Logos — more than Bible software

I find myself this week in Bellingham, WA, spending a week recording a course for the “Mobile Education” division of Logos — actually now FaithLife (or “The Company Formerly Known as Logos”).  This is my second trip to the Logos/Faithlife campus, the first one having taken place last March, also in connection with work for Mobile Ed. (then it was to record courses on the Apocrypha and on the Cultural World of the New Testament, this time it’s a course on the Letter to the Hebrews).

I just have to say that I continue to be so impressed with this company.  I don’t say this as a real Logos “user” (I still tend to use BibleWorks 9 for my day-to-day Bible software needs, and still love it, though I have learned how to use, and thus now use almost daily, Logos’s digital library resources, upon which I’m becoming increasingly dependent).  But there is just something really different and really striking about the ethos here.  First, I’m genuinely impressed with the sheer ingenuity and creativity of the people who populate this company (or perhaps I should say, “ecosystem” 🙂  ).  I come away from encounters here the way I come away from SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) — thinking new things, imagining new projects, and just plain excited again.  Second, I’m even more impressed with the corporate culture that Bob Pritchett and his core team have created and sustained here.  Everywhere there are signs of their care for their employees’ wellness at work, as it were — places to plug in and work while exercising, fabulous cappuccino machines and well-stocked refrigerators full of less caffeinated beverages in every building, a sizable employee lounge with DVDs, video games, and other venues for blowing off steam and taking a break.  I’m told they have kayaks, bicycles, and other outdoor “toys” available for borrowing, though I’m not in a position to try any of these out.  There’s also a real respect, it seems, for letting people work in the way that works for them — as long as the work gets done — as well as balance their own needs for days on and time away.  And, perhaps not surprisingly, “faith” does indeed pervade “life” here at Faithlife.

Yes, I imagine working at the speed of technology is also pretty stressful, but Bob & Co. certainly seem to be going far out of their way to make it also sustainable for the people working under their care.  All this to say, I leave after my second week here confirmed in all the impressions I had after my first visit.  God forbid I should ever have to find a “real job,” but if I did, I’d apply to Logos without hesitation.

A Christmas Sonnet

Each Christmastide we think nostalgically
About the baby born so long ago,
So far away. We dwell on what we know
So well — the mother smiling wearily,
The sage and shepherd there to see,
The husband, angels, and a star to show
The special stature of the child below.
But not alone to distant scenery
Does Christ belong, nor yet to prophecy
Still unfulfilled. Christ comes each day and walks
Among his churches, searching heart and mind,
Calling us away from our iniquity.
He stands outside the door and knocks,
New incarnations in our hearts to find.

Online presentation on the Septuagint

I’ve moved to Florida with my family and will continue teaching for Ashland Theological Seminary almost entirely online.  I need to use YouTube as a host for my lectures, so I’ll be making a good number of these public.  Perhaps they will be useful to others as well.  Here’s an introductory presentation on the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the use of Greek-speaking Jews which came to be the primary version of the Old Testament used by the early church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVoMv4M9ckk&feature=youtu.be&hd=1.

 

Hopefully I’ll cultivate a better “radio voice” as this process unfolds for me. 🙂

Lyrics for All Saints Day

About a decade ago, I was inspired (well, you should perhaps be the judge of that) to compose some lyrics appropriate for All Saints Day to be sung to the tune “Jerusalem” by H. H. Parry (we have this in the United Methodist Hymnal under the title “O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines”).  I just came across this sorting through endless stacks of papers and files in preparation for our move.  Only the second of the two verses has a rhyme scheme.  Don’t know what was up with that.  I guess the main thing was fitting Parry’s meter.

 

As by a veil obscured from sight,

So seem the saints who went before:

While their lives end, their witness remains

As mother lives in heart of child.

Both death and space conspire to divide

The members which in Christ are one,

But God has not left us alone,

Nor have the souls who to God fly.

 

O what a cloud of witnesses

On ev’ry side, in ev’ry mind,

Beckons us still to persevere

Until God’s peace and rule we find —

And like the cloud that led by day

God’s chosen people to their Land,

So let us follow all these saints

Till we at last among them stand.

 

 

Transformation: The Core of Paul’s Gospel

As I work my way towards a full-blown commentary on Galatians, I find myself trying to tackle separate facets of this daunting task in a variety of pre-NICNT publications.  I have two coming out later this year.  The first is an attempt to get a handle on Pauline theology, and to do so in a way that avoids the bifurcation between “justification by faith” and the Christian life (or sanctification).  I think I have found this handle in the metaphor of “transformation,” as seen in Paul’s fairly frequent featuring of words with the “morph-” root at their heart.  At present, this little book represents how I would answer the question, “What does Paul think is at the heart of the good news.”  I offer it not as a slam at more traditional theologies, nor as another sortie in the new perspective/old perspective debates, but as an attempt to look at Paul’s message afresh apart from the way certain understandings of “justification” may have limited our focus in regard to that message (and in regard to what Paul passionately wanted to see happen in and among his converts).  You can see more about the book here:

https://www.logos.com/product/42383/transformation-the-heart-of-pauls-gospel

There will be a print edition coming, perhaps a little later than the electronic edition.  I’m all for e-books, but I swore a decade ago that I’d never write a book that was only going to be published electronically.  Call me old-fashioned. I’m grateful to Logos for supporting both formats in its new program (spearheaded by the division called Lexham Press).

The second book will appear in the Baylor Handbooks on the Greek New Testament series.  It’s a fairly “nuts and bolts” guide to the grammar and lexicography of Galatians, meant as an aid primarily to students and pastors trying to work through the book in Greek as they are growing in familiarity with the language themselves, but I hope it may have some insights that will stimulate even seasoned scholars’ reflections on Galatians.

 

1 Peter 5:1-10

Freshly translated with our seminary’s graduating class in mind, and read at graduation.  Perhaps it will help you hear something fresh in this fabulous passage (and perhaps not — I enjoyed the exercise myself).

“I exhort the elders among you, then, — I, a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings and a partner in the glory that is about to be revealed: tend the flock of God in your midst, not as people forced to do so begrudgingly, but willingly, in alignment with God; not with a view to what you can get out of it for yourself, but with a view to how you can offer help freely; not in a domineering and authoritarian manner, but in a manner that gives an example for the flock to imitate. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the wreath of glory that never withers.

“In the same spirit, you younger ones, submit yourselves to the elders. And all of you — clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God ranges himself against the arrogant, but gives favor to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, beneath God’s powerful hand, in order that he might exalt you in the proper time. Do this, casting all your anxiety upon him, because he is concerned about you.

“Stay sharp. Be on the watch. Your adversary the devil stalks about like a roaring lion, seeking to swallow someone up. Resist him, immovable in your faithfulness, knowing that the global community of your brothers and sisters endures the same kinds of sufferings to the end.

“Now may the God of all favor himself, who calls you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus after you have suffered for a little while, equip you, make you take root, strengthen you, and lay deep foundations for you. To him belongs the power forever. Amen.”

 

The Full Serenity Prayer

The “Serenity Prayer,” made famous through its use by Alcoholics Anonymous, is actually an 18th century German prayer of significantly greater length, appearing on the tombstone of Friedrich Oetinger (1702-1782) and presumably, therefore, of his composition.  It is sometimes attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1892­–1971), which is impossible.

 

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,

courage to change the things which should be changed,

and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other,

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

 

My denomination’s love affair with the insipid, part 1

I used to love the Christmas carol, “What Child is This?”  But now I wince every time I have to play it in church from the United Methodist Hymnal.  The reason?  The version used here has lost much of its force due the elimination of the second half of verses 2 and 3 in favor of repeating the innocuous second half of verse 1 as a refrain after all verses.  Did someone on the editorial board feel a twinge of nausea at the thought of the destiny of this little baby being crucifixion?  But, then, isn’t that really the whole point of Christmas?  And if we forget this core fact at Christmas, we end up trivializing the holiday.  It’s not about the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we think about a newborn baby; it’s about the love of God shown in what would befall this particular baby.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Or, in the words of a stunning anthem by J. Martin,

Forgive us Lord, and grant us eyes to see
in every Christmas, Calvary;
Implant it in our hearts.
Help us recall amid trees of red and gold
on another tree raised long ago
we hung God’s brightest star.

I do so wish the United Methodist Hymnal contained the original, more profound version of this Christmas hymn.

An Advent Sonnet

“Watch,” said Christ to all, “and do not fall asleep,”
      Lulled into the dreams the world would spin
For us – the dreams that ever seek to keep
      Us focused on our wants and chasing sin
As if it were salvation. Advent roars
      Its bold alarm near each year’s end: “Prepare
For Him who now is standing at the door!
      Throw off your sleep and turn with care
To feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and share
      What God has lent you, and to intervene
           For those whose witness costs them dear.” Renown
In heav’n shall greet the souls who lived aware
      Of what God loves: their wisdom will be seen
           When He shall rend the heavens and come down.

 

(an older poem of mine, published in Trinity Seminary Review back in 2008, I believe)

NRSV now on www.BibleGateway.com

This seems newsworthy — http://www.biblegateway.com, my one-stop shopping site for free online Bible translations, just added the New Revised Standard Version (along with the RSV) to their site, including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books!  This will be a great help to pastors and students (who read English) everywhere, and I’m grateful to the site masters for getting the NRSV on board.