Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

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The Preface of My Dissertation

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On Friday I will graduate for the second time from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The first time was when I completed the MDiv in 2009, and now four years later from the PhD program. I had the opportunity to write a “Preface” for my dissertation, which I had never done before. So in reflecting on this process, I wrote the following:

This project would not have been possible without the guidance of the many people who encouraged me to pursue a seminary degree, and who were faithful to support me through to its completion. This entire dissertation was written from Spring, Texas while serving as Pastor for Worship at Founders Baptist Church. I am deeply thankful to Founders for allowing me to spend this last year writing. The people of Founders have been truly amazing in their display of love for me and my family. I am especially thankful for Pastor Richard Caldwell for his constant care and support, as well as his interest in my topic.

My interest in Exodus 34 and the episode of Moses’ shining face began with a discussion outside of the office of my supervisor, Dr. Duane A. Garrett, who was completing a commentary on Exodus at the time. He suggested that I write a paper on this passage seeing that it was commonly misunderstood, especially in evangelical circles. My later work on Exodus 34 was generally well received, and so Dr. Garrett suggested that I consider it for my dissertation. I am extremely grateful to him for his support and guidance during this process, and for taking me on as one of his doctoral students.

My doctoral studies began while I was serving with Dr. James M. Hamilton Jr. on the pastoral staff at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Hamilton has influenced me pastorally and theologically more than any other person. I am grateful to him for his friendship and love for me and my family, not to mention his keen insight on all Old Testament matters and comprehensive biblical knowledge. Out of all the things I miss about Louisville, I miss serving with Dr. Hamilton the most. Thank you for modeling a strong work ethic, humility, sincerity, and biblical preaching.

My wife, Jenn, has been the constancy one needs when completing a large-scale project. Thank you for your endless prayers and encouragement, and your devotion to me when I grew weary from time to time. Thank you for your love, most of all, and for your commitment to being a godly wife and a mother. You bring more joy to me than you will ever know! And, “The heart of her husband trusts in her” (Prov 31:11).

To our kids, Isaiah, Eliana, and Mikaela, thank you for confirming for me each day that “the light of the eyes rejoices the heart” (Prov 15:30). I am looking forward to having many more mornings and evenings together!

Lastly, I am dedicating this dissertation to my parents, Gary and Pam Philpot. Your influence on me as a young man was a significant blessing throughout. And now, as a husband and father, I am beginning to understand just how important Christian parents are in the lives of their children. Thank you for your prayerful encouragement and loving example of a godly marriage. My prayer is that the Lord would “make his face to shine upon you” (Num 6:25) as you persevere in the gospel of grace.

Joshua Matthew Philpot
Spring, Texas
December 2013

Written by Josh Philpot

December 9, 2013 at 8:00 am

Riches, Honor, and Life

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In 1 Kings 3:13-14, God offers Solomon riches, honor, and long life, although the latter is conditional upon Solomon’s obedience to God’s law:

I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.

These three benefits are in Lady Wisdom’s hands in Proverbs 3:16 (“Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.”), and are the “rewards for humility” in Proverbs 22:4 (“The reward for humility and fear of the Yhwh is riches and honor and life.”).

In Christ, the results of a wise life are “riches” in heaven (Matt 6:19-20), “honor” in believing (1 Pet 2:7), and “eternal life” (John 3:36).

Written by Josh Philpot

December 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Posted in Old Testament, Theology

Ardel Caneday on Peter Enns and the NT Use of the OT

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At the Credo Magazine blog, NT scholar Ardel Caneday completed a series on the NT use of the OT, and particularly with recent arguments from OT scholar Peter Enns. Enns was dismissed from Westminster Theological Seminary a few years back (he may have resigned; I can’t remember) over the hermeneutical position he took in the book, Inspiration and Incarnation. The articles from Candeday are long but worth the time for anyone interested in the topic, especially the last two which deal with Enns in particular:

On the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament (part 1)

On the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament (part 2)

Would Paul Have Made a Good Evangelical? (part 3)

Would Paul Have Made a Good Evangelical? (part 4)

While not dismissing the value of some of Enns’ works on the OT (his Exodus commentary in the NIVAC series is excellent, as are some of his contributions to Wisdom Literature studies), his more recent works have only confirmed why WTS dismissed him (rightly, in my opinion) from their faculty.

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June 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Was Adam for real life?

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As an evangelical Old Testament student I see Tremper Longman’s name pretty frequently. I begrudgingly read his Introduction to the Old Testament as a junior in college but enjoyed it in the end. I also found his commentary on Proverbs somewhat helpful (though not in the Waltke sense).

However, I’m often at odds sometimes with much of what Longman says or writes. For instance, I remember Dr. Gentry dismantling Longman’s thesis in the NICOT series that Ecclesiastes is equivalent to fictionalized biography (i.e. Frame Narrative theory – see Duane Garrett’s refutation as well in his own commentary, 260-65), which I found to be a serious flap on Longman’s part. I also recently came across this interesting little clip of Longman commenting on the historical Adam, which just adds to my disparity:

For Longman, then, Adam’s historicity isn’t really the main point, and shouldn’t really affect our exegesis or theology. But that’s the question: Does Adam have to be an historical figure for the Bible to make sense, like Longman says? And, what are the implications for sin and headship if Adam is not? Biblical theology? Further, what would John Walton say (for those of you who have read his new book)?

Written by Josh Philpot

September 21, 2009 at 11:23 am

Interpretive Challenges in the OT #2 – JPS Translation of Gen. 3:15

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serpent-and-foot-ktWhile reading through my JPS Torah I came across this translation of Gen. 3:15:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They shall strike at your head, and you shall strike at their heel.

Notice anything different? I mean, besides the obvious bold and italicized font? At the heart of this problem is whether “offspring” is an individual, referring to a specific child, or whether it is to be taken as a collective singular, referring to many children. The Hebrew term for “offspring/seed” (zera’ – I’ll use the 2 English words interchangeably) is a masculine noun but is somewhat flexible. In Gen. 4:25 it clearly refers to one person (Seth), whereas in Isaiah 41:8 it refers to Israel as a nation. If one takes “offspring” as referring to an individual (as in the Christian tradition), then the following pronouns (in bold) would be “He shall strike…” and “his heel.” If one takes “offspring” as a collective singular then the JPS translation can be substantiated.

How do we figure this out? Well, rather than deliberately retrojecting the NT understanding of “seed” into Genesis lets first argue from the text itself. In the OT, “seed” seems to follow both lines of thinking mentioned above. Since the woman’s seed struggles against the Serpent’s seed, we can infer that it has a collective sense. But since only the head of the Serpent is represented as crushed, we can expect an individual to deliver the fatal blow and to be struck uniquely on his heel. Additionally, biblical Hebrew employs a grammatical gender (“he,” “she”) agreeing with its it’s antecedent. In other words, “seed” is a masculine noun and should thus be followed by masculine pronouns – “He shall strike” and “his heel.” But that only eliminates whether or not the phrase should be translated “she”, which is totally out of the question (but used some older Catholic translations!). The real problem is if it should be translated “they” or “he”. The most impressive evidence against “they” is the Greek Seputagint (LXX), our oldest translation of this text (third or second century B.C.), which translates this phrase with “he” (autos). This is noteworthy given that the Greek antecedent is neuter (sperma), which means that the oldest translation of Genesis deliberately avoided “it” and understood 3:15 as referring to one person (see R.A. Martin, “The Earliest Messianic Interpretation of Genesis 3:15” JBL 84).

Who, then, is the seed of the woman? The immediate seed is probably Abel, then Seth (Gen. 4:25 – “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel”). The collective seed is the holy offspring of the patriarchs (Gen. 15:5; 22:17). After Genesis we do not hear again of the promised seed until God promises David a seed (2 Sam. 7:12), which should also be understood in both ways. Moving to the NT, the unique fulfillment of this seed promise, however, is Jesus Christ, who comes into the world through the seed of the woman: the patriarchs and David. Paul refers to the seed of Abraham as the individual Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16) but then also includes the church in Christ as Abraham’s seed (Rom. 16:20; Gal. 3:29).

Conversely, the seed of the Serpent is/are not little snakes, nor demons (since Satan does not father demons), but most likely those who are in rebellion against God. There are the elect, who love God (John 8:31-32), and the reprobate, who love themselves and are of their father, the devil (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8). Each main character in Genesis, then, is portrayed as either the seed of the woman (like Abel and Seth) who carries on God’s promise of Gen. 3:15, or the seed of the Serpent (like Cain) that reproduces the Serpent’s unbelief. In the end, although both individuals will be grievously wounded (“strike” and “crush”), this struggle with the Serpent is ultimately won in the suffering of that Seed (Isa. 53:12; Luke 24:26, 46-47; Rom. 16:20; 2 Cor. 1:5-7; Col. 1:24; 1 Peter 1:11).

Therefore, I believe we can agree in part with the JPS translation (and others) of “they shall strike” and “their heel,” but only if they mean a collective seed and are not simply avoiding the singular notion for fear of adopting a Christian worldview (of Jesus!). The better translation would keep the singular intact, “he shall strike” and “his heel,” which suggests a promised offspring that will project a new spiritual race into this fallen world.

Written by Josh Philpot

April 21, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Interpretive Challenges in the OT #1: Genesis 1:26

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There are many textual difficulties in the OT, to be sure, most of which take lengthy essays or articles to explain. The task in this series, “Interpretive Challenges in the OT,” will be to examine these puzzling texts, survey the conclusions proposed by other writers and scholars, and arrive at a succinct and cogent explanation. Pray for me…

creation_of_adam1

One of the first problems one might face when reading through the Bible from cover to cover (if he or she does that) is the question of who God is addressing in Genesis 1:26. In particular, who is the “us” and the “our” in God’s words, “Let us make man in our image.” Before delving into the text itself I want to briefly summarize the many options proposed to explain the “us.”:

  1. “Us” refers to a various gods in the ancient Near East, and thus perpetuates the mythological origins of Genesis.
  2. “Us” refers to the creation itself, which means that the creation not only has life but personality and will.
  3. “Us” is an honorific plural, much like Elohim (“God”), which is a plural word that speaks of a singular God.
  4. “Us” refers of God’s self-deliberation (a “plural of self-deliberation” was first proposed by Gesenius).
  5. “Us” refers to the Trinity.
  6. “Us” refers to the divine council, i.e. angelic beings in God’s presence.

The first two views can clearly be set aside since the whole aim of Genesis 1 is a polemic against polytheism. The third view is not likely since honorific plurals occur only with nouns (like Elohim, “God”) and not pronouns (like “us”). The fourth view may be discarded on the basis that no other text supports God self-deliberating within himself. The fifth view, however, is another kettle of fish. Traditional orthodoxy has asserted “us” as being a reference to the Trinity. This makes sense theologically on a number of grounds. First, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all identified as Creator (Job. 33:4; John 1:3; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). Second, it seems that the Holy Spirit is mentioned in Gen. 1:2 – “And the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.” Third, it would make sense that the Hebrew name for God, Elohim, would be a plural word since the Trinity is three distinct persons.

However convincing the Trinitarian perspective may be, the arguments are flawed to some extent. For instance, while the Spirit is clearly present in creation based on later texts it is hardly possible that Moses, writer of Genesis, had a multi-personed view of God at the time of his writing. Based on the antecedent context the only possibility of a plurality of deity is Gen. 1:2, but even that verse is more likely translated “wind from God” (cf. the recreation in Gen. 8:1 and the “wind” that blows over the waters after the flood). Furthermore, it is against the rules of grammatico-historical exegesis to read the theology of later texts into early ones. While the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly attested elsewhere in Scripture, it is faulty to try and locate ambiguous texts to support that doctrine when they are not clearly present. Be minded, I am not denying the existence of the Trinity nor their role in creation. But based on the text it doesn’t seem like the other persons of the Godhead are mentioned until later revelation.

A more coherent explanation of Gen. 1:26, I believe, is view six; that “us” refers to the divine council/angels. This view is affirmed by most OT commentators (cf. Waltke, Sarna, Wenham, Gentry, and others; contra V. Hamilton, Mathews, Alexander). Waltke (“The Bruce”) notes the contextual support for this view by taking Gen. 3:5 into consideration:

“The Serpent, who becomes identified as Satan in later revelation, tempts the man and woman to eat forbidden fruit to gratify their pride: ‘You [plural] will be like divine beings [Elohim], knowing good and evil.’ Conceivably, Elohim here is another honorific plural for God, but its attributive modifier, ‘knowing’ (lit. ‘knowers of’), is plural.”

Normally, whether a word is plural or singular is decided not only by its form but also by its accompanying modifiers. For example, for the first clause at the beginning of 3:5, “God” (Elohim) and the modifier, “knows,” are both singular, which clearly means Elohim is to be taken as singular. But at the end of the verse Elohim takes a plural modifier, which means Elohim should be rendered, “divine beings”, instead of the usual, “God.” This is confirmed in Gen. 3:22 when God says, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.” Without understanding the final clause in 3:5 as “divine beings” v. 22 would make no sense. The Serpent knows of the divine counsel, and thus his temptation in 3:5 refers to that very group. Additionally, we must keep in mind that there are  two other passages in the OT that mention God in the plural but do not seem to be referring to the Trinity (Gen. 11:7; Isaiah 6:8). Out of these I think that Isaiah 6:8 is the strongest evidence against a Trinitarian understanding of “us.” In that passage God is surrounded by heavenly Seraphim who constantly bring him praise, and Isaiah hears God asking them, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (6:8). This is not God self-deliberating, nor is it a reference to the Trinity, but a scene in which God acts jointly with the heavenly court (Seraphim).  In sum, all four uses of “us” in conjunction with Elohim in the OT refer to divine beings and not a plurality of deity (i.e. the Trinity).

But does this mean that Gen. 1:26 says humans are made in the image of God and the angels, and not just God? Far from it! That stance is flawed theologically. Humans are not made in “their” image, but only God’s (1:27 – “his image”). However, when God addresses the angels it does not mean they are taking part in the creation or part of the divine image. Rather, God is the addresser of his court: the addressees. He is the primary actor, so to speak, but acting in concert with the divine beings.

One final point may help my argument, which comes from Psalm 8:5-8:

“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [Elohim] and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”

It has been argued elsewhere that this passage is a commentary on Gen. 1:26-28, to which I agree. Regarding Elohim as noted in this Psalm, it must be maintained that our oldest translation (LXX) has “angels” and not “God” in the first sentence. The writer of Hebrews also goes this route in 2:7. Moreover, throughout the Psalm David refers to God in the second person (“your”). It would be odd for him to suddenly switch (e.g. “Yet you have made him a little lower than yourself“). I believe, then, that David, drawing his thought from Gen. 1:26-28, understood the “us” suffix as referring to the heavenly court and not as a plurality of deity.

To conclude, while interpreting Gen. 1:26 as Trinitarian may be attractive in light of the NT data, this view is textually and contextually flawed. All OT examples of Elohim in the plural refer to divine beings, as well as David’s meditation on this passage in Ps. 8:5-8. A better route would be to see “us” as referring to the divine council/heavenly beings, an interpretation that is justified on solid exegetical grounds and grammatico-historical exegesis. Although this present essay is not exhaustive, my hope is that it has stimulated your thought on this difficult matter and helped you in understanding the text.

Resources:

Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology and Genesis: A Commentary
Victor Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, in NICOT
Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, in NAC
Peter Gentry, Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image, in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol. 12 No. 1
Nahum Sarna, Genesis, JPS Torah Commentary
Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15, in WBC

Written by Josh Philpot

April 13, 2009 at 12:42 am

Sidney Greidanus’ “Christocentric Method” for Preaching the OT

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I found this quote from the blog at Reformed Reader helpful in thinking about preaching Christ in all of Scripture. Many pastors, young and old, continue to do a disservice to the OT text by bludgeoning Christ upon every jot and tittle.To those who make it their practice to do so, I think these wise words from Sidney Greidanus are instructive:

The christocentric method complements the theocentric method of interpreting the Old Testament by seeking to do justice to the fact that God’s story of bringing his kingdom on earth is centered in Christ: Christ the center of redemptive history, Christ the center of the Scriptures.  In preaching any part of Scripture, one must understand its message in the light of that center, Jesus Christ.

It should be clear by now that our concern is not to preach Christ to the exclusion of the “whole counsel of God” but rather to view the whole counsel of God, with all its teachings, laws, prophecies, and visions, in the light of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, it should be evident that we must not read the incarnate Christ back into the Old Testament text, which would be eisegesis, but that we should look for legitimate ways of preaching Christ from the Old Testament in the context of the New.

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, pgs. 227-28.

A solid reminder that while we must not allegorize Christ all over the OT, as though we could make him explicitly mentioned in every verse, we must recognize that every verse providentially exists where it is as part of a canonical Bible that centers around God’s redeeming work in none other than Christ himself.  Thus to preach a given verse as though it had nothing to do with Christ and his finished work is to misunderstand the OT as Christian Scripture.

Written by Josh Philpot

April 5, 2009 at 11:27 am