Monday, August 09, 2010

My Amazon Review of S.M. Baugh's "A First John Reader"

Baugh's reader is about 150 pages in length. It is a unique work that I think will be of value to anyone who wishes to learn Greek in a fun and orderly manner.

What makes Baugh's work unique is how he teaches Greek to the neophyte. By the time that the beginning Greek student has progressed through Baugh's book, he or she will have acquired a solid foundation in the Greek language and will also have worked his or her way through the entire book of 1 John. That is no little accomplishment for the beginning Greek student.

In my humble opinion, Baugh's method is much more effective than simply
learning paradigms and morphological forms by rote memorization. His approach provides a methodological way to learn Greek that is simultaneously educative and
stimulating. Baugh also sets forth penetrating exegetical questions as the student
works his or her way through the reader, thus prompting the beginner to
continue in the hopes of finding grammatical or exegetical treasure.

Some Examples

Each section of Baugh's reader deals with some particular grammatical issue
(the Greek article, pronouns, cases, and tenses). Instead of just discussing
these matters abstractly, however, Baugh provides numerous examples from the
book of 1 John. On p. 3, Baugh points out that hO is "repeated four times in
[1 John 1:1] at the beginning of the first four clauses (and once in v. 3)."
But why does John keep employing hO in this passage? Baugh answers this
question in his reader and gives supplementary information buttressing his
stand vis-a'-vis the Johannine use of hO.

On p. 50, Baugh also has a very insightful discussion about Greek aspect and
its relationship to 1 John 3:9. He concludes that the standard interpretation of
3:9 is probably the best one. When exegeting the passage, Baugh skillfully
interacts with the views of D. Wallace and S. Smalley who do not espouse the
habitual sin view of 1 John 3:9 which Baugh advocates. This interaction is
appreciated, because it helps the student to make up his or her own mind
about 1 John 3:9 and Greek aspect.

The same cannot be said for other parts of Baugh's grammar. Overall I like his reader and do not regret that I purchased it. Nevertheless, there are some places where I have "quibbles" with his presentation.

When discussing 1 John 3:2, Baugh talks about the dative of respect (hOMOIOI
AUTWi), but never says to whom the dative of respect might apply. Does it possibly apply to the Father or to the Son? Granted, he writes concerning 1 John 3:1b that "the quality of God's love is John's focus.". But the author does not say whom Christians will be like, when commenting on 1 John 3:2c. Also, when speaking about 1 John 5:20, Baugh asks--"Who is the antecedent of hOUTOS? Jesus, the Son of God? Is this not an unambiguous statement of his deity?" Personally I think this section would have been better if Baugh asked the question and left it at that or offered grammatical possibilities. The student must decide who the antecedent of hOUTOS is, not the teacher. The instructor can guide, help, and point out little details here and there, but instruction is much more effective when a professor sets forth possibilities before students and lets them make grammatical decisions.

I am not just taking Baugh to task because I disagree with him theologically at a number of different points. Rather, I just feel that his reader could have been more effective had he not pushed certain viewpoints at particular junctures in his work. Since I thrive intellectually from examining conflicting views and arriving at a conclusion that I believe is theologically and grammatically warranted, I can read Baugh's book and derive great benefit from it in spite of my "quibbles." In the final analysis, I give it 4 stars and would recommend this reader to those who are interested in learning ancient Greek. Baugh's work is valuable in its own way.

You can find Baugh's Reader at

Edgar G. Foster

Saturday, August 07, 2010

More Scholarly Information on Ancient Jewish Monotheism

In his work Old Testament Theology, theologian Ralph Smith writes:

"In line with the thought of Deuteronomy 32:8, God had given the welfare of
the other nations into the hands of these subordinate divine beings, but they
failed to establish justice and righteousness in the earth among the nations"
(page 231).

The "subordinate divine beings" Smith references are the angels as shown by his earlier comments on Israelite monotheism (see page 231). These angels (according to this OT theologian), surround the throne of YHWH and loyally
serve Him in the capacity of seraphs, cherubs, and messengers. While I do not agree with Smith's treatment in toto (especially some of his comments concerning Deut. 32:8)--one cannot help but note the propriety of calling the angels (as Smith does), "subordinate divine beings."

Smith concludes by quoting G.E. Wright, who contends that the term monotheism "has always been used to define Judaism and Christianity in which the angelic host has survived and has been elaborated." Furthermore, D.S. Russell notes:

"There is ample evidence to show that [the OT] conception of monotheism was held in conjunction with a belief in a spiritual world peopled with supernatural and superhuman beings who, in some ways, shared the nature, though not the being, of God" (The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic, page 235).

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Maurice Casey on the Term "God" in Second Temple Judaism


Casey writes:

"Some beings [in 2nd Temple Judaism] seem to be of
almost divine status. At Wisdom of Solomon 7:21ff,
Wisdom is described in such terms. In 11Q Melchizedek,
Old Testament passages containing two of the words for
God (EL at Ps 7:8-9 and ELOHIM at Ps 82:1) are
interpreted of Melchizdek. Both ELIM and ELOHIM are
used with reference to angels in 4Q Shir Shabb. Philo
describes Moses as 'God and king of the whole nation'
(Life of Moses I, 158), and the LOGOS as 'the second
God' (Qu in Gen II, 62). At 3 Enoch 12:3-5, God crowns
Metatron, who is enthroned in heaven, and calls him
'The lesser YHWH'" (From Jewish Prophet to Gentile
God: The Origins and Development of New Testament
Christology. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John
Knox Press, 1991), p. 79.

Edgar Foster

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Augustine of Hippo on "Better" and "Greater"

I found this quote in Augustine's writings that I'm still mulling over. Augustine says: "In things in which greatness goes not by bulk, being greater means being better" (De Trinitate Vi, 9).

Could this passage constitute a response to those Trinitarians who contend that "greater" does not mean "better" in John 14:28?