations miss the significance of the pun. The verb “to entertain” can also be rendered “to crush,” since the only difference in the Hebrew root is a sin (which would mean, “to entertain”) and a shin (which would mean, “to crush”). These two letters are indistinguishable in an unpointed text, so Halton suggests that the author of Judges makes a play on words; that is, the italicized text above means both “entertain” and “crush” to communicate two different things. And, of course, we all know how the story ends. Halton concludes,

“The author of this pericope used the ambiguity of the verb in Judg 16:25, 27 to articulate two points of view. The masoretic tradents follow the perspective of the festive Philistines as they vocalized shq to convey the notion that Samson’s captors brought him into the temple in order to entertain them. The second point of view is that of the narrator. The narrator injects an element of dark comedy into this account stating that the Philistines summoned Samson in order to crush themselves. Like other figures in the Bible, Samson destroyed a pagan sanctuary and crushed the cultic idols to bits. This time, however, the crushed cultic objects were the Philistine men and women.”

Fun stuff! In a sick sort of way…

Written by Josh Philpot

June 26, 2010 at 1:47 am